my boss took away the tools I need for my job, coworkers on speakerphone, and more

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

1. My boss punished me by removing the tools I need to do my job

I have started in a new position. We are getting a new management system here at work, and our boss made up a survey/test (not required by the organization) to be completed over the weekend. I had a family emergency where a family member has a week left to live, so the assignment completely slipped my mind. Upon my return to the office on Monday, my boss removed my and my coworker’s access to the system as punishment. However, the system makes up 98% of our day-to-day work and she does not “know” when she’ll return our access. I am trying to be calm, but this affects every single project that I have and she is known to write harsh comments on performance reviews for incomplete work. Is there a way I can handle the situation so that I can still get my work done?

Your boss decided to remove your ability to do 98% of your work? (Ridiculous thing #1.) As “punishment”? (Ridiculous thing #2.) Because you have a dying family member? (Ridiculous thing #3.)

Your boss is a terrible manager, and a terrible human.

Managing isn’t about “punishing” people (!) and it’s definitely not about preventing people from doing their work. Please know this is outrageous and not normal and not okay.

As for what to do, you could say to her, “I’m not able to do the vast majority of my work without access to the system. What would you like me to focus on meanwhile, unless I have access back?”

But you’ve just learned that you’re working for a nightmare, and you’ll have to plan accordingly. (That sounds vague, but it could mean anything from “start job searching immediately” to “know she’s horrid and expect more outrages,” depending on your situation and what options you feel you have.)

2. A coworker’s says he won’t read any of his emails once he’s back from leave

Curious about your thoughts on something I came across. A male coworker is out on paternity leave for three weeks. This is great and he has his out-of-office set-up appropriately. However, I noticed in his out-of-office, he specifically said, “I have no plans to follow up directly for anything that I receive during this time. If you still need my input on the matter after I return, I ask that you please send me a follow-up email at that time.”

Is this normal for extended leaves? I understand possibly not reading through everything in detail, but setting the expectation that you won’t follow up at all irks me. Maybe it’s because I was out on maternity earlier this year for four months. Yes, I did mass delete a bunch of emails, but I also did a quick glance at most of them. Maybe I shouldn’t have? Would love you or your reader’s thoughts on conventions on this topic.

For just three weeks? In most offices, that would be overly demanding. That’s not an extended leave; that’s more like a slightly longer-than-average vacation, and it’s generally wouldn’t be reasonable to tell one’s colleagues (or clients, etc.) that they need to shoulder the burden of telling him twice what they need from him (and remembering a few weeks from now to do that) just because he doesn’t want to read accumulated emails when he’s back after such a short time away.

If he were going to be out for four months, then yes, this approach can be reasonable. But for most people, in most jobs, in most offices, this is going to look odd.

That said, who knows, maybe he has a job where this makes sense — like one where the emails he receives are all going to be things that need to be handled in the next 48 hours, and so it won’t make sense for him to deal with any when he’s back. Without knowing more, it’s hard to say that it definitely doesn’t make sense in his context.

3. Dealing with a run in your pantyhose at a business meeting

At an out-of-town business meeting, my black pantyhose developed a large run (think banana-sized!). As an attendee I wasn’t quite sure the most professional thing to do and would like your opinion.

I decided due to the cold climate to keep the hose on and sit and walk in ways that would visually shied most attendees from seeing the run which was on my right calf. I debated removing the hose but worried one might question my decision-making skills if I walked around bare-legged at a business formal event. But, is it more unprofessional to keep the hose on with a large hole visible? Should I have kept the pantyhose on or removed them in the restroom?

Take them off. Bare legs are not scandalous anymore, and it is really common and normal for professional women to have bare legs. There are still some particularly conservative fields and regions where that’s not the case, but they’re shrinking — and even then I’d argue most people will be happier — and look more polished — if they’re bare-legged than with a banana-sized run in their stockings.

It’s not a huge deal that you didn’t though (although I hate the idea of you having to be so self-conscious about how you were walking!).

4. My coworkers call each other on speakerphone

What can I do about colleagues who work in an open office space, sit in cubes next to one another, but call each other on the desk phone and one of them puts it on speakerphone?

It is a mystery to all of us who sit nearby these two folks. It is fine to make a quick call to get a question answered vs. walking over to the person’s desk, but speakerphone? Really? It is an almost daily occurrence and pretty obnoxious and distracting.

Speak up! It’s completely reasonable and normal to say, “Hey, it’s really distracting when you have those calls on speakerphone. Would you mind not using the speaker?” That’s it.

I imagine you haven’t done that yet because you feel weird about saying something, but you have to be able to have these conversations when you’re in a shared space, and it’s really, really normal. Right now you’re aggravated and stewing, and you can fix that with a 30-second conversation.

5. Should I leave the low-paying job I love for one that will make me less happy but pay more?

I have a dilemma that I know most people would kill for. I work as a veterinary nurse, and I love my clinic. I’m respected there and have developed close friendships with my coworkers and some of the doctors. There’s advancement opportunities and education, and my boss is wonderful. I’m highly skilled and am still learning so much. This clinic has worked hard to remove the typical toxic environment of a vet clinic. It’s an exhausting and stressful job that’s hard on my body and heart, but that’s true of the entire veterinary industry.

The problem is that this clinic pays terribly. It’s causing tension in my marriage! I work 45-50 hours a week and make next to nothing. When I graduated college, I was hired at another clinic (with no experience!) and made $2.60/ hour more than I do now, and worked at another awful and toxic hospital for $3.50/hour more. This is true for every employee here. The highest paid nurse has been there for five years and earns $2/hour less than the living wage for our state. My schedule is irregular and I never see my spouse as it is, so getting a second job that will allow for this is tough. My reduced income is putting strain on my family. Should I leave for a job that will make me significantly less happy but pay me better?

Only you can decide that! It comes down to how much you value the good things about working there versus how much of a problem the pay is. Some people would be genuinely fine with the lower pay in exchange for the benefits you’re getting by working there. Other people wouldn’t.

That said, when it’s at the point that it’s causing (understandable) tension in your marriage and putting strain on your family, then yeah, I do think you’ve got a responsibility to at least look around at what other options are available to you. That doesn’t mean you have to take another job — but I do think you need to at least look at options and then include your spouse in your thinking about how to proceed.

{ 512 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Anya the Demon

    Oh wow LW #1, your boss is completely irrational. Is there someone above them that you can go to? Someone who locks you out of the primary work system so you can’t do your work as punishment for not filling out a survey is not rational. I don’t think addressing it with her will help you, since it sounds like she has to know perfectly well what she is doing to. Please go above her head on this one ASAP.

    Reply
      1. valentine

        OP1: Assume your boss won’t restore access for a week and send ETAs to her boss and her. The fact she’s happy to stop you working is proof the weekend work was punishment as well.

        Reply
        1. Works in IT

          If op #1 is not salaried, they shouldn’t even have been given weekend work in the first place. Is this boss a former teacher?

          Reply
          1. Alton

            Even if the OP is exempt, assigning a non-essential task over the weekend and expecting it to be done or else (assuming those aren’t normal work days) doesn’t seem like good management to me. It seems controlling and inconsiderate of employees’ time and work-life balance.

            But yeah, absolutely–if the OP is hourly or non-exempt, they need to make sure they get paid for stuff like that. And there are positions where assigning work to be done outside of standard work hours really isn’t done.

            Reply
          2. Observer

            Please don’t slam teachers. By and large even not such good teacher are within the normal range of reasonable.

            Reply
            1. No imagination

              I didn’t take that as a slam on teachers, just that teachers are about the only profession where assigning homework over the weekend is a thing that’s done. (Obviously to students not coworkers, but the sarcasm was obvious to me.)

              Reply
              1. Works in IT

                Also we’ve established that this boss is…. many standard deviations away from what anyone might consider a “good” manager, which also fits with the one particularly bad teacher I had in the past, who was far, far away from even okay, who punished me for knowing the answers to problems by making me sit in a corner with nothing to do, then punished me for finding a crayon and scribbling on the wall in the corner because I was bored (and also six years old). It’s not a slam on all teachers, so much as I could see a bad teacher on that level of bad becoming a manager who treats their employees like children.

                Reply
            2. Ginny Weasley

              I also didn’t take it as a slam on teachers, I read it as teachers are a profession notorious for doing work outside of their paid hours. I’m a teacher, and I work 7:30-4:00, and yet I often stay til 5 and come in multiple hours over the weekend.

              Reply
            3. Wintermute

              I don’t take it as a slam on teachers at all!

              I have a lot of teachers in the family, including my brother and his wife, and it’s utterly bizarre how much unpaid, uncompensated overtime is accepted and expected as a normal part of the work.

              Reply
          3. Temperance

            TBH, I assumed retail or food service, jobs that are known for having stupid, arbitrary rules and treating employees like children.

            Reply
          4. Karen Roudabush

            You hit the nail on the head. If your co workers are also not salary and your manager required the form to be completed while you were off the clock and they completed it, they are entitled to be paid for that time, and if it put their hours over 40, they are entitled to overtime pay. She should be reported. I hate when management makes up the rules as they go and sometimes break the law in doing so.

            Reply
      2. Cube Ninja

        Disclaimer: Not a lawyer.

        I’d also suggest if HR or grandboss are not helpful in shutting this down, looking into whether your state allows for unemployment claims due to “constructive discharge”. Removing your ability to do your job is pretty obviously constructive discharge, just as taking a full time retail worker from FT hours down to 4 a week would be.

        Reply
        1. Anonymeece

          I was thinking the same thing (also not a lawyer). Additionally, this would especially be true if that incomplete work shows up on your performance review.

          I wonder what script OP could use if it does come up in his/her performance review – what’s a nice way of putting, “There was incomplete work because you were a petty jerk”?

          Reply
        2. Ms. Gristle

          Hi there. I am a lawyer. For her to claim constructive discharge, she’d actually have to resign/leave her job first. I didn’t see anywhere that was mentioned?

          Reply
    1. The New Wanderer

      I would love to see that boss explain to her boss that she punished two employees for not working on a survey *on the weekend* by preventing them from doing basically any work *during their work hours.*

      So please, OP, tell your grand-boss or whoever has authority. Frame it as, “I (or we if your coworker goes too) have lost access to the system, can you please restore it?” If the grandboss says to talk to your manager, say that you did and she has refused to restore access.

      Alternatively, frame it as “I was unable to complete a request for weekend work due to an emergency with a dying relative and my manager has revoked my system access, preventing me from doing my job. Can you please restore it so I can accomplish my tasks?”

      Reply
      1. Rebecca

        Especially given this statement “our boss made up a survey/test (not required by the organization)”. I’d like to see her explain why she made up this survey/test.

        Reply
      2. AKchic

        I would love to see a grandboss’s face when told “I have had my system permissions taken away because I didn’t complete a non-company authorized, supposedly voluntary survey during my off-hours while caring for a dying family member and I cannot do my job.”

        No matter what, the manager is going to get some kind of trouble, so might as well be all in and let them full explain themselves.

        Reply
    2. Mary

      Yes – if you don’t feel comfortable with doing this the confrontational way, I’d start replying to all emails with, “Unfortunately I cant do this as I don’t have access to System and am not sure when it will be restored.” See how long it takes someone to notice…

      Reply
      1. ella

        This would probably be me, because I admit I can get super snarky and passive-aggressive when someone is trying to “punish” me by doing something like removing access or giving me the silent treatment. I immediately decide that I Didn’t Want To Do That Thing Anyway and stop trying to fix it. I would start responding to all requests and inquiries with, “Unfortunately, my supervisor is punishing me because I was unable to do an extra task over the weekend because I was dealing with a critically ill family member. I will update you with a timeline as soon as my access is restored” or something like that.

        Note that I’m not saying that this is a GOOD idea. OP probably shouldn’t do it. I’m just saying that I, an imperfect human with a limited number of fucks to give, would be very very tempted to do this.

        Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        I’d be SO tempted to reply, “Unfortunately I can’t do this right now because Boss took away my server access because I didn’t fill out that survey from this weekend (my grandma is dying, and with all the family upset, it completely slipped my mind). I’m not sure when she’ll decide to give me the access back, so I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it. I’m making notes of all the stuff I have to do once she gives me the access again, but you’re number 6 on the list, and I don’t know how she’ll want me to handle the backlog.”

        And maybe email to Boss: “Since you removed my server access as punishment for not filling out the survey over the weekend, I wanted to let you know how I’m handling things. I have notes of all the issues that I’m unable to get to, so I can do them in the smartest order (most urgent first, etc.). But the longer you keep me off the server, the longer that list is going to be. Once you give me access, how would you like me to handle the backlog? Should I make new requests wait while I deal with the stuff from my ‘punishment period’? Should I jump back and forth? Should I start adding new requests to the list and reprioritizing the whole thing every time a new request comes in?”

        Reply
    3. A.N. O'Nyme

      Oh absolutely. It sounds to me like the manager might be setting up a case for LW to be fired (or at least scapegoated). Go around her, over her, whatever you need to do to cover yourself and your coworker. You’re essentially being “punished” for 1) not working on the weekend (when I presume you’re off anyway?) and 2) even if you did have to work weekends, you’re being punished for having a dying family member.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        This. The boss is planning to fire you for lack of productivity. If when fired you say whiningly ‘but I didn’t have system access’ the grandboss is going to wonder why you didn’t do something about it. Immediately if this isn’t resolved in a few hours go to the grandboss with need to have access and be very clear why you lost access i.e. the weekend survey, dying relative and this as punishment and that you want to do your job but are being prevented. Otherwise, it will all be on you.

        Reply
    4. RUKiddingMe

      A survey that’s not even required by the org! I mean if I’m understanding correctly this survey/test is just something the boss decided to do. Even had it been a requirement, the boss is way, way, way out of line here.

      OP got to your grand-boss and/or HR immediately. Shut this (and the inevitable poor review because of unfinished work that you couldn’t finish because your boss is a petty tyrant) down now!

      Reply
    5. Tisme

      Agreed.

      Op, please go to HR / grandboss about this!

      The survey was not wanted done by your firm, so they surely won’t be happy that your boss is stopping you doing the work that they pay you to do, because you didn’t fill in something that was your boss’ own whim!

      Reply
    6. Bilateralrope

      I’ll add my voice to the people saying LW1 needs to go above her bosses head immediately. The longer you wait, the worse you will look because of the time you spent collecting a paycheck while not trying to solve the problem that was preventing you from working.

      Reply
    7. AdAgencyChick

      See if you can get your coworker to join you. If you go above her head, she’s probably going to try to retaliate (who knows whether she’ll be clever enough to do so in a way that’s harder to prove than the initial egregious action). She may also try to play off the loss of system access as OP being ridiculous (“What is she talking about? I would never do that! Did you make her show you she doesn’t have access?” and then quietly restoring access while the big boss goes to check).

      There’s strength in numbers here.

      Reply
    8. 653-CXK

      OP#1: if she can take away your access at a whim, she can also fire you at a whim. This is the hallmark of an abusive, bullying, insecure boss and she deserves to be dragged down several pegs.

      HR and her bosses must short-circuit this power trip down immediately. March right over there, tell them exactly what’s going on. If they can’t (or won’t) do anything, you have to start your job search and be prepared to walk away.

      Reply
    9. RKMK

      Yeah, #OP1, and in addition to whether you’re going to the GrandBoss or HR, you need to start documenting everything (requests for restored access to your manager, etc) in writing and PDFing the emails and storing them in a safe personal space like a Dropbox or Google Drive. You’re getting actively sabotaged and bullied by your manager and if you get fired you’ll need contemporaneous documentation to sue for unfair dismissal and your future employment lawyer will need all ammo they can get. Not that I know from personal experience, but saving the emails in a date format/description format is very helpful, I.e. “10.20.2018 First request for restored access”; “10.20.2018 request for access denied”; “10.21.2018 request to senior management and HR explaining situation.” I’d keep up the practice not just for this one problem but any future instances, it helps keep the pattern of events clear, helps establish a timeline and build a summary spreadsheet of events so outsiders can see WTF you were being put through.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        In the US in 49 states, there is no such thing as “unfair dismissal” for most positions. Documentation for unemployment is a good thing.

        Also, if there is a legally protected class in play – eg OP and coworker are POC or women and the rest of the staff aren’t, that could make a difference.

        Reply
        1. Fergus

          but there is constructive discharge, looks like a case here

          In employment law, constructive dismissal, also called constructive discharge or constructive termination, occurs when an employee resigns as a result of the employer creating a hostile work environment. Since the resignation was not truly voluntary, it is, in effect, a termination.

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            True–but that only means you can qualify for unemployment even if you quit; or in states where “firing for performance” disqualifies you, it will let you keep the unemployment benefits.
            It doesn’t mean you can stop it, or that you can retaliate.

            Reply
                1. Fergus

                  well if would be illegal if the constructive dismissal was being done against race, marital status, sex, pregnancy, etc.

    10. Nita

      Seconding, thirding, or whatever-ing that. I’m really sorry you are dealing with all of this, and hope there is someone reasonable above your boss. You should go to them ASAP.

      Reply
  2. thankful for AAM

    I recently discovered the old pantyhose debate thread. Wow! I’ll never take a job where they are required, at least I hope I never have to. I’d also remove them but if it was cold, keep them on?

    Reply
    1. Engineer Girl

      Many of the jobs that require them are professional jobs with high pay, high status. So there’s definite benefits.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        But there are lots of high paying, high status, professional jobs that don’t require pantyhose? I have never been to an event where someone was seen as less professional for going without hose. And I suspect it would be worse to have a huge visible run than to go without.

        Reply
        1. Les G

          This. Let’s not do the whole “if you want to make money you have to look like you just stepped out of Wharton’s frigid embrace” thing, because it’s outdated information in most situations.

          Reply
          1. Engineer Girl

            I’m fairly sure I didn’t make that statement. I said many (not all) require extra dress. So let’s not create false straw man arguments. Or false bimodal arguments either.

            The reality is that if you move up high enough you’ll be expected to wear hose. You’re not gonna die.

            Reply
            1. BigLaw

              That is not an absolute truth though. For which job hose is a requirement? I work in big law and is not a requirement , and is also not a requirement for my very high level clients

              Reply
              1. Anita

                Working at one law firm that doesn’t require it doesn’t remotely disprove her point. Not sure why you would look at high-level clients instead of internal firm leadership as an example, either. I’ve never seen a partner that didn’t wear it – even in places where things are generally a little more casual.

                It’s very much required in conservative workplaces (like my friend’s company where she was told by a kind coworker to look around at “the look” because she was the only manager not wearing makeup – when she’s not wearing pants, she’s definitely wearing hose). Maybe if you live in San Francisco or Portland or a handful of other cities, it’s not expected even at more conservative firms. But in many firms, in many cities, this is very much the norm.

                Reply
                1. Temperance

                  I work at a large law firm, and almost no one wears hose. I wear patterned tights when it’s cold, which most women do. I don’t even own hose, and neither do any of my lawyer friends.

                2. lawyer

                  Hi! Here you go: I am a partner at an AmLaw 50 firm working in a conservative practice area (financial services) with a very successful practice. Do not own or wear pantyhose.

                3. lawyer

                  And by the way, I’m in the south.

                  I can’t think of a single female partner in my firm who wears hose, TBH. Nor do I see hose on my clients.

                4. Also a lawyer

                  Also a (female) lawyer at an AmLaw 100 firm, also in the south. Have previously been at 2 AmLaw 50 firms. Work in financial services. Have also worked in a bank. Never worn or owned hose. Women partners at my firms have never worn hose. Women mangers at the bank did not wear hose, and my female clients now do not wear hose. One of my past firms was actually business formal dress when I started (it moved to business casual not long after I started) and neither I nor anyone I knew wore hose regularly. Bare legs are more the norm now, so far as I can tell.

                5. Gaia

                  Checked with my good friend who works in wealth management in the South….no hose on any of the women in any of the four large firms she’s worked with.

                  Another friend in insurance in the midwest. No hose on anyone and she’s worked at a few companies including one known for their overly conservative dress.

                6. AKchic

                  A lot of this is regional, and unfortunately… age based (in my experience).

                  I see hose both worn and not worn. I am clumsy as all get-out. I am pale as the driven snow. I look ridiculous in hose. It never fits right, I get runs just putting it on (okay, to be honest, hose runs if I even look in it’s direction) and I loathe it. I was so glad tights started making a comeback because I at least had a chance at wearing those a full day (or multiple days).

                  I mostly see older women wearing standard hose in the workforce. Or, the younger ones who are just starting out trying to find office jobs who are getting a lot of terrible advice from older relatives and the job center and don’t really know how to dress for an interview and think they need to wear skirts when they feel most comfortable in a pair of slacks.

                  In the winter, more of us wear tights or hose than in the summer. Even under our slacks (because extra layers can be necessary). In the summer, even with skirts, some will forego the hose because we finally have heat and we’re not used to it (thank you, bicycle shorts).

                  However, No-show socks are a must because who wants sweaty feet in their shoes?

                7. BigLaw

                  I said it is not a requirement in the law firm (which includes internal firm leadership) , in addition to the clients. So I don’t see where I excluded the internal firm leadership. And I used clients as an example because my clients are from various industries.

                8. Duckles

                  Can we clarify “do” vs “must”? I am wearing pantyhose as we speak because it’s too cold for bare legs and looks better with this dress than tights but when it’s warm enough we don’t HAVE TO wear them.

                9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  You may want to look at informal surveys about this—most women in BigLaw in most cities report that hose are not required or even expected in order to be considered as a serious candidate for leadership.

              2. Lora

                I’m thinking of certain Swiss financial institutions that are notorious for dress code.

                It’s actually quite subtle and difficult to explain what the dress codes really are higher up. And it varies significantly by field; in mine, men can wear their college sweatshirt even if it’s 30+ years old and stained, provided it has the correct college name on it. In general what people notice and care about is *quality* of your clothing, jewelry and shoes: they may not have a rule that says, women must wear pumps above Pay Grade 11, but the subtle unspoken rule is, you better be wearing Ferragamos or Louboutins. The rule wouldn’t be something like “wear black slacks” and would be written more like “no jeans,” but what they mean is “if you are at Pay Grade 2946429876, slacks should be wool, tailored, in a neutral color, dry cleaned / pressed, and nicely matching your shirt”.

                It’s very definitely a class thing. Old Money upper class folks have a certain way of dressing even when they are on their day off or about to go golfing. When you’re higher up they want you to look like Old Money.

                Reply
              3. miss_chevious

                I work at a large multinational corporation and in the US, hose are not expected or required, even at the C level, even in corporate headquarters. This is very much a company culture situation.

                Reply
                1. Armchair Analyst

                  This.
                  At almost every other place, tights or HELLO PEOPLE PANTS, TROUSER SOCKS AND YES FLATS OR OXFORD-STYLE SHOES FOR WOMEN are ok.
                  For royalty you are also expected to appear perfectly coiffed and standing in high heels less than 12 hours after giving birth, as well. Good luck, princesses!

                2. Elan

                  There’s one organization in my area that used to be known for excessively “modest” dress (religious organization, hence the language), including requiring pantyhose and not allowing “toe cleavage.” They phased that out several years back, I assume because they realized how dated and chauvinistic it made them seem.

                3. JustaTech

                  I worked in a lab where, in the entry areas to the clean room (think big white suits), if you were wearing a skirt you had to wear tights or pantyhose, to prevent you from shedding too many skin cells. Shorts were not allowed (or open toed shoes, or tank tops), and everyone was wearing lab coats and all that jazz.

                  I don’t think anyone ever *did* choose to wear a skirt with hose, and I don’t know what anyone would have said if it was an ankle-length skirt (since that’s basically pants for the purposes of skin shedding).

              4. McWhadden

                Almost all big law firms I know of are business casual if you aren’t in court or meeting clients though. Many small and mid-size firms aren’t. And any job that requires constant court presence definitely isn’t.

                If anything big law is a terrible example of lawyers since it’s such a small sub-set of legal work.

                (Started in big law and moved to government work. Wearing hose right now.)

                Reply
              5. Book Lover

                It was required that we wear hose until about a year ago. Medicine. Although it was fine to wear trousers instead, of course :)

                Reply
              6. anna

                I’m a trial lawyer. My employer doesn’t require pantyhose, but I wear them because I appear in front of juries, and I know that sometimes something petty like that can make or break a juror’s opinion of me, and that has an effect on my client.

                Reply
            2. Katniss

              1. No, that’s not the reality
              2. No, no one is going to die, but it’s a sexist and outdated expectation that deserves pushback

              Reply
            3. MuseumChick

              I have to disagree. I have never once seen any high level job require women to wear hose. Maybe that is a thing somewhere, if it does, it is extremely uncommon.

              Reply
              1. New Job So Much Better

                When I used to wear hose, I always carried a spare pair in my bag. Lifesaver. But that’s been 30 years ago….

                Reply
              2. samiratou

                I don’t think jobs would require one to wear hose, per se, but depending on the industry and location there will be unspoken (possibly even subconscious) biases against things like bare legs (or hosed legs, for that matter, depending).

                I agree that the hose should be removed in the LW’s situation, but I don’t think you can really say that there aren’t expectations, if not requirements, for pantyhose for some job situations.

                Reply
              3. Dust Bunny

                I hate hose and I swear I can destroy them just by thinking about it, but more than that I hate wearing shoes without something between them and my feet, so when I do wear hose, I bring an extra pair just in case.

                Reply
                1. Elizabeth W.

                  I like tights in winter–and that’s the only time I ever wear a dress, because I can’t wear dress shoes without something. I get blisters. I know they make little sock things you can wear in dress shoes. But honestly, I can’t walk in heels either and they hurt my back. So if you see me wearing a dress, it will be with tights/leggings in winter and boots or whatever the hell flat shoe I feel like wearing, even Mary Janes.

                  Most of the time I just wear trousers. Life’s too short to walk around freezing and chafing with blisters.

            4. Anon Because of the Level of Detail

              That’s just… not true.

              Pantyhose are still the norm in some industries and regions. In others, pantyhose aren’t expected (and are far outside the norm) even at the CEO/Comissioner/Managing Partner/etc. level.

              (I manage CEO-level leadership development programs. I see CEOs and equivalent-level leaders in their business formal clothes on the daily. I have literally never seen one of my participants wear hose.)

              Reply
            5. NW Mossy

              There’s also some skewing biases in looking just at high-level women in professional/corporate jobs. There may not be enough high-ranking women at a particular organization to assess trends in the their attire, for one. For another, the highest ranks in established organizations are dominated by people who are older (because it takes years to build the experience necessary to run one), and such women were more likely to have begun their careers when hose was a norm and simply stuck with it.

              This is one of those situations where the fact that some high-ranking women wear hose easily could be driven by factors other than their rank. It doesn’t necessarily follow that hose is required or even expected at the highest levels, or would be by the time those still early in their careers get there.

              Reply
            6. AnotherAlison

              To all the non-hose people: Are all these women who aren’t wearing hose wearing pants, of if they wear skirts, how old are they?

              I work in a very male-dominated organizati0n, where in a location of 1200 employees, there are a handful of women who are over 40 in professional/managerial roles, and only one woman who is over 50. We mostly wear pants, which is perfectly acceptable, and I would wear a business-type sheath dress to work on a normal business casual day with no hose, but I wouldn’t wear a skirt suit to a business meeting with executives or clients with no hose. I can’t imagine our 50 year old woman ever going bare legged at work. At a certain age, we just aren’t clamoring to show off our legs, ha.

              (We’re oddly formal, too, even though we’re an engineering and construction company. A lot of male managers wear sport coats on a daily basis.)

              Reply
              1. Gaia

                A mix of both. Some wear pants, many wear skirts and dresses. All of the ones I’m thinking of are over the age of 45. None wear hose when wearing a skirt of dress.

                Reply
              2. schnauzerfan

                50+ here. I just managed to convince myself I could wear a skirt, or better yet a skort with no hose and unshaved legs last summer. I’ve officially reached the “no one cares what your legs look like” stage. Just check and yes, I still have a spare pair of hose in my desk and in my purse, for he unlikely event that I ever wear the damn things again. Probably they have already crumbled to dust.

                Reply
                1. AnotherAlison

                  Ha! I’m still in between I guess.

                  I was raised by a mom who insisted I wear hose to church even when I was a teenager in the 90s and other girls wore jeans. Now she has reached “no one cares” and will wear bare legs to a funeral, but I’m still carrying the mental hangups she input when I was a kid.

              3. Lynn

                I’m in my 40s. I wear dresses/skirts 99% of the time because I can’t find work pants that fit me properly in stores. I am bare legged most of the time. If it’s cold, I wear cotton tights. I have sensitive skin and would not be able to wear hose – i’d spend the day itching and getting no work done.

                Reply
              4. Rat in the Sugar

                28 years old here, femme-presenting at a conservative company in the US Southeast, and I’m comfortable wearing skirts with unshaved legs and don’t actually own any pantyhose.

                Now, I do live in Florida where the humidity makes hose intolerable for much of the year, so it is possible this is a regional norm (and the no-shaving thing is definitely a personal norm).

                Reply
              5. many bells down

                45, haven’t worn pantyhose since … I dunno, 1999? Tights in winter are fine, but I can’t abide hose. I suppose if I really needed stockings for something I think there’s some black thigh-highs stuffed in the bottom of my tights drawer.

                To be fair, my most “formal” job has been in a high-end real estate office. I mostly stuck to slacks there, though; I was on a “skirts and makeup are tools of the patriarchy” kick at the time.

                Reply
              6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                Across all age ranges, I can count on one hand the number of women in a law firms who wore hose/stockings all the time (as opposed to folks who wore them in winter/autumn for warmth).

                Reply
              7. Tired

                I’m 63. My legs are great, very smooth and not hairy. Haven’t worn hose in forever and I frequently wear skirts and dresses. I wear tights in winter for warmth, if needed. When I see a woman wearing hose it looks so outdated to me. Slips too. No one wears those anymore either. It’s not an age thing.

                Reply
          2. MassMatt

            The important part has been lost here, which is that “you have to look like you stepped out of Wharton’s frigid embrace” is the greatest phrase of the day! I am so stealing it!

            Reply
          1. Meh about hose

            Yup. In 2015, I was required to wear hose as a restaurant hostess making minimum wage. Some people actually wore tights, I think, but we had to cover our legs for health code reasons. Not with pants, though, unless it was game day for a local football team. The waitresses were supposed to wear nice black pants.

            It’s worth mentioning that this small town restaurant had a 100% female front of house, and the back of house was all men, except one hostess who did dishwasher shifts sometimes until she was promoted to waitress.

            Reply
      2. Gaia

        I know many, many, many women in very high status, very high pay positions in multiple industries and regions who are not required to wear pantyhose.

        I also know women who are required to wear pantyhose that are in neither high status or high pay jobs.

        So I don’t think this is really a thing you can base it on.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          This. This is a ‘look around your office or leadership conference and observe what’s the norm’ rule, not something where all high status women in all fields and all regions MUST wear pantyhose.

          Reply
        1. Bananka

          In financial services, opposite experience. PLenty of women wear hose with skirts/dresses in the winter because of convenience, style and cold climate. However, hose are not mandatory and are not worn in the summer.

          Reply
          1. Letter Writer

            Hello! I am the letter writer and in finance. I can confirm hose are not required but are the norm where I work especially in winter months. Even though I’m in my 30’s I prefer to wear hose in the winter for warmth. I’ll take some commenters’ suggestions to pack a spare next time or just toss them if I don’t have a spare in tow!

            Reply
      3. KylieHR

        I once worked at a place that requires skirts, jackets, pantyhose, and dress shoes. It was not high status or high pay, however the owner of the building(!) and a financial backer of the business (same person) demanded that we dress like this. He was an old white evangelical dude. This was also not the dress code when I started working there. Not until we moved into the new building. Got laid off at the beginning of 2009. It went out of business 9 months later. Good riddance. I’m sure that dude is still demanding that dress code from employees.

        Reply
      4. Not A Morning Person

        I agree with Engineer Girl. Although “requirement” might be overstated because that particular thing may not be written in a dress code, it can be an expectation because of what another commenter called “The Look” in a particular organization. And whether pantyhose are a thing someone doesn’t like or not, it’s like many things at work, you choose to go along or you choose not to. It’s up to the individual to decide whether it is important enough to them to resist and perhaps change the expectation or suffer any potential consequences. It might be worth it to some people but not to others.
        As for the OP, Alison’s advice fits in your situation, bare legs are most likely more acceptable than a run in a pair of black hose.

        Reply
    2. Jasnah

      Where I live pantyhose is definitely expected and a regular part of women’s businesswear. Convenience stores regularly stock many varieties for just this sort of emergency. That said, if there is a banana-sized hole on the leg of your black tights and you can’t excuse yourself to buy new ones, then I think you should just take them off and hope that most people think you’re wearing nude stockings. In my experience most people (especially men) can’t tell whether you’re wearing sheer hose or not so the gamble usually pays off.

      Reply
      1. Julia

        I think we live in the same place. Women also have to wear (low) heels at least to job interviews, although not necessarily on the job. Make-up is considered a must in most places, though. It’s really sexist to expect women be uncomfortable (heels hurt!), even for me who doesn’t mind make-up and actually likes wearing pantyhose (don’t ask me why).

        Reply
        1. Les G

          Eh, I think this is true in a lot of places. In the U.S. and Europe there are also huge selections of cheap, basically disposable pantyhose available for exactly this reason.

          Reply
          1. Julia

            I’m from Europe (Germany) and I think if a company demanded that female applicants wore a skirt, hose, and heels, people would not react too well.

            Reply
                1. RJ the Newbie

                  Amen to that. When I started out, this was expected and I always hated it. It’s still required at some places from what my business associates tell me. I wonder if those places still use abacuses too.

                2. Jasnah

                  FWIW my understanding is that the reasoning was/is bare legs are inappropriate for women, as they are for men (ie men can’t wear shorts to work). Women couldn’t wear pants then though.

          2. Blossom

            I’m a woman in Europe (UK) , and if I were to panic-buy tights (hose) it would be because
            1) I had laddered my tights and really, really couldn’t continue my day with that ladder (i.e. not just an average day at the office, but maybe a special occasion where I might be photographed), AND
            2) My bare legs were in a state I’d consider unpresentable (e.g. needed shaving!)
            I actually laddered my tights badly on the way to my last job interview. I just made a joke of it and explained I’d fallen over. It was completely fine and I got the job.
            It’s always funny for me to read about workplaces on AAM that demand heels, skirts and make-up. For me, these are items I slowly realise I can allow myself at work, after years of conditioning at school that they are forbidden or to be treated with caution! I think British schoolgirls are effectively taught that the most “respectable” outfit is trousers, very low heels and a bare face!

            Reply
            1. Liza

              This was my experience, too, only when I was in school, we HAD to wear skirts. I was one of the students that pushed back against this (I hate wearing skirts for various reasons, although other students also had religious and cultural reasons that were probably far more relevant than my own) and eventually the school relented and permitted trousers for girls, with the caveat that they had to be loose fitting “identical to those worn by boys”. Which were… kind of impossible to find, and so we usually settled for whatever gray tailored trousers we could find and the school begrudgingly accepted that.

              But even in school, tights were not a requirement. Bare legs plus ankle or knee socks were also acceptable. High heels were not. I think kids in school are held to a different standard to adults – especially girls. Makeup was banned because they didn’t trust us not to cake ourselves in the stuff. High heels were a safety risk. But tights? Nobody cared. I wouldn’t be able to work somewhere that required skirts anyway, so it’s all academic in my case. I ladder tights just in the process of putting them on, so on the rare occasion I want to show leg, I buy a pack of 3 and hope one pair survive!

              My dad had a colleague who interviewed at the (extremely conservative) engineering company where he worked. She wore a trouser suit, and the boss asked her at the interview if she would wear skirts if she got the job. She replied firmly that she did not own any and had no intention of changing that! She got the job. That was the 1980s.

              Reply
          3. Tired

            All pantyhose are disposable and a money suck. I hate them so much. I started my professional career in the eighties when hose was mandatory and I’m so glad that has changed.

            OP should have just taken the hose off and focused on her presentation.

            Reply
        2. Jasnah

          Maybe! Heels and pantyhose suck, but on the other hand, I don’t have to wear a necktie.

          I did catch myself judging an American executive who wore jeans to a business meeting. Jeans!! I understand logically that professional dress standards are arbitrary, but it seemed inappropriate to me. It was a good reminder of how these norms can vary around the world.

          Reply
            1. Jasnah

              I dunno, I hear they can be pretty excruciating in the summer, and I have pretty comfortable heels! Remembering that no one is comfortable helps me stay positive :)

              Reply
          1. Trouble

            I worked for a start up type company connected to a man who tweets a lot of weird things, and we wore jeans and polo shirts to everything. Even the top execs in videos or conferences were in jeans and company branded polos. There was no occasion when you’d need to wear a suit. I wore converse to work every day. It’s very strange in the industry we were perceived as. Think a computer company making vehicles – but the customers see your industry as vehicles and the company runs as if it’s computers. It was a strange place to be and I didn’t last long, which was sad as it was my dream job, but wearing jeans to work wasn’t enough to overrule all the other batcrap things there.

            Reply
                1. Anna

                  It’s true, but considering the state of Twitter right now “person who tweets odd things” could mean someone else you might REALLY not want to be associated with. (Chrissy Tiegan face)

          2. Mongrel

            Also, people wear things differently. In one office I worked at the Team Leader looker neater in jeans and plain white T-shirt on dress down day than many people who wore the mandatory Shirt\Tie for everyday use.
            We also had an office slob who went the extra mile and wore a suit and still managed to make it look terrible; partially ironed shirt that’s hanging out, mild odour, rumpled & stained suit etc.

            Reply
        3. Artemesia

          I am so grateful when I read this that I worked in a field where make up is not the norm and where woman are actually considered more attractive without and no one much cares what you wear. However C suite types did have a look that was much more polished and it was subtle — mostly the subtle look that you can get with expensive clothes e.g. nice fabrics, subtle patterns, good jewelry.

          Reply
      2. MatKnifeNinja

        My sister works in HR for a corporation that is a well known.

        She must wear hose if wearing not wearing slacks, and closed toe shoes that have to be under (x) inches high.

        Sis keeps a pair of nylons in her desk if she really rips the pair she has on.

        Yes, it is in her dress code.

        The company has people willing to shank another for a job, so the hose doesn’t seem to be a deal breaker.

        Reply
      3. TardyTardis

        Fortunately, whenever someone asked me about heels (which are almost impossible for me Because My Feet Are Funny) I merely looked blank and said, ‘but this is the style of oxford I used to wear in the Air Force’. This always worked, since we were in a very conservative, military-oriented area.

        Reply
    3. FTW

      I’m an executive and I never wear pantyhose, ever.

      You can dress professionally without warning them in most industries. There are some industries where this is the exception.

      Reply
      1. RUKiddingMe

        I have a huge (I have had smaller apartments) closet that’s divided up into sections. One section is every day stuff like jeans/shirts and another section is “work clothes.” The work clothes section is covered in plastic (the clear zippered garment bag type) because…dust and the infrequency with which most of them are worn.

        All of that said, generally speaking I wear jeans and whatever shirt I pull off of the hangar that day. I have a few dresses (not skirts though…hmmm) that go in the jeans/shirt section and I wear them occasionally if the mood strikes. I never really wear pantyhose but I always wear tights in the fall/winter and bare legs in the spring/summer. Of course I live out here on the west coast, Seattle specifically, and we kind of march to our own drummer up here.

        Reply
        1. Chameleon

          I can count on one hand the number of women I’ve seen wearing pantyhose in Seattle. Tights, yes (the weirder the better–last Halloween I saw a woman on the light rail wearing a very expensive tailored suit, pumps…and skeleton bone tights.)

          Reply
          1. RUKiddingMe

            If you hadn’t said pumps (my feet refuse to ever wear them again) I would have bet that the woman you saw was me. I have a couple pairs of Halloween themed ones that I love. I actually wore a dress today (thanks for this thread y’all) just so I could wear my “Witchy Poo” tights. Shoes: Doctor Martin’s naturally.

            Reply
        2. JustaTech

          Oh yes, Seattle “work clothes”! We’ve been having a thing at work where we need to be more … polished than usual and several other women have said that they are running out of “fancy” work clothes. It doesn’t help that all the women in the office have stepped it up in the clothing department, but most of the men haven’t, so they get to keep wearing jeans and I’m trying to keep my one comfortable pair of trousers clean.

          I swear, next week is all hiking clothes.

          Reply
          1. RUKiddingMe

            Check out the work clothes section at Target. Decent clothes, lots of “basics” and affordable for the most part. Also, Value Village. I found a suede blazer in University of Washington purple…in my size(!!!) a few years ago for 99 cents. There was (and remains) nothing wrong with it. I was working at University of Washington at the time. I paired it with a Huskies scarf and was good to go as the envy of everyone on the ave.

            Reply
          2. TardyTardis

            Bonworth is good for older women, especially shorter ones–they have lovely petites size slacks, and if they’re going to call me a medium, I’m going to let them.

            Reply
        3. Epiphyta

          Jim Gaffigan said that people in the PNW dressed as if a hike could break out at any moment, and he wasn’t far off the mark. :)

          Reply
    4. whingedrinking

      I checked that one and was amazed that anybody felt that strongly about some damn tights, to the point of calling women who don’t wear them trashy. Yikes.

      Reply
      1. anon today

        Unfortunately, ime, it’s not uncommon to see “trashy” tossed around regarding women who don’t follow a commenter’s perceived idea of proper. Just this year, I’ve seen AAM call women trashy for putting a purse on the floor or putting a phone in their bra or using essential oils or a number of other things. People feel strongly about a lot of things other people couldn’t care a bit about, and it always leads to a lot of judgement and name calling

        Reply
        1. Amber T

          Do you mean commentors in general or Alison herself? I don’t remember Alison ever degrading women like that…

          I will say the vast majority of the commentors here are good and civil (definitely one of the better/best blog comment sections I visit), but it’s the internet, so there are always going to be idiots abound.

          Reply
          1. anon today

            Oh, I did mean the commenters not you. Sorry if it was unclear. I wrote it early when I think I was still half asleep. I REALLY DID NOT MEAN YOU!!!!

            Reply
        2. McWhadden

          Ha, I remember the comments (not Alison) about the phone in bra thing because that’s something I definitely do when I need a quick hands-free moment and I’m in a skirt with no pockets. Like when I have to wash my hands and there is no counter.

          Never claimed I wasn’t trashy though.

          Reply
          1. Under Cover Lady Lawyer

            My kingdom for a blazer with an inside breast pocket.

            Liz Claiborne makes one with an inside pocket, if anyone’s looking.

            Reply
        3. all the candycorn

          It is definitely not a professional look to have your boobs start ringing in a meeting, and having to reach in to shut them off is even less professional.

          Phone in bra is a bit out there compared to “using essential oils” or “putting a purse on the floor.”

          Reply
          1. anon today

            The phone is bra wasn’t even related to it happening at work, though. It was about doing it outside of the office, like running errands or at the gym or whatever.

            Reply
    5. valentine

      I’ve never understood calls for pantyhose in the cold. Pantyhose don’t warm me. I froze more when wearing them under jeans. I’d need wool tights, I think, for anything thinner than leggings to feel warm.

      Reply
      1. Lady Jay

        Same. When people try to sell me on pantyhose (I hate them), they’ll often say something about staying warm, like pantyhose are supposed to keep my legs warm in the same way that pants do.

        And it does. not. work.

        For me there is no difference between wearing pantyhose or wearing bare legs under a skirt.

        Reply
        1. Armchair Analyst

          I think it’s the lack of pants that make you colder, but I am not a climate or textile scientist or any sort of medical doctor.
          Just an average woman who prefers…. wearing pants.

          Reply
      2. Rusty Shackelford

        Pantyhose are hot in the summer but somehow not warm in the winter.

        I wear opaque tights with dresses/skirts in winter. Because I like to, not because I have to.

        Reply
        1. Julia

          Tights are great, but not for occasions that specifically require pantyhose. I wish someone could at least invent heat teach pantyhose, I’m still interviewing and it’s starting to get cold. At least Japan also has tiny heated pads for your – of course heeled – shoes.

          Reply
        2. Beatrice

          I bought some lovely Mukluks fleece-lined tights this year. I’ve only gotten to wear them once so far, but they feel like I’m wearing sweatpants under my skirt. <3

          Reply
      3. Birch

        “Nude” pantyhose also makes no sense. Like it’s basically asking women to IRL photoshop their legs because… I dunno, natural legs aren’t perfect enough? But at the same time it’s more “professional” in some circles than opaque tights, so not only are your real legs so ugly we want you to cover them up, we also don’t want you to actually wear something that looks like they’re covered, so even when it’s cold we can pretend your legs are bare even though you are still actually cold because pantyhose are not warm. Society is disgusting. Opaque tights FTW.

        Reply
        1. Iris Eyes

          Some people wear them for other reasons, like to avoid vein problems or support circulation or just to avoid shaving or to look like they have a tan without actually going tanning.

          Reply
          1. Iris Eyes

            Or to hide injuries/bruises or other discoloration for whatever reason. Support hose can also make you look more toned. There are a lot of reasons people might want to wear “nude” toned hose.

            Reply
            1. RUKiddingMe

              Choosing to wear them is one thing. Being told you must because you’re a woman therefore XYZ reasons is another…and sexist as hell.

              Reply
        2. JustaTech

          If people made a lot of fuss about the need to wear “nude” (who’s nude?) hose I would be super tempted to do that WWII thing of drawing a line up the back of your leg with eyeliner to look like the seam in hose. (Pantyhose were in very short supply in WWII.)

          Reply
      4. Amber T

        Right?? The only comments I ever receive at work for not wearing pantyhose at work are “aren’t you cold??” Well sure, it’s 10 degrees out, but is the thinnest thing of hose really going to warm me up?

        I used to wear them all the time when I first started working at my office because it was a professional office and “that’s what professional women do” (thanks Mom). It wasn’t until I accidentally tore a huge hole in one in the middle of the day and my coworker said “I’ll never understand why you wear those” did I realize that *no* women in my office, regardless of title, wore pantyhose. I think I still have some hiding in the back of my drawers, but I haven’t bought a pair in years.

        Reply
        1. Elemeno P.

          I’ve gotten that comment, too, but it’s usually in reference to me being obviously bare-legged on a cold day; people are quiet when I have my cozy fleece tights on in the winter. I also live in Florida, where “cold” is a lot more subjective than in other places.

          I think I’ve seen maybe one or two women wearing hose, and it’s always so confusing; we’re in Florida! Those can only ever be unpleasant!

          Reply
          1. Anonymeece

            My boss was was just telling me she took a course in college where the professor required pantyhose. During summer. In Florida.

            She said she felt like she was going to die every day it was so unpleasant, and she hasn’t worn them since.

            Reply
        2. MK

          “it’s 10 degrees out, but is the thinnest thing of hose really going to warm me up?”

          Eh, yes? Wearing a layer, no matter how thin, does offer some protection and is more warm than bare legs. In my country, keeping your legs covered is strictly a question of weather: everyone does in the winter, no one in the summer, there is usually a month in the spring and one in the autumn when it depends on how you feel.

          I don’t know of any workplace that requires wearing tights. But, work or not, wearing a (not long) skirt bare-legged in January is going to come across as a very odd appearence; and it’s likely to dub you as a pretentious fashion victim, since the only people who do this are models and fashion industry people.

          Reply
          1. Amber T

            Eh, I don’t work in fashion (fun story – coworkers and I had a loooooong discussion about a vendor who wore a very hipster, fashion forward suit that was out of place in our professional office), but it’s totally the norm for some women to wear black tights in the hot summer because it goes with their outfit or completely bare legs in the cold winter because we don’t want to wear the extra layer without being labeled pretentious.

            Reply
      5. June

        Eh, it makes a difference to me. They’re certainly no defense against blizzards or anything, but in my perpetually cold hospital I absolutely feel better wearing hose with skirts or dresses. (But it’s not an adequate justification for requiring hose, of course.)

        Reply
      6. Silicon Valley Girl

        Some people enjoy wearing skirts or dresses, even in cooler weather. So adding a layer (no matter how light) on the legs does increase the wearer’s warmth. Not everyone has to wear trousers, we’re allowed choice & people of all gender presentations can enjoy different fashions, even in work environment.

        Reply
    6. Asenath

      Fortunately, where I live and work, we’re generally less formal than other places I read about regarding pantyhose and makeup, although I admit I now am probably at the more casual end of the “unofficially expected” style of dress. It definitely varies by job and status, but there are odd quirks – sometimes women dealing directly with the public are expected to dress much more formally (makeup, dresses/skirts/pantyhose) than women who don’t, but who are much higher status in the workplace and much better paid. In other workplaces, there isn’t such a drastic difference. Just about all women in my workplace wear slacks all the time – although naturally some are more stylish and/or have more expensive clothes than others. I hate and abominate pantyhose and don’t really use makeup. I wear plain slacks and the nicer of my tops almost all the time – in the summer, I wear long loose skirts or dresses with no pantyhose. I am not going to freeze in the winter wearing pantyhose! I own a couple of pairs of black pantyhose that I wear once or twice a year when I dress in all black for a choir performance. That’s it.

      Reply
    7. PhyllisB

      Of course it’s too late for this now, but in the future, keep an extra pair with you for back-up. This is what I did in my Professional Dress days.

      Reply
      1. Smarty Boots

        Yep, put them in a sandwich-sized ziplock. You may never need them but when you do, you do.
        Also an extra pair of undies (I learned that one after someone spilled coffee on me; it was miserable being in damp underwear all day at a conference).

        I myself often wear tights or colored pantyhose, because I’m rather vain and also because I have cats that chew on my ankles. :)

        Reply
      2. June

        Yup, if I really care about wearing them (e.g. job interview) I’ll keep an extra pair in my bag. If you don’t have an extra pair though, I agree with Alison that in the majority of settings, it’s better to just take them off if they are noticeably damaged.

        Reply
    8. MLB

      I haven’t worn pantyhose in at least 15 years, and I intend to keep it that way. If I worked somewhere where they were required, I’d wear pants.

      Reply
    9. Quinalla

      I never see any executive women in my field or the fields we interact with wearing hose. Heels are still common (though a wide variety and flats are fine too and nice boots or more male-style dress shoes as well) and makeup is common, though much less common if you are an engineer. For interviews to try and get consulting gigs, I will wear a pants suit with a blouse or shell underneath, low heels and no hose and no makeup as I hardly ever wear makeup so it makes me self conscious to have it on. I do think being an engineer, folks actually expect me to dress less feminine and are surprised if I wear a dress or skirt. The architects I work with tend to dress more feminine, but I still never see them wearing hose. It’s just not a thing and I live in a city in the Midwest, so it’s not just “super progressive” towns/states where this is common.

      Reply
    10. Jam Today

      When be-skirted I always wear pantyhose for the extremely practical reason that I have fat thighs and hose alleviates the chafing, and my feet blister like crazy if they’re bare inside shoes. But all things being equal: I prefer not to wear skirts — unless its a dress that I can wear tights and Doc Martens with, in which case bring it on. Yay for the “high tech” industry, I guess.

      Reply
      1. OlympiasEpiriot

        I agree about the chafing and how damn uncomfortable it is to wear dress shoes without tights or hose/stockings. I find it far more uncomfortable than the tightness-around-the waist and hips issue.

        If my legs will be visible, there will be hose unless the shoes are a sandal. If I’m wearing unlined dress trousers, there will also be hose, again, unless I’m wearing sandals.

        Great solution if chafing isn’t a problem for you is to have one’s skirts hit mid to lower calf and wear the knee socks.

        Reply
        1. Bee

          Hah, I have narrow feet, so I need the friction of bare skin to keep my shoes on! When I’m wearing tights or hose I end up stepping right out of my shoes ALL the time. So I usually stick to boots with tights.

          Reply
          1. OlympiasEpiriot

            Have you had your feet properly measured for shoes? It isn’t as silly a question as one might think. What with ordering on-line now, I suspect lots of people haven’t been measured. Go search “Brannock Device”. That’s what should be used to see what width you need. Then, if you are like my mother, for instance, it may turn out you need an A-width, or even a double-A. She was a 5½ AA. She mostly wore very expensive shoes because she had such a hard time finding a manufacturer of pretty, conservative shoes…so, she stuck with Ferragamo.

            (Me, otoh, have my father’s feet and need wide shoes.)

            Reply
      2. Torch

        Pantyhose always ended up irritating my fat thighs even more – they’d droop in the crotch and then the tops of my thighs would still rub together. So now I wear bike shorts under all my skirts. Eliminates chub rub and I don’t have to deal with thinking about getting runs.

        Reply
        1. OlympiasEpiriot

          Bike shorts are so great. Finding hose/tights that fit right is hard. Unfortunately, the ones that work best on me tend to be kinda pricey (and hard to find). I always check sales for them though, and they buy as many as possible.

          Reply
          1. Jam Today

            I do love bike shorts for summer dresses, I am too old to be wearing the x-tra cute ones that are mid-thigh but the ones that are just above the knee mostly hide the shorts. The brand I get makes them in a lot of colors so I’m usually well-situated to coordinate, in case my skirt blows over my head.

            Reply
          1. Cherith Ponsonby

            I had that problem too! So I went up a size and they kept slipping down because they were too loose :'(

            The only way I can get my tights to stay up is to wear another pair of underpants over the top. Now the only problem I have is when I pick the wrong pair of undies and they start falling down too…

            Reply
        2. Jasnah

          Do the Superman and wear a clean pair of underwear over the outside of the tights. Keeps them up all day! I’m doing it right now.

          Reply
    11. your favorite person

      I’m curious if other women at the Business meeting were wearing hose? That would be a better indicator of what to do in that situation then what we would suggestion, since we don’t know the culture of the event.

      Reply
      1. June

        I think though that even if most women were wearing hose at the meeting, bare legs would likely still come across more professionally than giant/obvious rip + awkward self-conscious walking. The only real difference would be if this is a multi-hour event where OP can easily run to the nearest drug store for another pair during a break.

        Reply
      2. Letter Writer

        I can confirm other women were wearing hose or they were in pant suits. Part of my dilemma was not wanting to be the only one with bare legs.

        Reply
    12. Hodie-Hi

      I visited Sydney Australia about 6 weeks ago. I was surprised by how many women wore hose. Even some women who appeared younger than 50.

      Reply
    13. RoadsLady

      I actually know a woman of age who is horrified at women wearing hose because she was brought up with hose being horn only by scandalous women.

      Reply
  3. Greg NY

    #2: No one should be expected to reply to all emails while they’re on any type of leave, except for the few organizations in which that is the expectation and the culture (in those organizations, you are never truly off the job). When you are on vacation, medical leave, or maternity/paternity leave, you are not on the job. It’s not reasonable to never read any email unless your colleagues are on board, but it is very reasonable to delegate someone to handle your duties while you’re away and set up an auto-reply directing people to email that person, adding that they will contact you if there is an emergent situation. If it’s not possible to not check email at all (with the person you deputize calling or texting if there’s a problem), checking once per day should be sufficient. With the proper auto-reply, there should be no need to reply to the emails, only to read the (hopefully) few that come in.

    Reply
      1. Greg NY

        That I got, but I figured that he could cut the emails that came in while he’s gone to nearly nothing so he wouldn’t have much to read.

        Reply
        1. Gaia

          I think he can (and should) do some self culling of emails when he gets back but the very idea that after only 3 weeks he expects to read and respond to none? That is just craziness for many jobs.

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            I think the message itself will do some culling, and I actually think it’s a smart thing.

            My mom used to say, in the days before answering machines, “If it’s important, they’ll call back.”

            With this message, he’s saying, “if it’s important to you, you’ll need to call me back.” So they’ll either figure out an answer that helps them now (one fewer email/phone message), or they’ll still have their need, and they’ll ask again.

            Three weeks is actually a long enough time for this approach, to me. That’s a long time!

            Reply
        2. Antilles

          I don’t know if “reducing the emails to nearly nothing” is really a reasonable expectation in most workplaces.
          1.) A lot of email threads are just done with a simple reply-all where it’s asking a lot for everyone to always remember to pull you out of the thread. (There’s a larger discussion to be had about reply-all email culture, but every office I’ve ever worked in struggles with it, so…)
          2.) Similarly, while it’s possible for people sending office-wide emails to expand the Corporate Engineering list and remove your name from this particular email, that’s a lot of effort for very little reward.
          3.) If your job description involves working with outside clients, it’s not realistic to let all of them know ahead of time. Maybe a couple of your biggest and most frequent communicators, but not everyone who might potentially email you.
          4.) There are a lot of things where it makes sense to include you on the email chain to read even if there’s no necessary action so that you’re in the loop and available to follow up later.
          5.) For low priority tasks, it often doesn’t make sense to redirect it to someone else for a relatively short vacation (and three weeks counts) – it’s better to just put it on hold for a few days and let you deal with it when you get back rather than dragging in someone who’s less familiar with the project.
          I think that in today’s email-happy culture, you just need to assume that you’re coming back to a mess of emails and pre-plan to dedicate an hour or more on your first day back to sorting through the cluster…though if you’ve got a good out-of-office reply, a lot of these emails can be handled in like 30 seconds because the issue in play has already been addressed or is no longer relevant.

          Reply
      2. Kate

        I’m removing this because it’s starting a whole derailment. But to reply to your comment, I made the same correction to Greg’s comment as I did to Engineer Girl’s below because they were both responding to a different situation than what was in the letter. It’s in no way personal; it’s that I don’t want conversation to derail on something the letter isn’t actually about, so it’s a factual correction that the letter is asking X, not Y. And I’ve defended Greg in the past couple of weeks when I thought people were unfairly singling him out. – Alison

        Reply
      3. Mommy MD

        That’s why someone else should cover his email inbox while he is on leave. He should not have to come back to a pile of email.

        Reply
        1. Colette

          That’s really not the norm in many jobs – most people are expected to manage their own email inbox. There may be a shared mailbox, but even there, something that comes in for you on the last day of vacation will probably wait until you return.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth W.

            Depending on whatever his job is, someone else might be handling it anyway–in that case, “I will be unavailable during this time; please contact Maribel if you need assistance” would work better. That’s basically what I did while out of the country. I COULD have logged into my email; I just didn’t want to, and *Maribel* was doing my work anyway.

            Reply
            1. Colette

              Sure, but there will always be people who don’t want to contact Maribel (because it’s not that important, or because she screwed it up last time, or because they mean to and don’t get there), so you still need to do a quick read of your email when you get back.

              Reply
      4. Alex

        He’s being up open and transparent. I think this should be the default attitude ( not reading all your email after vacation ). Nothing kills the post vacation productivity like not working for a week because all you do is go through and read old emails. Also, it avoids the situation where you follow up on stuff that’s already done because the requester sees your OOO and takes care of it in another way but then doesn’t follow up on their initial request.

        It’s more productive to just go and have 1:1s with a few key colleagues and get up to speed on what you’ve missed.

        (Anyways, my out of office message says something similar when I take my long summer vacations and I’ve never had anyone say anything negative. It reduces the amount of email I have when I get back and means I can just skim the emails for updates)

        Reply
        1. MLB

          Of course nobody wants to sit at the their desk when they come back from vacation and sift through hundreds of emails, but guess what? It’s part of being a responsible adult in a professional environment. The OOO message is out of line. If he’s unable to check email in those three weeks, a simple “I will have no access to email, so for any urgent matters please contact [co-worker]”. Expecting clients/co-workers to remember to follow up with you after you get back is unprofessional and rude.

          Reply
          1. Phoenix Programmer

            Lol hundreds. Personally I get hundreds a day. So yeah. Not going to be reading the vast majority of the emails if I am out for even just a week. I deleted anything ikder than a week and all emails from certain lists when I was back from being out just 3 weeks. I did not have time to Wade through thousands of emails just to find the one or two that mattered.

            And guess what? The one or two that mattered? People brought them back up to me within the week so no big deal I missed the first message.

            Reply
            1. LKW

              Same but I just reorganize my email by the subject, read it from bottom to top and then respond if I need to or file it away. I don’t just toss all of my email if I’ve been out. There are some simple ways to cull the pile pretty quickly.

              Reply
            2. Jojo

              I sort mine by sender. If the boss, lead, or training coordinator. Sent it I read first. 99 percent of the rest an be dumped.

              Reply
        2. Genny

          I agree. I really like his OOO message. If something is important/needs his attention, send it to him when he’ll be in the office. It makes no sense to come back to the office after a long leave only to spend the first few days playing detective to figure out whether or not anyone followed up that one email from two weeks ago.

          Reply
        3. TootsNYC

          Also, it avoids the situation where you follow up on stuff that’s already done because the requester sees your OOO and takes care of it in another way but then doesn’t follow up on their initial request.

          Yes! And it will also push them to GO take care of it another way, since they can’t just “drop off” their request/problem.

          Reply
    1. JamieS

      Sure it’s reasonable to direct people who to go to in your absence. It’s not reasonable to proclaim you’re not going to follow up on any emails period.

      Reply
      1. Les G

        Actually, some folks do take this approach. I wish I could remember where on this site it came up, but we had a question about someone who took precisely this approach. But it was for a few months, not a few weeks. Three weeks gives the whole thing a sort of precious, righteously-indignant-over-hypotheticals sort of feel.

        Reply
        1. TooTiredToThink

          I don’t remember reading it here; but I do know I’ve heard of this method before and I’m pretty sure I’ve had a coworker do this. And to be honest; it makes sense to me. But only in the context that Alison mentioned – if the majority of emails are ones that would have been handled in the person’s absence.

          Reply
          1. Washi

            I think it makes sense if you tell people ahead of time and put it in your internal OOO message that you’re planning to mass delete messages received in your absence. But if you return after only 3 weeks and retroactively declare you’re not planning to read anything, in most jobs you would be inconveniencing a lot of your coworkers who emailed you 2 days ago figuring you would deal with it when you got back.

            Reply
        2. Lance

          Are you thinking of the letter asking about their co-worker’s ‘strategy’ to nuke any and all e-mails she got while on leave?

          Reply
        3. hermit crab

          Yeah, I think *doing* it could be reasonable in a lot of places but *saying* it in your OOO message is a little, I dunno, huffy and self-important? I mean, if I get an auto-reply that says someone is on leave, I’m probably going to assume that I’ll need to follow up anyway. That’s just how things work!

          Reply
          1. KC without the sunshine band

            I was out on medical leave for roughly 10 days. I get roughly 100 emails a day, so I had about 1,000 emails when I got back. I read/responded to the ones from my higher-ups and my 5 direct reports. Otherwise, dumped them in a folder “medical leave” and looked through it when needed. Worked out just fine.

            Reply
          2. NotAnotherManager!

            Yes, the phrasing of the OOO message seems unnecessarily hostile, and it would be totally unacceptable within my organization. Your OOO needs to say three things: (1) when you’re out/coming back; (2) whether or not you’re available at all during this time; and (3) who can help them in your absence.

            I work in professional services, and putting up a message that places the onus of follow-up on the person reaching out is antithetical to the entire culture.

            Reply
          3. TootsNYC

            but if you’re doing to *do* it, you very much need to *say* it–how else will people know?

            It is a break from the norm. I think it’s a reasonable break from thenorm, especially at three weeks, but it IS a break.

            So if that’s the plan, he does need to tell people!

            Reply
            1. NotAnotherManager!

              I think the problem is that he’s *telling* people – basically, he’s telling them to bend to his needs and schedule. It’s off-putting and comes across as though his time is more valuable than other people’s as it puts the onus on them to recall when he’s returning and reiterate their request on his timetable. I would not be happy, at minimum, about the phrasing, if I were his manager.

              Reply
        4. Bowl of Oranges

          I’ve seen it mentioned before in those “How to take control of your email!!!!!” kinds of articles.

          Reply
        5. MusicWithRocksInIt

          Whenever I get any kind of out of office reply that indicates someone will be gone more than a day (and I need a reply), I will always make a note on my calendar to follow up with that person a day or two after they get back, just in case they missed my email in the mess they got back to.
          So I am usually prepared to follow up if my email goes missing, but there are situations where that wouldn’t fly and I wouldn’t be able to keep special track of what that person needs. A big group invite to a meeting coming up when the person was back, or a group email about a big project that the person would be coming back to for example. There are certain projects that involve a big group of people on emails (in my line of work) and I may not be able to re-forward all that information to someone once they get back just because they couldn’t be bothered to look through their email for important information.

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            Ah, you have forgotten his wording!

            I have no plans to follow up directly… If you still need my input

            So he’d get your invite; he’d review your FYI information, etc.
            He’s not asking you to reforward that sort of stuff. He’s saying, “If you want me to do something specific, you need to come back when I’m here.”

            I think it makes a lot of sense, and I don’t find it offputting at all!

            Reply
    2. BurnOutCandidate

      There was an article in The Atlantic over the summer about someone who sets their email to autodelete when he’s on vacation, with an out-of-office message that lets the sender know that their email was deleted and will never be read.

      I thought that was aggressive, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I’d probably implement a system like that if I took a vacation, but I’ve not been able to take one for eight years, and after the berating I took for taking a single, approved day a month and a half ago, I’m hoping my next employer will be more allowing.

      https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/06/out-of-office-message-email/562394/

      Reply
  4. Engineer Girl

    #2 – Is your coworker exempt? Because technically, reading the emails counts as work and they would need to be paid – for the entire week! That’s why my old company had the IT department remove email access while the employee was on leave.

    Reply
      1. Engineer Girl

        Got it. The out of office should direct people to another dedicated person who will handle the issues.

        I’m not sure people should be leaving notes to him knowing he’s gone. Just connect with the designated support person. Although it’s nice to be cc’d on things just to have context.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          That doesn’t work for every job though, particularly as people get more senior. He may need to weigh in on something where his perspective in particular is what’s wanted. Or he might not need to respond at all, but needs to read the email because it contains info or context he’ll need later.

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            he’s not saying he wouldn’t read it–he’s saying “I have no plans to follow up directly… If you still need my input”

            So if you come back and say, “I still need your input,” he’ll go dig up the email and read it.

            And he may sit down and skim through to find the stuff he really wants to read more about.

            But if you want him to DO something, you need to come back when he’s actually here.

            Reply
        2. Julia

          But what if it’s an email directed to several people, considering a long-term project? The person sending it shouldn’t have to resend it three weeks later just for one guy who can go back in his inbox and find it, plus relevant answers that may have come in in the meantime. A business doesn’t stand still when one person isn’t there temporarily.

          Reply
          1. intrinsically blah

            I find this weird because aren’t there going to be emails that he needs to read to get back into the loop?

            I work at a hotel and while I don’t read emails while on vacation, I read them when I get back, so I find out that Sue left and don’t use rooms 1-25 as the Wi-Fi routers got fried in a storm, etc., etc. And all of this stuff that, yeah theoretically should be passed on by my relief but realistically aren’t.

            Reply
            1. Julia

              Exactly. Sure it would be nice if someone left you a list of stuff that happened during your absence, but what if no one does?

              Reply
              1. MusicWithRocksInIt

                Yes – you are putting needless emotional labor on all of your coworkers and maybe even your customers to remember that you are back and re-forward you everything you need to know from when you are out. When you already had all that information at your fingertips, and just threw it away.

                Reply
            2. Smarty Boots

              That’s the case in my office, too. We have folks on maternity leave, extended sick leave, and the like, as well as people out for a one or two week vacation — they all check their email when they get back because there’s a lot of important info (policy updates, procedures, etc) they need just to do their jobs. And for sure someone in an office across campus is not going to give a flying fig — nor should they — that person-who’s-out isn’t going to read email and expects to get ANOTHER email with the same info now that he’s back. Yeah, no.

              Reply
            3. samiratou

              Exactly, yeah. I leave emails for people who I know are out, knowing full well I won’t hear anything on it until they get back. It’s easier for me to send that email now, when I’m thinking about it, and it can just hang out in the inbox until the person is back and can get to it.

              Reply
                1. Elsajeni

                  If all of those emails genuinely need their response, though, they’re going to come back to that either way — is it really that much better to have a million emails all arrive they day you get back than to find them already in your inbox?

          2. TootsNYC

            Again, you are missing his actual words:

            I have no plans to follow up directly… If you still need my input

            It’s whether you need him to act. If it’s background info, it’ll be in his email box.

            He didn’t say he was going to delete them all wholesale! he just said, “I won’t be treating my emails like a to-do list,” essentially.

            Reply
        3. HannaSpanna

          I get the feeling that sometimes people commenting don’t realise that other peoples jobs and offices are different than theirs (see Black Friday discussion.)
          In my role I would get emails that only I would be able to deal with, and would just have to wait til I get back from vacation (for politeness, with an out of office explaining the delay.) I’m definitely not a high flying exec.

          Reply
        4. Lore

          I will literally have someone sitting at my desk monitoring and handling my emails while I’m away and there’s still absolutely no way I could function without reviewing them at least cursorily when I get back. All communications about internal policy changes, corporate news, deadline changes, etc come via email. All of the manuscript files that I work on traffic among internal and external parties via email. All of my projects have timelines months long and involve a dozen people—different combination for each one—and it would not be reasonable for all the parties to remember the vacation schedule of all the other parties on all the projects and reopen conversations just to save me a day of going through emails to get up to speed on my return.

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            He didn’t say he wouldn’t review them. He didn’t say he was going to delete them.

            he said: “I have no plans to follow up directly… If you still need my input”

            It’s about your expectation that he will treat his email inbox like a to-do list.

            Reply
    1. HannaSpanna

      Depends on workplace, but I think if OP2 wants to push back she can, but has to make clear before the coworker leaves. Unless it’s already a norm in the company, or the coworker has their managers agreement, I think you can just say nope, not holding onto emails until you return, but will bear in mind when emailing that you wont be replying for a while.
      If anything gets dropped, not sure the ‘but I said I was going to delete all my emails from my vacation’ defense will work, unless your extremely high up.

      Reply
  5. NahImGood

    Regarding the email: I think that’s wholly appropriate and common. I work for a corporation that is still largely email-based (even though we make a Slack competitor and even though my actual team uses Slack), and I frequently see these types of auto-responders when I’m conversing with other teams.

    I actually prefer the honesty because it lets me try to get a project completed without their input and if I do need input, I can email again when the person is back.

    I wouldn’t do this if I were going to be out of office for a week, but if someone is gone for 3 weeks and will explicitly not be checking mail, I think this is fine and frankly.

    Reply
      1. Maggie

        I think OP is having a strong case of “but I held myself to this miserable standard, couldn’t he have to, too??” The reality is she almost certainly didn’t have to scan her maternity leave emails. I sure as hell didn’t! I thought about it, but a kind coworker stopped me with an ‘Oh honey, NO,’ that I found very liberating. I think OP is being entirely realistic. If people needed to tie him, all they need to do is forward the original chain and ask him to read it. I think this is a classic gender issue we’ve women take on more work than they needed to (eg baked breakfast without pay) where no one bats an eye about the male coworker buying donuts and expensing them. I actually think this is MORE appropriate as a new parent at week 3 of sleepless nights than, say, a 5 month leave where you’ve had some to readjust. Things are REALLY fresh at 3 weeks. No harm in being clear with setting expectations.

        Reply
        1. Les G

          Okay, but if he’s coming back to work after three weeks (presumably not having given birth) then my dude has to come back to work. Responding to emails you got as recently as *checks notes* three days ago is really, really not living up to any sort of miserable standard, and the fact that you’re comparing someone who’s been gone for three weeks to someone who took half a year off after a serious medical event like childbirth makes me wonder if you’re the one who’s holding male employees to a lighter standard.

          Reply
          1. Totally Minnie

            Yeah, three weeks doesn’t seem long enough to declare that you won’t read any of those messages. I had an employee a few years ago who was out for three months, and I certainly didn’t expect her to read every single email that came through in those months, but three weeks doesn’t feel that extreme.

            I think the only thing you can reasonably do in that situation is talk to people before you leave and make sure they know who to email while you’re out and ask that they not send you messages during that time if they can avoid it.

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              he didn’t say he wouldn’t read them.

              “I have no plans to follow up directly… If you still need my input…”

              Reply
              1. NotAnotherManager!

                So, he’s going to read them, but if he comes across anything that was seeking his input, he’s just going to wait for that person to follow up? That doesn’t really logically follow. If you’re going to spend the time to read things (ideally in reverse chron order) and see something asking something of you… you just ignore it unless the person follows up? That’s silly.

                He’s basically announcing that his email is a black hole for his three-week leave and it’s someone else’s responsibility to assemble his to-do list when he returns.

                Reply
                1. TootsNYC

                  no, it’s their responsibility to figure out some other solution in the meantime, or else to come back with THEIR to-do-list item when he’s actually in the office.

                2. NotAnotherManager!

                  And, if that works in his office, godspeed. That’s-your-problem-not-mine isn’t team-focused and shouldn’t be a thing above very entry-level, order-taker type positions. It absolutely not fly at my job (anywhere I’ve worked, actually), and it’s not an attitude I’d encourage in the interest of positive relationships with coworkers. If I’ve covered Bob’s Guacamole Audit on top of my job for three weeks and he says, “Oh, I’m not reading my emails, catch me up and resend any action items.”, I’m not going to think much of Bob.

                  I think undisturbed leave is very important and would not call Bob while he’s at home with his new baby, but I would expect anyone coming back from leave to take responsibility for bringing themselves back up to speed and picking up anything that their coworkers have handled for them without creating further burden on the people who *haven’t* been out for weeks.

        2. Genny

          I got the same impression from her letter. I get it’s frustrating to realize you did more work than was necessary or to feel like someone else is slacking off, but just because you did something miserable doesn’t mean everyone else needs to do the same miserable thing. I’d love to get to a point where this expectation (not responding to emails from three weeks ago) is the norm for maternity and paternity leave along with other long leaves of absence. Maybe people would be more willing to take the time off if they knew they wouldn’t be coming back to an avalanche of emails.

          Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        but he didn’t say he wouldn’t READ them.

        He said not to expect him to ACT on them.
        “I have no plans to follow up directly… If you still need my input”

        Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Yeah—I have friends who receive a pretty high volume of email, and they have similar messages up when they’re on leave. If they can reroute the email, they’ll suggest that, but oftentimes they have to concede defeat and let clients know that up front.

      And for parental leave, I think it’s ok to say you may not read or respond to anything that arrives during your leave period when you return from leave. I understand that’s not the norm for many places, but it seems reasonable to me, even if someone’s leave is only 3 weeks.

      Reply
    2. Gaia

      I can say that in my industry (and the industry I was in before) 3 weeks is in no way long enough to decide you’re just not reading any emails upon your return. And we send a lot of emails. Like, a lot of emails. I once took a 3 week vacation and came back to over 4,000 emails. Did I read every single one of them? No. I did some early culling of the oldest. Plus I setup some rules for ones I knew were going to come in (status reports, I don’t need to see 3 weeks worth of daily updates – I need to see the most recent, etc).

      Reply
    3. CM

      I have a completely different take on this. I think the colleague was really overstepping and that, unless you’re in a powerful position where people normally expect to arrange their work around your needs, it’s inappropriate to say “I don’t plan to get back to you, so you need to follow up with me again in 3 weeks.” A leave of 3 weeks doesn’t mean you get to excuse yourself from anything that happens in those 3 weeks, it means that some things are going to be waiting when you get back. If his message were phrased in a softer way that said he’d be out and requested people to please follow up if they don’t hear from him in a timely manner after his return, I think it would be OK.

      I think the OP did the right and expected thing — did a quick skim of emails upon her return and addressed anything that looked like it needed her attention.

      Reply
      1. Ophelia

        Yeah, this is how I feel, too. I have taken 2 maternity leaves (one “normal,” one “long” in US terms) and both times I made it clear in my away message that I wasn’t checking email *at that time* or for X time in the future, so that the best way to handle it would be to reach out to the contacts I included in the message. That said, both times I came back I did a quick scan–mostly of emails that came in in the few weeks preceding my return–to make sure there wasn’t anything that did require follow-up. For only a 3-week leave, I don’t think saying you won’t read anything upon your return is appropriate–there are things that CAN wait 3 weeks (or even 3 days, given the timeline) that would still be appropriate for OP’s co-worker to handle upon his return.

        Reply
    4. Quinalla

      I think this is very industry/job/culture specific. In my industry, if you are gone for a month or two (so maternity leave, extended leave of some sort) sure folks would not expect you to go through a bunch of emails that happened so long ago, likely just catch up the last week of email and get a download from someone on the rest. But 2-3 weeks, you’d be expected to go through email and catch up on things yourself with some communication from whoever was handling things while you were gone to sum up anything urgent/major. Folks would not be emailing you expecting you to do things except maybe in the week or few days leading up to the end of leave, but to keep you in the loop so after a day or two of catching up, you can hit the ground running on any projects still continuing.

      But yeah, if someone is getting CC’d on the same amount of email they normally get on a day while on leave, I can understand not going through it all except maybe the week’s worth prior to coming back from leave. I get 50-100 emails a day, but on leave I will get a lot less. If someone was still getting 50-100 emails a day (or more), that’s a hell of a lot to go through when you get back.

      Reply
  6. Greg NY

    #1: Your boss is punishing herself, even though she may not know it. When you can’t do your work, she takes the heat from her own manager because the end product will be lacking. And she is doing this to two of you, making it even less likely the department’s work will get done. I have a feeling that you aren’t going to get the brunt of this, she will, from her manager.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It sounds like she’s not taking heat from her manager, though—she’s eviscerating her reports in their performance reviews.

      More importantly, the boss sounds like a petty tyrant without impulse control.

      Reply
    2. Les G

      She’s…uh…what? I guess all jerks are, in a way, punishing themselves by depriving themselves of the gift of friendship, but I’m failing to see how this line of thinking is remotely actionable for the OP.

      Reply
      1. Friday afternoon fever

        She not ‘depriving herself of friendship,’ she’s setting her employees up to fail in a way that could or should ultimately affect her performance and deliverables as a manager and the way her own manager evaluated her.

        Reply
        1. Friday afternoon fever

          The original comment says “When you can’t do your work, she takes the heat from her own manager because the end product will be lacking.” I agree with Cone Walking below that there’s nothing in the letter to support there being this kind of accountability. And personally as someone who has worked for a lot of small business I’m always frustrated by comments that say “go to manager’s boss / HR, duh!” when a letter doesn’t give context as to whether this kind of accountability structure even exists (I literally am at my very first job with HR) — THAT is not always an actionable solution.

          But Greg’s comment is pretty clear, and it could potentially be a really helpful way for the letter writer to reframe the situation and diffuse some of their anxiety — ie the manager is screwing herself over as much or more than she’s screwing over OP.

          Reply
          1. samiratou

            I was thinking something like this, as well. LW said they’re undergoing a management change at their org, which I took to mean this boss is a new boss to them, and very probably their boss is also new to the team, so the LW might not have much capital to go over her boss’s head at this point.

            I think LW’s best option is to just go “well, I can’t do my work, so what do you want me to do in the meantime?” and direct any questions or tickets to her boss or someone else until access is restored.

            Reply
      1. Phoenix Programmer

        FFS. Maybe skip his comments if you don’t like them. I find the hyper sensitivity to his comments – which are no worse than any newbies to the forum really off putting. Get over yourselves.

        Reply
    3. HannaSpanna

      I think that a manager that would pull this kind of stunt, would also not hesitate before throwing others under the bus to save her own skin.

      Reply
    4. A.N. O'Nyme

      I hope you’re right…But I doubt it. It feels like this manager is trying to create a situation where she can fire OP.

      Reply
    5. Hallowflame

      A manager who punishes her direct reports by sabotaging their work is not one who accepts responsibility for those direct reports’ failures when confronted by her boss. She will absolutely take the “My team couldn’t meet our target numbers because these two people couldn’t get their work done,” approach, without owning up to WHY they couldn’t get their work done.

      Reply
      1. Phoenix Programmer

        But on a well run org it would still reflect on her. A good manager would ask her: Why couldn’t they get it done? What did you try to help them move forward? What barriers did they have and if you could not remove them why did I not know about it sooner?

        We have no evidence that OP bosses boss is bad. So assume she is not and advise accordingly.

        Reply
    6. ENFP in Texas

      I doubt it. The manager will just blame it on “poor performing employees” (as evidenced by the OP’s reference to the performance review issues).

      Reply
  7. Engineer Girl

    #3 – There’s a reason I keep an extra pair of stockings in my computer bag. As well as safety pin, thread, and lint brush.

    But I agree that bare legs looks more professional than a huge run. Especially so if presenting. You don’t want anything distracting from your message.

    Reply
    1. Les G

      This. My wife is always rocking those tights on the (thankfully fairly rare) occasion she needs to dress in what I’m told is called “business wear.” Why? Two reasons. Numero uno is she hasn’t shaved her legs in 5 years and we all know leg hair on women isn’t professional because Reasons. But also, because of the delightfully-termed “chub rub.” You walk long enough in a skirt and no tights and I’m told it’s even more uncomfortable than a dude who normally hangs right trying to pack left. So tights are actually more of a practical necessity than anything for some folks.

      Reply
      1. Oh what to wear

        I would probably choose to present wearing tights with a run, rather than bare. My legs are slightly hairy (I shave them maybe every other week?), I have visible veins, scars from when I fell down a set of stairs 20 years ago, and my natural skin tone is an unhealthy pale bluish-white. So I think a run would attract less attention than my actual bare legs.

        In summer, when it’s really hot, I wear skirts over bare legs at work, but I go for at least midi length skirts, or I wear midi length leggings under the skirt.

        But that’s just me

        Reply
            1. Elizabeth W.

              Also Bandelettes–they go around your thighs like the tops of stockings but without the stocking part. I hear they’re pretty good.

              Reply
            2. Cherith Ponsonby

              I’ve made my own in a pinch by cutting down a pair of cottony leggings that had a hole in one knee. Total game-changer :D

              Reply
        1. AnaEatsEverything

          @Oh what to wear, I sympathize. I’m in my 20s and I look like I’m suffering from varicose veins, but in reality I just have extremely transparent skin, so you can see my entire vein structure, and it’s not pretty. I pack an extra pair of hose when I need to wear them. A bottle of self-tanner or foundation a shade above my skintone have also saved me in a pinch (which is also my trick when I go to the beach).

          Reply
      2. Queen Anon

        Petty pants. They’re a lifesaver. (Basically like a half-slip but with individual legs.) I’m told bike shorts can serve the same purpose, but I’ve never owned any so couldn’t really say.

        Reply
    2. Rebecca

      Me too! On the very few occasions I need to wear hose, I keep extra knee highs (if it’s for a longer skirt) or an extra pair of hose in my purse, along with the sewing kit and safety pins. That strategy has bailed me out on more than one occasion over the years.

      Reply
      1. Mockingjay

        I live on the Southeast coast and we are barelegged most of the year, except for occasional formal meetings held in arctic hotel conference rooms. You would have been fine removing your hose.

        For future: I found tights at Target last year that were a lighter denier than the usual thick opaque. They came in a rainbow of colors including the usual pantyhose tones: nude, tan, light black, jet black. I bought bunches. I prefer tights over hose for comfort and durability, but there are times when I need the more formal look of hose (especially in summer in those hotel conference rooms – lol). These were a perfect compromise. Probably can find them on Amazon and other retailers as well.

        Reply
  8. SS Express

    OP5, that sounds terrible! I used to have a job that I absolutely loved so much – loved the work, so many close friendships, I had heaps of responsibility and exposure to all kinds of cool stuff – and I left it for a job that I liked okay I guess. In my case it wasn’t to get more money but to get a better work/life balance, so not exactly the same as your situation, but here’s the thing: it was so hard leaving and saying goodbye to all the people there and I do still miss some of them, but I never regretted it for a second or really even missed the job itself. Even though I loved the new job much less, I had time and energy to fill my life with other things I love so I was much happier overall. It sounds like your awesome job isn’t awesome enough to make up for the financial stress and marital tension (not much would be!) so maybe this isn’t the option that makes you happiest.

    Reply
    1. valentine

      OP5: Get a nontoxic job that pays more than you need and, if it doesn’t involve animals, find a different way to have them in your life. Unless you can get a significant raise, changing your hours or other things about your job doesn’t seem enough for it not to keep chipping away at your marriage. Are there nontoxic vet jobs with proper pay anywhere you can move to? When you do the math for your next job, include the higher cost of healthcare due to the negative impact on your health and things like whether you value free time more than saving and any goals you have like travel. Look at the biggest picture so you can choose a job that serves it.

      Reply
      1. Bostonian

        I came here to say that. If you truly love your job and don’t want to leave, but the pay is not tenable, tell that to your manager. She may be able to make something work if she doesn’t want to lose you.

        Reply
      2. Amadeo

        In reality it’s unlikely. I was a CVT too. Was. I’m a web specialist now. The only way you’re ever going to make any money as a vet tech is to get into research and work for places like Pfizer and Eli Lily.

        Most vet clinics don’t have a high margin to begin with and it also doesn’t help that lots of vets are cheap as hell (though it’s possible that’s changing). Most also don’t utilize their technicians to their highest potential. In IL, as a CVT I could do *everything* but surgery, make a diagnosis, make a prognisis and prescribe medication (for example, during a spay, the only thing a doctor really needed to do was come in, make the cut, do the OVH and leave. I could have the animal down, asleep, prepped and the instruments ready, and then stitch the surgery site). It’s highly skill labor, but undervalued. Lots of techs don’t last long before they move on, both because of the seriously toxic environments some vet clinics cultivate and because of the stupid low salary.

        Reply
        1. Hallowflame

          This.
          My experience isn’t a direct 1:1 comparison, but I did accounting for a group of animal hospitals a while back and the expenses, between equipment, supplies, outside lab tests, and medications, were bonkers. There were some areas where the markups to clients were excessive, like cremation services (I did what I could to bring that margin down to a more reasonable level, but it wasn’t my call), but the vast majority of the pricing was pretty low-margin for the clients.
          The hospitals also did a LOT of work with rescues and police animals, who got discounted (at-cost) rates and had a 24-hour emergency clinic where a lot of strays came in, which the clinic usually took a loss on when the animal didn’t have an owner to collect from.
          All of this is to say, don’t go into veterinary medicine if you’re looking to make a lot of money. There are a handfull of vets that get to this level, but they are highly specialized, and they don’t work in your average clinic. And their techs don’t typically see any additional pay.

          Reply
        2. boo bot

          I’m dismayed but I guess not terribly surprised that vet techs are underpaid and under-utilized. That said, the OP said she was making more money in her last two jobs ($2.60 and $3.50/ hour more). To me that sounds like she might be underpaid even within an underpaying field.

          OP, if that’s the case – that you could make more at a different clinic – please keep in mind that severely underpaying you is, in and of itself, a form of toxicity. The day-to-day atmosphere might be better than the other places, but if you can’t survive on the money, it’s not really giving you a better quality of life.

          I know that’s not the most actionable advice, but it might be helpful to put that into your calculations as you decide what to do. Good luck!

          Reply
        3. Perse's Mom

          My sister found a position at clinic 2 after discovering that clinic 1 was paying brand new employees in the same position more than she was making after several years there. This seems like one of those industries where you almost HAVE to change jobs in order to make more, and still frankly won’t make all that much.

          Reply
      3. Anomalous

        There certainly could be CVT jobs in your area that pay better and still have a good work atmosphere. If you like the work, it is worth looking around.

        Reply
  9. Greg NY

    #5: In your situation, I would. Alison is totally correct that you have to weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself, but you have a compelling reason to switch jobs. Money, especially the lack thereof, is one of the biggest stressors in life. It affects everything, even if you are getting the basics of food and shelter. One of the biggest things it affects is, indeed, spending time with your family In fact, you are going to end up more stressed in the long run by staying at a job that, by itself, doesn’t add to the stress as much but leaves you with crumbs in your bank account. It is best to build up an emergency fund of an entire year’s worth of living expenses and a retirement fund (preferably in tax-advantaged accounts) of about 3 times your salary, at a bare minimum, as soon as possible. That will take a better paying job to do, but once you build up those reserves, you will have more options available that will be less stress in the long term. If the stress in a particular job is hazardous to your health, that will have to be part of the equation, but if I were you, I would do what’s best in the long run and make a short term sacrifice.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      And a job that pays crap and makes you work 50 hours a week is not all that swell on work/life balance either. It would be one thing if you had a lot of flexibility and shorter hours or something, but long hours for low pay and a miserable family — Maybe the goal should be a place that you will like that pays better. Are all other options really miserable places to work?

      Reply
      1. Works in IT

        It sounds like the old story about how if you choose a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life. This clinic maintains a pleasant working environment, and uses that to justify paying starvation wages. I would call something like that a toxic environment. My non profit might pay lower wages than the for profits that do similar things, but the wages are above the minimum wage and augmented by inexpensive, fantastic food in the cafeteria (which can be brought home for dinner too) and a generous benefits package.

        Reply
        1. Genny

          Right? I think it’s also interesting that none of the positives LW lists are exclusive to this job. Plenty of other jobs have good pay and nice people/a friendly atmosphere, opportunities to advance, interesting work, etc. Maybe those jobs aren’t in other vet clinics, but there are more ways to work with animals than just working this one stressful, low-paying, marriage-killing job. I’d strongly recommend job searching.

          Reply
      2. EddieSherbert

        +100
        My current job is like that – I love the work, the environment, the coworkers… but it pays crap. Right now, it’s worth it to me because I also have flex scheduling! But I knew very early on that I couldn’t stay here long term – promotions usually don’t even come with raises here! If it got the point where that was seriously stressful and concerning for my SO, I would start job-searching.

        I’m very empathetic to your situation though, OP5! I am going to miss this job a lot once I leave. But in my opinion, this is the kind of job that typically has an expiration date.

        Reply
    2. Psyche

      Yeah, I sympathize with the OP so much. I work a job that pays much less than I could make elsewhere and requires very long hours. It has caused a lot of tension in my relationship because my fiancé complains he never sees me anymore and when he does I am exhausted. If I were single this job would be fine, but I do need to take his needs into account when choosing where to work. We ended up making an agreement where I found another job that has slightly better hours and will look for a better paying job in a few years.

      Reply
    3. ella

      If OP5 hasn’t already, it might be worth it to talk with their boss to see if *some* of the variables that are making their current job so hard could be mitigated. Depending on how long they’ve been there and their performance, maybe they could ask for a raise. Maybe there could be more consistency in scheduling. What’s the gap between OPs’ income and where their budget needs to be? If it’s only $100 a month, they might be able to shift their budget to cover that. If it’s $1000, that’s a much bigger problem. Changing jobs is definitely a possible solution, but it’s not necessarily the only solution.

      Reply
  10. Doctor Schmoctor

    I think speakerphones should be banned from all offices. We have some people here who use them very loudly. My ex boss would phone home when he arrived at work and talk to his two kids. The volume was extra loud and the two kids were 4 and 5, so it was loud. Lots of squealing. Cute kids, but dude, close your door! And another time he was talking to one of our coworker in a different office about her cancer diagnosis. On speakerphone with the door open. Everybody could hear everything! Not cool! I still hate myself for not saying something.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      I simply don’t understand why they are allowed at all in cube farms. There is no excuse for someone on a one/one call to have a speaker phone on unless in a private office with the door shut.

      Reply
      1. Lance

        It’s even worse when it’s the person the next cube over, who already has a naturally loud voice. Yeah, that’s been fun…

        Reply
      2. Guacamole Bob

        I’d be annoyed if they disabled the feature. I totally agree about one-on-one calls, but I’ve been in cube setups where multiple people were dialed in to the same conference call and you could hear them both in real life and on a slight delay over the call, and it drove me batty. Worked much better when a few of us would cluster around someone’s desk and put it on speakerphone.

        (A conference room is even better, but those are in short supply around here and sometimes these kinds of calls happen spontaneously or need to be near a specific desk/computer, like troubleshooting with a software vendor.)

        Reply
        1. Psyche

          I think that using speakerphone in an open office needs a good justification. Multiple people in the office needing to be on the call is a good justification. I can’t think of a reason that it would ever be needed if only one person is on the call. Headsets work just as well usually.

          Reply
      3. MusicWithRocksInIt

        I’ve told this story before – but I used to have a coworker that would pick up the phone, put it on speaker so everyone could hear the dial tone, AND THEN SORT THROUGH HER DESK LOOKING FOR THE NUMBER, leaving us all listening to the dial tone on speaker for minutes sometimes. Then she would dial the person, leave it on speaker while it rang, and pick up and speak to them once they picked up. I feel hulk level rage just thinking about it, and I haven’t worked there in years.

        Reply
        1. KimberlyR

          Hearing a dial tone on speakerphone absolutely brings out the Hulk rage in me. Don’t put the phone on speaker until you’re ready to actually dial the number!

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth W.

            I would argue not to do it at all. I can’t hear you when you’re on speaker on the other end. Call me and then ask if you can put me on speaker.

            Reply
      4. NotAnotherManager!

        The head of my old department unilaterally decided to disable speakerphones in the cube farm without telling anyone, which ended up creating some awkward situations when a support situation required collaboration, and the person helping them put them on “speaker” to loop in a colleague or two who’d come to help and was trying to ask the end-user additional questions. When they reported the phone damaged, Department Head announced that no one needed speaker. Until users started complaining about the game of telephone they were having to play explaining more complicated problems multiple times (or wait until the tier-one analyst played a game of telephone to explain it).

        In short, we got our speakerphones back, and everyone continued to use them exactly as they had – sparingly and only when required to bring together the support resources to work through a problem that touched multiple teams. Personally, I’d have rather had an office than the speakerphone back, but the space did not allow for it.

        Reply
      5. Perse's Mom

        I only take incoming calls at work; I do no more than lift the phone off the hook and put it back (if I need to hold or mute or transfer, that’s all in our phone software, not the phone itself). On a regular basis, it answers in speakerphone. Sometimes it will then shift to the phone, sometimes it won’t. Our tech team has looked into it, replaced the phone, etc. No change.

        Reply
      6. Phrunicus

        My second job, somebody who had an office near my cube, called somebody in a cube also near me. I can’t remember which of them had their speakerphone on, but one of them did (I think the office), so I was getting both sides of the conversation, and one of them twice over due to the speaker. I wanted to say something, but as a new contractor, really had no leverage.

        Reply
      1. Applesauced

        I hate hate HATE when people are in line on the phone, and ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY STAY ON THE PHONE FOR THE TRANSACTION.
        There is a human in front of you, ACT LIKE IT.

        Reply
    2. kittymommy

      Oh my, Do I agree! I despise speakerphones. I have one colleague who not only uses them for everything, does not tell you you are on speaker and/or who is in the vicinity. He also is very soft spoken and sits a good distance away from the phone, especially considering he doesn’t project. Drives me bonkers.

      Reply
      1. drpuma

        If you hadn’t used male pronouns I would swear you’re talking about my old boss! I always felt so self-conscious when she would call people on speakerphone with me in her office, and not let them know that I was there.

        Reply
      2. Kelly L.

        Count me in as another speakerphone hater. I know it has legitimate uses, but it makes it much harder for me to make out what is being said, and I also feel like it’s rude to not tell me who else is listening to me. The way I explain something, for example, might be really different depending on whether I’m talking only to an internal person and need to be really specific about some aspect of bureaucratic procedure, or whether an external person is listening in and I want to present our organization as, well, organized, and not reveal all the sausage-making details.

        Reply
      3. Alice Ulf

        Ugh, I have a coworker who sometimes puts clients on speakerphone without any warning or permission–usually when they are complaining about something–and I always get this unpleasant feeling that she’s doing it to mock them, or to surreptitiously invite everyone within earshot to mock them, too. It makes me feel complicit in something really distasteful.

        Add that our clients are low-income and often dealing with mental illness, and the whole thing just upsets me. I’m not sure how to address it, because her manager behaves exactly the same way.

        Reply
    3. JustaTech

      I have a couple of coworkers who aren’t good about closing their doors when they’re on speakerphone. I used to get really annoyed, but now I just walk over and quietly close their door. Don’t say anything, don’t even look at them, just gently pull the door shut.

      One guy has gotten a lot better about closing his door before starting a call. I’m not sure the other guy even noticed.

      Reply
    4. JOA

      I worked an internal help desk at my old job – every so often a salesperson would call us on speaker with the customer in their office. They would never tell us this, and we were not allowed to speak to customers directly… We were allowed to ask to be taken off speaker, fortunately!

      Reply
  11. Drew

    My dear LW#1, your boss is a total failure as a human being. I urge you to run away just as soon as you can find something better than working for a person who is so devoid of empathy. And we are all very sorry for your loss.

    Reply
  12. Owler

    #3: Black marker. Most people don’t notice the run as much as they notice the contrast between the hose and your skin. Go in the bathroom and color your skin in an oversized area of where the run is, or just color through the run.

    Reply
    1. Julia

      Does that work? Black marker would look much darker (on me) than sheer black pantyhose, as if I had a huge black mark on my leg.

      Reply
      1. Alica

        I have a friend who had holes in practically every pair of tights she owned – part of the getting ready ritual on a Friday night at hers was watching her hopping on one leg colouring in the holes with a marker! (we were students, so that may be why she didn’t buy more. or maybe she was just a serial ladder-er of tights) I honestly don’t know how it works for after you’ve been to the loo though, I can’t imagine they ever line up quite the same.

        Reply
    2. Friday afternoon fever

      Clear nail polish applied to the edges will help stop the run from growing. Not really helpful for huge runs, but for small ones where you can keep wearing the tights, a life saver.

      Reply
      1. JustaTech

        Clear being the operative word. In college I saw a number of friends who had purple sparkly splotches on their one pair of hose because that was the only nail polish they owned.

        Reply
    3. BananaPants

      I may just be unusually pale, but this wouldn’t even work if I were wearing opaque black tights, much less nude/flesh-tone hose.

      Reply
  13. MeM

    #4 – Speaking up is the way to start, but if the speaker phone is a distinction a person gets as they advance, it may be hard to get them to give it up. I worked in an open office (that had signs posted to please not use the speaker phones) where the majority of the people would use headsets to tie into long daily teleconferences. I nicely asked a manager if she could use her headset or pick up the phone when she was on a one to one call, because it was making it difficult for others to hear their conferences – answer was no, deal with it because she was a manager. She would call someone, listen to their entire out of office message, hang up at the end, then call the number again, listen to the entire message again, then leave her message. Multiple times every day. She’d have a loud conversation which everyone for 4 aisles could hear, then come out of her cube and repeat it to her aisle so we all heard it again. Needless to say, she was not well liked.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca

      Yes, I had an ex manager who would do that! I sat next to her office in cube land, she had an office with a door she could shut, but didn’t. Over and over and over again, all day long, speaker phone, loud conversations that sounded like she was sitting right next to me, it was so distracting. She did the same thing “I’m the manager, I will do what I want, and you will deal with it”. I asked numerous times if we could shut her door while she was on calls, etc. especially when she was loud, and she refused, and got angry at any of us who asked. I’m so glad she’s no longer with our company.

      Reply
    2. NotoriousMCG

      I used to work in an office (cube!!!!) environment where people having speaker conversations with each other was the NORM. It was so, so baffling to me. My boss would do it from her office to us, cube residents would do it to each other, it just made no sense. Some people just really love speakerphone for truly baffling reasons.

      Reply
      1. New Job So Much Better

        My 2 co-workers have side-by-side cubicles, yet they call each other on the phone…. and talk in the exact same volume they do when just talking through the cubicle wall.

        Reply
      2. Lisa

        I used to work in a cube farm where the “important” people had offices surrounding the room. One office-having guy used to constantly have loud phone calls on speaker with his office door open. It drove me bonkers! Just close your door, dude! You HAVE a door to close!!

        Reply
    1. Maggie

      Sigh, auto correct really took the impact out my short comment. Love. If you love your spouse, risking divorce is ridiculous.

      Reply
    2. Electric Pangolin

      Veterinary is known as a field with an extremely high rate of stress-related mental illnesses and suicide. I would not underestimate the value of a workplace that does not put you in that situation. Personally, I would probably come down on the other side, my mental health would *definitely* be worth a divorce. Or, to put it in a pithy phrase to contrast yours: No partner is worth killing myself for.

      It’s a really personal decision and it will depend strongly on your circumstances. Just to give one example of all the things to consider, children will completely change the calculation. If you have them, becoming a single parent on such a small salary would be daunting, and the stress of working at a toxic workplace might be preferable. If you don’t have any yet but want them, you might want to consider if it’s a good idea to have them when you already know your marriage is vulnerable to financial stress – what if the kid has a medical issue that needs expensive treatment, and your husband just up and leaves because he cannot deal? (This happens way too frequently, unfortunately.)

      Only the LW knows all the circumstances to consider, and what they value most, both in a job and in a marriage. I’m really uncomfortable with blanket statements like this, it just ratchets up the pressure on the LW.

      Reply
      1. Snarl Trolley

        Very firmly agreed, on all counts. That blanket statement is unhelpful at best and actively harmful at worst.

        Reply
      2. Aietra

        > Veterinary is known as a field with an extremely high rate of stress-related mental illnesses and suicide.

        Yes – the fact that this is a veterinary field is very relevant, in this case. The OP even mentions the fact that toxic workplaces are practically par for the course among vet clinics – and this, I’m sure is due to the above.

        Unfortunately, for vets/vet nurses/vet techs, barely-living-wages and high stress environments are pretty much part of the field. If we can get a job with just one or the other, we’ve lucked out, and basically everyone I know has just decided which they would prefer and goes with it. That’s the situation this OP is stuck in, and is trying her best to work out how to improve things for herself.

        (For me, I’m doing postgrad study while working full time, so I went with the (slightly) lower stress workplace, so I could have the mental energy left for my studies, and resigned myself to the life of a perpetual broke student who owns one pair of shoes and sometimes eats rice for dinner. While being berated by pet owners for being a “money-grubbing vet” and told “I hope you enjoy your next holiday in Fiji while my dog is dying of liver failure”. That, too, is par for the course for this job.)

        Reply
        1. KC without the sunshine band

          I used to work in veterinary world as well. I tell kids interested in the field not to become a veterinarian. The pay is too low for the amount of student debt most of them take on. Vet school is really expensive. And if they want to open their own practice, the equipment is really expensive as well. Then people give you the aforementioned guilt trips. Not worth it. I tell them to be a vet tech. Financially, you come out better overall, and typically have more job options. And yes, veterinary world is typically toxic. I knew four people who committed suicide in my 7 years there. If you find a place that you love to be that doesn’t include DivaVet, DramaOfficeManager, and StrungOutVetAssistant, you are winning. You have a tough choice LW. I would recommend talking to your boss about the pay, and see if there are other benefits you can get to offset some of the pay difference.

          Reply
        2. Genny

          But LW isn’t stuck. This may be the only non-toxic vet clinic in her area, but nothing says she has to work in a vet clinic. She could choose a higher paying job in an adjacent field or switch fields entirely and do volunteer work with animals. I realize those are necessarily quick or easy fixes, but the LW does have options. It’s a false dichotomy to say that her only two options are 1) stay with the job I like and lose my marriage or 2) go to a toxic job and keep my marriage.

          Reply
      3. krysb

        NPR did a story on this last week – the prevalence of suicide among veterinarians. It’s surprising how many people responded with “They shouldn’t charge so much, because people can’t afford a lot for their pets’ health care.”

        Reply
        1. PhyllisB

          While I agree with the statement that a lot of people can’t afford pets’ health care, it’s a bargain compared to human care. Last year I lost my two elderly dogs within three months of each other. The first one had a surgery, three transfusions, and a week of ICU (and the vet took her home with her every night and monitored her all night on a heating pad.) Sadly, her heart gave out. My final bill for her care, meds, preparation for burial, ect. was $350.00. My other one had gall bladder issues and quit eating. She was in the hospital for a week on IV’s and the sad decision was made to put her down because the surgery she would need was too stressful at her age, and they would have had to ship her to another clinic out of state. Her final bill was around $200.00. Humans sure don’t get that level of care for that.

          Reply
          1. Asenath

            Out local prices are much higher. I don’t know if that translates to better pay for the vet clinic’s employees, or if it’s because costs of doing business are higher here, and the profit margin is still low.

            Reply
          2. Queen Anon

            I think here the bills for those treatments would be 10 times what you paid – which is still much, much less than what it would cost a human being for that level of care.

            Reply
            1. FaintlyMacabre

              I used to work at a veterinary diagnostic lab- we used the exact same machines as they use for human tests (sometimes the local hospital would borrow reagents if they were running low!) and yet a similar panel for my dog was infinitely cheaper than it was for me. I’m not claiming that veterinary health care is perfect, but it is much more transparent than human health care.

              Reply
          3. boop the first

            Wow! My pet just got an x-ray before he was euthanized, and that bill was over $800. His bills were never less than $800, come to think of it. The lowest vet bill we ever had was $100, and that was because we brought in a cat for a confirmation diagnosis which was just a five minute chat.

            Reply
            1. Perse's Mom

              There are some vets that will suggest basically everything they can think of for any given presentation. This has always come across to me like they’re hoping I can afford at least half of it and that I don’t know enough to realize only a quarter of it’s even reasonable suggestions.

              X-rays for *people* aren’t that expensive! Unless your kitty was getting a much more advanced scan like a CT scan or MRI (which both require much more advanced equipment most clinics don’t have on-site) or they were lumping a bunch of other work into the same bill, that seems patently ridiculous. Even with euthanasia! Honestly, unless you’re going to a teaching hospital which might be significantly more expensive even for basic care, or you have very few vet options, I’d consider looking for a new vet.

              Reply
              1. Slartibartfast

                We had to increase the price of euthanasia quite a bit, because people will price shop this service. You do NOT want to be the cheapest provider if you want to keep your sanity. (That being said, we would also often discount it for long term clients or expensive hospitalizations, or cases of human has no money and it’s obviously immediately necessary)

                Reply
          4. ThankYouRoman

            Years ago a vet found a beautiful kitten and called my mom to see if she’d like to adopt him. Mom had just lost her beloved Siamese after a long battled illness recently and had gotten close to the vet.

            Vet offered to do vaccines and neuter him when he was old enough if she took him in.

            Fast forward to the day he was scheduled for surgery. My mom noticed the vet was visibly upset in pre op visit. And asked if Vet was okay.

            Vet said she’d just gotten her student loan bill that morning and she was stressed out. And told mom that she really couldn’t afford the vaccines and neuter but she had promised and didn’t want to put that on my mom.

            My mom could very much so afford the fees! She didn’t need them waived to take in a kitty but accepted because it was offered…

            So yeah the services were cheap at $130 but the VET! couldn’t afford that.

            So cheap is subjective in that way.

            Whereas we had a dog who needed a full transfusion a decade ago and it was the same price as my gallbladder removal that crippled me financially for 3 years.

            Reply
          5. all the candycorn

            Agreed, it is a bargain compared to human care. My *copay* to go to a specialist is $60. My vet charges $52.

            Reply
        2. Falling Diphthong

          Gah!

          I recall one where the (human) doc in a small town had taken to charging by the minute, transparent fee structure, no insurance. And the interviewer kept trying variations on “But if someone were ACTUALLY ill, something serious, then you would take them off the clock, right?”

          Reply
      4. Observer

        If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to get out of the field. No job is worth a divorce / being unable to maintain a reasonable relationship with other humans and being unable to have a family. (If you do not WANT a family, that’s different, I’m talking about people who actually do want a relationship or family, or who already have a family they have some obligation to.)

        If there is no such thing as a job that enables you to do this very basic human thing, then you need to leave that field. If nothing else, for most people the long term effects of not being able to maintain decent relationships is pretty bad.

        Reply
        1. Amadeo

          Agreed. And if OP did get a divorce … how’s she gonna live on her own salary? I have been a vet tech. I have tried to live by myself on a vet tech’s wages as a single person. It’s so not easy that it’s almost impossible without some outside help. As an individual that’s been there and isn’t anymore with 20/20 hindsight here’s my 2cents: don’t get a divorce. Change careers and save your marriage. You can volunteer at the shelter or find some other way to take care of animals in your free time.

          Reply
  14. Julia

    I’m so sorry, OP1. If you can afford to financially, I would probably quit that job (you’re being set up for a firing anyway), spend this week with your relative (if you’re close) and look for a new one, while leaving this one off your resume as it’s relatively new.

    Reply
  15. PollyQ

    #5 — I was once at a company meeting where the head of sales addressed the sales team, saying, “[Competitor]’s sales people are STEALING FOOD from your CHILDREN’S MOUTHS!” Extreme? Sure, but that’s kinda what’s happening here.

    If your boss really respected you, she’d pay you what you were worth, and “advancement opportunities” aren’t worth that much if they’d still end up paying you less than a living wage. I don’t know anything about the vet business, but I can’t believe that all of them are so terrible that this is the only place around that’s decent to work at.

    Reply
    1. Snarl Trolley

      I totally agree. LW #5, I know the animal care field can be fraught with toxicity and frustration, but there ARE good places out there. Or good enough places: ones that don’t check off *all* your boxes, but check off *enough* of the ones that are more bearable for you to deal with. As in any field, obviously doing due diligence in finding them is crucial, and I’m sure they’ll have their own quirks and trade-offs, too, but when things are as bad as putting your marriage on the line, I really think something has to change. Even if it’s a temporary change to let you get you some savings cached while you really dig in to look for a job that does tick all the boxes for you.

      Maybe look into therapy, or financial/couples counseling as well if you’re able? I’m so sorry you’re in this situation, and I know how deeply it hurts to be doing something you love and believe in but at a fraction of the wages you deserve. Compounded with it so strongly affecting your home life, that’s just a really demoralizing place to be, and ANY kind of counseling can have a uniquely stabilizing effect that might help right now.

      Whatever you choose to do: much empathy and positive hope for your future. <3

      Reply
  16. Caryn

    Re #2

    I get ~ 100 a day in my role and if I had 3 weeks off, I’d definitely be asking people to follow up again when I returned. It would take me 4 – 5 days to get through the emails upon my return and many would be resolved issue by then anyway.

    The wording could be friendlier, but it gets the message across.

    I just hope that the co-worker had prepared colleagues and internal stakeholders for his absence by handing over to a team member and giving everyone fore-warning as well!

    Reply
    1. Drop Bear

      But the wording in these messages is important, particularly if emails come in from clients or external organisations; for these people they are an indicator of the professionalism/responsiveness and so on of the employee at the very least (and possibly of the whole organisation).
      And an out of office message like this doesn’t seem to be the norm in the LW’s office – or she wouldn’t be surprised/puzzled by it – so the wording is important even if it will only be seen by people within the organisation. If the LW’s coworker is asking colleagues to take on the burden of ‘re-contacting’ him (setting up a reminder in their calendar etc) rather than doing what others do on returning from (a short) period of absence, annoying people by being ‘unfriendly’ while asking doesn’t seem a wise move. Makes me wonder what would happen if the CEO decided to shoot him an email asking for something to be done when he returned from leave!

      Reply
    2. EPLawyer

      Yeah, I’m sending out emails and doing my work. I have to calendar to send a reminder in 3 weeks because co-worker can’t be bothered to at least skim emails on return? Emails he would have had to read if he had been in the office? So I need to do MORE work because co-worker is on leave?

      Nope, nope, nopitty nope. You do not burden your colleagues anymore than you have to when you take leave.

      Reply
      1. MLB

        This 100%. Not only is the OOO message rude and unprofessional, it’s unrealistic.Does anyone want to spend half a day when they get back from time off going through emails? Of course not. But it’s your job. Be smart about it – create rules to auto file things that you don’t need to see right away. Point people to others in the message if they need help right away. Group them by subject so you can get rid of threads that aren’t relevant. Don’t put the responsibility on others to follow up.

        Reply
        1. Meg

          I would also add to have the emails display as conversations. That way, you’re only reading the most recent email that (hopefully) has everyone else’s earlier responses/discussions included so you can delete the rest.

          Reply
        2. Jennifer Thneed

          I am so very fond of a service called followupthen. You can add pretty much any amount of delay to a bcc address, and you get a reminder then to f/u. I’ve used them for “in 2 hours” and “in 2 weeks” and “on the first of next month” and all kinds of things.

          It’s free of course, and if you want more options you can buy the product. And you can choose whether the body of the email gets sent back to you, or just the headers. (Useful when confidentiality is important.)

          Reply
  17. Magda

    I would go above your manager’s head if at all possible. If not, I’d use Alison’s script but do it in writing.
    I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this but your manager is being ridiculous and just plain mean.

    Reply
  18. Flash Bristow

    OP#5 – my instinct is “quality of life over money”. If you can manage what youre getting, stick with it. You mention advancement opportunities – pursue these as aggressively as possible, while explaining how much you love the environment?

    If you truly can’t afford to stay on at that pay, then let your employer know – and be ready for them to call your bluff – but to be honest if there’s any way to make a happier working environment manageable with your finances, rather than going somewhere miserable and to get through it you keep tell yourself “think of the money… That’s $10 they just paid me to get shouted at…” then really I would stick with the nicer environment. Eating beans instead of steak won’t kill you, whereas stress can send you to an early grave.

    Reply
    1. I heart Paul Buchman

      I agree with the sentiment but I think it is very important to remember that at a certain (low) income there is no quality of life.

      Relationship pressure because you can’t afford a holiday or new car is a situation where quality of life trumps money. Relationship pressure because you can’t afford health care or food … money is the more important factor.

      Is there a related field that you could swing into that pays better (pet therapy/pet food sales/animal pharmaceuticals/ I don’t know the industry)? Would you get similar quality from working a boring job Mon-Friday but volunteering with animals Saturdays? Is it an option to continue in your job part time and pick up another part time job to make up some of the difference in income? I’m just throwing ideas around, I’m sorry if any are not appropriate to you. I agree that money isn’t the be all and end all but I do know we have to live in the real world and not having a living wage can impact health and wellbeing in many ways.

      Reply
      1. Abit Tickyboo

        Hey fellow pet nurse! Guess what? I agree! As a small business owner paying DRASTICALLY low wages your dr is NEVER going to change unless something DRAMATIC happens. I’ve worked pet nurse for almost 20 years and there are hundreds of clinics out there who are poorly managed in one way or another. Despite how perfect your team is, the low wages are a sign of bad management! If you compare them to what websites that compare wages say and you’re way below that (keeping in mind that most small business vet nurses earn maybe $5 above minimum wage) then you should check out working at other clinics. If, however, it’s normal for your area and just VeterinaryPay level, think about working at pet stores, pet insurance companies (can be nice!), or whatever, or go back to school for advanced pet nurse or human medicine degrees. Human medicine always pays better anyways, and part time college classes are easier on the family.

        Reply
  19. Mommy MD

    I don’t think he should have to deal with emails piling up during his leave. I think a message that emails are not being accepted during such and such dates with a contact number for urgencies. Or another employee could monitor his inbox.

    Reply
    1. MLB

      You provide alternatives in your message for people to contact your co-workers if it can’t wait. You DON’T put in your message that you won’t be reading your emails when you get back. You work in an office, you get emails. Part of your job is reading them when you take time off. It would be different if he was taking off for months, but it’s 3 weeks. He needs to get over himself.

      Reply
      1. londonedit

        Exactly. Your out of office gives the dates you’ll be away and says ‘If you have an urgent query, please contact [X colleague]. Alternatively, I will respond to your message on my return’. Then people have a clear way forward if they need something before your return date, which should cut down on the number of things you actually need to deal with on your return. But you DO need to deal with those things on your return – there will always be things that need picking up and carrying on with when you get back to work.

        Reply
  20. otterbaby

    Solution to #2 – type all of your questions/notes in an email and save it to drafts. On his first day back, send the email :) it’s lovely that he’s away on paternity leave for 3 weeks but that really isn’t long enough to warrant not picking up emails on return. If it was a 6 month stint – sure – but after 3 weeks he’ll still be expected to resume his projects as normal, so why should it impact everyone else as well?

    Reply
    1. EddieSherbert

      Honestly, in my office, three week leave might not even merit putting out a company-wide notice that he’ll be gone…. so I probably wouldn’t even know not to bother emailing him until I emailed him and got his auto-reply!

      Reply
  21. Rez123

    #1 I would add a ridiculous #4 tha tyou have to do something over the weekend. Your boss is a jerk and technically punishing himself. Go to higher up or HR. I’m sure the boss will make a complaint about how you haven’t finished your work and make it your fault.

    #2 I’m not sure this really is an issue unless Company has said that this is not alloweed. Some departments in my Company do this whenever they are off for more than a week. People have either handled the problem or they can approach it again when the person is available to handle it. We can’t do this in my department, but a lot of times the things have been handled by someone else if I’ve been off. But I guess it really depends on the type of job people do,

    #3 I’ve read several comments on this site about professional attires and what is considered professional and unprofessional. Everything from having shorts under a dress, bra straps falling off the shoulders and pantyhose. I sometimes wonder if I just have a very different understanding of professional norms (when it comes to clothing) or if the places I’ve worked that I’ve considered conservative have actually been liberal compared to others. I really don’t think bare legs should be anything someone should ever even think about.

    #5 in general I’m quality of life over money. This case I could consider taking the other job. But is your husband worried that you won’t have any savings for retired, food on the table or does he want you to make more so you can buy a boat? This really determines if you really need to look somewhere else or to stay.

    Reply
  22. Glomarization, Esq.

    LW#2 (e-mails) — I think this question is veering a little bit into MYOB territory, I’m afraid. He may very well have discussed this with his manager, and/or there’s something particular about his e-mail load that means this makes sense for him. Maybe he gets a million e-mails a day because he gets Cc’d on many different projects, but there are almost never any actual action items for him in the e-mails. Maybe the issues in his e-mails will pretty much all expire before he comes back, so it’s just a colossal waste of time for him to sift through them. Or something else. But I think your take-away is that it’s not really your concern, since your letter doesn’t indicate that you would be stuck with extra work because of how he’s handling this.

    Reply
    1. Drop Bear

      To be fair to the LW, she seems more to be asking if it is ‘normal’, rather than complaining about it affecting her personally – beyond being mildly ‘irked’ – and/or asking what she can do about it.

      Reply
  23. ThankYouRoman

    #5 What stands out to me is you say it’s not a living wage. I’m all in for a pay cut to increase your quality of life, I’ve done it. However you still have to be able to make ends meet. It’s unsustainable otherwise. If it ends in divorce, how will you take care of yourself on no savings and an unliveable wage?

    Now if it was a wage where all it means is no vacations or occasional fancy dinners, I’m all in. Bills paid, frugal life is something doable. Many professionals choose a simplified life for a noble career and I believe medical jobs fall into that category since it’s often a labor of love and service to others. But you can’t sacrifice your ability to have a roof over your heads and heat in the winter etc.

    I’m pretty sure inability to find a suitable job (one that isn’t going to destroy your mental state and pays you a liveable wage) is something I believe means you need a career change. I know you’ve invested in education but your overall happiness is worth exploring options. It’s not strictly a “get a poisonous job” vs “keep a job at an impoverished wage” scenario.

    Reply
    1. Psyche

      The other thing to take into account is how much is the spouse taking on to allow her to work this job. Is he working more to make ends meet? Is he doing the majority of the housework because she isn’t there? It’s one thing to choose to take a low paying job with long hours if you will bear the brunt of it and another if it means the spouse has to pick up the slack. I don’t know if that is happening here, but I definitely did that to my fiancé unintentionally until he had enough and told me that he couldn’t keep doing it. I found another job and it fixed things, but it is something I am much more aware of now.

      Reply
      1. ThankYouRoman

        This is important too. It’s about communication and being honest because this is how resentment creeps in. And you have to strike the balance. I’m ride or die but I’m not going to enter bankruptcy emotionally and monetarily because of a choice to essentially do charity work unless we’re capable of shoving ourselves into a shoebox and taking a vow to live like church mice together.

        Reply
    2. Temperance

      Vet techs are notoriously poorly paid for the work that they do. I also think that it’s okay to want a more comfortable life than extreme frugality. Right now, OP’s husband may or may not be aware that she can bring in an extra $500/month if she changes jobs.

      Reply
      1. ThankYouRoman

        It reads like she’s had better paying jobs that she left for the lower pay, so his standard of living may be at what they used to afford.

        If you’ve got a mortgage or a lease locked in, you’re stuck with the standard as well.

        I’m curious as to what his earning potential is as well. There’s a lot of moving parts going on here but in the end for a marriage to work it’s a helluva lot of compromise and struggle to stay in sync.

        Reply
      2. FaintlyMacabre

        It’s so difficult though- I had a horrible job that was breaking me down, physically and mentally, but could not find another job. Finally found one that was lower paying and had a longer commute but was wonderful in every other respect. My then boyfriend threw a fit about my lower income, because I couldn’t spend as lavishly as I could when I was working 12 hours a day, for 7 to 10 day stretches, but I was finally getting sleep and not hoping to die in a car wreck. Yes, this was an extreme case, but the letter writer may feel like her husband is prioritizing money over her health, which can be intensely hurtful.

        Reply
  24. Slartibartfast

    Lw5:, I was a licensed vet tech for 14 years. I have been out of the field for 1 year, working as a MA on the human side now. The low pay and physical demands will get to you eventually. Unless your advancement opportunities include management or other off the floor (literally) opportunities, this career is something that just can’t be done until retirement age. As far as a pay raise, I know first hand the money just isn’t there. I’m making $.30 more an hour with full benefits as a MA than I was making before with 14 years experience. Yeah there’s a ton of skills I won’t use now and the work isn’t as varied or interesting, but I’m still helping people and the co-workers at the new place are awesome. I’m home for dinner every night, my weekends are free, Itake far less pain medication, and I still have a Facebook mentoring group I’m active in. I fought for years to stay in the business when I probably should’ve been working to get out. It was so. very. hard. to make the leap and it will always be a part of my soul. But the cold hard reality is, it’s not sustainable as a 30-40 year career path. And money is a huge part of that, it’s not that your bosses don’t want to pay you what you’re worth, the money just isn’t there. Most vet clinics have a 1% profit margin. We do what we do for love of the job, but love isn’t enough. Love doesn’t keep the lights on or food on the table. I’m sorry I can’t tell you what you want to hear, but I think you need to leave.

    Reply
    1. Anita

      I agree with this, I don’t know what an MA is but I do know several vet techs who were able to take significant prerequisites for (human) medical careers while working because their veterinary knowledge had so prepared them. Several of them now work as highly-compensated PAs. You can take prereqs at community college.

      Reply
    2. Dr. Pepper

      I feel you. I left a career in animal centered work and there’s a significant part of me that misses it every day. It was just so fascinating, and being out there every day in the trenches was an amazing experience. Heartbreaking, too. The people I worked with were wonderful and saying good bye to them and the life was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But…. it pays nothing. You better enjoy ramen and roommates, because that’s your life if you continue in that field. Okay I’m exaggerating, but it’s an enormous amount of work for very little money.

      Veterinarians and related professions have a higher rate of suicide than police or firefighters, and there’s a very good reason for that. You work desperately hard: physically, mentally and emotionally, for very little pay. Work-life balance isn’t really a thing, and you are a slave to your job. A job that will break your heart repeatedly. It’s just not sustainable for many people, and there’s no shame in that.

      Reply
  25. Lynca

    OP #2- I don’t think you’re off base. It’s pretty demanding to bluntly state you aren’t going to review emails when you return. I was on maternity leave for 8 weeks this year. I still took time to go through my emails to make sure everything did get handled while I was out.

    The key thing with my situation was that I receive work requests from outside my immediate Office. We’re a big agency so not everyone would know that I was out on maternity leave. So it’s possible things would be missed while I was out because the senders didn’t follow the instructions I left in my Out of Office message. If I only received emails from co-workers and my boss, I might have the expectation not to need to read everything when I got back since they know I’m out.

    Reply
  26. Bob

    Re LW2: I suspect its the wording getting to you more than anything.

    Wasnt it in the news several years ago of a large car manufacturer that auto-deletes all emails to workers when they are on holiday? And when I worked in another large company, it was often a running joke about how people would use going away on holiday as an excuse to mass delete everything and start from a clean inbox (and various other ways to avoid dealing with thousands of emails on return form their 3 week vacation). Obviously it depends on industry, but I dont think its the worst thing to do and have no objections to it becoming more normalized.

    Right now I have what is probably the more frustrating situation where if my boss has been away, they also give up on catching up with their email. So what I get now is either them replying to week(s) old emails that are no longer relevant, while also simultaneously missing the ones that ARE important and needing me to re-send them again when I eventually figure out that nothing is happening…

    Reply
    1. BRR

      I am also remembering reading about “won’t read/auto delete any emails while away” thing. To me, it’s always felt a bit gimmicky. I understand the concept and the issue, but it doesn’t always seem feasible. Also for three weeks, that is a bit much in my opinion.

      Reply
    2. Judy (since 2010)

      Due to server space back in the old days, companies autodeleted emails after a set number of days. The company I worked for during my maternity leave both times had that set to 60 days. So the emails from the first month were deleted by the time I returned. Including, I later found out, all of the “congrats” messages sent to me after my boss emailed the birth announcement. The second time, I logged in at 6 weeks (after the medical leave was over) and grabbed all of those emails, at least.

      Reply
    3. J.B.

      I do think the wording is more of a problem than the actual thing. I think it would be reasonable to say something about giving some time to respond and work through things, then follow back up if something fell through. Because with a 3 week old baby you.are.tired. I made the mistake once of saying exactly when I would be coming back and was getting aggressive follow up calls the first day. I was not in a place to answer at that point.

      Reply
  27. Mrs. B

    LW#1 I’m going to echo other’s comments by saying this is completely egregious and someone above your manager needs to be informed of it asap. Regardless of the reason, and regardless of how mandatory the assignment may have been, to keep you from doing your job over it is completely out of line, and if upper management doesn’t agree, that would be a bright red flag for me. I could possibly see getting “written up” or told to complete the survey before you move on to your other work, but this is completely outrageous.

    Reply
  28. Nini

    #3 – I used to do government contract work and pantyhose were a required part of the dress code for women, at all levels, in the office. But few people followed that rule to the letter. A visible run looks more unprofessional than bare legs, imho. And honestly, anyone who did notice would be unlikely to give it more than a passing thought. If someone at a business conference was obsessing over the state of your pantyhose, well, that’s another issue…

    Reply
  29. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

    To the vet tech, I am a veterinarian and have encouraged a lot of my techs to find better paying jobs. The general public thinks vets and techs are rolling in money because MDs make at least twice what vets do for the lowest paying specialities. You can’t live forever on those salaries (usually $10-15/hr in my area) and the average career length is 4 years.
    As a vet I make significantly less than 6 figures and have $200k in student loans. I stopped doing regular private practice because people are brutal. The hours suck, it’s ridiculously dangerous and clinic drama can be insane. I know many people with bachelor’s degrees who make more than I do and no one yells at them for it.
    Find something else to do that will help you live the life you want. Have animals you can afford with the better salary or use your extra time to volunteer with TNR programs or a shelter.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Pepper

      This is what I tell people and why I always always always pay my vet bills in full at time of service. Yay, credit cards. Many of my friends are vets, and I know how hard you guys work and how little money you have at the end of the day to show for it.

      Reply
  30. Detective Amy Santiago

    #1 – this sounds like an HR issue on multiple levels.

    1. if you are an hourly employee, your boss cannot force you to do assignments off hours without paying you
    2. taking away your access to a system that is required to do your job is beyond the pale
    3. there is likely some sort of bereavement leave policy in place that may be on your side

    Please go see HR immediately. If you have anything from your boss in writing about any of these issues, take it with you (and also send a copy to yourself or someone else off site so you have access later).

    Reply
  31. TN INFP

    OP #5 – I was in the same situation and I opted to stay where I was and would have more peace of mind and less stress. Many would disagree, but my opinion is you can’t put a price on that.

    What my wife and I did to reduce the burden of having less money was find creative ways to cut down on our monthly expenses. We found a company that would let us refinance our house with no closing costs and went from 5% to 3% interest on our house saving us $150 a month on our mortgage. We sold the car we had a car payment on and bought one we could pay cash for and eliminated a monthly car payment. We stopped eating out and started planning out each meal for the week on our weekend, and went to the grocery store just once per week. A lot of that isn’t easy, but it definitely beats being stressed over finances.

    I don’t know if any of that is an option for you or if you’re open to that, but it worked well for us. One last thing I will say is since you are spending so much time working, be selfish with the time you have with your family. When you’re off the clock, don’t think about work and concentrate only on them. Maybe even plan a date night monthly where you and your spouse can reconnect. My wife and I have a specific night of the week where we have a date night at home after the kids are in bed- we pick a Netflix movie and make a special dessert, or just talk – that way it’s free!

    I wish you well. I hope the comments and Alison’s response are of some help because I can definitely relate.

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      I also think that this only works if both partners are on board to cut expenses so drastically.

      It wouldn’t work for me to have to live on a strict budget or cut out things that I enjoy, like going out to restaurants, doing activities, having cable, etc., especially if I was still working my stressful job and then had to spend my weekends doing meal prep, shopping, and not going out. Obviously YMMV and I’m glad that you found something that works for your family, but I think it’s also okay to not want to go that route. (I grew up poor, and don’t want to live like that again if I can help it. I’m not some bougie rich kid who only drinks Evian.)

      Reply
    2. Dr. Pepper

      Yes to all of this. If both partners are fully invested in making it work, there’s a lot you can do. But if only one is invested and the other is not, well, it’s not going to work.

      OP5, I think this is a decision you need to reach *with* your husband. The two of you together need to decide what your family needs and what is best for *both* of you. I don’t know what that is. None of us can tell you what to do, only what we’ve done and how it worked out for us.

      Reply
  32. LadyPhoenix

    OP #1: Take your coworker and go to her boss and HR. Explain that she made a poll that was not made by the company, put it on a weekend when you wouldn’t work, and then cut your access when you did not finish it—adding on that she has set no exact date to giving back your access and how inportant it is for your job.

    If she tries to write you up, don’t sign it. Bring in HR and her boss.

    This manager needs a can of “Eff You”. Maybe a 24 pack of it.

    Reply
  33. Argh!

    Re #5

    I have left a low-paying job for one that paid significantly more, and I wound up loving the new job. You may not be able to afford to stay, but you can afford to be picky! You can also consider a career change rather than a job change. Try to keep an open mind about your choices. Give up medicine, but still work with animals? Give up animals but still work in medicine? Give up both and work in an office? Please send an update, LW!

    Reply
  34. MuseumChick

    OP 1, I’m sure others have suggested this but I felt so mad on your behalf I couldn’t read through all the comments. Document this and any other behavior like this you manager displays. Document each time you speak to her and explain that you cannot do 98% of your work. Document, document, document.

    Reply
  35. SigneL

    OP1: I understand you just started a new job, that jobs are hard to find, etc. But I want to add my voice to those saying GET OUT. There aren’t any clearer signs than the ones you have just described. And I’m really sorry about your family member, which ought to be your first concern now.

    Really, I’d resign with a letter. In my letter, I would state that family member only has a week to live. I’d want that letter in my file. Almost anything on the planet would be a better job, right? And again, I’m sorry. It’s a hard time – get through the best you can, and good luck.

    Reply
  36. I woke up like this

    #4: I was recently in a similar experience as you… except it wasn’t in a workplace. It was in a spa! I was getting my birthday pedicure, and the person next to me was listening to loud music on her phone speaker. Everyone was clearly annoyed, but no one would say anything. So I called up my inner Alison, turned to her, and said in my friendliest tone, “hi! The music is making it hard for me to relax. Do you have headphones?” The woman was clearly stunned that I asked her and said she didn’t have headphones. Then I said, “this is my one hour to relax in quiet–I have two little ones at home.” She nodded, smiled, and turned off the music. And then my pedicure was relaxing and soothing once again. Hurrah!

    I know this wasn’t a workplace, and I’ll never see her again, so it isn’t directly parallel to your situation. But I have learned from this blog that it is so so much better to directly ask people for the thing I want rather than sit and stew. I was super nervous beforehand, and then afterward, I was SO happy I did it (as was the rest of the spa).

    Reply
  37. Alton

    #5: It might not be a terrible thing to see how you do in a different type of job. Sometimes a stressful career is worth it, but sometimes passion for your field is just one component. Things like work-life balance, income, and being able to manage stress can also be important aspects of career satisfaction, and it’s possible that taking a different job will feel like less of a downgrade than you expect.

    Reply
  38. Observer

    #1 If your HR is even the least bit competent, please reach out to them. What the boss is doing is not only unfair, it’s going to wind u costing the company in a lot of ways. But unless they are stellar oryour manager gets removed, start job hunting.

    And document what’s going on. If you get forced out of your job before you have another one lines up, you are going to want to collect Unemployment Insurance, and you are going to want to show how you got forced out. What you are describing is so bizarre that people are going think you are exaggerating or even making stuff up unless you have decent documentation.

    Reply
  39. Observer

    #5 Money is not the most important thing. But what you describe is unsustainable. You ARE being underpaid and the strain that it’s putting on your marriage is almost certainly not just about your family being unreasonable. Please do start looking around.

    Reply
  40. CupcakeCounter

    #1 – bring in a book and sit at your desk reading it and eating popcorn. When boss storms over demanding what you are doing, calmly tell her that you have done A, B, and C but cannot do anything else without access to the system. She is “punishing” you for not doing what is essentially extra-credit homework and that is ridiculous. Another option would be go around her to her boss (or HR since some bereavement leave could be coming into play) – they are paying you to not do your job for a frivolous reason and the upper levels of management might have a big issue with a manager pulling access from their employees so they cannot perform their job duties while also still paying them.
    Also start a job search because I guarantee that unless she is fired/demoted this will bite you later on too.

    #2 – As Alison said, it really depends on the role this guys has. However the wording is really off putting and I think that might be why you are having such a hard time with it. If he had said, “I will be out of the office for the next 3 weeks and will not be responding to emails during that time. For immediate assistance contact X or Y. Due to the large volume of emails I will encounter on my return, if you still need an answer/assistance after X date please ping me again on the issue so I can prioritize it as it may take me a significant amount of time to get through everything.”

    #3 kill all pantyhose! Find one of those body creams that has just a hint of sunless tanner in it and apply for about a week before a similar event/meeting. Personally I think it gives the legs a nice sheen and a smoother look.

    #4 Ugh! Your coworkers are annoying! I work in an open office and never use my speakerphone unless I have a group around me working through a problem and we need to call someone on another floor or building (and still usually only at the request of one of the other people at my desk). Old Boss almost exclusively used speaker phone and rarely shut his door. Where I sit is almost a sound tunnel so if he would call someone in my little group I would hear them talking by me then in stereo with a slight delay coming from his office. In went the ear buds.

    #5 That’s rough. Could you talk to the office manager and find out why they pay so far below market? Is it at all possible they aren’t aware of that or are they banking on the culture there being so much better than other places to retain staff? Money can’t buy happiness but not having enough can cause a lot of unhappiness.Talk with your spouse – make a list of Pros and Cons and leaving current job, really look at your budget and spending to see what can be tweaked, also talk to your bosses and make it clear that you love it there but the pay is causing hardship and if something can’t be done you will need to look for a different job. Maybe they won’t be able to jump you up to the competition at least get you up to the living wage? I could make $10-15K more per year if I was willing to drive 30 minutes into the city everyday but I’m not. First I would probably spend that on gas and vehicle maintenance and second that is an hour a day I lose. Luckily for me my husband makes enough money that I can prioritize location, workplace happiness, and schedule over pay. I don’t think you should have to give up a job you love just because your spouse thinks you should make more money but if it really is causing a financial hardship that is different and it becomes a family decision. Especially if you spouse is busting butt as well (if they are also in a low paying job they love it would make sense for both of you to look around and see who has the higher earning potential in their field and that person go for the crappy but high-paying job and then shift the shared duties at home as a trade-off).

    Reply
  41. OP2 - emails

    Thanks for the responses. If I have time I might go back to specific threads, but thought I’d clear up a few things that were themes.
    – This person does have proper coverage for every day work things. He also is not checking email during his leave. that’s common in our office.
    – He probably does have a lot of time sensitive stuff that won’t matter after 3 weeks. However, he is also working on longer term projects, so I’d think he’d want updates on those. *shrug*
    – The biggest issue I have is I have a long ranging project where I’m working only with him. It’s understood things are waiting on him, but I’ve been sending updates. I do have plans to handle it based on his email, so it’s not the end of the world.
    – As some mentioned, this isn’t the norm in our office that I have seen.
    – Those that said I need to MYOB are right. I really asked the question more of if this is a new normal or not. I’m not planning on saying anything to this coworker or his manager. And as mentioned above, I have a plan to handle the items that are waiting on him.
    – The commenter who mentioned this could be a gender based thing is interesting. I’ve been taking a lot of steps lately to not fall into traditionally female gender norms at work (saying sorry/apologizing, not speaking up, etc.). This may be another. But it’s also just my nature to want to know what’s going on.
    – It’s totally true that I knew I didn’t have to follow up/read every one of the 3,000 emails I had on my return to leave. And honestly, I didn’t. I mass deleted a bunch. But those within the last month / from certain individuals were at least read briefly so I knew what was going on.

    Reply
    1. J.B.

      Stuff waiting on him = leave may be a good excuse to just decide and go, hmm :) I can see how that would be irritating, and would keep sending the updates if you want to. If you don’t want to spend the time then don’t. If he doesn’t read them that’s his issue not yours.

      Reply
    2. OlympiasEpiriot

      For the stuff you need from him on your project, don’t just make assumptions based on the e-mail, I hope the two of you have sat down to make sure all of that goes without a hitch.

      When I’ve had a long absence from work when I’m involved in other people’s projects, if I can’t do a full hand-off, I make sure *those individuals* have my secret contact number(s) in case something unexpected comes up and strict instructions not to divulge them to anyone else.

      Reply
    3. Bob

      Mmm. To me its even less of an issue with this context then.

      For the long term projects, I would expect (hope!) he had a hand-off meeting when leaving, and can probably have a more productive/quicker catch-up meeting when back rather than trawl through lots of emails to find out what happened. And same thing with your project with him – a hand off before he goes, along with – if X,Y,Z then do A,B,C in my absence, and a catch up meting when you’re done.

      Sounds to me like there is no real issue other than some slightly obnoxious wording! Maybe he’s looking to be a trendsetter ;)

      Reply
    4. First Time Caller

      This would very much rub me the wrong way. I think it’s because it puts the burden on whoever is requesting his help to ask twice (and the mental burden of having to remember to do it when he’s back) rather than him putting in any effort at all to catch up once he’s back. So unless this is the culture of the organization, or there’s lots of time-sensitive stuff that people should be aware will take him time to read, the phrasing seems presumptuous and like his time is worth more than yours. And while yes, you can debrief him on the progress of long-term projects when he gets back, again that puts the responsibility on someone else to keep track of what he should know and catch him up.

      Reply
      1. NotAnotherManager!

        Exactly – he’s basically out for three weeks, during which time other people will have to cover at least some portion of his work, and then, when he comes back, people will still have to carry the burden of figuring out what they still need from him and checking back in on his schedule. It comes across as very inconsiderate of one’s coworkers’ time.

        Reply
    5. Temperance

      I wouldn’t resend any emails to him. At best, if I’m feeling kind, I might set them all for the day he gets back.

      Reply
      1. Let Me

        Quite a childish response for something that’s not a problem. You sound like you’d be friends with the manager who punishes her reports by disabling their tools.

        Reply
  42. Rusty Shackelford

    #5, by keeping this low-stress job, you are taking the stress you save and distributing it to your family. Only you (plural you) know if this is the best option, or if it would be better for you to absorb some of that back.

    Reply
  43. OlympiasEpiriot

    1. My boss punished me by removing the tools I need to do my job — That’s bizarre. Yes, use Alison’s script.
    2. A coworker’s says he won’t read any of his emails once he’s back from leave — Not unheard of. There is a bit of a movement to make this a normal thing. If this is a real team-oriented place, it might be entirely appropriate that one would assume that everything is running smoothly while one team member is out (as it should!) and there’s nothing to do when returning except get filled in on what happened when away.
    3. Dealing with a run in your pantyhose at a business meeting — definitely take them off and discard. For next time, if you feel that hose are necessary, carry a spare pair in your briefcase or purse. They don’t take up much space. Just make sure they are in a protective wrapping of some kind so they don’t get snagged in there, too.
    4. My coworkers call each other on speakerphone — I work at a place with cubicles. Not open plan, but sound can carry. I, too, have had neighbors who call each other on speakerphone. If the direct “Hey! Keep it down!” doesn’t work, go to whoever handles office procedure and suggest that if speakerphone is needed by office staff, headsets need to be provided and used. I have put a link to the manufacturer of the headsets my firm has bought for those of us who have long conference calls we have to be attending on a regular basis but want to keep our hands free to do other work while waiting for our part of the meeting to come up. Of course, it doesn’t sound like this is their issue, but, framing it that way may make someone clamp down on them for the non-essential stuff.
    5. Should I leave the low-paying job I love for one that will make me less happy but pay more? — I feel you. If there is such a dramatic, noticeable difference between this place and all the other local vet practices, it really is a shame that they can’t see their way to paying everyone 2-3 bucks more an hour to keep stress down in the rest of their lives, too. Can all of you find a way to discuss this with your boss?

    Reply
    1. OlympiasEpiriot

      PS: to OP#1

      This was a survey — not required by the company — that you were to do over a weekend without extra pay.

      I’m thinking you ought to go to HR, or, at a minimum, start documenting like crazy…everything…including any assignments you get, if you ask for work, if you’re provided work, etc.

      Reply
  44. A Non E. Mouse

    LW#5 – is it possible for you to get a “regular 8 to 5” non-vet job somewhere, then do the vet tech thing on the evenings/weekends as the second job?

    Or if the 8 to 5 pays well enough, volunteer at an animal shelter as a vet tech?

    Money is a really big stressor in relationships, both in the immediate terms (no money *today*) and you and your partner’s long term goals (no money *ever*). If you love love love working with animals, maybe you can do that for part-time income or as a volunteer, with your actual income coming from a different sector.

    Reply
    1. Argh!

      Emergency animal hospitals hire vet techs for just evening or weekend coverage. But that would put more stress on LW’s situation since it’s more time away from family to have a 2nd job.

      Reply
    2. Mrs. Fenris

      ER work is incredibly fun but incredibly exhausting, and the schedule alone is murder. I’ve known several people who loved the work, but developed serious health problems over time and had to get out.

      Reply
  45. Observer

    #3 – If you’re in an environment where lack of stocking is a problem, keep a pair of knee highs in the same color in your purse or laptop bag. They take up next to no space, and you can easily slip one on over your actual stockings and no one will notice.

    Reply
  46. MeganTea

    LW 1, if you can, take screenshots that show the error message or whatever appears when you try to access the system (but are unable to, due to revoked access). I would not put it past your boss to give access back as soon as someone else gets involved and then claim you’re mistaken or making it up. Save anything that proves that your boss purposely took your access away as punishment.

    Reply
  47. Daffy Duck

    Vet tech – I’m sorry but this is a job that just doesn’t have economic growth potential. Unless you are looking to transition into practice management, medical sales, etc. you will probably always bring in a lower-than-living wage. I wouldn’t look at being a vet tech in a toxic hospital but transition to another job which has a higher wage base.

    Reply
  48. Rezia

    #5 – Have you considered talking to your boss about your dilemma? One thing to consider is, if your job truly can’t give you a raise, could you *reduce* your hours there, so it’s more of a part time job, and take on another part time job that pays better/that you’re doing mainly for the pay? That way you don’t have to increase your overall hours per week. I don’t know if that’s feasible or not, but it’s an option.

    More generally, I think it’s worth tackling the marital tension head on. Talk to your spouse big picture about what’s important in your lives — what are your big financial goals? What does your current savings/debt picture look like? How do your salaries compare to these goals? It may be that when looking at the big picture, you both realize that the gap is SO large between your needs/wants as a couple that the only reasonable answer is to leave your job and find a better paying one. Or maybe you’ll realize that it’s feasible to stay where you are, with certain sacrifices. Either way, if you haven’t done this, I’d recommend it because it’s awful to be upset about money in your marriage based on vague worries and anxieties. Arm yourself with the facts to help you understand what you’re up against!

    Reply
  49. Observer

    LW #1 – I’m thinking about your letter and I suspect that you’re place is not well run. The reason is not just that there is a manager who is insane enough to think that this is a reasonable thing to do, but also because he can actually do this. I can’t think of any system in our organization where a manager could unilaterally take away access from a person who needs it to do their job, and it would just happen with no pushback. When it comes to computer access, they most CANNOT do it at all.

    So, that’s something to think about.

    RUN.

    Reply
  50. Micromanagered

    OP3 I think you’re fine. If I saw someone with a large run in their stockings, I would think “oh that sucks” but obviously I know they didn’t intentionally wear them like that. If it were warm enough, sure–take them off. If it were cold out, I’d see you and know exactly why you were not bare-legged.

    Reply
  51. Adalind

    LW #5 – I was in your shoes. I got into the vet field after being unemployed for a couple years and somehow got hired with no experience as a VA. It’s very fulfilling, but like you said – hours and pay don’t mesh. After a few years, I ended up leaving for a full time job with “normal people” hours and better pay (I was working a 2nd job while at the vet at the time as well). I currently STILL work at the vet part time. I’m lucky enough that my vet manager lets me tell her when I’m available. I work a couple Saturdays a month, sometimes more if I’m free – the extra money and the fulfillment I get from working there is something I can’t get from an office job. Plus I don’t have to deal with the daily drama there. haha. But you have to do what’s right for you and your family.

    Reply
  52. ENFP in Texas

    LW#1 – your boss sucks.

    That aside, if you still have email access, send your question about system access via email for documentation. Keep her response.

    If she replies verbally, send her an email to the extent of “Summarizing our conversation on Monday, you are not sure how long it will take to get my access to the TeAPOT system reinstated. Just to confirm you are aware I am not able to work on my projects until I have access to the system. Your help in expediting that access is appreciated. Thank you.”

    Then if she tries to “punish” you further during a performance review, you have the documentation that you were proactive in trying to get the issue resolved, and SHE was the roadblock. And then you bring that to HR or to her manager.

    Good luck – hope you get out of that job quickly and find something better. Or at least find a manger who isn’t a complete jerk.

    Reply
  53. Dr. Pepper

    #5: Have you talked to your husband? Not argued about it, but sat down and had an honest heart to heart about just why you love your job so much. Why it’s worth it to you. Why you care. Then listen to him. What exactly does he have a problem with? The lack of time together, the lack of money, or perhaps the sense that your job is more important than your marriage and you don’t even have a nice paycheck to show for it. You don’t have to reach a decision right away. Just talk about it. Talk about the money, but more important, talk about why you are so invested in this job. Because you are, and it is important that your husband understands. Talk honestly about your prospects, and the salary you need so your family can be comfortable. People are willing to endure a lot if they feel it’s worth it, and it sounds like you think it’s worth it but your husband does not.

    I feel you, I really do. I left an animal centered career and I miss it every day. I miss the life, I miss the people, I miss the responsibility, and just….. everything about it. It’s a lifestyle and an identity; pretending it’s anything less is folly. If you are an Animal Person (you know who you are), it’s a very hard thing to give up.

    Reply
  54. ENFP in Texas

    LW#4 – Speakerphones in an open office environment are a HUGE no-no, and you should not feel bad about asking them not to use it.

    Speakerphones are for rooms with doors that close so you don’t include everyone around you on the conversation.

    Reply
  55. Cacti

    OP #1, thanks for writing in. I manage three interns and a co-worker punishes them by removing their access to our system (disabling their user accounts). I told him it was Not Okay but he replied that they wouldn’t get punished if they did their job correctly. Thanks for confirming that this is toxic and not right.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      It’s toxic and TOTALLY not ok! Even if the coworker has the authority to discipline, this is NOT ok.

      Also, why is your coworker even able to do this?

      Reply
    2. Jennifer Thneed

      Your coworker is punishing people who report to YOU?

      Even setting aside the whole “punishing” aspect, this shouldn’t be happening. If they do something wrong, this co-worker tells YOU, and then you talk to the interns. Please talk to your manager, and ask them to talk to HIS manager, to tell him to knock it off.

      Reply
    3. RVA Cat

      You need to shut this down for all of these reasons, but also you don’t want the interns to think this is even in the same zip code as normal.

      Reply
  56. Mbarr

    #5 – I’m just curious about other’s opinions – are vet clinics truly usually toxic environments? The LW makes it sound like toxicity is the norm.

    Reply
    1. lonestar ap

      They are NOTORIOUSLY toxic and terrible places to work. The money is universally terrible (unless you’re a very highly specialized surgeon or specialist, or got really lucky in picking a private practice to work for), the work is exhausting emotionally and physically, and clients frequently refuse to spend money on diagnostics and then scream at you when their pet gets too sick to save. You could really easily have a thread like yesterday’s property management thread for working in vet med.

      (source: former vet employee)

      Reply
    2. Mrs. Fenris

      They can be. Most clinic owners have no business training whatsoever and have no idea how to prevent issues that management would shut down in a normal company. They are small workplaces…the largest one I ever worked for had 30 employees…so they can get really cliquish.

      Reply
    3. Abit Tickyboo

      Oh what, like a job made up of almost entirely people who care more about pets than other people could go wrong?
      It’s a tough job to start bc not a lot of people (clients) understand that vet medicine costs as much as human medicine but without the insurance to cover it. So the vets are always the “bad guys” for trying to make a living. Vets get about maybe 2 weeks of business training (most of which has to do with legalities of malpractice and getting paid) but almost 2/3 of the business are single-owner small business with less than 20 employees. It’s not uncommon for people to work an average of 5 years MAX at a clinic before moving on to the next one. Managers are almost always employed from the pool of nurses, who have little training and substantial bias. Cliques are rampant, people are expected to dedicate their entire lives to some positions (worse when it’s a shelter environment! ) and since the bosses/ managers/ owners all do it (literally, ALL DO IT, a vet recently made a very famous essay on why he doesn’t work off the clock and the reaction was CRAZY) they don’t see why you shouldn’t. A bad job will RUIN YOUR LIFE and almost make you never want to take your animals to get care ever again.
      Likewise, a good environment is so rare you make all kinds of crazy concessions. The health insurance at some places is so terrible you WANT to get denied for it. IF you get it. I left a corporate vet nurse job that paid VERY well bc of poor management, but I had to leave one with very professional management bc the pay was terrible. Like, no raise in 5 years, not even cost of living increase, no matter what the case I stated or how up the totem I took it.
      This is NORMAL in the industry, like the earlier poster about drugs and drama are in the restaurant industry. And it’s not likely to change, because pets are still a “luxury” item.
      I think that the OP should consider her marriage first, because that’s the relationship that will last longer!

      Reply
  57. Armchair Analyst

    I figured out what #1 was reminding me of. The phrase “bricks without straw” comes from the Bible, Exodus, where Moses asks for the Israelite slaves – whose primary job, I guess, was to make bricks with provided straw – to be allowed to leave Egypt as free people. As punishment, Pharoah declares that the straw will no longer be provided to the slaves – the slaves must figure out how to make bricks without straw.
    Your manager is Pharoah in this situation. You are both the slaves and also Moses – because you will take the lead and exit this place as a free person.

    Reply
  58. CookieWookiee

    Q#4: Are you somebody from my office?! Cuz I have the EXACT SAME PROBLEM. Except the two speakerphone users will FIGHT ( I mean, screaming at each other and say nasty things, fighting) over speakerphone while sitting 5 feet apart. One of them seems to conduct all phone business on speakerphone as well; this often also devolves into yelling at the person on the other end.

    I have personally talked to their manager multiple times about this, as have several other people in the office. They are verbally (and lightly) reprimanded, but it continues. Neither of them are particularly reasonable people (tho Constant Speakerphone User is much worse than the other), and I think management has decided it’s not worth the (loud, obnoxious) drama that will ensue if they really try to stop it. It’s very much a missing-stair type of situation.

    So, my solution is noise-canceling earbuds. That’s really all I can do. It blocks out about 90% of the noise, which is usually enough for me to concentrate on work.

    Reply
    1. ENFP in Texas

      I worked part time in a vet clinic in high school and it was long enough to let me know that while I loved working with animals, I hated dealing with their people…

      Reply
  59. Earthwalker

    LW1: I seem to recall reading an article about anti-bullying laws in Britain (would anyone there chime in?) that said that one of the known bully behaviors that was specifically addressed was the restriction of tools necessary to do one’s job. That leads me to think that this punishment isn’t simply poorly thought out but specifically a bully tactic. That said, I agree with Alison’s advice. Don’t rush off to another employer until you’ve seen the result. Seems like we’ve seen a number of letters recently in which someone asked AAM for advice about awful boss behavior, and soon after, wrote back to say that the boss was fired for a series of such actions and the new boss is better.

    Reply
    1. JM in England

      I’ve have read the book “Bully in Sight” (1996) by Tim Field and he mentions this very tactic in the chapter on bullying behaviours. Over 90% of the content is based on the author’s own experience of workplace bullying so he definitely knows what he’s talking about!

      Reply
  60. Dance-y Reagan

    #5 I’m really scratching my head over why anyone would “kill for” a meaningful job that doesn’t pay enough to live on. Find a job that allows you to support your family. If your emotional and philanthropic needs are not met by that better-paying job, there is an endless supply of volunteer work available in animal rescue. Put on your own oxygen mask first.

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  61. Linzava

    I once had a boss tell me I had to stay late because she was “punishing” me. It was gross and I immediately started looking for another job. This lady had no boundries.

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  62. lonestar ap

    LW #5 – I FEEL YOU. I’ve been there. I loved my vet clinic job but did not love the terrible salary. (Or the practice owner showing up in his new Ferrari to tell us our clinic wasn’t making enough money for annual raises.)

    As hard as it is, because it sounds like you have a rare gem of a clinic, I found it way less stressful to get a better paying job and use my skills volunteering. I even have one friend who volunteers for spay/neuter/vaccination campaigns in developing areas around the world, so they’ve gone to Hawaii and Haiti and the Dominican Republic for free. There’s meaningful work to help animals out there that WON’T kill your soul or marriage. Good luck!

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  63. workingforaliving

    #5 I have previously done a lot of career coaching and have gotten this question a lot. My response is always that only ‘you’ know how to prioritize what is important to you, and only you can manage your expectations. A large part of my own job satisfaction IS related to being well compensated–I am the primary wage earner and I have a spouse whose earning power is limited. That means I am willing to put up with some stressers (including boredom or sometimes feeling like “why am I doing this?”) in the workplace that other people might not be willing to. I accept that about myself and remind myself that I am making that choice. And I try to find other things I can do not related to work that give me energy or excitement or meaning.

    I also think it’s really important to manage expectations about one’s job. We need to be very thoughtful about how many boxes we expect a job to check off for us before we are OK with the job. I’m not saying that people should put up with truly awful work environments–absolutely not! But an “OK” work environment is just fine.

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  64. Jennifer Juniper

    I’m willing to bet that OP 1’s boss is going to punish them for not doing their work, even though they have no system access.

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  65. Llellayena

    LW#1 – I’d probably stop in the boss’s office to ask again “When do you think I will have my access restored so I can start my work?” when the boss says “I haven’t decided,” respond with “when you decide, please let me know. Until then, I’m going to go home and spend time with my dying family member.” On your way out stop in HR “I wanted to let you know that I will be out for a couple of days due to a dying family member. Should I use PTO for that? Because *boss* revoked my server access and I can’t complete my work anyway.” This should trigger a “what the..” reaction from HR so you can then explain the full situation. Oy!

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  66. halmsh

    LW #5, have you talked to your colleagues about your pay? Is this an issue for most people at your level? You might consider raising this as a group at this point. If you feel like you’ve exhausted all the other channels, speaking collectively will be more effective (and probably feel less scary than confronting this yourself).

    I also want to suggest that if your workplace is otherwise a good one, moving towards unionizing could both help enshrine the policies and practices that you like *and* give you and your colleagues more authority to ask for better pay or other things that will offset the low pay.

    I don’t think it hurts to look around, but if you’re at the stage where it’s really just this one thing you should push for it before giving up.

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  67. LoveyLadyLu

    Hi #5! I’ve been in your exact situation. I’ve been in the veterinary field for 2 decades and have dealt with everything from sexual harassment (from clients and owner doctors!), general workplace toxicity, disdain from pet owners (“you obviously hate animals because you won’t fix mine for free”) and, of course, being tragically underpaid. In the past, I fixed the underpaid part by getting into specialty medicine at referral centers. In ER, critical care, surgery, neuro, etc you earn more money and have even more learning opportunities! However I don’t know if that would be enough for you as the hours can still be grueling and can include overnights, holidays, on-call. If there is a university lab or a veterinary commercial lab in your area, they may have positions for veterinary nurses with nicer hours and competitive pay. You wouldn’t have patient interaction, but you would still be doing veterinary medicine! Good luck!

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  68. Thus Spake Zaso

    LW#5 I work in a veterinary-adjacent field, and I’m not sure how much people outside of that sphere understand just how emotionally taxing the work can be. Because of all of the death, not to mention the constant contact with the effects of animal abuse and neglect, depression up to and including the point of suicidality is not uncommon. In that context, having a non-toxic work environment can be literally life-saving. So, of course I agree that nobody else can tell you how to assess the various factors. But it seems to me at least possible that moving to a more toxic environment for a few more dollars might not be a bargain in the long run. I wonder whether you have spoken frankly to the owners of the practice about the pay situation. If she/he/they have created a caring environment, they will want to know that you feel this way. While they may not have a lot of give in the budget for raises, they might be able to offer some additional benefits that would make the low pay feel more tolerable. It’s worth asking before you start looking for work elsewhere.

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  69. Uncanny Valley

    #1 this manager has a similar attitude to the one that ran me out of my last job. Gave the appearance of being concerned about productivity but took actions that revealed pettiness, vindictiveness and no real concern for the company. But when things hit the fan, it will be made to appear that you are the problem employee. It would be nice to have proof of that restricted access. If there is no documentation of this discipline, this manager has the ability to do this personally or you have goons in your department/company.

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  70. Would Love To Love My Job

    #5 – IMHO, if your needs are being met, then you have enough money. A high paying job often increases stress, and often decreases the time you have to enjoy that extra money. If it were me, I’d choose quality of life.

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  71. Mrs. Fenris

    OP #5-I saw your post kind of from the middle, and when I saw phrases like low pay, physically demanding, interesting with lots of skills to learn, and camaraderie, I immediately wondered if you were a veterinary nurse. I’ve seen this happen with so many wonderful, wonderful RVTs. It is so unfortunate that the job is so interesting and takes so much skill but pays so little! (And yet the Internet articles about greedy vets just keep coming, amirite?) Can you look into an RVT specialty like dentistry, rehabilitation or anesthesia? Or work for one of the teaching hospitals? Or (ugh) a certain corporate chain? I wish this profession were different.

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  72. Bookworm

    The speakerphone thing is something that I sincerely believe is part of the culture where people put their cell phones on speaker to hold conversations in public (very loudly), listen/watch media, etc. It’s obnoxious and sometimes genuinely gives me a headache.

    I would agree: speak up. Unless it’s a conference call or they have private offices, this is just another form of noise pollution.

    Reply

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