update: my coworker is constantly out and I have to cover for him — including canceling my own vacations

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer back in 2016 whose had to cover for her constantly-absent coworker, including canceling her own vacations? Here’s the update.

I didn’t last long after I wrote in. My life was work with the occasional sleep. I was losing weight, barely eating and people kept telling me I looked terrible. I am not proud of this but I ended up ghosting that job. I never thought I would do that but I felt I had no other choice. No one had seen or heard from Alex in weeks ever since he left halfway through a project meeting. I took to heart the advice my aunt gave me when I graduated college. “Your physical and mental well-being is more important than any job.” My dad told me I shouldn’t feel guilty because they called me in every day and at all hours. Except for one day when I had food poisoning (verified by hospital) I worked every single Monday to Saturday for 18 months (including holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas) for 8 to 12 hours a day.

I moved back to my hometown (I had moved to a different city for college and stayed there once I graduated because that job was there). My uncle owns his own business. He had two employees about to go on parental leave at the same time and needed someone to cover while they were off. I found an apartment in the same complex my brother and two of my cousins live in and my dad and brother came up to help me take my things to my new place so I didn’t have to spend money on movers. My landlord was sympathetic to my situation and allowed me to break my lease without penalty or a hit to my credit in exchange for me paying an extra month of rent before I left (I still had six months). Since I was moving to a place with a new area code, I got a new phone number and cancelled my old one. I also got a new email when I switched internet providers. I didn’t tell anyone at my work that I was moving or what my new address, email or phone number was. My last day was 18 months to the day after I started there. I left for my hometown with my dad and brother that night. No one at my work had any idea I wasn’t coming in the next day and I can only imagine how they reacted when I stopped showing up.

I was aware of the nepotism when I went to work for my uncle. He has a different surname we didn’t tell anyone we were related besides my boss and the boss above him. Both of us were clear I was to be treated the same as everyone else. If I had to interact with my uncle while at work or in front of coworkers we treated it as employee and owner. I made sure I was always on time, worked hard and completed all my tasks on time, volunteered for other tasks when needed, didn’t slack, surf the internet or take personal calls at work and made sure to be friendly and cheerful with all of my coworkers.

I was there for five months. Both my boss there and my old boss from my high school/summer while in college job agreed to be references. I left the horrible job off my resume. I was fortunate to find a new job just before my time at my uncle’s company ended. Everyone knew I was there to cover temporarily and they threw me a small party before I left. I’m thankful to my uncle for giving me a chance and to all the people I worked with there for being so nice to me.

I’ve been at my new job for seven months. My coworkers are great, my boss treats everyone equally, the office is only open Monday to Friday and is closed the rest of the time (including all weekends and holidays). The start and end times and our 30 minute lunch are strictly enforced and no one including managers can start early/stay late/work through lunch. My boss actually manages things but is still warm and not a jerk. Turnover is low. I was the first new hire in over two years and there was only an opening because someone was moving abroad. I no longer stress about work. It is a relief to only work seven hours a day, to leave work at the office (it’s not the kind of work that can be done outside of the office) and to know I won’t be called in on my sick days, vacation days, weekends or holidays. I’m glad to be back in my hometown near my family and old friends too.

At the terrible job, Alex and I were the same title. We both had three weeks of vacation and three weeks of sick time per year. The company also paid Alex for three weeks of FMLA. The other nine weeks were unpaid. The company and Alex had an agreement that instead of 9 weeks paid/9 weeks unpaid, they would pay him 50% of his pay each day he was off so he could spread his pay over the 18 weeks he was allowed off each calendar year. The company used paying Alex as a justification as to why they couldn’t afford to hire someone else. In the time I was there, Alex never went a day over 18 weeks. As soon as his time was up he would show up every day until the next calendar year started. My other coworkers told me it was the same before I got there. Alex, our boss and the company all openly talked about his accommodation, the reasons for it and the pay agreement. I have no idea what happened after I left.

I want to thank you Alison, as well as all the commenters. You helped me see I wasn’t over-reacting and needed to get out. I really appreciate it!

{ 157 comments… read them below }

  1. Rainy*

    I am SO GLAD you are out of that terrible job, OP. It sounds like you are winning at life right now, and I hope it continues. :) Happy holidays (that you are not being called in for)!!

  2. Green*

    Normally I’d say ghosting a job is ridiculous… but they were probably not going to give a positive reference anyway, so MEH to them.

    1. Les G*

      Fair enough on the reference bit, but I respectfully submit that this is still ridiculous. Changing your phone number? Leaving town in the dead of night? Sorry, but short of literally escaping an abusive spouse or stalker, this is not how normal people behave.

      I know we’re all starved for drama ’round these parts, but applauding this bizarre behavior (which, if it happened at all, is just drama for the sake of drama) is a biiiiiit much, no?

      1. Myrin*

        I mean, I get where you’re coming from, but I still think that’s pretty harsh towards OP – I’d really say the “normal people” part should be reserved for stuff that is much more outstanding, like, say, dating your employee’s father and forcing them to go to couples’ therapy with you. It’s pretty clear from the letter that this job basically drove OP to the brink and that this clear cut was basically the only thing she could to do actually escape the situation – I don’t really want to equate it to abuse in the literal sense but I certainly think there are similarities in how helpless and powerless the victim feels.

      2. Snowglobe*

        I’m kind of in agreement with Les G. I understand how helpless the LW felt and that they needed to get out of there. I wouldn’t blame them at all if they’d left with no notice. But it sounds like the plan to leave took a few days at least to put together-why not at least leave behind a note on your last day? They wouldn’t have needed to talk to anyone.

      3. Dismuse*

        I didn’t leave town in the dead of night, but at a job that actually gave me a nervous breakdown I left ten minutes early on my last day so I wouldn’t have to see any of them and after a few days of bad anxiety blocked them everywhere. It just made my stress worse to know they COULD get in contact with me, even if the worst situation would be to ask them not to contact me again. I was having enough trouble getting my brain back on an even keel without something I could so easily make go away. So I blocked far and wide.

        Much better now. Although I do miss how much space other drivers give you on the road when you’re weeping like a Victorian maiden in a melodrama during your commute….I don’t really!

        1. Close Bracket*

          But you took a last day! You didn’t vanish without notice; you vanished *with* notice. Everybody is allowed to quit if they aren’t allowed to take weekends or vacation.

      4. Elspeth*

        Well, if you take into account that the LW was NOT allowed to take time off, even when she put in for vacation ahead of time, was working 8 – 12 hour days including at least one weekend day, and was obviously not getting time to even sleep properly (she was receiving calls/texts at home as well), I don’t think it’s ridiculous at all! She worked there for 18 months and didn’t get any down time to herself.

        If you work in such a dysfunctional work place, it’s also easy to fall into the trap that this is normal. Finally, I think we can take the LW at her word that this is what she needed to do for her physical and mental health.

        1. Julia*

          Plus, sleep deprivation doesn’t exactly help most people think straight or be hopeful, so I totally get it.

      5. Zweisatz*

        Your comment is constructive or kind towards the OP how?

        Yeah, this might not be how you leave “normal” jobs, but this job wasn’t normal and I’m confident OP does know how to formally quit and won’t do it again … if not pressed for it by an abusive environment.

      6. Wintermute*

        Bad jobs have a way of warping your sense of normal. I would consider “ghosting” just “didn’t go in, didn’t answer phone when they called” myself, but you’re right this reads like someone getting away from an abusive husband. Then again, having a bad enough boss with a low enough sense of personal boundaries can FEEL like an abusive relationship for sure so I can understand the impulse.

        Fortunately it didn’t hurt the LW much and they bounced back, and they still have their health, so I can’t really blame them. The job was literally killing them, they had to go.

      7. Close Bracket*

        I agree with you. OP could have changed her number, changed her email address, left in the middle of the night, and still given two weeks notice before doing so. I bet their mental and judgement had seriously suffered after 18 mo of this nonsense, but they definitely had choices beyond ghosting.

        1. Observer*

          In theory, they did. But it’s easy to see why they didn’t think they did. Look at how many time we hear (here and, if you look, in other forums) about bosses who won’t “let” their employees. They “don’t accept” a resignation, they tell people that they are “not allowed” to quit, “inform” their employees that they “need” to do x, y or z before they can leave, etc. We’ve actually had more than one story of employers yelling at employees, trying to intimidate them and, if memory serves trying to keep someone from leaving at the end of the day because something or other was not done.

        2. Wintermute*

          sure they had choices but they also had an alternative lined up, knew a positive reference was beyond hope and they decided to pour the gasoline and watch the bridge burn. “you won’t make alternate arrangements for co-worker’s chronic absences NOW YOU HAVE TO MFers!”

          workplace norms are for normal workplaces, a certain level of treatment places you outside the social contract for such niceties. It’s like outlawry but for bad companies.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            “…a certain level of treatment places you outside the social contract for such niceties. It’s like outlawry but for bad companies.”

            I like this way of looking at it. I was having a little trouble myself understanding why o.p. felt it was necessary to be SO extremely stealthful about leaving, sympathetic to their situation but not really sure how I felt about it. This comment put the o.p.’s stealth into exactly the right perspective for me to get my head around it. That horrible employer really did break the social contract, and they got exactly what they deserved from the o.p. in return!

          2. Walter White Walker*

            “workplace norms are for normal workplaces” – brilliant! The office corollary of “Reasons are for reasonable people.”

            Also, serious side-eye to the commenters more concerned about Terrible Workplace than OP.

            1. Les G*

              Nice passive-aggressive reference to “commenters”, buddy, but that’s not what I’m saying at all.

              The way the OP did things created more work for herself for no reason other than dramatic effect. It’s simply silly and has nothing to do with what the company “deserves.”

              1. Observer*

                You’re making a huge jump, with absolutely no basis. There is nothing here to indicate that the OP did it this way because they were trying to achieve “dramatic effect.” You refuse to consider that perhaps the OP was NOT looking for “dramatic effect” to the point that they would inconvenience themselves to the point they did. Despite the evidence in both letters that, in fact, that’s not what they were looking for.

                Why is that?

      8. Brandy*

        Plus too, the phone # change and email address was just part of the moving. She didnt do it just to avoid them but as the regular part of moving.

        1. Dogsnroses*

          nowadays it’s not really part of normal moving. Most people don’t change their cellphone or email when they move

          1. VioletEMT*

            Most people have a permanent email address through google/yahoo/etc., but some don’t. If OP had used their ISP’s email address – e.g. soandso@charter.net – then they would have to change their email address when moving.

            As for cell phone number, you *can* keep your cell phone number when you switch carriers/plans, but you don’t *have* to. Many of my friends switched their numbers to get ones in the area code where they decided to put down roots after college, a way to say, “I’m officially declaring myself a Minneapolis person by getting a 612 area code,” or whatever. So, y’know, different strokes.

            I could see the desire to make a clean break there.

            1. Beaded Librarian*

              Also sometimes carriers provide incentives to get a new number rather than just transferring an old one.

      9. AcademiaNut*

        The OP had just worked 60+ hour weeks, for 18 months straight. She was sleep deprived, having trouble eating and losing weight due to stress and over work. At the point at which she quit, she had literally been doing two peoples’ jobs for several weeks with no end in sight. This was her first job out of university. And everyone at her job was acting like this situation was entirely normal and reasonable.

        So yeah, it would have been more professional to have phoned in on Monday and told them “$@% you, I quit!” But I don’t particularly fault her for disappearing in the night – it’s hard to think straight when you’re that close to breaking down.

      10. Anoncorporate*

        This IS like escaping an abusive relationship. This company absolutely had n0 respect for OP’s boundaries. It caused her to get sick and extremely sleep deprived. I think in the context of OP’s situation, ghosting makes complete sense. It’s not fair to judge someone in completely different circumstances than our own.

      11. DesertRose*

        Yeah, well, running an employee into the ground for a year and a half to the point that they were sleep-deprived and barely able to eat isn’t how “normal people” run a business either.

        Reasons are for reasonable people, to quote Captain Awkward, and it’s pretty well established that OP’s former company wasn’t/isn’t run by reasonable people, and I have to think that OP wasn’t physically or emotionally capable of being particularly reasonable* after eighteen months of work robbing them of sleep and appetite.

        For OP’s former employer, “play crappy games, win crappy prizes” seems fairly apt. Respect is a two-way street.

        (*For clarity’s sake, I don’t blame OP in the slightest for not being in a reasonable state of mind; sleep deprivation is Bad For One’s Health, malnutrition is Bad For One’s Health, and combining the two is All Kinds of Bad For One’s Health.)

      12. Bilateralrope*

        Changing the phone number and email address sounds like it was the result of moving and having to switch to a different phone/email provider. Not something the letter writer did to get away from the company.

      13. Ms Cappuccino*

        I understand why she ghosted them but I would have liked it better if she told them she was leaving and why. She could have still left without notice. But seeing their face when announcing her departure could have been a lot of fun!

      14. I don't normally comment, but...*

        short of literally escaping an abusive spouse or stalker, this is not how normal people behave

        I take offence to that, not only on OP’s behalf but on a far more personal level. Here, let me fix it:
        “This is not how people in normal situations behave. This is how people in abusive situations behave.”

        …And OP *was* in an abusive situation. The measures OP took to escape were extreme and unusual, but then, so was the situation. It’s true that in anything approaching a “normal” situation – heck, even in most of the much-worse-than-normal situations we see featured on AAM – the reaction would have been ridiculously over-the-top; though we differ in that I have confidence that the supposedly “starved for drama” commentariat would have condemned it as such.

        In this situation, however? I think it was an entirely appropriate response! An employer who so thoroughly fails to apply even the most basic level of human decency in caring for the health and welfare of their workers, is an employer who has forfeited any of the standard conventions or considerations that employees should offer upon their departure. Good for OP for taking care of their health and getting out of there using whatever means they felt necessary.

        1. Les G*

          Folks on this site throw around the term “abuse” in a way that cheapens the term. Words have meaning.

          1. Observer*

            Indeed, they do. Why are you so resistant to the idea that her employer was being abusive?

            Look at the bare facts: They refused to allow the OP to ever take a day off, refused to allow the OP to take a single full weekend off, they repeatedly retracted promises made to her, repeatedly required her to work ridiculously heavy schedules. The OP says that they weren’t getting time to eat, sleep and just take care of normal business, never mind get some time off – to the point that they were losing weight because of this.

            Why is it that you dismiss the very possibility that the OP was being abused by a cheapskate employer?

          2. I don't normally comment, but...*

            Words have meaning, yes; most of them have layers and shades of meaning. Certainly this wouldn’t qualify for “worst abuse ever” – no broken bones, no death threats, etc – but the employer nonetheless behaved in a way that was abusive, and deserves to be labelled as such.

          3. Essess*

            I agree. I hate when people use “nazi”as an adjective to make fun of people (grammar nazi, etc…) which cheapens the term so people forget that it really means a group that mass murdered entire populations. I get upset at people use throw “fascist” around at people just because someone is enforcing a reasonable rule. I also find it disturbing when people complain about being “starved” or “starving” because it’s been 3 hours since they last ate. HOWEVER, this is absolutely emotional and mental abuse and deserves to be called out as such.

      15. Walter White Walker*

        Yeah, “normal people” don’t treat employees the way this terrible job did (overwork, sleep deprivation, gas lighting.) If they wanted courtesy, they should have given some to OP. You get what you give.

      16. mark132*

        Desperate people sometimes do desperate things. I agree it wasn’t the best way to handle it. But given the situation it wasn’t anywhere near the worst way either.

      17. Essess*

        [This might be a duplicate…. this page has locked and crashed on me 3 times as I’ve tried to post this comment, in 2 different browsers so far]

        This is 100% not ridiculous. The employer already has a demonstrated record of harassing the employee with phone/text/emails at all hours and does not respect boundaries. The only reasonable action is to remove those channels of contact. Just because this isn’t a boyfriend/spouse doesn’t make this any less of a mental/emotional abuse situation to wear the OP down to give in to unreasonable demands and no one has any right to criticize the OP for doing whatever she felt necessary to break out of the abusive cycle.

        I’ve also worked for a company like this. I worked 80+ work weeks for months without any time off and no end in sight. I left one day with severe chest pains so bad I barely stand up. Instead of going to the hospital, I took a cab home to climb into my bed in the hopes of dying in peace and quiet in my bed to escape my job. The next day I woke up still in pain and finally went to the hospital to get checked. I was back to work the following day, sobbing in my boss’s office that they were killing me with the hours. Nothing changed

      18. Kella*

        What part of not sleeping, not eating, losing weight, and succumbing to exhaustion sounds like “normal person” to you? This person was not a drama queen, they were sick.

        The thing about mental health when it’s that severely bad is the things that are easy or hard are illogical. If the only way she could get out was to do it that night when her family picked her up, that’s what she needed to do. If she could not bear the thought of her employer trying to contact her, switching email and phone expends LESS energy than the stress of worrying about them contacting her and ignoring/handling it when that happens.

        AND OP said that they weren’t proud of what they did, so I don’t see a reason to further tear them down for it.

        I’d look at OP’s actions as more like what if while at this horrible job, they were planning on quitting, but then they were in a terrible car accident that rendered them completely unable to even communicate that their work should be contacted. They take months to recover, following up with work falls through the cracks, they were planning on quitting anyway… better to focus on recovering from such a traumatic and damaging experience than lose sleep over letting down an employer that was truly terrible.

    2. JulieCanCan*

      I’m just wondering if OP was due any money from the atrociously managed organization: unused accrued vacation day payout, last check payment, etc, that she/he didn’t collect before disappearing.

      The ghosting, well, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving place. I wish I could have been a fly on their walls in the following weeks.

      I wish OP hadn’t been taken advantage of and pushed back in the very understandable event of wanting TIME OFF or a vacation or whatever. But second runner up choice would be ghosting them AFTER collecting any money owed, if that was a possibility. They’re going to keep having employees who burn out and leave if they continue being such idiots. Sometimes I wonder how companies run at all, with some of the stories we hear about on this site.

      1. Elvis Needs Boats*

        My first thought, too. (Natural consequence of being a payroll professional.) Perhaps she lives in one of the many states that don’t require paying out unused vacation when an employee leaves without notice, though. They likely would have automatically paid her for any hours she’d worked up to her “last day.”

        Perhaps she decided her mental health was more important than a bit of money. What a terrible position to be in!

        1. Martha Marcy May Marlene*

          Not all places accrue PTO. Many places give all the days as soon as January 1st rolls around. There is also no indication that the LW left any money on the table. It wasn’t mentioned at all.

  3. Merry*

    Other than the difficulties it puts on you in finding a new job, I would be 0% sorry to have ghosted that old job. Employers who want to fire you rarely give you notice, and it doesn’t sound like you had coworkers here who were helping you out, so I would absolutely not feel bad about it. Glad it worked out for you.

    1. Wintermute*

      Exactly, I’d be wary of losing 18 months of experience off my resume, but honestly at this point I’d put it back on the resume because it’s no longer your most recent employer. Other than that, this employer got what they deserved.

  4. maybe pernickety*

    Hi Alison, sorry if this seems pernickety, but some of these updates are a bit hard to read in parts due to lacking punctuation or mangled syntax. Any chance of some pre-editing?…

      1. Adric*

        I’m pretty sure it’s an official Internet Rule that all spelling/grammar complaints must themselves contain a spelling/grammar error.

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                For some reason, this whole conversation is cracking me up! I’ll never be able to read or hear the word “persnickety” (or “pernickety”) again without having to suppress a chuckle.

  5. suprisedcanuk*

    I’m glad everything worked out. Don’t feel bad. I don’t know Alex, but the the situation and his accommodation seem sketchy. I think the company likes it because, it dosen’t cost them much. You just work twice as hard and that’s not right.

  6. Matilda Jefferies*

    I’ve never ghosted a job, but I’ve definitely walked out in the middle of a shift and said I was never coming back, one day when I just couldn’t take any more. I remember the feeling of rage and helplessness at how terrible the job was, and how good it felt to take back some measure of control. I wouldn’t recommend it except in the most extreme circumstances, but I do think your situation fits the bill!

    Glad to hear that you’re out of there. It sounds like pretty much everything in your life has gotten better since you left that job!

    1. Free Meerkats*

      I did that once and I never regretted it. I did contact the coworkers I put in a bind that shift and apologized to them. They all pretty much said they wished they could have done the same.

      1. Nonny*

        There was an infamous story at an old food service job of mine about an ex-employee who called up all his off-shift friends to let them know he’d be ghosting on his shift and quitting, and not to answer if the manager called suddenly asking them to come in.

        1. Los Penguinos*

          Oh, I wish I would have done that with my old food service job. The manager who did the scheduling had been blowing off my time off requests for weeks. And had been scheduling me for Sunday nights followed by Monday mornings because she couldn’t be bothered to check the previous week’s schedule. I was delighted that when I called to quit, an hour before my shift started, she was the one managing that night. She asked who was covering my shift, and I told her it wasn’t my problem. It made up for the hassle she’d been giving me.

      2. Polaris*

        I also did this once, after a horribly denigrating comment from my then-boss. Left on my lunch break and never came back; after I contacted the temp agency and told them the reason, they fully backed me.

    2. Teal*

      Right. There’s definitely a benefit to “taking your power back” after being mistreated for so long. It was probably a good feeling to imagine all the people who refused to help, being forced to cover the office. Sorry, but sometimes you gotta make your own justice.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        “Sometimes you gotta make your own justice.”

        SO TRUE. OP, be proud that by ghosting your terrible employer you’ve done your part to show terrible employers that mistreating people has consequences.

  7. HS Teacher*

    I have quit a job on the spot but have never ghosted. That being said, if ever there were a job and circumstances where ghosting were acceptable, this would be it. I’m glad things worked out well for you, OP!

    1. Windchime*

      Yes, I normally would not think that ghosting was a good idea, but this employer totally deserved it and I don’t blame OP one bit. I especially liked the part about just disappearing into the night and changing her phone number. I’d like to think that it made the employer think about *why* an employee would ghost them like this, but I bet it didn’t.

      Good for you, OP. I’m glad you are out of that situation!

      1. MisplacedMidwesterner*

        This was 100% my feeling. Did they leave info for their W2 in January and their final paycheck? My office won’t do direct deposit for final paycheck, so you have to leave a forwarding address.

  8. Jerry*

    OP good for you. Management cowardice like that makes me sick. You did the right thing.
    That said, anyone else finding yourself in a comparably desperate situation, handing in your two weeks can be almost as much of a relief as walking off the job. I remember leaving a particularly toxic job several years ago: in the middle of a screaming match, I discovered a bizarre calm, and said simply, “please consider this my two weeks.” For the remaining two weeks I was imperturbable. Everything seemed funny, and laughably easy because I knew it was ending, and I got to keep them on my resume.

    1. Observer*

      Given that the OP felt the need to actually change their number and email address, it sounds like they were past being able to deal with even the thought of being at the beck and call of a totally unreasonable management for even one more day.

      OP, for future reference, if an employer gets that unreasonable, you CAN push back. If you’re at a point where you are considering walking out without something lined up anyway you have very little to lose by NOT showing just because you got a call. Also, make sure you get paid for ALL your hours. I’m betting that you worked overtime and didn’t get paid for it – otherwise the numbers would not have made any sense.

      Also, they were understaffed. Period. The FMLA and bogus numbers are nothing more than a smokescreen for that. There is never any reason that one person can never take vacation – especially when paid vacation is part of their official compensation package, if the company is appropriately staffed.

    2. Harvey P. Carr*

      “handing in your two weeks can be almost as much of a relief as walking off the job”

      Unless you have a boss who’s going to make those last two weeks hell for you.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        Sure but then you can walk off the job once the shouting begins having done your part. You can then potentially keep that job on your resume and say you gave appropriate notice and then felt it necessary to leave earlier due to an unsafe environment.

  9. animaniactoo*

    OP, someday, you will chalk leaving by ghosting as “Things I did when I was young and had less confidence/etc”.

    As it is, the only thing I would really have liked to see is some form of contact explaining to them in clear and excruciating detail that your inability to have a life because Alex is hogging it meant you had no choice but to leave. Immediately, post-haste, don’t write, don’t call – P.S. I changed my phone # and my e-mail address so don’t bother trying.

    Congrats on your escape and your new sane job!

    1. Wintermute*

      Ghosting is becoming “a thing” for the younger generation apparently, according to some blogs and other news sources I semi-trust to be generally accurate–I realize I’m hedging heavily but that’s because with so much “damn those millennials and their wanting to be treated like human beings! they’re so entitled!” BS floating around, plus it’s a trend since time immemorial for men wise only as far as their beard to write ponderous thinkpieces about “the kids these days”, there’s a reason that “O tempora! O mores!” (oh, the times! oh, their morals!) is a well-worn Latin phrase.

      But in any event, yeah it’s apparently a thing. And to be frank corporate america gets what it gives, after treating employees with NO loyalty or consideration for decades why should the children of the children of the last generation to whom employers felt employee loyalty was a virtue give a toss about loyalty if it’s not paying out for them? I show only as much loyalty as I’m paid to show, or otherwise compensated to show, this employer gave nothing, and deserves nothing. It’s not like it was even going to hurt the employee’s career because he’d lined up an alternative and was never going to wrench a positive reference out of their miserable hands anyway.

      1. Merci Dee*

        I agree with your last paragraph, especially. Corporate America got ridiculously spoiled during the Great Recession when people would have basically sacrificed their mothers for the chance to work an entry level job with 80+ hours a week, no benefits, and barely enough salary to pay the rent on your refrigerator box under the interstate overpass plus groceries. Interviews for new positions were incredibly rare, and weren’t much better than death matches to win the job. Now the economy is into a decent recovery with unemployment figures much lower than 10 years ago…. but employers are still trying to play the game like nothing has changed in the last decade. And smart employees aren’t having it. They know they have choices and don’t have to put up with this garbage. And more power to them. Nobody should have to deal with the kind of crap that OP was handed on a regular basis, and I’m sorry they felt trapped in that job for so long. No job is worth your physical, mental, or emotional health for any reason. If you don’t look out for your health needs, they won’t get met.

        1. Wintermute*

          As an aside a revolutionary thing for me was learning about the concept of “monosody” and its implications for labor and labor relations. basically a monosody is an inverse monopoly, in a monopoly you’re the only one selling something people want (or need to in order to survive) buy. In a monosody you are the only one buying what people want to sell.

          During times of high unemployment you have a labor monosody, people are obligated by economic pressures to sell their labor, when there aren’t enough people buying labor to go around prices crash. It had a huge influence on my philosophy because the very essence of capitalism is a free and voluntary exchange of goods, but if one side is staring down eviction and starvation it’s hardly free or voluntary, they have to accept whatever price is paid. In an ironic way socialism enables capitalism to be MORE CAPITALIST because laborers have the free and voluntary choice NOT to sell to a company if they’re abusive. It allows supply and demand to apply equally to both sides of the equation.

      2. ssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        It’s a thing but not limited to millennials. A number of jobs ago, we had one ghost us when we expected him back from a medical leave. And then one who left us for a “better” job, ghosted the new job on his first day.

  10. Peter the Bubblehead*

    Sometime in the coming weeks, Allison will receive a letter from Toxic Co asking how they should go about contacting an employee who simply walked away from a good position so they can advise their former employee on the proper etiquette of resigning a position.

    1. T.E.B.*

      Dear Allison,

      Our most reliable employee suddenly left without notice after we destroyed her personal life and ran her into the ground every single day for a year and a half. How can we contact her to properly express our disappointment?

      The Evil Bees

    2. Bilateralrope*

      My response to that would be to tell them to file a missing persons report with the police. The company doesn’t have enough information to distinguish between an employee ghosting them and that employee being kidnapped.

      1. Liz T*

        I think the email address and phone number being shut down is a pretty clear indication that OP wasn’t just hit by a car. This was something OP chose to do.

    3. TardyTardis*

      Sadly, there was a supervisor who wrote in about how best to chastise an employee who dared to leave over not being allowed to attend her own graduation. (other employees were allowed to go to rock concerts).

  11. Autumnheart*

    I am astonished that a company thought that they could get away with dividing the workload between two employees, by giving one employee all the PTO and time off with no penalty, and all the work to the other with zero time off and zero accommodation.

    I certainly hope that they came in the next day and realized that the person doing all the work for exactly zero reward or accommodation was gone, and that they were depending on a guy they agreed to pay full wages in exchange for being AWOL 4 months of the year. I hope they felt incredibly, unbelievable stupid and like they were up shit creek without a paddle in sight. And I hope both managers got to explain this arrangement to *their* boss.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      “I am astonished that a company thought that they could get away with dividing the workload between two employees, by giving one employee all the PTO and time off with no penalty, and all the work to the other with zero time off and zero accommodation.”

      I know, right? I can’t fathom how they thought that was even almost okay.

      I share all of yor hopes, plus I hope those rwo so-called “managers” got an ass-kicking. Not holding my breath, but definitely hoping.

  12. 1.0*

    DANG it is blowing my mind that your original company thought that was even remotely tenable

    congratulations on your new job, and congratulations on getting the heck OUT of a terrible situation!

  13. CBH*

    Op I think this is one instance where it is totally justified ghosting a job. Your old company was never going to listen to reason. I’m glad you realize that the situation was not your fault and that work / life balance is important. Congratulations on the new job!!!! I must admit I would love another update indicating the old company was shocked at your leaving and fell apart without you; and possibly some legal issues with how they handled leave/ your situation.

  14. animaniactoo*

    In the meantime… as a completely separate thing… I wonder how the company would handle it if the person in OP’s position simply refused to show up every weekend and said “I can do every other weekend, but I will not be here this weekend.” and then followed through on that?

    Would they actually fire them? Or would they magically find a way to get the other weekend shift covered? Impossible to find out until you have someone with nothing left to lose and willing to be fired. I am soooooooo curious how they would handle having an employee who said “No. This is not sane. I will not cancel my vacation. Figure out how to deal with it.” I mean… how did they handle it when OP was suddenly unavailable?

    OMG OP – I just realized how freaking brilliant ghosting them was… now they HAD to deal with what happens when no one is available to cover for Alex. I mean, I still want you to have explained to them why you were quitting. But quitting that hard where it was immediate, no time to arrange coverage, and no ability to try and contact you and harass you about any of it? A thing of beauty. BEAUTY I tell you. Because now they have to deal with the exact situation that they refused to make any accommodation for or plan around – those chickens are roosting like mad. Especially if Alex continues to be “unreliable” rather than stepping up to the plate in this “emergency” situation. I mean, if he were smart, he would at least partially step up so he could be seen to be a team player and really trying for the company. Shaky but present for the next few weeks while they fill the spot, etc.

    Oh! And if you haven’t already, it’s not too late to hit Glassdoor and leave a lovely review there!

    1. LJ*

      I had a manager that worked the team player and other duties as assigned. I finished all my tasks during the busy period and made sure no one was waiting on anything from me. They knew it was the weekend when I always chaperoned a ski trip. I left on time on Friday and came back in on Monday. I was marked down on my review because he was plan.ning on dropping some of his tasks on me on Saturday, but he had to do them himself

      1. sam*

        There was a particularly unpleasant partner (A) at my first law firm that I generally managed to avoid doing work for, but one time, I ended up working on a transaction with a different partner (B), that was actually for one of A’s clients. Well…I came back after a long weekend away that partner B was VERY aware of, to find Partner A absolutely LIVID because the client had some question late on Friday that he ended up having to deal with because I wasn’t around (partner B was on a plane or something).

        I just looked at him and said “[Partner B] has known for months that I would not be available this weekend, BECAUSE MY FATHER WAS GETTING REMARRIED”.

        Sorry (not sorry) that being the maid of honor at my dad’s fucking wedding forced him to have to do an hour of weekend work for his own goddamn client.

        (side note – this was back in the very early 2000s, when almost no one had blackberries, there was actually no cellphone reception at my dad’s house, and I think they were still stuck on dial up – remember those days?)

    2. TooTiredToThink*

      Yep; this is exactly why I agree with those that say this was the one situation where ghosting a job was actually the best/smart decision to make.

  15. Coder von Frankenstein*

    I would never advise someone to ghost a job… but it sounds like it worked out well for you! Congratulations on getting out.

    And while you may not be as vindictive, I take deep satisfaction in imagining them scrambling to cover for *your* sudden absence.

  16. Lola*

    I can’t be the only one who wants to know what happened at the old company! Maybe OP can Google it for us :)

    1. Qwerty123*

      I was kinda hoping OP would log in to the old email account and check the messages from a year ago to read what they wrote. As long ago as it is now, the OP wouldn’t be affected by any if their shit talking…although I guess s/he might feel bad if they expressed genuine concern for their well being.

      1. Susana*

        If they had any concern for OP’s well-being, they would not have imposed such an abusive situation.

  17. Bday Girl*

    You sound very healthy and happy. I am happy for you. My only small concern is if you had a 401k or similar there. You need to roll that money over, if thats a concern, so it does not become escheated.
    Peace to you!

    1. Qwerty123*

      Or, how did OP collect their last paycheck? Maybe it was better to just cut and run than to get that money?

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Huh? Their 401k is theirs and they’ll only work with her, she’ll be able to get it with security questions. The company has no authority over it if they’re fully vested. If not, she lost it regardless of how she leaves.

  18. Aphrodite*

    Because I am such a cynical witch, I “loved” this part of the update:

    At the terrible job, Alex and I were the same title. We both had three weeks of vacation and three weeks of sick time per year. The company also paid Alex for three weeks of FMLA. The other nine weeks were unpaid. The company and Alex had an agreement that instead of 9 weeks paid/9 weeks unpaid, they would pay him 50% of his pay each day he was off so he could spread his pay over the 18 weeks he was allowed off each calendar year. The company used paying Alex as a justification as to why they couldn’t afford to hire someone else. In the time I was there, Alex never went a day over 18 weeks. As soon as his time was up he would show up every day until the next calendar year started. My other coworkers told me it was the same before I got there.

    Yeah, sure, never went a day over his 18 weeks but was sure to get them all in. And everyone kissed his ass. I’m very, very glad you got out of there–exactly the way you did–OP.

    1. Former Employee*

      I, too, wondered how someone with a mental illness managed to need exactly 18 weeks every year.

      A number of comments suggest that this guy simply dragged himself back to work rather than lose his job, but it seems as if the people who give examples of doing that themselves have a physical rather than a mental health condition.

      I tend to think that the OP’s co-worker was able to take advantage of the obvious ignorance of the management at that company.

      This has nothing to do with not seeing mental illness as being as real as physical conditions. Rather, it is recognizing that mental illness tends to be less predictable and less likely to follow any sort of pattern than most physical illness.

  19. Episkey*

    So this Alex had a “mental illness” that disappeared as soon as he wouldn’t be paid anymore? How convenient.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Truth, it’s quite possible that he’s abusing FMLA. However, it’s also possible that it’s not the point at which he wouldn’t be paid but rather that his job was in jeopardy. If there’s an understanding that when his FMLA runs out, he loses his job protection if he takes off any more days… it could be enough to make him force himself into the office and deal regardless of whether or not he’s actually getting any useful work done.

      I have been chronically minorly sick every year – enough to warrant taking off my sick days and running through vacation days taken as sick days for several years. I’ve taken days unpaid when I ran out. But the moment I felt my job was in jeopardy… I managed to drag my ass into work. Because I was told that I could go home sick but I had to show up or it would create an issue. So, I’ve gone to work too dizzy to work – I mean, I did get work done. But it took me 6 hours to do about an hour and a half’s worth of work. I’ve gone in with bronchitis so bad my boss sent me home because she couldn’t take listening to me cough any more, and my co-workers wonder why I come in if I’m that sick (answer: it will take 3 weeks before I stop coughing. I don’t have 3 weeks available to wait it out).

      So… while I get the cynicism, I want to be cautious about it. In large part because the issue is not really Alex, so much as how the company is handling accommodating Alex.

    2. Wintermute*

      Lets not be crabs in a bucket here. It’s also very possible he needed more time but couldn’t afford unpaid time off without disastrous consequences so he took all he could without ending up getting himself evicted for unpaid rent. A lot of people get put in that position, where FMLA is legally an option but not practically, they need to be a primary income for themselves and/or their family but their health doesn’t *quite* allow for that, but getting disability is impossible because they can technically work. With mental illness that’s even more common because it’s tough as hell unless you are truly incapacitated (schizophrenia with hallucinations, etc) to get disability for “only” intractable severe anxiety or depression.

      1. Autumnheart*

        It isn’t being a crab in a bucket to acknowledge that someone who is mentally ill may not be able to fulfill the requirements of a job. Alex most certainly wasn’t capable of it. The company should have replaced him, not simply dumped all his work on OP and refused to allow any time off.

        1. Wintermute*

          That’s very fair. But the comment didn’t say that– it was insinuating he might not have been mentally ill and might have been milking the system, which smacks of the “angry that someone might have it a little better than you, so you drag everyone down to your level of misery”, which is the essence of the crab-in-a-bucket problem. Also the company can’t just replace them, that would be FMLA retaliation, which is illegal as hell as well as downright evil.

          It’s on the company to ensure they can comply with the law (FMLA) and treat their workers fairly. Neither of those is legally or morally optional. Implying that because he wasn’t using unpaid FMLA time only paid time that the company’s obligation is different is both illegal (FMLA makes it his prerogative, if a doctor signs off on your FMLA the company cannot legally question or deny it) and uncharitable. It also ignores the sad economic reality of people with chronic mental illness, unable to get disability, unable to afford unpaid time off, and surviving only due to their work health insurance.

          The company screwed up here, they dumped the burden of FMLA onto one singular scapegoat employee, which isn’t how that’s supposed to work. If you can’t meet your legal and ethical obligations to give people the FMLA time off you are bound to while not abusing other employees you need to hire more employees. If you cannot hire more employees, meet your obligations, and treat people ethically, then you should consider bankruptcy, not abusing an employee to the point of breakdown.

          1. Episkey*

            I stand by my comment. Someone with a true mental illness, in my experience, would ensure that they are acting as equitably & fairly as they can — while also being responsible. Leaving in the middle of a project meeting, not showing up for weeks(!) on end with no word or notice, and knowingly allowing a co-worker to shoulder ALL of the work — until you reach the point where if you continue being absent you will have to take unpaid time — is neither responsible, fair, or even kind.

            1. aebhel*

              People can have legitimate mental illnesses that require accommodation and also be jerks. It’s not an either/or proposition, and furthermore, it’s on the company to manage this appropriately, not on a person who is already dealing with an illness.

  20. Delta Delta*

    This seems to me like an employer who didn’t understand the ADA, didn’t try to understand the ADA, and was terrified at the idea of getting sued, lest they run afoul of the ADA. Rather than pay to talk to an employment lawyer for an hour (or less, probably), their way of dealing with the situation was to pay someone not to show up and call it good. This feels like a lot of nope to me.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Yeah, they definitely prioritised Alex’s mental health over the OP. What would have happened if OP also developed a diagnosed illness due to stress and had to use intermittent FMLA, too? Some kind of time vortex would have opened?

  21. I Work on a Hellmouth*

    OP, I am living out my job ghosting fantasy vicariously through you. I’m sorry it came to that for you (and really hope it never comes up and bites you, but it doesn’t sound like it should), and congratulations on the happy and healthy new employment!

    1. Merci Dee*

      We’re still wishing the same thing for you! Hope your wasp and vindictive squirrel situations have calmed down some, at least!!

        1. Merci Dee*

          That would involve a name upgrade – “I Work on a Haunted Hellmouth, and the Ghosts Probably Cause Less Problems than the Residents”.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m hoping you get the ending I had at my toxic job instead. You get to give two weeks and laugh as you dance into the sunset on your last day. It’s so much nicer!

  22. Not So NewReader*

    OP, if there was ever an employer that deserved to be ghosted this company was it. This is the perfect response to a job that attacks your health and your personal time and then totally ignores you as an employee. We can’t have a conversation with a box of rocks.

    I am so glad to hear that you have a new job and that is going well. I love how your family and old landlord all jumped into help in different ways. Congratulations for moving onward and upward.

  23. Dogsnroses*

    I’m glad you’re not in a bad working situation… but in the future (if this type of thing happens again or for anyone else in a similar situation) I’d suggest just calling in the morning to state that you are quitting and won’t be coming in that day (or any other day) and leaving a forwarding address. Equally effective in leaving a bad employer hanging, a lot easier on you in terms of having to run around changing things, and reduces the chance of wasting police time for a welfare check. You can even leave a voicemail and then block their number if you REALLY don’t want to talk to anyone.

    1. Thursday Next*

      I agree. The most important thing is that you got out of a terrible workplace, and I hope you’re never in a situation like this again. But if you are, a job-resignation phone call would be good. We’ve read letters and comments before on this site by people concerned about coworkers that couldn’t be located.

      Also, don’t underestimate how satisfying it can be to tell a terrible boss you’re not coming back!

    2. Wintermute*

      eh, in this case they got what they deserved. Workplace norms are for normal workplaces.

      The only thing I would do different in LW’s shoes is go over every interaction I had with the company in my mind with a fine-tooth comb looking for reasons to call the state labor board, OSHA, EPA, FCC, FTC, national oceanic survey, national weather service and every other alphabet soup agency that could possibly have jurisdiction over any part of them for any violation I could think of, then hit up their glassdoor, twitter, facebook and other social media with a nice detailed complaint. Then block their facebook page, twitter and so on from my profiles so I never have to think about them again.

      1. Dogsnroses*

        Yeah, even if you are an “evil” employer I think the first reaction to someone just never showing up at work again is “they might be injured/ill/incapacitated” vs “this person thought we were so bad they decided to run away in the night and change all their contact info”

        1. Observer*

          Oh, I’m sure it never occurred to them that the OP ran away from their awfulness. But, I also am pretty confident that it would never occur to them to take the time to do a welfare check.

  24. kjdubreuil*

    One of our employees ‘went to lunch’ and called three days later to let us know that during said lunch he had ‘unexpectedly’ moved to Utah. He was calling to give us the address to which to send his final paycheck. We thought that was just weird and annoying until we got the next cycle of credit card bills in which there were many unauthorized charges including porn sites. Then we knew why he quit without notice and fled the state.

    1. Wintermute*

      I wonder how that one worked, “uh hey boss… I kinda had an accidental cross-country move while I was on my way back from lunch… you know how it is…”

    2. This Daydreamer*

      At Oldjob there was a guy who called in from Mexico to tell us that he and some of his buddies were taking a road trip. He called an hour after is shift was supposed to start. We were in Virginia. The guy was a legend after that.

      No sign of embezzlement or anything. I honestly think he just got bored.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This beat out my story about the guy who disappeared at lunch. Showed up to get his 4hrs of pay and told us he was arrested on lunch and had just gotten out again when he came back to collect his pay. Then asked if we would think about re-hiring him…

      I guess he also had slept with another employees wife prior to all this shenanigans. Fml I don’t miss that podunk town and messy hire anyone setup. Ah, construction.

    4. required name*

      I am cackling at the idea of taking this seriously. “Oh yeah, during lunch, I unexpectedly got the opportunity to move to Utah, and I couldn’t pass it up, see you guys!”

  25. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Thank goodness you emerged intact from that Hellhole. Last year because of co-workers’ absences and the season I had to work a whole month with only one day off. My blood runs cold at the thought of doing it for 18 months straight. I’d love to be a fly on the wall during the first week of your absence at the old Hellhole.

  26. TooTiredToThink*

    OP – the one thing you might want to do is verify with local law enforcement that you haven’t been marked as a missing person. While I highly doubt you were, frankly because I don’t think the company would go that far, AND your landlord knows that you’ve moved; there’s a slim possibility. That way you can clear it up.

    Also; if you didn’t get your final check; etc… make sure to check with unclaimed property for your state in case they sent the money there.

    1. Technical Manager*

      Yeah, this employer might not care enough, but at my employer, we definitely ask for police welfare checks / file missing persons reports if someone no-shows for two consecutive days and neither we nor their emergency contacts can get a hold of them (or if we can’t get a hold of their emergency contacts). That policy actually saved the life of one of my coworkers who was incapacitated and could not summon help on their own.

  27. This Daydreamer*

    I love this. I simply love this. The company now has to deal with their massive coverage problem and have no way to guilt trip you into taking care of it any more.

    It would be nice to let them know you’re alive and well. Send them a lovely post card to tell them how wonderful it is to be able to have a normal schedule. Make sure to add that you hope they aren’t working too hard to take care of themselves.

  28. Maddie*

    Congrats for getting out of there. I understand your frustration and seeing no other way out. I came VERY close to ghosting a job that was nearly that bad. I went home in the middle of the day without telling anyone, intending to just never come back, but then at the last minute decide to just take in a letter of resignation the next day.

  29. FuzzFrogs*

    OP, I’m glad you did what you needed to do to maintain your sanity. I’ve had to do similar (I tried to give notice and they literally ignored it….). I hope things continue to go well for you.

  30. knitcrazybooknut*

    In many places, the company still owes you for all of the vacation hours you didn’t get to take. At this point, you may want to reach out (or get a lawyer or someone lawyer-adjacent) to call on your behalf. Just a payroll person’s opinion.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      They also need to send the W2 forms for tax purposes. And the OP needs that to fill out the tax forms and include that job. I’m confused how completely ghosting even works, unless the OP isn’t in the US.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’ve had a fair share of W2s returned and never can get in touch with the person due to changing jobs, addresses and phone over the years.

        You can file taxes using a paystub or contacting the IRS. It’s not a big deal.

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