pushing back when an employee calls in sick, renegotiating an offer you’ve already accepted, and more

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

1. Should I ever push back when an employee calls in sick?

As someone’s supervisor, are there ever limits on someone using their sick leave if they have it to use? We’ve had employees tell us “my allergies are acting up today” or “I have to stay home to make sure my pipes don’t freeze.” I don’t want to be in the business of questioning when people are sick, but are there ever times to push back when employees want to use their sick time at the last minute? They do get a generous amount of sick time. We are an organization that requires coverage on customer service points, if that makes a difference.

In general, you want to err on the side of treating employees like responsible adults and giving them as much leeway as possible to manage their own sick leave. If someone says they’re not well enough to come in to work, your default should be to believe them. (And really, allergies can be quite bad. I think you’re hearing that as “I’m a little sniffly” but it can be eyes that won’t stop watering, an awful fog in your head, and extreme exhaustion. And that difference in itself is an illustration of why you shouldn’t assume and should trust people to decide for themselves.)

That said, unless there were extenuating circumstances (and there might have been), staying home to make sure your pipes don’t freeze isn’t generally what sick leave is intended for — but that’s really about the fact that they should probably be using another form of PTO, not that they shouldn’t stay home at all. Again — adults. Trust them to know more about their situations and what’s necessary than you do.

If someone isn’t acting like a responsible adult (like repeatedly calling in sick for things like a stubbed toe, or always seeming to be sick on the one day a month they’d have to do inventory, or so forth), then you should address that pattern. But otherwise, if you offer sick leave and people are using it for sickness, that’s what it’s there for. That covers the last-minute element of your question too — most sick leave, by definition, is going to be taken at the last minute, since sickness usually isn’t scheduled.

2. I don’t want to eat all my meals with my coworker when we travel together

I’m planning on traveling with a coworker (Jane) next week to an out-of-state function. We know each other pretty well and usually talk in person several times a week about both work and home life.

Jane struggles with downtime. She has to be doing something every waking minute and usually wants company while she is doing it. I am an introvert who needs my downtime after spending all day out of my element, meeting with the out of state people.

The concern is about meal times and free time in the evening. I enjoy going to a nice restaurant and eating a quiet meal but last time we traveled together I found that impossible! Every day, Jane asks what I’m doing for every meal and if it’s anything other than room service, she assumes she is going with me. It doesn’t matter if I make it at an awkward time or food that she doesn’t like, she’ll make it work. Once out, it’s an endless litany of complaints on everything from the meeting, to our mutual boss, to her kids and the weather.

How do I manage a meal in peace without resorting to room service every day? I don’t mind a few meals with venting, or several meals with some friendly chatter, but I think I’m going to wind up saying something I really shouldn’t if every meal for a week is liberally seasoned with complaints. I have tried to ask her for more positive conversation before, but that leads to a lot of tears and that’s no better. A gentle redirect never works because she can find something in anything to complain about.

She sounds exhausting.

Ideally, you’d be up-front with her at the start of the trip about your need for downtime. As you’re ending the first workday, say something like, “I’m going to head back for the hotel for a bit and then will probably grab dinner on my own. I’ve realized I need some quiet alone time at the end of workdays when I travel or I can’t unwind. But want to meet in the lobby tomorrow morning at 8:30 and head to the work site together?”

Alternately, you could say a version of that to her earlier — like, “Hey, I know last time we traveled together we had meals together every day, and I wanted to give you a heads-up I’ll probably fend for myself for meals most of the time on this trip. I’ve realized I need…” (Insert the language from above.)

But if you’re willing to have one meal with her, that’s a nice thing to offer.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Can you try to renegotiate an offer you’ve already accepted if you get a better one?

This is a situation that an acquaintance of mine ran into. He is graduating, and accepted a job at somewhat below market rate because he had been searching for a while and was worried about not being able to find anything. He then continued interviewing elsewhere. A few weeks later, he’s gotten an offer elsewhere for 30% more, which it sounds like he’s already accepted (they’re talking start dates, at least).

He thinks he should go back to the first company and ask them to match salary on the new offer.

I think that he should email the first company apologizing profusely, letting them know that an opportunity “fell into his lap” and he couldn’t say no, but make it very clear that he understands what an inconvenience this is and he’s very sorry, and make no suggestion of matching salary (especially when he’s already accepted the other offer! especially when it’s a 30% difference!)

Am I off-base in thinking this would be really unprofessional? We’re in a smaller city, and the industry has a lot of job-hopping, so the chances of running into someone associated with the first company later in your career seem pretty high.

Nooooooo. You are right and he is wrong. Assuming he has indeed already accepted the first offer, it would look incredibly bad to go back and say, “No, wait, actually I want 30% more.” He’s already made a commitment to them based on the first salary, and he will look like he’s operating in really bad faith if he tries to reopen negotiations. It is very, very likely that they’ll tell him to take the other offer and will consider him an ass and the bridge burnt. (That’s especially true because it’s 30% more, but it would be true regardless.)

Maybe ask him what he’d think if they came back to him and said, “Sorry, but we found someone else we like who will do the job for less, so we want to lower the salary we’re offering you.”

I’d actually tweak your suggested approach a little — I do think it’s okay for him to explain that the other salary is so much higher that he can’t turn down the opportunity, because that will give context for his reneging that will make it make more sense. But he shouldn’t do that with the intent of hoping they’ll match it — it’s helpful context only. Other than that, I think your advice is perfect.

4. Responding when a coworker apologizes for a mistake

What is the best way to respond when a colleague dropped the ball and apologized, without being a pushover? I received a brief apology email this morning, and I don’t want to completely absolve the person for a mistake that shouldn’t be occurring for someone at her level. I tend to be a pushover in these situations and say things like, “Oh no problem!” or “Hey it happens!” when it really isn’t. But I also don’t want to over-correct and turn my response into a disproportionate reprimand.

You’re not this person’s manager, right, just a colleague? The first time it happens, I’d go with one of those responses you don’t like — like “I understand, stuff happens!” or “No worries!” — because it’s not about you absolving them (and since you’re not their manager, that’s not really your place anyway), just about you being kind to a fellow human. But if it’s a pattern, those responses can signal it’s not a big deal when it in fact is. So in that case, I’d go with “Thanks, I appreciate it” or something else that acknowledges their message without characterizing the situation in any way. And in some cases, it would be appropriate to say, “Thanks, I appreciate it! I know this has happened a few times — could we talk about how we might be able to set things up differently so it doesn’t keep happening?”

5. How much insider knowledge can I use in an interview?

I have a job interview coming up at a local non-profit that I’m very excited about – I’ve wanted to work for this organization for a long time! The thing is, my mom has worked for this company for many years. Her department has nothing to do with the role I’m applying for – I wouldn’t even be in the same building as her – and I’ve been up-front about the fact that I have family working for the company already. My concern is that I have much more of an intimate understanding of the organization than I’ve ever had when applying for a position before. I know a number of the employees socially; I’ve been privy to quite a bit of gossip, venting, and the kind of day-to-day discussion of company goings-on that would not ordinarily be public information; and I’ve even lent a hand on occasion as sort of an informal volunteer.

On the one hand, this is great. I have a solid grasp of what it’s like to work there, good and bad. But how familiar would it be okay to come across as in the interview? It’d be disingenuous at best to pretend to know only as much as any other interviewee, and there’s some things I know that definitely skirt the edge of confidentiality, which I should obviously steer clear of bringing up! But in between those extremes, I’m a little lost. Can I ask questions about concerns I probably wouldn’t have without the background knowledge I have? Can I bring up sort of internal but not confidential things I’m aware of — ongoing development of new programs, for instance?

It’s an organization that has some unique challenges for employees to overcome, and I want to highlight that I really do know what I’m in for, and that I’m thinking seriously about how my skills connect with the needs of the company, but I’m worried about coming off as presumptuous or overly familiar.

I’d err on the side of leaving all that stuff out. At most, you could ask a couple of questions about new programs that you know about through your connections, but I wouldn’t get into other insider information. Largely that’s because you don’t know what biases and agendas your contacts might have, and there’s a real danger of coming across as (a) thinking you have more of an insider vantage point than you really do and (b) having a biased perspective because of the biases of your contacts. If I’m hiring an external person, I really don’t want them coming in already having allegiances and pre-formed opinions about internal politics and goings-on. I want them to come in without biases and form their own opinions. That stuff could end up being a negative for your candidacy rather than a positive, especially if you appear to be putting a lot of stock in it.

However, you can let the info you have inform your thinking and the kinds of questions you ask. For example, if you’ve heard a lot of complaining about work-life balance, you can ask about typical hours and workload and so forth. Or if you know there’s been high turnover in the position you’re interviewing for, you can ask about that and how that’s affected things. And if there’s something you’ve heard that really concerns you, and where you wouldn’t take the job without first asking about it, you can always raise that at the offer stage, once they’ve already decided they want to hire you.

But in general, err on the side of not assuming familiarity and coming in determined to form your opinions.

{ 472 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    There are a bunch of personal accounts below of people’s severe allergies, which is starting to take us off-topic. Please don’t post additional accounts of your own allergies (or other reasons you might call out sick); keep comments focused on advice for the letter-writers.

    And here’s a reminder to stay on-topic in general. Off-topic comments may be removed without warning!

  2. MJ*

    #2 – I totally get you need “downtime”. I’m the same. I usually said I have some personal things to do. Most don’t push it, but if they do I stress the “personal” – and I put eating alone as personal.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      I agree, and this is the route I would take! She definitely sounds exhausting even if you didn’t want your own time.

      I’ve seen an anecdote from other introverts that equates our bodies to batteries needing recharging, and an introvert just needs a little more time to recharge theirs.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        That, plus introverts recharge by doing solitary things and they NEED that alone-time, whatever that may be, to recharge and feel like themselves.

        Extroverts on the other hand recharge by taking part in social activities with others. Activities involving other people recharges their batteries.

        It took me 40 years to finally learn that, and as an introvert in a highly social industry (both during the work day and after hours) it finally made sense why I was absolutely exhausted and ALWAYS feeling the need to “get away from everything” all the time.

        1. Midlife Tattoos*

          I agree wholeheartedly. I also didn’t figure it out until my 40s. Now I don’t wonder at my near desperation to get home to my very quiet house, and why I’m rarely keen to do things with people after work. I have to ‘people’ all day and I can only do it for so long.

      2. Clisby*

        Exactly. I’m an introvert. I also like social events, being around other people, striking up conversations with strangers. But after awhile, it just makes me tired. It’s not that I didn’t like the experience(s); it’s that they used up my energy instead of supplying it.

      3. Anonymous today*

        I like this as a good way to approach it. I’m an introvert, too. Had to attend a conference and share a room with a coworker not too long ago. It was excruciating! Coworker was extremely needy, a bathroom hog and snored like a freight train. We spent all of our time together for three days. Next time, I will be brave and tell cheap ass boss that I need my own room and will be honest to coworker about the need to unwind at the end of the day.

    2. TooTiredToThink*

      I doubt this is helpful at all; but I immediately thought of LW2 recommending Groupon to the coworker – meaning; giving her cheap suggestions for things to do in the area in the evenings. That way coworker can find something to do (that won’t cost an arm and a leg).

      But yes; I need downtime too so I totally get this.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        My only concern with Groupon is that coworker may think it’s an invitation. Oh, group coupon to do something together! Yay. Um, no. Definitely suggest meetup. And definitely be honest about needing down time and being comfortable eating in a restaurant by yourself. “But you got room service last time when you ate by yourself.” No, I ordered room service TO eat by myself.
        That kind of specific.

    3. Zona the Great*

      This is the only time insomnia works in my favor. I can’t do anything but grab a quiet meal, do Pilates in my room, and watch movies until I can fall asleep. Most don’t question insomnia-especially if they already know I suffer from it.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I’ve always found TV and films too stimulating. I have to turn them off 2 hours before bed and play soft music.
        I failed yesterday, watched way too much TV!

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I think a white lie is also ok in this context. On my last work trip, I went with a coworker who exhausts me and I had no interest in hanging out with him at night. I simply told him that I had some friends who live in the city we were visiting and that I’d be spending my evenings with them.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I agree, and I think probably with Jane you may need to be fairly firm.

      One option is to be vague “Oh, I have a few things to do. I’ll see you in the morning” as that does make clear that you are not planning to sepnd time with her, and it is a bit harder for her to tag along if she doesn’t know your plans.

      The other is to be very clear “I ned some down time where I’m by myself. I’ll see you in the morning”

      I don’t think it is your responsibility to suggest alternatives to Jane , but if you wanted to, ypu could give her a heads-up before you make the trip. Maybe say to her somthing like “I just wanted to let you know that I’m not going to be free to eat / hang out with you in the evenings when we are there. I wanted to let you know in advance so you know I woon’t be available in the evenings, and you don’t ned to wory about including me in whatever plans you make.”

      If she pushes back, wnating to know what you’ll be doing, then you can go back with “I have a bunch of personal stuff I’ll be busy with” or even “Jane, I already explained that I’m not available, like I said, I have some personal matters I will be busy with. I don’t want to discuss it further”

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yes, I think a heads-up is a good thing to offer, but I don’t think OP should get into suggesting activities for Jane. She’s an adult woman who can entertain herself! But knowing she’ll need to do that allows her to do things like research the area, or make plans with other colleagues.

      2. DaffyDuck*

        I think a heads-up is a great idea. It lets Jane get a chance to think about and make plans for the evening. I also completely agree with not making yourself responsible to find activities for Jane, she is an adult (plus she is a griper so she will be unhappy with whatever LW suggests anyway). LW needs to hold firm and not explain herself, that leads to people thinking they can change your mind.

      3. FiveWheels*

        I’d go for straight up saying you need downtime rather than saying you have things to do. I’ve had colleagues who I’m otherwise friendly with follow me when I’m going round shops in my lunch break, and when that starts it’s harder to say “no, I want you to leave me alone because I’d rather be alone than have you keep company” which can be harsh.

        I’m very introverted and was in my thirties before I really understood that to many extroverts, any company and chat is better than being alone. When I realised the mindset isn’t “I will suck the life out of you, ha ha ha” but more like “you aren’t having a basic need met, of course I will help – in fact we’ll help each other!” it became much easier to deal with.

        Likewise I think many extroverts just don’t understand the NEED for alone time, so being told “I don’t want your company” without context is pretty painful.

        “I need some alone time to recharge, my batteries get worn out if I’m around people – even friends – all day” is completely truthful and makes it clear it’s not a personal rejection.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I totally get the “I will suck the life out of you” feeling. I know that’s not the intention, but sometimes it does feel that way from my (also introverted) perspective.

          I think the advice to be gentle, but honest, is probably the way to go – saying something like “I’ve realized I need alone time at the end of the day or I can’t unwind” makes it about the OP’s need, not about not wanting to spend so much time with Jane. Which might go over a little better, or at least make it more difficult for Jane to object.

        2. D'Arcy*

          I really feel like that’s how introverts visualize extroverts as being “opposite of me”, but it’s not really accurate at all. Extroverts are absolutely not “universally omnisocial” to the point of feeling like we HAVE TO socialize with EVERYONE, much less to the point where we *can’t understand* being tired and wanting alone time.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            It’s not how I visualize all extroverts, all the time. It tends to happen when I’m already tired. overwhelmed, overstimulated, badly need to recharge, and am dealing with someone who (from my perspective) just will not get out of my face.

            So for me it’s not all extroverts all the time, it’s some extroverts under specific circumstances. Admittedly, “Jane” does sound like she’d fit those circumstances.

            1. valentine*

              Jane is more like the anxious OP who showed up at her colleague’s home uninvited and required police intervention, but the source of her social vampirism and emotional manipulation don’t matter.

              1. VictorianCowgirl*

                Oh that thread was so, so sad. I felt for both parties. But your point is valid that the source doesn’t matter, and I think you’re right and very insightful that Jane does sound anxious in general, and not just extroverted. Not to say that that should change anything for how OP approaches it. But something that can maybe help get through one dinner-out-of-kindness.

            2. Clisby*

              I don’t think the problem is that Jane is an extrovert (although she might be.) The problem is that she’s exhausting because she’s negative. LW says:

              “I don’t mind a few meals with venting, or several meals with some friendly chatter, but I think I’m going to wind up saying something I really shouldn’t if every meal for a week is liberally seasoned with complaints.”

              My take is that if Jane was a reasonably cheerful (or at least not a constantly complaining) person, LW would be much more receptive to at least some meals together.

              1. Kat in VA*

                I agree – if Jane was an upbeat and/or amusing companion, the LW wouldn’t feel quite so drained and unwilling to spend time with her.

                But for every.single.interaction to be a circular-breathing nonstop bitchfest about everything and anything? Yeah, no, thanks. Even the sunniest of extroverts would get tired of that before long.

                Not too many folks – introvert or extrovert – want to swim in an ever-rising tide of negativity and venting. The fact that she can’t be redirected without taking it personally and flooding in tears? Ye gads, my worst nightmare. If I can’t say, “Hey, we’re spiraling out into BitchyBitchLand, let’s talk about something fun / amusing / upbeat / funny / whatever” when the atmosphere gets heavy…yeesh. I can say that 99% of the time when I DO say that, most people go hey, yeh, you’re right, this is really turning into a downer conversation! But Jane…


                I’ll have room service, thanks.

          2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            I’m sure not all extroverts are like that, but I’ve definitely met some who are. There’s a tricky intersection of extroversion mixed with social awkwardness/not understanding social cues that’s really difficult for introverts to deal with.

            As an example of the kind of behavior, one of my sets of couple-friends has this nasty habit of inviting us out to dinner, and when we get there it’s some combination of just them to them plus 10 other people we often don’t know at all. We hate this with the fiery heat of a thousand suns, much as we like them- and they don’t seem to have any idea that that might be a faux pas. I’m sure not ALL extroverts would enjoy that situation either, but I can’t imagine an introvert thinking that would be a good idea to begin with.

      4. Michaela Westen*

        If you say “I need personal time” and then she sees you eating alone in a restaurant, it could seem like you weren’t truthful.
        I think “I need to spend some time alone to recharge” might be better.

        1. valentine*

          OP2/Introvert LW doesn’t have to live by Jane’s definitions and it’s okay not to be truthful with someone who’s going to cry in your face when you do anything other than submit.

          (Also, Jane can’t prove they didn’t change their mind.)

          1. Michaela Westen*

            If it was just a random social acquaintance, yes… but Jane is a colleague. OP has to work with her. It’s best to try to keep the relationship cordial.

        2. Kat in VA*

          I was able to successfully tell my coworker that I needed headspace – “Just me, myself, and my earbuds.” Fortunately for me, said coworker is rather wonderful and responded with WELP SEE YA IN THE MORNING and wandered off to wherever she went for the night.

    5. PB*

      I agree. Sometimes while traveling, I’ll use dinner as a chance to call home and check up with my partner. Maybe it would be possible to plan something like that? “I’m going to grab a quick bite while making some phone calls” should work well, as long as it’s accurate.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’m the same way. I had a business trip once and my company forced me to share a room with my co-worker. She also happened to be my friend (which was nice), but I need alone time. And our sleep schedules were completely different which made it difficult for both of us to get the rest we needed.

      I think this is a situation that calls for 100% directness. Don’t make excuses, or give a bunch of reasons. Just simply explain that you need time to decompress ALONE. I would also let her know ahead of time and repeat as needed.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I think this is a situation that calls for 100% directness. Don’t make excuses, or give a bunch of reasons.

        Completely agree with this. Reasons or excuses would likely give Jane something to argue back on, as her goal is to get LW to spend time with her. No ammunition means the conversation is over earlier and everyone knows what to expect.

    7. Introvert LW*

      Shoot! I replied to the wrong place. Sorry Allison. My intending to reply to you all is under Allison’s top post.

      1. C*

        Replying to your comment above. If everyone is out to get Jane, it’s likely she’s already found ways to include you in that number to other coworkers already, so I wouldn’t worry too much about what she’ll say after the trip. Go with some version of “I’m wiped out, I’m going to chill out tonight and veg. See you in the morning!” and bet a hasty retreat. If there are tears, then she can have them without an audience.

      2. Celia*

        I think you should let her be mad at you. Let her think that you’re mad at her (you’re perfectly justified in being a little mad at her, really). It doesn’t even sound like you’re friends, and even if you were, real friends don’t make you absorb their incessant complaining without considering your feelings. I would not recommend any sort of lie, like saying you’re staying in when you’re actually going out. If you get caught in a lie, you lose some of the high ground, and there’s no reason for a cover-up if didn’t do anything wrong. You can tell her, “I really want to be alone tonight so I can unwind.” “I’m really looking forward to being alone after this meeting; all these interactions are exhausting for me.” “Can I tell you the truth? I just really want to be by myself. I have a lot on my mind.” Focus on the fact that you really, truly, WANT to be alone, not that you feel compelled to do it for some reason but don’t really want to; that will only invite argument. If she pushes back, you can swing a little harder. “The last time we did this, I found our conversation to be really one-sided and depressing, and I didn’t enjoy that at all.” Focus on you and how you felt and what you need, not on what she did. It might ward off defensiveness better than saying something like, “You never stop complaining.”

        1. Introvert LW*

          Thanks to both of you! That’s what I need to get into my head – I don’t have to be “nice” to the point that I lose myself.

          And like I said in the original letter, I’m not sure I’m even capable of it. I’ve snapped a few harsh things already.

          1. Galloping Gargoyles*

            As an extreme extrovert married to an extreme introvert, we sometimes come up against this as well. I think being honest and giving her the heads up is the kind thing to do, for both of you. You won’t feel obligated and won’t have to put up with the complaining to the point that you get snarky and she has an opportunity to make plans ahead of time. Even as an extreme extrovert, I notice that the older I get that some downtime at conferences is appreciated. I don’t want to spend every night by myself but sometimes it’s nice to just relax and unwind on your own. Good luck, OP!

          2. VictorianCowgirl*

            From my personal experience as another that defaults to Nice, it helps me to rehearse over and over what I’m going to say, and a couple of responses to any pushback you can think of. It’s also OK to repeat yourself. That might sound labor intensive but usually when I’ve been Nice and look back later and wish I’d been Assertive ( = true to myself) it was because I didn’t have the words ready and am not practiced at it enough to think on the fly.

            I’m learning to be kindly assertive. It’s a journey. If you’ve said what you need in a kind manner, the other’s reaction is on them. Good luck on your trip :)

    8. Bee Eye Ill*

      This is what I hate so much about work trips where you are forced to share a room with somebody. You never really get any down time because you have no privacy the whole time.

    9. Boomerang Girl*

      For #2, I would recommend scheduling in advance the meal(s) that she/he does want to have with the travel mate. Then, it will be easier to say that he/she wants personal time the rest of the time.

    10. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I completely agree with declining and saying you need to relax and unwind yourself, or have personal plans, etc. But has anyone ever been accused of not-being-a-team-player if you don’t have dinner with a colleague (or colleagues) when on work trips? I need my downtime and have declined plenty of dinners, but it seems like anything but going along with what others want to do (or want YOU to do) is seen as not-being-a-team-player. Even though they are the ones demanding your time while you’re not bothering anyone. And even if you DID go to dinner with colleagues, but now you’re not staying out late enough afterward. How do you all handle that?

  3. Wendy Darling*

    I get these allergy-related headaches that are either migraines that have allergies as a trigger or allergy headaches that just happen to act like moderate-severity migraines. Sometimes if I take a bunch of aleve when I feel one coming on I can head it off at the pass, but not always, and once one really gets going I cannot stop it. I’m too sensitive to light and noise to work, or frequently to do anything other than lie down in a dark room with a pillow over my face because even the light that gets through my eyelids feels like a railroad spike through my head.

    My workplace has very, very flexible hours so when I can I just do a half day and make it up by working late the rest of the week. When I can’t I take a sick day.

    I honestly just call them migraines at work because I’m afraid people will be weird about it if I say it’s due to allergies… but it’s totally due to allergies. My allergies are REALLY BAD.

    1. WS*

      One of my migraine triggers is sinus pressure, and one of the things that causes sinus pressure for me is, you guessed it, allergies. I use a daily antihistamine and a prescribed steroid nasal spray, and I’ve had sinus surgery, all of which means I get them far less frequently than I used to, but sometimes it still happens.

    2. ER*

      Adding to the allergy related anecdata, my father has food allergies to certain preservatives and colours. If he eats something premade that was previously safe but has had an unadvertised recipe change his whole face can puff up. It looks like he’s had a like lip filler procedure gone terribly wrong and he can barely see from his eyes. He simply can’t work those days.

      1. Kaffeekocherin*

        I have to deal with allergies (sneezing and sniffles) on a daily basis, but every few months I will have a couple of really bad days where I’m sneezing so much that my face swells up and I can hardly breathe or even talk. Additionally, I will get horrible brain fog and my body feels like it has run a marathon – I will sleep for hours on end. On those days I can hardly think straight, let alone keep it together at work.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Does he check the ingredient label each time? Tedious, but necessary… the change is usually in the ingredients. They often change the packaging when they change the ingredients too.

    3. DustyJ*

      I feel you!

      My simple hay-fever gave me three attacks of sinusitis in a year, and that was enough to kick off the formal disability process. I nearly lost my job because of allergies – but it’s “just allergies.”

    4. Lady Phoenix*

      A couple years ago, the pollen was sooooo bad that I thought I had the flu or strep.

    5. Works in IT*

      I had my first ever migraine a few months ago on a Sunday night. I didn’t call out sick because my screen was so bright I couldn’t look at it. Then I somehow managed to fall asleep, and when I woke up it was gone. People tend to not call out until the last minute when sick because they don’t want to call out and then feel better.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        People also don’t call out until the last minute if they don’t have paid sick leave and they can’t afford to miss work. So they convince themselves that, “Oh I can do it! I can power through!” and then at the very last minute that they have to get up, realize they physically can’t make it to work and have no choice but to call out.

    6. OP #1*

      OP#1 here. I did not know how bad allergies could be, so thank you, everyone! Maybe it was the casual way my employee told me of her allergies that made me slightly suspicious, but I did not push back on her explanation. I’m just a new manager with (I’m beginning to realize) terrible administration as role models (who want us to start asking for doctor’s notes), so I’m checking what is normal and what isn’t.

      1. Oaktree*

        Just a note re: doctor’s notes- while I understand they’re very common things for employers or teachers to ask for from workers or students, and that it’s an established cultural norm that they’re a Thing in many places, it may interest you to know that requiring them is increasingly looked at askance to the point that the province of Ontario recently made it illegal to do require them. That is, an employer cannot force an employee to produce a doctor’s note to “prove” they were really sick, or absent because they had a doctor’s appointment.

        The reasons for this are many, but include:
        – A sick person should spend sick time recovering, not dragging themselves to the doctor, thereby prolonging the time they’re sick, and possibly infecting other people.
        – You generally have to pay for a doctor’s note from a walk-in clinic, and this can cost up to $20 or $30. For some people this might be pocket change, but for many, it might make the difference between eating, and not. (Or medicine.)
        – It’s pretty intrusive. As Alison said, trust that your employees are grown adults who aren’t lying to you- do you really need to know which clinic they’re going to or their doctor’s name?

        1. doreen*

          I’ve seen references this before and want to clarify- I’m not sure if it means the clinic charges $20 or $30 for the note in addition to whatever is charged to see the doctor ( which may be $0) or if it means you have to pay $20-30 to see the doctor which you might not have done if you didn’t need the note.

          1. Oaktree*

            Well, in Canada, visits to the doctor themselves are free, because we have a halfway decent healthcare system. It’s the notes that have a charge. In the US, I think you’d have to pay for both the visit and the note, which would be even more expensive.

            1. doreen*

              That’s why I’m asking- in the US, I’ve always paid whatever I paid to see the doctor but nothing extra for the note.

          2. Le Sigh*

            Yeah, in the U.S., a lot of insurance requires a co-pay per visit — in my case, $20-30 for a regular visit, $50 for a specialist (eg, physical therapy). From there, the entire visit may or may not be covered. So after the visit is over, you might get billed for some stuff insurance decides not to cover — $15-$100 for the lab work, or $75-250 for a ultrasound needed to figure out if you have a blood clot, etc.

            Why the big ranges? Because insurance is a total crap shoot in this country. Every plan is wildly different, no one is agreeing to the same terms, no one will actually explain said terms if you ask, and even then something insurance covered last year now gets rejected, because well, who knows why. One time I got rejected for a strep test and they immediately sent it to collections (I never saw the bill). When I called to ask why they wouldn’t cover a $100 in labs to see why I was sick, the woman claimed I had a second insurance plan with another company. When I said that was not and never was the case, they said “okay, well, then it’s resolved.” WTH?

            There are plans that don’t have these co-pays (my dad was on state insurance for the government for some time), but I think they’re less and less common these days.

          3. Kathlynn (Canada)*

            yeah, the clinic that is connected to my doctor charges $40 for a note. and is across town from me, and has shitty hours (but I can walk there from work, and is by one of the two pharmacies I use). The other clinic has better hours, but I can’t easily get there and only charges $20 for a note.
            Even my doctors office charges for sick notes
            my assistant manager claimed that I was lying when I pushed back on getting a doctors note when I could barely write and was in a lot of pain from a work related accident. Because he had some how never had to pay for a doctors note.

        2. Le Sigh*

          OP, if you have any kind of influence here, please use it to get this idea killed. Beyond treating employees like children, it’s incredibly punitive and ineffective — there’s a lot of stuff that seeing a doc won’t help (a cold, migraine, etc.) and they’re better off staying home and recovering with some sleep. And if you’re in the U.S., seeing a doc every time you sneeze or sniffle is cost prohibitive (co-pays, other fees, etc.) for a lot of people.

          So then your employees just come to work sick because they’ll be hounded. And then everyone gets sick. And then you get an email from HR reminding you not to come to work sick, and the resentment builds until people who can go get other jobs that don’t treat them like this leave.

          I have been with my office seven years. They trust me use my sick and leave time appropriately. I also go above and beyond when needed — but it’s a two-way street.

      2. alphabet soup*

        Asking for doctor’s notes feels so intrusive to me! Not to mention, the only places I’ve worked where management has been a stickler about it have been placed where I was a lowly-paid hourly employee and the company did not offer health insurance.

        Problems with requiring doctor’s notes:
        1. Folks without insurance are unlikely to be able to afford to go see a doctor.
        2. Even if you have insurance, it can take weeks to get an appointment to see your primary care doctor.
        3. If you’re on an HMO and can’t see your primary care doctor, your only option is urgent care or a walk-in clinic, and most “call in sick to work” conditions don’t warrant that level of care. There’s nothing urgent care can do for a cold, the flu, migraines, allergies, bad mental health day, etc. They’ll just tell you to get some rest or take an aspirin or an antihistamine or whatever. So it’s literally a waste of time and money.
        3b. *Most* doctors (not just urgent care) can’t do anything about most “call in sick to work” conditions. So employers are literally asking employees to throw away their time and money (co-pay) because the employer thinks that the employees cannot be trusted.

        All that a policy like this does is:
        1. Encourage employees to lie by forging doctor’s notes. Or…
        2. Encourage employees to come to work when they’re sick, which just spreads the illness around if they are legimately sick but otherwise can’t see a doctor.

        Sorry for the rant, but I loathe when employers do this.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          I’m with you. I had an employer who required this, and it was hell. Feeling sick enough to stay home from work does NOT usually mean you need to see a doctor, and it’s ridiculous to require this.

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Once – many years ago – I worked for an insurance company and had the flu and was bedridden for three days. Back in the 70s.

          My uncle was my personal physician. Obviously, I never was billed by him, because , well, I was family.
          My company was self-insured.

          They wanted a doctor’s note. OK…. my uncle told me to tell them it’ll cost them $5,000. I got them to back off otherwise.

      3. Sharikacat*

        What is the company policy on unused sick time? Based on the examples in your post, it makes me think that the PTO is “use it or lose it,” so people are electing to find ways to “use it.”

        As much as requiring doctor’s notes for sick days encourages not good employee behavior by coming in sick, losing out on PTO encourages people to come down with the sniffles if they instead want to have a mental health day or just have any sort of day of their choosing.

      4. wittyrepartee*

        Oh man, that would be frustrating with allergies. There’s no reason to go to the doctor most of the time- you just feel like garbage.

      5. Observer*

        That’s a terrible idea for all the reasons discussed here. It’s also worth noting that there are place in the US where it’s actually illegal to ask for a note for an absence of 3 days or less.

      6. Dust Bunny*

        I’m in the US: Do not ask for doctor’s notes. ESPECIALLY do not ask for doctor’s notes if your company doesn’t provide health insurance. It’s unnecessary, obstructive, and insulting, and don’t kid yourself that your employees don’t know that the company is doing it to prevent them from calling in unless they’re practically dying. It’s a massive jack*ss move.

    7. ACHOOO*

      I also came to say I have allergies that interfere with my ability to do my job. My nose runs nonstop. At home, I stick Kleenex in my nose so that I at least can have periods where I am not horizontal. And this is on 2 OTC antihistimines, nasal steroids, and a prescription nasal antihistimine (I’m also a rare person that is allergic to every tree pollen they test for, so my allergist said I could get shots, but it probably wouldn’t fix it because testing positive for everything is rare and indicates I’m probably also allergic to a lot they don’t test for). I felt weird the first time I called out for this, but one time I had to come in briefly for an emergency situation in this state and after a sneezing fit and 3 kleenexes in 15 min, my boss was like “why are you here, you’re going to make me sick” and I explained it was allergies and he just said he understands why I can’t always work through allergies.

  4. Drew*

    OP#2: You could also try telling Jane, “I haven’t really thought about dinner. I’ll probably go back to the room to relax and figure out food when I feel more hungry. If you’re hungry now, you definitely shouldn’t wait on me.”

    That runs the risk of Jane sitting in her room, getting hungrier and hungrier, waiting for you to call – or of Jane calling you repeatedly to find out if you’re hungry YET – so maybe something like “I definitely don’t expect you to wait on me, so go out and have a nice time” would be a better approach.

    If you don’t want to delay your own dinner and the situation allows, head toward a sandwich shop on your way back to the hotel. “Jane, I’m just going to grab a ham and swiss and head up to the room. I’m not up to restaurant crowds tonight.” No need to tell her that she’s the crowd you aren’t up to…

    1. Zoey*

      Really confused about who the first part is responding to?

      I think this isn’t going to work with someone who doesn’t want to eat alone.

      1. FiveWheels*

        Yeah, if she doesn’t want to eat alone AND thinks OP doesn’t want to eat alone, I don’t think subtle hints will work. OP just needs to straight up say she needs alone time every day.

    2. Artemesia*

      This is the way to have it become ickier and ickier until you end up shrieking at each other. ‘I need to do something first’ will be perceived by her as ‘I will be ready to eat with you later.’ The absolutely most effective and kindest way to communicate is ‘I need down time after the day in the seminars (or whatever) and so I will be planning to get something to eat on my own and just cool out.’ Let’s plan to get breakfst together.

        1. valentine*

          I will be planning to get something to eat on my own
          I think this is the way to go, perhaps with a more specific “I’ll be eating solo on this trip”. Given Jane’s channels feature venting or crying, I wouldn’t spend any non-work time with her.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Agreed. Work is work. Off time id time away from people I have to interact with at work. If I want to bitch about work I will dump on Husband…like a normal person. LOL

      1. Grits McGee*

        Personally, I’ve had success with a less ambiguous version of this- something along the lines of “I don’t know when I’m going to be hungry or what for, so I’m going to do dinner on my own.” If you want to soften it, you could propose meeting for something shorter at a later time, like meeting for coffee during a break or grabbing a walk-and-eat breakfast before work starts.

        1. Chriama*

          I think you risk Jane just telling you to contact her when you decide what to do. Honestly I don’t understand why everyone wants to beat around the bush. Just say “I’m going to be handling my meals alone on this trip so don’t include me in your plans.” If she pushes for a reason then you can talk about being an introvert and needing to recharge alone. But trying to get her to go without you when she’s obviously fixated on eating with you is just going to devolve into passive-aggressive frustration.

          1. CheeryO*

            The “beating around the bush” is because they’re work friends, not strangers thrown together for the trip. I agree that it’s fine to be direct, since that also helps set the expectation for any future travel together that LW needs some alone time in the evenings, but it’s also fine to soften the message.

            1. valentine*

              It’s also because she cries, but I think she’ll do that regardless of the response, so there’s no need to soft-pedal.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Yup. She will make herself available whenever OP is going to be available. OP needs to be direct. Kind, but unambiguous.

    3. Samwise*

      I don’t think the less direct “I haven’t thought about dinner” is going to work with Jane. Be upfront about needing downtime and wanting to eat on your own. OP has already tried to be subtle about it and it hasn’t worked. OP, use your words! :)

      1. Introvert LW*

        Thank you!! I know I need to but that is just really intimidating when I know it’s going to wind up with tears and drama. The pushes help though!

        1. Knork*

          One option is to explicitly make it about your own idiosyncrasies, and maybe try to soften with humor (while still being direct).

          “Work travel seems like it gets more exhausting with every trip, and I’ve realized I feel better when I have alone time to unwind. So I’m going to plan to eat most meals by myself, so I probably won’t hulk out and start smashing things when speakers go long at the conference.”

          “I need to recharge, so this is going to be a boring hermit-meal and an early night. Enjoy whatever you end up deciding to do and I’ll see you tomorrow, slightly more bright-eyed and at least 10% bushy-tailed.”

          “I’m eating by myself today–I’ll say hello to ‘Boring’ for you!”

            1. valentine*

              You’re not obliged to do this face-to-face or to vary your script. Maybe while you’re settling in, you can text her that you’ll be taking solo downtime (though her irrational invocation of people at the next table may mean she doesn’t appreciate this) during the trip, but you’ll see her for work stuff.

        2. RUKiddingMe*


          “Jane please don’t cry at me, especially over something as superficial as dinner. I don’t have the spoons to do other peoples’ emotional labor. Thanks for understanding. See you at X in the morning.”

          ::walk away::

          1. Manya*

            Please don’t use the spoons bit. Most people would have exactly zero idea what you’re talking about.

    4. ChimericalOne*

      That conversation will go like this —
      OP: “I haven’t really thought about dinner. I’ll probably go back to the room to relax and figure out food when I feel more hungry. If you’re hungry now, you definitely shouldn’t wait on me.”
      Jane: “Oh, no worries! Just give me a call when you figure it out. I don’t mind waiting at all!”
      OP: “Oh, but I insist! I don’t want to inconvenience you…”
      Jane: “It’s not a bother, I promise. I’d rather wait than eat alone, anyway. Just give me a call!”
      OP: “…….. All right. Will do!”

      Strategy #2 will likely yield:
      OP: “Jane, I’m just going to grab a ham and swiss and head up to the room. I’m not up to restaurant crowds tonight.”
      Jane: “Oh, that’s totally understandable. Which shop are you looking at?”
      (She then tags along and subjects OP to complaining conversation while they wait in line together.)

      Neither of these strategies will clearly communicate OP’s wishes. If the OP doesn’t communicate her wishes, Jane will assume that they are in accordance with her own (a desire to eat with company) and will twist herself into a pretzel to satisfy their seemingly-mutual desires. If Jane did not want (quite badly) to eat with the OP, they might work. But since she clearly does, and is clearly willing to (in the OP’s words) “make it work” even when dinner is at an awkward time or FOOD SHE DOESN’T LIKE, well, OP simply has to be direct. Polite nothings won’t help.

      1. valentine*

        If the OP doesn’t communicate her wishes, Jane will assume that they are in accordance with her own
        If Jane wanted to help with OP1’s/Introvert LW’s goals, she could’ve complied with the requests to cut out or to limit her complaint stream. She knows she’s unpleasant and what she can do to make her conversation more palatable. Instead, she weaponizes tears. She wants an audience.

          1. jolene*

            “Honestly, Jane, the fact that you’re crying about this makes me even less likely to feel that having dinner with you is going to be relaxing down time. I hope you feel better. See you tomorrow.”

  5. sacados*

    Re OP3:
    Forget about going back to renegotiate, isn’t the fact that OP’s friend continued to interview after accepting the first offer kind of the problem / unprofessional to begin with??

    1. Ariaflame*

      It may depend on when the interviews were setup, and of course you wouldn’t suggest that once someone has a job they would be unprofessional to jobseek ever again.

      1. Zoey*

        No, but there’s a difference between jobseeking when you have a job and jobseeking when you already have an offer.

        1. Ms Cappuccino*

          You never know if the other company you interview with won’t make a better offer.
          I think it’s wise to carry on interviewing until the last minute. You never know if the first company won’t let you down. It happens.

          1. Yvette*

            “You never know if the first company won’t let you down. It happens.” Yes. funding for an open requisition can be pulled up to point of starting and even during the 90 day probationary period that so many companies have.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            If I found out someone who had accepted my job offer was continuing to actively interview, I’d have serious concerns about whether they intended to keep their word. It’s a good way to get an offer pulled.

            It’s one thing if he’d already interviewed with that company, but the expectation is that you’re not actively interviewing after you accept an offer – just like an employer would be operating in bad faith if they kept interviewing candidates for your job after they hired you.

            1. Yvette*

              But really, how would you know? It is always pointed out that the hiring process can take weeks from interview to offer. So if something that had been cooking came up or something came up as a result of an interview after an acceptance, who is to know for sure. And as you pointed out, “I do think it’s okay for him to explain that the other salary is so much higher that he can’t turn down the opportunity, because that will give context for his reneging that will make it make more sense. But he shouldn’t do that with the intent of hoping they’ll match it — ” And I totally agree with that. And honestly, if someone is let go and replaced during the 90 day probationary period (which everyone always points out goes both ways) chances are they were interviewing or had backups in mind when the first person started.

              1. Gaia*

                Here’s the thing, if I found out a company made me an offer but continued to interview other candidates (even if those interviews had already been scheduled) I’d be livid and very concerned they might pull the offer. So concerned, in fact, that I’d pull my acceptance. I don’t work for companies that operate like that. So, the same is true for me. When I accept an offer, I stop interviewing. Even if that means cancelling already scheduled interviews (besides: I’ve already accepted an offer – why waste time?).

                This is different than continuing to interview after you receive an offer but before accepting it. That is fine. No one has committed. But after accepting it, you’re supposed to stop interviewing. Otherwise you shouldn’t have accepted the offer.

                1. The Hamster's Revenge*

                  I had a company make me an offer, give me a $3/hr raise two weeks later but prior to starting, had me start and they still kept interviewing more folks for my position. I had been working for 3 weeks when they found some clown who accepted an offer (for the job I was currently working!) at $8/hr less than the wage they had voluntarily started me at.

                  They told me to take an $8/hr pay cut or they’d fire me. I was frog-marched out of the building 30 seconds later.

                1. serenity*

                  That’s…not the point. This is a shitty practice, whether it’s done by a candidate or a company that’s hiring.

            2. soupcold57*

              If the offer is contingent on background and reference checks, I think any individual would be prudent to 1) not give notice until they clear and 2) not stop looking until after Day 1 of onboarding paperwork done

            3. Bundle Brent*

              My present employer strung me along for several months before I finally started. I kind of wish I continued interviewing after I accepted their offer, especially now that I’m working here.

          3. CJM*

            But he didn’t just have an offer, he accepted the offer. For 30% more, I can see why he didn’t turn it dow, but if I was the first company and he came back to me under that scenario asking for more money, is withdraw the offer.

            1. Yvette*

              I don’t think it should be used to negotiate, he should just flat out accept the new offer, and as Alison said “it’s okay for him to explain that the other salary is so much higher that he can’t turn down the opportunity, because that will give context for his reneging that will make it make more sense.” Sorry but you are the only one who will always have your best interests at heart. Besides, which is worse, to accept and start a low paying job, continue to look and leave after a few months for a way better offer, or just not start?

              I have seen companies lay people off after 15+ of service because of cutbacks. I saw a new hire let go during the 90 day probation because the person they really wanted to promote to the position was able to return sooner than expected from an indeterminate medical leave. I have seen people hired as consultants with the promise of conversion to full time employee let go after six months because of a bad quarter. Companies do what is best for them, you do what is best for you. You are the only one who will always put your best interests first.

              1. TootsNYC*

                I agree.

                I also will say that to me, as a hiring manager, the damage done by someone rescinding their acceptance is FAR smaller than the damage done to them by not pursuing a job that pays 30% more, and by not quitting my job to take that one.

                It’s happened to me.

                And yes, it’s annoying. But I am harmed, and my company is harmed, FAR less than they would have been.

                Theoretically the equation is equal on both sides. But in my personal experience, the company has so many more strengths, etc., that it’s really pretty lopsided.

        2. Monday is OK*

          Job seeker may have been disappointed about the salary. Cannot fault someone for doing better for themselves. Employers can always make an offer you can’t refuse if they want a guarantee that no one will reneg.

    2. Sherm*

      I personally think that if OP’s friend had signed an offer letter, then yes, it’s unprofessional to keep looking. If, however, this was more a matter of being told “You’re hired!” and the friend replying “Great!” without a letter being signed, it makes sense to continue job-searching until everything is finalized, lest the job offer evaporates. Happened to me once.

      1. JM in England*

        Remember the old maxim “Until you have it in writing, you have nothing”.

        This definitely applies if the latter case is true. IME, once you have signed an offer letter, you are now in a legally binding contract with the employer……

        1. Gaia*

          In the US it wouldn’t be a legally binding contract (it is confusing since we do sometimes have signed offer letters that look like contracts) but it is the generally accepted norm that you’ve given your word you accept. It will look very bad to future employers if they learned you have a history of doing this.

          1. noahwynn*

            Yeah, I just looked at my last offer letter and it even specifically says “this is not a contract, employment remains at will.”

          2. Sharikacat*

            A valid point, but 30% is a significantly higher amount, especially when the original job was accepted under market value. Let that be a lesson for a company to not try to undercut the pay offers for new hires.

            That said, so long as the second interview was still in-process before the original offer was accepted, a one-time breach of norms might not be seen as too terrible in light of the other circumstances. And really, the first company shouldn’t act surprised if they are purposefully underpaying employees only to have them leave for better-paying jobs.

            If this a one-time instance, I wouldn’t expect companies to A) find out (unless it’s a niche or particularly close-knit industry where that gossip spreads) or B) hold it against him.

        2. soupcold57*

          The fine print in most job offers that you sign clearly says that it’s not to be taken as a binding contract!

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      It’s not a great look and I certainly wouldn’t make a habit of it, but I have been in the friend’s shoes and I would make the same choice again.

      In my case I was working as a temp, applied for another job, and got called for an interview three weeks after very reluctantly accepting a permanent offer ($4/hr increase and health insurance) from the company I was temping with, and gave my notice after being on the payroll for less than 6 weeks. I was….vague…about the exact sequence of events when giving my notice, and while I didn’t specify that it was a money decision, I think people mostly know what “it was too good of an opportunity to pass up” really means.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Yeah. I will say, if OP is correct that the company is offering below market rate, then people seeing them as a back-up is often a risk that they’re taking with that choice.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, it’s fine for him to accept the new offer. The issue is just that he can’t use it to try to reopen negotiations with the first company.

        1. Kat in VA*

          Agreed. I had accepted an offer with NewJob after interviewing for a while, and literally the day after I accepted the offer, OldJob I had temped at called to say the person I backfilled for had quit and they were DYING for me to come back.

          I hemmed and hawed a bit, but OldJob was my dream job (except for the commute, good lordt). I gave it some thought, and then CALLED and let NewJob know that I was backing out of my acceptance because of the other company’s job offer. I offered profuse apologies for the inconvenience and hassle, and they appeared to take it just fine.

          The fact that OldJob was offering $10k more on the table never even came up. I didn’t want NewJob to think that I was holding them over a barrel, and I think it’s questionable to do that (and a great way to start off on the wrong foot – by holding them hostage). I still feel a little bit bad – NewJob *could* have been great, but OldJob was a Known Quantity™ and at my age, I’m super big on known quantities.

    4. Lady Jay*

      Sure, it struck me as a little unprofessional too. But 1) the friend is just out of college, and 2) the first job was below-market rate. I pictured the friend taking the first (semi-decent) job offered just to make sure he’d have *something* to pay the bills–then keep looking to see if it were possible to get a job that was a little better paid. Depending on where the friend went to college, there’s a chance he did something similar when he picked his college: sat on a couple of acceptances while he compared.

      So while I still don’t think the friend did something great, and I wouldn’t recommend he keep doing this going forward, his position right now earns some empathy.

      1. OP3*

        This was what I thought when he told me, too. I would probably handle the situation differently, but I think it’s understandable. He talked to them over the weekend and ended up doing what Alison suggested, and whoever he talked to (not sure if it was the hiring manager or someone in HR) basically said that they completely understood given the large difference in salary.

        FWIW, the first position was ~30% under market rate, with the second one being about average for a new grad in the industry.

    5. Chriama*

      I think if the offer is below market and it’s a long way off (like for someone being hired once they finish their degree), there’s less of an expectation of exclusivity. Usually the employers are also hiring more than 1 new grad.

      1. quirkypants*

        I wouldn’t assume that a company is hiring more than 1 new grad.

        I’ve hired grads a couple months early (say March, for a May start after exams are over) because that’s when the grads start looking for work and I want a chance to get a quality candidate. The start date is often based on their availability, not my preference. I’d be pretty annoyed if I hired one and they kept looking…

        1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

          How annoyed would you be if you were offering below market rates, though? I kind of feel that if an employer is going to pay that much below market, they lost the right to complain

          1. TootsNYC*

            It might not be below market for that job, though–it may be that the other job is one that pays more.

            Then that leaves open the idea that maybe he’s overqualified for the first, lower-paying job. But that’s not a given either.

            1. Sharikacat*

              The OP indicated that the friend accepted a below-market offer for not wanting to stay unemployed for too long. Most people aren’t able to go unemployed for too long without suffering some huge financial consequences. It’s easy to pass on lesser offers during the first couple months, but when the savings account starts dwindling, something has to be done to turn things around.

          2. quirkypants*

            Our rates are pretty much “market” rates but the perception of that is different for everyone…

            I’ve had fresh out of school grads tell me the “market rate” for them should be equal to someone with several years experience (one time a new grad demanded the salary of a manager because he read somewhere that was the market rate). Hah, I’ve been in this industry for a while and stay on top of rates – there are some very poor perceptions out there.

            That said, if someone has an offer for 30% more than what I’ve offered, I expect they would do what’s best for them and accept the other job. I’m not that naive. But would I still be annoyed to know they kept job hunting after I hired them and turned loose other qualified applicants? Yes, I would.

    6. Isabelle*

      Here once you have accepted a job offer – whether it is verbally or in writing – you have entered a contract.
      Very few companies would sue you for breach of contract but you could do some serious damage to your professional reputation.

      1. ...*

        But you aren’t at all in a legally binding contact in any way in reality. My fiance took a job at 50k and signed the offer. While waiting out his 2 weeks he got offered a position that was 75K plus 16k bonus potential plus a company car and nearly unlimited expense account with multiple international free trips per year and a better title at a more stable company. Was he really suppose to keep the 50k a year job that required he purchase his own car? I mean REALLy what would you do. He went in person to meet with the woman who hired him and kindly explained that they made an offer he couldn’t refuse and that he was absolutely so sorry. They said they were disappointed but understood why he did it and that everything was OK between them. I really want to know who wouldn’t take a job for 30% more money!

          1. OP3*

            What’s funny is we’re not actually in a country where almost all employment is at-will (Canada), but he double-checked that what he signed (I think it actually was a contract) specified you could quit without notice at any point before three months of employment.

  6. Sami*

    I’d be REALLY upset at a manager pushing back when I call in sick. If there’s a problem with my work or coverage, then let’s have a discussion when I’m healthy and back to work.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        It depends how the company sets up their leave – in some places sick leave is the only option for taking paid leave without notice. If that’s the case, the company shouldn’t be surprised that employees opt to sacrifice some of their sick leave when they have a home maintenance situation.

        I agree with Sami that the discussion should be focused on quality of work and coverage – in person – whatever the reason.

        1. Jessen*

          Yup. I’ve worked places where you absolutely had to schedule any PTO other than sick in advance. I recall a big fuss at one point because an employee used sick leave to care for a dog and the company tried to discipline her. There was nearly a revolt.

        2. Christmas Carol*

          My company titles the time as “Paid sick and EMERGENCY leave.” Under our guidelines, staying home at the last minute to make sure the pipes don’t freeze would qualify. However, staying home on the day the plumber is scheduled to come insulate the pipes would be one of your two yearly “Personal Business” days.

          1. ...*

            The only thing I’m curious about would be how staying home would change the temperature of your pipes.

            1. SongbirdT*

              You can keep the water and / or space heaters running, which prevents them from freezing. Neither of which should really be kept running when you’re not around to monitor.

        3. Liz*

          I’m lucky in that my company, and specifically my dept. and both my bosses, are good with “emergency” time off, for any reason. I wake up feeling ill? I can call in and use sick time. Sometime else comes up, unexpectedly, I can take PTO.

          But I agree with others that someone calling out for allergies may really actually be feeling like absolute crap, and incapable of functioning. I have very bad allergies which I can generally keep in check with my aresenal of meds. But there have been times where I’ve had a massive sinus headache as a result of my allergies, and while I’ve never called out for them, my productivity definitely suffers.

        4. rex*

          It really comes down to company rules and personal attitude towads what sick leave should be. Is it for being sick or is it for personal use? I’m not really convinced that home maintenance should be paid time off. But then again in my experience sick leaves is for sickness, but I know in some companies it is for personal use.

          1. J.*

            If you can’t use paid time off for home maintenance, then what are people supposed to do? If I need to be home when the plumber comes by to fix my hot water heater, and they will only come by during business hours, and I’m a salaried employee, then what exactly are the other options?

            1. rex*

              Okay, I interpreted the message I responded to differently. As in if there is no PTO left they boss should be ok with taking sick leave for it. Where as I would think that it would then be unpaid time off unless sick days are for any personal things (I guess it shouldn’t be called sick day). But I probably misinterpreted it. I do agree that PTO should be flexible and used whenever necessary.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            PTO is usually for whatever the employee wants to use it for, and it’s usually scheduled in advance.
            The point of discussion here is taking it without notice – but who knows their pipes will freeze in advance? A good employer has a PTO structure that allows for this.
            If not, they can expect employees to say they’re sick, when they actually have another type of emergency.

          3. Librarian of SHIELD*

            My organization’s policy for full time workers is that our time cards must total up to 40 hours a week. If I have to take a day off during the week, I’m required to take it as some form of paid leave because my time card has to equal 40. It doesn’t matter what I’m using that day for. My employers are required to pay me for the entire week, so I’m required to cover that day from either my sick or vacation days. It’s not like they can say “Oh, you were waiting for the plumber? In that case, your PTO doesn’t apply.”

        5. Quickbeam*

          Yes re: OP#1 …at my job you cannot take any time off without finding someone to cover your desk. So sick calls are your only out if you need a last minute day off.

        6. Becky*

          Really glad I have the option to work from home–generally we are asked to give a day’s notice for when we’re going to be working from home, but if it is a last minute emergency (example: co-worker a few months ago had a burst pipe and his basement flooded) they’re pretty flexible on allowing you to work from home or take time off. Same with if you are sick. There’s been days where I called in sick and there’s been other days where I felt well enough to work but didn’t want to expose others to my sneezing/coughing whatever and so worked from home.

          Of course my job is one that can be done from home and I have a company issued laptop and VPN access. Not everyone can do this.

          And my company has single bucket PTO. While it is preferred to give advanced notice, they know it can’t always be as they don’t provide a separate sick leave bucket.

      2. LCL*

        Yes. I have asked people to not tell me the reason they are calling in sick when it is for non sick reasons. I never wanted to know the reason anyway as it is not my business, but I will ask how long they think they will be out. Since we have a separate pool of sick and vacation time it shouldn’t be a hardship.

        Non sick reasons, that people have told me when I didn’t ask? I made a list one day when we were greatly hampered by last minute absences. In no particular order, they were-helping a grown child move for a non emergency, going to a family event that they knew about 3 months ago but didn’t think to ask for as vac, relatives came into town suddenly and they have to be off while the relatives are in, doing childcare for their grown kids because we have much better leave policies than the jobs their kids have, some younger relative not their child is going on/returning from a long journey and the whole dam fam is expected to meet them. And my pet peeve-they are doing some huge home building or home improvement project, and they overdid it and are too busted up to come to work. I’m not talking about being held hostage waiting for a contractor, I’m talking about, oh, the person who decided to move boulders by hand on their scheduled workday and now their back is acting up, or did all of the wiring that went under the house and now their shoulder hurts.

        1. noahwynn*

          I think this is the type of behavior you should manage, not sick days as much as misuse of sick days. Helping people move, attending a scheduled event, relatives in town, etc. are a misuse of sick days and should not be approved. I would follow whatever the standard disciplinary process is for your company: verbal warnings, written warnings, etc.

          The only one on this list I really disagree with are those injured during home improvement projects. Sometimes we don’t know our own limits and become exhausted or injured unexpectedly. If it becomes a pattern, like every Monday they call out because they are hurt, then you deal with it. One time, not an issue in my opinion.

      3. Burned Out Supervisor*

        We have a bucket of PTO that can be used for either regular time off requests or sick time. We just consider the request either planned or unplanned (doesn’t matter if it’s sick time or pipes frozen, if you call in that day it’s unplanned PTO).

    1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

      Sick time is, by definition, a last minute need. I hate that kind of attitude that says employees shouldn’t inconvenience their employers by actually being human. ** Right now I’m pretty biased on this issue, since I am the only office person here. Taking sick time for me is practically a Greek tragedy for them. And I resent that.

      1. Bookgal*

        I totally hear you. I have the same issue; I’m customer facing in an office environment and I do pretty much everything no one wants to do / knows how to do. Everyone else calls off sick without any backlash. If I do, it’s like the end of the world. No one will pick up the slack, so when I get back to work it’s a chorus of “You wouldn’t believe how busy it was yesterday, blah blah blah… It’s almost not worth taking a sick day.

        1. valentine*

          Sick time is, by definition, a last minute need.
          No. Would you not use it for scheduled medical appointments?

          Where I am surprised is the use of sick leave for non-illness issues like home maintenance and the fact OP1 felt she had to approve that as a reason.

          1. Becky*

            Well, if you have a home emergency like a burst pipe and there is not an option to take unexpected PTO what other option is there?

            1. doreen*

              I’ve never done this because I’ve never needed to – but I don’t understand why people who want their time off to be characterized as “sick time” ( whether because of separate buckets or different rules) ever say anything other than “I’m not feeling well” when they call in sick. I mean, if you don’t tell your supervisor it’s because you’re afraid your pipes will freeze or because relatives suddenly came to town , then your supervisor won’t know that’s the reason.

            2. Burned Out Supervisor*

              Some companies separate the amount of time accrued for sick leave differently, other companies have unlimited sick leave so it can end up being abused if people are using it for non-medical reasons. This is why a lot of companies are just lumping sick and vacation time into one bucket of PTO.

          2. Half-Caf Latte*

            our policy clearly states that sick time is for unanticipated personal illness- doctors appointments or family illness are personal days.

      2. boop the first*

        I am also biased with you! Every work situation naturally evolves into one where I’ve taken over more and more small jobs until I’m the only one left, and because I rarely ever get sick or de-prioritize my work schedule, bosses really set themselves up for potential disaster. Like the time I got actual influenza and suddenly no one was able to open for business because I was the only keyholder. It’s kind of the BEST time to get sick or injured, because only Too Late do businesses come up with a proper back up plan.

      3. Michelle*

        Count me in for being biased about this, too. I have never had a sick day that I haven’t received at least one call about something. When I return it’s “We nearly fell apart with you, you are not allowed to get sick again” said jokingly but I know they actually feel that way.

        1. pope suburban*

          I’m feeling that on a spiritual level today, as I sit at my desk dealing with the tail end of food poisoning. I’d really rather not be here, especially as I didn’t get much sleep last night, but fielding the inevitable text messages about stuff that isn’t even really that emergent would just make me more exhausted than coming in and being at my desk.

        2. Burned Out Supervisor*

          This pisses me off your behalf. Unless people’s lives depend on you being there, nothing is really that big of a problem that can’t wait a day or two. And if it is, you should train a couple of people as back ups. I know they view you as indispensable, but most businesses functioned just fine before us and they’ll be fine when we leave.

    2. WorkFromHomeCompany*

      Same, Sami! I’ve gotten some really abusive pushback from calling in sick, even to the point of a coworker trying to come to my house to “prove” I wasn’t sick. Hence why I started my own business.

      1. What’s up, Buttercup*

        Yup! I recently was down with a horrible flu for a week and a half. Literally collapsed when I tried to get up, couldn’t stay awake for more than 30 minutes at a time. My boss continued to push me to do work from home and I had to keep spending $$ on doctors visits to get notes excusing me from work because they did not seem to believe me. Treat your employees like grownups. I’m not trying to play hookie for a week and a half, I am dying!

    3. yet another library anon*

      My manager at my old job pushed back when I called in sick. It was one of the many things I hated about that place.

      One time I called in with a sore throat that I thought might be strep. She said, very nastily, “just take some tylenol then!” I didn’t, and did use my sick leave for that day, but I was so nervous about taking a second day that I doped myself up on nyquil the night before, barely made it into work (slept past the alarm), and kept nodding off during the day. Our area supervisor noticed and was kind enough to let me just sit once all the work was done, but our manager saw me and wrote me up–THREE TIMES. Once for being late, once for nodding off on the desk, and once for “sleeping” in the back. They were all about the same thing–I was sick and had tried to medicate myself into being able to go to work. (These days I know that I straight up cannot take nyquil, even a half dose, if I want to function at all the next day.) And it was all because she’d gotten pushy about me trying to take my due sick leave when I was sick.

      Don’t push back on your employees’ taking sick days, especially if they actually have the leave to cover it. You just create situations where employees are too scared to call out, and so come to work sick (and if you’re very unlucky–contagious).

      (leaving aside that a lot of things that sound “not so bad” can be utterly debilitating sometimes–cramps, allergies, insomnia, depression.)

      1. Genny*

        To your last point, it’s also probably not that uncommon for people to share the sanitized version of whatever health issue they’re dealing with. Diarrhea becomes food poisoning, severe menstrual cramps become nausea, throwing up all night becomes a slight fever, and depression becomes my allergies are acting up again (because I don’t want to tell my boss about my mental health issues). Ideally, employees wouldn’t feel like they even have to provide a reason for taking a sick day, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

      2. Midlife Tattoos*

        This absolutely blows my mind. To have the unmitigated gall to tell you to just take a Tylenol!

        Once, one of my employees came in with a bottle of Dayquil in his hand and as soon as I saw it, I told him to turn around and go back home. I don’t want people bringing in their plague, and I think people get over their illnesses more quickly if they’re given the opportunity to rest.

        As a manager, I also set the tone for this — if I’m sick, I will call out or work partial days from home.

        Compassion for ourselves and our colleagues is so important.

        1. Galloping Gargoyles*

          I agree with your comment about setting the tone as the manager. I will also call in or work from home on days when I feel well enough to work but not well enough to be around people. I’ve had that conversation with our assistant director, who is also HR, about not coming in to work sick but longtime habits die hard. There have been a couple of times that I’ve almost sent the AD home due to loud and prolonged hacking cough. I haven’t done it yet but I may have to one of these days. The AD thinks of sick time as being for catastrophic whereas I look at it as being used for catastrophic but also for lesser illnesses and injuries as well as for appointments when needed.

          I would not approve sick time for a situation that is clearly not related to an illness, doctor’s visit, etc. such as the freezing pipes. Years ago, I had an employee plan a “sick day” to help her DIL repaint a room in the house. I told her that was not sick time and could not be used for that. She was super ticked but I didn’t care. The point of sick time for every employer I’ve worked for is for illness related reasons. My DH gets 10 vacation days and 3 personal days and no sick time. It stinks that he doesn’t get sick time and has to use vacay or personal for doctor’s visits, etc. but that’s just the way it is.

          LW, I would not push back on sick time and would expect quite a bit of it to be last minute use. However, if someone told me that they were taking sick time for a non-sick reason, I would tell them in no uncertain terms that is not allowed and they would either have to use vacation time or unpaid time. Good luck!

    4. Dagny*


      The manager can talk about general expectations (e.g., sick leave for car repair appointments, or for mild colds), but should not be monitoring sick leave that closely.

      In my experience, a manager who gets too wound up about sick leave tends to get wound up about other things as well.

    5. OP #1*

      Hi, I’m OP #1. I’ve never pushed back when someone calls in sick, but I have had it suggested to me by my administration. I’m a new manager, and I’m realizing that my higher ups are kind of terrible and shouldn’t be my role models in how to manage. But this is all new to me, so I appreciate hearing what I should really be doing.

      1. FCJ*

        Ooh, yeah, don’t listen to your higher ups. I’m sorry they’re putting you in that position. I get along great with my former manager, and I still, a couple of years later, haven’t quite forgiven her for the time she tried to guilt me into coming to work sick. It’s a morale-killer if ever there was one

        1. Midlife Tattoos*

          Very much this. I get along great with my director, but she does have different ideas about what senior managers are expected to do. She has been sick maybe a handful of times in all the years I’ve worked with her, and I think that makes her less compassionate for those who aren’t so lucky with their immune systems. I really just ignore that about her, and make a concerted effort to not make my staff feel guilty about being sick.

      2. anon for this*

        Can definitely relate to you on this one. I’m not a new manager, but have difference of opinion from higher-ups on this issue, and so am always looking for ways to middle-manager this exact situation.

    6. Loux in Canada*

      Ah, brings back terrible memories of working in retail… Calling in sick with a migraine and being told, “Nope, you have to come in.” I was a dumb 17-year-old teenager back then and didn’t know my rights, so I went into work and suffered.

  7. Anonandon*

    OP5 – Showing off too much inside knowledge can come across as either arrogant or just plain creepy. So always avoid trying to ‘prove’ how much you know. But there are a couple of ‘approaches’ you can use to leverage this information without being weird.

    (A) Try using it to show you have friends and social contacts in the company already. (eg. “I know Frank and Jane, and they told me this is a great place to work.”) And then stop. You don’t have to go into the details of what Jane’s project is or her upcoming ultrasound.

    (B) Feign ignorance as a conversation-starter. Imagine Jane spends all afternoon telling you the details of her teapot design project. Then at the interview, you say something like, “Jane told me she is working on a new teapot design. That sounds really interesting to me.” Even though you already know all about the teapot design, you can pretend that everything the interviewer tells you is new and fascinating.

    (C) Pretend to be ignorant, but make suggestions that are already in line with the company goals. Imagine Jane tells you about the new teapot design. Then when you go to the interview, you pretend you’ve never heard of it. But you say something innocuous like, “I’ve always wanted to design a new teapot. That sounds really interesting.” Followed shortly by, “Oh! You’re designing a new teapot *right now?* How could I be involved in that?”

    1. Anonandon*

      (C1) “I think there’s definitely a market for high-end designer teapots.” (Oh? You’re already preparing to enter that market? I had no idea. We must be totally on the same wavelength.)

      1. Lance*

        The others, I’m not entirely sure on… but this one, I very much wouldn’t do. It sounds very ‘hint hint, wink wink’, at which point I’d be curious how much else OP is holding above their head to ‘subtly’ use as leverage into the job.

        If they bring it up first, OP can probably say something… but until then, I wouldn’t.

    2. Zoey*

      I wouldn’t do any of these!

      A. You don’t know how any individual is really perceived as you don’t work there. So that’s risky.

      B. They’re not going to tell you all about the new teapot design. This is mean to be an interview about you. You can ask questions about the job. This approach would just be strange.

      C. Mention ambitions that are genuine and relate to publicly available information and the job description. Don’t do this. This would be weird.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Mmm, I disagree with you a little, I think. I certainly don’t think OP should play up her connections, but the company is already aware of them, and if hearing good things from current employees is part of why she wants to work there, I think that’s fair to say.

        It’s true that the individuals may not be popular in the group, but that’s not likely. Knowing that someone has heard first-hand (and probably unedited) about what it’s like to work at a company and thinks it sounds like a good fit isn’t a bad thing.

        1. Samwise*

          Eh, I wouldn’t necessarily credit statements like “jane loves working here…” — it sounds like making nice, which, OK, but it’s not going to make me think, Wow, our employees love it here! And it could come off as brown-nosing, so just don’t.

          1. Mystery Bookworm*

            I’m surprised at this. Certainly “Jane loves working here” is pretty vague (and not entirely relevant?) but acknowledging that you’ve heard X and Y about the company culture from current employees, and that seems a good fit (whatever that may be) hardly feels like brown-nosing.

            Many, many people find their jobs through networks and personal connections. It’s not always brown-nosing to acknowledge that.

      2. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I agree with all of your points, Zoey, especially A.

        I’ve had candidates play up their connection to/relationship with Worker X without knowing that Worker X was not someone whose opinion I really relied on or even found credible. The Worker Xes of the world don’t always (often?) have the self-awareness to know that they’re thought of this way, though, so they give the advice, “Just tell them you know me!” in good faith but without good outcomes.

      3. Samwise*

        Agree with you on “A”. Moreover, they already know her mom works there. No name dropping in this case because she already has a connection, unless someone in the dept interviewing her knows her/asked her to apply/told her about the job opening.

    3. Nancy Nelson*

      I once worked in an HR position in a government agency where, during an oral interview, the candidate would be asked several situational-type questions. (“You are working in such-and-such an office when x, y, or z happens. How would you deal with it?”) Often our candidates had a background with our organization, being a spouse or child of a current employee, or having interned with us. We found that candidates who had a background with our organization often performed more poorly than those who did not because, when responding to the question, these candidates would fall back on the basic operating procedures they already knew rather than think about how to address the situation, identify obstacles, and then come up with a solution. Seriously, many of them were handicapped by their insider information.

      1. Lance*

        That’s actually an interesting point; tell them not what you know, but what you think. I think it’d be fair to use some of that insider info as a basis, but if you’re not putting actual thought into it and just defaulting back to what you know, it’s probably not going to do you much good as an individual candidate, more so than just ‘someone with connections’.

      2. Busy*

        Oh wow. Interesting.

        I have had the same experience interviewing people with a background in things like Six Sigma for technical jobs. Not that Six Sigma in itself is bad, it is rather that many people who are black and white thinkers rely too heavily on the “process”. A lot of times when asked questions in where they needed to think critically, the didn’t do well at all.

        OP should know mentioning connections could be very risky.

    4. Wake up!*

      Acting like you haven’t done the first bit of research into the company is actually a bad idea.

  8. Beatrice*

    #4 – I get a lot of practice at this. If they’re one-off things – errors by people who don’t normally make errors, without serious consequences, without any safety net that should have prevented it, and absent any pattern, it’s best just to brush it off graciously and get down to the business of fixing it. For bigger mistakes, I still tend to focus on the fix first, but I’ll ask for more. I’m usually careful to be specific about the size of the problem (“this is the third time in six weeks this has happened”, “this will cause us $4,000 in recovery costs”, “my understanding is that someone was reviewing the TPS report every day to prevent this exact problem”), and then I ask them to help me understand how the problem happened and/or what process changes we can make to avoid it. Approaching it as a problem solving exercise, with a genuine interest in fixing problems and not fingerpointing, really helps.

    1. I Took A Mint*

      I’m dealing with this situation now, where dog groomers keep receiving cat groomer report updates. I know that the issue is that they have been told to send updates for all pet groomers, but actually cats and dogs are on different systems. I’ve pointed this out and they say they’ve changed their procedures, but these keep happening. The last time I went with “help me understand how to fix this” and got no reply.

      The problem is the issue is pretty low priority and intermittent, about 6 times over the past year, with no real repercussions other than confusion among dog groomers and burnt social capital with me (dog groomer wrangler). So I’m not sure how much to push for correction for repeated minor mistakes that could easily be fixed.

      1. Junebug*

        Hi, I also work in a field where low-level bugs and issues are just part of the course. It’s impossible to get everything working perfectly – if we focused on that, we would never make any progress on big new projects. On the other hand, it can be really galling to see something eminently fixable happen over and over again.

        In this case, I think the issue is exactly as you’ve described – the problem is low priority and intermittent with minimal impact. It’s going to be hard to get people to focus on improving the underlying problem if they have bigger fish to fry.

        Don’t let that stop you from pushing, but if I were in charge of those updates, it would make an enormous difference if you approached it with the attitude of a) wanting to understand what else is on this team’s plate, b) acceptance that there may not be an immediate fix and, c) a really clear set of evidence around the poor outcomes the dog groomers are experiencing (this will help them prioritise it / justify spending time properly improving the issue)

        If nothing else, you might get a clearer explanation of that team’s priorities which will help you explain to the dog groomers why these occasional frustrating updates continue to happen and, ideally, help them understand that the business is prioritising the bigger stuff correctly (e.g. I’m afraid that the team is in the process of updating a huge backend system, and it’s taking a lot of their time – the benefit is that the new system will be able to send out updates that have x, y and z, which will actually be useful to you).

        1. I Took A Mint*

          Thanks, this is really helpful! Ultimately it sounds like I just need to focus less on getting the issue resolved (and accept that it might not be any time soon) and see if I can get information that will help me and the dog groomers feel better about the mistakes, and help that team understand why it’s a priority.

    2. Rose Tyler*

      I think this language is appropriate if you’re the person’s manager, but is overstepping if you are their peer.

      1. Sam.*

        I agree – depending on the office, the dynamic, and your tone, I think this could go over very poorly if this person is a peer. I’m pretty cautious about this because I’ve burned before – and that was with me approaching the conversation in a very collaborative, non-judgemental way and responding to someone who wasn’t a peer (she didn’t report to me, but she was lower than me in the office hierarchy).

        If you’re roughly at the same level, I think you’re generally better off leaving it at, “I understand – stuff happens,” or “Hey, let’s talk about this process and see if there’s anything we can tweak to make it work better for both of us.” But I’d keep the person’s supervisor updated – they’re the ones positioned to have larger conversations about the ramifications of an employee’s actions.

  9. Anon for story*

    I think it is especially okay to keep job-hunting if you have accepted a job where you have a 90-day or 180-day trial/probation period. I didn’t plan to do this, but an opportunity I had given up suddenly leaped up, and I have not regretted it.

    But if it’s just a regular at-will situation, then I still think it’s okay, because the company can and will let you go at any time. Don’t people say you should always be prepared?

    1. I Took A Mint*

      I don’t know about this–maybe this depends on your company/country’s definition of “trial/probation period.”

      Of course, if a chance comes along, sometimes you gotta take it, no matter what stage of work you’re at… but I think it’s disingenuous to continue actively searching when you’re on a trial period because where I work, it’s treated as “we think this is a good fit but let’s take it slow.” It’s not, “let’s give this a shot until something better comes up in a few weeks.”

      I wouldn’t want a company to continue interviewing candidates after I’d accepted the offer, and then fire me during my probation period so they can give my job to that person. They could do it, but it would be a jerky thing to do. I would think it would be even jerkier in an at-will situation because the whole employment situation operates on presumption of good faith, not employment contracts, so it would be an even bigger middle finger to the company. But I’m not in the US so maybe our understandings are different.

      1. Jen RO*

        It’s probably one of those cultural things. The trial period is included in the law here, so ALL jobs include one and it would definitely burn a large bridge if you continued interviewing during those months.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, same.
          I had a lovely new coworker start at one of my part-time jobs last year who, ten days in, got a notification that she’d been accepted to an institution she’d interviewed at months before for a job she by then assumed had been filled otherwise. This job was in her actual profession (i. e. utilising her degree) and was more hours for much better pay. She was very apologetic and you could tell that it had come as a total surprise to her and she was sad to leave again so soon after starting, especially since it had already become clear that she fit really well with the team.
          That’s the kind of situation a probationary period is for. My boss was very understanding and wished coworker all the best, as did the rest of us; the reaction would have been very different if it’d turned out that coworker had been actively looking for another job all along.

  10. Flash Bristow*

    OP1, in terms of allergies, Alison is right. I’ve visited my mother when she had a couple of fluffy cats, and she didn’t believe it would affect me. Even so she did hoover and put clean throws on the furniture…

    …but I ended up lying down, with her spraying my face with a plant spritzer and fanning me with a little electric fan, while I struggled to breathe despite all the prescription antihistamines I had taken.

    Allergies really can be more than a sniffle!

  11. MommyMD*

    I’d leave out all insider knowledge, gossipy stuff or any name dropping. I would not be impressed by this coming up in an interview. The opposite, really.

    1. knitter*

      I agree. I had an interview a few years ago for an organization that my husband had done some contract work with. From his perspective, there were MAJOR issues with the organization abilities of the person who he worked the most closely with and it impacted the program they worked on together. From what he shared with me, I felt like his concerns were valid. However, I didn’t mention this knowledge in the interview. I was asked what my plan for the first few months would be. In my head, this is an area that I would address, but given the source of the information, I didn’t share it. In the end, the person with the organization issues got the job (internal promotion), so it would have looked very bad if I had complained about this person when the organization valued her so much. One could argue that if I mentioned it, it could have impacted her hire, but I doubt the concerns were unknown, so it would have just reflected poorly on me.

  12. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

    #1 – People might also be coming up with an excuse for their sick day (especially if they are being asked for details) because the real nature of their illness is either embarrassing or very personal. If someone’s staying home because they have explosive diarrhea, they may not want to tell you that, so they might just be giving an excuse that sounds really minor. Just trust people.

    1. Jimming*

      This. It’s easier to say “I have a cold” or “I’m not feeling well” than to go into detail about why I’m really sick.

      1. Hey Nony Nony*

        Yeah–last week I left work early just saying my stomach was upset when really it was diarrhea.

    2. Zoey*

      I don’t think that’s realistic, actually. Treating people like adults also requires them to act like adults – if someone is using a suspect reason, it’s going to look a bit suspect. If it’s personal they should say that.

      But then I live in the UK where you always need to give a reason, I don’t know anyone working anywhere here who doesn’t.

      1. Observer*

        Allergy is hardly a “suspect” reason, as others have noted. So that’s not the issue.

        But here IS the issue. If you know that your boss is the kind of person who judges if you are “sick enough” to use a sick day – and does so based on stereotypes and lack of knowledge, most people are not going to want to tell their boss that their problem is that they have an upset stomach or diarrhea, because boss is going to judge them for that, too, unless they get into real tmi territory. It’s really not surprising that reasonable and even adult people don’t want to get into the details of these things.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In the U.S., a decent employer isn’t going to expect or require the details of why you’re sick, and acting like an adult absolutely does not mean you need to share those. “I’m sick and will be out today” should be sufficient, but for employers where it’s not, there’s nothing wrong or less than adult about saying “allergies” when you don’t want to say “explosive diarrhea.”

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          That’s my experience in uk.

          With caveat it’s generally accurate… so would say “upset stomach” not “allergies” for the explosions, unless caused by allergies.

          They don’t usually want details – but you are expected to be sick if you are off sick.

        2. Rez123*

          Where I’m from in norhtern europe we also have to share a doctors note that has a diagnosis number. It’s not because our manager doesn’t belive us or want to treat us as adults but because not all sickness is paid time off. We can be off for 5 days in a row with just personal notification, but beyond that we need doctrs note. We always get the time off without consequences, but it just might not be paid. Also with prolonged time off the employer gets some of the salary back from the governments and they need a doctors note so that the system doesn’t get abused.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yeah, we need a doctor’s note for >5 days – migraine for a day? That’s a self-certificate.

          2. Jen RO*

            Around here you need a doctor’s note for any absence, even a few hours. No doctor’s note -> you have to take PTO. With a doctor’s note, depending on the diagnosis code, you will get between 70% to 100% of the regular salary for that day.

                1. theothersteffi*

                  I don‘t know about other European countrys, but in Germany, 3 days are ok just with you calling in, everything longer you need a doctors note, but: for 6 Weeks, you get your full salary, after that, health insurance steps in with 70% of your last salary for up to 76 ( I think) weeks. Your vacation time is still valid after you are back from being sick and you are required by law to take it.

                2. Akcipitrokulo*

                  UK here – you can self-certify for the first week, thereafter need doctor to give medical certificate. Legal minimum is after 3 days you get paid statutory sick pay – current job gives full pay from day 1, newjob does from day 4.

                3. Lucy*

                  Agree with Akcipitrokulo – I’ve always been paid full pay from day one of sickness but I think legally they can not pay you the first three days, and then only statutory sick pay “SSP” which is equivalent to about US$125 a week. Minimum paid time off is equivalent to 5.6 weeks per year (i.e. 28 days for full timers, pro rata otherwise) on top of sick leave.

                  It’s quite normal in my field for employers to pay you unlimited sick pay albeit at a reduced-but-better-than-SSP rate – a colleague had several years at 75% salary when she had cancer, and the company’s insurance would have paid that out for decades if she had been unable to work. I’m delighted to say she’s in remission and working now.

                  The best thing about good sick pay is that people have time to get better. I’m pretty sure with contagious diseases that actually leads to fewer lost days overall for an employer.

            1. Midlife Tattoos*

              This is what drives me nuts about managers who require them. If you have a cold or digestive issues that will run their course, spending money and time to go see a doctor for a note is ridiculous. The only time I will get one is if I’m at the doctor’s office already, although my director has never asked for one. It just makes me feel better.

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              My insurance company recently added Skype visits with a doctor to the plan, so I can get a sick note emailed to me in the privacy of my own home, but I do still have to pay a co-pay for it.

            3. Half-Caf Latte*

              Ugh i just had this situation. GI bug that ran roughshod over my house, took 3 days to feel better. Illnesses of 3 days or greater require a doctors note.

              I am a healthcare professional. I am perfectly capable of managing a self-limiting illness. Going to the doctor would have:
              1) exposed others to my germs – out on public transit, and -sick people with bad immune systems in the waiting room.
              2) almost certainly caused a mess in my car/the subway (I was that violently ill)
              3) cost *me* about $50.
              4) cost my employer several hundred, plus the opportunity cost of a “real” patient at my primary’s office since I get care in my own healthsystem.

          3. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

            Wow. In my province in Canada, even if it’s a worker’s comp case, the copy of the chart that goes to the employer has all of the diagnostic info redacted for privacy reasons and all they get to see is the return to work updates and any accommodations needed/modified duties. In reality the employer usually knows the diagnosis anyway because it’s almost always some kind of injury and the employee shows back up on crutches or with their arm in a cast and it’s pretty obvious. But we legally can’t given them diagnosis information.

        3. lemonade*

          In my old job as a college instructor, my coworkers and I found that all students tended to go into more detail than needed–probably a holdover from being in high school and needing to convince your their parents they were sick? We had a large population of students who came to the college from high schools in China, and they included the most details, sometimes very personal! I assumed it must be a cultural difference at play. We were encouraged to tell all students they didn’t need to disclose medical details, but it didn’t really sink in.

          1. Ella Vader*

            Yes, I think it comes from not being accustomed to be treated like an independent adult. Partly, it’s like they’re looking for permission/reassurance, “this is bad enough that it’s okay to miss class, right?” . But in my experience, I was a friendly approachable middle aged woman and my teaching colleagues were typically men with more abrupt demeanours – so I think they were looking for mum-like sympathy from me.

            My most recent academic employer, in a year of bad influenza, instituted a new policy that in order to get an illness-related final-exam deferral, it was no longer necessary to get a doctor’s note while sick. It was sufficient to make a notarized statement with the notary in the Dean’s office, and this could be done afterwards. This sounded like a great idea for reducing pointless doctor’s-office visits by contagious people, although I did wonder about how the Dean’s office staff felt about it.

      3. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

        I’m a doctor in Canada, and I never write a specific reason when I give someone a sick note. It’s not the employer’s business. Being unwell is the reason. “Employee X cannot work today for medical reasons.” “I have examined employee X and they are now medically cleared to return to work.” That’s usually about it.

        If it’s a more complicated scenario where there are short or long term disability forms involved or medical accommodations needed, then the employee needs to sign a release and I will say more, but even then I give as little information as possible.

        And don’t even get me started on employers making someone who has the flu or a stomach bug come in to get a doctor’s note when they should be at home resting so they can actually get better and go back to work and not spreading norovirus all over my waiting room.

        1. Anancy*

          Regarding your last paragraph, I’ve had to do this for my kid’s schools before, and it is such a frustrating and ridiculous policy.

          1. valentine*

            If the employer doesn’t require a visit, much less in person, doctors can write notes based on the patient’s self-report.

            1. Asenath*

              Sometimes doctors can’t or won’t write a note based on the patient’s self-report; they have to see the patient. On the other hand, I’ve never gotten a sick note that said anything more than “Ms. Asenath attended Medical Clinic on Date” or “Ms Asenath is unable to work for medical reasons until Date”. And I really am glad that my employed doesn’t insist on a note for minor self-limiting illnesses like colds – they’re usually taken care of by the 3 no-note days per year. Not only does my doctor not want me spreading all my germs around the clinic, I can usually tell when I have that miserable bug that’s going around because all I want is to stay at home getting lots of fluids and feeling sorry for myself. I don’t want to be going across town to sit in a waiting room.

              Oh, and I’m in Canada too, not the UK. From what I’ve read here, I understand the system is different there.

              1. valentine*

                If a doctor is annoyed by the policy, as the one above, they can comply in a way that most benefits the patient.

                1. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

                  As a doctor it’s beyond just being “annoyed by the policy.” And of course I’m going to do what’s best for my patients. But it’s actively detrimental to someone who should be home resting to come in and get a note. It’s beyond ridiculous. I do them for free. And I’ll do them based on self report and my own patients know that I’ll just give them a note without them coming in. But it’s the folks who are usually healthy who don’t even have a regular doctor who have to show up and wait to be seen as walk ins that I feel so bad for.

                  I have no problem with requiring notes for long illnesses – and often that’s more about ensuring that the person is actually ok to return to work. But I just wish more employers would give folks at least a day or two of a grace period before making them get a note.

              2. Kali*

                Where I’ve worked before (UK), we needed a doctor’s note for an illness which stretched over 5 working days. Bear in mind, that was for entry level jobs – I’m not sure how other industries work (but I hope to find out in a few years, ideally after a PhD). Our doctor’s visits and notes are free, but you do generally have to get up and call as soon as they open to get an appointment for that day.

              3. boop the first*

                I’m in Canada too, and local doctors have decided to start charging cash up front for sick notes because it’s such a drain on society. I’ve personally never been asked for one, because I’m usually trusted, but lots of coworkers do, and it’s annoying and condescending. If an employer threatens to fire me over a doctor’s note, I’m calling the bluff long before I’m paying out of pocket to sit in a clinic for 2 hours. We don’t even HAVE paid sick leave.

                1. I Took A Mint*

                  Taking up time at the doctor’s office when all you need is fluids and rest. And if the doctors don’t charge for those, that time is not profitable for them–so the doctor and insurance are subsidizing a percentage of free, unnecessary doctor’s visits.

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  It’s a drain on society in several ways.

                  It wastes the doctor’s time. The person just needs to go home and sleep. Instead they are at the doctor so the doc will say, “Go home and sleep.” The doc could have spent time with someone else who needed actual medical intervention.

                  It deprives the sick person of sleep. The last time I went to a walk in place, I sat there for hours. I had to drive myself there and drive home, too. That was nerve-wracking.

                  The sick person is exposed to more germs AND shares germs with others. Chances of someone getting sicker seems probable.

                  It drives up health insurance costs. Every time someone goes for a non-essential appointment (for whatever reason) money has to come from some where to pay that. So we all pay with increases in premiums.

                  So in my example, I drove twenty five miles each way to the doc. (Waste of gas) I sat in the waiting room for hours, ensuring that I would probably not feel better any time today. (Waste of my time, probably caused me more harm than good.) I saw the doc and he said, “Here’s some antibiotic, go to bed.” (He could have been of more meaningful help to just about anyone else.)
                  Because I had not used up my 5k deductible, I paid full pop for the visit, which was $113. I lost a chunk of day’s pay because of leaving work early. Because I did not sleep and because I was pretty tense about driving while sick, I came home feeling even worse.
                  I could not get to sleep because of feeling worse. I lost another day’s pay the next day to recuperate from the ordeal. All total, I was out just over $300 to get that sick note. This does not include the lost pay from the one day I asked to have off initially.
                  My company did not have to be down a person for two days, that could have been prevented. Other people had to jump in and cover because of my absence. While I was at the medical place, I interacted with at least five of the staff people for different reasons. It was a waste of their time and their employer’s time also. This does not even cover the one-use medical supplies that were used on my behalf and thrown into the garbage can only to clutter up a landfill some where.

                  Multiply this waste by millions of people per day and it starts to go into some serious numbers.

          2. noahwynn*

            As someone without kids, that’s crazy. Of course I hear all sorts of crazy things about schools from those with kids, especially my sister, so it doesn’t surprise me. I can’t imagine my parents putting up with 90% of them.

        2. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Not to mention that, for many of us, doctor’s notes require a visit, which require a copay. That $20 really hurts when it’s for something where a person’s word should be sufficient.

        3. Iris Eyes*

          I get the feeling that telemedicine is a great resource for those situations. The doctor doesn’t have as much germs in their waiting room, nor presumably as much time and resources taken up and the patient doesn’t have to be out in public when they really shouldn’t be. The employer gets the all important validation that the sickness is legit. Everyone is happy (well there is still the issue of cost)

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Telemedicine for the win.

            Last week I had a lingering cough from a cold. Like a summer cold, but winter. I emailed and asked doctor to send a prescription in for me because the OTC meds weren’t working. Half an hour later I had my medicine. No fuss, no muss, no office visit.

        4. JM60*

          I’m an American who was recently on medical leave for 11.5 weeks following surgery for which I was expecting to only need 3 weeks of for. Each time I had to extend my leave for a few weeks (it was unknown when I’d be able to return), neither oftthe doctors who gave me notes (my care started with the surgeon, then was passed to a specialist) said anything at all about my medical condition on the note other than that I’d be unable to return to work during that time period.

      4. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yeah, but not details in healthy workplaces. “Cold/flu” or “stomach upset” is enough for most abscence forms & managers.

        Yes, there are some that want more… but shouldn’t, and it’s bad practice.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I’m also in the UK and while you do have to give a vague reason, for the vast majority of reasonable employers something as simple as ‘cold symptoms’ or ‘upset stomach’ will be totally fine, you absolutely don’t have to go into any detail!

        2. Bagpuss*

          Speaking as a (UK) employer, I absolutely do not want lots of detail..
          In most cases “I’m not well and won’t be in toda”is all I want or need.

          If they are in a position to say whether they expect to be back tomorow of off for longer then that’s useful, particualrly for staff who have client meetings, so for someone in that kind of role I might ask whenther they want us to rearrange their appointmnts fo te following day as well as the day they arecalling, but I really don’t want a wealth of detail!

          1. londonedit*

            Oh definitely. In my experience the way it works is that when you’re calling in sick, you just need to say ‘I’m not feeling well; I won’t be in today’. Maybe ‘I’m hoping to be back tomorrow’ or ‘I’m not sure if I’ll be well enough to come in again this week – I’ll let you know tomorrow’. When you then do come back to work and you’re self-certifying your sick time, I’ve found that you need to put a ‘reason for absence’ down, but as I mentioned before, no one has asked me to be more specific than ‘cold/flu’ or ‘migraine’.

            1. Buzz*

              Yeah that’s my experience too. I message my manager and say I’m not well, then when I get back to work and record my sick time I pick a reason from a drop-down menu that has a very broad, vague range of options.

            2. Lucy*

              Also UK – I had an employer really push and push when I had an uncharacteristic sick absence. That is, the HR manager was really pushing for more detail even though I had a hospital doctor’s note, apparently because there was some field in her system that she couldn’t complete without more detail.

              I had had a particularly nasty miscarriage but absolutely didn’t want that much detail on the record. I think in the end I settled for “gynae admission” but HR was still pushing for more.

              I resigned a few weeks later and never looked back.

          2. Media Monkey*

            agree (also in the UK) – i have had my team call in sick for upset stomach/ food poisoning, cold, flu, period pains (i have a very female team and 2 of them suffer incredibly badly from time to time), migraines. they would normally give a reason but it doesn’t much matter what that is and i’d only ever ask as a friend to make sure they are ok.

          3. Akcipitrokulo*

            This matches current job so much!

            Had oldJob where they did want the details to justify being off. It took a long time to realise this was not normal, and one manager saying directly “I do not want to know the details!”

      5. DustyJ*

        In my country, we have to disclose what’s wrong on the sick note – no disclosure, no pay. One time I even asked the doctor to write a complex medical-textbook term on the sick note to conceal what I had, which he did (he’s an awesome GP!). The boss bloody-well Googled it to see what it was, and then I got the third degree from her anyway! GRRR!

        1. Bagpuss*

          That reminds me of a nighbour of mine who became very ill but didn’t have a firm diagnosis. When she applied for benefits the caseworker told her she wasn’t ntitled to anything woithout mdical evidence of her diagnosis (despite her having provided lots of evidence from her neurologist that ys, there was something very wrong but they had not yet managed to identify what it was)
          Her consultant then ‘disgnosed’ her with a something with a long and complex Latin name, which they were then happy with with.
          It translated into English as ” undiagnosed serious brain problem” or something along those lines…

        2. Oaktree*

          This always absolutely shocks me- how does the employer have any right to know this private, personal health information? My god. It’s so intrusive!

    3. OP#1*

      Hi, this is OP#1. I’ve never actually pushed back on someone using sick time, but my higher ups make it sound like I should be. I also never ask for details, and I’ve been fine when someone just says, “I need to use a sick day.” I just wanted to see if what I’m doing is okay or if my bosses are right. Thank you!

      1. Drago Cucina*

        Your bosses may be seeing a pattern in other areas that you don’t. I hate pushing back on sick call-ins, but I had to with a couple of front facing people. One would say a few days before, “Hey, my best friend came into town and I want take the whole day off.” I would look at the schedule and have to say, “Sorry, we’re short on that date, but I’ll rearrange things so you can get off a few hours early.” She would invariably call in sick for that day with a “sinus headache”. The next week there would be sharing of photos with everyone of the great time she and BF had out that night. When I followed-up, the response was, “Well, I was better by then.”

        Fortunately, the people who did this have moved on. Now I spend my time saying, ‘I don’t need all the details. Just say you’re sick.’

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          But theres a difference between someone lying and someone being pressured to not use legit sick days.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I actually ended up pushing back with my bosses. I told them that I was too busy doing real work. I did say that I would go over sick time use with everyone. And it would go like this, “I trust everyone to be adults. If you say you need sick time, then I assume it’s important to you. Please think before you ask. You get x amount of time each year. Anything above that will not be paid time. If you have excessive time, the upper bosses WILL question it. I may have to ask you for a doctor’s note or other documentation.”

        What I actually said to my bosses was something along the lines of , “They are adults, they can chose what is important to them. If there is a problem with excessive time off, we can address it on an individual basis. I don’t have enough hours in my day to question each time off request. I don’t think that is the best use of my time. (I could say this because my group did massive amounts of work.) I believe that the truth always bubbles to the surface, if we have a problem employee we will figure that out very shortly. And we can write them up.”

        I did suggest to the group that certain windows of time were better for scheduling doctor appointments. For us the best time were the first two hours in the morning or the last two hours at the end of the day. I was pleasantly surprised when the group actually started using this idea. The bosses backed right down on making an issue of the time off requests, as the requests fell during points of the day and week that had the least impact on work flows.

    4. cardamom*

      That’s funny. I have a friend who at his work place everyone uses “diarrhea” as a fake excuse to use sick leave. They like the fact that people are willing to trust you on it and not ask questions.

  13. Observer*

    #1- You’ve gotten some good examples of why “my allergies are acting up today” is actually a legitimate reason to take a sick day – and I’m betting that you will see a lot more. But, I hope it won’t overshadow a larger point. That is, that you are making assumptions about the seriousness of people’s diagnosis with absolutely no solid basis. That’s not a good way to retain the respect and good will of your staff. (And don’t think you don’t need it – if you lose that you lose your best staff and you are not going to get the best out of anyone who sticks around.) Also, you can be sure that you’re not going to get honest answers about what’s going on with people if you do.

    In a way, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what’s keeping your staff home sick, at least as a purely practical matter as long as you don’t care about your staff as human beings. But, as a practical matter, it’s likely to mean that you’re also not going to know about things that might actually be relevant to you. For instance, if someone is out with the flu, you really want to know that because there is a real chance of it spreading around the office. You may not be able to prevent it, but especially in a situation where coverage is important, you may want to try to plan around it. But, people are unlikely to tell you because they are not going to trust that you’re not going to decide that flu isn’t a big deal.

  14. Linzava*

    OP 1,

    I always thought allergies were trivial, until I developed them myself. I have a tree pollen allergy in a city that’s known for its high number of trees.

    When spring comes (2 weeks ago), the only distinguishable difference between my allergies and a bad cold is a lower fever. It’s bad. I personally go to work when I have allergies, but it’s miserable and everyone thinks I’m going to get them sick.

    I’m on my allergy meds for now, but there is a blossoming tree next to the front door of my office that makes me lightheaded every time I pass it. I call it “devil tree”!

    It’s definitely kinder to reserve judgement against allergy sufferers, a lot of them also have asthma, I knew someone who could actually die if they left a hepa filter environment on bad pollin days.

  15. Rez123*

    #1 I didn’t read it as not believeing that allergies can be bad. I took the issue to be that they are using their sick days last minute. Therefore allergies sound like an “easy” excuse. I can see the urge to push back a bit if a group of people tend to suddenly be sick on the last week when the sick days expire and they haven’t needed to use them. Even in this case I wouldn’t push back if they are in general trustworthy.

    1. Observer*

      Even in the most suspicious scenario, the idea that allergies is an “easy” excuse is ridiculous. It’s also not substantially different than not believing that allergies can be really bad – otherwise why assume that they are an easy excuse?

      And, in any case, the OP is not describing a situation where people are grabbing sick days last minute before the sick days expire.

      1. Rez123*

        Op says “employees want to use their sick time at the last minute”. Yes, I realize I don’t know what last minute refers to in this case, but for me the first thought was expiration based on this wordig. I meant “easy” excuse in a way that they are common and therefore believable. Trust me, I know allergies can be bad.

        1. londonedit*

          I have to admit, I’m struggling to understand how people can do anything but use their sick days ‘at the last minute’. You can’t plan when you’re going to be ill, and it seems really weird to me that a manager would be annoyed with their employees for not giving them advance notice of when they’re going to take a sick day. Sick days are by their very nature last-minute – you use them when you’ve been throwing up all night, or you wake up with a horrendous cold, or you have to leave work early because you feel awful and you’re still too ill to go in the following day. You don’t say to your manager ‘Hey, I’m planning on getting food poisoning next Tuesday night, so don’t expect me in on Wednesday’.

          Of course, there are always people who will abuse the odd sick day here and there, and it’s absolutely right for managers to have concerns about this, but I really don’t think you can be annoyed with people for not scheduling their illnesses in advance.

        2. Yvette*

          “employees want to use their sick time at the last minute” But who plans on getting sick? Unless sick time is only to be used for scheduled Dr. appointments? Or are they expected to go through an elaborate set up the day before? Acting sicker and sicker as the day goes on and then at the end of the day, “I really feel awful, I don’t know if I will be in tomorrow” followed by calling in the next morning “Remember yesterday after lunch when I said I wasn’t feeling well?”

          1. londonedit*

            I wrote a similar response but it seems to have disappeared into the ether. Apologies if it reappears and I repeat myself! I’m also really confused by this idea of a manager being annoyed with people ‘taking sick days at the last minute’. How do you do anything but take a sick day at the last minute? Sometimes it might be a case of gradually feeling ill as the day goes on, and saying ‘Hey, I’m really feeling awful, I don’t think I’ll be in tomorrow’, but that’s about as much notice as anyone is going to be able to give for most illnesses! In the vast majority of cases, you’re calling work in the morning because you’ve been sick all night, or you’ve woken up with a horrendous cold, or whatever. Unless it’s something like a planned medical procedure, you can’t schedule illnesses in advance!

          2. doreen*

            I’m wondering if there’s a piece missing. The OP talks about people using sick time at the last minute, and also about people taking sick leave to make sure their pipes don’t freeze. In the past, my employer didn’t really pay attention to whether absences were scheduled or unscheduled or what type of leave people used and people would frequently call in the morning wanting to take the day off for things that really could have and should have been scheduled in advance. For example, they would call first thing in the morning and say they needed the day off because their apartment was being painted or because it was their mother’s birthday, which are fine reasons to take the day off but also reasons they knew about in advance.

            1. LCL*

              We have people who do exactly as doreen says. They will take sick days for something that really isn’t being sick, that they knew about in advance, and could have scheduled in advance. I know about these things because sometimes they tell me, even though I have specifically asked not to be told. And when someone calls in sick, my only questions are how long? and is this an injury claim? because I have a list of tasks that have to be done for injury claims so the worker is protected and gets their benefits in a timely manner.

          3. Professional Merchandiser*

            My company does not approve sick time ahead of time; even for doctor’s appointments. Then they act somewhat miffed if you request out at the last minute. Sometimes the supervisor makes an unannounced visit, and if you change your schedule, it messes them up. I pushed back on that saying, “well, if we could schedule ahead, then this wouldn’t happen.” I was told, “company policy.” Granted, it’s always approved, but I don’t like their attitude around it.

            1. LCL*

              Ugh, this is the worst kind of policy. It’s policy for policy’s sake, and encourages you to report out at the last minute.

        3. Observer*

          “last minute” generally means without prior planning.

          And, YOU know that allergies can be bad, but the OP apparently doesn’t or they wouldn’t be assuming that it’s questionable enough that they should be able to push back.

      2. Colette*

        Allergies are an easy excuse because they’re not contagious and they can be bad one day and better the next, depending on the allergen.

        1. Observer*

          That’s true of a lot of illnesses. And ALL of those illnesses are things that employers like the OP are likely to dismiss as excuses or not serious enough for taking a day off.

          1. Observer*

            I should note here that it sounds more like the OP’s management than the OP.

            I’m glad you wrote in!

    2. I Took A Mint*

      I agree, I think people are really focused on the allergies point, when I was more stunned that someone would claim sick leave for “I have to stay home to make sure my pipes don’t freeze”… what illness is that?!

      I think the issue here is that OP is thinking of sick leave in terms of “are you too sick to work or not” and their employees are thinking of it as “short-notice PTO.” As Alison said, I think OP has grounds to push back on use of sick leave…in order to have them take a personal day instead. It’s not up to OP whether they should really be working or not, but I think that as boss OP can decide that allergies=sick leave, pipes=vacation day. And when someone takes a lot of ANY kind of time off in suspicious ways, you can look at it then.

      OP, does your org have any rules (or unwritten practices) about scheduling time off? It sounds like you and your employees need more explicit guidelines about how and when to use the different options available.

      1. Rez123*

        This is so true. I’ve noticed that sick days really have a different meaning for different people. I consider it to be time that I can take off if I’m sick. If I haven’t needed it, then lucky me. I do have colleagues who calculate how many sick days they have stored up this year and when they can use it dor non-sick things. The pipes thing is so weird. They ŕeally should decide what is sick time and what is personal time and if there can be overlap if this is unclear for the employees.

        1. WS*

          Different workplaces have different rules, too, so I wonder if the LW#1’s workplace hasn’t been clear about what counts as “sick leave”. Maybe LW#1 needs to check and clarify their policy?

          1. Asenath*

            Yeah, mine has “family responsibility leave”, and I was surprised (but very pleased) to discover that it also covers taking care of the family home – waiting for the plumber when the pipes break, and so on. Not routine household stuff, but sudden emergencies.

            But I can’t see staying home to see that the pipes don’t freeze. I always just left the water running a little. Now, if I misjudged things and the pipes DID freeze, that’s when I’d need time to call in the plumbers on an emergency basis, which might happen before I left for work.

          2. Harper the Other One*

            Or they have other forms of persona leave, but people have to submit requests ahead of time to draw on them. Unless specifically stated otherwise in their policies, it’s understandable that would mean employees are thinking “well, I can’t take my personal leave day for my freezing pipes because I have to submit the request a week ahead, but I can’t afford to lose a day’s pay; I guess I’ll sacrifice a sick day.”

            1. EPLawyer*

              Or the process is so judgmental, they don’t want to even ask. I know the plumber is next Tuesday but my boss really wonders if that’s a good enough reason to plan to be out so I won’t even ask.

              OP1 if you are judging if people are “sick enough” there is a chance you are judging whether or not their reasons for taking PTO are good enough too. Which means they won’t ask in advance in order to avoid being judged. So you get the last minute things. Make sure you are clear, that absent a real problem with coverage, PTO is to be used.

          3. Seeking Second Childhood*

            THIS. Our split is vacation vs PTO — but recently the corporation clarified that even though it’s called PTO, it’s intended only for sickness&medical care of the employee (or of an immediate family member dependent on them). So where we used to be allowed to use it for any short-term unavoidable absence (like plumbing issue), it now has more restrictions.
            The key is that they also clarified that vacation time may be used last-minute if there’s a non-medical emergency. Because “a tree fell and pulled down my power lines last night and caused an electrical fire and blocked my driveway” is not something we can schedule in advance — but it sure is an unavoidable reason to skip work one day. (Example taken from myself a few months ago.)

            1. Harper the Other One*

              Oh, wow! If anyone deserved PTO for something house related it was you! I hope it wasn’t too disastrous to fix.

        2. londonedit*

          I think this is why I’m finding it difficult to grasp the issue here – in the UK we don’t have one big pot of ‘PTO’ that you can use for holiday/sick/whatever. We have a certain number of days’ holiday per year (usually a basic 20 or 25 plus public holidays) and that’s for vacations/personal use, not for sickness. Sick days aren’t something you can store up, and you can’t ‘lose’ them if you don’t use them within a certain amount of time. In my experience, some employers will offer a set amount of paid sick days per year, and some will be more flexible and deal with sickness on a case-by-case basis. But the mindset isn’t ‘I can take five sick days so I’d better take them’, it’s ‘should I get ill, I know I can take a couple of days off and still get paid’.

          1. londonedit*

            Having said that, I don’t think any manager here would be impressed with someone trying to claim that an issue with their household pipes counts as sickness. Some companies would happily let you work from home, or make the time up afterwards, in other companies you’d be told to take it as annual leave, or unpaid leave if you didn’t have enough holiday allowance left to cover it.

    3. Pomona Sprout*

      “I took the issue to be that they are using their sick days last minute.”

      I don’t understand this comment. Since when do people always know ahead of tine that they’re going to be sick? The only time I know I’ll need to use a sick day in advance is if I have a medical procedure scheduled. A lot of illnesses don’t present themselves until you wake up in the morning after having gone to bed feeling fine.

  16. Shannon*

    OP #2 – I was at a conference just last week and my roomie texted me around 5 and said “I need some recentering time so I’m going to grab dinner alone, hope you have a good night.” Since your colleague sounds a touch over emotional the heads up/option 2 would probably be best. You cannot control her reaction but if it’s what’s best for you I hope you can make it happen. Out of state stuff is SO draining.

    1. Femme d'Afrique*

      I really like this script, especially the finality of “I hope you have a good night.”

      I’ve been in OP’s shoes very, very often, and it’s really hard to deal with clingy people who, more often than not, are also quite emotionally fragile about perceived slights and about being “dumped.”

  17. Junior Dev*

    I’ve dealt with insomnia on and off my whole life and there are times when it means I lose a couple hours sleep and come in kind of cranky, and there are days when it means I am not fit to drive or hold conversations or really do anything at all. I’ve had a boss derisively tell me “you can’t just go home because you’re tired “ and the most generous interpretation I can give to that is that she thought I meant the first kind of tired, the “cranky but functional “ kind. So now I tend to just say “I’m not feeling well” and leave it at that because no one needs to know exactly what is wrong with me, they need to trust me to make adult decisions as to whether it’s worth it to come in on a given day

    1. The Original K.*

      Me too, and if I’ve had a literal sleepless night and don’t feel well enough to push through the day I’ve called out and said “I’m not feeling well,” because I’m not. 100% truthful and a legit reason to call out, IMO. At my worst (three nights without sleep), I was hallucinating. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture for a reason.

      1. Becky*

        About a year ago I had a terrible night where I just could NOT fall asleep. I was desperately tired but unable to sleep and my brain was not fully functioning properly. I knew I was in no shape to drive or work so around 8 AM I texted my manager and told him I wasn’t feeling well and would be out. Then I took a Benadryl and slept for ten hours.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


      I tend to calibrate my decision to call out on a combination of how caught up I am on my work (in other words, can I afford a day where I come in and do half my regular workload, or is it better to get the day entirely taken out of my productivity calculations) and how likely I think I am to make a serious error in my work. I can’t see how it makes any real difference what the root cause of the impairment is — if I got two hours of sleep and am functionally incoherent, if I’m running a fever, if I’m sprinting to the bathroom every 20 minutes and prone to just slapping down whatever seems right before making the dash. The point is function.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      So so true. I’ve had nights with disturbed sleep where I could be perfectly functional on long-term projects… and nights where I knew I would not be safe to drive.

    4. Becky*

      About a year ago I had a terrible night where I just could NOT fall asleep. I was desperately tired but unable to sleep and my brain was not fully functioning properly. I knew I was in no shape to drive or work so around 8 AM I texted my manager and told him I wasn’t feeling well and would be out. Then I took a Benadryl and slept for ten hours.

  18. Introvert girl*

    #1 As a person with allergies and asthma I can tell you that a company can really help by augmenting the cleaning budget. If you make sure the carpets are vacuumed at least once a week and the desks and the window sills are being dusted regularly, we tend to be less sick. I now work for a company that doesn’t vacuum (the carpets are chemically cleaned once a year) and where we have to clean our desks ourselves. Only the kitchen area and bathrooms are cleaned daily. I’ve been working for a decade now and have never been this many times sick as working for my current company. I know it’s hard to understand for someone who doesn’t suffer from these conditions, but being able to breath normally is just an amazing sensation.

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      Your company….. does not vacuum?

      At all?

      That’s really gross. My chest feels tight just thinking about the dust.

      1. Introvert girl*

        I know, I also don’t get it. I have requested them to do it. Will see how they respond next week.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Ours vacuums the hallways weekly but rarely in the cubicles & offices. This is part of what made it so revolting when they pulled up carpeting in a section of the building — 25 years of dust in a building where the windows don’t open!

  19. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP3 …. no no no! You are right. It’s already not helping his reputation to accept a job and then turn it down – that’s like the employer offering the job, and then calling back a week later to withdraw it because they found someone else. But then going back and saying “more, please”? Nope.

    To be clear, all of this is fine during negotiations – but when offer is accepted, then it’s done.

  20. Working in Japan*

    #2- My first international work trip was organized so last minute (a month after I joined the company, and a month before the big event) that my boss and I had to share a hotel room. PLUS my boss isn’t very confident with her English, so I was basically tasked with all communication both on the business side and on our down time. We were effectively glued together for 3 days. It was a ridiculous experience, but I did get a day off to roam around and see the sights by myself which made up for the strain.
    Next time I’m going to make sure I get my introvert time/space!

  21. vlktschy*

    OP #1 I can definitely attest that allergies can be worthy of a sick day. Bad hayfever is essentially like having a head cold, complete with brain fog, runny stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing, headache, the works. Not only is it impossible to focus on work in that state, in a customer-facing role the optics look bad as the afflicted worker will be assumed to be contagious.
    That’s not even getting into the nasty effects of things like food allergies, which might mean hours on the toilet for some people.
    Trust your staff to take sick days when they need them.

  22. Batgirl*

    LW2, I’m an introvert who comes from a family of Janes. I think the main problem here is the choice of activity. Jane would probably rather get pie in the face than sit alone at a restaurant and she probably thinks she’s doing you a favour, because eating out = social time to many people. Eating out alone is not something Janes would let ‘happen to’ their friends; hence the assumption for restaurants but not for room service.

    I think you’d have better luck with ‘I don’t know because I’m going to get in some alone time on a walk/at a movie/with a book; I’ll just grab something when I’m hungry’ and then take your book or walk to whatever eatery you want after she’s made other arrangements. When she asks about your evening just rave about your book or the quiet time. You could spell out that you want to eat alone in a restaurant but I’m going to guess she’ll find that as hard to understand as ‘What? Life problems aren’t invigorating conversation?’.

    1. Femme d'Afrique*

      This makes a lot of sense. I don’t see Jane agreeing to the “I’m going to get in some alone time,” though. She’d probably just offer to accompany the OP on her walk etc, but I do think Jane’s reasons for constantly accompanying OP may be exactly what you’ve outlined.

    2. Introvert LW*

      That’s a good perspective – thanks! I agree, a lot of people don’t understand how much pleasure I can get sitting at a nice restaurant and just quietly enjoying my food. No conversation necessary!

    3. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      Some people would never think of eating in a restaurant alone, so they assume that no one else would ever want to either. And some people just cannot stand their own company. Jane sounds like she’d rather stick needles in her eyes than sit alone in a restaurant. However, that is not your problem.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Right. Jane probably needs interaction with people just as much as the OP needs her time alone. And the OP is the easy solution to her problem, but we already know that doesn’t work for the OP.

        It would be nice to tell her before you leave, that you need alone time to recharge and will need to eat meals without her – to give her some time to figure out other options. Her needs aren’t your problem, but springing it on her at the last minute, makes it harder for her to find social things to do, to meet her needs too.

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      Yeah my sister is a Jane. I very rarely interact with her because it’s just *so* overwhelming.

  23. K.A.*


    Today, the ads on this site pop right back up right after being closed, no matter how many times I close them. And that Quinta one has sound.

    I’m using iOS mobile.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ll report it, thanks. (FYI, I don’t see every comment so the best way to report ad issues and ensure I’ll see it is with the Report Ad link just above the commenting box.)

  24. DustyJ*

    It’s interesting that Alison says ‘adults.’

    I’ve found that work is FAR more anal than school was, in terms of calling in sick. Bosses want to ask all sorts of questions on why, and what, and will it happen again, and how do you propose ensuring it doesn’t happen again, etc etc. Taking sick leave as an adult involves so much hassle and paperwork that it’s easier to just dose up on Codeine and sleep-walk till the weekend.

    Teachers really don’t have time for all that hassle – if the kid is sick, they’re sick. They have another 30 kids to worry about.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think the situation is different. If a child is off sick,then there are no issues regarding working out whether / how it affects pay roll, whether there are appointments to rearrange or work to reassign, and there are no financial consequences. Ultimately if the child is off sick it affects the child’s education.

      I don’t think that it is that teachers don’t have time and employers do, it’s that employers do, generally need to know a bit more as they need to arrange coverage, sort out the correct arrangments for pay etc.

    2. Friday afternoon fever*

      Right, but as a parent if your kid says they’re sick and want to stay home from school you’re probably going to dig in or scrutinize a bit. As an employer you *should* (often don’t, but should) take your employees’ “I’m sick” at face value.

    3. Asenath*

      This is probably one of those things which vary by location, but in my experience, teachers have almost nothing to do with student absence other than recording it. It’s the school administration that adds up how much time the child is missing, and decides whether or not this is bad enough to be investigated in case the child is being abused or neglected – some places have special staff to follow up on students who are absent so much that they were considered truants. Schools can be every bit as much or more strict about absences as most businesses I have encountered. I’ve probably been lucky because I’ve usually worked places with quite decent leave (of various types) and few people who abused it – although abuse did exist, and I was aware that if it looked like someone had a suspicious pattern of absences, that could be investigated and action taken.

      1. Perse's Mom*


        I not so jokingly referred to my former boss as a Truancy Officer because if we were absent X times in Y months, we’d be scolded.

    4. Alex*

      I think Alison’s point is that working people are adults that an employer SHOULD treat as a responsible and honest person with good judgement about whether or not they should call in sick, unless that person has shown themselves to be otherwise.

      If you assume that your employees are abusing or plotting to abuse their sick time, either you have reason to think they are untrustworthy, which is a different conversation than “I need you to prove you are really sick,” or you need to take a look at your own management lens (are you treating people as though they have good judgement? If no, why not?).

    5. Observer*

      I guess that’s the one good thing about too big class sizes with no admin support.

      But I don’t know of any school where this has been the case. Some of the policies I have seen were just bad. But most have ranged from ridiculous to insane and draconian.

    6. Midlife Tattoos*

      “How do you propose ensuring it doesn’t happen again”????

      Well nosy manager, I’m going to hose myself/others down with bleach the next time there’s a cold going around. And I’m going to build a big barrier around my desk so nobody can come near me. And I’ll swordfight anyone who tells me I’m too sick to be at work.

    7. Koala dreams*

      That’s funny, I have the opposite experience. At school you were sent to the school nurse when you was sick, and usually told to rest a little bit and then go back to class. My parents were pretty good about calling sick for me when I fell sick already in the morning, but they also wrote the most detailed and embarassing notes. If you were out for a longer time like a week, teachers just expected you to have done all your schoolwork at home while sick.

      Nowadays as an adult I have more leeway, and my boss accepts that my work will be late if I’ve been sick.

  25. Batgirl*

    OP1, I have to wonder if your organisation is understaffed generally or if coverage is planned in ultra-optimistic ways where the skeleton staff can’t cope if someone’s out sick.
    That’s the only way I can explain the complaint that sickness is happening at ‘the last minute’, because thats how sickness works and it should thst type of ‘we are human’ issue should generally be planned for. Hell even robots would malfunction occasionally.
    You need to know your bare minimum to function number and also schedule a cushion of people doing non essential but useful long term planning or organisational tasks who can keep the place going. I’m not sure if that’s in your power but it might help your frustration to redirect the thinking that the cause of understaffing is last minute sickness.

    1. Mrs B*

      The customer service staffing was the part that stood out to me in the OP’s question, and makes me wonder if that is the reason that they are concerned whether an employee’s use of sick time is justified. Perhaps the supervisor should be taking a look at how the office is scheduled and whether adjustments should be made to provide better coverage knowing that from time to time someone is likely to call in. I worked at a library where we had evening and weekend hours but most of the employees worked a M-F 9-5 and a skeleton crew worked the other hours meaning that even one employee who called in sick could leave a significant gap in coverage. Staggering shifts and asking employees to try to call in by 8 am so that schedules could be rearranged at the last minute helped, even if some employees weren’t always happy about it (though most reasonable people understand especially if they work in a customer service focused job)

      1. WS*

        My workplace needs a certain level of coverage, but that’s why we have casual and part-time staff as well as the full-timers. We block out certain busy periods as “emergency leave only”, but it’s rare that we’re short for more than a few hours at a time at worst. And being flexible on leave and things like leaving early/arriving late due to appointments means that the majority of employees try to be flexible and helpful in return.

      2. Sara without an H*

        Good point. Since OP is the manager would be better advised to take a look at her overall staffing situation, rather than grilling employees about whether they’re sick “enough” to stay home.

  26. New Screen Name*

    Taking the job that offers 30% more salary will likely mean he will make more money in the job after that and the job after that one, and so forth. I wish I had done that.

    Your friend needs to do what’s right for him.

      1. OP3*

        Exactly. I actually think his motivation was less about trying to actually get more money from the first company (he prefers the second company), and more that he thought it would be… more polite somehow? Like he never thought they would come up 30%, but he thought it would be less like reneging on an offer to suggest an alternative where he stayed with them.

        I’m glad that my instincts were right about that idea, though!

    1. The Original K.*

      He absolutely should take the job; he just can’t use it as a negotiating tool at the first offer.

  27. Sled dog mama*

    Does the fact that #3’s friend is in school and presumably the start date for any position would be after graduation make a difference in your answer?

  28. Mary*

    LW5, have you time to set up a slightly more formal phone conversation or informational interview with someone your mum knows who is relatively close to the area you’re aiming for? Keep it formal, and get the more professional, externally-facing take on the issues that you are referring to. Then you can refer to the useful and relevant stuff in your interview without falling into the traps of sharing information that’s more casually obtained.

  29. pcake*

    Regarding Alison’s replay to OP1 – I have stubbed toes a couple times that landed me in the emergency room. Once the toe was broken, the other time was worse and more painful.

    To the OP, sickness does come on suddenly. No one expects to wake up with the flu, and allergies can be quite debilitating. My son’s manifest as wheezing and lung pain, and his doctor tells him to take it easy on those days as anything that speeds up his breathing can make it worse – things like walking or lifting. And keep in mind that you don’t really want sick people to come to the office or the next thing you know, other people will catch it and you’ll have several people out instead of one.

    I had a boss who minimized in his head just how sick we were at a time when I really needed a job; the doctor had already diagnosed me with pneumonia, but hadn’t given me a note. My boss said that I should come in or I was fired, so in I went with a high fever, extreme weakness, sudden debilitating coughing fits and other symptoms. In less than two hours, I passed out, falling to the floor – one of only two times in my life I’ve fainted (the other time, I was about to be hit by a car). I don’t remember the fainting or falling part, but all the co-workers told me about it. I came to in the locker room, being told to go home by the boss who had said he’d fire me if I didn’t come in. I was way too sick to drive, so he had someone take off work to drive me home.

    He could have spared me by simply believing that I wasn’t a moron or exaggerator – which he should have known from the time we had spent working together – and let me stay home to sleep and recover.

    OP1, please don’t be that boss. If people are sick, let them stay home. Even a cold can make make someone feel pretty sick, and it can also make the rounds if that employee comes in, so that it takes out your entire office. And I felt so bad that my boss didn’t believe me after all the time we’d worked together – including before he was my boss – that I motivated and found another job.

    1. Anon for this*

      I once “stubbed” my big toe while on a long business trip in Asia. It didn’t feel better after an hour, so I went to the emergency room. It turns out the toe was broken.

      The incident happened on a weekend, so I didn’t miss any meetings, but I assure you that I would have been unavailable had it happened in a business day. And in fact I wasn’t incredibly productive for the next few days, because it took me twice as long to walk anywhere, couldn’t put on shoes, etc.

  30. Bagpuss*

    OP #1 – what are your company’s policies about sick leave?
    I don’t think it is appropriate to push back about whether or not people are actually sick, but if you have people using sick leave for things other than actual sickness, it is reasonable to speak to them about that and remind them of the policy.
    My understanding is that in some US companiespeople have a single ‘pot’ of paid time off which includes both sick leave and ‘holiday’ leave, so perhaps even if your company has separate’pots’, you are more likely to have people who assume that if they have X days time off plus y days sick they can use them all for either holidayor sickness.

    If the issue is with people using up all their un-taken sickleave in the last few weeks of the year, then I do think it is reasonable to speak to them and remind that them it sick leave, not annual leave, and if they are lucky enough not to be ill then theyshould not be taking it.

    I think the other situation wehre it is reasonable tio spoeak to someone is where there is a pattern of ‘sick’ days where you are concerned that they are not necessarily sick – for instnace, if someone is always off on a Monday then it may be worth pointing out the pattern, and possibly pointing out that if what is hapopening is that they are doing stuff at the weekend that leaves them exhausted / hungover they need to be looking at managing their time better to factor in recovery time on the Sunday, not monday moring, for instnace.

    1. pcake*

      On the other hand, an employee could use sick leave every Monday because they have a standing doctor’s appointment – perhaps they’re seeing a psychiatrist or are pregnant or are on a medication that requires weekly blood draws. I suspect how much you can ask here legally depends varies from state to state, and how much you’d want to push back would depend on the quality of the employee’s work and whether they’re getting everything done.

      Of course, I’d give time off to someone whose pipes may explode, but not sick time as they aren’t sick.

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        What if the only last minute PTO you offer to your employee is sick leave? Last-minute non-illness emergencies happen.

        1. Simba*

          ^This is something I’m also wondering. People are going to (occasionally) have sudden emergencies that keep them out of work. Is this a different kind of leave? Are people expected to never have emergencies?

          1. Perse's Mom*

            I’m not the OP, but my Current Job has only one pot of PTO. It just gets categorized in our payroll system as basically scheduled (24 hrs of notice at minimum) vs unscheduled. Functionally, vacation is the former and everything else is the latter.

      2. nonymous*

        In the case of standing medical appts, it’s reasonable for the employer to ask for advance notice, though. And also a good time to explain when regular sick leave moves into FMLA territory (there can be slight nuances between how employers implement it, like do they claw back all sick leave in the previous X months as part of that FMLA period).

  31. Katie's Cryin'*

    OP#3 – Please let your friend know that his behavior contributes to employers’ overall bad and declining treatment of new employees during and after the hiring process.

    The less the employer finds they can trust candidates to keep their end of the bargain (not ask more than the salary they’re offered and have agreed to, not seeking out something better once they’ve accepted a position), the more justification the employer has, rightly or not, to treat future candidates the same way.

    He’s literally making things worse for everyone else.

    1. Friday afternoon fever*

      This is hyperbolic I think. An employer who wants to treat new hires poorly or exploit their inexperience is going to find a way to justify it. An employer who extrapolates one person’s behavior to an entire generation or class of new hires is probably already trying to justify an existing opinion. Plenty of employers would write this off as an isolated incident of poor behavior.

    2. JHunz*

      I disagree entirely. A company that’s paying 20 to 30% under market is almost always aware of that fact – and whether it’s justified by internal logic of some sort or not, it shouldn’t come as any sort of surprise when they lose candidates.

    3. Lepidoptera*

      This is not going to accomplish anything, true or not. Nobody who needs to work for a living is going take a 30% pay cut for “the greater good”.

  32. Mike Engle*

    Yeah, OP3’s friend…once you accept an offer from X, you can’t suddenly ask for 30% more. Maybe if the only difference was a little fringe benefit you never would have asked for, but just thought of thanks to your new offer at Y, you might be able to ask about *that* from X. The play is to be as empathetic to the first job as possible and inform X that you have an unexpected opportunity you cannot pass up. Don’t give them a chance to match. Just go to Y. 30% is a lot. It’s probably not in X’s budget; else, X would have offered more in the first place. You won’t look good asking X for more, X won’t give it to you, Y is giving it to you, just go!

  33. 2230*

    OP2, I disagree about the ‘alone time’ thing, mainly because you are buying into something you don’t need to. Your colleague obviously struggles with being alone and you can still politely fob them off without giving details. Just say, ‘I have plans’. The minute you say why or what, you are opening the door to them arguing back and you really don’t need to do that. ‘I have plans’ is generic enough to be sitting in front of the TV or going to a NSFW festival.

    It’s not your colleague’s business what you get up to after hours, it’s yours. If they ask what your plans are just say ‘that’s my business’. Because at the end of the day, it IS your business. And few people will push back on ‘it’s my business’ and if they do, well, they have boundary issues and you just repeat ‘it’s MY business’.

    1. Exceler*

      Saying ‘that’s my business’ is going to come off as pretty hostile. OP presumably wants to maintain a friendly relationship with this coworker and that’s not going to help.

    2. Chriama*

      That… seems to be likely to provoke hostility in the relationship. A little social lubricant isn’t a big deal. OP is a little too subtle right now but she doesn’t need to swing the pendulum completely in the other direction.

      1. 2230*

        If not clear, ‘that’s my business’ is AFTER ‘I have plans’ If someone is pushing back after a nice ‘oh I have plans’, then social lubricant is probably not going to work. The ‘oh I have plans’ IS the social lubricant and the ‘my business’ is what happens when they don’t take a clear ‘I’m doing something else’ message. I’m always polite when knocking people back but when they don’t take no for an answer, you need to be firm.

        1. Lance*

          The trouble with that is, ‘that’s my business’ is somewhat hostile no matter what it comes after; there’re far better ways to go about it, like ‘I just need some time to myself, I’ll be back later/at X time!’ that don’t give details, and don’t (to me) leave much room for argument, nor resentment.

          1. Colette*

            Agreed – being vague but friendly will serve the OP better than a hostile phrase like “that’s my business”

        2. Anononon*

          But many polite people will ask what type of plans you have without meaning they then want to intrude. “Oh, that’s nice, what are you up to?” If I got a MYOB from that, I would be very taken aback.

        3. Dragoning*

          “Oh, I have plans,” isn’t really social lubricant. And refusing to answer any questions about it, from a work friend whom you talk to is just…oddly cold and hostile.

    3. Colette*

      I’m not really sure how someone would push back on “I need alone time” – there’s no reasonable way to respond other than “OK, see you tomorrow.” The OP should ask for what she needs and expect her colleague to behave like a reasonable adult.

      1. valentine*

        Jane has proven herself unreasonable. While I think OP2 can disengage and fob her off or just walk out on her should Jane go so far as to, say, follow them and plop herself down at the table, Jane is fine fighting for face-time. She has already gone to great lengths.

    4. ChimericalOne*

      If the conversation opener is, “Hey, OP, where are we getting dinner tonight?” or “OP, any plans for dinner?” — well, it’s not going to come across as particularly polite to simply say, “I have plans.” Jane will either interpret that as an extremely rude & curt way to shut down the conversation or be confused and think you didn’t understand that what she really wanted to know was WHAT your plans were, not WHETHER you had plans. If she responds, “Oh yeah? Whatcha up to?” and you reply, “That’s my business” (or “Mind your own business” or any other variation on this), that’s absolutely rude. In the U.S., at least. Maybe some places, it’s an acceptable response to a colleague, but here it would be read as hostile and far outside the norm.

      Additionally, since it’s just the two of them & they’re presumably far from friends & family, saying, “I have plans” sounds kind of disingenuous unless you disclose details to explain it (e.g., “I have plans with some old friends who live up here”).

      If the OP were talking about a colleague bothering her about dinner plans on a typical workday, that would be one thing. In that scenario, “Sorry, I have plans!” would be fine. But when you’re at a conference, it’s not unusual for colleagues to eat together, and it doesn’t seem terribly plausible that you would have “plans” that preclude company (absent any other details), otherwise. Alison’s phrasing is much more likely to produce the desired results without creating a situation where the OP appears to be the one in the wrong.

      1. Pommette!*

        Plus, if the colleague is someone who feels uncomfortable eating alone and doesn’t think of something that people would willingly do if they had a choice, “I have plans” could be taken to mean “I’m hanging out with other people and you are not invited”. Which is totally something that the OP would have the right to do, of course… but it’s also something that could feel exclusionary/mean/hostile to the colleague.

        Like you say, this is a situation where honest is probably the most straightforward and effective way to go. The OP gets what she wants and is entitled to, and the coworker doesn’t have to feel slighted or hurt.

        1. valentine*

          Jane feels slighted and hurt by plans that don’t include her, though. I don’t think there’s a way to spare her feelings. OP2 should nevertheless fly and be free.

    5. pleaset*

      “The minute you say why or what, you are opening the door to them arguing back and you really don’t need to do that.”

      I’m confident enough in shutting such a door if needed. The OP and YMMV.

      Do you actually say this in response to questions from colleagues: “that’s my business’? If so, that’s remarkable. Even after saying you have plans.

  34. I Knew and They Knew I Knew and I Knew They Knew I Knew*

    #5, insider knowledge …

    By the time I got to my first interview for GoodJob, I had learned that the position was supporting someone I knew (I hadn’t known when I started applying). I was able to use my “insider knowledge” to make sure I talked about my most relevant skills.

    By the second interview, I learned that the position was also supporting someone else I had worked with. It was almost comic how the lead interviewer and I Didn’t Mention Either Of Them By Name but both of us knew that the other one knew we knew (etc).

    I agree with other commenters that having insider knowledge of a potential employer/workplace can be an advantage, but only insofar as it helps you to prepare. You would always try to get an idea of a company’s ethos or vision or direction before interviewing, so this just makes it easier. If you know they’re dialling back the llama grooming in favour of llama training, you play up your training skills.

    1. ChimericalOne*

      Right, this is exactly how you’d use it. Play up the skills or experience that you know to be relevant, don’t talk about how much you love things that you know they don’t do (or are phasing out), don’t talk about any weaknesses that you know might throw particularly hard red flags (like if they’ve had particular problems with something, don’t say anything to suggest that you’ll contribute to it), etc. Use it to shape the image you project (although obviously you don’t want to be deceitful — if it’s not going to be a good fit for you, legitimately, then you should both recognize that early). That’s all. Don’t name-drop or anything like that. Just use the knowledge the way you’d use what you learned on the website — to inform your answers to their questions. And maybe, if it makes sense, to inform some of your own questions (e.g., “I had heard you were considering entering the market in South America for chocolate teapots — would this role be supporting that project, if that happens, or would you be hiring additional teapot designers for that?”)

  35. Cows go moo*

    #1: I’m all for trusting people to act like adults but reality is that sometimes….they don’t. We employ a large number of entry level customer service staff including students or people who see this as a temp job while they job search for a “real” job. It’s hard to not be skeptical when people start calling in sick suddenly after they give notice to resign; call to say they can’t work because “I’m coughing”, mysteriously fall ill on a particular day they wanted to take off but didn’t get permission for, etc. The best one I’ve seen so far is when an employee wanted to take at three week holiday (was declined), then claimed he was suicidal and was unable to leave home in case he was tempted to kill himself, then left for his original holiday destination because “my uncle lives here and he is dying.”

    I’m curious to see if Alison’s advice would change (or other commenters’ perspectives) on these cases where there are good reasons to be doubtful.

    1. pcake*

      If you have a bunch of poorly paid, entry level employees, you aren’t going to win on this one. There are plenty of minimum wage jobs out there, so they can get another minimum wage job without your reference. You’ve got to figure that a low level job that barely pays more than babysitting isn’t going to attract the cream of the crop and isn’t going to inspire those who are there. The ones you hire who are the honest, hard working types aren’t going to call in sick because they wanted to go out with buddies, and the rest… well, when they are at work, they’re bodies in the chairs.

      And you could get unlucky, so that the one time you really push back, it turns out their father really did just die.

      1. Chriama*

        Well… yes and no. Alison’s advice still stands. Address suspicious patterns as and when they come up and try to make it as decent a place to work as you can in other respects. Obviously some jobs are just going to be tougher to manage than others, but that doesn’t mean writing it off entirely as a lost cause.

      2. WorkFromHomeCompany*

        “cream of the crop” is a little, well I guess it wouldn’t be the language I’d use. When I called out from entry level low paying jobs, it’s been because I worked 10 days with no day off, was scheduled for another four straight, and I was exhausted and overworked. People who work low paying jobs are still human and are allowed to take time off if they need it or want it.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I think you have to lok at each case on its own facts.

      For instance:
      – ‘sick’ after giving notice – unless the notice period is a long one, not worth persuing (and if it is a pattern you see with alot of employees, consider whether there is anything in how you / the company treats people who give notice which might make them unwilling to work their notice period).

      (We did have someone who did this with their notice period – which wasn’t a surprise, they were on a PIP when they resigned, and we were at the ppin wehre we would have ben addressing thir pattern of ‘sick’days.. Unfortunately for them, they miscalculated and the number and patter n of days they called in sock for meanth that they didn’t get paid (as they had already used up their paid sick leave, and didn’t stay off long enloough at a time to qualify for statutory sick pay) so we were actually quite happy for them to be pff ‘sick’ – they wouldn”t have done any useful work either way, and it was cheaper for us. When they got their final pay slip they complained we hadn’t paid thm for the time off, and said that they thought we should as a ‘gesture of goodwill’…

      – sick on a day they had previously been refused as time off – if this was a pattern then I would be looking into it, and possibly starting to require that individual to provie evidence of their sickness, although I would probably start by approaching it with them directly, ppinting out the attern and remindng them that lying about being sick is something we would see as a disciplinary issue

      – For the 3 weeks holiday guy, that’s long enough that under our normal policies it would require a fit note forom a doctor, so if he didn’t have one that would gping down as unauthorised absence and would have consequences. (leave to be with a dying relative would be something you would need to take either as part of your paid time off or possibly as compassionate leave, at the discretion ofthe manager, so either if not approved in advance would be anunauthorised absence.

      1. Simba*

        For being sick on a day they were unable to get off, I would also look at if you have a pattern of denying time off.

        I’m also curious based on the job you’re describing if you provide paid sick leave at all.

        1. doreen*

          I’m not Bagpuss, but I’ve seen every one of those things happen at my job. Which provides 13 days of sick leave per year and allows it to accrue up to 200 days of sick leave. In addition to 12 paid holidays , 5 days of personal time and between 2 and five weeks of vacation per year. And vacation is only denied for two reasons- coverage and previously scheduled events. Today’s request for June 5 may not be approved if you were told 2 months ago that you are to attend training on that date).

          It’s not always a matter of employers not providing paid sick leave or not approving leave at all. Sometime it’s a matter of employees doing what they think they can get away with – and since my employer in the past rarely disciplined anyone for anything, people would frequently call in sick when their request for a day off was denied for legitimate reasons.

          1. nonymous*

            At one of my previous employers the trick was that people would call in that their kid was sick. Company policy was that the first 2 days of sick leave came out of PTO bank, and day 3+ was out of the extended illness bank which required certification. But if it was sick kids, leave came out of the EIB, no certification required.

            Now I certainly don’t begrudge someone taking off to care for a sick kid, but when my one coworker called in once a week for a month in order to avoid the other coworker she just broke up with…

        2. Bagpuss*

          Yes, we provide sick leave.
          Also, being in the UK we have longer notice periods than is usual in the US.
          Other than the person who called in sick during their notice period the others were hypothetical.

          (The person who went sick as soon as they had given their notice period, had a notice period of 6 weeks, I think, and they gave notice towards the end of the year having already used up their sick leave for the year. They worked a 4 day week, and were coming in on the first day of the week, then calling in for 3 days, then then repeating it. Statutory Sick Pay kicks in after 3 consecutive days..)

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I would still agree with Alison. You treat everyone as adults. You make note when people are slacking off and taking advantage of the situation, and talk to them. When hiring for that type of job, you’re never going to get full commitment from 100% of your employees. That’s reality.

    4. JHunz*

      Maybe your workplace is uniquely different, but I’ve never seen entry-level customer service types be treated like adults. Barely like humans in some cases. What’s the incentive to respect a workplace that’s paying you badly, scheduling you against your availability, and treating you like a walking KPI metric?

      1. Cows go moo*

        Okay, I need to respond to this because that seems to be the common response at AAM when I post about employee issues: “employers treat staff terribly so what do you expect!”

        Our entry level wages are significantly above minimum wage, plus bonus (which they receive every month), we offer additional benefits and paid sick leave and holidays and everything else we can do to retain good staff.

        It’s in our company’s best interests to keep their people happy and motivated. It’s unhelpful when the automatic assumption is that I as a manager must have done something bad to deserve people behaving crappily.

        1. CMart*

          Just my observation here, but I think if you’ve had this come up on several occasions that you should find a different way to describe “entry level customer service”, or at least add your caveats. Because yeah — many (most?) entry level customer service jobs are low-wage, no-respect hellscapes and that’s exactly what people will assume given no other reasons not to.

          1. Cows go moo*

            I’ve been in this industry for awhile. While I acknowledge there are definitely a number of horrible employers, what you describe is not the expected norm. I’m out of the US so I don’t know if that makes a difference?

            Also, I don’t always mention the entry level customer service thing when I post – but I definitely notice people jump to “…your company is probably treating staff horribly so what do you expect!” tone on several occasions when there was nothing in the original post to deserve that kind of automatic assumption. I don’t know if it’s because there are more employees than employers so the perspective is skewed. But yeah, it’s not helpful in the slightest.

    5. Lizzy May*

      My experience in these types of jobs is somewhat limited (one stint in food service for a year in high school and one retail stint for several months in college) but getting planned time off was all but impossible. You’d put in availability and it would get ignored when they needed a body to fill a slot. You’d ask for time off and sometimes it would be respected and sometimes it would be ignored (I found it depended on if a manager liked you or if your reason for wanting the day off was good enough) and then it would be up to you to find coverage from other staff. I find retail and other customer service jobs make it a chore to take a planned day off, so you can’t blame staff for taking the easier sick day option.

      1. L. S. Cooper*

        I put in a note a month in advance at my job in high school that I needed one Saturday night off– the only time, I think, that I had to ask for time off in the entire time I worked there. The reason I needed that Saturday? Oh, nothing big, just my SENIOR PROM.
        They called me while I was doing my makeup to ask why I wasn’t there.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        Yeah, its kinda funny how when you pay people poorly enough that they can’t earn a living from it you only get applicants who aren’t trying to earn a living from it. That coupled with general disrespect for them having a life outside of work (erratic schedules with sometimes 1 day of notice) results in people taking time off with little regard to how in the lurch it leaves their employer and coworkers. A massive case of you get what you pay for.

        I do believe that every job should have dignity and that every employee should work to the best of their abilities every day.

        1. L. S. Cooper*

          I definitely try to give my all to a job, no matter how terrible. At the job in high school, the head manager actually pulled me aside to compliment me on how good of an employee I was, and to express his surprise that it was my first job.
          I like to be busy, and I like to be useful. But I also like to be efficient and respected, and I get annoyed when managers have blatantly disrespected me because I was a minimum wage customer service college student– nevermind that they hadn’t worked on the floor in ages, and nevermind that I was pointing out an issue with policy that bothered customers as well.
          You may get more than what you pay for, for a little bit, but not for very long. (Admittedly, I don’t think they cared. The place was the university bookstore, and the only employees were students– you couldn’t keep working after graduation, so there was built-in turnover.)

    6. Observer*

      I’m sure the advice would change.

      1. Perhaps you should re think your hiring practices.
      2. Perhaps you should rethink your policies and how you treat your staff
      3. Make sure you REALLY have evidence that people are making stuff up. Like the guy who asked for a three week vacation and went anyway – yeah, that’s a problem. But when someone calls because they are coughing, finding it “hard not to be suspicious” is on you, completely.

    7. NW Mossy*

      The difference in perspective for me is about expectations.

      You expect a high level of professionalism and dedication to the job among your entry-level staff, which is great. However, by definition, you’re hiring people with a thin work history and limited experience of holding down a job professionally. It’s not surprising to me that you’ll see a lot more staff fail to meet the mark in this setup – your standards are higher than many in your candidate pool are ready to achieve on day one.

      To address it, you have some options. One is to step up your hiring requirements and pay scale to bring in more experienced candidates that have proven themselves dependable and have the references to back that up. Another is to keep your hiring and pay the same, but invest more into those you hire to teach them professionalism and reward it when you see it demonstrated. Finally, you can leave it as is and focus your efforts on better systems to deal with a high turnover rate and short staffing.

    8. Dragoning*

      Okay, but…well…what are you going to do about it, really? They told you they’re not coming in that day, they’re not coming in that day. Arguing with them about it and treating them like children is only going to push them out faster.

    9. L. S. Cooper*

      I wound up calling in sick a number of times during my notice period at my last job. Why? Because the *job itself* was making me ill, which is why I wound up quitting. (Yes, it was customer service, and yes, I was still in college at the time. But I was genuinely unable to go back into that place due to both mental health and physical health. Terrible entry level customer service jobs do kind of destroy your health.)

    10. Genny*

      As others have said, that’s kind of standard practice for entry-level customer service jobs. People don’t feel particularly loyal to you when you pay them at or slightly above minimum wage. People tend to take non-career type jobs less seriously. Entry-level people tend to have less knowledge of professional norms.

      On the flip side, employers in those fields tend not to have a lot of loyalty to their employees. People get sent home early when there’s not enough business to justify current staffing levels. Scheduling doesn’t always take into account requests for time off or reasonable workloads (no, closing one night and opening the next morning isn’t reasonable). Raises tend to max out at 25 cents an hour and there are not benefits.

      Given those realities, all you can do is try to hold people accountable for the patterns you’re noticing, rewarding your reliable/good employees, and ensuring there’s no single point of failure in your scheduling.

  36. Bookworm*

    #2: Just sending sympathy to you. Recently dealt with something similar. Was with my co-workers all day, lunch and dinner seemed to be required when I really would have loved a little “me time.”

    The last day I was just like, “F this” and claimed I had a headache. It really worked out for me because apparently an event they attended extended far later than scheduled so they weren’t back until like 1.5 hours later. Nah uh, I can’t do hangry. It probably saved my co-workers a lot of trouble, haha.

    Alison’s advice is sound (compromise of at least one meal together) to me but if she really doesn’t get it and you really need your downtime, you may have to resort to something like that. It wasn’t my preference but I really needed it.

  37. Roscoe*

    #1 Definitely don’t push back unless its a pattern. I kind of understand your annoyance at people saying they need to make sure their pipes don’t freeze. However, the problem is many jobs only give you the option of “sick” or “vacation”. Even jobs that give you “personal days” often limit it to 1 or 2 a year. In my experience, those jobs also expect you to have vacation time approved in advance. So if you need to stay home for whatever reason that isn’t them actually being sick – prevent pipes from freezing, waiting for a plumber, sick pet or child, etc – then they don’t really have much choice. Pushing back will just make people resent you or start lying anyway

  38. Laura H.*

    Op#1: I’m not wary of how specific some of the examples you gave are, but it does lead me to question whether you’re asking for specifics or your employees are volunteering that info…

    In my old job, I got sick maybe twice in the three years I worked there (and the aftermath of a minor car wreck). I didn’t get sick leave, but I always volunteered the info on what circumstances had me out to my managers for two reasons:

    1. To keep them in the loop as best I could so they could figure out coverage needs ahead of time ( I don’t think they ever had that problem but I was never privy to that kind of thing.)

    2. It gave them an estimated time of my return. (Because when I’m thwacked with an illness, I’m diminished for 2-3 days, and that’s without taking contagiousness into account.)

    Even though I had to actually call in for every shift that I was missing per company policy, I feel like my specificity via email was appreciated.*

    *The phone calls amounted to “I’m still not feeling well,” rather than going into details. Was sometimes mid level management who would make record of the calls and they didn’t need to know the details.

    As an aside, boy am I glad I don’t have to call in today, I have no voice at the moment.

    Asking for reasons why is not often necessary, but if your employees volunteer the specifics to you, understand that doing so should always be their choice.

  39. WorkFromHomeCompany*

    If somebody’s pipes were freezing in June I’d be skeptical. It’s been studied that workers actually do really poor work when they come to work under the weather regardless if they’re contagious or not, as well as it brings down morale. You never really know what someone’s going through and “allergies” could be code for mental health day because life gets overwhelming for us all. If they have allergies all the time or their grandma died four times this year or their pipes freeze in June, that’s different.

  40. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I second what Alison said 100% on #1. As a manager, ALWAYS treat your employees like adults and take their word that they know when they need to stay home. When you start asking for details, or questioning them, you’re going to end up with a bunch of resentful employees who only give you the bare minimum of effort at work. And then probably add in calling out and making something up when they’re not really sick. If you notice a pattern (like someone always calls out on Fridays/Mondays) then have a chat with them (and don’t assume they’re a slacker, they could have a legit reason). I realize some jobs are more reliant on their employees coming in, and it’s a hardship when 1 or 2 people call out at once, but the reality is that it’s going to happen and you need to do what you can to prepare for it. Nobody should have to come into work when they feel like crap because their employer can’t get along without them.

    1. Middle Manager*

      I think I always start off seeing employees as trustworthy and adults. The problem I have is when they clearly demonstrate a bad pattern or otherwise reveal they are abusing their leave (one lady who worked here pretty loudly discussed how she just wanted to stay on vacation a little longer and so she called in sick), then the trust is broken and I do have a hard time trusting they are legitimately sick.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I totally get it. But you’re almost always going to have a few people who take advantage of a situation, and you need to address it with those people and not let it make you skeptical of everyone else. And when trust is broken, I think it’s worthy of a conversation with that employee to get them to understand that their trust needs to be earned again.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You need to address it with those people individually — not the absence but the lie. You can’t continue employing someone you don’t trust.

  41. Environmental Compliance*

    #2 – I had to go through that with ExBoss. She was for some reason *convinced* that I was basically her daughter, and we needed to spend allllllllll waking minutes together at conferences. I generally tried for at least one dinner, but the rest of them I would remind her that I was very tired from the conference, not very hungry from eating snacks all day, she’d better go without me so she doesn’t miss her dinner – I’d see her in the morning!

    And then sneak out the back door of the hotel and walk to some hole in the wall so I could peacefully eat by myself, with no complaining or harassing the restaurant staff or weird pushiness on my eating habits or my lack of children.

    1. valentine*

      Did she…want non-grandchildren? *shudder* I hope she didn’t have a daughter to mistreat this way and I’m glad you are free of her.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Pretty much, yeah. I should have apparently had all the babehs so that she could spoil them. Fun fact: I can’t have kids, so that was fun. It was also always preceded by very, very graphic descriptions of her birthing stories and everything that went wrong. I did not ever need to know so much about her genitals.

        And she would often wonder why neither of her children wanted to tell her any real detail of their lives.

  42. Introvert LW*

    Thank you all so much for your helpful suggestions! I’m going to be reading all the comments and picking out ones to try that might resonate well with Jane.

    This is going to get personal for her though. At the base of her complaints is that the entire world is out to get her. I once sat in a meeting with her and she used the fact that a person didn’t look at her as proof that they were mad at her. In the exact same meeting, the fact that somebody did look at her was also proof that they were mad! If I’m having dinner with anybody else (and the people sitting at the next table count) but not her – that’s going to be proof that I hate her.

    I guess I just need a kick to do it anyway. Deal with the tears once to get my peace the rest of the trip (and maybe future ones?). She’ll try to smear me when we get back to the office but I think our mutual reputations will speak for themselves there.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, if you are reasonably polite about it, your reputation will protect you. The key thing I think you want to do is to decide your responses in advance – possibly even practicing. Both what you tell her in the moment, and what you say to anyone who might comment about it. You don’t want to accept blame for something you didn’t do, but you also don’t want to come off as unduly snarky or dismissive.

      1. valentine*

        At the base of her complaints is that the entire world is out to get her.
        If the smearing you mentioned is along these lines, is this worth bringing to a manager? Is the work unaffected? I imagine people avoid her.

        1. Introvert LW*

          She’s done it to the manager too and that just leads to more emotional drama. We are not a workplace where people get fired, ever, so people do either learn to avoid it or some people seem to enjoy encouraging it.

          I do love my job itself so very much though. The work is amazing and mostly I can avoid the drama. I wouldn’t leave over something like this, even if it is important enough for me to get some advice on.

    2. Utoh!*

      Yeah, no need to be taken hostage by someone’s irrational perceptions. This would be an easy one for me as I know logically the issue is squarely with her and it would not bother me in the least if she takes offense. You do you, period.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I think with someone who’s prone to this much drama, there’s no way to get what you need without causing blowback. But keep in mind that Jane would be producing blowback at that moment anyway. If it wasn’t because you wanted to go to dinner alone, it would be because of something else. Jane’s an adult, and her behavior is hers to manage. Her reaction to your extremely reasonable request is not your fault, and even if she goes back to work talking about how mean you are, your colleagues already know what she’s like. They’re not going to hold it against you that you couldn’t magically change her worldview over the course of a single business trip.

    4. BRR*

      “I think our mutual reputations will speak for themselves there.” It sounds like this is the part to remember. It’s really not a huge thing for you to say “I need the time to decompress and recharge.” She can make a mountain out of a molehill. I think you’re giving her way more power in this situation than she has.

    5. a1*

      If I’m having dinner with anybody else (and the people sitting at the next table count) but not her …

      I thought you wanted alone time. Knowing you just don’t want to eat with her, but do want to be other people, would change the approach I’d think.

      1. Introvert LW*

        Yeah, this is the tricky part to explain. I don’t want to be with other people. I just don’t feel like the person sitting at the next table is “with me” in any meaningful way. I can be alone in a crowd and I don’t think that makes sense to a lot of people.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          I suspect most introverts fully understand. People are *around* but they’re not in your space or your face and they’re not using up your spoons because you’re not actually interacting.

          There are, of course, people who think if you declare yourself an introvert, then your ideal state is living as some kind of hermit (and there are probably a few introverts for whom that’s true) and/or being aggressively anti-social and if any of us do anything to counter that image, then we’re lying about being introverted.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I LOVE being alone in a crowd. Being completely anonymous and reading my book at a table in a restaurant where I don’t know anybody is a fantastic treat.

        3. Observer*

          Oh, it makes sense to a lot of people. I’m not an introvert, but the idea that the strangers at the next table over are somehow “with” me or that they would affect my energy (assuming they are minding their own business) is what puzzles me, to be honest.

      2. Envy Adams*

        I read that comment from the LW as meaning she would be eating alone, but Jane would consider simply having people at the next table as eating “with” them.

      3. J.*

        I think LW’s point is that Jane would consider her eating by herself anywhere that’s not completely alone in her room as being “with other people,” when that’s obviously silly and not the case.

      4. Armchair Expert*

        She doesn’t want to eat with anyone else. She’s saying that Jane will interpret “eating while other people eat in the vicinity” – i.e., in a restaurant with other people present at an adjacent table – as choosing to “eat with other people”.

    6. Genny*

      One of the nice things about unreasonable people/unreasonable requests, is that as long as you are clear and polite in your boundaries, a smear campaign becomes really difficult. Most rational people won’t think poorly of you because you didn’t eat every meal on a business trip with your co-worker. In order to smear you, she’d have to come up with something more outlandish (because there’s nothing outlandish about wanting to decompress/have some alone time when traveling). However, the more outlandish her spin, the less likely people will be to believe her.

      It sounds like you know this already, so consider this one more person encouraging you to deal with headache now so that you don’t have to deal with it later.

    7. Luna*

      Good grief, Jane sounds exhausting just reading about her. If her thinking you are mad at her means she will leave you alone, I would call that worth it.

      1. jolene*

        Exactly! And everyone will know exactly why you didn’t want to have dinner with her!

    8. starsaphire*

      Can you maybe invest in a nice weighty best-seller and carry it along with you? Bring it up in conversation and talk about how eager you are to get back to it just as soon as the speeches are over?

      Maybe it’s a business-related book (maybe it’s Alison’s book!) and it’s on your Kindle and you really, really need to read it this week for work purposes and gosh, Jane, we’ll for sure have dinner on Wednesday, but tonight I really need to knock out another couple of chapters over my sushi…

      I also like the language that’s been recommended above — about really needing some introvert time and recharging your batteries.

      I feel for you; Jane sounds exhausting.

    9. Klingons and Cylons and Cybermen, Oh My!*

      Can you beg off the trip, or maybe ask your boss to not have you travel with her?

      1. Introvert LW*

        I wouldn’t. It’s going to be a good opportunity and while I want to get through it with the least amount of pain, I don’t want to miss it.

        Good thought though!

        1. valentine*

          I would try to be as separate as possible, such as different plane sections and hotel floors.

    10. Batgirl*

      You know I would see these traits as kind of freeing.
      If she were just someone with sociable blind spots I’d feel a responsibility to walk a line of reassurance and explaining myself without overly stressing ‘time away from you’ as a big deal.
      But this? You can’t win so no need to try! I’d go straight into ‘No thanks’ mode and just keep up a kind of cheerful persistence up no matter what because I’d know *Im* not the problem.
      Jane: *beating fists on pavement while betraying your betrayal*
      Introvert LW: *shrugs* “Well I’m super looking forward to alone time!
      “See you later!”
      *flounces off knowing she’s done all she can*

    11. Pomona Sprout*

      If she tries to make it personal, just remember that her paranoid is HER problem. Don’t ket ger make it your problem. YOU are not responsible for her feelings or for trying to keep her happy. You have the right and responsibility to take care of YOU. Taking care of Jane is HER responsibility, not yours.

  43. Momofadoptedangel*

    Uh how is calling out sick not last minute? Shall they plan to have the flu in advance?

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I live pretty close to where I work, so I don’t even wake up more than an hour before my workday starts. I can’t call in sick if I don’t know I’m sick because I’m still sleeping!

    1. Madeleine Matilda*

      I’ve gotten calls along the lines of “I forgot I had a doctors appointment scheduled for this morning. I won’t be in.” Almost every doctor I’ve ever had any appointment with, calls me a couple of days ahead to remind me of the appointment so I don’t understand how someone “forgets” an appointment they had made in advance.

      1. nonymous*

        I feel guilty if I forget to request time off before the reminder comes in! my dentist sends me a confirmation email a week in advance and phone/text 24hrs prior. I’m guessing the first is to remind people to put in for time off and the second is to remind us to tell our SO.

      2. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

        I’ve had doctors remind me too far in advance. A reminder tomorrow morning for my appointment a week later wouldn’t increase my chance of remembering the appointment, because that far out it might just work to remind me I’m seeing the doctor next week, rather than specifically Tuesday at 3:00.

        I deal with this by putting things in my calendar and setting alarms, but if I forgot to do that, or turned the ringer off, or mistakenly entered next Tuesday’s appointment for next Wednesday, the week-in-advance reminder wouldn’t help.

      3. doreen*

        My doctors usually call me the day before – problem is they usually call me on my landline (which I keep asking them to take out of the records)so I don’t get the message until I get home from work. Somehow, when they call me on the day of the appointment to come in early ( so they can leave early) they manage to find my cellphone.

  44. Nervous Accountant*

    RE #1 — I’ve always been on the side of “treat them like adults” and trust them to know their situation (thanks to reading this blog!). I think calling out sick is just a small piece of the bigger picture. The ones with frequent absences also had other things going on in their performance and were let go/quit.

    For the most part, if someone calls out sick during tax season its not great but it is what it is. But if that person is also slacking in other work, its definitely a performance issue

  45. Rusty Shackelford*

    I think a good rule of thumb for insider knowledge could be “could I conceivably have learned this from reading public sources of information?” If you know a lot about the product because your mom talks about it, but you could have also gained that information by exhaustively studying the website, and you know leadership is going to be shaken up because your mom told you about it but it was also reported in Forbes, that’s good knowledge to use. If you know that Fergus and Jane don’t get along because your mom told you, that’s not good knowledge to use.

  46. Drax*

    #1 – i feel you. Sick days aren’t meant to be planned in advance, I rarely know when a migraine is coming on BUT I totally understand that it can cause a ripple effect at work with problems. I think instead of focusing on the sick leave policy, you should be focusing on the other stuff like cross training and contingency plans. If Person A is out, who covers their essential functions? I am a firm believer that everyone should know how to do the bare bones of everyone else’s jobs – just enough to keep the train rolling not the technical stuff.

    For a horror story – I used to have an employee who ran the satellite warehouse. Without fail every single month on inventory she “had the sniffles” and when I went to her and told her she’s missed the last 6 months of inventory and I need her in warehouse for it, you’d think it was WW3 from how far that blew up. Seriously, but then again this was the same woman who cried and threw a big enough tantrum you’d think I attacked her, over the fact I asked if she could please use the pallet to move things instead of running the pallet through with the fork lift.

    1. Klingons and Cylons and Cybermen, Oh My!*

      At my state agency, we CAN plan sick days in advance because ANYTHING health-related can qualify for “sick” time. This includes routine physicals, eye exams, dental cleanings, colonoscopies, major surgery, pre-natal care, etc.

      1. Drax*

        true, but you don’t go “I’m going to have a cold next Thursday and stay home” or “I’m going to eat some sketchy fish and pay the price for a few days on Monday July 17th”

        it also doesn’t sound like OP’s problem is the notice of appointments, but the sudden sick leave

  47. Angry Agnostic*

    I had a terrible employee that always called out on a Monday. At one point I confronted her about this and she said she “just liked to party on the weekend.” I terminated her shortly thereafter.

    Patterns tell tales. Follow the patterns.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That employee is an idiot. I’m not an advocate of dishonesty, but there are times where it does not pay to be 100% truthful. If she had made up some kind of story, you might have been willing to work with her for a bit, I imagine.

      1. L. S. Cooper*

        I heard a story from a coworker of a previous employee who kept calling in sick (specifically with nausea and headaches) in the mornings, then turning out fine in the afternoon. Everyone assumed she was just super irresponsible and partying all the time, but it turned out to be morning sickness!

        1. Luna*

          I’m surprised to read that morning sickness *wasn’t* the first thing people assumed with the pattern of ‘morning bad, afternoon good’. Even if morning sickness isn’t exclusive to mornings.

          1. valentine*

            I was thinking alcohol, but I really hate the “woman feels differently therefore pregnancy” trope, so I only think of pregnancy for TV.

          2. L. S. Cooper*

            Well, the place was staffed entirely by college students, so not an unreasonable assumption in that situation.

      2. Luna*

        I guess I’d prefer 100% brutal honesty here. At least then I know that this employee’s ‘weekend partying’ is more important than actually doing their job. Not that your job should be your #1 priority, but if you cannot cut back in time to appear semi-decently (and preferably on time) at work after some partying, it’s clear that this job is not important enough to you to be kept.

  48. Silicon Valley Girl*

    It’s interesting that OP1 says “They do get a generous amount of sick time. We are an organization that requires coverage on customer service points, if that makes a difference.” Maybe that’s the real issue, not the reasons for taking sick leave. It’s a conflict between a generous policy & a need for coverage. Not saying the company shouldn’t have a generous policy — that’s great & more places in the U.S. should! — but along with that needs to be some contingency plans because ppl will use this policy. It’s unfair to have sick time & question employees for using it. Hire more ppl, balance workloads, come up with a technological solution (voice mail tree? online faqs? chatbots?), etc., to cover what needs to be covered in case ppl need to call out sick.

  49. Allison*

    1) This is generally why I just tell my boss I’m not feeling well. They don’t need details if it’s stomach stuff, for one thing, and honestly, if I’ve decided I’m too sick to work, or that I’m sick enough to justify using a sick day and I’m pretty sure the team can do without me that day (like if it’s a slow period and my workload is light). I’ll only get into specifics about severity if I know I’m missing a critical day.

  50. Arya Snark*

    The only times I’ve ever pushed back re: sick time (note that we’re all remote workers):
    One EE had a habit of developing an illness (migraine, intestinal issues) every single time we discussed mistakes (there were many – it was a difficult time for multiple reasons). They did not take any kind of criticism very well and leaving early would leave us in a huge bind because their job was customer facing. They were put in a PIP for various issues (the inability to take feedback and the resulting walk outs were a big part of it but not the only thing) and I’m happy to say all issues have completely resolved.
    Another EE would tell me they were sick but not really take the day off. We work from home so this is not unusual for a non-customer facing position and one of the perks of working from home. Instead, they would just disappear for hours at a time without letting me know that they were doing so or when they’d be back, leaving me to wonder about whether their deadline driven work was going to get done that day and eventually doing their work because it had to be done. I told them they either needed to take the day off or be available when they weren’t feeling well. Their sick days increased but at least I knew what to expect.

  51. Still_searching*

    #2 – if this person travelling with you has a problem with time on their own, perhaps advance notice that they will be solo for meals would be best, to give them time to look for things or people to hang out with instead of you. I would be upfront that I won’t have time this trip to spend with you, I have other commitments – and toss out a suggestions for them to speak to the hotel front desk/concierge for great things to do/places to meet people etc.

  52. Amethystmoon*

    #2 I get it, being an introvert. I also have social anxiety issues around eating food with others and worrying constantly about people being judgmental and/or making rude remarks, since it has been done to me in the past. What I have sometimes done to avoid that is tell the other person that I’m on a strict diet for health reasons, and that restaurant probably doesn’t have anything for me. If they protest and say something like just order a salad, I’d point out that I’d have to create an extremely custom order and be the annoying person to ask the server to leave things like all the nuts, cheese, meat salad dressing, etc. off the salad and I’d rather not do that. Usually, that gets people to leave me alone.

  53. VALCSW*

    LW#2, I’m totally the same way, & in fact, even when faced with company that I DO enjoy, I still enjoy the quiet on my own. I agree that you should give her a heads up before even going that you’re going to be more on your own & make it about you. Back when my kids were small, I totally looked at work trips as getaways because my evenings were completely my own, so I wanted to enjoy every second of quiet with my meals & my book. Even if you don’t have kids, you can still use the idea of it. “Jane, I wanted to give you a heads up I won’t be as available for meals this trip. I’ve got so much going on at home that I’m really looking forward to the quiet in the evenings. I wanted to let you know so you can make alternate plans without waiting for me.”

  54. Rich*

    OP2: I used to travel a lot for work, and ran into this situation regularly. There’s a lot of good advice, and sticking with a clear “I’m not up for having any company at dinner tonight. I need time on my own to recharge” is a good approach.

    If you also want to try to keep the peace with Jane (and you may not, which is fine), offering to meet for morning coffee or lunch can help. Those are good because they’re more time-bound (Gotta go, I have that 1pm meeting!). For me, at least, after work is “recovery time”, and someone stealing that bothers me more than their taking the same amount of time during a work day.

    By offering it as an option, it may also feel to Jane like you’re reaching out which might help as well.

    Or, you can not worry about it and do your own thing, which is entirely OK.

  55. Monday is OK*

    The employer offering pay 30% less than a competitor should not be surprised that people continue interviewing after accepting a position. OP should take the higher paying job, apologize to the first job, and move on. We work for money, usually.

  56. Maya Elena*

    Did OP1 could clarify, does “at the last minute” mean “without prior warning of sickness” or “before the days expire”?

  57. JimboLimbo*

    Regarding #1: Barring major health issues that could require extended leave (more than a few days), I have never understood why anyone should ever give any details about their illness. I prefer to give as little detail as possible, and if I feel it’s okay, I’ll just say the bare minimum, i.e., “I’m sick today. My availability is [X] and I can be reached at [X]” or just “I am sick and out of the office today. I will return tomorrow.” Am I nuts? Note that I have a desk job from which I can work from home, and in fact I have a regular WFH day every week. But even in jobs where you do need to be there in-person (such as customer service), employees should just be able to say, “I am sick”, end of story. Who wants all the dirty details?

  58. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I usually give some detail if I am out sick, but I have never taken it for allergies! I mean, I might if I could though. Sometimes they kick up so badly that I am basically a snotty mess who sneezes every 30 seconds for 2-3 hours.

  59. Nacho*

    I never got the idea of sick time. Just give everybody a single bucket for PTO and let them use it how they see fit.

    1. Someone Else*

      The downside to this is companies that do it that way frequently see people coming in to work while ill because they want to “save it” all for more vacation. When sick is its own bucket, people use it when they’re ill (or otherwise have an appointment) because they can’t use it for anything else.

  60. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – if you’re a manager – be very careful, and be very AFRAID.

    Once, when I was a supervisor – a guy came into work – chronic coughing, even having trouble breathing. I sent him home. He had been threatened by someone in management to not use anymore sick time and I said “no one dies on my watch” — also, he had been told by the company doctor that there wasn’t anything wrong with him. I set him up with an appointment with another doctor in his neighborhood/town. I said “you go – I’ll take the flak.”

    Two days later, I’m getting yelled at by the manager for sending him home. During the a$$chewin’, the phone rings – it’s the guy’s wife. The man I sent home had an x-ray taken, he had blood clots in his lungs, and was immediately admitted to ICU in critical condition. And he’d be out AT LEAST a month – so he was going on short-term disability.

    I said “you were sayin’???”

    Another time – I was threatened for not coming in on Monday morning – my daughter had an emergency appendectomy on Sunday night and I wanted to visit her in the hospital before coming to work. I regret not smashing up my pager and sending it back with an obscenity-laced immediate resignation. But, I forgive management stupidity more than I should.

  61. Earthwalker*

    OP 1: My coworker regularly claimed she was sick every Friday for months. Our manager was peeved and so were we, at having to do her share of the work so often. Imagine everyone’s surprise and alarm when we learned that she was too tired to get through a whole week, just like she said, because she had hepatitis. It just took her several months to be diagnosed. Then everyone was complaining, “Why didn’t someone do something about this sooner?? Now we’ve all been exposed!” So not even a “pattern of abuse” is necessarily abuse at all.

  62. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Introverts (and actually everyone else too) get to insist that they not be required to eat meals with annoying coworkers during off time.
    And what I’m not seeing is any responsibility expected of the extrovert to go make new friends at this event. That’s a reasonable suggestion to make in the morning while setting the stage for separate meal plans.

  63. Retired but Read Religiously*

    Not to mention the disruption that seeking-a-doctor’s-note-visits cause in medical scheduling. Booking appointments for what is essentially a bureaucratic exercise means there is less availability for patients who genuinely need to see a physician.

  64. workerbee*

    For those saying that accepting a job offer, then going back on your word, is the same as a company continuing to interview other candidates after they offered you the job, that is absolutely not true. A company can see as many candidates as they want and drag the process out as long as they want before selecting a candidate; a candidate who is offered a job has a few days (at best) to decide if they will accept an offer. It’s not like they can say “well, I have three more interviews lined up, I’ll get back to you.” It’s completely possible to still have applications in the pipeline after accepting a position, and to refuse an interview after you’ve accepted another job is doing yourself a disservice unless the job you accepted was your first choice. It’s annoying for a new hire to renege on their accepted offer before they start, but I think it’s also understandable when they are offered a position that is better than the one they accepted. Are they really just supposed to take an extended hit to their earnings (accepting low pay can have long-term effects over the course of a career) so they can keep their word to a company who would drop them like a bad habit if it made financial sense to do so? Companies aren’t people, and the decision isn’t personal.

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