can we just assign interview dates to job candidates?

A reader writes:

I have been scheduling phone screenings and in-person interviews with job candidates. For calls, I offer two days, allowing them to tell me a time that works best for a brief chat. For interviews, I provide a few options for days and time. I’ve had a few candidates respond saying they can’t take personal calls at work (no breaks?) or suggesting an entirely different day and time for a call or interview. While I understand a current job takes priority, I am surprised to see that these candidates aren’t more flexible, considering they are the ones seeking a new career. What are your thoughts on accommodating such requests and could they be an insight into work behaviors?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Our receptionist walks around the office barefoot
  • How can I get an employee to take a full week of vacation?
  • Keeping personal supplies in an office kitchen
  • Should managers always know the salaries of the people they’re managing?

{ 385 comments… read them below }

  1. Hiring needs a selling edge*

    “Keep in mind that you’re proposing a business conversation that will benefit both of you. Be flexible with people and don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re doing them a favor and they should drop everything to make it work.”

    Well said, Alison.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yes. We keep saying that interviewees should act as if their time is valuable and that this choice is as much theirs
      as the hiring firm; you’re evaluating them while they evaluate you.

      The attitude that they must be available at our convenience will weed out those with legitimate conflicts, and those who feel strong-armed and see it as a yellow flag. What you’re left with is the unemployed, the desperate, and those lucky enough to have schedules that match yours.

      This is no way to run a job search.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        The whole “after all they’re the ones looking fir a job” attitude just reeks!

        1. Happy Pineapple*

          I used to work in recruiting and I was seriously taken aback by how many recruiters have this attitude. They didn’t seem to grasp that top talent are often, 1) employed already, and 2) dedicated to and respectful of their current employers, and therefore cannot drop everything at any time to attend an interview.

          1. PB*

            Yes! That last line about whether these requests “could be an insight into their work behaviors” grated. I mean, yes, it’s an insight into their work behavior. Specifically, that they are good employees who won’t disappear to take a phone interview on the clock, or take time off without notice, or leave their coworkers without coverage, etc. etc.

            1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

              I think I’ve mentioned before, but I had a place I was interviewing pull that on me. On Friday, I was contacted for an interview on Tuesday. Which was two days before Thanksgiving. I said that wasn’t possible but I could make either the morning or later afternoon of any day the following week. They came back with noon on Wednesday. ( The day before Thanksgiving.) I reiterated that, no, that wasn’t going to work. And gave them the same timeframes that I could swing with such short notice.

              They then contacted me and said that they weren’t continuing with me because they wanted someone who would be dedicated to their job.

              1. Former Employee*

                You were dedicated to your job. The job you actually had at the time. Apparently, their idea of dedication was to be dedicated to the job at their company, which was in no way yours at the time.

                Talk about thinking they’re all that!

              2. RUKiddingMe*

                I consider comments like that a blessing in disguise. Totally a bullet dodged.

            2. Gazebo Slayer*

              Wanna bet the OP is also one of those employers who requires references, but refuses to give them?

          2. Schuyler Seestra*

            Agree. I’m a recruiter and know I need to work around my candidates not the other way around. Especially if I sourced them. I see similar attitudes in my recruiting groups and it’s mind boggling.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      I want to say this as gently as possible, but OP #1 sounds like they’d be difficult to work for. An interview is business and not personal. It’s not a favor and the person extending the interview is not owed anything for it. It’s a normal part of doing business. Failing to see it as such is a red flag After working for someone who viewed routine parts of doing business (salary adjustments, PTO, interviews) as personal favors, I will never willingly work for someone like that again.

      1. Caroline*

        I want to believe that this is a junior person who is new to this process, not someone like a business owner or even the hiring manager. My initial reaction was much less generous than some of those above, but at the beginning of your career it often feels like the employer is doing you a favor. And frequently at that point you also don’t realize how d*mn hard it is to find/keep good people.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Good point about it not being the hiring manager. I’m going to guess the initial HR phone screen, because OP seems pretty far removed from the fact that the company is trying to fill several positions and supposedly wants someone who is a good fit; not just someone that happens to be available to take a phone call at an arbitrary time.

          1. Ali A*

            I find my executives have some pretty “old fashioned” misconceptions about how flexible and grateful candidates should be. It can be hard to combat some times, and as someone who’s actively interviewed for roles while employed – man it can be hard to align schedules!

          2. Dana B.S.*

            Yep, that was my read as well. It’s someone who isn’t involved in the final decision and likely has a huge stack of people to call. Hopefully they’ll take this wake-up call and think about the bigger picture.

        2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          “I’ve had a few candidates respond saying they can’t take personal calls at work (no breaks?)”
          Someone with very limited job experience. No, not all jobs give breaks. Or you do have a break. So that means, getting your cell phone, getting to a private place, calling, getting an answer and talking. And leaving enough time to get back.
          OP needs to rethink the big picture. Yes, give people a window, but don’t slam them in it. If you only have two days to interview people, your process is bad. If you only WANT two days to interview people, your plan is bad.

          1. Lalaith*

            Yes. I could probably get away with taking a 10-15 minute break almost any time, but any longer would likely be noticed. Also, I work in a small open-plan office in NYC, so I have basically nowhere to go that would be private (and quiet) enough for a phone interview.

          2. NKOTB*

            Yes. I used to work in an office with an open floor plan so no privacy at all. I took public transit there so I couldn’t just go to my car either. My only option for a phone interview during my 30 minute break (which included eating lunch) was to take a long walk.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Same. I want to believe this is a junior/new admin person who helps coordinate but does not contribute to hiring. I could see these issues popping up for someone who’s responsible for scheduling and is having a hard time figuring out how to juggle it all. But the assumptions in the letter are otherwise pretty alarming.

        1. Autumnheart*

          No kidding. Hasn’t this person ever worked in a customer service job? Even if you’re scheduled a break doesn’t mean you’ll get to take it, if there’s a rush.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        After working for someone who viewed actually handing over paychecks as a huge personal favor, I will never willingly work for someone with that attitude again!

    3. Marty*

      The best job I’ve ever had (and still have, to this day!) is the one that offered candidates 6-7AM interview time slots. Sure, it probably was a bit rough for the interviewer to start so early (or late), but if you’re looking for professional candidates who are taking a very real risk to jump to your organization, why not offer flexible interview opportunities? Assuming you’re not hiring on a daily basis and you’re looking for the best possible fit, consider it.

      9AM on Monday or 1PM on Thursday or 4PM on Friday… as flexible as that sounds, is all the same thing and hardly flexible to someone who works a full week!

      1. Xarcady*

        So much this. I get half an hour for lunch. To get any privacy for a phone call, I’d have to go out to my car, which takes about 5 minutes. So I’d have about 20 minutes for the interview. Add in the fact that my cell gets horrible reception at work, so the connection would be very poor, and taking a phone interview during the work day is just not a good idea.

        The best timing for me is at the very beginning or end of the work day—I can tell my manager that I will be in late/leaving early due to an appointment, and then I can take the call at home.

        1. Snarktini*

          Also, even if you do get breaks and can run to your car (which, I’ve definitely done), you may not be able to control WHEN that break can be taken. Often, shift workers are told when they can take breaks, and not in advance. Or, in my case, I’ve often worked in on-demand environments (think: ad agency). I can schedule an interview, but it gets dodgy if my boss hands me an urgent turnaround task or schedules a last-minute meeting around that time. Which pretty much happens all the time. Then I have to dance around and make up reasons. Which sucks, and doesn’t help my performance on the interview. Before/after work makes a world of difference.

      2. AnonForThis*

        When I was interviewing for my previous job, I got really lucky. The hiring manager was in another country, so I interviewed at 8pm, and then when I was interviewed by a teammate, he was traveling and didn’t want to delay the interview, so he held it at night as well. My coworkers didn’t understand how I’d managed to get hired without ever having been out. I’m currently interviewing for a position, and was able to do the phone screen while I was visiting my parents, and had a phone interview with the hiring manager the day I got back. Thanks to Summer Fridays, I’ll be doing a final meeting in the afternoon and no one will be the wiser. Being flexible with candidates definitely raises my opinion of the company.

      3. Media Monkey*

        in my industry (advertising) and location (London) i can’t imagine expecting to interview anyone but a newly graduated entry level candidate during office hours. interviews are always either at 8am or 6pm. and phone calls potentially at lunchtime as well. recruiters know this and tend to time shift their working hours to accomodate.

    4. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

      Amen…I recently changed around all of my plans to accommodate a candidate who I thought was awesome. The candidate was traveling and so I had to be flexible. In this current job market, as the hiring manager, I can’t afford to make top notch candidates jump through too many hoops.

    5. Karen from Finance*

      I really appreciated the advice here and thought it was spot on. More employers and recruiters need to understand this.

    6. Clisby*

      Yes. In many cases, it will be easier for this interviewer to be flexible than for the job-hunting person to be flexible. Offer early morning interviews, evening interviews, weekend interviews.

      1. Psyche*

        Especially if it is a phone interview! It isn’t worth it to job candidates to take time off of work for a phone interview.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is spot on. I’m always more likely to get a, “Hey, we need you to be flexible on this one because the candidate is only available at these times. I know it’s inconvenient for you (or can you reschedule your conflict), but they seem like a really good fit for X and we don’t want to lose them.”

      And, every time one of these questions pops up on AAM, I want to go and hug my recruiters for being awesome. I get a lot of compliments from candidates about how helpful and accommodating they are. My overarching philosophy is that candidates are interviewing us just as much as we’re interviewing them. Just as candidates are advised to present their best at an interview, we should do the same.

    8. Richard*

      Came here to reiterate this. Interviewers already have nearly all of the power in these situations, no need to demand even more.

  2. Lemon Zinger*

    Regarding the receptionist who doesn’t wear shoes: it’s likely in her job description that she needs to be able to carry items up to a certain weight. It’s simply unsafe to be barefoot in a job like that. In my office, we all have that requirement and must wear professional, close-toed shoes. Years ago, someone dropped a box on their open toes and broke them. This is why we have a mandatory close-toed shoe policy.

    1. Construction Safety*

      It’s all fun and games until she has to dig an errant staple out of her foot.

    2. annakarina1*

      She could also accidentally step on a paper clip or a staple on the floor and risk an infection, or even just catching an infection from walking around barefoot on communal floors, because of everyone else tracking in dirt on their shoes from outside.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      If I were a person who likes to take off my shoes in the privacy of my own personal office (spoiler alert: I am) and someone tried to tell me I couldn’t do that because my job description said I had to be able to carry items up to a certain weight, I’d say “I’ll put my shoes back on if I need to carry something.” This is NOT a reason to wear shoes.

      (I mean, the fact that you’re in a public-facing area and will be seen by clients IS a reason to wear shoes. And that’s all they need to say.)

      (Also, closed-toe shoes doesn’t mean they’re staying on your feet. I can kick off my pumps quite easily.)

      1. fposte*

        Closed-toe shoes also don’t prevent injuries if you drop something on your foot. They may mitigate them, and they’ll definitely make lacerations less likely, but until you get into steel toes, a dropped heavy box on your foot is still going to leave a mark.

        1. Bee*

          Yeah, there is functionally no difference between bare feet and ballet flats if you’re dropping a case of paper on your foot. Safety is the wrong angle to take here.

      2. DaffyDuck*

        I think there is a big difference between taking shoes off while sitting at your desk and padding around a shared office with no shoes. A pair of ballet flats she keeps at the office would be much more acceptable than going barefoot.

      3. Antilles*

        I’d actually even go a little further and say that the receptionist would be fine even in a public-facing area *if* she wasn’t walking around so much without them. If the receptionist was sitting behind a desk and could quickly/unobtrusively slip her shoes back on before standing up to greet a client, no harm, no foul.

      4. mcr-red*

        The two co-workers who I remember breaking this rule all the time and padding around the office in socks were men. And every time I wanted be like, “this isn’t your house! Put your shoes back on!” If it was in their office it’d be one thing, but wandering around the office, ew. I never said anything, though.

        I have a weird foot thing in that feet gross me out, so I never want to see anyone’s feet.

      5. Justme, The OG*

        Are you me? I’m sitting here in my office with my shoes off. And also, I agree. I have definitely carried heavy things without shoes on my feet (but never at work).

      6. EinJungerLudendorff*

        For the employer, it certainly sounds like a good enough reason.
        It is a reasonable requirement that someone wears clothing on their job, especially if not doing so is a potential health and hygiene problem.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, this sounds like a dress code issue.

      I feel out of place talking too much about the inappropriateness of being shoe-free in the office because I’m often slipping mine off. But it’s under my desk and I don’t walk around like that, let alone stand there filing with my feet in full view. So I get why this person would think it’s not a big deal but really, if someone ever tells me “Hey so about you not wearing shoes…” I would never question it, it’s a bigger issue that she’s making excuses and refusing to take it seriously when a higher ranking individual says “Hey, don’t do that, it’s not okay here.”

    5. tink*

      I’ve got a coworker that will wear nice heels to/from work and for meetings, but keeps a pair of work-appropriate closed-toe flats for actual work time, and feel like the receptionist should do the same (or invest in work appropriate flats/low heels in general). It’s one thing to take your shoes off at your desk for a few minutes to stretch your feet or adjust your socks and another to run around barefoot all day.

      1. Psyche*

        Yep. And they should make sure that the problem is not an arcane dress code that specifies heels.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          This. If they are going to demand women wear heels, then they can damn well demand males do too. Otherwise I’m not too sure this isn’t a gender based requirement and therefore illegal?

          1. whingedrinking*

            In my province, the labour code was amended to make it explicit that employers can’t force employees to wear high heels at work. But this is a fairly recent change (2017) and doesn’t seem to be a widespread policy globally.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Good for your province! It should be global. I mean who wears high heels? Women. It’s a gender expectation thing. Ok, sure some males wear them but unless they are doing a drag show the majority of them aren’t wearing them at work…nor are they expected to do so. Knowing what we know about how bad heels are for our bodies, that an employer could demand anyone, —particularly one gender and one gender only— wear them is sexist (duh?), and a ridiculous expectation.

          2. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

            Gender-based requirements are totally fine so long as they are not significantly more arduous/time consuming for one gender than the other. So, for example, they can require that men wear ties and a jacket and women wear dresses, because that’s both “dressy.” What they can’t do is require that women wear dresses and say nothing at all about men’s clothing choices, so all the women are in dresses and all the men wear jeans.

            In practice, this absolutely has more of an effect on women than men, but it doesn’t matter. The test case was an establishment that required that women wear makeup and men be “neatly groomed” – it is obvious that makeup takes more time/money than a haircut and a shave do, but the court didn’t see it that way.

          3. D'Arcy*

            In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that gender based dress code requirements are legal *even if* they have dramatically disparate impact on men and women, but not legal if they impose categorically different requirements.

            In other words, it isn’t unlawful discrimination if you require men to have “neatly trimmed nails” while requiring women to have perfect professional manicures, but you’re not allowed to have a dress code that specifies men should “dress professionally” but has detailed requirements for women.

      2. LaDeeDa*

        I do the same thing. I always have a pair of heels for meetings and presenting, but often when I am in the office a good portion of my time is prepping a room and materials for a meeting, and during that time I take my heels off and wear a pair of flats.

      3. Meh...*

        I wear close-toe flats to work and take them off at every opportunity I have.

        Shoes of any sort are not really a good alternative to no-shoes for people who like to be barefoot.

        1. sacados*

          I get that, but I still think that in most offices (barring any sort of really super casual ones) it’s pretty clearly unprofessional to be *walking around* without shoes. Especially if there are clients around. In a professional setting, that outweighs any personal barefoot preference.
          As many others have said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the receptionist either
          a) slipping off her shoes while sitting and then putting them back on to walk around, or
          b) keeping a pair of more comfortable shoes to wear during the day around the office.

          1. Lunita*

            I just recently saw a coworker of mine walking through our office into the kitchen barefoot. I thought it was pretty unprofessional and too casual even for a casual office like ours. It’s not your home and I don’t really want to see your bare feet.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Interesting to me… I wear slip-on shoes and often slip them off under my desk. But I haven’t walked outside my office in over 20 years. Not since it was pointed out to me that it isn’t OSHA acceptable.
      (For non-US readers, OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration within the US Department of Labor.)
      The one question I have — is the receptionist required to wear heels? If yes, change that.

      1. Kendra*

        Maybe suggest to your boss that it might also help to put anti-fatigue mats wherever she has to stand while she’s filing. They’re not magic, but they can help, particularly if your office floor doesn’t have much other padding. If you make it less painful for her to wear her shoes, she’ll likely be more willing to do it.

    7. Glitsy Gus*

      If you’re going to go that route then ballet flats or whatever other standard office shoes won’t fit the bill as “protective footwear.” Your foot would break just as easily in those as it would with no shoes.

      That said, I was in that Receptionist’s (lack of) shoes in one of my first jobs, where one of my tasks was standing and filing for several hours a week. It was brutal on my feet and a couple times I did kick my shoes off when I couldn’t take it anymore. After the first couple times, though, I brought in a pair of comfy clogs so I could slip of my fancy “office” shoes and be more comfortable for the times during the day that I had to stand. Another woman had a pair of flip flops for the same purpose. They wouldn’t have been traditionally work appropriate, but it was a compromise my boss was willing to make because it was better and more sanitary than no shoes. That is an option your boss may want to consider as a bit more of a win/win.

  3. Angwyshaunce*

    Question regarding the answer for #3: “Plus, ensuring people periodically take off a week at a time is one way companies uncover fraud…”

    I don’t think I understand this. Can someone please explain?

    1. Shad*

      In, say, accounting and similar jobs, the primary accountant for one section takes a week off, during which someone both covers that of their duties which won’t wait and reviews their work and business practices to ensure compliance with regulations and to make sure everything is above board.

      1. Winifred*

        My old coffee shop chain was notorious for booking employee time to their vacation time when they were actually working in the store. This lowered overall personnel costs for the week and that could lead to a bigger bonus for managers. The managers who did this always got caught and fired, as staff eventually would wonder how all their accrued vacation hours disappeared from their pay stubs.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is by far the dumbest plan I have ever heard of to commit wage theft.

    2. fposte*

      It’s not so much about the week off as a week where somebody else is handling the work. If I’ve been embezzling funds, Jane has a reasonable chance of encountering those irregularities if she covers my position for a week.

      1. Massmatt*

        Yes, in finance (and probably many other fields) someone not taking any vacation time is a warning sign. Sometimes that person is not “just loving their job SO much” but doing things they shouldn’t be and fearful someone will find out if, say, someone else checks the accounts or opens the petty cash drawer.

        And if the employee says they just can’t take off because there’s too much work to do, that is another big warning sign, either they are seriously overworked or inefficient at the job, or both.

    3. Semprini!*

      I’m surprised LW isn’t more flexible, seeing as they’re the ones who are at liberty to dedicate time and space to this hiring process as part of their actual job.

      1. Semprini!*

        Oops, I meant to make that a separate post and now I can’t figure out how to delete it. Apologies!

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        They don’t feel they have to/should be flexible because they are doing the job applicant a “favor” after all…

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      People who are embezzling often don’t take any meaningful vacation so they can guard the books and keep everyone else in the dark. A lot of embezzling and other white collar crime is found when someone who handles money is suddenly unable to come in to work. Whoever covers for them notices the missing funds and reports it.

      Forcing people to take a full vacation means that there are no files, books, or accounts that only one person knows about or routinely accesses.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Even in cases without embezzling, it forces the one person to have their work documented so that someone else can pick up in a crisis. Which saves the boss’s bacon if no-vacation-employee gets a new job, or has to take FMLA or disability.

    5. CL*

      I am a school secretary/bookkeeper. There are three of us at the school that can sign checks. We are all required to take one full week of vacation off each fiscal year. There is no one that comes and conducts an audit while I’m gone (but they do random audits and mandatory audits when anyone in the financial chain leaves their position), but there is someone else who would take a phone call from a bank or a vendor calling about a discrepancy, or cutting a check and seeing that the numbers in the box do not agree with what our program says we have, etc. There are other controls we have in place, but this is a big requirement.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I worked for a bank in the late 90s/early 00s and we were required to take a full week off per year as part of our vacation time. It allows the company to time to investigate any type of suspected fraud.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        Same here. Even though I was in the mortgage department and didn’t handle cash like the tellers, I was supposed to take at least one full week.

    7. MK*

      What everyone said. In my criminology class in law school, the profile of an embezzler was the sort of employee who works endless hours and never takes vacation, because they cannot risk that the person covering for them wouldn’t notice irregularities. Having worked in the court system for over a decade I can confirm that almost all embezzlers fit that type.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yup. Embezzlers are nearly always able to cover up what they’re doing by showing their “commitment” to being a “workaholic.” They’re not working, folks. They’re keeping double books, making dubious purchasing and reimbursement payments, and skimming, and they use the after-hours “work time” to cover it all up.

        1. Kendra*

          One of our former employees was caught embezzling almost instantly, in part because she lied about having cancer and took a bunch of time off for fake radiation treatments. So I guess the moral of the story is, *successful* embezzlers tend to be workaholics; slackers are really, really terrible at it.

        2. Dismissive*

          “They’re not working, folks”

          I seriously hope that you’re not implying all workaholics are embezzlers.

          You have previously stated you are a lawyer, which means it is likely that you have worked at a law firm yourself, or have colleagues that have worked at firms. You should know damn well that attorneys work long hours, including weekends, and the vast, vast majority of them are doing work, not embezzling. And the junior lawyers aren’t given much choice about spending this time at the office.

          1. SS Express*

            “Embezzlers are nearly always able to cover up what they’re doing…They’re not working, folks.”

            I thought it was very clear from PCBH’s comment that she was talking specifically about embezzlers, and that’s who “they” referred to.

            We all know there are lots of professions (not just law) where people do need to work long hours for legitimate reasons. Embezzlers pretend to be working long hours when they (the embezzlers) are actually spending that time on embezzlement.

        3. Tango Foxtrot*

          Interesting side note: my father is a genuine workaholic who resisted taking time off for years. His company ultimately put him on a paid probation and went through his team’s finances with a fine-toothed comb. After confirming that everything was aboveboard and meticulously recorded, and that he truly did just love his work, they reinstated him but also created a company-wide policy that every employee must take a week off at least once every two years (much to my mother’s delight).

    8. ZK*

      When I was a teen, a friend of the family was caught embezzling from the bank where he was a VP. Everyone thought he was just a workaholic, until his daughter got sick and died and he had to take time off. The person doing his work at the time uncovered the scheme. Everything about it was terrible. Oh the one hand, you feel bad for the guy because he’s just lost his daughter, but on the other hand, he stole from the bank / bank customers.

      After that, the bank required everyone to use their vacation time to take at least a week at a time.

      1. MK*

        Was the embezzling related to his daughter’s illness? Of the embezzlers I know off (a fair number, I work for the courthouse) a significant percentage were cancer patients. I wonder if they were trying to cover treatment-related expences (we have free public healthcare in my country, but there are additional costs) or if facing death lead them to adopt a “screw everything” philosophy.

        1. SS Express*

          Aw, that’s really sad. Just goes to show things are rarely black and white in real life.

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve shared this story a few times but just as a very personal connection with embezzlement to put a real spin on it. Taking time off [finally] was exactly how my old boss found out he was getting taken to the cleaners by an old employee.

      They weren’t running cash orders through the system!!! They’d just pocket the money and give them the merch, since they didn’t have a great inventory system [pretty difficult in that industry, think thousands of pieces of hardware kind of stuff], they didn’t catch the issue that way either. So someone would come by $100 in screws and she’d take the cash and there would be nothing else said.

      They were always a really good person to always take the walk ins and was one of those ‘Oh so good with clients, everyone loves this person!”, always at the desk, always hovering by the computer system, etc. Then got hit with a sudden sickness that took them down to the “I really can’t make it in.” That just so happened to be a day that a person came in to do a return…there was no receipt and he confirmed it was a cash sale. We still had a cash ledger and cash box of course, people used cash somewhat regularly in that business, since it was retail-ish. It then dawned on the boss what was happening and they went digging…and found other things that weren’t right. They don’t know how much was stolen.

      Another boss had someone hack and destroy the timeclock software and then lodge a complaint about their hours when they were let go. Which was a disaster. They were in charge of the payroll system and therefore without the right documentation that they were paid correctly, as indicated on their timesheets, etc. He owed back OT [even though he’s certain there was no OT, given the job and the times the person was there, aka not nearly as often as they claimed to be. It was ugly, ugly, ugly and he was still mad about it when I got there years later. So it’s good to do in accounting or payroll kind of stuff. He was also a hawk at that time of looking at each bank statement and being the only one to ever sign checks.]

      1. Anonysand*

        I have a similar story! My grandfather owns a small business and used to employ pretty much only family members. One of those family members was an adopted daughter, who I’ll call Jane. Jane had been a part of the family since she was a young teen and was eventually hired in to do the bookkeeping and accounting for the business, which brought in quite a bit of money. She was in the position for somewhere between 5 to 10 years (I don’t remember the exact dates since I was younger when it all came to light) until one day she got into a car accident, was hospitalized, and couldn’t come into work for a couple of weeks. During her absence, my grandpa noticed a discrepancy in the invoices and went looking to see what the payment history had been. In his digging, he found some weird stuff on the books that he didn’t have any recollection of- it turns out Jane had been producing bogus invoices for payments and had embezzled roughly a $250,000 USD over about three or four years. It was in small amounts, similar to other payments, so no one would suspect. Being in the office every day let her cover her trail, and if she hadn’t been on ordered bed rest after her accident there’s no telling how long she would have gotten away with it.

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          My late husband owned a corner store/gas station combo for years. One of his part-time(!) employees took an overseas vacation and while she was gone he noticed the cash flow was higher than normal. He investigated and she’d been skimming cash for years. This was before debit cards and electronic cash registers etc, almost every transaction was cash. Her main scam was when people paid cash for their gas, she’d ring it up as $15 vs $25.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          My grandmother’s family business had an employee my age who worked there since she was a teen. She was caught skimming cash in this manner. They fired her, but in a small town plot twist, they hired her back several years later, and she ended up buying the business once the last of my family retired! Happy ending, kinda!

    10. Meredith*

      At my old job, accountants had between 10 to 15 clients and one of the accounts had been stealing from her clients for years. Like millions of dollars in total. She was only caught because she had taken some time off and had forgotten to change one number in a client’s monthly financials, her supervisor saw it and did a little digging, and then all of it unravelled.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        In my financial company, we have to take a straight 2 week block. Even if there are public holidays during the period, there needs to be 10 working days taken as holiday. So with Whit Monday next week (10th June), that would mean only returning to work on the 25th.

    11. EmilyAnn*

      On an online messaging board, someone told a story of how after maternity leave they came back and were fired, but were in the process of paying back 5K to their employer. Once questioned about the 5K owed, it came out they had “accidentally” given themselves a double bonus that was uncovered while they were on maternity leave. If a person has access to any kind of money or financial processes they need to go on regular vacations.

    12. NotAnotherManager!*

      This happened at a place where one of my good friends from college worked, and they got called in to do the post-incident analysis.

      One of the principle’s assistants had made a fake consulting company and was submitting invoices for tens of thousands of dollars to this fake company nearly every month, usually only on really large engagements where the bills were routinely six-figures each month. Because the assistant handled the bills, she’d simple remove the fake consulting invoice from the billing report/final client bill every month. She made the mistake of going on vacation during billing time one month, and the stand-in assistant obviously didn’t know to take the $15K charge off before the principle saw it. This month, however, the principle saw it and called the finance department because they were certain that some other engagement’s consulting invoice was stuck on their bill, and they wanted finance to make sure it was charge to the correct client, not his.

      Well, that was the that was the thread that got pulled and unraveled the whole sweater. Finance couldn’t find the rightful owner of the invoice and pointed out to the principle that this company was routinely billing t his matter, he’d just been writing it off (write-off or discounts are not uncommon, and, on big engagements, they can be a lot of money). He said that surely they were mistaken and to send an accounting of all invoices from that company to his matters. The total was around $1.5M over several years.

      The assistant was both fired *and* arrested when she came back from vacation. Turns out she had an expensive cocaine habit and had spent nearly all of it.

  4. ceiswyn*

    OP#1: It’s not just about whether people have breaks; it’s about whether they have a space at work where they can actually take a personal call without either huge amounts of background noise or the risk of colleagues overhearing.

    As for whether their refusal to drop everything at their current employer is an insight into work behaviors; yes, it could be. It might mean that they’re conscientious people who don’t want to take a day off at short notice during a busy period. That is… not a red flag.

    I am surprised to see that you aren’t more flexible, considering you are the one seeking a good hire.

    1. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys*

      Exactly. The red flag is that Potential Company is expecting Potential Hire to drop everything for them. I somehow can’t fathom that they’d be thrilled if this was done to them when the employee is seeking other jobs.

      1. kiwidg1*

        I’d qualify your statement – this is one recruiter’s letter and may not reflect the attitude of the entire company. It is a potential flag, but I’d call it yellow vs. red. :)

        1. Triplestep*

          I think about this sometimes when I consider the times I was ghosted after an in-person interview. The hiring manager who had me come in multiple times to meet with multiple groups may have no idea that the recruiter didn’t do his job!

    2. TootsNYC*

      As for whether their refusal to drop everything at their current employer is an insight into work behaviors; yes, it could be. It might mean that they’re conscientious people who don’t want to take a day off at short notice during a busy period. That is… not a red flag.


      1. BlackBeltJones*

        It’s also a potential insight into the work environment at the new company!

    3. Triplestep*

      Yes, all of this. From my most recent job search: Hiring manager set up and rescheduled multiple skype calls with me, and each time I responded “if you want to video chat, I can be available x, y and z times. If you simply want a voice call, I can be available a, b and c times.” A phone call I could have taken from my car. A video chat was much more complicated, and I was even contemplating staying home to take it. She never clarified which it was, and since she was sending Skype invitations, I had to assume video. I stressed over how/where I would do this without getting caught … I probably stressed about this more than I prepared for the interview. Guess which kind of call it ended up being?

      1. Legal Beagle*

        I just went through the same thing. I assumed video and got all set up, put on makeup, changed my top…it was an audio call.

    4. merp*

      Yep, I got offered a single time for an interview and since I was lucky enough to be able to take a long enough break for it, didn’t ask for a different time. But I ended up walking back to my car for it because there was nowhere closer that wouldn’t be disruptive. For folks in other circumstances (busier places, people take public transit), it’s not as easy as that.

    5. Argye*

      I think I’ve told this story here before. A colleague from grad school was interviewing for faculty positions. She landed an interview at a very well-known State school, who informed her of the date of the interview. She requested it to be moved a week later – nope. It was that day or never. The problem? That was the actual day she was having a c-section. They refused to budge at all. She decided she didn’t really want to work there.

      1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

        My jaw doesn’t drop open on cue at many things, but it did the second I read “they refused to budge at all.” I concur with her, no one should want to work there.

        1. boo bot*

          I mean, if the baby was really committed to her mom’s career, she wouldn’t mind waiting an extra day, right?

      2. 1234*

        WTF. The colleague actually told State school “I cannot make it on X date due to my scheduled C-section” and the interviewer actually said “We are sticking to X date” I can’t. I don’t blame your colleague one bit.

        1. Argye*

          Yep. Keep in mind, this was a faculty interview. They typically take 3 days – fly in on day 1, spend 8am-8pm of day 2 interacting with people and giving presentations, and flying home on day 3. She thought that offering to do this 1 week after abdominal surgery would exhibit sufficient gumption, but no. They actually asked if she couldn’t just change her son’s birthdate. Anyway, women who are 9 1/2 months pregnant aren’t supposed to fly. She ended up going into labor before the scheduled date, and having an emergency c-section, but did not inform the school of that.

          1. Argye*

            Also, she got a much better job, and her husband was offered a job at the same place – the 2-body problem in academia is a serious one. The kid is now 15 and doing well.

            1. Former Employee*

              I love a happy ending.

              That school seems to have been suffering from an academic version of hardening of the arteries. Perhaps it has improved in the intervening years, given that there were probably many other qualified applicants that had no interest in a place that was that rigid.

    6. Manatees are cool*

      There are also jobs like mine where breaks are completely unpredictable. The managers just give you your break when it’s gone quiet or before rush hour.

      1. Kimchi*

        This is what my job is like. I work 7-3, 8-4, 9-5 or 10-6 and it’s completely random and different every week. I know one week in advance. My lunch break is 30 minutes but it could be any time between 2-6 hours into my day, which means it could be any time between 8-4, depending on which shift I’m working. Makes scheduling anything really difficult.

    7. Veryanon*

      Yep, this. At my last job, we sat in an open environment at those t-bone desk pod things. No privacy anywhere; it was even worse than cubicles. I despised it. Even the conference rooms were all in glass and my boss was the kind of manager that, if she saw you in a conference room on the phone, she’d just barge in and demand to know what you were doing. If I wanted to do a phone interview while I was at work, I’d either have to go out to my car or sneak down to the empty office space on the floor below. It was…not great.

      1. ceiswyn*

        Last time I was interviewing, the only quiet space I could think of that wouldn’t tip off my current employers was – the middle of the local park, five minutes’ walk away.

        Fortunately, I had an established practice of taking a midafternoon walk and nobody paid close attention to the timing. Equally fortunately the interviewer called exactly on time. They were also willing to arrange a 6.30pm interview time, because it would have been unethical and unprofessional for me to fudge a morning or afternoon off during my existing employer’s busiest period of the year.

        That level of respect for my time and existing commitments is one of the major reasons I took the job.

  5. Czhorat*

    I think the “Sarah” situation is one of those simple misunderstandings that can just end.

    You thought it was a communal coffee press, it wasn’t. She tagged it as hers to keep others from using it and didn’t seem to act inappropriately about it. That felt like a reasonable first step. So long as she isnt’ crowding anyone out then it’s really fine for some shelf space to take up the press, a favorite mug, or whatever other pantry essentials she needs.

    1. dealing with dragons*

      is there proof that it is? maybe Sarah is used to being the only one using it and is being unreasonable about it.

      honestly french presses are like $20 – LW should ask the office manager for one or bring one in for themself.

      1. Czhorat*

        Possibly, but it doesn’t cost anything to make the generous assumption, and a communal French press is a bit less usual than someone else bringing in their own coffee gear.

        Either way, letting Sarah have exclusive rights to it is a small enough concession that I’d just drop it, with maybe a quick word of apology if you run into her within the next day.

        1. Close Bracket*

          it doesn’t cost anything to make the generous assumption

          Wise words

          is a small enough concession

          It’s when the stakes are the smallest that the battles are the most bitter.

          1. dealing with dragons*

            I mean it’s super obviously the smallest thing ever, but I still think it’s worth it to ask someone about actually getting a communal one. This site seems to go big on communication, and my point in my comment was that there might already be a communal one, and Sarah has claimed it as her own. I’m not trying to assign any nefarious thing to it – just think it’s worth clearing up with a quick email to an office manager or facilities or something.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Putting her name on the item hardly sounds like an unreasonable response.

        Unreasonable, to me, would be something like sending an email to everyone or leaving a note with aggressive language about how this is SARAH’S French press and NO ONE ELSE should use it and everyone is so INCONSIDERATE.

        1. dealing with dragons*

          it is unreasonable if it was previously actually communal and she’s claiming it. that’s the only point I was trying to make; obviously if she did bring it in and it is hers it’s not unreasonable.

          I have no idea why someone being petty and claiming something is theirs when it isn’t is wildly outside of the realm of possibilities in this case. Yesterday someone was digging through trash and leaving it on top of the bin.

          My solution wasn’t find Sarah and have her prove it; it was see if a communal one could be requested and if not buy your own.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            I think an individual putting a label with her name on it, on a previously communal (presumably purchased by the company and not the individual herself) item would be extremely bizarre. Like it’s own letter of WTFery bizarre that it doesn’t make sense to me to even consider that possibility without something more clearly pointing to it. If NewPerson used SeeminglyCommunalItem and the next day it shows up with a label on it, 95% of the time, the reason that happened is because it was not actually communal and the owner realized someone else had used it and, welp, better clarify by labeling to prevent that from happening again.

            1. Lunita*

              At first I was thinking Sarah was kind of stingy for not wanting anyone else to use the French press, even if it was hers, since it’s in the kitchen but maybe she’s afraid the person now using it will take it home or break it or something.

          2. Susie Q*

            why do you assume it was communal property that Sarah suddenly claimed? Honestly, that is a ridiculous far reaching assumption.

      3. TootsNYC*

        why would you assume that Sarah decided to stake a claim to the French press that she didn’t own?

        Isn’t it simpler to assume that Sarah just leaves it in the kitchen rather than carrying it, and the filters, and the other stuff, back and forth to her desk?

        Occam’s Razor, right?

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, this seems pretty obvious to me. People bring in their own stuff like this all the time, and labeling is a logical response if it seems to be misperceived as communal.

        2. dealing with dragons*

          I’m just gonna leave one comment for the three people who’ve already made the same point –

          It’s not about assuming Sarah’s intention or whether the response is reasonable, it’s about exploring all of the options. I’m not saying LW needs to storm around the office challenging anyone named Sarah to armed combat over the french press. LW has stated they don’t know office policies, so clarifying with someone like an office manager is warranted, in my opinion.

          There are three possibilities:
          1) it is indeed Sarah’s
          2) it is not Sarah’s, but it is someone else’s
          3) it is not Sarah’s, but it is not someone else’s

          For the possibilities of it not being Sarah’s, it’s entirely reasonable that it started as an office french press and then Sarah was the only one who used it until LW showed up, and now LW is not cleaning it well or something so she’s staking claim. Again, I simply think it’s worth clarifying along the line instead of going “well I guess I’ll never use a french press at work again”.

            1. dealing with dragons*

              I’m not sure what you’re trying to get at? I was pointing out that if LW asks to have a french press provided for communal use, they may find out the office manager thinks there is one already. Advice in this thread seems to be that Sarah has first claimant rights and now LW can give up the dream of ever having a french press in the office again.

              1. Czhorat*

                There is a very much acceptable explanation and no need for further conflict here. You seem oddly fixated on exploring less likely hypotheticals and creating more potential conflict and weirdness where the situation could just be over.

                This is not a useful direction.

                1. dealing with dragons*

                  I’m not trying to make conflict, my original comment was very much IF x THEN y, not immediately jumping to Sarah is lying about it, etc etc. I’m also trying to provide a solution in that ok, Sarah claimed it, so in that case if you want a replacement ask for one and if that’s not an option get your own.

                  To me it feels like in this thread there can only be one french press in the kitchen, and since Sarah has claimed it, then that’s that.

                  For some reason people seem to be thinking that I am suggesting causing a stink to either Sarah or someone else over who the rightful owner is, etc, when it’s not what I’m trying to do at all. I apologize if it came off that way.

          1. Sarah N*

            I…what? I mean also, I suppose theoretically a disruptive prankster may be targeting your office and putting random name labels on everything, but this isn’t especially likely. And if Sarah truly is out of line, presumably a manager or the true owner of the French press will find her and let her know. As a new employee, this would be an incredibly short sighted battle to fight. The OP says they are new to the office and don’t even know Sarah personally. Why would you want to waste capital on such a tiny issue, especially when you don’t yet know the company culture around the kitchen and have zero idea as to whether Sarah is the sort of person who is politically powerful in the organization. If she’s wildly out of line with kitchen culture and deeply annoying all of her immediate coworkers who have been there a long time, that’s something you can let THEM deal with.

            1. dealing with dragons*

              how is it wasting capital to ask the office manager if a french press could be provided for communal use? No where have I suggested confronting Sarah over the issues. Maybe LW goes to whoever manages the space and they say “oh, right, Sarah is the CTO. we’ll pick up another one that can be more communal.” why pay $20 when you can also not pay $20.

              1. Sarah N*

                I guess it just seems like something that depends on the politics/culture of the office as to how well that would be received. In my office, it would be WEIRD to ask about using office money to pay for a single-use coffee maker like a French press. People bring their own stuff if they don’t want to do the big communal pot and want something fancier. Maybe in the OP’s office it would be completely fine to ask about a purchase like that. But the point is, as a new person you have no idea which sort of office you’re in. As a new person, I feel like it’s wisest to sit back and get a lay of the land as to whether other people make these type of purchase requests, etc. It doesn’t mean NEVER make the ask, but having/not having a communal French press is not a dealbreaker, so just wait a while to see what the office culture is.

                1. Czhorat*

                  It feels to me like a bit of an escalation. Not an intolerable one, but definitely pushing the matter. There’s no reason to spend the slightest bit of political capital on what is almost certainly a $20 coffee gizmo.

                  If Sarah is claiming the communal coffee press that’s almost more reason to stay away from it; if there’s a feud over a coffee pot then everyone involved looks bad. You don’t want to have any role in that story about the coffee-press wars.

                2. dealing with dragons*

                  that makes sense. I’m in a big office that’s spread around globally, so shooting an email to facilities isn’t a super big deal.

                  I’m also going to quote my suggestion from above: honestly french presses are like $20 – LW should ask the office manager for one or bring one in for themself.

                  I didn’t think I had to be super clear and outline all of the cases, but to me if Sarah can claim her coffee maker I don’t see why it’s a big deal that LW brings another one in and puts *their* name on it. Or doesn’t put a name on it at all, and writes it off as a business expense or something. It doesn’t feel like an escalation to me, just a perk LW didn’t realize wasn’t a perk and could be easily remedied.

                  I think people are fixating on the fact that I said Sarah might be nefarious in her intentions here, which was honestly a throwaway thought. I’ve never suggested going to Sarah or anything to do with her; only trying to figure out a way for LW to keep their french press access :)

          2. Darren*

            If it’s not Sarah’s office management is going to be having a rather sternly worded chat with her and remove the post-it notes anyway. I can’t see the harm in assuming that nobody would put their job at risk to try to reserve an actually communal item.

            Similarly if someone other than Sarah owned it they’d no doubt pop in see the post-it remove it (and replace it with their own if they wanted to make it clear they owned it and nobody else should use it) and go have a chat to Sarah. Again no need for me to make the reaching assumption that somebody would jeopardise their work relationship with an unknown and potentially high-level employee to reserve something that isn’t theirs.

          3. Susie Q*

            You’re not playing devil’s advocate. You’re assuming very illogical choices and honestly makes me wonder if someone has written into AAM about you.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Amen re: Occam’s Razor. When you hear hooves, think horses, not zebras.

      4. Massmatt*

        Who can really prove anything is theirs? Do you keep receipts for everything you buy and use? How about your shoes? Can you PROVE they’re yours, or did you just find and claim them? This is ridiculous.

        1. dealing with dragons*

          It’s really not ridiculous.

          here’s a script:
          LW: “Hey, [Office Manager/Facilities], could we get a communal french press provided for the break room?”
          OM: “Oh, there should already be one.” / “Oh, yeah, sure, I’ll add it to the list this month” / “That is something an employee should supply for themself.”

          in the first case, it’s worth letting them know someone has claimed it. in the second case, that’s $20 you don’t have to spend on yourself. third case is the default case and what happens with no communication, and is really not that bad so what do you have to lose.

          I’m definitely not saying go find Sarah and have her provide you the receipt for proof of purchase or go on a rampage through the office about it. There is a chance that the french press is indeed communal, so ask someone.

          1. Psyche*

            I wouldn’t really say you have nothing to lose. Asking for a communal French press when no one else seems to want one can come across badly. As a new person, that is not the impression you want to make. If she had been there longer then it would be different, but if she has had little interaction with the office manager she risks the strongest impression of her being that she is somewhat entitled.

            And if you are right and it is communal but Sarah has claimed it as her own, she gets embroiled in a weird coffee feud.

            I would just bring one in. $20 is worth it to avoid any drama.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      While I agree it should just end, I would never keep any personal items in a communal space (outside of a fridge with my name on it, which still doesn’t keep some people from stealing food but that’s another conversation). I would also be under the assumption that anything kept in the kitchen is for anyone to use. So OP didn’t mess up on this one, but yes she should just let it go.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        You can only make that assumption if *everyone* in the office has a private desk. I have worked as a receptionist — and it was a flat open table with no private space for personal belongings. It was right there when customers walked in. The mug I was using and one photo…that was it. I had to keep my tea supplies in the office kitchen, because it just wasn’t possible in my workspace. (I also had to carry my pocketbook with me every time I went anywhere because nothing fit in the pencil tray but that’s another matter.)

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I don’t think either one of them did anything wrong, but the OP sounds like she wants to find Sarah to passive aggressively let her know that OP thinks she’s being petty for not sharing, rather than find her so the OP can apologize or offer to replace the used supplies. I think this is more about the OP being miffed they can’t use the press and supplies anymore, so in a bit of retaliation they want to make Sarah remove her items from the kitchen altogether.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I agree. OP feels embarrassed because it seems to be a personal reprimand. Let it go. Assume the best of Sarah. It’s not like she came up to you during your first day and said, “BTW it’s my French press.” She realized that new people don’t know and took a small step to fix the situation.

    4. President Porpoise*

      Clearly, someone just named the French Press “Sarah”.

      At my work, it’d probably disappear – we can only have commercial grade appliances in our break rooms. Too many toaster fires.

      1. TootsNYC*

        a French press isn’t an appliance, and it doesn’t plug in. It’s more like a fancy manual drip coffee maker.

        1. President Porpoise*

          Mmm, yes, I was thinking something like a espresso machine for some reason. Can you tell I’m not much of a coffee drinker?

    5. Sarah N*

      I totally agree. I get that it might be slightly embarrassing to realize that you accidentally used a personal thing that wasn’t actually communal, but almost certainly Sarah is not sitting around stewing about what an awful person you are. Most likely, she realized her personal thing was being used by other folks and it wasn’t being cleaned properly/wasn’t put back in the same place (presumably, since otherwise she’d have no idea that it had been used), and so she put a label on it. Not a huge deal in either direction! This is one to let go, and possibly bring in your own coffee-making-supplies if you don’t like whatever the communal offerings might be.

      1. Rainy*

        And that her filters are disappearing at twice or more the speed they should do. Which is probably the real sticking point–if LW was using Sarah’s coffee and filters, they owe her some money.

        1. zora*

          But you don’t use filters in a French press, so that wouldn’t be an issue.

          And I think the OP can assume that if Sarah wanted money for her coffee, she would say something. I think she is free to let it go and not worry about whether she owes money.

      2. Cherries on top*

        But that seems way to logical. Sarah is probably plotting a caffeine deprived revenge, and the OP should bring this up with HR ASAP, preferably by mail CCing the whole company.

  6. Rusty Shackelford*

    While I understand a current job takes priority, I am surprised to see that these candidates aren’t more flexible, considering they are the ones seeking a new career.


    I wonder what this LW would think if one of her employees said “I know today is a busy day, but I need to take a break,” or “Sorry, I said I’d be in Thursday, but I have something else important that I have to do.”

      1. SS Express*

        That’s what I always think of when I read comments like this: I’m surprised employers aren’t more flexible, considering they are the ones with a vacancy they need to fill.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      LW: I think they’re interviewing, let me cut their hours and responsibilities since they’re leaving anyway.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Or worse, people get fired completely for being found out to be “jumping ship”.

  7. CatCat*

    Honestly, I don’t get #3’s issue. There’s nothing there that says the employee is burning out or that work is impacted negatively in any way. Like… what’s the actual work problem here? To me, it seems kind of patronizing for the boss to want to address what their employee does with part of their compensation based on the boss’s personal feeling that it “doesn’t seem right.”

    1. Dragoning*

      I agree. Except for the fraud possiblity–which I feel the LW would have/should have mentioned in the letter if it was relevant–it’s not really my manager’s decision when/if I take vacation, I feel? What if I don’t want a week off or would feel at loose ends if I did? What if they have a terrible home situation and can’t/don’t want to stay away from the office for that length of time?

      Sure, some of these possiblities are unlikely, but honestly–if it doesn’t impact the work, leave my vacation time out of it

      (said by someone who loves all the vacation time they can have and takes trips that use large chunks at once)

      1. Yvette*

        Exactly. Especially since it appears as though they can “carry” a reasonable amount of vacation. At Old Job, you could not carry, and I would be very cautious in my use of vacations days, feeling I needed to save them if my kids got sick. But invariably I would not need it and at the end of the year I would have a bunch of use-them-or-lose-them days. Year end was also crunch time, so my doing that could potentially create issues. But this does not seem to be the case here, the employee does not seem to be burnt out or the LW would have said so, and HR has no policy against it. It seems as though 6 weeks is the max and she does not try to exceed that. Honestly I think boss needs to just back off.

      2. CatCat*

        Ha! I am a vacation time stockpiler. I do take time off, but not nearly as much as my colleagues. Fortunately, I doubt my boss would ever hassle me about this and we have a good enough relationship that I could tell him to please not be so nosy.

        1. Fiddlesticks*

          I’m also a vacation stockpiler, and six weeks is the maximum we can carry over from year to year. I guess I’ve been a “nervous Nellie” ever since moving from a union job to a non-union job where I can be fired at will – my first job like that in nearly 20 years. If I’m ever fired – and I work for government, in a political atmosphere, so it could happen – I have the semi-comfort of knowing that in addition to a final paycheck I have six weeks of paid vacation that will be coming to me. In government no one at a regular staff level gets any kind of severance check, so that extra six weeks of pay really means something to my comfort level. Also, I’m over 50, and if I lose my job I know it’s going to be an uphill battle and a long one to find a comparable job. The employee that the OP is complaining about could be in a similar mental situation.

        2. Quiltrrrr*

          I was a vacation stockpiler…got paid out for 6 weeks of vacation when I left my last job (I was there 12 years, and that was the max I could accrue).

          This job…no roll-over of vacation from year to year and you don’t get it paid out at all if you leave and have it accrued. I have been told that if you don’t use it, they will MAKE you use it at the end of the year (which is slow for us). I’m not in any sort of financial position either.

          This falls under ‘things you wish you had found out before taking the job’, because I don’t like it at all.

      3. Massmatt*

        My big concern would be they are evidently carrying 6 weeks of vacation, and at some point it’s going to have to get used, unless the person quits or retires and can take it as a check—not all employers allow this. 6 weeks is a lot, it could be disruptive when it finally gets used.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      From the LW:

      She has banked about six weeks of PTO, and just takes enough off not to lose any. The latest wrinkle is that the company has lost a major contract, and I may not have another staffer next year to fill in while she is out.

      So it looks like one concern is that the employee will take off a large chunk of time at some point, and there won’t be anyone around who can do her job during that time. Of course, one way to handle this is to deny any request for six weeks of PTO.

      Another possible issue is that there might be a policy or law requiring any unused PTO to be paid out when the employee leaves. In a small business, six weeks can be a lot of money to come up with all at once.

      But “I’d push back with HR because there’s no reason that you, as this person’s manager, shouldn’t be able to determine that she’d benefit from time away from work”? Yeah, I don’t agree with that either.

      1. CatCat*

        As to you first point, the boss can just tell the employee. “I won’t be approve vacation time off of more than [X days in a row] since we lost the Major Contract. Of course, I’ll tell you when that’s no longer an issue.” Boss should be telling employees that anyway so there are no surprises.

        As to the second point, if I knew that was true about the company and I worked there, I’d be looking to bail quickly if covering such an obligation was going to be financially precarious. Huge solvency red flag. The solution is for the company to lower the cap of allowable accumulation of vacation days or mandate X days off per year. I’m assuming this isn’t an issue though given that the OP didn’t say that it was. There’s literally no actual work issue raised.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          As to the second point, if I knew that was true about the company and I worked there, I’d be looking to bail quickly if covering such an obligation was going to be financially precarious.

          Well, they just lost a major contract, and it sounds like it’s going to affect staffing, so yeah, it’s pretty likely this is an issue.

      2. K.*

        Is she saving up for maternity leave though? A lot of women do when they don’t have paid maternity leave so they can get paid during FLMA. I hoarded my days before having kids!

        1. Caroline*

          This was what I was wondering too. Not a proponent of speculating on other people’s pregnancy plans but this is the obvious (and totally fine) reason it gets done a lot at my office.

        2. Clisby*

          I don’t see how you can get paid during FMLA – it’s unpaid, by definition. You could take vacation in lieu of FMLA, or in addition to FMLA (some leave unpaid, some paid.)

          1. Rainy*

            Of course you can be paid during FMLA. In my organization, people usually start with their sick time, and once that’s used up they use their vacation, and they only go unpaid after their paid leave is exhausted.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I suggest you look up more about this.

            FMLA allows employers to require people to apply vacation time to their FMLA leave. So if you get 12 weeks, the company can say, “2 of those have to be the vacation weeks you’ve accrued, and you have to use those up before you move on to the 10 weeks of unpaid.”

            There are some companies that will let you take 12 weeks of unpaid weeks under FMLA and save your vacation weeks, but the law doesn’t require that.

            When I had both my kid, I had to use my vacation weeks first, and they counted toward FMLA.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              Also even if the company will allow you to save your vacation, some people would not want to or couldn’t afford to go 12 weeks unpaid. When I took FMLA for maternity leave, I got STD for the first 6 weeks and used vacation for the next 6 weeks. Back then my company let us keep up to twice our annual accrual (which was 4 weeks a year at the time) so I stockpiled as much as I could beforehand and finished maternity leave still with vacation time in the bank.

              FMLA says they don’t have to pay you, and that you can’t be denied the time off, but companies are given latitude in whether/how to use other forms of paid time off during that period.

              Unfortunately my company later changed the rule to only 1x annual accrual, which means I can’t stockpile as much for the next kid AND created a bit of a problem when they changed the rule because a lot of people had 4+ weeks of vacation they needed to use or lose in short order.

          3. SusanIvanova*

            In California and a few other states it is paid. I was on it for a month; the check didn’t come from my company and there were some tax wrinkles to deal with.

        3. Catwoman*

          Yeah, she could also have a sick relative that is getting progressively worse and wants to be able to use those days when it gets to a certain point. Or planning to adopt a child from another country. Or a million other reasons. Some people also just prefer to take long weekends rather than longer holidays.

          It is good for the boss to check in to make sure that she feels like she *can* leave if she wants to as far as her workload, but I don’t think it needs to go further than that (with a nod to Allison’t note about fraud detection).

      3. Yorick*

        I think you could say, “If you’re interested in taking a long vacation, it may be best to take it this year. Next year we may not have enough coverage to approve vacation that’s longer than a couple of days because we lost Major Contract.”

      4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        I’m a vacation hoarder too and while it’s not my primary reason, the possibility of a nice cash out if I lose or need to quit my job (I’m in California) IS a reason why I don’t use up all of my now 6-week accrued vacation time. I’m not high enough in the hierarchy to get much or any severance package otherwise.

        1. SunnyD*

          My husband kept track of the payput amount for his stockpiled vacation, and counted it in his emergency fund.

      5. pentamom*

        I don’t know how it works everywhere, but in my state multiple weeks PTO can be paid out a week at a time when the employee leaves.

    3. Caroline*

      My fiance is this way but to an even more obnoxious extent–he gets a ton of travel comp time (fed gov employee) with a highly flexible work situation and would prefer to just work 7 hour days every day over even taking Fridays off. His coworkers (notably, not his boss) want him to conform and take big chunks of vacation time like they do. But for him it leads to a much better work-life balance and he can take off half days when there’s kid stuff to deal with.

    4. kittymommy*

      I think the problem I have is the boss saying that the employee needs to take the whole week off. As long as the employee is not thinking they can bank 6 weeks and take them all off at the same time, and that there’s no issue of burnout or over-stress, forcing them to take vacation in a manner that doesn’t fit for them is a little condescending. Personally I wouldn’t want to take a whole week off (especially with the weekends bookended) unless I’m actually leaving town or something. My sleep pattern gets all messed up and it takes a while for me to adjust. I’d rather take Fridays off (like the LW says their employee does) to have three days in a row.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I accrue more vacation and sick leave than I take, and that’s on purpose. Several of my family members have had unexpected medical emergencies, so I’m aware that at any moment something could happen that could make me unable to work for a while. I buy short term disability as part of my benefits package so if I have to go on FMLA, I’m guaranteed at least part of my salary. But I’m saving up my PTO until I have enough banked to cover an extensive leave at my full rate of pay so I can stop paying the extra amount in my premiums. I’m pretty close to that number now, so I’m planning to take more vacation in the next year or two than I’ve had in the past. For me, taking smaller amounts of vacation and lumping them in with long weekends is a risk management technique.

      I don’t know why the LW’s employee doesn’t want to take a week off, but the easiest way to find out would be to ask. And then, if LW really thinks it’s important, they can go through those reasons and figure out potential solutions.

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        Yeah, I feel like this was the piece of advice that was missing from the response.

        She’s worked there for 8 years, and has six weeks banked, and has never taken a substantial vacation. It doesn’t sound like a generous policy, and if she needs to be able to count on her income, it makes perfect sense that she’s banking the max allowable in case there’s an emergency.

        For the manager to really be in the clear on pushing her to take time off, I think the company needs to have paid short and long term sick/family leave as well.

    6. Errol*

      I think it depends on the work. If it’s high stress or just busy all the time, I can really see the manager pushing this issue. The LW was very vague on it, so it could be either way. They also weren’t saying this person should take all 6 weeks this year, just 1. Which after 8 years without a week off, it might actually do way more good then you think.

      1. D'Arcy*

        They haven’t taken a *full week off* ever, but they use their vacation time regularly. The manager *might* have a reason to step in if the employee was getting visibly burned out, but there’s nothing about that in the letter. The manager is just saying, “My employee isn’t using their vacation the way I would, this is wrong and I must correct it, why isn’t HR backing me up?”

    7. D'Arcy*

      What makes #3 especially offputting to me is that the employee *is* in fact using their vacation time. In fact, the employee is using *all* of the vacation time they make *every* year at this point; they’ve banked the 6 week maximum over the course of their previous time at the company and are now using all of the vacation time they earn over that limit so that they don’t lose it, but are not tapping into the banked amount.

      OP #3 is literally arguing that as a manager, they have the right to tell the employee that, “You’re using your vacation time *wrong* by using it to take long weekends throughout the year. I’m requiring you to spend it the way *I* would prefer, which is week-long chunks, even though HR just told me there’s no rule giving me standing to do so.”

      I find it frankly inexplicable that Allison is siding with the OP on this one. It’s a ridiculous intrusion.

  8. Semprini!*

    I’m surprised LW isn’t more flexible, seeing as they’re the ones who are at liberty to dedicate time and space to this hiring process as part of their actual job.

    1. Lumen*

      The attitude that employers are doing employees a favor by deigning to consider them, much less hire them, is a pretty strong and widespread one these days, unfortunately.

      1. Clorinda*

        And it’s at least three years behind the times, too. Many employees have more choices than the employer may be willing to acknowledge.

      2. TootsNYC*

        not just “these days”–I think it was actually far more prevalent in decades and centuries past.

        the idea that the employer needs to prove themselves is really pretty new.

      3. Over 60 & Forever Young*

        You hit the nail on the head, Lumen. I went through this for *2 years* of a job search (while unemployed at the time). Potential employers had me jumping through hoops, vaguely offering me employment, and I had a flexible schedule to be available at their will. There were constant insinuations that they were doing me a favor by considering me and I “should be grateful” for that. (With a strong resume reflecting long term experience as an Admin.) Fast forward to Sept. 2018 when I accepted an Admin position at a small business, the only one to hire me. Had no choice but to grab that job, which I’ve discovered rather quickly is a toxic environment full of bees. It’s part time and off the books. (I know…had no other choice but to take it for financial reasons.) My goal is to move on and I’m searching out other jobs. But with no breaks or paid PTO, it’s challenging. Even on my days off, they call me with questions. I’m keeping optimistic that I’ll land softly somewhere else at the right time.

  9. pleaset*

    To OP1 – how about “I am surprised to see that staff of these companies aren’t more flexible, considering they are the ones asking for labor, and the hiring is actually part of their paid jobs”?

    Think about both sides please.

  10. TootsNYC*

    Also, for #1–they might not even GET the job you’re interviewing them for.

    And you want them to trash their reputation with the current employer for it?

    In fact, I think it’s an indicator that they are a STRONG candidate, because they show dedication to their current job, even as they are actively trying to leave it.
    That’s the mark of a professional attitude.

    1. Lumen*

      When I was doing phone screenings at my last job, that was something I would note for the hiring manager. It was a pretty toxic place, but at least a couple of the managers there *did* consider it a plus if someone was continuing to behave professionally and with dedication to their current job, even if they were looking to leave. It really is about having some perspective.

  11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I find it fascinating that OP 1 is asking about the candidates “priorities” and if it’s a flag they won’t drop everything and throw caution to the wind to jump at the dates provided, despite having responsibilities to their current employer. It is a great sign, it shows that they’re dedicated, even when theyr’e trying to leave an employer, they’re putting their current job in front of their personal desire to move on.

    You should always be flexible with people interviewing. I always give my preferred slots first and end with “if this doens’t work with your schedule, please let me know and we can work to find a time that works best for you.” It’s been rare that anyone doesn’t have time for one of the preferred slots but it happens. I have even gone so far as to have people come in during non traditional work hours because that’s how important their job at their current employer is or because they don’t have or can’t use PTO to make the arrangement to come in prior.

    It makes me think that if we hire them, they will be reliable and not quick to call off without substantial advance notice.

    These people have lives and they don’t revolve around your company or your needs when it’s just a phone screen. Some don’t have a place to take calls, maybe they take the bus and don’t have a car to duck into. Maybe it would look strange to take a personal call and duck into a conference room for it. Everyone is coming from a very unknown setup, you’re still strangers, so always give them the benefit of the doubt and don’t read too much into little things until you’ve had some time to get to know them a little bit.

    1. Over 60 & Forever Young*

      And side note, TMBL – I’ve been reading AAM only for a few months now (how I wish I’d found this long ago) – and I love your comments, spot on!

    2. lnelson in Tysons*

      When I was interviewing I often found it frustrating when the potential employer wasn’t that flexible with times. So when suggesting times and saying something like, most convenient for me would be first thing in the morning or after 3pm. Afterall unless the potential employer is in the same building or right around the corner commuting time needs to be factored in and depending on where both parties are located it is easy to have to tack on at least 30 minutes before and after, providing the potential employer even starts the interview on time. So suggesting 11am won’t really work for an in person interview. Especially when one is temping/contracting because you are not paid for hours not worked so loosing 4-5 hours out of a day can be a hassle especially if you are lucky enough to be interviewing multiple place.

      For phone for video calls the same thing. Depending on what the position is or duties involve it might not be so easy to set aside time. Having said that I have missed phone interviews because last second something has come up. It is awkward to explain to your boss when she is standing right in front of you that you need to take this personal call for another job. So on another call because some serious issue has come up and you were finally able to get legal counsel on the phone.

      The only time I had practically no issues with interviewing was when I was unemployed.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah that’s why so many people have to use the “doctors” appointment excuse in order to get out of the office for an 11am interview, argh. It’s why we’re always flexible with doing things in non-traditional hours as well.

        I look at it as we’re hiring, we are the ones who want the best person for the job, to get that person and benefit us most of all [since we of course pay well but in the end, we view employees as someone we need more than they need us, it’s HARD AF to find good employees, I’ll laugh in the face of anyone who says differently], so it’s in our best interest to work with employees both prospective during the hiring process and current employees whenever necessary.

        I have never ran a rigid ship and don’t see myself thriving on one, despite being flexible myself. I took time off plenty of times and made excuses for it when necessary when job hunting. However I had bosses that I could do that with and not run a huge risk of hurting myself in the long run.

        It is a bit weird but I still deal with it but I’ve had people who are unemployed still be particularly unavailable for a lot of suggested, convenient to us, time slots. I just go with the idea that “okay well they still have a life and plans, be that recreational or professional development or traffic court, whatever, they have a schedule even while unemployed.” [Yes I’ve had people with court dates and only found out after hiring them, which isn’t a deal breaker anyways but it shed a whole lot of light over why they were a little sketchy about their availability at first!] Then I generally feel bad that they have to be quiet about it because it is a deal breaker for so many hardnosed employers to hear anything related to “court” and they jump to “Oh must be murdeeeeeeeeer.”

        1. Can I see a doctor's note?*

          I’ve mentioned this before, but I had heard from someone who was still working there that one of my previous employers had demanded to see doctor’s notes from anyone who said they had a doctor’s appointment.

          Did any of the companies do a background check? Different old job did those but it was not always an automatic “no” if something was flagged especially if candidates are up front about what the issue was.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            My last two jobs did a background check. But only for criminal offenses, so traffic violations, unless severe, don’t show up in those.

            They are only hard no’s if it’s a position of power in most instances. It’s mostly trying to weed out theft or violence, nobody cares much about possession when you were 20 something or unpaid traffic tickets kind of stuff that can pop on those things and be an automatic “nope” for some places with strict policies.

            But I also have never worked anywhere in the last 15 years that did drug screens either. So the idea of a doctors note is laughable to me in so many ways. I’ll never work for anyone who is that obsessive about tracking absence.

            I’m also in a state that has paid sick leave and you cannot request any of that nonsense from them unless it’s 3 consecutive days. I can take a mental health day, suckaaaaas.

  12. voyager1*

    #3 I am a guy and I take my shoes off at my cube pretty much daily. Granted I have socks on. Frankly I don’t think going barefoot is a big deal, not much different then sandals really, but I am probably in the minority. If you were to bring it up I would come from the client perspective vs respect perspective. If I was her boss I would say barefoot is fine with no clients but with clients then must wear shoes. For all we know the receptionist has foot problems or PF.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      I think the difference is you’re taking them off at your cube. I do the same, but I put my shoes back on the second I’m going anywhere else within the office.

    2. CL*

      The receptionist usually doesn’t know when clients, vendors, big bosses, etc. are going to walk through the door. As the most front-facing person there, she needs to always look professional. During my receptionist days (and even now that I have a private office but still deal with people all day) I always wore shoes unless I was actually sitting at my desk with my feet out of view. And even then I had my shoes right there to slip on if I needed to.

      I would suggest the receptionist (or anyone else in that position) keep a pair of comfortable flats at the office. I like to wear heels, but too much walking the halls and I need to put on something more comfortable for a while!

      1. Kira*

        I also think it’s okay to take off your shoes if you’re sitting behind your desk with your feet out of view, but do have them nearby to put them on the second you get up.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I think the bigger issue is that they have clients coming in and out of the office space and it’s unprofessional. I often take off my shoes, and if it’s summer I’m barefoot. I walk around like that sometimes, but we’re a small office and don’t have clients in here at all. I’ve even done it at my last company which was a lot bigger (still no clients), but would only walk around my department area barefoot, not through the whole building.

    4. MK*

      “not much different then sandals really”

      No. The issue with going shoeless isn’t how much skin your feet are showing, it’s that it’s too casual for the workplace. Consider that the two major places people usually don’t wear shoes are their homes and the beach.

    5. Fiddlesticks*

      I have chronic foot problems (four surgeries, two permanent screws, continual pain), and I would NEVER think of walking around my office barefoot or even in socks. It’s disrespectful, unprofessional and unhygienic. Because of my own foot issues, I wear only flats or heels less than 1 1/2 inches, and that may also seem unprofessional to some people used to more formality, but it’s the best I can do and it’s certainly better than bare feet.

      If your shoes hurt so much you can’t wear them for 8 hours at the office, you need to get new shoes, and if that means you need an ADA accommodation note from your doctor to wear orthotic flats or sandals, so be it.

      1. Massmatt*

        I was going to say this, if the receptionist’s shoes hurt that much she needs different shoes. Maybe she should see a podiatrist.

        1. Fiddlesticks*

          Or an orthopedic surgeon, seriously, if she has significant problems and has health insurance that will cover her situation. I suffered for years before having surgery which took away about 80% of the daily pain and allowed me to wear normal flat(ish) shoes. I can’t participate in activities that involve jumping or putting weight on the balls of my feet, like basketball or rock climbing, and wearing heels is agony, but I’m just thankful to be able to walk without pain most of the time, and thankful that I don’t work in an outdated environment requiring women to wear heels!

        2. SunnyD*

          When I was a receptionist, I was so freaking broke. Buying multiple pairs of shoes – especially quality comfort ones – was not in my budget.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I came here to say something about this too. I can usually find mostly comfy sneakers at $20 if I look around, but business dressy shoes that don’t hurt are expensive!

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              Honestly, comfy sneakers would be more professional than being barefoot IMHO. Maybe I’m a special snowflake but I’ve always been able to find acceptably comfortable business-appropriate shoes at Ross, TJ Maxx, or even Wal-Mart for less than $30.

        3. SS Express*

          Most women’s dress shoes are really not comfortable or good for the feet, even the more pricey ones – they’re designed to have a very narrow fit and a small toebox, which is considered more flattering and “feminine”, but also means they pinch and rub (even flats). Receptionists are often expected to have particularly “professional” attire, which means the more comfortable styles are out, and their jobs often require them to be on their feet more than most office workers. It’s also not the best paid profession so the better quality shoes that would be at least somewhat more comfortable may not be in her budget. I agree she needs a better solution than walking around the office barefoot, but suggesting that if she can’t comfortably wear typical women’s office shoes for eight hours she must be doing something wrong is pretty unfair. Hardly anybody can comfortably wear those shoes all day if they’re on their feet.

          If your shoes hurt so much that you can’t wear them for 8 hours straight, they’re women’s shoes.

          1. Susie Q*

            What shoes are you buying? I’m a professional woman who can easily find inexpensive professional shoes that I can wear all day (and I have foot problems).

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            I started buying my shoes in wide sizes (E, EE) for that reason! It was the only way I could find dressy ones that could stand up to a day on my feet.

  13. literal desk fan*

    #2 is also a HUGE safety issue! If she drops something, she will injure her foot much more easily if she doesn’t have any footwear on. If the unprofessionalism conversation doesn’t sway the boss into action, hopefully a potential safety issue would.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Last week I opened my bottom file cabinet drawer with my foot too close and it really hurt! And that was while wearing shoes. It would have hurt a lot more without them.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think it’s kind of over the top to say it’s a HUGE safety issue. It is a safety concern but she’s filing, she’s not going to wreck herself by dropping a file on her foot. If she were carrying file boxes to storage barefoot, perhaps I’d see the point.

      It’s important to frame it in a reasonable manner, since if you’re seemingly over the top in your concerns, it turns on a lot of people’s defenses of “no, it’s seriously not that big of deal, that’s ridiculous.” responses.

      If she’s wearing heels, that’s a safety concern of it’s own too, yet there’s no outrage about that. So I’d love to throw that at anyone who said I should stand in heels [if they’re required, which some offices do require and since this is an accounting firm, I wouldn’t be shocked if they were there], is awful for your legs and can lead to sciatica.

      1. pleaset*

        “I think it’s kind of over the top to say it’s a HUGE safety issue.”


        “It’s important to frame it in a reasonable manner, since if you’re seemingly over the top in your concerns, it turns on a lot of people’s defenses of “no, it’s seriously not that big of deal, that’s ridiculous.” responses. ”

        Exactly. There is far too much use of “safety” as a cudgel, here and in life. And when I hear someone using this in an argument when it doesn’t seem very relevant, i start to doubt the veracity of other arguments they make.

    3. Massmatt*

      This seems really alarmist assuming she is in a typical office and not a machine shop or similar.

      The boss or manager should just tell her to put her shoes on, no need to ring the “danger” bell.

  14. SG*

    In my first entry-level position, I had a phone screening interview for a job I badly wanted, and the woman who was scheduling them informed me that she would not hold them before 10 PM or after 3 PM, or between noon and 1 PM because that was her lunch hour, and gave me the option of having the interview at either 2 PM or 2:30 PM on this one Wednesday only. I worked in a tiny office with a handful of busybodies who would narc to the toxic manager if someone deviated from their usual routines, and if you were suspected of job-hunting (which would include slipping out to make/take an unusual phone call) you ran the risk of being let go for “business reasons” (i.e., retaliation). When I asked if she might possibly consider a slightly earlier or later time (because then I could fake-schedule a doctor’s appointment to arrive late or leave early), she said brusquely, “Don’t you get breaks? Can’t you take a late lunch? Just figure something out, because these are the only times you get.”

    My solution: After lunch on the interview day, I loudly informed my officemate (one of the worst busybodies) that oh crap, I needed to run out and buy tampons at the nearby drugstore. Left the office at 1:50 PM. Made the call at 2 PM, standing in the drugstore parking lot. Finished the phone interview by 2:15 PM. Ran in, bought a box of tampons (which I didn’t actually need), returned to work at 2:25 PM, left the tampons sitting on my desk all afternoon.

    Was this overkill? Probably. But when I passed the phone screening and made it to the actual interview stage, I did tell my interviewer (not the same woman) that I didn’t appreciate the lack of consideration for their candidates’ time. I don’t know if it helped, but at least I said it.

      1. SG*

        Even if I’d taken a late lunch, leaving the office for lunch would have been a red flag for me as well — I wouldn’t have had enough time to build up a periodic habit of eating away from my desk to avoid being narc’d on!

    1. Phony Genius*

      Sounds like the people you were interviewing with weren’t much better than the people you were working for.

      1. SG*

        In that case, the job I was applying for was at a federal government agency of several thousand people, so the first-level hiring people were almost completely separate from the actual office doing the hiring. I don’t even think they worked in the same building. Even my in-person interviewer said that she didn’t know the person who’d done the phone screening (though from her resigned tone, she said that it didn’t surprise her that the phone interviewers wouldn’t be flexible).

        Thankfully, I didn’t get that job, and at the next interview I had a few months later, the interviewer was happy to stay late at his office (after 5 PM!) so I could call him without raising suspicions at my current job. I got that job and escaped.

        1. Res Admin*

          #1 One of the best hires we had at my old job absolutely could not make it during business hours so we held her interview at 6pm (logistically difficult since it was a secure building and the doors locked at 5pm). She was great and is still there–and promoted up to my old position. It would have been our loss if we had refused to accommodate her current work schedule.

        2. Over 60 & Forever Young*

          The fact that a potential employer would be willing to stay layer after business hours to accommodate the interviewee is literally gold, and it says a lot in their favor about how they treat people. I would jump at a job offer from an employer like that, and SG, I’m very happy for you that you were hired there, congrats!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m glad you told someone about it at least. I’m also glad you didn’t get the job because that kind of rigid nonsense and total lack of respect for someone, in a situation you know nothing about, is pretty disgusting IMO.

      Since it was a government position, I’m not surprised they’re totally unwilling to let it sink into their minds that other places of employment aren’t as easily to manipulate. Yeah, you may get your mandated breaks but like you said, leaving or finding a safe space isn’t always going to be acceptable. It’s just so grossly out of touch and makes me rage. I have only ever had one toxic job and thankfully nothing like you described, just a nonsensical comically bad boss. I was able to slip in and out without any issues but it was a big building and I had a lot of balls in the air, so they just assumed if I wasn’t at my desk, I was in a warehouse doing things. And I pulled a ‘Oh I just got a spur of the moment appointment thanks to a cancellation!” card once.

  15. TootsNYC*

    I actually think French Press Person *did* in fact err.

    A French press that was NOT out on the counter, but was on a shelf, is one that I would automatically assume was personal. If it belonged to everyone to use, it would be on the counter, or on a low shelf.

    But OK, maybe that LW hasn’t run into that. Now they have–treat anything that’s inside a cabinet as though it’s not yours.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Not necessarily. In a kitchen without a lot of counter space, appliances like that will get put on a shelf.

    2. MagicUnicorn*

      The problem with this reasoning is that “inside a cabinet” isn’t universal code for “not shared” and on the counter does not necessarily mean it is for common use. My office stores all communal small appliances and utensils inside cabinets, and places personal items next to the sink so people can see them and remember they have them there.

      At a previous position, I was told on my first day that all the plain white coffee mugs (of which there were several styles and sizes) were for anyone to use, while the quirky, colorful, or seasonal ones belonged to specific individuals. The white mugs were on one shelf, the rest were on another. I discovered that the one plain white coffee mug I selected the next morning from the white mug shelf was our CEO’s personal mug and everyone else somehow knew it by sight and knew to avoid it, but refused to store it with the rest of the individual mugs.

    3. Not All*

      Not in any office I’ve ever been in…EVERYTHING communal was kept in cabinets. Anything sitting out would get grungy and made counter cleanup less efficient so absolutely everything went in the cabinets/drawers.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Disagree. If I see something in a communal area that isn’t labeled with someone’s name (outside of food in the refrigerator), I’m assuming it’s for everyone.

    5. StaceyIzMe*

      If it’s kept in the kitchen, it should be for common use unless labeled otherwise. Mugs, a French Press, toasters, coffee hoddles, tea kettles and similar items would be presumed to be provided by the company for employee use. “But it’s MIIINNNEEE…” applies to consumables that the company has not specifically provided (so your personal cream or favorite snack or your lunch, for example). But unless it’s the norm for people to keep personal items such as mugs, bowls or small tools/ appliances in the kitchen, it’s kind of ridiculous to assume people would simply know that it’s a personal item. I know this isn’t everyone’s view, but it strikes me as kind of snowflake-y that someone would store items in this category in the kitchen, fail to label them as personal, and then be surprised to find that “well, I’ll be gosh-darned…somebuddy used it”. (Yep, that happens when people eat and drink in a common space using shared equipment, appliances and utensils.)

    6. whistle*

      I think it makes a difference that the French press is reusable. A granola bar in a cabinet – maybe that’s someone’s and if you eat it they won’t be able to eat it. A French press – maybe that’s someone’s, but after you use it they will still be able to use it.

    7. Bee*

      This is way too rigid. Maybe there’s like six inches of useable counter space so everything is stored in cabinets (my current office)! Maybe a French press is too easy to accidentally elbow off the counter and break! Maybe there are a bunch of mugs for communal use stored on the same shelf! I would assume all consumables are off-limits unless told otherwise, but you can’t make hard universal rules about what parts of the kitchen are obviously communal and what parts are obviously personal.

    8. Kathleen_A*

      I assume everything in the kitchen is communal, unless it’s labeled otherwise, and so far…I’m quite confident that I’ve never been wrong. In contrast to TootsNYC, I’m pretty sure that’s the natural thing to think. In a communal kitchen, that adjective “communal” is very important. For most people and most work places, the default assumption is, I think, “It’s in the communal kitchen, so it’s for the use of the entire community served by this kitchen.”

    9. Moray*

      Quite possibly Sarah was fine with it being communal and then changed her mind, as is her prerogative if she’s the one who bought it.

  16. Scheduling Sally*

    Yeah… a company recently approached me (in response to my application) assigning me to take an editing test over a holiday weekend. They emailed me late on the Friday before the weekend, assuming I would drop everything to take their test, due on the Tuesday after the holiday ended. I wrote back to ask if this could be rescheduled for another date, seeing as I already had plans (both professional and personal) for the weekend, and this company didn’t bother to respond until Monday with a response akin to “nope, sorry, you can apply again in the fall if you want, we hire for this position all the time.” It annoyed me that they attempted to assign me (unpaid) work without checking to see if my schedule allowed for it, but it also alerted me that this was likely their MO, and therefore not a company I’d care to work for anyway, if that was indeed the case. The follow-up email also suggested they have high turnover, maybe because of their terrible business practices?

    1. Close Bracket*

      Was this an independent contractor position for some place like Cactus Communications or Scribber (sp?)? That’s a bit what the application process to them was like. Places like that have so many applicants that they can afford to blow people off. They are not flexible with assignments, either.

      Do you mind telling me the company name?

      1. Scheduling Sally*

        Yes, it was an independent contracting position for what I think is just a one-person publishing operation. This was also before any interview or back-and-forth communication whatsoever. It was literally the first communication from the company back to me after I’d filled out their form application (maybe a week or 2 prior?), so it seemed quite brusque to be “assigned” an editing test (the company attached the test to this first email, which seems poor email etiquette, too, given I’d no previous correspondence with them) without any discussion about my availability to do so.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Maybe it is brusque, but it’s also SOP for that type of arrangement. If you want independent contractor editing work, that’s what you can expect.

    2. Over 60 & Forever Young*

      Wow… to assign you an editing test (yes, unpaid work) as a first communication with you is pretty ballsy, IMO. *Maybe* reasonable further along in the hiring process, after phone screening and first interview (again *maybe*)… But to insist on a time consuming assignment beforehand is not acceptable at that early stage. You definitely dodged a bullet there!

      1. Close Bracket*

        Skills tests like that are not unpaid work. Standard for an editing test is one page at the most, and it’s not a customer deliverable. It’s a canned piece of writing where they know where the errors are bc they placed them there. It’s not that different from a typing test.

        Now, this particular place might have sent her a novel length author submission, I don’t know. That would be unreasonable. The standard editing test, though? Nah. It is annoying that you have a short time period to complete it in that you don’t get to schedule, but the test itself (usually) is not that onerous.

  17. Me*

    OP1 – there is an old way of thinking that employers have all the cards and employees (or prospective employees, just have to deal with it. Among other things, that attitude is not going to get you the best candidate. That’s going to get you whoever can accommodate some fairly unreasonable restrictions.
    Up to you – do you want to take your chances at finding the best candidate for the job or settling for just a warm body?

    1. Over 60 & Forever Young*

      This! A kitten louder for the people in the back!! (Which is btw, why I am where I am right now at my toxicjob)

      1. Over 60 & Forever Young*

        Oops! I obviously meant a *little* louder for the people in the back lol! Although I do like my first choice of words for “a kitten louder”… who wouldn’t love a few loud kittens haha!

        1. pamela voorhees*

          I vote we use kittens as standards of sound measurement. “Ohh, too quiet, can you make it like, two and a half kittens up?”

          1. Over 60 & Forever Young*

            Yes Pamela! I’ll take your two and a half kittens and raise you five lol! Speaking of kittens as sound measurement, there’s a site called “Purrli” (I believe) which has different levels of purring cats for your listening pleasure.

  18. Turtlewings*

    I totally understand that going barefoot is unprofessional and the receptionist needs to wear her shoes, but I gotta say, it’s not always so easy to just “find better shoes.” I don’t know why my feet are weird, but there’s been periods of my life where every pair of shoes I owned hurt, no matter what I did. About four years ago, I finally found a pair that didn’t; when those wore out, it took me literally a year to find replacements that didn’t hurt. Now those replacements are wearing out… here we go again.

    1. TootsNYC*

      If you can swing the expense, next time you find a pair of shoes that doesn’t hurt, rush out and buy more pairs of them, as soon as you realize they’re good.

      I’ve been able to buy more pairs in the same size and style online even if they’re not in the stores anymore.

      There’s a narrow window, so act quickly. But the times I’ve done this sort of thing, I’ve been very happy.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        But be sure to try them on and not just stick them in the closet. I’ve went back for more of the same comfy shoe and the exact same style and size fit differently on different pairs.

      2. Kathleen_A*

        Also, if you want/need to wear the same style of shoes every day (whether this is because of foot problems or just because you have to wear work boots or some other sort of very specific uniform-type shoe), you should always get two pairs of the identical shoes if you can afford it. The reason is that alternating shoes day by day will usually make two pairs of shoes last more than twice as long as one pair of shoes will. The idea is that giving shoes a break and letting them air out and so on will make them last longer.

        Or so I’ve heard. It makes sense, but I’ve never had to wear the same shoes day after day so I’ve never tested it out for myself.

      3. Rainy*

        Every time I’ve ever tried this, it turns out that the shoe is not awesome with some issue that shows up after about 3 months of wear.

      4. Anonym*

        And set up eBay search alerts for them, too! I do this with all my favorite hard to fit stuff!! Strongly, strongly recommend this approach!

        I now have 7 pairs of my favorite work slacks that they stopped making 2 years ago, and am hunting down a third pair of my favorite, most comfortable ever, rare unicorn work appropriate flats.

    2. Jessen*

      Yeah I’m the same, at least with dress shoes. And often the ones that fit come from an outlet or from goodwill, so there’s no way to buy more than one pair. In my case the problem is that apparently my toes are fatter than women’s shoes are made for, meaning basically every pair of women’s dress shoes crush my toes. The length and width are right, but the shoe itself isn’t high enough (I don’t know if there’s an actual word for it, I don’t mean the heel or sole height but the height of the actual part that your foot goes in).

      1. Zephy*

        I think the part of the shoe you’re referring to is the “vamp.” I have a similar problem. Damn these fat feet.

        1. Jessen*

          Yeah, from googling that looks like the problem part. I’ve taken up wearing oxfords from the boy’s department. They look reasonable enough, even with skirts, and mens/boys shoes don’t have the vamp quite as low as women’s shoes tend to.

          1. Massmatt*

            Even wearing sneakers would be more professional IMO than walking around an office barefoot.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Instep: The area of the foot between the toes and the ankle, or the top front of the shoe.

        Instep Girth Measurement : The girth measurement of a last or foot taken at the waist through the instep point.

        I always say,”The instep isn’t high enough.”

        My feet are wide, but they are also tall right in front of the ankle.

        I do NOT have a corresponding high arch, actually. My arches are normal–not low, not high.

        1. Jessen*

          I’ve tried that, but “high instep” seems to focus more on the area above the arch of the foot, whereas my problems tend to be with the toes. The toe box on most women’s shoes is too low for me, causing rubbing and blisters. A lot of times looking for a high instep means the part near the ankle is taller but the toe box is still very low.

    3. AnonEMoose*

      I was thinking that it is possible the receptionist has a foot/ankle issue, and/or maybe she can’t afford replacement shoes right now. I agree that it’s unprofessional for her to be walking around barefoot where clients may see her (although, honestly, I doubt I’d even notice, personally ). Or if I did, I just might envy her a bit…when I’m home, I’m barefooted or in stocking feet, unless I specifically need to be wearing shoes for something. My husband teases me about my shoe-hatin’ ways.

      But I wonder if, instead of coming down on her, it might be more helpful and productive to approach this in a more compassionate way. OP knows that the receptionist has said that her shoes hurt.

      So, maybe start with a collaborative approach. “I know you indicated that your shoes hurt. But because clients could come in at any point, we really do need you to be wearing shoes when you are walking around the office. Is it possible for you to get shoes that are more comfortable for you? Obviously we don’t want you to be in pain, but we do need this resolved.”

      And then listen to her answer. Ideally without judging. There can be a lot of shame attached to admitting you can’t afford something, and if she does have a medical issue, she may be uncomfortable disclosing it. And sadly, really good, supportive shoes, especially ones that are also dressy, can be Very. Expensive. If she’s only been in the job 6 months, it’s quite possible she may be catching up from a period of unemployment or similar, and new shoes haven’t been on her priority list. And receptionist jobs tend not to pay that well.

      So rather than reprimanding or blaming her, it might be worthwhile to ask a few questions. Still make sure she understands this is something that needs to be addressed. But treating this as an issue to be solved, on which her input is valued, could get better results than reprimanding her or calling her disrespectful.

      1. Jessen*

        Thinking on this, my understanding is if there is an issue, it’s still considered more professional to wear a “casual” shoe in a dressy office, than it is to go barefoot. Like if someone were wearing dress clothes and tennis shoes, I’d probably presume they have some reason they can’t wear dress shoes.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Oh, I agree – it would be more appropriate for her to wear a casual shoe than none. It’s more that I was thinking she may not realize this (I don’t get a sense of the receptionist’s level of experience from the letter). Or, again, she may just not be in a position to buy new shoes…being a receptionist can be hard, because you’re often expected to dress well, but your paycheck doesn’t exactly make that easy.

          1. Jessen*

            Yeah, I was trying to build on what you were saying, actually! I could totally see a new employee not realizing that you can ask for an accommodation if you have foot problems, or that it’s more professional to wear a casual shoe than to go barefoot. Hence why bringing it up explicitly might be good – if there is an issue then the manager can work with her to figure things out.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        And sadly, really good, supportive shoes, especially ones that are also dressy, can be Very. Expensive.

        This is a thoughtful comment, but it’s probably not relevant here. If she’s more comfortable barefoot, that probably doesn’t mean her shoes aren’t supportive enough, since being barefoot gives you no support at all. It probably means her heels are too high to stand comfortably for a long period, or they pinch her somewhere, or something along those lines. And these are issues than can be resolved with a less expensive pair of shoes. But I agree that treating it as an issue to be solved, instead of a Wrong to be corrected, is a kindness.

        1. Jessen*

          Eh, that depends. Most of my dress shoe issues are that they pinch or crush my foot, and let me tell you that can’t be solved without going to expensive shoes that come in specialty sizes. It’s a lot easier to wear casual shoes because they have more padding and aren’t meant to be so tight on the foot.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I have small feet – but they are wide, with high arches. And an awful lot of shoe manufacturers don’t seem to think that women with wide feet exist. I don’t have too much trouble finding things like tennis shoes, but dress shoes and winter boots can be a pain. They can also end up costing a bit more – not usually prohibitively so, but annoying all the same – and there was a time in my life when an extra $10 on the price would mean the difference between being able to afford the shoes or not being able to afford the shoes.

            It could be a question not of the shoes hurting and barefoot not hurting; it could be a question of “barefoot hurts less.” But the only way to know is to talk with her about it, hopefully in a way that makes it clear that the issue needs to be addressed, but is a conversation, not simply a reprimand.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              I have duck feet– narrow heels, wide toe box. A duck with high arches. It’s very hard for me to find a well-fitting shoe, even though narrow-heels-wide-toe-box is a very common issue among women. Few shoe manufacturers address it, and the ones that do are more likely to be ones that do hiking boots/shoes in addition to dressier shoes, like Merrell.

        2. Rainy*

          I have super high arches due to my…well, technically speaking I have a congenital deformity of the foot, I guess. But anyway, one of the things that happens with my condition is that my arches are super high. They simply don’t make standard soles that support my arches. For me, being barefoot or in sandals is significantly better than a shoe that is shaped wrong for the rest of the way my foot is shaped, and the “support” or lack thereof is meaningless.

          Before you say “not relevant here”–my condition is pretty common in the US: about 1 in 1000 live births. If you looked at my feet, you’d have no idea I have it; that’s also pretty common for my condition.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I don’t think what you’ve said here conflicts with what I’m saying. It sounds like sandals or even flip flops would be more comfortable than dress shoes for you, and your problem can’t be solved with expensive supportive shoes. And that’s exactly what I was saying – that expensive, supportive shoes that the employee cannot afford are not necessarily the answer.

  19. StaceyIzMe*

    I don’t know that a manager has standing to require someone to take time off if the company doesn’t mandate it. That smacks of paternalism. Employers provide pay and benefits and set terms around time off insofar as how it’s accumulated and a timetable, if applicable, by which it must be used/ lost/ paid out in lieu of the time taken. The fact that this manager is motivated by NOT wanting a team member to take a week off next year isn’t relevant. She has the time. She lacks the interest. In the end. No performance issues are in the letter. It’s her choice. Presuming to make it for her in the interest of employee wellness, team health or overall convenience in terms of future timing when it’s not outlined as a matter of policy? No, I think that’s overstepping. Depending on the employee’s reason for not taking vacation, you could inadvertently push her out the door to a job where she gets to have the confidence that, barring a compelling reason to the contrary, the terms of the policies outlined for vacation, pay and conduct are all that she is expected to abide by. “It’s weird that she hasn’t taken a week off…”, “She might burn out if I don’t make her take a week off…”, “It’s more convenient for me if she takes a week off this year so that I don’t have to approve a week next year when I won’t have coverage” don’t, in my estimation, rise to the bar of allowing a manager to cast what is essentially a “proxy vote”.

    1. D'Arcy*

      I think a manager would have standing to intervene if they had an employee who was either *losing* vacation time by not using it or was getting visibly burned out, but in this case it’s really none of their business.

  20. Sarah N*

    I have mixed feelings on #1. I agree that the letter writer should be more flexible when she can be, but I also think it’s legitimate for her to place boundaries on her own time. If candidates are repeatedly saying they can’t interview during regular business hours, is she expected to simply frequently stay late at the office or take work calls in the evening? Maybe regular outside-of-business-hours is an expectation at her particular job, but the wording of the post suggests it is not. I don’t think she should be required to take on extra hours just to accommodate job candidates, especially if there are other well-qualified candidates! In fact, depending on her home situation, the expectation of these extra hours may be more or less possible, especially if it’s not something that is a typical/expected part of her role. For example, needing to pick up/care for children, caring for another family member, a regular evening class, needing to take a bus or train home that doesn’t run after a particular time, carpooling, whatever — the point is, if evening hours aren’t a regular part of her job, I don’t think she needs to change that for job applicants. On the other hand, if this person regularly works evening hours anyway, or if this is merely a matter of scheduling someone on Tuesday at 3pm versus Thursday at 3pm, I think in that situation flexibility is a positive thing and shouldn’t be denied simply to prove a point.

    1. TootsNYC*

      If candidates are repeatedly saying they can’t interview during regular business hours, is she expected to simply frequently stay late at the office or take work calls in the evening?

      My answer: Yes, if that’s what it takes to get you a good candidate for that job.

      I’m exempt, so I figure it’s my job to get the job done, whatever it takes. It also means I can pick which evening *I* am available. But I will always stay a little later, come in earlier, etc. I’ve never had to interview someone on the weekend, but…

      Sure, someone who can only come after 10pm might end up just not being able to apply. But I always plan that I will have to do some non-traditional hours when I’m searching for an applicant.

      1. Bella*

        Exactly. I frequently come in early to do 7am interviews before the candidate has to go to work and I stay as late as 6pm to accommodate candidates. As an exempt employee, I simply leave early another day because of the additional hours.

      2. Sarah N*

        Eh, sure, if ONLY the good candidates can interview outside of business hours, that’s a problem and you probably need to figure out how to accommodate it. But the OP here didn’t say she has a shortage of quality candidates or that she’s struggling to fill positions with good people given her current policy. If you have, say, 5 great candidates who can interview normal times and 2 great candidates who can’t, I really don’t think there’s an obligation to go extremely out of your way to accommodate the 2.

      3. Washi*

        Hmm, I wouldn’t blanket say that the interviewer has an obligation to be available outside their regular business hours. If there are 7 great candidates and one of them only can interview after 6:30 pm, I wouldn’t blame an interviewer for just proceeding with the other 6. If there’s a shortage of candidates, maybe it’s worth an evening call to accommodate that person.

        I usually went in the other direction and offered 7:30 am calls if someone really couldn’t talk during regular business hours, but it would take a really special person for me to stay past 6.

        1. TootsNYC*

          and for me it would be the opposite. Staying late was something that happened frequently enough for my regular duties that it wouldn’t really impact my life much–if at all!

          But I hate getting up in the morning.

          1. Sarah N*

            Absolutely if the OP will happen to be around the office anyway (either early or late) working on other things, it seems shortsighted to refuse to interview someone at that time simply on principle or whatever. The point is more that we have no idea whether she usually IS expected to ever be in the office outside of normal business hours, or how disruptive of her schedule that would be. Just as one example, I rarely have anything scheduled outside of regular hours, and if I have to be in early/stay late, I have to make special arrangements with childcare. I can do it if the reason is important, but I wouldn’t want to do it all the time. I don’t play a major role in hiring, but if it were a frequent part of my job, I could easily see someone in similar circumstances choosing to interview people with schedules that meshed well before those who were less flexible, and I think that’s a fair choice to make.

    2. Alianora*

      But I don’t see anything in the letter that implies the candidates are asking for times outside regular business hours? Just different days, no?

      1. Sarah N*

        Some candidates are saying they can’t take a personal call while at work, which I assume means they would need to schedule an interview outside of work hours. If this is actually “I can’t take a phone call at work and I work on Mondays and Thursdays, so could we schedule something on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday,” then I would agree with you that the hiring manager should accommodate that if at all possible.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This doesn’t make sense to me, as someone who frequently offers late interview slots, I don’t “stay later” or anything. I can adjust my schedule. If I have a 6pm interview, I show up at 10am instead of 9.

    4. Observer*

      That may be. The problem here is not that the OP may have constraints on their time, but their attitude. The OP does not say “I get that there is a problem, but I have x, y and z constraints on scheduling. What do you suggest.” Rather they say “Candidates want us to give them a job, so they should be flexible and fine a way to make it work. And I don’t really believe that they have legitimate scheduling issues, because I’ve never encountered them.”

      That is NOT a good attitude.

  21. Miss May*

    OP #1: I work at a job where I share an office with my boss, and I work closely with my coworkers. They absolutely know what I’m doing when I sit in my car for 30-ish minutes on the phone. This makes it very difficult to schedule interviews.

    I wish some interviews would be more open to interviews after 4pm, but I get it, they have lives too.

  22. Rectilinear Propagation*

    LW1 sounds like they’ve only ever had white collar office jobs that were flexible with breaks and leave because their confusion on this doesn’t make sense otherwise.

    There are jobs where breaks are highly limited, get bumped all the time, or essentially only exist on paper. There are lots of jobs where people don’t get paid time off at all. There are jobs where you can’t take personal calls and jobs where you aren’t allowed to have your cell phone with you while working.

    And while a lot of that isn’t good, it’s not unusual. These things are the norm for whole categories of jobs. Don’t punish someone for trying to move out of a job with poor/non-existing benefits or a toxic work environment. It’s their current employer who isn’t flexible, not the candidate.

    1. Over 60 & Forever Young*

      You just summed up my current situation where I work now… which is one of the reasons why I need to get out of it.

    2. Jessen*

      Yup – coming from call center work, your breaks are when the company says they are and you don’t get to set them in advance. And you’re expected to be at your workstation when not on break, so any bathroom use and getting a drink and all that has to happen on your break.

    3. Massmatt*

      Very true! Likewise, some people assume everyone working in an office has their OWN office they can close the door to for confidential conversations and in my experience at least that is getting more and more rare. At my old job only VP’s and directors had their own offices.

  23. Magenta Sky*

    Just to play devil’s advocate on the shoe thing, it is possible there’s a reason other than pure comfort for taking one’s shoes off. I have poor circulation in my feet due to diabetes, and on a bad day, I pretty much have to take my shoes off for a while or my feet will hurt to the point that I limp.

    On the other hand, if it got worse, I could mitigate it with better shoes, and I don’t walk around the office that way.

    It’s the sort of thing that the employee should probably discuss with their manager – and possibly has in this case, since the letter writer isn’t said manager.

  24. Phony Genius*

    I know I’ve raised this before on this site, but I’ll ask again. As a society, we are progressing to eliminate the taboos about things like talking about salary with others, and not talk about previous salaries with potential employers. (We’ve at least made some progress on both of those.) However, it seems that nothing has been done to break the taboo of employees trying to continue down their desired career path, where they have to hide from their bosses the fact they are trying to improve their careers (unless it is within the same company).
    The irony is that a common interview question is to ask what your long-term career plans are. But you can’t actually follow through with them once you are hired. I’ve even seen covert job-searching behavior from government employees, who can’t be disciplined for looking for another job. (And some of them were just applying for a promotion.)

    1. Madeleine Matilda*

      I’m always surprised when people write to AAM or comment about the negative reactions that bosses and companies have to job searches. I’m a supervisor and whenever one of my direct reports has job searched, I’ve been supportive while expressing that I would like them to stay. What is the point of reacting negatively to a person searching for a job? The only impact I can see is that a negative reaction from an employer would solidify the job searcher’s desire to leave.

      1. TootsNYC*

        oh my goodness, yes!

        Any one of my folks could come to me and say, “I’m going to look for a new job,” and I’d be all, “good luck! Let me know what I can do.”

        And honestly, I wouldn’t decide to not assign them to some project, because who knows when they’ll get a job and leave? It could take a while.

        If I knew they were interviewing with someone I knew (not unlikely in my field), I would probably consider calling that person and saying, “He’s really good. I really don’t want him to leave, but I wish him all the best, and I can’t promote him here. But if you hire him, you’ll be happy.”
        I truly believe that any of the people I might say that to would absolutely believe me as well, and wouldn’t think it weird of -me- at all.

        I probably wouldn’t do it, just because it’s not the norm, and my guy doesn’t need that weird vibe around his candidacy.

        I still remember the person who wanted to be an editor and had an Ed.Asst. job as secretary to the EiC. She didn’t do any editing or writing. She got a shot at a job with both, so she applied and got it; she gave notice at the 9-month mark.
        The EiC was SO MAD! I’d already been fired/laid off at least once, and I was like, “What is your problem, lady? If the company needed to lay her off, they wouldn’t blink. Why should she set aside her future?”

        And, like, there are tons of people who would want her job, and would be good at it. I get that now you have to train someone, but honest it’s not that hard!

        It just seemed to unreasonable to me, instinctively. It really shaped how I view the contract between the two of us (boss and subordinate). While it works for both of us, it’s great–but either one of us can move on at any time.
        (I actually think the employer has a MUCH bigger obligation to make it work–I would consider that I have a bigger responsibility to say “here’s a problem to fix,” but my employee can respond to any problem by leaving.)

      2. JustMyImagination*

        I had a subordinate once tell me that she didn’t envision staying at the company for another year. I expressed my sadness but said I understood. A few months later there was a corporate initiative rolled out that would take at least a year to implement. I hesitated putting her on the project, even though she was perfect for it, because of what she had said.

        Luckily, I had a great mentor who talked me out of that line of thinking and I put her on the project. Two years later and she’s still with the company. Not all managers have mentors who will give them a good reality check like that.

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        It’s mostly a lot of petty managers throwing childish fits. Pure vindictiveness, not any business purpose.

    2. Liza*

      I’d actually never heard of this before until I started reading AAM. Even in my pretty toxic ex-job, people talked quite openly about looking for work elsewhere. Is this a largely American phenomenon, perhaps? I’m pretty certain it would be illegal here in the UK (probably still happens though, like everything).

    3. Steggy Saurus*

      It boggles my mind too. I’m a manager of a small department with no room at all for advancement. There are people I’d be sad to see go, but I can’t imagine being offended that someone wanted to further their career or earn more money than my employer could give them.

  25. AnotherAnon*

    #1 is so tough for me as a hiring manager. I’m a government employee and we have a diversity mandate in hiring where our interview panel has to be diverse in age, ethnicity, etc. I’m in a specialized field and often have to seek partners outside the organization to sit in on the panel, and all of our interviewees must have the same panel in the name of “fairness”, so scheduling 1 day of interviews already requires the perfect storm. I’m not sure how I could do another day, and thankfully I haven’t run into the issue of a candidate being unavailable yet.

    Honestly, I probably need to write into Allison about our diversity mandate in general because it seems to have an unintended effect of causing us to discuss protected classes of both panelists and candidates and seems to be antithetical to it’s purpose…

    1. Madeleine Matilda*

      I’m a government employee and have hired. At the agencies where I have worked we haven’t had to have a diverse hiring panel, but we did need to have members of the panel from other divisions. I wonder if you could have diversity by looking at a panel with diverse skills and backgrounds rather than just age, gender, ethnicity?

      1. AnotherAnon*

        When we go to submit our hire we have to answer questions attesting to the diversity of the panel, one of which is “The interview panel was diverse (ethnicity, gender, age) and reflective of the community I serve.”

    2. Observer*

      That sounds crazy. At least if you explain that to the people who you need to interview, they can make a judgement call if they can somehow manage it. An employer that says “this day and this day ONLY” is a yellow flag that would be mitigated by an explanation like that.

  26. StrayCat0717*

    #3: I get 4 weeks vacay a year and rarely take a whole week off. Why? Because Management doesn’t have anyone cover my desk, so when I get back, there is a weeks worth of work waiting. It puts me too far behind! It does not accomplish the goal [of relaxing your employee] if you have to do 80 hours of work the week you return from vacation.

    1. Catwoman*

      This is exactly why the boss needs to have a conversation with the employee about this. If her workload is such that she has work pile up like this, then the boss needs to address that problem.

      Also, I’m so sorry. I’ve been in jobs like that before and it sucks.

  27. Richard Hershberger*

    Vacation time: Back when I was single, I didn’t really take formal vacations, but I had a hobby that took up a lot of weekends. Making a long weekend of it was ideal. Being forced to use my PTO in a full week would have actively impinged on my rest and recreation.

    1. Res Admin*

      I remember when I was a kid and they made my dad take 3 straight weeks of vacation (because he never used it). It was not pretty. It was not fun. And it definitely did NOT leave him (or anyone else in the family) relaxed, refreshed, or rejuvenated. He still does not do well without something to keep himself busy–and he’s in his 80s.

      My last job, I would get called in every single time I tried to take time off (including Christmas Eve). Even when I did manage to take time off, someone would make a mess that would take me weeks to clear up. So I stopped trying. I ended up losing a lot of vacation time because I was well over the limit.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m the same way. I honestly just don’t like long stretches, it’s a personal thing. I’m gone enough and I’m transparent to a fault at times, so nobody worries about it in terms of fraud issues.

      Heck, we had a shop closure for the winter holidays at one of my jobs and I was able to get my boss to let me work a few days doing inventory/keeping an eye on customer service stuff that still popped up instead of letting it pile up, despite making it well known we were closed at that time.

      I like long weekends or maybe taking a couple days off mid-week so that I can attend an event if it pops up works great for me. I don’t want let alone enjoy an entire week off.

  28. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: In my industry (government), there are a number of crappy things about the hiring process, including the fact that candidates are essentially “summoned” to interviews. For each govt job I’ve had, I’ve been emailed a date/time/location for my interview, with the understanding that short of a doctor’s note or similar, if I couldn’t make the interview then I was out of the running. For those applying for multiple jobs and have to be delicate about taking time off their current jobs, it can be quite difficult, and I dislike that they do it that way. The reality is that government is easily the largest employer in this town, with decent pay and excellent benefits, so most people are willing to jump through the hoops. But you really don’t want to be that kind of employer, that just summons people and assumes they’ll find a way to make it happen.

    The job market in Canada and the US is shifting more to an “employee market” – that is, in stark contrast to a few years ago, it’s getting increasingly difficult for companies to find enough good workers, and balance of power is shifting towards employees/candidates to set the terms. If you’re too draconian or rigid during the hiring process, it’s likely your best candidates have options and will go elsewhere.

    LW3: I am like your employee, in that I’ve been taking limited vacation until I can build up my leave like she has, and then burn off the excess each year that will not accumulate (one of the aforementioned perks of the work I do, after getting through the crappy hiring process). Fortunately, my present job isn’t particularly stressful, so I’m not dealing with any burnout or anything like that. Also, while I can afford, say, the occasional long weekend away at this time, I still can’t really swing a weeklong trip anywhere, and as a single person, I’m not particularly inclined towards a weeklong “staycation” where I hang out alone in my apartment while my friends and family work all week (I’m an introvert and happy to stay home a lot of the time, but a week straight with little human interaction would likely make me a bit stir-crazy). Sooo…. for now, I’m content with long-weekend vacations until I can afford to go somewhere for a week+.

    If you have any particular concerns about your employee’s not taking more leave (burnout, financial burden on the company, what have you), maybe address that specific concern, but there are plenty of reasons why someone may not be inclined to take a bigger chunk off at any given time, and it seems too… paternalistic? Invasive? For an employer to weigh in on that.

  29. professor*

    OP3: I feel like the fact that there may be NO coverage next year is a way bigger problem- does that mean your employee gets NO vacation? That’s the problem to fix.

    And people stock pile vacation for all kinds of reasons- maybe she has parents she knows she may need to provide care for in the future, knows she wants to have a kid, has a chronic medical condition, etc. She’s taking lots of 3 day weekends, that’s a break….

    1. TootsNYC*

      well, they may be able to go wtihout any coverage fo ra week, but not for 6.

      SO they don’t get anybody in to sub for her, and her work piles up. That “no coverage.” And then when she gets back, she gradually works through it. If it’s only a week’s worth, that’s not a hardship on anyone.

      Three weeks or more? Maybe very hard.

      So as others have said, the manager needs to make it clear what the coverage plans and restrictions for next year will be.

  30. a clockwork lemon*

    I’m generally the type of person who would prefer to take a bunch of long weekends instead of big long stretches of vacation. My part of the country has notoriously crappy weather for much of the year, and it’s so nice to be able to take long weekends during the summer or random nice days in other parts of the year. There could also be any number of reasons (planned medical leave, major life milestone event, a security blanket in case of emergencies, all forty-seven of your similar-age cousins are getting married in the same year) that an employee might want to have a pile of PTO stocked up.

    LW 3 doesn’t mention anything that would indicate that their employee needs to take a “real” vacation, or that there’s any sort of fraud or embezzlement concerns that necessitate the employee being out of the office so someone can do an audit. A vague sense that an employee isn’t taking enough vacation because of a difference in preference for PTO use isn’t a great reason to force someone to take time off.

  31. Willow*

    I really wish I could convince the people above me in the hierarchy that I need to know my employees’ salaries. Sigh.

    1. Steggy Saurus*

      Six years with my current employer and I finally gained access to their salaries and the ability to recommend raises this year. It makes a huge difference. I found out how underpaid some of my staff are and was able to put together a plan to fix it.

  32. JustAnotherHRPro*

    I am NOTORIOUS for wearing shoes for style rather than comfort. But I know the shoes have a shelf life on my feet, so I always keep a spare pair of basic black flats under my desk (that I usually get from Payless, although with them going out of business, i am considering springing for a pair of Tieks. But I digress). I have seen people put on flip flops, but thats just as bad as walking barefoot IMO so I opt for a pair of office flats

    1. Al*

      I keep my basic black flats (in case I wear uncomfortable shoes), a pair of black heels (in case I unexpectedly need to make an outfit a bit more formal), and I have a pair of slippers under my desk (hard soles) for when I am sitting in my enclosed office (you can’t see under my desk)

    2. Stacey Conrad*

      Just for the record-I love my Tieks. I now have six pairs. I saved up for the first pair, and now they are my go to birthday/Christmas present asks.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Not quite as bad — because at least in flip-flops your feet aren’t touching the gross carpet.

  33. Al*

    To LW1, I worked in a full-time position that was a strict 8-5 schedule and an open office plan, meaning that there was nowhere to take a phone interview. On top of that, my boss was neurotic and was constantly suspicious of me and accusing me of things. In order to take a phone interview, I had to leave work in my car, find a deserted parking lot, and make up an excuse (one time I said I was voting over lunch, another that I had to drive my sister home from a procedure). At one point, for my current job, I had to take off for the entire day because it was a 3 hour long in person interview and my boss would have been immediately questioning me. Try to be flexible, the reason why some people are looking for a new job with you is because of how horrible their current workplace is and sometimes they can’t leave.

  34. mcr-red*

    #1 – My workplace has always had a weird dress code. I can’t explain it any better than to say some departments you will see jeans, t-shirts and sneakers, others you will see dress shirts, dress pants and ties, and my department – a weird mix of the two. I’ve always had a more “dressy” edge, so I’m more apt to be in a dress, heels, or dress pants and nice shirt. If I’m in jeans and a t-shirt, it means I’m not feeling well. ANYWAY, my former manager was always offended if anyone was job hunting and if someone dressed up more than usual, he’d be like “So what time’s the job interview?” One time I bought this really pretty suit and the first time I wore it to work, guess what I got asked? I cannot imagine if I had to take a “personal call” or go to a “doctor’s appt” in the middle of the day.

    1. Snarktini*

      At one point long ao, I was searching for a new job and on an interview day would have to hide a change of clothes (as well as a giant portfolio, as I was a designer and we lugged large-format books around) because it was suspiciously obvious I was more dressed up than usual. I vowed that in my next job I would make a point of dressing up once a week from the beginning, just to prepare for the moment when I wanted to leave! Turns out I don’t have that kind of discipline but it’s not a bad idea.

      1. Massmatt*

        I can’t remember where I read it but there was a story about someone who would dress up and go out for mid-day appointments solely to trick his boss into thinking he was looking to leave so the boss would offer him more money. I think he timed it several weeks before annual reviews so they would free up some additional money in the budget.

    2. Pebbles*

      I’m in a very casual office (software engineer) and currently with 80 degree weather I’m wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and Tevas. I also rarely wear makeup. Occasionally I will wear nicer clothing (usually means I need to do laundry), and one specific time I wore a dress and some makeup to work. My manager asked who I was interviewing with, and I replied “No one. I have to go to my grandpa’s wake tonight right after work.” He never asked me again.

  35. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    It’s completely acceptable to keep personal items in a communal space like Sarah did. She was the one who didn’t realize early enough that if she didn’t want to share, she should label her stuff. Thankfully she figured it out and did so! Therefore the situation should be labeled as “Oops, oh well.” and you move on.

    Anything that’s not marked as personal, is communal property. Many of the times, we bring things and just put it out in the open for the taking or on a shelf for the using like that. So you didn’t make a mistake by assuming it was up for grabs.

    The only place that we don’t need labels and assume everything is someone’s personal stuff is the fridge. In that case, sometimes I buy cases of things on sale and put up a note saying “These ice cream sandwiches are for everyone”, otherwise if I put a case in there, nobody is going to touch it. It’s all about the culture and how things flow at your office in that sense as mentioned!

  36. Close Bracket*


    I’d push back with HR because there’s no reason that you, as this person’s manager, shouldn’t be able to determine that she’d benefit from time away from work

    Whoa, there. OP is this person’s manager, not this person’s therapist. She has absolutely no insight into whether her direct report would benefit from time away from work anymore than the general benefits of time away. Treating people like adults means trusting them to know when they want or need a break. OP can encourage her direct report to take more time off, but insisting on a certain amount is a huge overstep. The direct report takes off the amount of time she wants to take off. Let it go.

    1. Massmatt*

      And there is discussion elsewhere in the thread why having an employee take a week off per year is a good practice from a fraud prevention or compliance perspective, though this may not be a concern here.

  37. Teapot Unionist*

    After I finished my teaching degree, I took a long term sub position in a school system 45 minutes north of my house. About a week before the end of the school year, a school system 45 minutes south of my house called and asked for an interview. The last interview of the day was at 4:00. I asked if they would be willing to do it at 4:30 since I had a 90 minute drive and school got out at 2:45 and it was impossible to find subs in the last week of school. They said no. I said, “I guess I need to withdraw my application then.” I had no interest–even then at 23 years old–of working for a system that was that rigid and uninterested in what was best for children.

  38. Federal Employee #867346*

    For #3, I’m not quite clear on what the real problem is. The only thing the OP cites is that they just…don’t like it? Alison’s right that in some professions taking a week off is a way to catch fraud, but there’s no indication the employee in question has such a position, and the OP doesn’t express this as a concern. There’s also no indication that the employee is burning out. Remember, people burn out and recover differently. I know I’d feel much more refreshed if I had a Friday off every other week for two months than if I took five days off in a row. I like spreading out my vacation because it gives me something to look forward to. There’s always a long weekend right around the corner! You can absolutely talk to the employee about it, but unless there’s some specific concern, I’d let it go. A manager telling me how to take my vacation time without having a good justification would really ruffle my feathers.

  39. Linkelle*

    Funnily enough, in the UK it’s extremely common to assign interview dates, and actually have all of the rounds listed in the job posting.

    1. londonedit*

      True, but I don’t think I’ve ever just been assigned a date and time without any flexibility. I do think it’s helpful to have some idea when you’re applying of when the interviews are likely to be – helps with planning that ‘doctor’s appointment’ or afternoon’s holiday – but in my experience there’s always been some flexibility around the time of the interview, and there are usually at least a couple of options for interview dates too. My usual experience is that they’d say ‘We’d like to invite you to interview on Thursday 12th – we currently have slots available at 10:30am, 2pm and 3.30pm, please let us know which would suit you best’.

  40. Half-Caf Latte*

    But why does Sarah have a french press AND filters?! I need to know!

    I think labeling the French Press is totally normal, but filters is a bit weird. Is she making a whole pot of coffee in the communal coffee maker but wants to use her own filter? How would I know the coffee in the big pot was hers? Does she use special beans? Where are they kept?

    So many questions.

    1. Sarah N*

      I agree, this part is so confusing! I was assuming little cone filters to use with a pour-over thing, but then why would you ALSO have a French press? Maybe she does different things on different days? All of this makes me very happy for my private office where I can keep all my weird fancy coffee and tea supplies without having to resort to labels. :)

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Maybe she originally had the pour over filters and then was all “Screw it, imma bring my French press in!” ?

        Still though, in that case, I’m going to make the filters communal but others are really really really not fans of letting go of anything they’ve paid for with their money, you know? So that’s my best guess at what Sarah is doing!

      2. Observer*

        Those are not the only filters you can get. The gizmo I use (not a french press, but people tell me it’s a similar effect) uses filters. They are not the cone or basket shaped ones – they are flat.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Aero-press? I have one and I call it my coffee-toy. It makes me unreasonably happy.

  41. RUKiddingMe*

    “…thinking that you’re doing them a favor and they should drop everything to make it work.”

    This! Soooo much this!

  42. Baska*

    #3: I’m the sort of person who uses my vacation time to take 3-day weekends all summer. I’ve already got summer hours (I’m technically 3/4 time instead of full-time), which means that from the end of June to the Labour Day, I’m only working 14-hour weeks and — because I use vacation days — my weekends start at 1:00 pm on Thursday all summer.

    Honestly, I find that *way* more energizing and relaxing than taking a full week of vacation would be. Full-week vacations stress me out because we’re a small organization and there’s not much overlap between roles, so I have to cram a bunch of work in before I leave and then play a lot of catch-up when I get back. I far, far prefer the way I’m doing it now and would be miffed if my boss suggested I “need” to take a full week because they thought it would be better for me.

  43. Chaordic One*

    During the Great Recession a lot of employers and HR departments got away with exploiting the situation with desperate job seekers by being quite rigid and unreasonable about job interviews. After all, there were a lot of desperate job-seekers out there. Now that the economy has improved and job-seekers aren’t quite so desperate, employers’ mindsets haven’t yet made the shift, which in turn makes attracting qualified job-seekers more difficult than it should be, although they haven’t yet figured that out.

  44. Crabby PM*

    thank you so so much for continuing to beat the drum on the issue with setting up interviews. the whole “No breaks?” just strikes me as tone deaf and is something I have struggled with so much over the years when interviewing.

    1. Cows go moo*

      Humans generally suck at understanding other people’s perspective/situation. Employers need to appreciate not everyone has easy access to a quiet, private area to take phone screening. Or that they may need to juggle multiple interviews discreetly and that can’t happen on a single break.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Hiring managers and recruiters are all too often oblivious to their own privilege.

  45. Anonforthis*

    Laughing at #4. My company used to be that way (salary information was only available to second line managers, first lines had input but no numbers) until we were acquired. My partner found out they earn the second least on the medium size team they manage (which admittedly is full of people with more years experience – though also less responsibility). I think that soured the idea of the manager being the one to pay for team drinks…

  46. Cows go moo*

    #1: Employment is, simply put, labour in exchange for financial compensation. That means applicants get to assess whether they want to work with you as much as you assess their fit for the job. If you’re going to be rigid with interview slots or convey a tone of “You Should Be Grateful For This Opportunity” it’s likely going to leave a negative impression of your organisation and you will lose good candidates this way.

    Having said this, I do think there should be reasonable accommodation from *both* sides. I occasionally have candidates who insist they can only come in after hours or weekends for interviews when I clearly explain I don’t work during those times. (I’m…not meeting anybody at 6am, thanks.) In these instances I take it as a sign they either aren’t seriously interested or their understanding of professional norms is outside of generally accepted boundaries.

  47. nora*

    Oooh, #1 is getting my hackles up so bad. In Virginia (and, I assume, many other states), employers have no legal obligation to give breaks. Even lunch. I’ve worked places (usually food service) that did not give meal breaks even for a 13+ hour shift. It’s miserable but managers don’t care, trust me.

    Re: shoes – I have weird foot problems and I frequently cannot find work-appropriate shoes that are comfortable. We’re allowed to wear sneakers on Fridays and sometimes that’s the only time during the week I’m not in pain. A little bit of empathy goes a long way.

  48. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    FOr everyone freaking out about #1, MANY public sector jobs are like this. “We’re having interviews on X day, we’d like to see you at X time.” There is usually wiggle room about the time but the dates are often in stone–this is when the panel can convene. Many government jobs are like this. They don’t have the flexibility to adjust over a period of a week or so.

    1. ceiswyn*

      And this is but one reason why the public sector is unlikely to ever be able to hire me. Their loss :)

    2. Observer*

      And it’s one of the reasons why so many public sector jobs have a hard time filling positions with top talent.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        Many public sector employees are superb. It’s just a different view. Depending on the job and the market, they may have many applicants and they chose the top ones. I know many private sector jobs that can’t get good talent.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t say that all public sector jobs are fill with lousy staff. But there is plenty of evidence that many public sector job DO have a hard time filling position with top talent. Pretending otherwise doesn’t change that.

  49. Former Employee*

    “I’d push back with HR because there’s no reason that you, as this person’s manager, shouldn’t be able to determine that she’d benefit from time away from work…”

    Maybe it would also be ok if this manager decided that, after seeing what the employee eats for lunch, she’d benefit from eating more salads.

    If I had a manager that started to get that involved in my personal life, I’d start looking elsewhere and happily take my big fat check for the 6 weeks accrued vacation time when I left.

    By the way, when I retired from my last full time, permanent job, I had accrued quite a bit of vacation time and gladly took the check.

  50. Lars*

    having to do phone interviews at work is the worst, jeez. I work in an open office (not that i even have a landline available), so it means i’m taking phone calls in my car. i guess it wouldn’t be so bad if phone calls were scheduled to the minute/actually on time and not late or early or at all, but it has been rare for me when that happened.

  51. Chicken Situation*

    For question #3, the OP should make sure the person in question actually can take a week off without serious ramifications. At Old Job, I was constantly berated (and even dinged on a review) for not taking enough vacation. The problem was that when I did take vacation, things fell apart. I worked on a specialized account that no one else could handle well, despite my constant pleas to have someone to train as back-up/help. When things went wrong because no one knew how to do it and my back-up couldn’t be bothered to read my instructions or just did a poor job, I was the one who got in trouble and had to work extra unpaid overtime (I know, I know) to fix it. Taking vacation was more stressful than not taking it.

    TL;DR: Employers, make sure your employees can actually take their PTO without it making their lives worse.

  52. Pandop*

    Because I work in the public sector in the UK (the land of unions, contracts and the like), it is written into my contract that I have 25 days of leave and I must take at least one full week of leave during the year (ie no taking every other friday throughout the year). This is standard across our whole organisation, not just for those in financial roles.

  53. Kesnit*

    LW1, I’ll add something from my own experience. When I was job-hunting, I was applying all over the state where I live. Some of those jobs were 7 hours from where I was living. I was unemployed (or underemployed) for a few years. Being told “you need to be here at 9am for an interview” would have been extremely painful if I had to drive 5 hours and could not afford a motel for the night before. However, a 1pm interview would have been reasonable, as it would give me time to get there (leaving around 7am) and then get home before too late.

    Also, sometimes, you just CAN’T take time away. I’m a criminal attorney, and my schedule is set a few months out. I can’t just drop a client’s case because I have to take a phone interview.

  54. so many resumes, so little time*

    #3: Like others, I am in a job where there is no coverage when I am not there, so things sit until I get back unless I log on while on vacation–which I have been known to do when my bosses have made it clear to me that I cannot be out of touch, even though this goes against the expressed desire of our COO, who believes that non-work hours should be non-work, kwim?

    The main issue for me, though, is money. I am a single parent who is raising a child on one income. When she was young, we tried to take one inexpensive vacation a year, in the week between camp and the start of school. Or we’d travel with my mother somewhere for a few days. But paying for college has basically wiped out my discretionary income, so I’m not going anywhere. And staycations are lovely but after two or three days, I’m bored and twitchy about work that’s not getting done. So I’ll take long weekends now and then, but won’t take a full week off.

    What’s annoying is that one of my bosses puts “take a vacation” into my annual review while my other boss wants me to be available pretty much all the time.

  55. New*

    To the opiner, some people may have no privacy at work and don’t take long lunch breaks. Employers can and do fire people when they find out employees are interviewing. A lot of people don’t have time for lengthy phone interviews when they likely won’t even make the shortlist of candidates.

    I get that employers want to see how candidates interact on the phone, but it adds another step to an already lengthy, painful process. Candidates who get limited vacation time need some flexibility and understanding from employers.

    I would not want to get fired from a job because a prospective employer does not understand a current job comes first. We need a more organized and efficient job hunting process. A candidate who is putting her current job first is still interested in a new job.

  56. Catabodua*

    My internal audit hat is in place – does the employee who doesn’t take vacation handle cash or checks? It’s a huge red flag for theft if a person who is in charge of how cash (or payroll) is handled refuses to be out of the office and let someone else handle that task for a brief period of time.

  57. Louisa*

    Just adding on, that yes, just having a call during the day can be really really difficult. I worked in open floor plan environment (ie a cubicle) during my last search. Besides having obligations to a current employer where to talk? In winter, you couldn’t go outside. In summer, you could but the noise from traffic and sirens was not okay for an interview. Stairwell? Maybe if you were to risk your cell signal going out. Just on and on. And Skype interviews? Forget it. Alison is right on in her response.

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