my employee wants to know where I am at all times, public transit crisis is making me late for work, and more

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

1. My employee wants to know where I am at all times

I started a new management role three months ago and am managing a small team. One of my staff was under-performing when I started, and one of my directives was to get them on a coaching plan, which I have. As a result, they have made complaints that I’m out to get them. Luckily I’ve been documenting everything, and my boss has my back.

My boss had a skip-level meeting with them to allow them to air their grievances. During this, they mentioned that my boss and I should always let them know when we have meetings, for how long, and what they’re for. I do let my team know when I’m away for extended periods, but occasionally will be pulled into a last-minute meeting. The nature of our role doesn’t require to be at my desk at all times, but I would say I’m here for 70-80% of the day.

They have now taken to asking my boss “when can we expect you back?” and “who are you off to visit?” every time he leaves the office (which is a big part of his role). My boss is easily reached by mobile/email, and doesn’t have a lot of day-to-day interaction with the team.

I’m of two minds here. On one hand, I’m trying to build a good working relationship with them in order to coach effectively, and I don’t want to seem inflexible. On the other, they don’t need to know where my boss and I are every second of the day, and this seems like a bit of a power play. Any advice on how my boss/I should address this?

I don’t know if it’s a power play exactly, but it’s something weird. You can and should tell your employee that it’s not a practical expectation.

Say this: “You’ve asked that Jane and I both let you know whenever we have meetings, how long it’ll be, and what for. You can always look at our calendars to see our schedules, but sometimes we’re pulled into last-minute meetings or have reasons for not sharing details about them, and that’s something you’ll need to just roll with. As part of that, please stop asking Jane to fill you in on where she’s going and who she’s seeing — that’s not info she needs to share with our team.”

It’s good that you want to build a good relationship with this person, but there are higher priorities in this situation right now. You need to speak up when they’re out of line (as they are). Also, based on everything here (especially the complaints that you’re out to get them), it’s pretty likely this isn’t ultimately going to work out … so keep that in your head as you deal with them and think about your timeline for bringing this to a resolution one way or the other.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My city’s public transit is in crisis and it’s making me late for work

I live in a major U.S. city that has been having widely publicized issues with its public transportation system that have been causing significant delays. I recently had to email my team/boss to alert them I’d be late because a train I was on was evacuated midtrack for a fire, for example.

While it’s been impacting a lot of people at my company, I’ve been hit especially hard because I have to take multiple train lines to get to my office, despite only living a few miles away. I live on the opposite side of the harbor, so unless I go a wildly roundabout way in the opposite direction for several miles, my options are limited because I require the tunnel to get across the water. When the trains all run smoothly, I have a 20-minute commute. But all it takes is for one to shut down or delay and suddenly it can take me an hour or more.

Traffic in our area is also abysmal, so when the trains stop working, buses, ride shares, driving myself, etc., is wildly unpredictable and time consuming as well (not to mention that it would cost me ~$40 to park near my office each day if I drove). The last time my neighborhood train shut down, they replaced it with shuttles that took over an hour to get through the traffic across the tunnel, vs the two minutes it takes the train.

My boss has been very patient and understanding, but I’m so sick of having to message nearly once a week that I’ll be significantly late because a train shut down. It almost always makes the news so it’s verifiable that I’m not making it up, but it’s mortifying all the same. I’ve tried leaving earlier just in case, but then I’m at the office long before anyone else, and sometimes I’m still late because of subway problems!

I work late when it happens, and I haven’t missed anything important. But I can’t help but feel flaky or that one of these days my boss is going to get fed up with transit-related tardiness. I’m not sure what to do or how to address it, and I’m sure there are many people with less understanding jobs than my own who are really feeling pressure because of this.

Talk to your boss. She’s no doubt aware of the issues since they’ve been widely publicized, but I think it’ll give you peace of mind to say something like, “I’ve been hit especially hard by the public transit situation since I have to take multiple train lines to get to work. So far I’ve been alerting you when it’s making me late and staying later if I need to to make sure my work isn’t affected. I’ve also tried coming in earlier but that doesn’t seem to fix it. Since it’s unclear how long this is going to go on, do you want me handling this any differently than I have been?”

Since she hasn’t made it an issue so far, there’s a good chance that she’s going to tell you it’s fine, she understands the situation, and just keep doing what you’ve been doing. Of course,, this does open the door to her saying something different — but if she’s bothered by it, you’re better off knowing and figuring out what you want to do from there.

3. My manager won’t let me book vacation time more than a month in advance

I asked for a day off in October for a wedding I am a groomsman in and my manager said, by company rules, it is too early to ask off. She told me I can only ask off at most 30 days in advance. I was always told that you should ask at least two weeks in advance at the very least. Is there such a thing as asking too far in advance for a day off?

If those are really your company rules, they are ridiculous. Many people need to make travel plans and book airline tickets more than 30 days out.

I would first check if that’s really a company-wide rule (check your handbook and if it’s not there, check with HR). If it’s really a company rule, you might ask HR if it’s possible to make exceptions to it in cases where people need to solidify their plans earlier (such as when they’re in a wedding!) — and if they say yes, go back to your manager with that info.

If it’s not a company rule, say this to your manager: “I checked and couldn’t find anything in the handbook or with HR making that a company-wide rule. In cases where we need to buy plane tickets ahead of time or tell someone whether or not we’ll be standing up with them at their wedding, I’d like to be able to plan in advance. Given the context here, can I ask you to approve this now so I’m not leaving my brother uncertain of whether I’ll be in his wedding party?” (And frankly, beyond the immediate situation, this one is worth pushing back on as a group.)

4. I’m bilingual but my coworker translates for me anyway

I’m working abroad, and most of my work related materials are in my second language. Reading it isn’t a problem for me, but a coworker, whom I work with closely, will often start to translate and explain things to me that I’m perfectly capable of understanding on my own. I know she teaches this language, so I understand where the impulse is coming from, but I’d really prefer to just discuss the material as needed, without it being over-explained to me.

Any advice on how to get her to stop would be very helpful. I want to acknowledge that it comes from a desire to be helpful, but it’s really not needed.

The next time she starts translating for you, say this: “I actually don’t need you to translate — I’ve got it. But thanks!”

5. My boss offered to help pay for school but hasn’t followed up

I work at a small law firm (only seven people) as a legal assistant, and I have been working here for about six months About two months ago, I told my boss I would be going back to school to get a paralegal certificate. My boss told me the firm would help me pay for it and that they would get me a contract. About a month ago, my boss mentioned it again and said they needed to get working on the contract. I start school in seven days and I still have not gotten a contract or any money from the firm. How do I broach this with my boss?

“I start school next week, so I wanted to check back with you about the financial assistance you mentioned. Is that still something the firm is able to do?” Assuming she says yes, then say, “Since I’m about to start, do you think we could get the agreement done in the next week?”

It sounds like you were already planning on paying for school yourself so it’s not as urgent as it would be if your enrollment was riding on their following through, but it’s still reasonable to try to push this along. (Do be aware that companies that reimburse for education will usually include a clause that you’ll pay them back if you leave within X months/years. If they do that, make sure that it only applies if you leave voluntarily.)

{ 524 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I suspect he’s trying to passive-aggressively exert control or authority over you and your boss in retaliation for being placed on a coaching plan. Kind of like, “You’re watching me and are out to get me, so I’m going to get you, first!” That way, if he ends up on a PIP or fired, he can complain that you and your boss were never in, were inaccessible, and targeted him because of a personal vendetta.

    Which is unfortunate, because it’s a powerful kind of self-sabotage. I agree with Alison that you should nip this in the bud—his approach is just not reasonable.

    1. Willis*

      This was my guess too – that he’s trying to set up some reason that he’s not improving, and that that reason is going to be because his bosses weren’t available enough. It seems like a poor attempt at a power play though, because”I’m not doing well because no one is here to hold my hand all day,” is pretty dumb.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      Based on other letters here (…and my own life experience…), it seems common that people whose quality of work is being questioned have been known to get defensively picky about others’ schedules, because it’s something they can actually see others doing wrong or differently.

      Like, “How can MY work be so bad if Martin isn’t even here half the time,” and “Amy took an extra 20 minutes for lunch on Tuesday and no one said anything to HER,” and “They pick on me about one typo and Jamie leaves early to pick up his kid ALL THE FREAKING TIME,” and “How can Cameron even know what kind of work I’m doing since she’s off site all the time?” and here’s a literal quote from the letter from the mom whose kids kept calling her at work, “They turn their 10-minute breaks into half-hour breaks and nothing is ever said to them.”

      That all may well be true, but A) we’re discussing your role, not theirs, and B) the issue is your results, not others’ schedules. The others are not underperforming, so their timing is clearly not hurting them.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          That’s exactly how I read it, too. Chances are it’s at least partly deliberate, but there’s a decent chance that she’s not letting herself realize the reason why this…this monitoring and finding fault is so satisfying.

          1. Kat in VA*

            What strikes me as odd is that the focus is on not only her immediate supervisor, but her supervisor’s boss’ whereabouts also. Like…how is that in any way (1) your business or (2) relevant? (I get that there’s more to it for #2 than on its face, but logically – it’s just weird.)

            1. Kathleen_A*

              I do wonder how/if she justifies this fixation on “Where is Boss’s Boss?” in her head. How does it not sound absurd, even in the confines of her own head? So yes, just weird.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        A good preemptive way to nip that one is to say upfront, “I am in the office 60% of the time. It’s a key part of this job to be able to work on your own. You can organize your questions and I can answer them when I am here.”
        A couple side points:
        Understate how much you are in the office, set the expectation a little lower than what is actually doable for you. This way you don’t get stuck dealing with counting hours and working the math to find out if the percentage is correct.

        There is nothing wrong with telling a person that they have to learn to work on their own. It’s expected in most jobs. In the job I have now my boss is not there 75% of the time. And I am still crazy-busy.

        If they do not organize questions to ask you that is a strike against them. “I was here Monday, Wednesday and Friday and you did not ask me a single question during that time.”

        I love the one about Cameron. “Uh, it’s a work place. Everyone sees what you are doing when they pass by or they see it when your work gets passed to them. This is normal in work places for everyone to be able to figure out who is doing the job and who is not doing the job.”

        And “right on!” about the Amy thing. That can be squelched with, “I am not going to randomly discuss other people’s work performance. I don’t randomly discuss your work performance with other people. This conversation is limited to discussing your job.” The trick on that one is to expect to hear this and to have the phrasing in mind before the conversation starts.
        If you have to get down and work through comments like this, OP, you can add to your list, “Subordinate does not accept instruction well.” If I am talking about quality of work with an individual I do not expect to hear about Amy’s lunch break. This is an attempt at derailing the conversation. Stay focused on your talking points.

        1. Alanna of Trebond*

          It sounds like they’re in-office 100% of the time, just at internal meetings and dealing with other things that come up, so they’re only available to their employees 60% of the time.

          If this were an employee who was doing well but was inexperienced, or a relationship you wanted to build, I’d say it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give them some general visibility into your role (something like “I have 1:1 meetings with every direct report, and there are 5 of you, and I have to prepare before and make notes after. I go to department-wide meetings about X and Y. I coordinate with [people in job you don’t do] about [thing you don’t touch]. Etc.”) because I think it’s good for people to have a good understanding of what their bosses and colleagues do that doesn’t involve them.

          But this person sounds like a pill, and they need to cut it out. They should save anything not urgent for a weekly check-in with you. If you can schedule an “office hours” time when you’re usually available for more pressing stuff, that might help, but again, this is obnoxious behavior and it needs to stop.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            To be more specific, it sounds like LW is in the office nearly all the time, but in meetings maybe a quarter of the time. Usually scheduled but occasionally not. Grandboss does have some regular business that’s out of the office.

            While I can sorta see how a report might ask their boss about when they’re available, and when they’ll be back in their chair from a meeting–I don’t get how they’re getting in Grandboss’ grill on this topic. Seems really out of place.

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              I’m really surprised Grandboss hasn’t snapped and started saying, “none of your business.” Lord knows I would if it happened more than a handful of times.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I don’t think I’d give them any numbers or metrics like this. This kind of person will rules lawyer the heck out of that and try to build evidence that OP is only in the office 57.8% of the time. I think it’s better to emphasise that working on your own is a key part of the job, and that monitoring other peoples’ attendance and performance is not.

      2. AKchic*

        All of this.

        Micromanaging your coworkers (and bosses!) will not magically remove your PIP and wipe the slate clean. At the end of the day, your work will still be representative of you, and your coworkers’ and boss’s work will still be representative of them. Stop trying to shift blame.

      3. Kendra*

        I swear this is an instinctive behavior (or else learned VERY early). I worked for a little while in a nursery, watching kids as young as 18 months, and they would constantly try to excuse their own misbehavior by pointing out whatever another child was doing, even though they were barely old enough to talk. It used to annoy the crap out of me; throwing Sam under the bus for eating glue is not going to save you from getting in trouble for hitting your sister, Anna!

        1. AKchic*

          Because if Parental Authority Figure is busy disciplining Sam for eating glue, then PAF can’t discipline ME for hitting Anna and might forget all about it if Anna just stops crying! Now if only I can get the dog to go dig in the trash and maybe tell Anna that there’s candy outside and she leaves the back door open so the dog runs outside and causes more problems so PAF is still too busy to remember I hit Anna in the first place…

          1. C Baker*

            If that doesn’t work, then maybe PAF will criticize me for trying to change the subject and, again, forget all about the hitting. I STILL WIN.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I see a lot of adults use this kind of thinking, especially in politics, so I think you are right. It’s also effective, sadly.

    3. JSPA*

      That level of “tell me where you are at every moment” would be stalker-ish and controlling in any other relationship, or a sign of someone in desperate need of reassurance or backup (or both). Saying so directly to the person making demands is going to up the ante uncomfortably, and is not advisable. But keep in in the back of your mind, so that you feel comfortable telling them that it’s very broadly unreasonable.

      There could be a real or imagined source of major anxiety in play. If so, it’s fine to be sympathetic to their anxiety, but it’s not fine to be held hostage by their anxiety. I’d probe gently: “This “solution” is causing more problems than it’s solving, and it’s not a reasonable demand on our scheduling. I’m frankly not understanding what’s driving your need to know our whereabouts every moment of the day. If you can put that in words, perhaps we can find a solution that meets your needs and ours.”

      It’s possible that they’re worried that if you meet with the boss without telling them, that the two of you will be working on a firing plan, and they need to hear that you will not do an in-depth review of their progress without notifying them first. Maybe there’s one work process or client that makes them anxious, and they freak out a bit when they have to deal with that without either of you there to fall back on; either re-assigning that one thing, or setting up a flow chart, or telling the client that they can’t be creepy to your employee, will fix the problem. Maybe they’re being harassed by someone, and that’s why they are not performing well, and also why they don’t want to be alone without a higher-up reachable. Maybe they’re doing something illegal or time-wasting, and knowing where you are means that you can’t pop up over their shoulder from an unexpected direction, and see them browsing other people’s email, or playing WOW. The possibilities are endless, and this need not be a power play per se, even if that’s how it lands with you and your boss.

      1. Observer*

        I would not probe, at all. The behavior is out or line and it needs to stop regardless of the reason. And the employee has not behaved in a way that makes it reasonable or safe for the OP to take this tack. All they need is for this employee to use these questions to “prove” that the OP had it in for them because OP perceived them as disabled. “I told you OP had a vendetta against me. They think I’m crazy and THAT’S why they are out to get me!”

        No thanks.

        None of the scenarios you present are likely – so much so that even in the aggregate it’s not likely that any of this is an issue. Also, let’s face it – the employee has had multiple chances to ask for what they need. The OP has been getting them on a coaching track, that the grandboss has actually had a meeting with them to hear their issues. At no point did the employee raise any of the possible legitimate issues. And the OP needn’t worry about the others.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Cosign. This would be way too much indulgence. OP needs to tell them to stay in their own lane.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          This line of thinking is the reason I kept getting fired when I was young.
          I was anxious. I did need support.
          I was not trying to stalk my managers or set up a wrongful termination lawsuit. I was trying to survive and have a decent life.
          It was many years before I understood things well enough to realize managers had jumped to conclusions about me – reading nervous as guilty, and anxious as high-maintenance.

          1. JSPA*

            Yep, people who have not seen this or lived this think it’s strange and unlikely–and maybe in their line of work, it is, as certain personality types may self-select into certain occupations–but I feel like I’ve seen it fairly often. (I’m not tossing out hypotheticals, I’m tossing in examples close to things I’ve seen, over the years.)

            1. Observer*

              Some of these things do happen. But some of them are wildly unreasonable to accommodate., and the others are highly unlikely in this context.

              1. LQ*

                Not only are they unreasonable to accommodate, they are not the boss’s responsibility to suss out.

                I am the person who has said that I make my anxiety pay rent by making me more anxious about some things than others. I exist in a near panic about everything.

                It’s my job to manage that. Not my boss’s. Definitely not my boss’s boss. I have to be responsible for my own fears and anxieties and panics and understand that my boss isn’t there to soothe my feelings. They are there to do work and help me do work and I am there to do work.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  I understand a boss can only do so much to accommodate an anxious employee.
                  It would be nice if they didn’t assume bad intentions though!

                2. Parenthetically*

                  @Michaela Westen — I am very much an “assume positive intent” person, but in this case you have an employee who has already accused his immediate manager of having a personal vendetta against him, despite documented performance issues. That doesn’t incline many people to wipe the slate clean and assume he’s got a really valid, possibly-anxiety-driven reason to want to track his boss and grandboss every minute of the day.

                3. Observer*

                  @Michaela Westen, in general you are right that it can be a good idea to assume neutral or good intent. But, as has come up many times here, there comes a point where intent is not the issue – impact and behavior is. This situation is one example.

                  Furthermore, in this particular case, the employee had already made it clear that they do NOT have purely innocuous intent. They have made accusations and started this inappropriate behavior as a response to attempts to manage them. That’s not good faith at all.

                4. JSPA*

                  If you’re trying to manage the person out, then manage the person out.

                  If you’re looking to work with them, then work on the assumption that improvement is possible, and that a win-win path to improvement is desirable.

                  OP didn’t say, “I didn’t have a vendetta, but by now I really want to see them gone, and I want to know what the minimum is that I must do, to not feed their scenario of being persecuted.” That’d be a reasonable reaction for OP to have, fair enough. But apparently someone cares enough about this person to have (carelessly?) acceded to the “let me know where you are at all times” request. So if OP has to work with the person, it’s in OP’s interest to find out what easy answer might make that possible.

                  People are responding as if I’d told OP to act as a psychologist. I did no such thing. I suggested asking the person in question to come up with a more precise formulation of what they actually need–one that’s not impossible, intrusive, weird, etc. No promise that this will work, but it’s so very, very low-stakes to ask that one question, and see what you hear.

          2. Observer*

            Well, you were high maintenance. Do you really think it’s realistic for a boss to give you multiple opportunities to express reasonable needs, and when you fail to do so, start trying to figure and accommodate your problem when you start acting even MORE unreasonably?

            The OP has been trying to make sure that they are being reasonable and accommodating reasonable needs. The employee has not only not responded well, they are now being even MORE demanding. At what point is it on the person with an issue – assuming there is a legitimate issues here – to take some responsibility, figure out what they need and communicate with their boss?

            1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

              I think it’s all in how and what you ask. For example, I have a job function at work that is very intermittently a part of my role, but I am expected to know how to do it. I was trained on it when I first started, and then was never given a chance to do it until this week. What I did was say I have copious detailed notes, but they are from training. Could I either sit with somebody for a few minutes for a quick refresher or could somebody check my work on this task before I submit to make sure it’s done correctly?
              My boss asked our best person on that task to sit with me for 30 mins and have me do it – but she was showing and helping me correct my mistakes (and add to my notes on the process). It worked for our office – Mostly because I was asking for a minimum of support on a new task, and I was also willing to just go with my notes if no extra was able to be given to me. I think some of it comes down to knowing your office and the culture (and also how much extra support has already been given to the person).

        3. Psyche*

          I didn’t see any behavior that would make asking unsafe. I think that the OP can tell them that the behavior is out of line and needs to stop while also asking if there was a reason for it and if there is a legitimate problem try to find an alternate solution.

          1. Observer*

            No- the employee has been given plenty of space to make their legitimate needs known. They have responded by claiming that there is a vendetta against them, and making ridiculous demands. You don’t give a person like that a new excuse for even more complaints and ridiculous demands.

        4. JSPA*

          I wasn’t using “anxiety” in the clinical sense, this time. (The plain old day-to-day, non-medical usage is still the dominant meaning of the term, so far as I can tell, unless you specify “attacks” or “disorder.”)

          But sure, by all means avoid the ambiguity. How about,

          “this isn’t working. We’re open to other solutions if you can find another, more specific way to ask for whatever it is you legitimately need from us.”

        5. Sara without an H*

          I would caution against getting too hung up on people’s possible motives. It’s not useful, you’re probably wrong, and it doesn’t solve the problem anyway. Always focus on behavior.

          In OP#1’s case, yes, this is probably how Problem Employee is pushing back against her new manager’s efforts to get her performance up to acceptable levels. I would urge the OP not to get deflected, just politely but firmly explain that these expectations are not practical or appropriate, and keep the focus on performance issues. Getting lured out into the psychological sagebrush will not help matters.

      2. LQ*

        They don’t need to intend for it to be a power play for it to absolutely be a power play, and it is. This person decided that their boss and their boss’s boss work for them and must report their whereabouts (which even most bosses don’t require) to them. That’s not ok. And in that one super weird situation (which this is absolutely not, but someone will come up with one) the responsibility to explain why would be entirely on the employee to explain and they haven’t. This is a power play. Intentional or not. They are getting their boss and boss’s boss to report to them. Not acceptable. No probing needed. Tell them to stop and do not indulge this at all.

        1. JSPA*

          Sure, that’s the end result, and that’s why it must stop, now.

          But sometimes the most efficient and most rewarding answer isn’t to meet a power play with greater power. Diverting an unwelcome stream takes much less ongoing energy than putting on pressure. (By that metaphor, what they’re having to do now is bail constantly, which is even worse.)

          (Said as someone whose sump pump isn’t working, who wishes that she’d done a bit of re-grading out in the yard, instead, and then let gravity do the work, rather than electricity and devices.)

          1. LQ*

            If this was a letter that said, “My employee asked about knowing where I am. They are otherwise a good employee and it doesn’t quite make sense where this is coming from.” Then yeah, absolutely probe, ask questions then.

            But the employee is demanding it of boss and boss’s boss. You don’t need to respond with greater power. You just shut it down. You don’t stand up and take up more space, you sit down and shrug. You remember you are the boss and you don’t have to answer to your employee. You smile and are kind and and hold them to a clear, well defined pip and fire them if they don’t meet it.

          2. Wintermute*

            No, nononono.

            You are the boss, yes you don’t want to lord that over people but being indirect and cajoling and ‘redirecting’ and using soft power is just way, way too much. Unacceptable behavior is happening, it needs to stop, you have all the power you need in that situation: they stop or they’re fired. You do not need to take on the labor of managing their emotions. Set the expectation and hold them to it.

            1. JSPA*

              What’s missing is the fact that OP’s boss apparently agreed to the intrusion. So OP may not be at liberty to countermand the agreement in toto, without offering an opening for a better answer. Otherwise, this is actually OP’s boss’s problem to fix. “Boss, employee badgers me for your and my location and purpose constantly. You and I both agreed to their general request, which seemed harmless at the time. Could you clarify some hard limits on this? It’s becoming a distracting burden, every time there’s a snap meeting, and they’re pushing me for information on your client meetings that’s not even need-to-know for me, let alone for them.”

              1. Glitsy Gus*

                I agree here. Even if only to tell Grandboss, “Fergus constantly asking where you and I are going and when we’ll be back is obnoxious and out of line. I’m going to tell him to knock it off, so, yeah, let me know if he keeps it up and know that I’ve told him to stop.” If for no other reason so that GBoss knows to have your back on this and not play into it anymore.

      3. designbot*

        I agree that I’d also probe further on it, even though I doubt there are legitimate needs to be met here! I’d probe in that way that bosses do when they’re getting you to see the need does not exist. “If I’m meeting with (client) vs meeting with our board of directors vs meeting with another manager, what impact does that make on what you do?”

    4. LGC*

      That was pretty much my read as well. The red flag is that the employee wants to know not only if LW and her boss are in office, but what they’re doing! That second part is what’s really unreasonable, in my opinion – does the employee expect you to tell them that at 11 you’re discussing performance issues on the team and then at 12 you have a meeting with a potential customer?

      (I’m mostly pointing this out in case LW1 reads this – because it did seem like she thought the employee might be acting in good faith. I’m pretty sure the employee is NOT, but I’m just a guy on the internet.)

      For LW1: The best way to handle it is not to engage the employee’s tantrum and just say that you’re reachable by whatever methods within X reasonable time period. (Basically, the advice given, but you REALLY want to avoid playing the employee’s games.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The employee might think they are acting in good faith by pointing out the boss is not around. There is nothing wrong with resetting expectations. “No that is not how it goes in many work places. At our company you can routinely expect to see bosses coming and going at random times. This is normal and to be expected. It is not normal and NOT to be expected to have a boss available on a moment’s notice through out the work week. That will not happen here. Part of the job requires all employees to be able to flexibly work with or without the boss present.”

        1. LGC*

          I agree that the expectations need to be reset, but…I think that if that were the case, the employee wouldn’t have asked to know what their bosses were doing (which was my read). To me, that came off as showing suspicion that their bosses were unproductive – which might be reading into it, but I think it’s a fair assumption.

          In general, though, I think it IS fair for a manager to let their team know when they’re unavailable – so that part I didn’t have an issue with on its own.

          1. Antilles*

            In general, though, I think it IS fair for a manager to let their team know when they’re unavailable – so that part I didn’t have an issue with on its own.
            I think this is really situation-dependent. If you’re out of office frequently or for a long time, that needs to be said, but I don’t know if it’s really needed to let people know every time you go out for a 1-2 hour client meeting or get pulled into a conference call or whatever.
            For OP in particular, I think the way she’s handling it is perfectly fine – OP said she is in office 70-80% of the time and lets her team know when she’s going to be gone for extended periods. I’m interpreting that as she’s easily accessible most of the time, so outside of building-on-fire emergencies, her staff could just wait a couple hours and get what they need.

            1. LGC*

              That’s why I said “in general!” Like, in my case – since I’m expected to be at my desk, I’ll even let my team know if I’m going to be in an hour long meeting or I’m testing a machine.

              I guess, to phrase it better, while I think that LW1 already does what’s necessary, I didn’t find it overly offensive that the employee asked for LW1’s schedule.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            I think the point still stands. Alison’s advice is great, but I immediately wanted to add to it – if one REALLY wanted to give the employee the benefit of the doubt – it’d be worth explaining to the employee not only the stuff she said to say but also that this employee’s request would likely be seen as out of place in ANY office, not just this one. It’s more than just she can see their calendar and should check there and it’s impractical to tell her every time they have a meeting not only that they’ll be gone but what they’re doing- but pretty much every manager in every company would find that request out of place. She has no need to know this in order to do her job. She needs to focus on doing her job better and focus less on where everyone else is and especially the why. Knowing this won’t help her get better at her job and will make her look out of touch in most offices. No need to acknowledge it as a power play. The point is it makes her look like she doesn’t understand office norms. If she were doing it as a power play intentionally, it’s quelched. If it were just a knee-jerk reaction, if she’s reasonable and actually wants to improve, it might be a wake up call: that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. If she’s unreasonable, it doesn’t matter, nothing said to an unreasonable person is likely to help.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        That’s what bothered me too. It’s not super unusual to want to know when the boss will be back – all kinds of things could come up that would make that useful information. It is super unusual and weird to demand to know what your boss is doing and what the meetings are about (?!?). That is the kind of thing a manager can ask someone they supervise, not the other way around! It’s like he doesn’t trust that you are really working and is trying to supervise you.

        1. LGC*

          That is the kind of thing a manager can ask someone they supervise, not the other way around! It’s like he doesn’t trust that you are really working and is trying to supervise you.

          I did dance around it, but…yeah, that’s what pinged me! (And now that I think about it, that’s why LW1 said it felt like a power play on the employee’s part, most likely.)

          Like, there’s managing up, and then there’s…what this employee is doing.

      3. Works in IT*

        Yeah, I…. am not a problem employee. And while I do ask my manager what he’s going to do when he leaves his office, I do NOT want a play by play of what he’s going to do, just the ability to tell people who stop by looking for him “he’s gone to visit our other locations so he won’t be back for hours”, “he should be back in a few minutes” or “he’s gone for the day”. And I only ask because my office is right next to his, and people don’t like being told I have no idea where he is today, so some minimum knowledge of where he’s going to be is necessary to keep them happy.

        Wanting to know exactly where your manager is going and what they’re doing and why is weird and feels passive aggressive.

    5. Mookie*

      These kinds of unsolicited-comments-veiled-as-interrogations are so obviously adversarial and disruptive given the context, I can’t really fathom the person who thinks this is going to work out well for them. The entire subtext is a weird threat to wield a power they don’t have. Literally, no one is going to be receptive to an underperforming employee with a record trying to critique their bosses’s time-management skills.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, on some level this employee knows they are on a slippery slope. These types of arguments are last ditch efforts to salvage a bad situation.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        It’s not necessarily a deliberate power play. It could be anxiety combined with being too inexperienced to realize how inappropriate it is.

      3. LCL*

        Every time I have seen this at work, the situation has been as Mookie describes it. It’s meant to be aggressive and defensive at the same time, and meant to be derailing. I understand what Michaela has posted, and we have had those employees asking about my whereabouts and other things because of a level of anxiousness. The anxious employee can be settled, temporarily, by explaining what is going on, and by clearly explaining the limits of your knowledge and control. The questions from anxious employees feel different from the behavior that OP 1 describes.

    6. Traffic_Spiral*

      I think she should nip his behavior re: her in the bud, but leave the boss “Jane” to handle her own matters. She gets paid enough to shut down her own nuisances.

      1. Eleanora (UK)*

        I think the letter writer would be wise to shut it down altogether – she’s ultimately responsible for managing him, which involves addressing behaviour not aimed at her that is not in line with professional standards.

      2. Anne Elliot*

        Right. The problem with letting Boss handle her part of the problem is that I suspect part of what Employee might be attempting to do, is to make Boss effectively her manager by circumventing Supervisor and dealing directly with Boss. So I think Supervisor absolutely should be inserting herself between Employee and Boss to make sure that she (Supervisor) is the point of contact and the one who addresses the identified issue with Employee.

      3. TootsNYC*

        “She gets paid enough to shut down her own nuisances.”

        Yes, but I pay the manager beneath me to shut down nuisances that come from the people I’ve hired them to manage.

    7. SigneL*

      OP 1, I suspect your employee is also documenting “his side of the story.” I think you’re going to need your notes, so be meticulous.

      1. starsaphire*

        Yep. Trying to frame his dismissal as “retribution” for his attempt to save the company from you and your boss’s profligate ways.

        At least, that’s how I read it.

    8. Not So Super-visor*

      100% on this! I had an employee who had repeated performance issues do this to me as well. He started reporting what time I was leaving for the day to my boss any time that I left before the employee did. He phrased it as I was just disappearing and he didn’t know who to go to with issues. Mind you, I was working 10-12 hours a day, and the night manager got there about the time that I hit my 8th hour. My boss was on to him though and finally told him that I am of course allowed to go home at some point, why wasn’t he checking in with the night manager if he had issues, and then told me that he thought that I might be working too many hours.

    9. Artemesia*

      Absolutely. This is behavior that should have been nipped the first time it happened. He is monitoring the boss as a way of demonstrating dominance. He needs to be told that this is not his concern and to cut it out. Make sure he has a way to communicate at all times so he isn’t complaining up the chain that ‘the boss is never available’ then alert others above you that there is a problem employee and you are coaching him in hopes of turning his performance around, but he is resentful and seeking to punish those managing him by complaining about availability. And this is how you are handling this. You don’t want those above you giving this credence. We had someone like this who went all the way to the CEO but we had alerted those up the ladder about the situation and so his behavior just confirmed the wisdom of the steps we were taking in the PIP.

  2. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    OP 2 -I have to wonder if you are talking about the MBTA. If so, my condolences.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Y’all, please don’t speculate on where the OP is; if she had wanted to name the city, she would have. It’s fine to talk about what’s happening in various cities, but this isn’t a mystery we should be trying to solve. (I’ve removed the comments that were solely speculation.)

      1. JSPA*

        OP has now (effectively) disclosed, and is talking water taxis with other denizens. So it appears to be fair game.

    2. Fulano*

      I was going to say OP2 is clearly in the midst of the Washington DC Metro fiasco (“is Metro on Fire” in actually a web site), but the “harbor” throws it off. Either way, I’m glad to see our infrastructure is in such great shape

      1. Dan*

        My bet was NYC. DC hasn’t had hellacious headlines in awhile, despite the track maintenance south of the airport this summer.

        I met the guy who started the “is metro on fire” website. He had some issues because he started it as more of a technical joke — he was teaching himself to scrape twitter tweets and do something with them, and thought it would be amusing to start a website. Then the paper caught on and started running stories. He had to contact the paper and be like, “um you can’t cite me as a reliable source.”

        1. Amy*

          I agree you don’t generally hear it referred to it that way but NYC does have a harbor, the area where Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are. I was imagining Jersey City because of the 20 minutes. There was also a big track fire at Union Square this year.

          1. Another Anon*

            Yeah but that’s called the Hudson or the River, no natives would call it the harbor.

            1. Amy*

              This could easily be a newcomer.

              When I moved to NYC, it took me years to accept the reality of the transit situation. I often had an idea in my head such as “my commute is only supposed to take 25
              minutes” when really that was the exception when all the MTA stars were in alignment, the average was more like 45.

              Once I accepted it, things went more smoothly.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Native New Yorker here. Yes technically there’s a harbor there — but I’ve heard it referred to more often as “the river” or “the bay”. (Except by people involved in shipping, Navy, or Coast Guard…and even some of them have given up trying to correct their friends.)

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Could also be Baltimore Harbor.

          But I suspect Alison would like us to *NOT* speculate on the letter-writer’s location.

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            I’m chuckling at this. Look how deeply ingrained the desire to speculate is — you speculated about the location in the very same post that you chastised others for speculating.

          2. Xantar*

            Baltimore’s harbor doesn’t have a train running across it, though. And we haven’t had any fires.

          3. Meezle*

            That was my first thought – Baltimore has had several train derailings and a constant slew of public transportation issues, and one of the biggest headaches is commuting across the harbor.

        3. Overeducated*

          Well sure, the metro doesn’t have problems when it’s just not running for 4 months! No transportation, no problems! (Signed, a grumpy commuter from south of the airport…)

      2. Tigger*

        When I was working in southeast DC in summer of 2016 (aka the summer where everything was on fire and they shut down half the system for phase one) my company at the time installed boards in all of the managers offices that showed all the current traffic times , Uber rates and train delays from all the major stations so they could catch employees in lies. They also had a 0 tolerance late policy. My normal 45 minute ride from the red line took 2 – 2.5 hours on a good day so I ended up just driving and finding some random lot a mile from work that cost $20 a day and driving in. It was horrible.

        1. valentine*

          my company at the time installed boards in all of the managers offices that showed all the current traffic times , Uber rates and train delays from all the major stations so they could catch employees in lies.
          This is horrific. I thought it was going to be to aid employees in making decisions.

          1. Tigger*

            My department thankfully ignored the boards after 3 weeks (my grandboss would flip off the transport channel and put it on ESPN lol) but there were departments that had not the most reliable workforce that the managers needed that information to make decisions if someone rolled in an hour late and blamed a train or bus. It was stressful and big brothery

          2. Allison*

            Right? I thought that it could help managers understand when people are going to be late, so employees don’t have to email them from the train station telling them the train is broken and they might be a while.

          3. Overeducated*

            Wow, that sounds like such a high-stress environment. Dealing with unpredictable travel time is difficult enough without literal surveillance and second-guessing.

            1. London Calling*

              It’s 40 degrees today in London. My trains this week have been late, delayed, cancelled and on speed restrictions because of buckled rails, line side fires, you name it – and my train company couldn’t run a bath, let alone a railway, at the best of times. I asked today if I could leave early so as to have a reasonable chance of getting home in under 2 hours and from my manager’s face you’d have thought I’d asked for the blood of her firstborn. And when I say early, I mean 15 minutes. Let me add that most of the time, despite living nearly 20 miles from the office, I’m usually the first one in – certainly before people who live a lot nearer. So a board trying to catch people out doesn’t surprise me. I mean, God forbid that I should take such a liberty as wanting to get home in reasonable time on a hellish day for commutes.

              1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

                Hi, are you my brother-in-law, or his recent replacement? There were so many issues with trains last year because of strikes, too, plus the weather. Lucky for me I wasn’t working in London at the time but I heard about the problems every day. But it still took me two hours to get home last night where is usually takes 40 minutes.

              2. TPS Cover Sheet*

                Ah, you’re on GTR as well. I think their new strategy is to create an excuse if their train runs on time.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          So it’s a known issue and they 1) assume people are going to be lying for some reason and 2) a zero late policy.

          How early were you supposed to start your commute to make sure you’d be on time then? Full disclosure, once in another lifetime I started my commute at 4:07 AM (yeah even a million years later I remember the time) to start walking a mile to the transit center to get on the first of four busses in order to make work by 8:30 AM.

          Busses back then ran on the hour or half hour at that time of day and at one point, IIRC it was the final connection, I had like a 45 minute wait, young woman, alone, nothing open, early in the morning, way, way, way before cell phones. I was young. I was invincible. It was like 45 cents above minimum wage. I was stupid.

          1. starsaphire*

            Sending zen hugs from another formerly stupid young working woman. In heels and pantyhose, no less. Like I could have run if anything had happened…

          2. boop the first*

            Good lord. That’s an entire day’s work worth of commuting. I would have to be paid A LOT to be willing to spend 9 hours a day on a bus.

            Hell, I would buy a bus and start a commuting business of trucking people in to work because clearly there would be a market for it.

            Or I would just be a hermit living in poverty in a swamp and be Wild Hermit Woman of the block and spook trespassing children for kicks. Start up an urban legend that if you don’t leave a bag of potatoes on the shrine in the swamp every week, the Wild Hermit Woman will visit you in the night. Maybe a cake. Something nice.

        3. PretzelGirl*

          That’s awful! How horrible for company morale!

          I don’t live in a major metro area, but a “Medium” metro area. In the winter if we get bad weather it can make my commute unpredictable. Thankfully, I have always had understanding bosses. But I can be upwards of 2 hours late sometimes. There is no way I am leaving everyday at 6am “just in case”.

          1. Miss Fisher*

            Same, we don’t have a subway where I live but the buses can be really delayed esp in snow. Our company sends out a sever weather reminder email. snowing, just leave earlier unless its a level 3 where its illegal to drive. But luckily my department can work from home. However, you have to log in at like 5 am to get a spot on those days since everyone is using the WFH option. Or else you are just not getting a log on because the system can be so rotten slow.

            1. Allison*

              I live in Boston, and any time I interview with a new company I ask about their attitude towards working from home when we’re expecting a bad snowstorm. After my first job, I really value a company that’s cool with people working from home as a precaution, even if public transit will be running and the storm isn’t expected to be life threatening.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                I live in Somerville and work in Cambridge…I’ve been walking to work lately rather than deal with the ongoing Red Line fiasco!

              2. BostonKate*

                I ask the same question! I lived in Quincy during the winter of 2015 and told my boss I needed to WFH since the Braintree line was shut down and her response was, “Are you sure you can’t get in?” Um did you want me to teleport to work haha

                1. Sally*

                  I lived through that as well, and on the day I had a doctor’s appointment in the Fenway area, and there were no trains, no buses, and I wasn’t going to drive, I walked from JP. It took about an hour, but at least I wasn’t walking to and from work! During that winter of storm after storm, I worked from home for weeks. I’m so glad my employer was completely fine with it.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              Where I live the trains are much more reliable than buses, even in good weather. Any little thing will cause buses to be delayed.
              Miss Fisher, your company needs to upgrade its network! Logging in at 5am is unacceptable!

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                I used to live in a suburb outside of Philly, and work in a different suburb. Both had regional rail service, but different lines, so going that route involved a trip into center city. There was one day when it was supposed to rain, but the temperature dropped just enough to be snow, starting around 3:00 in the afternoon. This is the perfect recipe for a traffic disaster. The plows weren’t deployed, since it was supposed to rain. People started bailing out from work, resulting in a huge traffic jam that the plows couldn’t get through. I quickly realized that this was hopeless, so I walked to the regional rail station. The trains were the only mode of transport that were still running. It made for a long and uncomfortable trip, but I got home. After that I became something of a fan of the trains. People complain, but they actually work (or did at that time, twenty years ago) pretty well.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  Yes, I love trains. They still work well where I live, and the transit company works hard to keep them running and maintained. I wish there were enough train lines that no one ever has to own a car.
                  I believe car-dependence is bad for our culture and economy.
                  When people are isolated in cars they don’t see their neighbors.
                  When people have to pay $$$ to maintain a car to get to work, it keeps them poor.
                  And as we all know, the rust belt being dependent on one industry leads to trouble.

        4. Yikes*

          I lived in DC a little over ten years ago. Relatively frequently, I’d be unable to board a train at Farragut Square when it was time to go home, and would end up having to walk an hour home. Best shape of my life, though! DC is not built to accommodate the number of people living in the area, and I’m sure that situation has not improved with all the changes over the past decade.

      3. Tiny Soprano*

        Where it said ‘harbor’ I had so much sympathy. Sydney’s just like this except it’s a bridge not a tunnel.

      4. EPLawyer*

        I’m going with DC simply because of tunnel across the harbor. Especially with talking about the LAST shut down. That was Safetrack when Northern VA was cut off from DC. This time, they are cut off again because of the station shut downs. And the track is on fire and a regular occurrence is pretty much WMATA to a T.

        OP2, your boss understands this is beyond your control. If you are letting them know, not missing deadlines and getting your work done, she understands. Talk to her like Alison said, but I bet she says “no kidding Metro sucks.”

        IF it is Metro, the shutdown should end in September. October at the latest. Unless it goes into November. But this particular issue will end — not the fires and stuff until Metro is held accountable.

      5. Sara*

        My brother’s high school buddy made that website and it makes me laugh every time I see him retweet it on Twitter. I mean, its terrible for DC residents but the fact that it says “Not Yet’ amuses me.

      6. OP #2*

        It sure is! I have to take blue, to green, to red to get from Maverick to Harvard. If they all run fine, it’s the fastest way to get to my office. If one goes down or has a 20+ minute wait time, I usually end up walking portions of my route up to 20 to 30 minutes instead, which has been oh-so-great in this heat, when I show up both late AND covered in sweat. Unless of course the wait/shut down starts on the wrong side of the water, in which case I’m just stranded. I was able to get a ride last week when the blue line stopped, which took me an hour because of the traffic, but from what I hear only two or three shuttles were able to get through before the train was “fixed” and hundreds of people were packed like sardines on the street trying to fight for a place in line to board.

        1. Dagny*

          I figured it was Boston, but I’m a native Bostonian and still twitch a bit at the thought of Winter 2015.

        2. Possum possum possum*

          I only have to take the bus to the red line and my commute has been wrecked this summer too, I can’t imagine needing to take three lines!! You have my sympathy. The MBTA is a big reason I’m considering moving, even though there’s a lot that I love about the Boston area. Ugh.

        3. solar*

          A friend of mine with that commute found it faster to walk from the Blue line to the Red line. (Google says it’s a 9min walk, which is pretty comparable to the 3min ride plus waiting for the next train to come. Especially since the Green line is kinda crap.)

          Do you have the ability to work from home? Or work partially from home, and come in after rush hour/leave before rush hour?

    3. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      I guessed as much – red line derailment still causing problems and blue line fire last week are just the latest.

      1. Likeaboss*

        Not to mention the orange line generally sucks and half of the green line is at the mercy of jerks not stopping on the tracks… GAH I HATE THE T

        1. Polaris*

          Not speculating on OP’s location, but solidarity fistbump to all the other Bostonites in this thread.

          1. notfunny.*

            Greetings from Cambridge! I am feeling very fortunate to be a bike commuter right now though that’s not always a walk in the park either….

              1. Anne Elliot*

                For he never returned, no, he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned
                And he’ll ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston
                He’s the man who never returned

      2. ellex42*

        “Red line and blue line” made me pause for a moment, because that’s what we have in Pittsburgh (light rail rather than subway), but I know there were no derailments or fires last week!

        But we do have work on the transit tunnel starting this weekend and lasting for a month, and of course they are diverting the inbound trains to go the long way round rather than the outbound trains. I don’t mind taking longer to get home, but the extra time to get into work is annoying.

        We had fun last year with an actual train derailing ONTO the light rail tracks. The cleanup was at least interesting to watch. And then some barges got loose back in January and all the bridges (and we have lots of them) had to be inspected for damage and no one could get into downtown for a day. But for the most part Pittsburgh’s transit system, while desperately needing more money and expansion, works pretty consistently.

        1. Sarah-tonin*

          Haha I thought of Chicago’s L, because these colored lines are what we have too! But then someone mentioned the Orange Line sucking, and I was thinking, I take that three times a week and it’s fine….?

          I take hte Metra train, in addition to buses and the L, and that has its problems (woo boy, does it have its problems sometimes), but it sounds like a piece of cake compared to whatever system OP2 is talking about. You all have my sympathies. Yikes.

    4. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Yeah, sympathy from the South Shore. I’m working crazy hours right now so the problems aren’t that disruptive to my commute, but peak commuting times are a nightmare. It sounds like your manager is understanding of the situation, and hopefully that will continue.

    5. Bostonian*

      If that’s the case, OP, check out any water taxi/ ferry options!

      In any case, it sounds like your employer has been understanding, and it’s not required to be there at a specific time. But I can understand not wanting to appear as though you’re taking that flexibility for granted. Take Alison’s advice to talk to your boss about it. Good luck!

      1. Love that Dirty Water*

        (Being mostly a Red Line user myself) I 100% forget that the water taxi / ferry options exist, neat idea!

        1. Boston J*

          It becomes prohibitively expensive though. I have a coworker who is at the mercy of Blue line and they just stay home when it gets bad.

      2. OP #2*

        Yes, I do have the water taxi in my back pocket if I had to! But that is $15 each way, on top of the $90 a month I’m already paying for an oft-useless Charlie card, and when there are huge crowds all trying to use it to get across, the wait times are also staggering.

        I am fortunate that my boss has been understanding! I was really curious what the suggestions would be in general for what an employee is supposed to do when all of the options lead to being late in some way or another. If she did have a problem with it, or it becomes I problem, I’m at such a loss for what I’d do. But I’m definitely going to just talk to her and see what she’s thinking about it so far and if there’s anything else I should be doing, and continue to give my deepest sympathies to anyone who doesn’t have such an understanding work place.

        1. Anu*

          Do you have any flexibility as to exact working hours? Not just to come late, but to come and go early? My company (also in Boston) offers that – as long as you put in your 7.5 hours a day (on average), don’t miss meetings and do your work well, they don’t care exactly when those hours happen. So I have started coming in earlier (which reduces the risk of transportation snarl-ups) and then leaving earlier too. For me that means a roughly 8-4 schedule, which works pretty well, but I know people who do 7:30-3:30 too. (Obviously there will be the occasional later day due to meetings or work that needs to get done, but those are my standard hours. ) If you come in earlier to make sure you get in by x time, that could be worth it if you could leave earlier too.

          1. Mia_Mia*

            I agree with flexible hours. I live in Boston too and we have flexible work hours, so being late because of public transportation hasn’t been too much of an issue. I come in later to avoid rush hour, but others come in earlier. and even when that doesn’t work, we just stay later ot make up the time. There have been a few times where I needed to be here for a meeting and I could not be late. In those cases, I just took uber/lyft rather than take a chance.

        2. Trying a New Name*

          I feel like you shouldn’t worry too much, OP! Anyone who lives/works in Boston (who is a reasonable person) should be understanding with commuting-related problems, especially since it hasn’t had a major impact on your work. We all experience it, no matter what method you take, and I’m sure your boss experiences it herself! Sending solidarity/the pipedream hope the T will one day function effectively

        3. subway commuter*

          I also commute on the MBTA (red line, represent!) and agree the unpredictability is killer. Totally sympathize with you and hoping they resolve soon…

          Would it be possible for you to replace one or more parts of the journey with walking? For example, sometimes I’ll get off 1-2 stops early (there’s like 2 stations on the red line where the train regularly gets “stuck” in between stations and/or has to slow down because of track issues) and walk ~40 mins in the morning if I have a time sensitive meeting. It ends up lengthening my overall commute but I am treating it as a replacement for a morning run / gym time and it hasn’t been too bad, other than the awful heat wave we recently had.

          1. Just Another Techie*

            I just gave notice at a job where I commuted by car on Rt 2 for one where I could take the red line four stops. And the very next day was the derailment that took out the signal infrastructure at JFK. Ahhh, the universe has a cruel sense of humor.

        4. BostonKate*

          As a fellow Boston manager, I usually assume if one of my employees is late it’s cuz of the T. I’d never hold it against anyone especially since we have such limited transport options and driving is a friggen nightmare around here. Definitely talk to your manager if you’re worried, but they’re probably just as fed up with the MBTA as the rest of eastern MA haha

        5. sb51*

          One thing I definitely did (as a Bostonian commuting in the winter that everything went to heck a few years back) — I asked my colleagues, whenever possible, to do afternoon or late morning meetings. That way I could come in when I came in, and work late, and not miss the meetings. And if an early meeting was necessary, if I could call in for it from home and come in after — the company isn’t big on WFH but all of us train people got a relaxation of that until the T was running again reasonably.

          It probably didn’t hurt that, back in more halcyon MBTA days, during morning blizzards I’d be the only one who’d made it in so far and could reboot computers and do other on-site stuff for people waiting for the plows to make the roads reasonable.

          1. nonegiven*

            I know my son spent the night on the sofa at work one night when the snow was over waist high. He usually walked or biked to work there.

        6. MommyMD*

          You could leave earlier and bring something to occupy yourself until work hours. Eat, read, coffee, nap, pay bills, stream a show. I’d do that over arriving late.

    6. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Wow – this thread is making me oddly grateful to live near a city with one of the most laughable public transportation systems. Everything is geared for taking cars here and apparently that is fine.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I also live close enough that biking is quicker than driving, so in nice weather I am pretty well set.

        1. Overeducated*

          Same here, biking’s faster. It’s been difficult on the 90+ humid days this summer though, a long transit shutdown where I live has really made me realize how much I do rely on it as a backup in bad weather or when I’m not feeling well.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I live in a place like that, but it doesn’t spare you transit delays. We just get giant car crashes and “police action” on the freeways that knock my coworkers off schedule at least once a week. I’m the only one who is always on time because I live 4 miles away and in a pinch can walk it

    7. NothingIsLittle*

      That was my first thought. A train derailed in JFK/UMass last month and they said the signaling would be fixed this fall . (Recent news suggests it might be earlier, but no promises.) Ugh, it’s a good thing I was moving anyway, because it was a 15-20 minute delay every day passing through that station and those around it. And if the second train I took had a delay? No chance I was making it to work on time, even leaving early to try to compensate. My commute went from an hour to an hour and a half.

    8. A Simple Narwhal*

      I’m forever grateful that I work on a team made up of people who all take the train in (including the manager), so whenever there’s a delay or a train just doesn’t show up it’s never a problem, it’s just “oh well, what are you gonna do? The trains stop training from time to time.”

      Such a difference from jobs where I would be having panic attacks about being late due to things beyond my control.

      1. londonedit*

        That’s pretty much how it’s been in every London office I’ve worked in. People are occasionally late, and the response is generally ‘Ugh, bloody trains’. Pretty much no one drives to work here, and pretty much everyone lives an hour’s commute from the office, so transport woes are well understood!

      2. TPS Cover Sheet*

        In Japan, if the train is late, the station master writes the schoolkids as well the salarymen a note apologizing the delays, so they can show it when they get in… in London they’d deforest the planet in a week…

    9. Allison*

      I thought the same thing. Any reasonable manager in Boston knows it’s hard to get to work exactly on time right now, and only harps on puncutality if it’s absolutely necessary to get to work at a specific time. There’s only so much extra time a person can give themselves. Do you want your employees to wake up at 5AM? Wagging your finger at employees any time they’re 5-10 minutes late, and writing them up when a significant delay on public transit, will only drive them to work somewhere else, with an easier commute and more reasonable management.

      1. NothingIsLittle*

        The first time I was running really late (think 30-45 minutes) I was almost in tears I was so stressed. My manager said something to the effect of, “Yeah, we got the alert. You’ll get here when you get here, just be safe.” Such a relief!

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I agree, a reasonable Boston manager will definitely know that anyone who commutes by T is at the mercy of the T and doesn’t expect you to arrive at the office an hour early every day just to make sure you’re not ever late on the days the T is messed up. I work at a small office in Cambridge (~15 employees) and hardly a week goes by when someone isn’t delayed for some reason. I was actually late on my FIRST DAY because the commuter rail was late, and they were very understanding about it. Glad I don’t have that commute anymore.

        OP, forgive me if you already addressed this, but are you able to work from home at all? Perhaps you could arrange to do that regularly so that you can avoid dealing with the T all the dang time. Or at least if you arrive at a stop and suddenly discover that your commute will be much longer than usual, can you turn around and go home to work?

    10. Mel*

      Fellow Boston commuter here. Sadly, from the rest of the comments, our public transit issues aren’t limited to us alon.e

      1. NKOTB*

        NYC public transit has been awful the last few years. I thought maybe LW lived in NYC until I read “harbour!” I’ve heard London is bad too :(

    11. roisin54*

      Joining the Boston chorus here. I’m always either getting stuck behind or on disabled trains, and twice I was on a train that got hit by a car. Fun times.

      Since the public transit problems are well-publicized, unless LW 2’s boss is completely devoid of sympathy it’s probably not a big deal to them (especially since they’re making up the time.)

    12. Elizabeth Proctor*

      Same assumption here, especially since many of the big garages have a daily rate of about $40. We just moved away from Boston a month ago and it couldn’t have happened at a better time since both my husband and I used public transit to get to work while we lived there.

      To be fair to our somewhat beloved old city, though, I don’t think any cities with usable public transit systems are having a good go of it these days…

    13. Bostonian*

      Hahahahaha anyone else see the report in the Boston globe today about Baker’s $18billion plan to improve transportation? It’s like they’re listening ..

  3. Dan*


    This is really hard, if not for you, then others (you suggest your boss hasn’t made it seem like it’s an issue). I think we’ll be seeing issues like this crop up for some time, as transit systems across the country age and wear. I live in another major metro area (what you talk about doesn’t quite sound like mine, but, similar issues) and we’ve had some significant issues with our mass transit system. Ours just happened before yours. Twitter in my area would say “But NYC isn’t having any problems and they charge $2.25 no matter how far you ride!” Now look.

    There are lots of low-wage and/or entry level jobs that specify “must have reliable transportation”. In certain big cities (not all, but certainly a few), it’s long been established that public transit satisfies “reliable transportation” requirements. But if the transit systems start to deteriorate, can employers step up and say that transit no longer counts? They can, but that could be very disruptive to their business. Many people take transit because they 1) Can’t afford/don’t have a car in the first place. 2) Have a car, but commuting into the downtown core and parking is expensive. 3) If everybody had to truly abandon transit, then parking prices would shoot way up and traffic would slow to a snarl. So they’d be faced with people quitting over transportation costs or having to increase their pay to retain them.

    If you live in an area where transit has been concerned “reliable transportation”, your employer is going to have to find ways to adjust to the uncertainties. You likely aren’t the only one facing this issue, so your company would have to “address” this issue with a lot of people. If that essentially means you all would get fired, then they’d have to replace you with a bunch of people with card, which likely won’t happen.

    All that’s to say your boss may not be *happy* about your transit issues, but your boss may not be able to do anything about it either. I have a feeling the best choice for business is to suck it up if/when they can. We had issues with our transit where for the last several years, the metro had been open until 3am on the weekends. Lots of restaurant/bar staff would live outside the city center and commute in. Then, with almost no warning, due to maintenance issues, the city cut the late night hours, leaving a lot of workers and businesses scrambling. I don’t know exactly how that got dealt with, but I didn’t see too many headlines about mass firings and what not.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      And honestly, in major metro areas, cars aren’t even reliable transportation sometimes. We live in northern NJ and a car or bus breaking down on one of the bridges or tunnels doesn’t just stop the buses or rideshares, it stops the cars. My husband works in NYC and he’s lucky enough to be able to work from home a few days a week and have multiple transit options, but sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes the bus gets stuck in traffic and you’re glad you took the train, and sometimes the train breaks down and you wish you took the bus. And often, both are equally horrible and it takes three hours to get home. And a lot of people don’t have multiple commute options because the train doesn’t go near their house.

      I assume it’s a thing companies and employees are going to have to figure out how to deal with soon, whether that means expanding WFH options, moving locations, or changing jobs to something closer to home.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            I don’t think any major (US) metro areas are exempt from traffic and transit issues right now. Subways and metro trains, as well as roads, are aging systems and a lot of cities haven’t invested the way they should have, while populations continue to grow, so they’re reaching the breaking point in terms of how many people they can realistically handle, especially during the rush hour times.

            Also, like it or not, most of the good jobs are in the cities or metro areas. That’s why the populations are growing there. People don’t move to the NYC area because they love the climate, they move here because of the jobs. There are some jobs in the suburbs that don’t require commuting to the city (I don’t, and never have), but you still have to deal with the traffic.

            Move out of this congested area to another, and you end up with the same problems, just different colored trains.

            1. MatKnifeNinja*

              Where I live mass transit is a total dumpster fire. It really impacts people in non white color jobs, because anyone who scraps enough money together for a bondo buggy does.

              If you have to take an E/W line to get to the N/S line to downtown, you are basically doomed. It’s like an airport lay over. You can wait over 45 mins in between transfers. No shelters. Fun in cruddy weather. To go 20 miles, it’s a 2 hour trip on a semi crappy day.

              OP, at least your boss sort of gets it. When I had no wheels, my insane boss 9 am meant 9 am. Bosses in non white collar/non degrees jobs cut you no slack around here. I had to get to my job at least 1 hour early to dodge any probability of being late.

              If you can take the N/S line only, and are less than 8 miles from downtown, you’ll be on time. That’s not most people.

              OP, enjoy your boss’s benevolence.

            2. ThatGirl*

              Chicago’s transit is in relatively good shape, but people who commute from the suburbs are often in trouble, between mechanical failures, trains hitting cars or pedestrians*, heat- or cold-related delays, freight train interference, etc. The line that runs through the straight-west burbs is especially prone to issues.

              *pedestrian vs train is usually suicide, which is awful on many levels

            3. Antilles*

              Also worth noting that major cities which don’t rely on public transit often instead have traffic issues. Sure, if you live in Atlanta or Dallas, you probably aren’t going to be late because of a subway breakdown, but you certainly can be late because of a stall/accident on the highway.

              1. InsufficentlySubordinate*

                For example, this morning I was 20 minutes later than I wanted to be because of two accidents, one on the main road, and then one on the alternate route that Waze gave me. And I’m in DFW area so there you go. Every day is a craps shoot whether my straight shot to work is going to zig zag me over the highway three times and then stick me in non moving traffic, or the flow goes easy.

              2. bleh*

                Exactly. I live in a outsiders-hostile-to-our-budding-transit-system-are-ruining-it city, and people can be hours late for meetings due to traffic. If we just expand the transit, everyone’s life would be easier. So yeah, cars ̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶a̶l̶w̶a̶y̶s̶ ̶ are never the answer.

              3. WinStark*

                I commute to Far North Dallas from North Fort Worth. Traffic is hellish between 5:30am-9:30am, and again from 2:30pm-7pm. I can’t take the train, as I’d have to switch lines and then take 2 buses and even then it’s a 2 hour trip. So I occasionally take TExpress…which goes down to one lane a lot of the time, and if there’s an accident (and yes, there will be an accident at least 3 days a week) I’ve just paid $7 for the privilege of sitting on the road for an hour. It’s a mess, and I just resign myself to good podcasts/music and a comfy cushion. heh

            4. Michaela Westen*

              Yes, I grew up in a city in Kansas of population ~200k. The buses there ran east-west Mon.-Fri. 9-5. There was no transit going north and south.
              There also wasn’t a great selection of good jobs. Most of the jobs were factory, and whenever there was an economic downturn the factories laid off hundreds at a time. There weren’t enough other jobs for all the people laid off – some had luck and got restaurant or retail jobs for the interim.
              Aside from the factories there were restaurant and retail jobs, and a few office jobs downtown.
              One of the main reasons I moved to the big city was for more options in jobs. However, I love the big city for many other reasons. There are more people like me here, and I never run out of things to do or new friends to meet. I live in an inner-city neighborhood where I never feel isolated. I don’t have to be isolated in a car whenever I go somewhere. And I have a good job.

          2. Tinker*

            I was recently reflecting on the prospect of commuting from Denver to Boulder, and concluded that it was a potentially viable prospect given the bus that goes up US 36.

            Shortly after I thought that, US 36 cracked in half lengthwise and slid into pieces.

            Womp womp.

            1. MommyMD*

              Omg. I was just in both Boulder and Denver. Good luck. I’m thinking of getting a job out there.

              1. MMB*

                MommyMD, check out the Fort Collins/Johnstown area. Nice area, slightly less expensive, commutes are relatively easy if you avoid I-25.

                1. MMB*

                  Sorry, should have prefaced that with, if you don’t have an offer and you’re just looking at Colorado in general.

            2. Miss Fisher*

              I was looking into the same but thinking commuting from Colorado Springs to Denver. After being in Denver 1 day midday during the week, I realized there is no way I wanted to drive through there daily.

            3. Snark*

              Yup. That whole area used to be Church Ranch Lake. Turns out that when you build earthworks in the middle of a water table and build a road on top of it, awesome things don’t happen.

            4. MMB*

              You can definitely do the Denver/Boulder commute… long as you have a sandwich and a thermos of coffee.

              Or drive at 2am ;)

          3. Not So NewReader*

            I am picturing a bizillion people simultaneously all packing their stuff into moving vans and moving somewhere else. omg. Nope. That’s not going to work out.

          4. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Thank you Alison. For many of us, the NYC area is where we grew up. You know…those people who live in their old childhood bedroom and pay a share of expenses instead of high rent to an unrelated landlord? That was me for 4 years, with an hour’s train ride into midtown Manhattan. (Except on a bad transit day… and no way to contact the office when the train stops in a tunnel under the river.)

        1. Kat A.*

          The transit infrastructure is breaking down in many US cities because we spend so much more on wars than we do repairing and improving the country’s infrastructure. Just look at the Defense Dept’s budget.

          Typically, there are not enough well-paying jobs with benefits in one’s careerfield outside of metropolitan areas, and housing is often more expensive the closer one lives to the city core.

          1. Snark*

            There’s an awful lot of the DoD budget that is devoted not to fighting wars but to the upkeep of lands, physical plant, and logistics on bases the department doesn’t actually need or want, but which can’t be closed because they function as a jobs program for a congressional district.

        2. NerdyKris*

          What’s it like to be able to just pack up and move anywhere without spending thousands of dollars, immediately finding a job, having time to pack, move, and unpack your entire life, and having a support network of friends and family already there?

          Because telling people to just move assumes all those things. It’s not as simple as “Oh just move somewhere else!”. That’s something people can only do if they’re rich or just moving out of their parent’s house. For the majority of people, it’s an expensive and time consuming process, if it’s even possible.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            THIS. I am so baffled by the, “why don’t you move?” contingent, as if it were that easy or that sensible.

            1. Allison*

              Right, not only is finding a new place and moving a major pain in the rear, but many people live far away from where they work because they can’t afford to live closer to the office, and they can’t “just move” to a less expensive urban area because the job market isn’t as strong. And, funny story, some people really like the city they live in, despite the current issues with traffic and transit, because they have a lot of strong emotional ties to the area.

            2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

              My rural drive to work involves deer, turkeys stopping my car and challenging it, geese families sauntering across the road with a dozen little ones, the occasional bear, foxes, groundhogs, snakes, turtles and flooded low-lying roads. All of which must be watched out for. A moose shut down a major highway into the city, every commute has its challenges. Still, I’ll take the angry turkey over gridlock.

              1. Chinookwind*

                As someone who worked at a place who got an email from field staff that simply stated “we may or may not be able to work today, gone for coffee” and included an attachment of a photo of a bear wandering our remote site, I can honestly say that no commute is ever 100% reliable.

              2. Le Sigh*

                I’m very curious about this turkey standoff. I mean, I know turkeys are kind of jerks, no? But I’ve never seen one try take on a car.

                1. sb51*

                  To merge the topics: I’ve seen one try to take on an MBTA bus. It just stood there in the road and screamed, and the bus honked, and the turkey screamed, and eventually the driver managed to inch around it, upon which it ran down the road chasing the bus, still shrieking its head off. It was hilarious. Stopped traffic both directions since it kept running around the middle of a fairly-narrow street.

                2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

                  Hahaha, these are wonderful mental images.
                  My turkey vs car story: I had just started learning to drive and my mom was driving on the highway and narrating everything she did. She goes “you have to always stay alert, because things you don’t expect can happen with no warning” and at that moment, out of nowhere, a turkey is in front of our car, in the the leftmost lane of a busy highway. She swerved around it safely and we continued on our way, and I had a very concrete lesson about why you stay alert while driving.

                3. CDM*

                  It’s not so much the car, it’s the reflection of the (male) turkey in the shiny paint of the car. I’ve had my minivan chased down my driveway several times by our local tom turkey, and once watched a juvenile tom attack his reflection in a garden reflecting ball for way too long a time. That’s also why young toms attack people, they try to drive off anything they perceive as a competing tom in order to get and keep a group of hen turkeys.
                  Now we have foxes, and the turkeys are no longer an issue.

          2. Tib*

            That last one is big. I feel like comments like the one you’re referring to gloss over the fact that literally millions of people grow up here, and NYC is our hometown. Like, my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, childhood friends, and the only culture in which I feel truly at home is here. Plus, the job market in my field is always going to be major metropolitan area-centric, so why on earth would I leave career prospects, the vast majority of my support system, and my entire life because some random on the internet has a hate-boner for NYC/big cities? It’s not rocket science to figure out that the cost of living is lower in other places, all it takes is a Google.

            1. londonedit*

              I’ve lived in London for 20 years. I purposely created a life for myself here and I work in an industry that’s extremely London-centric. I get the ‘Just move out of London and you could buy a house!’ ‘Just move out of London and you wouldn’t have to go on the Tube!’ comments too, and it drives me mad. It may be hard for non-city-dwellers to understand, but this is my home. I actively want to live here. I’m happy here. I don’t want to move somewhere else, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed the odd moan about how I’ll never afford a deposit on a flat, or about how unbearably freaking hot it is on the Tube at the moment.

              1. Miss Fisher*

                I am definately a city girl, but I do dream about moving to one of those idealistic towns you see on like Midsomer murders.

                1. londonedit*

                  Ah, I grew up near one of those. Won’t move back thanks to the Daily Mail-reading 1950s attitudes and glacial pace at which anything gets done!

                2. Angus McDonald, Boy Detective*

                  Haha I’m from one of those towns in South Yorkshire! I’m sure you know this, but they aren’t as idyllic as you might expect ;) as a teenager, being minimum 5 miles away from any of my friends, and buses running every 2 hours to get to anywhere with a shop, was not fun! Although as a younger child it was great because I’m naturally very outdoorsy so I spent every day riding my bike, scooter, roller blades, climbing trees, annoying the farmers, etc.
                  Slight derail there, apologies!

                3. London Calling*

                  Miss Fisher, don’t you do it. It LOOKS idyllic, but everyone knows who you are, your business, your comings and goings….and unless your family lived there for the last 500 years you’ll always be an incomer. I grew up in a small North Devon town and couldn’t wait to decamp to London. My tolerance for the country is about two weeks.

              2. iglwif*

                That kind of thing drives me bananas, too. I live in a large city (in Canada) and it’s suggested to me AMAZINGLY often that all my life problems would disappear if we moved somewhere smaller / more suburban. It sounds like this: you could afford a house! you wouldn’t have to wait for buses all the time! you could have a backyard so the dog would need fewer long walks! your cost of living would be so much lower!

                The thing is, aside from that last thing, those are … not the life problems we actually have? We don’t have a car on purpose, because not having one is cheaper and greener and makes us do more walking. Living in a condo means less space, true, but also no shoveling snow in the winter and no raking leaves in the fall and no lawn to mow in the summer. Walking is actually one of the reasons we got a dog to begin with: I work at home, and needing to take doggo out 3 times a day is excellent motivation for actually leaving the house in all weathers. The city is full of things for all of us to do, and because it’s a city, we’ve never NOT lived in walking distance of kiddo’s schools.

                You haven’t actually asked for advice here, so feel free to ignore the following: What I’ve found helpful is to keep a mental list of who is and isn’t safe to whinge to about overcrowded subway cars, erratic bus schedules, horrifying traffic, and high real-estate costs, and restrict said whingeing to folks on the “safe” list ;)

                1. londonedit*

                  Yeah, I don’t have a car because the transport system (despite the odd flaw) is generally so good and reliable that I really don’t need one. It would be ridiculous to have a car sitting there costing money and gathering dust. I have a home that suits my needs, and hey, renting means I don’t have to pay to fix things when they break. I have a group of amazing friends. I have a vibrant community that I play an active role in. I have shops and parks and water and green spaces and the city and practically any kind of food, music, culture and entertainment I could possibly think of. The occasional Tube snarl-up is a small price to pay.

                2. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  I moved from NYC to a medium-sized southern city for five years and then to DC. At the top of my list of things I missed about being in a major city? Public transportation. I love being back in a place where I walk and take the bus and the train. I don’t mind the smaller space at all (especially now that we can afford a place where we only lost about 200 square feet compared to our small house). The cost of living is higher, sure, but I haven’t put gas in the car since we moved five weeks ago, my car will require less maintenance, and it’s not hard to find good, relatively inexpensive meals within walking distance. Granted, I work from home so I don’t have to commute and I don’t have to deal with those issues, but dang, some of us LIKE city living. I enjoyed my time in the suburbs and I’m not going to hate on it simply because it wasn’t quite for me. I also, luckily, left NYC right before the subway system went to hell, but I used to take the bus to work every morning and loved being able to close my eyes or tune out a bit. I preferred it to my car commute, which was only about 25 minutes but still kinda sucked.

                  The suburbs have their own issues. They’re not for everyone, just like being in the city is not for everyone. The whole “just move!” makes me crazy, as does the, “OMG, you can’t even live there! A five-bedroom house costs $XX!” Sigh.

                3. Artemesia*

                  We retired to a big northern city and live near the center with a great view — we have been blissful ever since. Cities are so full of culture and wonderful things to do and it has been easy to make friends. I love the out of doors and in my youth did a lot of backpacking and camping but suburbs are IMHO so isolating and bland — no way. And in the US people in cities tend to get more exercise in their daily lifestyle than people in rural areas where everything requires driving and there are no sidewalks. We lived in a near suburb in a big southern city and I had to drive the two miles to the gym every day — an easily walkable distance, but it required walking in busy roads with no sidewalks. In the big city I can grocery shop on foot easily and run most errands on foot and go to the places I want to go on public transport.

                4. Chinookwind*

                  The irony is that same people would make comments to me as someone who worked in downtown big city but lived in a smaller town outside it that I should move downtown to reduce my commute and then I wouldn’t need a car. Sure, but a) the job I have won’t allow for downtown rent, there are no buses to to the town where my parents live and I would lose out on the small town community feeling that comes with recognizing all the faces around you.

              3. MK*

                The odd mpan, sure. But there are people who constantly complain, and that gets old really fast.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              When I was growing up bored, isolated and abused in Kansas, I read books about inner-city children who had their whole extended family on one block.
              The movie Moonstruck shows the NY Italian-American community where everything is done within a few blocks, everyone knows and supports each other.
              I would have done ANYTHING to live like that. I had no relatives in my home town, they were spread out among other small towns and I saw them only a few times a year. There were no fun activities and few friends in walking distance of my house. Having other family members around and things to do right around home, would have been heaven.
              Now I live in the big city and know people who grew up like that and I know for sure it’s better. It’s not perfect of course, but definitely better.
              People who think their kids would be better off in a car-dependent suburb with no sidewalks really should think twice.

          3. Tigger*

            Thank you!!! I moved cross country and it was hard. Luckily I had a solid friend group here but everything else had to magically align for the move to even be possible!

        3. Amy*

          NYC is the largest job market in the US and its size allows for incredible specialization. As was pointed out in Amazon’s foray into Long Island City and Arlington, a big need for dual income couples is an area big enough for both to get jobs. That’s why cities like Pittsburgh and Indianapolis probably never really had a chance. Even if I got a great Amazon job there, could my spouse be sure to find work?

          My husband and I work in legal compliance (an arm of finance) and publishing. There are certainly other finance hubs and other cities with publishing houses. But both is a very tall order.

          1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

            @Amy Exactly this. We think about leaving NYC sometimes, but then the math to figure out how we could both be employed in our niche-ish fields (basically the same fields as you and your husband), keep health insurance, and move away from our professional networks entirely is too overwhelming (though I would love to be close to my parents in the now-popular western city I grew up in, before they aren’t independent anymore). But I don’t know how many more years of Queens to Fidi I have left in me….

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          My area pretty much requires a car to get by and people are still thrown off by too many people trying to drive on freeways that were not built for this volume of traffic. This isn’t an NYC thing, this is an everywhere with a thriving economy and spread out housing thing.

        5. NotAnotherManager!*

          Ah, the old, if-you-don’t-like-it-move advice. Because I can magically find a job that in my field that exists only in major metropolitan areas simply because I don’t like the Metro’s flammability rating. I would so look forward to reassembling my children’s special needs care teams in a less urban area with fewer options, all while likely having fewer resources for co-pays and deductibles, and those in-network med management and counseling waiting lists are a blast!

          People who live in major metros often do it for reasons, not just to be able to bitch about the traffic. I have decided I care more about providing appropriate care for my family than putting up with mass transit issues and abysmal traffic.

          1. Kat in VA*

            I’ve lived in the rural country (north Idaho) and congested Metro area (DC metro). Each side has its pluses and minuses. By the way, the move from that rural country to congested metro area cost over $25,000 so “just up and move if’n ya don’t like it!” advice is obnoxious in the extreme.

      1. Dan*

        “changing jobs to something closer to home”

        The really interesting thing is going to be with service sector jobs where people often commute from outside the downtown core into the city. They may very well find stuff closer to home, but then how do businesses in the downtown core staff their place? DC in particular has been gentrifying over the years, and that’s pushing out the employment base that staffs the local restaurants and service sector jobs.

        1. anonintheuk*

          About ten years ago the southern English city where my Dad lives cut the majority of its Sunday bus services.
          Various restaurants and shops promptly found themselves without most of their teenage part-timers.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Usually low wage worker population gets pushed out from the center, or other areas of high demand and are stuck living on the outskirts of the city with one or two hour long commute to get to work. Often they can’t get jobs closer to home because the neighborhoods that they have been pushed out to do not have the same kind of job prospects or pay the same rates as prime locations. I have seen it in the city where I work.

        3. Merpaderp*

          Huh, now that you’ve laid it out so nicely, I’m going to jump in and cynically say that unfortunately (?…maybe?) the answer will increasingly be automation.

    2. Lora*

      Yes. Site selection for a business is really tough, and not enough decision-makers do a thorough PESTEL analysis. Then you see cities and states offering huge tax breaks to businesses to create jobs, often paying much more than they’d ever hope to recoup in taxes – meanwhile if they’d invest in infrastructure (i.e. transit, utility grids, roads) and educational offerings that would support multiple businesses, they wouldn’t be so dependent on one business’ future, which is a tremendous risk. Unfortunately it’s sort of a self-perpetuating spiral: most of these things are funded locally, not federally, so once a location loses real estate value from which to leverage bonds to pay for these things, the real estate value tends to keep going down as more people leave for better jobs elsewhere.

      The MBTA has no excuse though, Massachusetts has money coming out its ears, with a tremendous tax base.

  4. Grand Mouse*

    #1- Wow. Doing this to your manager, and up to your manager’s manager, is pretty ballsy. Esp when you are in hot water yourself. Maybe I am too deferential, but the only way I have ever needed to know my boss’s schedule is for getting more supplies or meeting up for feedback. I can’t imagine DEMANDING this from a boss, and pushing for specifics too

    1. Auntie Social*

      Yeah, it’s like an esophagus—food flows one way only. Your boss needs to know where *you* are in case she needs you—she doesn’t have to tell you where she is every minute of the day. I’d text my boss if her grandboss was looking for her, should I tell him when you’ll be back? But the answer may be no, and that’s as far as I would take things.

      1. Chinookwind*

        The exception to that rule is admin assistant and other assorted gatekeepers. I need to know where my boss and the big bosses are because people keep looking for them, expecting me to know if they are even on site and/or available to see. But, unlike the OP’s employee, I don’t need to know where they are or what they are doing, just if they are here and available (and calendars aren’t good enough as they don’t include impromptu meetings. I would love to access “find my phone” for them just so I can get their general location.)

        1. Kat in VA*

          Knowing where my boss is – check. I’m his EA, I do need to know his whereabouts.

          Knowing where *his* boss is? Whether it’s the local one (the GM/SVP) or his actual boss-he-reports-to (the CHRO) – yeah, knowledge of whereabouts for those two is most definitely not crucial to my job. Other than if the CHRO is visiting, or someone needs the GM/SVP and his EA isn’t around, it’s not something I would expect to have reported to me throughout the workday.

          This whole thing is weird.

    2. Massmatt*

      I agree, it seems bizarre that a report would feel entitled to demand this info of not just a manager but a grandboss as well. It’s a power play or the employee has no judgment, or both. Alison’s advice is way too tame; I would gear up to firing the employee.

      1. Artemesia*

        Me too. And I would cover my tail all the way to the CEO alerting them to a problem employee trying to retaliate against being managed.

      2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        Based on past experience having an employee try this when I was new, I’d say “both, with a side of anxiety about whether they were being discussed.” I’m pretty sure the employee honestly thought I would Get It All Wrong if they weren’t in the room for certain conversations, and they also felt that knowing my schedule made them look good at their (NON- executive assistant) job.

        No, they do not work here anymore.

        But I think Allison’s advice is spot on, as she mentions in the last paragraph there’s a larger pattern here that’s all leading to possible termination.

    3. MommyMD*

      If I was Boss I’d have shut that where are you every minute garbage down fast.

      I had an employee way below my level, who was new, try and do this with me a few years ago. One day I literally disappeared for FIVE minutes to use the dam bathroom and she had me overhead paged in the hospital when there was zero emergency. I said if you ever do that again I’ll tell HR I will never work with you. She didn’t last long. She was odd like the employee in L 1.

      1. valentine*

        If I was Boss I’d have shut that where are you every minute garbage down fast.
        I’m amazed it’s still going on, especially when he wants to know the attendees and topics.

      2. Mockingjay*


        If I were OP, I’d ask (rhetorically): “why are you wasting time tracking other people instead of working on the improvements we outlined in the PIP?”

    4. MJ*

      Power play. “You’re the boss but I’m going to find a way to make you answerable to me.”

      1. Life is Good*

        Yep. Yep. Yep. This is totally what that’s about. Keep your cool, OP, and as another commenter says – keep copious notes. That employee is out of line.

        1. Auntie Social*

          And the answer to all his questions is “I have my phone, text me if it’s an emergency.”

      2. Kat in VA*

        Someone else mentioned this was a dominance play and that’s purely all it is. Whereabouts is weird, but actual meetings and topics? Yeah, brochacho, that’s NONE of your business.

    5. OhGee*

      I have about 15 meetings a week, and if my direct report was on a PIP *and* started demanding to know where I was at all times, that PIP would conclude pretty fast.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep, “If you have to know where I am at all times in order to do you job then you are basically telling me that you can’t do the job.”

    6. Kate R*

      I could almost understand the when and for how long aspects of that question if the employee needed to check in with OP and OP’s manager frequently and found that they kept missing them in the office , but the “and what they’re for” part blew my mind. Why would an employee think they were entitled to know what their bosses will be discussing in every meeting?

      1. Clay on my apron*

        Exactly! Wanting to know when OP will be in the office could be attributed to common or garden anxiety about when they will be able to ask questions or get feedback. Wanting to know where and WHY?!? There’s no reason whatsoever for an employee to ask for that information. And expecting it from the big boss is even stranger and more out of touch with workplace norms.

        1. Kat in VA*

          I mean, I know where my boss is 95% of the time and I know what he’s doing and for what 99% of the time. But I’m his EA, and I’m the one scheduling those particular events 99% of the time. But anyone who’s not his EA or his actual boss? Yeah, you get to see Busy/Free on his calendar and that’s it.

  5. Goldbar*

    LW #1: our team has shared calendars, and I have access both up and down the heirarchy. Most people use privacy and access settings to limit what others can see for at least some
    appointments and meetings, but it helps a lot with this eternal question of “ where are you, when will you be back, should I text you or maybe just wait”. Not everything is on calendars, and last minute meetings happen but rarely. I can’t address whether this is appropriate for your setting, but it works well for us.

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      Yep, us too. Standard response in my workplace to ‘can we meet…?’ Is ‘check my calendar!’

    2. Observer*

      That sounds like a good idea for a lot of situations. But what’s really weird here is that the employee is asking for a level of detail that is just bizarrely inappropriate.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Yeah, I can understand wanting to know where your boss is or when they’re going to be back in case you need to ask them something (even though the employee is being weirdly demanding about it), but wanting to know *who* they’re meeting and for what reason??? Just, no.

      2. Tallulah in the Sky*

        Agreed. It doesn’t seem to be a real work issue where the employee doesn’t have access to his bosses or can’t set up meetings with them, but a weird reaction to being told they’re not performing well enough. Indulging the employee any further won’t do anyone any good.

      3. iglwif*

        Yeah, there is just … absolutely no business reason for any of this, it sounds like. Just straight-up inappropriate curiosity (or a power play of some weird kind).

      4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Yep. I can look at TPTB’s calendars all the way up the food chain to see if they are available. I cannot see the contents of the calendar unless I am in the same meeting, and I neither need nor want to. What does the employee want to hear, “We are discussing your PIP and how it isn’t working”?

        1. Kat in VA*

          Or “We’re considering a merger / acquisition / buyout / sale of our XYZ unit / other sensitive financial stuff that we don’t need the company at large to know juuuuust yet” information?

    3. Goldbar*

      Agreed with all above! I should have added the end of my thought which is “sharing calendars means you don answer all these questions”. I agree it’s weird but in my experience, if you can provide another option, it’s easier to say “I’m not going to answer” and resist asking why they need to know. Of course the underlying issue won’t be resolved, but since the OP doesn’t know what that is…no solution (yet!). I do think sometimes treating the symptoms does help, or at least let’s them know you will stop this behavior.

    4. Chinookwind*

      The ones that include and IM icon that shows if you are active on your computer are one step better as then you can at least tell if someone is at their desk or online vs. in a meeting or otherwise indisposed.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. There are transport issues on this side of the pond too! Due to major transport infrastructure updgrades, what should normally be a 10 – 15 minute bus ride takes double that, with roads halved to one lane as the diggers and concrete mixers work on the other half. Hunt the bus stop has become a weekly activity.

    Whilst my company is quite strict about arrival time, I have explained and my boss seems to be ok with it.

    1. QueenB*

      I’ve just moved, but before, my area in London was full of roadworks around two of the busiest stations in the UK. A bus that should have taken 10 minutes was taking 45. It made me late to class more than a few times.

    2. Casey*

      Same issues here in Sydney. We’ve had a train line closed for 6 months to allow for infrastructure upgrades with replacement buses running.
      1 car breaks down on the harbour bridge and the city comes to standstill for 6 hours. All the train lines and roads are linked and one disruption affects the whole network.
      Reading this thread makes me feel a lot better :-)

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, London transport is usually pretty good (the temperature of some of the Tube lines in the current weather is another matter, and Southern Rail is also another matter…) but when it breaks it likes to break in spectacular fashion. I factor in extra travel time, and I’m lucky that I work for a company where people are fairly relaxed about what time you arrive and leave, as long as you let them know if you’re going to be outrageously late, and – touch wood – I haven’t had a serious Tube snarl-up in quite some time. Which probably means I’m due one soon!

    3. ssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Transit issues up north too! In Canada’s capital, they’re building a light rail. Building it created detours, workarounds and a list of delays and problems for bus passengers too long to go on about without some serious alcohol and snacks. Good weather, bad weather, makes no difference. They took a system that was far from perfect but worked and completely ruined it. I start at 10 but aim for 9:30 when I plan my bus ride because I just never know when I’ll get in. Getting home is often worse.

      What’s the really annoying part is that the actual use of the light rail by passengers has been delayed – twice! My employers have all been sympathetic and understanding so far!

      1. Lizzy May*

        A fellow No-See Transpo user! It is truly remarkable just how bad things are.

        To prepare for the trains, our system handed out notices telling people that they would be let go eventually and stopped hiring at the same rates. They also dramatically changed the schedules and routes. Now that the trains have been delayed by over a year, many operators have moved on and they cancel something like 100 routes a day. The head of our transit department has gone on the record to admit that the bus is “not reliable” but says the only thing that will fix this problem is the train opening up, whenever that happens. (Maybe September, but they’re been wrong before so….)

        I end up being a little late at least once a week but I live close enough to the transitway that I can make it work when the schedule shows the bus is late. A ghost bus though messes me up because I don’t know to take the 10 minute walk until it’s too late.

      2. Jaybeetee*

        I was going to comment about Ottawa! “On-track 2018” was a bold slogan indeed… we’ll see if they get it done by 2020.

        I don’t complain as much about OC anymore, as at points in my life I’ve been forced to use Gatineau’s STO system… which somehow costs more than OC, while being worse. I drive now.

    4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      The public transport in my city is so bad I had to plan three routes to get to my job. Even then, sometimes I arrive late (like last Tuesday, when the subway line I take broke down for some unknown reason and I had to take a 2 hour bus ride).

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Leaving earlier doesn’t make too much of a difference, but you might have heard the temperatures in Europe have broken all records today, so we all decided to leave the office anyway.

  7. 867-5309*

    OP #2, I lived in NYC for several years, also during the “summer of hell” a couple years ago when the NJT lines were down. (A crowded Penn Station is the stuff of nightmares.) Eventually, I left an hour earlier than I needed to be at work. Even with an understanding boss and team, at some point I think they’ll wonder why you don’t just leave earlier.

    1. Yvette*

      But leaving earlier does not necessarily help. Part of my commute was on a major highway and a minor highway, both of which were notorious for all kinds of accidents. One morning there were 3 accidents in a 4 mile stretch of road that was only two lanes, further bottle-necking an existing bottleneck. I often joked that I could leave at 4 am and still not be able to make it on time.

      1. MK*

        It might not always work, but even if it only reduces the number of days the OP is late, it will make a difference. No one should be asked to perform the impossible, but they should do their best to mitigate the problem.

      2. Amy*

        I mean, it’s not fun but leaving extremely early usually makes a big difference.

        I’m in one of the most congested areas of the country and often leave around 6AM. The difference between 5:30M (traffic generally moving very fast) and 6:30AM (rush “hour” starting) is pretty significant.

        It means I’m often getting to meetings an hour early but it’s better than the alternative.

        1. Sleeplesskj*

          But she’s not dealing with traffic – she’s dealing with an unpredictable, broken down public transit system. It doesn’t matter how early you leave – if that breaks down you’re still stuck.

          1. Amy*

            I both drive and take Metro-North to the subway in the NYC area. It’s likely a comparable commute this this LW, who I’d guess is in the same area and taking the PATH to the subway from NJ.

            Allowing a 1 hr buffer (on top of normal transit times) is the only solution I’ve discovered. It generally works and I’m rarely late more than once a month.

          2. Colette*

            If the average breakdown takes an hour to clear, leaving early will still be more likely to get her to work on time.

            On every commute, she risks being delayed by any issues that happen before she leaves + issues that happen during her commute. If she leaves earlier, fewer issues have happened so the risk is lower.

          3. Not a Blossom*

            The same can be said of driving in traffic. It doesn’t matter how early you leave; if there’s an accident that closes the road you’re on, you’re stuck (and accidents happen at all hours). If the OP leaves earlier, they will still have a better chance of being on time even if something does go wrong.

          4. OP #2*

            Exactly this, sometimes if it shuts down, it’s just down. Not only that, I often rely on responses from and collaboration with coworkers to keep things moving at work. If I leave an hour+ early and there are no issues, I get here way before everyone else and often end up stalled waiting for others to come in at their usual time, or still end up having to work until 5 or 6 to get things finished up once people are here and things start popping up.

            Leaving extra early is an option, and one I use at times, but it’s definitely not a perfect solution, and there are times where I leave very early but a shut down has already occurred and I’m still stranded for significant enough amounts of time that I’m late anyway.

            1. Sally*

              All I can think of when people say “leave early” is “sleep less,” which I cannot handle. Fortunately, I am able to come in late and stay late, so I usually avoid most of the traffic.

              1. Cercis*

                For me how it worked was that I couldn’t clock in until 8, but due to transit variability, I had to plan to be there by 7:15 for that once a month or so time that the bus that should get me there at 7:45 wouldn’t. I resented like hell the lost sleep and wasted time of waiting around to be “allowed” to work (this was pre-smartphone, so other than walking around downtown San Antonio – not always safe – I had almost nothing to do with that extra time). Having to allow that extra time, meant that a “regular” 9 hour work day (8 hours of work, plus 1 hour for lunch) turned into being away from home more than 12 hours each day. I was looking for another job within a year because the lack of flexibility was so obnoxious.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Some situations, one hour early doesn’t even help. A derailed train, car-strike, or heaven forbid suicide by train? All will shut the track for hours and sometimes days.

      3. some dude*

        I take public transportation to work, and I usually give myself a 30 minute buffer anytime I HAVE to be somewhere at a certain time. Sure, sometimes things fall apart and it takes longer, but I’m usually ok. I also find that if you go early in the morning, i.e. before rush hour, there are usually less delays. I don’t know if this holds true for other transit systems. And I will straight up work from home for a couple hours if the system is melting down and come in when it has gotten its act together. I’d rather spend an hour or two on my couch working than crammed into a slow-moving train with a bunch of grumpy fellow commuters.

      4. MommyMD*

        It will work in many cases. It will definitely reduce late arrivals. You always have to give yourself cushion when commuting. I did it 90 miles each way for a while at the start of my career sometimes through snow or fire and very rarely late. I’d rest before work with coffee and reading when I arrived early.

      5. Working Mom Having It All*

        I live in a city which has these problems quite a bit.

        Without rush hour traffic, it would take me 30-40 minutes to drive to work.

        According to my GPS, it “should” take me an hour to get to work.

        Because of accidents and such (or, sometimes, just one idiot not understanding how freeway onramps work), it often takes me an hour and a half to get to work.

        Very occasionally, there will be a perfect storm of circumstances that cause it to take me 2 hours to get to work.

        I shoot for the hour and a half commute time, because it’s the most frequent delay that is going to occur. I can’t be half an hour late half the week. If I get to work early, I kill time in my car or go out for coffee. Or just go into the office early. I find that I would rather be early and have a little extra time to myself most days rather than stress out about potentially being late.

        On the other hand, when those two hour commute days happen, those are the “OMG SO LATE, TRAFFIC, UGH” situations. Because they’re that rare.

    2. feminzagul*

      Not directing this at you specifically, but it’s absolute crap that people are expected to leave hours earlier to get to work and aren’t compensated for it.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          @Dahlia and @ feminzagul
          My usual commute (door to door) if there are no delays is about 55/60 via subway. But it can be anywhere from 45 to 75 minutes depending on small issues. If a major delay hits it can take up to 120 minutes.

          So I spend about ten hours of my week commuting. But I usually watch a streaming service or listen to podcasts so I don’t mind it. But I choose to live in a particular area that I knew would have a longer commute, because I wanted the bigger square footage on an apartment and a more neighborhood feel at a more affordable price. I have coworkers who live closer about a 20 minute commute on the train, but the area is more expensive and not as appealing to me mostly high rise building (less sq ft) not much green space. I have other coworkers who have a 90 to 110 minute commute via car and train who live in the suburbs. The area is generally less expensive than mine and you get a lot more square footage, back yards etc, but I don’t want to live in the suburbs.

          People make choices on where they want to live based on different priorities, it would not be fair to pay one coworker time for a 20 minute commute and another for a 90 minute commute based on where they live. It is also not the companies fault for the lack of transportation infrastructure and housing affordability. They are greater issues that we as a society/government need to fix.

          For the most part leaving earlier will not help with major delays, but leaving earlier can help with smaller 15-20 minute delays.

          1. feminzagul*

            That’s exactly where I put the blame, on society and the government. Our entire culture is so diseased it’s inches from death. I don’t suggest financial compensation since that would never work in the current culture but some understanding about delays and offering to help/be flexible (especially with positions that truly don’t require set hours – a large number of them!) would be nice as a bare minimum.

      1. Birch*

        Thought I was the only one horrified at all the “just leave earlier” comments. Not even getting into people who can’t because of other responsibilities or personal schedule, IMO if you have a job that doesn’t depend on you for coverage (and to be frank, even those should have guaranteed backup) there is no reason for managers to ask you to add hours to your commute just to get there at an arbitrary time. I really do not understand the point of giving up hours of your life to make sure you get to work “on time” if there are no actual consequences.

      2. MsClaw*

        Obviously it doesn’t work for everyone, but I wish more companies would get on board with work from home or flexible hour options. There are so many jobs where physically being in the office 8-5 is not necessary and forcing people to drive/ride in during banker’s hours every day just contributes to a ton of pollution, congestion, and aggravation for those who really do need to be in a particular place at a particular time. I also would love if more cities had congestion laws that kept semis off the highways during certain hours. When I’m in jammed traffic and look around and see that half of it is long-haul trucks, I wonder why they really need to be in the middle of metro rush hour traffic.

        I also have an old-school boss who finds the idea of working from home perplexing and wonders why anyone would want to do that. So even though 60% of the office could logically do their jobs from home, it’s not going to happen. At least not until boss retires.

      3. Overeducated*

        Yup. This is also absolutely not reasonable if you have responsibilities that mean you can’t reasonably tack on extra hours to your day every day (e.g. you can’t just start leaving your kid at 6 am if day care opens at 7).

      4. MommyMD*

        I’ve commuted. That’s the job and location you picked. That’s reality. I signed myself up for it. Commuting time does not have to be wasted. Productive things can be done.

        1. Kate2*

          Not everyone has those options. Everthing from a spouses job to keeping your special needs child in a certain school district to having to live in a rent controlled building because rents are insanely beyond incomes in your area.

    3. Mynona*

      +1 to leaving early. Embrace the delay.
      When my 1-hour train commute (strap-hanging no less) became a frequently 1.5ish-hour train-and-shuttle commute, I got so tired of never knowing whether I would make/have time to prep for my morning meetings that I just started budgeting 1.5 hours. It really sucked and I had no life. My office had flexible hours, but I was the only person on my team impacted by the delays, and I didn’t want to be that person constantly sending excuses about why they were late. I left early on days I arrived early.

  8. Lena Clare*

    As someone who lives across the river from the city where I work, I have to travel through a tunnel to get there.

    Atm, during the school holidays the traffic is fine so I can make it in good time, about 25 minutes… but during term time, it’s regularly awful. The sheer volume of traffic means you simply can’t move more than about 6-9 miles an hour. It sometimes takes up to 1.5 hours to get there.

    I asked to change my hours to later so I miss most of the traffic and that has worked very well, but on the days when I need to be in the office earlier for a meeting, for example, I end up having to leave at the crack of dawn just to avoid the worst of the traffic and then sit with a coffee before people start arriving for their work day. I’m in longer then, but I’d rather be sitting in the office with a drink than sitting in a stationary car.

    My sympathies! All this to say – go with the working later thing, and let your guilt go. There’s nothing you can do about it.

  9. Massmatt*

    This is the 2nd letter in 2 days to use the term “skip level meeting”, never heard it before. I gather it means a grandboss meeting with an employee, leaving the boss/manager out. Is this a new thing, I have never experienced it as a regular thing as I imagine it is if places have a term for it.

    In my experience managers of managers had little enough time to meet with and manage their direct reports, it seems odd to me that they would be meeting with people reporting to their managers as a regular thing, unless there was a specific issue going on such as accusations of harassment or bias. And even there it seems like this would be better handled by HR.

    1. OP1*

      They’re relatively common in my industry. They’re held every 6 months or so to get feedback around the direct managers performance. In this case I asked for it to be held to make sure that I wasn’t actually being unnecessarily harsh.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        We have these meetings also, but I too had never heard them called that until reading it here. Learnin’ new stuff!

      2. Kat in VA*

        Yep, we do them here too (cybersecurity). Basically it gives folks a chance to give feedback about their immediate boss, and we also have them within a few months of hiring new people.

        Which reminds me, I have a TON of skip levels I need to start scheduling…hiring has been busy the last six months.

    2. Blossom*

      I’ve worked for a couple of places that did this. The idea was for the “grandboss” and employee to get to know each other better (in a professional sense, obviously), and the “grandboss” to keep their ear to the ground. It was explicitly not designed for the airing of grievances about the manager in the middle.

      1. Arjay*

        This is how we do them too. We meet quarterly, so it’s not a huge time investment. It’s not about airing grievances, although if I had grievances, I guess I could bring them up then. Mostly it’s just to check in and make sure the department communication is good and people are getting what they need.

    3. Rexish*

      I think it really depends on the size and structure of the company. Our grand boss sits on the same hall with all of us and we need to be in regular contact withe her, since she has the signiture power above a certain treshold. Therefor she is quite involved and participates to our performanca appraisals. We also have meetings with her as a team etc.
      Whereas in my previous company I never even saw the grandboss and it wasn’t necessary due to the structure of the department.

    4. TechWorker*

      When I had a manager who basically never did 1-1s or talk about career progression the quarterly meetings with his manager were what stopped me from quitting.

    5. Me*

      As others have said it depends on the company but I’m a huge fan. There are more than a few bad managers out there. The nature of managing and being higher up means the grandboss won’t necessarily know what the effects of their employees actions are on the people they manage. I’ve seen far too often people chalk up turnover and poor results to everything other than the direct manager even when it is 100% their creation.

      If you aren’t checking in with the people who are managed by your employee, you’re not getting a full picture of their job performance.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s a good practice. It makes the higher-level manager much more likely to hear about problems (either directly in those meetings or because people get more comfortable with her), helps them understand where she can be a helpful resource to the direct manager (including things like where the direct manager might need some coaching or support), and gives staff another venue to raise things. You shouldn’t do them constantly but quarterly or twice a year is good.

    7. RegBarclay*

      My employer started them this year but they’re a small group meeting with the grandboss, not one on one. So I’m not sure how useful they are the way we’re doing them.

    8. NotTheSameAaron*

      But what’s a “grandboss”? I know it can’t be the obvious meaning, a grandparent who is also your boss. Puzzling.

  10. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    #2 can you walk or cycle?
    It may be that you need to leave much earlier, even if that does mean you are at the office earlier than anyone else. Maybe you can revisit that option (even if you are still late sometimes – at least it will reduce the frequency of it happening by the sounds of it?)

    1. Tallulah in the Sky*

      If it was just a matter of leaving 10 minutes earlier, yeah why not. But from the looks of it, it’s way more than that (“I’m in the office long before anyone else”), so if the boss is OK with her sometimes being late and making it up for it by staying later that day, I wouldn’t suggest to OP to leave super early every day. First step should be what Alison suggested : check with the boss.

      1. valentine*

        If working from home isn’t possible, I would embrace arriving (even if it feels way) early or switch one or both weekend days for the worst weekday(s), see about working 4/10. But the commute length and stress are going to have an exponential impact.

        1. Colette*

          It sounds like the OP’s job isn’t that flexible – few jobs are, in fact, since most jobs interact with other people.

    2. Asenath*

      It sounds like a lot of the problems are unpredictable – OP doesn’t know in advance if there’s going to be a fire or a breakdown, and so can’t leave earlier. In my much smaller city, I have to walk or take a taxi because there aren’t any earlier buses for my route! And some users are outside reasonable walking/taxi distance, or can’t cycle. Still, during the memorable period our entire system shut down due to a strike, some of us (including me) ended up walking much more than usual, but those were people close enough to our destination to manage it. Right now, we just have “normal” digging up of roads and sidewalks, and they generally affect my getting home, not my getting to work. It sounds like in OP’s case her boss should be understanding since the problems appear to be well-known in the area, and OP is staying late to get her work done.

      1. pleaset*

        I’m in a different city (NYC) with a deteriorating subway system and the earlier you go work the better. The reason is, the meltdowns tend to happen in rush hour and affect the whole rush hour onwards. With residual delays etc they problems don’t clear until midmorning. So the later in rush hour you travel, the higher the odds of getting caught up in any earlier problem.

        Here the best time to travel is early in rush hour, when trains come at higher frequency but problems have not built up.

        There can definitely be problems at any time, but they are worse later in rush hour.

        1. Jennifer*

          As a fellow NYorker I just have no sympathy for this LW. Commuting happens, just let it go. Talk to your boss if you must but honestly everyone is in the same situation so just get over it. Are you the only one who works in your office building that lives across the harbor? Everyone else is either making it on time or late because of delays beyond their control. Just be late! Just let it go and be late and stop stressing! Or leave your house earlier and be early if being late is too stressful. There is literally nothing else you can do about it.

          1. Colette*

            The OP doesn’t want to be late and then be penalized by it (by having it affect her reputation, performance evaluation, etc.). Talking with her boss is the right way to handle that.

          2. Moray*

            This is unnecessarily rude.

            Just because an obnoxious thing happens to me doesn’t mean I don’t sympathize when it also happens to someone else.

            Just because something doesn’t bother me doesn’t mean I need to invalidate someone else’s discomfort with it.

          3. CheeryO*

            This is not helpful. It sounds like LW is NOT in the same situation as everyone else, so why would it not be worth a five minute conversation with her boss? Maybe she can flex her schedule for a while, or maybe boss will tell her it’s totally fine and not to worry about it, but it’s not unreasonable to want to have the conversation.

          4. Kat in VA*

            I live in the DC area and our traffic is /expletive/ horrendous but I don’t dog on other people when they complain about commutes. I spend three hours a day, sometimes more, in the car. I already get up at 0500 to get out the door by 0615, there’s no way I’d get up even earlier just to sit in the office an hour before everyone else because traffic is just *that* unpredictable. And I drive – public transit sucks even harder.

            Protip, Jennifer – no one wants to read that you have zero sympathy for someone and that they should just “get over it” when it is stressing them out. Don’t be dismissive of something that’s clearly upsetting someone else.

        2. notMichelle*

          Yeah, this. I had the choice between taking an 8-5 or 9-6 shift and I chose the 8-5 because of the MTA even though I live ridiculously far from the office (I live in the Bronx and commute to Queens – the benefits of this job seriously outweighed the glaring negative of that commute).

          I feel like most businesses in major metro areas with public transit understand that it is often not the employee’s fault and there really is nothing that can be done about it (or at least they should understand it). This week in particular I had to text my manager that I was running late because of the trains and I sent screenshots from the app. But it happens, a lot, and it’s frustrating because you just feel powerless. I got delayed from Union Square fire mentioned above and I was late by over 2 hours. Last Friday, my evening (so didn’t affect my job) commute took me 4 hours to get home because they completely shut down the number trains and that was all I had nearby (I decided to go out and get dinner). In my previous job, I worked on Manhattan and still had major issues on occasion due to trains not working. Other methods of transportation aren’t all that helpful because buses get delayed/traffic/don’t go where you need to go and cabs are expensive and are still affected by traffic.

          Transit issues are widely known and if you have a habit of being early/on time, then I don’t see how it should present an issue (as long as management is reasonable). If OP wants to have a frank conversation about it, then fine, but I feel like most people who work/commute/live in major metro areas understand the ridiculousness of commuting.

          1. pleaset*

            “Transit issues are widely known and if you have a habit of being early/on time, then I don’t see how it should present an issue (as long as management is reasonable). ”


            PS Don’t over-dramatize – only the 1, 2, 3 4, 5 and 6 lines shut down. The 7 was still running!

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              That PS is sarcasm right?
              #7 doesn’t go to the Bronx where notMichelle says she lives. All *HER* numbers were down, and it sounds like she might not be close enough to use B&D easily.
              Water can really get in the way of a commute!

    3. oh, Chicago*

      Walking and cycling aren’t always safe. In Chicago, biking downtown is a mess. Even though there are bike lanes, there are often delivery drivers or taxis using them. Also, if she’s going through a tunnel, there may not be a separate or safe bike lane through it. During summer, it can be too hot to rely on these methods for commuting, especially if you have to carry more than a small purse. You also never know which days are going to be an issue, which makes it hard to plan ahead. Some days, it would take 30 minutes to get to my office, but other days it would be 60-90 minutes, based on construction or much-needed track maintenance. I probably could have left earlier, but also I didn’t care enough, and my boss was never in before 11.

      Fun, sort of related public transportation delay story: once, we pulled into the station and the police had everyone get out of the car because someone had fallen asleep and a bunch of drugs fell out of his coat.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I have friends who bike around Chicago and man, good for them, but people get hit all the time, drivers do NOT look out for cyclists, and the lanes are constantly blocked, like you said.

        1. Polaris*

          Boston is a little more bike friendly, but still, I see way too many stories about bicyclists getting hit. And the road quality can get pretty dicey, especially downtown.

          1. pleaset*

            Public transit is far safer.

            That said, I have to mention that in most places in the US it’s not just cyclists who face dangers, but also pedestrians. With cyclists, it’s reported in more dramatic ways. With pedestrians too often we shrug.

          2. Trying a New Name*

            It also depends what part of town you’re biking from. Most areas still don’t have protected bike lanes (or sometimes bike lanes at all!). Every one of my friends who bikes has been doored or hit by a car AT LEAST once (one of my poor friends has been run over by a car TWICE)

    4. Ramblin’ Ma’am*

      If this person does live in the Boston area (which I suspect based on the geography and situation described) and is talking about the Blue Line, then it’s not possible to walk or bike into downtown. The only way across the harbor is by subway or car.

      1. Polaris*

        There is the water taxi! Whether or not that’s viable really depends on location, though.

    5. PersephoneUnderground*

      Ha! That’s an old joke- this traffic is so bad it would be faster to walk :p (I know you were mostly serious, but the serious answers to your post have been covered, I just wanted to add my two cents of amusement.)

      1. Tib*

        Lolll there’s a street downtown in Manhattan that funnels into the tunnel to Jersey (Broome if you care) – on Thursdays and Fridays in the summer, the traffic becomes stop and go starting around noon. If it’s a holiday weekend, it sometimes starts even earlier. Not only is it faster to walk, but I have seen people fully get out of the car, go into a grocery store, buy snacks, and casually get back in to the car. Which has moved MAYBE a couple yards.

  11. Not Australian*

    #2 is there any way you can negotiate flexible hours for the time being? You say you can get in early, before everybody else starts, so maybe you could arrange to leave early as well?

    1. Samwise*

      I did this some years ago when I lived on the west coast. I almost never needed a meeting before 10 am, and the traffic was horrific from 6:30 to 9 am, and again 4 – 6:30 pm (it’s worse now…). My boss was a real butts in seats 8 to 5 kind of guy, but I was able to persuade him that 9:30 to 6 (I took a short lunch) was really ok. Until he did agree, I just suffered on the morning commute and then hung out at the public library near my office for a couple hours at the end of the day. (Single, no kids, I could do that.)

    2. DAMitsDevon*

      Yes, I was wondering if that’s an option for OP 2 as well. And even if there’s a day where they’d have to stay until 5 even if they came in early, maybe they could then leave early, or come in late but leave on time, the next day?

  12. Just a thought...*

    I’m curious what it is about OP’s situation that lead them to write in – because as written, a simple response exactly as Alison suggests seems entirely natural? “I’ll translate this for you…” “I’ve got it, thanks.” – so I’m wondering if there’s more to the letter, like they’ve explained they’re bilingual and the colleague *keeps* trying to translate to them? In which case, it would be a different conversation. Maybe even hold it in the second language. :)

    1. Yvette*

      I like the suggestion of ‘The next time she starts translating for you, say this: “I actually don’t need you to translate — I’ve got it. But thanks!”’ (Said in the second language of course.) You said that reading wasn’t an issue. Does that mean you don’t speak it very well? So perhaps your co-worker is basing her perception of your level of fluency on that?

      1. Asenath*

        OP could also acknowledge the co-worker’s desire to help – “Thanks for the offer, but I got this – I’ll be sure to ask if I have any problems”. And if OP wants/needs to improve her speaking skills, maybe she could deflect co-worker onto that – “Thanks, but I can read better than I speak (language) – if you wanted to give me tips on my pronunciation, I’d appreciate that.” Or OP could point out that she really wants/need to do things on her own to improve her skills and independence in the using the language. Acknowledging the offer of help can smooth over any annoyance at it being declined.

      2. iglwif*

        This is a good point–it’s often the case that people’s L2 receptive skills (reading, listening) are better than their productive skills (writing, speaking), or that they do better at reading and writing than at speaking and listening. (I for example could totally pass a written proficiency test in my L2 but I’m no longer very good at carrying on a normal conversation, especially over the phone where I can’t make or read gestures ::shudder::)

        1. TootsNYC*

          (it is completely the opposite for me. I have a very small vocabulary, but I can pick words out of that wordset that will work, especially because beginning vocabulary is often pretty general. But a fluent speaker has many, many more words to choose from)

          1. Julia*

            Yeah, I speak Japanese better than I read it, and like you I can usually express myself because I am good at rephrasing stuff.

        2. Becky*

          I have been trying to learn Spanish and I am terrible at listening but am fairly good at reading it. When I am listening to it I have trouble telling where one word ends and another begins but written down that isn’t a problem.

      3. AnnaBananna*

        Yep, memorizing ‘I got this, thanks’ in the second language should definitely cover it.

    2. BRR*

      I was also curious if the coworker knows the LW knows the language. If not, or it was hinted at but not stated explicitly, I’d start there.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      With most of these letters, the resolution is as simple as “Just be direct and tell them what you’re thinking/what they’re doing is inappropriate/etc.”, but it seems in a work environment a lot of people have trouble with that concept. So I’m guessing they’re just writing in to verify that what they think is the correct way to handle something, or need the language to get started. I wouldn’t necessarily assume there’s more to the letter. Based on past letters, many people think being direct is rude/mean/not appropriate at work.

      1. Just a thought...*

        I agree – always strikes me as strange when the letter writer writes: “I don’t like this thing my colleague does. What can I do?” and the answer is “Talk to them.” I wonder what it is about the workplace that people think direct, professional conversations can’t happen there.

        1. Anonymous 5*

          Given how many letters we’ve also seen here about unreasonable/illegal behavior from supervisors/HR, people could very well be concerned that even a professional conversation wouldn’t be well received. And, in general, when one’s ability to pay bills is potentially on the line, it’s absolutely understandable that they might want to double-check their reasoning/their phrasing/the legality of their request or the employer’s behavior before actually having even the direct, professional conversation.

        2. I'm A Little Teapot*

          I don’t think it’s just workplaces. I think a LOT of people just aren’t very good at using their words when something’s bothering them, regardless of context.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          The questions aren’t usually about “should I say something”. More often they’re “how do I say the thing”. Especially if you’re annoyed it’s often hard to come up with the right way to communicate that will have the desired outcome. Usually will a coworker you don’t want how annoyed you are to come through, or don’t want them to get upset with you for saying the thing. So it’s not “do I tell them?” it’s “how do I tell them and not screw up this professional relationship but still get the desired outcome?” That’s the harder part.
          Even then, there are plenty of questions that ARE “should I say something?” where the answer is “noooooo you’ll look super out of touch; you do not have standing for that”. So sometimes people might be pretty sure they’re in the first bucket, but worried they’re actually the second and what they want is confirmation.

        4. TootsNYC*

          I think it’s more that people in any situation don’t speak up.

          They get conditioned to think they can’t, that it isn’t polite. And they don’t have words.

          Also, especially now in our country, I feel like there’s such an undercurrent that ANY “criticism” is a scolding or condemnation. It doesn’t help that people wait until they’re annoyed, so they fear that will leak out.

        5. smoke tree*

          I think sometimes it’s because people don’t have much of a model of what direct, professional communication looks like. I grew up in a really passive-aggressive household, and my first few bosses were also very hands-off and not prone to direct communication, so this site is one of the only places I’ve been exposed to what this kind of conversation would actually look like. It may seem obvious if it’s normal to you, but it’s not normal for everyone.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I would also find myself saying, “I’m sorry–it’s really distracting to me to have you read it out loud.I can translate for myself, and I’ll ask you if something’s not clear.”

      I am a little surprised that OP#4 hasn’t already said, “I don’t need translation, thanks anyway.”

      Speak up–it’s totally OK.
      In fact, speak up SOONER, right away, before you’re annoyed.

      And regard it as information and a request, not scolding and condemnation.

      1. JayorNay*

        yes, I agree! I’m also bilingual and find it a bit off-putting to hear OP’s colleague is translating for them when they’re working in their second language and are clearly capable of understanding it. That’s kind of a condescending form of “helpfulness”.

        I like Toots phrasing of “I can translate for myself and I’ll ask you if something is not clear”. Americans (USA) are often way nicer in regular conversation – so depending where you are you can be progressively more direct if the first attempt doesn’t work ;)

    5. Lynn Whitehat*

      OK, I will confess, I have probably been this annoying co-worker for someone. If you grew up or otherwise spent a lot of time in a situation where you were expected to translate back and forth, it can be really hard to turn it off.

    1. WellRed*

      I agree, MommyMD. If this employee is let go, I’d expect a whole new set of problems. Luckily, they are documenting.

  13. MommyMD*

    OP 2: ask Boss if you can do a flex schedule if late. If not, if it were me, I’d leave at least an hour earlier every day. You could walk and get coffee if it’s too early, take a nap, read a book, etc. I’d much rather get to work an hour early every day than an hour late even once a week. Give yourself more pad time. It’s annoying but it’s reality with mass transit. After a while Boss may not be so understanding and wondering why you aren’t catching earlier trains.

    1. valentine*

      I’d much rather get to work an hour early every day than an hour late even once a week.
      Yes. There are possibilities if you arrive early, but few to none if you arrive late, especially when you’re mortified about it.

    2. K.A.*

      Regarding OP2:

      Leaving early isn’t viable to some people who have childcare responsibilities.

      For example, I cannot drop my child off at daycare any earlier than I do. So I cannot leave earlier for work.

      The OP didn’t mention this as an issue, but it may be an issue for many others facing traffic snarls. I wanted to point this out to those who believe that simply leaving earlier is the solution.

      1. M*

        I understand this as I’m a working parent. But I also had to change my child care situation with a new job and new hours. Different places/ people have varying hours so although it can be annoying and difficult it can be done. I had to find a school that stayed open a little longer since my new role has afternoon meetings that always go late ‍♀️and my spouse travels a lot for work, so he can’t always pick them up at the earlier time.

        My BIL had to change their child care situation because they needed to leave earlier for the job they held for more than 5 years. The needs changed and they loved their role so they switched stuff around and found another daycare. I’m not saying everyone should switch child care situations or that it is possible for everyone, but something to think about if your child care doesn’t work for you now or in the future.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It sounds like she’s already working a flex schedule, since she said she stays late when she gets to work late. I can understand how she feels, but it’s entirely possible that she’s overthinking it. I would do as Alison suggest and have a conversation with boss, making sure they’re ok with the way she’s handling it. As long as she’s not missing important deadlines or meetings, a reasonable boss would not have a problem with something that is basically out of her control. I’m not sure where OP is living, but I can attest to the fact that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much extra time you give yourself to get to work, traffic/public transportation just sucks…a lot.

    4. Arctic*

      Not the OP but I suspect I’m in the same city and also take transit (although luckier since I only have one line commute.) And I’ve been leaving much earlier. But it really doesn’t help as much as you’d think. A lot of people are doing that so trains are packed and you often can’t get on one at that time. So you end up getting on a train almost the same time you would have if you left normally. And if there are significant delays then you end up stuck no matter what.

    5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Not everyone will do well on an hour less sleep every workday. Going for a walk or reading a book aren’t that sort of restful.

      Even if “go to sleep earlier” works for you, that hour/day is likely to be taken away from time with your family, or household chores. It might be a necessary sacrifice, but that sort of schedule shift isn’t trivial even when it’s possible (i.e., even for people whose schedules don’t involve dropping children off at school or day care, and aren’t already taking the first morning bus or train).

      1. Cercis*

        Thanks for saying this. I’ve tried to point this out to folks in the past – that lower level workers shouldn’t be expected to pay a penalty because their bosses can’t be flexible about occasional transit issues. When an 8 hour work day was having me away from home more than 12 hours each day (and I lived within 20 miles of my office), I cried uncle. It was killing me – and actually could literally have killed me because they didn’t even want us in the building until 10 minutes before our start time, so I was supposed to hang out in downtown San Antonio in the dark (in winter) for 40 minutes or more. I wasn’t paid enough to even afford to go get a regular coffee (or tea in my case).

    6. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      It depends on the circumstances, probably. For the OP it might be feasible to just shift their hours and come in early all the time, but that can be really unpleasant and might not be possible for other reasons. In my home city the bus doesn’t start running all that early, so you don’t have that many options for coming in even earlier.

  14. Clementine*

    Not knowing the configuration of the transit lines, I wonder if it would help to take an Uber/Lyft to a stop for the “last” leg of the journey, so you don’t have to suffer through multiple trains, but just one. Given the entire trip is only several miles, perhaps this is possible. If it’s the last leg that is most likely to cause problems, what about an Uber/Lyft from that stop?

    Moving to a location that is walkable or “just” one train or bus ride away might be excessive, but could it possibly be worth it? Both of these possible solutions likely add extra expense, and I realize your budget might be tight already. However, I indulge myself in Uber/Lyft/taxi from time to time because I figure it’s better costwise to keep my job rather than be late (when I am running late due to my own fault) and set myself up to lose it.

    Otherwise, I would not be thrilled about it, and I feel like a hypocrite given my night-owl ways suggesting it, but I agree it’s likely better to leave an hour early every day, and find some enjoyable way to spend your time before work, or else just ask to work earlier and leave earlier.

    1. valentine*

      Moving to a location that is walkable or “just” one train or bus ride away might be excessive, but could it possibly be worth it?
      Or renting or couchsurfing during the week. Maybe the employer has corporate housing?

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        In this metro area they hugely do not. Do you know an employer who does?

      2. Observer*

        Renting a second home or couchsurfing? You can’t be serious. That’s even more extreme than just moving.

        And that’s assuming that the OP is single person with no commitments that are in force during the week AND that they have lots of money to burn – something which is clearly not the case or they wouldn’t be worrying about the cost of parking.

        1. OP #2*

          Yes exactly, that’s certainly… not viable for me. My location is very close to my husband’s office, and he has time-sensitive reasons to need to be at work on time every day vs. me where it rarely *actually* impacts anything if I’m delayed. We also pay less-than-average for our place and will likely never find a deal this good again in this city.

          1. Blue Line to Wonderland*

            I’ve had some friends who have been taking the mbta commuter ferry across the harbor with success if this is Boston’s blue line you’re referring to.

    2. EPLawyer*

      IF this is DC Uber and Lyft know these problems are happening and have surge pricing. So it is hugely expensive to take rideshare even part of the way. Then there is dealing with the traffic. You really aren’t getting there too fast with a car because EVERYONE else is taking their car/rideshare due to the shutdown.

    3. I edit everything*

      Yeah–if this is Boston, as people above are theorizing, it’s a terrifically walkable city. Unless LW is trying to get from East Boston to Cambridge or someplace well west of downtown, once they’re across the harbor, walking is probably the best way to go, if physical condition allows. But it sounds like even getting across the harbor is a major pain in the butt, as backups ripple through the system.

      1. TBoT*

        Except, for much of the year, you can’t really walk very far in Boston and arrive in a condition that’s presentable for work. I walked 10 minutes from State to South Station the other day because of the blue line power issue that struck as I was en route to Logan, and I had to take a second shower after I landed. When my husband’s commute had a 10-minute walk on each end of a ride on the red line, he had to take a total change of clothes with him to work every day, in the summer because it was hot, and in the winter because once he warmed up eh got sweaty under his cold-weather clothes.

    4. Alston*

      Hoping on a Lyft/Uber for the last leg probably won’t help. LW2 is changing lines, all those trains converge in downtown Boston. Calling a Lyft in downtown Boston at rush hour could take 10 minutes to arrive because of traffic. And traffic can be brutal, it’s not likely to help much.

      1. Polaris*

        Not to mention the cost. Depends on where you’re calling from and how far you’re going, of course, but most people can’t afford to pay $15-25 daily for a ride, and if there’s any official delays on the MBTA, the price spikes dramatically. During the Blue Line fiasco recently I checked the prices and a single-person car was listed at $90.

  15. pleaset*

    In #4 I find it odd that a language teacher feels the need to jump in and start translating. That’s not a good impulse in most language-teaching situations – it’s not helping the student learn.

    1. TootsNYC*

      yeah, this would be my fault as a teacher–I get impatient, and I try to “help” too much.

      It’s something I fight with as a parent!

  16. Foreign Octopus*

    OP4, I’ve been in your exact position.

    I work in Spain as an ESL teacher and would have to deal with parents coming in to talk about their children’s progress and needing to conduct the conversation in Spanish. My colleague would always linger by the door in a really weird way, and she wouldn’t translate difficult words that I might have stumbled over, but she would translate words for textbook or progress or something like that. At first I thought she was trying to be helpful, but I quickly realised that it was a way for her to show off her own English (she taught Spanish to foreigners).

    I initially tried to get her to stop by saying something along the lines of “It’s really distracting for both me and the parents when you come and listen to our conversation, so I’ll be closing the door from now on.” but that was too vague and she kept inserting herself into other conversations and situations. Eventually – because my temper was wearing thin and I didn’t want to shout – I sucked it up and stopped her the next time she did it by saying, “I know you believe you think you’re being helpful by translating for me, but I do actually speak Spanish and it’s actually more difficult to follow the conversation when you’re there speaking English to me. Can you stop doing that, please?” It was more blunt that I intended, and she sulked for a while afterwards and would do that passive-aggressive complaining thing, but she did stop.

    Don’t let it build to the stage that I did and nip it in the bud now.

    1. Washi*

      Agghh yes I’ve had the exact same experience! It took me a while to understand why we’d be having a relatively complex conversation in my second language and then they would say like, a phone number, in my first language, as if I didn’t know how to count to 9. Sometimes it was showing off and sometimes it was, I think, a misplaced sense of politeness to say whatever they knew in my first language.

      Anyway, people can be clueless, and the OP should feel free to say “I’ve got it, thanks!” Or a little stronger, “I’d rather read through it on my own first, thanks though!”

      1. Birch*

        Yeah, and I think also that people generally have a terrible gauge on nonnative speakers’ skills, even people you’d expect to know better. I am by no means fluent, but I’ve had to ask friends and my partner to stop translating things like “book” and “bread” and “do you want a bag” at the grocery, pointing out that I lived here on my own for 5 years and would have had to learn those things in order to survive.

    2. Susan A*

      I’m honestly not proud of this because I realise that it was very passive aggressive of me. Many years ago, while I was living and working abroad, a colleague constantly and persistently replied to me in English (my language) even though I spoke their language way more fluently than they spoke English. Maybe they just wanted to practise their English, but I thought that it was very rude, especially when they did it in front of other colleagues. So I used to pretend not to understand what they said in English, by looking puzzled and asking them in their own language what they had said, and then I continued speaking in their language. Yes, I know it was mean, but it was effective. They soon got the message and stopped trying to switch languages on me. I was younger then, I would be more tolerant now.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I am very glad to hear you would never do that now. When I was traveling around the UK in my youth, my friends and I met some German tourists, one of whom did that pretending-not-to-understand thing whenever we tried out our German. It came across as bullying, frankly. Even his friends were embarrassed by his behavior and tried to get him to stop. I’m not, like, scarred for life by the experience or anything, but at the same time, I’ve never forgotten how small and stupid it made me feel.

        1. Susan A*

          Yes you are right of course. My only excuse is that I felt provoked (my language skills were good in those days and I’m pretty certain from the context that they were doing it to assert power / show off in the workplace to make me look less competent). Also I promise that, unlike that person you mention, I would never have done it in a social situation. But enough excuses! I would never do something like that again!

  17. LGC*

    With letter 2: you’re extremely conscientious and worried WAY MORE about being late once a week than you probably should be. (As a commuter on possibly the MOST dysfunctional transit system in the US, I know!)

    If it were every day, I’d readjust. But as it stands, this is probably more something you’d want to set up a plan for when it happens.

    (As an aside – on LW1, I think LW1 specifies their boss as male, not gender-neutral or female.)

  18. Jaid*

    Boy, I’m glad my shift is six to two thirty. I get to miss a lot of traffic. It’s worth getting up at 4.

  19. staceyizme*

    Anyone who monitored a coworker’s location overtly would be irksome, but trying to verbally “herd” your boss and her boss is buzarre. I’d nip that in the bud.
    I can’t help but wonder what the thinking is on the part of the employee being coached? It’s a weird deflection. I think it’s past time to move from being supportive and largely positive in the coaching role to being curious about her thinking and directive about needed changes on her part.

  20. Grits McGee*

    OP2- I know you said the alternative route takes you several miles in the wrong direction, but if it’s more reliable, it might be worth a longer route if it gives you peace of mind about getting to work on time. It sounds like leaving earlier on the tunnel route doesn’t even reliably get you to work on time, so it may be that a longer route is just going to have to be your new normal.

    1. Observer*

      I was thinking that, as well.

      OP I realize that it’s not intuitive, but it might be worth your while to look at that and decide if the predictability is worth the extra ride.

      1. OP #2*

        It’s not, unfortunately. I meant I’d have to drive in, and go in the opposite direction for quite awhile to connect with the highway in a different spot to get across the water, and as congested and awful as the traffic is here that could easily have its own set of delays, then I’d also be paying more than I can afford in parking each month.

        I mentioned it in the letter because it seemed disingenuous to say the tunnel is the *only* way to work when there is technically another way around, but it’s definitely a way that is not viable.

  21. Rebecca*

    #2 – I live in rural PA. We have two seasons, Winter and Construction. Due to the wet weather for the last 2+ years, we can now add a third season “trees falling onto the highway” season. I drive to work, and I have a fairly simple commute, starting on 2 lane country roads, then moving to a 4 lane highway. It should take about 24 minutes, yes, I timed it. I leave 30 minutes prior to start each day, sometimes a bit earlier, and 99% of the time, I’m on time. On the rare occasions I’m late due to our parking lot not being plowed, or trees with power lines down on the 4 lane, an accident, construction, etc. I work a bit later in the day to make up for it, and nothing is said. Our managers understand “stuff happens” and I hope the OP’s manager understands this, too. I know I couldn’t afford to come to work if I had to pay $40 a day to park, so I’d have to stay home if this was the only other option – be on time via public transport or pay to park.

    OP#2 – could you work from home some days until this is sorted out?

    1. Delta Delta*

      I live in a rural area where animals in the road are a common occurrence. Sometimes it’s wild animals (big ones). Sometimes it’s farm animals (also big ones). More than once I’ve had to just wait until the cows felt like getting out of the road. Eh. It happens.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I got stuck at one point on my way back from lunch behind a flock of Canadian geese slooooooowly meandering their way from the river on one side of the road to the pond on the other side. Seriously, there were like 80 slow and angry geese. (and then after I got back to work and explained the delay, the next day I came in to find pictures of stupid geese taped up all over my cubicle.)

        1. iglwif*

          Canada geese are such jerks, honestly. The almost certainly went extra slow on purpose.

          1. Jen2*

            They really are evil. I have to change my bike commute route during the months of March and April because of a particularly angry goose who has tried to murder me a couple of times by knocking me off my bike, where I could easily get run over by a car. He never even has goslings, so I don’t understand why he gets so territorial.

        2. Observer*

          This is where cell phones are great. Take a picture and now you have a great story to tell.

      2. Auntie Social*

        In middle school in OKC my teacher’s NYC elite grandmother wondered why he didn’t come home more frequently (I think to pay homage to her). He told her he couldn’t–there were cattle drives on the interstate and the roads were closed, even the one to the airport. She must have bought it—she left him her place on Park.

    2. CheeryO*

      I’m not sure if this is relevant to the LW’s situation, though. They are having weekly issues with the trains, so it’s probably time to make some sort of alternate arrangements, either on the work end or home end of things.

    3. Bears Beets Battlestar*

      Hi! I’m in rural PA, too! I’ve gotten stuck behind Amish buggies, tractors, trees across the road, animal in the road, people who don’t know how to drive in snow so they drive super slow or too fast and cause an accident, one time a semi got stuck pulling out of a driveway so traffic was stopped in both directions until they moved it. I called and said I would be there when I could and it was fine.
      It’s sort of the opposite of OP’s situation (super rural vs. super urban), but most bosses would much rather you let them know what’s going on so they can help come up with solutions or tell you not to worry about it because stuff happens, or some combination of the two things.

    4. Becky*

      If work from home is an option I’d ask if you could take it on days when things are particularly bad, or just the morning until traffic thins out or something.

  22. hbc*

    OP1, I would ask why they think they need to know this information. Not because they’re likely to have a good enough reason for you to give them all the details they want, but because you’ll know more about their mindset (or at least what front they’re putting up.)

    For example, if they were doing this as a power play, they’d probably have some figleaf excuse like needing to know if they can interrupt you with a text or call, then you can tell them the general contact rules and to follow them unless otherwise told. Or they might think that you’re making deals that would impact their work, and you can tell them that you have the better view of what might have an impact and when it’s appropriate to share.

    Or you might have a real eye-opener. In a similar situation, I found out that an employee’s behavior was based on him thinking that he should have 100% control of everything that touched his area, and that if someone disagreed with him, it couldn’t be genuine disagreement but an attempt to undermine him. His approach was so toxic and entrenched that I skipped past putting him on the planned PIP and just got rid of him.

  23. SigneL*

    #3 – some of us plan vacations months in advance (as much as 9 months). I would follow Alison’s excellent advice. It seems to me that it is in your company’s interest to know people’s vacation plans as far in advance as possible.

    1. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I was also thinking it’s in the company’s best interest to know farther in advance. Maybe it depends on the industry, but I’m having trouble coming up with a reason why the company wouldn’t want to plan more than 30 days out.

      1. MeanieNini*

        I worked for one comopany that did have stupidly strict rules on when you could ask for seniority reasons. As the HR manager, I pushed back to change it by stating if you want to ensure that senior staff get the pick of the days off, then encourage them to make plans in advance. Staff with less tenure shouldn’t be penalized because they planned ahead and others didn’t. It worked in that situation … but I wonder if something similar is going on here. That all started because senior staff were complaining that they couldn’t request “prime” days off because the slots that were available were already taken.

        1. Lx in Canada*

          Oh, that sounds like it could be it. Booking vacation by seniority kind of sucks when you only allow it to happen in a certain window, because then a lot of people might miss out on prime vacation time even if they planned ahead. We have like a deadline in my organization for when you’ve got to request your summer and winter vacation by, but I don’t know what happens after that. I usually send in my vacation requests weeks early anyways…

      2. Nyltiak*

        I had a job that wouldn’t approve more than 1 month out because we worked in animal care and they had to make sure they had appropriate staffing to care for the animals. But the real reason is that we had high turnover because we had terrible, incompetent, petty managers and a toxic work environment where they let the bullies run the show. I worked there long enough to get my grad school pre-reqs done and then peaced out, and now I just try to convince all my other work friends to leave.

    2. Lx in Canada*

      Yes, this!! Especially if you want to book a campsite or something – for example, Ontario parks opens up its summer reservations in early February, and you basically have to book at 8 AM on the day they open if you want a particular campsite/cabin/yurt on a desirable weekend. If you’re trying to book a Canada Day/week campsite, then you have to book then.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        Parks Canada opens campsite reservations for national parks like Banff and Jasper in January. Good luck finding a campsite for Canada Day, the August long weekend, or Labour Day without a reservation!

      2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        US National Parks have similar issues if you want to actually stay in the park. Trying to get a reservation for a hotel in one of the big parks (like Yellowstone or Yosemite) less than six months out is the height of folly. At six months, it’s only a medium folly because while you can get a room at that point, it won’t necessarily be the one you wanted.

        My husband and I are starting to plan an extended family vacation in Yellowstone in the early fall. Of next year.

    3. Snickerdoodle*

      Not to mention it’s an invitation for people to just call in sick when they need time off. My current job wouldn’t let me request days off in advance when I first started, so I bit my tongue about the plans I’d already made two months out and simply called in sick while I was actually out of town. Luckily that was only during the probationary period, otherwise I would no longer work here–which is also what this kind of policy encourages.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I have actually planned a few events a year or more in advance. It happens.

    5. Kathleen_A*

      I know some places are this short-sighted…but not many. Chances are pretty decent that this is the OP’s manager’s rule rather than the company’s rule. So Alison’s advice to check the employee manual before anything else is right on.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I remember one post here about someone whose job wouldn’t let you request time off unless you had enough vacation time to cover it at the time of your request, which can make it pretty difficult to plan ahead. It’s January, and you want to grab a week around Christmas, but your anniversary (when your vacation time reloads) is in August? You’re just out of luck.

    6. Pebbles*

      I planned a 4-week vacation going across 4 countries in SE Asia a year in advance. 1) It took me awhile to figure out the exact itinerary. 2) I had to work out some planning with local guides including a donation to a local school that I wanted to do. 3) My company prefers we take no more than 2 weeks of PTO at a time. So I went to my manager a year ahead of the trip, sketched out at a high-level of what I hoped to plan, semi-jokingly promise that I would never book a trip like this again, and he still had to go to his boss to get it approved. But it did get approved and I had a fantastic time! Also, both managers have since left the company, so I should be free from my promise, right?

    7. Kyrielle*

      And some places you must give more than a month’s warning, because they want to schedule work completion based on who will be out when.

      That…paired with this…would make family vacations *really tricky*.

    8. LCL*

      Yeah, boss’ vacation policy would be horrible to administer, from the management point of view. He is setting himself up to be a micromanager on vacations. Last minute requests are always much harder, where I am. There does have to be a limit on how far in advance vacations are requested, but that limit should be longer rather than shorter. I know no limits on requests sounds good, but if you do that you will have someone say fine, here’s my dates, for the next five years I want every Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve off.

      I understand very small businesses with minimal staffing may look at this month by month, but a larger business shouldn’t.

  24. JM in England*

    I feel OP2’s pain!

    Once had a short term job in London and commuted in by train from one of the surrounding suburban towns. At the start, told my then-boss that I was essentially at the mercy of whatever the transit system threw at me; fortunately, he was very understanding about this and was flexible enough to allow me early start and finish time to avoid the worst of the rush hour.

    Thankfully, I was only late due to transit problems a couple of times.

    1. anonintheuk*

      I was once 2 hours late because there was a fatality on the line and all trains were halted.
      My manager told me I should have planned better.

      1. Auntie Social*

        How do you plan for that? Even my Handbook For The Recently Deceased doesn’t cover it.

      2. A Simple Narwhal*


        That’s absolutely insane. I hope you asked them for advice on how to do that.

        I also had a manager like that. I had a ~30 minute commute, though randomly everyone few months it would be a bad day and take an 1.5-2 hours. My manager (who worked remotely) said I should always assume it’s going to take two hours and plan accordingly. Oh but I could also never leave early. I was like, you want me to give you 90 minutes of free work every day, when I already work late almost every day, plus evening and weekend events? Yea, no.

      3. voluptuousfire*

        If that were true, you’d be psychic and to get out of the horrible job you’d predict the winning numbers of the next big lottery so you can quit and live a life of luxury.

      4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Ugh, people can be so horrible. I was once on a train that hit someone, and we had to wait for about 2 hours for all the things to happen (police, relief driver, new locomotive, etc etc). The amount of people on the train complaining about how the trains are always late, they should plan for this stuff, why can’t the driver just keep going, blah blah blah or else clearly having conversations with work about why they going to be late and getting told off for it was staggering. I was sitting there thinking “someone just died in a horrifying, extremely graphic way, and you are complaining about it?”.

  25. doreen*

    LW#3 -vacations at my employer don’t generally get approved way in advance* (usually two or three months) , but even so, exceptions are made for weddings and similar events.

    * For a few reasons- we have a number of people who will try to request every desirable day/week for the whole year on January 2nd , and there’s a lot of transferring , so if it was routine to approve an August vacation in January it’s entirely possible that an office could be understaffed due to vacations approved at previous work locations.

    1. Bostonian*

      Yeah, you can’t allow it too far in advance as a general rule for that reason.

      Both of the last 2 companies wanted vacation requests no further out than 6 months (one was a guideline, the other a hard and fast rule). People usually weren’t lining up on June 24 to put on their holiday requests.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I can see not allowing people to request the week of Christmas off in January. But with events like weddings, or reunions, or anything that requires a plane ticket, at least 2-3 months is pretty reasonable and there should be flexibility.

    3. Going anonymous for this one 2019*

      So okay there’s ONE benefit of my otherwise annoying corporate overlord… booking Christmas in January.

  26. Harvey 6-3.5*


    My employer, a govt. agency, paid for some part-time schooling to get a JD, but stopped paying by my last semester. So while they did have a payback provision, it was accelerated due to their policy change (not that it ended up mattering to me since I’m still there many many years later).

    If they do pay, I’d make sure to see all of the terms, and make sure they work with your life plan.

  27. PretzelGirl*

    OP3- I wonder if this may have something to do with holidays. I used to work at company, where my co-workers would ask for the days around a holiday (xmas eve, black Friday etc), off a year in advance. It was really annoying because the rest of us could never take a turn getting those days off.

    Also I have also worked places where HR, said it was up to each individual department on how they handled vacation requests. So the manager could whatever the hell they wanted. Most of the time they were reasonable about it, but I had few instances that were annoying. I hope this type of push back does not happen.

    1. MeanieNini*

      We have a few people who consistently ask off the days before and after every single holiday for the entire year at the beginning of the year. We’ve had some managers want to change the policy so this isn’t allowed, but I’ve redirected THEM and said, why are you approving all of them? If it doesn’t work for your department and/or is causing other staff to do not get some of those days off, then tell the individuals who are doing this that you won’t approve all of them or limit how many you will approve until others get the chance. But of course, they won’t do this and continue to complain about it.

      1. Arctic*

        The reaction seems pretty unfair to me. The issue is that in the first come/first serve system of the holidays the same few people will always get those days off. Whereas a lot of people aren’t even unprepared. They honestly don’t know they’ll have to travel for family or host a huge bunch or whatever until closer in-time.

        But if the company doesn’t prohibit it than the managers seem arbitrary and capricious for saying “no, we are going to do a rotation” or “no, we are going to wait until two months before to request.” When every other department is doing it differently.

        That really should be a company wide thing.

        1. AKchic*

          I can understand it. It only takes one to upset the entire system.

          I worked at a place where our department was great about working out coverage and leave for the holidays. Until we hired a new receptionist. She didn’t like the company’s holiday policy, she didn’t like the leave accrual policy, she didn’t like… anything. She also didn’t like that her family lived out of state and that she wasn’t getting extra leave time for Christmas. The other coworkers and I had worked leave out and I don’t really celebrate the holiday, so I agreed to let the others take their vacation times and I would cover the office with the receptionist. Receptionist didn’t like that. The week before Christmas, the receptionist announces that her mother “surprised” her with tickets to visit the next week for the holiday and if she wasn’t allowed to go, she’d quit on the spot. Our boss pulled the rest of us into a quick staff meeting, said that HR was allowing the leave since it would take too long to hire someone else for the position (it had taken us a few months to find her, and I had just finished training her). So, I agreed to cover her position as well for the week.
          As soon as she got back, she put in for two weeks at Christmas for the next year without even telling anyone, without going through the proper leave request channels (no submitting to her supervisor, just going straight to HR). It took a while to break her of that bad habit. She did not endear herself to anyone.

          1. StaceyIzMe*

            As hard as it would have been to find someone, she should have been allowed to quit on the spot, in my view. At the least, she should have been given a letter of reprimand that specified that all of her vacation requests would have to go through proper channels going forward and would be subject to scrutiny from then on.

            1. AKchic*

              You and me both. Unfortunately, the company didn’t agree. I spent a decade there and they only outright fired maybe 6-8 people during my tenure there. And those were for gross violations of either federal/state laws that we couldn’t overlook, or one case of incompetence that really irked one of the c-suite folks.

    2. Oxford Comma*

      Except the date is in October. It looks like it’s 1 day off. And it’s for a wedding. I would think exceptions could be made.

  28. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I wonder if there’s something else going on here, like perhaps a prior manager who was hard to find. It’s anxiety-inducing to have a manager you rely on for certain decision-making, but not be able to get those decisions made if you don’t know where they are. And asking when someone is expected back isn’t unreasonable, especially if it’s a client-based job where clients call and want to know when the person will return. It’s good to have an answer. “Fergus is at a meeting, but I expect him back around 10” is much better to tell a client than “I don’t know where he is.” If Fergus is good with his calendar, he can simply say, “it’s on the calendar.” If Fergus is the kind of person who works off-calendar, it makes it sort of hard for everyone (except Fergus).

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      What the employee is doing IS unreasonable, because they’re asking OP and OP’s boss details about where they’ll be and who they’ll be with every single time they leave they’re office. And frankly it’s none of employee’s business. Yes if you need your manager’s input on something and they’re gone 90% of the time it can be stressful. But per the letter this is not the case and the employee is being obnoxious.

    2. Observer*

      It’s not on the OP or GrandBoss to manage the employee’s anxiety – the OP is clear that their schedule is sufficiently open for the purposes of the job.

      Worse, though, is the fact that the employee is actually NOT asking for the kind of information you describe. Asking for information about the specifics of the meeting ( “who are you off to visit?”) is utterly irrelevant for someone who just needs to know “When will I be able to reach you?” And if they are asking their Grandboss while Regular Boss (ie the OP) is still on the office, then even asking for schedule information is an over-reach since the employee DOES have someone to ask for help.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      That’s why I like the suggestion someone made earlier, to respond “why do you ask” (or “why do you need to know,” though that’s a little harsher). I don’t honestly think there’s a legit reason here, given the timeline, but I like making the employee bring their reason out into the open. Either there *is* a legit reason, despite the suspect timing, or their “reason” will make it clear that they’re up to no good.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’d buy this if it wasn’t wanting to also know who they were meeting with and what they were meeting about. There is no good reason an employee needs to know this in the day-to-day.

  29. M*

    #2 talk to your boss. I also wonder are you only giving yourself 20 or so minutes to commute from work? Maybe give yourself a longer window so you don’t be so late and if you arrive early maybe you can talk to your boss about leaving a bit early if you start earlier.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Perhaps I’m mistaken, but it doesn’t sound like they’re only giving themselves 20 minutes to commute, it’s that when everything runs smoothly the commute only takes 20 minutes. And when you’re reliant on public transportation, it’s not as simple as just leaving earlier like if you were driving, especially if you have to switch between multiple trains. But if get in early/leave early is an option on both ends, that might be a good solution.

      1. OP #2*

        Yeah I am definitely not leaving with just 20 minutes to spare, even before the issues got this bad I still always left myself some cushion time. I’m regularly leaving 40-minutes before I’m supposed to be there as my default, when I talk about going in earlier I mean 60+ minutes. I should probably have been more clear about that when I wrote in!

  30. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    Maybe OP’s boss just has a weird thing about planning PTO in advance. I once had a co-worker (not my boss) that frowned upon and made comments whenever anyone planned days off more than a month in advance. Her comments were along the lines of “how-can-you-plan-so-far-in-advance.” (I have otherwise found that most people find the ability to plan in advance a good thing.) It was as if the co-worker thought it was her place to decide when people could take their PTO (it wasn’t). Funny thing is, she took just as much time off as everyone else (if not more). It’s rarely the ideal time for anyone to take PTO. Things will always come up when you are away. Decent bosses, co-workers and companies deal with that. In my best situations, I would get as much done before I left for PTO, and then my bosses and/or co-workers covered for me, and I in turn covered for them when they had PTO. No drama necessary.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes that one seems really odd to me – I think people take the ocassional day off at short notice but for any longer periods I would expect many, if not most, people to need to book the time further in advance – maybe most obviously if you are planning to go away, but also if you are coordinating with guests, or booking in trades people or elective surgery or whatever..

      It would suggest to me that the manager is a poor / disoragnised manager who isn’t able to plan effectively or doesn’t kbnow whan the business’s busy periods are.

    2. doreen*

      I can’t help but wonder if your coworker thought your PTO that was planned a month in advance impacted on her ability to take PTO with little notice.
      True story- my agency allows extremely flexible schedules for field staff ,but the caveat is that your schedule must be approved by your supervisor. About a year ago, we switched from proposing a schedule every week to proposing one every two weeks. At the meeting where this was announced, one person was complaining vociferously that she couldn’t be expected to plan her work schedule two weeks in advance. Minutes later , the topic turned to vacation requests. The same person couldn’t understand why she couldn’t get approval for a vacation 18 months away because “some people plan their vacations far in advance”. She truly didn’t understand why everyone’s head swiveled to look at her.

  31. EPLawyer*

    #5, Please remind your boss. Getting your school paid for is important to YOU. So you think about it a lot. For your boss and the company, while important to encourage you developing your skills, getting that contract is NOT as important to them. It’s just not a priority. Not when billable hours beckon. They aren’t doing it on purpose, its just a matter of priorities. So a gentle reminder that your classes start soon will push that up the priority list.

    1. DaffyDuck*

      Yes! You definitely need to advocate for yourself in this situation! The fact that they brought it up twice shows you they are pretty serious, most places I am familiar with wouldn’t have mentioned it more than once. You now need to both bring it up and follow thru with any paperwork/information/etc. that they need. It will be your job to take the lead and follow thru.
      If you do not take the lead they may think you are not interested in having them pay for the schooling; for all they know you could have won the lottery or came into a big inheritance, etc. and want to pay for it yourself.

  32. Anon for this one*

    OP1 (employee wants to know where I and my boss are all the time) – I’ve been in the position of doing a similar thing as the employee, though without the PIP part.

    In my case it was intense anxiety about job security, the future of our team, what’s being planned behind closed doors that potentially would affect me/us, etc.

    Of course if there was anything significant like that, the bosses wouldn’t be able to share that so I’d try to “deduce” what the meetings could be about by finding out who was showing as busy (in outlook) at the same time as that meeting, bringing up a question like “when can we expect you back? haha” to try and prompt them into “giving away” info about what they were up to.

    It’s speculation on my part but I wonder if your employee’s underperformance is driven by some kind of anxiety in the first place and becomes a vicious circle?

    I’m really curious that they (employee) stated to the big boss that they ‘need’ this information. Almost as if it’s being seen as a kind of accommodation in some way.

    1. fposte*

      I think “accommodation” is a stretch–that kind of reassurance-seeking with anxiety is pretty common, and that’s less the cure than the disease. While accommodations for anxiety might be available if the OP’s staffer needs them, answering these questions isn’t likely to be among them.

      1. Auntie Social*

        And this employee wants to know what the meetings are about!! My next answer to him would be a stern look and then “um. . .let’s just call it personnel issues”.

    2. Observer*

      You do realize that your story just supports the idea that this needs to be shut down? Your anxiety was clearly driving you do dig for inappropriate levels of information. I cannot imagine any way that “giving junior employee access to all the confidential information about my meetings” could be considered a reasonable accommodation.

      1. Anon for this one*

        Yeah, sorry if it didn’t come out very clearly!

        I do realise that that isn’t a suitable accommodation — was trying to say more that from the (hypothetical) employee’s point of view, they may see “being told of what bosses are up to at all times” as something they ‘need’ in order to help with the anxiety, so they know Jane is seeing Client X about the TTP project not planning the latest round of layoffs, or whatever the employee is afraid the meetings could be about.

        It’s just interesting that they expressed this need in the skip level meeting. I wonder what the big boss’s response was, but it doesn’t seem like she shut it down! Now them employee is insisting on it.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Honestly, you mention that you did this but weren’t on a PIP, so that’s a world of difference in most situations.

      If a good employee does things that are borderline like this, I’d probably smile and just reassure them when I could. It wouldn’t even ping on that radar that says “argh, shuddup please!”

      But when you’re making demands and being borderline or just over that appropriate line, while your performance is an issue, it hits all the buttons of “You need to knock it off you’re already on thin ice, dude.”

  33. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP #2, if you’re in the Boston area, I feel you! Well, even if you aren’t, but especially if you are. I live at the southern end of the red line, which is most affected by the latest fiascos. These current problems started with a derailment, and that day, I was more than an hour and a half later to work than usual. My “new normal” is about fifteen minutes later. I’ve let my team know that if public transit (or even traffic) is making them late, I really don’t care. I can’t bring myself to demand they get up earlier to leave the house earlier when their positions don’t require them to have butts in seats at a certain time. I only ask that if we have a meeting scheduled, they let me know–and that if things look like they’re getting ridiculous (and that’s a “use your best judgment” kind of thing), they should give me a heads-up so I don’t worry about them. For myself, I’m going to start to do a once-a-week telecommute so there will be at least one day a week I won’t have to deal with MBTA-related angst. I’ve told my team they’re free to do the same.

    All of this is mostly to say that it’s a pretty good bet your boss understands how much of a hassle public transit can be, and will more likely want to help you find a way of making it easier on you, than insist that you make it harder on yourself as you struggle to come in earlier. I hope so! If not, my office is hiring! LOL

    1. Arctic*

      It’s sad that what should be very specific events (fire in tunnel, having to evacuate) have actually happened in more than one major city not too long ago (both Boston, stretching the major city there a bit, and NYC.)

      But I’m also in Boston and I’ve been relatively lucky with the Orange Line but it’s still getting worse everyday. The problem is leaving early doesn’t really help much. If there is a major incident (which happens with more frequency) then the delays end up significant anyway. And everyone is leaving earlier. So, it’s hard to get on a train.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        “stretching the major city”? It’s no stretch to me. Google/wikipedia shows Boston as #21 in population for the entire USA. If you look by metro region’s GDP it’s #9. And if you go by cities with the most World Series wins, it’s #4.

        1. Becky*

          And if you go by cities with the most World Series wins, it’s #4.
          And of course that is the best metric.

    2. OP #2*

      I am in Boston! And take the Red for part of my commute. Some days I can get to the platform at a certain time and its a one-minute wait and everything is great, the next day I can be in the exact same conditions and the platform is packed too tight for people to even get all the way down the stairs and the trains are 15-20 minutes apart. It’s incredibly frustrating!

  34. Arctic*

    LW 2 it could be worse! You could he LW 1’s boss. Come into a dozen “where are you” emails every morning.

  35. Kiwiii*

    OP2 – I know this isn’t the case with every job, but I work in a (medium sized) city where the main road into the south/west part of the city is known for backing up hugely. It’s not an every day thing and doesn’t happen at the same times every day, but will sometimes change my 35-45 minute drive to more like an 80 minute drive. There’s almost nothing I can do to prepare for it or plan around it and my manager knows (our whole team has a 30 min+ commute; all of us have to take that road in some capacity, plus we had a conversation about it where she was like “just don’t miss meetings”) and doesn’t question rolling in 20 to 40 minutes late as long as I’m getting my work done and clocking in 40 hrs. There’s every chance your manager will be just as understanding about it.

  36. Mellow*

    OP 1: Just for clarification, are you talking about one employee or more than one? You write “they” and “their,” which indicates 2 or more people. Is this a team issue?

    1. Justme, The OG*

      They’re using it as a singular so as to not reveal the gender of the employee. The singular they has become more prevalent in recent years.

    2. Moray*

      The phrase “one of my staff” makes it pretty clear it’s a singular ‘they.’

      In modern English it is used as a singular pronoun for when he/she isn’t appropriate, accurate or wanted. This is a good (actually, necessary) thing to know and accept.

    3. Jojo*

      They/their are personal pronouns used when one is avoiding he/his or she/hers. There are a number of reasons for avoiding gendered pronouns. It may sound odd to your ear but it’s part of our evolving language and we’ll get used to it.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s non-binary and meant to remove gender from the equation.

      A lot of people are opting for this language push to include those who don’t identify as male or female specifically. You’ll see this a lot moving forward both online and in real life situations.

  37. Database Developer Dude*

    OP #2 is definitely NOT in DC. The large body of water that needs to be crossed by two transit lines is the Potomac River. No one calls any structure on the river a harbor except for ‘National Harbor’, which is where the MGM Casino and the Gaylord Hotel are at. Plus, the tunnel *under* the river is at Rosslyn, which is on the other side of DC from National Harbor.

    Not that transit here in the DC area isn’t a ginormous dumpster fire, because it is. It’s severely impacted my commute. We adjust by slugging. There are places online where I can pre-arrange rides or riders, and places where they gather so I can pick them up if I’m the driver, and use the HOV lanes to get where we’re going.

  38. Database Developer Dude*

    “But I can’t help but feel flaky or that one of these days my boss is going to get fed up with transit-related tardiness. ”

    Maybe OP#2’s boss isn’t going to get fed-up, but someone’s boss is going to get fed up with transit-related tardiness. What do you do? Do you suck it up and just leave earlier, and then twiddle your thumbs until it’s time to start work? That takes more time out of your day. Do you just park at the $40 a day lot? That’s taking more money out of your pocket, just to come to work.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is always a problem commuting creates for people. So yeah, sadly if your boss is demanding you’re there by 8am no exceptions, you either figure it out or you lose your job. There’s no protections or anything that give you the right to adjust your schedule. Yeah, getting to work is not easy for everyone, sadly.

      Lots of people spend hundreds of dollars a month on transit. Between passes and tolls and gas and repairs and parking. I knew someone who paid $600 a month due to having to ferry every day with a car. It’s awful but so is rent and utilities, everything costs money. You spend money to make money.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      If there is likely to be a transit mess, you’re hardly likely to be twiddling your thumbs for very long. Bring a book. (I have a long, unpredictable commute *even under normal circumstances* and the solution is that, yes, I leave early. I’m usually at work in good time, but not hours early. If the LW is arriving 20 minutes late all the time, then she can reasonably leave 30 minutes early and not waste a lot of extra time when she arrives.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        So what happens when you leave early, arrive early, and the boss says “no, you can’t leave work early, quitting time is 5.”

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          If your boss doesn’t want to do it that way, they can make it a thing. They can say that you have to be there 8-5, no exceptions. So yeah, if you get there at 7:30 because you leave super early in the morning to avoid issues, you kill 30 minutes, start at 8 and leave at 5.

          It’s really not that hard…yes your employer has this kind of authority, their authority is pretty wide.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            Which means your employer takes an extra (in this example) two and a half hours a week from you.

            1. doreen*

              Well, no, because you don’t have to kill that 30 minutes working or even in the office. If you’re taking public transit to work, there’s likely to be a Dunkin Donuts or something similar where you can have coffee and read until it’s time to actually get to your office. Or you get to your office at 7:30 and don’t start doing any work until 8.

              1. bonkerballs*

                But you’re still killing 30 minutes. Killing, being the operative word. You’re diddling around at a dunkin donuts you wouldn’t be at for any other reason, or sitting at your office scrolling through your intagram, or whatever else. Killing time. So sure, your employer has that kind of authority, but it’s still two and half extra hours that your employer gets to take from you every week and that’s pretty shitty.

                1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  There’s another option that’s being overlooked here.

                  It’s move closer and therefore spend less time commuting. Move where you’re not multiple train lines away from your source of income.

                  If that’s not possible, which happens to people because rent is expensive and vacancies in certain places are hard to come by. Then you find a job that’s either willing to be flexible with hours or closer to you and you can make it there in time without needing get there early and “give away” your time for the sake of employment.

                  This is just basic life stuff. It’s why we also don’t pay people for the time it takes them to get here, even though we’re their “end destination” and we’re “stealing” their commute time too if you want to think of it that way.

                2. Working Mom Having It All*

                  But isn’t this true of anything where a commute is involved? I wish I teleworked, or that I got paid enough to live within 20 minutes of my office, but I don’t, so I sit in traffic on the 405 every day. It sucks minimally 3 hours of my life away that I’m not paid for, but which I can’t really do anything with (I listen to audiobooks and drink coffee, which is nice, but it’s not an extra hour of sleep or more time with my son).

                  But, like… that’s life.

                  And, yes, I leave earlier to account for likely traffic, which gets me to work a half hour or so early most days. I just “kill” time, or really, enjoy having a little time to myself with nowhere else I have to be and no obligations to anyone.

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              If you choose to look at it like that, then yes. That’s the personal cost of having that specific job.

              The good thing is that without a contract or some kind of locking mechanism, you aren’t forced to work for someone who is demanding more than you are willing to give.

              If your situation is that “this is the job you can get” and therefore have to follow whatever rules your employer sets forth, that’s a victim of your own circumstances in the end. The employer still isn’t going to pay you for the time it takes you to get there.

              Sure, the employer is the one with the bigger purse, so they have the authority. It’s never ever going to change. Even in the countries that have a lot more protections in place to avoid employers taking advantage of workers, they still get to tell you to be there at your scheduled time and it’s up to you get there any way necessary.

  39. OCI_Why_Why*

    To the Writer in #2: Is it possible for you to work out a work from home option? In my city, there is track work being done to several train lines over the summer, which result in buses that take over an hour long and other similar delays and “solutions”. I know a few friends who are affected by it. It sucks for sure but they worked out a temporary “flex work” schedule for the summer/until the track work is done.

  40. OCI_Why_Why*

    #2: Another option would be to see if your work has a “pre-tax” benefit that would allow you to park at the office through a pre-tax income deduction or at a reduced price.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      My employer got rid of the pre-tax parking pass deduction due to the new tax law from 2018.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The one that removed a lot of deductible expenses from business and personal tax returns.

        2. fposte*

          TCJA. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It’s the same one that rejigged the brackets and changed the standard deduction.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        From my understanding the law eliminated the deduction for employers, but not for employees.

        For example before if employers actually paid the cost of the parking or transit pass for their employees the business could deduct it as an expense. After the new law that changed and the business can no longer deduct the expense. But in this situation employees were not paying for it at all.

        But if the employer was deducting the cost of the parking/transit pass from your paycheck pretax that is still allowed under the law. In this situation employees were the ones paying for the cost.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The tax changes resulted in a lot of employers just removing things instead of retooling around the adjustments. They don’t want to mess with it and the cleanest way to make sure you’re compliant is to just not offer the expense.

          What was probably happening was they were splitting the costs. So the option would be to make the employee pay all the cost but to just pawn it off on the “government made us do it” they took away the entire thing.

  41. CanCan*

    OP2 – Have you considered leaving you house 40 minutes early in the morning? If the trains are delayed, you’ll get to work on time. If you’re lucky and get the short commute – just leave 40 minutes early. (Assuming your type of work allows a flexible schedule – not a receptionist, for example. And check with the boss first anyway.)

    1. CanCan*

      Also, any chance you can do some work on the train? My commute is an hour by bus (or drive to the park and ride + bus, which is only a little less), and I often work at least 30 minutes each way – either reading printed material or working on my laptop. Initially I took my personal laptop and transferred files to/from my work computer on a memory stick. Now I just take my work laptop home every day. I can even write emails and Outlook will send them automatically when I plug into the network at work.

      And yes, I do work with confidential materials, but it’s not so super-duper top-secret that random people on the bus would be interested. I just make sure that names of parties on agreements that I’m reviewing are not visible (i.e. if printing, I delete party names or mask them with white tape).

    2. CanCan*

      * “just leave 40 minutes early” – I meant, leave work early at the end of the day because you started earlier.

      1. Jen2*

        Yeah, this is what I was thinking too. Or if they get in about 30 minutes early every day and end at the usual time, then 4 early days would cancel out one late day.

  42. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Please chat with your boss about the transit mess. I’ve had employees with commutes that are sticky, even if they’re driving in themselves! We are never bothered by late arrivals, even if it’s once a week as long as you’re communicating about it.

    Most people drive here and the traffic is always fickle at best. I’m only 5 miles from work and it takes me 15 minutes at best and up to 60 minutes when bridges get stuck or semis over turn, etc. So if someone is coming from even further with even more hazards, it’s awful.

    It’s a given in most high population areas and unless there’s a huge reason to need butts in seats at Go Time, a decent manager gets that it’s just a thing.

  43. Koala dreams*

    #2 I was going to suggest a scooter or a bike, until I saw the harbour thing. I guess any ferries (if they even exist) get full really quick when the tunnel is blocked.

    Since this affects many people and probably will only get worse with time, you might want to check if your workplace can change to flex time with core hours. That way people can plan time sensitive meetings and such for the core hours and catch up on other tasks in the morning or evening, depending on the traffic situation. I realize this solution doesn’t work for all lines of work, but your employer might want to consider it.

  44. Zillah*

    OP2 – I feel your pain. Ughhh.

    I think one thing I would ask is whether there’s a reason you *need* to be at work at your official start time. If there isn’t, I think it might be worth talking to your boss about officially having more flexible hours and letting yourself off the hook a bit. When I was in this position, it really didn’t matter if I was a little late in general, so it was just understood that sometimes I’d be in at (for example) 9:30 or 10 rather than 9. I tried to avoid scheduling early morning meetings when possible, and I usually got sporadic reception so could answer emails/texts if something came up so my team didn’t have to be inconvenienced waiting for an answer.

    It wasn’t ideal, but it did make my daily commute much less stressful.

  45. remizidae*

    LW2: Leaving earlier seems like the best solution. It’s better to be earlier than everyone else than to be late (especially if you could leave earlier if you come in earlier).

  46. CummutingSucks*

    Commuting is the worst. It could take me 45 minutes or 2 hours to get to my last office. I had to be on time because I was a corporate trainer and classes started right on time. So I gave myself 2 hours. I needed that 2 hours about 50% of the time, not the best use of my time and super annoying, but it was necessary.
    OP doesn’t mention if they are leaving earlier or only allowing their normal 20 minute commute time. I think starting out 15-20 minutes earlier is a reasonable expectation. I think an effort has to be made to adjust their own schedule to an extent. Also, talk to your manager, some jobs the start time doesn’t matter as much. In my current position, I can start pretty much any time I want. If adjusting their schedule by leaving 15 minutes earlier, and the manager’s acknowledgment of the problem, they are likely to arrive closer to their start time the majority of the days.

    1. The Francher Kid*

      From the letter: “I’ve tried leaving earlier just in case, but then I’m at the office long before anyone else, and sometimes I’m still late because of subway problems! I work late when it happens, and I haven’t missed anything important.”

    2. StaceyIzMe*

      Whenever I’ve encountered difficulty in my Big City commute, I’ve just decided to leave very, very early. It can be a pain, but generally pays off in on-time arrival, earlier departure and much less stress on both the car and the driver. Many people in my area do this and it’s not unusual that some people choose their daycare, dry cleaner, bank and even their gym close to the office instead of close to home.

  47. Buttons*

    I have never heard of someone wanting to micromanage-up like that! LOL! There is nothing that any of my employees are working on that is so urgent that they would need to know where I am at all times, let alone know who I was meeting with. My calendar shows if I am in a meeting, on do not disturb, or out of the office, and when I will be available again. If I am going to be away for the entire day, and not checking email, I will let them know. But if I am in an all-day meeting, and will be able to respond to emails, I don’t let them know. And all of that goes for them too.
    That employee needs to be reigned in now. I really wonder what big boss’ response is. I can only imagine what my boss would do if one of my employees told her she needed to tell them where she was at all times.

  48. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1: First off, it’s great that you’re documenting everything and have a supportive boss. I’ve occasionally been sandwiched between a problem employee and a boss who didn’t want anyone to ever be made to feel bad. It wasn’t fun.

    By now I think the commentariat has probably convinced you that the request to know where you are and with whom ever blessed minute is unreasonable, and you can politely shut that down. I can almost guarantee you, though, that something else will flare up.

    How many employees are involved here? Does your Employee Being Coached have allies in the group? (I know singular-they is commonly used to avoid gender issues, but it’s a little confusing here.) Or is this limited to one person? You and your boss may want to move faster to shut this behavior down if it shows signs of spreading to others.

    You said you were asked to put this employee on a coaching plan. Do you have clear benchmarks for the employee to hit and a timeline for hitting them? I strongly recommend that you not drag this out too long, especially if the employee is acting out in other ways. I know there’s a strong temptation for a new manager to try to “save” an employee, but it’s not always possible. In this case, I’m pessimistic about your chances for turning this employee around. Agree with your manager on a deadline, then, if necessary, fire this person.

  49. animaniactoo*

    LW1 – If he gives you any pushback, I would broach the topic that what he is asking for is reasonable if you were reporting to him. But you don’t, he reports to you, and you will keep him up to date as much as possible on the things that concern him. He needs to let go of the idea that he should be getting any more information about that about your movements and the purpose of them.

    LW4 – Grab your co-worker as soon as you can: “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that while I appreciate the effort to help, I generally don’t have a problem understanding anything that’s said or the written materials in our meetings. If I do have a problem with something in particular, I’m comfortable asking for translation help in the moment and I’d rather do that.” and then at the next meeting if she starts to translate again, you can tap back to that “I’m good, I’ll ask if I need help.” with a smile.

  50. Confused*

    Going against the hivemind here, but these questions “when can we expect you back?” and “who are you off to visit?” are pretty separate in how I’d deal with them. The first is VERY reasonable if they need to meet with you, if you need to review or sign off on a deliverable, or if they need updates from you. I had a boss who was in meetings constantly, and while I’m not fussed about what they were, she insisted on reviewing every single word that left our office which caused a huge bottleneck. She’d also corner people at 5:29 as they were about to leave and slam another hour’s worth of tasks on them. Tell your employee what they can expect in terms of your availability, that’s not too much to ask.

    Who are you meeting with, well, that’s less reasonable.

    1. fposte*

      If they need to meet with the OP, though, they can just say that. It seems pretty clear that these questions aren’t being triggered by a need for a meeting but by her setting foot out of the office. And that’s not reasonable.

    2. Observer*

      It’s clear from the OP’s letter that none of this applies here.

      Furthermore, the addition of the second question CANNOT be looked at as a separate issue from the first question. It speaks to motivation. And once you have a good idea that the motivation is not reasonable, it is just not sensible to pretend that the non-reasonable motivation is somehow not related to the first item.

  51. Shay*

    2. LW must live in Boston. The MBTA is such a mess, it is beyond belief. People buy passes and they are useless because the system doesn’t run. I cannot sympathize enough with this LW, dependent on the system for transportation and at its mercy. EVERY.DAY.

  52. CS*


    I would just make my calendar visible for all of your team to see. Be sure to be meticulous about updating it and scheduling meetings and appointments for longer than they’re expected to take so that they don’t wonder how long you’re running over.

    When you are getting pulled into a last minute meeting, either update your calendar to reflect that, or let the office manager / receptionist or some other senior and respected member of the team know that, along with who you’re with, where to find you in case of an emergency, and whether you should be interrupted (e.g. “I am not to be interrupted during this meeting unless the building is on fire,” “Please come and get me if, and only if, Mr. X is calling because we’ve been playing phone tag for days,” etc.).

    Now, on to the bigger picture: your team is used to being micromanaged and nitpicked on, so that they don’t feel like their manager (i.e. you) will have their backs if they make even minor decisions, so that they need you around to approve of those minor decisions. This is probably why the team was underperforming when you took over.

    It also sounds like the team has got a much longer tenure in their individual positions — I’m thinking years, if not decades — and they’ve got used to managing (manipulating?) their previous manager(s). You don’t mention other issues, but I would encourage you to step back, examine the workplace and the team culture, and think seriously about whether you want to at this organization for much longer. If you do, your coaching plan needs to include teaching them to make higher level decisions, and to support them when they do make decisions, so that they stop with this kind of behavior.

    1. fposte*

      Where are you getting that the team is used to being micromanaged and nitpicked on? The rest of the staff are fine, and there’s one person who keeps asking for information that’s not appropriate to insist on. I’m not seeing any suggestion that micromanagement has been involved at all.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What?! This is a bizarre comment and the OP should ignore it.

      First, no, she doesn’t need to cater his demands the way you’re suggesting in your first few paragraphs. The employee is being unreasonable.

      Second, there’s zero indication that the OP is micromanaging and nitpicking people here. Do not make unkind assumptions about letter-writers with nothing to back them up.

  53. CS*

    LOL. I missed the “one of my staff” and kept read OP#1 referring to the one team member as “they” and “them” so my mind was going with the whole (small) team was like that.

  54. Menaced by the MBTA*

    #2 struck me immediately as Boston and then saw it confirmed. It’s overall the worst public transit system I’ve ever had to use, and I’ve commuted in NYC, DC, and San Fransisco in my professional life so far. The most egregious part is that in any neighborhood I’ve lived in Boston/Cambridge, my commute to work is usually about 3-4 miles TOPS. It’s a very small area geographically. Yet without fail, I’ve never had a commute regularly be under an hour. On good days, take what Google Maps says and add 20 minutes especially if you transfer at some point. On bad days, I’ve spent 2+ hours commuting. It’s bonkers, and despite how awesome our job market is, it feels really impossible and sometimes even humiliating to commute here. I’m saying this as a well paid person with a job that affords me flexibility time-wise…the real disservice is for the many low income folks whose neighborhoods are without exception poorly serviced, they wholly rely on public transit for important things besides work, and tend to be punished the worst when things go wrong. $90 a month for this….I could write a novel, but I will end here :(

  55. Anon in Space*

    #1 – I’m going to go with the employee’s side for the moment – I was in a similar situation once and my boss was definitely using blocked off days as a strategy and leave no time for review (part of her job) to get me fired. It worked. She did this to other people as well. I was supposed to leave things on her desk (no email tracking), was forbidden from CC’ing her boss on anything, got dumped with changes the of 10 hours of work at 3 pm before a hard deadline the next day (the choice was to stay light without pay or do a not perfect job that got called out publically and then used as justification for firing me.)
    There was other stuff, her boss didn’t care and didn’t know where she was either. I doubt OP1 is like this, but this is the perspective from the other side. In hindsight, I should have nailed her down harder on being responsive and passive aggressively CC’d her every other day when she was late on feedback. But I didn’t because I’m the cooperative sort that though it would be unprofessional.

    1. Observer*

      This is the perspective from the other side when you boss is a jerk and terrible manager.

      However, what the OP describes is radically different. The employee was underperforming before the OP showed up, they have full access to GrandBoss, and they are asking for information that is not relevant to legitimate concerns.

  56. Effective Immediately*

    Re: OP3

    I’ve worked at places where this was the rule, and they were universally Union environments. That sucks, because it makes bending said rule even harder. The reason was because conflicting time off requests were awarded by seniority, so we couldn’t approve anything too far in advance, lest a more senior person show up at the 11th hour and request it off. It was really, really difficult to manage, so the Union granted an exception for the summer where requests would be awarded first come-first serve.

    If you do have a Union and HR says they can’t do anything about it, I would contact your rep. Clearly this rule isn’t working.

  57. Mama Bear*

    RE: the transit woes (I wonder if you’re dealing with the DC Metro…and for that you have my sympathies), I would also ask the boss if you have any options for PT telework while this is going on, or when you know that there’s a lengthy delay. You can’t predict all the transit woes, but if you know that there’s going to be a bus bridge instead of a train, maybe ask for some remote work options during that time? Or could you work out of a satellite office or meet with the client in person or pretty much anything that wouldn’t be fighting the transit system with the rest of the crowd? If it is only weekly, then I’d accept my boss’ good graces and understanding….and probably check my emails from home or while stuck on the platform to mitigate what I could.

  58. Working Mom Having It All*

    Re #2, how are other people in similar situations handling this? I would take a cue from what they are doing, since you can’t be the only person in your major city who travels between the same two parts of town for work. Even if you happen to be the only one in your particular office.

    I live in Los Angeles, where public transit is a joke, but where there is often a similar problem to yours regarding commute times and unpredictable circumstances. For example anytime there’s a wildfire significant enough to shut down a freeway or a major road, traffic will completely go to shit. (Not to even mention how people can’t drive in the rain here, but that’s a different issue entirely.) If the wildfire is severe or it takes days to fully clear and reopen those roads, it can affect commutes for weeks. Like your situation, all of this is going to be highly dependent on what your specific commute is, and there are definitely people who can wildly swing from 20 minutes to an hour depending on conditions. When this sort of ongoing situation happens, usually people will start anticipating it and assuming it will take longer to get to work, rather than continuing to be an hour late. It would look out of step for one person to still be coming in late and pleading “traffic” when everyone else is managing to get in on time.

    That said, I also lived in NYC, where there would be random hellacious transit problems that were much less predictable, and there was a bit of a “shit happens” attitude about it. So in general it probably depends on citywide, neighborhoodwide, and officewide norms in your area.

  59. Big Biscuit*

    I think the first question IS some type of odd power play by the employee. It’s pretty outlandish to expect a supervisor to account for all their time out of the office to the employee. In my position, I am required to send my schedule to an administrative assistant, but I’ve not given my vice president’s schedule, nor would I ask or expect to know. It’s just the pecking order of the job world. Weird stuff shut that employee down!

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