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.

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 r