how important are educational requirements, unexpected visitors when working from home, and more

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

1. How important are educational requirements, really?

I’ve been job searching for a few months now and I have yet to really get anywhere, because every time I find a job listing that is in my industry and correlates to what I do, they seem to require a level of education that I don’t have. For context, I have a bachelor’s degree and I work in an industry that is related to academia but is highly populated by people who both have and don’t have masters/PhDs. Where I’m getting frustrated is that I’ll come across a job description, read through the entire thing and mentally check all the boxes in terms of my experience/capabilities, and then at the end it seems like they almost just throw it in there, “By the way, a masters/PhD is required.”

How can I tell (when it’s not obvious) when the educational requirement really is required, and when it’s just a wish list? My current job was advertised as a masters/PhD being “required,” but I applied anyway, and here I am. (And to head off any “just go ahead and apply, what’s the harm?” — the harm is, what if I want to apply for something else at this company again? My industry is small and I don’t want a company to dismiss me later because I applied for something inappropriate the first time around.)

I’m going to give you the advice you said you didn’t want, because your premise isn’t right.

Employers aren’t actually likely to dismiss you in the future simply because you once applied for something you weren’t perfectly qualified for. People apply for jobs all the time where they don’t meet all the qualifications. And sometimes they get hired! When they don’t, though, employers are rarely outraged or scornful that the person took a shot. (I mean, yes, if you don’t have any of the key qualifications, you’re going to look naive and out of touch, but employers don’t generally hold it against people who apply when they’re close but not quite there.)

If you meet 80% of the qualifications and you can point to evidence that you’d excel at the job (real evidence, not just “I think I could do that”), you should go ahead and apply.

To answer your actual question though: You can’t always know from the outside what’s a firm requirement and what’s more flexible. Some jobs truly can’t/won’t hire anyone who doesn’t have an advanced degree, and some will but list it in their requirements anyway because that’s their mental picture of what the perfect candidate will look like — but they end up broadening their thinking. In many cases, you won’t know from the outside which it is — but in most cases you won’t harm your future chances by taking a shot now.

2. Unexpected visitors when working from home

I live in a small apartment complex. The other week, I was working from home in my kitchen, where my table is close to my front door. I was on a call when there was a very sudden, forceful knocking at my door. I was in the middle of speaking when it happened. Some of my team started laughing, so I know they heard it. Not know what else to do, I stuttered my apologies, explained someone was knocking at my door, and excused myself briefly to answer it. It was my neighbor, informing me about a problem with our building plumbing. I quickly thanked her, closed the door, and returned to my call. Moments later, she knocks forcefully AGAIN, and I excuse myself once more. She had a follow-up question about the problem, and I had to tell her I was working and I would come down to speak with her when I was done.

I was very embarrassed about the whole thing and apologized to the team. Working from home is a big thing at my company so no one cared, but it got me thinking about how I could’ve handled it differently. Should I not have been working so close to my front door? Should I have ignored the knocking? (Which I would’ve done if it hadn’t been so loud and clearly audible to everyone else on the line) After the first knock, should I have moved to a different part of my apartment? What’s the protocol on unexpected visitors when you’re working from home?

I work from home and if I’m on the phone I’ll ignore the doorbell unless I’m expecting a delivery or such (and if I am, I’ll generally mention at the start of the call that I might be interrupted for a minute). But unexpected, forceful knocking would alarm me, and it’s reasonable to want to investigate that and to say something like, “I’m so sorry but someone is pounding on my door and I think I should see what’s going on — do you mind if I put you on hold for a moment?”

With the second knock, though, it might have made sense to ignore it and move to a part of the house where it was less audible. In fact, ideally you would have told your neighbor the first time that you were on a work call and couldn’t talk, which hopefully would have prevented the second knock.

But with working from home becoming more widespread, I think we’re becoming more used to this kind of occasional interruption (just like many offices are now used to seeing a coworker’s cat or dog show up on video calls). So I wouldn’t worry about it too much during routine conversations with coworkers, but would take more precautions if you’re on a Very Important Call (like not working right by the door, if you have other options).

3. Being required to book all vacation time a year in advance

I’m asking this question on behalf of my wife because I think I’m angrier about this than she is. She is a manager for a greetings card store in the UK. As you would expect, the store gets busy during specific seasons (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Christmas). In the past she has needed to give a bit of notice (usually around a month) for taking time off because she works with other stores in the area to ensure there is enough cover in place, with the unspoken rule that no one takes time off over Christmas as it is the single busiest time of the year.

Now her area manager has introduced a rule that all vacation time must be booked off a year in advance. It’s a year and a half in this instance because by next Friday she needs to submit her vacation requests up to December 2020!

Obviously we can’t imagine what will happen between now and December of next year. We are planning a road trip with some friends next year that we know will be late July/early August but we haven’t nailed a date down yet and would feel awful getting our friends to commit to this so far in advance. How can she push back on this?

That’s ridiculous and unrealistic. How do her coworkers feel about this? I’m betting others are annoyed by this too, and one option is for them to push back as a group, pointing out that it’s onerous and impractical to have every single use of vacation time planned out over a year in advance. It also means people won’t be able to do things like attend family reunions or even weddings without a year’s notice. It’s absurd.

4. Sick leave versus flex time for medical appointments

Though I’m an hourly employee, my boss is very low-maintenance about clocking in/out. We work for a large institution with ample sick leave. When I request time off for medical appointments, our electronic timesheet software has an option to designate if the request is for appointments, which I always select.

Several months ago. I started making midday, bi-weekly appointments for mental health services. They are conveniently located, so it’s only an hour out every other week. I cleared the arrangement with my boss ahead of time, and he was supportive and reiterated that I had support to schedule my time flexibly (work through lunch, or work late on the days I have a therapy appointment). This is nice to know … but I kind of want to use at least a portion of the sick leave time for its intended purpose. Any leave request I’ve sent has thus far been approved, but he’s also mentioned again multiple times that I can just flexibly schedule my time for these appointments. Is my boss just being extra supportive and kind, or is there anything about sick leave/conventions I’m not taking into account here and I’m the one making it weird?

He’s probably just being extra vigilant about making sure you know it’s really okay to flex your time on those days. Next time, try saying something like, “I really appreciate that! I actually don’t mind using my sick time for this — I figure that’s what it’s there for! — and sometimes that works better than flexing my time on those days.” You could also say, “I’m assuming it’s okay to do what I’ve been doing, but if you’d actually prefer that I flex my time on some of these days for workload reasons, please let me know!” (Or you could just ask directly: “Just to make sure I’m not misunderstanding — I tend to like using sick leave for this, but would you prefer I flex my schedule instead?”)

5. Employee comes in on his days off to use a computer

I have an employee who will request vacation time but continue to show up at the office, presumably to use the internet connection. (We are in a country where it is not common for people to have internet in their homes, and being a large organization, our connection at the office is normally strong.) I have casually said, “Oh! I thought you were on vacation today,” to which he will reply, “Yes, I am. I just needed to get something in my office.” Except that he ends us staying a while on the computer. Should I just let it lie? Our work is stressful, so when people take vacation, I want them to really be gone.

Is it just an hour or two? If so, I don’t think that’s a big deal. It’s not what you’d choose to do with your vacation time, but that doesn’t mean he can’t.

I’d argue it differently if he was getting sucked into work while he was there, or if he was there all day or every day he was supposed to be gone. In those cases, you could say, “When you’re taking vacation time, I want you to really disconnect from the office. It’s fine to come in to briefly use a computer in a pinch, but otherwise, when you’re booked to be away, let’s keep you away from work.”

{ 366 comments… read them below }

  1. Zombie Unicorn*

    #3 UK person here. Firstly is there any written policy about booking annual leave, for example in her contract, staff handbook or on the intranet? If so, find it and see what it says, and then contact ACAS and ask if this constitutes a change to her contract / working conditions that would have required consultation.

    Your employer can insist on a notice period of at least twice as long as the amount of holiday you want to take (under the Working Time Regulations although I should say I am not a lawyer), but many will waive this. You also have a statutory right to take your annual leave.

    I would strongly advise that she speaks to ACAS before doing anything at all, as they will give her very good free advice on her rights.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Yeah, I’d think in a UK context this is really abnormal.

      If it turns out they can’t do anything about it, I’d either overbook leave and then cancel days a few months out or job search since this is really, really ridiculous.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yep. ACAs and/or her union rep (if doesn’t have one, get one :) usdaw would be her default I think).

      But that’s ridiculous, and so7nds like one over officious higher up that almost certainly doesn’t have backing.

      2* holiday length notice, with a minimum period of a couple of weeks (maybe a month) and a “no-one gets christmas eve!” rule? Fine. This? Nah. Not OK. Nor likely to be enforcable (because you are entitled to your min 28 days….)

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Not for this particular issue, no, but in general – don’t want to be saying same thing next time something odd comes up!

          Also might be slightly less clear where line is… did conflict begin when policy was announced or when she tries to book and can’t? Obviously joining union and putting through a will-be-rejected request the nect day wouldn’t get representation – but 6 months later? What if you joined a few days after starting job, and had issue booking 2 months later?

          (Not a union rep ao don’t know answers to that one – just thinking that conflict start date usually starts from when you had an issue, not from when policy was announced.)

          But regardless of whether you can get union rep involved in this one – wear your seatbelt next time you get in a car, and join a union for future reference ;)

          1. Anonomoose*

            So, I did voluntary union reping for a bit, would be unfussed about when someone joined. There might be some issues with getting help from the central bit of the union straight away after joining, but we’re generally in it to try and make work a better place.

            That means pushing back hard against ridiculousness like this holiday policy, because it has a habit of spreading. We’d want to know, and, even if we can’t officially help, there’s often stuff we can do, like raising it in the next meeting with senior management

            1. UnionMaid*

              yes, and also unlikely that there is only one person affected and disaffected. Good way to find co-workers to stand with through the union.

        2. pandop*

          She might have a colleague who is already in the union, and this sort of behaviour from area management makes me think that even if she has joined too late for this issue, joining the union in case they try other shenanigans wouldn’t be a bad idea.

        3. Newington*

          I think that’s more for things like unfair dismissal: you can’t just join the union when something bad happens to you, as it’d be like buying insurance after you crash your car. But policies like this, which affect a whole workplace or company, are what joining unions are for.

          I work in an industry that’s just starting to unionise because of certain bad conditions that are endemic to the industry. It’d be ridiculous if we said we couldn’t help people fight a culture of… er, something bad to do with teapots… that had started before they joined. It’s why we want them to join.

      1. Lupe*

        Yaaas..not just murky, if it’s not in the contract, it’s not legal.

        Here’s what my steps as a union rep would be:
        email head of HR, requesting clarity on this. Something like, “Hi, we’ve heard of a recent policy change that appears to be pretty unreasonable. *outline new change*. Is this company policy now, or is it just a manager throwing their weight around?”

        Normally the answer would be, no, it was not policy, and that the head of HR would be pretty concerned as it was a legal liability. I’d then ask them to email the manager, and maybe put out a full company email.

        It normally didn’t get further than that, with impromptu attempts at contract change.

      2. only acting normal*

        They’re definitely in murky legal water.
        Also, as written on the site, the bit about contracts specifically refers to when leave can/can’t be booked (an employer can contractually say “you can’t take leave in the first week of the month” for an accountant for example, or “you can only take two weeks in a row maximum”), not how much notice you have to give. (I think a UK employment lawyer would need to advise on the nuance there!)
        Either way, if it’s not written into their contracts, the area manager can’t unilaterally impose it (request as much notice as possible, yes, impose it, no). A subtle check-in with corporate HR might be in order.

        1. TechWorker*

          Yeah I certainly don’t read it as ‘definitely illegal’ like some have done based on that website.

      3. amla*

        But it says an employee must give *at least* twice the amount of time requested off, not *at most*.. I am also not a lawyer but it seems clear the employer holds the power here, unfortunately.

    3. Ange*

      Boots UK do this, although I know employees were pushing back on it. There was a campaign/petition going round, but I don’t know what the outcome was.
      I agree it’s terrible, though.

        1. tiffbunny*

          I would disagree: when it’s affecting approx. 75% of the workforce, it’s not rogue managers, you’re looking at the company’s *real* but unwritten policy. The “official” policy was only there to cover their asses when situations exactly like that petition happen.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I agree – this is very unusual and (unless it is in the contract) likely to be unlawful.
      Chekc your employee handbook – companies can make changes to policies and these changes in terms and conditions may be lawful if they are reasonable, and youi may be demed to have accepted them if you continue to work, so it’s sensibl to get advice quickly and if necessary, register a formal protst to make clear that you are not accepting the new terms y continuing to attend work.

      I know that my sister had a job where there was a policy like this, (although the advance notice period wasn’t quite so long!) – it was due to the nature of the job whic hwas very specialised and involved meeting extremely strict and non-negotiable deadlines for clients, which meanth that her department’s taks were fixed a long tim in advance. However, this was made explicitly clear at every step of the recruitment process and was written into the contracts. I think it also only applied to actual holidays – it was possible to bbook single days off at much shorter notice.

      But it is very unusual and the default is2 x the amount of time you want off, so 4 weeks notice for a 2 week holiday. Of course, the employer is able to say ‘no’ , or torequire you to take holiday at a certain time, so OPs employer could simply tell them which dates they get off.
      Definiteyl one where pusng back as a group an escalating it if this is one managers’ arbitrary decision.

      1. Massmatt*

        I’m surprised no one has suggested looking for another job. This is a retail job, if the UK is anything like the US there are places hiring everywhere. People stay in awful jobs far too often and too long. I doubt the greeting card shop is paying top dollar to make up for the awful time off policies.

        And again so many references to checking your employee handbook. Only one job I’ve had ever had one, in most a request for it would get you laughed at. Maybe they are common in some areas or industries but honestly, references to it seem really naive.

        1. londonedit*

          Obviously retail might be different, but every UK company I’ve worked for has had an employee handbook, and in the UK you sign an employment contract before you start work (mine is more of a letter stating the terms of my individual employment, and referring me to the employee handbook for things that are standard company-wide like leave and disciplinary policies). The full employee handbook is available for everyone to access on the company intranet and/or from HR.

          1. Samwise*

            May I just say, on behalf of US workers, your system is good and ours sucks so bad. I’m envious, I live in a so-called “right to work” state.

            1. Quickbeam*

              My husband has to put in his entire leave request the October before the year. So October 2019 for anything he wants off in 2020. God help you if someone dies or you need to go to a wedding etc. He works in a US correctional facility. Too near retirement to change now.

              1. Doc in a Box*

                It’s like this in medicine in the US, too, at least if you have any inpatient hospital responsibilities. I used to have to put in my leave requests every April for the upcoming September through next August. It’s terrible, given the busy summer wedding season. (Medical couples will send out their save-the-dates a year in advance because of this, and even then it’s something not enough.)

                1. Helena*

                  Actually medicine in the UK is worse – fixed leave is common in the training grades (doctors aged 23-40), so you are told in August when your annual leave will be for the next year, and it can’t be changed or swapped (issues with rota compliance).

                  School nativity play? Boiler broken and you need a morning off to let in the repairman? Surely you have a wife for things like that.

                  At least at consultant level it is just six weeks’ notice to cancel clinics. Juniors get completely shafted in the NHS, it is no wonder they leave hospital medicine in droves.

          2. Akcipitrokulo*

            seconded… only time I didn’t have an employee handbook was when it was my uncle I was working for at weekends when I was younger and one very, very dysfunctional small family fencing company.

        2. UKCoffeeLover*

          UK commenter here.
          The UK is in the middle of turmoil with Brexit. People are definitely not hiring all over the place!
          As other people have said, check the handbook, and and the contact. The employer had to give a written contact and will very likely have a handbook.
          Did to me like a rogue manager so go higher and contact Acas for more advice.

          1. Newington*

            Yep, this. And another thing: most of our worker-friendly labour laws are either EU laws, or held in place by EU standards. After October 31st – yes, they really set Halloween as the exit date – if the Tories want to abolish maximum hours or make it legal to require a year’s notice for sick leave, nothing stops them. So if it turns out to be an EU regulation that can get you out of this, you’d better start fighting now.

          2. JSPA*

            This. People with a bit of seniority are probably sticking tight, on the assumption that they want any circling sharks to bite the people lower on the mast, if the ship sinks.

            And whenever that’s the case, short-sighted or inhumane managers find a way to squeeze a bit extra out. And if their policy greases the pole, and some people jump before they slip? That’s one less person to fire (if management also suspects the economy is going to get ugly).

            NB: we’re not supposed to discuss politics, per se, but (given that retailers are broadly reported to be stockpiling as one would in the face of, say, an incoming storm of considerable duration) I’m hoping it’s not considered a political stance to notice and name the level of sheer confusion caused by not knowing what’s going to happen, Brexit-wise.

        3. only acting normal*

          Employee handbooks are quite common in the UK (I’ve mostly worked in large firms, my husband has worked in small to medium, and medium-size up has always had one), and at the least a big retail chain like the one alluded to here will certainly have some kind of corporate policy on booking holiday.

    5. MissDirected*

      I’m in the UK as well. Will your wife be held to these dates OP?
      We have to do the same, but can amend the dates completely as and when. It’s supposed to allow managers to see when more people will be off, but its a bit pointless.

      1. Rebelx*

        This was my first thought as well. Is this just a planning measure, and ideally you’ll stick to your planned dates but they could be modified later on if need be and requested with some advance? Or are they going to strictly hold people to vacation dates planned over a year in advance? If there’s any doubt, I think it’s worth it to clarify what the boss intends. If they’re planning on being reasonable about making adjustments, then it’s less bizarre, though possibly not especially useful for planning since there are likely to be changes. Regardless, it’s still unusual… I could see some types of jobs requiring substantial notice to request leave because of planning needs, but retail?

    6. Didi*

      OP1: Go for the jobs that you are qualified for and interested in, regardless of the academic requirement. Companies all the time put in a default degree requirement and yet all the time they hire people who don’t have the degrees. I have actually done some extensive research on this by matching LinkedIn profiles to job postings.

      OP2: This used to happen to me too. Allison’s advise is good. I also would speak to the neighbor. Mine (and my relatives and even my husband) used to get the idea that because I was at home I was available to do all kinds of errands and deal with various neighborhood dramas. Let them know that you can’t be interrupted at work and to text you in an emergency. That does the trick for me.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        In addition, you can always hang a note on your door saying you’re working at home/on a work call (indicate when it’s likely to be over) and ask that you not be bothered unless the building is on fire.

    7. Tan*

      I’m UK based and can say that I have heard of long-term holiday planning occurring, with union knowledge… in the NHS. Basically holiday forms are sent out ~ Christmas and must be back by valentines and in a few weeks everything should be sorted for the next April to April. However, this only to ensure that there is more than minimum required staffing levels for the next year. Hence these people (who work shifts) could work Monday /Tuesday /Wednesday /Thursday and the next week Thursday/ Friday /Saturday/Sunday to “gain” a ~week off. Also managers often will allow colleagues on the same grade to swap shifts etc so the holidays are not “set in stone”.

    8. Tshtsh*

      I’m in retail management in the UK and in my company all store managers have to submit their following years worth of holiday requests (in priority order) in November as only a certain number of managers can be off at once. Then in December all store staff submit their holiday requests (again in priority order) and the SM allocates them out.

      The employee handbook/policy states you only need to request holidays 4 weeks in advance however that results in too many people trying to take off the same week e.g. first week of September is very popular. So if anyone refrained from submitting their requests they’re extremely unlikely to get the time they actually want off.

      We also have to take off a week at a time for 5 weeks worth of our 6 weeks holidays, the remaining 5 days to be used for Christmas day, new years day and 3 random days.

      A lot of it seems to depend on the size of the stores as my previous store/company was huge and only required twice as much notice as you wanted off e.g. 2 days notice for a day off.

  2. Eliza*

    #5: If the employee is definitely using the internet for personal purposes and not for work, and if the company is okay with him doing that, I’d mentally reframe what he’s doing as making use of a perk, just like if the company provided gym facilities and he was using those. It may feel a bit different because he’s physically in the same office where he also works, but he’s presumably doing it because it’s the most convenient way for him to have internet access.

    1. Loose Seal*

      I would too and, frankly, I used to go into my office (where I had a key to the building) on weekends back in the early days of Interneting in the U.S so I could email and just generally surf the new — to me — wonder of AOL chatrooms.

      However, if the OP’s coworker has the kind of job where you have to leave work for a period as a fraud prevention, like banking, I’d look a bit more askance at the guy. Because a couple of hours at the computer might be all someone would need to keep up their float.

      (A float is where you transfer money between accounts so that it never clears. This creates a situation where you can spend money that isn’t really there. You have to, however, be very vigilant that you keep moving the money around otherwise you’d get caught. That’s why banking usually requires you take at least one period of vacation — typically a week — as a block rather than individual days.)

      1. LW5*

        LW#5 here. Good point. We don’t have leave requirements for fraud prevention (just, as a humanitarian aid organization, a stressful work environment in general). I hadn’t really thought about considering internet as a perk that he can access, but it does make sense. He’s really not harming anyone (nor especially – not my knowledge – violating our internet policies), and I will try better to keep that in mind.

        1. Venus*

          I have been in places where access to the connected world (internet and phones) isn’t reliable, except at work, and I definitely viewed it as a perk that I would take advantage of after hours (in my case I would stay later, rather than coming in on vacation days, but essentially it was the same concept). In that case the workplace even set it up that we would have a special phone number to dial if it was a personal call, so that we could pay their corporate rates for personal calls.

          1. Venus*

            Also, to address the amount of time he may be using it:
            People decompress in different ways. If someone is in a place where activities outside work are limited (it isn’t safe to hang out in a local park, there aren’t coffee shops that serve their favourite sandwiches) then hanging out with colleagues might be their best option. Some people also prefer to have a more set schedule, so that their vacation doesn’t disappear in a series of naps. If this person isn’t doing work, and seems to be happy where they are, then I would consider all of it a perk to be able to join their colleagues and use the internet.

            Years ago I worked overseas, and when I returned to my ‘regular’ job there were a few weeks of vacation that I was expected to take. In that time I went in to work every weekday, in order to play board games at lunch with some coworkers. I had done this before going away, and found comfort in returning to the group. Initially I got pushback from a manager, as he told me that I should ‘get help’, and then he paused and said more honestly “This probably is helping you”. I told him that I agreed, as it forced me to be dressed and out of the house by noon, and I really enjoyed the group that I played with. If your workplace is friendly, and isn’t giving him work, then he might just enjoy being surrounded by people he knows.

            My one bit of caution: If this is humanitarian work, with a possibility of Operational Stress Injuries, then know that one of the signs of damage is that they have trouble making sense of the world around them outside of their work. You might want to chat with him, to see if you can find out if he is at work because he enjoys it, or because he has to be there in order to cope? If it is an injury then he will benefit from being at work, but he will also need more help.

            1. JSPA*

              Kind and insightful. Thanks for taking the time to leave a well-marked rope behind you, after climbing out, yourself.

              1. Venus*

                Thankfully I managed to stay out of the pit, but I have good friends who had a lot of trouble returning home. We later learned that a sign of their injury was their intense need to be at work, and I wish that we had known to look for more symptoms earlier.

        2. nonymous*

          since this sounds like a perk, wondering if there’s any motivation to set up a station dedicated for personal use? This could be a separate workstation or even just a spot for people to plug in their personal laptops (if the org is okay with that). The nice thing about the dedicated physical location is that (a) it gives legitimacy to this type of activity; maybe others want to use this perk but have refrained out of optics? and (b) it’s possible to set up the station better for privacy/comfort. But it would also give a clear demarcation when people are using the perk (on their own time) and when they are on the clock.

    2. Craig*

      >I’d mentally reframe what he’s doing as making use of a perk

      This is a good reason for putting wifi and maybe a couple of cheap computers running justbrowsing in the canteen.

      The canteen network can be run as a second network sharing the internet connection(throttled down at busy times)

      That way you get the perk,employees can use at lunch and you have a clean seperation between office and leisure.

      1. Yvette*

        At OldJob we were not allowed to access personal email from work computers for security reasons. They set up a canteen access ut side of the company intranet/firewall for the employee lounge along with with several computers.

    3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      My home internet was out for a month and I went into my workplace almost every day and on weekends to use theirs. My manager was fine with it once I explained why it seemed like I never left.

  3. Black Targaryen*

    If I were working in a country where I was unlikely to have home internet, I’d probably use go my office computer on my days off, too. How else would I binge watch my shows?! (I kid, kind of).

    1. Wendy Darling*

      Once when my partner’s parents stayed with us in our small apartment for a whole month I stayed late at work a LOT of days and just hung around watching netflix because it was the only way I got any time to myself!

      1. Yvette*

        In-laws*? A month? In a small apartment? You have the patience of a saint. I would have claimed a big project and practically lived at the office.

        (* I consider the parents of the significant other in-laws regardless of marital status.)

    2. De Minimis*

      I had a coworker who would regularly stay late because she only had a small laptop at home and liked watching streaming video on her large monitor.

  4. Zombie Unicorn*

    #1 It can sometimes help to look on LinkedIn as that may give you an idea of people’s qualifications eg if you can find someone in a similar role there or even the person currently doing that job.

    Also though, it’s worth remembering that hiring happens on a curve. There may not ultimately be one answer to the question of whether this role really requires this educational qualification – it’s going to depend on the profiles of the candidates in their hiring pool. Maybe they’ll have two people neck and neck, and a postgrad will edge one above. Maybe they’ll get great candidates with experience that means they stop caring about the academics. There may not be one answer.

    1. Feline*

      I share OP1’s frustration. I have more experience but less education than my peers at work and do the work previously assigned to 3.5 people, but it seems that since the advent of running all hiring through web sites where they are automatically searched for required for keywords, it’s more difficult to overcome this than it would have been applying to a company where you have no one to vouch for you. Requirements are less soft when artificial intelligence is making decisions about which resumes a hiring manager gets to see.

      1. Naomi*

        I think Alison has addressed this before, but resumes being thrown away by an automated system before they’re ever seen by a human isn’t actually that common. I know in the ATS we use at my workplace, it will note if any of our keywords appear on the resume, but it doesn’t discard ones that don’t include them. (Because I have seen a LOT of resumes that would never have gotten through if we were filtering at all.)

        If your resume is getting passed over because you don’t have an advanced degree, I think it’s more likely that it’s being filtered out by humans who are hiring rotely, not a machine.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          This absolutely happened to me, I applied for a job where I knew the hiring manager and when time came to do interviews, my resume wasn’t there. She contacted me to see what happened, and it turned out that the software had filtered and disposed of my resume, and since the application period had closed, it was just…gone and I was ineligible for the position.

          1. Lavender Menace*

            I don’t think they were saying it absolutely doesn’t happen, just that it’s far less common than people think. I’ve heard this a lot myself and it seems a lot of people assume that every or nearly every employer does this. In reality, it would actually be far more hassle than it was worth, and not very useful. AI and keyword searches aren’t so advanced that we can easily avoid filtering errors especially in highly specialized jobs. I know for mine, we have recruiters who do first screen, and even then I can (and have) ask my recruiters to send me everything.

        2. epi*

          I used to work for a big institution where HR was supposed to screen resumes first. My boss would let them do that but insist on seeing all the applications for himself, too. I think people are at all experienced at hiring realize that it’s not ideal to have people who don’t know the job or the industry screening resumes, and will make an effort to be involved. If the organization’s hiring is so rigid that the manager can’t or doesn’t want to do that, well, it may not be the greatest place to work anyway. Or to try to get promoted if you manage to get in.

        3. Librarianne*

          I’ve noticed the same thing, Naomi. I’ve worked in academia at several institutions and HR/our application system has never automatically thrown out applications. How closely the hiring committee hews to the required qualifications is mostly influenced by the strength of the applicant pool.

    2. The Elephant in the room*

      Yes – it really depends on the pool. As someone who has served on hiring committees, I would love to see a candidate meeting all the qualifications except degree. And in some jobs, you may be able to work on your Master’s degree while working, giving yourself a leg up for possible promotions.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      This is somewhat industry/sector dependent. I’m in government, and if something is listed as a requirement in the job description we’re not able to hire someone who doesn’t meet it. I’ve seen HR block candidates because they were a few months short on the required years of experience.

      The flip side is that our HR department is pretty careful about specifying that additional experience can substitute for the degree, when that applies.

      So if it’s a government job, you don’t lose anything by applying if you don’t know exactly how that specific agency handles these things (the way mine does it is probably not universal), but you’re more likely to be out of the running based on the educational requirement.

      1. Middle Manager*

        Yes, I was super disappointed recently that I was four months short of the supervisory experience for a position in my office one level up. We only have two people at that level, so they rarely come available. I knew it was a long shot but applied anyway. Never made it to my boss’s desk because civil service bounced my application out of the pool.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Agreed, and also for government contractors under OFCCP guidelines. A former employer of mine was and rarely, if ever, deviated from their requirements. For some reason, the degree requirement became a huge tipping point for HRBPs, who required a Bachelors for almost every role we had in corporate…and not always for reasons we could justify. For example, a contractor was handling a Functional Project Lead job – and very well – but didn’t have a degree. We couldn’t hire them as a permanent employee, even though the hiring manager really wanted to. Because POLICY. We could have made an exception as long as it was documented for OFCCP audit purposes, but HR wouldn’t budge.

        Most companies will be more flexible, IME, so here’s hoping the OP can fine a great new role.

      3. Anja*

        That’s true for my workplace as well. We’re a municipality – so psuedo-government – and at times our education requirements are a union requirement. There is no grey area. I hire people in accounting type roles and we have a level where I need to hire someone with a Canadian accounting designation or with a designation from a country where it’s directly transferable with no exams or extra experience requirements. There is no flex.

        Previous jobs we’ve been a lot more likely to flex stuff a bit. I have found, however, that if a job posting uses specifically harder and softer terms for the qualities they’re searching for, that they’re more likely to stick to them. eg. a list of qualities that they want and then at the end quality x and y mandatory.

    4. Jesse*

      “Also though, it’s worth remembering that hiring happens on a curve.”

      YES. I have just a BEd (uncommon for academia), my peers all have MEds to PhDs, yet my job requires a two-year diploma in paper.

      It’s worth noting if you have below the minimal education requirements, the answer to your question OP is that you need to bring a lot more to the table in other areas while factoring in that curve. As others say, in some jobs, the rule is rigid so it’s a lost cause. Oh well. That’s just what it is.

    5. BethDH*

      Also may have to do with the salary/pay scale. Lots of places pay more for certain degrees. Sometimes it’s actually relevant, other times it’s more of a generic HR thing. That may have been the way they got the salary approved that they thought they would need to recruit someone with the right experience. OP should be prepared for the original salary band to change (and maybe to negotiate harder than they’d have to otherwise).
      Or, if it’s academic or academic-adjacent, they may think the person in the role needs to have a degree to be seen as an equal or collaborator, not “support,” by some of the people they work with. I’m in a role like this, and have had people who I work with only occasionally treat me differently once they know I have a doctorate. Sad, but essential for actually accomplishing my job goals (and not an issue with the ones I work with regularly). If OP thinks an issue like this is in play, they can make sure to mention how they have successfully collaborated within that environment in their current field and established authority when needed. I’m thinking something pretty subtle in the cover letter and then having an example ready as one of the answers to “how have you handled a time when …” questions in interviews.
      Putting it at the end of the job description makes me think it’s something more like one of those examples — the person describing the role may not think it’s essential but someone else in the system does.

      1. Samwise*

        “have had people who I work with only occasionally treat me differently once they know I have a doctorate”
        Yep, btdt, and there’s sometimes also snobbery about the kind of doctorate (PhD vs. EdD, it’s disgusting) and even where you earned your degree. I was on a committee once where I was not listened to at all until it came out that I had a “real degree” (PhD) in a “real area” (a traditional humanities field) from a “serious school” (#1 in my field, top ten in many other areas). All of a sudden I was worthy of being heard, and I was not saying anything different. I don’t have a lot of respect for people like that, frankly.

        1. Ewpp*

          Someone said that to you? The ‘ where you went’ is old and a lot of people still argue for. And many people consider rude. But there are programs that are much more ‘work’ than others regardless of the location of the school.

    6. Wandering*

      During the recession the (huge) university where I lived changed their education requirements for support staff (admin asst, exec sec, office clerks) to include graduate degrees in counseling or social work! No increase in pay bands, & they did “grandfather in” current staff. Before this change the requirement was for a high school diploma. This was the largest local employer, so it made the newspaper.

    7. Justme, The OG*

      I work in academia and you will be disqualified if you don’t meet the minimum education requirements, even for staff positions. Which sucks when you have an otherwise great candidate who doesn’t meet the minimum job requirements. And I have noticed that a lot of positions will post a graduate degree in their preferred qualifications but never hire someone without one.

      1. Oxford Comma*


        You get an automatic rejection letter if you don’t meet the minimum requirements here.

      2. sleepy librarian*

        Same. I work in an academic library (LW’s description fits my field!) and the emphasis on minimum requirements feels very silly–or rather, the minimums are too strict. I’ve had to go to bat for candidates who had transferable skills against hiring chairs ready to throw out their applications because they didn’t basically recite what we asked for word for word.
        And don’t even get me started on the MLS. I have one, but I learned a good 70-80% of what I know about my field through working, not through my degree (and I could have learned the rest without, too). Requiring it just keeps our field white and middle class.

    8. AJ*

      #1 assuming you’re in the sciences, make sure you are hooked in with the temp agencies in your area too (kelly scientific/aerotek). They can help you get past that resume hurdle as they present you to clients. Our diagnostic company hires a lot of research associates this way (myself included 8 years ago) and then converts them to full time.

  5. De Minimis*

    I used to work for the US Post Office, and #3 was standard procedure for us. You picked your vacation weeks at the start of the year, in order of seniority. It was awful, one of the many reasons why morale is generally so low there. It was also a big reason why sick leave abuse was so rampant.

    1. NYWeasel*

      I worked for a place like that too, but after the vacation pick was complete, you still could change days or book an additional day, etc, if the need arose. Is the USPS as inflexible as OP’s is about having to book all of the time at once and not being able to change it?

      1. Bambi*

        The place I currently work for has the same setup that De Minimis stated. Bosses are usually pretty flexible if you need to change anything but the idea is that given the sheer number of people it’s the easiest way to manage vacations/leave to make sure too many people aren’t off at the same time or someone with less seniority doesn’t get the OK for a week someone with more seniority doesn’t. But I’ve never seen it be an issue for someone if they needed to change it (as long as there weren’t too many already scheduled) although I’m sure there have been a few supervisors/managers that have been jerks about it.

        1. Peachkins*

          Yes, same here. We can only have so many people off from each team at the same time, so requests need to be managed somehow. I assume having people give their vacation requests early allows those who have things already planned in advance have first dibs. It is no issue to change things or add additional requests later. I typically only make requests for half of my vacation time at the start of the year, and then use the rest as I want (if those times are still available). Each team member has access to the vacation calendar for our department, so it’s easy for us to see what is still open.

        2. Librarianne*

          My mother is a nurse and has to pick her vacation at the beginning of the year. There are strict regulations about how many nurses and techs can be off each week since a certain number are needed just to keep the operating rooms functioning. However, her boss allows people to change their selections later as well as coordinate trades if people want to swap. People would quit in droves if they weren’t allowed some flexibility for family weddings, births, etc.

      2. De Minimis*

        That was the big issue. It was up to supervisor discretion if you needed to be off at any other time, and they often said no—especially if someone was lower in seniority to where their regularly scheduled working days included Saturday/Sunday, since absenteeism was so high on those days. I had some supervisors who were easier to deal with, but a lot of them weren’t, which is why so many people usually just called in sick.

    2. doreen*

      My father worked at a place with the same policy and my son’s current job has that policy. In my experience it’s most common in union jobs, where vacations are granted by seniority and where there’s a certain interchangeability ( my son maintains boilers, and it doesn’t matter which of the 300 or so housing developments he works in and it’s also usually somewhat blue-collar jobs.. The schedule being set at the beginning of the year doesn’t typically mean you absolutely can’t change it- but it does mean you can look at the schedule and see that ten people are scheduled off the week of Labor day so you’re better off trying to change to the first week of August, when only two are off.

      1. Zombie Unicorn*

        “In my experience it’s most common in union jobs, where vacations are granted by seniority”


        This is categorically NOT how things work in the UK!!

        1. doreen*

          I won’t say it common in the UK and I should have mentioned that I’m in the US- but I said it’s most common in union jobs where vacations are granted by seniority and there’s a certain interchangeability,meaning that it’s less common in non-union jobs, not that it’s objectively common in union jobs.

          1. only acting normal*

            UK unions simply do not have the same level of power that US unions have (or seem to have based on what I read here).

    3. PhyllisB*

      I used to work for the phone company and we started choosing vacations in November before the next calendar year. It went by seniority. If you wanted to take all your vacation at once, no problem. If you wanted to break it up, you chose your first week then they went down the list to all the others and came back to you for second week, ect. HOWEVER!!! it was very easy to change times. You could swap with someone else (there were always notes on the bulletin board asking if anyone wanted to change) or, you could go into the clerk’s office and ask to change a week if needed for Reasons. If there weren’t too many people out it was no problem.

      1. NothingIsLittle*

        Yeah, we’ve just moved to picking vacation in November because a lot of the faculty wouldn’t use it before the deadline and we’d have people out back to back or at the same time right before the end of the semester (when vacation resets). We were scrambling to find coverage because you can’t just not teach the classes. Now you “pick” your vacation early (in quotes because the boss is super flexible about moving it or having you say, “the wedding is one of the weekends in July” or adding more days if something comes up) to make sure that everyone is planning to use at least a week (the vacation time that doesn’t rollover).

        If it’s a super rigid “only vacation you booked a year ago is allowed,” it’s a terrible policy, but as long as it’s flexible, I can see where it might be necessary.

      2. LCL*

        This is basically what we do, though we do it after the first of the year. The low seniority people do get vacations at prime time, they just can’t expect to plan on being off every Thanksgiving or whatever. We also only allow two seniority based choices. After that all vacation is first come first served. In the old days, before I worked here, people with seniority used to be able to bump people out of already scheduled vacation, and management used to be able to cancel your vacation or change your posted schedule. Thankfully, by going through the negotiating process with our union, we were able to stop those practices.

    4. MatKnifeNinja*

      Healthcare too. All vacation requests (if you wanted a hard, fast, for sure I will get it date) had to be in January 4. Time off was doled out by seniority. The two other people I worked with had 20 years seniority. I wound up working all major holidays, and got the scraps for time off.

      Many people would not transfer to a floor full of “lifers”. No point in getting day shift if you will be working Christmas/Thanksgiving/New Years for the next 20 years unless someone quits or throws you a bone.

      1. KC Sunshine*

        Interesting. My husband is an ER doctor and they indeed have to pick vacation times 4-12 months early, but they are doled out in as equal a fashion as possible, not based on seniority. And people trade/switch shifts all the time to accommodate vacations with less notice.

    5. JanetM*

      My husband worked for a major grocery chain. He was required to book all his vacation for the year by mid-February, and had to take it in week-long blocks from Sunday-Saturday (which ruled out weekend-long events).

      It was not possible to switch out weeks, which meant we missed his brother’s wedding, family reunions, and so on. He was able to take a day of compassionate leave when his grandmother died, though.

      No floating time, no paid sick time.

      And all that with a union contract, no less; I shudder to think what the policies would have been without even that small degree of protection.

    6. AJK*

      I worked for an airline, and the same rule applied for us, although we had to pick all of our vacation weeks in November of the preceding year, by seniority. We were allowed to hold one week back for “day at a time” vacation (which, in practice, was hard to get approved) and we had one “floating holiday” (also hard to get approved) but that was it. You could also trade shifts with co-workers if something unexpected came up, but that depended on whether or not someone was willing to work for you. Sometimes it worked really well and sometimes you were just SOL.
      A co-worker of mine had her wedding planned before she started. When she was hired the wedding was nine months away. The only way for her to get time off for the wedding was by trading shifts – she lined them up well in advance, had everything set – and then, a week beforehand, the person who was working for her on the day of the wedding was fired. I took her shift that day so she could still get married, since we were also penalized for unexpected call outs and she would have ended up in trouble if she’d called in “sick.”
      Many of my co-workers (who had never really worked anywhere else) talked about how nice it was our job was so flexible, because we could trade shifts and pick up shifts – I was shocked when I left and discovered you didn’t normally need a *year’s* notice for a week of vacation.
      I planned my own wedding with that schedule – my fiancé worked with me, so the date was based on whatever two weeks we could have off together. It’s a good thing our venue had lots of open availability (garden in a city park) because we could only set the date after the vacation bid in November of the preceding year.

    7. Dr. Pepper*

      A family member is a firefighter/EMT and that’s how it works for them too. Every October or thereabouts, everyone submits all their vacation requests for the coming year. Vacations during the height of fire season are discouraged and usually only given to those with a high degree of seniority. They seem to be okay with it, and it might actually work alright in that context. Firefighting is far from predictable work, but it seems highly ridiculous for a greeting card store.

    8. sleepwakehope*

      My dad was an air traffic controller and this was how it worked for him when we were growing up. This was mostly for booking the big blocks of time (holidays, summer vacations). I think he might have had a little more flexibility of individual days off, but he might have also just switched shifts with people for that to happen. It made sense to me though because you really need to have a full number of people scheduled 24/7/365.

  6. MommyMD*

    Work for a hospital. We select in November all of our vacation time for the following year. The majority of us are fine with it. We know we need to preplan.

    1. PollyQ*

      So what happens when someone gets an invitation in April for a wedding in July? Are employees just screwed, or are they allowed to try to find coverage, or something like that?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Vacation trends to be in weekly increments in a good portion of places. Then they offer personal days or floating holidays for a 1 or 2 say request to go to a wedding or a funeral, etc.

        So I’m envisioning that set up here.

        1. Zombie Unicorn*

          What’s the difference between annual leave, personal days and floating holidays?

          They all kind of mean the same thing here.

          1. LGC*

            Basically…annual leave would be vacation (at least 1 week), personal days would be a couple of days off here and there, and floating holidays are…for certain jobs (ex., healthcare related), a day might be designated as a holiday, but you might work that day and take another day off (for example, you might work Christmas but instead get an extra personal day).

            For me, there’s functionally no difference, but many jobs have separate buckets for each. (So you might get two weeks of vacation, a week of personal days, and be able to flex holidays if needed).

              1. LGC*

                You’re in the UK, right? (And I think LW3 is as well. Which I kind of forgot about when I wrote this.) I’ll say that I’m in the savage hinterlands of the US, so I kind of just translated from British to American.

                (And it depends! While everything is the same to me, one of my friends – who worked with patients in a nursing home – did end up having to work several holidays but getting a comp day later in return.)

                1. Lucette Kensack*

                  I’m in the US, get all three times of leave (PTO, floating holidays, and personal days) and they are the same thing. The only difference is that can accrue year-after-year, while floating holidays and personal days disappear at the end of the calendar year.

            1. Kimmybear*

              Additionally, at many places I’ve worked, you get X number of personal days per calendar year (2-3 is common) but vacation time must be accumulated. So if I start a job on January 15, I’ll have two personal days but might not have any significant vacation time accumulated for a spring vacation.

          2. Akcipitrokulo*

            UK – annual leave tends to be the holiday entitlement not including bank holidays. You’re entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks (28 days for 5 days/week normal working) but this includes bank holidays (8).

            So the minimum is 8 bank holidays where offixe may be closed, and 20 annual leave. That wouldn’t get many takers after entry level btw – most will start at 22-25 + bank hols.

            Floating holidays is when they don’t stick to some or all of bank holidays, but you get them as floating… but they just join the annual leave pot.

            At current job we have to take christmas, boxing day and new years, and I have, in addition, 25 holidays + 5 floating = 30 holidays. (pro-rata through year – I joined early summer so have allowance of 18 to use for rest of year.)

          3. Akcipitrokulo*

            Bit you are right that it’s all the same :) Last time it was specifically spelled out was when I worked for one power company that had bought/merged with a second, and one respected bank holidays while the other didn’t (other than christmas).

          4. doreen*

            I have all three and in separate buckets. The difference between them is in the accrual. I get 5 days personal leave credited every January 1st. They don’t carry over and any leftover will disappear at close of business Dec 31. Floating holidays are for legal holidays where state offices remain open. They also don’t carry over and expire the day before the holiday they were earned for. ( I get a floating holiday for Election Day, it expires the day before the next Election Day). Annual leave accrues with each pay period and it can rollover with the only limitation being that on Jan 1, I will lose anything in excess of 8 weeks. Every other day I can have more than 8 weeks on the books.

          5. MatKnifeNinja*

            At my hospital, vacation had to be scheduled. PTO could be used instead of a sick day (my basement flooded). Floating holiday was scheduled and almost never denied. Friend’s wedding could be Fri (FH)/Sat/Sun/Mon (FH). That’s a pretty bold move, and burns bridges because Float Holidays couldn’t be denied. That meant the nurse manager maybe be picking up 7 pm to 7 am shift if she couldn’t find coverage.

            Vacation days had the least flexibility of days off. PTO and FH could be used without months long heads up.

          6. Juniper*

            At my workplace, annual leave (3 weeks for me) can be carried over to the next year, up to a maximum of 200 hours. Floating holidays developed from a time when the company cut 10 standard paid holidays down to six, but let you take the other 4 whenever you wish. Those don’t roll over, so people use them up first. We don’t have personal days, per se, but we do have a generous amount of sick leave that can also roll over to the next year.

      2. Stitch*

        Or say, your sibling has a baby in November. You wouldn’t know about it a year in advance.

        You simply can’t preplanned everything a year in advance.

        My dad’s a physician and has never had this requirement, so this doesn’t appear to be a standard medical thing.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          Depends. My psychiatrist friend has hospital privileges and has to do on call ER rotation.

          Any days off that go from 11 PM Friday night through 7 AM Sunday has to be “requested” with the whole group looking at everyone’s requested days off. It makes it hard when someone want to got overseas for a month, but it seems to work out.

          If your father had a stand alone practice, or worked in (say) hospital pathology, where he either called his own shots or vacations weren’t an issue, no harm no foul.

          It’s a bigger deal now with all the smaller doctor’s offices being bought out by hospital systems around me. Now you become an employee. You don’t get to come and go as you please, because you don’t own the business anymore.

        2. Dagny*

          I sent out save-the-dates to my wedding four months in advance, because I got married about nine months after announcing my engagement. We didn’t have our venue booked until five months before the wedding.

          It’s absurd to expect that people can plan their lives out like that.

          1. Lavender Menace*

            I mean, I get it, but on the other hand…it’s a hospital. It has to be staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with an appropriate number of staff in different categories and levels, for both legal and health/safety reasons. Uncertainty and chaos in hospital scheduling can lead to some unpredictable and dangerous situations for patients AND staff, depending on the situation. I don’t think any hospital wants to find out two weeks ahead of time that two-thirds of their ER nurses are planning to be out for the same three days at a time, or whatever.

        3. Jane*

          Fiancé is a medic. If your sibling has a baby or gets married and you don’t have time off already booked, you just don’t get to go. With a sibling having a baby it’s fine obviously as there isn’t a set day or time you have to go meet the baby, but many of his colleagues miss weddings. He struggled to get our wedding day off as we’re having a short ten week engagement and just by pure lucky managed to swap with a colleague!

        4. Lavender Menace*

          In my experience, it’s pretty common in hospitals. I have nurses, PAs, and doctors in my circles that currently work in (::counts::) 4 different hospitals and all of them have the setup where they make their schedules many months to a year in advance. They switch shifts when they need to take time off.

          When I got married, my mom switched shifts with several of her coworkers at the hospital to make it to the wedding. My husband and I actually went up to the hospital after the reception to bring them some cake and say hi (these other nurses watched me grow up, so they were delighted).

          I also have a close friend who’s a doctor and we plan our lunch and coffee dates several months in advance, lol.

      3. Alienor*

        I have a friend who works in a hospital, and she and her colleagues just switch shifts with each other if they need unplanned time off. It’s a hassle, but people seem pretty willing to cover since they know they’ll need the same favor sooner or later.

      4. MatKnifeNinja*

        When I worked in healthcare…

        April wedding comes up and you find out after the January date for vacations…

        1) Grovel to coworkers to switch/pick up extra days. This is hard if you have no good will banked.

        2) Some times the nurse manager would schedule it as PTO, and find coverage for you. The downside is you “owed her” to reciprocate for someone else. This was hung over your head.

        3) Can’t switch or find coverage, you call out sick.

        The most preferred was #1 then #3. Getting the nurse manager involved made everything weird.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I mean, I know you’re saying that it mostly works out, but this sounds like a really terrible system.

      5. KC Sunshine*

        My husband also works in a hospital. They just trade shifts around for anything that comes up on shorter notice. It works fine and it’s very rare that someone can’t find shift coverage for a few days here and there.

      6. smoke tree*

        Our provincial government has a similar setup–you have to book your large chunks of vacation in January to guarantee you can take them. The most senior employees get to book first, and then less senior coworkers have to work around what’s left. You can also request time off throughout the year, but if it conflicts with a coworker’s locked-in time, you’re out of luck.

    2. Mike C.*

      The fact that the majority of your small, non-random workgroup is fine with this does nothing to help the OP, counter the obvious examples Alison brought up nor does it justify the practice in any way, shape or form.

      How in the heck do you “preplan” for the weddings of your friends and family?

      Why does such a requirement even exist when your workload isn’t planned in a similar fashion? No one plans for cancer or a heart attack a year out and I’m sure that there are hospitals out there that allow mote flexibility in scheduling.

      1. Dan*

        “How in the heck do you “preplan” for the weddings of your friends and family?”

        Easy. “Save the date” cards!

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          That’s still pretty useless, really.

          I can plan for vacations in a year from now, easily — that’s in my control. But if my sister decides she wants to get married in May next year, or she’s having a baby in February I’m not yet aware of and she needs me to travel to see her or help her, or any other situations where I may need time off and I have to schedule my leave well a year in advance, I’m SOL in those situations.

        2. HBJ*

          But you don’t control whether or not your friends or family choose to send save the dates. They are not required, and many don’t think they’re necessary. I didn’t have them. And even if someone does choose to use save the dates, many people get engaged and then get married in timeframes shorter than a year. *raises hand*

          If my parents worked somewhere with this sort of policy, they would have been unable to attend my wedding or my sister’s wedding because we both got married six months or less after the engagement.

        3. MK*

          My sister decided in August to get married in December. Not everyone plans their wedding two years in advance; here less than a year is more normal.

        4. pleaset*

          How early do people send those? I think it’s 3 to 6 months out. Not long enough if the weddings in the second half of the year.

          1. Antilles*

            Correct. If it’s a close friend or a family member, you usually will get a heads-up a few months earlier than the actual save-the-date card, but even then, often not a year-plus in advance or 16 (!) months like OP apparently needs.
            I’ve been part of the wedding party for four weddings, plus my own wedding. Not once have I gotten over a year’s notice. Shoot, several of the couples weren’t even formally engaged a year ahead of time.

            1. londonedit*

              I’m going to two weddings this year; for one of them I got a ‘save the date’ in June for an October wedding, and for the other I got a verbal ‘it’s going to be on this date’ from my friend but she never actually sent out save the dates and hasn’t actually sent us invitations yet either (her wedding is also in October, but local, so she knows we don’t need to book accommodation or anything). My sister gave us two months’ notice of her wedding date (they’d been engaged for about 10 months but planned the actual wedding at very short notice, as it was just immediate family, so it was basically a case of saying ‘Hey guys is X date OK with everyone?’) I definitely couldn’t have planned for any of those a year in advance!

          2. A*

            Exactly. When I was in my 20s it wasn’t uncommon for me to receive save the dates 1 year+ out, but now that I’m in my 30s most are on a shorter timeframe.

          3. HBJ*

            In my experience, people send them as soon as they set the date in stone (i.e. booked the venue). That might be a year or more before the date. Or it could be a few months. I know someone who got engaged about three months before the wedding date they set. They sent save the dates pretty much immediately and then the invitations went out maybe 8 weeks later at the standard 6-8 weeks before wedding timeline.

            1. Jane*

              We’re having a ten week engagement (getting married in four weeks!). Part of the deal with short engagements (less than a year) is knowing not everyone will be able to make it at short notice and accepting that. If we couldn’t have accepted it we’d have had a longer engagement but as it stands being able to marry ASAP was on balance more important to us over any specific attendee being able to make it.

        5. Jadelyn*

          “Easy! Just hope that everyone whose wedding you might want to attend is planning a big enough wedding that they’re starting their planning over a year in advance, that they choose to send save-the-dates at all, and that they send them at least a year in advance instead of the 4-6 months that’s more common!”

          “Easy”? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

        6. Dagny*

          Should people also send save-the-date cards for babies a year in advance, despite the fact that they arrive approximately eight months after the positive pregnancy test?

          1. Jane*

            Why would someone having a baby mean needing a specific day or week off work though? The policy is dumb I agree but I’m not seeing any correlation between something on a fixed date like a sibling’s wedding and a sibling, for example, having a baby, in terms of it being onerous not to be able to book time off at short notice.

          2. Lavender Menace*

            I mean, I work in a job where I can decide at 9 am the same day that I don’t want to work and take a PTO day off with no repercussions, as long as it doesn’t happen too often. I STILL wasn’t able to “plan” to take time off when my nephew was born because babies don’t arrive on schedule. My nephew came three weeks early. I ended up scheduling time to see him when he was around 5 weeks (which ended up being perfect, because he had to spend 5 weeks in the hospital anyway. I ended up getting to them two days after he came home).

        7. Baru Cormorant*

          I am planning a destination wedding 12 hours flight from where we live and we JUST picked our venue/date, 9 months ahead of the wedding. I don’t know too many people who have a 2-year engagement, which is what you’d need in order to send out Save the Date cards 1.5-1 year in advance.

      2. LDN Layabout*

        I guarantee you editing schedules made a year in advance and factoring in sickness, people leaving, /life/ in general is less efficient than creating schedules a month or two in advance with a better view of employee availability.

        It’s a power trip, pure and simple.

        1. doreen*

          I’m sure that sometimes it’s less efficient and I’m sure sometimes it’s not. Like I said elsewhere , both my father and son have had jobs with vacation schedules made a year at a time ( not a year in advance) It works for a certain type of job, and if you don’t have that sort of job, you may not see any advantage in it , but the reality is that without this sort of schedule, my son wouldn’t be able to plan vacations much in advance. Because he could ask today for a week off in November and find out that too many of his counterparts are already off so he can’t buy any tickets until the time is actually approved. And no , there isn’t any sort of shared calendar he could look at to see when other people are off nor is it really feasible for him to ask the 75 or so people in his title ( most of whom he doesn’t know ) about their vacation plans. I’m sure in some jobs you can guarantee that it’s less efficient and be certain it’s a power trip – but that doesn’t make it true in all jobs.

        2. Nurse*

          In a teaching hospital, it’s much more efficient to set schedules a year in advance, believe me. Anyone who is in training, and thus needs to fulfill certain yearly rotation requirements, need their entire schedule laid out at the beginning of the year. Certain rotations require 4 full weeks, so they cannot occur the same month that a vacation is scheduled. Picking vacations a year in advance allow the schedulers (god bless them) to arrange the massive, massive puzzle and keep hospitals functioning.

          Also, going to a wedding is not a right. Plenty of people just can’t go to short-notice events because of work. It’s normal. Every single health care professional has had to miss family events due to work schedules. It’s not a power trip – it’s how hospitals function. It’s how patients stay alive.

          1. atalanta0jess*

            This also makes more sense in a training environment because it’s time limited. I think committing to have zero flexibility for the next X years makes sense. I personally would have a really hard time in a field where I was committing to zero flexibility for the rest of my working life!

          2. Mike C.*

            First off, you’re literally talking about something more akin to school (with long established schedules that don’t vary much from year to year), not “work in general”.

            And frankly, your argument that “no one had the right to attend a wedding” is nothing more than a cheap cop out. Guess what? No employer has the right to monopolize your life outside of work.

            Funny how you not only fail to mention that, but you also equivocate general “family events” with expensive, milestone, typically once in a lifetime events.

            Literally no one is going to die because any single person working in a hospital wants to attend a wedding six months from now. If workplaces are stretched that thin, the problem is lack of staff, not people living their lives.

            1. Jane*

              If they can’t get cover they might. I don’t get the sense you understand quite how healthcare staffing works. There aren’t excess specialist neurosurgeons hanging around ready to be drafted in, extra oncologists, etc. Many clinics and theatre sessions are scheduled extremely far in advance to enable multiple departments to have theatre access an equitable number of times in a given time period. Your ‘nobody is gonna die’ is pretty flippant. Sure, maybe one HCP on one occasion being able to re choose vacation days might not directly lead to a catastrophe. But if you allow it as a whole then it becomes one massive difficult potentially dangerous headache with constant rescheduling that impacts everyone, staff and patients and families, operations being cancelled, people who were already booked off being asked unfairly to come in, etc.

            2. Lavender Menace*

              Actually, somebody might die. The problem isn’t just one single person; the problem is that a hospital is a system of interconnected care in which teams of providers have to work together to provide life-saving care. The weekend that you request off for your sister’s wedding may also be the same weekend Stella’s and Ursula’s children are getting married, John’s son is graduating from college, Thomas wants to go on a road trip and Julie starts a years-planned European backpacking trip. That could be half the nurses in a given department.

              My mother’s a nurse and she worked in the NICU and in labor/delivery for many years. She has told stories of short-staffing in those departments when too many nurses had called out sick or taken vacation at the same time. Things get compressed and the nurses are overloaded, and nurses being overloaded with very sick babies is not something anyone wants. You WANT your nurses to have some redundancy. Or, for another example, some surgeries are scheduled months in advance and you need to know that your surgical staff is going to be there to care for the patient.

              Scheduling so far in advance isn’t a power trip; it’s a way to ensure that the appropriate number of staff are on hand for safety reasons!

              Medical scheduling is a headache. Every medical provider I know (and I know a lot of them; tends to run in my family) feels some level of sympathy for their schedulers, even if they are irritated by having to take all their vacation off far in advance.

      3. Wendie*

        Doctors work in shifts because heart attacks are random. Some shifts are hard and some shifts are easy. Makes sense to me.

      4. KC Sunshine*

        This is the only possible way to schedule 100s of hospital personnel, who in some cases (residents) NEED to have their entire year scheduled all at once to make the system work. It really works fine; people just trade shifts around for shorter / one-off vacations like weddings.

      5. SomebodyElse*

        Welcome to the world of having to pick vacations a year in advance. (My husband has to do this)

        The answer is you figure it out and/or swap with someone and/or miss the event.

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Or if there’s a funeral in the family. How in the world do you pre-plan a relative’s funeral a year in advance??

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          A lot of workplaces exempt funerals from this kind of thing — same with jury duty, which they’re not allowed to forbid you from serving no matter how badly it screws up their schedule. Though it depends on who’s having the funeral: we get 3 days off for an immediate family member, 1 day off for an extended family member, and nothing automatically for anyone else. None of this counts against PTO, though.

    3. Dan*

      On the opposite end, I’d suggest working for an airline. At the one I worked for, with the position I had, vacation bids were due the 15th of the prior month. Bids were awarded in seniority order. So if you wanted the 1st of the month off, you didn’t know until 9 days prior whether or not you got it.

      I now work in a capacity where vacation is taken when/where/how you feel like it. It doesn’t get “approved”. I take month long vacations, but tend to plan them a year out for Reasons. While there is no official policy, for chunks of time that long, basically any time I tell people more than three months out, they say “tell me later.”

      I gave my current boss two months notice I was taking a week and a half off. He was like WTF? That’s too far out for me to care about.

      If I were to give people a week’s notice that I was taking a month’s vacation, the worst that would happen would be that they’d tell me, “Don’t be an ass. You should have given me more notice.” And I’d still get to go.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’ve never heard of it in retail, though I know it’s a “thing” in healthcare, emergency services and airlines.

        I think it’s reasonable for the company to block leave at certain busy times of year or limit it to within certain slow periods – e.g. the classic factory shut-down. In retail you KNOW you’re working every possible hour in December. And it’s also reasonable to have policies regarding allocation of prime leave times such as school holidays to share the burden of childcare costs and have the chance of a wet week together in a tent somewhere. But having to book your entire allowance a whole year in advance with no possibility of making changes is absolutely ridiculous.

    4. WS*

      I also work in healthcare and while we book holidays as far in advance as possible, preferably a year, it’s not set in stone and usually changes through the year as circumstances change. Obviously you can’t always have the exact date you want because of staff availability – more of an issue in healthcare than in most businesses due to legal requirements on staffing – but it’s rare that someone absolutely cannot book time off. The idea of booking in advance is to make sure staff will be available so you don’t have to stress, not to say that no other times are possible.

      1. DrMrsCowan*

        I work in healthcare as well and we actually have had people make a fuss over the relative opposite issue… In the past a couple of individuals would put in vacation requests 9-12 months in advance and essentially claim all of the prime school vacation and summer time weeks before anyone else had even started to think about it. After a number of us expressed some concerns about seemingly never being able to take time off with our own kids, our Director implemented a new policy. Now, we have a rough 3 month guideline; meaning you don’t ask for a week off more than 3 months in advance. The exception to that is if anyone is booking travel, since we all recognize that flights etc… booked 9 months out may become cost prohibitive or not available at the 3 month mark. I’m happy to say it has worked out pretty equitably since then.

      2. pleaset*

        ” The idea of booking in advance is to make sure staff will be available so you don’t have to stress, not to say that no other times are possible.”

        This is an important distinction.

      3. Joielle*

        It makes sense that the schedule isn’t set in stone, but I guess I still don’t understand how that makes sure staff are available. What if, in April, a whole bunch of people get wedding invitations for the same weekend in July? I guess that’s a case where some people just don’t get to take that weekend off?

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          Yeah life can suck muchly.

          Worse times on my floor were around Easter, Christmas, and June. June was bad because of kid activities. Finding coverage it sucked worse, because any coverage had to have experience working on the floor.

          The biggest screamfest was between 2 people with monster seniority and a just hired who wanted her friend’s out of state wedding off. The other two had various kid school related activities happening.

          Kid stuff trumps everything, especially a wedding that “isn’t that important-not blood relative.”

          Rookie mistake. Never say why or where you going for the time off. Judgement call always fell towards parents with kids.

          If you can’t find coverage, you call in sick if it’s a hill to die on.

        2. doreen*

          The same thing ( some people don’t get to take that weekend off) will happen even without setting the schedule far in advance.

          1. Joielle*

            True, but then why bother trying to set it far in advance in the first place? Seems like more trouble than it’s worth?

            I’ve clearly never worked in an environment like this – it makes sense that only so many people can be off, but in that regard, I don’t see how it would make a difference whether vacation was scheduled a month in advance or a year in advance, and the latter seems harder on employees. Sorry, just trying to understand!

            1. doreen*

              It’s typically only used in specific environments – someone mentioned in another thread that a person’s yearly schedule might need to include month- long periods of training/particular assignments. Or vacations are supposed to be approved on a seniority basis over multiple locations, or you really aren’t requesting a vacation so much as bidding on your schedule for the next year ( for example, some schools operate year round with 2/3 of the students and teacher in attendance at any given time – there may be one track off in June, another off in July and a third off in August).

            2. Lavender Menace*

              Because if you have several months or a year, you have more time to switch people around and figure things out to settle the schedule. If you only have a couple weeks, you don’t have as much time. When you have a legal and health requirement to have a certain number of people present, you don’t want to put yourself under unnecessary time pressure.

    5. hermit crab*

      The doctors I know have to claim their *holidays* in advance for the year – so, like, this year you work Thanksgiving and I work New Years, so we can plan ahead for coverage during times when everyone else is off. That makes sense to me, but there’s nit as much reason to do it for random weeks in October.

    6. Liane*

      But the OP’s wife is being asked to, say *request a January 2021 holiday by January 2020*, at least a year.
      You, and a number of other commenters are talking, for the most part, about *requesting a few months ahead.*

      1. Myrin*

        I think you have it backwards, kinda, although now that I’m re-reading the OP, I’m unsure myself. But generally, what OP describes means that you have to hand in your vacation requests for the whole following calendar year, not make sure that there’s always a full year between every single holiday request and the actual holiday. So going with your example, she’d request a January 2021 holiday at the end of 2020. However, she’d also request a December 2021 holiday at the end of 2020. (Or for her specifically more in the middle of 2020, I guess, since OP speaks of “next Friday” and who knows when she sent it in, but the principle’s the same.)

        1. Antilles*

          From the letter: It’s a year and a half in this instance because by next Friday she needs to submit her vacation requests up to December 2020!
          This wording is pretty clear: The request is due 8/30/2019 for a vacation in December 2020. That’s 15 months (or possibly more depending on the lag time between the email and today’s post).

          1. Myrin*

            That’s exactly what I said, though! But it’s not what Liane said – the January 2021 holiday she speaks about would also, like every other 2021 holiday, need to be requested by (to use your date with just the year adjusted) 8/30/2020, not by 1/15(or whatever)/2020.

        2. doreen*

          Although the OP does say “a year in advance” , that’s not typical and since it’s second-hand he may have misunderstood. Usually, how these work is that there is a set deadline for all calendar year 2020 requests – say August 30 2019. That would mean a vacation for January 2020 would be requested four months in advance and one for December 2020 would be requested 16 months in advance.

          1. Myrin*

            Yes, that’s exactly what I meant, thanks for phrasing it more clearly.
            I think Liane understood the situation as “you have to continuously request vacation time a year before it actually happens” which seems, like you say, very unusual and unlikely to me (although what do I know) – although I might have misunderstood you, Liane, so I apologise for any confusion if that’s the case!

    7. Lavender Menace*

      I was going to say this. I have lots of nurses and doctors in my family and friend circles, and nearly all of them select all of their vacation a year in advance. When they need to take time off, they switch shifts with coworkers. It takes a little extra flexibility to schedule vacations with them, but it’s not awful. I like my friends enough to lock in dates early (and honestly, I like planning, so committing a year early for dates sounds great to me – then I can save!)

  7. MommyMD*

    Employee should ask to use company computer for personal business instead of just assuming. Company is liable for every keystroke he makes on their computer and Internet server.

    1. Dan*

      Well… the liability is going to be locale specific, and the OP did indicate she’s in a *country* where home internet isn’t prevalent.

      1. LW5*

        Our organization has an internet policy that, to my knowledge, more or less follows the standards for a large org/company. I can’t be 100% sure, but my sense is that on these occasions where he’s coming in, he’s probably not doing anything he wouldn’t be doing on the computer that he also wouldn’t do doing a regular work day. It’s more his physical presence in the office on these days that gives me pause because it’s definitely more than an hour or two.

    2. MK*

      Do please refrain from pronouncing absolute truths on legal matters in the internet even if you are a lawyer. In many jurisdictions what you said isn’t true. Even is the US (where I believe you live) it’s not true in all states and/or in all cases.

      To be fair, this might be the advice a company lawyer might have given when they actually meant “The company might be held liable under X circumstances for what employees get up to on company internet, so it’s better to treat every stroke as something that can get you in trouble than risk a a lawsuit”.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, that’s really job specific. At loads of jobs it’s understood you can use your computer for a moderate amount of personal stuff as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work (and isn’t porn, illegal piracy, etc.).

  8. Elizabeth West*

    But with more and more people working from home at least sometimes, I think we’re becoming more used to this kind of occasional interruption (just like many offices are now used to seeing a coworker’s cat or dog show up on video calls).

    And then there’s the best example of an interruption while working from home I have or will ever see, forever and ever, amen.

    1. Clarry*

      Thanks for sharing! How funny! I woke up at 5am today with a horrible cold and that clip has cheered me right up :)

    2. Cat Meowmy Admin*

      I had to click on the link, curiosity got the best of me – and then I remembered this, a classic! Thanks for sharing! :D

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I had forgotten the younger sibling in a walker who is all “Aha, Tot has forged a trail! A new and adventurous trail through dad’s office! Tally ho!!!”

      And you know if they had had a golden retriever it would have been right in the mix.

    4. PromotionalKittenBasket*

      My company firmly believes that dog, cat, and baby guest stars are a perk of video calls with someone working from home. One cat is so frequent that we get concerned if she doesn’t pop in to say hi!

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Co-workers have wondered if Laverne, a Siamese cat, was 1. a farm animal, 2. a vacuum cleaner, 3. a whale, 4. a goat, 5. even a mammal.

        She is – loud.

    5. AppleStan*

      I remember that, and still giggle every time I see the clip. I think in the follow-up video, the Dad had said something like we Skype [grandparents] from that room so the kids are used to walking in and getting on the computer.

      Kids…God’s little awkward moment machines!

    6. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

      This video never stops making me laugh-cry. The first child’s swagger, the baby bursting in after, the way the mom skids into the room. It is gold.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same. I will never grow tired of it, and I hope it stays online forever.

        The dad, Robert E. Kelly, is a renowned political analyst and expert on inter-Korean affairs; I follow him on Twitter.

  9. Willis*

    #1 – I was once on a work call at home and my condo building’s fire alarm went off. It’s waaay louder than a typical home smoke detector and even louder in the halls. I had to just hang up and hope my colleague who was also on the line could take over gracefully. So, yeah, I think it does make sense to minimize at-home background noise and distractions as much as possible, but sometimes something weird happens that you can’t control! People are generally pretty understanding if it’s not a frequent issue.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      I would imagine that could be handled the same as if your office fire alarm went off and your colleague had to drop the call. Something as obvious as a fire alarm is usually understood to be an emergency more important than a phone call.

      1. Washi*

        Right! I think as long as it’s something that could happen in an office too, no one will bat an eye at it. If you were taking a call from your office and someone started pounding on the door, you would need to do the exact same thing as if it happened at home.

        I would just avoid things that are more personal – like I wouldn’t interrupt a call to move my clothes from the washer to the dryer.

      2. Sharkie*

        I was on an important call once when the office building’s alarm went off and we had to evacuate. Everyone was completely understanding (they could hear it and it was so loud one person thought it was in her building) and a few people emailed me later to check-in. I feel like people are more understanding of things coming up on calls because the workforce is so mobile now.

        1. Name Required*

          Yup, same here. Office fire alarm went off in the middle of an important working session with a client; client was completely understanding … as you would expect sane people to be. What were they supposed to say, “I’m sorry, you’ll need to finish this call even if your office is on fire”?

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I consider fire alarms in a totally different category than neighbors. Unless it’s the neighbor reporting an emergency–gas leak, fire while they’re fixing the alarms, etc. Plumbing has to be actively leaking before they reach that status.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Agreed. I think the OP being embarrassed is a little over the top. Stuff happens and most people will understand.

      I will say this though… with my company now we’re all over the country so all meetings are over the phone, with some or all of us working from home. When one of my teammates was talking, we could hear his baby crying or making noises while he was trying to talk and it was very distracting. I don’t know him well enough to know his home situation, but if his wife was home, she should have taken him away from the phone or he should have moved to a different location. And if he was responsible for the baby while working, that’s a whole new problem. We had daily check-ins and it happened every single time.

      1. OP #2*

        FWIW, I was the most junior person on the call, so part of my embarrassment was probably sensitivity to being perceived as not taking the meeting seriously.

        It was a total non-issue with my team, as they all understand things happen. But I was just thinking about how I could’ve handled it differently/if I had the right reaction!

        1. juliebulie*

          On conf calls with people working at home I’ve heard babies, children, spouses, dogs, birds, vacuum cleaners, bulldozers, police sirens, etc. and although I’m sometimes irritated that they can’t insulate themselves better from such noises, it only becomes a problem if it happens frequently and there’s no indication the coworker is trying to mitigate it (close the window, go to a different room, etc.).

          But I think there was a letter on this site about people on a conference call hearing their coworker’s roommates having sex. Try to avoid that.

        2. Name Required*

          OP#2, people do this at the office all the time, too. They ignore “please do not disturb signs” or sometimes help themselves to your office in the middle of a call. People interrupt meetings in clearly in-use conference rooms. It’s just a completely normal thing to occasionally happen.

          I work at home fairly often, and my solution for knocking neighbors/solicitors/etc. is to ignore them and then mute myself after my sentence. Take yourself off mute if you need to respond to anything else, and then mute again until they go away. I don’t even acknowledge it, either. As long as your background noise isn’t a continuous disruption, it’s really a non-issue.

          The funniest one I’ve had is having coworkers on a conference call ask me to mute because the birds chirping outside of my open window were incredibly loud. We laughed, I muted, we moved on.

        3. Chris*

          I think, what I would have handled differently was telling your neighbour that you were working and on the phone.”Thanks for letting me know. I’m working from home today and am just in a conference call until x. Can we talk about the specifics than? Thanks again.”

          While I don’t mind any noise coming from a coworker who works at home I do mind if he does not do anything about it. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done, but if you have loud background noise, please mute yourself if you are not speaking. Conference calls are in English here and none of the participants are native speakers. Noise in the background makes it that much harder to understand everybody.

  10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Yes, please tell your boss you’d actually prefer sick leave to flexing your schedule.

    My boss used to always stress the flexibility of my schedule and still does at times because he wants to reiterate the option is there. Most people already understand their sick leave option but many are still shy to flex when it’s available. So it’s just become a habit to say it when signing off on the time out of office requests .

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Yes, it needs to be phrased something like “don’t forget, if you’re running low on sick leave you can choose to flex the time instead”. Some medical appointments are sufficiently gruelling that you don’t want to have to make up the time later on but go to bed with a wheat pack or take a long walk.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I think the boss is being kind. He is worried that she will use up all her sick days on these appointments, then if she gets the flu or something is going to be unpaid. He’s thinking why use up your finite number of sick days when you can just flex time and still have those days for when you really need them.

        Have a chat with him.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. It’s likely boss just wants to be sure that LW knows the option is there. I have staff who will flex to cover everything possible, mostly because they are newer at the organization so don’t have a big bank of time saved up. I also have staff who have been here 15 and 25 years, so they have huge banks and pretty much never flex anything. I like my staff to know they have options and can pick what works for them. I think a clarifying conversation will set LW’s mind at ease on this.

          1. Emi.*

            I flex everything I can (including actual vacation) because I’m nowhere near hitting the rollover cap and I need all my real PTO for maternity leave, sigh.

        2. CheeryO*

          Yes, even if you have ample sick days, if you can roll them over and bank them, then people probably bank them as an insurance policy in case of severe illness, surgery, or whatever. Being able to flex your schedule for an hour or two is a really nice option in that case.

    2. Alex*

      I wonder if there is a policy that sick leave should not be used for a scheduled reoccuring event and is more meant to fill the space when you unexpectedly can’t come in. The boss should be making this clear, but we don’t know if he is good enough to be expected to do that.

        1. Colette*

          Some places have special leave for one-off appointments, but you can’t use it for recurring appointments – so you can use it to go to the dentist for a checkup/cleaning, but if you have to go back for a filling, you need to use different leave.

    3. Ali G*

      Agreed. I am currently in the same situation where weekly I come in about an hour late for an appointment. I can flex my schedule and make up the time anywhere in the week, or I can use sick time. I like to have the option because some weeks I don’t want to stay late, or make the time up for whatever reason, so I’ll use sick time. However some weeks I have late meetings or just more work to do, so I’ll flex my schedule so I don’t use sick time (and I’d rather continue to let it accrue anyway).
      Once a year I have an appointment that takes me all day. I’ll get up early and work for a few hours then go to my appointment. I like to be able to not take the full day off, but still use my sick time so I am not trying to make up 6 hours in one week.
      I also think the OPs boss is trying to make sure she doesn’t use up all her leave, so she should look at her overall bank and make sure she has enough if should get super sick or something.

      1. LW#4*

        I have a current bank of 486 hrs of sick leave banked, with 4.6 accrual rate per pay period.

        It’s a great point; definitely don’t want to run out of sick time in case of significant illness, so I’ll continue to monitor that. But barring a very unexpected diagnosis/injury/surgery that would honestly be severe enough that FMLA might be considered, I think I’ll be ok. My understanding from our HR policies is that I would get paid out for vacation time but not any sick leave time remaining if I leave. I also do not intend to have a child, which most in my organization combine their banked sick time and FMLA to cover.

        I appreciate everyone’s points about variances in policies and their experiences. Like Ali G, I appreciate flexibility sometimes, but with a second job I like using my lunch breaks for errands and, well, a break. And unless absolutely necessary and planned for, staying late is complicated for me.

        1. ThatGirl*

          If I had that much banked sick time, I’d definitely use it too. As it is I barely use my 5 days’ worth so I appreciate the option to use it for dr’s appointments.

        2. LQ*

          I’m with you on this. I like to take the sick leave sometimes. I could ask and get flex time for a dentist appointment. Or I could leave work a couple hours early, go to the dentist and then go home and take a nap. It is perfectly appropriate to use your sick time for this so that you can still have a break!

          1. Jane*

            As I’ve been at my company for five years, I’m entitled currently to 900 hours fully paid sick time and 450 hours half pay sick time. I’m in the U.K. I feel for commenters who are at companies with terrible sick entitlements. It’s usually pure terrible luck if you get seriously sick or into a bad accident (lifestyle factors and reckless behaviour notwithstanding).

          1. LW#4*

            Yes, I have been here for several years and simply don’t get ill that often. I realize I am fortunate in this regard (both to have my health and a job with ample leave) but I haven’t been able to figure out why it keeps getting brought up!

        3. Holly*

          LW #4, you should really *confirm* that your work place does not pay out your sick leave when you leave. Nearly every office I’ve been in pays you out for unused sick leave and NOT vacation time. That may be the reason why your boss is reminding you that you could use flex time.

          1. LW#4*

            Thanks! I just confirmed. Vacation is paid out but unused sick is not paid out (but can be transferred to specified related entities).

      2. Out of Office*

        I occasionally feel pressured to use my midday appointments as Flex Time, and I’ve earned plenty of Sick Time to use in those cases. I don’t want to adjust my after work family time and come home later.

    4. Beatrice*

      Another point to consider – I assume OP is salaried exempt instead of hourly nonexempt. If the boss were pushing the opposite way – pushing for use of sick leave in small increments and not allowing for time flexibility, it could call the exempt status into question. I have 3 new employees who are in their first weeks of the first exempt jobs of their careers…they’re accustomed to working rigid 8-5 schedules and using PTO for every little thing, and I’ve been pushing them to break those habits and think about their time more flexibly, so I’d be pushing exactly the way the OP’s boss is.

      1. LW#4*

        I am salaried nonexempt – a weird vestige that I won’t get into, but that is the case nonetheless.

    5. Malarkey01*

      I have a similar office where the leave is really generous and people bank enough leave to cover major illnesses, surgery, etc. That said the culture where I’m at is that recurring appointments are flexed when possible because we really do need people to do 40 hours worth of work. If someone can’t because they are ill, exhausted, etc then leave is completely appropriate without any questions and that’s what leave is for, but when used for these short recurring appointments it does mean we are getting one less hour of productivity which does add up week after week. Our company policy is that we would suggest flex time to an employee in this situation but would not specifically tell someone they had to flex over sick leave (because depending on the appointment someone really might not be capable of making up the hour and we don’t want to be in the middle of that decision). So it’s possible that the repeated mentioning is bosses way of saying that it’s preferred if possible.

  11. carrots and celery*

    #3: I think this is industry dependent. I never had to do it in my companies, but the friends I have in the entertainment or media industry often have to choose their vacation a year in advance and they all made it work without considering it unrealistic. It was more about having enough resources for certain times of the year and knowing well in advance if you’d need someone with a certain skill level for coverage.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah. Like OP’s wife, I also work at a store (wich also sells greeting cards, but not solely – I’m delighted that something like this exists!). I started there in February 2018 and was surprised when I needed to hand in a form in November with all my desired holidays for 2019; my surprise stemmed from the fact that this is a part-time job for me and I don’t actually have a background in a retail environment.

      However, my younger sister has been a fulltime retail professional since she was 18 and she said that that’s entirely and completely normal in the whole industry and that people fully expect and prepare for it. (This is in Germany, btw.) I honestly don’t mind it – I either have stuff planned for enough in advance so that I can book it early enough or I just don’t have any plans at all and simply choose something at random – and as far as I can tell, neither do my colleagues (except for one, a retiree who comes from a somewhat “social justice”-y environment, for lack of a better word, and who likes to get up in arms about things like this; I understand what he’s talking about but on the other hand, he then tries to reinforce his reasoning by saying that things are actually against the law and, well, they’re usually not. I checked and all.).

      As far as I can tell, this is mostly because coverage is hugely important and in my particular store, there are departments and subgroups and you can’t have several people of the same “status” out at the same time because you need at least one of each in each department.
      However, I think a big point which makes this okay is the fact that it’s not written in stone – of course administration prefers it to stay the way it was planned in the first place, but it’s usually not a problem to move the dates (unless that, like I said, results in a coverage problem) if you do it, like, a month in advance.

      So, for OP’s wife, I’d ask one thing and then suggest a second thing:

      1. Is this actually a somewhat normal thing in her industry and it just hasn’t been enforced until now? If so, she might have a harder time pushing back than if this were completely outlandish to begin with. I assume you’d have mentioned if it were but I wanted to point it out regardless just in case you hadn’t thought of that.
      2. Your wife should find out how flexible these plans are. Is it more of a pro forma thing so that management can theoretically plan ahead but it’s in actuality not that hard to then change stuff once the time approaches? Or is there really no budging at all once anything’s been written down? I’d react much differently to the former compared to the latter, so I think an important first step is to understand how exactly they plan on implementing this new policy.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        re your 2, I wonder if they had been getting some very early leave requests (from people taking advantage of early bird holiday booking discounts) and decided it was fairer to make everyone commit early, so everyone could have the reassurance of guaranteed dates. And somehow over time “nobody will make you change your dates” became “nobody can change their dates for any reason”.

      2. Cheese Cheese Cheese CHEESE*

        It’s irrelevant whether it’s normal in the industry, though – in the UK, as pointed out above, if it’s not written into her contract it’s not legal.

        1. Myrin*

          Is that also the case if it’s just a manager’s rule because they prefer it that way (as seems to be the case in the OP) but they’re actually very flexible about it and you can generally always change the dates after the fact?

          I saw the comments above you’re referring to and I’m confused by them (maybe I’m just misunderstanding something, though) because as far as I’m aware, whether something is illegal or not depends on the actual law, not the contract. (That sounds strangely snarky, now that I’m reading it, but I promise I’m being sincere – I’m just wondering if I’m missing something.)

          I have all manner of things not explicitly spelled out in my contract (as I said, I’m German, and I’ve actually always gathered that we’re even more strict than the UK when it comes to contracts) – for example the fact that instead of the normal two, I have to work three days a week from mid-November until December; I knew of that beforhand but in the contract, you’ll only find the monthly hours – but that doesn’t mean they’re automatically illegal.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I think Cheese may mean that if it isn’t in the contract it isn’t legally enforceable (and even then may not be, if it contravenes statutory protections).

            There are lots of bits of UK employment law which say your employer “may” do a thing, e.g. specify when you are allowed to take leave, require you to work on public holidays, etc and generally speaking those “may” statements are firmed up in the contract or handbook, otherwise you can expect them not to apply.

  12. Dan*


    Skip the first two paragraphs of company blah-blah-blah because the only things that matter are the skills they want and what they’re willing to pay. Seriously. When I read job ads, I really do skip the paragraph stuff and go straight to the bulleted lists. (For some reason, the important stuff in my field is always in a bulleted list.) In three seconds you’ll know if you’re wasting your time.

    As for how firm the education requirement is, it depends on how many years of experience you have and/or your industry. I have an undergraduate degree in computer science and a graduate degree in data analytics. Computer programmers rarely ever need anything more than an undergraduate degree. But data analytics does tend to require a bit more higher ed (or “experience in lieu of”) and unless you get lucky, you’re not getting that experience without the degree.

    And… I work in a field that tends to be “PhD preferred”. I don’t have one. I don’t want one. Whether or not I get interviews/offers all depends on how long the line of interested PhD applicants is in front of me. But I thank my lucky stars I got my MS (I paid out of pocket for it, FWIW) because I don’t think I’d be competitive in data analytics without it.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      At my institution (large community college), the “minimum requirements” section really does matter. The preferred qualifications do not as much. Many times the minimum requirements will contain options, like “2 years experience in the field and an associate or bachelor’s degree, or coursework toward a degree plus 4 years experience” or something like that. But we have to run all candidates we want to interview through HR to ensure they meet the minimum requirements and cannot pursue candidates who do not.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, we wouldn’t be able to hire somebody without min quals without a huge deal, and HR might even remove them from the pool before we got there. However, applying still wouldn’t be held against them later.

      2. Joielle*

        Same here (state government). There’s ongoing controversy over whether the minimum listed requirements are accurate for different jobs posted, but whatever minimum requirements end up in the job posting, you have to meet them or you will be screened out by HR. So whether or not the minimum qualifications are actually the minimum needed to do the job, if you don’t meet them, the hiring manager won’t see your resume.

        Actually, for my current job, I was initially screened out by HR, but the hiring manager had encouraged me to apply in the first place and she appealed the decision. In my case, it looks like it was just an error – but it goes to show that depending on the situation, appeals might be possible! Just another vote for networking, I guess.

      3. Sara without an H*

        I also work in higher education, and HR has always been firm about the distinction between “minimum requirements” and “preferred qualifications.” You should never list something as a minimum requirement that you’d be willing to give up; it’s always supposed to be a “must have.” We’re allowed much more flexibility in the “preferred qualifications” section, so if we ask there for an advanced degree in llama grooming, we can still interview a candidate who doesn’t have the degree, but can show several years of successful experience in grooming actual llamas.

        I’ve had to make this point on several occasions to over-enthusiastic search committees, when their minimum qualifications list could only have been met by Jesus with a library degree. (And I don’t think He has one…)

    2. Jellyfish*

      Seconded. When recently job searching, I skipped down to the required experience / education before I even looked at the rest. If the requirements were too far removed from my credentials, I moved on.

      That saved me a lot of time and emotional energy getting excited about potential jobs I had no chance of getting.

    3. epi*

      I read job ads the same way. The prose usually reads like it is poorly adapted from their mission statement and it’s often impossible to tell what level of difficulty and responsibility is being described behind all the attempted flattery of both the company and the applicant.

      You can often get a sense of whether an advanced degree *should* be required by comparing the list of requirements to the list of duties. But it’s the employer’s prerogative to try to get some qualification they want but don’t really need, just as it’s your prerogative to apply. And there will still be the possibility that the ad is just poorly written and the degree is needed for reasons that aren’t obvious.

      I am a PhD candidate in an analytics adjacent field, so I keep up with it’s news because that is where the good R tips come from. What you say is true. Lots of jobs out there don’t need the degree but it’s less likely one would have gained the right skills another way. And people with an advanced degree often do go to the front of the line. It is matter of OP knowing their industry, whether that will be a problem for them.

    4. Samwise*

      But that’s PhD “preferred”. If it’s Masters or Doctorate “required” or “minimum qualification”, then there may be less/no wiggle on it.

  13. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    In response to 5. Employee comes in on his days off to use a computer:

    Specifically, the part where the OP says “Our work is stressful, so when people take vacation, I want them to really be gone,” and the part of Alison’s response where she says “Is it just an hour or two? If so, I don’t think that’s a big deal [but I’d feel differently if] he was there all day or every day he was supposed to be gone.”

    If this is how he chooses to spend his days off, and being on the internet is his way of “really be[ing] gone” even though he’s still physically in the office, I say let him be – as long as his presence isn’t distracting to the other employees, of course.

    1. Colette*

      I think it’s difficult to be in the office and avoid “quick questions” from colleagues, so every day he’s there, he’s less detached from work, which is legitimate to be concerned about – but I agree that the amount of time and frequency are definitely relevant.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        ^And, will this set an expectation across the office that even if you’re on vacation, you’re still working?

        1. Close Bracket*

          If people do have this perception, there are ways to handle it (or preempt it) that don’t involve forbidding the employee from coming in to use the computer.

  14. Zin*

    Yeah, typically my job is only done by people who have a Masters. You can get by technically with a bachelor’s. You can’t even be qualified by the credentialing agencies with less. But, ah ha! There is loophole! If someone established is willing to oversee your work, then you can do it with no degree at all! So the positions always advertise wanting a master’s but you get really good at looking at the salary range and figuring out what kind of educational requirement they can reasonably expect for that salary range. Once someone has a certain level of experience, they can qualify on experience alone and their rate really should be very similar to mine considering they are doing the exact same job at that point. So it’s hard to know and highly field dependent I would imagine.

  15. Cat Meowmy Admin*

    #1) If the bulk of the job description sounds like a match your skills and experience (as Alison mentioned, you meet pretty much 80% of the qualifications) go for it! There really is no way of knowing if the education is a mandatory requirement at the outset. As long as your resume reflects proven examples of your abilities, you have as much of a shot as anyone, imo.
    I come across this often. As an Admin, I have plenty of experience/skills to match the qualifications in related job descriptions, just not the college degree (frequently ‘required’). But I apply anyway if I’m pretty certain I’d qualify, and have been called for interviews. I really don’t think it would count against you at all if you applied again for another position in the future. Good luck!

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      You can also do some prowling on LinkedIn to see if folks who have the same or similar job titles at that company have a more flexible background. There’s a lot of corporate culture that you can suss out if you browse profiles.

      And also … there’s an extremely good chance that if you didn’t meet a crucial requirement for the job no human ever read your resume at all … or won’t remember a thing about it … so they simply won’t worry about the fact that you applied once before.

    2. Windchime*

      Yeah I work in IT as a developer/programmer and all ads say they want at least a Bachelor’s degree. I don’t have any degree at all and I almost always get called for at least a phone screen. If they wanted a Data Scientist or something that would probably be different, but I ignore the educational requirements for my particular field because it seems to be a “nice to have”, not a true requirement.

  16. Bluesboy*


    Probably not relevant to you, but I’m gonna throw it out there just in case.

    My last two employers both had workplace insurance, so if you had an accident at work, or travelling to/from work, they were covered, as were visitors to the office.

    However, they weren’t covered if you weren’t officially at work. So if you came into the office and fell down the stairs, they were liable and the insurance was invalid.

    Because of this, coming into the office on a day off was a big problem. So if I were you and it is simple to do I would just quickly double check that there are no issues like that.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This will depend greatly on the insurance carrier. Ours covers even if a trespasser gets hurt on the premises, they can still always sue the owner of the property, it’s better to have all possible humans that may appear on the property covered in all instances.

      The difference is for our workers comp they’ll get mad that they’re liable for someone who is not working therefore not being paid wages that are reportable and therefore you’re not paying enough premiums.

  17. Home Office*

    #2. I’d talk to your neighbor. The loud, forceful knocking is out of line. Unless there is a building on fire type of emergency, your neighbor should not be doing that. You might also think about putting a do not disturb sign on your door. I also work at home, in a large house, but someone pounding on my door would be very intrusive and concerning.

    1. Birch*

      The do not disturb sign is a great idea! I’ve seen it for when there’s a baby sleeping and the parent doesn’t want a doorbell ringing, but this is also a great use!

    2. HalloweenCat*

      I was also going to suggest a sign of some sort, especially since it sounds like OP lives in an apartment building! There is a house in my neighborhood that has a sign on the door some days that says “Mrs. so-and-so is working and Timmy and Tommy cannot come out to play. Please don’t knock” Maybe something like that, that politely but concisely explains the situation? I think just “do not disturb” might be too ambiguous for someone who would bang on someone’s front door.

      1. Joielle*

        This is great. It’s blunt, but like you say, if someone was going to bang on the door for something non-urgent, that person probably needs a very clear direction not to.

        This probably wouldn’t work for the OP since it’s an apartment building, but at my house, I have a doorbell that connects to an app, and you can turn off notifications for a period of time. Sometimes I do that when I’m working at home and can’t be disturbed. Someone can ring the doorbell all they want and it just looks like I’m not home.

        1. Nanani*

          My apartment door buzzer system goes to a phone number – if you use a cell phone then you can absolutely put it on silent and be “invisible” to the doorbell.

          Of course that only works for the main entrance, not for a neighbour at your actual unit door.

    3. VlookupsAreMyLife*

      I was coming here to say the same thing – just put up a sign. It also might help deter unsavory sorts looking to burgle or vandalize a suspected unoccupied apartment during daytime hours.

  18. T3k*

    #2: Unless it’s a regular occurrence most people are understandable. One time I was shadowing this employee where the company’s building was near railroad tracks. In the middle of a skype call with a remote employee someone walked through the front door and we all heard the ear-piercing whistle and commotion of a train as it went by. Hope he wasn’t wearing headphones.

    1. FoxyDog*

      My office is half a block from a busy railroad track. Usually the trains are quiet, but the other day someone drove through the railroad crossing barrier. While it was being repaired, every train that went by did a long, repeated horn blast. Trains go by at least every ten minutes. Even with the windows closed it was a long couple of hours until the barrier was fixed.

  19. Villanelle*

    OP3: Also a UK person here. My friend works in a bookshop (the large chain, you know the one) and they have the same leave policy, as well as it being they have to take a week off at a time and preferably not random days either. It’s not great but it’s a company wide policy.

  20. Mark Roth*

    I am a teacher. I am told in the early spring when my school will be in and out of session for the next school year. In other words, when I can plan on traveling or not being able to travel. I knew that going in and don’t have an issue with it.

    I wouldn’t tolerate that in the business world

      1. Clisby*

        Also, teachers (at least where I am in the US) have variety in their scheduled breaks – it’s not like they have nothing but summer vacation. There’s a week at Thanksgiving, 2 weeks at Christmas, and another week in the spring. So if their favorite thing to do is go skiing, they have to do it between Christmas and New Year (or possibly spring break depending on how early that comes) – but they don’t have to give up skiing because they can’t get any ski-season time off.

    1. Myrcallie*

      The only business world example I was okay with that was when I worked in education recruitment specifically- then, we had to be in during term time, and during certain crunch times. But in any other job, no way.

    2. Short & Sweet*

      Yes, all of this – plus, as a teacher, I have three specific weeks off during the year, all major holidays and a lot of the minor ones, and about two months of complete flexibility in the summer. The only problem with the three weeks off is that, those are the weeks when EVERYONE is traveling and so airfares etc are through the roof (which doesn’t work particularly well with a teacher’s salary.) My husband has three weeks and none of the minor/Monday holidays, so I’m never going to complain about my time off!

  21. Adhara (UK)*

    #1, the industry I work in is very specialised, but in the last decade employers are obsessed with degrees over diplomas, when really it’s the hands on experience that makes or break a candidate. (Not connected at all, but think of my industry like they prefer a degree in plumbing over a three year working apprenticeship with a diploma at the end.)

    And tbh, as a diploma holder, the only way I’ve gotten round that is building up my work experience and smooth filling out my resume. It is painful to see only *education* apply, but know that in those job listings the hirer would never look past their narrow criteria regardless of how awesome your resume is. If you were gonna be ‘blacklisted’ for not having something and applying, then you were gonna be ‘blacklisted’ regardless of what you do, because you don’t have the Masters. So why not try anyway if you know you can do 80% of the job requirement? You got nothing to lose!

    So carpe diem, trust your judgement and you can do this.

  22. LGC*

    So, a slightly less charitable view of letter 4 (and okay, I’m slightly guilty of this) is that LW4’s boss would prefer she flexed her schedule. Since she’s hourly, he may be in a position where if she works fewer than 40 hours (or whatever she’s normally scheduled), stuff needs to be covered.

    That said: you can be honest with him! It seems like he’d understand or at least accept that. It might not be pleasant, but he’ll manage (hopefully).

    1. Mel*

      I was wondering if this was the concern as well. I had a lot of health issues at the start of last year, and my boss got a bit frustrated because I was having to take unpaid time off and she really needed me there for 40 hours a week to complete my work.
      (Fortunately, happy ending is that we worked out I could work remotely on days that I wasn’t up for leaving the house but still had the mental capacity to work. Fibromyalgia fun means my very very worst days I can’t do anything, but most flares just keep me housebound for the day.)

  23. Echas*

    #1: I work in Financial Services Project management in the UK and I’ve applied for a number of jobs that have required a degree on the posting. I used to be intimidated but have had the same advice Alison has given here and honestly, I’ve found it’s become less of a deal the more years of experience I gain.

    #3: I’ve seen similar requests in the UK to submit a years holiday when working with production centres or call centres. In both cases they tried this system and it eventually relaxed and became “submit a 2 week break (mandated in many FIs over here) and at least one other week”. This would leave most people with a week remaining of leave to use for other bits plus Bank Holidays on top.
    To be honest in most places as soon as the holiday window opens up I’ve found a lot of holiday gets booked almost immediately – this is just a strategy to de-risk having a lot of holiday left at the end of the year needing to be taken.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      That last part is really important in the UK and wouldn’t necessarily apply everywhere: as an employee you do have to take your leave (at least the statutory minimum) and “use it or lose it” doesn’t really exist.

    2. only acting normal*

      We get around it by everyone’s leave year being based on their hire date rather than the calendar year / financial year. Everyone’s end-of-year deadline occurs randomly so you don’t get everyone trying to book all the time they haven’t taken yet at the same time. There’s also a “duty of care” for managers to make sure their team don’t build up too much un-taken leave.

  24. Harper the Other One*

    OP3, this may not apply to you because I see from comments above that UK stuff works differently, but if it’s a matter of pushing back as a group, here’s one of the best retail vacation systems I ever had:

    Every year had certain “blackout” periods where you couldn’t take a whole week’s vacation except in special circumstances. Individual days off were always possible during that stretch, so you could put a floating day next to your regular day off if you had a weekend wedding or wanted to do an overnight trip.

    Special circumstances for a week or more off during those periods were at the discretion of the store manager with sufficient notice.

    On the whole, what happened is most people booked their vacation time during the non-busy periods, which meant that there was plenty of coverage during the busy periods if someone had a wedding/special vacation/etc.
    going on. So perhaps if you and your colleagues push back you can suggest a similar setup – that gives people more flexibility while still ensuring that not everyone takes vacation the week before Christmas.

  25. Amy*

    It’s possible an academia related career won’t be possible long-term without a Masters degree.

    I work in an K-12 education related field and yes, there is a similar expectation. It’s fairly unusual to only have a Bachelors and there’s a sorting hat effect with resumes.

    Even the sales team generally has advanced degrees. I’d say it’s 50% because it’s needed to be able to have substantive conversations with clients and 50% box-ticking.

    But because of th

    1. Amy*

      Oops. Cut off.

      But because of this expectation, it’s also pretty normal to get a degree part-time while working. Several of my team members are working on them now and we offer some tuition reimbursement.

      In my industry, you will likely need to get the degree eventually.

  26. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    I would say it’s industry-specific. There are some industries in which you definitely need a degree, whereas others is more of a “nice to have.” I would also say it’s probably company- or job-specific, too.

    As an employee, I’m biased in this area. I’m in banking. I didn’t go to college until I was in my 30s and the only reason I went was for personal enrichment. Before I started school I had worked my way up from a teller to a VP of Operations over the course of 12 years within the same bank and didn’t feel I needed a degree; I just wanted it. I went to a local community college and got an associate’s in business management. When that bank closed and I had to look for a job, I saw lots of listings that called for a bachelor’s degree as being required; however, I found that no one really cared about that since I had 18 years of banking experience at that point. Same when I had to again look for a job a year later. Also, it’s not like I was applying to be a CFO, CIO, or controller. If I were applying for a job like that, then yes, I’d need a more advanced, specialized degree.

    As a manager, I honestly don’t care at all about a degree. Sure, I realize education is good and it’s important, but when I hire someone I care much more about their experience, common sense, judgment and decision-making skills, and their soft skills. I know a couple people who want to get All The Certifications and to me, it’s just not necessary, not in my area anyway. It might be useful when job searching after many years of being in one job, but it doesn’t tell me one can actually *do* the job. To me it means they read and memorized the material, probably understand it and do have some experience in the area. But a certification can’t tell me if they’ll actually be able to do the job well.

    I say just apply if you meet most of the qualifications. Some employers will truly require the degree and others won’t. Most of the time you won’t know which one it is until you apply. Good luck!

  27. YouCanBrewIt!*

    I work from home and I put a sign outside my door for important meetings. I say I’m engaged and the time they can come back or my email address. It works every time.

  28. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, you industry sounds a lot like mine. I when to grad school because it had become very clear to me I could not (or it would be extremely difficult to advance) without a Master’s degree. My industry is one that is considered “cool” and has a flood of people who want to work in it. So even though I 100% capable of doing my job without my degree, I had to keep up with industry expectations. It’s unfair but a reality that many industries are placing more and more weight on having a degree, mostly as a way to cull candidates.

    Do you have any interest is going back to school? I managed to land an Assistantship so most of my tuition was waved. Have a friend who’s job paid for her degree, there are way to do it that won’t break the bank. Might be something to consider if it will make find a job easier.

  29. Myrcallie*

    #1 – at our company, we get a wide variety of people applying for our jobs, and usually even if they don’t quite meet all the qualifications (e.g. ‘needs degree/master’s level education’), we’ll still consider them if they have equivalent experience. It’s such a common thing that we sort people into piles based on that as a regular procedure- one pile for people who meet *all* the qualifications (this pile is usually quite small), one pile for people who meet most of them, and another pile for people who aren’t close or definitely wouldn’t fit.

    It’s only the people who apply and are *completely* unqualified that we tend to raise our eyebrows at. For instance, we recently had an application for a Regional Training Director post, and we had an applicant who confidently told us he was sure this would be a great next professional step for him – once he’d completed his base-level apprenticeship in business administration. That sort of thing tends to get your application trashed, and future applications eyed with caution (although even then, we get enough applicants that it’s hard to keep track of even the most egregious individuals).

    1. Sara without an H*

      My experience has been similar. My last round of hiring netted someone who had none of our qualifications, but was obviously bored with the job she had. Another claimed a master’s degree in library science from a university that doesn’t offer it. (Any librarian worth her sensible shoes and cat-furred sweater can verify this in less than five minutes.)

      But I’d never shoot down an applicant who had sent us an honest application in the past and didn’t make the cut. They might not have been right for the first position, but an excellent fit for the second.

  30. MissDisplaced*

    Education: I think if they’re asking for a masters degree and you meet the job requirements, apply!
    If they’re asking for a PhD requirement, I’d be a little more hesitant, because sometimes that may mean some type of other certification is needed as well (maybe: I’m thinking counseling, engineering and such) so you’d have to really have some years of experience to meet that level in lieu of the doctorate degree. I have seen some fields (academia) where nearly everyone in the office seems to have advanced degrees, mainly because tuition is part of the benefits. If that’s the case, and you have experience with the job duties apply. It may be you can work towards the masters once hired.

    WFH: Truly, you just excuse yourself to see what the racket is about and mute your line for a few minutes. It would be the same as in an office really. I’ve been in the office on calls and been loudly interrupted by alarms, construction and noisy coworkers. Most people know you can’t always control these unexpected things.
    But if you’re presenting something really important, ideally you’d try to have a closed door space you can go into.

  31. Emi.*

    I bet #3’s manager is concerned she’s going to use up all her sick time on routine appointments and not have any to cover the flu, surgery, recovering from a car accident, mono, or any other longer-term medical event that no one plans on having. (In fact I consider that the main “intended purpose” of sick leave.)

    1. Joielle*

      This is true, but the OP commented further up that she has almost 500 hours of sick time banked and continues to accrue it every pay period. If she had a serious illness or accident that would require that much time off, she’d probably be looking at FMLA or short-term disability anyways. Maybe it would help to remind her boss that she has more than enough banked sick time, to avoid that exact worry.

  32. OrigCassandra*

    OP2, if it makes you feel any better, I had a call interrupted last week by someone banging on my door… in my actual office.

    My whiteboard said clearly that I was on a call, but that doesn’t stop some (extremely entitled) people. (Not my coworkers! They’re great!)

    It can happen to anyone. I think most of us know that.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      ^ Same. I very rarely close my door, and I will put a sign up, but it’s like as soon as the sign’s up on a closed door it’s a magnet for someone barging in at the top of their lungs about something completely insignificant.

      1. Windchime*

        This is how my headphones work. Things start to get noisy, I put on my noise cancelling headphones, and it’s as if I was raising a “come bug me!” flag. People who haven’t said a word to me in hours all the sudden have a burning need to talk to me about non-urgent issues.

      2. AKchic*

        Signs, headphones, or going to the bathroom – all giant signal fires of “Come Bug Me Right This Very Second” to children, animals, delivery drivers, telemarketers and annoying people.

    2. AppleStan*

      I rarely close my door. I was doing a teleconference where I was the guest speaker, and the presentation would be recorded for people to be able to purchase later. To ensure I would not be disturbed, my supervisor sent out an office-wide email saying not to knock on my door during the conference, and I put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door for added safety.

      Two people decided it would be REALLY funny to knock on my door, then, when I didn’t answer, to knock even louder. I excused myself from the call (meaning dead silence, as I was the only presenter) thinking something horrible had happened, opened the door, to find someone had just written “You’re already disturbed” on the sign on my door, and no one was there.

      I finished the call. The company was not happy. I was not happy. I have not been invited back to speak since, although I had regularly been asked to speak before.

        1. AppleStan*

          This was several years ago, and the problem was addressed. Not that it should matter, but the two did not realize that I was doing a professional call (they hadn’t seen the email) – but they did see the note on my door, and thought it would be great to mess with me. The end result for them was not a firing, but was not pleasant either, as the incident also affected our office’s reputation.

          1. AKchic*

            Honestly, I don’t see how they could have been granted so much leeway. That kind of immaturity just twists my knickers.

    3. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      I once had someone get the manager to use a key to get into my office mid-conference call. I was not pleased. I also can’t remember the reason, but I know they thought I wasn’t there. At that job doors were only closed when you weren’t at work or were on a confidential call which, as payroll, most of my conference calls were closed door calls.

  33. Sharon*

    I could be completely wrong but I think what LW #1 was asking about was her possible future at a company when her educational background doesn’t match their requirements. It’s true that they may hire her into the role being advertised, but it’s also possible that her lack of whatever degree they want makes her unpromotable. I’ve read online MANY people who get caught in this situation. They’ve excelled at the company for many years and their boss wants to promote them, but HR won’t allow it because of a missing degree.

    1. DreamingInPurple*

      Yup. Sometimes it’s a tactic to keep people in entry level roles indefinitely, especially if they’re lured in with promises of tuition reimbursement at their manager’s discretion, which *somehow* tends not to happen.

  34. Ms. Meow*

    OP4: One hourly job I previously worked at required us to use a minimum of 2 hours of sick leave when logging it. Do you know if your company/office has a similar policy? My former boss used to remind us to use flex time if we would be out for medical reasons/appointments for less than 2 hours simply because she would get hassled if we submitted sick leave for less than the minimum. Just a thought.

  35. Capt. Dunkirk*

    #3 reminds me of a story my dad likes to tell about when he was a high school teacher in the 70’s. There was a problem where teachers would have to take a last minute day off because of a family emergency, or there car breaking down, their child being sick, etc… and the school wouldn’t allow them to use a vacation day because they didn’t have enough notice, and they wouldn’t let them use a sick day because they weren’t sick. They would be forced to take the day unpaid.
    There was, of course, an uproar from the teachers and they pushed back. After several weeks of negotiations with the school district and teacher unions, word finally came down that teachers would be allowed to take a day off for family emergencies…

    … as long as they gave at least two weeks notice.

    Some people Just Don’t Get It.

    1. Pretzelgirl*

      mmmm I think in 2 weeks, my kid is going to trip and fall at daycare and break their arm. Better request off!


    2. irene adler*

      So I take it they hired psychic school teachers, right?
      Teachers that can foretell the future-who will pass their exams, what the students’ grades will be, when they will need a day off to handle a personal emergency, which students will be out sick on which days -wow!

  36. Mbarr*

    #3, I saw another thread about UK vacation laws and whatnot. As a Canadian, I had a somewhat similar (but different) experience. My last Canadian company (a big one, with offices worldwide) had a weird policy where we had to book all our vacation for the year by the end of January too.

    BUT the dates we booked weren’t set in stone. We were allowed to modify our vacation requests at will (provided there was coverage). So most people would book the vacations they knew about, then take off the rest of days around Christmas… Then as the year progressed and people wanted days off here and there, they’d submit vacation modification requests.

    It was stupid. Apparently the reason was because the company didn’t want a bunch of unallocated vacation time sitting in their financial books. Which makes no sense.

    1. Brihanne LeMarre*

      Another Canadian here, albeit a unionized one. This is our system. We have to book our entire year’s vacation by the middle of March (our vacation year is Apr-Mar, go figure), but, depending on operational requirements/supervisor’s judgement, we can change them as needed throughout the year.

      Oh, and our collective agreement also stipulates that at least 80 hours be taken in a continuous period. Uh, no thanks. I’ll break that stuff up into allll the long weekends, please.

  37. Amethystmoon*

    #3 is absolutely ridiculous. Not everyone plans that far ahead. Also, if you might be traveling with friends or relatives, the other people might not be able to plan that far ahead. What about companies that make you put your sick time and PTO time in the same bucket? Are you supposed to say gosh, I might get the flu on x week in January even though I get the shot every year, because you never know when it won’t be effective? Or gee whiz, my car might possibly need repairs in February because it will be icy out and someone could rear end me because it happened once? People don’t have crystal balls.

  38. obviously*

    Boss #4 is annoyed at the constant low-level administrivia of having to approve every appointment.

    1. Academic Librarian*

      yep. Please take the flex time and stop making me approve sick time for an hour. This is a nightmare. And by the way I really don’t care if you take it on on your lunch or leave late that day or leave on time or anything. Or leave for an hour then eat your lunch at your desk. That is why it is flex time. Do I know you will be back a 2:00 in case I need something, great. I want you to use your sick time for when you have the flu and should stay home for the week. Or you need to be out all day for a medical related thing.

      1. Samwise*

        But the OP may not want to or be able to flex — can’t come in early or stay late for whatever reason (commuting issues, picking up kids at daycare, dropping mom off at senior care, health issues that make working early/late difficult, safety issues in leaving late — I can think of a good dozen reasons). If OP’s boss wants OP to flex and not use sick leave, then boss needs to use her words.

        I’m not too sympathetic to “stop making me approve sick time for an hour. This is a nightmare.” I assume it’s part of your job — a part you do not like, but a required part nonetheless.

  39. Liane*

    I can’t help but be curious as to why OP2’s neighbor not only came to her but came back to *ask another question* about the plumbing, when OP is also just a tenant? Was OP’s previous job manager of the complex? Was Neighbor thinking, “OP has lived here longer, she’ll know who I call, exactly how long it will take them to fix it or if we get a discount on rent for the inconvenience”?

    1. Blarg*

      “Ack! The water coming out of my faucet is brown. Is yours?”

      “Ughhh! Now my toilet is backing up! Yours ok?”

      (Just a thought of one of many scenarios. If you don’t realize the person is working, and you’ve established they are home, and you’re having an issue where maybe management isn’t on-site, I think talking to your neighbor is pretty normal).

    2. OP #2*

      Yes, Blarg pretty much hit the nail on the head. There’s only 4 units in the building and all the tenants are early-mid 20s. I’ve lived in the building the longest so I suppose my neighbor thought I would have additional advice outside of “Call our landlord and let him sort it out”.

      1. A*

        Hahaha, I had a similar situation in my first apartment building after college. I was there for ~4 years, and towards the end I realized that despite having no idea what I was doing… I had become the “mother hen” to the other tenants. They would come to me with all kinds of oddball things, assuming that I’d somehow know how to handle it. My favorite was my upstairs neighbor who had a leak – first they asked if I was having any issues (totally fair / appreciated), when I confirmed I wasn’t… they just stood there. Finally asked “so what should I do?”. I have to explain that they needed to talk to the landlord. If I’m remembering correctly I was 25, she was 23. Lol

    3. Samwise*

      OMG, the hot water riser burst and waters is coming through the kitchen wall! They’re sending a plumbing team to fix it, and everyone’s kitchen wall may be bashed in pretty soon if they have to replace the riser. (visit #1)
      OMG, I just realized the water coming through the wall in my kitchen may be flowing down into your kitchen? Is it? If it is, be sure to call building manager! (visit #2)

      My own personal experience, only I was the person knocking.

  40. BoopBoopBoop*

    For the scenario in #1, should this be addressed in your cover letter? When I am applying for a job and meet most of the qualifications, but not all, I typically think it’s better in the cover letter to focus on the few that you are really strong in, and if you are selected for an interview you can then have a frank conversation about areas where you have less experience and how important these are for the role. But I can see this being different for a more “concrete” qualification such as having/not having a particular degree. Any thoughts Alison?

  41. Mainely Professional*

    #2: Do you regularly work from home? Based on your letter, I’m guessing not? Because while annoying and awkward, it’s not a big deal…like at all. Things that regularly happen while I (full time remote worker) am on the phone, either from my end or my coworkers’:
    * Traffic is loud (ambulance/police siren/motorcycles/trucks)
    * People having very loud conversations outside an open window
    * Riding lawnmowers/leafblowers
    * Construction work
    * Doorbells/Knocking/Deliveries
    * Dogs/Children/Spouses interrupting (not frequently, but sometimes it happens)

    My coworkers and I do not care when those things happen. At all. What would have been maybe flustering for you in your situation is that your neighbor knocked twice and also knocked really loudly, *and* maybe you’re not used to working at home. What I do is to mute myself when I’m not talking during a call, and yes, move to the quietest part of the apartment to take calls.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Yeah, I work from home too, as do most of my co-workers. My office is in a sitting-room type area off the master bedroom. My daughter has 2 parakeets, and sometimes they are *really* loud. Usually I close my bedroom door before getting onto a call, but sometimes I forget, if they’re not being noisy when I dial in. And if they start making noise, I’ll either mute myself and go close the door without saying anything, or IM the meeting host and tell them I’ll be right back. Nobody cares.

    2. Celestial being on a bike*

      Yup, no one cares about these interruptions. I work from home full time and this stuff happens…no big deal.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Well, I’d care if it was happening all the time, because then it’s rude, but once, for something out of her control nah!

        I did have a manager who’s dogs barked incessantly when she was on the phone. Every time. Annoying.

    3. Myrin*

      Yeah, OP seems strangely flustered by something that would barely even register with me, both if I were here and if I were one of her coworkers (not a dig at you at all, OP, I just got a really nervous vibe from your letter as a whole!). I promise you there’s absolutely zero need to be “very embarrassed” here, that’s just life happening!

    4. OP #2*

      I don’t regularly work from home! I’m also only 2 years post-grad so still navigating some of the finer points of office/telecommuting etiquette. I think all the comments here have made me feel a lot better that these things happen and no one thought anything of it.

      1. Mainely Professional*

        Oh good! I’m glad you chimed in.

        Yeah, do not stress, and do not let it put you off telecommuting.

      2. A*

        Definitely don’t stress about it. I felt the same way when I started telecommuting occasionally – although most my interruptions were cat related :)

        After a while I realized the majority of telecommuters had some kind of unpredictable element to their working environment – kids, pets, close to a busy street etc.

      3. Not a cat*

        Yep, NBD. My roommate’s cat regularly makes “special guest star” appearances on con calls.

  42. Blarg*

    #1: When every box likely needs to be ticked (generally speaking and in the US):
    – If the application is screened by HR before the hiring manager (sometimes hard to tell but an emphasis on ‘your cover letter must list every skill and experience listed above for consideration’ or similar language is a clue that the people reviewing apps aren’t people who know the work)
    – If all the job posts have the same languaging, meaning managers don’t get to tweak: like there is only one line about this analyst job and the rest is general wording for every analyst job
    – any position with a collective bargaining agreement
    – any org/dept that is highly regulated
    – anything that requires a license
    – state and federal government — you’ll see fed jobs posted with no educational req even if clearly you’d need some advanced education to do the job they’re talking about when they don’t want to limit themselves. If it says doctorate, they mean it
    – if it lists lots of combos (BA + 4 years experience or masters + 2 years experience) and you don’t meet any of them

    That’s been my experience. I was seeing job posts like you — qualified but for the more advanced degree. I was able to do an in-state online MS program that was relatively cheap. When people ask what I got it in I say “a master’s in needing a graduate degree.” It was a joke. I learned very little. But those letters on my resume make some people happy.

    Best wishes!

  43. Celestial being on a bike*

    We hired for a few positions a year ago, and while PhD was listed as optional, the ad didn’t indicate how optional it was. We chuckled at some of the applications because they were so far off from what we needed, but for the close but no cigar, we had notes on other positions that seemed more aligned to their experience. I think we even hired one of them for something else!

    The experience definitely made me realize how job descriptions matter. I could see why some of the unqualified folks thought the job didn’t require much experience and suggested we get a bit more specific.

    1. juliebulie*

      Before I started working here, my employer used an online screening tool that asked the applicant to verify each qualification, one-by-one. When it got to “Master’s degree?” I answered no and that was pretty much the end of it.

      Years later, I sent me resume directly to the hiring manager, who hadn’t been aware of the gate-keeping online screening tool. Fortunately, it was no longer in use. But it was very frustrating to learn that I had been missing out on jobs where the hiring manager’s “requirements” were not as strict as the machine that was reviewing the applicants.

  44. Rex*

    Re #1: PSA to employers — please *don’t* list as required any educational requirements that aren’t actually necessary to do the job! You can still put it in the “nice to have” category if you really must. But it’s problematic for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that the impacts can be gendered (women are less likely to apply when they don’t meet all the qualifications) and racialized (because of all the barriers POC face to get an advanced degree).

    1. A*

      I would love to be able to agree with you. However I think there are situations where it is justified. My previous employer did an internal study to try and move away from listing education requirements that weren’t truly necessary, but ultimately was unsuccessful in that regard. They had always listed a requirement of an Associates (Bachelors preferred) for their mid-level Admin roles, not because it’s truly needed, but in the effort of attracting candidates that are driven, committed to finishing what they start, [insert buzzwords here]. They would waive the requirement frequently if they found a strong candidate, but it set a certain tone for those applying. Obviously that is not a perfect system, but when they removed that portion of the job description the candidate pool was impacted. I served on the hiring committees for those positions, and it was a notable difference. We were able to fill a lot of the entry level roles with candidates that applied for the mid-level, but struggled to find candidates that checked all of the boxes.

      They ended up meeting in the middle and changing it to a “strongly preferred” requirement.

  45. Academic Librarian*

    Booking vacation a year in advance- I worked in a public library and this was a requirement. It was a thing that people who had seniority got Christmas Eve etc off and last hired worked all the holidays and days no one wanted like July 3rd and 5th or Thanksgiving ever or the two days after Labor Day. There was official “change your vacation dates” paperwork that could be filed if say that week I booked in May actually needed to be a week later.

    Requirements- I am in a position right now that “required” a Ph.D. or two masters. I have one master. There were three finalists including two people who met those ed requirements. I had 15 years experience in the field as well as teaching experience as well as exemplary references and I nailed the job talk. The only deficit is how peers in the academic field treat my “lack of credentials” I’m okay with that.

  46. Mary Smith*

    OP #1
    I’d check the questions on the online application before I decided to apply. For example, if you see a question that says “Do you have a masters degree?” with a yes/no checkbox and you don’t, you can pretty much guarantee that the program is going to automatically send you a rejection letter once you submit. Trust me on this one…I’ve spent hours writing cover letters and tweaking resumes to be rejected right away because I failed to check this first.

    If you don’t see it as a question, it may/may not be a requirement. So I’d go ahead and apply.

  47. Transitioning-ish*

    #4 When I managed an hourly employee, I also made sure that she knew that she didn’t have to use PTO if she’s just going to be taking an hour or so for an appointment, if she instead wanted to work through lunch or make up the time in other ways. To my mind, PTO can run out when you might need it later, so perhaps that’s what #4’s boss is thinking, though it is annoying that it keeps coming up.

  48. hbc*

    OP1: I’d say the vast majority of job postings confuse “requirements” with “ideal traits.” Another good percentage probably describe the average good candidate–more education than the minimum balances out less experience, and vice versa. So it’s a pretty slim chance that you’re going to be scrapped just for missing one item on the list, and practically zero that you’d be laughed at or blackballed because of it.

    Go for the ones where you’re pretty sure you could do a good job, enjoy the work, and you’re close to their requirements. You’ll be better than most of the applicants just from that starting point.

    1. TL -*

      I just read a job description that was clearly a list of every nice to have any professor involved had mentioned – I actually sent it my friend with a snarky comment about how this job was looking for a unicorn.

      Then I realized I knew a person who fit pretty much all of the requirements and sent the job ad to her. Sigh.

  49. AppleStan*

    OP #4: I’d offer another take on the manager’s motives.

    Where I work, if you retire from the company, while your unused vacation is cashed out, your unused sick leave is added to your time served, which increases your retirement.

    Also, the manager may have experienced (personally or through observing others), people using up their sick leave when they have other options, and then getting in a situation where they need the paid sick leave, and they don’t have it. I’d argue that is more “parental” than a manager needs to be, but I’ve seen it happen to others myself, so it becomes one of those cliched horror warning stories.

    I generally will encourage people to flex (if it’s convenient to them) for those two reasons, but I do have a direct report who has about 1.5 years of sick leave built up, and if he can avoid using it, because it is going to add on to his retirement when he leaves. I have another direct report who flexes because she anticipates having to take leave to care for an ill parent soon and wants all of the paid sick time she can get.

    Both situations are completely understandable.

  50. No Flex For Me*

    I have the opposite problem of OP#4. I have disabilities and health issues, which means I not only spend more time seeing doctors than the average person, I also tend to get sick more often. I marvel at people who have all kinds of sick time banked up and rolled over from year to year, because mine never lasts me the entire year. I’ve been with my company for seven years, and I have always flexed my lunch hour whenever possible to help cover appointments and conserve my sick time. But this year, upon sending a list of upcoming appointments, I was informed by my team lead* that I would no longer be allowed to do so and would have to use PTO. The reason given was the changeover this year to a single PTO bucket for vacation and sick time, and that “the new PTO policy is available to cover doctor’s appointments”. Well, no kidding, so was the old policy, but the amount of time available hasn’t changed and my health isn’t getting any better. I’ve taken one vacation this year totaling five days, the rest has gone to illness and appointments, and thanks to not being allowed to flex my schedule to make any of it up, I have two days left to last me the rest of the year.

    *Incidentally, this team lead has a pattern of being resistant to any accommodations for me, even to the point of flat out ignoring established accommodations and removing security access that was granted to me as an accommodation, because she didn’t feel it was warranted. HR thinks I’m just paranoid, but I firmly believe she made this decision regarding flex vs. PTO as just another way to screw with me.

    1. Pineapple Incident*

      That is so rude – I’m sorry you’re in that situation. I’ve been lucky to have a manager who has a ‘life happens’ approach when I’ve had lots of doctors’ appointments to manage my chronic illness and mental health, and I think that it’s really unfair that this isn’t universal especially when flex time can accomplish what’s necessary for the vast majority of office jobs without chafing anyone or missing deadlines.

      Especially if you’re having accomodations removed I would consider making a complaint with your HR or talk to a lawyer using the “I hope we’re not running afoul of the ADA” angle Allison has suggested here to other letter writers. I really hope this gets better for you soon.

      1. No Flex For Me*

        I have made an HR complaint (that’s when I got the response that they didn’t think the change in flex/PTO policy was targeted at me). As far as the other things I addressed with them, I don’t know what the outcome was, whether she was ever reprimanded, they decided my complaints were unfounded, etc… They never followed up with me. The security access she revoked was immediately reinstated by the next day after that incident, before I ever spoke to HR. She caused me to miss my accessible transportation home, forcing me to leave my mobility device at the office overnight and take Uber home instead. I was livid.

  51. JC*

    I have a PhD and run a research department of people with PhDs and masters degrees. The job ads I wrote say that a PhD or masters is required. That’s generally a hard requirement, especially for more entry-level people. However, I would consider someone experienced without a post-grad degree if they could demonstrate from their past work that they were a good researcher. It’s just not often that people without the degrees end up getting that relevant experience through work, so most of the time the degree requirement is a good filter for me.

    1. epi*

      In my experience (health care and public health research) there are also a lot of jobs with title overlap, some of which are nearly always held by someone with an advanced degree, and some which are often held by someone with a bachelors for a couple of years before they get an advanced degree.

      In my field there are research specialist and coordinator positions where you are basically a masters or PhD-level staff scientist and if there is admin work mixed in, it’s the type that can only be done by someone with deep knowledge of the program or the funder. A lower level job can turn into a higher level one, if that part of the research program suddenly becomes more important/formalized/funded. Or if an amazing bachelor-level staffer stays and grows the role, with or without getting their degree.

      I used to have a coordinator job that was more low level, small department, everyone who held it left in a few years to either be a career coordinator in a bigger program, or for med school or grad school. I grew the role but not enough to keep me there since I already wanted to go to grad school. My replacement was a BA-level new grad who grew the role even more and will probably be a career coordinator.

      It’s my experience that people in the field know what those flexible and catchall roles are, and they realize it can be confusing from the outside. It’s not the kind of ridiculous misunderstanding that would make anyone wonder what the OP was thinking. They should trust their judgment here, that they are aware of how and why this is confusing is a good sign.

      1. JC*

        Yup, that’s exactly the kind of person I had in mind. Where I work (which is public health adjacent) we have very occasionally had research assistants who were so great that they ended up becoming full-fledged researchers, even though they do not have an advanced degree. I would consider hiring someone who entered the field in that way into a normally-masters-or-PhD-required researcher role.

  52. Self-educated*

    With regard to #1 — I am in an executive position with a prominent non-profit. School never agreed with me so much, and I left college after two failed attempts without even a bachelor’s degree. At the same time, I have become a highly educated person, and that’s how I present. When I applied for this job, which required a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, my qualifications and presentation got me taken seriously, and interviewed. At the first interview, I told the committee that I had never graduated from college, but that I had acquired a graduate-level education in the intervening years. I briefly explained the circumstances of those things, and said something to the effect that if that’s a deal-breaker we can cut this short now. They weren’t interested in cutting it short, and it’s never come up since.

  53. Sara without an H*

    OP#1, I think this is a situation in which Alison’s advice on writing fantastic cover letters would come in handy. If you don’t have a degree, but have several years of applicable experience, the cover letter is the place to make that case. Check the AAM archives for specifics.

    That said, my current employer doesn’t require an advanced degree for all jobs, but does require them if you want to be promoted. If you get to an interview, try to come up with some questions to suss this out, if you don’t want to be stuck at the entry level.

  54. Clay on my apron*

    OP3, I’m currently on a high profile project at a big bank, with a large distributed team. We have one person, who when they dial in to a zoom or Skype meeting, always has birds chirping in the background. It’s disconcerting for new people because they don’t know where it’s coming from but nobody else pays any attention at all. I think the key thing is to minimise disruptions but acknowledge that they will happen from time to time.

  55. beepboopin*

    OP #1: If you are finding that you are qualified in other areas of the job posting but not the educational requirement, I would still go ahead and apply! Often times, those “requirements” are given as a suggestion by HR and hiring managers just go with it. I work in academia too and have helped hire and we have hired someone with the experience and skills over the educational requirement. In fact for the job I’m in it was listed as “Bachelors degree AND 5 years work experience”. I was coming out of my Master program with only 1-2 years of work experience so technically I didn’t qualify. However, when they brought me in for an informational interview, they realized I had extremely relevant experience for the project they were hiring for and worked with HR to rewrite the job description so I could qualify and apply. Not saying that this is going to happen every time but just an example of how experience mattered over “educational/time requirements.” I can see in a few instances lack of education being a non-starter but I think most employers use it as a gauge of minimum level of skill (whether that’s accurate or not).

  56. Noah*

    OP2, I think you got this one completely wrong, and I don’t agree with Alison either. The odds that somebody was laughing at the sound of a door knock over the phone are close to zero. If that person was laughing at the door knocking, that’s a little bit insane and you should not concern yourself with it.

    Also: no, you don’t answer the door. If the person kept knocking and didn’t stop, then *maybe*. But the more professional thing to do would be to move to somewhere you can’t hear the knocking or just ignore it and mute the phone when you are not speaking.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Strong disagree. The OP was there and knows what happened on the call. (And of course a group of people with warm, friendly relationships might laugh at a loud, insistent knock that interrupts their call. The laugh isn’t at the OP, it’s at “ha, someone is being very insistent outside your house” and “the world is intruding on our work bubble.”)

      1. Clisby*

        Yeah, I (WFM) used to have a regular team meeting that every other week was disrupted by the noise from my next-door neighbor’s lawn service. People definitely laughed about it a little. And dealt with it, because I’m not going to try to dictate when my neighbors can have their lawn mowed.

  57. CatMom*

    I work from home frequently and my policy is to ignore all outside interference when I’m on a call. I never schedule any maintenance appointments or anything while I’m working, so unless it’s the police or the fire department, it will just have to wait.

    If something is distracting, I’ll either excuse myself to put a stop to it (if it’s within my power to do so) or move to where it’s less distracting, giving a brief explanation of what I’m doing and minimizing the distraction of the move (putting the call on hold, muting my mic, etc).

  58. Samwise*

    Exempt positions in our (academic adjacent) department always require at least a master’s degree and the search committee would not even see your application if you did not have a master’s degree *in hand*. There’ d be no harm in applying, though, because 1) we have so many applications for every opening, we couldn’t possibly remember everyone who applied and didn’t make the cut, especially not for applications that get cut early (we’re probably gonna remember you if you get to the on-campus interview!), 2) the search committee personnel changes regularly so there might not be anyone on the committee who had seen your application even if it made the first cut, or even got to the phone interview stage, 3) nobody on a search committee goes back and looks at the list of people who previously applied because we already have so many applicants (see #1).

    We do have a descriptor with the education requirement, something like “Masters degree or doctorate in X, Y, Z fields”. I myself have a doctorate in none of the preferred fields, but I did have a huge amount of experience and all of the other qualifications, so here I am. I will say that some of our search committees are really, um, anal about sticking to “X Y Z fields” and thus miss out on some really great candidates. My point however is that if you’re meeting a good proportion of the other qualifications (= all or almost all of the core qualifications, and maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the other qualifications), you’ll probably make the first cut and we’re going to look at your application more closely.

    We have hired lots of people over the years who did not meet all of the qualifications but who have been excellent employees.

  59. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    For #1. You’re not just trying to check all of the boxes that an employer wants, you’re also competing against all the other applicants. Whether the job actually requires a masters or doctorate, or the company is strict/lax about their requirements, those with an advanced degree are probably going to be more competitive for the job if all else is equal. But if you think your experience or skills are better than your competition, apply and highlight what makes you unique in the cover letter or interview.

  60. Anonymeece*

    OP #1: I work in academia, but not as faculty. With our hiring committees, what we frequently see is that faculty prefer academic credentials, while staff look to experience. Depending on the job, you may have more staff or more faculty on the committee, so it could swing either way.

    Unless you see something in the job that absolutely would require a PhD or Master’s, I would go ahead and apply! And if you’re interested, you could also ask in the interview about employee reimbursement for school or scholarships as a way of flagging for them that you would like to get a Master’s in the future (like I said, only if you’re actually interested in that).

    That said, yes, we usually do give “extra points” to those with post-Bachelor’s education. But if you’re a strong enough candidate, then you still have a good shot. Go for it!

  61. Ello*

    OP4 – Augh no, take it as flex time! You never know when you might need sick leave, and even if it’s just an hour a week, it’ll add up. Plus your boss has encouraged you to save it. Take him up on it!

    1. Emi.*

      I agree as a general rule but the OP clarified in a comment s/he has hundreds of hours of sick time already and it’s not convenient to go home late.

  62. Veronica Mars*

    Writing this as I work from home, I also want to recommend a sign. I was working from home earlier in the week when a UPS driver rang the bell, sending my dog flying off the couch and into the coffee table, which knocked a glass of water into my purse. So that was fun. I just ordered a sign for my door to prevent that happening again, but I think that would work for you too.
    Also, you might want to mention to your neighbors who are home during the day that you work from home. My next door neighbors are retired, and likely to be the only people who would knock on my door, and they know I work from home sometimes. So far, they’ve always waited until after business hours when they’ve had a reason to stop by.
    I also make an effort, even on calls with only a few people, to be on mute unless I’m going to be talking a lot or am actively talking then. It goes a long way toward keeping the snoring dog off of calls. My company does a lot of work from home, and we’ve all had the occasional interruption from kids or pets or the world. It happens.

    1. nonegiven*

      How do I get UPS to come up onto the porch, much less ring the bell? He runs over and shoves the box onto the porch and runs away. I only know he’s been there when I hear the truck driving away.

  63. Dahlia*

    If OP2 is in an apartment is in an apartment, to be fair, there may not BE another part of the home they can go to where the door can’t be heard. I’d have to lock myself in the bathroom, and even then it’d probably still be audible. Apartments, being smaller than houses, often carry sound differently.

  64. Hedgehug*

    #3 This was a the standard policy for the call centre I used to work at in Canada. Very annoying and ridiculous, but that’s how it was. You had to put the 2 weeks you wanted, divided by first half of the year and second half. One week in the first half, one week in the second half. Obviously, everyone wanted last week of June and first week of July, since that was the only way to get 2 weeks off in a row. There was no leeway. If something came up and you needed to have a different vacation week, you had to beg the person who had it to switch with you (ie. one of the girls didn’t win the week that contained her wedding. I had that week, and she came to me begging me to switch with her – obviously I gave her the week!)

  65. Typhon Worker Bee*

    My cat sometimes joins me on video calls, to the delight of most of the people I’m talking to. One of them now asks to see the cat every time we chat. And a friend of mine who works from home was once on a video call while there was a plumber working on something in the house. At one point he walked past an open door behind her that was visible from her webcam, and all her colleagues started yelling “there’s a man in your house, there’s a man in your house!”. Apparently it’s now one of those funny work stories that everyone always tells the new people. I think this kind of thing is just super normal now, so don’t worry, OP!

  66. Traveling Nerd*

    One interesting fact about a lot of jobs in tech that are “masters required” — we usually put that in for immigration purposes.

    I’m an engineering manager and I really don’t care where my software engineers learned their trade, however when trying to deal with immigrant workers on a job posting without an educational requirement, the US government denied the visa, saying that without an educational requirement, any high school graduate who is a US citizen could do the job. Of course, that’s not true, but arguing the Immigration is pointless.

    So now all of my job postings have some sort of college degree “or equivalent experience” in the posting, even though I hate to see it in there and I don’t really consider the educational background of applicants – just the skills they display during the interview process.

  67. Anon Librarian*

    #1 – If you want the job and you’re mostly a good fit, it’s worth applying. Unless it’s the kind of setting (public sector, academia, etc) where the requirements are really firm. Which brings me to my main point. In some fields and some roles, the educational requirements are more of a deciding factor than in others. Someone with a PhD in zoology but no doctorate in Veterinary Medicine can’t call themselves a vet. I have to have an MLS to work at the managerial level in most libraries. However, there are some (mostly private sector) that don’t require it. Some corporate libraries only require that you’ve graduated from high school. And that’s controversial in the field because it arguably devalues people’s degrees and the profession as a whole.

    So look at it this way. If the degree is really standard, but there seems to be some wiggle room, make a case for yourself while respecting that degree’s value. Acknowledge that it’s important. Let them know if you hope to earn one eventually, and what your plan is. Let them know how you’ll interact with co-workers who do have the degree. And then offer something to counter-balance it. Some kind of expertise that would be unique and beneficial.

    If the degree is listed as a requirement for that position but isn’t super standard across the field (often the case with creative and tech roles), you might not need to address it. You might be able to just highlight your strengths and let them decide from there.

    As for automated systems auto-rejecting you, I think that’s a reasonable concern. In some cases, it could be worth calling/emailing someone and asking about it, but that would really be a judgment call.

  68. Gilmore67*

    Requesting vacation in advance is not that uncommon depending on where you work. In my department and another’s in my company (as well as some family members companies) all require filling out a paper for requests for that year.

    My company is a hospital and we are 24/7. We need to know in advance, when people want off in order to maintain proper staff levels.

    This DOES NOT say that if something comes up we automatically deny them the time off. The supervisors do their best to accommodate the staff’s needs.

    The supervisors write schedules 3-4 weeks in advance. The staff knows in advance what their normal days off are and when they put in for vacation and they plan their life, appointments around that.

    As stated above, stuff happens and yes, the supervisors try their best to give them the time off. Also the staff is allowed to switch working days off with other staff.

    There is no way the department can assure efficient staffing levels weekly, let alone for weekends and holidays if people are asking for time off, sometimes a week at a time with only a week or 2 notice.

  69. Mike*

    Re #4: When I was doing weekly therapy sessions I was really glad for the ability to flex. Since it was two hours per week (session plus travel) there was no way I could do it with sick time alone while still maintaining a healthy balance for when I’m physically sick.

  70. lilsheba*

    I always have to plan out a full year of pto, it’s always worked this way here, or you won’t get the time off period. It’s difficult to get time off in a call center. So yeah if something unexpected comes up I’m screwed. Gotta love the USA.

  71. Sally Forth*

    OP#1 My nephew switched majors, so he hasn’t finished his social work degree, let alone his Masters, but he had job experience that got him a job that asked for a Masters. He is running a program matching native youth with companies in the resource sector in Canada’s north and he loves it. He is 33. Six figure salary.

    My son is 30, with a general studies BA -the one that is supposedly useless for job hunting. He applied for a stretch VP of Business Development job that asked for an MBA. He had the perfect niche experience and they hired him. Also six figures.

  72. Alice's Rabbit*

    OP2 might want to make a sign for their front door. Something along the lines of “Working from home. Unless you’re delivering my order, please leave a note instead of knocking.”

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