my coworker is hassling me about his peer feedback, employee calls me “buttercup,” and more

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

1. My coworker is hassling me about his peer feedback

In my department, we’re asked to provide feedback for year-end reviews for our manager, other managers, and peers. The feedback is collected and delivered anonymously to the recipient by their manager. The process works well. However, based on some details provided, you can sometimes tell who wrote what about you.

I have one coworker, Barry who doesn’t do such a great job and hasn’t since he started. Not a go-getter, lack of initiative, etc. We really want him to do well on our team and we try to provide constructive feedback during this time. Our manager also provides it during the year. However, sometimes this feedback is taken as a personal attack with no plans to improve himself.

The problem is that after Barry receives this feedback, he often goes on a witch hunt to find out who said it. I have been cornered in my office and have received emails to my personal account grilling me about his feedback and trying to find out who said what. I am especially concerned this year because I have provided feedback to my manager, Jack, regarding Barry’s performance on projects we have worked on together. This was not a stellar year for Barry. I just know I (and others) will be cornered and asked if I knew about what was said and whether or not I agree with the feedback. To make it harder, Barry and I have worked together for about 15 years and were really close for a long time. Most of those years we were at another company in a different role/skill set and in that role Barry did great.

Jack came to me and said to be prepared for potential backlash and that he would help shut it down. But in the moment, what is the best thing to say to Barry? Defer him to our manager? I feel like by saying “You should really talk to Jack” is only confirming that feedback came from me.

Jack needs to shut this down before it happens. Go back to him and explain that Barry has a pattern of cornering you in your office, grilling you on who said what in his feedback, and even emailing you outside of work to try to push for answers. Say you’re not comfortable being in that position and it makes it harder to give candid feedback, and ask that he talk with Jack during or before his performance evaluation to make it clear he can’t do that this year — that it’s unacceptable, that it deters people from providing feedback, and that he’s explicitly telling him he can’t do it. Or Jack could talk with your whole team about why this isn’t okay, explain the system relies on people being able to trust feedback will be kept anonymous, and say that people should let Jack know if anyone is violating those boundaries.

That will set you up so that if Barry pushes, you can say, “Jack asked us not to have these conversations so I’m not going to talk with you about this.”

If Jack isn’t willing to do that, it’s still fine to say, “I’m uncomfortable being asked to speculate on who gave what anonymous feedback. You should talk to Jack, not me.” And if he still pushes: “Barry, this isn’t a conversation I’m willing to have. Please stop.” And then tell Jack immediately.

But it’s really problematic that Barry has apparently been doing a bad job there for years. It’s time for Jack to resolve this one way or another.

2. My employee calls me “buttercup”

How should I respond to someone (Betty) who reports to me when she calls me by a pet name? I am 45, and she is 61 and consistently calls me “buttercup.” I don’t know why, but what started as a “What’s up, buttercup?” during our weekly project debriefing has now become Betty’s consistent reference for me. I find it demeaning and feel she is trying to diminish my authority as her supervisor and in front of others on my team.

My supervisor is younger than me by six years and Betty would never think to refer to her in this unprofessional manner.

“You know, I actually don’t like ‘buttercup’! Would you mind just calling me Jane? Thank you!”

That’s it.

To the extent that you can, try to believe Betty is doing this not because she’s trying to diminish your authority but because she just doesn’t know you don’t like it. If you see other signs that she’s trying to undermine you, you should of course address those — but you’ll probably handle this more calmly and with less angst if you give her the benefit of the doubt.

3. How do I tell my boss about my predecessor’s mistakes?

I recently started a new job at a start-up, and one of my duties is supervising all internal and external documentation. The good news for me is that the vast majority was created under my predecessor, so that project is largely considered wrapped up. The bad news is that the more I review what was already done, the more mistakes I find. Few of these are serious errors; it’s mostly grammar, spelling, typos, and awkward or confusing wording. I think the small ones make us look terrible when they pile up like this, though, especially when they appear on client-facing documents.

I have already started cracking down on glaring errors in any new content, but the older documents are weighing on me. I’ve done as much editing as I can on the spot, but I have a lot of other duties and can only do so much. Everyone on my team also has pressing obligations right now.

I want to bring the issue to my boss’s attention (and possibly even suggest hiring a professional copy editor for a few hours) but I’m not sure how to go about this. My predecessor was a colleague of mine, and my boss and I both have a great deal of respect for them. I also suspect the team was under pressure to create a lot of documentation very quickly. How do I bring this up without feeling like I’m badmouthing them or asking for too much?

The key is to be matter-of-fact about it: “I’ve found a lot of our older documents have grammar and spelling errors or typos, probably because they needed to be created quickly. I’ve been fixing them as I find them, but I don’t have the time to systematically go through them all. I’m concerned it doesn’t reflect well on us to clients, so I wondered if you’d be okay with me hiring a copy editor for a few hours of work to tackle this.”

In other words, just the facts! It would come across differently if you sounded scandalized or contemptuous of the previous director, but as long as you don’t, you don’t need to dance around it. Use the same tone you’d use if you found a problem with the printer — as if it’s just a work problem, not a predecessor problem.

4. My office keeps scheduling important trainings on Jewish holidays

At my office, which is a very liberal workplace in a liberal east coast city, I am one of the few practicing Jewish employees. My issue is that we keep having mandatory trainings or very useful trainings on Jewish holidays (like on Yom Kippur) that I would love to attend but can’t. My supervisor is very understanding and no one gets upset that I can’t go, but I feel that I’m missing out on things I need to know. For me, it would be a lot better if they took these days into account instead of just being lenient in forgiving my inability to attend. What is the best way to ask this of them? Side note: our school district also includes several Jewish holidays as school holidays, so this is difficult for parents as well as religious Jews.

Yes, they need to correct this.

Try saying this: “We’ve been scheduling key trainings on important Jewish holidays, which means that I and other observant Jews can’t attend. I know inclusivity is an important value for us (that’s useful to say even if it’s not true, as it often makes people feel they should live up to it) so could we take the Jewish calendar into account when we schedule trainings? Here’s a list of the most important holidays to avoid.”

5. Can I get out of traveling for a mandatory year-end meeting?

My company has a mandatory year-end meeting in Washington D.C. Most employees work in that area but there are a handful of us in the Pacific Northwest. The meeting is always the week before Christmas and they make us fly basic economy. They pay for the flight and hotel, but not for any food expenses or anything else. Every time I’ve gone, I get the flu from the nasty flight full of sick people, and this means my Christmas is pretty much ruined. Do I have a right to decline attending? I’ve asked that they just include a webinar of the meeting for those of us off-site, but they have refused.

Since it’s mandatory, you can’t just decline — but you might be able to get out of it if you talk with your manager about the problem it causes. Explain it’s a very difficult time of year to travel for a week, given the other commitments you have then, and you can’t afford to pick up the expenses inherent in the travel, like food and other incidentals. Try to put numbers on it if you can: “Last year I ended up paying $310 for food and cabs, and I’m not in a position to continue to cover that.” Then say, “I’d strongly prefer to attend remotely or watch a video of the meeting afterwards. Is there any way we can make that work?” If not, you could say, “If it’s essential that I be there in person, I’d need the company to cover all the expenses associated with the trip.”

You might have better chances of making a change if you can get some or all of the other remote people to make this request with you.

Posted in Uncategorized

{ 585 comments… read them below }

  1. New Jack Karyn*

    5) They don’t pay for meals or ground transport? What the what? I mean really, what the everlovin’ what?

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Right?? That’s a basic cost of doing business, it’s real lousy to pass that onto employees.

    2. Zip Silver*

      Yeah, that’s a basic thing for business travel. If I were OP, I’d get with other folks and push back about not having expenses reimbursed before bringing up that they don’t want to travel that week or mentioning being bothered by germs on planes. I’d probably roll my eyes if I had somebody come to me trying to get out of travel with a flu argument.

        1. Monican*

          I really don’t think its reasonable to try to get out of having to make the trip at all, especially if these are the kind of day long, interactive meetings that a lot of companies do at the end of each year to prepare for the next year. It’s really hard to join those types of meetings remotely, especially if OP would be the only one joining remotely. 

          I do think that OP and others who travel to the meeting should ask for per diem. That’s a standard business expense that the employer should be covering, but the other complaints are not very strong. Not wanting to go because planes have germs is just not a good enough reason to get out of a mandatory meeting.

          1. Green great dragon*

            There’s also the timing. Would they be willing to shift it to January when the planes are a bit quieter? And at least if you’re ill it’s not over Christmas… Otherwise we get into the problem of the preceding letter – ‘as a remote employee I can never attend the big year-end meetings when the rest of the company gets insights and training and visibility…’

            (I would hate the timing because sometimes I like to take a long break around Christmas to visit family.)

            1. Wintermute*

              I would focus on the timing: “this is a huge time of year for family obligations, and it’s not fair to tell employees that ‘you’re never going to make your wife’s work’s holiday party, your family’s gift exchange or your kids’ christmas player ever so long as you work here”

              1. CheeryO*

                Yeah, I can’t believe this isn’t an automatic no-go for the Pacific NW folks. That’s an insane expectation right before Christmas.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  I absolutely agree. For people who don’t have to travel: annoying but fine. For people who are traveling from the other side of the country? This is WHY we have technology.

                2. Emmie*

                  It’s a difficult time of year for many people. Plus, it’s not okay to fly people across country, or on business in basic economy with all of its restrictions, and avoid paying the travel expenses.

                3. Risha*

                  Frankly, it’s bad timing even for locals. Tons of people will want to take that week off for family/travel/non-Christian holiday reasons.

                4. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

                  Sorry, but that’s part of the deal working for this company. I worked in retail for 11 years and never being able to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family, as well as not being able to take any time off from Nov. 1st to mid January was just part of the deal. So forgive me if I’m not too sympathetic to missing a spouse’s Christmas party and having to travel the week before Christmas. I do agree that they should cover all expenses though.

              2. #5 OP*

                OP here. Yes! I can never attend my husband’s (way more fun) holiday party at his work. It always seems to collide with mine.

                1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                  Well, I’ve flown a from Florida to California to Oregon in basic economy with little issues. It’s survivable. Just last week I enjoyed a middle seat in economy class from Newark to Frankfurt, an 8 hours flight, due to a last-minute rebooking.
                  But I’m somewhat used to it; last year I had a month with over 80 hours in the air, covering four continents – fortunately the longest (14 and 16 hours) flights were in business class.
                  Pack a pillow, good headphones (I recommend Bose), industrial strength airplugs and a sleeping mask, and have the luck of a not-taller-than-average body, and you’re okay. Not great, but okay.

                2. Devil Fish*

                  @Kuddel Do you have some helpful advice for OP that you forgot to post or did you just want to brag about your superhuman abilities to “survive” work travel in basic economy/criticize the OP for not sucking it up instead of looking for other solutions?

                  OP can’t change their height, might not want to (or be able to) sleep through a daytime flight, and probably isn’t interested in buying high-end headphones for a once a year trip. And none of this addresses their actual concern: getting sick every. single. time. they’ve gone on this trip.

              3. Massive Dynamic*

                “…. so long as you work here.”

                This is a great point. OP, does your company have any hiring/retention problems? Because this trip is extremely tone-deaf to the fact that people are humans who tend to get together with friends and family for All Sorts of Extra Things during the holidays, and they want all of their employees to forego a significant chunk of this for the big meeting each year.

            2. Monican*

              Yes, I agree the timing isn’t great and if a lot of OP’s coworkers are also unhappy about the timing, they may be able to get it changed, but I assume the company chose that week for a reason and it might not be possible to change it. If OP is the only one bothered by the timing, I don’t think its a good idea to use that as a reason to get out of going to the meeting.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, it’s the timing more than anything else (besides the expenses). It’s worth raising. They’re not asking to have it moved, just to be able to attend virtually.

              1. Rugby*

                If attending virtually were a suitable option, the employer would probably already be doing that for all remote employees to save money. My employer does these kind of year end trainings/meetings and joining remotely is not an option because it’s too hard to have a handful of virtual participants during discussions and group work. Of course, this depends on the company, but OP should think about whether this request would come across as out of touch at her employer.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I wouldn’t assume that! A lot of companies default to having people attend in person, both because that’s how they’ve always done it and because there are legitimately benefits to having people there in person (as you note). But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t take the request seriously. I agree the OP needs to think about whether asking would come across as out of touch in her particular workplace, but that’s the case with any advice here.

                2. Observer*

                  That’s totally not true. For one thing, good video conferencing might not save that much money (remember, they are not paying the full cost of the travel), especially in the first year. Also, lots of companies have all sorts of rule around spending money that cause some odd choices – in this case one thing that jumps to mind id CapEx vs OpEx (ie purchasing equipment vs operating costs.) Also, there is the VERY string pull of “we’ve always done it this way” and “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. We have a lot of other priorities.” And it may not even have occurred to any decision makers that video conferencing could present a viable and cost saving alternative.

                3. #5 OP*

                  OP here. That’s a really good point but this meeting isn’t interactive at all. It’s just different managers going up on stage and congratulating each other on their recent work. Every time I’ve gone, it hasn’t pertained to me or my job at all. It would be very easy for them to stick a web cam up and have a virtual option, in my opinion.

                4. Gaia*

                  That is not inherently true. They may assume their employees view this as a benefit and would want to attend in person.

          2. Shadowbelle*

            “Not wanting to go because planes have germs is just not a good enough reason to get out of a mandatory meeting.”

            I disagree. It’s a health and safety issue. OP has gotten the flu “every time”. So the trip puts OP at risk, puts everyone OP meets at the training at risk, and so forth, in ever-widening circles. OP may be more susceptible to contracting the flu. This isn’t “fear of getting the flu”, it’s actually getting the flu. WHO and CDC and many other organizations take the flu very seriously.

            1. paxfelis*

              This may backfire. Some bigwig may ask, “Why isn’t the OP getting the flu shot?” I’m not saying the OP should, and quite frankly any of the OP’s health is none of my business (and very limited business of OP’s employers).

              However, if getting the flu is presented and easily shot down by a “relatively simple” preventative measure, other objections may be regarded as less significant than they are simply because one of the first objections presented was so “trivial.”

              1. #5 OP*

                Oh, yes I do get the flu shot every year. I still usually end up getting the flu though (or what could be some other viral illness) that lasts 1-2 weeks.

                1. KoiFeeder*

                  A bit of an off-topic curiosity, but would you say that you always get the flu when in large groups of people, or just on planes, or just this particular trip? For context, Imuran means I’m immunosuppressed, and “I always get the flu on this stupid trip” rang a bell with me.

                1. Shadowbelle*

                  Yes, it’s a question of reducing the risk, not eliminating it. I started getting the flu shot when I turned 60 and officially moved into the “at risk” group. I never bothered before because 1) apart from migraines, I’m rarely sick, and 2) I’m never around other people who are in high-risk groups.

          3. #5 OP*

            OP here. That’s a really good point but I should have mentioned that this meeting is super pointless, in my opinion. It’s 1-2 hours and it seems to just be for management to self-congratulate each other on their recent work. There’s no training nor information shared that even pertains to me. I don’t even know any of these people because I don’t actually work with any of them. I’m a consultant for this company so they assign me to projects at other companies. I never work with the people at my own company.

            1. Mrs_helm*

              They may want as many people as possible there because it heightens the “reward” for the recipients. (It is not nearly as exciting to get an award in front of a few people & a camera.)

              While I do agree with AAM in theory, a couple other options came to mind. (1) Get the flu a week earlier this time. (2) Check with your Dr about your immune system, and if possible ask for the video conf “as an accommodation”.

            2. Shadowbelle*

              A dear friend is a famous scholar of religion (famous meaning that if you are in his area of specialty, you know of him, and if not, you’ve probably never heard of him) and frequently attends conferences in his field. He has been pushing very hard, and with fair success, to get these conferences to use teleconferencing technologies and not expect everyone to fly across the country on a semi-regular basis. His argument is that failure to use teleconferencing limits participation to people with money and leisure — we’re talking scholars and clergy, the majority of whom just ain’t so rich. He attended one recent conference by teleconference. It would have required him to travel literally across the country and stay in a hotel for a couple of days — and the conference lasted three hours.

            3. Galahad*

              That you are a remotely working employee, that does not interact with the others at this meeting the rest of the year…. is the number one reason why you, personally, should make going a priority. You need people to see your face, hear your voice, and have coffee / breakfast etc with you. Otherwise you will be the first name on the “redundancy” list (assuming you are not billing mega hours in a down economy). You need to be more valuable , more relatable than just your billable profits.

              The meeting itself is secondary.

              I am confused — you have week long meeting but it only lasts 1-2 hours for “awards” by management? The point of this week is obviously not about the meeting content but the face to face.

              I am also confused why the majority of your basic meals are not covered — are they typically provided “in meeting” and “group dinners” so that you only need to cover your food during your solitary flights / travel days? If so, covering 3 meals (lunches, light dinners) while travelling is not too egregious… but you could certainly ask.

              Ground transport – again, is the expectation that you take a group shuttle or carpool with others and not need taxis, except by personal choice or convenience? This one seems strange not to cover without an alternative.

              1. TrainerGirl*

                That you are a remotely working employee, that does not interact with the others at this meeting the rest of the year…. is the number one reason why you, personally, should make going a priority. You need people to see your face, hear your voice, and have coffee / breakfast etc with you. Otherwise you will be the first name on the “redundancy” list (assuming you are not billing mega hours in a down economy).

                This is not necessarily true. My father was a remote employee at a company for 20 years before he retired, and he watched many an in-office employee get laid off while he did not. I don’t know what OP’s position is in the company or how valued they are, but it’s not automatic that remote employees are at the top of the “cut” list.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        “ I’d probably roll my eyes if I had somebody come to me trying to get out of travel with a flu argument.”

        Not to put too fine of a point on it but the flu can literally be a killer…especially for those with a compromised immune system.

        1. ampersand*

          This. I think getting the flu as a result of this trip is a bigger deal than paying out of pocket for expenses the company isn’t reimbursing. I completely agree that the company should be reimbursing for travel expenses–but one of these things has the ability to kill you, and the other, not as much.

        2. Mamunia*

          I agree. That’s a very cavalier attitude. Some people are way more susceptible to illness and take much longer to recover. It isn’t just a few days working from home on the couch for some.

        3. Devil Fish*

          Right! This is the statement of someone who’s never had the flu before and as a result mistakenly identifies their worse than usual cold with a side of tummy troubles “the flu” because they don’t know how bad it is.

          I have a compromised immune system and last time I got the flu, it put me down for 2 weeks. I have almost no memories from the first week: it’s just an extended haze of fever dreams while mostly-sleeping through a series of (ill-advised) horror movies. After that, I realized I’d never actually had the flu before in my life. :(

          The flu feels like dying. If you’re at work “working through the flu,” you almost certainly do not have the flu.

      2. Librarian1*

        Also, the flu, as in actual influenza, isn’t the stomach flu where you feel bad for a day or so and then you’re better and it isn’t a cold. It’s much worse, it puts you out of commission for much longer and it really does ruin your holiday. It also makes it really difficult to do things like cook or take care of children or visit family.

        I’ve hade the flu twice: Once in 8th grade and again in 12th grade and it was awful. I missed a week of school both times and I really couldn’t do much because I was so tired and achy and my temperature was so high. The second I got it was during indoor track season and I had to miss a few practices AFTER I was well enough to return to school because it takes time to recover from it.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          I had the flu in 2016 and 2019. Both times, I knew it was the flu and not something else because of the unique way my brain felt like it was bouncing around inside my skull every time I coughed. I have NEVER felt that way with any other illness. In 2015, it took me 12 full days to get over it, and I ended up in the hospital in the middle because my wheezing was so bad I needed a breathing treatment.

          1. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

            Yeees, this. I had the flu — or something like it — in the middle of the summer. And Oh. My. Ra. I wished someone would just shoot me, run me over with a semi, SOMETHING to make it stop. I literally had to force myself to eat, because I was in so much pain, and couldn’t breathe, and couldn’t really hear, and was so exhausted… it was a long list of NOPE. I couldn’t get someone to cover my clients during that time, so I’m walking dogs while being extra exhausted and everything else. I did my best to keep from spreading this horror — carrying hand sanitizer, using gloves so I didn’t touch anything in their houses directly, wearing a mask… I think one client still got sick, and I felt really bad about passing that on.
            Since that episode, which was almost four years ago now, I’ve basically been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome AND chronic pain syndrome, both of which are not run-of-the-mill, you’re-turning-forty-three malaise, but stuff I have to take medicine for daily or I’m useless.

            I really wish people would stop dismissing flus and other illnesses as No Big Deal. Because trust me, they can be a Very Big Deal.

    3. Half-Caf Latte*

      Yeah, my (otherwise good) employer won’t cover meals if you’re attending a conference for professional development, and you’re supposed to feel lucky that they’re paying for the conference and lodging.

      This is academia-adjacent, and in an industry where margins are being squeezed, so it is what it is, but it’s big time BS.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        My (very good) employer did not pay for food when I was on an exchange program last year for three months. All other expenses (flights, rent, rental car, even a tax adviser to sort through that particular kind of mess) were paid.
        I did not mind as my food expenses were pretty much the same in Florida as in Germany, and I had rented a room in a nice house with a full kitchen. I may have paid $100 out of pocket compared to what I’d had paid at home over the three months.

    4. Not a Blossom*

      I just cannot get over that. It works out to employees having to pay to come to training! I would definitely push back on that.

      1. Beth*

        Yeah, it’s a hard limit for me also. If the company wants to save money, they can shift the meeting to January, when the airfare and hotels will be cheaper. Which will also address the problem of forcing the remote employees to ruin their Christmases.

      2. Consultant Catie*

        +1, I completely agree. It’s wrong for them to require a mandatory training that you have to pay out-of-pocket for, especially during a time of year that’s already so expensive for so many people. I realize you don’t want to have to go at all, but if they flew you on regular economy (not basic) and covered your expenses, would that change your mind? You might just be 100% over it completely and not willing to go at all at this point, but I think it’s worth being willing to compromise with your boss and offering your cooperation if they made it comfortable for you to travel.

        If this is the case, I would present it to your boss in the same language that Alison has suggested in so many other instances – “Unfortunately I’m not able to afford paying out of pocket for this training. Given that that’s not an option, does it make more sense to set this up as a webinar so I can attend remotely, or should I submit my expenses for reimbursement after the trip?” **Bonus points for summarizing this conversation via email afterwards so you have ammunition in case they try to change their minds after the fact.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          This is a more mature option than what I was going to suggest: that OP catch their “travel flu” a few days early, cough cough sneeze, and be too sick to go this year!

          1. #5 OP*

            OP here. Not going to lie – I’ve definitely considered that. But I have to book the plane tickets in advance and would feel bad wasting the company’s money.

          2. Consultant Catie*

            Your option is more satisfying though! “Too bad, so sad, I’ll try again next year!” lol.

      1. CL*

        Indeed. Everything is expensive, ESPECIALLY food and taxis.

        I would think that hotel and airfare would also be cheaper after the first of the year.

    5. JSB*

      That’s really odd. I wonder what the terms of her employment are. It would a bit different if her ability to live in another state and work remotely were a negotiated PERK and the deal was they would pay for her plane ticket/hotel to the annual meeting but no local expenses. Other than a scenario like that, company should be picking up all travel expenses.

      1. #5 OP*

        OP here. Yes, that would be a good point. It’s just the headquarters is located in DC and there’s a tiny branch of us in the PNW. I still go into an office and am actually not allowed to work remotely.

        1. wb*

          Now it makes even less sense, I’d assumed you were 100% remote. This is actually 0% remote. You’re in your official workspace where you were hired to be. Not including a per-diem in mandatory travel from one office to another is utter nonsense imo.

        2. Malarkey01*

          So this sounded so incredibly like my set up that for a second I assumed it was someone in my company, but our “all hands” trips aren’t in December and we do get expenses paid.

          I would just add that you need to be extremely aware of your company culture around this. Although we have satellite offices, the bigwigs still expect to see everyone at these meetings- it’s important for your reputation, whether you get additional promotions or opportunities, and not attending is a big mark against you as it’s seen as being unwilling to travel to the main office, not being a team player, and not understanding expectations. We have people that don’t like to come to the annual meeting (which sound similar to yours and often you think isn’t this just an email). However when people don’t Attend it is raised as a very big deal and is discussed negatively- I’m NOT saying that’s right, but that is the reality of what happens.

          Not sure if it’s similar to your company, but I would look at trying to get he timing altered and expenses instead of just saying you didn’t want to come.

          1. #5 OP*

            Yes, they take it super seriously. When I first started, I told my manager that my husband and I had been invited to spend that weekend with my in-laws for Christmas and that I have three different families in three different states to spend Christmas with and there just aren’t enough Christmas weekends to go around. She responded by apologizing for not explaining to me how critical the year-end weekend is to our company culture. She didn’t even acknowledge my family obligations. It was like she was saying “I’m sorry you thought your family should be more important than this company event”.

            1. Shadowbelle*

              It’s important to the company culture? Well, my goodness, why didn’t they say that up front? That makes everything different!

              The company culture is to waste your time and money and get you sick over the holidays so that you can be there in person to watch self-important executives prance about on a stage for a couple of hours?

              Uh-huh, right, okay. Thanks, but I’ll take my culture on sour cream and call it Roquefort.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              Ugh. That’s just awful. That she thinks attending a back-slap fest for bigwigs is more important than your family is just pathetic, and says waaaay to much about her. The fact that she thinks not covering cabs and meals (at expensive restaurants) is “normal” and acceptable is just the icing on the cake.

              If it was me, I’d be job hunting. Those people are tone deaf, at best.

              1. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

                Totally this. I would die on that hill. This kind of crap is precisely why I refuse to get a “grown up” job. I’m happier not having to put up with this level of head-up-behind-ness. No. Not at all. I’m not flying across anything during holidays where I have no option to see my family, plus paying for all of it to watch some big-wigs pat themselves on the back. No, screw you.

                Funnily enough, as a petsitter, I’ve missed some holidays staying overnights at other people’s houses, but they at least leave me fancy wine (which tastes like vinegar to me, but whatever, I can give it to family) and HUGE gift cards, not to mention fancy chocolate and things, thanking me for staying with their pups. And they are even okay if I go to my family’s house for a couple hours on the holiday itself, anyway, to get dinner with family.

                Yeah… I think I’ll stay a petsitter/kennel attendant. It’s a dirty, messy job that doesn’t pay a lot, but at least my coworkers are cute and generally easy to get along with — they always give kisses and bring me their toys so we get to play.

                What? I’m not trying to recruit anyone to throw over the business world for dogs. Not at all… :D

            3. Malarkey01*

              Yeah in that case I think given the additional information, it’s important you attend, especially if you’ve raised the issue before and gotten pushback.

              I get how annoying this seems, I will say having been on both sides of the remote equation, sometimes it is important to just be seen. Missing out on those random moments throughout the year at morning coffee breaks or someone’s retirement party does play into your perception at headquarters. I’ve also been the manager who has been frustrated when explaining each year that these meetings are mandatory by the leadership team, that some people continue each year with a new excuse to not attend (although I totally support that yours shouldn’t be right before the holidays).

            4. redmielita*

              I am about 99.999% sure, from your description, that my brother used to work at your company-if not the same company, it was certainly its evil twin. He got sick and tired of the nonsense and left. I am getting the sinking feeling that you may be well advised to do the same.

          2. Beth*

            I’d second the ‘be aware of company culture’ thing. I worked at a place for a couple years post-undergrad that had meetings like this ONCE A MONTH. Everyone in the main office (thousands of people) had to attend. Remote employees (of which there weren’t many) had to remote in most of the time, and I’m pretty sure they had at least one or two times a year when they had to attend in person. They were ridiculous wastes of time that would take a full half day even for those of us who were local, and which never had any bearing whatsoever on my work…but the company also took them very seriously and made a huge deal of anyone missing it, to the extent that it was just easier to avoid scheduling appointments or being on vacation that day.

            If your company has a weird culture thing like that, then it might be more feasible/better received to push for full reimbursement and/or for the meeting to be moved to a different time next year than to ask to attend remotely. Even if you’d prefer the latter, go for what you think is a winnable fight.

      2. Cat*

        Yeah, I am actually in exactly that situation – I work remotely in the PNW and go back to the home office in DC for work sometimes, which is a perk for me. I pay for food; company pays for airfare and hotel. We never explicitly discussed taxis, so I expense them.

    6. wittyrepartee*

      This makes me feel way better about working for government. They penny pinch, but they also insist on paying for 3 squares and a snack.

      1. Antilles*

        For the record, I don’t think this isn’t really a government vs corporate thing.
        In my experience, the overwhelming majority of private companies do recognize and understand that meals and various incidental expenses are part of business travel. The exact logistics of how you get paid for these items vary from company to company, but it’s definitely the standard.
        The only time that I’ve seen an exception, as noted by others, is when it’s something purely for your own personal development (e.g., conferences)…and even then, many industries won’t blink at paying since the $60/day for meals and incidentals is almost a rounding error compared to the conference fees, flight, hotel, lost productivity/billability, etc that they’re already paying for.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Oh, I get that this is not normal in industry. But government is super strict about any sort of food or entertainment on the taxpayer’s dollar. We do not get free coffee, and all parties are potlucks or paid for by the Union and off premises. For instance, if I was flying to a conference in a city where I had friends, I not only wouldn’t be able to get them to buy a ticket of equal price that didn’t exactly sandwich the dates of the conference, but I also wouldn’t be able to get a one way ticket to the conference for less. I would have to “miss” the flight back. I’m glad that their inflexibility makes it so that if they’re having you do any travel for work, there will be a per diem.

    7. TimeTravlR*

      My daughter worked for a company that only gave her $25 a day for food when she was on travel. Their rationale was that if she was home she’d have to buy food anyway. Yeah… but if she was at home she wouldn’t have to eat out every meal! No surprise, she doesn’t work there any more… that was just a sample of how they did business.

    8. #5 OP*

      So I approached my manager about it and she did agree to have the company reimburse me for the needed ground transit but said the company would not reimburse for food. I told her this was a problem as I’m trying to save money right now and eating out in DC can be expensive. She responded by saying that she would pay for me herself and we would just eat all our meals together. What!? That’s nice of her but that shouldn’t be the solution. Also, it was quite embarrassing having to tell her I can’t really afford to eat out on this trip. That should be beside the point.

      1. But There is a Me in Team*

        Oh my Lord OP5- they are really down this rabbit hole. Is this worth looking for another job over? Is it symptomatic of other out-of-touch practices? Eat every meal w/ your boss?!? I’m rebellious and would be tempted to make up a fender bender on the way to the airport or something…
        You have my sympathies. They bonkers.

      2. Shadowbelle*

        OK, if she’s willing to personally pay for your meals, she can calculate what it would come out to and personally give you a per diem.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        You gotta be kidding! The company not covering meals on travel is just horrible, and the workaround is cringeworthy.

        The whole thing is so tone deaf and dismissive of remote employees it isn’t even funny.

    9. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

      Last year, i attended a training that would be (and has been) very beneficial to our organization. work paid for the training (a couple hundred dollars), but my [previous] boss told me (per our VP) that the org would not pay for travel or hotel.
      the training was in CO, and i’m in Dallas, TX.
      i couldn’t shell out the hundreds of dollars for a flight out, so i decided to drive. the training itself was a one-day training on a sunday (ugh) so i had to use Friday as PTO to travel (12-13hr drive), Saturday was leisure, Sunday was the training. Then Monday another day of PTO to travel back. Tuesday, i took PTO just to rest and recover and be ready to work Wednesday.
      with gas and hotel and everything, i ended up paying around $600 to attend a ~$200 training work wanted me to go to. and i used a bunch of PTO. more than half of my paycheck was gone in that one weekend and i scraped by for two weeks until my next one.
      This year, i was sent to another similar training in Chicago by my new boss, same organization. this one was on a Sunday as well. This time, work paid for the flight, the hotel, and even the food. i didn’t even have to take any PTO as the training and travel counted as hours worked and i was able to take a few days off.
      i’m still quite salty about how much i had to spend for the CO trip. i have a feeling things weren’t handled properly by my old boss.

    10. Curmudgeon in California*


      They want you to fly, in steerage, the week before Christmas, but not cover things like cabs and expensive restaurant food?

      That is both profligate on their part (airfares are high between Thanksgiving and New Years) and unfairly parsimonious. I am not even sure that not covering meals and transport for mandatory travel is legal (IANAL).

      To prevent the illnesses, you may want to wear a face mask, and start taking extra vitamins (like Vitamin C) before you go to boost your immune system.

      OTOH, if I had to do this I’d start looking, just because of the tone deaf parsimony and lack of consideration for people’s personal lives. DC, in December, the week before Christmas, and having to foot the bill for meals and transportation? Ugh. Just ugh.

      1. Devil Fish*

        Vitamin C doesn’t work like that. It’s a myth that isn’t backed by any studies or data. (Airborne was invented by a teacher, and teachers obviously know all about the science of illness since they spend time around children and are sick all the time, the same way that anyone who drives a car knows just as much as a trained mechanic.)

        Face masks don’t work like that. They’re super effective at preventing the germs inside your body from getting out, and they help sick people to not spread illnesses to others but they do next to nothing for keeping germs outside of your body from getting in (if someone sneezes directly in your face, sure, a face mask would work for that, but germs in the air will circulate under and around the face mask just fine).

    11. Nana*

      Coming late to the party, but for next year: Airfare and hotel rates are pretty darn LOW between the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and about December 15th. No one wants to travel on those dates, so there’s a ‘trough’ of lower airfares and hotel rooms (doesn’t do anything about the food issue, of course).
      See if you can get a hotel room with a mini-fridge, so you can buy some groceries, rather than eating out 3x day.
      Sorry that your company sucks!

  2. Alianora*

    #4 – as a person who schedules meetings for my team, it’s really helpful when they mark their days off on their own calendars. If you aren’t already doing this, I think it’d be worthwhile in addition to bringing the issue up with your supervisor.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s still worth explicitly naming what’s happening with Jewish holidays though, because otherwise the problem may not get solved. They’re fine with her missing the meetings if she needs to be out that day — but she doesn’t want to have to miss them.

      1. JSPA*

        School holidays and major religious holidays should be on the work calendar to start with, no? And any planning email should go out saying, “note that one of the proposed dates overlaps [x]; does this present a hardship to anyone who wants to attend?”

        Admittedly, school holidays can in theory be handled by hiring someone; but when every kid in public school has a holiday on the same date, that’s not a trivial thing to do. As a result, it defaults to a hidden “parent track” situation (not to call it Mommy track) where whichever parent ends up stuck with kid minding duties loses not only work hours but the sort of training that leads to advancement.

        IMO, this functionally can work out to some pretty active discrimination. You need X training to move up. X training is offered on a day where [group of people] have to do [unacceptable or very difficult thing] to attend. Result, discriminatory.

        1. Cascadia*

          Yes, in my organization we use outlook. We have one shared calendar that’s called the master calendar, and any event/meeting you are organizing you also have to invite the master calendar to. The master calendar has EVERY holiday on it, so you can check and see if there are conflicts. Since we are a school, we also have to submit every all-school major event to this calendar for the following school year by April, and then a committee goes through and finds every conflict or issue and adjusts the dates/times. We have someone from our diversity team on this committee so that we are making sure to catch the religious holidays or other conflicts that might not have occurred to the person organizing the meeting. It’s time-consuming but oh so important for an inclusive community.

          1. Mama Bear*

            Interesting perspective. The OP pointed out that the local schools have the days off (our schools were closed yesterday) so missing this info could be hitting not just the observant but parents in general. I suspect the company hasn’t thought about the long-term repercussions on careers when people can’t attend these very meetings on a regular basis. The OP might also see about getting other affected folks to bring it up as well.

        2. Name Required*

          There are 5 different school systems (5 counties) plus private schools in my area. They do not share the same calendar. No, short days, school breaks, and holidays for those school systems should not be on the work calendar. We’d never schedule anything.

          1. Observer*

            Sure – when there are that many school systems parents (or mothers, more commonly) are far less likely to be disproportionately affected by this issue. But when you are in an area with ONE public school system and most of the private schools in the area follow pretty much the same calendar, it’s willfully obtuse to pretend that this is not an issue that should be taken into account.

            1. Clorinda*

              Even though there will be some breaks that vary (fall break), many of them will be pretty similar. Most school systems will have the week off between Christmas and New Year, for example.

        3. Lenore*

          If you know you have employees who are of a certain ethnic or faith tradition and they have major holidays or events, you need to be proactive. Two examples, one good, one bad:

          (1) When I lived in San Diego County, one of the local orgs that worked with the local tribes always marked out days on the calendar where that tribe would be having a Pow Wow or major event. These were not religious days, but were very important culturally. I cannot tell you how much the local tribal membership appreciated it. In fact, it did get back to the tribal elders. One once told me it was the first time outsiders had cared enough to proactively find out about what dates were important to the tribe and mark them off limits for meetings and optional activities.

          (2) A friend of mine is Jewish. Owns a major business in the region. Only Jewish family in the industry. The rest are Christian in culture if not always in faith. Trade group schedules a major meeting on one of the High Holy Days and gets very upset when the Jewish owned business does not buy it’s usual 4-5 tables b/c the trade group was “counting on them” to do so. Someone called from the trade group to the business to complain. That did not go over well.

          Part of being a decedent human being in 2019 is marking the days that are important to others on the calendar. It’s not 1989. It’s not that difficult. One can either subscribe via the calendar app or open google.

          That should be baseline. Then the employer/scheduler/etc. should ask it’s employees/membership/service community if there are additional days that should be noted on the calendar.

          Yes, it’s work. But baseline politeness requires a bit of work on behalf of someone scheduling an event or meeting.

          1. Lenore*

            Edited to add: Some Pow Wows can have religious elements and spiritual elements, but the ones that this tribal group was hosting was more of a gathering of the various tribes/open the doors to non-natives event.

            Not saying that Pow Wows should never be considered equivalent to Christmas Day, just that we shouldn’t limit this to only things that the dominant culture deems “religious.”

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            I’m in the legal biz. The entire industry shuts down for the high holy days. Not really, but it seems that way, and no one really expects to be able to reach a lawyer, unless his name is Kelly. The courts are open, but you can get a postponement for trials and hearings just by muttering “Yom Kippur” or the like. I, a Lutheran boy, am at my desk, but it is quiet, which is all to the good.

          3. Observer*

            #1 – I’m sad that this was a big deal. As you say, this should be a base line.

            #2 – That’s rude. And INCREDIBLY stupid. If these guys are big enough fish that you are actually banking on their attendance, then you should take the trouble to know when they are likely to have a schedule conflict. It’s been a couple of decades since this has been a REALLY simple thing to do for most religions and cultures.

        4. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

          Except Jewish holidays aren’t considered major. Christian ones are. Jewish holidays do not fall on the same days as Christian ones.

          1. Observer*

            Seriously? Only Christians have “major” holidays? Jews don’t have “major holidays”? What is your basis for saying this?

          2. GooseTracks*

            Do you mean they aren’t considered major by the dominant American culture, even though they are major to Jews? That’s how I read it – and, as an observant Jew who’s taking seven days off work this month for the High Holidays,* I sort of agree. But that doesn’t mean we should all accept this as the reality – OP definitely has standing to politely push back and ask that her workplace not schedule an important or mandatory training on a day like Yom Kippur, when it should really be obvious that many Jewish people will not be at work. (And if it’s not obvious, it should only take one person pointing it out to bring that awareness.)

            Not sure what the point about Jewish holidays and Christian holidays not falling on the same days is, though. They’re totally different holidays, so why would they line up? Besides which, the Jewish calendar is lunar so Jewish holidays fall on different dates in the Gregorian calendar every year.

            *Rosh Hashana – 2 days; Yom Kippur – 1 day; Sukkot – 2 days; Simchat Torah/Shemini Atzeret – 2 days

        5. A*

          Major religious holidays yes, but why school holidays? Maybe if it’s in relation to a department that is staffed by primarily parents of school-aged kids. The vast majority of my coworkers don’t have children, and we expect childcare to be handled in a manner that doesn’t require the whole department to work around (although 100% acceptable to take PTO etc.)

    2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      It isn’t just the OP’s personal quirk or coincidental personal day, though. It’s something that’s going to affect multiple people.

      Trainings and other work meetings are often scheduled before people arrange their days off for holidays—I think I booked my High Holy Days time off three weeks in advance this year—and the holidays fall on a different Gregorian date every year. If someone had mentioned back in July that there was a training scheduled for October 9th, I wouldn’t have remembered that October 9th was Yom Kippur and I couldn’t attend, and there wouldn’t have been anything on my calendar about me being out of the office.

      This is an access and equality issue and should be addressed at the institutional level, not the individual level.

      1. Avasarala*

        If it’s an international company, or a company with a diverse staff (every company is but let’s pretend they care about this sort of thing) it may be helpful to mark major religious/ethnic/other holidays on the shared office calendar.

        I know for my calendars I was able to download my national holidays and have them automatically marked. Helps me because I don’t have to remember when My Holiday is this year, or when my international colleagues have their Country B Holiday. It just shows them as out of the office.

        If you can’t find a way to automatically do it, maybe something an admin could do is create, update yearly, and distribute a shared office calendar to go along with people’s time off. In that case it would be important to share specifically which holidays though, as I’ve seen a totally-not-Christian company mark Hanukkah but not any other Jewish holidays (to quote the Hebrew Hammer, “It’s not even a high holiday!”)

        1. Clorinda*

          It can’t be that hard to do. My pocket calendar, not even electronic, the little notebook one I carry in my purse and bought at Walmart for a dollar, has Christian, Jeweish, Muslim, and even Hindu holidays noted for 2019 and 2020. These things aren’t exactly secrets.

          1. Avasarala*

            Nope, just Hanukkah. I knew the owners were Christian because of the Bible quote on our “year end” cards that came with a Christmas ornament, but… seriously? Hanuakkah is not “Jewish Christmas”…

      2. Alianora*

        I don’t disagree. It’s just a practical suggestion in case the LW’s office doesn’t immediately implement some kind of check for this.

      3. Essess*

        Agreed. If they don’t change this scheduling, then you can (and should) play the religion card that you are being penalized by missing essential training because of your religion and that runs afoul of EEOC rules.

      4. Observer*

        Outlook actually has a setting to show major Jewish Holidays. Also, there is at least one site (hebcal dot com) that allows you to download a calendar in several formats to have the dates of all the holidays – I they have a version that goes for 5 years.

        What that does is insure that when you get a schedule like that you don’t have to remember when Yom Kippur falls that year – it’s right there when you go to schedule.

      5. Observer*

        But, I agree this should DEFINITELY be on the master calendar used by whoever schedules these things.

      6. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

        It’s not hard to find out when the next several years’ worth of Yom Kippurs are. When people have said they didn’t know, I like to remind them that Judaism pre-dates the Gregorian calendar and the existence of the company or trade org, so it’s not exactly a surprise the holidays happen every year — technically we booked first. Someone I work with was pretty rude to me when I reminded them that Christmas is a religious holiday but I will continue to pipe up until people stop thinking the Christian holidays are the only ones.

    3. Beth*

      This is true in a lot of cases, but when it comes to major religious holidays, it’s a bigger issue than any one person’s calendar. It should be default behavior to avoid scheduling mandatory trainings on Yom Kippur or Eid the same way it would be avoided for Christmas; since it’s not the default everywhere, reminding people that it needs remembering is important.

      1. Lynn Marie*

        Yes, and be proactive about flagging the holidays’ dates every year in January or December if that’s when the next year’s schedule is made up and bringing them to your company’s attention to be noted in the official calendar even if they’re not paid holidays. Should you have to do this? No. Does it help raise awareness and solve the problem? It could.

      2. wittyrepartee*

        And since we’re talking a big diverse city? Add in Diwali (which is celebrated by four major religions) and Lunar New Year (celebrated by like… half the population of the world).

        1. Dot*

          There was just a letter complaining about an office that insisted on celebrating Diwali when no one in the office observed it. Everyone in the comments was outraged.

          Today everyone is outraged that every religious and school holiday and local cultural event isn’t blocked off for meetings without individuals having to ask.

          1. Lepidoptera*

            I don’t see any outrage, just helpful tips.

            And there’s a complete difference between celebrating a holiday that isn’t celebrated by anyone in your company and making sure that training isn’t scheduled on holy days that actual people in your actual company have to take time off to celebrate.

            1. Dot*

              “I don’t see any outrage, just helpful tips.

              And there’s a complete difference between celebrating a holiday that isn’t celebrated by anyone in your company and making sure that training isn’t scheduled on holy days that actual people in your actual company have to take time off to celebrate.”

              What are your helpful tips for people who don’t feel comfortable disclosing their religious beliefs in the workplace for fear of discrimination?

              1. Joielle*

                Wait, so you don’t want to disclose your own religious beliefs in the workplace? That’s fine, of course, but then wouldn’t it benefit you if religious holidays were blocked off on work calendars without people having to ask? I’m confused about what you’re disagreeing with here.

          2. F.M.*

            Of course, because those are very different situations.

            When I as arranging happy hour meetups for the department, I made sure not to schedule them on Jewish holidays, because it would be unprofessional (and unkind) to put team building events at a time that several people in the department couldn’t attend, and which I could easily tell in advance they wouldn’t be able to attend. But I didn’t then follow up by attempting to celebrate those holidays myself, because I’m not Jewish.

            To use an imperfect analogy, it’s nice if my friends remember my birthday, but I would be baffled and a little upset if they got together without me to have cake and exchange presents in “my” honor while I was off elsewhere.

            1. Dot*

              You missed my point.

              Should the company block out Diwali for meetings, even if no one in the office celebrates it? And how will they know who celebrates which religious holiday?

              How do you see this working in real life? Asking everyone to disclose their beliefs and religious practices?

              Or blocking out the calendar for Diwali in an office where no one celebrates it?

              I’m just wondering how this works in practice. Because the boss celebrating Diwali in an effort to be more inclusive got pretty roundly ridiculed, and bosses going around asking everyone about their religion strikes me as highly inappropriate, and taking a guess at which religious holidays should be blocked off is, well, what a lot of workplaces already do, and it’s not a perfect system, as we can see. So what’s left?

              1. SimplyTheBest*

                It seems like you’re the point. Having your office celebrate a holiday no one celebrates and making sure no one schedules a big meeting on a day where someone could have a potential religious conflict are not in any way the same thing, so why are you insisting on comparing them?

                So to answer your questions on how to (very easily) do this in real life: put Eid and Yom Kippur and Diwali and Christmas on your company calendar and don’t schedule major meetings on them. That’s it.

                1. Dot*

                  How do you know you’re not missing other major holidays?

                  Listen, I’m in favor of employees being able to prioritize their religion over work, for every religion. I’m pushing back on the idea that it’s some simple, easy thing to do, when most workplaces struggle to schedule meetings around other meetings, not to mention appointments, remote work, and sick days. Blocking off entire days every month would have kneecapped some of the project managers I’ve worked with.

                  It’s really easy to say it’s easy, and to cry discrimination if it doesn’t get done. It’s a lot harder to do in real life when dealing with a big team.

                  And MANY people don’t feel comfortable discussing their religion in the workplace, which, if it’s not something you’ve experienced, might be hard to understand.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  This is a community with a large enough Jewish population that the schools close for important Jewish holidays. It’s really not a big leap to say companies should know to consider those days as well.

                3. Le Sigh*

                  @Dot You might be, sure. And yeah, it can be tough to schedule meetings with big teams. But that doesn’t mean you don’t figure out ways to make it work. And when someone brings it up to you (as in LW’s case) you don’t just shrug your shoulders.

                  Also, people aren’t “crying” discrimination. They’re pointing out that regardless of intent, if the Jewish employees are the ones missing out on trainings and other important meetings b/c they’re always on their holidays, and the office isn’t taking it seriously, well, yeah, it’s discrimination. Tough.

                  Also, the boss trying to celebrate Diwali is not relevant to this situation. This argument, combined with the “OMG HOW ARE WE EVER GONNA SCHEDULE ANYTHING MEETINGS HOLIDAYS SICK DAYS AHHHHH SO COMPLICATED PLEASE DON’T ARREST ME” feels like every argument I’ve ever heard when someone doesn’t actually *want* to spend 15 min figuring out how to make things work. It’s not that it can’t be complicated or that there’s any one perfect way. But if you actually want to be sure those employees (be it women, Jewish staff members, whatever) are really, truly valued and part of the team, you just get to work figuring it out.

                4. SimplyTheBest*

                  @Dot. You know when people tell you and you adapt moving forward. No one’s going to get everything correct every time. But you work on what you can do instead of just throwing up your hands and saying it’s too hard to accommodate anything but Christmas.

                  I know where I live. I know what the major religions are that are practiced in the area. I know the major holidays for my religion and know how to use google and a telephone in order to find out the ones for the other major religions. I know that if I’m planning a big project for September/October to factor the High Holy Days into my timeline, just like you probably know to factor in Christmas and the amount of people who want to time off when you have December projects. Again, not that hard.

              2. Le Sigh*

                This feels like you’re working way too hard to make this seem more complicated than it is, esp. because these two cases are apples and oranges.

                The boss got ridiculed because it appeared that, in an effort to be diverse, the office–none of whom appeared to know anything about the holiday or celebrate it in any form–wanted to just randomly start celebrating it. That isn’t be inclusive; felt more like checking a box off the diversity list than actually thinking what it means to be diverse in real life and practice.

                In the LW’s case, it’s already *known* that LW and others celebrate these holidays. LW has said as much to their boss! So to continue NOT including Jewish holidays when scheduling these trainings effectively cuts multiple staff members out of these trainings. Not only are they not considering it in advance, they’re saying it’s no big deal if they can’t attend — so they’re not even thinking through the consequences of what they’re saying and doing, or the longer-term impact.

                You don’t need to take a survey of everyone’s religion. But instead of treating the Georgian calendar as the only default calendar, it’s wise to include other major calendars as default. And when someone speaks up, saying they’re being left out because no one is using those calendars to plan, DO something about it. Don’t shrug.

                1. Dot*

                  “In the LW’s case, it’s already *known* that LW and others celebrate these holidays. LW has said as much to their boss! So to continue NOT including Jewish holidays when scheduling these trainings effectively cuts multiple staff members out of these trainings.”

                  I completely agree with you. Nowhere did I state otherwise.

                  “But instead of treating the Georgian calendar as the only default calendar, it’s wise to include other major calendars as default.”

                  I’m not sure I know what the Georgian calendar is. If you mean the Gregorian calendar, Wikipedia says it’s the one “used in most of the world” and has more to do with months and dates, rather than holidays.

                2. Dot*

                  @Le Sigh You seem to be deliberately misunderstanding me.

                  I fully support a workplace being inclusive and accommodating for employees to be able to take off work to practice their religion. If that means making sure not to schedule major trainings on Jewish holidays, particularly in an office where not doing so would impact a lot of employees, then that seems like a great idea.

                  I just think it would be nice if, as a society, we could even discuss religion without people feeling comfortable slamming whatever religion they happen to not like, but sadly we aren’t there, and we’re getting farther away from it all the time. I’ve seen Christianity criticized plenty of times on this site, and heard the same in real life offices.

                  Just be sure you’re actually practicing what you’re asking for from others. I don’t see that in my life, so I don’t discuss religion in the workplace, for fear of repercussions. This seems like a more basic right than asking for meetings to be scheduled differently.

              3. Joielle*

                Uh… block out the calendar for Diwali regardless of whether anyone celebrates it. Better to err on that side than the other, and if you later hire someone who celebrates Diwali, you’ll already be set.

              4. MeepMeep*

                How hard is it to find out what holidays the employees at the firm actually do celebrate, and just blocking those out? Bosses going around asking people what their religion is in an effort to make sure they can celebrate their major holidays and not miss out on work stuff doesn’t sound all that inappropriate to me at all. If your office has a lot of Zoroastrian employees and no Jewish employees, you block out the Zoroastrian holidays but not the Jewish ones. Easy and inclusive.

          3. wittyrepartee*

            As other people mentioned: celebrating a holiday (particularly one with religious significance) that no one in the office celebrates is a lot different from just making sure that you’re aware of it and avoid having important meetings and trainings on that day.

            I can think of a few ways of addressing this issue.
            1) Under all circumstances, you should allow people from unlisted religions to quietly speak to their supervisors or anonymously request that you avoid scheduling things over their major religious holidays.
            2) You could make sure all the holidays from major world religions are on the office calendar, avoid scheduling on those days.
            3) You could look at demographics in your area and see what the major religious/ethnic groups are, look up major holidays and block them out on the calendar.

            The idea isn’t that you’ll always get it perfect, it’s that you’ll mostly cover your bases and give people a place to request.

          4. Beth*

            This is a straw horse argument. Doing a fake ‘celebration’ in-office of a holiday that’s for a religion/culture that no one in the office is even a member of is very different from saying “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t schedule major mandatory trainings on days when Jewish people are likely to be out.”

      3. Polaris*

        Yeah, this year my office got egg on their face when they scheduled a mandatory meeting and then sent out an awkward retraction the next day that it was being moved because it had been pointed out that the initial date was on Rosh Hashanah. I missed a department meeting yesterday because of Yom Kippur. (Which I had to use vacation time to take off, and I will never not be salty about this issue.)

        1. texan in exile*

          I was mortified for my former employer the time they not only scheduled a meeting on Yom Kippur but also served bagels topped with cheese and pork sausage.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            *Everyone* should be outraged at bagels with cheese and pork sausage. I’m surprised there’s a bagel shop that makes them.

            1. Evan Þ.*

              One of my coworkers brought them in to my office last month, and I loved them!

              (He also brought some cheese-and-egg-topped bagels for people who don’t eat pork.)

            2. Observation... :/*

              Really? Bagels with sausage or bacon, egg, and cheese are extremely popular. I’d be more surprised to find a bagel shop that didn’t make them.

            3. Richard Hershberger*

              This sounds like it is simply a breakfast sandwich, using a bagel as the bread. A bagel is a pretty good choice: better than a lousy store biscuit. I think that McDonald’s got it right the first time, using an English muffin. I don’t know why more places don’t do that.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            *facepalm* Bagels with pork? As in the cream cheese and pork not on the side? That’s just horrible.

    4. EPLawyer*

      Do they have to mark off Christmas on their calendars to make sure you don’t schedule anything on that day? of course, not because it’s obvious no one is working on December 25. Same thing here.

      Most calendars will let you include major religious holidays. Just add them on your calendar so you are covered for ALL religions, not just Christian ones.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s assuming there is a single company calendar. I get what Alianora is saying because I have to be sure to do the same thing. I’m Jewish and my BOSS is Jewish, yet I’m more observant than he is so he sometimes forgets that I take the second day of Rosh Hashanah off. Marking my calendar is insurance. It sucks, but it’s better for me if I do it.

      2. Dot*

        There are many, many Christian holidays that don’t get included in office calendars. Do you know what they are?

        Plenty of people around the world celebrate secular Christmas in addition to Christian Chrstmas. That’s why it’s automatically included as a day off. I don’t know any offices that close for All Saint’s Day, however.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          People celebrate Christmas because they can’t get away from it. There is nothing secular about it, and it’s nothing other than Christian privilege that it’s considered a national holiday in so many parts of the world.

          No one’s asking for office to include every little thing within each holiday (like All Saint’s Day). They’re asking to include the ones that are comparable in importance to Christmas and Easter.

          1. Dot*

            Sorry, but you might want to spend some time talking to people who celebrate secular Christmas and get a sense of how they actually feel about it before making statements like this.

            This is exactly the kind of bias that makes it hard to have conversations around religion at work.

            1. Blueberry*

              The fact that pointing out Christian privilege, which is a very real thing, is considered ‘bias’ makes it harder have conversations about religion at work, since everyone knows which religion is by default considered the ‘real’ one.

            2. Librarian1*

              Just because people who don’t go to church celebrate Christmas or who aren’t Christian celebrate Christmas, doesn’t make it a non-religious holiday. And frankly, if you’re in a majority Christian country like, say, the US or European countries, it’s definitely religious.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Go down that road and every day is the festival of some saint or other. For most purposes, Christmas and Easter are the days to worry about, and perhaps Good Friday in a really Catholic area. St. Patrick’s Day perhaps, in a really Irish area, but let’s get real: that is for drinking, not churching. The idea of taking the day off for All Saints, or Ascension or Epiphany or the Feast of the Assumption, etc…? That would be odd.

          1. Dot*

            Why would it be odd? Catholics are required to attend mass on some of those days, and to refrain from working. That’s the whole reason the idea of holidays were invented in the first place.

            And yes, going down that road does mean there a lot of religions with a lot of holy days. That’s my point.

        3. Oaktree*

          Dot, you seem to have a real problem admitting that Christian holidays are Christian and that they are “secular” purely because the United States and other European or European-dominated countries are only nominally secular. You do realize that many people don’t consider Christmas and Easter to be secular holidays? Even my ex-Christian, or atheists of Christian family, friends will admit this. Your recalcitrance is telling.

    5. OP 4*

      I do ask for these days off about 1 month+ in advance and mark them on my calendar even earlier than that, but I can ask if it would be helpful to add them to the shared calendar (where we put important deadlines and other team info). Thanks!

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, if there’s a shared calendar add them there. In my liberal east coast city where the schools are closed for the major Jewish holidays, scheduling important stuff on Yom Kippur is something that non-Jewish people often don’t think about proactively but generally know to avoid when it’s pointed out.

        One thing that can happen is that those dates are more available when someone goes to book something, since lots of other people aren’t scheduling conference rooms or whatever during that slot. So it really helps to put the info where it’s very visible to people.

        1. 2 Cents*

          In fact, because it’s a religious holiday that might not otherwise noted on the calendar, more meetings might be scheduled that day because, hey, lots of people’s schedules are free that day!

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I think it’s generally useful info to have on a shared calendar anyway, particularly if you have an international client base. I’m in the UK and my employer does a lot of business in the Middle East so we always have the dates of the major Islamic festivals marked in our shared calendar to remind us to get things submitted before the holiday starts, expect longer turnaround times, etc etc. We do the same with American holidays so we’re not all wondering why nobody is replying to our emails on Thanksgiving. It’s just useful general knowledge.

        1. Christmas Carol*

          In my Upper Midwest American State, you better mark Deer Season on the calendar, or you will be left wondering why none of your vendors or customers reply to your queries the last two weeks in November.

          1. Sharkie*

            My college gave us a 10-day break at Thanksgiving for this reason. They were sick of professors canceling all their classes that week.

          2. F.M.*

            Once explained to someone on the internet that they were probably having so much trouble contacting the owner of a retired sled dog they were fostering because it was the week the Iditarod started. Sled-dog people were a bit… busy.

          3. PlainJane*

            The Pacific Northwest version of this is salmon season. Hubs and I wondered why half our guest list didn’t show up to our wedding. Turned out it was because we got married during the fall Chinook run.

        2. Triumphant Fox*

          We did the same with the UK and Canada – there are a lot of national holidays that took us by surprise early on when working with a new client, until we started working those holidays into our timelines from the beginning. It did make it a challenge sometimes, between three nations’ public holiday schedules and religious holidays, it sometimes felt like there were days blocked off every week. Better that than mess up our deadlines by not realizing it was a bank day.

      3. DC Thursday*

        Thanks to your letter I just went in and added all Jewish holidays to my Outlook calendar. It simply involved selecting the option to include them and then Outlook automatically uploaded all of them. We don’t often have meetings/trainings where everyone is involved, but I would hate to unintentionally plan something on a high holiday simple because I didn’t take 30 seconds to click the option to add the holidays to my calendar. I hope your company does better.

    6. Arctic*

      They already know she’s out and won’t attend (LW says they are fine with that.) So being out on the calendar doesn’t mean they would schedule differently.
      This isn’t something she 100% needs to be at and would be scheduled around her if she had a vacation day or some other non-religious PTO. It’s professional development she wants to attend. And she shouldn’t miss those based solely on her religion.

    7. Jay*

      Boss: We have the team coming in from National for a two-day training October 8th and 9th.
      {notices the look on my face} Yes, I know you’re off. We’ll catch you up when you get back.
      Me: I’m off because it’s Yom Kippur.
      {Two other Jews in the room nod vigorously}
      Boss: Is that important?

      To their credit, they rescheduled the meeting immediately.

      It should not be up to the affected employees to alert the company to their holidays. I can speak up safely now because I’m senior, they can’t afford to alienate me or, even worse, lose me, and financially I could walk if I needed to. I’ve had other jobs where it cost me dearly to have this conversation – I once had a boss who forbade me to cover more than one hospital holiday a year, which I did to get comp time to cover the High Holidays and Pesach. “It’s not fair.” Um, I want to do this, and everyone else is fine with it. He considered it “special pleading” because I was Jewish, and of course all Jews think they’re special. That was the end of any potential advancement in that organization.

      tl;dr: organizations with a commitment to inclusivity need to use Google to figure out when major non-Christian holidays occur and they need to make sure people who observe those holidays aren’t missing out on opportunities.

      1. LizB*

        I started a new job a few weeks ago (an internal move within the same company) and was told about a big meeting scheduled for the evening of the 9th. I’m glad I was comfortable enough to say, “That’s great, but I won’t be there because it’s Yom Kippur.” They decided to reschedule the meeting, thankfully. I wouldn’t have been comfortable enough to speak up several years ago (and indeed, ended up on an out-of-town business trip over Rosh Hashana for a different company because of that…), or if it had been a brand new job at a brand new company where I didn’t already have some professional capital built up.

      2. Emily K*

        He considered it “special pleading” because I was Jewish, and of course all Jews think they’re special.

        That is so gross and makes me so angry on your behalf.

      3. Librarian1*

        Wow, that is awful. Also, that doesn’t even make sense. Say you want to cover both Christmas AND Easter, wouldn’t he be happy with that because it would mean that more Christians could take those holidays off?
        I know anti-semitism isn’t logical, but sheesh.

        1. Jay*

          Librarian1, my other partners were delighted. They all had kids and didn’t want to work Memorial Day or July Fourth, either. I volunteered to work every hospital holiday except Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day every year, and I worked Thanksgiving every few years instead of one of the other non-Christmas holidays. It worked out well for everyone for five years and then my boss got obnoxious about it. In the end, I stopped arguing with him, and the week before the holiday, I’d quietly take it from the person who was scheduled.

          I still work every Christmas because I don’t think anyone who celebrates the holiday should have to when it doesn’t matter to me (and it gives me an ironclad reason to get out of going to visit my in-laws, who are not Jewish).

          1. Librarian1*

            Ugh, sorry your boss is so obnoxious. I have one Jewish parent and my grandpa on that side was in the military and he always volunteered to work Christmas so that his Christian colleagues didn’t have to (I’m sure some ended up having to anyway, but you know what I mean) and it was totally fine because he didn’t care about it.

      4. Dot*

        There was just a letter the other day asking if it was okay to include a Mormon mission on a resume, and many commenters said it should be left off to avoid putting the company in a position of possible discrimination. Some people openly said they didn’t want to know if their coworkers were Mormon because it would change how they view them.

        People are often a lot less open minded than what they like to believe about themselves. Today it’s really showing.

        Your experience is unfortunate but undoubtedly not rare. I’ve never even thought to ask for days off on the less well known holidays of my religion. (And it’s not a minority religion)

        I’d settle for not hearing my religion bashed on sites like this, to be honest. (Not Mormon)

          1. Dot*

            Good grief, I never said they were. Of course they’re important.

            You’re looking for offense where there isn’t any.

            1. Dot*

              The confusion may have come in because in my faith I’ve needed to take time off for holidays that weren’t on the calendar, and I didn’t because I don’t feel comfortable discussing my faith at work.

              My point is that it’s clear that some religions receive a lot more bias than others. That is worth looking at.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I was responding to “the less well known holidays” (as I believe the commenter above me was also). It sounded like you were putting Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur under that umbrella — if you weren’t, my apologies for reading it wrong.

              1. Dot*

                I wasn’t at all–although rereading it I can see how it came across that way. That wasn’t my intention and I apologize if it sounded like I was trying to minimize the importance of those days.

          2. Dot*

            It would actually be nice to get a response to my point about how Mormons might not even feel comfortable discussing that they’re Mormon in the workplace, much less asking for days off.

            1. Blueberry*

              I’m not sure what you expect people would say. Of course no one should be made to feel uncomfortable because of their religion at work. Furthermore, the claim that efforts to not discriminate on the basis of religion are just discrimination against majority religions is a common and false accusation made against such efforts towards fairness and an attempt to recharacterize loss of privilege as experience of bigotry.

              But on the other hand between this comment and the one directly above you’re arguing that Judaism doesn’t face bias, the day after someone shot up a synagogue, so I’m honestly not sure what if anything people should say.

              1. Dot*

                I never said nor claimed that Judaism doesn’t face bias.

                That is actually a pretty heavy accusation to make.

            2. Avasarala*

              Here is the difference:
              The Mormon letter you’re talking about was about disclosing religion on a resume . So disclosing religion before even joining the company. This might not be a good idea because the company is not allowed to consider that information, (for positive or negative) so it invites discrimination.

              This letter is about being inclusive of your diverse workforce. You happen to know that some staff members celebrate religious or other important cultural holidays. So it would be kind and ethical to mark those in advance so they don’t have to keep reminding you. It’s a nice way to make them feel included as a team member.

              You seem to be stuck on the point of “no one should ever mention religion in any context in the workplace.” Certainly you shouldn’t discuss or debate it! But that’s different than never mentioning it! There’s nothing wrong with wearing a Star of David necklace, or mentioning your church choir when asked about your weekend plans, or explaining your time-off request is to attend a Buddhist retreat. Sure that might invite discrimination from crazy people to just know your religion, but there’s nothing socially or professionally unacceptable about mentioning it as part of your life.

              If you don’t feel comfortable mentioning your religion because you’re afraid of discrimination, that is a huge culture problem–I don’t see how that can be changed if HR won’t step in, you’d have to change jobs. If you’re just private about your religion, you don’t have to mention it when asking for days off, but people won’t know it’s a religious accommodation so they can’t plan ahead for it–maybe that’s preferable to you, that’s your call. If you don’t want to discuss your religion, you can still mention that you need the day off for “religious reasons” and that shouldn’t invite discrimination from any normal company or person.

      5. Curmudgeon in California*

        OMG: “Special pleading”???? What a jerk. Good thing you are gone from there.

        I’m not a member of any Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion. In the past I have happily covered people’s high holy days for on-call, because they were important to my teammates.

        I would definitely avoid scheduling stuff on the major holidays of the world’s largest religions (EG Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, or Judaism.) Several companies I’ve worked for had those holidays noted on their corporate calendar, even if we didn’t get them off.

    8. Sharkie*

      I grew up in an area very similar to the OP’s (although I am a Christian I liked that other Religions were included in the school calendar) and my Dad’s firm had a standing rule that no meetings/training of high importance would be held on school holidays. They also made a point to buy calendars with Islamic/ Hindu/Eastern holidays marked on them since they were aware of any conflicts when scheduling international telemeetings. Once people were made aware of other holidays they were must more thoughtful with planning.

    9. Name of Requirement*

      As back-up, yes. But mark it as the specific holiday, along with plans to be out, not just an out of office.
      This situation seems to call for a company calendar where this stuff is noted.

    10. JimmyJab*

      If OPs workplace is anything like mine, there’s no way they take everyone’s personal schedules into account – our trainings can be for 150 people. Perhaps hers is a smaller team where they look at everyone’s personal calendar, but that definitely wouldn’t work where I work.

      1. OP4*

        Our team has ~68 people but we do have a shared calendar, where I might ask to post the Jewish holidays for 2020 in advance so they know when they’re coming up!

        1. Nonprofiteer*

          I don’t like that *you* have to fix such a basic issue, but at my last job we had a cheat sheet of Jewish holidays, e.g. Yom Kippur: absolutely do not call donors or schedule events. Last day of Hanukkah: not such a big deal, but people may be spending time with family.

          It helped people to have some context on the Outlook holidays.

      2. Holly*

        The bigger the staff training, the more people probably affected by scheduling trainings on the *holiest day of the year* for the Jewish people. I wonder if someone scheduled a meeting on Christmas, and people were concerned, you would respond that “there’s no way they take everyone’s personal schedules into account?”

      3. Blueberry*

        I’ve done exam-and-grading scheduling for a private school of 200 students, the kind of school that prided itself on accommodating everyone, and we made it work.

    11. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

      Major calendaring programs like Outlook and Google will easily let you add pre-loaded calendars of various holidays. I did this recently at work and it was really easy. If you’re doing a lot of scheduling (or just want to be courteous and inclusive!) you should add those on your own, rather than putting the burden on people who are already having to deal with the burden of their holidays not being considered important enough to close the whole office.

  3. Heidi*

    OP1’s situation scares me a little. Just what exactly is Barry going to do if he ever finds out who gave the feedback? This is probably one of the reasons anonymity doesn’t produce as much honest feedback as one might expect.

    1. JKP*

      The most common way I’ve seen this play out is that once Barry figures out who gave the feedback, then he can figure out a way that the feedback doesn’t “count” because of bias or other issues from the person giving the feedback, and thus he doesn’t really have to change anything.

      1. rudster*

        Or the next time he comes up with some negative feedback of his own for the person whom he thinks wronged him. Except for safety or compliance issues, I think the idea of anonymous peer feedback is terrible and rife with potential for abuse and bias (it’s from people who may well be competing for the same raises and promotions as you). Besides, adults should be talking to each other and not leaving anonymous notes for mom/teacher – er, I mean the boss – behind each other’s back. Or it should be rolled into the manager’s feedback in a way that it cannot be disaggregrated from it. If I knew someone I worked had left negative feedback about me, I would sure want to know who it was! Look at at this this way – now Barry’s working relationship with everyone is strained because he doesn’t know left the feedback, rather than him just being mad at the person who complained about him.

        1. Green great dragon*

          It’s possible that is how it’s done, but it might not solve the problem (if the feedback is ‘sometimes you wear an overly-flowery hat to client meetings’, it’s obvious the feedback comes from one of the three people who saw you in the hat’).

            1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

              (Speaking for the copyeditors, we often dearly wish we had the time and ability to do this.)

          1. Emily K*

            Exactly. My org solicits upward feedback for any manager with two or more direct reports, which goes directly to the grandboss who can then put it into the manager’s review without disclosing who said what, but when you’re only talking about two people, you can’t always guarantee that it’s not going to be obvious who was the source of certain things.

            It’s not really even framed as “anonymous” feedback, though. The only promise or assurance of that nature is that you won’t be quoted verbatim, but there’s no wording that says your feedback is anonymous or that they’ll make sure your identity can’t be figured out. It’s just upward feedback.

            I think my org recognizes that anonymous feedback isn’t possible, and they accept the possibility that some people won’t want to provide upward feedback if they’re worried about their identity being known, but having the process available for people who do want to provide upward feedback is better than not having the process at all, and if someone is worried about retaliation there are other pathways available to them (e.g. via HR).

        2. anon*

          I agree with you completely. I think this isn’t a Barry problem, this is a systemic feedback problem.

          I loathe the idea that my feedback wouldn’t be almost immediate, fairly non-judgemental, and open. This system seems to play into the hands of pettiness, paranoia and general distrust. I’m glad it’s not a system I’ve ever had to work around.

          I feel that Barry needs some straightforward feedback, from his manager, at the time. Clearly, this system isn’t working for him if he’s able to drag on not doing his job well – especially if he was capable of doing another role well.

          1. HumbleOnion*

            Well, it’s definitely a Barry problem too. There’s no reason for him to be cornering people in their offices or reacting so aggressively. The feedback process may suck, but Barry is still behaving wildly inappropriately.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              No, this is a Jack problem. For not shutting this down years ago and for keeping Barry on despite the fact that he’s not a great worker.

              1. Lana Kane*

                It’s entirely possible that both of them are a problem. Jack is spineless and Barry is inappropriate and aggressive.

          2. Emily K*

            Yeah, the problem isn’t that employees are asked to provide peer feedback – it’s that this annual feedback process is apparently the only time anyone is asked for or receives feedback.

            There’s value in having annual peer feedback processes, but they should be just one piece of a system for feedback and performance management – just like there’s value in having annual performance reviews, but they should be just one piece of a system for performance management. There should be in-the-moment feedback when the situation calls for it, as well as monthly or quarterly check-ins to give the employee a sense of where they’re headed in a bigger picture sense before the big-big picture of the annual review takes place. And likewise, if people are having problems with Barry’s work, they should be raising those issues, if not in the moment, at least at some point during the year when a pattern has emerged. “Boss, I’m working on another project with Barry and there’s been a persistent issue with X that I’d like your help figuring out how to handle. Can you talk to Barry’s boss, or how would you recommend I navigate this otherwise?”

            But this is all clearly way beyond the sub-standard quality of management that LW’s company is willing to practice.

        3. BethDH*

          I think it can be done well, and ideally the whole point is that the coworkers’ feedback is materially different enough that just rolling it into the manager feedback doesn’t make sense in many cases. Where I’ve appreciated it, the feedback has been a mix of “keep doing this” and “please try to do this differently” — that is, it was mostly focused on things that could actually be changed. I assume the managers did some vetting for this, but I’m not actually sure. I think it does need to be carefully facilitated by managers and the expectations of what makes good feedback need to be clear.

        4. OP1*

          ” Or it should be rolled into the manager’s feedback in a way that it cannot be disaggregrated from it”.

          This is how it is done. The person is told if it is peer vs manager feedback.

          1. Lonely Monster*

            How is this guy getting any work done if he’s too busy hunting down the people, who gave him bad feedback?

            1. OP1 Here*

              You know if the feedback is from a peer vs a client vs a manager. And I know Barry comes to me because of our close relationship and assumes I will rat out whoever did it. I refuse. Not my place.

              1. wittyrepartee*

                You know, when he starts bothering me about who said what, I might consider going (facetiously), “actually it was all me! All of it!”

                Then just stick with that.

              2. LunaLena*

                I’d be tempted to put “he always corners people and aggressively grills them about any negative feedback in his peer reviews” in my feedback to see how he handles it. Will he prove my point, or actually back off in order to prove he’s NOT like that?

                I have someone in my family who’s sort of like Barry, and that’s generally how I deal with him. He usually reverts back to the bad behavior eventually, but at least for a little while, it’s a bit more pleasant because he goes out of his way to prove that I’m wrong.

          2. smoke tree*

            I realize you probably aren’t in a position to do anything about this, but this system sounds frustrating even leaving the Barry issue aside. Shouldn’t the manager be looking into the feedback, assessing its accuracy and following up with employees directly rather than just passing on complaints from others? It sounds to me like your manager just doesn’t want to take on the responsibility himself.

        5. Mel*

          Yes, anonymous feedback is the worst. A former employer would handle complaints about fellow employee anonymously, which meant you would get called into a meeting and be told something so vague that you could never know what the problem was.

          And if you could get to the bottom of it, these complaints were usually from people who were behaving badly themselves and didn’t like that it wasn’t working for them.

          1. Veronica*

            This reminds me of the way I grew up. My father would come to me and say, “this person said you did this bad/inappropriate/thing I don’t like”.
            It was emotional abuse. It made me feel my friends and relatives didn’t like me and were talking behind my back. It destroyed my self-esteem, it was extremely discouraging, and very very hurtful.
            I do not recommend doing this to anyone, ever, for any reason.
            If a manager has to address a problem between employees, they should be specific and ask what happened. Explain the misunderstanding and give feedback to prevent it from happening again.

        6. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          At a previous company, we had a system for that. The feedback was collected and went to the person and only the person – not HR or their boss. More a “food for thought” thing.
          I did not like it much, but I received some feedback I found useful and took to heart

      2. JSPA*

        How many times have we had complaints about anonymous feedback here that’s too vague–or even contradictory, which happens, when you collate responses from multiple sources–to make a useful change?

        “Talks too much; doesn’t always give adequate input.” OK…WTAF does someone do with that knowledge, if they don’t know who wants them to speak up, and who wants them to shut up?

        “Overly forceful; hangs back; self-promotes; taciturn.” There is literally nothing to do with that sort of grab bag besides decide, “they hate me.” Unless, of course, you can figure out WHO wants you to dial it up, who wants you to dial it back, who wants you to be the bluebird of happiness, and who wants you to knock it off, with that bluebird crap.

        It can all be honest feedback, and yet have an overall effect that’s not actually distinguishable from institutional bullying.

        Mind you, the question Barry should and could reasonably ask isn’t “hey, who said that” but “is there some pattern to these responses that you can see, and I can’t, that you can clue me in on, so I can address these issues.”

        1. Dust Bunny*

          ““Talks too much; doesn’t always give adequate input.””

          That means somebody goes on tangents and rambles without providing much actual content.

          1. JSPA*

            Not sure there’s utility in debating a random example I made up from whole cloth.

            But here goes, anyway: Sure, some advice that seems conflicting on the surface is actually an inadequate summary, from two different angles, of a single problem. Blind men feeling the elephant, and all that.

            However, that’s not always the case.

            In the given example, it can also mean that one person wants to hear more, another wants to hear less. If you guess wrong as who’s who–is it the person I’m quiet around, who wants to hear more, or am I feeling quiet around them because I’m sensing it’s not welcome?–you know you’ll just tick them off more.

      3. OP1*

        OP1 Here. You are very correct. In the past, when Barry was given bad feedback, he would pull all kinds of documentation together to “prove” he was good worker. In his mind because his numbers were X and done on time that everything was fine. But it is not always about the numbers it is about how you executed and how you interacted with clients, etc.

        And thank you Alison. I love the language used to talk to Barry in the moment. I can certainly adopt some of that.

        1. Antilles*

          That sounds like a management issue as much as it is a Barry issue. When an employee gets too focused on a metric(s) rather than understanding the real big picture and feedback, that’s where the manager needs to step in and correct that.
          Yes, we recognize that your numbers are fine, but merely meeting targets is only part of your role and you’re not doing good job handling [insert other issues here]. We appreciate your effort in meeting the billable hour target, but that’s only part of the job and you need to work on X.

        2. AKchic*

          I would actually include Barry’s negative reactions to constructive feedback in the peer review. Seriously. It happens every year. It is something that affects everyone in the office / on the team. It should be mentioned on the review so it can be discussed with him and gives the manager that segue into saying “this cannot happen any longer”. It would be nice if the boss told Barry that all staff members have been instructed to let Boss know when/if Barry reaches out to harangue / harass or otherwise “get to the bottom of” who said what so he can attempt to minimize the perceived negativity, then it will be counted as harassment and he will be written up, but we can’t actually make that suggestion. All you can do is tell your boss that you feel uncomfortable, intimidated, and are fearful of giving complete and accurate assessments based on his previous reactions and without some kind of guarantee that Boss will protect staff and manage Barry properly, you are unsure that you can give an accurate peer review.

    2. JSPA*

      Eh, feeling free to ask someone you consider an old pal (they worked together for 15 years, at two companies, and were ‘close’) for scuttlebutt on “who said what” is not necessarily red flag territory.

      Old pal Barry is not working out well in a new job. OP has been mentally backing farther and farther off from Barry. That’s what OP knows, inside OP’s head. It’s quite possible that Barry has not actually been notified of this. Does Barry even know that OP considers the emails an imposition? Does Barry see any awkwardness with OP as anything other than “things feel awkward at work these days”?

      I withdraw this suggestion if their personal contact at old job didn’t ever include “who said what” scuttlebutt or occasional mutual grousing about unfairness or powers-that-be.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Time to start verbalizing to Barry that the emails are unwelcome. With the caveat that you can’t manage his emotions, try to do so kindly in a way that allows him to save face so you don’t make things even more awkward at work.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I strongly suspect Barry will harass the shit out of whoever said that to him. Argue with them repeatedly until they agree he’s not that bad.

      I would have stopped giving Barry any feedback if it was me (I’m not a manager, I do not feel obligated to give any when asked for it if it is going to cause me problems). Barry, you’re tops, you’re 100%. Because clearly he’s not going to listen to any feedback, and he’s not going to get fired for sucking, so why bother saying anything?

  4. inlovewithwords*

    OP4, nothing specific to advise with, just wanted to express my profound empathy.

    G’mar chatima tovah!

    1. OP4*

      Thank you!! This isn’t the first job I’ve had this issue but the workplace is very intentionally inclusive (or at least tries to be) so I was more frustrated than usual!

      1. Bluebell*

        I once worked in an “inclusive “ place where the Diversity and Inclusion committee met on Friday afternoons. A staff member who was Jewish and observant wanted to join, and I had to help lobby to change the time slot!

        1. Moray*

          My “diverse and inclusive” workplace recently announced that they were cutting other vacation benefits–including two “floating holidays” that Jewish staff used for the High Holidays–in order to close the office the week of Christmas.

          1. Mama Bear*

            Ugh. While I do observe Christmas, I would find that frustrating. I’d rather choose my days than be dictated to. Even within Christianity there are variations on when Christmas and Easter are celebrated. I had a friend in college who would come back from Spring Break only to turn around and go home to celebrate Orthodox Easter. Floating holidays are a much better way to respect diversity.

            1. Holly*

              It’s not just that, it’s ensuring that Jewish people have to take time off when they do not celebrate, and may be barred from taking time (or if so use vacation time) to celebrate their holiest holidays.

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I once worked at a place that was big on diversity and inclusivity. This meant they did not recognize ANY holidays, because “recognizing holidays is discriminatory to people who don’t celebrate.”

        Instead you had a bunch of angry and resentful staff, mad they were working Thanksgiving/Christmas/Labor Day while these “some people who don’t celebrate” never materialized and the place was empty.

  5. Anon Feedback Giver*

    I have had my manager try to determine, in 1:1 meetings, who on their team gave negative feedback in an anonymous survey. It wasn’t me, but I sure feel like giving negative feedback now.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      I worked somewhere where this was attempted inter-C-suite level – as in the HR director asked the IT director to work out who gave what negative feedback based on the IPaddress of their workstation!
      IT director (who was not a man I particularly liked or admired) won back a few brownie points by explaining it wasn’t feasible, practical or *ethical* to do that from an anonymous survey.

      1. Anon Feedback Giver*

        Good for the IT Director! I think it’s clear that people’s suspicious that “anonymous” surveys are not exactly that is quite justified.

        1. Quill*

          “Anonymous” surveys, as I learned during high school when we had to fill out an “anonymous drug use” survey, are seldom actually anonymous. (Of course, my homeroom got our whole set thrown out by putting nonsense in the demographics section.)

          1. Aggretsuko*

            Yeah, always assume that unless you know for sure they can’t find you, anything you say can and will be used against you. This is why I’ve given very good “feedback” in situations when I know someone can/will find out it was me saying anything and that person can’t be trusted.

            1. Quill*

              We got read the riot act for filling out that one survey with invalidating things like “I’m a 111 year old Vulcan” but it was a bonding experience. :)

            2. Anon for this*

              My workplace had a couple of years in a row when everyone gave negative feedback. Nothing changed, other than we got a pizza party and a bowling outing and a full year of harassment about our low engagement, with hints being dropped that the numbers better be higher next year. They were (since giving honest answers did not appear to lead to any improvement). I would definitely be VERY uncomfortable being the only person on a team to give a negative answer. There’s no way that couldn’t be tracked back to me.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            My niece had one of those surveys in high school. For the “have you ever drunk alcohol” question she marked “yes.” For the follow-up “how frequently do you drink alcohol” she marked weekly. So some database includes this disturbing statistic about teen alcohol use. Nowhere did they ask if it was more than a thimble’s worth of communion wine.

            1. PersephoneUnderground*

              Lol- that’s so very much me! I answer very literally. Surveys need to be designed with clear definitions of what they’re actually trying to determine. Though sometimes it’s clear the definitions were written later, and the questions being asked don’t line up at all. Like a “hookups” survey that defined it as any sexual contact, including kissing, with anyone you’re not in a relationship with. Then asked questions clearly designed to be about one-night stands. But by that definition the night I met my husband and we kissed one time counted. Sheesh!

      2. Mel*

        Good for him! That always makes me nervous. It’s anonymous, but obviously there are ways to find out!

    2. Holy Carp*