managing an employee who’s often out sick

A reader writes:

I have an employee who for the last six months has been out sick about 1-2 days a week on average, due to chronic illness. This is affecting performance, and others have had to shoulder a lot of the burden: missed deadlines, poor quality work, and an overall significant decrease in productivity.

I want to be compassionate but am not sure what the best solution moving forward is. All our employees are at-will and he’s exhausted all his paid time off. I’ve considered making him part-time to give him the time he needs while freeing up resources to get the work done (he’s communicated in the past that he needs the full-time position because of financial reasons, though obviously cannot do the job). I’m not sure if there are other transition/temporary solutions to a situation like this.

I run a small company of only 12 employees so we are not required to offer FMLA. I’ve considered doing an FMLA-likestructure but worry that because of his financial concerns it’ll be more of a burden to administer than a help (especially given that my company is incredibly flexible; he can come in for five hours one day, be available a full day another, or only be able to do one hour of work another). I will consider termination but given that much of this in intertwined with health issues I want to make sure I do the right thing.

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Employees violated the spirit of our office gift exchange
  • Slow employee is listening to podcasts while she works
  • Job offers made by email or FedEx
  • I received the resume of a current employee who appears to be job-searching

{ 154 comments… read them below }

  1. Bevo's Left Horn*

    I agree with AAM’s response to this one, but OP, please make sure the burden is not being unfairly shifted to the other employees. I don’t think most reasonable people mind doing a little more to cover for someone that is on maternity/paternity leave, or out for surgery, etc. If this is a chronic, long-term issue, though, it is the owner’s/manager’s job to make sure that the organization is adequately staffed. Please keep in mind that whatever employment arrangement you have with this person is strictly between you and them and it is not the responsibility of the other employees to make this work by taking it out of their hide.

    1. Door Guy*

      What do you do when you have the opposite? At my last job, I had a direct report who had terminal cancer. I found out that I was actually the very first person he told, even before his family.

      He pushed himself through the pain when he should have called in sick. We worked independently out in the field, so if he didn’t say anything, we never knew as most days you never saw any of your coworkers. I’d only ever find out when the pain was so bad he absolutely HAD to stop and he’d call me apologizing that he couldn’t do any more that day. When he’d call up to see if he had any more work to pick up at the end of the day, he’d casually mention that he’d had to go out and buy a new shirt because one of the “bumps” on his back had burst and soaked his shirt in blood and whatever else was in there, or some other thing that would have made most people go home (or to the doctor). (This was nothing new, as even before the cancer, he’d do that – talk to him and find out he’s been working with an infected tooth that’s radiating pain in his jaw, or he slipped and dislocated his shoulder in the woods around his house, or he’d gotten stung by a wasp ON THE EYE LID, or any other manner of OUCH things)

      I asked him directly why he was still working since he had investments, a good sized pension from a previous job, and his wife had a good job. He told me “If I stop moving, I’m just going to lay down and die.”

      As of earlier this month, he was still working I found out when I bumped into my replacement.

      1. Bevo's Left Horn*

        I agree that is a sad story, but I honestly don’t see what any of what you wrote has to do with my comment. I’m simply saying that, yes, i agree with AAM and the OP that they should try to do right by this employee. However, I am also saying that doing right by this employee does not mean just expecting the other employees to cover for this person with no impact to the employer. The employer should absorb the cost of doing right by this chronically ill employee.

        1. Mobuy*

          I don’t know that “doing right by this employee” has to include paying them for not being there and also paying a replacement. My family owns a small business, and double paying for a position impacts our ability to pay our personal mortgage. Doing right by a small company might include dropping the employee to part-time and hiring another part-time worker, laying off the employee and not contesting their unemployment benefits, asking existing employees to pick up the slack for a long period of time, or something else.

          But let’s not pretend that most small companies are heartless late-stage capitalists who don’t care about the common man. Mostly, the business owners have a business to make a living. Their ability to hire other people is an excellent side benefit of a profitable company, but it’s not their reason for being. They can be unable to pay an extra person AND be compassionate.

          1. Bevo's Left Horn*

            You’re right, it doesn’t have to include paying them for not being there. But the OP wrote in because they want to treat this person fairly. The main thrust of what im saying is that it is not fair to “ask existing employees to pick up the slack for a long period of time”.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      It’s a tricky thing to manage for something long term.

      It really sucks for someone when they’re a competent, responsible employee, but are unable to manage full time work. Even part time work is an issue when the absences are random and last minute (calling out once or twice a week) rather than planned (say, for doctor’s appointments). And most of the time, the illness is not such that it qualifies for long-term disability, and even if it does, long term disability generally means being permanently stuck in serious poverty with no legal way of improving your situation.

      At the same time, if other employees find themselves with an increased workload over an extended period of time they’re going to burn out, and they’re going to look for another job. Same for repeatedly and randomly being pulled off of their hired duties to cover other work. If it’s a large company, there’s often wiggle room to reassign duties permanently – it’s a lot harder to do that when the company is very small.

      Probably the best situation for both a small business and their employees is to let them go to part time, and hire another part time person for the difference, targetting people who genuinely want two work two days a week. This works best if it’s a flexible position – being randomly absent 25% of the time for a coverage based job isn’t practical.

  2. TooTiredToThink*

    The term “White Elephant” has a lot of meanings – so honestly, there stands a chance that if that year it was a White Elephant exchange, that the person who brought in the used item was actually going by one of the other definitions – and the one that I always thought it meant until my current job – which is; to bring in a gag gift or something you don’t want anymore. Where I work now, they use “White Elephant” to mean Yankee Swap – but its actually decent, nice gifts.

    1. Dragoning*

      I think once a “price limit” has been set for such a thing, participants should assume the expectations is *not* to bring a used gag item.

      30 bucks is kind of a lot for such a thing (our secret santa at work this year had a limit of…6)

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – I’m used to a $10 upper limit. That’s enough to be not total chintz but also high enough to generally rule out bringing something used from home.

        But maybe it’s time for a break from the tradition, and come back in a year.

      2. Kendra*

        We set ours at $20, but I always add that it’s an upper limit, not a lower one, and that if they can find something for $0, that’s awesome. You never know everyone else’s financial situation; medical bills, student loans, or a dependent parent can mean even someone making a lot more than you might have a really tight budget.

      3. A*

        We set ours at $20, otherwise it’s just all of us exchanging junk/gag-gifts that will most likely eventually end up in the trash. But were a sustainability-minded crew, and in a high cost of living area, so $20 isn’t unusual for an optional gift exchange.

    2. zora*

      Either way, $30 is a pretty high limit for a work thing. Our office does a $15 limit, and even then it’s totally optional. I didn’t join this year, because I really didn’t want another little ‘thing’.

      If I was the OP, I would either drastically lower the limit for next year, or maybe even cancel it all together. Requiring people to dip into their personal funds for a work event is questionable to me. Some people just really might not be able to afford it, or just not want to spend their money on work.

      1. Adalind*


        That’s what we did this year. The limit was $10-$15 and it was totally optional. Some were jokey gifts but most had a gift card attached (e.g. I got a used frame but also a $15 gift card to starbucks). $30 is way too much for an office pollyanna.

      2. Emily K*

        The LW notes that the exchange is only for people who want to participate, so there’s no requirement for anyone to dip into personal funds. My company does one of these every year; I’ve never participated – plenty of people don’t – and it’s never been an issue.

    3. rayray*

      See, I always thought White Elephant was to get something sort of silly or outrageous, often being something from your home, something you made, or definitely being $10< if you spent money on it. It wasn't until a few years ago that any white elephant gift exchange I took part in wasn't just gifts that people found at home or put together for fun. Maybe the person who brought a used item interpreted it that way. Maybe next year just call it a gift exchange, not a white elephant.

      1. rayray*

        I re-read the letter and answer. Sounds like maybe they were calling it a gift exchange.

        Definitely take Alison’s advice, I would think making a fuss over it wouldn’t be a great idea and could make someone feel bad if money was tight and they did the best they could. My old office would do secret santas each year, but when time after time, people were left disappointed (Example: Someone was given a $20 bill for their gift)the company stopped the gift exchange, and instead would pick a kid or two from the Angel tree and then you could sign up to buy some presents for the kids. This was great for those who wanted to participate – and genuinely a lot more fun, and for those who didn’t have the means to buy anything or weren’t interested, they didn’t have to. They selected kids based off previous participation, and the company or firm partners would comp the rest of what was needed for the kids’ wish lists.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          I just read up on Angel Tree (it’s not A Thing where I live), and it is very definitely faith based. Not everyone might be comfortable with sending presents together with a Bible to a child (I would not). In a secular office setting it might be preferable to find a way to make a child happy with a weaker religious connection (or not, e.g. at a faith-based nonprofit).

          1. rayray*

            Oh the one we did was different. It wasn’t religiously affiliated. Presents I remember buying were clothing, a One Direction album, and makeup for a teenage girl. Just regular presents any kid would like. Perhaps we supported a different organization, or my mind just came up with that since whatever we did was basically the same idea.

          2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            There are lots of different orgs that do some kind of “presents for kids tree”. Many of them are at least vaguely faith-related in that they’re doing this for Christmas rather than every single month, but it’s not always beyond-just-being-a-Christmas-thing religious, if that makes sense.

          3. Ego Chamber*

            Agreeing with previous comments that “Angel Tree” is kind of a general term and may or may not attach some kind of specifically Christian nonsense to the gift. I always check up on the org that sponsors the tree if I’m considering donating because I’m very not okay with giving to a charity for kids that pushes a religious message, both because of the implied obligation and the implicit gatekeeping involved.

            Fun story: this tendency to ask about the org behind the tree is how I found out the Angel Tree at a previous employer wasn’t run by an org at all, it was set up by the company so we could “all” “help out” the employees “who needed a little extra around the holidays.” (They paid us minimum wage, natch.)

      2. Hey Nonnie*

        I’d also make sure that the gift exchange is truly optional. When your team is 6-8 people and you’re the only one who (apparently) doesn’t want to participate, there’s no way to bow out without it being obvious and feeling like you ought to just suck it up and do it just for the optics. Combine that with “money is tight” and/or “I barely buy gifts for family” and you might get regifting.

        Especially with White Elephant exchanges. Until I started reading AAM I never would have realized that for some people it doesn’t mean regifting something you have but don’t want. I had always understood it to be a humorous game of trying to give away your personal albatross item. Either it’s something that someone else might find useful, or at least everyone can see the humor value in “stealing” or trying to get rid of the thing that no one wants.

        1. Emily K*

          I’m not wild about White Elephant in the workplace for the same reason I’d never suggest an office game of Risk. Games where you’re basically required or strongly encouraged by the game’s inherent rules to screw over the other players in order to win are emotional landmines. I think a lot of people struggle not to take it personally when another player singles them out for attack, even if it’s the only logical move for the other player to make if they’re trying to win. Add in a lack of clarity about the intended quality level of the gifts and you end up with someone who takes home a bag of literal trash because a coworker stole the nice bottle of wine from them, and a lot of people are going to feel sour about it even if they know they shouldn’t.

          1. Casual Fribsday*

            Thank you for succinctly articulating why I don’t like gift exchanges (and also a lot of board games). I’ve never been able to put words to it before.

    4. kittymommy*

      Yeah, I never knew until reading stuff here that “white elephant” meant either a used item (from home I assume) or a gag gift. I always understood it as a gift brought and then exchanged based on number (the type where the next person can then choose another unwrapped gift or “steal” one that someone else already opened).

      1. Carlie*

        Yep, there are too many variations – I was going to say the same thing. Where I grew up “white elephant” was something from home you don’t want any more (the more ridiculous the better), and if I’d seen a dollar amount like $30 tagged to the exchange I would assume that’s just to keep the offerings in the same ballpark value so nobody brings a half-used box of matches.
        I’ve since been at a supremely uncomfortable “white elephant” party where they were all nice gifts but randomly selected (and I was the odd one out who brought a used item from home), and only once have I ever observed the “steal a gift someone else has already been given” variant. I would never assume that someone who downgifted did it on purpose vs. not understanding what you meant by the term, and I wouldn’t invite people to participate in one without making it clear what was meant by it.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          That’s so weird! I thought the “stealing”/game aspect was the entire point? Sometimes I’ve seen it played where the gifts aren’t actually opened until everyone has a gift and then they’re all opened at once (so you’re choosing based on size/weight/shape/quality of wrapping/etc) but I’ve never seen it played where people just … choose from the presents in a set order and that’s the whole game(?). It honestly sounds like a variant my gran would make up to keep people from experiencing any sort of conflict.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I’ve always heard what you are describing called “yankee swap” or “dirty santa” and have thought of a white elephant exchange as for old unwanted items–I think I first heard the term in an Archie comic lol.

  3. Unicorn employer?*

    Not to toot my employer’s horn, but I want to scream from the rooftops that they’re doing the end of year gift exchange right. First of all, it’s in January! Second of all, there’s a set budget, one team member randomly assigned to you, and the money is coming from the company. So no one has to worry about if they can afford this gift exchange.

    1. J*

      This is why I refuse to participate in ‘Secret Santas.’ I’ve seen WAAAAY too many times when someone gave a poorly-received gag gift, or forgot to bring a gift, or couldn’t afford a gift, etc etc. And now someone is writing an employment blog asking how they can ‘confront’ the employee.
      These things are just one more opportunity for drama, so I prefer to be left out of it.

      1. Dragoning*

        I specifically did not sign up for my office secret santa because I knew I’d forget and didn’t want to be That Person.

        1. zora*

          I didn’t participate this year, either, just because I don’t need another little ‘thing’ in my life.
          Now, last year I got some fuzzy socks that I love. But really, the vast majority of things that were brought last year are just pieces of funny junk that are funny for a few minutes, and then I have to figure out what to do with them, or throw them away.

          1. Dragoning*

            I brought something for the steal/swap thing last year and my coworker who got it made polite noises about how her grandson might love the little wooden 3D puzzle things and I was like RIP I failed there pretty hard.

    2. Marny*

      Our fairly small office made it a tradition of re-gifting the terrible junk that we’d given/received from each other the year before (new people could add their own terrible re-gifts to the mix). The clearance bin DVD of From Justin to Kelly made its way through the whole office. This way, virtually no one spent money and the bosses could just give us nice end-of-year-bonuses without anyone grumbling about how they’d rather have the money than the dumb tchotchkes they’d felt obligated to say thank you for.

  4. TootsNYC*

    Every year, my small company does either a white elephant or Secret Santa gift exchange. This year, we set a price range of “around $30” for those who wanted to participate.

    A few of the gifts given this year were clearly not worth the provided price range. One of the gifts was a used item from the employee’s home (the recipient discovered this after the event ended).

    The problem is probably that there is not clear enough communication about what this is.

    These terms—white elephant and Secret Santa—have completely different meanings.
    “White elephant” is for useless or stupid gifts, the stupider the better.
    “Secret Santa” is for nice gifts tailored to the individual recipient.
    “Grab bag” is for nice gifts that would probably be suitable for most anybody.
    “Dirty Santa” is a grab bag in which people “steal” gifts from one another.

    Words mean things.

    I agree with Alison–say nothing.
    Next year, pick which the heck it is you want to do, and make it really, really clear.
    (The dollar value having been mentioned should have clued people in that it wasn’t to be a white elephant). Also set expectations that people don’t have to participate.

    And also look at whether the used items from someone’s home have a financial value. I gave someone an opened iPod Nano (a relative who was broke enough, I didn’t think he’d be able to afford to buy one); I threw in a gift card for iTunes. That Nano was used (I’d put 3 songs on it and decided I didn’t really use it), but its value was above what a normal gift would have been, all on its own.

    If those used gifts were crappy, then it was probably the white-elephant confusion. That’s how some people do those.

    1. OneWomansOpinion*

      Well words mean those things to you. For others a white elephant is like a dirty santa. I’ve never heard of dirty santa and don’t like the term for the office.

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        whatever term is used, explicit detail needs to be provided as to the intent. I’m dealing with this right now, and I have to basically guess.

      2. WellRed*

        I think the point is to communicate it clearly using the familiar terms in your particular group/geographic region.

        1. Antilles*

          The other point is that at least a subset of people are clearly using the terms differently, so it’s really important to clarify – “hey, just to check, you said it’s a white elephant – are we going serious gifts or funny joke gifts?”

          1. Carlie*

            Exactly – it’s using the “familiar terms in your particular group/geographic region” that is the actual problem. Some people have moved in from elsewhere, some people had different traditions even in their own neighborhood. Spell out the rules.

    2. Buttons*

      I have never seen those descriptions before. I think you are right that people need to be specific about what kind of gift exchange they are doing. I would do something entirely different, because, in my world, those all mean something different than you described.

    3. SimplyTheBest*

      I don’t think it’s universal that those terms have the meanings you’ve given them. Where I live, white elephant, dirty santa, yankee swap are all interchangeable and are only for crappy gifts if you specify that. Otherwise they’re for perfectly normal gifts (just more generic as they’re not tailored for an individual). Never heard of anyone referring to a gift exchange as a grab bag.

      1. Sarah N.*

        Well, this is the point though. Regardless of whose definitions are objectively “right” the point is that everyone may have different impressions of what these things mean. So it’s best to be 100% transparent about what the event is rather than having people guess based on the name.

        1. Sparrow*

          Exactly this. Especially if many of the participants come from different regions/backgrounds – odds are you’re all imagining something different regardless of the term used, so be specific (I would agree that the $ range should’ve clued people in to the kind of gifts that would be considered appropriate, but it’s best to be thorough.)

    4. Emelle*

      White Elephant at my old office was Yankee Swap/Dirty Santa. But the sign up email clearly stated the rules of engagement and included pictures of the previous years most popular gifts to help everyone shop.

      The first time I ever did a white elephant, I was in 6th grade, and it was with my Sunday School class. The lead teacher (aka the adult in charge of everyone) wrapped up used toothbrushes and that was what I drew. I was absolutely horrified because I had picked out this very cute Lisa Frank pencil set. I only do those gift exchanges when the rules are clear and I know the people.

      1. MayLou*

        Used toothbrushes is disgusting, not just useless. Ugh. I’m sorry you got that, and your teacher was so thoughtless!

      2. yala*

        ” The lead teacher (aka the adult in charge of everyone) wrapped up used toothbrushes ”


        why would you do that at all, let alone if you were an adult and you were wrapping a gift for children.

    5. Antilles*

      “White elephant” is for useless or stupid gifts, the stupider the better.
      This is, in fact, the exact definition of the term white elephant (both in dictionaries and more informal sources like Wikipedia) – “a possession unwanted by the owner but difficult to dispose of”.
      Dates back to kings who actually gave away an elephant as a ‘gift’ to disliked subjects – you can’t get rid of it because that would be a grave insult to the monarch…but the cost of maintaining an elephant is so expensive that you really wish you didn’t have it.

      1. Quill*

        This is why white elephant in families is often a chance to pass around the hideously evil precious moments figurine of an ice skating child with no nose that someone’s grandma thought was sweet. You can’t offend grandma, but you’re pretty sure that tiny ice skater houses a demon hungry for your soul, and the only way to keep yourself safe is to inflict it on another cousin.

      2. LunaLena*

        I know I’m being pedantic here, but I wanted to point out that the “white” in white elephant is actually a really important factor. :) White elephants were sacred in Southeast Asia, so they’re not allowed to be used for labor or any kind of work. Receiving a white elephant meant you had to take really good care of it and therefore sink a lot of money into it without getting any kind of return on your investment, and that’s how it became a term for unwelcome gifts.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          Huh. White Elephant really describes a cousin of mine better than “Black Sheep” does, then.

          Family! Whatchagonnado.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            Oooh, I have a cousin like that too, and will consider that change in nomenclature to describe the situation.

    6. Dragoning*

      In my experience, the definition of all of these things are regionalisms and vary from person to person and are largely interchangeable.

    7. Nanani*

      A lot of those terms have different meanings in different regions/countries/social circles, too.
      It’s not a “words mean things” problem so much as a “define your terms” one.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I mean, that’s kind of the whole function of words and clearly defining them can be useful if there’s a high probability of ambiguity. (Like if I go on Wikipedia right now, your definitions aren’t going to match what I find there but that doesn’t mean we’re all using the words wrong.)

    8. ijbouv*

      I don’t think they call them both the same thing, as if they were interchangeable. Some years they do a White Elephant, some years they do a Secret Santa. That was an “either/or” statement, not an “aka” type statement.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Underrated comment! It seemed strange to me that LW introduced the either/or without specifying which one it was, unless this is a common problem from year to year, in which case oh god please find a solution. :(

    9. Emily K*

      I’ve always made a point to tell my family that if they’re looking at something for me and it’s available refurbished, open box, or “used – like new” – basically something that’s functionally equivalent to a new item but might have light signs of wear or come in beat-up packaging or something that identifies it as being refurbished instead of brand new, or has no original packaging so it’ll come in a plain box, but it still does everything a new item would do and isn’t visibly gross – please save your money and buy me the used/refurbished/open box version. That’s what I would buy if I were purchasing it for myself and we’re family – I’m not going to be offended that you were trying to shop on a budget when the product is functionally the same as a new product but just not brand new-new.

  5. Buttons*

    #5 She might not be job hunting. If she uploaded her resume to Indeed at any point it would automatically send it out to employers. If she didn’t turn that function off, she may have no idea her resume is going out.

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      Or even if she genuinely uploaded/updated it recently, it might have been more in the spirit of “huh, I haven’t updated my resume in ages; let’s get that fixed so I’m not scrambling in case I ever get laid off”.

    2. rayray*

      Very true. I had this happening to me for a while, and I didn’t know it. I would randomly just get job offers/interview requests for call centers because I had worked at one during college. One company was relentless and kept adding me to their Remind group, and I had been added to what looked like a training class. I finally figured out something in my Indeed account settings, but this is something that certainly happens to people. They spend time job hunting, and forget to go fix all those settings once they accept a new job.

      1. Ego Chamber*


        I keep getting emails from a call center where I worked a few years ago saying what a good match I would be (duh) and that they have an upcoming training class I should apply for (also duh: they are always hiring) but last time I was desperate enough to throw an application at them they said I’m not eligible for rehire because I’ve worked there twice before. Still getting their unsolicited recruiting emails though, like weekly! :D

  6. Buttons*

    One more thing #5, people should always be keeping their eye on what is out there. It helps them career plan for themselves and will help them have a conversation with their manager about what they want to do.

  7. Ann*

    I feel bad for the employee in #1. It sucks that we live in a country where health care is tied to employment, while being ill makes a person unemployable.

    I know the coworkers are already “shouldering the burden” of his performance decline, but can the team look at redistributing the workload in a way that he’s accomplishing smaller, less time-intensive tasks that are within his capability? I know I would be happy to unload some of my smaller tasks so I could focus on my larger scale projects. I also wouldn’t mind taking on some extra work if it meant my chronically ill coworker could keep his employment.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yup. That’s a huge problem, in my mind — the more desperately ill you are, the more you need health care, and the harder it is to hold onto a job that provides it. It’s a gross catch-22.

        1. Quill*

          Possibly, just possibly, because it will lower the ability for people with significant health problems to vote or participate in civic society at all… leading to less work keeping power for the party that already disliked them. :/

    2. Dragoning*

      Yep. When he said he needed a full time job for financial reasons, my first thought was “because that’s the only way he has insurance.”

    3. Lilo*

      It’s also hard because a small organizations like LWs can’t really absorb the hit of employing someone who can’t do the job. So LW is in no way a bad person if they have to move him to part time.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I agree with this. The OP is in a catch-22, and unfortunately no matter how hard they try someone is probably going to wind up upset or hurt.
        Also, you do need to think about the impact on your other employees.

    4. Junior Dev*

      IMO if OP goes with switching the employee to part time, they should consider keeping him on health insurance as though he were full time (no increased premiums or reduced benefits).

      1. Midlife Tattoos*

        Very much this. In our crappy system of having health insurance tied to employment, losing insurance when he’s chronically ill would be devastating.

        1. T R*

          It’s worth checking – some plans require a minimum number of hours per week, but that isn’t necessarily 35+ hours.

    5. Rebecca*

      This does suck, and it sucks a lot. The company I work for had an employee like this – she was not old enough to retire, very sick, her husband also had health problems, could not work much, they were really struggling, but, at the end of the day, she could not work full time, and even part time work wasn’t attainable any longer, she was out of leave, etc. but because she had good health insurance through the company, she was struggling to hang on. It was a mess. It turned out the best thing was to lay her off, with severance, so she could get the medical help and other assistance she and her husband needed. I find it morally reprehensible that one’s access to medical care and even life itself can be tied to employment. What a horrible system.

  8. OneWomansOpinion*

    Anyone else confused by #5? The employee is applying to another job with the same company, right? So it’s more of a promotion or maybe a lateral transfer to another department than a “how can we keep you” situation. My read is she may have assumed the boss would see it!

    If people are assuming she’s job searching because she has an up-to-date resume online, that seems like a leap. Lots of people carefully manage their online presence to be as UTD as possible.

    1. Buttons*

      Indeed sent the email, I don’t think the employee applied for the job. If you upload your resume to Indeed it can sendit out to employers if it fits the criteria for the job they are filling.

    2. Bertha*

      You can put your resume on Indeed, and employers can search for it and be alerted of it. The employee probably had no idea that it went to the employer in this way.

      For what it’s worth, LinkedIn let’s you “alert” employers that you are looking, but you have the option to have it not alert whoever you have listed as your current employer, even if they are using the service to look for people who have the “alert” on. It’s possible this person uploaded the resume a while ago and didn’t turn off the “alert” feature, and it’s also possible she is looking now. I suppose it depends on how up to date the resume is, to say when it was uploaded to the site.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      If she were applying for an internal transfer or promotion, she’d likely apply directly with the company, not via Indeed. So the fact that the “application” came via Indeed suggests Indeed did it automatically without her knowledge. The question is if it happened accidentally because she’s looking and updated her resume and turned on the feature without realizing it might end up at her current employer or if she’s not looking but had the setting set from a previous search and updated her info for other reasons – like not wanting to do it in a rush if/when she does start looking- and didn’t realize doing that would trigger the automated thing.

    4. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

      When I was re-org’d out of a job a few years ago (my job duties were absorbed into a new, higher level position that sounded pretty much like the same job that was being eliminated but was more “strategic”), one of the job search sites sent me the PD as being a good fit with my existing skills. So, I could see a current employee being matched with something within her own organization.

  9. StressedButOkay*

    Oh, please don’t be That Person who polices other people and their ability to participate in things like this! Sometimes they either don’t have the money ($30 can be a good amount, especially around this time of the year); they might have forgotten; or, like it was mentioned, they might have thought “White Elephant” = silly/gag gift.

    If you start policing people, people won’t play. Part of the thing with this kind of game is that there’s going to be a chance that someone’s going to get a weird/’funny’ gift when they brought in a $30 bottle of wine. It happens.

    It comes across mean spirited.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I don’t think it’s a bad thing to provide a little guidance on what kind of gift exchange it is — there are a few different traditions with names that have different connotations to different people, and one person thinking it’s for gag gifts, another person thinking it’s for gently-used items they no longer want, while someone else thinks it’s for nice, new things things — that’s reasonable to level-set on. But that shouldn’t involve singling people out! That looks more like next year’s announcement being something along the lines of “Gifts should be new, still in packaging if applicable, and kind.”

      1. StressedButOkay*

        I mean, yes! In advance, absolutely feel free to give some guidance at the start! But to follow up after the fact just comes off as mean spirited, especially if there was no guidance.

        The follow up should be left alone and they should just set some guidelines next year.

        1. rayray*

          Absolutely. Looks like they’ve learned their lesson. Maybe next year they will come up with guidelines or rules for it, rather than stamp their feet and pout after the fact because they didn’t like their present.

          I’m sure a lot of us have felt a twinge of disappointment with this kind of thing, but if someone tried their best or genuinely thought they were playing by the rules, just leave it be. It’s all part of the risk of doing a gift swap like this.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Better yet just stop this kind of thing all together.

        These are coworkers, not friends, not family.

        I always had other people I preferred to spend “voluntary” Secret Santa money on, but hey “team building!”

  10. So long and thanks for all the fish*

    I’m curious what other people think about #4. While I think I’d rather hear from the hiring manager directly, I was emailed the offer for my current job, and I liked that- it creates less pressure to respond in the moment and gives you a chance to give a considered response. Are calls still the standard, or are things moving in other directions?

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I still make calls.

      At my company, HR will email me the offer and accompanying information. I’ll call the candidate and verbally offer them the position and let them know the offer letter will be there shortly with all of the details including salary and benefits. And then tell them to call me if they have any questions or wish to discuss the offer. Or to reply to the email with their signature if they accept.

      To me too many things can go wrong with just email or just sending in the mail. I want to give someone what I hope is exciting news and make sure they know that the offer is coming via email because we do have a time limit (48 hours).

    2. Sherm*

      For me, I would prefer a phone call (and I dislike talking on the phone!) Maybe it’s silly, but I just feel that emails are too easy to whip up and send, and they can come across as impersonal. The offer is (perhaps) the beginning of a meaningful relationship, which I think could use the personal element of a phone call. Also, I might want to hear how enthusiastic they seem about extending the offer.

      (I definitely would want some time to think about the offer, so would hope they wouldn’t put me on the spot and say “Do you accept the offer???”)

    3. CRM*

      I think the way my current employer did it was perfect. She called me to let me know that they were offering me the job, and that everyone was really excited to have me on the team. She told me that she would be sending an email with details, and that I should give it a few days to think it over and look at the package to make sure it was in line with what I was expecting. There was no pressure to respond immediately, and I didn’t. I also had time to look over the package and prepare for salary negotiations, instead of doing them on the fly. It was also nice to hear how genuinely excited she was about me joining the team, instead of receiving a an email.

      Just to add to this: If someone sent me an offer via FedEx, there is a zero chance I would respond in time. My primary form of communication is email/text, my paycheck is direct deposit, and all of my bills are paid electronically. I only check my physical mailbox once a week, sometimes less, and I would never expect something as urgent as a job offer to arrive in the mail! So in that sense, I think offers via FedEx is a terrible idea.

      1. Just J.*

        If you FedEx with out the call, then I would agree. For my current employer, the legal team wanted proof that the written offer was delivered and received. I mean, I got the phone call first, so I knew to be on the look-out for FedEx.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      In my field/location, it’s customary to get a phone call (from hiring manager or HR), followed by an email with the paperwork to review.

    5. Third or Nothing!*

      I got a phone call saying I was being offered the job and to expect an email with an offer letter by the end of the day. That was really nice, as I got to read through the letter to make sure everything was as negotiated before giving a response. I did appreciate the phone call heads-up, though. It was a nice personal touch.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’m not a big phone person, but to me an email is a bit cold for a job offer. I’d prefer a phone call with a verbal offer, and then if I accepted, I’d ask for one in writing. I don’t think it adds pressure – if you need time to think about it, you just speak up and say so. So many companies are rude when it comes to communication (or non-communication most of the time) during the hiring process. Reach out and make a phone call. Let an interviewee that you’ve chosen someone else. Don’t be rigid when trying to setup an interview. It’s not that difficult, and what these companies don’t realize is that they’re driving good candidates away with their bahavior.

    7. Emily K*

      I’ve only ever received offers by phone, but I’ve also never felt like there was an expectation that I would answer immediately. Actually, to the contrary, there were times when I knew I was basically going to take the job no matter what if it was offered, but I still asked for the night to fully consider and give them my answer tomorrow because I wanted to see if I could negotiate for anything above the initial offer, and felt that I had more leverage to negotiate the offer if I waited something like 16-20 hours before countering.

      Kind of like buying a car – you play it cool a little bit even if it’s your dream car and it’s the only one on the entire seaboard in the color you want with the feature package you want, because if the sales rep knows how badly you want it, they have less incentive to negotiate a better deal.

    8. TCO*

      I like a phone call! It’s really nice to hear the excitement in the hiring manager’s voice and it gives an easy opportunity to ask initial questions. But it’s standard to follow up with a written offer with more details, and then work out those details/negotiations over e-mail or phone after the candidate has had time to review.

      I’ve also had a hiring manager e-mail me asking if there’s a time to schedule a call, promising that it’s about “good news.” That can be a middle road–that way I know the offer is coming before I pick up the phone, but the conversation still happens over the phone rather than e-mail. (And again, there’s follow-up after the written offer is sent over.)

    9. Maybe Pick Multiple Options?*

      So, I thought about this one a bit. My first reaction was that insisting on calls can have some accessibility and class issues (calling deaf people can be… complicated, and low wage jobs often don’t let you answer during your work hours), but then I thought a bit more while typing up my first draft here.

      Admittedly, e-mails aren’t perfect either (some nameless providers have hyper-aggressive “junk filters” that toggle without user action, for example) and the FedEx part horrified me after having lived for a decade in a zip code where the post office mixed up addresses regularly and packages at the front door just didn’t stay very long if you weren’t home. FedEx is also possibly a bad way accessibility-wise for other reasons (a physical letter can’t read itself to a blind applicant).

      Where I eventually landed was that asking HR is indeed reasonable (as was advised), but I’d love to tack on a note about why it is worthwhile to push if HR is rigid. It’s not for a personal preference thing for the hiring manager, but I think it’s worth pushing if HR is rigid because hiring processes should be flexible to meet the needs of applicants.

      There are already *so many* barriers to getting a job that rely on the “it’s always worked this way” sort of mindset, so I would say here is another place that someone could make the job world better by just being ready to adapt. HR should have a *list* of valid options to contact people, and think through how each way would fit with its own procedures and *not* needlessly block anybody for being unable to engage with the “standard” process.

    10. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, I’d rather get the email. I would feel a bit awkward on the phone, especially if I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to accept the offer. I’d like time to process it and have my own private reaction.

      A package from FedEx however seems a bit odd and outdated though.

  11. stuff*

    My current company has a gift exchange which is the ONLY one that I have enjoyed/ appreciated.

    It’s a “Toys for Tots” one and you draw a name, choose a toy that you think that person would have liked as a child, based on their personality today. Everyone opens them, you tell the story behind it.

    Everything gets donated at the end. No one feels stiffed, you get to learn something about your colleagues and you don’t end up with crap you don’t want.

    1. Andream*

      I like the idea but I think that would be great if you had a close knit team or a small company where everyone knew each other, since you base it off of their personality. But for larger companies, I don’t think that would work.

      1. stuff*

        You can do it with a larger group too! We don’t actually all know each other and you have to do some homework sometimes but it’s surprising the things you can come up with. We had someone get a bride barbie doll for someone who was getting married. One year I had gotten a play kitchen because I just bought a house. It takes a bit of creativity but it definitely isn’t as anxiety inducing as you would expect.

    2. rayray*

      That sounds fun. My old company ended the gift exchange tradition and adopted some kids from the Angel Tree and you could sign up to buy them gifts or you could donate money. It was 100% optional, and you could buy as much (big toys, new coats or shoes etc) or as little (small toys, gloves, socks) as you wanted. No having to guess what someone else might like, no having to deal with the polite smile when you open a fragrant lotion you won’t use or the 6th Santa Claus mug you’ve gotten from this kind of thing.

    3. Not right now, thanks.*

      I know this sounds nice and all, I would find this a painful exercise. My childhood was a veritable sh*tshow and I really don’t like having to talk or pretend it was anything else in front of coworkers- I just don’t “go there”.

      The Toys for tots part is great, but the rest.. ouch.

      We recently did an icebreaker at a meeting with the ED and upper management all at the table and we were to talk about favorite childhood Christmas memories and the one that immediately popped into my head was the Christmas my father threatened to burn the house down with all of us kids inside which is anything but a happy memory. Luckily, our oldest sibling stopped dad. Yeah. I know that Christmas isn’t usually a trigger for people but I try to focus on more recent, normal Christmases than my childhood ones. I did find something to say and just tried to keep myself together in that moment.

      1. doreen*

        I’m sorry to hear about your childhood. But part of what’s good about this idea is that is has nothing to do with your actual childhood- it’s pick a gift they think you would have liked as a child based on who you are today. The newlywed got a bride Barbie, the new homeowner got a play kitchen. You could get a book for someone who currently likes to read , a baseball glove for a baseball fan , all without asking what hobbies/interests did they have as a child. I think maybe you misunderstood the part about “tells the story” – to me, it sounds like the gift-giver is telling the story of how they chose the gift, not that the recipient is talking about their childhood.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I would rather my team just do an “angel tree” together where you pick a kid off the tree and get something off of their wishlist. I would hate trying to tie what I bought to a coworker somehow.

  12. StaceyIzMe*

    I like the way AAM framed this as ‘let’s see if our needs can align or what next steps would be if they can’t’! So much of the answer to this depends on the context and it sounds like there’s more to do before even framing a conclusion. For example, has at least a quarterly review occurred where the employee has been apprised that his or her reduced productivity is now an issue that exceeds the normal “taking up the slack” dynamic that occurs for colds etc… Also- I’d be curious, as a manager, to quantify how much both quality and quantity of work product have declined and I’d want to offer the employee a forum to offer his or her own insight. It sounds like you might need to offer a “way back” if that’s feasible. Not a Performance Improvement Plan, exactly, because it’s not that kind of an issue. But functionally? Yes, a performance improvement plan! That allows the employee to reflect on what he or she can do to recover, offers reasonable notice of the fact that they can’t stay without contributing and offers a way to begin finding an array of possible paths forward that are kind and (equally important!) don’t shift all of the burden to other team members. It’s a tricky balance because other employees will be watching how this is addressed and you don’t want either extreme of “you can’t perform, so you’re out” or “you can’t perform, but that’s okay because you’re ill and your team will do the job for you insofar as is necessary”.

    1. Kendra*

      If the employee is dealing with a chronic illness, it’s probably taking up a fair amount of their brain space, so I think you’re right that it’s a good idea to talk to them about their performance first. They may not know! Or they may just be prioritizing and thinking they’re doing well enough (especially if the OP hasn’t said anything yet).

      Definitely be compassionate first and foremost, but I think it’s okay to be open about it, and address the issue head-on instead of just ignoring it and hoping it goes away. (Because “chronic” means it probably won’t, or at least, not soon.)

  13. StaceyIzMe*

    This question is eccentric, but I wonder if there is such a thing as an insurance policy for employers to take out in this specific kind of instance? (Whereby a decline in productivity due to a health concern can be addressed by bringing additional resources on that are then compensated out of the terms/ amount available under the insurance policy?)

    1. SomebodyElse*

      This is going to sound a little heartless, but from a business standpoint, why would you pay money to an insurance policy to pay you money for an illness induced productivity loss?

      At a minimum it would be cheaper to just add resources if the need arose or ‘eat’ the cost of low productivity.

      Now from a personal standpoint, most employers are going to be as flexible as they can right up until they can’t anymore. Yes there are bad employers and bosses, but like most things, you typically only hear the horror stories.

      Now on the letter at large… 1-2 days a week is a lot! And if someone is out that much I would really have to wonder how effective they are when they are at work. It sucks, but as a business owner or a boss, that is really hard to work around, especially in a 12 person office.

    2. Anna*

      This is obviously not terribly applicable to many employers, but professional sports teams absolutely do obtain insurance on their athletes, who are both highly paid and liable to be put out of service by injury. I’m not sure about all of the major sports leagues, but in MLB contracts are generally guaranteed, so players are paid even if they sit out the entire season due to injury.

      I think the distinction here is that most of us are neither that valuable, and many are not in fields of work where we are likely to be injured on the job or totally out of commission if we are injured away from work. So it probably is not cost-effective to pay some percentage of payroll to insure against this type of productivity loss, which on the whole is unlikely, but the concept does exist.

    3. somanyquestions*

      My past employers have had short-term disability insurance that could be used part-time if one’s PTO was used up, and they could only work PT due to a medical reason. I did have to pay for it, but it wasn’t terribly expensive. That seems like a simpler way to handle the situation.

    4. Asenath*

      I think there are such policies, but they’re generally for extremely valuable people who can’t be replaced easily. I’ve generally had disability insurance on myself, but although that was part of a group plan at work, I paid half the premiums. Getting disability insurance can be extremely expensive if you aren’t part of a group plan.

  14. Andream*

    LW 1: is it possible that the employee could change to a diffrent role that wouldnt be as an impact to others when he is gone. Or is there stuff he could do from home when he can’t come in (depending on what the issue is of course).

  15. Andream*

    LW# 5. I would NOT bring it up, unless the employee has said something already. You could always think that maybe she’s just looking for a part-time job. I would consider the employee’s role and what she is getting. Is she unhappy, does she want to move to a higher level but there is no room for her to move up?

  16. River Song*

    The whole work gift exchange thing drives me crazy. When my husband got his first “career” job, we struggled to make ends meet and provide the little ones with a Christmas and $30 was more than we spent on anyone. We wouldnt gift to each other, and we had a $10 limit on all family members. $30 for a grown man that wasn’t in any way related to us (that was their price range, too) really, really irked me.
    You never know what people’s finances are like. Just give holiday bonuses and eat cookies.

  17. Close Bracket*

    Slow employee is listening to podcasts while she works

    I would do this a little differently than how Alison suggests. I would start by addressing the slowness without mentioning the podcasts. In other words, stick to the performance issues. After you have made the performance problems clear with a direct conversation, if things don’t improve, then I would ask her to stop listening to podcasts.

    1. Andream*

      Yeah, I agree, Don’t mention the podcasts, but do mention the mistakes. Maybe there is a reason she listens to the podcasts. Is she trying to drown out other noise? Is someone/something bugging her and distracting her so that she’s making mistakes?

      I am also concerned that the LW is comparing the 2 employees. Does John have more experience doing this type of work? I know she said that it is entry-level but entry-level doesn’t mean they have no experience. Maybe John had an internship where he did the same stuff?
      Also, consider that maybe Beth has dyslexia, which could account for the mistakes. Also, some people learn faster than others. So if they both started a few months ago, it could be that John caught on more quickly.

      1. Quill*

        Another thing I thought of was anxiety and ADD/ADHD… both of which can make learning the ropes harder AND also require some form of stimulus to reduce awareness of environmental noise / distract part of the brain.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I took the purpose of the comparison to illustrate that the OP’s expectations for the role are reasonable. In other words, John is performing with the efficiency she expects of a new hire at the level of both these employees, and since John is doing so, OP knows it’s possible. Even if John did have more experience, she hired them both with the expectation that newbies would be faster and make fewer mistakes than Beth is doing. It’s true some people learn faster than others, but it also sounds like the expectations of this job are the person in it needs to be up to speed by now. OP does need to make explicitly clear that Beth’s not at the level she’s expected to be and then see if Beth is able to improve, whether that means dropping the podcasts or some other strategy.

      3. Zahra*

        I have ADHD and I would be very resentful to any manager who would want me to stop listening to music or podcasts. Heck, I’ll sometimes listen to movies (keyword being “listen”: the phone is turned over so I can’t see the screen). I would be a worse employee without the distraction.

        I *would* take it to heart if they said that I seem more concentrated on my listening materials (laughing out loud regularly, etc.) than work. I would change what I listen to, not the fact that I listen to something.

  18. KD*

    $30 is a lot. Many people live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have that extra amount in their budget or need it to buy gifts for their own family or children this time of year. While it would have been considerate for them to have opted out instead of accepting another gift of that $30 value, I’d recommend lowering the amount to something like $5 in the future (or better yet, scrapping this altogether).

  19. Not settled on a name yet*

    Unfortunately at 12 employees #1 can also ignore the ADA, which is a shame. It’s unclear if they have addressed the performance issues with the person. As someone with a chronic illness and as someone who’s managed someone with a chronic illness, it may be that the individual doesn’t realize their performance has slipped. It’s worth discussing and brainstorming on ways to move forward together. It’s possible a short term paid leave of absence would give them the space to get the medical assistance needed to bring back performance or figure out accommodations that would allow for that. There’s also the JAN network that has great advice and ideas on accommodations. The manager here seems open to ideas, and kind at heart, so I recommend a direct but gentle approach to work together with the employee.

    Also, the American health system is terrible, but there are groups for just about every chronic condition out there, which have coupons or advice on how to make things more affordable. Just because you have (terrible) insurance it doesn’t mean you need to pay a million dollars for treatment, it’s complicated, but heath advocates can be really helpful in navigating that stuff.

    As someone with a chronic illness, it makes me very sad that a previously stellar employee may lose their job because they’re trying to deal with changes to their body they can’t control

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Some states have their own ADA, it’s 8 employees here! Just a heads up so that it’s not an across the board decision that they can ignore the accommodations!

  20. Quill*

    I’d like to add onto Allison’s #3: when I started working I was in some of the deepest throes of my anxiety disorder and was using podcasts / audiobooks to manage my rampant hypervigilance. (It helps not to hear other people, sometimes, and verbal content can help keep the anxiety engine busy.) Even so, I was making a lot of mistakes because I was deeply, uncontrollably anxious about everything, checked everything I did about five million times before overthinking it and changing it to something that turned out to be wrong (because what I’d done instinctively could OBVIOUSLY not have been the right answer) and had a memory less like swiss cheese and more like a fishnet.

    The “distraction” may in fact be a coping mechanism for yet another distraction.

    For #1, the longer amount of time you can give your employee to figure things out regarding insurance and part time / full time work, the better. The reality is that by loosing full time status, he may be losing access the health care that allows him to work at all, period.

  21. No longer have a name.*

    Our office Yankee swap does not have a top limit nor a low suggestion, which most offices where I’d worked always had so we’d look for gifts between say, 10 & 15 dollars. Without this guidance there is a HUGE swing between the amounts people spend. I prefer a dollar suggestion with a top limit. I no longer participate in the other swaps at other times of the year (yes we have several different ones throughout the year for other holidays) but the Christmas one is usually fun regardless.

    At a friends party once, I gave a gift certificate that I’d won but would never in a million years use, and the recipient was over the moon happy about it. I, on the other hand, received a really cute, but tiny little box that you might buy at the dollar store, and inside was……………a rock. Literally given a rock and the person who gave it thought it was the funniest thing ever to see me open the rock. Unfortunately for others, I was the last person that got to steal and steal I did. Got an adorable cake plate with a recipe printed around the edge. I did feel bad about the person who ended up with that rock and offered to take them to lunch as well.

    1. Quill*

      I gave my brother three pounds of rocks for christmas once.

      This worked because they were 1) labeled geological samples that I’d picked up when my college was clearing out the geology department 2) appreciated because my brother has always been a huge rock hound.

    2. Johnny Tarr*

      Oh, gads, having no spending guidelines is a recipe for disaster. The uncertainty alone would be stressful – “I don’t want to be Creed Bratton or Michael Scott here” – and if I then walked away with a rock (!), I would call that a wholly unsuccessful event.

  22. Master Bean Counter*

    Here’s what I have done with a chronically ill employee:
    1. Switched up the work loads. She was moved to me to be in a lower stress position. Also her tasks aren’t quite as time sensitive as they used to be.
    2. We flex her schedule when we can. I gave her the freedom to work from home or come in on the weekends to finish up work when needed.
    3. Encouraged her to take time when she needs it. You just can’t run on an empty tank.
    4. Talked her into getting some accommodations that makes her day easier. One was convincing her that she’d benefit from a roller walker.

    Get creative in looking for a solution, if you give a little usually the employee will be happier and be more willing to meet you in the middle.

  23. Eep*

    Respectfully, I feel like LW1 didn’t really get an answer. It seems pretty clear that they weren’t sure what all of their options are, and the answer they received was “consider all your options, and then move forward.” If I’d written in with that question, I still wouldn’t know what to say in the conversation with my employee.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I felt that this was addressed in the first paragraph of the answer: “Ultimately you have to figure out the bottom line answer to what you need — which might be having the person in his role reliably at work full-time, or having him go part-time so that you can hire a second part-time person to take up the rest of his duties, or either of those, or some other option altogether.”

      If he cannot be there reliably full-time, and the business really needs someone in that role full-time, then they might have to let him go. But if two part-time people would work out, and the employee can make that work on his end, then at least he still has a job.

  24. MistOrMister*

    Re OP5…I once had a head hunter send my resume to a company I had just recently left. Someone I knew told me, oh by the way, we just got your resume but I assume it’s a mistake. I was livid!! The headhunter never gave me any options for places to interview but I guess he was just sending my resume out where and when he wanted, even when I wasn’t actively looking. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that it’s possible the employee is not actively looking but that some boneheaded recruiter has their resume and is sending it out willy nilly. You’d think they would notice when the name of the company matches something on the resume, but apparently that is too much commone sense to expect!

  25. AnotherKate*

    Re: the last question at the link, I had no idea Indeed would “out” you like that. Does it just spray your resume everywhere it thinks you’d be a fit? How did this employee end up “applying” to her own company?

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I don’t know if Indeed specifically allows for this, but there’s a chance it could have been a blind ad and the employee didn’t know where they were applying. I’ve seen that happen when companies are hiring to replace someone who doesn’t know they’re about to be fired/separated/etc…

  26. hedda*

    LW #1, I was that employee. I was dealing with burnout and PTSD (from a traumatic upbringing and a traumatic previous manager), and ended up on disability for a chunk of the year to deal with it. And then I came back and immediately caught the flu.

    My manager, who is wonderful, asked me in our 1-1 how he could help support me to be here more. I made a few realizations about my life, like my commute is terrible and saps my energy. But I talked with him about some work factors which were contributing to my anxiety, but also that’s what it was – anxiety. If I couldn’t be 110%, I didn’t want to come in. And he said I didn’t have to be perfect every day, but that they missed me and wanted me to be here. It costs a lot to find good people, he said, and so if I needed a business argument there it was.

    If you want this employee to stick around, then a gentle approach worked well on me. I respond well to being asked to meet someone at a place where I’m not yet, as opposed to being yelled at for not being there yet. There’s a lot of factors that can contribute to this, and if you’re open to hearing them I bet it’s multifactorial. One, I just get sick a lot, and two, that burnout was way worse than I pretended it was, and I really needed to deal with it. The first one I can’t control, the second I have better control over, and I definitely had control over whether I really needed to live so far away from work as to make myself exhausted from the commute.

    Good luck.

  27. DiniGirl*

    Even if your company isn’t required to provide FMLA, you may have some obligation under the ADA for a disability, including leave time, unless the MD can’t determine an end date. I’d probably want the employee to go through that process as well to conver us on that.

  28. Employment Lawyer*

    It’s worth restating the baseline level: You don’t owe an employee anything beyond basic, professional, courteous, legal, fair treatment. This means that you don’t need to step in and act like “job insurance” or “help them out” or do anything else beyond the bare legal requirement, unless you WANT to. You can–if you want–opt to make a decision purely on a financial basis, or entirely on a social-justice basis.

    Viewing it that way can be clarifying: it’s a choice! And to a degree the sky is the limit–you can pay them a full salary for no work at all, if you’re the owner.

    But you “run” a company, you don’t “own” a company (I think.) So in a sense you can’t literally do what you want, at least not on your own. You can’t keep overpaying, any more than you can ethically decide to give away a lot of your employer’s money for some other reason.

    So I would be inclined to run it up the chain. Your employer may be perfectly willing to go above and beyond, or they may need to cut their losses to some point. In either case the owner probably will have some opinion on which way to go, and you may as well find out what it is.

  29. Chronically Employed*

    #1 – As a chronically ill person who has been the employee of a small, flexible company, whatever you do, please talk to them! Talk through everything. There may be ways to support them that neither of you have yet thought of. I had an issue last year where my health declined due to poor health insurance from my company, and I didn’t realize that my performance was suffering because of it. I was fired. If we’d just talked about it more, I think we could have avoided that. It sounds like you really want to support this person – you wouldn’t be writing in otherwise.

  30. BekaAnne*

    Regarding #1:

    I have a chronic pain condition (that is exacerbated by stress) and it’s unpredictable. The symptoms are wide ranging and they impact me cognitively at times (brain fog is a fluffy name for it), and physically at other times. I am super aware that if I’m having a bad day, I cannot do as much. I may need to cut my hours, I may need to look at accommodations. I have a wonderful line manager who has worked with me throughout this.

    Firstly, I would ask: Does that person have to work from the office? Some of my biggest challenges on high-pain days are actually getting out of bed, showering, dressing in work appropriate attire and making that commute into work. Is there a way that you can save them energy by allowing work from home on even some days?
    Secondly: Is there something that you can change in the environment that will help them? Simple stuff like chairs, or standing desk or bigger monitor or anything. All that stuff can be re-used if that person doesn’t end up working out for you.
    Thirdly: Can you flex their day? Again, weirdly the commute is sometimes the hardest bit. If I do it at rush-hour, the stress makes my pain worse. If I do it at a quieter time, I can take a little more time. I can get a seat on the bus/tram, and it means that I don’t expend as much energy. That means that I can do a little more during the day. Can they come in early, leave early without too much impact? Can they work on less critical things while they are having difficulties?
    Lastly: Don’t make decisions about what to do to them without talking to them. They know their situation and can tell you where they have their stress points. See what strategies would work for them and evaluate cost to business, benefit of keeping a trained member of staff, etc.

    Ultimately, this may not be a situation which works for you from a business standpoint, and that’s valid. Don’t be afraid to outline what you need from them in terms of commitment due to the role that they are fulfilling. In general, people with chronic conditions know that the unpredictability can be an issue, and that may be one of the things that doesn’t work for you. Dropping someone to part time may only work if you can guarantee their hours a week in advance, not a call up on the day and have them announce that they’re working today. Be realistic with yourself on what you need and what needs are being met. Work from there.

    Maybe not the best advice in the world, but hopefully it may spark some thoughts?

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