my employee keeps missing emails

A reader writes:

What’s a good response to an employee who said they “missed” an email you sent? I’ve already stressed the importance of reviewing all incoming mail and provided resources on organizing and managing your inbox. This has happened a few times now with negative business consequences (late payments) and I don’t want to jump right to write-ups.

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:

  • Employee keeps getting loans from coworkers and won’t pay them back
  • Explaining urgent bathroom runs post-cancer
  • The person I referred for a job keeps bugging me for updates
  • Should we put windows in our office doors?

{ 135 comments… read them below }

  1. Nanobots*

    LW5: Yes, please put small windows in your office doors. I’m always conscious as a woman when I’m in a space where no one could see in. I’ve always respected workplaces that maintain the philosophy that the restroom is the only* place where you should expect 100% privacy in an office (*and nursing rooms). Even our nap pods have frosted windows.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Agreed, having some kind of widow will let managers know that there is no hankey-pankey allowed. The last office remodel I witnessed went to glass walls where the middle of the wall was frosted so passers by couldn’t read lips or expressions. But you could see who was in the office and generally what was happening.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, one of the offices in my building does not have a window beside the door and it’s…awkward. Is he in there? Is he in a meeting? Did he just close the door so he could work privately? No way to tell!

      With all other offices you can kind of peek in and see “oh, he’s in with someone, I’ll come back” or “no one’s there, he’s off,” or “he’s there, I’ll tap lightly and see if he doesn’t mind seeing me.”

      The windows are just narrow slits, and they’re next to the doors, not in them, but they’re super helpful.

    3. Betty*

      I think the obvious best-of-both-worlds is to have windows in the doors and blinds on the windows. Maybe sometimes you will want to close the blind: e.g. imagine if you wanted to pump at your desk or change your top – but it could also just send a more serious “Do Not Disturb” message while allowing employees to close the door but leave the blind open if they want to shut out noise but still be “accessible”.

      I would create a company culture or specific guideline, though, that the default is to leave the blind open if you’re just doing regular work.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Another vote for the blinds. It kills me that I have an office with a door that closes, but if I have to change for an after-work hike or such, it has to be in a restroom stall. (Not sure if I as an employee am allowed to just up and install the blinds.)

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          It’s almost always easier to ask forgiveness than permission for such things. Either no one will notice, or anyone who does notice will assume a facilities person did it. I’ve gotten away with a lot of stuff of this nature.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      Actually, windows in doors, lightly frosted, are a safety measure.

      Ever nearly run into someone going into or out of a restroom? No window in the door to let you see who is coming the other way. I’ve nearly been knocked off my feet because of someone hurrying though a door.

      The same holds true for office doors. A frosted window lets you see if someone is coming in or out while still preserving privacy for people inside.

      1. dovidbawie*

        Someone at my spouse’s job actually got KNOCKED OUT COLD in the bathroom because of this. The real kicker is that person was left there & found by someone else after an unknown amount of time.

    5. Happy*

      Oh, I would hate that.

      I want people to be able to have a conversation with their boss without worrying that someone who walks by would automatically know it was happening (say, in case they were complaining about an incident that just happened).

    6. Magenta*

      I recently set up a new office in the UK, when we installed doors they all had to have glass panels, it is part of the fire regulations, they allow you to see if the door is safe to open.

  2. Jess*

    I love having a door with a window. I work in a renovated historic home, so some of my colleagues have beautiful wooden doors with no windows, but closing them sends a serious “DO NOT DISTURB” vibe. With my door+window, I can close the door for whatever reason (listening to music while I work, using the space heater, etc) and if someone needs me they can walk by and make eye contact and I can wave them in or out.

    1. Close Bracket*

      but closing them sends a serious “DO NOT DISTURB” vibe.

      GOOD. Bc that’s exactly the message I want to send when I close my door.

      I no longer have a door, but back when I did, I had stickies that I posted when I closed my door. I had, “Please knock,” “Please come back later,” and “On the phone.”

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Ya, not being disturbed is the goal!

        I used to have colleagues in cubicles who would place a string of masking tape across their entrance with a piece of paper attached, with URGENT INTERRUPTIONS ONLY, PLEASE written in big letters. People would just … tiptoe away.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Every once in a while, I had to put up signs for my cubicles, especially the time the sulfa drugs caused me to go deaf for three weeks (seriously, 4% of people who get them do that). Right next to the end of the book month, I would “REALLY BUSY TILL 3 PM, WILL TALK TO YOU THEN” while I was trying desperately to input the invoices that I was supposed to have gotten at noon but in reality, Antonio didn’t send them to me till 2.

    2. KayDay*

      Totally agree with this. My current office has windowless doors that open up to the outside, rather than a hallway in a building. So everyone keeps their doors closed to keep the climate control in and the bugs out; but then people also will enter someone’s office either without knocking or with the knock-and-open (which is totally fine in our office, because if we had to get up to let people in every time (or even just stop what we are doing to shout “yes?….come in!…..I said, come in!!!!” we would never get any work done). But it also means that if you need privacy you have to lock your door…and then deal with people trying to open your door not realizing it’s locked, or not being able to see who is knocking. On the other end, you can easily barge into a conversation or a phone call when you don’t mean which is awkward. Often people will attempt to peak into the office windows to try to tell if someone is there/available/busy/on the phone/etc before coming in, which is actually even more awkward.

      When I had an office in normal building with windowless doors, people always kept their doors open unless they really didn’t want to be disturbed. In fact, it was more common to see “it’s okay, you can come in” post it notes on doors, because “do not disturb” was so strongly implied by simply closing the door.

  3. ItsAllFunAndGames*

    One thing to consider about adding windows to doors is that that door is now not 100% secure, making whatever is on the other side of that door no longer a place to hide in the event of a workplace emergency where hiding is in your best interest. We had a security assessment and did some drills and found that large areas of the building could not be totally locked down due to the presence of doors with windows.

    It also makes whatever is behind that door less secure when it comes to theft potentially.

    1. DivineMissL*

      This was the first thing I thought of. I’ve got a solid wood door on my (government) office that is normally open during the day; but in case we have an active shooter scenario, I am able to shut my door and go out the window if necessary. Depending on your industry and security concerns, you might want to consider windows with blinds or curtains if you don’t want solid doors.

      1. Shhhh*

        Yeah, I work for a university and I think over break I’m going to try to come up with a temporary way to cover the window in my door in the event there’s ever an active shooter. I feel a lot safer now than in my very open workspace at my last job, but it’s still on my mind. I do normally leave my door open unless I’m on a call–it would really only be for a true emergency.

        1. Clorinda*

          Classroom doors have windows. We also are required to cover the windows during security drills. I have a piece of heavy paper taped to the inside of my door. When the alarm rings, I tape over the window. It’s a very heavy safe glass–probably the window is the hardest part of the whole door!

        2. TardyTardis*

          I worked in a tax place with an open office plan. Fortunately, none of our clients have ever been *that* distraught. (or they know the nearest actual IRS place is in Portland…).

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      At my old job we had an assessment and figured out that the only locking door was the breastfeeding room and none of the offices were safe because of the floor-to-ceiling glass pane next to the window. My best option was to get in one of the big filing cabinet drawers (yay being kinda short!) or try to run to one of the other exits. It was a sobering experience and showed how insecure our office was once you got past security on the first floor and through the badged doors, both of which happened with visitors and deliveries on a daily basis.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I work in an open plan office, with glass walled conference rooms. There’s literally no place to hide. I’m about 20 feet from the exit stairs, so my option is to hobble there and hope I don’t get stampeded.

      2. ItsAllFunAndGames*

        When we had our active shooter drill, we realized that while the doors to our suite area were all card-reader and or key locked, two of them had windows that were large enough to break and open the door and then have access to almost all of the “secure area”, and one was large enough to see thru and have a clear line of sight (shot) for most of the suite.

      3. TardyTardis*

        I know, a guy could ‘deliver flowers’ to someone he knew was in the building and get past reception every time…

    3. Tina*

      Not in America – I’m so sorry that this is something you even have to think about!
      I’ve seen doors with a paperback-sized window at about eye level, with a semi-decorative iron grating over the window and set into the door – would that make any difference in your scenario?

        1. Media Monkey*

          the only people i hear talking about have active shooter drills in workplaces tend to be in the US however (and i’m in london – we are well aware of the possibility of attacks, just not to the degree that you guys unfortunately have to be).

    4. Observer*

      Having windows may make the door slightly less secure to a shooter – but that only matters is you have bullet resistant doors. If what you are looking for is being out of site, there can be other ways of dealing with that. Also it’s worth noting that hiding is not always your best bet in the case of an invasion and on the other hand, windows can often provide other safety benefits (as others have noted.)

      Which is all to say that it’s not so simple to say that windows definitely lower overall security.

      We’ve had multiple security assessments. We’ve gotten rid of windows on certain doors, much to my boss’ dismay, but no one has even suggested that we get rid of the windows on office doors. (And I’m talking about people who are know their stuff and are highly sensitive to the dangers of attacks on an office.)

  4. hello*

    For what it’s worth, we cover our door windows, for the privacy of our clients. It also helps me stay focused on the client in front of me and not get distracted. The rest of the time we prop our doors open. However, it sounds like the work that letter writer does is different.

    On the flip side, if you get the windows and people decide it’s better without, it’s easier to cover it than to create a new window where there isn’t one.

    1. Mama Bear*

      I agree it depends on the office. We have “fishbowl” conference rooms which are distracting to the people working across from them. Some of our offices have windows next to doors and some don’t. I am fortunate enough to have a solid door but it is open 99.9% of the time. I would also give folks in HR and managers the option to have curtains or blinds if you put windows in.

  5. StellaBella*

    On LW1 and the employee missing emails, a thing that could work, to expand on your advice Alison, is to set up the emails to route into folders as they come in (this is super easy to do in Mail and in Outlook and flagged in gmail even). Use the tools in a more powerful way to help them to organize their emails so they don’t miss emails. I have my work emails set up by person, by topics, by projects, etc – there are ways to use the tools in Outlook too that avoid dupes of emails. It is not difficult to become a strong digitally skilled email user that will benefit everyone on the team and avoid late payments etc.

    1. Rebecca*

      For me, Outlook was marking emails as read if I just clicked on them in the folder without even opening them! So frustrating, I’d click to see it in the reading pane to preview, and boom, marked as read. There was a setting buried somewhere that I googled that solved this problem – this may be another issue that’s happening. One distraction or one phone call can mean an email that wasn’t really read appears to be “read”, and if they all look pretty much the same, and you have a heavy workload, mistakes can happen more easily.

      1. yala*

        For me, Outlook keeps resetting my emails as “unread” even after I’ve clicked on them.

        tbh, I do NOT care for Outlook. I find it cumbersome and tedious to use, but I’m at a loss to articulate why. It just feels off to me.

        1. Rebecca*

          It’s what I must use at work, so I use it, but there are times that it annoys me, like when I search for something that I know is there, and a message pops up something like “Outlook can’t perform this search right now”. It reminds me of HAL on 2001 – I’m sorry Dave… well, Outlook, I sort of need it now or I wouldn’t be searching. Ugh.

    2. Artemesia*

      I don’t understand the reluctance to proceed to write ups or PIP or whatever. The sloppiness of the employee is resulting in late payments; she has already been told about the problem and given advice on how to manage. I would proceed to discipline now and fire her if this didn’t result in improvement. The key here is the fact that it is leading to serious problems like missed payments. Too late to be so soft in response.

      1. Fikly*

        Me either. Yes, there is a responsibility for a manager to help an employee with a performance problem. But it sounds like they have reasonably tried! At a certain point, it’s just an employee who cannot carry out an essential job task, and if they cannot correct this, measures need to me taken.

      2. annony*

        Yeah. It seems like the employee needs something to indicate that this isn’t a small mistake, it is a big one. “Whoops, sorry” doesn’t cut it.

    3. Filter if You Can, or Folders, or...*

      Right? *This* is why it’s so important to get e-mail services to start bothering to implement proper filters. Getting different messages to just go to the right place automatically keeps stuff organized, and as an added bonus you can set up clients to only push notifications on a few important folders and leave others for when you’re back at the desk to check up on.

      The only snagging point I see here is that the suggestion made seems to rely predominantly on local clients processing the filters only when checking e-mail on one specific machine (Outlook and… I assume *Apple* Mail?) or on e-mail services that may or may not be appropriate to use in a work setting (GMail, some workplaces *need* to not leak data like that), but what that really means is more products/solutions need to provide better filtering as standard. It astounds me that Outlook in particular has gotten away with refusing to implement worthwhile server-side filtering for so long even though filtering is such a crucial component of e-mail handling and *everyone* has to know what Outlook is in a workplace.

      Having been stuck on e-mail systems in professional settings that refuse to add real filtering I might add that when filters aren’t there, it’s worth having a well-organized folder system in place and immediately moving anything that isn’t actively happening into those folders manually. Is it tedious? Yes. Is it a massive time sink worth analyzing to figure out the “cost” of your time doing what the computer *should* be doing? Yeah. Does it help prevent the problems that arise (like missing e-mails regularly) from not organizing? Totally.

      If whatever server is in use doesn’t support real filters and doesn’t support a high folder count, then it’s probably time to explain to the IT people or whoever is responsible that the state of the work e-mail is inadequate to actually do work and it’s time to upgrade or move along to something else.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I think it depends on how you work. I use my inbox as a to do list, then file them into folders when I’m done. If they went to folders automatically, I’d miss them more often. Regardless, the hesitance of the OP to discipline the employee is the bigger issue here. You have to hold people accountable or things will never improve.

      1. MsMaryMary*

        I used to have a job where I received an email notification on every back and forth communication on every task for each project I managed. I routed all of those emails to its own outlook folder. I could check the folder a couple times a day, go out to the task itself, read through the comments, decide if I needed to jump in, and then delete all the notifications. My inbox was just for actual emails from clients and coworkers. It made a world of difference!

    5. MsMaryMary*

      Most email systems have other tools besides sorting as well. I had a coworker who color coded her inbox by recipient, so client emails were red, emails from her manager were blue, emails from her direct reports were green, etc. Frankly, her inbox gave me a headache, but it really helped her manage and prioritize.

  6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    We have windows in our doors and I never thought about it as an “accountability” attribute, I thought of it as something to be more open, friendly and easier to see if someone is busy before disturbing them. I love it, it makes things so much more transparent and less weirdly closed off.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Came here to say this very thing. I particularly like a door with windows because (1) I can close the door when I need quiet or need to be on the phone without feeling like I’m in a box, (2) people can see if I’m on the phone or in a meeting before they come in, and (3) I can waive them in if I can or need to interrupt what I am doing to talk to them.

    2. Emily K*

      We have windows for walls and the newer offices also have full-length windows in the doors, because it helps with our LEED rating by letting more natural light into the office interior and thereby reducing the need for artificial light.

      1. Emily K*

        (which, as a happy side effect, also helps reduce migraine incidence for those of us who are sensitive to being under fluorescent light all day)

        1. tangerineRose*

          I’m glad that helps. I sometimes get headaches when under fluorescent lights too long, and I’ve found that wearing a hat with a wide brim usually helps prevent the headache.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Being in a glass case would probably be too much for me, I’d feel like a zoo animal but I like the fact that it’s a lighting issue. I’m about ready to knock our lights down with my rage, it’s screwing with my eyeballs more and more as I age. Thankfully we are all next to windows, nobody is trapped on the interior in the office. When moving we made sure to keep the same kind of structure because natural light is important.

        I worked for years without enough natural life and it was damaging to my mental health with my seasonal depression.

        1. Emily K*

          One mitigating factor I didn’t think to mention is that the shared walls between offices are real walls, since the offices get plenty of light without needing to be open to each other – it’s only the wall along the hallways that’s glass to let more light into the interior. So you don’t feel totally like you’re being watched from potentially all sides…that would unnerve me too!

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Oh okay that makes a lot more sense!

            I was envisioning large phone booth offices. But with just a large out facing wall that’s actually kind of nice sounding. Then you can see people approaching if you’re waiting for someone. Sometimes I get done early and am just pacing my office a bit waiting for an appointment or what have you. That would give me more visibility without just staring into the office next to me watching my coworker LOL.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      We have them for the safety of the employee and the students. We also have blinds for the door-windows, which we use when we are alone and don’t want to be disturbed. We are not supposed to put blinds down when meeting with students.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        As the HR person, I would feel so weird putting blinds down to talk to someone. We just close the door, so people can go ahead and just guess about what’s going on [hint, it’s rarely ever anything actually serious but it’s still private, you know.]

        So I’m glad you have that policy! We don’t have blinds, that’s a weird concept for me but also, we’re not in any kind of industry that requires any actual secrecy or privacy concerns except for those times we’re discussing compensation packages or disciplinary action or whatever else should be kept discrete but nothing that requires a windowless room!!!

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        That’s an excellent policy. It gives people privacy when they don’t want folks to bother them, but it also makes sure that teachers and students alike are safe from any… let’s just call them “misunderstandings,” shall we?

  7. MarMar*

    LW1, I could see myself saying I “missed” an email when I actually saw it, planned to get to it, and my ADD caused it to completely drop out of my mind. Obviously this isn’t acceptable when deadlines are involved, and I have my own strategies to prevent it. Just wanted to mention that “I missed it” could be a euphemism for a failure at a different stage of the “see email -> plan action -> complete action” process. Though after repeated missed deadlines, a warning that the next one will result in a write up may help to communicate to your employee that they absolutely need to figure out how to solidify this process.

  8. J*

    “Recently it has gotten so bad that one of the drivers refused to continue hauling the load because the dispatcher had texted him that she was unable to pay him back.”

    I don’t understand the chain of reasoning here. If the driver refuses to haul the load, does that have a negative impact on the dispatcher? I guess she would have to re-task a different driver to go get it, right? I’m confused as to how hauling the load is related to their personal conflict. Can someone explain it to me?

    1. Emily K*

      I wondered at that too, because it sounds like the driver also needs to be disciplined unless there’s something I don’t know about this business model.

    2. Kate R*

      I had this same question. The trucker is not hauling the load as a personal favor to the dispatcher, right? So was he just refusing to work with the dispatcher out of spite? I know the OP was just asking about whether is was OK to fire the dispatcher over this, but I feel like two conversations needed to happen. One with the dispatcher about stopping the requests for money, and one with the trucker about how if he has a problem with another employee, he can report it (and he should of course not loan the dispatcher anymore money), but he can’t just stop doing his job.

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

      I guess if the driver’s goal is to get the money back in his pocket any way possible, the line of reasoning is that refusing to haul made the company step in and pay it. It worked. The driver got the money — it may or may not result in punishment for the driver depending on how desperate the company is for drivers and how much they want this particular driver — but it solved HIS problem of not having the money. This also has resulted in making the dispatcher the company’s problem to fix, rather than decide it’s not their problem.

      1. Thornus*

        I’m now wondering how the company recorded that borrowed money. At this point, unless the dispatcher pays the company back (or the company lives in a state which permits deducting paychecks in this matter), the company has also given her additional income by paying a debt she owes. Paying a loan back for a friend is a gift, but once the employer/employee relationship would make it look more like income.

        1. Koala dreams*

          I would think it either would be recorded as bonus pay to the driver (if the driver was an employee) or as the purchase of a service or however payments to independent contractors is usually recorded.
          Your idea of recording it as a pay bonus for the dispatcher is interesting, but to me that seems a bit odd. It’s possible, I guess.

          1. Emily K*

            It would have to be legally taxed as income for the dispatcher whose debt was cleared with the payment, rather than the driver who was made whole. Just like the value of your health insurance premiums is taxed as compensation you receive, even though the money bypasses you entirely and goes straight to the health insurance company. If it was recorded it as a bonus for the driver, he’d have to pay taxes on the money just to get paid back what he was owed, which isn’t right.

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

          Depending on how much it was, it’s probably just petty cash. Some places $1,000 for “incidentals” that they don’t really keep meticulous track of would be normal. As for the dispatcher, the company probably can’t do anything to recover the money. They can just fire her and maybe mark this down as “theft” in a way.

      2. Oh So Very Anon*

        This. Very effective for the driver, not so good for the company. I wonder how many other drivers will force the company to pay them by refusing to do their jobs? Heck, it worked for that guy! And, does the company have a plan for getting their money reimbursed by the dispatcher?

        It makes me wonder if the dispatcher is using some sort of leverage to get the “loans.” Does she have the power to determine who gets choice routes?

        1. Alexandra Lynch*

          Usually the dispatcher has three or four potential jobs available for anyone who calls in as being free. Obviously some are better than others; this one takes you down south in the winter, and gives you your layover in the city you want to be in; this one gets you where you can stop in at the house and see wife and kids midweek, versus this one doesn’t have much mileage and a lot of time waiting around, or we will send you out here, but you’ll have to drive back without a load 100 miles to get another. (You don’t get paid well for deadheading like that, and truckers try hard to avoid it.)

          You want to be nice to the dispatchers, because they can make your life a heck of a lot more miserable if they choose to.

    4. Mama Bear*

      Maybe the driver is a contractor or owner/operator who decided to refuse business with a company where the dispatcher was a problem? Sounds to me like this became a Very Big Deal to the driver and I think for that incident alone the dispatcher should be fired. She’s contacting people about finances while she knows they are on the road and impacting the company.

    5. Jen S. 2.0*

      I’m not sure their personal conflict WAS related to the load. I think the driver decided to make it the business’s problem that one of their employees owed him money, even though it was not a business problem at first. He decided to put the company in the middle of a personal problem in order to get people with authority involved, and also probably to embarrass the woman, since now her boss knows she doesn’t pay people back (“deadbeat” is such an ugly word).

      Like, “Hey, Manager, Mary owes me $500. I’ve asked for it back with no success. Can you lean on her, since you’re a manager?” Manager: “Well, that’s between you two; the company doesn’t have any stake in whatever money changed hands.” Driver: “This is a real emergency. I really need you to get involved, since you have some authority over her. In fact, I’m pulling over to the side of the road UNTIL you go talk to her. It’s that important.”

    6. Artemesia*

      The driver was out of line BUT it is a sign of how horrifyingly inappropriate the dispatcher has been. That the business had to front the money is disastrous. I’d be pretty rough with the dispatcher that this is a firing offense, that they need to get square with everyone and that no further loans may be sought on the job from co-workers. Perhaps the dispatcher has personal issues that have made the borrowing seem necessary or perhaps they are a user that likes to spend other people’s money. Some sympathy for a person in the first situation is warranted, but it has to stop. In my experience, people who do this are usually in the second category — entitled users.

      1. Foxy Hedgehog*

        My thought as well. To me “dispatcher” and “driver” do not sound like co-workers. It seems like dispatcher has some level of supervisory relationship–they do, after all, give drivers their assignments, right?

        If a dispatcher is asking a driver for a loan, is there an implicit threat behind the request? Could it be perceived that there is one? If so, that’s a very different matter than asking for a loan from a co-worker!

        1. Alexandra Lynch*

          There’s definitely a power relationship. You don’t want to make your dispatchers mad at you because if you do, they will make sure you get the worst runs, stuck cross country on your anniversary, etc.

    7. BRR*

      It’s a blur of personal and professional. My guess is the driver’s line of thinking is management will blame the dispatcher if the load doesn’t get delivered. It’s not a great line of thinking because there’s an expectation for you to do your job. But it’s led to the lw correctly identifying a problem in the dispatcher asking to borrow money from coworkers and not paying them back.

    8. Koala dreams*

      Well, it seems to me that the dispatcher was abusing their position to make the drivers give them money, and refusing to work was a way to get the complaint to the ears of people higher up in the company. A one-man strike, if you so will. This of course assumes the driver was an employee. If they were an independent contractor, it just business. You wouldn’t keep doing work for a customer who’s representant was always demanding money from you. Asking for the money back was just a tactic to A) get rid of the problem customer, or B) add an “asshole fee”.

      1. Koala dreams*

        As for why the company would pay the money to the driver, it’s hard to say. Maybe it was cheaper than finding another driver and send them there. Maybe the cargo was time-sensitive and it wouldn’t had arrived in time otherwise. Maybe they wanted to be generous to a driver in financial difficulties.

    9. Not A Manager*

      Driver was holding the load hostage until the company forced the dispatcher to pay him back, or until they made him whole themselves. Which they did, so the strategy worked.

    10. AndersonDarling*

      Generally speaking, if you have a dispatcher, they are your main line of communication. They may not technically be your manager, but they sure feel like it. They can treat you like garbage and you just have to take it or quit because there aren’t any other lines of communication open.
      I’m betting the driver just had enough of the dispatcher’s drama and refused to work because of it. The driver likely didn’t consider what that meant in the big picture, they just wanted to get someone’s attention above the dispatcher.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I have to say that my first thought was very much along these lines. Dispatcher had become a problem for the drivers, and they weren’t getting anywhere with lower-level complaints and this isn’t long term sustainable for me – I’m going to throw the whole mess as a strike threat at the company and see what shakes out because I don’t have a whole lot left to loose.

    11. Observer*

      I can see two possibilities here –

      1. The driver DOES think that this directly affects the dispatcher

      2. The driver is trying to force SOMEONE to do something about it.

      In theory, yes, the driver should b disciplined. But it sounds like the company knew about this and refused to do anything about it till the driver acted up. And even then they they are balking at putting a hard stop to it. So, I can’t entirely blame the driver for trying to force the issue.

  9. Rainbow Roses*

    I don’t know anything about the trucking business but do truckers work for the company or are they private contractors? If the truckers are employees of the company, why did the company have to pay back the loan for someone who is refusing to do their job? Isn’t loans personal rather than business?

    Perhaps the company can make a policy that loans between coworkers are personal interactions and the company does not authorize or are involved in loans.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I believe it depends on if the truck driver owns the truck. If the company owns the truck, then the driver is an employee. If the driver owns the truck, then the driver is a contractor.

    2. Reality Check*

      My brother did long haul trucking years ago and I’m trying to remember. I believe he was paid per trip – the owner owned the actual truck, and my brother got a piece of the profit. He certainly could have made the owner’s life difficult by refusing a trip. These guys are NOT easily replaced, at least at that time and place.

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

      I think it can be either one. Some drivers are owner/operators who contract with various companies (like a temp office worker) and some are employed directly by the company. The company may own the load and/or the trailer, but not necessarily the cab.

    4. Marthooh*

      Or the company could make a useful policy that is not entirely and blatantly self-serving, like “Employees may not hit each other up for loans.” Because just saying “Well that’s officially not our problem!” won’t help the company’s reputation at all.

      1. Rainbow Roses*

        I thought of the company making a blanket rule of no loans but then rethought about a company telling their employees they can’t do private business. After all, I’ve loaned and borrowed a few bucks from coworkers. However a policy of covering their own butts implies they discourage this practice and may make people think twice about lending large sums of money to near strangers.

        1. Rainbow Roses*

          I forgot to say that there needs to be some personal responsibility. The company did not force the truckers to lend money. If they feel pressured or threatened, they should have gone to the boss to nip it in the bud or even fire the dispatcher for putting them (the truckers) in this position.

          1. Observer*

            Not so easy.

            And, it’s also pretty obvious that this company would have done nothing about the matter. If you notice, the OP was pretty explicit that they “can’t” do anything as long as it’s not overtly hurting the business, and is not even sure that they should stop this frankly trash behavior even though it has now started affecting the business.

        2. Foxy Hedgehog*

          A blanket rule that says that loan requests can not go down the chain of command, only up or sideways, would be entirely appropriate.

          1. Koala dreams*

            I agree with you, Foxy. It’s in the interest of the company to discourage loans between dispatchers and drivers to avoid the impression of kickbacks and other kinds of bribery. Especially if these loans are larger than “a few bucks”:

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It will vary depending on the company.

      Many are contractors who own their rigs, who are contracted for each load. They are not required to take the loads, they’re just offered them and they take them or they leave them, depending on their schedules.

      Many will work between different entities to keep themselves on the road.

      I’ll put it this way. It’s harder to find truckers that you can trust with your loads than a dispatcher. So the company paid off the loan because it’s going to eat a whole lot more in losses if they have to sit on a load and piss off their end customer. And the trucker isn’t getting into any trouble because they aren’t obligated to take the load, they could reject the run for any reason they see fit.

      The drivers know that they’re in high demand at most times, so yeah, they can get what they want in the end. Even if they’re a direct employee, if they get fired for refusing a load, they’ll just go to your competition.

    6. Observer*

      Isn’t loans personal rather than business?

      Not when the person getting the loan is in a position to significantly affect the work of the person giving the loan.

  10. Phillip*

    LW1, obviously can’t tell if this might be the case, but maybe a helpful data point: I’m really meticulous with emails, but on very rare occasion I’ll “miss” one–and when it happens, it’s usually because I’m working with someone that overwhelms me with a bunch of em, sometimes all at once, sometimes over a couple days, and usually with partially overlapping info. If that’s not you, disregard! But if they’re not missing lots of emails from other folks, it might be worth a look.

    1. Dust Bunny*


      I mean, it’s probably a sloppy employee, but my boss routinely misses emails because he gets a ton of them and things get pushed down the email chain really fast. I rarely miss emails, but I get (comparatively) very few of them. And I’ve had at least one client who sent me so man emails in quick succession that it was easy to miss the latest and most up-to-date of them.

      So as an aside I’d like to know that the LW isn’t sending her employee an unnecessary number of emails/that the employee isn’t getting so many emails related to other responsibilities that she doesn’t have a fair chance to catch up.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        This happened to me yesterday. I was cc’d on an email chain where an email was being sent every minute. I was getting emails faster than I could read them to figure out if I even needed to be included.
        I tapped out of email for the day. If there was an urgent email in the middle of all that, then it is still buried.
        This was a unique situation for me, but if the OP works somewhere where everyone cc’s everyone else, then I understand how emails get lost.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I am a fastidious employee, and I’ve had all sorts of weird things happen with my work emails. An email from my boss gets jettisoned to the Spam folder, even though she’s emailed me 100 times previously with no problem. A brand-new response to an existing email thread gets marked as read and nested with the very first one, 150 emails down in my inbox. One place I worked, the company’s junk mail filter would go nuts if you cc’d more than three people at an outside domain on an email, and would block all emails to and from, say, TeapotsUnlimited or Gmail until someone noticed the problem and filed a a ticket with our email provider to fix it, which usually took three days.

      Sit with the employee and see where the problem is. It might be them, and it might be your email client sucks.

    3. Mrs_helm*

      Yes, I was surprised AAM didn’t address that the problem might actually be the volume of emails, or the way tasks are assigned via email. A good task tracking software would get boss and employee on the same page.

    4. Elizabeth Proctor*

      I would be interested in an AAM conversation about email preferences. For me, if an email covers multiple fairly disparate things, I’d rather have them in separate emails so I can archive each one as it’s been dealt with. But others prefer not to get a lot of emails. Maybe I’ll try to catch the open thread early this week to post one.

    5. Phillip*

      Adding on that usually when I am working with someone like that, they do things that they think will help but actually exacerbate the problem, like provide lengthy summaries that are sometimes not as complete as they think they are, and the folks are about as confused by me missing something as the LW is–because after all, they worked so hard to help! They often react by trying even harder, making the correspondence even more byzantine. Again not necessarily the case here.

    6. Welling*

      If it were a coworker sending a ton of emails, I would agree with you. But it sounds like OP is the boss. In the boss-employee relationship, it’s the employee’s responsibility to stay on top of communication from their boss, even it the communication is overwhelming and disorganized.

  11. Baska*

    LW5: I recently read that windows are also very helpful for people who are deaf, and who might not be able to pick up on other cues that someone is in their office (like the noise of a phone conversation or meeting). Even frosted glass is useful for this, if you need more privacy.

  12. SomebodyElse*

    I’m torn on the see through door thing…

    As a manager, I like the idea that things are transparent… but I really hate the fishbowl feeling… I also hate feeling closed off by a solid door/no window… but like the privacy.

    In other words, no solution that I’d be 100% happy with.

    I do have a bit of a solution to the closed door thing = DO NOT DISTURB, because I agree with you. I leave my door open when not on the phone or am ok with visitors, it’s shut but not latched if I’m on the phone or want a little quiet but am ok with disruptions, and closed when I’m on a sensitive call or meeting and want no disruptions. The mostly shut helps me from feeling closed off without disturbing others (meetings are all on the phone and I prefer speaker to head sets).

    1. yala*

      That sounds like a good system…so long as your reports know what it means. (My manager has various degrees of “closed” for her door, but I really don’t know what’s the difference between ‘kinda closed’ and ‘mostly closed with a tiny crack’ so I just err on the side of not approaching her at all if the door is anything but wide open.

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      Personally, I’m a fan of a window in the door because, as a woman, I feel safer knowing that my colleagues can glance in as they walk past and see if something’s amiss. Also, as someone with health problems. If I had a severe asthma attack with a solid door closed, no one would suspect a thing until I missed a meeting or appointment. With a window, it’s more likely that someone would notice me and call for help.
      But it also gives me the quiet and privacy of my own office while still being approachable.

  13. Leslienopenopenope*

    My guess is that if she’s borrowing from multiple drivers and not paying them back, management has probably at least heard rumblings of it. The driver probably felt that they should have already stepped in to stop her from borrowing money and was trying to hold them accountable. Definitely a risky move, but borrowing money from someone when you know you can’t pay them back (especially around the holidays), is incredibly shitty.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’m trying to figure out how the driver refusing to do their job because the borrower hadn’t paid them back was acceptable. Yes borrower should have been reported and management should have explained that continually asking for money is not okay and consequences will come into play if they don’t stop. But the driver should have also been disciplined.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Actualy, if the driver had to pay for their fuel then get reimbursed, the non-repayment of the loan could have left them unable to pay up front for fuel to make the run.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          If the driver giving money to the co-worker left him unable to pay for his own stuff, then the driver should have said no. I’m not saying what the borrower did was right, but the driver shouldn’t refuse to perform his job duties because of it.

      1. Rainbow Roses*

        Exactly. If truckers feel threatened, they should have informed the bosses right away. The trucker didn’t have any qualms about stopping his job when he wasn’t paid back so the issue isn’t intimidation. The fact is he’s an adult who made a bad decision and then ran to the boss regarding an issue that wasn’t company sanctioned.

        The company can make all the rules and policies about lending and borrowing but how can they stop it if done “under the table” and they don’t know about it? Let’s be grown ups and take responsibility. Take the dispatcher to small claims court or something.

      2. Alexandra Lynch*

        Dispatchers have a lot of power over your working conditions. There’s at minimum a lot of unspoken pressure to be nice to the dispatcher so they’ll be nice to you. My ex-husband was a trucker, and he sent the dispatchers quite a lot of home-baked cookies.

  14. CL Cox*

    My own observation from having worked for churches and schools, is that any place that deals with minors needs to have some way of seeing into offices/rooms. It’s not so much accountability as it is covering your butts. That said, at my school we have either curtains or blinds that we can close. You can see enough to tell if there’s someone in there, but not enough to follow a conversation.

    1. Pipe Organ Guy*

      I agree with you on this. When necessary, a couple of rooms have attachments on the outside of the door for hanging shades (helpful when using a projector); with the shades on the outside, though, it’s harder for anyone to hide.

  15. Auto Generated Anon*

    OP #5 – two more practical considerations for doors:
    1) are they considered to be fire doors? If so, the windows have to be of a certain proportion, design, etc.
    2) do the doors open in or out? It the doors open out into a corridor, having a window is a safety issue otherwise the person exiting may open the door into someone. (We has this happen at old job with a frequently used hallway door – someone gave it a vigorous push and hit a coworker in the face). Gotta love a workers comp entry that boiled down into ‘I walked into a door”.

    1. nonegiven*

      I’d never put it like that, ‘I walked into a door’.

      If I got hit with a door at work, it would be ‘someone slammed a door into me.’

  16. Amethystmoon*

    I have had several jobs in a row now where everything to do came through e-mail. One thing that works for me is using Outlook categories. There are multiple colors and you can create custom categories. Another thing you can do is use the Follow Up flag to assign reasonable deadlines. Additionally, you can set rules in Outlook in case things are going to the junk folder. I believe it’s possible to also mark e-mails as urgent using the rules. I’m not sure if you can assign e-mails categories automatically in rules, but that may also be something to look into.

  17. Asenath*

    I check and file each incoming email manually. If they were automatically filed by the computer, I’d miss more because I’d have more places to check for anything new. Still, checking email, however you do it, is such a basic skill that someone who can’t do it; who can’t reliably respond to what appears to be the main communication method used in their office, has a serious problem, and if talking to them and suggesting solutions isn’t working, some more serious consequences should follow.

  18. Pipe Organ Guy*

    At the church where I work, we have windows in all office and classroom/meeting room doors. It’s considered best practice as a means of protecting vulnerable populations. All clergy, lay staff, vestry members, volunteer lay ministry leaders, and a good many volunteers are also required to take online training (and stay current!) on preventing abuse. I figure that being visible protects all of us.

  19. Senor Montoya*

    Missing emails: yeah, your employee is full of…it. Maybe you forgot to send an email once. But multiple times? Is that something you do? Probably not.

    I have this issue with students: I never got your email / I never got that email from the registrar/ My prof said she’d email me but she didn’t. I do this: With a warm, concerned tone, say “Wow, that’s so frustrating! You know, maybe it went to spam. Let’s check and see if we can figure it out.” I have the student open their email right then, and search for it. There it is! usually unopened. And not in spam, either. I’ll observe: There it is, and it looks like you didn’t open it. [leave a pause] Then say, “So what do you need to do from now on, do you think?”

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would also ask them about their filters [if they have any!].

      I did have one filter setup a few jobs ago that was filtering out someone’s emails to the wrong folder. So I was missing them but guess what, after the second or third one, I knew something was wrong. I knew it wasn’t just an “oopsie must be technology eating stuff again!”. But I also care and have the mentality to investigate weird things like that because that’s the responsible thing to do…so go figure.

  20. Shad*

    Just as an aside on the general concept of missing emails. I work at a law firm. There is one opposing firm whose emails *always* go into junk mail (I’ve tried everything I can think of to fix this). I’ve gotten into the habit of skimming my junk mail folder once a day to make sure I see anything from that firm. Junk is set to auto delete every 30 days, plus I move anything from that firm to my inbox as soon as I see it (and then to the appropriate folder after processing it), so it never takes more than a minute to check, and once daily is pretty much as often as I need to do so.
    If there’s a known issue, it’s not that hard to at least try something as a solution.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We had this issue with anyone with a yahoo or hotmail address for the longest time! Thankfully those are rare but when you’re dealing with the general population, like we do from time to time [or some times micro businesses use those as well].

      I’m still shocked by how many people don’t think to check their spam box. It’s been an issue since the beginning!

  21. RestroomTimeExtraordinaire*

    LW#3 can also request their doctor provide them with a request for accomodation, as chronic IBS is a disability. I’ve a similar situation, and I was able to request an office closer to the facilities. I was also allowed flexible Work From Home (which my company doesn’t generally support) for those instances in which i was experiencing frequent symptoms.

  22. Financial Analyst*

    OP5 – 100 percent put at least some window, whether small or large, in offices. I had an office with no such window and forget about accountability, I felt like I was in jail every time I had the door closed. It’s super claustrophobic especially if not all your offices will have windows to the outdoors.

  23. Jane*

    LW1 -ish! Does anyone have any advice when it is management rather than employees who aren’t replying to emails? (The workplace culture is to email a few times before speaking to them, so phoning/visiting isn’t an option as a first step).

    When you do speak to them and get “oh, it must be in my inbox. I have 700 unread emails …” what do you say in response?

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