update: my boss accidentally sent me a message complaining about me

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss accidentally sent her a message complaining about her time of arrival, intended for someone else? Here’s the update.

I wrote to you in January to ask for advice because my boss, Diane, said that we had a flexible time policy but then criticized me for not arriving at 9 on the dot. First off, I want to thank you and everyone who took the time to comment on my post. There were a lot of excellent suggestions about what to do, but the most helpful comments were the ones that pointed out how I sounded snarky when talking about my boss. This made me realize that I was losing the respect I had for Diane because I was frustrated by her contradictory behaviour. Although she has lots of experience and technical skills, she is not a very good manager. It’s easier to deal with her now that I know this.

Anyway, regarding the flexible time and my schedule, it took me a while to broach the subject with Diane because our office is a dreaded open space and it’s hard to have a private conversation. When I finally brought it up, Diane was as confusing as always. She repeated that office times were flexible but also that she expected me to be in the office at 9am. I figured there had to be something she wasn’t telling me, some unspoken condition for flexible time that I wasn’t fulfilling, like “of course you have flexible time but not on Mondays” or “not two days in a row” or “not when you’re working on the llama wrangling project” or… who knows what. But I didn’t feel like playing guessing games and waiting for her to call me out when I broke her secret rules, so I told her I was okay with working 9-5 and left it at that.

In my letter to you I had complained that my productivity was down and I felt demoralized. I am used to working by objectives, not based on a strict schedule, and at first it was hard to leave at 5pm knowing there were still lots and lots of things to do. Work started piling up quickly. For the first week I felt I was a bad worker, but as I grew used to it my work-life balance started to improve since I had time for myself in the evenings. I eventually realized I had been suffering from severe burnout from working long hours and trying to keep on top of an ever-growing workload.

Here’s the issue: there are a couple of specific tasks that only I know how to do. The company has grown in the past two years and it got to the point where my workload was too much for a single person. Instead of pointing this out, I had been trying to work more and more to keep up, without even realizing I was doing this. This clearly was bad for my health and also for the company. I made a detailed account of how many hours/week each of my projects took and brought it to Diane with the suggestion that we hire someone to share the workload as it was way, way more than 40 hours/week.

Unfortunately we had recently hired people in other positions and I was told we didn’t have the budget. I let Diane know that I would not be able to complete everything due to time constraints, and to let me know which projects to prioritize. She seemed disappointed that I wasn’t offering to stay late or working weekends to get everything done any longer, but in typical Diane fashion she didn’t outright say so. Now she just does things like giving me new tasks to do at 5pm and looking put out when I tell her I’m about to leave and I’ll get on that first thing in the morning.

That would be it… except I recently found out why she expects me in the office at 9 despite our nominal flexible time policy. Get ready for it.. Her exact words: “You don’t have children so it’s not as if you have anything else to do. It’s easy for you to work 9-5, you don’t need special accommodations.” My jaw hit the floor when she told me. Diane thought it was so obvious that her flexible time policy was designed to accomodate parents that she didn’t tell me when I brought it up, and only mentioned it months later in passing while talking about something else.

I think you’ll understand why I was shocked and dismayed by what she told me. Aside from Diane’s absurd idea that I have nothing else to do (I have family, friends, social commitments, a life…) I feel she’s been treating me very unjustly by holding me to different standards than my coworkers with children. To be clear, I think it’s great that parents get flexible time and other perks, and I’ve no doubt that taking care of children is a tough chore. But treating employees differently based on whether they have children or not is… aaargh! Where do I even start! She knew my workload was excessive but she thought I would just work longer and get it done because my time is not as valuable. 

Luckily at this point I had already mentally checked out of this job. I had started searching for a new job a while back and, even though the job market in the area is not great, I am confident that I’ll find a good fit eventually. Again, I’m very grateful to AAM. Your blog helped me realize that there were issues with my work situation, how to bring up these issues with management, and that sometimes people are not being very reasonable and it’s okay to leave. I might not have handled this situation perfectly but I think I learned a lot from it and I’m ready for a fresh start.

Update to the update:

Job searching took a while, the job market being what it is. In early summer I ended up having final interviews with two different companies and a third company also expressed interest. All three positions would require me to move or have a very long commute, but by that point my relationship with Diane had deteriorated so much that I would have gladly accepted an offer just so I could leave. Unfortunately all three companies went with different candidates. I was pretty devastated but decided to be optimist and used up all of my PTO and had a nice three-weeks-long holiday.

I returned to work in September ready to resume my job search, and on my first day back a recruiter reached out to me. They had a hard-to-fill vacancy for a company based in my town and thought I’d be perfect for the role. They were already in the last stages of interviewing but they sped me through the process, which included my first salary negotiation success story. The head of HR, a very formidable-looking woman, asked my desired salary and was pleased when I gave her a straightforward answer. She told me that many candidates hemmed and hawed or had not even thought about it beforehand. I was armed with the knowledge of the entire AAM archives and ready to negotiate down a little if necessary, but they ended up offering me the job with the salary I asked!

Diane acted extremely weird when I gave her my notice. She refused to plan my transition (even though I was the only person in the role), evaded my questions about replacing me, then almost started acting as if I were already gone. I was left out of key meetings even though I was still nominally in charge of projects and there were no transition plans in place. At one point I found out she was secretly interviewing for my replacement. And I mean secretly — she abruptly stopped conversations and hid resumes when I walked by, in a rather cartoonish and ineffectual fashion. Then she found out I’d been documenting all my processes. I was not being secretive about it, I thought it was a normal thing that normal people did when leaving a job where they’re, you know, the only person who knows how X and Y work! Diane called me into a meeting and told me in front of the department that I had the wrong priorities and I should use my notice period to work on deliverables Z. She also told me that she was cancelling my position.

After that I confess I gave up and spent the rest of my notice half-heartedly doing whatever Diane wanted and browsing the internet. A few of my coworkers privately expressed worry about how they would manage without me or anyone in my position. I don’t know how they’re doing now; despite expectations to the contrary, my old job hasn’t contacted me about anything ever since I left. Either Diane was right and they didn’t need my position after all, or my haphazard documentation was sufficient, or more likely everything is on fire and Diane is saying this is fine. I try not to think about it because I spent three years building that role up from nothing, and for a long time I really believed in the company’s products and goals, but the last few months really made it clear that Diane was a terrible boss and her strange ideas about “flexible time” were just the tip of the iceberg of dysfunction. (Iceberg of dysfunction, by the way, is my new favourite phrase.)

Long story short: I have a new job! It’s an exciting role! It’s in my town! It’s a nice pay raise! And sometimes my new company does something perfectly normal and I’m absolutely appalled as I realize that my old company did that thing in a different and terrible way.

{ 295 comments… read them below }

  1. glitter writer*

    I once had an employer that expected me to take on all the unpaid overtime (marked us as exempt, I’m not sure entirely legally) for two positions because the person with whom I worked in the role had children and I did not. I realized after the fact it was the tip of the toxic iceberg and was glad I left — and I’m glad you did too, OP!

    1. Accounting IsFun*

      I’m expected to come into work super early as is the other person who does not have children and to work 13+ hour days for 2 days a week (reduced work hours other days) because I don’t have children. It is SO wrong to hold people to different working hours if they don’t have children.

      1. Alex*

        I actually started to put recurring appointments (set to “private”) in my work calendar that start at 5pm that run until 9pm – and since no-one can see the content (“private”), it is stuff like “family dinner” “gym” “walking the dog” … I got a few questions about it, but could always answer with “as it is set to private, it does not concern work, so I rather not say” – and that was it.
        Where it helps though is that when someone tries to schedule anything in Outlook that concerns me after 5pm, it shows up as “conflict”, which usually means people reconsider. The few people that might have a legit reason to schedule me after 5pm know about this and ask first if it is okay to schedule me there (or just calculate in that I might decline the request).

        I was also like the OP… over the last 7 years, my workload more than doubled, so I went from being able to do it “nicely” in my 8 hour day, I’m now in 12 hour days – firefighting – what breaks next mode…and it had the same effect on me than it did for OP. I recently came to the conclusion that my back is not making or breaking the company – at least not as long as I have any say in it. This felt rather good, and I scaled down my overtime by many hours (taking weeks of on accumulated overtime in the process). I’m still getting disrupted while being out sick/on vacation etc, but I feel much better to just tell people to ask someone else. And If no-one is available that can do it (I am the sole contact for a lot of stuff, like OP is) I gently point them to complain to my Manager, who is our CEO, who has declined hiring a backup for my role for the last four years. (I also did the “summation of tasks vs. available time” thing while we’re at it… didn’t help.)

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Dumpster fire was exactly my thought on reading this too. Glad you are out, OP, and hope the new job continues to be fabulous!

    2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      My eyebrows went up to my hairline within the first few paragraphs, and haven’t come back down yet.

      So glad you got out, LW.

  2. Shadowbelle*

    1. Congrats on your successful escape!
    2. “… treating employees differently based on whether they have children or not is… aaargh! ” reminds me of a “Mary Tyler Moore Show” episode. Mary finds out that the man who had previously done her job had been paid more. She goes to her boss, Lou. Lou says that the man had had a wife and a kid to support, so of course he got more. “Oh,” says Mary, and walks out of Lou’s office. Then she turns and goes back in. “But if that were the reason he was paid more, you’d pay the person with 3 kids more than the person with 2 kids, and you don’t do that,” she says.
    “Damn!” Lou responds, “I was hoping you wouldn’t think of that.”

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        RIGHT? Having only one income is hard and if you are over 35 having roommates is terrible and living alone is expensive and doing all the chores yourself when you’re at work all day is hard, especially those chores that can only be done during the work day, like taking the car to the shop or whatever.

        I also listened to a podcast recently that said that the gender income gap is getting a lot better when you compare single men and women but when you compare married with children men and women it is really terrible. The idea being exactly what Shadowbelle is hinting at, that men need income to support their growing families but also that when working women become mothers there is this unspoken assumption that they’re not going to work as hard b/c they’re distracted by/focusing on their kids so they don’t deserve better pay. It’s MADDENING. Women just can’t win.

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          I forget where I read it, but apparently the gender wage gap is almost entirely a motherhood gap. Before children, men and women tend to be paid the same, once children arrive, women’s pay drops, and then when the children go off to college apparently it’s back to equity. Makes me want to scream.

          1. remizidae*

            Yep! It’s not primarily a workplace problem though–both men and women make choices that reinforce the traditional division of labor with parenthood. So if you’re a man who is doing less than 50% of the childcare, cooking, and cleaning, or a woman who does more than 50%, you’re contributing to the wage gap.

          1. yala*

            Depends on the roommate. I’ve been living with my best friend for over a decade now, and I’m going to be devastated when he moves out this summer to live with his fiance (I will also miss his wonderful cat). But then, we basically fit together like puzzle pieces and built a pretty good life together in a platonic way.

            But they idea of getting a new roommate? Who would almost certainly be a near stranger? (All my other friends are married now.) Heck to the no.

            Just gonna be expensive I guess.

            1. Quill*

              Problem is I’ve already lived with all my good friends and the personality matches were not lifestyle matches, and vice versa. It *might* be better as actual adults, not college students, but I’m not willing to stake a year’s lease on it.

            2. New Jack Karyn*

              When my girlfriend’s former roommate moved in with his fiancee, my girlfriend got custody of the fiancee’s wonderful cat!

          2. Tisiphone*

            Been there, done that. My dad told me when I moved out of the family home to live with friends that the best way to end a friendship was to live with friends. He was right.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          As a single person trying to deal with family stuff and medical stuff and holiday stuff and car stuff this week, this resonated with me SO HARD. Just this morning I was thinking about how nice it would be to have somebody to split the labor and cost of all this with.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I’ve gotten so used to my husband filling up my car for me that I feel a little overwhelmed when I have to do it myself. Not having to take care of everything on my own has been huge for work/life balance.

            1. Quill*

              Lol, my mom relied on my dad filling the car for my entire life up until I was about sixteen, then she’d make me pump the gas!

              (Now she has a prius so I assume it seldom comes up anymore…)

                1. Quill*

                  I’ve been suffering HARD since the housing split from the random things my mom or dad would just automatically fix… and I therefore don’t know how to do!

                2. Alex*

                  It’s so rare that this happens that I actually went to the gas station once because I “knew” I was down to 50 miles or so, started the fill up…and the tank was full after about half a gallon.

                  She filled up in between, and I “knew” the fuel level so well that I never actually once LOOKED while driving to the gas station, did not notice that the “reserve fuel” light was not on anymore, …

            2. SpaceySteph*

              All I really wanted from a husband is someone to do the taxes and keep track of regular car maintenance. Sadly, I do our family’s taxes and schedule my own oil changes, and my husband drives an electric car that doesn’t even have oil to change. He hit the jackpot, man.

              1. Carpe Librarium*

                Heh, I’m reminded of the punchline from Ali Wong: Baby Cobra, “So, as it turns out, he’s the one who trapped me.”

        3. A*

          This. One of the many, many reasons I left my last employer was after finding out that it was pretty common for male coworkers to ask – and receive – raises (outside of traditional review windows) once they got married or started family planning. Of course this was compounded by a million societal influences, like women in the same circumstances being less inclined to make the request because they already feel vulnerable to discrimination for potentially getting pregnant etc.

          Regardless, it was gross. Life circumstances should have nothing to do with salary or perks. It’s based on performance, experience etc. and those things don’t magically improve overnight once some dude puts a ring on it.

      2. Massive Dynamic*

        That reminds me that there’s an actual marketing term: “DINK,” which means dual income, no kids. As in, those are the best customers to market to because they are most likely to have extra cash to spend.

        1. mizunasloane*

          Shoot, me & my partner are dual income no kids and we’re still trying to make ends meet. We do, but just barely. *sigh*

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I don’t miss anything else about being married, but I sure do miss that second income. The thing we could afford when we pooled our money together, I cannot even dream of now. Not complaining, I’ve been feeling pretty flush with cash ever since I finished paying the kids’ college bills a year ago. But being a two-income family was definitely a different level. The stupid things our other married friends and we used to throw our money at, and still have plenty left over. The weekly parties! the group vacations! omg. We all had kids, mind you.

          1. Degen from Upcountry*

            SERIOUSLY. When I had two incomes I’d just like, buy a bunch of clothes online even though I didn’t need clothes. Maybe I’d return the ones that didn’t fit, maybe I wouldn’t. Hmm, a massage this month sounds nice, better schedule one. It felt so matter of fact!

          2. AntOnMyTable*

            Plus the constant fear about the fact that you have no one to fall back on if something happens to your job. I am single and don’t see myself ever being in a truly long term relationship. It is just me. My friend once made a comment about how I keep the temperature so high in summer (we live in Arizona) and I explained it is so I don’t become homeless if something happens to me or my job. I need a really big financial safety net because I am all I got.

            1. Caroline Bowman*

              Obviously one mustn’t live in ”fear” but having a decent safety net is a very good thing for every person, be they single, married, with kids, without.

              Conventional wisdom says around 3-6 months worth of living expenses somewhat easily accessible, which is quite a lot of money, but it does ease those genuine anxieties.

      3. Retro*

        So true! Not to discount that families and children are expensive, but if you’re a single person living by yourself, the rent alone is a big burden. If you were a couple, you’d have double the income and still pay the same rent.

        The type of reasoning Lou has is completely ridiculous! If my partner loses his job, I wouldn’t be going to my job and asking for the difference simply because I need to support my partner.

        1. Bee*

          Yeah, I’m currently living in what is basically the cheapest decent 1BR apartment I could find in my city (after 7+ years with roommates, which I just couldn’t do anymore), and it leaves me with an hour-long commute. If I had a partner, I could have a much more reasonable commute AND pay a lot less every month.

          1. Liz*

            I hear you. I lived at home WELL after college for the very reason i didn’t want roommates, and i couldn’t afford my own place. While I did pay rent to my parents, it wasn’t as much as a 1BR apt at market rent.

            Now I pay a good chunk of my income for a basic 1BR apt, as well as everything else, AND i have to DO everything myself. I take my car in for service, i usually rent one for the day since i don’t have anyone else’s to use, and its more trouble than its worth to try and have someone drop me off, pick me up, etc. plus errands, cleaning, etc. is all on me.

            1. Quill*

              I’m making the transition out of my parents’ house right now since they’re downsizing and getting out of the location and… after utilities a studio apartment that does not allow pets and is by no means fancy is going to be most of a paycheck for me. It’s ridiculous. And that’s the rent in a comparatively small midwestern city, if I went into the urban haloes nearby I’d be guaranteed to be paying 50% or more of my income in rent.

              Just this week I’ve been trying to figure out how to get myself to the airport to travel for christmas and when it comes to car travel, rent, utilities, and car insurance, it’s pretty clear that two can live (almost) as cheaply as one.

              … I’d move in with my nearest friend but right now that would give me a 2 hour commute each way…

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          Not to discount that families and children are expensive, but if you’re a single person living by yourself, the rent alone is a big burden. If you were a couple, you’d have double the income and still pay the same rent.

          This. Doing everything alone with no safety net is a terrible position to be in.

          1. Quill*

            Don’t I know it, I joke all the time with my friends that we should all relocate to the same place again because doing the work of living alone leaves you with no time to live… and that the primary cause of marriage or moving in with an SO is probably the ability to split that work.

            1. Poppy the Flower*

              Ugh yes. I miss living near some of my closest friends. Even though we didn’t live together, we’d split errands (one person going to the pharmacy picks up the other’s meds), always have someone to drive us for car repairs, etc. It was a great support system that I miss.

              1. Quill*

                Not to mention the revolving door of pizza debt, being able to cook more stuff without worrying about it going bad before you can eat it…

        3. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          Lou’s reasoning was based on the idea that the man with kids was also the only income in the home, as would have been more common at the time.

          It’s still bunk, mind you, but that was one of the reasons for that very common fallacy.

        4. Jennifer Thneed*

          Completely ridiculous, yes, but completely common when that show was made (it aired from 1970 to 1977) and beyond common in the decades before 1970. And you can *almost* make the thinking make sense if you squint hard, until you remember that widowed women supporting their families would still be paid less than men.

        5. A*

          Yup. I have had to have a few mildly awkward convos with friends that have ventured down this line of thinking with me. Luckily, I’m fiscally minded and have meticulously tracked my expenses since getting our of college ~10 years ago, and know EXACTLY how much money I’ve paid to have the privilege of living alone (I’m in a high cost of living area where 2-bedrooms are just double the cost of 1-bedrooms, so roommates are not helpful financially unless you’re willing to share a room… and F that noise).

          So it’s usually a pretty short convo.

          I was also pretty devastated when I BOUGHT A HOME ON MY OWN WITH ZERO HELP FROM ANYONE, and a large portion of my social group was like… “well, of course! You’re 30 and have no kids!”. Um, ya, that’s why. Because I have no kids. It had nothing to do with me sacrificing my 20s to make as much money as possible, and save everything I could. Absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I was working a second job while the rest of my friends were blowing money traveling. No correlation whatsoever!

          Not to mention how most of my friends with children, even if they hadn’t had children, still wouldn’t be able to afford a home in our area. But oh well, such is life!

          1. Ra94*

            I live on my own, own my house, and have no kids, and having no kids is *absolutely* the overriding factor in why I could afford a home. Having kids is a much bigger expense than travelling, which you seem to think stopped your friends from being able to buy. (For the wider discussion, obviously this doesn’t mean people with kids deserve to be paid more, but I found your humblebrag a bit odd.)

            1. CM*

              But also, buying a house with two incomes is much easier than buying a house with one. I think “of course you can afford a house, you don’t have kids” is missing that point.

          2. Kyla*

            The honestly sound jealous. You do have to budget like crazy for a house and I’m considering getting a second job next year to at least be able to pay off student loans faster (though that depends on how much OT my current job gives me. I’m hourly.)

        6. Lora*

          Plus, I see colleagues getting promoted because they can drop EVERYTHING at a moment’s notice to get on a plane and go wherever they are needed and put in 12+ hour days. I have to arrange and pay for a pet-sitter, house-sitter, etc. which takes a couple of weeks to find someone available. They can relocate for long term assignments by leaving their spouse at home and staying in a long term hotel for 3-6 months with someone to take care of everything for them at home – again, on a moment’s notice, whereas I cannot do that without months and months of arrangements and at huge expense. It’s not that I can’t do it, but I can’t do it without a lot of planning, notice, and a pay bump to cover the expense of getting hired help. The choices seem to be, live like a monk in a rented studio with no pets and no obligations to extended family or elderly parents OR get a Spouse Appliance who will take care of your real life for you while you climb the corporate ladder. It hurts women extra because even if we get married, so few men are willing to take on that burden of doing EVERYTHING, while women tend to take that on as part and parcel of getting married to someone who earns more than they do, in a sort of realpolitik “yes it sucks but he makes more money so we’re being pragmatic” way.

          1. Pebbles*

            + everything for “Spouse Appliance”

            I’ve been wearing out “Spousal Unit”, so now I have something else to switch to occasionally. :D

            1. Lalitah28*

              I want my Spousal roomba unit, please. Where can I order one? One like the Absolute Boyfriend of manga fame is OK with me too…

          2. Cercis*

            I was/am that spousal appliance and I have some resentment about it. I couldn’t take a job in my desired field because it required travel and the husband already had a job that required travel. There was no discussion – it was just accepted that until the kids graduated high school (4 years later), I was stuck in a job in a field that I was soooo over (and hadn’t really wanted to be in to begin with, but there were always job openings, so when we moved – for his career, of course – I could find a job relatively easily). Now the kids are older and he says “oh, it’s your turn now” but our current city doesn’t have openings in my field and that loss of 6 years of working means that I will NEVER get offered a job paying enough to move.

            Okay, I have a lot of resentment about it. I’m working it out through therapy, but even so, it’s something that I think is ignored. His mother said “oh, he was making a career so he could support you, you made everyone miserable” ignoring that yes, he was making a career but it was at the cost of me having a career (and she was always a “career woman” so it was really hurtful and felt pretty “gas-light-y” for her to deny that I had anything to be upset about).

        7. Ego Chamber*

          “If you were a couple, you’d have double the income and still pay the same rent.”

          This is what I always thought too but a lot of the property management companies around here base the rent on number of renters 18+ (not number of bedrooms, which I thought was the way to do it). I kind of understand charging a higher security deposit if you’re renting to more people but higher rent seems weird, especially since you can’t explicitly charge higher rent for kids and kids tend to charge more property damage than non-college aged adults ime.

          1. SimplyTheBest*

            I’ve never lived anywhere that does that. You know the rent before you even look at a place and they have no idea how many people are going to be living there. Not sure how they could then base the rent on number of 18+ people living in the place.

      4. Lady Jay*


        I’m in my mid-30s, single, and while I’m happy being single, I am mildly envious of my married friends their slightly roomier spending. Two incomes! Only one rent! Must be nice! (I realize things are *always* more complicated, of course, but yes, being single is expensive).

      5. AcademiaNut*

        I will say that the people I know who are tightest financially are the ones with kids and a non-working spouse, particularly earlier in their career. They’ve got higher expenses than a single person, need a larger apartment, don’t have a roommate option, and tickets back home to visit family are really pricy. (I’m in an international academia environment, so I’m seeing postdocs and junior faculty who are taking jobs abroad, and it’s often very difficult for a spouse to find work).

        That said – you still pay people the same for the same work, and kid related benefits in other ways.

  3. Jen*

    That sounds unbearably toxic so I’m glad you left.

    However, I will say that “Flex time but be here by 9” makes some level of sense to me. My office hours are 8:30 to 4:30. People can be somewhat flexible with that. We have a woman who arrives by 7:30 and leaves by 3:30. Another person does 9-5. Most do some variety of that sort of time . . . but 9 is kind of the latest you can start your day. You can be here by 7:30 or 8 or 8:15 or 8:30 or any time in there . . . but if you show up after 9, it gets too hard as far as scheduling meetings since the bulk of the work day goes from 9-4 and that’s when everything tends to be scheduled. So I will say that makes SOME sense to me but she didn’t explain it well and the children thing would have infuriated me and I have two kids.

    1. WellRed*

      Sure, but the other piece of that is you can’t be surprised when the employee then decides to stick to the hard and fast 9 to 5 (or whatever) and is unwilling to go beyond that.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        THIS. Expecting people to work 10-12 hour days when they’re not being paid for it is also really delusional on the boss’s part.

        1. annony*

          Yep. It seems like her idea of flex time was “work from 9-5 and we are flexible about how much unpaid overtime you work.”

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            “The work day starts at 9:00 on the dot and ends when I say it does.” Yeah, not unreasonable at all.

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          In this instance yes, but sometimes when you’re salaried you are expected to work extra hours to get your work done. Of course this is assuming that your boss allows you to skip out for an appointment a little early sometimes, there is down time and you’re being compensated fairly. What managers don’t seem to realize is that if you’re treated as an adult, and your time is not micromanaged to the second, your employees will be willing to put in the extra time as needed.

          1. A*

            “What managers don’t seem to realize is that if you’re treated as an adult, and your time is not micromanaged to the second, your employees will be willing to put in the extra time as needed.”

            This. So much THIS! It took me 5-6 years into working to realize that the more freedom I am given, the more driven I become to go above and beyond. It totally changed my approach to job searching, and flex schedules (defined clearly within a policy, including day-to-day shifts + working from home on day a week) is now something I ask about early on in interview stages. It’s a deal breaker for me, and luckily I have yet to run into any issues as it’s rapidly becoming the norm in my area.

            1. Locket*

              “It took me 5-6 years into working to realize that the more freedom I am given, the more driven I become to go above and beyond.”

              I learned this in high school. One of my English teachers had a policy that no homework in her class was mandatory, but if you turned any in, it was considered extra credit. So I did it all. I liked going “above and beyond” when given freedom. I hated and skipped a lot of homework from other classes, but I’d make time for hers…

    2. Prof. Kat*

      I agree that it’s pretty standard with flex time to have a “core hours” policy, where everyone needs to be in during a certain chunk of the day. This makes it easier to schedule meetings and talk to people in person. At my previous job, we had to be in the office 10-2, but we could flex outside of that. That said, it sounds like that wasn’t LW’s manager’s policy — she wanted something more akin to “everyone who doesn’t have kids needs to be in by 9 am.” That’s…not really flex time!

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed – it sounds like this boss didn’t really have a flex time policy, but a “parents can be here whatever works for them, and non-parents will pick up all the slack” policy.

        1. Quinalla*

          Yup, I was hoping it was just a lack of communication of core hours (we have those too with our flex time policy), but no this is just ridiculous. Were a lot of flex time policies created with parents in mind? Sure, but EVERYONE should be able to use them because EVERYONE needs flex time to deal with their lives whether that is kids, a broken water heater, a doctor appointment or taking care of a relative or friend with medical issues. We all have life things that come up that flextime can and should be used for. Ugh!

          Glad you are out of there OP and I am just floored by how she handled you leaving, what the heck?

        2. Liz*

          Exactly. Nothing drives me batty more than the double standard for people with kids, and those without. I have an elderly, albeit very independent mom. Who I sometimes go to dr. appts with, and so on. to me, really no different than taking your child to the dr. or any other appt.

    3. rayray*

      I think that’s a good point, but it sounds like maybe other coworkers were coming just as late.

      My last job did the flexible scheduling thing and I LOVED it. You could work any time between 7 AM and 7 PM. They didn’t want you leaving before 3:00 without talking to someone first, so basically just if you had an appointment or something. Everyone was also expected to be in before 10:00 AM. That way, we had that five hour window where they could schedule meetings. With advance notice, people could plan on it. Occasionally there were meetings around 9:00. so the few that typically came in later would adjust that day and come in early to be there on time for it. Communication is important. Diane could have just had the conversation about the time the LW was coming in.

      1. Blackcat*

        Yeah, my husband’s job is like this. Core hours are 10-3, otherwise flexible. A lot of folks with kids (my husband included) work something like 8/9-3, then another couple hours of like 8pm-10pm, after the kids are asleep. Works great! Lots of folks with regular doctors appointments like it, too, since it’s easy to get 8am or 3:30+pm appointments regularly scheduled without any need to use time off.

      2. Mama Bear*

        Same. We have “core hours” and how you hit your core is up to you/your manager but you need to be in in the office at least 4 hours that overlap with everyone else.

      3. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, my last company was pretty flexible, you could start between 6 and 10 a.m., leave between 2 and 7, work from home 2 days a week… generally they just wanted you to keep it consistent from week to week, but nobody fussed if I arrived at 8 instead of 7:30 or left at 3 instead of 4. it was probably the best part of the company.

    4. Mediamaven*

      That’s how I read it. Like, flexible still has boundaries. It doesn’t mean that you can work 12 to 9, in the middle of the night etc..

      1. Observer*

        Except that the OP was clearly withing the technical limits of the office’s needs. The problem was that Diane expected the OP to be flexible ONLY in how many extra hours they worked, because only PARENTS were eligible for actual flex time.

    5. EPLawyer*

      Core hours is fine — if it is actually conveyed to the employee. You can’t say “you have flex time. Why aren’t you here by 9” without context.

      Core hours wasn’t the problem here. It was that there was flex time for parents, but not for single people.

      1. your favorite person*

        Yes, exactly. It can be done well, but that wasn’t the case hear. Diane’s expectations were not conveyed correctly and when they were, they were discriminatory towards childless workers.

      2. MaureenSmith*

        Agreed. Flex time with core hours = standard. But must be evenly applied & communicated to all staff. Special accomodations beyond that need to be negotiated on an individual basis and may not be possible.

    6. londonedit*

      We have core hours between 10 and 4, but that means if I’m here at 8am then my boss needs to be happy with me leaving at 4pm. Or if I’m staying until 6, my boss needs to be happy that I won’t be in the office before 10. The problem here is that Diane wanted the OP to be in the office by 9, but also wanted them to work as many hours as it took for everything to get done, and wasn’t happy about them leaving at 5 when they’d worked their contracted hours.

    7. SomebodyElse*

      Agreed. I tell new employees that there is some flexibility in start/end times but that meetings generally start at 8:30 Central and go until about 3:30-4 central and that our company is pretty evenly split between Eastern and Central. So don’t be surprised if there is the occasional 7 am call for central folks or 5 pm call for Eastern.

      I also agree that she lost all credibility when it came to the kid comment.

    8. Rusty Shackelford*

      However, I will say that “Flex time but be here by 9” makes some level of sense to me.

      Sure. It’s entirely possible that flex time could mean “we have core hours that start at 9) or “you can leave early if you need to, and make it up later, but we still want you here on time in the morning” or something along those lines. But if that was what she meant, she didn’t say it. What she said was “we have flex time, but not for you.” And as a parent, I find that abhorrent.

      1. Cookie Captain*

        “We have flexible time policy, which means you work 9-5 but you can put in your unpaid overtime during the evening or on the weekend, whichever is more convenient for you.”

    9. Katastrophreak*


      Core hours are 9a-3p Eastern. If there’s a fire to put out before or after, or some key player in a different time zone, or anything else… just get your hours in that day/week.

      Works out incredibly well, given we’re all remote and all in different time zones across the US.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Agree, Diana sounded pretty innocuous in the original letter – like that she has core hours, but somehow forgot to communicate them to the OP and is now expecting OP to follow a schedule that she is not aware of. Sadly, that was not to be. Instead, what seemed like a harmless slip-up turned out to be the tip of the ridiculous, discriminatory iceberg.

    11. emmelemm*

      I totally understand core hours and if flex time means “you should really be here between 9:00ish and 4:00ish” that’s fine. But the way LW says “at 9:00 on the dot” seems to indicate that boss got pissy if she showed up at 9:05, which is… not how flex time works.

      There are some jobs, shift work/receptionist/retail, where there is a small but appreciable difference between showing up at 9:00 and 9:05. But anything even remotely described as “flexible” means that you aren’t counting by the minute.

    12. Observer*

      Well, what you are describing was what the OP was actually doing – the “on time” for their office was 9:00, so being in at 9:30 was hardly some huge abuse of flexibility. Even in terms of scheduling, if you can’t manage to schedule people when there is 1/2 flex in schedules, SOMEONE has waaaay too many meetings.

    13. babblemouth*

      That’s sort of how my office works. Hours are 8 to 4, +/- one hour. Which means some work 7 to 3, others 9 to 5, but everyone should be reliably in the office for 9 to 3… but even that has flexibility built in to be honest. If you need to run a quick errand, or you had a flat tire and walk in an hour late, no one will nickel and dime you on it.

      Results matter more than butts in chairs.

  4. WellRed*

    Ahh, the old, “I want your butt in the seat!” but I’ll be shocked when you then don’t want to stay late. Also, I wonder how her parenting coworkers feel about the fact they get a benefit she didn’t?

    1. cmcinnyc*

      I am sure Diane is finding a way to make the parenting coworkers pay for that flexibility somehow. I’ve worked for Dianes and there is no good place to be. The Dianes of the world always have unspoken ideas of what everyone should do and how everything should work that are immune to reality.

      1. Ann Onny Muss*

        ^ This, all day long. I’ve also worked under a few Dianes and it was a damned if you, damned if you don’t situation. They were mainly frustrated by the fact that people had some sort of life (kids, friends, pets, Netflix, whatever) outside of work and refused to give everything up for the job.

        1. Oh So Anon*

          The interesting thing is that the Dianes of the world aren’t really okay with you having a life unless it’s the specific kind of life they approve (typically, being a married parent). Anything else that could occupy your time just makes you an unrelatable leper.

    2. Ann Onny Muss*

      I wonder if the parents even really got that flex time, or if Diane was also making snarky comments behind their backs. “Well, if Jim didn’t have to drop his kids off at school, he could be here by 9:00.”

      1. mizunasloane*

        That’s what I was thinking too. Most likely she just put the blame on those staff that were parents and they don’t even get that much flexibility anyway. These kinds of people are like that, it’s everyone else’s fault and for every inch they give you to make work-life more flexible, the more they take away somewhere else.

    3. Ann Perkins*

      The flipside to this is often also, “Oh, I chose not to send to (insert desired training or conference or project here) because I know they need to be at home.” A boss like Diane probably isn’t going to be reasonable or fair with anybody.

      1. Observer*

        I was thinking this. Or some of the other parent managers we’ve read about here.

        Liz who has OPINIONS on the bad parenting of the women on her staff who buy their children “plastic trash” etc.

        The manager who was ticked off that one of her reports was not planning to nurse. (So much so that HR had to tell her to back off.)

  5. CountryLass*

    Wow Diane sounds tapped in the head! How on earth can she believe that is rational behaviour??

    Glad you got out of there, and good luck in your new job!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I have a hunch that, if she’d found out that OP was working on the deliverables, she would’ve thrown a fit and said “OP, don’t you know that you are supposed to document everything you do before you leave?!”

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I am seriously wondering whether Dianne decided to eliminate LW’s position out of misplaced spite, since she was interviewing candidates and had resumes, but then decided to cut the position loose when she found out LW was documenting processes(?!)—or did Dianne never intend to rehire for the position and the candidates and resumes were an attempt at some kind of passive-aggressive mindfuckery that LW didn’t play into?

          This reboot of The Office kind of sucks. O_o

  6. rayray*

    I’ve also had to deal with unfair treatment because of being single and childless. I am fine with accommodating in little ways here or there, but it isn’t fair to give people more time off or to let some have a flexible schedule and not others. I’ve even heard of companies using the “you don’t have kids” or “you’re single” excuse for making someone work a holiday over someone else. Ugh.

    I’ll also never understand these bosses that don’t want to help or work on a transition. I left my last job being the only one who did certain tasks. Before I quit, I had asked a few times if I could cross-train someone on some of those tasks. I also asked if we could work out coverage for other simple tasks when I was out, because a couple times when I took time off, I came back to a mountain of that work when it could have easily been covered for the day. They just said “Oh yeah, we will do that. Just not right now” I quit, no one had been cross trained on my tasks. Who knows what happened after, I have zero care about it but I’m sure it was very stressful for my replacement and/or coworkers.

    1. Catsaber*

      When I left my previous job, I tried to engage various people in cross-training, and it just never happened. I did the best I could with documentation and training, and no one really seemed to want to deal with it, especially my former boss. I was like, welp, did the best I could. And predictably, things went off the rails. They had two people trying to cover all my duties, who called and emailed me quite frequently (I transferred to another dept at a large university, so that was pretty normal). They eventually recovered, but it reminded me of one of the reasons I left – because that department only operated in crisis mode. They didn’t prepare, they didn’t set boundaries, they chose to do things fast and half-assed instead of slowing down and doing things right. So they suffered for it, and continue to suffer.

    2. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “I’ll also never understand these bosses that don’t want to help or work on a transition. I left my last job being the only one who did certain tasks. Before I quit, I had asked a few times if I could cross-train someone on some of those tasks.”

      I could have written that when I quit one of my jobs. During my final two weeks there, I asked a number of co-workers if I could show them how to do various tasks that I did. They always said no, because it wasn’t their job, it was the job of my replacement, who hadn’t been hired yet. So I told the office manager that I would be willing to come in for a few days after my last day (I had quit the job without having lined up a new one) to show people how to do things, and she said no, saying that she had everything under control, and my assistance wasn’t needed. I figured that she assumed that I had already taught my co-workers how to do everything that I did, and I tried a few times to tell her that everyone refused to listen to me, but she kept interrupting me and she kept insisting that she had everything under control, and she didn’t need anything from me.

      Immediately after I left, people started calling me, asking me how to do this and that. I told everyone that I was unable to answer their questions, because I didn’t have a computer and was unable to picture one, so I couldn’t guide anyone through the steps needed to accomplish this and that. I also said that I had told the office manager that I was willing to come in for a few days, but she had insisted that I wasn’t needed, because she had everything under control. I said that if they didn’t believe me, they could ask the office manager.

      Eventually the office manager herself called me and said, “I imagine that your former supervisor has been bothering you by calling you on the phone all the time.” I said, “He’s not the only one! Everyone’s been calling me. If you remember, I offered to come for a few days, and you specifically told me not to, because you had everything under control, and my assistance wasn’t needed.” She said, “Yes, but that’s because I thought that you had already told everybody everything.” I said, “That’s what I figured! So I tried and tried to tell you that nobody wanted to listen to me, because they said that it wasn’t their job, but you wouldn’t let me finish! You kept interrupting me and telling me that my assistance wasn’t needed, and I finally gave up.” Then she acknowledged that what I said was true, that she did interrupt me several times and tell me that I wasn’t needed. No one from that company ever called me again. I had the feeling that the office manager told everyone not to call me, because she imagined that whenever someone called me, I just laughed about it afterwards.

      But I had no choice but to return to the office after I received my COBRA letter, because it was full of mistakes (because no one had allowed me to show him or her the proper way to do a COBRA letter). The amount of money I would have to pay was shown two times in the letter, and each amount was different, and I had no idea which was the correct amount, so I had to go to the office to find out. When I was there, I pointed out all of the other mistakes in the letter. Even if the person who wrote the letter had no idea about what the deadline was for my letting them know that I wanted (or didn’t want) COBRA and when COBRA would start, he/she should have known that if you’re going to show the monthly amount twice, the two numbers should be identical.

    3. Quill*

      Nobody but me knew how to do a handful of things at the job I got fired from… a week after I was fired and my replacement had not at all been trained I got an angry phone call about where I kept pieces of lab equipment… that we no longer had because they didn’t work!

    4. Double A*

      Also, I find that attitude is damaging to both people with and without kids, because it causes resentment to build up. Like, me being able to flex my start time 15 minutes or not getting crap for leaving 15 minutes early in no way makes up for a lack of paid maternity leave, the massive added healthcare premiums that come with having a child, or the cost of daycare. However, it will cause my childfree colleagues to grouse about my “perks,” making people less willing to support benefits that actually DO help families (and will probably help everyone).

      I mean the solution is for workers to understand they have more needs in common than in competition, and that certain universal benefits (like paid leave) can benefit everyone. As people talked about in another thread, there are unique challenges and expenses that come with being single, and when I was navigating those it was just as challenging as what I navigate now as a parent of a young kid.

    5. Alanna*

      The whole “people without kids work the extra hours” thing was a huge part of what took down a relationship for me – my fiance got stuck with/voluntold for overtime all the time because he was the only one who didn’t have kids – yet. Welp, we weren’t going to get there if he was ALWAYS AT WORK. He pointed out that we needed the money, and while the money was nice, we didn’t NEED it. I didn’t mind him taking a shift here and there over someone with kids, especially since we were friends with them, but not as a default. That kind of attitude has to go. Plenty of parents in the workplace, and the work has to be shared.

      I don’t have kids, but I have chronic illness, I take care of my mom, and I have a ton of pets. I’m not going to work extra hours because someone else has kids!

  7. Murphy*

    That was a wild ride. Diane sucks. If the job allows, everyone should benefit from a flexible schedule regardless of whether or not they’re parents.

  8. Jimming*

    I love this update! OP, I’m glad you stuck with your job search, took a vacation, and kept moving forward! So glad it worked out for you!

  9. Drew*

    I would like to add that in my experience a flexible schedule is generally discussed and approved ahead of time. Its not like you can just show up a little late late minute and stay late to make up for it. Diane probably would have been OK with a more flexible schedule if you emailed the night before what your plan was with a vague reason why.

    1. Lance*

      I’m curious, though: would this even matter for non-shift work, where there’s not a very fixed period of time where there’ll be work to do? As long as people are getting their work done, and working reasonable hours (not, say, overnight while everyone else works during the day), what’s the issue, exactly?

    2. CB212*

      I’d actually say the opposite – yes, it’s common for someone to negotiate a 7-3 workday as a formal flex-accommodation, but if the whole office just has flexible hours where you’re expected to work ~40 hours across the week, it’s generally at the discretion of every employee to meet those expectations. I’ve worked in a lot of places where some folks were there around 8 to 4, others regularly rolling in at ten, 10:30 and staying late. Flexible is flexible, not a nightly check-in from every report about their intentions for tomorrow’s clock. (That would drive me bananas, as an employee or as a manager!)

      1. Ann Onny Muss*

        This has been my experience with flex time. Where I work, core hours are between 9:00 and 3:00. And other than that, managers generally don’t care when you arrive or leave. So, if you’re an early bird with no kids like me, no one looks askance if I come in at 6:30. Likewise, if you’re like my coworker with a large family and need to coordinate multiple school drops off, everyone is fine when they roll in at 9:00.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        This has also been my experience with flextime. If it’s stated ‘we have flex time’ then no one expects to be told when people are coming in daily. I’ve mostly had flextime with core hours, for context.

      3. Kes*

        Yeah I think it varies, I’ve been in both the ‘flexible but in by x time’ and ‘flexible, just get your work done and make or make arrangements for your meetings’, in which case it can be polite to give a heads up if you’ll be a lot later than usual or leaving significantly early or will be away/unavailable for a while, but if the hours I’m working regularly are different than some of the others, I don’t have to tell people or get it approved in advance.

      4. Glitsy Gus*

        Not necessarily. In my last two jobs if your general start time is, say, 9:30, as long as you get in by 10 (assuming you don’t have a meeting or something) there’s no need to worry about it or give a call to anyone. If it’s going to be longer it’s a good idea to let people know, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Same with coming in a bit early, need to come in a half hour early so you can duck out early for an appointment or whatever? NBD, but if it’s more than that 30 min or so it’s good to give a heads up.

    3. SarahKay*

      But clearly in this case Diane was not going to be okay with it, because she was expecting that single childless workers would not (must not!) take advantage of the flexible schedule.

    4. Antilles*

      Its not like you can just show up a little late late minute and stay late to make up for it.
      In my experience, this is actually the *exact definition* of flexible schedules – that employees are trusted to manage their own schedules in a reasonable fashion and nobody is clock watching for the exact minute. You can show up 5 minutes late when traffic is extra-bad and it’s completely fine. You can show up at 7 am instead of 8 on a Friday so that you can leave a little early and beat the rush. You can take a longer lunch to run errands.
      If you’re going to be dramatically off your normal schedule or the ‘typical business hours’ of around 9 to 5, then yes, you should let people know…but certainly not for minor few minute deviations.

    5. NW Mossy*

      My division offers flex time, and I’ve never asked my (salaried) employees to get approval from me for the hours they choose unless it would mean them not being available during core hours. Even then, I tend to err on the side of approving because reasonable people don’t normally request a schedule that’s wildly disruptive to their ability to do their job.

      I’ve been leading people for several years now, and the #1 people tell me they appreciate is the ability to tailor their schedule to meet their individual needs. I have neither the time nor the inclination to monitor their comings and goings closely (I have 11 direct reports and work a shifted schedule myself), so the exceptionally minimal cost to me of being flexible pays big dividends in having staff that bring their best because they feel supported.

    6. Alice*

      What you are describing is a “flexed” schedule, not a “flexible” one.
      Flexible: do whatever you want, within some articulated guidelines.
      Flexed: instead of 9-5, someone proposes and gets approval for a different schedule.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      But… like… if any 30-minute deviation from the schedule has to be approved the night before, one day at a time, then it’s not a flexible schedule. It’s a strict schedule where you can occasionally ask permission to come in 30 minutes late and leave 30 minutes early.

    8. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      “Its not like you can just show up a little late late minute and stay late to make up for it.”

      Uh, yes you can? I do this all the time at my job. If I arrive at 8:01, I leave at 4:31 instead of 4:30. There’s nothing stopping me from doing that.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        I think it depends by company. I’ve worked places where flexible schedule meant do what you want and where flexible schedule meant not everyone has to work the same hours, and we’re going to work out a schedule that works for you and it’s one you’re going to stick to because we need you to be working when you say you will and any deviations from that schedule need a heads up.

        1. animaniactoo*

          That’s a case of them misusing the term flexible scheduling. What they’re talking about is staggered scheduling.

    9. Quinalla*

      This is not always or even often the case in my experience in non-shift work and honestly would not have mattered in the slightest in the OP case. No one bats an eye at my work if people are a little early/later than normal, if it is going to be more than 30-60 minutes outside norm, we’ll usually let each other know as a courtesy, but it isn’t required or necessary and a lot of times no one notices since a lot of us have meetings outside the office quite often.

      Whatever the policy, it was not clearly laid out by the manager, how the heck is the employee expected to guess what it is?

    10. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Based on Diane’s behavior, I doubt she would have been okay with any time after 9 regardless of notice. Flex time is flex time. I would have asked for specifics, and assumed coming in at noon was not okay, but even when asked Diane never gave her a clear answer. Personally I would have called her out on it and not left it alone until she gave me a definitive answer. You can’t say flex time is okay and then get pissed when someone comes in at 9:30.

      I had a boss like this at my last job. we had the ability to WFH, and she told us in inclement weather we could work from home (each person could make the decision on their own depending on where we were commuting from). But we found out quickly that she meant when she was able to drive in, we were all expected to drive in. That’s not how you manage grown adults and expect them to respect you and give 110% percent. You treat me like a child, you’re not getting 1 minute over 40 hours from me each week.

    11. Orange You Glad*

      Yup, this is my experience as well. My manager needs to know in advance what our schedule is and any changes we need to make to it. For example, I work a 9:30-6 schedule. I have the flexibility to choose that schedule, but it needed to be approved by my manager. If I have something I need to leave early for and I choose to come in 8-4:30 then I would need to give my boss a heads up that my schedule will be different that day. None of these scheduled changes would be denied, I just need to let him know my plans so he’s not looking for me at a time that I’m not scheduled to be in the office. I’m salaried so I have a little more room for error than the hourly employees but it’s still considered a requirement to communicate our intended schedules ahead of time.

    12. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Its not like you can just show up a little late late minute and stay late to make up for it.

      That’s not my experience, and I don’t even have a “flexible” schedule. For example: I got stuck running an errand on my way to work today that took longer than I expected, and I was 15 minutes late. I’m taking 45 minutes instead of an hour for lunch to make up the time. My boss didn’t need to approve it, because I’m still working the number of hours I was allotted to work this week.

    13. Rexish*

      I wouldn’t consider it being flexible if I had to ask permission and give excuses. That would be thena strict schedule with some room for flexibility if needed.
      I’ve never had fully flexible schedule. In my current work I can come in between 6.30-9 and leave between 2-6.30 and this in my experience is fairly common.

    14. pandop*

      No – that’s exactly how flexi time works in my office. We have some core hours, and because people are creatures of habit, we do tend to let people know if we are going to be doing something drastically different from our ‘norm’ – or arrive after core hours have started/take a half day/whatever.
      Also, if we work over hours, we accumulate TOIL we can take later, and there are restrictions on how much debt/credit of hours you are supposed to carry over from one month to the next, but yeah, if my bus is late, it’s late, and I can either finish late the same day, another day, just look at how much time I have in credit and decide I’m fine. It’s flexible, that’s the point.

  10. Detective Amy Santiago*

    What a roller coaster!

    Congrats on the new job, OP. If I were you, I’d be so tempted to ask a former coworker to meet for coffee to find out what has been going on since you left, but I also completely understand wanting to wash your hands of that place.

  11. LDN Layabout*

    Most flexible hours arrangements I’ve seen have core hours, but you still have to tell people what they are!

  12. your favorite person*

    So happy for you OP! I also love that you actually did try to have a conversation about the issue. So many just give up and start looking for a new job without doing the difficult thing of trying to address the issue first.

    Also, this reminds me of the saying, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Maya Angelou

  13. new kid*

    Ugh. This is the classic ‘minimum pieces of flare’ unwritten rule that this type of manager loves to have, and then is always so shocked and confused when their employees take them at their actual word instead of somehow reading their minds.

    Glad you got out OP!

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      Yes, good on you OP for ignoring the unspoken rule! I did that too at a past job, where others in my dept were starting to work longer and longer, exboss especially, but also I didn’t have as much to do when exboss came on board because the work wasn’t flowing down as readily as before. So I was bored most of the time and went home at 5 every day despite all the dumb hints they gave me about working late like them.

      1. Massive Dynamic*

        Oo, they also pulled a “Deliverable Z is the most important thing!!” during my notice when no, training up people to do what I did and know what I knew was, but whatever. No longer my circus.

        1. InsufficentlySubordinate*

          I, um, ignored the manager who tried to get me to work on stupid stuff during my notice instead of documenting completely everything I was doing. Because it was all stupid stuff, and yes, I did know, because we were a small place and 3 of the 5 people in my position left within about a month of each other because of that manager’s stupid stuff. Admittedly, I mostly just ignored emails from him about the stupid stuff, since he never spoke to me in person again after I gave notice. In a 40 person group. It was lovely.

      2. Ann Onny Muss*

        Yeah, had that at my first job with current company. Manager would drop hints “Well, [favored employee] stays late.” [Favored employee] also came in late. I kept my preferred hours while [Favored employee] kept theirs. I agree with OP this comparing employees on start/end times is ridiculous.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup – I had one of those read my mind bosses once. Just before the beginning of the end I looked right at them and said, “sorry my request to be able to read minds hasn’t been granted yet, while I wait on that could you just tell me what you want me to do?”

      (I only did this because I knew their supervisor had written me a glowing reference already and I was moving out of state in six weeks. I would recommend this as a first response.)

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Thanks! I have to read/comment on my phone on breaks, and I try to look for typos, but well….we’re all human.

  14. High School Teacher*

    I am a hardcore rule follower and it is incredibly difficult for me to break rules at work. If my boss had told me flex time was okay but then acted weird about it, I’d be incredibly stressed and confused. Just be upfront with what you expect of your employees.

    1. Ann Onny Muss*

      That, but also don’t make up different rules for different employees based on their personal lives.

      1. StellaBella*

        Exactly to both of your comments – the confusion of the employee is caused by these weird, unspoken, changing-all-the-time kinds of things – and the favouritism is clearly a problem too. Am so glad OP is out of there!

  15. Kate*

    So bewildered why she would be secretly interviewing??? You’re leaving – OF COURSE they’re going to have to hire someone. This is beyond illogical.

    1. Ama*

      Yeah that was maybe the weirdest part of the whole thing. She’s already given notice, why do you need to keep replacing her a secret?

    2. 1234*

      I read it to mean that Diane was looking for the OP’s replacement prior to OP announcing his/her departure? As in, if OP didn’t leave on his/her own, Diane would’ve fired him/her?

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        That would be sensible, but doesn’t seem to be what the LW is saying. I don’t think we need assume that Diane is sensible.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Shady people, do this kind of shady stuff. It’s shady all day, every day!

      This is the kind of weird stuff that my former toxic boss would do, he didn’t realize there were times that you didn’t have to “hide” your behaviors because duh, it’s not always a secret, why are you acting like that?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Side note. Part of it is that they think that since they’re underhanded and awful, that everyone is.

        I bet part of it is a paranoia that if the OP had seen resumes, she’d some how alert these candidates that Diane sucks =X

        1. Fikly*


          My abusive parents were always so confused at why I wouldn’t behave abusively toward them, because that’s not what they would do in the same situation.

  16. pope suburban*

    That is a manifestly terrible attitude and I am almost shocked that Diane would say the quiet part out loud like that. Like, I’m all for workplace flexibility and compassion because we are all human, and I am always happy to help out someone who has a childcare emergency because things happen. But it dismays me that so many people either forget or never seem to realize that we are ALL human, and that it’s right to treat everyone with compassion and nuance. I’m happy to say that I’m allowed time off where I am (The worst is attitude from a supervisor who has Diane-ish tendencies), but I’ve had jobs that were so pro-parent I nearly worked myself into the hospital picking up so much slack, so I know how bad this can be for one’s mental health and morale. I’m glad OP is out of there.

  17. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    The way Diane handled your transition is giving me flashbacks to my absurd former boss that was my only toxic boss [shocker, right]. LOL getting mad that you were doing procedural docs and focusing on deliverables, when you weren’t going to be able to finish all your tasks within the notice period but okay, Diane.

    I’m glad you’re out of there, fly free, sweet birdie! It’s wonderful up here away from those weirdo awful bosses.

    1. RC Rascal*

      Ten bucks and a box of donuts says that if OP had been focused on the deliverables instead of the documentation, Diane would have wanted her working on documentation. This is about a power play and Diane getting what she says, not about what makes sense for the business or the team. Diane is the grown up version of the kid who would rather break her toys than let anyone else play with them.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This. IME, a boss who wants you to read their mind and guess what they want you to do isn’t doing it because they have a specific outcome in mind and forgot how to give directions. They do it because if the directions are vague enough, they’ll always have something to “correct” you on. The “corrections” are the point. My former boss always did this, and it was because she was trying to cultivate a reputation as a problem solver. So by not giving clear instructions, she set up a situation where there was always going to be a problem for her to solve.

        1. StellaBella*

          Wow, this is really insightful. Thank you. You have just pinpointed somethings that I have been trying to figure out for a while.

  18. Campfire Raccoon*

    Diane can go suck a rotten, stinking, discriminatory egg.

    Congratulations on your new position! I am so very happy for you.

  19. Mama Bear*

    I had a manager who didn’t seem to care what happened after I gave notice, made no transition plan, and didn’t make any attempt to talk to me or meet with me before I left. We mostly worked in different offices and he made it pretty clear I was persona non grata. I had little respect for him before that, but zero after. My role was all but canceled and while that kind of stings, there’s a point at which it is no longer your problem.

    Re: the different expectations, I had a boss years ago who seemed to resent that I had a spouse and favored the single parents in our department in a similar way – always asking the rest of us (married or no kids) to work extra or flex more. I agree with OP – not being a parent shouldn’t mean you have to work harder.

    I hope that OP’s situation continues to improve and OP feels valued and respected. Diane sounds like…a peach. My husband has a saying, “people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.” I think that is very true.

  20. 1234*

    I would love to know where all these parents get the idea that single people seem to have more free time. Just because someone doesn’t have a child doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing other things with their lives? For example, going to the gym, doctor’s appointments, caring for an elderly family member, having home repairs done that need them to be home, etc.

    Anyways, I am glad that OP got out and is in a more sane work environment.

    1. Ama*

      I think a lot of it is just managers who will come up with any excuse to justify a particular decision – if they had no single reports they’d probably find some way of discriminating between Wakeen’s two kids in preschool and Jane whose kids are in high school so she doesn’t need to get home to them, or some such BS.

      1. Quill*

        My mom got that from a boss… in multiple directions.

        “No, you can’t have days off to attend your own father’s funeral” and “No, you can’t skip inservice to help your child move out of college, have them chose a different day!” (Yeah, you got fined if you weren’t moved out and checked out by 4pm on the last day of finals, not gonna happen, mom’s boss.)

        The rules were: if you were boss or her favorites you got time off for any excuse whatsoever, including a pedicure. If you were in the union or an unfavorite, you would get hassled for ALL time off no matter what, and written up for attending your own parents’ funerals.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      While non-parents are obviously busy doing things, parents are busy doing things that often have to be done at times they have little control over, for/with people who cannot do those things themselves. So it’s a different kind of busy. Of course, it’s not limited to parents – that’s also true for people caring for older family members, people with pets, people who need lots of medical attention themselves, etc.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Non-parents are busy doing things that have to be done at times we have no control over. The only doctor’s appointment for 6 months is at 10 a.m. The store closes at 5. All kinds of things. Non-parents do not have amazingly flexible schedules to do what they want when they want.

        I got this when I was involved in Girl Scouts. All the parents thought I would have plenty of time to do extras because I had no kids. I pointed out that when I got home I still had to take the trash out, do the dishes, do the laundry, etc. I had appointments I had to go to. I was not sitting home eating bon bons and watching tv.

        1. pope suburban*

          Exactly. The 9-5 business schedule is the standard for many if not most industries, and that means you’re likely to either have a doctor’s appointment midday, or not at all. Sure, you can try to schedule it during your lunch hour, but a lot of people do that and I feel that’s kind of a crappy and unreasonable expectation (That you’ll sacrifice food time for an appointment in order to better suit your employer) in general. Same with anything that would need to take you to the bank, or let someone into your home for repairs/connection, or dozens of other tasks that need to fit within that 9-5 window. That applies to everybody, even if they are not responsible for caring for anyone other than themselves.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I once had minor surgery on my lunch hour and went back to work afterward because my boss was weird about flex time. That is not my job anymore.

        2. Oh So Anon*

          Remember, in some people’s minds, non-parents aren’t supposed to do things because it draws attention to how terrible at being adults they are for, y’know, not being parents. We’re supposed to keep out life maintenance tasks far, far, far out of sight to be halfway acceptable to some of these people.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          Non-parents are busy doing things that have to be done at times we have no control over. The only doctor’s appointment for 6 months is at 10 a.m. The store closes at 5. All kinds of things. Non-parents do not have amazingly flexible schedules to do what they want when they want.

          True. But parents and caretakers are doing these same things for themselves *and* for someone else. Please note that I’m not defending Diane and her ilk. I’m just saying, this is the “logic” behind it.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        This. And, most parents were single people once and have a point of comparison – and I definitely had more control over my schedule then than now.

        But my schedule is not the problem of other people, and the I would also be appalled if my boss was fine with my being a half-hour late due to a kid-related thing but not fine with my childless coworker being a half-hour late for whatever life event got her that day.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        +1000. I am a parent of two adult children, who were born 2.5 years apart. I am also now single (for the purposes of this discussion – ie, I don’t have a partner living in my home that I run a shared household with). I can say it pretty confidently that I now have infinitely more free time and energy (which I use to go to the gym, meet with friends, pursue my hobbies, work on my house etc) than I did 20 years ago. I actually not even quite sure how I did it 20 years ago. Wouldn’t last a day now as a parent of two young children.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          ^Forgot to add – but this should not be factored into my or my childfree coworkers, or my parents-of-young-kids coworkers work schedule by our boss. That was incredibly unprofessional of Diane.

        2. Quill*

          Part of the decision to have or not have children can be based on “do I actually have the time / energy / stability / health to care for them” though. (And props to people who do this work but… there are far more factors to your amount of free time and energy than whether or not you have children to care for. I have a lot more free time and energy when I don’t commute as long, or in the summer when I don’t have to constantly clear snow!)

          The fact that OP’s boss thinks “flexible time policy” just means “mommy accomodation” and not “slightly different timing to beat traffic” or “is able to make that 7 AM dentist’s appointment and come in at 8:30 so you don’t have to take a day off,” or “can better coordinate care of a non-offspring family member” or “easier on employee’s own health” is pretty darn infuriating on multiple levels.

        3. Myrin*

          Yeah, that’s actually one of the two main reasons I don’t have kids and probably will not ever have them – I don’t want to give up my flexibility and independence (which is mostly just my independence to do absolutely nothing whenever there isn’t something I absolutely need to be doing – I wouldn’t have that freedom if I had a child, at least not a young one who would need attention as a baby and then playtime and stuff as they get older and so forth).

          I do think people on here can sometimes be a little… disingenuous, maybe? whenever this topic comes up. Sure, single/childless people have things they want to do outside of work and they have commitments or appointments which can’t be moved etc. but parents usually also have those and they have to deal with children on top of that. Unless you as a parent aren’t particularly involved in your child’s life, I think that’s a pretty objective thing to say. (Same goes for caregivers, of course, which already shows that it isn’t super clear-cut regardless.)
          (None of that is the same as the letter’s “it’s not as if you have anything else to do”, by the by. That’s just a stupid and completely separated-from-reality thing to say.)

          The problem arises when a workplace thinks it can be the arbiter of what is worthy of continued and substantial special treatment and what isn’t. I personally am always willing to do work which would leave my coworkers with childcare issues in a pinch, but that’s something that I do voluntarily because I don’t care either way so I might as well help someone out. But I’d be pretty pissed if that were expected of me, even in situations where I’d have been totally ready and willing to actually do the thing before learning of the difference in treatment.

          1. Quill*

            Thing is everyone has /something/ they deal with on top of all the work of living, whether it’s caregiving, illness, a years long legal battle, disability, a hour long commute because as a single person they’ve been priced out of living close to their workplace, continuing education… it’s not disingenuous for me, a childless person, to point out that at certain times I’ve been way, way more time crunched than an average parent with children because of my health, and for some people that’s not a temporary condition.

            The workplace shouldn’t give a rat’s tail about *why* people want flexible schedules, it should just be implemented across the board.

          2. Mia*

            I don’t think it’s disingenuous. I think it’s just like…most single adults also have obligations on top of regular adult life maintenance. Like, if you’re chronically ill, or disabled, or taking care of an aging loved one as opposed to a kid, your schedule is often just as chaotic and stressful as folks raising kids. Employers like Diane failing to acknowledge that is legitimately frustrating.

      4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        It’s not a competition, and providing MORE flexibility to those who have kids is not even close to being right. I don’t care if I’m going to go home and sit on my ass with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and watch trashy movies when I get home from work. That doesn’t make my personal time any less valuable than a parent’s time. I would totally be willing to cover for a parent at work if my manager allowed flexibility for me as a non-parent when needed.

      5. Third or Nothing!*

        Yeah, I have way less flexibility with my personal time than I had before I became a mom. My home life now revolves around naptime and bedtime. God help us if I deviate even slightly. I have turned down invites to SO MANY things because they happen to fall in the middle of naptime or after bedtime.

    3. tape deck*

      Right? No, I don’t have kids, but I also don’t have anyone to help me cook, clean, do laundry, get groceries, care for my pets…

    4. Jean*

      Personal experience? I had way more free time when I was a non-parent. But that doesn’t mean that now that I am a parent, that should entitle me to special work privileges that don’t apply to my non-parent coworkers. It’s wrong and unfair to favor parents in any work capacity. If parents get flex schedules, everyone should. To me this is a no-brainer.

    5. Digley Doowap*

      I would just tell them I had two “kids” at home that needed my attention so I could leave by 5pm.

      My two kids are fur babies that I treat like my own kin.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        I don’t even have pets and I’ve made up kids to talk about at jobs where the culture is particularly opposed to approving time off for non-kid related reasons, or just to get out of stupid not-really-optional things. “Team building activity? When is it? Oh man I can’t, I have the kids. Their mom’s dropping them off on Saturday and we’ll have them the whole weekend. :D”

    6. Observer*

      I see no evidence that this was a problem with the parents at the workplace. The real problem was *Diane’s* attitude

    7. pamela voorhees*

      Having grown up in some pretty conservative environments, I would explain the logic like this — if you are a woman your top two priorities in this order are supposed to be children, and then husband (and it’s always husband, not boyfriend (because if you were doing things “right” he should have married you) or wife/girlfriend/anything else). Whatever else is disposable compared to these top two, or you’re not doing Woman right, although of course you are still expected to take care of those other things (just discretely and preferably by magic). I know this sounds like a total downer (sorry AAM!) but even in places that aren’t that extreme, I’ve noticed the general logic of children -> husband -> who cares can still be pretty hard to shake. It even gets so insidious that folks expect people like OP to be fine with it because other people’s children are of course more important than whatever she is doing, because she is a Woman and priority must be Children (even if they’re not hers).

      1. pamela voorhees*

        Also I want to be very clear I don’t agree with this worldview at all, but I find it can be really helpful to articulate it because a lot of maddening situations like the one OP went through arise when people are using completely different value systems but each think that their value system is universal and therefore think the other person is being deliberately obtuse/cruel/spiteful/etc. A much less high stakes example would be “birthdays are an important day where friends show they care about you” vs “birthdays are a waste of time and a greedy excuse for presents”.

    8. AcademiaNut*

      I mean, I’m not a parent, and I’ll cheerfully admit that *on average* parents have a lot more stuff that needs to be done, and often done on a rigid schedule, because looking after kids is hard work, and having them doesn’t make all the rest of life stuff go away (ie, parents also have repairs, doctor’s appointments, elderly parents, etc).

      The problem is that this is highly variable from person to person – you can have someone with kids who has a lot of money and family support who has more free time than someone with no kids but other responsibilities and burdens. The other thing is that you’re being paid to do a job, and the amount of work that you’re expected to and what you get paid to do it shouldn’t depend on your life outside of work. Benefits like flex schedules and the ability to occasionally work from home shouldn’t be exclusively for people with kids. Men shouldn’t get paid more because “they have a family to support”, single people shouldn’t get the worst schedules and longest hours because they don’t have kids.

      And on a personal level – I wanted kids but couldn’t have them. So I decided to thoroughly and unapologetically enjoy the silver lining – lazy weekends, plenty of sleep, time to pursue hobbies, interesting travel. Any parent that tries to make me feel guilty for that is going to get asked whether they’d trade their children for my lifestyle.

  21. cbh*

    OP I’m sure you have seen it said on AAM before, but sometimes when you are in a toxic situation it is hard to realize that there is better opportunities out there. (it took me a looooong time to learn that) It sounds like it took a long road, but I’m glad you are now in a position you enjoy. Secondly while Diane might have made you feel that your position was not needed, trust me she feels the brunt of you not being there. She can no longer “justify” work not getting done because the sole non-parent in the group isn’t there to pick up the extra work. (that is some dimented logic of hers!) Yes you left documentation, even if it was half heartedly, I’ll bet there is more knowledge you know that was second nature to you than it is to anyone having to learn something from scratch. It may not seem like it now, but Diane is not as “lucky” as she may think now that you are not there. Your coworkers expressed worry. Those coworkers will be in HR soon enough. HR/ Higher ups will realize what a valuable person you are. All I’m saying with my rambling is that to me it sounds like even though you are in the best of best of a new job,it sounds like you are putting yourself down. DON’T. You seem like a hardworking, ethical team player. Your new company is lucky to have you.

  22. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    I can’t stop laughing at this:

    At one point I found out she was secretly interviewing for my replacement. And I mean secretly — she abruptly stopped conversations and hid resumes when I walked by, in a rather cartoonish and ineffectual fashion.

    Embarrassing. Although your description is hilarious.

    So, so glad you are out of there, OP. You did your best in a poorly managed environment, and you’ve moved on to far better things. Thank you for updating us. Hope you have a great time over the holidays and new year!

  23. Johanna*

    Congratulations on your new job and thank goodness you are away from that nut. I had to laugh at her being so secretive and hiding that’s she’s looking for a replacement for you..For a job you resigned from.. she’s got some strange ideas!!

  24. irene adler*

    Geez, Diane, what if an employee were the sole caretaker of a very ill parent? That role needs flexibility too.
    But no children involved so, not happening -right?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Or even had a pet?! Some days your cat just won’t let you leave the GD apartment because they puke at the perfect time [right as you’re putting on your coat]. Or you misplaced your keys because the cat knocked them off the hook and under something. Yes, my cat is a monster but he’s MY monster.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          My cat is plotting something with the squirrel on the patio. I saw them chattering at each other…

          Or perhaps the cat just owes the squirrel an acorn, I don’t speak cat-squirrel.

          1. AKchic*

            the cat and the squirrel both speak bird. It’s helpful when they all speak the same language and don’t have to rely on the raccoon to translate.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Friends of mine recently had to come separately to their kid’s bday party (at a laser tag venue) because their cat pooped in the air conditioning vent, so Dad cleaned while Mom rushed the kid to the party to oversee setup. Lovely monsters… At least Dad made it before the actual party part took off.

    2. The Original K.*

      I did a contract gig at a company that talked about “prioritizing family” but they meant families with kids. A woman quit because she was the sole caretaker of her elderly parents and was tired of not having the same flexibility extended to her that was extended to parents. Want to watch your kid’s school play? Sure, leave at 3. Need to take your father to the doctor? Nope. I felt so bad for her.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Thank God she escaped.

        So many people in her position accept this torture because as a sole provider, they’re also you know, required to work so that they can afford to take care of their ill relatives.

        Go watch junior play soccer, Sally! Jeez Jane, just put your dad in an Uber, where’s your priorities!!!! *vomits*

      2. irene adler*

        For every manager who sets up this sort of dichotomy for their reports, I hope that one day they find themselves neck deep with simultaneous caretaking responsibilities for both older and younger generations of their family. And a boss who needs ‘butts in seats’ by 8 am sharp. No exceptions.

        Think about your policies and how they affect your reports. You may very well drive out the very skill sets you value the most. Simply because you fail to walk in another person’s shoes for a bit.

    3. Cordoba*

      More to the point: what if an employee was single with no family responsibilities but wanted to use their free time to read a book, or get drunk in a hammock, or go bungee jumping, or literally anything else?

      I submit that all of those things deserve equal consideration to parenting tasks, and that an employer should not be making the call about whose out-of-work activities are more important or deserving of routine flexibility.

      Sure, emergencies (meaning short-notice, high-stakes situations) can happen to anybody and a reasonable employer will recognize this and give extra accommodation when they occur regardless of whether kids are involved.

      But on a day-to-day basis I’m not going to tell an employee that their plan of “leave work at 5 and go for a run” is any more or less important than their colleague’s plan of “leave at 5 and pick Jaydyn up from swim practice”. It’s not an employer’s place to make that call.

      1. Ann Onny Muss*

        I’m fine a manager making accommodations for an employee’s personal life. For example, a former coworker asked to work from home in the evenings because he had to leave at a certain time to do the school run. He was granted that, and everyone was cool with that because we all knew if we needed personal life accommodations, it would also be granted to us. That’s the right way to do it. Not say “Well, you don’t have kids, so you must not have a life. No exceptions granted for you.”

        1. irene adler*

          See, the example you wrote is sensible.

          I’ve seen managers do the “can’t grant you any leeway or else everyone else will want the same accommodation” excuse to deny any sort of exception. Exasperating!

          1. Ann Onny Muss*

            I totally agree too many managers and companies are not nearly as sensible as they could be. My company (huge Fortune 100) is going through growing pains right now on accommodating employees in the 21st century. It’s kind of hit and miss on which managers are willing to accept (for example) remote work and those who are very “butts is seats is the only thing that counts.” Some of it is demographics (older managers who had more rigidity through their careers) and some of it is just plain old micromanagers or Dianes. They’re still very much present but gradually becoming less common as the company changes.

  25. DoctorateStrange*

    So, I am curious about workplace situations where people imply/state that childless people have more free time therefore should get less vacation time and more hours. Is there a way to report it to HR? If it’s a colleague, should it be taken to that colleague’s boss?

    I feel that as time goes by, what, with more millennials such as myself choosing to have children at a later age and other millennials choosing not to have children at all, that these situations are going to happen more and more.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Just saw another article that says we’re all a bunch of childless monsters and won’t “replenish” the Earth like former generations. People keep forgetting that we’re already over populated but you know…tradition?

      But this is one of those situations where it’s not protected by the law, so people continue to fling at those who are childless without any repercussions. It depends on your setup, in our case, we wouldn’t allow this kind of nonsense, we don’t only accommodate those with special circumstances like children. Medical needs are different only because they vary so drastically person to person but if someone asks for that accommodation, if it’s reasonable and inexpensive to do so, we’d do it anyways because ef it, why not? It’s easier to treat everyone equally than make special rules for everyone. I don’t even know if people have kids or don’t half the time, I don’t keep track…why would I?!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Just saw another article that says we’re all a bunch of childless monsters and won’t “replenish” the Earth like former generations.

        LOL! Oh noes! What will happen?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I have a couple friends with like upwards of 8 kids each, so I just point to them. “Her genes are better to pass along anyways!” is my other go-to.

        2. AKchic*

          I have an entire sports team. Many of them are fauxdopted. I will let anyone who needs to claim some of my troop as timeshares. The majority are adults (only three under 18, 2 of them are teenagers, so anyone want to chip in to buy first cars?) and a few have already presented me with grandkids (and grandkittens!).

          I overdid my part. Kick back and enjoy.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        But how am I supposed to find a person to date so I can get married and have children to replenish the population if I have to work late every night while Sasha and Dave take their kids to their extra curriculars?!?!

        1. Anonny*

          That, along with rather traditional views on working mothers, is why Japan has concerns about low birth rate.

      3. AnonyMouse*

        I’d prefer replenishing the earth by planting some trees, and reducing my plastic consumption/carbon footprint to make a healthier environment for future generations, but okay sure I’m a monster for not popping a child out of my lady parts. Got it! (I think I read the same article and it pissed me off)

        1. Ann Onny Muss*

          No, you’re a monster for not popping out 4 or 5 kids. You’re just less of one if you only pop out one or two. ;-) (Don’t feel bad, I’m also one of those childless monsters.)

    2. Quill*

      So, so many people will use this as a no-win condition for anyone between the ages of roughly 20 and 35, even as millennials become less than 1/3 of that group in the coming decade. If you don’t have kids: well, clearly the company owns as much of your time as an offspring would, in addition to the workday! If you do have kids: clearly you should be GRATEFUL to ever have regular hours or time off!

      TBH, if america doesn’t get a kick in the labor law pants in the next 10 years we’re going to have a huge population crash.

  26. Richard Hershberger*

    Midway through the first update my reaction was that you are the only one who can perform certain specific tasks, and indeed, your boss had quite specifically made sure that you were the only one. At that point, who cares what she thinks of you? She can’t fire you. Then I read the update to the update. Yeah, she would totally fire you. If it set the place ablaze, she would be right there playing her fiddle.

  27. Retro*

    Seriously, why is Diana like this? I always wonder how bad bosses get to where they are and whether previous bad bosses have influenced the way they operate. Even so, when I just started out in the workplace, I could recognize when certain workplace operations were unhealthy. It definitely took me a while for all of it to sink in, but when it did, I never thought that it would be an acceptable way to operate a future workplace. Can someone really be indoctrinated into thinking an unhealthy workplace is healthy?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Lots of Diane’s end up in management because they’re master manipulators. You just have to shine the right ass in a lot of cases to get put into a management position, if there’s little oversight by the branches above you, it gives them a lot of room to reek their havoc.

      Then there’s the people who get “drunk on power” and even a little leadership turns them into absolute disasters. So perhaps she was a good line worker, someone made the common mistake of thinking this means she should be elevated to a higher position [because of the bad decision that promotions are the only way to retain good people]. Then when put in charge, she developed these awful habits, despite being good at an actual job at some point?

      1. Antilles*

        All those are possibilities. Here’s another couple common causes of ‘managers who can’t manage’:
        1.) A surprising amount of people like this actually get decent results, which gets it written off as a TV-esque “…and it worked”. Sure, she can be rude and miserable, but apparently she’s doing something right.
        2.) She may have never actually learned anything about management. In the business world, the training for new managers is usually minimal (or zero) and typically focuses on specific things like filling out department budget projections and not on personnel management, listening to employees, or other similar soft skills. But of course her bosses don’t get to see the areas that she stinks at, because those mostly affect lower-tier employees.

    2. Ama*

      It’s not that you can’t recognize that it’s unhealthy (as someone who has been in a toxic workplace), it’s that you start moving the goalposts on the little things that a functional employer would never do but which aren’t egregiously terrible.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Some managers get on a power trip and treat their employees like children.

    4. animaniactoo*

      I checked back on the original for something, and noticed that Diane is the owner of the company; not just OP’s boss.

      I suspect Diana is one of those people who either never put in time on the bottom, or did and thinks that she’s served her time and it’s someone else’s turn now, or has only thought through the things that were a problem that she noticed because it affected her and voila! here is how she will solve it for the people who work for her.

      1. RC Rascal*

        Diane may have started her own company because she was incapable of holding a job working for others. Sometimes the “brilliant jerk” gets forced into entrepreneurship because they soft skills/socialization is so poor they can’t work for anyone. Think of Steve Jobs–when he was at Atari they supposedly set his desk in the basement because he refused to bathe.

      2. RVA Cat*

        This. Pretty sure there’s a direct correlation between the Dianes of the world starting their own businesses and the number of small businesses that go belly-up….

  28. Myrin*

    So this whole rollercoaster (and I just accidentally wrote “hollercoaster” instead, which is also fitting) basically boils down to “Diane is a bizarro weird person in every aspect imaginable”. Goodness gracious.

  29. Catsaber*

    Glad you got a new job, OP! It sounds a lot better. I’ve worked for a few Dianes, and there’s just nothing you can do to make them happy, because they always have some weird version of reality in their minds that we’ll never live up to.

    P.S. I have kids but it enrages me that a flexible schedule (or similar benefits) are only extended to a certain group of people. That’s just wrong. Also, I think flexibility is one of the easiest-to-implement, most-broadly appealing perks there is! There’s no reason it can’t be implemented across the board, if it fits the business. Except, of course, that it requires managers to actually manage well….

    1. Ann Onny Muss*

      It also requires the Dianes of the world to actually accept flexibility for employees across the board. Not just certain demographics.

  30. Jennifer*

    Wow. I wish we’d gotten this update sooner. She could be a worst boss contender.

    OP – Don’t you know that if you don’t have kids you have nothing else to do? I just sit in an empty room when I’m not at work, waiting for life to start again tomorrow at 9 am.

    1. Ann Onny Muss*

      Yes, not having kids totally means I am willing to give up my life for work. I mean, what else do I have to do with my time?

      1. irene adler*

        Guess I missed that memo, cuz I have a life.


        Ours not to reason why, ours but to work and die. Sigh.

  31. Holy Moley*

    I had a boss who did the childless employee thing to me!!! If I was a few minutes late to work due to traffic or some other reason (even with giving her notice) I would get dragged in the office and berated. My coworkers all had kids and were routinely 15-45 minutes late but never got in trouble. The excuse was they had kids but I had no excuse. Worst boss I ever worked for!

    1. irene adler*

      If I ever get a new job, I think the first thing I’m gonna do is put some pics of some kids on the desk. Make ’em think I have kids.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        “Oh, these kids? No, that’s just the picture that came with the frame. But they’re cute, right?”

  32. Jess*

    In my last job, I had the same issue of a boss secretly micromanaging my time but not people in the same role because I didn’t have kids and they did, and it’s so stressful and infuriating. Congratulations on getting out of there!

  33. Cordoba*

    In similar circumstances I like reminding the boss “since I have no dependents it’s much easier for me to change employers if I decide I don’t like it here anymore”.

    Flexibility cuts both ways.

  34. Rainbow Roses*

    I have secretive/unclear instructions. “You have flex time but I expect you to be here at 9:00am.” What the……?

    And “secretly” interviewing your replacement after you already gave notice. Huh? Interviewing for replacements is normal. Except in Diane World, I guess. She sounds like the type of person who can’t tell the straight truth even if you ask her what 1+1 equal. Like their mind is always racing to tell some weird lie because she thinks everything is a conspiracy theory.

  35. Batgirl*

    I used to have a co-worker who would get irrationally angry at the only parent on the team for the Diane-esque rules.
    When she’d leave, leaving the rest of us to unpaid overtime, my colleague would grouch that she had a life too.
    I must have said a million times it was our bosses that were unfair, keeping the best projects away from the parent and keeping the rest of us working for free.
    “Is she supposed to leave her kid at daycare this evening to show solidarity or would shw be doing that to prop up the dinosaurs rules? I dont get how that would help?”
    The worst part was that it would only have taken minimal managing to create real jobs for the parent and manageable deadlines for the rest of us.
    I am so glad to be out of there..

  36. Close Bracket*

    I thought it was actually a form of illegal discrimination to hold parents and non-parents to different standards. At the very least, if it is not illegal based on parental status that it can be seen as a form of gender bias. Do I understand that correctly or am I wrong in my impression?

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Wouldn’t be gender bias if both fathers and mothers were given the same perks.

      Historically, the parent differential has been that dads are given better roles / jobs / promotions / money, because ‘they have to support a family’ while moms get worse jobs / money, because ‘they’re distracted by the kids.’ The parents getting different treatment according to gender biases is what would be illegal.

      But giving perks to parents that you don’t give to non-parents is not illegal, just bad management.

      1. Close Bracket*

        “Wouldn’t be gender bias if both fathers and mothers were given the same perks.”

        As you note in your second statement, that’s not how it usually shakes out.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s no federal law against it in the U.S. Some states have laws against discriminating based on family status, but most (maybe all?) are worded to specifically prevent discrimination against parents, not non-parents.

      1. Close Bracket*

        “most (maybe all?) are worded to specifically prevent discrimination against parents,”

        Oh, I see. Sort of like how workers over 40 are a protected class as opposed to age being a protected class. The few times I have been in a situation where someone’s parental status was raised, that person was a parent, but I have *heard* of situations where childless women were treated differently, so I assumed there were blanket parental status protections.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We need a lawyer up in here.

      But quick research says that:

      The EEOC does not include parental status discrimination as a covered basis when enforcing discrimination laws.

      State laws do change a lot though, so it could easily be in a lot of state statues!

      Most of these reports are about discriminating against parents and not against childless folks. Everything points to it being legal [ew] to indeed hole each one up to different standards. Many people like to act like having kids likens them to having a disability and therefore it’s okay to have special accommodations not afforded to the rest of the crew.

  37. Trout 'Waver*

    Grats on the new job, but your new HR lady is a jerk too. This:

    > The head of HR, a very formidable-looking woman, asked my desired salary and was pleased when I gave her a straightforward answer. She told me that many candidates hemmed and hawed or had not even thought about it beforehand.

    Is complete bullshit. Forcing candidates to give a number first is aggressive negotiating designed to lowball applicants. They have all the info to give a number. The only reason to force a candidate to name a number first is to attempt to lowball them.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Agreed. I also don’t like the HR lady gossiping to the new hire about other candidates. Wtf is that supposed to accomplish besides making it clear that HR doesn’t even have the pretense of confidentiality at this place?

  38. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    And this is why people without kids get pissed when parents are treated differently. Just because someone doesn’t have kids does not make their personal less valuable. If you’re going to be flexible for parents, you need to be flexible for EVERYONE.

  39. animaniactoo*

    OP, congrats. You deserve to get out of there and Diane deserves whatever dumpster fires she ends up having to keep on putting out – as well as handling the inevitable fallout of additional escapees in her insane setup.

    P.S. Based on what you’ve said here, I am now about 98% positive that the initial accidental message was not an accident. It was designed to appear to be accidental. But it was her actual, planned, method of serving you notice that she was unhappy with your use of the “flexible” hours.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Oh, good catch! I do think it’s likely that the message was an “accidentally-on-purpose” scenario.

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

    I bet she was being “secretive” about interviewing your replacement because she was hoping to be able to walk you out abruptly before the end of your notice, and when that didn’t happen she “cancelled” your position.

    On a side note, I’ve never really put together documentation about my position when I’ve given notice. I assume that since I was trained, or not, when I was hired, that either the new person will already have the skills necessary for the job, or the org would use whatever training resources they already had for the new person. If someone had asked me to put together something I probably would have written down a few points (nothing like a training manual though), but I’ve never just automatically assumed to do it as part of a transition period.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Oooh. That, or she couldn’t find somebody to take on all that OP had been doing. I’m betting that she thought OP was slacking due to the never staying late anymore and still thinks there’s a magical person out there who can get all that work done faster. For the same money or less, probably.

  41. Dennis*

    “my work-life balance started to improve”

    Am I missing something or is it a half an hour? I honestly wouldn’t even count that as having more time one way or another (in the morning or evening).

    1. Close Bracket*

      Which half an hour it is can really make a difference! I prefer to get in late and leave late, and that means I sacrifice doing a lot of things in the evening bc I can’t get to them before they start. If I were forced to get in at 8 so I could leave at 5, I would have more of a life outside work.

    2. Pebbles*

      That half hour difference in start time could well be the difference between a 20 minute commute and an hour commute. People who are barely functional in the morning would appreciate an extra half hour of sleeping in/getting ready. Small changes in scheduling can easily snowball into making a huge difference in someone’s life.

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

        +1 difference on commute, or difference between being able to get the dry cleaner/auto shop/pharmacy etc. before it closes or to the gym/restaurant/store etc. before it becomes overwhelmed with other people.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          Or if you take public transportation, it can be the difference between taking a crowded bus/subway/train and taking one comfortably.

    3. windsofwinter*

      OP was regularly working late into the evenings to make sure things got done. So she started following the unwritten rule aggressively and working 9-5 only, leaving at 5 on the dot.

    4. Observer*

      Yes, you missed something. The OP was coming 1/2 hour late, but often stayed significantly more that 1/2 hour late. When Diane started giving them a hard time, they started sticking to the clock.

  42. Reality Check*

    We’re at the opposite life stage in my office. We’re older, most of our kids are grown, but a large number of us have elderly parents or sick spouses to care for. One coworker has a daughter with Downs Syndrome that needs his attention often. Very grateful that they are very flexible when emergencies pop up, which they often do. And we all get through it! It CAN be done. I wish more companies realized this.

  43. Katie the other Fed*

    What a mess. Glad OP got out!

    I had a boss tell me I couldn’t have a flexible schedule because I don’t have a family, like the others who were on a flexible schedule. After he told me that, he must have realized he made a mistake and cancelled ALL flexible schedules. One guy had real heartburn about it and got his reinstated, but the rest of us without families were out of luck eye roll. Glad to be out of there!

  44. Science Lady*

    I have been in the exact “You don’t have children and I do, so you get all the extra work” situation. I was the only report to my boss and we were severely understaffed. He refused to take some of the workload because “he could never get back the time he missed with his kids each night” and “I didn’t have children.” He also “didn’t have time” to hire a second person (it was actually in the budget but positions like mine are hard to fill because they require a lot of cross-functional knowledge). He didn’t care even when I was working sixteen hour days. Because my childfree life didn’t matter. I’m so glad I left.

  45. AnonyMouse*

    I somehow missed this post back in January, but oof did it frustrate me because I worked for a Diane in my last job! They were less vocal with holding people to different standards based on life circumstances. Probably the closest thing to that was that we were only closed on December 24th, 25th, 31st, and January 1st for the holidays. It made no sense why we were open, because it was dead on those days. The first year I worked there, I had a project that needed to be done in early January that I could use that time to work on, so I volunteered to be the one to work those days (we had a rule that one person had to be there at all times). I am also single, child free, and my immediate family lived ~1 hour away. I didn’t love it, but it was feasible for me to do. The second year though, I explained that since I worked those days last year I would like to take PTO on them this year. I got the shocked Pikachu face from my boss that I wasn’t just going to default to being the one to work those days every year (they didn’t explicitly say it, but I have a feeling their thought was ‘you’re the single one, why can’t you just work them?’ Apparently my time with my family is not as important…) My boss worked them instead and he complained about it up and down. This year, I’m in a much better job and guess what? We have Dec 25th-January 1st off! People can use PTO to extend their vacation if they’d like, but no one has to use it on the days in between.

    When I left, I also got the weird cold shoulder… so glad this worked out nicely for the OP! It sounds like that place was going downhill fast and I’m glad they’re out

  46. OP here*

    Hey everyone, thank you for all the comments. Glad I’m not the only one who thought Diane was bananas. I wrote the letters several months apart, so they really show how I went from “I have this awkward but normal situation at work” to “holy cow I’m glad I escaped this dumpster fire”. Looking back it’s easy to see that from the start things were not as they should be, but being in a dysfunctional workplace really warps your perception of what’s normal.

    One thing I really want to clarify, though: I don’t think Diane was a jerk or ever intentionally mistreated anyone. She was a bad manager but knowing her I’m sure it was all incompetence, not malice. For example when she told me to focus on deliverables rather than documentation, it wasn’t a power play or an attempt to put me in my place, it was just her being shortsighted and not thinking about long-term consequences of her actions. Privately I used to call it Diane logic: ideas that seem reasonable on the surface (this is an important client and they will be unhappy if the monthly delivery is one week late) but make no sense once you stop to think about it (nobody will know how to put together next month’s delivery without instructions).

    For added context, it was a small company with no formal HR and Diane was also the owner. She worked 20+ years for a big name company before starting her own company. Unsurprisingly she had always been in technical roles and not management roles.

    1. animaniactoo*

      That makes a lot of sense with one of my theories about her basing decisions on what she noticed was a problem for her when she worked for someone else, and is now thinking about how to solve those – and only those – problems for her employees.

      In a large company and in a technical role, a lot of that documentation for role transition, etc. was probably already done, or there was a trainer and she didn’t have to handle a “sudden loss of info/competence that will be difficult to replace” issue.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’m glad to know it just seemed like incompetence rather than malice. And I am also glad you’re out of the garbage fire and into a job that suits you better!

  47. MissDisplaced*

    Holy Moly Diane sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen. Talk about passive aggressive or just clueless about how to be a manager. IDK. But what really sets me on edge is her sexist comment: “You don’t have children so it’s not as if you have anything else to do. It’s easy for you to work 9-5, you don’t need special accommodations.”

    Grrrrrr! I used to get that one a lot myself and I HATE HATE HATE it. Singletons without children have important lives to you know.

  48. nnn*

    The weird thing about saying OP should be in the office by 9 because she doesn’t have kids is that schools tend to start significantly earlier than 9 (or, at least, they do in my area), so parents of school-age kids would be up and out the door by then anyway.

Comments are closed.