anxious employee wants daily reassurance, faking an application for unemployment, and more

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

1. My anxious employee wants daily reassurance

I manage a small team, including one employee who joined it two weeks before we had to start working from home because of COVID-19.

This is her first time doing the kind of work that we do, and training from afar isn’t ideal, but she’s learning and progressing well especially given the circumstances. I give her positive feedback on her work, along with corrections and edits when needed, and I try to be as reassuring as possible about her progress, but nearly every day she calls me to apologize for not knowing something she hasn’t been taught yet, or not feeling as if she’s working fast enough, or not progressing as she thinks she should be. Each time, I tell her that I’m not concerned with her pace and that I haven’t found any fault with the work she’s doing while she learns and that she really does not need to apologize for still learning her very new job, but that only seems to help her for a little while, because she brings it all up again the next day.

I know that this new job anxiety is probably made worse by the fact we aren’t in the same office, plus the general anxiety of living through a pandemic, but how can I make her see that the daily apology calls aren’t necessary?

Ugh. Yeah, new job anxiety is a thing, and general job anxiety is a thing, but at some point she’s got to find ways to manage it herself without looking to you for daily reassurance because right now she’s asking you for a lot of daily emotional labor. You’ve got your own stresses to manage, and while you can provide some reassurance, it’s not reasonable for her to call you every day for it.

So far it sounds like you’ve told her the daily apology calls aren’t necessary, but haven’t directly told her to stop … probably because it feels awkward to say that, but you can say it in a way that reinforces your trust in her, while still setting reasonable boundaries. For example, the next time it happens, you could say, “I can’t help but notice we’re having this conversation every day. It sounds like you’re anxious about how you’re doing and you’re worried you’re not progressing quickly enough. You’re doing fine and progressing at a normal pace, and I have no concerns about your work or your ability to master the job. I’m happy to do one weekly check-in where we talk about how things are going, but other than that I’m going to ask that you trust what I’ve told you about your work. That means no more apologies about not knowing something or how fast you’re working. Instead, let’s plan to check in every Thursday at 2:00 to review the previous week, and you’re welcome to ask any questions then about how things are going — but I have no reason to think the answer will be anything other than fine.”

And then if you get more apology calls: “Nope, everything’s fine. If you have specific worries about this project, let’s discuss it on our Thursday call. But I’m not accepting apologies for perfectly good work.”

(And if this feels unsympathetic, keep in mind that she’ll limit herself professionally if she doesn’t stop leaning on managers like this, so you’re doing her a service by establishing these limits.)

That’s just one approach. There are others here and here.

2. Will people be caught if they fake their applications for unemployment?

What is the government doing when someone files a false unemployment claim at this time? I have coworkers claiming that they were laid off and they were not. They left because they thought they could get free money and the extra $600, which is more than they make at work. They said they are scared to catch the virus, but no hours are cut and no layoffs are being made, they are just asked to work while on the clock. Some of us are still at work trying to make the business survive while others are taking this route. Will they be found out?

Yes. When they file for unemployment, the unemployment agency will contact their last employer to verify the information your coworkers provided. The employer will let the unemployment agency know they actually quit rather than being laid off, and your coworkers’ fraudulent claim will most likely be denied. (Your coworkers could then appeal that denial, but appeals trigger a more thorough investigation, after which they’ll definitely be denied.)

3. What’s a reasonable amount of time to respond to a reference request?

On Wednesday afternoon, I received a request to provide a reference for a former coworker. I knew it was coming, but I was expecting the request back in the fall. Given that I am working from home with two elementary school age kids, I didn’t jump right on it. The recruiter emailed me again on Thursday morning, so I replied asking if Monday would be too late. The answer was, “It might be. I’ll try to hold it until then”

Is that reasonable? Asking on a Wednesday and being unable to wait until Monday? I’m drowning here. Will it really hurt my ex-coworker’s chances if I don’t get to it until the weekend? Never mind the fact that I haven’t worked with this person in more than 10 years.

Well … it could. Frankly, a peer reference from 10 years ago shouldn’t carry that much weight anyway (as opposed to a more recent manager reference). But in general, some places move really fast once they’re checking references, and if they’re on the fence about your coworker and have another strong candidate waiting, it’s possible they’ll just go with the other person rather than waiting for you to respond. A good employer won’t do that over a delay of a few days if they’re otherwise sold on him, but it’s a risk.

Ideally you’d say something to the recruiter making clear it’ll be a strong reference (if in fact that’s the case), like, “Falcon is fantastic. We were so sorry to lose him and he’d be a great hire. I’d love to give him a reference, but I’m booked solid until Monday so I hope you can wait until then.” That at least conveys “he’s great,” which is better than nothing.

4. Do I need to give notice when I’ve been furloughed?

Two weeks ago I was furloughed from my job, which means I don’t have an income and have applied for unemployment compensation, although they are still paying for my health insurance for the time being. I have good reason to believe that the company will not make it through this crisis, and that their verbal “guarantee” that my job is safe may not stand a month from now.

Since I work in a pretty specialized and in demand type of engineering, I was able to interview (via Zoom!) for an exciting new company that is continuing to thrive through this crisis through good planning and a solid funding stream. This morning they gave me a verbal offer, with the offer letter expected this weekend. Assuming that I receive it and everything is as expected, what is the etiquette for informing my old employer that I will not be returning following this shut down? Does the standard two weeks notice period stand? Obviously I don’t have much of an income right now so I would like to start as soon as possible.

In a practical sense, being furloughed in this environment isn’t all that different than being being laid off, just with health insurance (sometimes) and some hope (but no guarantee) of a return. You’re not working, you’re not being paid, and it’s smart to job search. Companies that are furloughing people would like to bring them back once they’re able, but in most cases there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to (no matter what they tell you).

If you accept a new job while you’re furloughed, you don’t need to give your old company two weeks notice, because you’re not currently working there. The point of a notice period is to have time to wrap up and transition your work, and you’re not going to be able to do that while you’re not working. It’s possible that when they learn you’re moving to another job, they’ll want to bring you back (remotely) for a day or two to wrap up especially important loose ends and ensure someone else is able to pick up the work in the future, so you should remain open to that possibility — but beyond that, you really don’t need to give notice. You can simply let your manager know that you’ve been offered and accepted another job so you won’t be returning when the furlough ends.

(I’m assuming from your letter that you are fully furloughed right now and for at least the next month. None of the above applies if you’re only on furlough on Fridays, or every other week, or only for one week. In those cases, you would give notice because you’d be able to work during the notice period.)

5. Can I ask employers for a potential hiring timeline right now?

Last month (before things went haywire with COVID-19), I applied to several nonprofits and start-up companies. I have not yet heard anything back. Normally, I would send a polite follow-up email asking about potential timelines. However, I know many, many nonprofits have had to furlough or lay off employees, start-ups have had to close down, and there is no timeline anymore for anything. Yet I need to know if I should keep looking, if there is hope and just to wait until the craziness passes, or if they have suspended hiring indefinitely.

Should I email these places asking for a potential timeline, even when I risk appearing insensitive? And if I do email asking for an update, should I mention that I know everything is Corona-crazy and I am very flexible and can wait? Or just send a standard follow-up email?

If what you need is to know is if you should keep looking: Keep looking. That’s your answer — always, even aside from coronavirus.

You’ve only sent in applications to these places! There’s nothing to indicate you’ll even be asked to interview. But even if you had interviewed — even if you’d been through multiple rounds of interviews — the answer would still be to keep looking, because the majority of interviews do not end with a job offer. You’ve got to keep looking until you have an offer that you’ve accepted, period.

If an employer wants to move forward with you at some point, they will contact you and let you know that. Otherwise, assume it’s a dead end and move on — always, not just right now. The only thing that’s different now is that it would be even more fruitless than usual (and potentially tone-deaf) to ask for a timeline when all you’ve done is submit an application — but even in the best of times, you should never slow down your job search while you wait to hear back about an application, because there’s never any guarantee that you’ll hear a thing, let alone get an interview, let alone an interview that turns into an offer, let alone an offer you decide to accept.

{ 262 comments… read them below }

  1. Gaia*

    OP 2, additionally employers report wages and taxes regularly to tax authorities who share this information with unemployment agencies. If wages are reported for the same period as unemployment was paid, it will spark further investigation which will uncover the fraud. At best they’ll be required to repay (likely including penalities). They could also be barred from further access to unemployment for a certain time. Depending on the amounts, they could also be prosecuted for fraud. During the Great Recession my state took this very seriously because there was a shockingly large amount of fraud uncovered in an audit. I know two people that got busted this way.

    1. Emma*

      It sounded to me like the people quit, not that they were still working but also filing for unemployment.

      1. Gaia*

        True, I missed that. In that case, it would still be caught when the employer confirms they quit or during a regular audit.

      2. Beatrice*

        OP2 should be aware that people who have been advised by their doctor to self-quarantine, or need to care for someone who has been advised to self-quarantine because of the coronavirus are probably eligible for unemployment. Since OP2 is most likely not a party to the nitty gritty details of their coworkers’ health situations or that of their families, it’s probably best to assume that their coworkers actually need the time off that they’re taking. People prioritizing their health and their families over their jobs and their employers’ business survival are not in the wrong. If they truly are lazy, underperforming people just looking to make an easy buck, they’ll fail later (and if they’ve been lazy and failing this whole time…it’s on your employer if they haven’t been dealing with that effectively before now). Now is not the time to be judgy and superior about such things.

        1. TechWorker*

          I kind of agree here – I mean legally they might not be eligible for the payments (if they have actually quit vs told their employer they are self-isolating). But if someone says they are quitting because they are scared of getting it, that could be a real and legitimate fear (Eg they’re in an at risk group or live with someone who is). If the choice is between come into work and try to ‘make the business survive’ vs their *own* survival? I think they’re making the right choice.

          1. Daisy*

            Yes, exactly. And OP even says, straight out, that the coworkers ‘said they are scared to catch the virus’. Okay, so – it’s NOT a cunning plan to scam the system at all? they just don’t want to die over a shitty badly-paid job. And if the job genuinely pays less than unemployment, even less reason to die for it. What a nasty little letter.

            1. foxinabox*

              Sounds to me more like they’re either concerned for their coworkers or considering it themself. I don’t read any “nastiness” in any of their language.

              1. anny o'mouse*

                Maybe it is legitimate concern but should the people that quit be making more money then the people out there still working? Usually unemployment is peanuts but the extra amount changes things. I understand fear but I really want the people still showing up to work everyday not to be making less than people who quit?

                1. Zephy*

                  Then your quarrel should be with the employer paying less than unemployment wages, not the people leaving that job.

            2. Tidewater 4-1009*

              I read it as the unemployment + the extra federal amount = more than they’re currently making.
              Also, it could be either they say they’re afraid of getting it as part of a scam, or they are genuinely afraid. We can’t tell from here. OP2 probably knows their coworkers well enough to tell.

          2. EPLawyer*

            “If the choice is between come into work and try to ‘make the business survive’ vs their *own* survival? I think they’re making the right choice.”

            I cannot agree more. We always say here that loyalty can be too much, even before the weirdness. Now? If I am asked to choose between the business’ survival and mine? I’m choosing mine ever darn time.

            OP, ask yourself why you are fighting to keep the business alive. Sure a paycheck is nice right now. But you can’t spend it if you are dead.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I ask that we take letter writers at their word here, and this one wrote, “I have coworkers claiming that they were laid off and they were not.” That’s the situation she’s asking about, not people who collect unemployment because they needed to quit to quarantine on a doctor’s orders or to care for a family member. It’s not “judgy or superior” to inquire about how the unemployment system handles people who say they were laid off when they weren’t.

        3. Jennifer*

          I agree. If they are being asked to come into the office when their job isn’t really essential and they fear getting sick as a result, I think that’s a legit reason to stop coming to work. I considered it myself when my job was dragging its feet about letting us work from home. I ended up getting laid off a week after we were allowed to stay home anyway.

          I applied for unemployment and there is a question that asks something like if you are unable to work due to coronavirus-related reasons. Not sure of the exact wording.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            To be clear, the new unemployment rules specifically exclude you if you quit out of fear of coronavirus. They include you if you can’t work because your child’s school closed and you need to care for them at home, or your doctor recommended you quarantine, but not if you quit because you’re worried about the safety of continuing to work.

        4. Potatoes gonna potate*

          @ Beatrice – Agree 100+

          So sick of the “lazy person collecting unemployment” stereotype and sadly even in today’s pandemic, people have this mentality, mostly from business owners who laid off staff and the ones left employed at their jobs picking up the slack. The state unemployment is literally a fraction of what you earn at your job, and the additional federal $600 is only temporary.

          In my state (NY) people are having such a hard time getting their claims filed, the system tells them they have to call in and no one is able to get through because millions are applying at the same time and the state was not ready for this volume of people. Once a claim is completed, they have to wait weeks to be approved and for the funds to clear. The ones who did complete their claim are having to wait over a month now for their money. People are facing homelessness despite rent/eviction freezes, losing their SNAP benefits and some are even contemplating suicide. I’m still in a good position and consider myself blessed every day for it but I’d still give anything to go back to my job and for things to be normal again than to go through this nightmare. For someone considering suicide over being broke, I say let them have the forking $600.

          So…..if someone is collecting UI, they need to mind their own business. If they’re following the rules and doing everything correctly, they have nothing to worry about.

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            To clarify – I don’t see any nastiness in the OP’s letter, just more factual comments and a genuine question, which was answered. My answer above was more a rant on the mentality I am seeing on hte internet, and not intended to attack the OP in any way.

          2. Texan In Exile*

            I lost my job in December. I told my mom I would be getting $1,200 a month in unemployment. She asked, “Why would anyone even work if they can get that kind of money?”

            I answered, “Because after I pay our cobra of $1,100, we have $100 a month left over?”

            1. Potatoes gonna potate*

              Is $1200 even enough to live on in any state? I’m in NYC and that barely covers rent, much less anything else.

              1. Jessen*

                It’s pretty close to what I’ve made before in a not that cheap area. It’s not really enough to live on but it’s enough to keep you off the street here.

          3. pancakes*

            There hasn’t been a rent freeze in NY! Eviction proceedings have been suspended, that’s all.

        5. Government lawyer*

          From an unemployment perspective, the problem is if the claimant tells unemployment that claimant was laid off if they really quit, even if they think they had no choice. In my state, there are “justified” reasons to quit where you maintain eligibility for UI. But those depend on specific circumstances and there is an administrative process to decide whether the reason for quitting is justified. Claimants have to tell the truth when applying for UI—there are significant penalties if they don’t.

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            outside of this pandemic, you can quit a job and still get UI. I quit a job 6 years ago and told DOL that the guy was never paying us. And he wouldn’t, he literally said “it’s nto worth my time to do payroll, learn it yourself.” he was also violent and abusive and he had lots of cases with the DOL over being this way so I eventually won my claim, but after 2 months. The day the money came in, I received an offer letter for a job so it was funny timing.

            1. sam*

              that sort of situation, where the job conditions are so bad that you’re functionally “forced” to quit, are called ‘constructive termination’ – you’ve quit, but it wasn’t really a free and fair/voluntary choice.

              I’m thinking about the expanded reasons for which people can collect unemployment under the current system as just an expanded definition of constructive termination – if your job is so shitty that it won’t accomodate your ability to self-quarantine for public health purposes, or to not leave your six year old home alone all day because schools are closed and you’re forced to quit instead, that’s not really a voluntary choice either.

    2. Cathie from Canada*

      In Canada, the government decided just to believe people when they said they need the money.
      It is the quickest way to get money into our economy, so people could buy food, and pay their bills.
      Canadians were able to apply online last week for the new $2,000 per month COVID benefit, and most got it deposited into their bank accounts within two days of applying.
      In the end, anyone who turns out not to have been eligible will have to repay the money, the next time they file their income taxes. But for the time being, the money is circulating, and this is what the government wanted.
      Sure, there will be some who will take advantage. But the vast majority of Canadians will self-select and they won’t apply for the money if they don’t think they are eligible.
      Our employers are also going to get a 75% wage support if they rehire the people they laid off or furloughed. That program was just approved by Parliament, so I don’t know exactly how it will work. There may be some kind of requirement for employers to demonstrate they needed the benefit in order to rehire people, but again the government wants to get the money out quickly. Already, on the strength of knowing the program was being developed, we have had airlines and many other businesses announce they will be rehiring people, so this is a going to be a great relief to thousands.
      I think it will take us taxpayers decades to pay for these programs, but its going to be worth it if we can save our economy.

      1. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

        The 75% is also a general business subsidy, not just for re-hiring, and based on a certain amount of lost revenue. My work is able to take advantage of it — they made the initial adjustment as simple as reducing the amount of tax remitted when monthly payroll taxes are filed. So the company reduces the amount of payroll tax they pay by 75% of eligible salaries, up to whatever the cap is. My understanding is that they figured it was easier for employers to just… not send that money to the government in the first place than it was to pay the taxes and then apply for a subsidy.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Also, for any fellow Canadians on here – many non-profits are also eligible for the wage subsidy, so it’s not just for profit-generating businesses.

      2. TootsNYC*

        > get money into our economy,

        This is one of the things people often miss about stimulus or bailout packages like this–especially when these funds go to individuals–it gets spent in ways that benefit the entire economy

        1. MassMatt*

          Yes, for some reason many people only think this happens if the money goes to the people at the top of the income pyramid and then “trickles down” to everyone else. Cash payments made to lower income workers are actually more stimulating to the economy because they are more likely to be spent. Money given to higher earners often gets saved or invested because it is discretionary.

      3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Yes, I’ve already seen this in action. My laid-off friend got the benefit, immediately paid their rent and bought groceries. So the money flowed back into the economy within 2 days of them receiving it.

      4. Oh So Anon*

        Yeah. Aside from straight-up fraud, there are so many edge cases where people are unclear what income support program applies to their situation (if any), and so many business that had no idea how to proceed before the wage support program was approved. There are too many moving pieces on both the employee and employer sides. It’s not a great situation to expect these people to wait around for ROEs to be issued before they even have an idea of what benefits they’ll be eligible for.

  2. Dutch Oven*

    I have a slightly different take on #4.

    If OP takes a job elsewhere, OP should offer two weeks notice to current employer. That company can either accept and bring back OP to wrap things up, or decline. If declined, then OP should feel free to start the new job immediately.

    1. Beth*

      I don’t think a company has a right to expect this from someone they’re not currently paying. If OP were on work-from-home or working reduced hours or some such, then yes, normal notice should be given. But unless the company gave a courteous 2 weeks notice that OP was going to be furloughed and left without income, I really don’t think they have any ground to stand on to expect that from OP.

      1. Stormfeather*

        This, and plus it seems to have some of the same drawbacks as possibly accepting a counteroffer from a job you’re currently working at. They might say “oh no, we still want you,” take the OP back on for now, then decide in a while (once the panic subsides) that y’know what, they don’t need the OP that much really, and OP wasn’t all that loyal and was obviously willing to look elsewhere, and maybe they’re still considering moving on anyhow and it would be better to go ahead and look into hiring someone else…

        1. lost academic*

          So what if they say “we still want you”? They could say that if the OP was regularly employed and paid. She is under no obligation to accept a counteroffer and that’s what it is, furlough or not. I agree that 2 weeks is polite even under a furlough because we should assume there might need to be SOME knowledge transfer or administrative closure that the company in its need to furlough didn’t really plan for. It’s not perhaps as necessary as it would be under normal circumstances, but at the same time they aren’t paying her anymore and so they can’t expect too much wrap up effort, so it’s really a courtesy that isn’t actually going to get in the way of starting the new job.

      2. Batty Twerp*

        I’m not in the US, so if this comes across as naive I apologise, but didnt LW4 say she was still getting health insurance? Wouldn’t she need to give notice for that at least, or can that just be turned off and on really quickly?

        1. Natalie*

          Health insurance coverage generally ends the last day of whatever month the person’s employment ends, regardless of when they gave notice or how much they gave.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            My previous, toxic, global (not mom-and-pop) employer shuts off health benefits on your last day, even if it’s the 2nd of the month and you’ve already paid (half) the premiums. Oh, and no pro-rated premium reimbursement either.

            One of many reasons they’re an ex-employer for me now.

    2. Massmatt*

      Yeah, no, once someone is furloughed the relationship of employer to employee is severed and the employee is free to search or accept any job they get. IMO at his would be like asking someone to give notice to everyone who had ever employed them in the past before taking another job.

      And LW #4, may I ask, did your former employer give YOU two weeks of notice or pay before laying you off? I am betting not.

      1. OP 4- the Re-employee*

        Nope they most definitely did not. Although they have been having persistent cash flow problems for months so it wasn’t exactly a surprise.

        1. a good mouse*

          If they did, would it make a difference to the thought process?

          My company gave everyone two weeks notice before the furlough started. But they’re also using the two weeks like most people would use their last two weeks, asking people to document their projects and their current status for when they get turned back on, and to hand off projects to those not furloughed if needed. So maybe it would be a moot point, and it would be easier to walk away with no notice at that point.

          1. MassMatt*

            Yes, absolutely.

            If the employer is no longer paying you, you are no longer their employee and you no longer owe them any notice or really anything.

            I was pointing out the double standard the OP fell into where they were wondering whether they owed 2 weeks notice to a former employer when they never benefitted from getting any notice before being laid off themselves.

            Granted these are extraordinary times but this is still a pervasive double standard.

            Thanks for responding, OP!

    3. Willis*

      I don’t really know why OP would offer two weeks notice when she’s not working. Companies that put staff on furlough should assume some of them are going to find new jobs and take them without going back for two weeks. I’d just let them know and ask if there’s anything I need to do to wrap up with them, without suggesting a time frame. And if they do have any wrap-up tasks, ask how you will be paid for them.

      1. CL Cox*

        I think sometimes people assume that all furloughs are like federal government furloughs (which happen when there’s a government shutdown, usually for budget reasons). In those cases, the employees are hired back and get all of their back pay. But fed furloughs are very much the exception, not the norm.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        That last sentence is a good one. If they do ask you to come in, that will be you doing required work tasks for an employer and you should be paid for the time it takes.

      3. Sally*

        I agree. If they are managing to get by without you doing your job right now, they can probably deal with you not doing it at all anymore. And if they need some “transition” help from you in the future, they can ask for it, and you can decide if you want to do it and at what rate.

    4. Harper the Other One*

      Under ordinary circumstances, in something like seasonal work where you’re furloughed for two months every July and August, say, I might agree – but this is a very different scenario. I really don’t think anyone who is on a 100% furlough right now can be confident a position will still be available again – or even that the business will still be operating.

      I think Alison’s suggestion of offering a day or two of remote work to tie up loose ends is more than generous. (But also, the previous employer would need to be paying for those days.)

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      You give notice to wrap things up & make sure processes are documented so the work you were doing can continue to be done once you’re gone. OP isn’t working right now so what exactly are they going to do for 2 weeks, especially if they’re not being paid to work?

    6. voyager1*

      I wonder if LW4 is worried about how this will reflect on a reference at a later date. I have worked in banking for a long time in big banks (think 5000-10000 employees). I have no doubts that managers I have worked with would see not giving two weeks notice as the same as walking off the job.

      Right now we have branches that are open and closed. We have staff working in hr branches, WFH and furloughed. HR is working. In this case if I was one of the furloughed employees I would give 2 weeks notice.

      But I think this is going to be a YMMV depending on where you work and how important a reference is.

      1. Is it Friday yet?*

        When your employer has but you on a mandatory unpaid-leave through no fault of your own, and you are not even working for them, can I ask why you would be expected to give two weeks notice? Let alone why NOT doing so would reflect poorly on you in future interviews? I have never heard of this.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Upper management is often not reasonable and punitive towards lower level employees. It doesn’t have to make sense. They do it anyway.

      2. OP 4- the Re-employed*

        It’s mostly because I have great working relationships with team members and my direct supervisor that I would like to preserve. Management is problematic, and as much as I’d love to tell the to go scratch and disappear to a better opportunity, I don’t want to do so at the expense of my hard working and ethical colleagues.

      3. MassMatt*

        ??? How can someone laid off and not being paid for over two weeks be considered “walking off the job”? The job has walked away from THEM! This is not an employer, it’s a FORMER employer. That there are still people working there in other branches or capacities is irrelevant. In the vast majority of cases, when someone leaves a job, the business continues, this doesn’t mean the employer remains the laid-off worker’s employer. This is what being laid off MEANS.

        By this logic, everyone should have to give notice or ask permission to all their former employers whenever they change jobs, going back to high school.

        What are these HR people going to say, “when we laid her off and stopped paying her (without notice) she didn’t let us know before she got another job”?

    7. Is it Friday yet?*

      This may be an unpopular opinion, but my instinct would be for LW #4 to say nothing to their current employer. Given the instability of the economy, why close a door unless you absolutely have to? I don’t feel many businesses offer the same level of job security that they did three months ago. Is LW4 even obligated to tell current employer they’ve taken another job when they have been furloughed?

        1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

          So, spouse has had the entire for-profit hospital furloughed but is still expected to go to work on the schedule (ER must be staffed). So, no PTO accumulation and no overtime possible but just works the same except they’re paying all the health insurance? We’re not sure where that leaves him as he signed on originally with a bonus for staying a certain amount of time. So confused. How do furloughs usually work?

          1. Observer*

            That sounds illegal. If they are only paying for insurance, for sure. If they are just not paying overtime, then unless health care workers are (FLSA) exempt, that’s illegal too.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              Agreed, that sounds super shady. I’d report the hospital to an ethical governing body.

        2. OP 4- the Re-employed*

          They didn’t give me anything substantial in writing, just a copy-paste of the definition of furlough and how to apply for unemployment compensation in my state. I haven’t signed anything.

    8. Observer*

      Why should the OP do that?

      They were furloughed without notice. I understand why an employer would do that, and I don’t think they are terrible people. But you can’t expect employees to have more consideration for the company than the company has for them.

  3. Rectilinear Propagation*

    It’s likely LW #1’s employee is also suffering from a fear of “Last Hired, First Fired” but it’s possible that their previous employer had unrealistic expectations for their work and they got used to constantly apologizing. I don’t think there’s a good way to address either of those without the employee actually saying that’s the problem though.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      For a slight variation on Alison’s answer, I think the time to bring up ending the daily apology calls is at the weekly check-in. It would be helpful to set up a regular check-in anyway with a new employee. In that context, the feedback can just one of a bunch of agenda itmes along with whatever else you’re talking about. Then it can come across as less of a big thing for the employee as it seems to be during those daily calls.

      1. MayLou*

        I agree, as someone who went into a new job with a bad case of nervousness hanging over from some poor fit past experiences, I would feel like a special conversation to tell me not to apologise and ask for reassurance was one more thing I am at risk of getting wrong. My manager knows I had some experiences in the past where I was told everything was fine and then suddenly it massively wasn’t, and she assured me that she would tell me straight away if there was a problem. And then she proved herself to be sincere by doing exactly that when I did something reasonably minor but incorrectly. After that minor correction, she was able to remind me that a) she had told me when there was a problem and b) it hadn’t happened since. Gradually I started to trust that they wouldn’t spring it on me if something wasn’t right, and I stopped being quite so anxious.

        1. Nitpicker*

          I agree with your manager’s approach. I feel like letting the employee know OP would tell her if she were doing mistakes, and then following through with it, would really help, on top of Aloson’s advice.
          I’ve also experienced asking for feedback, checking my priorities were correct, and being told everything was fine, when in the end everything wasn’t fine and they didn’t tell me what to change and then it was too late because I wasn’t doing what they expected from me… So I could totally see myself in this new hire’s shoes!

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Regardless of why employee is acting like this, it needs to stop. It’s not fair to pile this onto OP every single day. If we take OP at their word, nothing has been said to employee to make them think that there is any reason to be concerned about her job and the pace at which they are working. This is 100% on the employee to figure out how to handle once OP is more direct with them about needing to stop. If they were treated poorly at a previous job, it’s up to them to figure out how to let that go and not carry it into the future. The OP has done what needs to be done by assuring them that they’re doing well.

      1. James*

        In theory, I agree. My rule of thumb is “We are adults”; we should be able to handle our own affairs, including our emotional baggage, without dumping it onto our supervisors or subordinates.

        On a practical level….sometimes you have to deal with it. Most companies that I’ve worked for and with have the minimum number of people necessary to do the job to the standards the company considers acceptable; if you remove someone it’s going to create a subminimal work force for a while. And sometimes you have a personal stake in it. There’s a new guy at work that’s taken up my previous responsibilities to allow me to take on new ones, for example–I need him to stick around, for my career and my own sanity (I was working 70 hour weeks routinely before he was hired). In these cases it’s worth putting a bit more effort into making sure that employee will work.

        I will note that this DOES NOT mean accepting how this employee is acting. My recommendation: give this person specific goals. Make it clear that so long as they meet those goals, they’re doing fine. Then, every time they call about their worrying, ask “How are you doing against those metrics I gave you? You’re meeting them? Then you’re fine. Excuse me, I’ve got a lot of work to do.” It’ll take a while, but people CAN be trained.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, but it’s also good to be clear about what you want, which is that the apology calls stop. If that’s the goal you’re training them to, you want to tell them that.

          1. James*

            Agreed. You need to make that clear, otherwise you just come off as a jerk. I’d say have a formal meeting with the employee where you lay out your plan (NOT a performance improvement plan, just “There are some things you need to work on, here’s how we’re going to do it”). The specific approach will depend on the employee, the manager, and the company culture.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        OPs indirectness/unwillingness to directly request her to stop doing this (or at least have the conversation about -why- she is doing it) maybe points to the problem though… is OP vague or indirect about feedback in general, leading the direct report to feel she has to ‘push’ more directly for that feedback herself?

        It may be irrelevant, but food for thought as I was in a similar situation (I was the direct report).

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          e.g. what I meant by being “vague or indirect” about feedback (since OP did say in the letter that she gives corrections and edits etc)… is about the way in which these are worded and presented, rather than just the act of giving them. The difference between “next time could you make sure the steps to turn X into Y are explicitly stated in a bulleted list and be similarly explicit about similar situations” and “it would be nice to have more detail about how we reached Y here… I don’t think it’s necessarily as clear as it could be about how Y can be reached from X… maybe readers will misunderstand that” etc.

    3. LGC*

      True, it’s likely – and a lot of people do carry that particular scar! (I’ve actually got an employee that has that exact issue, and I finally got him to tell me that was the problem.) That said: LW1 is this woman’s boss, not her therapist. They should be compassionate, but it’s kind of on the employee to not collapse into an apology pile every time she’s not 100% perfect. Because that can be a way to move yourself higher up on the layoff stack.

    4. Lynn Marie*

      OP#1, if your employee never trained at a work-from-home only job, they might not realize how slow the virtual environment learning curve is vs in person workplaces. I’ve always been proud of being able to pick up new job procedures, culture, etc quickly, and bragged about how quickly I’m able to get up to speed in new environments at my interview with a virtual workplace company three years ago. For the next six months I was totally embarrassed about how slowly I learned the most basic procedures in a virtual environment. It might help if you both bear this in mind if it’s the first person you’ve trained under these circumstances and if it’s this person’s first all-virtual job.

      1. Annony*

        One thing that might help is if in the weekly check in they also set weekly goals. That way the employee won’t feel so behind because they are meeting the weekly goals. It sounds like the employee has unrealistic expectations of how quickly she can learn everything. Breaking it down into smaller chunks to focus on can help.

      2. Oh So Anon*

        Totally. The other part of the problem with an all-virtual job is that it’s probably a bit more difficult to get a sense of the team dynamics and how to best use your team as a resource. Even as a manager, it may not be easy to appreciate how much onboarding actually happens through organic collaboration with peers rather than manager-facilitated training.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I have had a conversation with someone to say, Please stop apologizing because it’s distracting us both.

      But I couched it as, “I want you to feel confident and safe. You will do your best work then. You don’t deserve to feel this apologetic.”

      I did also say, “it also takes up too much of my energy,” but I really leaned on the “you deserve to feel confident that you are doing things right, because you are. And I promise I’ll be reasonable about mistakes, because we all make them, and I’m much more interested in fixing it, and in providing info so you can avoid them in the future. And I’ll be really clear should it ever get to the point that any mistakes are an actual issue.”

      but I started from the “you deserve..”

      1. ellex42*

        I’ve had this conversation multiple times, as I somehow get roped into training new people in every job I have (I can confidently say that I’m good at it), and there are a LOT of people out there who have had prior experiences where they didn’t get the training and support they needed (and I include myself in that cohort) to succeed at their job.

        I try to go with a “kind but firm” attitude but sometimes the neediness for reassurance gets a bit…much. And coworkers tend to treat me like their personal therapist far too often for my comfort (and temper).

        TootsNYC, I really, really like your phrasing here and have copied it for future reference. My department went through a lot of major changes recently, and I started adding, “I fully expect you to make mistakes, and I will also be making mistakes, because we’re all learning a lot of new stuff and things are changing as we’re learning it. And that’s okay – neither you nor I will be penalized for mistakes while these big changes are happening, as long as we continue to take the changes on board as they come to us and adjust our work accordingly.”

        It’s kind of funny to tell someone in a text only Skype conversation to pause and take a deep breath – but I’ve done exactly that several times in the last few weeks.

  4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Unemployment is like all other insurance, they investigate and look for fraud constantly. And when they find you scamming, you are committing insurance fraud that comes with major consequences.

    It’s taking for-ev-er to get through. Let alone to start seeing any money for legit claims. These people could be waiting literally months before they get denied since they’re quitting voluntarily. What a waste of their time and hopes!

    1. Stormfeather*

      Along with a waste of the time of everyone in charge of investigating their claims, when they already have a too much to do. -_-

      I’m also trying to figure out what their thoughts are for a best outcome here. Maybe they really are afraid of getting Covid and possibly Unemployment was just an extra carrot making them jump anyhow. But while they might (assuming they receive Unemployment, which is unlikely) get better wages for a certain amount of time now, what happens after that?


      1. AcademiaNut*

        I think it’s a cunning plan thought up by someone who isn’t very good at logic, and has no idea how the unemployment system works. They figure they can get more than they earn now and not have to actually work, and don’t think beyond that.

        A lot of people don’t know that you don’t usually get UI if you quit. Apparently a lot of people also don’t realize that the office checks claims and has a record of your previous employer – they don’t simply take your word for it. So they’re going to end up out of work without being eligible for the money. Even if they manage to justify it based on health concerns or care taking responsibilities, UI eventually runs out. Abandoning a stable job for a limited time financial support in an economic crash the likes of which we’ve never seen before is not a wise move.

        1. Mookie*

          I have serious doubts about the authenticity of these “cunning plans” that, not coincidentally, resemble in all particulars the talking points of people who are inherently against all forms of social security and welfare but use the prospect of fraud as the rationalization for being so.

          1. LQ*

            Except unemployment does actually pay more than a lot of entry level jobs. $18+/hour right now, it depends on your state of course.

            But I’m brutally liberal and I see that there are issues with this. The best option to come out of this would be a UBI (which I do think is possible if people lean hard enough), but if that UBI is above most entry-level jobs that’s an economic issue.

            1. K.*

              Unemployment currently pays a ot more than most jobs–not just entry level jobs. I am a public school teacher with ten years of teaching experience and have a PhD. I teach in Indiana, which has low wages for teachers. I would make 10% more if I was on unemployment right now. (Of course, I most likely have a job at the end of this, so it’s not worth it, but still…10% more!)

              I live in an high poverty, rural area and know people that work in healthcare right now making slightly more than minimum wage. They are angry that unemployment would double their wages right now, but instead they are working as essential workers with little PPE.

              I am a very strong believer in strong social nets and my political beliefs are fairly progressive. I have no idea what the right solution to this is, but a blanket $600 in addition to state umemployment (which is often based on a percentage of former pay) is a lot of money for most Americans and would definitely operate as an incentive to get it and also an incentive for employers to lay off workers without any guilt. But, it could also trigger a political mess of working Americans angry that non-working Americans are making double what they are when not working.

              1. Dragon_Dreamer*

                The $600, for me, would be larger than the actual unemployment payment. Here in PA, you get 40% of your last employed wage, with the normal requirement that you jobhunt. Enough to get by, but a supplemental income is definitely required.

                1. LQ*

                  This is true in most states. And no state’s average benefit amount is $600. So the majority of people are getting more with the $600 than in regular unemployment benefits.

                  (Last time the feds did this additional compensation it was $25/week.)

                2. B.*

                  It would be larger than my current paycheck on its own, never mind with unemployment. And I’d be safer. And I’m still not as badly paid or as in the line of fire as many grocery workers, for instance.
                  I know people who are unemployed right now have the stresses of immediate bills and when they might be able to find another job. But I’m still a little jealous

            2. Mookie*

              I don’t care what it pays. What you’re describing as entry level—meaning white collar office job—is not the kind of employment that saturated the job market before this happened. In the US, we were told we were living in a job seekers’s market because there was a glut of unfilled slots for part-time retail and highly skilled jobs we don’t educate people to fill, and nothing in between beyond MLMs and “independent contractor” gig roles.

              So, as I say, I don’t care that it pays more. Good. It should. No one is living large off unemployment and the stimulus check they haven’t got yet.

              1. LQ*

                Great. You want universal basic income. You want everyone to get money. Great! Advocate for that. PLEASE! Please. Seriously. Or at least paid medical leave (a strong medical leave program that was tax-funded and the government paid would have taken care of a huge chunk of this, or if employers were required to cover people themselves).

                Stop saying that it’s unemployment insurance. That’s not what this is. Unemployment insurance is a thing that existed in the world before. Because it is a thing that existed with rules and regulations and structure that if those programs don’t follow they get serious issues over including defunding. Now people are trying to shove a UBI or a paid family medical leave program down the pipe of unemployment programs you’re breaking both and you’re going to not pay the people you are desperate to pay. All the people who you want to pay won’t get paid because the systems are breaking and because the regulators and the feds are already starting to get real mad about paying people who shouldn’t be. Who suffers for that? The people you are worried about. The people who are barely scraping by. They suffer because you want to make a program something it can’t be in a week.

                $18+/hour is entry-level or higher for nearly all retail jobs unless I’m missing something. I’m not sure why you are saying that’s not other entry-level work. That’s absolutely most entry-level roles that don’t require a fairly high level or specific education. I mean maybe you’ve got a fancier retail shop than I’ve seen, but around here people would be thrilled with $18/hour for retail or service industry.

        2. Natalie*

          A lot of people don’t know that you don’t usually get UI if you quit.

          That hasn’t been my experience at all, the exact opposite in fact – it seems like most people think UI is available only after some kind of structured large layoff. When in fact in most states you can qualify for UI after quitting or being fired, depending on what the reason was.

            1. Risha*

              I did, but I had to appeal and explain that the previous time I had to take a leave due to a mental health issue, the company had demanded all of my doctor’s notes from my counseling sessions when I came back, and I wasn’t comfortable taking a second leave now that I knew that would be a requirement. The unemployment worker adjudicating my claim seemed… displeased with them.

              1. Quill*

                I got tricked into resigning rather than being fired after job from hell decided they’d wrung all the blood they could out of me, the adjudicator was pretty pissed at them too.

                1. Risha*

                  Like Alison, I imagine those guys have heard all the best Worst stories about the horrible things employers do to their people. I’m just glad they still have the wherewithal to get pissed on our behalf.

            2. Natalie*

              Well then it’s a good thing I didn’t say it was easy! It is, however, *possible* in some circumstances and that seems to be the more common misconception, that there are zero circumstances in which someone quits or is fired and could qualify.

        3. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          In Canada, that new 2000 / month for 4 months is taxable; unlike EI, it’s not being taken off right away and you will get a tax receipt later on.

          Is this US one also taxable? You might be getting more *now* but will you be able to pay the tax on it later?

    2. Harper the Other One*

      Even from people I generally respect, I’ve heard the narrative of “that extra $600 is more than my/my partner’s usual take home pay!” It seems to really be drawing out that ugly streak in some people where they say that people are “lucky” right now to be able to claim unemployment and get “paid more to stay home.” Meanwhile, I can’t imagine that the promise of unemployment at… some point in the future would be any sort of compensation for the stress of being unemployed at a time when you don’t know how many jobs will be available when the virus is gone.

    3. LQ*

      Part of the problem is that unemployment programs are getting extreme pressure from everyone, including business owners right now who haven’t done the math, to just pay everyone. They are being asked to remove integrity tools and pay as quickly as possible without any of the things that normally would catch this. Plus you add in that a lot of states are making it so that employers won’t be charged for the people who are collecting right now, and the money from the feds they don’t have to pay for, and you’ve further reduced the incentive to catch liars, thieves, and cheats. I’m not saying you should cheat. I’m saying that it sucks and people are going to get away with doing bad things right now because everyone is screaming for people to get their pay faster.

      Either you go slow and look at people’s claims and have integrity measures and get death threats and make people homeless.
      Or you go fast and pay people and overpay a lot of people who shouldn’t have gotten money and that includes just full-on criminals too and you never get the money back and politicians subsequently slash the program to ensure that it can never handle this again.

      You can’t have both. That’s not how the world works.

      1. Natalie*

        Well, no, it doesn’t automatically follow that if you choose the latter, then “ politicians subsequently slash the program to ensure that it can never handle this again.” Politicians are not computer programs following a GoTo (although it certainly can look that way sometimes). Among other things, the people that vote for them and who’s opinions they care about (sometimes too much) will have to make a point to express their opinion about any proposed cuts in the future.

        1. LQ*

          You’re right. Who knows maybe politicians will learn that you need to fund and support programs even when it isn’t sexy or cool. But my experience with those politicians is that they are monsters who care only about being elected and are making life hell for people on the front lines everywhere so yeah, I’m going to say they will keep being monsters who only care about being elected and are willing to do so by breaking the backs of the people doing the work.

          (And to be clear I’m talking about people who are democrats here, this isn’t a screed about conservatives. This is about politicians not caring about people who do work.)

          1. F*

            Wow. Talk about blanket statements. This is definitely not true across the board, and you’re intelligent enough to know that.

  5. Jenna*

    For OP1: Not sure if your company has an EAP, but if so, it might be worth flagging for your employee. As you point out, the pandemic/social distancing/SIP probably REALLY aren’t helping her anxiety level. All of Alison’s suggestions are great, but it sounds like your employee could possibly benefit from some counseling, too.

    (Obviously you’d just want to make her aware of the resources available, not tell her she has to use them or something overstep-y like that.)

  6. Beth*

    OP1: Speaking as a person with an anxiety disorder, Alison’s response is spot on for normal circumstances. It might feel like you’re being harsh, but in fact being clear and direct about things is the easiest way to defuse this stuff! “My boss is the expert here and she explicitly said I’m meeting expectations in all areas and need to stop doubting myself” won’t make your employee’s anxiety go away entirely (that isn’t in your power), but it is a fantastic tool for her to have in her arsenal as she works on keeping it managed.

    The one thing I’d add is, these are unusual times and your employee is going through training in an unusual and un-ideal way (per your letter). There are a lot of informal but common training avenues that aren’t open to her at the moment; she can’t see how other people do things, she can’t overhear break room talk about how a more experienced employee handled a problem, she doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to pick up on office norms like how many hours people usually work or what’s considered a ‘fast’ turnaround vs a ‘normal’ turnaround on a project. I do think, under these circumstances, you should be proactively giving her more frequent and more detailed feedback than you would under normal circumstances. Note that this is different from the kind of emotional reassurance you’ve been doing–I don’t mean that you need to set aside time to listen to all her fears and worries and work through them! But a quick daily or every-other-day “You did A and B right, good job; I see C coming up in your assigned tasks, you haven’t done that before, here’s our guide for it, Bob’s the best at it so shoot him an email if you have any questions; you struggled a little with D? here’s some tips for next time” might go a long way. If you don’t personally have time for that, maybe another team member can be asked to step in as a semi-official mentor.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That’s what occurred to me, and I’m not at all prone to anxiety. Even a five or ten minute Skype check in once a day to say “Looks good, any questions?” could be a big help, in addition to the regular weekly one-on-one, as a substitute for the kind of workplace interactions she’d normally get.

      Has she been properly introduced to the rest of the team? A short telecon (with video) where the other coworkers introduce themselves and what they do help her feel more settled.

    2. Old dog*

      Yes! I started a new job shortly before the teams went WFM and though I’m experienced in the field it’s been very challenging to pick up on norms and procedures specific to this group’s culture and processes- or get to know my colleagues.

      1. Ann Onny Muss*

        Same. I started a temporary part-time assignment helping another program, and even though I’ve been doing this kind of work for ten freaking years (and am very good at it), it’s going to be a challenge to learn their norms and way of doing things from my kitchen table instead of the office.

      2. Pippa K*

        I’ve decided WFM must mean ‘work from Mars’ and I am extremely impressed with your comoany’s commitment to social distancing :)

    3. Susie Q*

      Agreed! OP#1 should do a quick daily check in with feedback for her new employee. I think this would go a long way to alleviate some anxiety and I think it’s worth the 5-10 minutes.

    4. Chili*

      This is a great comment. I completely agree that with onboarding remotely, there does need to be a bit more feedback and proactive engagement from management. If you’re not already doing a daily one-on-one call, I would start. Even though you’d still be talking every day, as the initiator, you’d have a bit more control over the dialog. So instead of her calling and starting the call off with panic and apologies that you feel obligated to talk her down from, you could initiate with expectations and feedback.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Yep, this sounds good to me also. Take with one hand, tell her she has to stop apologizing but give with the other hand, work things into conversation. I definitely would expect to check-in more with a new hire working remotely.
      Assigning an informal mentor is a great idea also. Sometimes hearing a second voice saying the same thing really cements things.

      Panicked people or anxious people need us to speak directly. Please, do not think you are rude. I have been on both sides of this scenario and the people who spoke frankly and plainly were such a gift and such a help to me. I never once thought they were rude, I thought of them as someone who cared enough to tell me where the bear poops in the woods, as the saying goes. I thought of them as trustworthy people. In turn, I tried to be that trustworthy person to someone else who was under high stress.

    6. Bree*

      If you have the time, OP, this daily check-in about tasks, etc. is a good idea. Last year I had a bad ankle break and because of other disabilities, couldn’t get around and had to WFH for eight weeks, after being with the company for only six months. It was really hard on my anxiety, and the 5-min check in with my boss every morning was so, so appreciated. Mostly, we didn’t need it, but she was lovely and it was good just to hear her voice and feel connected.

    7. Mary*

      Yes, I agree with this. Talking onto your manager once a week when you’ve only just started doesn’t sound like nearly enough! Normally if you were working in the same place you’d probably have one proper one-to-one once a week or fortnightly, but tons of smaller, “everything ok? How did you get one with so and so? Did you figure out where that was own the shared drive?” a few times a day. When I started a full-time work from home job, we spent the first three weeks in the office precisely so we could do that stuff. I think a short daily check-in would be a really good idea.

    8. Smithy*

      Completely agree with this. If this employee was coming into the office every day, they might actually be somewhat getting a version of that emotional reassurance every day when they leave. Just swinging by to say “I’m about to pack up for the day, is there anything else you need from me?” could provide a more low key version of that reassurance.

      While the emotional reassurance does need to be stopped, I do think that more regular check-ins for short periods of time makes a lot more sense than focusing just on a 1 on 1 meeting once a week while everyone is remote.

    9. fposte*

      I think this whole thread is an excellent one about why it’s good for managers to have more conscious interactions with remote employees.

    10. Monokeros de Astris*

      Totally agree. I don’t have anything diagnosed but I am experiencing a lot of anxiety right now, and I just started a job that was suddenly WFH from day 1. Therapy is helping but the anxiety is spilling over into my job in ways it hasn’t before. I’m not doing the same things as OP1, but I did tell my boss that I was having this anxiety and I needed to hear really direct feedback from him about whether things are going well or not, because I can’t rely on my brain for an accurate judgment. It’s still just in our weekly 1:1 meetings for now, but I might need to ask him to increase the frequency too, depending on how my mental health goes.

  7. Massmatt*

    #2 it’s reprehensible that people are taking advantage of the pandemic to quit and collect unemployment, though honestly I am surprised you know so many, and your “Some of us are still at work trying to make the business survive while others are taking this route.” comment is giving me pause. Is it possible people are not wanting to endanger their health (or lives!) for what I assume is a non-essential business? If it were essential I assume you would have mentioned it.

    But that aside, I am skeptical that much follow up is going to be done on these cases, at least anytime soon. Sixteen million people have filed for unemployment in the last 2 weeks alone, state unemployment offices have generally been poorly staffed to begin with. People seeking to file are encountering jammed phone lines and crashed websites. Who is going to do employer outreach for 16 million plus cases? Expect a call sometime late in the year 2022.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      No. They’re going through the steps for verification. People are not getting paid who have been laid off weeks ago while the unemployment office goes through the standard motions.

      Insurance and especially ones ran by the government don’t just cut checks and get to the paperwork whenever.

      1. Princess Zelda*

        Can confirm — I just got asked about my partial UI claim by my employer, because Job2 furloughed and then laid me off. It took 4 weeks for them to even begin their usual investigation.

      2. Viette*

        Yes, this reply, and the OP’s coworkers, are acting like the unemployment offices pays out UI without looking into claims at all first. What insurance provider has ever done that? And even if they did that, what do you expect they’ll do when they eventually figure out it’s a fraudulent claim? Just say, “sorry, our bad, please keep all that money”?

        That and, checking with the former employer on whether it was a layoff or a resignation isn’t some deep dive into the nitty-gritty of a complex and contested UI claim — it’s pretty much the first step in processing a claim. This is less a scam and more the world’s most obvious lie. The best the coworkers can hope for in this situation is that their bogus claims will get rejected quickly.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          What insurance provider has ever done that?

          Maybe ones that are now out of business, but certainly none still operating. I said this here before, but I was a claims adjuster during the hurricanes of 2017, and no matter how slammed my division was with property damage claims from Harvey, Irma, and Maria (and we were absolutely drowning in claims), we still investigated every single one of them, which meant most claims settlements were delayed. If insurance providers didn’t thoroughly investigate claims, even during a crisis, there’s a high likelihood of paying claims that aren’t owed, which could lead to bankruptcy for the provider – no insurance provider wants that.

        2. Massmatt*

          I think many here are drastically underestimating the scale of this problem. Sixteen million people applied for unemployment in the last 2 weeks alone, and that number is only going to balloon higher as more are laid off and more who tried to apply in the last few weeks finally get through on the phones and websites. This is many times higher than the normal volume, and The staff to process and check claims has not increased several-fold. If anything the # of staff at state unemployment offices has only declined in the past few years.

          That either means that unemployed are going to have to wait months for their first checks to arrive, or payments might be made on a provisional basis and cancelled retroactively if it turns out the claim is denied, I.e. people who filed false claims will owe the government money back.

          I don’t see another alternative. How are these offices going to check 16+ million (and growing!) claims in anything like a reasonable time frame?

          This doesn’t even get into the appeals process. It’s in the employer’s interest for claims to be denied; how are these offices going to handle hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of cases where someone should be eligible yet their claim is denied?

          It’s a terrible mess and I don’t see a good solution. Good luck to all those affected.

      3. Potatoes gonna potate*

        This is true, it’s been 3 weeks since I filed, and there are people who have filed weeks before me. Some people got their funds within days of filing (??????) and some of us have been waiting for weeks and some for more than a month now. It’s weird.

    2. HBJ*

      That’s quite the assumption there. I’m not surprised the OP knows quite a few. This is not the first letter Alison has had on topic.

      1. MK*

        There have been a couple of letters to a blogger who probably receives hundreds of letters from all over the world. It is surprising that the OP supposedly knows several people who intend to commit covid-19-related fraud. So much that I am inclined to believe they either are misjudging people who are genuinely afraid for their health or this is a really crappy company that has many problematic employees.

        1. MayLou*

          I wondered whether it might be a bravado break room conversation between people who were genuinely worried but trying to cover it up. That might include six or seven people, only one of whom actually then quits and claims UI. One might go off sick, another have to quarantine for the sake of a family member, etc. The OP just sees three people who they overheard talking about taking advantage of UI and assumes they all are doing that. Obviously this is just speculation but it’s not less plausible than what OP is assuming. People joke about stuff that worries them as a way to figure out how they feel about it.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I hear people talking about similar scams on things all the time. It’s not unheard of to chat about it. What is unlikely is that they’ll actually do it.

          A guy filed a workers comp claim for his busted hand he got in a bar fight. He was so brazen he told multiple people that he was going tp just say it happened at work and that’s what he tried doing.

          Right now I’m seeing people truly confused and just wrong about how unemployment really works. They’re fully unaware it’s a process and it takes proof and time. Comments online often stray into “may as well get me some of that!” Like it’s just there for whatever a person fancies it.

          Even in a very liberal state they keep telling everyone fear isn’t enough. You have to have been put into quarantine by a medical professional or the state. But that hasn’t and won’t sink in.

        3. Impska*

          I’m an accountant. I’ve heard from both employers an employees who are clients of mine about this. I can’t say I blame an individual for not wanting to accept a job offer at a grocery store because they can make more on unemployment. Why would any self interested individual want to put themselves at risk for less money than sitting at home? All of my lawncare companies want to hire but can’t, an electrician mentioned it as an issue, there are help wanted signs all over every grocery store and hardware store. And you can say that maybe they should pay more, but these types if employers can’t really compete with the government in this situation. They’d have to pay substantially more than UI to get someone to come to work. Many of these employers have also made it clear to their employees that they will object to any unemployment claim if someone quits. Apparently the talk of quitting and claiming UI for more money is rampant. A lot of people, especially younger employees, have never claimed unemployment and have no idea how it works.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Lawn care is something that on the one hand is relatively low risk to be providing right now; on the other, I can’t really call it essential to have my lawn mowed and the leaves removed. The only thing they do that for the building I live in that is even close to essential is cleaning the gutters, a couple of times a year.

          2. LQ*

            Your last point is really true and really a good one. Most of the people who are claiming unemployment right now have never done so before. That changes things a lot. (I’m glad they are because they likely had other times when they would have been eligible, just their employer didn’t tell them and no one else did either, hopefully these people will use it in the post-covid future too.)

            1. Dragon_Dreamer*

              Some of those folks claiming for the first time are probably the same folks who used to give people on unemployment a hard time. I worked as a housekeeper two days a week (all they needed me for) and collected unemployment for a while after I lost the retail job, and before I found this one. My relatives gave me a LOT of **** about both the job AND the “mooching,” as they called it. Guess who were among the first to file after the $600 was announced? Meanwhile, I’m keeping my job as long as I can.

              1. LQ*

                In my state (I cannot speak for other states on this one at all) the demographic population who are most likely to accuse people of mooching and the demographic population of frequent fliers (the people who claim benefits regularly) are a very overlapping venn diagram.

                1. Amy Sly*

                  I don’t think it’s cognitive dissonance so much as projection. “I would do/ am doing this, so everyone else would/ is too.”

                2. AJK*

                  At my office (when we’re there) I share space with a co-worker whose job is to assist people with getting benefits. She gets a lot of people who come in and rant and rave that everyone *else* is mooching off the system – but they’re special, they deserve it, they worked for it – but all those other people are just lazy.
                  In truth it’s hard for everyone (which is why my coworker has a job) but people come in with assumptions and it’s really hard to change those assumptions once they’re set.

          3. Astrid*

            Why work as a grocery store clerk when they can likely make more money shopping for Instacart, with substantially less risk (they can control hours, wear PPE, and minimize interaction) and all the hours they want? It’s not as though they will get benefits with that $9/hour job.

            If the business is not essential and cannot be conducted safely via telework or substantial social distancing with PPE, then it should close to protect its workers. If it is essential, then PPE + higher pay than unemployment + benefits for sicken and dead employees. Can’t figure out a way to do that? Then you’re not that essential.

            But Americans are obsessed with means testing for the poor. Funny how that doesn’t extend billion dollar companies who accumulated huge debts on stock buybacks. Those companies already got the Fed cannoning trillions at them, while the little people turn viciously on each other for perceived cheating.

    3. Avasarala*

      Agree to your 1st paragraph. I don’t think it’s right to take advantage of this pandemic and lie to take money like that.

      But honestly I can’t fault an employee working at a non-essential business (I’m assuming this based on the emphasis on “trying to make the business survive” as I don’t think hospitals and grocery stores are at that point) who makes less than $600 and is scared to catch the potentially deadly virus going around. If they make less than $600 they’re probably not an owner or manager and aren’t invested like OP in making sure the business survives. So looking at the situation and thinking they could get more money with less risk by quitting–that decision makes sense to me. They aren’t actually eligible for that money but I would quit too, doesn’t sound like this person is making money worth dying over.

    4. LilyP*

      It seems like there might be an odd gray area here — if the people in question say, refused to come to work at a non-essential business because of health concerns and were fired for it, would we still feel like they have no right to unemployment? I assume being fired for cause would make you ineligible under normal circumstances. Is deciding not to come to work anymore and being fired for it really so different from deciding to quit because you don’t want to risk going in anymore? It’s not clear from the letter if the work requires coming in in-person or not, which matters a lot here.

      1. Natalie*

        Although the letter isn’t actually clear whether “at work” means physically going into a worksite or working remotely.

    5. Eng*

      I wouldn’t say they’re “taking advantage” of it without further info. They may not be legally eligible for unemployment but morally, it’s pretty awful that the people who make the least money and so are already vulnerable are the ones forced to keep working without being allowed to get some help from the government and stay safe at home.

      1. We still need to eat*

        Somebody has to run grocery stores and work in pharmacies, etc., unless you think we can all go without eating and medicine until July. Yes, it absolutely sucks that the front line employees in this epidemic are the least paid, and I’d be fine with all grocery store, etc. workers getting an extra $600 per week for continuing to work, but people need food.

    6. Mookie*

      There are, indeed, a suspicious number of Dogs on the Internet whose sole ambition in life is to protect and enrich their employers.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I’m not surprised that OP knows a few people talking about unemployment fraud. All it takes is one big mouth person to start bragging about their escapades and others in the group can tend to follow along. I am sure if OP looks at the group of people committing fraud she will find possible relationship ties within that group.

      Some of it can be “birds of a feather, flocking” and some of it can be people “following the leader” and not thinking on their own. This goes back to the old adages be careful who you hang out with and be careful who you listen to.

      I remember directly telling a subordinate that she could not talk about her plans to commit income tax fraud while she was on the clock and working. (She was working away and talking about what she was going to do/say, she was very specific.) I honestly think I shocked her. I don’t think anyone had ever told her that before. I did specifically say, “What you do on your own time is your business. Who you tell about it on your own time is also your own business. Not on the clock and not in the work area.” Some people have little to no filters. When she tried to say “but-but-but” I pointed out that someone will over hear her and report her to the IRS. (The area was wide open and all could hear.) I have had that happen also. That ended that.

      1. Oof*

        I was in a meeting once where I had to tell someone that if they wanted to do something tax wise, that was their call, but it was not to be recommended. In the car heading back, my commute group all had a chuckle about “that’s called money laundering”. (small stakes, not mob related!)

    8. Analyst Editor*

      I imagine there are businesses that can be 95% WFH and still be making money now; and the business being essential isn’t really relevant to the question….
      I agree that enforcement will probably flag and be sacrificed, in part because it is taking so long to process the claims — because I assume there is or will be general pressure to get people their money sooner rather than later, so business-as-usual might have to be abandoned.

      As a historical example of “cutting corners due to demand”, one of the biggest troves of intelligence in the Cold War (Venona project) occurred because the Soviets had such a glut of demand for one-time use pads they started reusing them, thus weakening their encryption, with which the OSS was then able to decode a portion of Soviet cable messages.

  8. Viette*

    For OP#1, I think some of it is probably new job/general anxiety, and some of it is probably feeling isolated, alone, and like she has no relationships with anyone at her new workplace. I can’t tell if I’m reading too much into the letter, but it sounds like she may be looking for a reason to call and talk to you, in part because she’s worried she’s messing up but very possibly in part because she’s trying to create and maintain a connection with her new workplace. It’s silly, but speaking on the phone and hearing a person’s voice can create a different connection than all the emails in the world, especially right now.

    I don’t think it matters for the first pass, and I totally agree with Alison’s advice. But I’d be aware that there’s a chance she’ll keep making phone calls about (arguably) nothing, and you can consider if there’s any way to help her feel like she’s building new relationships are this job without it being up to you to talk to her on the phone every day.

    1. Kiwi*

      I went through a period of this sort of new job anxiety myself, and “I’m sorry” can become an almost unconscious reflex, and I highly doubt that it’s a contrivance being used like a tool to talk to her boss. It seems more like she’s trying to alleviate her own anxieties.

      1. LeahS*

        Yes, this. Because of issues stemming from childhood, I have to be SO deliberate about not apologizing for everything. It was truly unconscious until someone pointed it out to me, and now it’s still reflex but I am much better about stopping myself.

    2. Uranus Wars*

      yes! I realize these are unprecedented times, but I have an employee who did this at the beginning and 18 months in she STILL.DOES.IT.

      It is her issue and I have tried everything I can think of including some suggestions from the commentariat here. Example: Last week when I called her to tell her about her raise…”oh, whew. every time you call me, I think I am going to get in trouble”. Despite the fact that I have never called her to deliver bad news. When I asked for examples after a meeting once – she can’t give me any. She says “its just a feeling” but she can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s an old employer – I have been there, but I also felt like it was on ME to manage. Not my manager.

      I feel like I have tried everything with her, short of just letting mistakes happen without addressing them…but even when I try to casually say “hey, next time try this instead” she starts over again with the “I’m sorry” and “Hey let me check before I do this very routine thing”. It’s EXHAUSTING.

      I don’t know what to do with her anymore but wish I had addressed it sooner.

  9. bleh*

    Op #1, nip this in the bud ASAP, or she’ll NEVER stop! Also, if you don’t make it clear that it’s for her own benefit that she not seek help/reassurance so often, she’ll start bothering her coworkers about it. Someone from my team was recently let go for being a huge emotional drain on the rest of us with her constant search for validation- it was causing delays because the rest of us were always scrambling to help her. My boss did NOTHING.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      That’s quite sad, in that from her (the person let go in your company) perspective, “am I about to be let go?” which is what a constant search for validation boils down to — became a self fulfilling prophecy (I think there’s at least one other previous letter in the archives here about that).

      What a convoluted sentence, sorry.

      Anyway what I meant was I wonder how she will be in future jobs – in a kind of catch-22 of feeling that she is underperforming so wanting to seek validation, but afraid of seeking validation due to this past experience, so just carrying on anyway and probably over-compensating by not asking about something she’s unsure of when she should, then one day making a mistake and being blindsided.

  10. Zircon*

    OP #1, I also suggest you clearly tell your employee that if you do have a concern or there ever any issues, you will tell them immediately, explain the issue and work with them to correct any mistakes or improve the work. Knowing that a manager will tell them something is wrong can be important for someone who is anxious or who has had bad management in the past.

  11. London Lass*

    OP3 – I suspect this is a side-effect of the stress you’re feeling, but it strikes me that in the time you’ve taken to reply to the recruiter and write to Alison, as well as probably privately fretting about the amount of work you have, you could have made a good amount of headway on that reference.

    That’s not intended to be an attack on you. I struggle with the sense of being completely frozen up when I’m feeling overwhelmed. But really, the best way to address that feeling is to start getting things done. (Allowing for the fact that you may also be able to avoid or de-prioritise some tasks first. But this looks like one that is both realtively urgent and quick. Better a short, positive reference than none at all.)

    1. Its been a while*

      OP3 here. You are probably right, to a point. But it was going to take me a while to write something because I worked with this person 10 years ago – I knew that even working out the dates when we worked together was going to require some effort. I didn’t have the job description at hand, I didn’t know if what kind of job it was for or what company it was with.

      I got it done at 5 AM Friday. It was short & it was positive if not glowing. But it did make me realize that if she asks me again to be a reference I’m going to say no. She needs to find someone more recent.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          It was because I would have said no given the length of time that passed since we last worked together.

      1. SwitchingGenres*

        If it was difficult to figure out even the dates you worked with this person, why not email or call them and ask them for all that missing info?

        1. Washi*

          When I’ve been a reference, 95% of the time that has meant a 5-15 minute phone call with no writing and no real prep/research on my end. I’ve gotten a little annoyed (at the company) when I’ve been asked for a written reference and I don’t blame the OP for feeling like this is the straw that will break her back this week, let alone for not reaching out to the person requesting it for more info and thus taking up even more time!

          I think part of what makes written references stressful for me is I often feel like I’m being asked for a letter of recommendation, but instead of being given the typical 3-6 weeks heads up, I have like 2 days. Yes, I do usually just end up dashing something positive off so the person gets their reference, because it’s not their fault, but it is something that stresses me out.

          1. Massmatt*

            There were some posts here regarding a particular author or management guru type who said employers should demand exhaustive lists o& every job a candidate has ever had, with contact info, and if I recall correctly, the candidate was supposed to schedule phone calls between the contacts and the hiring manager.

            Ugh, it’s like this guy expected everyone the applicant has ever known to act as though they were applying for the job.

      2. Penny Parker*

        I am wondering why — since you had agreed to be a reference — you did not already have that prepared so you could just send it. Once you agree to be the reference you have an obligation. You could have really harmed this person’s chance of getting a job by being so unprepared.

        1. Washi*

          When someone asks me to be a reference, I assume they are asking if I would say nice things about them on a phone call with the hiring manager. I wouldn’t automatically write something up about them and file it away just in case! Maybe this is a regional difference? In my part of the US, reference checks are almost always phone calls.

          1. Risha*

            Yes, I’m rarely asked to be a reference but it has happened, and the only time I’ve ever had to provide a written one it was for someone I was currently managing in his first job out of college. I’d never think twice about saying yes to being a reference to someone I like, especially one from quite a while back, because who expects it to be any sort of actual time commitment?

        2. Jedi Squirrel*

          OP was expecting it to come through six months ago, though. And now they don’t have access to the office where presumably this kind of stuff would be located.

          You could have really harmed this person’s chance of getting a job by being so unprepared.

          I don’t know. OP worked with this person ten years ago. If the company decides not to hire you because a reference from ten years ago can’t put together a letter in two days during a time of national crisis, that’s a really flaky or really shitty company and I wouldn’t want to work for them.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Good lord, I wouldn’t spend the time writing a reference before it’s needed. That’s time-consuming and you might never be called upon for it — and most references are phone calls, not written ones (and where they are written, it’s often an employer’s form they want you to fill out). The OP doesn’t need to be scolded for this.

      3. London Lass*

        That’s fair – one the problems with being a reference (as noted below by someone else) is that different companies expect different things. It’s good of you to have done it so quickly.

        When I’m asked to act as a reference for people I’ve managed, I have a couple of ‘must-have’s:

        1. It needs to be someone I have worked with closely and/or recently enough to be able to confidently speak to their abilities. If I don’t feel I can do that, I’ll decline immediately and explain why. (Or possibly warn them that any reference I provide will be limited.)

        2. I ask them to remind me of the dates we worked together, and any key projects they reported to me on. Not so they can write their own reference, but to save me looking it up myself and save time when the request comes from the potential employer. If they qualify under point 1, I’ll know if something is off with the information they send me; also, I wouldn’t agree to provide a reference for someone I don’t trust.

  12. Lady Farquaad*

    Similar question to Letter #1: My (non-US) government is providing employers with funds to help pay employees while we have stopped trading due to C19. We are discovering there are some complicated issues to resolve before making payment to staff – taxes; how to pay full vs part timers, casuals, people on parental leave or those who are resigning next month; etc. Given the current situation it’s been difficult to get legal advice and even lawyers are unsure of a lot of our questions. It doesn’t help that government policies keep changing about how to pay out this financial assistance.

    I’m being bombarded with emails from employees asking when they’re getting their government funded wages and how much. I’ve advised everyone we are working through the details and we will definitely know before the next pay date. Due to this being a highly stressful situation some employees have taken this to mean “WE’RE NOT PAYING ANYONE HAHA SCREW YOU.” And some people are bombarding me with articles and their own legal “advice” from friends of friends about why the company shouldn’t mistreat employees during such a difficult time. I feel like crying when I get accusatory and passive aggressive emails because I am just trying my best to understand such a weird and complicated payroll situation myself without the usual resources being available.

    I’ve already emailed everyone daily last three days politely expressing that no one will miss out on their next pay but we obviously need to understand who gets paid what according to the new government rules and not make mistakes. Some people understand but others remain agitated and angry. What else can I do to ask people to please give me some time – I can’t just pull out all the answers out of a magic hat?

    1. BuildMeUp*

      Oh gosh, this is a tough situation to be in. I definitely understand the employees’ point of view, and I think it’s a little different from Letter #1. We’re talking about people’s wages – the way they pay their rent and feed their families. It’s very understandable that not getting answers about that would be stressful, especially on top of all the other uncertainty we’re facing right now.

      That’s not to say that them constantly emailing you is okay! But it might be helpful to think about the fear that’s underneath most of the emails you’re getting. They may not be expressing it in the best way, but they’re also trying their best to deal with a scary situation.

      I think continuing to send out updates is the best route to take. In the meantime, would it help for you to set up a filter so that emails with keywords related to the issue go into a separate folder that you can check periodically, instead of feeling like they’re flooding your inbox?

    2. WellRed*

      I’d also consider whether the emails are as helpful as transparent as they need to be. Some people won’t be satisfied by anything, of course. But our company sent out a couple of weekly high level from the CEO type of things that while appreciated, said nothing. They recently did some layoffs, salary cuts and furloughs and sent another such letter. Missing was anything at all related to actual financial impacts or timeframes. You know, the stuff that matters. Not saying you are not doing everything you can possibly can.

      1. Natalie*

        Yes, if your emails back to the employees haven’t included some level of detail similar to what’s in your first paragraph, they aren’t detailed enough. This isn’t a time for corporate obfuscation, this is a time to be explicit.

        1. Lady Farquaad*

          Those are the exact details I have mentioned as the reason why I don’t know yet how much is going to each individual employee. I explained I don’t want to make mistakes when everyone is budgeting like crazy. But that’s not good enough I guess? I’ve reassured people multiple times all the details will be sorted out before next pay day. It’s frustrating when “I don’t know yet give me time until x date” is the only answer I have and that answer is not acceptable.

    3. yikes*

      “Hi, everyone. Here is all the information I have: [info here.] When I have more information, I will tell you immediately. Until then, I will not respond to queries regarding [whatever]. Thanks!”

      I don’t think it’s at all similar to #1, though.

    4. LQ*

      I don’t have any answers for you but I have a lot of support. It’s hard when you are doing everything you can and people are screaming at you because they are scared. It sucks to be the person who is crushed in the middle.

      It’s totally ok to cry and be frustrated yourself about this.

      One of the things you can do, especially if these are all employees is to ask managers for help. Ask them to have stuff filter through them. And you can be honest with those managers, most of them will get it (some won’t) and you can essentially tell them that every minute you’re telling someone that you don’t have an answer yet is a minute you’re not getting an answer.

      You can also use gossip. If you have staff who know and trust you, talk to them about it a bit and ask them to spread the word. For some reason, gossip seems more trustworthy in times like this than official messages. (Partly because gossip comes from a person you know, official messages seem like they are from a cold uncaring machine. Which is bs, but people are feeling a lot rather than thinking.)

    5. LunaLena*

      I’m so sorry this is happening to you. People can be pretty unintentionally awful when they’re (understandably) scared of what will happen next! Hopefully some of the fear will die down when they get their next pay and see that they’re not getting screwed out of anything. I like LQ’s idea of getting people to look to their managers for guidance, since it would take some of the pressure off of you. Do you think it would help to do a quick daily update email to just managers, even if it’s just “nothing new yet, but we’re still checking and will let you know as soon as something develops” and let them handle telling their employees any news? Or have the CEO or some other respected higher-up send out a company-wide email emphasizing that this whole situation is a historic first, but don’t worry, payroll is continuing to navigate this and everyone will get paid on time, so just have patience? Sometimes the same message coming from a higher authority can carry more weight.

      Hang in there, and remember to take care of you! It won’t stop the passive aggressive and nasty emails, but sometimes a bit of self-care can help you hold on to your sanity until things get better.

    6. Allonge*

      Would it help to have a template response with reasonable amounts of information, and signed off on by your manager? It does not stop people from emailing you, but it takes away the pressure for answering.

      Mind you, this is only helpful if I am understanding you correctly that the issues people ask about are more or less the same or fall into a limited number of categories. I would assume that at least one such text would be helpful to have – the general ‘as we communicated on [date1], we are looking into [issues] and expecting to have all information by [date2] and pay your salary by [date3]. Any changes to this will be communicated by [manager]. Please do not repeat your questions in successive emails as we will not have better answers until [date2].

      One of our budget departments actually created an autoresponse to this tune (not about salaries, but about financial stuff impacting almost everyone). It says read this this and this, act accordingly and only if you have an issue not addressed here re-send your email.

    7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’m in the UK and we have a government funded scheme that may or may not be similar to yours, in that AIUI the employer will still pay a proportion of people’s wages who currently aren’t working due to the pandemic, but the employer can then reclaim this money from the government from a portal (?) that is currently actively being developed by the tax authorities and expected to go-live shortly.

      There are complications about things like people currently on sick leave, maternity/paternity, will PTO be accrued during the period they are not working but having their salary partly subsidised, etc.

      People will hate me for this but have you considered (after individual interaction) officially reprimanding people who are deliberately spreading FUD in the workplace?

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Reprimanding people for discussing benefits they are concerned about receiving would not go over well. Also, disciplining people for discussing their compensation at work is illegal in the US (even if way too many employers don’t want people to know that).

  13. Mark Roth*

    OP #2 Do you know or just suspect that people are taking advantage of the situation? I can see almost anyone deciding that coming in to work is a bad idea at this time, especially in a business that is trying to survive. What kind of business is essential and open, but struggling right now?

    Doesn’t the new unemployment cover people who can no longer work?

    1. Kathlynn (Canadian)*

      Lots. Just because the business is open, doesn’t mean it’s busy. Both my employer and my grandma’s have seen a great reduction in customers because of the restrictions implemented. People are afraid to get sick, so they aren’t going anywhere. Especially those who have seen a big reduction in their income.

      1. WellRed*

        Agreed. Car repair is essential, but the place that fixed my flat was definitely not busy. On the other hand the non essential ice cream shop was quite busy.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          The definitions of “essential” can get weird. I don’t *need* ice cream, but the ice cream shop is allowed to stay open for takeout because they’re selling food. An ice cream shop in my town that also sells sandwiches is open for takeout. An ice cream store a little further from my house closed their doors last month, and is now doing contactless delivery, which is low-risk for everyone concerned, and I hope means they’ll still have a business when this is over. (I like them enough that I was trying to figure out how to buy a gift card for later; instead, supporting them means I have delicious ice cream in my freezer.)

        2. Amy Sly*

          Heck, my repair shop didn’t even charge me to patch my tire. I think it was a combination of it didn’t take long or a lot of materials and it gave them something to do!

    2. No Longer Working*

      “What kind of business is essential and open, but struggling right now?”

      Every restaurant that had to close its dining room and is trying to stay afloat on take-out orders now.

      1. Natalie*

        Multiple large hospital systems in my state are laying off big chunks staff and cutting administrator salaries. Turns out in a profit-driven healthcare system you need all those elective or “non-essential” surgeries to pay the bills.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      “What kind of business is essential and open, but struggling right now?”
      One whose customers are non-essential businesses that are not open and not paying any outstanding invoices.

      1. Amy Sly*

        I’m always amazed how people get taught about the food web and how the ecosystem is dependent on every species being there to function, but never about the supply web and how the economy is dependent on every type of business being there to function.

  14. foxinabox*

    It’s pretty unsympathetic to read trickery and wicked machinations into the motives of anyone who would rather get higher than usual unemployment behefits at home than work poorly paid jobs in public during a pandemic. People living paycheck to paycheck are /especially/ aware that the job market may tank–which is one reason it would be nice to build a small cushion that they currently don’t have right now. Also not dying is probably on their radar, and many poorly paid jobs put you in constant contact with contamination risk. People are scared, not monsters.

    1. foxinabox*

      To be clear I don’t think this is an attitude that OP2 is displaying at all. They just seem to have a question.

      1. Arctic*

        OP2 completely dismisses the “afraid to get the virus” reason people give and acts like they are trying to scam the government.

          1. A*

            Because it’s still fraud. Quitting, and claiming unemployment as having been laid off, is fraud regardless of the reason.

    2. Impska*

      I agree. No self interested individual is going to choose to put themselves at risk for less money than the government will pay them to sit at home.

      And many people don’t really understand how unemployment works. They may be young and have never claimed. They don’t understand that quitting due to COVID fears is not a legitimate reason to claim. They just working with the information they’ve gotten from friends who are similar to them and think they will get the same benefits.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        I thought that if you were working for a non-essential business that refused to close, you could quit and it would be considered a justified quit, especially as some states are not very good at cracking down on non-essential businesses that are staying open. (My state has finally started doing that.)

        1. A*

          OP didn’t specify if they were working from home or not. Unless I’m misinterpreting, I don’t see anything to indicate that OP is being forced to work onsite for an non-essential business.

        2. Impska*

          In many states, the definition of what is essential it extremely broad. Just because someone feels it may not be essential (for example lawncare or construction) doesn’t mean that the law says they’re non essential. In many cases, they may technically be essential. A lot of businesses that are essential on a technicality are staying open.

    3. Blue Eagle*

      Nobody said they were a monster. Maybe just selfish, greedy and trying to game the system – – – which means they are stealing.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Which, during a pandemic, is kinda a monster. It’s a pretty harsh take on a situation where OP 2 doesn’t know all the details, and can’t know all the details unless they know every medical thing about every member of that co-worker’s family. OP’s better off walking away, in person and in their head. Let the system or karma deal with it.

    4. Amber Rose*

      It IS trickery to tell a lie, and saying you were laid off when you weren’t is a lie. End of story.

      Maybe it’s understandable, I get how fear drives people into corners, but facts are facts, and lying to the government for checks is still fraud in a crisis.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I understood the question as “my coworkers are planning to tell the government something that is not the truth to get unemployment. Will the system catch them?” and the answer is yes, almost certainly. I get why someone might try it and think it SUCKS that they would be in that position, but since it’s probably not going to work, I hope OP’s coworkers are able to figure out something else.

  15. nep*

    Re #5–In ‘normal’ times, is it in any way beneficial to send a ‘follow-up email’? I’ve never done this, figuring, the employer knows I’m interested in the job. After all, I applied. They have their timeline for doing things, and sending a–what, reminder?–email seems redundant at best. Have I got that wrong?

    1. nep*

      (I see LW says the follow-up is to ask about potential timelines; still, I don’t see the use. Maybe I’ve been wrong all this time.)

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yeah it’s unnecessary and may turn off potential employers. The only time I’ve ever sent a follow up about anything is if I’ve had some sort of interview.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      OMG, **NO** the OP has only submitted an application! Has not had an interview, has not had a call-back. **NO**

      I was running a (now suspended) search. It is one giant pain in the tush to respond to people who could just look at the g-d online HR site showing the status of their application to see that it was received (“just checking to see if you got my application!” arrggghhhh) and is awaiting action (“just checking to see if you’ve looked at my application!” arrggghhhh).

      If someone contacts me now? arrggghhhh I am strongly tempted to reply “WTF, the entire state government has a hiring freeze! I’m not impressed by your inability to do basic research about the job. Go away and don’t ever contact me again!” Of course I will not do that, but seriously, I’m going to REMEMBER YOUR NAME and I am not going to give you the benefit of the doubt if your experience doesn’t quite match because you’re clearly the kind of person who has no sense at all.

      Just, no. Don’t do it any time, but for sure, don’t do it NOW.

      1. Rachey*

        I’m the OP for # 5, and I definitely agree (now) not to contact anybody. That was my initial reaction, but one of the places I had applied had emailed me directly that they would be in touch in the next week or two. They never got in touch, and I am assuming everything is suspended. But I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate to follow up on that email. But I am glad I went with my instinct to not send anything.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yup, it’s a good thing you didn’t follow up. They’ll contact you if/when they can move forward with the position.

      2. Kes*

        Wow. I agree people shouldn’t follow up on just an application, but I think your reaction is… a bit over the top. It might be a pain for you, but a lot of people are legitimately concerned about their livelihood and future, and are probably incredibly stressed by having jobs they’ve applied for silently going dark on them without any information. Penalizing people for their fear about being able to get a job and for reaching out in what ways they can because it’s inconvenient to you seems incredibly harsh.

        1. A*

          Ya, I think we all need to cut each other some slack. Also, horrifyingly some schools still teach students to follow-up on every application. It’s terrible advice… but it’s out there.

        2. Allonge*

          If you put it that way, it seems harsh. If you say they are acting in a way that shows they are very unfamiliar with normal business practices, and a prospective employer can take that into consideration, that’s the other side of the story. No matter how legitimate this might look on a human level, it’s annoying to get unreasonable requests, lots of them, when a person already has a busy job. Expressing frustration on AAM might well be the best solution.

          1. Kes*

            I think it’s reasonable to take it into account somewhat in the application process, but this:
            “…Go away and don’t ever contact me again!” Of course I will not do that, but seriously, I’m going to REMEMBER YOUR NAME and I am not going to give you the benefit of the doubt if your experience doesn’t quite match because you’re clearly the kind of person who has no sense at all.”
            is unreasonable and over the top to me. Really, they have no sense at all and you’re going to blacklist them because they sent a note checking up on their application??

            1. Allonge*

              Ok, no. First, I read it as obvious hyperbole, second, even if it is meant literally, Senor Montoya is not saying they will blacklist them, but that if in the process there is any other sign that the applicant is not aware of business norms, these will be counted as strikes one and two, respectively. I find that really reasonable, actually. It’s the fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me principle.

              Look, I know that searching for a job can be and feels like life or death, but in all circumstances ever, a company cannot hire every applicant, and will have to make choices. Do you really recommend hiring against a better judgment?

  16. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    OP3: I might have responded, “I do not have the bandwidth right now to provide a written reference before then, but would be happy to jump on a short phone call today or tomorrow and answer any questions you may have.” I suppose it is field-specific, but I am surprised there are employers that still require lengthy written references. Usually it is a short phone call.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      (And I see you responded above, though I did mean this more in general, anyway!)

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      A lot of times, they just want a letter they can toss in the employee’s file, so that they can tick that particular box on the hiring/onboarding form. It might just be a red tape kind of thing.

  17. MicroManagered*

    Normally, I would send a polite follow-up email

    Stop doing this, OP, always. Someone might have told you this was a good idea at some point (see: gumption) but they were incorrect. It comes across as pushy and hounding to the people receiving those emails.

    1. nep*

      When I subbed some shifts working the reception area of the Y, I’d receive a lot of phone calls from young people saying some variation of, ‘I wanted to check on the status of my application.’ It really seemed as if they were hearing from some source that this is the thing to do.

    2. Rachey*

      Duly noted, and yes, I am young and rather new to job-seeking, and I am sure this was “advice” that I have heard and read in other parts of the internet.

      I am quickly learning that there are many things that are suggested in the name of “gumption” that really come across really weirdly in person.

      1. MicroManagered*

        I got the same job-seeking advice when I was a teenager from my parents. It’s great advice when you are 16 and looking for a summer job bagging groceries. “Checking on your application” is a great way to let the manager meet you and see you’re just the kind of kid she needs bagging groceries for 10 hours a week, so she hires you on the spot. It’s like an impromptu interview.

        When you’re in the adult job market, “following up on an application” comes across as pestering. I work for a large public institution with stringent hiring practices. One of them is that jobs are posted for a specified period, and hiring managers can’t see *any* applications or begin interviewing until the job posting window has closed. Inevitably, we get a handful of “I’m just following up on my application” emails before the window has closed. It doesn’t make those applicants stand out in a positive way. It signals “I don’t know how any of this works” and/or makes the candidate pre-annoying before I’ve ever seen their resume.

        1. Whiskey on the rocks*

          As a grocery store manager, this is still not good advice. I don’t have time to do impromptu interviews and I don’t hire on the spot. Even for “just” a grocery job, please don’t do this.

    3. juliebulie*

      What surprises me is how long this bad advice has been around. I read the same advice 30+ years ago. It wasn’t great then, and it isn’t now.

    4. NGA*

      When I’m hiring, I really try not to hold this against applicants because I’ve been on the other side and know how hard it is to sit in the uncertainty, though even in the best of times it’s a bit annoying.

      Right now, my patience has worn pretty thin with it. We emailed all of our applicants currently in any pool and told them that we are freezing hiring for the foreseeable future and will circle back if and when we decide to hire for those roles, and I’m still getting a couple of emails every week that are “Hey! It’s the future! Are you hiring yet?” I get that people are feeling desperate and uncertain. I am too. I try to build as much generosity of spirit as I can before I reply. But like. Please, please do not do this.

  18. AndersonDarling*

    #3. Ugh, I worked for a major company that had an automated reference system and it only allowed 24 hours to respond to reference requests. I gave HR my 3 reference email addresses and I was informed that I had to make sure they filled out the survey in one day or else I wouldn’t get the job. This was a mid-career level job, so I was shocked that my employment offer was contingent on a reference being available to do a reference survey that day. And it was a very basic “Did you like working with this person” kind of survey. No open ended questions, just a 1-5 ranking of generic questions. Oh, and 2 of the references had to be managers…even thought there was no check to see who the references were.
    They didn’t speak to a single reference, just sent a generic survey. Frankly, if I knew that was how they worked, I would have just made up some email addresses and taken the surveys myself and saved myself the insane, panicked stress the process caused.
    I ended up leaving the company in a year anyway. The reference process was just the tip of the iceberg.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Yeah, I mentioned in a comment up above that if this company is going to make a hiring decision based on a ten-year-old reference getting a letter together in two days, that’s a pretty flaky company.

      Frankly, if I knew that was how they worked, I would have just made up some email addresses and taken the surveys myself and saved myself the insane, panicked stress the process caused.

      Oh goodness, if they make it that easy to game the system, then yeah, that’s a red flag. Glad you managed to get out of there.

    2. London Lass*

      Obviously that’s highly concerning if you’re looking for a job, but it would also be a major issue for me if I were a hiring manager! Just imagine having the perfect candidate lined up, and then being told ‘computer says no’ because they couldn’t turn round 3 references in 24 hours…


      1. Delta Delta*

        There have been so many times I’ve wanted to sneak in “computer says no” to a conversation but alas, not many people on this side of the pond get it.

      2. Anon for this one*

        And that’s why hiring managers, rather than HR, should be the ones driving the recruitment process.. how is it that HR can overrule the hiring manager about their own (prospective) direct report because of a bureaucratic process like “all references didn’t respond within 24 hrs, ergo, you cannot hire this candidate… does not compute…”

        … “Computer says no” may not be recognized as a specific reference across the pond, but it will definitely be recognized as a concept!

  19. MT*

    For #2, i would say maybe. I know some states are less strict than others.

    My employer has remained open because it is essential. I’m not sick, nor is anyone in my household sick. I do not have children or care for someone who cannot care for themselves. However, I’m afraid of getting coronavirus from customers coming to the store, so I quit and filed for unemployment. Can I obtain benefits under the CARES Act?

    No. Under the CARES Act, you may be eligible for benefits if you meet one of the circumstances listed in the Act, but none include the scenario described. On these facts, you are not eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) because you do not meet any of the qualifying circumstances.

    There are, however, circumstances under the CARES Act in which specific, credible health concerns could require an individual to quit his or her job and thereby make the individual eligible for PUA. For example, an individual may be eligible for PUA if he or she was diagnosed with COVID-19 by a qualified medical professional, and although the individual no longer has COVID-19, the illness caused health complications that render the individual objectively unable to perform his or her essential job functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation. However, voluntarily deciding to quit your job out of a general concern about exposure to COVID-19 does not make you eligible for PUA. If you believe your employer’s response to the possible spread of COVID-19 creates a serious safety hazard or if you think your employer is not following OSHA standards, you can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

    As a general matter, you are likely to be eligible for PUA due to concerns about exposure to the coronavirus only if you have been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine as a result of such concerns. For instance, an individual whose immune system is compromised by virtue of a serious health condition, and who is therefore advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine in order to avoid the greater-than-average health risks that the individual might face if he or she were to become infected by the coronavirus will be eligible for PUA if all other eligibility requirements are met.

  20. LGC*

    LW1 – so, have you told her how long you’re expecting for her to get up to speed? I think part of the issue might be that she thinks she should know all of this by now and she feels like she’s doing worse than expected and you’re just being nice to her. And it’s not your fault at all, since this is an unprecedented situation for you. You might have a timeline for training someone in-office, and doing it remotely adds on an unknown amount of time – but she’s just not getting it.

    One of the things I’ve tried to do with varying amounts of success is to give a generous but concrete timeline. Given your current situation, do you think that it’ll take three months for her to get this? Six months? A year? With past employees, has it taken three months in-office for them to feel comfortable in the role? That’s something you can ask and then communicate – for some people (myself included), a lot of their anxiety is dealing with unknowns and assuming the worst.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Like Fiona, I also think this is a great discussion.

      Also, with being stuck at home, time is dragging. I’ve been WFH for a couple of weeks, and it feels like months. It’s possible she feels like she should be more up to speed because she feels she’s been working there longer than she actually has.

      1. LGC*

        To both of you – thanks! And feeling like she’s been there longer than she has is something I didn’t even think of specific to this situation, since a lot of people are losing perspective of time nowadays. (Myself included.) It might just feel like she’s been working on this forever when it’s only been…a month or so.

  21. Kettricken Farseer*

    LW#1 – it would likely help if you gave her an idea of the timeframe for the job’s learning curve. If, for example, it generally takes a year for someone in her position to have the job completely under their belt, it would let her know that she doesn’t have to know everything right now.

  22. Mediamaven*

    Oh LW3 can you please make an elevated effort to provide the reference in the timeline they need? If I got this response for a request for a reference I would have serious red flags about the applicant. It would make me feel you aren’t eager to provide one. You could cost this person a new job during a terrible time!

    1. Washi*

      Really? In the midst of a global pandemic, a reference who explains they are working from home with small children and can’t provide a WRITTEN reference at short notice for someone they worked with 10 years ago would be a red flag? I think it’s on the company to be understanding in these times. I don’t think it’s fair to paint the OP as heartlessly not caring about this former peer’s employment – the situation sucks and she’s doing the best she can in what seems like an unnecessarily rigid reference checking system.

      1. Mediamaven*

        As someone else pointed out, she had enough time to write to AAM, so…

        It’s global pandemic yes, so she’s likely not at work. Does it really take more than five minutes to do a reference? We’re all in the same boat here so I still find it hard to believe it can’t be accommodated. She needs five to six days? I’m just inclined to try to help people who have worked for me I guess, knowing that I might need it myself someday.

        1. Allonge*

          Yes, it takes more than five minutes to write a reference. Even for a phonecall, after ten years it would need some preparation, ideally – can you really remember everything about any of your colleagues after a year, let alone ten?

          Writing ‘sure, she was cool, friendly I suppose, did not murder anyone that I know of and was not fired as far as I remember’ takes five minutes. That is also useless information – if the reference thing is taken seriously (and as someone giving a reference I kinda tend to assume it is taken seriously) it will not be enough.

          Look, I gave a reference to a past intern a few years back – at that point she had been an intern of ours several years beforehand. I was her manager, so I had some documentation, I had emails but I need to at least skim these before I could be reasonably specific. The organisation wanted three questions answered. It took me at least an hour. Again, for someone who was a summer intern.

          Now I don’t have kids and I am working from home these days, but I did have at least two weeks in the last month when I would definitely not have had an hour (or half) in my time spent not sleeping for something like this.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            Hmm, maybe I’m unusual here but given the name and brief context of anyone I’d worked with over my 21 years of working life… I’m pretty sure I could give an instant feedback over the phone of what they were like to work with/for/worked for me, would I recommend them, etc. I don’t necessarily have “documentation” of any of this, but at this point it’s just part of my experience and memory!

          2. Mediamaven*

            I give references all the time. I’ve never had to spend more than 5 to 10 minutes on it. Was the one you did for her school? Because that’s different.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              For a written reference?! I write faster than most people I know, and I’ve never done a written reference that took me less than 30-40 minutes. They’ve got to be nuanced to be most effective!

          3. JediSquirrel*

            I agree. If I see a reference letter that someone dashed off in five or ten minutes that’s long on platitudes but short on specifics, I have to wonder.

            If you are serious about recommending someone, you are going to give specific information about why they would be good for the job. And if I did like this person and really wanted to help them get the job, I would try to be as specific as possible.

            This company is being ridiculous. And it’s ridiculous to think that someone who is now WFH, has no access to their office, and has small children underfoot. Sorry, but during a time like this, my kids would take precedence over a lot of other concerns.

  23. CEMgr*

    Most U.S. states use a commonsense rule – UI is only available to people who have acted reasonably in attempting to maintain employment. A reasonable person would not quit just because their boss scolded them or because their commute is 45 minutes – therefore, no UI for quitting in this circumstance. However, even a reasonable person who really wants to stay employed WOULD quite if they were physically attacked at work, or if their spouse moved a 4 hour drive away with the kids and the employee needs to follow. Therefore, UI. It is STRONGLY dependent on state law and I urge everyone to check your state’s unemployment website for the rules that apply to you.

  24. 1qtkat*

    I know at this time of uncertainty you’re looking for some form of certainly. It’s totally understandable to be anxious about your job search. I totally understand because I was in your situation until recently (I had interviewed before COVID-19, but didn’t get an offer until last Monday. I didn’t hear anything until a month after the interview).

    Alison, gives sound advice. What you can do is continue searching, maybe broaden your search, talk to your network, and be patient. I know it sucks to hear that kind of advice, but contacting employers now is not going to make the process move any faster. Even if you’re following up on an interview, one email two weeks after the interview is reasonable, after that move on and then be pleasantly surprised should they reach out to you a month or so later (like I was).

  25. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Re #4 – I *might* be starting a new FT job late next month, but I haven’t really thought about giving notice. They did not make it clear if this was a layoff or a furlough but it doesn’t really matter at this point. I have no ties to them except for my health issuance, which I’m paying out of pocket for the employee rate (THATs the only thing giving me pause but I’ll figure that out when I get there). I know my boss (former boss) won’t hold it against me if I don’t tell them but I probably would as a courtesy. I am really not sure tbh and I haven’t thought about it.

    1. Amy Sly*

      My feeling is that if you’re already furloughed, give notice 2 weeks out or as soon as you have accepted the offer, whichever is shorter. They need to know when to stop health insurance and a head count for who might be coming back, but only the biggest jerks are going to get mad that you’re changing jobs to get a paycheck when they can’t pay you one.

  26. Cordoba*

    The mills of benefits fraud investigation turn slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.

    I’m sure some small number of people will manage to pull a fast one and receive extra coronavirus unemployment money to which they are not entitled. I’m equally sure this will eventually catch up with them in a very unpleasant way once things normalize and states get around to validating all the claims they are receiving.

  27. Pesky Protestant Work Ethic*

    I’m deeply amused because I was coming here today to write a letter very similar to #4. The difference is that my current-ish employer is fully financially stable and has every intention of re-opening and re-hiring. Also they currently have me on the two-weeks federal paid sick leave thing (which expires on Wednesday 4/15). So I -am- still being paid (no other benefits) until Wednesday and I have a third interview with a new company on Tuesday. It feels weird that (assuming the interview goes well) and they offer on Tuesday, I would feel obligated to give two weeks notice but if they offer on Wednesday, I would be free to accept immediately.

    The big bind I’m experiencing is that my current-ish job is my first professional reference and I really don’t want to burn that bridge if I don’t have to.

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