company wants us to suggest which coworkers to lay off, new boss won’t speak to me, and more

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

1. Company wants coworkers to suggest who should be laid off

My mother’s workplace is panicking over the pandemic, and they have apparently asked the entire staff to suggest coworkers who should be laid off. That’s not normal, right? Is it actually illegal, or is it just a cowardly attempt to avoid responsibility for layoffs?

Noooooo, not normal. It’s not illegal, just an astonishingly bad idea. “Well, Martha, your coworkers don’t think you bring enough value, so today will be your last day.” WTF? “Jim, a lot of people suggested you go, but we’re going to let you stay for now. Better shore up those relationships for next time, though!” Again, WTF?

I mean, maybe it’s more like “we’re open to input about areas we could consolidate” and people are taking it as “nominate your coworker for a layoff” … but it’s anything in the realm of the latter, it’s terrible.

It’s management’s job to make layoff decisions, and they should be doing it based on what makes sense for the business. This is a ridiculous abdication of their responsibility, and is guaranteed to sow discord and panic.

2. Should employer restrict side jobs to lower virus risk?

My spouse is employed by our city as an EMT/fire fighter. His department is fully staffed and well equipped with respirators and PPE, for which I’m thankful. But a question came up in his department that I’m extremely torn on.

His department’s schedule is two 24-hour shifts over an eight-day week (one day on, one day off, one day on, five days off), so everyone has five days off in between shifts and many have side jobs that they work on those off days. It’s all above board and allowed in their contracts so long as it doesn’t conflict with their schedules. Some of them are not working those side jobs right now because of COVID-19, but a lot of them work medical-adjacent jobs that are also considered essential. Two people contracted the virus, which was traced back to these side jobs. One is a Russian translator on call for a local hospital, and another is a technician moving beds and equipment around as needed in the hospital. They are now self-quarantining and unable to work their full-time jobs at the department until they are cleared.

Their chief is considering putting a moratorium on side jobs until the worst of the virus is over, because their department can’t easily replace them if they’re out sick for two weeks at a time and they are the epitome of essential services right now. I understand where he’s coming from, but these jobs are also essential, especially when hospitals are overwhelmed with cases. My husband agreed with his chief, saying this is their full time job where many of them get their benefits and they shouldn’t be putting that at risk right now. What is the morally “right” stance to take here?

I don’t think there’s one morally right answer here; you could argue it either way.

So I’ll answer from a management perspective instead. A lot of companies restrict side jobs because it risks causing problems with the primary job, so this isn’t unheard of. And in this case, it’s reasonable for their chief to say that because of the essential nature of the work they do, they need people to minimize their risk when they’re not at work. If they continue to work side jobs, they risk contracting the virus at their side job and infecting everyone else at the primary job — potentially sidelining a good portion of the team. And we need our EMTs and fire fighters. If the chief says they can’t be easily replaced right now, I defer to that assessment.

I take your point that the side jobs can be essential too, but it’s in the interest of public safety to minimize the chances of an outbreak among their staff. (That said, I could see considering exceptions on a case-by-case basis, like if that Russian translator were the only one available in your county or if someone could show the risk posed by their side job was low.)

3. My new boss doesn’t speak to me, at all

I’m an upper-mid level remote employee of a company based across the country. At the start of the new year, I got a new boss after the person who’d hired me left. I emailed my new boss during his first week to introduce myself and offer any help I could; I even mentioned some friends/former colleagues we have in common, hoping to spark a connection. After getting no response (hey, it was his first week!) I waited a few more weeks and wrote another short note. Nothing.

When I told a more senior colleague that I’d never spoken to our new boss, she suggested that maybe my emails went into spam and asked me to send them to her so she could forward them to the boss with me cc’d. I did that and got no response. It’s been three full months and the boss has never emailed or called once; in group messages cheering on the team, he’s avoided mentioning me even when I’ve been part of a group he’s shouting out. In Zoom calls, he’s never acknowledged me. (My work is getting assigned through another more senior colleague.) There are only about 20 people working with us. It’s not like I’m employee 40,000.

It’s been way too long for me to say or do anything about this. What do you recommend I do short of getting on a plane and sitting outside this person’s office until I get a meeting?

This is very odd! It’s possible it’s more about him than any particular feelings he has about you; maybe he’s socially awkward, maybe he thinks you report to the colleague who assigns you work, who knows. But it’s strange, especially considering that you’ve tried to make contact directly.

If you haven’t already, I’d talk to the person who assigns you work, ask if they have any insight, and ask their advice in resolving this. If the person who earlier volunteered to ensure your emails were received is a different person, have the same conversation with her. Who knows what you’ll hear.

But also, can you just contact your boss directly via a method other than email? Is there any reason in your work culture not to just pick up the phone and call him? Or send a calendar invite for a meeting? Or ask his assistant, if he has one, to get time on his calendar? It’s okay to say straight out, “Now that you’re settled in, I hoped to meet so I can update you on (projects) and just connect since we haven’t had a chance to speak yet.” Or even, “I feel odd that we’ve haven’t had a chance to connect yet! Can we set up a time to go over what I’ve been working on?”

4. Collecting cash for a laid-off coworker

Someone on my very small team was just laid off because of loss of revenue from coronavirus. We are a close knit team and we are all devastated (not to mention that her layoff looks like a pretty bad sign for the rest of our jobs). The rest of the team is thinking of what to do for her, and someone suggested taking up a collection to send her off with some money. Is that a good idea? On the one hand, I’ve heard that that is considered a no-no because it can come off as condescending, but on the other hand s*** is wild right now and I think we could all use any extra cash we could get. Also, with the stores mostly closed, I’m not really sure how we’d go about getting her a gift card or a personal gift on such short notice, so maybe collected cash is the right call?

Well … I don’t think it’s condescending exactly (although it could feel that way, especially if she feels pretty financially secure because of a partner’s job, etc.), but I’d just be aware that it can set a precedent and make it weird if you don’t do it for the next person (if there is a next person / when the rest of you are more tapped out). And really, it’s your company who should be taking care of her via severance, etc. … But I’m sure as hell not going to tell you not to follow a kind impulse to help a fellow human right now.

If you did prefer a gift card, though, you can order them online and they can be electronic so you don’t have to wait for them to come in the mail.

5. I’m supposed to share a special project I’m working on during quarantine — and I don’t have one

I’m on the hook tomorrow morning to share during our daily check-in call what special project I’m working on during quarantine. I’m an artist and adopted a new cat a few weeks before this began, so my boss thinks I will have something delightful to share. She couldn’t be more wrong.

My workload has significantly increased, I’m the designated errand runner in our house due to my partner’s underlying medical condition, a colleague passed away two weeks ago (presumably from COVID-19), and I’m just struggling in general with all this. All of my energy and creativity has been zapped from my body, and all I have the will to do at night is sit on the couch, drink a couple glasses of wine, zone out to the TV, and/or play mindless games on my phone. I. Am. Struggling.

So do I just give the cheery answer about how my art has never been better? Or is there room here to be honest about the struggle? Or do I just decline to participate? My boss and I have a really good relationship, so I don’t want to embarrass her or others by putting mental health on blast during the call. I know they have good intentions. I just don’t have good answers to those intentions right now.

Why oh why are people doing this? Not everyone is baking bread and teaching their children Latin and raising a small village of otters. Many, many people are exactly where you are: exhausted and stressed and sapped of energy, and finding it harder than usual to just get the basics done, let alone new projects.

Because of that, you might be doing your colleagues a service if you’re willing to be the one to say, “Honestly, between work and everything else going on right now, I’m not getting much else done. I’m just working on disconnecting and unwinding when I can.”

But if you’d rather not get into it, it’s perfectly fine to just talk about your new cat. That qualifies as a delightful project.

6. Can I expense a bike for work errands?

I am an employee at a medical center in New York City. However, because I am non-essential staff, I have been working from home for over a month. Next week I’ll have to travel to my office to take care of a few things. My boss has told me that I am welcome to expense a cab ride to the office (about 30-40 minutes each way) if I prefer that over taking transit. Would it be weird if I asked to expense a rental bike (about a 50-minute ride) instead? The cost would be the same as taking a cab but would involve less social contact.

Not weird. Less expected, sure, but reasonable (and smart!). I’d just say to your boss, “I discovered that renting a bike won’t cost more than taking a cab and I think it’s a safer way to go. I wanted to give you a heads-up since you’ll see that on my expense report instead of the taxi.”

7. New job revoked my offer before I started

I received an offer letter from a company on April 1 detailing my benefits (salary, 401k, health insurance). I signed and returned this offer letter. On April 15, I was told by my employer that they were revoking my offer letter and not paying me for the month, because of COVID19. Although I hadn’t started work yet, don’t they owe me for those 15 days of work, and are actually firing me not revoking my offer letter?

If you hadn’t started work yet, they don’t owe you for the time between when you accepted the job and when they revoked the offer. They’d only owe you money if you’d done work. And it’s not a firing, because your employment hadn’t begun yet; it’s just a revoked offer.

If you left a previous job to accept this offer, you might be able to negotiate for severance, arguing that you relied on their offer to your financial detriment. You also likely qualify for unemployment under the new unemployment law, which gives benefits to people in this situation.

{ 519 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephen!*

    In this week’s episode of “The Office Survivor” we find out who survives the stapler challenge to work another week, and who will lose their medical insurance right at the moment they really need it, due to all those stapler wounds. Stay tuned!

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        If I remember correctly from Catching Fire, Katniss does say that the way they picked the tributes for the first ever Quarter Quell was that each district did nominate someone to go!

      2. Marthooh*

        “Well, Martha, your coworkers don’t think you bring enough value, so today will be your last day.”
        But surely someone will volunteer as tribute!


    1. A Teacher*

      Oh thank God I wasn’t the only one getting this vibe! All I could think was who is going to make the best alliance and survive.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        I wondered this as well. Who is allying with who today? Maybe someone brought in good rolls, not cheap ass rolls.

          1. alienor*

            I read the original cheap ass rolls comments while suffering from insomnia in a hotel at Heathrow airport, and every time someone mentions them I’m right back in that room, lol.

              1. Free Meerkats*

                Ours was the week after. I was the one who brought in the Hawaiian rolls. I was planning cheap ass rolls, but just couldn’t do it after that letter.

        1. TardyTardis*

          “Among the fallen…” (harking back to the Hungry for Power Games that Colbert did. Lord, was that some awful stuffed weasel, or what?).

      2. MassMatt*

        It reminds me of the bad press a while back about how horrible the culture was at Amazon. In particular, anyone could leave (anonymous) feedback on any employee at any time by leaving a message on their extension. This was weaponized by many employees, who formed alliances to support each other with positive “votes” and gang up to leave bad feedback for people they didn’t like. Some cliques evidently grew quite powerful and even managers feared dealing with them. No immunity idols!

        This is far far worse, management is basically announcing their incompetence while they set employees against one another.

    2. Mookie*

      The past twenty-five years of bottom-shelf pop culture, largely defined by the illusion that truth is defined by a self-selected polled audience with time on its hands, has been waiting for this moment. I admire a workplace that neglects to remember the other, actual gift this past quarter-decade has bestowed upon us: backlash of a viral sort.

      Name and shame is the answer in this climate.

    3. Phony Genius*

      This feels like a group of stranded people who have resorted to cannibalism trying to decide who to eat.

    4. juliebulie*

      I actually had a daymare once about a reality show where people get voted out of their jobs. Sorry to see that my indigestion-provoked fantasies are someone else’s bright idea.

        1. Lily C*

          Was is My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss? Turned out there was one heck of a twist about who the “boss” turned out to be.

          1. Phil*

            Google is your friend. It was called “Does Someone Have to Go” . Employees voted who should get fired.

    5. Gatomon*

      Will Jeff Probst be reading the votes at at tribal council, and is there a hidden immunity idol buried in the filing cabinet forest? If so I am there!

    6. Ada*

      I don’t know if anyone here has ever played Virtue’s Last Reward, but I’m getting some serious A/B Game vibes here. Spoiler alert: the results were not pretty. (If you haven’t played it, it’s essentially Prisoner’s Dilemma: The Game.)

  2. Mike C.*

    The pro move for the folks involved in letter one would be to throw in the names of the manager(a) who came up with idea or otherwise thought this was a reasonable idea.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      Exactly. And logic supports it:

      They make the most, so laying them off saves the most money, and they can best afford it, being the best paid.

      1. Annony*

        Also, apparently they are trying to off load parts of their job on the rest of the team, like making staffing decisions.

    2. HS Teacher*

      Agreed. I think Alison’s answer was perfect here. They’re not willing to do the basic job of a manager.

    3. Caroline Bowman*

      I like this!

      Or a slight variation ”wow, okay, so if management could show us exactly how that would work, so all of you come in the room and then each come up with the name or names of other managers who could be least-missed and thus laid off. I’ll bring popcorn, Tom, can you bring beverages?”.

        1. LunaLena*

          Would I be immediately nominated for elimination if I microwaved some popcorn in the break room for everyone to share?

    4. Not So NewReader*

      This was my first thought, vote for any boss-type who thought of or supported this idea. If the names of individuals are not clear then just say, “I vote for layoff of anyone who thinks this is how to manage people.”

    5. LeahS*

      Yes, I am wondering what is up with all of these examples of management abdicating responsibility lately. Not that we haven’t seen this before, but it seems like the current situation is really exacerbating it. Is it that people just do not have the mental bandwidth right now? Is it just bad management gonna manage badly? Just something I have noticed.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I think that laying people off is always tough on managers – and fraught with potential for mismanagement – and suddenly, millions of managers are facing having to do it simultaneously. Between the bigger pool of people doing it and the human drive to not be the “bad guy” there is so much potential for truly ridiculous decision making.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Like you said its stressful. No one wants to be the bad guy who fired someone in the middle of a pandemic. This way they can say wasn’t my idea to fire Lucinda, the rest of the team decided it.

        You know how you get good people to leave. Just like this. Those with options see this BS and BAIL. There ARE options even now.

      3. RC Rascal*

        Here’s the thing: You don’t have yo be an especially great manager to be competent when times are good. It’s the hard times, the bad situations, the tough calls, that separate Managers from Wimps. That’s why you are seeing so many tales of Wimpy & Weaselly managers right now.

      4. Wintermute*

        Part of it is that management just has no idea what to do. This is so unprecedented that they have no clue what to do and they’re collectively flailing around a bit. It’s also exacerbated by the fact that their employees are looking them to provide stability and answers when they can’t and don’t have any.

        On top of that, a lot of managers are poor managers– for some reason a lot of companies would never let someone without formal credentials or a lot of experience do a job, until it comes to management when they don’t do much training or skills development.

    6. Mama Bear*

      Oh, that’s brilliant.

      But, honestly, this is management’s job. The manager is supposed to see the big picture and be able to make informed decisions about the team. Employees wouldn’t have that level of insight.

      I actually had two managers take one for the team on a project where we were running out of funds and a renewal was unlikely. They knew they got paid the most and we could mange OK without them (got direct guidance from the client). They did it to give the rest of us more time to look for a new job.

  3. Queer Earthling*

    #1 just makes me think someone’s been binge-watching old Survivor seasons and decided that seemed like a good business approach?

    It’s not, if anyone’s wondering.

    1. Rexish*

      This was my first thought. The person voted out gives their company id card and walks off.

    2. UKDancer*

      My mind went to the old Shirley Jackson short story “The Lottery” I suppose on the plus side at least the person chosen for eviction from the company isn’t stoned to death ritually.

      By yes, it’s a terrible idea.

    3. Kschf*

      It was actually a episode of “The Office.” I think in the first season. Michael Scott needed to fire someone and tried to get the whole office to help him decide who… after he tried to get people to volunteer to quit so he wouldn’t have to make the decision.

      1. KimberlyR*

        Everytime we can connect a manager’s behavior to something Michael Scott has done, it should be a sign to that manager of how badly they’re managing.

      2. Doug Judy*

        They did it on Superstore too. Glenn had to fire 5 people and called a meeting asking everyone to share their suggestions.

        Funny in a sitcom, not funny in real life.

    4. RC Rascal*

      Give them some credit. They have probably been reading Lord of the Flies. It’s a little more high brow than so much reality TV.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Haha, when I was young and read if for school, it didn’t seem like such a big deal to me.

  4. I can't focus and I don't actually care*

    #5, many days I’m right there with you. We’re having check ins several times a week and I have definitely gotten the impression that this is not the place to share if anyone is struggleing mentally or emotionally with the new normal. A coworker who is home schooling while trying to WFH did allow that she felt “stretched thin, sometimes” and this phrase seemed to be ok during the chat. It’s on the professional side, so if anyone had time they could help with some of her work projects. I’m talking about WFH projects during these check ins, and going elsewhere for empathy and support. Good luck to you, this whole situation is so beyond what we’ve collectively dealt with I can’t believe anyone is even faking normal work stuff.

    1. HS Teacher*

      I am astounded by how much my workload has increased. If you’d offered me the opportunity to teach from home for my district I’d have been ecstatic. Now I know better. I liked WFH in Corporate America, but this is next-level stuff. I’m working about 12 hours a day, and spending way more time on the phone than I’d ever want to do.

      1. high school teacher*

        I am a high school teacher as well and I do. not. like. working from home. I understand that there are virtual classes and blended learning, intellectually, yes, I know it can be done. But I much prefer my job in person, in my classroom. My students are great and are keeping up, but honestly they look miserable on our video calls, and I just don’t feel like I’m effective. I cannot wait to go back.

        1. Clorinda*

          I can’t even do video classes. We have to assume that many of our students can only get online when the food and wifi bus is in their neighborhood, and because of educational equity it’s not okay to offer educational opportunities that only the middle-class and up students can use–so it’s all putting assignments on Google Classroom and waiting for them to come in. And phone calls. Hours and hours and hours of phone calls. This is not teaching. I hate it.

        2. Another teacher*

          After starting yesterday off strong, I went to bed last night mad at myself that I wasn’t more productive. But I just needed to shut down for a bit. After a Zoom where it was mostly teenage boys trying to change their virtual backgrounds to porn settings to a handful of entitled parents emailing me with ridiculous expectations I thought screw it – I’ll take a break to clean the house. Which I didn’t get done either. Gonna try empathy for myself today and hope everybody else here can too.

          (side note: I did watch Lars and the Real Girl last night and thought if the entire community can support his mental health like that I can at least be supportive of my own)

        3. profa*

          As a fellow HS teacher, can I very humbly suggest just… doing less? I hope your admin is being supportive of scaling back expectations for students and teachers right now. All the schools around me are doing variations of ‘do no harm’ grading, suspending assessments, ending classes early, etc. I see some of my colleagues working overtime trying to invent the wheel, but most of us have accepted that it’s impossible to recreate real class, you can’t become a digital class overnight or even in a few months. I keep assignments simple and spend most of my time giving feedback to those students who are actually paying attention to it, extending a lot of grace to those who aren’t and just trying to keep a line of communication open otherwise. That was kind of my tactic from the getgo, but it’s a relief that admin is now explicitly encouraging us to do so. This is all so wildly out of the realm of ordinary, no one can keep on like ordinary, not us and certainly not our students. I hope this doesn’t come off as jerky, I just hope you can find some balance and relief soon!

          1. Kyrielle*

            My local schools are delivering content via Google Classroom, and it’s a lot less content than normal, and honestly 1) I think it’s the best they can do on short notice and 2) as a parent, I don’t have time for any more anyway.

            My kids are both in primary grades, though – much more hands-on guidance needed. While I work full time from home and so does my husband.

      2. Knitter*

        Mine hasn’t. I work with kids with significant emotional impairments that frequently present as school avoidance. About 2/3rds of my students have told me politely but still basically to f-off because they aren’t going to do any work.
        My sleepless about their well being has increased so does that count as work?

        My supervisor wants us to socialize more on video chats. I think she got the message this week that that isn’t welcome when *no one* turned on their cameras.

        OP 5: right there with you.

      3. Artemesia*

        I have a friend who is in his last semester of teaching economics at a college. He has always resisted learning on line instruction as he doesn’t want to do it. Now his last semester he has to learn how and deliver and he tells me he has never worked so hard or been so frustrated. To do a good job with on line instruction is tremendously labor intensive. We have another friend who is teaching sciences on line right now and he also says that he spends much more time on it than previously. The kind of interactions needed with students are much more time consuming done remotely and of course he like other teachers is having to figure out how to deliver the content in a new way.

    2. LydiaDeets*

      My boss has been pushing us to share our ‘small nuggets of wonderful in uncertain times’ for the company newsletter. The first time she asked I just quietly ignored it since I had nothing good to share amongst organising funerals/end-of-life-care/WFH/home-school/finances, by the twelfth increasingly insistent email that ‘someone must have something good to say’ I’m about ready to either quit. I don’t have the capacity to invent anything good while my mental health is in the trash. It’s finally gone quiet after someone else replied all ‘my mum died last night, can we not?’ Horrible that it’s had to come to that though ☹️

      1. Misty*

        I’m so sorry for your coworker whose mom died.

        This also happened in one of my online classes. Our professor kept asking us to share how we’re using this time positively and how we’re self improving. One girl basically said that she’s not because her brother and his gf are in critical condition in the hospital.

        It astounds me that some people think that we are all seeing this “extra” time as a “blessing”. No, we’re not. Our lives are chaos for the most part.

        1. High School Teacher*

          I shouldn’t generalize and I don’t know what country you’re in, but it also feels so American to be relentlessly, ruthlessly positive AT ALL TIMES. It’s like, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, massive unemployment numbers, socially isolated – can’t we just be negative for a bit?

          1. Mama Bear*

            A lot of my teacher friends are reporting very late nights trying to manage it all. The emails alone must be an avalanche. Today is the end of the marking period and I’ve implored my child not to wait until the last minute. I wish I could send every one of them a bottle of wine for the weekend.

        2. AnonAnon*

          Agree. It is awful.
          I am working full time from home and helping my special-needs child with online school as a single parent.
          I am just so tired of endless emails and media implying how bored we all must be right now and tell me I should be reading 1000 books a week or paint my entire house.
          I have been in survival mode for the last 5 weeks.
          I am extremely grateful I am able to work. The assumption that I can learn a new language during this time is frustrating.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I’m only doing a few hours of work a day (because as a public librarian, there’s only so much work I can do when I’m not in a library that has customers in it) and even I’m having a hard time unwinding. I usually read 2 or 3 books a week, but I think I’ve read a total of 3 books since all this started, because I just can’t concentrate at all. My emotional energy is in the garbage right now.

            I do understand the impulse a lot of people feel to look for silver linings. People don’t like to feel bad about stuff, so they try to find something else to think about. But right now, I think there are a lot of workers who just need to hear their boss say “I know that things are really hard right now, and I know that you’re doing the best you can.”

            1. Idril Celebrindal*

              Solidarity over here. I’m an academic librarian in cataloging and its so weird because there’s only so much I can do remotely, but I still feel overwhelmed and overworked all the time. I hear you, you are seen and you are not alone.

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            I know, right? “Compose a symphony! Solve the global food crisis! Invent a new alphabet!” I’m over it. I can barely do the stuff I usually do, because none of us in the house have any alone-time which is critical to my concentration.

            You know what my kid and I are doing? Watching movies! Just, watching movies. One per evening. It’s bonding time, and we don’t have to think about the damn pandemic!

          3. TeapotNinja*

            A lot of that crap is due to companies trying their hardest to sell stuff to the “bored” people at home. It’s so absolutely tone deaf I’m making lists of companies to avoid doing business with.

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        OMG, if someone asked me to share “small nuggets of wonderful” right now, they’d be lucky I didn’t share my fist with their face! (It sounds like this was an email request, but that’s how it would me feel.)

        And if someone asked me what my “special project” was, I’d have to say something like “Buying shit online, so I have something to look forward to once in a while.” Honestly, some people!

        1. WellRed*

          I ordered a couple things online last night (vacuum cleaner filter) and am looking forward to getting the package ; )
          But no, let’s no ask about small nuggets of wonderful.

        2. Sara without an H*

          Oh, dear, yes. My library is closed, so I’m buying a bunch of books on Kindle. This is going to play hell with my budget, but it does relieve stress.

          1. French Pressed*

            If you’ve got a kindle you ought to see if your library has Libby / Overdrive / Hoopla / some other ebook platform!

            Signed, an ebook librarian who feels pretty secure in their job right now.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              I love having ebooks on the Kindle app on my phone! One day I was eating lunch at a local deli and sitting at a long shared table with a couple of other folks. The man sitting across from me asked if I was catching up on emails or reading the news? I think he was just trying to make friendly chit chat. I told him I was actually reading a book I had checked out from the library and showed him the app. He pulled his phone out and downloaded it right there! He was so excited! It was pretty cute.

          2. Aquawoman*

            You could check if your library has Kindle books–mine does. My fellow citizens are obviously reading a LOT because I’m flying through my hold list!

          3. Wendy*

            Does you library allow online borrowing with your Kindle? Some libraries have ebooks available to their members that can be downloaded.

          4. Richard Hershberger*

            In addition to the suggestions about borrowing ebooks from libraries, if you tastes in reading extend to books written long enough ago to be out of copyright, you can download these for free, or in very inexpensive versions with a bit of formatting to aid the process. So you could get, for example, the complete works of Mark Twain, with a proper hyperlinked Table of Contents, for two or three dollars. (Be sure that it truly is complete. The tell is whether it includes “1601,” an obscene short story he published anonymously. Many editions discreetly omit this.)

          5. alliisara*

            Project Gutenberg is another great resource, also with ebooks of mostly older, out-of-copyright books, and they’re all free.

          6. Bee*

            As someone in the publishing world, this IS a “nugget of wonderful” for me! I definitely second the instruction to check for Libby/Overdrive, but also, a lot of indie bookstores have ramped up their shipping because they can’t be open right now. I am feeling better about how much of my budget I’m blowing on Etsy by justifying it with “at least it’s doing some good in the world,” and picking an indie to support through this might make you feel the same way!

          7. Pennalynn Lott*

            In addition to the other suggestions, Amazon has a $10/month “Unlimited Kindle” option that lets you put 10 books on your virtual bookshelf at a time. Read one, replace it with another. Every single book in Amazon’s inventory isn’t available through it, but 100’s of thousands are. I’ve never had a problem finding things to read.

            1. Amaranth*

              There is a ‘free 2 month trial’ right now, you just have to remember to cancel before they start charging if it doesn’t win you over. Usually reading is a great escape for me but right now I still feel pretty scattered when I try to disappear into a book.

          8. Artemesia*

            I originally got a Nook when I retired and then a Kindle when that died — I have checked out hundreds of books from my library for free. ANd big bonus — we used to travel internationally a lot and English books are very expensive on the road and a hassle to carry — being able to download free library books from any library in the world is fabulous. And while Kindle originally was not convenient for this, it is now dead easy while Nook actually got worse — I actually bought a Nook when my first one died and the new software was so useless for library loans that I threw it out and bought a Kindle. It has been magnificent.

          9. Idril Celebrindak*

            Also, you can try Humble Bundle or Story Bundle for pay-as-you-can ebook bundles. Plus then the money you spend often goes straight to self-published authors.

      3. EnfysNest*

        Ugh, yeah, this is really frustrating. I was on a call with folks from a community group I’m part of (not work-related) and it was fine when the leader asked at one point if anyone had any positives that they wanted to share, but then he started going down the list and asking every single person by name to give their personal positivity and it got really uncomfortable and tedious. He even tried to stop someone who had just said they needed to leave the call, telling them to share their “positive outlook” before they signed off. Sure, there can be some little lights shining through in all this, but insisting that *everyone* has experienced them or wants to talk about them at the expense of their other emotions is dismissive at best.

        1. Sara without an H*

          EnfysNest, you and your colleagues must be saints. I probably told him where to put his positive outlook.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          That would be tedious even in happier times. I would be scrolling through Facebook about two stories in.

      4. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I think that it’s FULLY appropriate to respond to the out of touch and annoying positive stuff with some real life. Yes, some people are doing fine. But a lot of people are struggling, hard, and it’s really terrible to ignore that. Your coworker who sent that email may now wish that they hadn’t, but at the same time, it was needed. Your boss earned that metaphorical slap in the face.

        1. GrumpyGnome*

          My mom passed away several years ago, and her entry into the hospital was unexpected and on a Friday eve after I was done with work for the week. I booked a red eye flight and did not have a work laptop at the time (wouldn’t have taken it even if I had), so no out of office message was set. I was out for several weeks and the day I came back I was trying to go through emails and voicemails and was, quite frankly, still not fit to work.

          A broker called that morning and started reaming me for being unprofessional for not returning her calls or emails and I. Lost. It. I told her that I was terribly sorry for not responding or having put an out of office message up as I had no way of knowing that my mother was in the process of dying when I left work Friday. I apologized for the inconvenience that my mother’s death had caused the broker, and reminded her that at any point in time in the last 3 weeks, for urgent issues or otherwise, she could have contacted her underwriter. Dead silence, she apologized and hung up. Zero regrets for what I said, even though I could have said it in another manner. I wish people would understand that we do not know what is going on in other people’s lives, and times like this are even harder for so many more.

          1. Artemesia*

            The morning my father died I was in Chicago at a conference and flew immediately from there to Seattle to be with my mother. The guy on the plane next to me said ‘why the sad face, it can’t be that bad’. The only positive thing that happened that awful day was being able to turn to him and say ‘my father died this morning’ and then turn away. I hope it cured him of directing the facial expressions of random women he encounters.

      5. J.B.*

        Uck. I’m more than happy to tell my ridiculous kid or pet working from home things, because that seems like a nice safe moment of levity. But our challenges are of your standard being home stuff, very fortunately no one in my family is struggling. My laughter still always has an edge of hysteria.

      6. Coffee Bean*

        Ah – yes. Toxic positivity. People should not be pushing so hard for these “nuggets” when it’s such a trying situation. It is not helpful or uplifting for someone who is overtaxed and overwhelmed. It can be rather tone deaf.

    3. Avasarala*

      I don’t get this idea that we are all supposed to be magically more productive than normal right now.

      We are sheltering in place. Would you ask someone in a shelter after a natural disaster “What special project are you working on?” No, you’d be grateful they’re able to work at all.

      Acting like we have all this extra time now completely ignores the many many people who have way less time than normal, and the incredible stress everyone is under just trying to survive and stay sane. And people who are baking and starting new hobbies–this is a way to work out stress as well. Those stories don’t tell you about the 40 min they lost to an existential panic attack, the accumulated hours spent trying to wrangle their focus, the shopping trip that took 4 times as long…

      We need to unlearn what capitalism has taught us about our value as humans. We are not what we produce.

      1. Copenhagen*

        The point about stress-hobbies is brilliant. The only thing I’ve got going for me at the moment is my sourdough starter. Just like I made the best bolognese I’ve ever made when my stepfather was in hospital after a stroke (he did wonderfully well and is completely back on track now). Cooking is simply my stress outlet and the fact that I cook some very nice meals (and bake some very good bread) at the moment isn’t because I’m spending time enjoying becoming a better cook and experimenting in the kitchen. It’s because I’m SO stressed. My uni course work has gone completely sideways and I can’t focus on doing my job for more than an hour or two at a time. So here I am, watching Midsomer Murders and baking my little heart out, because it’s really all I can mentally manage.

        1. Fieldpoppy*

          100 % about the bread. I’m not becoming an artisinal baker, I’m touching the dough because I haven’t touched another human in weeks.

        2. French Pressed*

          I’m a huge baker in the best of times and funnily enough this has reminded me I need to feed my starter. I actually silently cringed a bit to myself in a video conference meeting when colleagues started talking about how much they’ve been baking – I churn out homemade croissants, elaborate layered cakes, fanciful pastries, hearty homestyle goods, etc. and bring them into work often. I haven’t been doing that lately in part because I have no where to take them and my partner and I don’t exactly want 2 dozen croissants to eat in a day before they go bad and in part because grocery hoarding from others makes me not want to bake for fun in case I need the ingredients for regular cooking. I most recently make basic white sandwich bread because my SO ran out before the weekly grocery order. I’ve had a similar thought to the letter writer, that I hope no one asks me what super cool baking projects I picked up while stuck at home, because I both haven’t had the desire and haven’t had the ingredients. This isn’t vacation, this is quarantine.

        3. AnonEMoose*

          Midsomer Murders is awesome. If you run out of episodes of that, “Death in Paradise” is also a very good escapism watch.

          More seriously, can we just understand that people can be in very different places right now, or be in different places depending on the given minute of the given day? Can we not expect people to perform positivity on demand right now?

          I’m better off than many people, and I know it very well. DH and I get along well, so the enforced togetherness works for us. I’m able to work from home, and my company’s response to this overall has been amazing. I’m not trying to manage working and caring for kids or others (and all of the empathy for those who are). And with all of that going for me, I still have my times of feeling stressed and drained and worried about my family and friends who are particularly vulnerable to this and wanting them to be safe and as healthy as possible.

          Can we instead say something like “We know things are hard and scary and uncertain, and likely to be that way for quite some time. So wherever you are mentally and emotionally right now, it’s ok, and it’s ok if that changes on an hourly or even a minute by minute basis. If you need to talk to someone/need help, here are some options for you. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.”

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Seriously. I have LESS time than normal because my boss expects normal productivity (or more) despite my crappy home internet connection and all the extra time I need to spend moving the physical goods I work with from place to place across the city. And I don’t even have kids – God, it’s horrible for people with kids, including one of my coworkers with the same job as me.

        Anyone who gets smug about how “anybody worthwhile is using this time to learn to sew, bake sourdough, and speak Russian” is going to get a nasty lecture from me.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Everyone on my facebook feed is full of going on great walks and exercising and discovering interesting new hobbies, and I am pretty much just snacking throughout every day trying to keep up with working and looking after a one year old by myself half the time. All my cooking energy and spare time is going into making baby food so I’m pretty much eating whatever frozen things I can defrost. I feel like every person I know is loosing weight and I am turning into a blob person.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I’ve seen all those newbies at the park. Don’t let them fool you online; they’re barely strolling.

          2. Eukomos*

            The classic Facebook highlight reel! They’re probably also having a tough time in other ways, but they don’t tell you about the part where they can’t read anything more challenging than trashy romance novels or they’ve eaten their body weight in cookies or whatever. They tell you about the walks, because that’s the thing they’re proud of, and they may not want to share the ways they’re breaking down with the whole internet or even just not want to drag others’ moods down further than they already are.

      3. Alexandra Lynch*

        This is a lot like becoming disabled.

        I’m familiar with this positivity thing, and it always makes me absolutely furious when someone looks at me with my mental health issues and chronic pain and says, “Did you see the thing about the guy with no legs who crawled across the country to raise money for This Good Cause? Or, I know, how about the woman with no arms who adopted ten special needs kids!”

        And it makes me feel bad because some days getting dressed uses up all my spoons. And if I don’t arrange my life to deal with my non-neurotypical brain I will be so stressed that I melt down every single day. And some days all I can do is to cope with my own body and brain and at least not get so bad that tomorrow will be screwed over before it starts, and when I hear all that sort of inspirational bullcrap, it makes me feel that that’s not doing enough.

        A lot of the home stuff feels like that. Look, I’m on a diet, I’m staying on the diet. I’m living with two other people who have major mental health issues and we’re in the process of moving. If I can get us through this with everyone still in love with each other, no one in a locked ward, and the move accomplished with a certain amount of organization, I think I’ll be doing good.
        Today I’m baking bread, and playing a ton of video games, and making dinner, and I’m going to call that good. And screw the inspiration crap.

        1. Gatomon*

          Thank you – positivity garbage drives me nuts. Those “inspiring” stories aren’t inspiring at all, they’re just a way for people to covertly invalidate other people.

      4. Jam Today*

        My workday has increased by about 2 hours. Apparently the executives who would ordinarily be in airplanes, in airports, and in wooing clients are all sitting idle trying to justify their salaries, so they’re heaping “projects” on us. Additionally, it now seems to be universally understood that since none of us are commuting anymore, our meetings can start at 7am (even though they still generally run through 6pm as they always did.) I spent a solid 10.5 hours on calls last Thursday.

      5. Quill*

        Current special project is consistently feeding myself real food instead of eating a whole can of peanuts for lunch.

        Also sewing a mask but… you know, necessity.

      6. Roy G. Biv*

        So much this! Even IF you have extra hours, there is an ongoing stress that is sucking energy and creativity out of a lot of us. My WFH is not some long-awaited staycation. It’s me trying to find the new normal in how work, maintaining productivity, and remaining kind to my family members who are struggling as well. And I know I’m fortunate that I get to do this with relatively few challenges, compared to others. I can’t imagine trying to retrofit classroom teaching into an online system that is a kluge, at best. Yes, online classes exist, but they’re usually designed that way from the start. Hang in there, everybody!

      7. Artemesia*

        This. How is a family like my daughters with two young children out of day care and school and both working from home in a small home supposed to be tackling special interest projects right now. They are lucky to keep everyone fed and safe and educated and loved and to be able to get their work (which they are lucky to have) done.

    4. Mookie*

      Part and parcel of an atomized, anti-collective culture that prizes the novel and inexpert, the performance of inefficient labor and busy-making, for its own sake. We’ve been brainwashed into believing because our refrigerators are higher efficiency that we ourselves embody sloth. The average human is still working themself to the bone, and in many places for diminishing returns, but now we have to engage in the full-fledged status-signaling diversions that used to belong to the landed and idle. The guilt of the Luddite forced into becoming a collaborator of technology, living in a world of new and endless bourgeois bureaucracies from which no class but the ultra-elite can escape. And that’s the sliver of the world doing comparatively well. Whereas “wellness” itself is a category defined by its expensive accoutrements, and accesible to very few.

    5. Sara without an H*

      OP#5, you have my entire sympathy. The only way to head this off is to just jot down in advance a couple of cute stories about your cat, and pull them out as needed. The Happy Talk Nazis can usually be appeased with very little.

      If you want to know why people insist on doing this, and you have a little energy to invest, you might try reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America. It is probably available from your local library, but if they’re shut down, you can buy it from Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle versions. It is short, punchy, entertainingly written and explains a lot about our culture’s over-investment in Happy Thoughts.

    6. I can't focus and I don't actually care*

      Replying to myself, don’t know where it will land. We’re in our online check and have been asked to share something funny by top boss’s grandboss. I’m struggling to make something up. No one is really sharing yet.

      1. I can't focus and I don't actually care*

        And the call I didn’t answer during the meeting is from the fraud dept for my credit card. This day just keeps getting better!

      2. Artemesia*

        scroll through facebook and steal someone’s meme or anecdote. encouraging people to share things on line that are amusing or interesting is only acceptable as an opportunity not as a ritual that is compelled.

    7. Mama Bear*

      #5 It sounds like the manager is just trying to be friendly, but I’d be honest and say that you don’t have any special projects because your workload is pretty heavy. You might want to say this offline to the manager and then not bring it up in the meeting. When I get off work, I turn around and manage my child’s remote learning and if I’m lucky the cat gets fed on time and the dishes don’t overflow the sink. So you’re not the only one not doing a fun project.

  5. Rafflesia Reaper*

    Adopting a new cat is HARD WORK. Call it Operation CatName and throw some cat pics in a PowerPoint. Now you’re super productive!

    1. allathian*

      Agreed! Some cute kitty pics are almost certain to cheer the rest of your team up. But the boss requesting daily updates on non-work projects sounds a bit tone-deaf tbh…

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, daily updates is way too much. But at least cats do something cute pretty much every day, so OP will have something to say.

          1. Quill*

            Operation “send quill cat pics” has been fairly productive, but internet penpal has been pulling most of the weight (because she has six cats) whereas my brother responded to my question about whether his rescues are cuddly with “not yet.”

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              Cuddly is Not The Point. The point is: CAT PIX!!! Tell your brother that some anonymous internet person thinks he should send you pix of his cats “playing the cello” or whatever they do. Perhaps they sleep in a very curled-up way?

              1. Quill*

                The cats are named Kshama and Rashida and Kshama has half a moustache.

                Their predecessor, Arthur the grad house emotional support cat, was apparently very good at keeping you tethered to your desk chair for paper edits, but these two have only just gotten used to there being humans around to the point that they don’t flee under the furniture if someone is in the same room as them. :)

      2. Lily Rowan*

        My read was that someone is sharing every day, not that the OP has to give a daily update. And honestly, even if other people have had “impressive” things to say, I am sure that many many people would be glad to hear that your “special project” is looking at your cat sometimes.

    2. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      Totally agree! I would love to see pics of someone’s new cat in a meeting like that!! If anyone asks about your art, you can just say “new kitty” gets my full attention right now, people will totally get that.

    3. Impska*

      I would be highly interested in a daily update for Operation Cat in which the update included one photo of said cat every day.

    4. Lucia Pacciola*

      I totally agree with this approach.


      The issue seems to be that this kind of side project enthusiasm happens for people who aren’t able to fill up their day with remote work, and are going a little stir crazy without something else to occupy their time. Sharing their side projects is a way for them to manage the stress and weirdness of working remotely.

      For the LW, the opposite seems to be the case. Their workload has increased, their project-related stress has increased, and they really don’t have any room in their life to add another project, let alone be enthusiastic about it and make regular status reports to their team. What is clearly therapeutic and reassuring for some people is going to be stressful and unhealthy for others. Because everyone is different.

      If I’m spending 8-10 hours a day generating teapot project status reports, and it’s stressing me out and leaving me feeling like I just want a long nap binging The Good Place in the background… Maybe asking me to gin up another set of status reports about cat adoption is just mean.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Side project ideas:
        * Finding a streamed TV series that I like
        * Finding the best time of day to take a nap
        * Figuring out which toys my cat likes best
        * Creative meal prep with shelf stable supplies
        * Memo origami
        * Collecting Zoom backgrounds
        * Exploring new and bizarre social media
        * Photographing my cats in various sleeping poses and locations
        * Storage area archaeology
        * Classification of dust bunnies by size and materials
        * Sorting & shredding old files

        Yes, most of these are tongue in cheek, but…

      2. Eukomos*

        It’s hard to tell from just a letter, but I didn’t read the boss’ request as asking for a full-scale status report, more of a “can you find some tiny glimmer of positivity in your day to share with us since everyone’s natural inclination right now is to feel awful?” Which still isn’t always easy, but like people are saying, it doesn’t have to be some big production. Just describe the last cute thing your cat did, then move to the next thing.

  6. Nini*

    #1 sounds like a good way to open the employer up to a discrimination lawsuits. It would only take one “suggestion” for the wrong reason…

    1. Sara without an H*

      We’ve been seeing a lot of letters recently about managers whose brains have apparently shut down in response to the crisis. This is an excellent example.

      1. schnauzerfan*

        Well, why not? Are managers not stressed out balls of anxiety too? Are they not humans? But yeah, this is a stoopid idea.

      2. Quill*

        My brain is made of scrambled eggs right now but I know better than to take it out on people. Excel, on the other hand…

        Quarterly metrics template, I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it!

    2. Wintermute*

      That would really, really be a stretch, it’s a totally facially neutral policy, and as long as they carefully police the results to ensure that there’s no disparate impact, then they’re fine.

      Now this is a terrible idea, but it’s not discriminatory, just crappy.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        But that’s exactly how it’s not fine. Racist impacts in large part happen because Perfectly Nice People who definitely aren’t intending to be racist… nonetheless act in racist ways, despite all good intentions. You can see this in resume tests (identical resumes with black-sounding or white-sounding names get called for interviews at very different rates). Knowing someone personally may help, but it will absolutely not fully offset the baked-in racism that filters into subconscious decision making and how ‘likeable’ or ‘good at their job’ a colleague is. And this all goes just as much for sexism, too – just to be clear.

        Even if these terrible managers were able to point at their data and say “no, we laid off X because she was voted off the island by an overwhelming majority, not because she’s female or black” that… doesn’t make it somehow pure. In many cases, it would be more accurate to say “X was voted off the island by an overwhelming majority BECAUSE she’s female and black, and so we laid her off.”

        1. Wintermute*

          I understand how it could cause bias, only that no court in the country would call it a case of discrimination. Being able to point to a facially neutral reason (like employee feedback) is a very strong defense.

          Obviously good management has to look at things and double check them, which is where I don’t trust these clowns, but by your arguments any time you get feedback from anyone it would be illegal, and clearly it’s not, 360* reviewing isn’t considered discriminatory, nor is collecting peer feedback before promotion decisions, nor are employee feedback forms or peer reviews.

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            You do realize that discrimination that can’t be proved and that the company won’t be punished for isn’t actually better than the obvious kind, right?

            1. Wintermute*

              You said “A legal risk” a legal risk means “you could be punished for this” to me.

      2. Nini*

        I didn’t hang around so I’m late to respond so don’t expect you to see this, but in case you do…

        The reason this proposal is a problem is because the employer doesn’t know *why* Joe and Amy and everyone else nominated Emily to be fired. Was it because she was wore blue shirts? Was it because she microwaved fish everyday? (Both legal reasons for firing.) Or was it because she belongs she belongs to a protected class? (Illegal.) Manager and CEO have no way to know because they just handed over the decision making power to people who aren’t trained to make hiring/firing decisions and don’t know the law and what reasons Emily *can’t* be fired for and which she *can* be fired for. Maybe Joe made a comment to Emily once about men being better at teapot design than women, that the mangers never heard about. Who knows? Not the mangers, cos they’ve passed the buck. Or tried to.

        The policy itself isn’t discriminatory, but the people using it to say which coworkers to lay off could use it to discriminate. Emily doesn’t need to win this case in court (though I’d bet she could, with a good lawyer.) She just needs a good lawyer to argue it in front of an EEOC negotiator to get a decent size settlement. And that will cost the company a lot more than just firing people the normal way.

  7. Nini*

    For #5 if you’re on video just pick the cat up and show them off! Everyone will be properly distracted from the actual purpose of the meeting and anything you say. Problem solved! (Also don’t feel guilty! Very few people are operating at 100% right now. Certainly no one I know is.)

    1. Vic*

      No, please don’t show your cat! I’m so tired of seeing coworkers’ pets on Zoom calls and having to act like I care. It was cute in week 1, debatable week 2, now just annoying.

      1. HS Teacher*

        I’m with you. I have a coworker whose children, while adorable, interrupt during our meetings. Everyone else thinks it’s cute (and encourage it.) Usually they’ve just woken up and are groggy. I’m just tired of it.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          I just had a long talk with my child because he did that a couple days ago. It was just an impromptu video call with a coworker but as soon as he got a little attention it became a show. I eventually perp-walked his little butt out of the room and locked the door to finish the call and then we had “a talk”.
          What sucks is that any punishment I hand down just punishes me more since I am the only one home with him (Hubs is essential so still goes in).

      2. TechWorker*

        This isn’t a standard work meeting though, they’re explicitly being asked to discuss a ‘project’ – If you’re at the stage where you’re pissed off by looking at people’s pets you’re probably also going to be pissed off by their sour dough or cross stitch *shrugs*.

        1. Misty*

          Lol I don’t know why but this comment made me laugh so hard because I was picturing someone introducing their sour dough at a meeting like it was a cat.

          1. nonethefewer*

            “And this is our pride and joy, our sourdough starter!”
            “What’d you name it, ‘Muffin’?”
            “How dare you!!!”

            1. NJ Anon*

              Haha! This is hilarious! I feel like I’ve hit a wall. Tired and atressed all the time. Thanks for the laugh!

          2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

            Please introduce the sourdough. My manager is searching for sourdough starter because yeast is MIA in our stores. Instead of a desginer purse the latest status symbol is having starter.

            1. Lifelong student*

              There are on line recipes for starter. I made some and have used it for bread and English muffins. Of course, you also need to have flour- which, luckily, I have been able to get.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I hear ya… I feel vaguely like a hoarder because I had bought a jar of yeast in 2019. And we usually use one batch as starter for the next until we get busy and have to restart from dry yeast. I keep wondering if I should send send to friends, and then I start thinking of the post office having a little baggie of powder explode and then it feels like a disaster they don’t need.

              1. No Tribble At All*

                HAHAHAHA listen I really appreciate your idea of mailing yeast. I agree mailing small bags of unknown powder is a Bad Idea (TM).

            3. AvonLady Barksdale*

              I’ve had a starter fully up and running (made from scratch) since 2016. It has a name. It traveled from one city to another and is still thriving. I would TOTALLY introduce it to my co-workers.

              I also have 3/4 of a pound of yeast in my freezer (I have been a stress baker for years) but I don’t want people to hate me…

              1. SlippingTheLeash*

                Took two weeks to arrive, but I was able to order a pound of yeast (red star active dry — my fave) from amazon — it arrived yesterday. keep checking!

            4. Quill*

              I just have a stash of active dry yeast that I may decide to decant, feed, and refrigerate microbiology lab style because I have one lab skill relevant to the current apocalypse, and it’s storing yeast for later.

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                Maybe you could share that skill with us? Just in general form?

                (My wife has a sourdough starter, um, starting. Growing. Yeasting? It’s been living in the oven with the light on.)

                1. Quill*

                  For a starter it’s going to be a little more difficult because there’s a lot of food for it to freeze and thaw, I’ll look into writing something up as I try and figure it out for home use, since I figure most of us have our freezers set a little higher than the usual lab fridge.

          3. EPLawyer*

            People are naming their sourdough. The absolute best — Dominique Tipper who plays Naomi Nagota (and an absolute delight of a human being if you get the chance to meet her) named her sourdough the ProDough Molecule.

            Yeah, if you come out of this somewhat sane, that is your achievement. Although raising a village of otters does sound cool. My MIL keeps asking me how many quilts I have done. Well none. I am still working and really don’t have a lot of energy otherwise.

            1. Mockingjay*

              [OMG. Fan Girl moment! I love the Expanse. I’ve made a couple loaves of bread recently, nothing special, just sandwich bread because the stores were out.]

              I would push back on the daily stream of hobbies and Pinterest moments. I am not doing anything major other than walks with my dog and binge reading on my e-library app. Hobbies stopped being interesting on Day 2 of lockdown.

          4. Alexander Graham Yell*

            So we had a happy hour call where we were supposed to bring our “emotional support companion – whatever it is, it just has to be alive”. So plants, pets, partners, kids – whatever was helping you get through. No joke, the head of our department introduced her sourdough starter. He has a name, she told us what kind of flour he is, she told us how long she’s had him and what she does to keep him alive. It was hilarious.

            1. Filosofickle*

              Hm, I had a few years with no houseplants, pets, or live-in people…wonder what I would have done! I now have a plant AND a partner, so hey living large.

          5. Queer Earthling*

            We named ours Breadstopher. After Bustopher Jones from Cats. We’ve also told our cats that Breadstopher is our favorite. So…

          6. knead me seymour*

            I didn’t realize how much of a trendsetter I was by naming my sourdough starter Audrey II and creating a (now defunct) Instagram for it last year. If I didn’t find social media so draining, I might be tempted to start it up again.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        Sorry, but I like to see the cute pets. If you aren’t thrilled, just ignore it, same like I do with kids.

    2. Pommette!*

      I’d be way, way more interested in seeing my coworkers’ new cat than in hearing about their new baking or other quarantine projects.

      (And I normally like baking, and hearing about it).

  8. Black Horse Dancing*

    I so want to raise a village of otters!

    Really, just hold up kitty! We’ll ooh and ahh.

    1. MistOrMister*

      Me too!! Who are these people who have managed to find a bunch of spare otters and how can I get in on this? I don’t want to be doomed to an otterless existence!!

        1. MJ*

          On one of the previous live cams, there’s an otter cleaning its butt. I never thought about that before.

    2. Rebecca*

      I know, right? Wait, there are otters to raise? Why haven’t I learned of this? When can I start? Sighs. And to think I was excited about the raven who has been hanging around the yard.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Ravens are EXTREMELY cool. Have you read any of the books by Those Guys at U of Washington Whose Names I Forget? Or that Other Guy In The Woods of Maine?

    3. Alistair*

      If anyone out there IS managing to raise a village of otters, they need to send pics! That would be just what I need to make it through today.

    4. BenAdminGeek*

      If you don’t come out of this pandemic with a small village of otters trained to defend your honor and protect the innocent, you wasted your time.

    5. Phony Genius*

      Just when I thought this website couldn’t get any otter. I mean odder. No, I mean otter.

    6. Third or Nothing!*

      Otters are my second favorite animal, just behind penguins! They’re so smart and playful and adorable. Can I work at your otter sanctuary? I’ll be the Official Otter Socializer and my job would be to play with the otters.

  9. xtine*

    #5: Yes, kitty is 100% an acceptable answer to any questions about what’s going on in your personal life. Now and forever more.

    1. Kathlynn (Canadian)*

      in this case, its especially a good answer since the kitten is relatively new. so the LW could say “i’ve been ensuring that this cute fluff ball is adjusting properly to it’s new home.

      I actually pulled the “show us your cats” when family was being annoying on a video call, wanting to talk to the other people in the house. (I would rather see your cat then your new boyfriend or other people who are busy)

    2. UKDancer*

      Yes I think so. I’m not a huge cat person but it’s nice to have something to smile about and it adds variety to the call and fills in some of the awkward pauses in the work small talk.

    3. Amanda*

      I have held up my new puppy to the camera on virtual coffee time. She was the hit of the week, and is now part of the team unless the meeting is very formal. Everyone says seeing her trying to play and lick me is a bright spot on their day.

      Truly, OP#5, if you want to push back following Alison’s advice, that’s ok. Nobody should have to share their personal life, specially in a time lke this. But please also show your kitty. Baby animals do brighten people’s day, and your coworkes could probably use a little spark.

    4. Little Bobby Tables*

      In ancient Rome, the way to punish a military unit that had REALLY done something horrible was to divide them into groups of ten, and have each group vote on one member who would be put to death. Make sure your CEO is not planning to take up fiddle and pyrotechnics lessons next.

  10. Laura H.*

    Op 5, I’m not working right now and even I’d be hard pressed to have something worthwhile.

    This is a weird time and some days it’s a miracle I even keep a facsimile of a schedule, let alone do something. I’m just gonna say you’re doing fine! Some people have the luxury to do something of that nature during this time, some have the drive to do those things.

    I don’t have to explain why I have no drive for something now that time isn’t an issue. This is a weird period for all and how I cope/ deal is how I cope/ deal and how you cope/ deal is how you do it.

    To all, be kind to yourself- if all you can do is get thru another weird day, that is a success in and of itself.

    1. Audrey Puffins*

      I’m not working either but still having weekly check-ins, and if I were asked to talk about my quarantine achievements, I would 100% big myself up for “getting out of bed before 9am every day!”, and “remembering to eat three meals a day at appropriate times!”, and “taking a reasonable number of showers!”. It’s a bit ‘know your team’ and maybe sense-of-humour dependent, but I could definitely sell it to my co-workers, and without any sense of self-pity either.

    2. MK*

      Also, how this is framed grates in me. Not everyone is interested in projects; my quarantine downtime is speng reading: do people want to hear about how I am currently 41 books ahead of schedule in my goodreads 2020 goal? Would reading my reviews aloud to my colleagues count?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I’d use it, though. The question is not a great question and the answers the boss gets are probably what she deserves to hear. I”d encourage OP to have something about her new kitty to talk about. Books/pets/etc are pretty benign things to mention, I like how a person can be talking about something they are working on in these areas and really not divulge that much of themselves. I think the question will fade out as it becomes more and more apparent that most people do not have a lot to say and/or the answers just aren’t that interesting.
        Going the other way, OP could just say, “I have nothing to talk about.” Perhaps someone will say a similar thing before OP does and OP can start a bandwagon: “Well, like Sue said, I really don’t have anything specific to talk about for this question.”

        For me, I would consider saying something like: “In my quest for toilet paper I went to X number of stores and it took me Y time to do this. Some stores were out and other stores had limits. Since I was purchasing for myself and 2 friends who are quarantining, I just kept trying stores until I got the amount I needed. It was probably an hour and a half just in drive time. This is an example of my current projects that I am working on. My next project will be eggs for all of us. Wish me luck.”

        I dunno, share some positive news stories of people going out of their way to help one another. There’s so much negative, I think we have forgotten what a positive news article looks like.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Mike Mccubbin made a great ‘Hero’s Journey: Groceries’ infographic, link in next comment.

      2. NW Mossy*

        My team talked about exactly this in our huddle yesterday – books/TV etc. that we’re consuming. Seemed to go over pretty well, and if anyone bluffed us with saying they were watching Tiger King, we didn’t notice.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        I would totally use books I had been reading, and I wouldn’t even have any snarky intent behind this. The question is what happy thing are you doing? Reading a book is a happy thing for me. It honestly answers the question. It also, perhaps less virtuously, provides an easy out, if in fact you spent all your spare timing staring off into space. Mention a book that you actually read three years ago. BS answers are acceptable for BS questions.

        1. Queer Earthling*

          This is a really good point! You don’t have to mention a current project if you don’t have one, either. “I made this pillow,” you say, pulling out your eighth grade home ec project.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Seriously, catching up on my “to be read” stack is a perfectly viable “side project”, IMO. I just wish I could, but I have other side crap that comes first (making masks)

      4. Wintermute*

        Reading is a totally valid self-improvement though, and it’s considered “intellectual” as well, so that would probably be totally fine.

      5. Eukomos*

        A goal to read a large number of books sounds like a project to me. A pretty ambitious one if you can be 41 books ahead of schedule and not done!

    3. Jaid*

      I hear you. I’ve started to watch this one guy live stream his playing FF7 while he’s SAH in Japan (him and his wife are Canadian, started out as ESL teachers in South Korea, then moved to Japan as very successful YouTubers “Simon and Martina”). It’s something to listen to in the background as I’m reading or playing with the cat.

      I did realize how much I’m NOT talking to people when my voice started to give out while having a phone conversation with my brother.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I find a good classical music station helps fill the “hear a human voice” need while being neither too distracting or disturbing. Classical announcers tend to have a very calm affect. They will tell you what they just played, and what they are about to play including who is playing and/or conducting it. They don’t talk about politics, and while they might mention the current situation, they don’t dwell on it. This reminds me when back in the 90s I moved to a new town with no friends or family. I was thrilled when the local public radio station held its pledge drive. The voices were different, but the patter was the sound of home.

  11. Observer*

    #5 – I’m not even a cat person, and I would certainly consider it delightful if you picked up the cat to show off and said “My new companion is my latest project. She’s great and cuddly >or whatever adjective prefer<"

    Don't stress about it. Just show off your cat and call it a day.

  12. Astrid*

    #6 It’s not much, but you might want to consider signing up for Citibike’s Critical Workers Program – they’re offering a free 30-day membership to healthcare workers (the application deadline is April 30th).

    1. TimeTravlR*

      OMG…. I have got to get back into some semblance of normal. I read your comment and saw the deadline you posted (April 30) and thought… well kind of late, isn’t it??? Then realized today is only the 17th…!

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        pfft. I lost Wednesday, this week. I spent all of yesterday thinking, “It’s Wednesday, right?” and around dinner time I actually looked at my phone, which told me how very wrong I was.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Gah, right after I hit “post” I realized that the “pfft” comes off as dismissive and right now maybe that’s not the best style of humor. Apologies to any who felt dismissed, especially TimeTravlR.

    2. food*

      Transportation Alternatives is also doing a bike match, so if you have a bike you don’t need anymore, you can match it with someone who needs a bike to get to work in a safer way.
      transalt dot org slash bikematch

  13. allathian*

    OP3: Sounds really odd to say the least! I wonder if there was anything weird going on between your new boss and those former coworkers/friends in common that you referred to in your first email to your new boss? Was there any reason for him to think “Oh no, she’s one of them?” I’m just clutching at straws here, and obviously even if there had been something odd going on way back, it’s no reason for your boss to completely ignore your existence.
    I hope this gets resolved quickly.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, what a very strange situation!

      Your idea is a good one I hadn’t thought of. I was also wondering if maybe OP shares a name with some ~dark figure~ from the boss’s past and he’s mistaken her for that person (although they might have been on video calls via Zoom so he should’ve recognised her, maybe?).

      But even if either of those theories were true, that doesn’t excuse his behaviour – he needs to be dealing professionally with OP in any case.

      I like all of Alison’s suggestions – definitely find out first whether some of the more senior coworkers might have any insight. Then, if it’s in any way plausible and since it’s maybe the closest to actually meeting him in person – which plays out interestingly in my mind; would he just turn tail and run away? Although I guess you’d at least have confirmation, then. – try calling him (again, only if that’s something you might conceivably do anyway, otherwise you’re the one out of tune). But I also really like the very last script and would probably get even more explicit – I personally only have a finite amount of patience for such shenanigans and like to put everything out on the table clearly after the more discreet overtures have proven fruitless but that’s not for everyone.

    2. Amanda*

      It’s so weird that this was my first thought, that one of the mutual connection mentioned in the 1st email is actuall the arch nemesis of the boss, and OP instantly became a bad guy for mentioning it. Or they think OP is an ex girlfriend/boyfriend. Or they don’t like OP’s name.

      Then I gave up. It’s just too crazy!

      1. Invisible Worker*

        Good suggestions, all. Now that we meet on Zoom, I think the boss can see I’m not an ex or someone he already knows. But, yeah, maybe he hated the people I name dropped–which I guess is a lesson: Don’t drop a name unless you know it’s kosher.

    3. Red Tape Producer*

      I’ve been through a similar situation, but in person (which makes it 10 times worse). Ever been in a meeting with just you, a manager who refuses to speak or even make eye contact, and a colleague that is derailing the conversation? Awkward doesn’t even scratch the surface.

      After about a month of her never saying hello, never checking in, never responding to my emails, never providing feedback, and not participating in meetings I finally got a chance to sit down with her and talk about what she expects from me. She spent almost an hour telling me about how she was forced into this job, she had no interest in being a manager, the hiring manager wasn’t honest about what this job would entail, and how she was desperate to get back to her old job.

      It’s highly likely that the coldness has nothing to do with OP, and everything to do with the boss being unhappy with his role, life, or something else entirely. Don’t take it personally OP! The spiral of fear and self depreciation is really easy to fall into, but silence doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong with YOU.

    4. Feline*

      I had a boss who did this to me a year or so after she was hired in over a team of 8. It was an open joke among the whole team that she was not speaking to me, to the point of skipping over me in team meetings. I finally just went to her and asked, “Hey, did you know it’s been three months since you spoke to me? You’re even avoiding it in group meetings. Was it something I did?” She stumbled through an explanation about how I used to come speak to her first thing in the morning and had stopped. I shook my head and pointed out we had relocated to a new building and I wasn’t sitting right outside her door any more. She had no answer to that, and she resumed speaking to me after that. If you’re remote, maybe you can request a short 1:1 to open communication with your boss. A meeting request will go to her calendar, and maybe that will help solve the spam folder excuse.

    5. Invisible Person*

      It’s me, the ignored worker. I don’t think there was any history with those people, but I did ask one if there was any reason I’m being ignored. She said this boss was very much a manage-through-others type (always has a deputy make requests, etc.). But she did find it odd that I’ve gotten *no* acknowledgment whatsoever.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Are all the other people he’s mentioning on calls remote too or just you? I had a peer at my level that came in and was supervising a team with 1 remote worker. Remote workers were such a foreign concept to him that he actually didn’t consider that she was part of his team (their set up was similar where she received work from other areas but he still was responsible for leave approval and work prioritization if there was ever a conflict).

        I had to explain to him how remote workers required the same management that his local subordinates did and had to coach him through establishing norms and routine management oversight. As the time, remote workers were somewhat new to our industry but it was really weird. Is that maybe what’s happening here? In which case I think calling and setting up regular video check ins might help.

    6. Her again*

      For three years, I reported to a boss 4 time zones later than mine . I had to copy her on certain e-mails and submit a weekly written summary of tasks and the time spent on them (arrrgghh!). Otherwise, I rarely so rarely heard from her that an e-mail from her was either an assignment or a correction. A phone call from her, other than one scheduled for me to report on a site visit or for a review, meant that I screwed up big time in her view. I nearly had a heart attack one morning when I arrived at my office before 7:30 and found an e-mail written at 2 am her time asking me to let her know when I got into the office so she could call. When she did phone soon after to tell me something fairly innocuous, I said something like “you’re up early” to break the ice. She said that she couldn’t sleep and figured she’d take care of a few small things to pass the time. I was left wondering who had take over her brain since it was unlike anything before or after.

    7. Pennalynn Lott*

      I’ll offer another possible generous interpretation: Does OP’s boss know that he’s actually OP’s boss? In my department, there are five managers and we staff and seniors work on projects for all of them (they each have a specialty). But we are assigned in our org chart to just one of them, I guess just to make report-generation easier.

      Salary cuts and layoffs were announced yesterday and my org-chart manager called to let me know before the CEO sent out an all-company email. Five minutes later, my current manager-of-the-project-I’m-on called to tell me the same thing. When I told him I’d already heard about it from Ryan, he was like, “Wait. I’m not your manager-manager?? That’s hilarious. All this time I thought I was going to have to write your performance review. Gotta go, I have my *own* employees to call!” [We were both laughing through those last parts. I heart him.]

      So is there any chance, OP, that your manager thinks you’re not his responsibility?

  14. Caligirl*

    “Not everyone is baking bread and teaching their children Latin and raising a small village of otters.”

    Alison, after more than a decade of your many gems/pearls of wisdom/hilarious observations – you have outdone even yourself today! Can you please make a t-shirt/beer mug/billboard with this quote?? I’d totally have holiday gifts covered for every person I know. I’m one of the thankful to WFH/glued to video meetings/ yet not quite safe to voice my single person struggles to the larger team masses readers that look forward to your column every day – now more than ever! Thank you for being you!!

    1. Batty Twerp*

      Reading this blog (and the first 50 or so comments) every morning before work was part of my routine before the world changed, and continues to be one after. It’s a piece of the “normal” that doesn’t exist any more, and I think I’d be lost without it at this point.

      (I would also love to raise a village of otters, but we don’t have the outside space…)

      1. Admiral Thrawn is Still Blue*

        Agreed. AAM is definitely an important part of my normal and it’s cherished. And she does have the best lines. I would love to know what went through her head as the endgame for that otter village though. Were they destined to live good, decent ordinary lives after this, or did she envision a glorious takeover of the world with them, as Prime Ministers to our benevolent overlords, aka The Cats?

    2. LeahS*

      I have felt like this about this and a few other gems she has posted lately. Alison has been making my quarantine with these!

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      I would love to be baking bread right now but NO ONE HAS YEAST.
      Meanwhile, I get emailed 200 bread recipes “because everyone is at home right now so has plenty of time to do a more complicated baking project”
      I want to make my fennel seed and sea salt bread

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Try making some Irish soda bread! It’s leavened with baking soda and baking powder and buttermilk to activate the chemical reaction. If you can’t get buttermilk, you can add some acid to regular milk to curdle it.

        1. boop the first*

          Yeah, biscuits are just tastier anyway! Otherwise, we had a sudden windfall of sour cream, so we tried a sour cream biscuit recipe online, and it came out tasting suspiciously like regular bread.

          I take it back, bannock is above all breads and have like, three ingredients.

      2. TiffIf*

        Its weird, in my area, I haven’t seen the run on yeast. Though I do admit I have more than half of a 1 pound bag of yeast in my fridge, so not going to need to buy more anytime soon.

        If you have the time, it might be fun to make sourdough starter–no added yeast needed for most sourdough breads and sourdough starter only requires flour, water and time.

        Most quick breads don’t need yeast (they use other rising agents as Third or Nothing! mentioned) so that’s another possibility!

      3. Iris Eyes*

        There is yeast everywhere though… you don’t have to buy it. There was a yeast biologist (or something like that) who made a whole semi-viral twitter thread about all the different ways one could harvest yeast bread.

      4. Cafe Daughter*

        My mother has a cafe that has shut down and she has more yeast than she knows what to do with. We’ve sold over 2500 eggs, and given more food to the mission, but man oh man have we been eating omletts and fresh bread.

    4. Artemesia*

      I have a niece doing all this and her children are making face masks for first responders and donating them. They speak French together a couple days of the week and one of the kids cooks dinner often etc etc. There are people like this — it would never be me.

      My daughter not only has the two adults WFH, two young kids, and no school or day care but also no house cleaning service — she is still paying her cleaner but they can’t have the contact now. It is really tough on people with multiple responsibilties or reduced resources.

      1. Artemesia*

        this was supposed to be under the ‘otters quote’ — no idea how it ended up in yeast?

  15. tommy*

    OP1: in 9th grade, a teacher did what he called “democratic grading.” meaning, the class voted on each person’s grade. guess how it turned out for the geekier kids (including me).

    1. WS*

      We can’t have had the same teacher because my country doesn’t use the term “9th grade” and yet we obviously did have the same teacher with the same bad idea! At the end of the voting, the teacher said, “Huh, that didn’t go the way I expected!” and didn’t actually give out any of the grades. Or ever do it again. Thankfully.

        1. Fikly*

          Was this the first week this person had ever taught? I cannot imagine how they could plausibly be surprised otherwise.

      1. tommy*

        yikes, it’s upsetting that more than one teacher in the world did this! i’m pretty sure our teacher did it more than once. :/

    2. UKDancer*

      Sounds like it went about as well as getting children to pick teams for rounders or football did at school. As one of the geekier, more oddball children, I was always the last to be picked for anything and left school with a strong belief that I couldn’t do sport or exercise as well as being one of the bully targets.

      I then discovered swimming and dance and found out that I am quite good at physical activity, I’m just crap at team games.

      I wish teachers would realise that children are often quite cruel to their peers and should not be given opportunities to torment those perceived negatively. I have never been back to school since I left it and shred every letter they send me asking for money.

      1. Desk-Nail-Clipperer*

        Being (not)picked for team sports in PE was horrendous. It was always the popular/sporty kids who were team captains and then got to choose. Urgh. Even when the teacher tried to do it fairly, and lined us up and counted 1-2-1-2 to designate teams, the popular kids would always get in the right order so they could all be on the same team.

        I too thought I would never amount to anything sport/physical activity-wise.. but then in the years since leaving school I’ve ran a marathon, several half marathons and trail races across the UK countryside, completed weekend-long hikes, swam miles in the sea and lakes across the UK and am generally fitter than I ever thought I could be, based on my perceived performance at school.

        Still avoid team sports though, the terror at being picked last is far too real, 15+ years later.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Hey me too!!! I thought I wasn’t cut out to be an athlete because I’m not good at team sports. Turns out I just needed to find something where the only person I’m competing against is myself. I’ll probably never finish high enough in my age division to earn an award, but I’ve got a wall full of medals that says I actually can accomplish some pretty cool stuff once the pressure of performing is gone.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          Yes! In hindsight, what was the point of the “team captain” thing? It takes ten times as long as counting off by twos or dividing by last names or something. And of course is completely humiliating as the class gets down to the last few.

        3. KoiFeeder*

          I once got a black eye because I wasn’t paying attention in lineup (zoned out) and didn’t move for someone and he socked me in the face.

          Still had to play kickball, though.

    3. SweetestCin*

      3rd grade teacher did this with penmanship. He used to walk papers across the front of the room while we were to yell the “appropriate mark”. Yes, he made sure we knew which paper belonged to which person.

    4. Third or Nothing!*

      *shudder* My classmates would have relished the chance to give me a failing grade and put me in my place. I was every teacher’s favorite – quiet, studious, polite, never caused trouble, always got top marks. I was not popular among my peers.

    5. Quill*

      These teachers really know how to make us hate them forever.

      I mean, I had one who announced that her seating arrangement had been made by grade and we hated her bad enough…

    6. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’m super late with this reply, but so be it.

      When I was in 6th grade (age 11) my school adopted a new disciplinary policy where you earned points for good behavior and lost points for bad behavior. After every lesson, so about six times a day, the teacher would read out the alphabetical list of names and each kid would say how many points they thought they had earned. Then, they would do that thing like they do at TV weddings, “if anyone has any reason why Jennifer didn’t actually earn 30 points and should have her points lowered, speak now.” We had so many point sessions that lasted more than half an hour because somebody would make an accusation about how Mario only deserved 25 points, and he would argue back, and the negotiation would last forever.

      It was a terrible way to run a school, and it’s an even more terrible way to run an office.

  16. TexasRose*

    LW #5: Short term: Show off the kitty, and you have done your performative “good cheer” and “team building” for the week.

    Longer term: Have a private chat with your boss (who you have a good relationship with) about how your greatest accomplishment is getting work done now that (a) your work duties have expanded to (more than?) full time, (b) your family responsibilities have expanded to be the household’s primary go-fer, and (c) grieving for your colleague. Set her expectations that you can keep up with your responsibilities, but you’re not up for much cheerleading at the moment.

    Sometimes it’s ENOUGH of an accomplishment to be vertical and attentive for 80% of your work day, and then after work time to be sure that there’s people and cat food and meds in the household. Letting your boss know that you have little energy right now is a kindness to her, so she doesn’t accidentally put you on the spot (and doesn’t inadvertently crater her attempt at team morale boosting).

    As for more cat pics: The point is distraction, right? So whether a viewer’s reaction to New Kitty is “Awwwww – so cute” OR “puh-lease, not another f’n feline!” your viewer will be momentarily distracted from their current malaise and doldrums. Task accomplished.

  17. PJH*

    #1: “coworkers to suggest who should be laid off”

    Are they also asking for reasons as to why you’re nominating those coworkers?

    I think I’d be putting myself forward.

    1. Anonny*

      Nominate the person who came up with this idea, because they are exhibiting extremely poor management skills.

      1. PJH*

        > Nominate the person who came up with this idea
        I rather suspect that the people coming up with these ideas, aren’t in the pool of victims subject to these ideas.

  18. Everdene*

    OP5, I feel you! There are so many memes going around about how this is the perfect time to be creative or start a side hustle or get super fit or use “the great pause” to evalute our worlds priorities and misteps so they can never be repeated… and I just can’t.

    Oak and I are both now WFH. We know we are lucky to be still in employment have our health and so much security. But both our (completely different) jobs have exploded and we are so busy! On top of that we are shopping/go-fering for older family members and everything takes so long. The supermarket shop used to be 20/30 minutes on the way home from work, we usually did it on a heavy traffic day rather then sit in a queue and by the time we finished the traffic would be quieter. This week it took 2 hours. And there is pressure to make it count so we can’t just nip back if we forget avacado. That’s just one example

    I had so many self improvement plans; gardening! Learning an instrument! Paint the spare room! Go no poo! Exercise daily! Marie Kondo the house! None of it is happening. I’m doing my job well, standing up for my team and our clients, the family are all doing ok, I’ve washed every day. My special project is surviving. Your boss is misguided.

    (Sorry this is so long and ranty. Your letter and Allison’s response just spoke to me!)

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      the whole notion of ”take time in the stillness to just breathe” makes me incandescent with rage. I have never been closer to a stroke than when being entreated to ”breathe”, especially if it’s misspelled as ”just breath”.

      I don’t want to bake bread. I happen, by chance, to enjoy baking and have done a bit, but it’s to distract myself from the fact that I’ve lost 3/5 of my usual work and yes, I know that’s better than losing 100% but it’s not great.

      ”Take a pause”. What, for several months? From eating?

      1. Misty*

        One of my professors keeps telling us to use this time to breathe and also to use this time to take control of our education and be a self starter. I’m like… that’s not happening. I tried but it’s just the breathing, the learning, everything… it’s just not happening.

        1. J.B.*

          I will graduate. That is all the self starting I will do, largely because I worked my a$$ off writing before the world blew up. Now with kids home I’m lucky to get in 15 hours a week!

      2. UKDancer*

        Reminds me of when we were all encouraged to do mindfulness. I nearly hyperventilated by trying to breathe correctly because I got preoccupied with whether I was breathing at all. I had the same thing when I tried to do yoga and breathe correctly. I find I breathe best when I don’t think about it at all.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Same! When I was told to meditate in a yoga class, one of the instructions was that if you had a thought you should ‘acknowledge it and let it go’ I spent so much time pondering, philosophically, how you can acknowledge a thought, that I missed the whole meditation. Oops!

        2. NW Mossy*

          Now I have to share something I saw recently that’s the perfect antidote!

          Desi Lydic is a correspondent for The Daily Show, and she recently did an interview with someone who’s written a book about the psychology of pandemics. She asks what people can do to reduce their stress, and the interviewee suggests meditation. She looks dead at her webcam and says “Now how many Benadryl should I give my child so that I can do that?”

        3. Llama Face!*

          Yeah, over-focusing on my breathing (and how the breaths aren’t deep enough, or frequency is wrong, or rhythm isn’t consistent) until I feel like I am suffocating is literally an anxiety symptom I have. Telling me to focus in my breathing to relax or de-stress is thoroughly counterproductive.

      3. Falling Star*

        Caroline, I think I get it! I have severe uncontrolled asthma. I will sometimes get a severe attack where literally “I might live, I might not”. It is quite frightening. If this happens in public, people will gather around me like I am a complete idiot and tell me to “just breathe”. I guess they think I just forgot! I just want to slap them silly!

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Ugh, I hate that meme! And I’m not having to deal with being laid off/furloughed/hours reduced/salary reduced, or the same happening to my spouse. I don’t have kids to raise. Neither of our jobs are considered essential. And I’m still not taking time to learn a new programming language (I’m in software development), or start a side hustle. (I work for someone else because I don’t want to run a business.)

      If you’re dealing with unemployment or reduced household income or homeschooling your kids or regular potential exposure, your available time is going to be so much less, and your stress is going to be so much more.

      Who are these people who think we’ve now got more motivation to add magical extra productivity in a high stress circumstance than we did in normal (presumably lower) stress circumstances?

      (Yes, I deal with stress by making things. And the more stressed I am, the more complicated sorts of things I make. But that’s my brain, which wants a distraction and a way to avoid things, not a universal truth.)

      1. Jackalope*

        To say nothing of the fact that even if I weren’t still working full-time, dealing with stress, etc., how am I supposed to go get the materials needed for this alleged new side hustle if the entire world is shut down????

    3. Old Biddy*

      Same. What used to be a quick stop at the store on the way home or a leisurely fun excursion on the weekend is now a full on pain in the butt, between going early in the morning during the week, trying to social distance at the store (so it takes longer to get everything), not finding the stuff I’m looking for, getting annoyed at all the folks who aren’t social distancing, trying to fight my conflicting feelings about wanting to just get what I need for the week vs wanting to stock up, having to deal with a husband who is definitely on team buy everything, coming home, wiping off the groceries, then hopping in the shower. All this on an empty stomach since I have to wait at least an hour between when I take my morning meds and eating. Thursdays are now officially morning shopping and afternoon and evening working from home.

    4. Lynn Whitehat*

      I hate it. I was on a Zoom call for a volunteer thing the other day. The leader was asking us all to “tell us what new project you’ve been doing with all your free time! :-) :-) :-)” Lady? My husband and I both work full-time, we are now also home-schooling our kids, I haven’t had so little free time since they were toddlers. It’s so tone-deaf, to assume everyone is just luxuriating in all kinds of unstructured time.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I know! As far as I can tell, people are either crazy-overworked or they are going out of their minds with boredom and stress. No, it’s not like a little taste of being retired!

  19. A_Jessica*

    I love the phrase “ raising a small village of otters” as a way to point out the silliness of expecting everyone to be working on extra projects right now.

    1. I Herd the Cats*

      I WANT TO RAISE A VILLAGE OF OTTERS. But I have Zoom call #43,257 in a few minutes so I otter be getting ready for that and not over here reading AAM.

    2. Anonny*

      I mean, a lot of people are playing Animal Crossing right now. There’s only three otters in that though.

  20. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. There is an episode of “Are you Being Served?” where this happens*.

    Mr Rumbold, the head of the department is quite eager the staff should decide amongst themselves who goes (Mr Grace is very keen on “Worker Participation”) without actually having to make a decision himself.

    *For anyone who is interested, Mrs Slocombe has green hair.

    1. X. Trapnel*

      When I saw that as a kid we had a black and white TV set. It has taken the internet to show me the full range of Mrs Slocombe’s various hair colours.
      Perhaps the letter writer with the over chatty boss looking for updates on “projects” could take a leaf out of Mrs Slocombe’s book and show her manager her lovely new pussy.

      *apologies for the double entendre, but a running gag in this 1970’s UK TV sitcom (which used to show in the early evening) was Mrs Slocombe – an archetypal old battleaxe – boring her colleagues with innuendo-laden stories about her cat. “My pussy kept me up all night!”

      1. UKDancer*

        One of my colleagues has a large bad tempered cat which comes and sits on him during team meetings on zoom. We have a great difficulty as a team repressing the urge to start re-enacting some of the double entendres from AYBS and asking him about his pussy.

        Yes we are all feeling the cabin fever after a month of lockdown so silliness has set in.

    2. Applesauced*

      I had to look it up, it seems like Are You Being Served is streaming won Amazon Prime – sounds like great comfort viewing!

      1. UKDancer*

        Well it’s very silly and rather dated but it makes me laugh and it’s very gentle humour. There is a gentleman’s outfitters in the small town where my parents live and I swear 2 of the cast (Captain Peacock and Mr Humphries) have moved to work there.

        The other one I always enjoy and find great relief in at the moment is Allo Allo. It’s in terrible taste and is rude about the British, the French, the Germans and the Italians in turn. I completely forget my troubles when I watch it because it’s so silly.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Both Allo Allo and Are you Being Served were BBC shows created by David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd.

        2. Renamis*

          I love Allo Allo for that, it punches everyone and it’s clearly not mean spirited, just funny.

          I actually quite liked Are You Being Served Again. I feel it could have done well if it had actually been marketed correctly.

  21. Clementine*

    Probably not enough time before that meeting, but you could also start an Instagram for your cat, in addition to bringing her onscreen and describing her daily routines.

  22. Ana Gram*

    #7 is an odd one. Unless this is your first job, surely you must know that you don’t get paid for the time between signing an offer letter and starting work, right? Otherwise, employers would have you start work the day after you signed and no one would ever be able to give notice.

    1. TechWorker*

      I agree – but if they were expecting a paycheck for April, perhaps the offer was revoked the day before they were due to start or something? I can see someone in that situation being a bit like ‘what don’t I get two weeks notice’. Unfortunately the answer is ‘no’ but it’s not a crazy thought.

    2. MistOrMister*

      At first I thought they had been doing some work while waiting to officially start. But I re-read and they say although they hadn’t started to work aren’t they owed money for those days of work. So that didn’t make sense. Also, why would the enployer even tell them they weren’t getting paid for April? If they hadn’t statted yet, there would be no hours logged, so nothing to pay for. It’s a confusing letter.

    3. Mookie*

      Reference to 401(k) means the LW is working in the US, which almost guarantees there was no contract entered into by both parties upon an unconditional job offer from the one party and acceptance by the other, but it’s possible this may have shook out differently elsewhere.

      These fly-by-night, de facto unenforced and/or ineptly enforced and/or operating in total gridlock and/or now completely unfunded state and federal covid-19 employment guidelines may have thrown the LW for the loop, particularly if they’ve heard about employer incentives and employee subsidies for, respectively, not laying off staff and being made redundant specifically because of this pandemic. I don’t fault the LW for taking their would-be employer at their word (offer rescinded specifically because virus) and then interpreting that information through patchy, often contradictory media coverage of what meagre and unevenly-applied protections employees are being afforded. I’d look for any reason to find income, too. More often than not, US Americans are being denied recompense because, like the LW, they’re not meeting built-in loopholes and technicalities (bugs, no features) of relief programs.

      LW’s need to pay bills—ditto agricultural itinerant labor, workers on visa, subcontractors, “independent contractors,” the self-employed—is no different than anyone else’s. The difference is what manner of protection is afforded and when and for whom. These are exceptional times, sure; it may come as a shock to some people, but, yeah, people counting on an offer and having given notice at a prior employer would be, even in unexceptional times, be due some amount of restitution, and rightfully so, in some parts of the world.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      Very odd. So odd I wonder if the LW means they hadn’t actually performed work, but they had started some training with the company

      But honestly it’s so weirdly worded with I didn’t do any work and they are not paying for the time I thought I had a job before I started work that I’m taking LW7 at his confusing words and the company did nothing wrong.

  23. All Hail Queen Sally*

    #4 Back in 2008, when I got laid off from a job, my coworkers gave me a $100 gift card to a grocery store. It was greatly appreciated!

    1. Caroline Bowman*

      I understand why the OP is a bit concerned about it coming off wrong of course, but it’s a great gesture and will fill a practical gap in all likelihood.

      Of course if there are further lay-offs they’ll have to consider if they can keep that up so as to be fair, but I’d say a gift card to somewhere that’s of practical use, and ideally incorporates some aspect of being a cut above or a bit of a spoil is a gracious thing to do. If the person doesn’t need it, they can always, always pay it forward.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        All the supermarkets here have banned payment by vouchers/gift cards, and some are not accepting cash, or strongly recommending payment by card. I simply mention this as it might be something to have to bear in mind.

        1. TimeTravlR*

          Any idea why they would ban vouchers or gift cards? Especially since gift cards are often handled like a credit card (so no touching it by the cashier which is, I presume why they don’t want customers paying in cash)

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            I think it’s to stop the cashiers handling items from unknown sources. The debit/credit card goes into the machine without them touching it, and vouchers would need scanning or a code inputting.

            1. Captain Kirk*

              I think it would vary on the particular gift card. Dutch Bros (a coffee chain out here on the West Coast) has QR codes on the back of the gift cards, so they just scan in the code on their POS tablet without touching the card.

    2. Nina*

      Yeah my office is doing this during our thrice weekly check ins. It was fine at first, but now it’s a lot. What are my plans for this weekend? Sitting on my couch re watching old shows. What fun things did I do over the weekend? Same.

      Although someone did bring up that it’s a tough time for people and you don’t have to be productive, and now it’s a tiiiiiny bit more voluntary.

  24. Kiitemso*

    #3 is so strange. I have never heard of somebody being “ghosted” by their boss. The only reasonable explanation for this I can think of is that there is some huge issue or a huge project with the other team members that the boss has literally been swamped with dealing with and thus has noticed the emails but thought there was no urgent need to get back to OP because she is doing a fine job. First email gets buried, second email same, third email.. I don’t know, even this scenario doesn’t seem very understandable. For the lack of shoutout, maybe because he hasn’t dealt with OP one-on-one he simply forgot.

    It’s really worrisome if it’s extreme forgetfulness because that’s not really a good quality in a supervisor.

    I hope the senior colleagues can provide more information to OP on this and if all else fails, a cold call to have a brief chat may be the way to go.

    1. Ama*

      The only other random thing I can think — although it wouldn’t fully explain the situation, since he’s clearly not replying directly to her emails, is that once I acquired a new boss who just assumed my email was “ama.lastname@mutual employer.” It wasn’t, because someone else already had that email. So she would send me emails that were going to someone else entirely (who apparently never bothered to email her back and tell her she wasn’t the correct recipient) — and then she assumed I was randomly ignoring certain tasks (because of course if she told me to do something in person or someone else in the department asked me to do it, I’d email the end result to her with no problem). It wasn’t until she cc’d her second in command on an email that anyone realized what was happening.

      This would of course not entirely explain this situation, since presumably you’d think he’d just reply to her emails, but people sometimes do weird things with technology (maybe he disabled autofill on his email or something) that don’t come to light until something like this happens.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        This used to happen to people with common names when I worked for a big company. Most of the time, people quickly learned who had a similar name to themselves, and would forward misdirected emails to the right person. The problem was that all employees were assigned an email address, including people who didn’t have desk jobs or use a computer. If you shared a name with a plant floor worker at some other site, emails intended for you were constantly getting lost.

    2. RC Rascal*

      Back in the 1990s I had a boss that effectively wouldn’t work with me. I was promoted into the role as a Territory Sales Manager. He was located in a neighboring state, normal for this role & the company. He wouldn’t call me, return calls or emails. After 6 months I was laid off with no reason ( the company spent about $30k to relocate me for the job, too).

      I ended up suing the company for discrimination. I was the only female on the team & it was such a financial mess I needed to recover. Plus, relocating for a internal promotion only to have your new boss refuse to speak to you is really unfair.

      During discovery we learned I wasn’t his choice for the job. Basically upper management told him he needed to take me for Reasons. I also learned he was going through a divorce & suspect he was taking anger at his wife out on me.

    3. Fishships*

      I kind of feel like the boss doesn’t know he’s in charge of OP?? Many times I’ve received a new manager and was never told… I know that’s not the way to do things but perhaps this person really doesn’t know?

  25. ceiswyn*

    #3 is so weird that I gotta wonder whether there’s been a major failure in communication somewhere and somehow the boss doesn’t know they’re your boss?!

    1. NJ Anon*

      This. I started a job one time where I showwd up on my first day and my boss didnt know I was coming. She said she thought she “lost me” in a staff meeting. I sat at an empty desk bored out of my mind for 2 weeks. I almost quit.

    2. hbc*

      Me too. If there’s something that differentiates OP from her teammates (only remote employee, only one getting projects from someone else, project/work is different, etc.), I can see a blip like this happening, especially if it’s an org with a lot of dotted line reporting. That first email could have seemed like “Hey, welcome aboard, colleague!”

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        That happened to me. Overnight I was re-orged into a different team with a new manager to approve things. He didn’t know; I didn’t know. And none of my work intersected with his or his team’s work. It was so very odd and no one took the time to tell me until I asked. (For me, it was an early flag for my layoff a few months later. The company that bought us out had no idea what to do with me.)

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, this is like SO weird I have to wonder.
      Do they:
      >Think you are somebody else?
      >Think you’re on a different team?
      >Think you report up to somebody else and they’re more like your grand-boss?

      Didn’t we have a letter here where a manager thought one of her reports was someone else?

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s what I think… though the lack of response is still really weird and kind of rude! Bizarre.

    5. Angelinha*

      Or could it be that they’re actually not your boss and your real boss is the person who’s been assigning you work?

    6. Invisible Worker*

      I’m pretty sure he knows he’s the boss–in fact, I’ve been told (via coworkers) that he’s concerned I’m not working enough. The fact that this doesn’t come directly is what’s weird.

      1. Sue*

        I would try to connect with him right away. Ignoring you and then complaining about you to others sounds very concerning to me. He has somehow, unjustifiably, gotten a bad impression and you. You need to be proactive to deal with it or I foresee continuing trouble. I would do it today.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Exactly! If he has a concern he needs to do his job and, ya know, actually raise it.

  26. Annie*

    #2, Alison is right, but surely if you’re only a firefighter 1-2 days a week, and do your other job 5 days a week, surely that’s your main job and firefighter IS your side job?

    1. Ana Gram*

      I used to work this schedule as an EMT and I definitely considered that my full time job. I worked there 48 hours/week, got my benefits and insurance from that work, and considered it a long term career. Sure, I had a rotating number of part time jobs but they weren’t what I considered my main work.

      Now, I’m a cop and I volunteer as an EMT. My agency hasn’t told me to stop (yet) and I’m grateful for that but I definitely think they have the the right to and I would stop volunteering if ordered to. It’s a tough situation all around.

        1. Ana Gram*

          FLSA laws regarding fire-rescue mean that overtime doesn’t start at 40 hours/week, so that’s a factor. Mostly, I think it’s a traditional schedule. Tradition is a huge factor in this line of work- we don’t adapt well to change and “because that’s how we do it” is considered an acceptable answer for a lot of things. Plus, these are typically jobs that don’t pay well considering the skill level involved and 5 days off each week means I can go make the rest of the money I need elsewhere.

    2. SwitchingGenres*

      Two days on is 48 hours a week, so that amount of time counts as a main job, especially if that’s where they get their health insurance

    3. Blaise*

      Their two-day shift is a 48-hour work week though!! I can’t imagine anyone is working more than 48 hours a week at their other job…

    4. blackcat*

      If it’s a busy fire house (the one near me is), they tend not to sleep more than 2-3 hours during a shift, and not sleeping at all is common. So they sleep a lot on the off day in the middle, and the first day off in the other block. In reality, they’re left with a 3ish day “weekened” each rotation because they need recovery time.

      1. Laney Boggs*

        As more healthcare worker’s schedules come out, the more I’m horrified. I dont want a firefighter/EMT at my house when they’re on hour 22 and have slept 3 hours, any more than I’d like a surgeon on hour 17.

        Of course I’m utterly grateful for the work doctors and other emergency response members do but it’s horrifying.

        1. Ana Gram*

          Psh 24 is nothing- it was the holdover for 36 that did me in. I switched from EMS to law enforcement due, in part, to the schedule. Now I have mandatory hours off and have a cap on the number of hours I can work in a pay period. It’s pretty awesome but kind of sad that I’m excited to have a job that limits me to a 16 hour shift. I remember when I was getting hired for the law enforcement job and they asked how I would handle working 12 hour shift. I snorked…

        2. uncivil servant*

          In my province, the 24-hour shifts are used in places where they can’t reliably find workers. It’s easier to commute long distances in for 24 hours than to do it four days out of eight, which is the normal schedule. Those jobs are prized for that reason and people will make the 2-hour+ commute. The other alternative is to have no first responders, the same way they can’t keep doctors and nurses.

          My partner is a paramedic and says that they usually get a fair amount of sleep because the population served is so small. But when they get a call, it’s a 2-hour minimum trip to the hospital, and long hauls to the major hospital six hours away aren’t unheard of so it all evens out.

          1. Ana Gram*

            That’s true. The pay is crap for where I live but it’s outstanding for the small towns 2 hours away…so people are recruited from those small towns and think nothing of driving 4 hours 2x week for $20,000 more than what they could make at home.

          2. Fikly*

            On the topic of unusual work schedules, finding police for remote places in Alaska is a real problem. One town started a thing where you work 14 days in a row, 12 hours on, 12 hours off (but only one police officer is on shift at a time, so if officer on shift needs back up, you are on call during all of your “off” time) then you get the next 14 days off.

            And to make up for the part where it’s in remote Alaska, they will pay for your housing in Alaska, and then pay for you to fly back to where you actually want to live. So you might find one of these police officers living two weeks in Texas, and then two weeks in Alaska.

            I thought it was a pretty creative idea.

    5. SomebodyElse*

      Not really, with the 24 hour schedule FF work ‘full time hours’ but do so in less days.

    6. JSPA*

      2 x 24 = 48 hours a week = full time job. They’re not “on call,” they’re at the station. Or on the truck, or the ambulance. Or, y’know, fighting a brushfire for 20 hours at a stretch.

    7. Hills to Die on*

      Well, the boss isn’t thinking of this from the financial impact to the EMTs for sure. I understand there is a health issue, but people also still have to survive. What if their spouse is laid off? What if they need the 2nd job to pay for critical bills? EMTs don’t make that much money. There are plenty of EMT jobs in most (not all) places and I persosnally would just leave and go somewhere else where this wasn’t an issue. Speaking as someone who completely depends on my 2nd job to get by, this would be a serious issue in my life. It woould be like saying, ‘I am going to cut your salary by 1/3 and cripple your ability to eat’. Nope. Bye.

    8. Wintermute*

      Given how little EMTs are paid, I would concur entirely. It’s very likely this other job is both essential to paying the bills and probably takes up more of their time– they’re more likely to lose more people from the policy than they are to a potential for infection, especially given that they’re freaking EMTs they understand how disease transmission works and how to best protect themselves.

    9. Jennifer Thneed*

      > two 24-hour shifts over an eight-day week

      But these aren’t 8-hour days, they’re 24-hour days. These firefighters are *at work* (not even just “on call”) for 24 hours, going home for 24 hours, and then coming back for 24 hours. That’s 48 hours in 8 calendar days.

      At my regular white-collar job, I also work 48 hours in 8 calendar days: M-F is 40 hours, then the weekend, then Monday is another 8 hours.

    10. biobotb*

      I doubt that the firefighters are working ALL 5 days at the other jobs, it’s just that they have five days in which to do another job.

  27. Anon for this*

    Regarding #1 – my company just went through a round of layoffs and I would have LOVED to have been able to give some input on who were the missing stairs/dead weights. I think my colleagues would have too. We lost some good people and kept some inexplicably bad ones.

    That said, I agree on the face of it it’s not a well thought out plan and can come across as a bizarre popularity contest.

    1. Anon for this too...*

      Not using my normal poster name… it wasn’t lost on me that the first people laid off at my job were the ones who were the least productive and spent an inordinate amount of time on smoke breaks and playing with their phones vs actually working, but this also shines a light on how inadequate management is that it took a pandemic to finally address the issue.

    2. hbc*

      I think that’s the funny thing–a lot of people really want to be able to say, “That’s the dude who’s really good at picking the visible projects but does half the work of anyone here.” If management really wanted to get that feedback, though, it should ideally be done quietly, with a few trusted employees and in a way that makes clear that they’re not being an executioner.

      1. EPLawyer*

        That’s the kind of feedback they should have been getting all along. So they have the information when it comes time to lay people off. Layoff time is not the time to ask for it. Of course GOOD managers have already noticed who are the ones talking well but not actually working.

      2. Annony*

        I think doing something like a 360 review could be a good idea. Don’t just ask who is dead weight, find out who is really helpful to their coworkers but possibly not very visible. Getting an overall evaluation on everyone is much better than focusing on the negative.

    3. Sharikacat*

      The company might instead ask to see if there are any volunteers, either to be laid off or at least put on furlough. Some workers that are part-time might not be there for the income, so they would be minimally impacted by leaving, or they might be in a stable enough situation that they’d be willing to take the hit for the benefit of those who desperately need the income. I wouldn’t expect to get many volunteers, but I’d rather them ask for that instead of suggestions on who to vote off the island.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I get what you’re saying, but would you really be okay with being responsible for others losing their job? I’ve been laid off twice in the past and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, even the slackers that shouldn’t have kept their jobs.

      1. Anon for this*

        I am absolutely fine with people who are not contributing losing their jobs, yes. If I were the boss I’d have been the one to get rid of them long before this pandemic. It’s work, not a charity. I’m extra fine with it in a situation where layoffs are financially necessary and someone’s going to lose their job no matter what.

      2. Ray Gillette*

        In theory, yes. In practice, sometimes people need to go. At my company, we recently laid off two people who were both well on their way to being fired for poor performance. One was in the office so infrequently people would ask if he still worked here, the other regularly made the kind of mistakes that create days of additional work for his colleagues. It’s awful to lose your job at any time, doubly so in a pandemic, but keeping them on would not have been fair to the rest of us. I don’t want to have to clean up their messes in addition to everything else that I have to do right now.

        And for them, in the long term it’s probably a kindness. When they apply for new jobs they can say they were laid off due to the pandemic rather than fired for poor performance/absenteeism.

    5. Jennifer*

      I think too many people are still in high school maturity-wise and a popularity contest for who wins this weird competition is ill-advised, to say the least. Plus there are things you may not be aware of. Maybe the guy who steps out to check his phone every hour has a chronically ill relative at home and has already cleared it with the boss. Maybe the one who calls in all the time has a similar predicament. It’s easy to sit back and judge when you don’t have the whole picture.

    6. BenAdminGeek*

      Yeah, I know that #1 is supposed to be awful, but I’ve worked places where that would have felt so good to be able to do that… it definitely gets to a company culture that doesn’t fire people they should, but it’s hard when you see good people laid off and missing stairs still there.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        Despite my above comment, I do think this is awful – management should already know who the poor performers are. And if they do take peer feedback into account, they should do it discreetly, not publicly invite nominations.

    7. Alex*

      Yeah I agree that I’d *want* to suggest people to lay off but it is a terrible way to conduct business.

      My office has indicated layoffs are likely and I definitely thought “if they were smart they’d choose Fergus because he does s*** and is also kind of a jerk”.

      But…it’s really the managers job to make these decisions and pushing off hard decisions on lower level employees is never OK. That’s just bad management. But having a bunch of people around that do s*** is also bad management so….

    8. pancakes*

      Any moderately well-run workplace would have tools other than termination to deal with dead weight-type workers earlier, no? There are so many other, better ways to gather information on who’s doing good work and who isn’t than asking people to name their least-favorite colleagues.

  28. Misty*

    Oh how I wish I was “raising a small village of otters” but sadly too I am like OP5 and am not.

  29. LogicalInTheMidwest*

    I had a similar situation several years ago. I was working at a client site instead of my office which means we get to expense our extra miles traveled. I looked into public transit because finding a parking space was nearly impossible or a person would have to walk about 20 minutes outside (in the northern mid west in winter).

    I put together a spread sheet that showed how much it cost to reimburse the miles each day for a month and how much it cost for the bus pass for a month. I found that the bus pass was about $20 less per month. Not a big difference in the pocketbook of the company of course, but it meant I didn’t have to drive, didn’t have to start my car early to warm it up, could read a book (etc..) for an hour each way, and was dropped off at the front door.

    In your situation, I don’t think you would need to go through quite as much work, but I think your reasoning for wanting to bike rather than ride in a cab would be plenty sufficient to convince your boss, and if it costs less to rent the bike, it seems like a win-win scenario for everyone.

  30. JM in England*


    Making tough choices like this is a major reason that managers are paid the big bucks!

    1. NewReadingGlasses*

      Well, the obvious choice then that the manager should get laid off, to save the most money in one go.

      1. irene adler*

        But then, who would control the inmates? That would leave things in utter chaos. Can’t have that.

  31. Mannheim Steamroller*

    #1… […they have apparently asked the entire staff to suggest coworkers who should be laid off.]

    In other words, everyone is part of the “Office Death Panel” and gets to vote someone off the island. Ummm… No, thanks.

  32. ainnnymouse*

    #5 I thought it was just me. I’ve been taking the spare time binge watching cartoons. I was feeling bad because I was not learning computer code or producing an insane amount of art work.

    1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I subscribed to a new streaming service just to watch old mindless movies and TV shows. I believe binge watching every Simpson episode from the start is good for me right now.

    2. Kate Daniels*

      Me too! I finally subscribed to Disney+ and have been enjoying all the Disney movies I’ve missed over the years. There’s something comforting about knowing that there will be a happy ending despite the sad beginning or middle right now.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Disney+ has both the old and new versions of Duck Tales, and all the original Herbie movies.

    3. UKDancer*

      Not just you. I mean some days I do an online dance class or go to a lecture. Other days it’s all I can do to play computer games after work while listening to music to keep from worrying about my elderly relatives and how long this will continue for.

      It’s good and healthy to do things that let you switch off and not have to think. Yes in an ideal world we’d all be taking trouble to improve ourselves but this isn’t an ideal world, we’re all worrying about people in our lives and our own health. We all have to do what we can to get through this. It’s really unrealistic to expect everyone to be finding ways to improve life when a lot of people are just trying to keep going. I think do whatever escapism works for you to make you feel better (as long as it’s legal).

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      We just started our biannual rewatch of Avatar: The Last Airbender. After school the kid watched 4 hrs yesterday, and we all had to drag ourselves away for bed. There are 0 ‘improvement’ projects planned, as both parents are trying to work and support the kid’s schooling.

      Push back, LW, with humor and patience, and know you are not alone.

    5. Blueberry*

      It’s totally not just you, and I hope hearing this can banish those bad feelings. I posted a poem in the weekend chat thread about how we are not required to be productive during these awful times. (written by a talented poet, not me)

    6. Wintermute*

      I’ve been keeping up on the self-improvement I was doing BEFORE, mostly, but I’ve been watching a fair bit of anime (subtitled) and playing some Japanese games– hence I am “learning Japanese” if anyone asks. All I did was do the daily 10 minute duolingo app thing (the app prompts you with daily practice) a few times a week.

  33. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    These days side jobs can be fraught in ways we never thought possible just 4 months ago. I work with university-age students and my side job was working at a seniors retirement home. Several months ago I stopped working at the home because in our region seniors are being hard hit by the virus. This week I had to remind them (again!) to wash their hands and keep the social distance. Carrying potential sickness and death to vulnerable people is one less worry.

  34. Lyra*

    To the person from #5, I’m so sorry about your colleague, and so sorry that you’re grieving while overworked and overextended. It is never easy and it is so hard now. I don’t know if you are also in the US, where the culture is so lacking at handling death and mourning. There is this pressure to constantly be on the hamster wheel of self improvement, practicing wellness, self care, in the pursuit of happiness and the ideal self.

    But grief can not be soothed by relentless positivity or the cheap balms of the wellness industry. In a time of both collective and, for many, individual grief, being expected to be extra productive and to radiate hope is deeply unfair, and I am sorry you’re in that position. I hope you can get some moments of time for your own thoughts and feelings, and that you have people in your life who can sit with you and your loss in whatever way is possible right now.

  35. Officegrunt*

    Might there be a concern about allowing an employee to rent a bike for insurance purposes? I assume if a company provides an employee with a taxi, and the taxi gets into a car crash, the company is liable for medical costs etc as the employee was on work business. I’m guessing this is likely to be covered by the company’s insurance?

    If the employee gets hurt on company business using a bike (I assume the likelihood of this, or at least of more severe injury is higher, and that as it’s not typical the company’s insurance is less likely to cover it?) The employer would still be on the hook for any medical bills and suffering etc, and the employee’s manager might get into trouble for having approved it?

    I see this as different to an employee’s usual commute into work, because that’s not on the “employer’s time or funds”

    1. QCI*

      The taxi’s insurance covers it. If you’re on a bike and get hit by a car, the at fault covers it. If you, on the bike, hit a car and found at fault, typically the car owner files uninsured or regular collision and it could get messy deciding who pays.

    2. hbc*

      Hmm. Are companies that provide a bus pass liable if there’s an accident on the bus? How much liability attaches to these kinds of perks? I’m (obviously) no lawyer, so I’m wondering where the line on something like this is. Logically, I would consider this a normal commute, where the company is no more responsible than if you got scalded by coffee bought on the Starbucks gift card they gave you. But I know law and logic aren’t always the same things.

    3. Joielle*

      Generally, if you’re injured during your commute, that’s not covered by worker’s comp. If you’re getting paid for your commuting time, then it might be – but it sounds like OP’s employer is not paying them for the TIME commuting, just reimbursing for the mode of transportation. (I am a lawyer, but not that kind of lawyer, so not an expert on this.)

    4. pancakes*

      There’s no good reason to make guesses about how liability works in these scenarios because there’s no shortage of information on it. No, an employee who approved a taxi or bike rental expense does not thereby somehow become legally responsible for whatever happens to the car or the bike. The letter writer mentioned they’re in NYC, so they’re almost certainly referring to Citibike, which has an exclusive franchise agreement with the city and which spells out liability in the rental agreement.

  36. QCI*

    @#2. Is it really fair to limit the side job, when the circumstance could just as easily be a SO with a frontline/highrisk job? My wife works for a cleaning company that does Covid decontamination, would it be ok for my job to tell me to stay home because of her job?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      If you were a firefighter, or had some other Very Essential job, and you were at an increased risk of bringing down all of your coworkers? Maybe.

      1. QCI*

        But who should isolate? If you and your spouse are equally likely to contract Covid and spread it to the other, who decides to sit it out, and can your employer do anything about it?

    2. JSPA*

      Legally, yes, I believe so, under current circumstances. In practical terms, probably also sensible, certainly if there’s been a problem with anyone else bringing the disease home from her company, or if your entire team is a) b is performed in such a way that you can’t reasonably distance while performing it, c) creates a risk of spread to the community and d) requires a level of training or certification that makes your team functionally irreplaceable.

      If you’re working (say) trucking, and spouse is working COVID cleaning, you’re both in essential jobs! But it’s harder to argue that you’re both individually essential, or even that each of your teams is essential, in the way that a city’s only fire department might be. A cleaning can be delayed, and a store remains closed for a extra week. Cumulatively, it can become a problem, but individually, it’s only a (possibly major) inconvenience (even if, say, it’s the only grocery in town). Response to a fire simply can’t be put on hold for a week.

  37. PB*

    Re #5: I’m getting so tired of people asking what projects I’m working on. All I’ve done during quarantine is work 40 hours a week, cook enough food to live, bare minimum cleaning, and exercise as best I can. That takes all my energy.

    If you personally view this as a blessed break to learn Mandarin/knit a sweater/build a classic car/whatever, great! But please understand that it’s not a universal experience. Many of us are just struggling to get through the day.

    1. honoria*

      Yes, THANK YOU. I don’t even get the exercise in, so it looks to me like you’re doing pretty damn great.

  38. MissDisplaced*

    >Company wants coworkers to suggest who should be laid off
    Do you think what the company really is getting at is seeing if anyone wants to volunteer for the layoff?
    Because I can see that. Some people, for a variety of reasons, might prefer layoffs to work right now.

    >Manager won’t speak to employee
    Well. That’s weird!
    I’ve had some who barely ever acknowledge me in really big companies, but to have NEVER even done so during a handoff of duties is really weird. Possibly, maybe could they think you are in a different department? But it’s still odd and unprofessional behavior. IDK but if this isn’t hurting or impacting your work, I think I’d just shrug—you tried, and they were unresponsive. Sometimes these people blow through in a few months onto other assignments or are gone.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Then they need to say that. Asking people to nominate co-workers for layoff is beyond ridiculous and highly inappropriate. They’re trying to pass the buck on making the hard decisions. That’s not how it works.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah, the nominate part is terrible and so problematic in so many ways. I don’t know what they’re thinking. If they want volunteers they can put that forth in a positive way.

  39. LGC*

    6 – I was going to mention Citibike, but then I saw you were non-essential! (From what I understand, they’re giving 30 days free to hospital workers, but I’m not sure if you’d be considered eligible – I think it’s just essential workers like doctors, nurses, building maintenance, so on and so forth.)

    That said, I’ll concur. Your hospital might actually be happy you’re opting to expense a bike – it’s probably less expensive (especially since you’re a half hour away), it’s safer from a contagion standpoint, and it’s actually healthier for the most part. Just stay safe, of course – it IS New York, after all.

    1. Amy Sly*

      My only concern about a bike would be whether OP6 would be “work-presentable” after a fifty minute bike ride. Granted, it’s only April, and presumably OP thinks she’s fit enough to do a 50 minute bike ride and have energy afterwards, but that’s where my mind went.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Eh, I wouldn’t worry about that too much. First, if the OP is only going in to take care of a few things, then she’s likely going to be the only one in the office (or one of the few). And second, at a hospital in NYC, no one will care right now. Third, if they DO care, then I would consider that to be misguided.

      2. LGC*

        To be fair, she is back-office, it sounds like – and unless she’s in a forward facing position, presentability is probably not much of a concern right now.

        Also, it’s April in New York. From my own experience biking in the area and from looking at the forecast, the weather has been and should be ideal, for the most part – the big problem is rain. You just need to ride relatively slowly. (That said, a 50-minute ride is a pretty long commute!)

      3. Jackalopete*

        I’ve had a 30-60 min bike commute for years and when I get to work I brush my hair and maybe wash my face and change out of my bike shorts (which are often under everything else but very essential!) and I’m good to go. My work wardrobe is all clothing that I can either wear on a bike or stuff in a pannier and have it be wearable when I pull it out, but this hasn’t been a huge issue for me. (And the above changing/hair/etc. is about 5-10 min including walking to and from the bathroom, so not much extra time.)

        1. Rebecca1*

          What is your climate like, that you aren’t pouring sweat after so much time outdoors in the summer?

  40. Blip*

    My son was an EMT/Firefighter. Fire Districts are notorious for paying extremely low wages and always use the “shift work allows for a side job” so they can make more money. The majority of firefighters do 80% of their 1st response in healthcare. How about paying them a fair wage to begin with? My son loved the work, but the pay wasn’t worth it.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      This isn’t universal, but it is common. Professional departments pay pretty well, Paid on Call pay fair to ok, and volunteer departments don’t pay at all.

    2. anon24*

      This. If you’re union you have a chance at making a decent wage, but the rest of us make a pittance. People need to work insanely long hours or 2-3 jobs just to survive and pay their bills. I’m EMS only, not fire, and many of my co-workers work multiple jobs and/or work 80-90 hour weeks just to try to feed their families. With the exception of city or county run departments, most municipalities (in the US) don’t give EMS tax money (or if they do, its a drop in the bucket) so they have to survive off of whatever funds they can get by grants, billing, and fundraising, and there’s not a lot left to pay the employees.

      1. Blueberry*

        With the exception of city or county run departments, most municipalities (in the US) don’t give EMS tax money (or if they do, its a drop in the bucket)

        I did not know that, and I am horrified by it.

    3. higheredrefugee*

      I’ve lived across the country, and this varies wildly across jurisdictions. In my Midwest metro, fire fighters all retire by 50, unless they’ve become officers, because they make more with retirement pay with full health benefits than staying on. They all start at about $45K, and by year 5, all are making over $60K, if not $70K, if they do any extra training and are willing to do extra OT. And the shift work means most do have a side hustle. That said, I’ve lived in places that underfund the whole system, making it super unsafe, not to mention only pay $25K to start.

  41. Roscoe*

    #4 That is a very kind gesture. But I do think the biggest thing, like Alison said, is the precedent. You say it has you all concerned about your jobs now. I don’t know that, if I was in that position, I’d want to feel guilted into giving someone else money when I’m now concerned in 2 weeks I’ll be in the same position.

    At the same time, I do think acknowledging it some way would be kind. I was laid off in December, and while I wasn’t there terribly long, it sucked that some of the people I thought I was on pretty good terms with never even reached out. It VERY much changed my opinion of a lot of those people. Maybe everyone can virtually sign a card (honestly not sure if that is a thing), or do a virtual happy hour with her to show your support.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      The last person to be laid off will have donated to several co-workers who are now gone, and unemployed, and will receive nothing. That’s just the flow on that idea. It doesn’t mean anyone is bad or ungenerous, it’s just that this *will* wind down in a predictable way.

      We do Xmas tips for the people who clean our office. They are employed by the building, not our company, and each floor gets a card for their floor’s workers and gives them cash. It’s a nice acknowledgement of the people who keep our space decent. One year, an EA decided she wanted to give *the receptionist* cash. I thought this was a crap idea and declined to contribute/sign the card. The receptionist *is* an employee of our company. Also, what about her relief people? Our other facilities people? Etc? It just gets so messy so fast and I wanted nothing to do with it. It went on for 3 years and then stopped. All the people involved still work here. I am *so glad* I am not part of that awkwardness.

      All this just as FYI.

  42. Jennifer*

    #4 Not to sound callous, but you may want to hold on to your cash right now. I think a card or just an email or call would be a nice gesture. Once the layoffs start, people may want to hold on their money and not want to give money to the next person. You don’t want to set a precedent, as Alison said.

  43. From That Guy*

    LW #3. Your boss is a d*ck. I would not contact him again. Just carry on with your work and document very thoroughly all your accomplishments. Good luck.

  44. agnes*

    we are having the same issues in our organization about people working side jobs that can expose them to the virus.–like hospital reception, cashier at a grocery store, etc– We’ve had to have as many as 25 people sit out while we wait on test results because one person worked a side job and got exposed to the virus and then came to our job–their primary job–and exposed all their teammates. It’s making it quite difficult for us to provide services to the many people that depend on us, because our work is considered essential too. No easy answers on that one. We are doing the best we can.

  45. Ralph Wiggum*


    Morality aside, is it legal for the fire chief to restrict side jobs if it the contract specifically permits them?

    1. Cora*

      It’s probably legal, but if they have a union it’s something the union would absolutely push back on.

    2. doreen*

      If the contract specifically permits side jobs , it is unlikely to be a blanket permission that allows anyone to have any second job they wish to as long as the hours don’t conflict with the firefighting job. It more likely outlines the reasons why permission can be denied- and that may include something to the effect of whether the outside employment would adversely affect performance of the firefighters duties or whether the employment is contrary to the best interests of the fire department.

  46. Jennifer*

    #5 I think everyone has been cooking a bit more out of necessity. I work out to calm my nerves, not so much to get beach body ready since the “beach” will probably be my patio. I think there are ways to spin the things you have been doing out of necessity to sound like “projects” if you don’t want to get too personal.

  47. Dust Bunny*

    I am grateful that I still have a job to (I’m not really complaining) “complain” about but, dude, I’m still working 9-hour days. Plus I’m not getting a break from my parents’ cranky marriage dynamic, since we’re holed up together. I am not less tired or stressed than I was when I had a long commute. I am getting a little more exercise and maybe a little more sewing done, but I’m not. I was going to sew masks to donate somewhere but haven’t even had time to do that (we have masks for ourselves; my dad had some old N95s in the garage). I wouldn’t have anything to share, either.

  48. Cora*

    #2 – A lot of fire departments don’t pay their employees enough to live off of, so having a second job is a necessity for a lot of people. If your husband’s department falls in that category, I would say it’s not fair to force people to give up their side job if it means they won’t be able to pay their bills.

  49. Amethystmoon*

    #1 — How do they ensure a high performer won’t be laid off simply because they’re socially awkward? Seems to me it’s yet another high school popularity contest. Bully the nerds yet again and keep the popular cheerleaders.

    1. Roscoe*

      I mean while I don’t think this is a good idea at all, I feel like this is oversimplifying it. Boiling it all down to nerds vs. cheerleaders is a bit much. Some people are just nice people that are well liked. Some people are just unpleasant people who aren’t well liked There is something accusatory about your statement that just doesn’t seem right.

      Now I fully agree that a socially awkward person can get punished here. But there are plenty of reasons someone may not be well liked. It reminds me of the 30 Rock episode where Liz believed she was bullied in high school because she was a nerd, but really she just wasn’t a nice person.

      1. Jennifer*

        That was a great episode! I really loved how it showed the high school experience isn’t like the movies. There are nerds that are unkind. Cheerleaders that are compassionate. Jocks that are also super smart. There could be people that are laid off just because they haven’t built the same relationships that others have, even though their work is superior, which sucks, but that’s not nerds vs. cheerleaders. They all could be genuinely nice people.

      2. Wintermute*

        I think you’re probably right that in a lot of workplaces people would use this honestly. You can hide a lot of your workplace sins from your boss, but you can’t usually hide them for coworkers that depend on your outputs and work products, that interact with you and need you to be responsive and competent. Also some people are super good at kissing up and kicking down. In addition, there’s “getting along together” stuff that a boss may not see.

        But the danger there is that people also don’t have a lot of context for their peers– they may be unresponsive because of projects that the boss fully agrees are higher priority. Or people may cause extra work for other people that they resent but not realize that it’s because they’re watching out for something important and blocking people from taking shortcuts.

      3. Amethystmoon*

        Roscoe* — As someone who was bullied all through my school years until I graduated from high school, I will disagree with you. I was the nice, shy quiet girl who sat in a corner and read books to try and stay away from the bullies, yet still got bullied. So sometimes people are bullied for no good reason. If someone has been bullied for 18 years of their life, they are generally also probably going to be socially awkward because they don’t trust people, and for good reason. So yeah it does happen to some people. My concern here is that sometimes the bullying does not end when people reach adulthood, and if management encourages it like it appears to be the case here, that is not a good thing.

        1. Roscoe*

          But just because they are socially awkward doesn’t mean people will dislike them for no reason. My last few jobs have been tech companies. There has been no shortage of socially awkward people. But as long as they were generally polite and did their job, people got along with them just fine. BUT, when you don’t make relationships in the office, no matter what the reason, sometimes there are negative outcomes. Again, not saying that this bosses idea for suggestions on who to lay off is good, but there are plenty of other things where I can see being on the outs from the group because of a lack of effort being made. I’ve known people who never made efforts to talk to anyone, but then would get mad if they weren’t invited to lunch or happy hour if a group goes.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Just because “some of my teachers and most of the school administration thought being autistic made me a drain on society” was a reason to bully me doesn’t make it a good reason, though?

            And honestly, there’s a pretty notable correlation between the years of bullying predicated and encouraged by the school and my cynical and distrustful personality.

            1. Roscoe*

              Good reason in what way? Is it understandable? Sure. But that doesn’t make people have to make an effort with you either. If you want to never make an effort to get to know any of your coworkers, that is your choice to make. No one should make you do anything, and people should be professional to you at work. But my point is, that doesn’t mean that choosing to not make relationships won’t have other consequences.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                I’m sorry, I think I must misunderstand your comment- are you saying that “some of my teachers and most of the school administration thought being autistic made me a drain on society” was an understandable reason for them to dislike me?

  50. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I live in an area where we have a few full time firefighters and EMTs but we also have to depend on part time folks to fill in so there is adequate coverage. It troubles me to think someone’s house may burn down or a seriously injured person may not get ambulance services because the available responders weren’t allowed to work at their second jobs.

    1. JSPA*

      That sounds like a reason to ask your city council to pass the sort of emergency funding declarations that some cities are passing, to bring people on full-time, temporarily.

      And to pay full-timers well enough that they don’t need to take the side job.

      After all, you will not somehow be better off if the team is all out with the virus. To think that’s not a risk is magical thinking, not logic.

      As is so painfully clear from nursing homes, the absolute worst situation, which we’ve come to treat as normal, is to have people who a) have to work two jobs b) are either essential at both jobs, or will be fired for taking time off. This was always sub-optimal, often dehumanizing, and now it’s clearly and objectively dangerous. It has got to stop somewhere. The vast majority of on-site jobs should be full time, and should pay a living wage. Countries that do that have had a much better chance of getting on top of COVID; they also have overall better quality of life.

      But OP#2 also had a, “how do we balance essential jobs” question.

      1. Wintermute*

        But if people are forced to say “I have to pay my bills, if you’re not going to let me do it I’ve got to go” then you’re short people anyway which was the point of the whole exercise. I wouldn’t take being brought-on full time temporarily and give up a good job because that was a precondition, because the full-time is temporary and what happens when the crisis ends and I quit my second job (potentially incurring their anger in doing so if they’re also having labor shortages).

        1. JSPA*

          COVID can take out the ENTIRE crew. Some of them permanently. And, not everyone needs to be OK with being brought on full time Short term, they need to fill the roster adequately to ensure minimal coverage, and protect that roster, insofar as possible, from getting infected.

          We need to learn from the nursing homes, where the wildfire-like spread from home to home was due to people having to work multiple jobs.

          “I’ve been deemed not only essential but not allowed to work a second part-time job to preserve our emergency response capability”–when the dust clears, anyone holding onto anger about that will not be seen as reasonable. Well, unless the worker neglected to mention that they have a full time job! But it’s tricky to work 24 hour shifts twice weekly, and hide that.

  51. Anono-me*

    OP 1 – Could this be a very, very, very ham-handed attempt to make sure that people who have a exit plan in place are considered for the layoff?

    For example:
    -Pat has been interviewing months and just got an offer that starts in three weeks.
    -Kris has been accepted in to graduate school and starts in September.
    -Dana has enlisted in the military and leaves for bootcamp in 3 1/2 months.

    All of these people need income for the interim, (and are willing to work for it), but would be willing to take unemployment for the duration rather than to see someone who needs the job for the rest of their career be laid off. However, they cannot quit early because then they would lose their unemployment eligibility. And I was told years ago that “volunteering for layoff = quitting” when it came to qualifying for unemployment. I’m not sure if it’s true, but these are weird times and your company may be trying to err on the side of caution when it comes to the possibility that this is a true rule.

    Of course, they could just be idiots and bad managers too.

    No matter what the reasoning is, this must be a horribly stressful time for you. I hope the layoffs are minimal and you get through this with the least amount of angst as possible.

    1. Anono-me*

      Oops sorry, I completely spaced on the fact that this was Mom’s work place.

      Thank you for the clarification. I’m sorry that the clarification is that they’re a bunch of knuckleheads.

  52. HairApparent*

    Letter #1 strengthens my belief that some (definitely not all) workplaces are on the road to becoming employment Panems. May the odds be ever in your mother’s favor, OP#1.

  53. SomebodyElse*

    For #2… this one really needs to have some common sense applied to it.

    First and foremost, it’s kind of silly to worry about the second job risking the FF job due to exposure, mostly because it’s more likely that the FF activities is much higher risk than any second.

    If the second job is patient care (which is very common), then it doesn’t really matter because both will more or less have equal exposure.

    Then you have to consider that a very high percentage of FFs are married to healthcare workers, it’s so common it’s beyond a stereotype. So regardless of the higher exposure rate of the FF, it’s likely the spouse’s job carries equal risk of exposure.

    Lastly, I would, in your husband’s position, work with his union to push back on this only for the fact that the response for additional financial protections are abysmal with FFs, being exempted from the emergency bills that are being passed on the federal and state level. In other words it’s likely that if your husband contracts Covid, workman’s comp will not be an option due to the ridiculously high bar that is being set in the bills for proof of exposure on the job. So it’s not like he’ll get any help from the city/department if he is to test positive.

    1. JSPA*

      Hold on. There’s no reason fire fighting automatically puts people at risk of face-to-face contact with the public.

      We don’t know if they run an ambulance. Some fire departments do, some don’t.

      We don’t know if this is a city with apartments / high-rises / fire situations where they normally have to penetrate and come face to face with residents. Even if they do, they, of all people, are almost certain to have canister respirators or even an air source on their back.

      Some are doing brush inspection and control; that’s mostly very low risk, along with landscapers. In rural areas, they may be dealing with stover or haybale fires; in a suburb, there may be a single family, with nobody home, when a building fire starts (and no neighbors on hand).

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Wait what?

        I think you are getting wildfire Firefighters conflated with the more usual city/municipal/regional firefighting service. You are correct that wildfire service does not have the same contact as regular firefighters, however they make up the minority of firefighters in the us… current figures are about 10K vs. 1m .

        Nationwide 38% of fire departments provided no emergency medical services, 45% provided basic life support (BLS), and 17% provided advanced life support (ALS). (Source NFPA) so the majority of firefighters also are medical first responders. Of the non ems services, they still perform up close and personal lift assists, car wrecks, and other functions which don’t require the use of a respirator.

        1. JSPA*

          In the western states, there’s no clear demarcation between dealing with brushfires and dealing with structure fires. We’ve all seen footage of the various california fires, right?

          Same for midwestern cities and farmland. Link to follow.

    2. Jack Russell Terrier*

      I think the issue is staffing. One firefighter gets exposed at their second job, exposes other firefighters before they know so a number of firefighters have to quarantine, leaving them short staffed.

  54. Anonnington*

    #1 – It may not be specifically illegal at face value, but it could quickly become illegal. It could veer quite swiftly into law suit territory.

    You’re asking people to make managerial decisions about people they don’t supervise, people they don’t officially have any kind of authority over and whose work they may know little about. So that’s sketchy at best.

    And how will those people make those decisions? Probably not objectively. Think of everything that could come into play. “Fergus must not be very good at his work because he’s [insert demographic group],” “I want to get rid of Jane because she was going to report me for stealing toilet paper,” “I want Anon’s job. I’ll come up with a bogus reason for them to be laid off, then weasel my way into that promotion,” “Claire is so hard-working, she makes the rest of us look bad. If we get rid of her, we’ll all have more opportunities.”

    And when you think about it, why would people not just do what’s in their own best interest? Make recommendations that could benefit them professionally? Morals, ethics, sure. But there are also the morals and ethics of retaining your job (and maybe getting a raise/promotion) so you can provide for your family and yourself. Most people will put the latter first.

    And, thinking of that, there would probably be the perception that people who don’t have dependent children (that others are aware of) should be recommended for lay-offs. Which is nonsense because you don’t know anyone else’s financial situation and who they may be supporting with their income; you only know what they talk about at work.

    Anyway, this is obviously flawed and could go horribly in a lot of different ways. It is a legal worm can.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      You really make this sound like Lord of the Flies. But then I remembered it is probably an American workplace, and yeah, I have been in some that have definitely been like that. Backstabbers gonna backstab.

      Maybe this is why I always dread updating my resume. The whole damn things just gives me PTSD flashbacks.

      1. Anonnington*

        I’ve seen the same kind of thing in Australian work places! But I don’t think it’s the same as backstabbing socially outside of work. It’s similar, but the difference is that there is a direct impact on people’s income, both present and future. So it’s not just backstabbing for fun and popularity. It’s more like, “If I backstab Alyssa, I will retain benefits for my kids, one of whom has health struggles, and I could get a promotion next year, which would mean we can move my parents to a better long-term care facility.” That’s why managers need to manage. Don’t put people in situations where they need to think like that.

    2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “You’re asking people to make managerial decisions about people they don’t supervise, people they don’t officially have any kind of authority over and whose work they may know little about. So that’s sketchy at best.”

      What is illegal about that?

      1. Wintermute*

        Nothing. And in fact it’s a damned good idea– coworkers often have a more accurate picture of someone’s work quality and behavior than their boss does.

    3. Wintermute*

      I don’t see how there’s a legal risk here as long as the company is careful to avoid disparate impact issues. If they look at the 5 “nominees” and they’re all of a minority group then yeah, they would need to step in.

      But employers ask employee input ALL THE TIME for employment decisions. I fail to see how there’s any potential a completely facially neutral policy could be a legal problem for them. By your logic then 360* reviews would be a legal issue, or getting peer input for promotion decisions, or feedback surveys, or anything else that has employees judging or evaluating co-workers.

      Like anything else in business you must apply it with common sense, but I just don’t think your concerns wash here. It’s a terrible idea for OTHER reasons but not this one, including all the reasons you mentioned. Including the fact that people often lack context as to the “why” behind people’s on-the-job behavior, things like if someone seems “unhelpful” because their boss has told them explicitly not to bend a certain rule or prioritize someone’s rtequests.

  55. Cass*


    The simplest assumption here (and probably correct one) is that your boss is just an asshole. Maybe someone incorrectly colored his opinion of you? Who knows. As for what to do I think you can make a more direct attempt to contact him. I think calling him would put him on the spot and you might find out what is behind the ghosting based on his tone and word choices.

    1. The Cardinal*

      This. Don’t make this your issue. Assume he’s an asshole, forget about contacting him again, and continue to do your job.

      If he needs to communicate with you, he will. Easier said than done but all you’ll do by contacting him again (and probably being ignored again) is to frustrate yourself even more. If he has something against you, it’s obvious that he is unwilling to say what it is. If he doesn’t have anything against you- even if he were to say so – at this point would you believe him? Probably not.

      Don’t make his assholiness your problem – it’s outside of your control.

      1. Invisible Worker*

        I like the phrase “assholiness!” Yes, you’re probably right. It’s probably some combo of insecurity, bad management skills, and business. It’s hard to not let it affect me–especially with the added pressure of our work right now. But you’re right: I didn’t do anything to start this cold war, so it’s not entirely on me to end it.

        1. Observer*

          True. On the other hand I still think you should follow Allison’s outline and keep keeping Boss posted on your work, etc. You want to be able to document his behavior.

  56. Ancient Alien*

    #3 Boss doesn’t speak to me: I went through this with an old boss as it became very clear on Day 1 that she was forced to hire me be higher ups and did not want me there at all (why do companies do this?). I was hired to fill one of two roles and during our “first day lunch with the boss” with myself and employee #2, she simply refused to speak to me at all, would barely make eye contact, and was only interested in employee #2. I really had to go above and beyond to be more assertive and develop a relationship with her. It still kind of bothers me years later that i had to do so much “extra” just to form a basic working relationship with my own manager. Fast forward a few months later, employee #2 (her darling) had turned out to be an absolute disaster, and it was only then that this manager started to open up a little more. While it is possible that there’s some grand miscommunication that has caused your manager to not realize that he is your manager, ask yourself, how likely is that really? In the case of my old manager, she was frequently described as “mentally off” by other colleagues and went on to display a vast array of wildly unstable behaviors over the next 2.5 years i worked for her. It is pretty likely that the problem is completely with your manager and not you at all. That said, i imagine your manager will be responsible for writing your performance eval and you will need to keep everything you do/accomplish documented in preparation to push back on that. I can’t stress that enough, document everything in preparation for the likely meeting with HR.

    #5 Quarantine special projects. OP, i feel you, and i am one of the lucky people. My wife and i can both WFH, i don’t believe either of our jobs are on the line, and we are both former school teachers so the homeschooling for our son is actually going pretty well. Even with all those advantages, our workdays are at least 12 hours a day and more on weekends just to get this much done. I hope managers will read this and understand that now, more than ever, is NOT the time for forced fun. Making space for people to share positive stories is great, but the focus of any team call should be clearly on prioritizing and streamlining projects as much as possible.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I worked for someone like that! She didn’t totally ignore me, as she had to interact with me some in order to get her work done. But she would wait until I was away from my desk and leave me a post it instead of speaking to me. I wouldn’t use post its for YEARS after that! LOL One time we got into a pissing contest over correct grammar. She was wrong but couldn’t admit it. She eventually went out on maternity leave and I got assigned to a new attorney and we had a Fabulous (yes, capital F!) relationship. No post its required!

      1. Ancient Alien*

        It’s so bizarre. Mine literally started on day 1. I hadn’t even had a chance to screw up yet!

  57. Phony Genius*

    Correct me if I’m wrong. I think it’s been years since the last time Alison answered seven questions in one post.

  58. Project NSFW*

    WRT#5 – I’ve been only a little bit productive during this, but my only “project” is definitely not work appropriate. Even if I thought this was a good idea (it’s not), I’m also stuck, because there’s no way I’m telling my coworkers about my fan fiction

    1. StaceyIzMe*

      Evil Me thinks that perhaps your fan fiction might incorporate some of today’s letters such as being requested to nominate candidates for Tribute (lay off- OP 1), the boss who Pretends that OP is a Non-entity (OP3), and the poor LW who has to use some artistic alchemy to produce the Special Covid-19 Independent Project (OP 5, I think?).

    2. honoria*

      I hear ya! Not writing anything rn, but reading Teen Wolf AUs and 2012-era Avengers fics is saving my sanity!

  59. MCMonkeyBean*

    For letter 5 I would actually combine both of Alison’s suggestions into one answer if you’re willing to! You can be the first to gently draw attention to the fact that expecting everyone to have creativity and energy in their spare time right now is not necessarily reasonable, which may help take some pressure off of others feeling like you do. But then you can say something like “So I guess my only project right now is bonding with my new cat Fluffy that I adopted shortly before all this started. She’s been doing a lot of X and blah blah.” That way you’re not ending on the more depressing note if you were worried about making things awkward in the meeting, plus you get a chance to talk about your cute new cat.

  60. JSPA*


    The touchstone should be, who’s more essential, where.

    If the equipment technician who moves beds is also the only person who can set up the ventilator, but they’re one of multiple people performing their job at the fire station, then they’re more essential in the hospital. The fire department should pay to assign them at the hospital. On the other hand, if they’re shifting equipment from point A to point B at the hospital, and they’re doing something at the station that’s more highly trained, then it’s on the hospital can pay enough by way of hazard pay to find someone else with strong arms who’s willing to shift equipment. And it’s on the fire station to make an appeal to the public to a) set aside public funds or b) donate privately, so that firefighters are able to avoid working second jobs. At least until such time as we have appropriate knowledge and PPE that renders it safer to work multiple jobs.

    And finally, all sorts of people are at risk of losing their house, having a vehicle repossessed, etc. If loss of the second job is a financial pain (having the boat repo’d, losing the summer cabin, having the kid take a semester off college to work, eating more beans and rice than enjoyable), rather than a deep financial injury (losing the roof over your head, going hungry), that’s…not out of line with what others are experiencing.

    Holding onto a full paycheck by being declared essential at two or three jobs (when in fact it’s not particularly necessary that YOU be the person who’s doing all of those jobs) is, in some ways, as short-sighted as insisting that hair and nail salons should be open, because of economic hardship.

    1. SLAS*

      There’s also the issue, which obviously the LW has no control over but is relevant, that a Russian language interpreter shouldn’t need to be on site at the hospital. Translation in hospitals is typically (at least from what I’ve observed) done over the phone, so whether they’re on the phone in an office in the building or on the phone at home shouldn’t matter right now.

  61. StaceyIzMe*

    It’s just weird to ask people who they think should be let go due to the financial impact of Covid-19! Ideally, they’ve been getting feedback from managers, peers and other stakeholders all along and should be able to discern whose termination or furlough would be least detrimental to the org’s function. Maybe this presents an opportunity for workers to push back and suggest that some managers might qualify? You could probably make a very good case for economizing on this function and frame it as “efficiency”…

  62. Senor Montoya*

    OP #4. The problem is, if someone does not want to donate, or doesn’t feel they can afford it (especially if they;re worried about getting laid off themselves), it is very hard to say “no”. I say no, but that’s because I’ve established many-years of a personal policy of not giving at the office.

  63. Buttons*

    JFC #1. It is incredibly clear they have no goals, no mission, not workforce management. One should be able to look at a team and determine which jobs can be sacrificed, which positions can be consolidated, what can be put on hold. If leaders aren’t able to do that, I wouldn’t have faith that they could do anything at all. This is madness.

  64. Grace*

    #1 Many years ago our CEO asked if anyone wanted to voluntarily take the lay off. My husband and his friend that had been starting their own company together took it and used the severance package as income for the first year.

  65. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    #2, wow, a question I have significant experience with on multiple fronts! I used to work as an analyst for a fire department, managing a team of EMTs (e.g. scheduling etc) and I now manage the interpretation program for a health plan.

    The chief is totally within his rights to restrict these side jobs. First responder essential is different from other types of essential work that is less skilled. People moving hospital equipment are clearly essential, but plenty of people can fill those positions. As for medical interpretation, this is also critical to the care of patients. However, during this time, almost all interpretation should be moved to telephonic delivery to minimize contact. This means that the Russian interpreter should either be working primarily over the phone or hardly at all. Phone interpretation can be done from home, and also opens up availability since it doesn’t matter if the interpreter is in the same county/region as the patient and provider. At my health plan we are also moving to video remote interpreting whenever possible for sign language and other instances where seeing someone is more critical.

    Firefighters, on the other hand, can’t do their jobs at a distance, and can’t easily be replaced. Fire houses also are pretty close quarters with firefighters eating, sleeping, and living together in shifts, then using the same equipment (beds, kitchens, gyms) for crews on alternate shift schedules. This means that if there is an outbreak at a fire station, it is likely to spread to many of the firefighters assigned to that station. Bottom line: quit the side jobs.

  66. Third or Nothing!*

    LW#5: I for one would love getting a rundown of Operation NewCat. It would be far more interesting than my update would be, as I’ve taken the little bit of extra time I have each day from not commuting to run more. Only other runners care about running updates, haha.

  67. Free Meerkats*

    For #1, I’d like to give them the benefit that maybe this was a ham-handed request for volunteers. But given the things I’ve seen here, probably not. My city has offered an Early Separation Program for anyone who has bee here at least two years in an effort to save money given the reduced tax revenue we are expecting. Six months from now, I would likely have taken it and retired early.

    And I think a group of otters is called a raft. But that’s wild otters. Since these are obviously tame, civilized otters, village sounds right.

  68. merope*

    Thank you for posting letter 1! I went through a similar situation last year when a reduction in funding meant a reduction in staffing levels at the junior rank, and the managers of these junior folks were asked to find a solution that encompassed ALL the junior folks, regardless of which manager they reported to. Several managers politely tried to push back on the grounds that they were not able to judge staffing issues in other departments, and were met with accusations of laziness and inability to face up to the big picture by the big boss in charge. It was quite clear that rather than take responsibility for any decisions, the big boss thought they could create a “collaborative” environment where the end result was that everyone would be to blame. It was horrible.

  69. The Girl from Number 5*

    So I just got off the call. I ended up going with a blended approach. I talked about how most people know I’m an artist and that I thought I would have more time to devote to it. I’ve found that it’s not true, and that my “solution” is to putter around the studio organizing things to burn off physical energy as artists are notorious for making messes big and fast. Then I went on to talk about this this as a disaster – thanks to the several commenters who brought that up! – and said that if you’re not doing anything grand right now, that’s ok.

    Something that’s helped me when talking to others who feel like they’re dropping the ball: extend to yourself the same grace you would to any other human being in the same situation. This is hard, and you deserve grace now more than ever! Got off the phone/meeting 10 minutes ago and have already heard from two colleagues that my message was exactly what they needed to hear.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see if I can get an otter village via Amazon Prime.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Aww yay!

      I, too want an otter village. My dog already looks like an otter, so she’d blend right in.

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      Also would like to politely request an update on Operation New Cat! With pictures.

    3. The Girl from Number 5*

      Since he’s getting so much attention: Operation William is the cat. He was a street cat when he was turned into the shelter, lasted about 4 months with a home who struggled to handle his feral nature, and was back at the shelter for six days when we decided he was our kind of @$$hole. Training the feral out of a cat is challenging. I can’t attach pictures here, but he’s on IG at billjrcat for anyone interested.

  70. Wintermute*

    #1– ouch, that sounds awful. I can see where their thought train might be going, but they just didn’t think through what this is going to do to morale, and how much backbiting and sniping this could generate. Though I’m going to break a bit with the others here and say, the idea of getting INPUT is not terrible. Sure they may lack important context but in a lot of fields (IT is one for sure) you can hide a lot of sins from your boss, but never your coworkers. People that make a lot of work for other people that they have to clean up doesn’t always come to light because some people are afraid of “tattling” and some people are really good at kissing up and kicking down.

    #2– I am firmly on your side. EMTs get paid SO LITTLE that working a second job is the only way they’re paying their rent in a lot of cities (especially major metro areas which have a time-to-work requirement which requires them to be within 20 minutes of their precinct house or hospital so they can get to work in an emergency– which often forces them into very expensive housing). So many people are having trouble paying their rent and basic expenses that it’s becoming a society-wide crisis, adding more people to that list is just socially irrensponsible.

    #5– I’d just pick something to be honest, it doesn’t have to be a huge time investment, but if you’re the only one not working on personal development, or claiming to do so, then you’re going to look like someone who’s unambitious compared to your coworkers. It’s not fair but it’s true in my opinion.

  71. Miss Libby*

    My husband is a full time firefighter in a small department, our city would be screwed if the virus spread through his department. These guys are together for 24 hours at a time and cannot totally limit contact with co-workers due to the nature of their work and living situation. Your second job does not trump the health of the entire department and safety of the city they serve. The Chief’s responsibility is to his employees and protecting the city, he cannot be responsible for someone’s spouse’s job, etc.

    Also, most firefighter’s “second jobs” are not relied on for living off as they are typically casual and work around their full-time rotating schedule. My husband lost his second income due to this and we are fine, it is for funding vacations and paying down debt, not to pay the bills. It is very common in public entities to have no moonlighting or manager approved moonlight policies.

  72. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Bike LW: just ask! Sometimes alternative options aren’t considered yet they may be safer or cheaper or easier for you.

    Your question reminds me of what my dad would do for an annual summer conference in Duluth. Since it was the season for boating and the family owned a sailboat large enough to stay on for days that was already in the lake, he would just take the boat across to Duluth the weekend before the conference and rent a slip rather than a hotel room. No traffic, could walk to the conference and cook his own meals, familiar surroundings for his evenings, and even sailing after work!

    It took a while for him to get his expense reimbursed, because the administrators were all thinking “you did WHAT?“ But, after the first year he did that, they actually encouraged him to take the boat because doing so saved on food reimbursement and a slip is cheaper than a hotel.

  73. bubba*

    #3, this happened to me!

    At my last job, I replaced a guy who had been promoted. At the end of my first or second week, I was invited to a happy hour. I talked to the guy who I had replaced and he was really nice – he told me how much he loved my current boss and and how lucky he was that she promoted him because he had been trying for years.

    I didn’t drink too much that night, but I did get into an argument with another coworker at the end of the evening who took it upon himself to first yell at me for drinking while pregnant and then for lying about being pregnant, and then for being offended because I should know I looked pregnant. (I was NOT pregnant and was drinking soda water with lime so people would stop trying to buy me drinks since I was new and did not want to drink too much in front of coworkers.) I’m adding this because maybe the guy I replaced saw this or maybe he was buddies with the guy I got into the argument with?

    Then Monday came. I see my new friend and say “hello!” and he walks past me. Maybe he was nervous about his first day as a manager?

    This guy never looked at or spoke to me again. He rose through the company and about six years later he became VP of my division and my small, specific group was assigned to report directly to him.

    He still did not speak to me, and on one occasion he actually made a change that directly involved my work, told my coworker about it, and said that if I had a problem with it that I could come and ask him myself.

    I still don’t know what happened, I’m not all that upset about it, but I do know that when I had my second child and was trying to figure out if I should return to my job or not, the deciding factor was that I didn’t know who I would quit to, since my boss wouldn’t speak to me. When I told HR, they begged me not to tell anyone I quit until they had a chance to talk to my boss because he’d be angry if anyone knew before him. I definitely made the right call.

  74. OP #1*

    Just wanted to add some context:

    * No, it’s really not asking people to volunteer themselves. They have actually done that before in the past, this is a different situation. They genuinely are asking for people to put up their own coworkers for layoffs.

    * My mother’s workplace is hilariously dysfunctional both financially and culturally, this is just another aspect of the dysfunction.

    * Her plan is to stay out of it and not volunteer anyone, but YES, this is messing with morale and causing infighting.

    * No, she’s not going to quit; she has the second-most seniority of any of the non-management staff in terms of tenure and is unlikely to get a new job in her field if she quits.

  75. Bota*

    I was recently laid off and I have some people still reaching out to me which is nice. However, I’m not sure I would like getting cash donations. It would make me feel… Offended. I know not having a job means lack of income but not everyone is broke. I happen to have a six figure net worth and I understand I’m probably an outlier but I would feel really weird getting money from old coworkers. I’m in my twenties so people may assume I don’t have much but I probably have more in the bank than they do!

  76. boop the first*

    Like the recent argument about whether or not it’s morally better to carpool with a friend than take the bus, maybe we shouldn’t also be judging whether or not people should be working multiple jobs right now? Especially in this specific case where both jobs are equally essential and literally work with the same clients.

    This isn’t even the weirdest it’s going to get. The point of social distancing isn’t to prevent most from ever getting The Illness, it’s just to stagger it out a little. I’m personally VERY curious about what will happen once a noticeable portion of the population will have gone through it and become immune. They’re going to be walking around carefree, ignoring distancing guidelines and be free to be pretty much living as normal. A LOT of others are going to assume their cold/flu was actually covid and be acting the same way. The rest of us are going to be ( perhaps resentfully?) watching from our windows. How are we going to know the difference between them? Who’s going to police everyone’s personal life decisions then?

  77. The Rafters*

    *Company wants coworkers to suggest who should be laid off*

    Ding ding ding! We have a true contender for the 2020 sucky boss(es) award.

  78. Employment Lawyer*

    1. Company wants coworkers to suggest who should be laid off
    That is so bad it’s almost funny. It’s like someone was reading the AAM boards about all of those “Lee is horrible and everyone hates them; Lee is bad the company but management never really knows” while also watching Survivor, and said “hey, I have an idea, let’s see if everyone really DOES want to kick Lee off the island!”

    I mean… it’s a very bad idea but let’s be honest: Any company who uses that as an idea is probably not going to listen to you merely because you think it’s ill-conceived. So roll with it: Don’t you have a Lee in your life? Of course you don; everyone has a Lee. Vote for Lee. And if you ARE Lee, shape up.

    2. Should employer restrict side jobs to lower virus risk?
    Yes, probably. They may lose some employees though.

    4. Collecting cash for a laid-off coworker
    It’s fine if you WANT to but it’s not at all fine to pressure people, and “cash collections” can easily go there. So be careful. Cash is much better than a gift card IMO unless it’s really truly an almost-universal one (Amazon, your local grocery store, etc.)

    6. Can I expense a bike for work errands?

    Yeah, sure.

  79. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I wouldn’t blink twice at an expense report for a bike rental.

    We pay for cabs, Ubers or bus passes *shrugs*, bike rentals are actually probably cheaper or on par with a bus ticket TBH and my cheap heart would sing for you on that level ;)

    1. James*

      I’ve worked on sites that provide bikes. All of the reasoning provided in the letter apply. In addition, on those sites engines had a potential (a very small one, but still present) to turn the entire plant into a smoking crater.

  80. Bopper*

    Rescinded offer: Make sure to write about this incident on Glassdoor so others will be wary.

  81. Jedi Squirrel*

    #3: I know a lot of people are thinking the boss is weird/an asshole, but I’m wondering if he even knows that OP3 is his employee? Maybe he keeps thinking “why does this person who doesn’t even work for me keep contacting me? What an odd person!” Especially since he isn’t assigning work directly to OP3.

    Somebody above mentioned Are You Being Served? and I definitely am getting a Mr. Rumbold vibe from this guy.

    1. Invisible Worker*

      Totally possible, but organizational, he’s in charge. He knows that much! But even if he doesn’t think I work for him, how hard is it to say “Hey, I think you need to talk with XYZ instead of me.” Also, one detail I left out: I tried him once on Slack about a month after he started and he acknowledged being super busy and said we should connect soon. He never followed up and then we all went into work from home mode and things got even busier. Yes, I could’ve followed up on that tiny Slack olive branch, but, I mean, he’s the boss. I’ve made all the attempts thus far. How hard is it to send an email saying “You’re not forgotten. Hold tight and we’ll talk”?

  82. Bob*

    LW1: Talk to other coworkers and all of you recommend the CEO.
    If they find out you worked together to come up with this recommendation simply say you collaborated to decide the best answer, which is what any good company should foster among their employees, collaborative problem solving!

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