sending work emails late at night, coworker read my notebook, and more

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

1. Taking long bereavement leave during a busy time

A few years ago, I had a manager tragically lose her sister in an unexpected accident. In the kind of awful luck that compounds those situations, this was a job with a well-defined busy season when we were all strongly discouraged from taking any time off. That year, we were also debuting a new business model and on-boarding 10-15 new staff we’d fought hard to secure. All eyes were on us to prove we could make it work.

She was out for the funeral for about a week and a half during that training time, and her staff really went through it trying to make everything happen without her, most of them pulling 90-120 hour weeks over their usual hefty 80 during the seasonal rush. It was really tough on everyone, but of course we understood that no one would choose these circumstances.

The next week, she took a week of vacation to go relax at an island with her partner and kids. She said she needed it to come down from all the tragedy and regroup. As a department, we were torn on whether this was completely legitimate or a really bad look. On one hand, she had a terrible shock and needed to take care of herself. On the other, our team really came together for the initial week and a half and made huge sacrifices of our own — with at least one person postponing an elective surgery and another scrambling to find someone to stay with a family member recovering from surgery because the days were just too long. Several folks spent a fortune in emergency childcare. The business model also, despite everyone’s efforts, didn’t really get the launch it deserved because we were constantly in triage mode and our new staff felt the strain. It seemed to many like a discretionary vacation on the heels of a long absence might have been better postponed until things had calmed significantly in a few short months. What would you have advised someone in the same position?

She took a total of two and a half weeks off after her sister died unexpectedly. That’s not excessive.

I suspect it was the details that gave people pause — the week of vacation to “relax” on an island. If she’d just said she was taking two and a half weeks for bereavement leave, I bet people wouldn’t have questioned it. And politically, it probably would have been smarter for her to frame it that way, given that it was your seasonal rush. But truly, two and a half weeks off after the unexpected death of a sibling isn’t unreasonable, regardless of how she framed it (and I doubt she would have been up for working an 80-hour week right afterwards anyway). Ideally your employer would have stepped in and provided extra staffing, either via temps or pulling people in from other teams (not always feasible, depending on the nature of the work, but worth considering).

2. How can I reject former coworkers interested in a job I’m hiring for?

I have had several past coworkers reach out to me on LinkedIn asking about a job posting at my company. The only thing is … they don’t know that I am the hiring manager for the role, and they are under-qualified. I already know I would not hire them for the position.

I have good relationships with them from my prior jobs, and I am sure if I tell them the role is on my team they will feel they have a better chance at the position, even though that is not the case. But it is tough out there right now with the economy and I know at least one of them was recently laid off. I am worried they would take rejection personally.

How do I approach this? I don’t want to discourage them, but I also don’t want to mislead them. I’d ideally like to preserve our relationship in the process.

If there’s something specific you’re searching for in the role that they clearly don’t have, point to that: “I’m actually the one hiring for this role! Unfortunately, we’re looking for someone with a deeper background in X, so it’s not as close of a match as we’d need — but I’d be glad to tell you if something opens up that looks like the right fit.”

If there isn’t something so easy to explain and you don’t feel you have a way to tell them up-front that it’s not the right match (for example, if it’s about something like critical thinking or ease of working with them — something harder to explain in this kind of context), the best thing may be to just manage their expectations by highlighting the competitiveness of the candidate pool: “You can definitely send over your resume and we’ll take a look! In the interest of transparency, I can tell you that we have a very competitive applicant pool and already have some strong candidates we’re talking to, but we’d be glad to include you in the mix and will get back to you either way.” And then, assuming you need to reject them later in the process, you can again reference that the process was highly competitive with lots of strong candidates, you ended up turning down some great people, etc.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Is it weird to send work emails late at night?

Last night around 11 pm, my husband suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to email back about a meeting request, and was about to send it when I said it looked weird to be emailing at 11 pm. He asked why, and I had no good reason, except that it seemed weird to let people know that you’re up and thinking about work that late?

I wonder if I’m extra-cautious because I work as a contractor and so I try very hard not to email at off-hours so as not to give the impression that they can expect me to be up all hours. But you’re not going to lose much time if you send it at 9:30 rather than something sitting in their inbox when they arrive, that is stamped at late hours. What do you think?

It depends on your office culture. There are lots of offices where this is totally fine and wouldn’t come across strangely at all (and where it’s not uncommon to get late-night emails, just because some people like to deal with email at strange hours). There are other offices where it would be unusual, but still not a problem. And there are a smaller number where it would look odd. If your husband thinks it’s fine in his office, I’d assume it’s fine in his office.

The only real caution I’d give on it is for managers: If you’re a manager who does this, it can make your staff feel like you expect them to be checking their email late at night, even if you explicitly tell them you don’t. So for managers, I’d suggest setting the email to send in the morning (or saving it as a draft to send later, unless it’s crucial that people see it first thing in the morning).

4. My coworker read my notebook and now I’m in trouble

I work in a hospital. When I was out of the office, my coworker looked through my personal notebook, which had my name on it. She claimed she was looking for a piece of paper, but there are various places one can look for paper without the need to scroll through my things. She found something I had written regarding coworkers talking during a work meeting. I said they were acting “rude.” My coworker took my notebook to my manager to complain. My manager told me she’s reporting me to HR.

What are my privacy rights in the workplace? Can a coworker legally look through my personal things? In what possible scenarios would what I did warrant being reported to HR?

Assuming you’re in the U.S., there’s no legal issue here; there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy connected to the papers and files you keep on/in your desk at work. Your coworkers can legally go through the items you have there — and might even have a legitimate reason to do that, if they need something they think is there and you’re not around (which is exactly how your coworker is explaining this). It’s possible she should have known it wouldn’t be in your notebook, but no law was broken here.

Whether or not this warranted her reporting it depends on what was in your notebook. If it’s full of screeds about coworkers (versus a single throwaway line) or it appeared you’re logging everything others do at work, I can see why that concerned her. That said, your manager reporting this to HR rather than dealing with it herself is weird (she shouldn’t need to borrow HR’s authority; she should have her own) and that makes me think you’re in a highly regimented workplace, so that’s a factor in how this plays out too.

5. What should I say to a furloughed coworker?

A large chunk of my coworkers were furloughed for the summer at our university, including my office mate who I haven’t seen since March. I was not furloughed because my job is very tech-centric. I also have only been here about five months, while my office mate has been there five years but works in a more traditional, less valued area.

We happen to live near each other and I would like to say something to her, even offer to help out if she needs something, but I don’t know her that well and I can never get a real handle on whether she likes me or not. She’s always friendly in person but hasn’t really responded the few times I emailed her about non-work related things. Before everything started shutting down, I offered to get coffee sometime and she seemed uninterested.

So what can you say to furloughed people that’s supportive? I need to say something before she’s off work email next week or it will be super awkward when we hopefully return in August. Either way it might be super awkward as the non-furloughed newbie. But I’d like to say something supportive to my colleagues who have basically been told they are not essential, which no doubt feels awful.

This is someone who’s been cordial but not responsive to friendlier overtures, so I’d keep it simple. Something like: “I hope this all ends quickly and I’m looking forward to having you back in August. Please let me know if there’s anything I can be helpful with meanwhile.”

Also! I keep wanting to make this point so I’m hijacking your letter to do it: being laid-off for being non-essential isn’t a commentary on people’s value. Your coworkers wouldn’t have been hired if they weren’t needed. Financial realities right now just mean some businesses have to cut down to the bare minimum to stay afloat (which can mean cutting higher paid people, in some cases — or people who add a ton of value but value which isn’t a linchpin for the company being here in three months). I know you’re not arguing otherwise, but the more you can push back on the idea that it’s an awful thing for someone to be categorized as non-essential, the better we all are.

{ 461 comments… read them below }

  1. B*

    When my sister passed my coworkers and company offered me near unlimkted bereavement leave. I don’t recall all of the details tho it was more than I took or wanted. Allison, thank you for your generous view. Life’s too short to care if the work of the busy season gets done or not.

    1. Avasarala*

      I agree. I think the boss should have framed it as extended grieving instead of “relaxing on an island”–taking a step back on Martha’s Vineyard so your partner can watch the kids at the beach while you cry alone in the house is different from getting on a plane to New Caledonia so you can get away from work. But they’re both “relaxing on an island.”

      One thing missing from the story is what did the manager do when she got back? Did she thank all the people who worked day and night to cover for her? Did she advocate for the company to reimburse people for emergency childcare/food and laundry etc while they were working so much? Or advocate for changes in business model so it can withstand absences without people having to reschedule surgeries?

      I don’t think we can pin all of the inconveniences experienced by everyone and the failure of the product launch on the manager. But it would be politically expedient to acknowledge the effect of her absence on others, even though her absence was unintentional.

      1. Ominous Adversary*

        Not just politically expedient, but thoughtful.

        I suspect the bad taste in people’s mouths is a feeling that the co-worker is being tone deaf, and maybe unappreciative of what everyone in the office went through to enable her to take that leave. If she had asked for another week because she was helping her sister’s family get their affairs in order, I bet nobody would have batted an eye.

    2. Casper Lives*

      Some things are bigger than work. I feel badly for OP 1 as they seem stressed to the max. Their company put them in a position where they couldn’t succeed, then made them feel badly for not doing the impossible.

      In contrast to your story, big Fortune 500 company offers 3 days of bereavement leave for close family members. It’s not enough. When my uncle died, I was new to the workplace with no accrued leave. My boss might’ve maybe fudged the bereavement requirement so I could take a paid day for his funeral (not considered a close family member by corporate). We were quite close as we lived in the same town and saw each other a lot.

      1. 3 days isn’t enough*

        I’d been working at a hospital for two months with the same 3 day policy when my parent died. We weren’t close and I thought I was fine and I took a day and went back. Lasted a week. Ended up quitting cause I didn’t know how much time I needed but I knew it was more than 3 days and I didn’t have leave accrued and didn’t want to/couldn’t emotionally deal with begging for time away, being seen as “needy,” etc especially when my relationship with them was so difficult.

      2. Emma*

        My ex worked for a national chain grocery store that is now owned by another entity – which is known for poor treatment – but at the time they were not owned by that entity. Anyway, my dad died…and that’s when we found out the grocery store had ZERO paid bereavement leave. The day my ex asked off for the funeral was counted as an unscheduled absence, as was the actual day of death when my ex took off to support me (more understandable, at least, since it was essentially a same-day call in).

        1. J*

          My grandmother died last month from COVID-19. That’s when I discovered that my federal agency offers zero paid bereavement leave. It felt like a tremendous slap in the face during an already awful time. I’m sorry for the loss of your dad and for having to deal with that extra stress on top of it.

        2. Beth*

          Yes, I think I know which company that is. I make a point of never shopping there.

          When my parents died, I was working for a non-profit that had generally terrible compensation and employee policies, but they DID offer bereavement leave, which I had not expected. I was incredibly grateful for it; I was a wreck.

          Key features of bereavement leave included: it was for a specific purpose; it could be invoked without notice (unlike vacation time); it could be invoked no matter how busy we were; and it was PTO, even if the person was a new hire with no accrued time off.

        3. Lentils*

          Oof, I’m so sorry for you both. That all sounds maddeningly frustrating and dehumanizing. <3

          Both of my wife's maternal grandparents (who lived several states away) died suddenly within six months of each other last year. That side of her family is wildly homophobic so I wasn't allowed to go to the funeral anyway, but I tried to get at least a day of paid bereavement leave to drive my wife to the airport, or even a few days to go with her for emotional support and wait in the hotel room…and was informed that while the death of a grandparent-in-law does count for my job's bereavement leave, it's unpaid and basically counts in the system as up to five days of LOA. So I just took a day of PTO for the airport dropoff instead. Sigh.

      3. MK*

        I think “bereavement leave”, which is given on top of any PTO you might have, could more accuratelly be called “funeral leave”; its purpuse is to give you time to make funeral arrangements/travel to the funeral, etc., not allow you to get through your first bout of grief. I don’t know of any employer that actually gives you extra time off to grief, though all decent ones would be accommodating about you using your paid time off or taking it unpaid.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! I talked about this a bit further down too. The intent isn’t that you’ll finish grieving in that time! It’s just intended to help you to attend the funeral and deal with other logistics. Also, many people take more than those three days (or whatever the company offers); the bereavement leave is just a special category of leave that you might choose to supplement with other PTO.

          1. Overseas*

            This is topic that is tremendously influenced by culture. Jewish religious law mandates 7 days of deep mourning for first-degree relatives (not leaving the house, not shaving, not doing any kind of work). Not surprisingly, Israeli law gives 7 days bereavement leave–and it is bereavement leave.
            I wouldn’t expect US policies to be the same, but I do want to point out that so many labor laws and policies are based on often unspoken cultural assumptions.
            I also wonder if American companies offer any flexibility for people whose religion or culture calls for different mourning practices.

            1. WS*

              I would be surprised if they did – I’m in Australia which is generally more flexible and generous with holiday time and had a Muslim co-worker who needed emergency leave (during an unavoidably busy period at work) immediately after her aunt died – it was important that she participated in preparing her aunt’s body as there were only a few women in her family in Australia and the others were further away.

              Leave was initially denied due to lack of notice but another co-worker offered to come back from their own pre-booked leave to cover most of her shift and the rest of us covered the remaining parts. But HR was definitely not ready for that request at the time.

            2. Avasarala*

              I don’t know any culture that expects grieving (or celebrating for happy occasions) to neatly wrap up in a few days.

              But Israel is also an explicitly religious country, right? I imagine other countries with strong religion underlining their culture have similar laws that allow for expected religious compliance. But needing to take a different amount of time off for religious reasons goes beyond bereavement and includes holidays and so on. Most companies in America and around the world allow you to use your vacation days for this, or even swap holidays if the job requires coverage.

              1. Smithy*

                Used to work in Israel, and at least my employer your holidays were very prescribed to your religion. Therefore if you were Muslim, you got the Muslim basket of holidays, Jewish – the Jewish basket, and so on. I never worked with someone in an interfaith relationship, so truly have no clue if my employer would have allowed for anyone to take the basket of leave associated with the religion of another holiday. I also don’t know how it works out if you are registered with the state of having No Religion.

                However, all this to say that while there are 7 days offered for bereavement – it’s has to sync entirely with Jewish law. So there would be no breaking up the days or taking the 7 days later than allowed based on when a funeral should happen. Additionally if your seven days fall on a weekend or another holiday, you don’t get any extra time. It’s just to allow you the time to fulfill the religious ritual. This is not to say that some employers are not more generous and have additional policies. But if your employer is just sticking to state employment law, it’s fairly rigid.

                1. Smithy*

                  @Kate – true! That being said, my response was thinking about positions where “weekends” don’t always correlate to time off. You could have a case where an active duty soldier does get a full 7 days off of work given the way their schedule would be written. On the flip side, should the employee work a more standard work week and the 7 days overlap with Passover (a holiday in Israel that is accompanied by a number of state holidays), your employer would not be required to give you any additional days off.

                  Again – this is not to say there aren’t individual employers who’s response would be different – but that’s relying on employer decision making and not employment law. Regardless of how considerate it is for religion, it certainly has its own limits.

              2. Overseas*

                My company was actually flexible about it when my mom died during a holiday. My point is not really an expectation that US companies will change but to take a step back and see where the idea of 3 days came from. More thinking out loud than practical suggestion. Am I correct that three days between death and burial is typical Protestant practice? Just as we have pictures in our heads of what a doctor, truck driver or senator “should” look like, or whether fathers “should” stay home with their newborns, we make policies based on our concept of how death and mourning “should ” be handled.

                1. Beth*

                  I would not describe three days, or any other period, as “typical” of Protestant practice — there’s a huge range of “typical” practices across the staggering variety of Protestant sects, plus regional variation.

                  I think three days is more along the lines of the minimum grudging amount that a company might offer in acknowledgement that a death in the family, in the US, usually triggers an immediate trip to the family home — basically, one day to get there, one day to be there, and one day to get back.

              3. Anon for this*

                When my parent died, I spent the week I took off at the funeral director’s, with my surviving parent, at the bank, at the lawyer’s, trying to make arrangements, on the phone, dealing with the the byzantine maze of paperwork.

                I came back to work after that week and broke down. My boss told me I needed to power through it. More than one person was puzzled that I was “taking so long to get over it.” After all my parent had been elderly. “These things happen.”

                Perhaps my experience was unique, but based on what friends have told me, this is similar to what they have faced.

                US and Christian if that matters.

                1. soon to be former fed really*

                  Those people were aholes and probably had not experienced such a loss. Sorry that happened to you.

                2. Still grieving inside*

                  Yeah, we’re not really ‘allowed’ to grieve in an ‘old time’ kind of way where families wear black and don’t socialize for a year. At least in my part of the US.
                  My work has a week of bereavement for close family. When my husband died it was after a long illness, so I was out of all leave. I was back at work after that week and people thought I was weird. I could have used more time off, but needed the income.
                  In contrast, a friend’s husband died unexpectedly, she ended up taking a full year off, and everyone thought that was unusual and unnecessary.
                  Our country just does not handle death well, socially speaking.

                3. Quill*

                  Dealing with funerals takes forever when you’re the party doing the arrangements. My maternal grandparents had everything squared away, but I’ll never forget when my paternal grandfather died unexpectedly, leaving my dad, as second eldest, with a lot of funeral home and casket related tasks.

                  Funeral directors, it’s not a good look to try to upsell coffins to the deceased’s son when the tweenage grandchildren are in the same room. :/

                4. I edit everything*

                  My father died two and a half weeks ago. The first week was awful, with the bureaucracy of death on top of the grief. The second week was just a haze. I’m only now starting to be able to focus for any length of time on work.

                  I’m actually grateful for quarantine and for being a freelancer, because there are no expectations of my being anywhere, and I can control my own schedule, and ease back into work. I have a primary client, and I’d given them a heads up a few months ago, when he started really declining, so they were expecting my “I can’t work on this right now,” email and were gracious about it.

                  I actually wrote Alison, asking “should I tell them now, and risk them not sending me as much, or wait and catch everyone unawares.” Telling them was the right move for me. It meant that when things got really bad, all it took was a quick “OK, it’s happening now” email, and not a longer explanation.

                  Anyway, I can’t imagine having to go into an office in anything less than two weeks, for more than a couple hours at a time. I would probably quit my job if I’d been forced to return after three days, especially to a cube farm.

                  Even now…

                5. Liz*

                  Wow, i’m so sorry you had to go through that. When my dad died; I had been planning on going to my parents as it was right before Christmas (he actually passed away ON Christmas), but ended up going earlier than planned when he went into the hospital. I ended up staying with my mom for 2 weeks; a combo of what PTO I had left, holidays and my 3 or 5 days bereavement leave (I don’t recall what we get) and the remainder unpaid. My bosses were great; they told me come back when I was ready, but as it was after New Year’s i had more time which I’m sure I could have taken if I had wanted to.

                6. blaise zamboni*

                  @everybody in this thread, but especially Edit – my deepest sympathies for your loss. That is so hard.

                  We really don’t have the best approach towards or concept of grief as a society. My dad passed almost 6 years ago, and I save at least two days PTO every year to take off his birthday and the anniversary of his death because they’re still such painful days for me. If I was working when he passed I would’ve lost my job because I was useless for months. Luckily (/s) I was just a college student, so instead I failed all my classes and dropped out. The death of someone close to you changes things, permanently; it’s bizarre that so many people (and companies, but their policies are written by people) seem to downplay that and think you’ll be right as rain in a week or less.

            3. Some Lady*

              I had a job where the head would question what you were doing on your time off, then determine for himself if it counted as a vacation, which wasn’t allowed (which I don’t like as a practice, but we had long breaks in summer and winter so you could say we had built-in vacation periods, so less grievous than the same policy in a different situation). He would freak out about taking a certain amount of time off for, say, family weddings, despite the fact that many of our employees had families in different countries for whom wedding practices were totally different. This was just one symptom of many, but I couldn’t get away from that job fast enough, even though to them I was a strong employee. Business practices that don’t allow people to live their lives and be good to their families is not good for the company long-term.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          My workplace has a table with the amount of bereavement leave you get, from from three weeks for a spouse, parent or child, to lower amounts as you get further away. It has to be taken within several months of the death, but not all at once, and the time scale is long enough to cover the actual interment part of a Buddhist funeral (49 days after the death).

          It’s not just the funeral arrangements – there’s a ton of paperwork, legal and practical stuff that needs to be done after someone has died – wills, insurance, dealing with official documents like passports, shutting down credit cards and other financial obligations, dealing with possessions and accommodation.

          1. A nonnie nonnie non*

            I think it greatly depends on the company. Most places I have worked at have had a standard 3 day bereavement leave policy. However I had co-workers who unexpectedly lost someone close to them and they were given ample paid leave to grieve. I had a co-worker loose a young child in an accident and the company (very large mobile phone company), give him 4 weeks paid leave. Not sure if he took more, as he took a transfer to another location.

            1. Littorally*

              Agreed. OldJob offered a standard three days, but when a death in a coworker’s family also entailed her suddenly becoming the guardian of two children, and therefore finding a new house with space for them, they pulled through and I think she was ultimately given six or eight weeks of paid leave to get everything settled. It was a mess, and they really had her back through it.

            2. Liz*

              A good friend of mine at work lost her husband very suddenly. She was out 3-4 weeks I think, and no one batted an eye. They told her to take as much time as she needed.

            3. noahwynn*

              This has been my experience as well. Even if the official policy is 3 days, there is often a desire on the company’s part to do more, depending on the scenario.

          2. Quill*

            Yup! one of my grandmothers left a lot of debts and even though my dad and his siblings got most of the paperwork taken care of, years later we still had people calling my dad (eldest son, so they were able to find him via the phone book,) about what grandma supposedly owed them in mortgage payments. Death is surprisingly complicated in the real world.

        3. Calanthea*

          In my first office job, I started knowing my parent had terminal cancer. 3 months in to the job I finally accepted that this was probably the last time I was going to get with them, and asked my manager if I could take annual leave from the end of next week ( we had a convention on at least a weeks notice). She told me to take the rest of the day off and to let her know when I felt ready to return, explained how long I could take off with annual leave, bereavement leave (specifically 5 days paid, up to a month unpaid) and let me know that a phased return was entirely possible.
          Bereavement leave is a thing in some organisations. May be a coincidence that this was a unionised workplace.

          1. Chinook*

            My experience is that even the most micromanaging boss may surprise you when it comes to bereavement leave. It never hurts to ask and I have seen surprisingly positive interpretations of how to apply leave under emergency circumstances, especially when it is previously known that an employee has family out of town. Sometimes it was unpaid leave, but the guarantee of a job to return to can make the flight to anothet time zone for a few weeks a lot less stressful.

      4. Steve*

        > [uncle was] not considered a close family member by corporate

        My workplace has a one-time-only leave for ‘someone you feel is close family’. It can be a best friend, uncle (our list of close family also doesn’t include aunts and uncles), or any relation at all. You get it once, so it can’t be abused easily, and has been a kindness to those who have non-traditional family situations.

          1. Chinook*

            I suspect it is worded in such a way due to people who seem to have “like family” members die often. Think Klinger from MASH.

      5. Super Anon*

        My company offers a max of 5 days, and that is only for a parent or child. It’s 3 days for a sibling.

        I couldn’t imagine burying my child and only having a week off. It’s ridiculous.

        1. Wing Leader*

          It is nuts. Like Alison said above, the bereavement is not for you to “get over” the death, it’s simply for you to deal with things like funerals and other things that have to be done. So no one is expecting you to be suddenly okay in a few days, and I get that. But still, the idea of “you only have this many days to handle your child/parent’s death and then we need you back in doing these reports” is incredibly callous to me.

        2. Lynne*

          I learned of my daughters death from a knock on the door from police on a Monday night. I was home the next four days and back to work on Monday. We had a three day bereavement policy so I took Friday as a personal day. I did whatever else needed to be done in evenings and weekends. I work for municipal government and, to add insult to injury, we (my department of three) were ordered not to tell anyone about her death. That was in 2013 and there are still people here who have no idea that I have a daughter that died.

      6. Clewgarnet*

        At the time my grandmother died, my employer offered ten days bereavement leave if you needed to plan the funeral, and three days bereavement leave otherwise. My manager encouraged people to take the full ten days. Partly, he was a genuinely kind person who wanted to give people as much time and space to mourn as he could. Partly, it would help to retain good employees. Partly, people who are sad and distracted are likely to make mistakes.

        1. Jackalope*

          The last bit is key as well. I don’t understand wanting someone to come back on day four after the loss of someone close. You’re probably going to be pretty much worthless at work even if you’re trying to give it your A game.

        2. Wing Leader*

          That’s…crazy to me. Why not just give everyone ten days bereavement leave? It really doesn’t seem fair. I mean…say you had two employees that both lost their mother. One has to plan the funeral and one does not. So one of them gets ten days and the other one only gets to have three? Wow, way to kill morale.

          It’s good that your manager tried to remedy this though.

          1. Clewgarnet*

            It was more as an indication of how close you were to the person, and was to allow for less traditional families. Maybe you were raised by your grandmother and godparents, so their loss would be more devastating than the loss of your father, who vanished from your life when you were three. But that couldn’t be allowed for by a bereavement leave policy that dictated three days for a grandparent, ten days for a parent, none for a friend, etc.

    3. Potatoes gonna potate*

      At my last job, my dad died suddenly and I had to get on a 26 hour flight to make it for the funeral. I was out for 3 weeks. I had maxed out my PTO because I had JUST returned from a vacation 3 days prior. When I came back, I dove right into tax season working 60 hours a week.

      Grandboss (VP) said all the right things at the time.

      Maybe about a year or so later my boss–who I was close to–mentioned to me that she had given him such a hard time over my being out….as if I was on vacation or he had any control over my being away. 100% sure that she had advocated to fire me for being away during tax season but it didn’t happen. The next year, another coworker’s parent passed away and she organized a collection and card to be passed around for that coworker and was personally granted a day off by VP.

      Some companies/bosses just suck.

    4. CarrieT*

      It really gets my goat that OP#1’s company questioned a mere 2.5 weeks of bereavement for the unexpected and tragic death of a sibling. If my mother, husband, or kid were to pass away unexpectedly, I would probably have to take a 3-6 month leave of absence from work – both for bereavement and for dealing with all of the logistical aftermath of a sudden death. I wouldn’t give a crap about my employer’s needs in that situation, although I would do my best to transfer responsibilities and answer questions. Yet, it would still be in my employer’s best interests to keep me, because hiring and training a new person would take longer than that.

      1. flartymcbubbles*

        Me, too. I was actually disgusted by this letter.

        My husband and I recently got life insurance partly in case one of us suddenly and unexpectedly dies, like OP’s sister, partly because we’re certain neither of us will be able to work for a long time (months, at least). A friend of mine lost her partner and father in the same year and didn’t work for a few years.

        What is wrong with people?

  2. Kiwi*

    For #3 – especially right now, people’s schedules are all over the place, so I think nothing of emails at odd times (I thinknone colleague may have fully shifted to a 10pm to 6 am schedule even though we’re in the same timezone, but I’m not someone who should be concerned with that). I work in consulting and find that sometimes we fire off emails at odd times without the worry that it will look odd – maybe you circle back to something or think about a followup later. It happens. As long as there’s no expectation to respond from whoever you’re writing to during off hours then I think it’s fine.

    1. Blaise*

      This is what I was thinking. Normally I absolutely will not send work emails outside of work hours because I think it sets a dangerous precedent, but I’ve been sending my emails almost exclusively at night these days because that’s when I’m productive and get the most work done. None of the normal rules need to apply right now!

    2. Rebecca*

      +1 Every working parent I know with young kids (me included) is doing the majority of their work between 9 PM and 1 AM. My sister was saying how she felt guilty about sending an email at midnight and even wrote so in her email, but then got a return email from the recipient (another working parent with young kids) just fifteen minutes later saying it was no big deal because she was also up doing the exact same thing. There are limited hours in the day. Do what you gotta do.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        Yep. I’ve elected to keep my office hours because they work for me, but a majority of my department has young kids so I normally get emails from them really early in the morning, or really late at night. I don’t really think anything of it.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yep. If he’s got time zones working against him, that 11pm thing can be important if you want to get something on their desk before they log on –or off, if they’re far enough away.

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      I personally never even notice the time an email is sent unless it is some time later and who sent which update first has some relevance.

      When I was a teacher and responded to HS students late at night, they took it as an example that they should also be working late and I had to be careful to add a sort of disclaimer that late night was my main time to email (I was teaching all day).

      1. New ED*

        Exactly this. I’m a manager and I do try to schedule emails but we also use slack and q lot of what I need to respond to is in slack channels so I can’t schedule it. I do explain to staff that I have small children and do a lot of my work late at night or early in the morning. Several other staff also do the same and we have set the policy that everyone can work whatever hours they want as long as they are available for meetings and are transparent about whether they are available or not.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Same. Beyond casually recognizing that it was sent after I last checked my work email the previous day, I’m not going to notice. I don’t care.

      3. Ama*

        Yeah, I only care what time an email is sent if the sender later complains about a slow response or sends a follow-up email before I had time to read the first one. Then they will get a polite but pointed reminder that I don’t check work emails outside of working hours.

        When my boss had a small infant, she let us all know that sometimes we might get an email from her in the middle of the night because she was up with the baby, but that she absolutely did not expect a response before we got into the office the next day.

    5. Elemeno P.*

      I also don’t really think anything of emails at odd times, but I’m also hourly and expressly forbidden to do anything work-related off the clock or outside my regular hours. My grandboss emails at 2am sometimes so I’ll see it when I clock in, and I’ll just think he hasn’t been sleeping well again.

    6. Sara without an H*

      Time behaves differently now. I’m (trying) to work from home and the daily flow is just different than it was when I worked at the office. So I don’t think OP#3’s husband looks “weird” to be sending emails at 11:00 p.m. — if his colleagues notice the time stamp at all, they’ll just assume he was awake at that point and decided to process some email.

    7. kittymommy*

      Yeah, my office (at least those who are exempt) sends emails at all times of the day, however it’s not expected to reply to them at all hours. I don’t even pay attention the time emails are sent.

    8. I edit everything*

      There’s also a big difference between a long, involved, “I’ve been working on this for hours” email sent at 3 a.m., and an “Oh, I forgot to tell you: Yes, I’ll be at your meeting,” email at 11 p.m. Everyone’s had those “just lay down and remembered that one thing, and if I don’t do it now, I’ll have forgotten again by morning” moments.

    9. Some Lady*

      I personally have been more strict about sticking to a defined work day during this time because I *need* to be able to delineate between my work time and personal time, even though both consist of me sitting in one of two rooms for hours on end. But I agree that the rules are all different for everyone right now!

    10. Hats Are Great*

      I work with a small worldwide team, so I get e-mail whenever. I usually work between 6 p.m. and about 2 a.m. (since before the quarantine; I have a disabled child, and trade care to my husband when he gets home from work; quarantine has been less disruptive for us than for many families because we already had two full-time jobs + full-time childcare responsibilities and had built our work life around that), and my local office knows that. They basically just act like I’m in a different time zone, and nobody worries about it when I send e-mails at 2 a.m. (Conversely, they know that I generally won’t see any e-mails from them before 11 a.m. and if they want me in a meeting it had better be no earlier than noon.)

      (Since we’re a 24-hour team, we do have a company alert method where if there’s an emergency that requires immediate attention I can get an alert on my phone, but our use of that is very, very circumscribed, I’ve gotten one in five years. I think our IT liaison has gotten three in five years. Generally even when there’s an emergency that needs my personal attention, one of my colleagues on the other side of the world can keep it under control until I’m awake, even if they can’t solve it without me. And vice versa; I’ve often kept a few plates spinning in the air until Singapore wakes up and can actually solve the problem!)

      Sometimes when I deal with outside contacts, I have to be really disciplined about sending my e-mails during normal working hours, because THEIR companies have a culture of “if it comes in at 2 a.m. you better answer it at 2 a.m.” rather than “we’re a rolling 24-hour team in several timezones, hours are weird.” When I engage in volunteer activities or organized social groups, I usually warn people that I work “second shift” and will often send e-mails at 2 a.m. but to JUST IGNORE THAT. My friends all do know that if they have a midnight emergency, I’m the one to call because I’m definitely still up! More than a few times I’ve gone over in the middle of the night to sit in the house with a friend’s sleeping kid while they take another kid to the ER; if I have wifi, I can work.

      Which is all a long way of saying, based on long personal experience, I think people think less about it than they used to, more companies are multinational or outsource some of their functions, and as long as your company doesn’t have an ALWAYS AVAILABLE expectation, it’s fine. (I also worked a second-shift job in the early 2000s and people used to comment on my e-mail timestamps then, but I don’t think anyone’s even commented since 2010, except my mom, who thinks I need more sleep.)

    11. Lies, damn lies and...*

      Right now, I think people are emailing at all hours. I also am very clear with people that when I am emailing at night it’s because I have a 3 year old and I’m catching back up after he is in bed – and that responses are not required when they get the email. My coworkers may be working from 5-7 but I have to take a pause for family st that point. (Also, after 8, I usually don’t get responses to my emails and can keep sending stuff out without interruptions!)

    12. Foxgloves*

      We’ve just had a organisation-wide message to suggest that we add the statement “My working hours may not be the same as yours, please do not feel obligated to respond outside of your normal working hours” to our email signatures. As we’ve all received the same suggestion, it kind of negates the point of actually putting it in there, but it is great that the organisation is on board with supporting people to just work at the time that suits them.

  3. Ingalls*

    #3. I know you’re not my manager, but I feel compelled to read your posts when they show up on my feed at 9:15pm. So stop it. Ha

  4. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: Bearing in mind this was your busy period, this sounds far more like a systemic issue at your workplace than something your manager did “wrong”. Leaving out even bereavement leave, if she’d had an accident or become ill, what would have happened?

    Even if she had been present during that time, would it have made a big difference? If multiple people were working 100-hour weeks, probably not that much. This sounds like someone up the chain didn’t plan enough for this period, your team got slammed, and your boss is kinda an easy thing to focus on.

    This topic comes up periodically with mat leave and other things: If staffing is so tight that one person’s absence can lead to chaos, that’s a systemic failure, and more people need to be hired.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      YES. Your boss was not wrong to take the time off, but neither should anyone have had to work 90-120 (!!) weeks or postpone surgery. Your company is grossly understaffed.

      1. serenity*

        I agree with Alison that there are deeper issues at play here – and perhaps the optics of “taking an island vacation” were troublesome and maybe the manager should have been more discreet about that – but the OP makes mention more than once of a slew of new staff being onsite for this period. Maybe they weren’t “grossly understaffed” but there were other problems senior leaders did not address.

    2. Lady Farquaad*

      It’s also not realistically possible to get the correct staffing level at all times. If this organisation is chronically short staffed and no one can ever take leave without everyone else doing 90-hour weeks, sure – systematic failure. But when launching a business model and on boarding 10-15 new hires it’s understandable that they were much busier than usual and required employees to avoid taking leave except for emergency. All organisations, including well-run ones, have temporary busy seasons where people have to pitch in overtime.

      1. Casper Lives*

        The company sounds chronically understaffed to me – “ most of them pulling 90-120 hour weeks over their usual hefty 80 during the seasonal rush.” Maybe that’s normal in their line of work. It’s a lot for most workplaces.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          This is where I fall, too. That goes beyond overtime.

          If you look at the math, the people who threw 120 hours a week, which means they were working roughly 17 hours a day (if there were working seven days a week) or 20 hours (for six days). Working Monday through Friday, that would require someone to work 24 hours! And it doesn’t look better for people working 90 hours — you’re looking at a minimum of 12 hours a day, and a maximum of 18-ish.

          If someone being unavailable results in people working so many hours, you’re understaffed for the busy season.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Right on! Crunching the numbers like this it is easy to see that one person is not going to fix what is wrong here.

            No, OP, the company had a staffing/planning problem. This was not a manager on leave problem.

            It’s an easy pit to fall into, people tend to look at the person who is missing and say, “Oh this would have been okay if Jane had been here.” If Jane worked 120 hours and there were 6 impacted people that means the six people only would have worked 20 hours less per week. So instead of ranging between 90 and 120 hour per person, the range would have been between 70 and 100 hours per person, which is still Not Good. This is a company with Problems.

            Additionally, since it is KNOWN that this is the busy season, the company had plenty of time to build a plan to deal with it. Instead, they decided that it was okay for people to work 70-100 hours per week to meet the demand. Whoops we lost a person so now everyone must work harder and longer.

            Final straw: A good leader has a plan to replace any person at any given time. Heck, anyone can win a bizillion dollars in the lottery and run away to Bermuda or where ever. A good leader knows this and has some idea of what they will do if this happens. My views tend to be radical, I think it’s unethical to decide big commitments for other people. Here the company decided that it was okay with you guys that you work down one person and you all could just “fill in”. They could have temporary designated someone as manager and perhaps brought in temps. They chose not to take care of the people who were still in the situation.

            I am really ticked on this woman’s behalf that she could get blamed for what happened next. The company shirked its responsibilities here. Big time failure on the part of the company.

            1. Colette*

              Temps aren’t always a possibility – especially at the last minute. I agree that a success plan shouldn’t be based on “all hands on deck working 80 hour weeks” but once they went down that road, their options were likely limited when someone had to be out,

              (Also I’m confused about why someone booked elective surgery during a crunch time – or, if that’s when it had to be, why they cancelled it.)

              1. WiscoDisco*

                Just speculating, but it’s possible that it was the only availability that the specialist had in their schedule for a very long time.

              2. peachie*

                ‘Elective’ surgery can cover a broad range of procedures — it basically just means ‘can be scheduled’ (as opposed to emergency surgery that needs to be done immediately). I had to get cataract surgery (for the second time!) a few years ago, and it was considered ‘elective’ even though I was quite suddenly blind in one eye and burning through my sick leave as I couldn’t get through more than 5 hours of work most days. I scheduled that the very first day they had availability and would have done so even if it were the busy season — although it wasn’t medically necessary, it was practically necessary.

                1. Nesprin*

                  Basically if surgery is not done in an emergency basis, its elective. Cardiac bypass? Elective.

              3. SweetestCin*

                re: elective surgery. I had one booked during “busy” time at work, because one, I was in pain; two, spouse’s workload was not “busy” historically at that time (and I was going to be questionably ambulatory); and three, the surgeon could get it on the schedule in the first place!

                I sort of understand the postponing of it, but it annoys me based on my own reason one. I had to reschedule mine because the owner’s sibling decided that he was going on vacation so we’d have been short coverage. I’ve since realized that the misplaced “loyalty” to a workplace is just that, misplaced.

              4. SPDM*

                Where I am, the hospitals weren’t doing electives for the last eight weeks and then opened it up again. Given that elective can mean any pre-scheduled surgery, someone might have been having their cancer removal or something similarly important on the schedule for March and had it pushed back to today. Given that we don’t know if we’re going to get another surge in COVID cases, I would probably jump on whatever time was available ASAP if I were in that situation, busy season be darned.

              5. Ethyl*

                “Elective” doesn’t mean “not necessary.” I think a lot of people hear “elective” and think “plastic surgery,” but the reality is that the term in common usage and the term medically mean different things.

                1. Colette*

                  Sure, but … then they rescheduled or cancelled. It’s the conflict between “it needs to happen” – which is reasonable in many cases – and “guess I’ll wait” that I find odd.

                2. Colette*

                  And, assuming that everyone does the same work, having the manager out didn’t increase anyone’s workload at all, since someone who had planned to be out worked anyway.

                3. Ethyl*

                  I’m not sure what you find odd, here. Elective surgeries, *in a medical usage of the term elective,* mean they can be scheduled ahead of time. That is — no bones poking out, no sucking chest wounds, etc. Rescheduling or postponing may be possible, but it may not be the best idea — when I had to have my gallbladder out, that was “elective,” but I was in excruciating pain and there was a possibility that it could rupture in the meantime. As someone said above, some types of heart surgery and cancer surgery are considered “elective.” Furthermore, you usually don’t get any say in when it’s scheduled — the surgeon’s office calls you and tells you when it is. This employee didn’t cavalierly schedule a butt lift for their busy time, which is what it sounds like you’re implying.

                  Also, if the employee was pressured to reschedule their surgery, I doubt VERY MUCH that the employee felt “I guess I’ll wait.” Rather, considering what sounds like an insanely toxic work culture, they were probably told or strongly hinted that “if you don’t reschedule your surgery you’ll be fired/ineligible for promotions/get a bad reputation that will follow you all your days here and make working here even more of a nightmare.”

                4. Observer*

                  It’s not “odd”. It’s a sign of a really toxic culture. I’m betting that the coworker was told “Well, you should never have scheduled that surgery anyway. Now you need to cancel for MANAGER’S SAKE. If you don’t you’re a bad person and a bad employee.”

            2. AKchic*

              All of this.

              Even with Jane in the office, even if Jane’s sibling had not died; every single person would still be working those long hours. 80 hour weeks magically turned into 90-120 hour weeks because one person was gone? What kind of superwoman is Jane? How can Jane keep so much on track, without anyone else’s help that she increases the workload *that much* for *that many* people?

              You hired 15 new temps. All of them had their workloads increased 10-50 hours a week? The rest of your staff did too? My goodness. Your company does not pay Jane nearly enough, whatever she is making.

              I think you’re frustrated at the workload and looking to blame someone without outright blaming the company (since they sign your checks, maybe?), so you’re focusing on the person who wasn’t there (and “should have been”). This is a company failure. They knew it was the busy season and they always short-staff. They balance their desire for higher profits on the backs of you, the workers. This is on them, not Jane’s very real need to grieve.

        2. Willis*

          This. Plus they pulled in someone who was scheduled to be out for a surgery! I’m no stranger to a long work week, but this situation sounds like it had an exceedingly narrow path for success regardless of the boss being out. When a business sets up situations like that (even when it’s only during their busy season or whatever reason), it can’t expect to then be resilient enough to weather bumps like an unexpected absence with no repercussions. This situation is on the company not the boss, who took a totally reasonable amount of time.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          This, 80 hours a week is two full-time jobs. They’re working almost literally around the clock. I get that a lot of jobs have busy seasons but that right there is understaffing.

        4. Quill*

          It sounds like accounting, where apparently the best way to survive tax season is to be undead, but the rest of the year is predictably less busy. Even then, 120 hours is driving me up a wall in terms of how the math works. If 40 hour weeks are 8 hour days for five days, and 80 hour weeks are 12 hour days for five days and 10 on weekends.. 120 hours are 17+ hour days. Leaving you with less than 6 hours to sleep. Every day. For multiple weeks.


        5. Bella*

          I kind of assumed it was accounting or something similar, where you see a huge rush of business during a few months early in the year when you work overtime, and then it balances out. That, or extremely seasonal work that’s too technical to hire temps

        6. KRM*

          If everyone pulls 80 hours a week during the rush time, you need to hire some temps to help out. Suddenly doubling workload on your staff, even during an expected time, is insane. And people get ill! They need time off! A child or parent might need care! If that pushes everyone’s workload up another 50% over 80 hours a week, you are doing it wrong and you need temps.

      2. Observer*

        Well, it’s just plain bad planning. Why onboard that many people during busy season. And who on earth rolls out a new business model during busy season. ESPECIALLY while onboarding that many new staff.

        This is also not a matter of not exactly correct staffing. This is GROSS understaffing. People were being expected to work *13 to 17 hours a day for 2 weeks* That’s insanity.

        1. allathian*

          At the very least, new staff should be onboarded before the busy season, so that they can work at maximum efficiency when it actually hits.
          This is a systemic problem, not the manager’s fault. That said, the manager needs to acknowledge the hard work her team did during her absence and the busy season.

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            Agree. never understood onboarding someone right at the start of or in the middle of a busy season. This happened frequently at my company. IME they constantly fall in to a crappy cycle of being desperate for staff, so they hire anyone at any time and either that person is so toxic that others leave or if they’re good they leave fast. I saw this desperation cycle happen for 5+ years.

        2. Scarlet2*

          Exactly. The planning was absolutely horrid from A to Z. Even if everyone had been present and 100% functional, it was just piling on difficulties for no reason whatsoever. Also, it looks like the kind of work environment where people who cannot give 300% are blamed as the “weakest link”, without realizing that the planning was way off from the start. I’m concerned that LW1 seems to still buy into that worldview, based on the fact they’re still asking that question years later and also the sentence “In the kind of awful luck that compounds those situations, this was a job with a well-defined busy season when we were all strongly discouraged from taking any time off”. It sounds like they’re almost putting on the same level being away from work at the wrong time and the manager losing her sibling.

          English isn’t my first language though so I might be reading too much into it and I’m not sure I’m expressing myself very clearly. But anyway, I hope LW1 works somewhere with a better work/life balance now.

          1. Liane*

            Scarlet2, No you aren’t reading too much into this. I got all this out of the letter, too. Your points are quite clear and I agree.

            There was lots of very bad planning, probably much of it above the bereaved manager’s level, which no doubt caused the severe staffing issue others have talked about. OP still thinking about this years later is what really stands out to me. But maybe the pandemic just got them thinking about it again?

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yep. And also the question of how do you stop crying in three days. I have seen this question so many times IRL. “I have 3 bereavement days and I know I will not be able to stop crying in that time. Yet, if I don’t return to work people will say something is wrong with me because I am not ‘over it’ . So I have to go back to work, no choice. And I have to deal with people asking why I am not over it.”

              1. Colette*

                People grieve differently. Some people will want to be back at work; others won’t. But there is no amount of time that you can be off work that will allow you to truly be done grieving, and that shouldn’t be the goal.

                1. Jackalope*

                  It’s not the goal to be done grieving, but I would argue that part of the goal is being to a point where you can at least sort of function. If you’re still having crying fits every 20 min because everything is too much, you aren’t going to be much help at work even if through draconian efforts you can force yourself to stop the tears. You just aren’t. At some point you’ll be able to function as a work being, but you probably need more than three days. It’s like saying someone needs to come back from the flu the second they’ve made it 24 hours without a fever. In some cases that’s fine, but in others they will be so flattened that they’re wasting their time even showing up.

                2. Colette*

                  But that depends on the person and the relationship. Sure, sometimes people need more than 3 days, and a compassionate employer would help them get the time they need. Sometimes people don’t, for dozens of reasons.

                  But anyone who says something is wrong with someone because they aren’t over it 3 days later is unreasonable and their opinion should be ignored.

          2. Batgirl*

            You’re so right, this was never bad luck, it was bad planning. My favourite aunt used to say that “Hope is not a plan” and this company had some bold hopes. “Hey everybody let’s work dawn till dusk, regardless of deaths, surgery or indeed, even a debilitating flu. I’m sure we can get through multiple years with this as The PLAN, with the most perfect luck”
            Of course your staff can’t step up for a colleague if they’ve been unreasonably tapped out already.

          3. WellRed*

            Scarlet, agreed. It’s like they all thought this was normal, cancelling surgeries, paying a ton for emergency childcare, etc. OP this isn’t how a well run organization works, working yourself to the bone isn’t a badge of honor and your manager’s loss isn’t on a par with the other employees’ so-called sacrifices. I’m curious if you still work in an organization with unreasonable expectations like this?

        3. Rebecca*

          I just “did the math” too, and was shocked by this – what the actual heck? I’m also willing to bet the employees are exempt, too. When did they have time to shower, cook a meal, or even get much sleep? No wonder this poor soul needed some time off. I would love to know what kind of business this is, simply so I could avoid supporting them or when job searching accidentally apply. I suspect this is one of those things you’d find out after getting hired. 80 hour normal work week? 11 + hours a day, 7 days a week? No thanks.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Lol of course they’re exempt! No one is letting people work 80-120 hour weeks if they have to pay for the overtime, that would be an unsound business decision.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              My husband, a non-exempt welder, used to work 60+ hour weeks as the norm at previous companies. Excessive overtime was expected and mandatory for pretty much every job except his current one. I never understood it.

              1. doreen*

                It’s because in some situations ( those with generous benefits), it’s less expensive to pay 20 hours of OT to each employee than it is to add additional employees along with their benefits.

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  His current job is the only one where he’s ever received halfway decent benefits. His previous boss threw an almighty tantrum for daring to take time off to attend the birth of our daughter, then he had to get right back to work as soon as I was home from the hospital. I might still be salty about that one.

        4. Smithy*

          My father passed after a short terminal illness. And while I didn’t know the end was coming quite as quickly as it did, I did plan for a two week vacation to spend with my family as he was ill. As the world had it, he passed on the Sunday before I would have been back at work. My two week ‘vacation’ turned into three weeks with my bereavement time. When I came back, as happy as I was to be out “care taking/bereavement” mode and back at work with something else to do – had it meant jumping into such a high pressured 13-17 hour days…..that sounds like a recipe for disaster.

          Without knowing what this busy time means, the manager really may have been sparing the whole team. Being distracted, unfocused, having split attentions – none of that would have helped this business during their busy season particularly if other staff were relying on the manager to be high functioning.

      3. PollyQ*

        “Pitch in” is one thing, but having work 2 to 3 times as much as a “standard” workweek is something else entirely.

    3. PollyQ*

      Completely agree. I understand that there are some jobs where you can’t easily add more people when you get slammed, but 80 hour workweeks for a whole team means something’s gone wrong at a strategic level.

      1. Liane*

        “you can’t easily add more people when you get slammed”
        Right here is just some of this company’s egregious Bad Planning in action–they decided Busy Season was a great time to onboard many new people, and on what was clearly a key team.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          But they didn’t need them in Quiet Season!


          /facepalm for good measure

    4. AcademiaNut*

      To be fair, having the manager of a project be unexpectedly absent for two and a half weeks around a major launch can be disruptive even in well staffed cases with good documentation. You’re not just losing X hours of labour – you’re losing the person who was keeping everything running on track, and balancing the various components of the project.

      But in this case, upper management really should have stepped in and done something to help compensate. Push back deadlines if possible, assign priorities (like backing off on training new staff for a few weeks), hire temp workers or shift people from other departments if it would help. And if none of that is possible, they should be paying for the emergency childcare, feeding people during the long days at work, and providing bonus vacation time at the end of the crunch period for people to recuperate.

      1. Observer*

        Sure, management should have stepped up. But they should also have planned better. Because while you are completely correct that it’s not just about the number of hours were “missing” because the manager was, but the disruption of management, it still should not have caused and extra *10 – 30* hours per week for the entire department.

    5. Hello, I'd like to report my boss*

      This is a systemic issue! LW1’s company (possibly their industry) seems to have a toxic attitude to staffing and taking leave. It’s endemic in some places (eg public accounting) that firms are understaffed for busy season and staff are pushed to do these hours to keep costs lower and ensure profits stay high for the partners/shareholders.

      Even though it’s insane, people mainly put up until they can leave, have repeated breakdowns, or become workaholics and wear their long hours and dedication like a badge of honour.

      This is not a co-worker problem, this is a company that’s created a workaholic culture.

      Please recognise that your employer shouldn’t be asking for this level of exhausting work, the staffing levels are totally inadequate, and your boss isn’t to blame here.

      1. Miso*

        > Please recognise that your employer shouldn’t be asking for this level of exhausting work, the staffing levels are totally inadequate, and your boss isn’t to blame here.

        Exactly. 1,5 weeks isn’t a “long absence” – and especially not when your sibling just died.
        Also, if several staff members suddenly had to work 30 or whatnot hours more a week, then that couldn’t be because just one person was missing.
        (Although… If that person would’ve been expected to work 120 hours a week as well…)

      2. AW*

        Yeah, if I had to guess, I would say this was a public accounting firm or something similar. I had a friend who worked for one of the Big 4 firms right after college and they had mandatory 16-hour days for 2-3 months during busy season. I worked for a small firm who required six day work weeks during tax season. I’m not saying I agree with it, and I don’t think having the manager there would have prevented people from working way too many hours, but there are fields where this is absolutely the norm. Tax and audit are also two areas where management can’t just push back deadlines because the deadlines are regulatory.

        1. Observer*

          Well, actually, you CAN file delayed forms for a lot of things.

          In any case, what happened here is still ridiculous. If you are in this kind of business, you do NOT onboard a whole new cohort during tax season (or whatever your equivalent is) and you do NOT roll out a whole new business model during that time. You CERTAINLY don’t do BOTH.

    6. Koala dreams*

      Yes, it’s understandable that busy season is the worst time for someone to take time off, but you’d need some planning for sickness, accidents and so on. Working 80 hour weeks is already double the usual 40 hour week, there isn’t any slack there. I’m so sorry for whoever felt they needed to postpone their surgery.

    7. Vina*

      It’s amazing to me how the focus is on the coworker doing a bad/selfish thing instead of the coworker is doing a natural thing and the COMPANY is doing a short-sighted thing by over-stressing workers and under-staffing projects/failing to properly manage.

      Modern capitalism and many of the companies within it have managed to successfully shift responsibility for understaffing onto the workers and has gotten the workers to believe it’s somehow their fault.

      It’s not the coworker’s fault for needing time off to recover from a traumatic event from which she is grieving. It’s the company’s fault and our culture’s fault for somehow shifting the responsibility for staffing onto the workers. I’ll repeat: we have shifted many responsibilities that should be the companies on to the workers and made them accept it as their responsibility.

      This is absolutely, utterly obscene and inhuman to me. The fact that this is so normalized in the USA is, frankly, appalling.

      As others have said, this company is not prepared for any sort of staffing shortfall. It’s got no flexibility whatsoever. If someone should have fallen ill, been injured, or died, their solution would be “everyone just work harder.” That’s ludicrous. While no company wants expensive redundancy, there has to be some give.

      I’m a solo practitioner. I have no staff. What I do have is a plan to outsource work to colleagues at other law firms if I am ever to the point I can’t complete my work. This isn’t rocket science.

      LW, please take a step back and realize this isn’t on your coworker or on you. It’s on your company’s leadership. It’s on the entire American culture. Your coworkers are frustrated at the wrong target. Your bereaved coworker didn’t cause their extra work, stress, and time pressure. Your company did. It has a fundamental, deep rooted issue with how it sees it’s employees. They seemingly aren’t noticing or don’t care you are all overworked to the point of breaking if one of you is not present. That’s not ok.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        From the bottom of my heart I am shouting out a great big THANK YOU for this. Blame shifting, YES!

        We see this over and over. And not just with stories about emergency leave time. Employees have to turn into work-mules and work non-stop to cover a mistake that is a management error. (Okay this is larger than a mistake. This poor planning could cause a company to go out of business.)

      2. The Original K.*

        If I could double-click this post to love it, I would. You preached a word!

      3. Smithy*

        Absolutely this to the 100000th degree.

        I worked at a place where over a series of a few months our entire (albeit small) Finance and HR teams either quit or were fired. At the time I remember having this moment of shocked “what on earth will ever be done” – to which I had a colleague nonchalantly answer that there were staffing firms that dealt with exactly these issues. Getting this kind of emergency support wasn’t as cheap as more traditional temp support, but it also 100% existed.

        The US work culture is one that has cornered so many of our brains into “this is what we do” that we trap ourselves and think there’s no way we can fire problematic staff because “only they can do it”. And similarly, it’s a betrayal of some sort to be out of the office for illness, injury or family – again because “only they can do it”.

        The solution likely does cost more. On-boarding people sooner with the understanding it may take a few weeks/months before they’re at 100%. Having some redundancy on staff to accommodate for the office not being staffed at 100% at all times. But the notion that that’s not seen as the cost of doing business is appalling.

    8. Ash*

      I also can’t imagine many people would stay for more than one “busy season” if being expected to put in even 80 hours per week for 2 weeks. I bet there was pretty high turnover in this company, which is probably why they had to on-board so many people at once. Unless you’re personally raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars, those hours are never justifiable and likely means you are being exploited by the company.

      1. AAAA*

        “I also can’t imagine many people would stay for more than one “busy season” if being expected to put in even 80 hours per week for 2 weeks.”

        I don’t find 80 hours for two weeks out of the year unreasonable. I put in about this amount when covering for my boss, it’s literally only two weeks – not a huge deal. I’d never give up a job/employer I love because of something this temporary. 120+ hours a week, heck no that’s an issue. 80? Not abnormal, at least in the four industries I’ve worked in and in my geographic region (metropolitan city).

        1. Ash*

          And seems I was exactly right about the turnover, if you look at LW1’s update at 2:44 pm down below.

      2. Kiki*

        There are industries like this, though. My mind immediately went to public accounting. It is true that most people don’t end up staying at big 4 firms for most of their career, but a lot of people do embrace the work hard play hard lifestyle. My friend hates busy season, but she also was able to take 2 months of paid leave to go on a trip and spends most of the off-season working 4 hour days.
        I would entirely hate that, I need more balance, but there are some industries that try to make the inherent terribleness of busy season worth it.

        1. Ash*

          Well sure, if you can make up for the terrible months with 2 months of paid vacation and essentially part-time work at full-time pay the rest of the time, it may be worth it. But that wasn’t the case here at all, and LW1 confirmed that with their update below confirming that everyone has left the company and also that the boss who was on bereavement was one of the worst offenders at rushing people back after leave.

    9. Aitch Arr*

      Yeah, I was going to ask: where was the rest of management? E.g., OP’s grandboss

    10. CeeKee*

      Amen to that. This has almost nothing to do with one person’s bereavement leave. A properly-functioning workplace (within a properly-functioning society) would not be thrown into this level of chaos by one person’s absence.

    11. Kiki*

      Yes– this is definitely a systemic issue. I know there are industries with busy seasons like this, I don’t want to be that person who completely disregards that and says the whole situation is terrible, but when a company is relying on employees working more than 40 hours a week, they’re taking a risk. And the level of risk increases with the number of hours expected. So to already be expecting 80 hours a week out of folks was super risky of them. Things happen to people that make them unable to work. It is impossible to avoid that or try and plan and make those things happen at convenient times for the company.
      Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to for your manager to let people know her time off would take place on an island, but honestly that’s just optics. The manager was grieving the loss of her sister and she thought being on an island might help. I understand this left the LW and their coworkers in the lurch, but that’s not actually the manager’s fault. It is the company’s fault. They designed a brittle system in an attempt to maximize profits.

    12. Donkey Hotey*

      Yes, yes, yes! If corporate culture gives side-eye to one person taking two weeks bereavement leave and doesn’t bat an eye to an entire department working 80-100 hour weeks for months, that is an utter and complete failure of management.

  5. BadWolf*

    After my father died somewhat expectedly, I was still a mess 2 weeks after (plus more than that). Had your manager come in and try to work 40 hrs, much less 80+, it may not have helped. It may have made things worse.

    Frankly, it sounds like the plan was a bad plan to begin with. I don’t blame you and your coworkers for being exhausted and angry (and probably disappointed that all the work didn’t come out as a shining star).. It sounds like being angry with the rest of the managers or upper management is a better location.

    1. caps22*

      Exactly. This was a bad plan from the start. If the busy period is well defined, there’s no reason to do a launch and onboard/train 10-15 new people at the same time. Then failing to plan for some level of absences for whatever reason just adds to the chaos. Blame the upper management for being bad at their jobs, not the manager for losing her sister.

    2. Vina*

      What if this coworker was in a car crash? Diagnosed with cancer? Had a heart attack and died? LW and her coworkers would have been in the same situation.

      The issue isn’t whether or not the coworker was reasonable (she was), it’s the company is unreasonable in how much work it expects from it’s employees and how little flexibility it has if one of them is not performing at maximum capacity for a sustained period.

    3. TimeTravlR*

      I took off the day my dad died (which put them in a bind at work but they got through it). Then I took off 3 days 2 weeks later for his service. The next weekend was a family wedding and I took 2 days off for that. My boss got kind of pissy with me about it. Seriously? I took off a total of 6 days for my DAD DYING and my nephew getting married!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It’s amazing to watch the meltdowns over things that are foreseeable and just a fact of life.
        It’s a fact of life that employees have lives.
        The narrowness of this thinking has me walking on the ceiling. I just want to ask these people, “You are how old and you don’t realize that family members suddenly die??”
        I think some bosses live under a rock.

    4. Hellow Sweetie!*

      I wish I had taken more time off after my dad passed away. At the time I thought I needed to be at work, but in hindsight, I was working at only 50% because I was too distracted. If I had taken a week or two at the time it happened, I think I would have managed it better when I went back to work.

  6. Dan*


    I sorta get the vibe that you’re putting the “locus” of all of this on your manager, and that’s not really the proper framing. You all put in long hours for the *company*, not as a favor to your manager.

    Also… 120 hours in a*week*? WTF? A “normal” work month (4 weeks) is 160 hours. 120 hour work weeks = 17 hours a day, 7 days a week. That is totally on the company as a whole, and not your manager. (Even 80 hour work weeks for more than a couple of weeks is nuts.) If I were your manager, I would not have been in a hurry to get back to that mess, so good on her for taking a breather.

    1. A_Jessica*

      I once worked 128 hours in a two week time period, but 120 hours in a week would’ve killed me.

      1. Old Med Tech*

        I worked three 24 hour shifts in four days when I was young. I was so tired.

        Short staffed and a lot of call time.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, really.
        This is the same company that says, “We can’t understand why health insurance costs so much. And why are our employees always at the doctor’s or the ER???? We don’t understand why all this is happening!”

        I am hoping the pandemic teaches some companies a lesson. But I am not optimistic with the shenanigans I am hearing about so far.

    2. Mookie*

      Yes. The manager’s team was failed by their mutual employer; it’s a sign of how deeply brainwashed people can become in a toxic environment pitting colleagues against colleague that they blame the person needing and rightfully using an accommodation because the employer doesn’t know how to manage such common accommodations, like emergency leaves of absence. The worker-unfriendly solution is the one these workers seem to have been championing. Very odd, and a classic case of people suffering wanting to make sure no one is suffering any less than them.

      1. Vina*

        Yeah, the LW is placing the blame for the stress and overwork she and her colleagues experienced on their manager. The manager isn’t at fault. It’s the company’s fault.

        The same thing would have happened if the manager would have been “blamelessly” absent because of illness, injury, or death.

        It’s always good to step back and ask what would have happened if I 100% thought manger’s actions were justified. In this case, all the bad things would have still happened. That’s a company culture problem, not a manger problem.

    3. Doc in a Box*

      FWIW, 120 hour work weeks used to be totally normal for surgical residents. The federally mandated 80 hour work week (+10% in times of extreme need) only happened in 2003.* Most of the old guard has retired by now, but when I was in medical school, there was a lot of head-shaking and hand-wringing about moral turpitude because young doctors were working only two full-time jobs instead of three.

      * People still routinely work 90-100 hours; we just lie about it on the timesheets. When I was naive and filled out my first timesheet truthfully, I had to explain myself to the program director. Every timesheet after that was exactly 79.5 hours.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        With the greatest respect, if I need a doctor, I don’t want the one who’s already worked 80 hours this week. I want the one who’s had time for a proper sleep and a balanced diet.

        Which is why overworking healthcare professionals is completely ludicrous. An 80h week is obscene (and I say that as someone who used to work 67h + on call).

        1. Lora*

          Don’t tell me that “medicine is an art more than a science” and then work people like they’re robots who won’t get tired or hangry. I’d rather HAVE a robot, at least it doesn’t get tired or hangry, and I bet it sterilizes its probes and surfaces between patients consistently, too.

        2. Kate*

          Where I live, we have possibility to have an assigned midwife for delivery, or just to go with whoever happens to be on her watch. One birth when I had assigned midwife, she had just finished her 24h watch, and the reason she asked me to take some delivery-braking medicine was probably in the hopes I will not give the birth yet. I barely avoided a CS due to contractions not being there anymore when they were needed.
          I went with random midwife from that on, and another time, gave birth half an hour after new watch came. I did wonder in small hours why nobody seemed to want to nudge the birth process along, until I remembered when their watch change was, and I wholeheartedly agreed that I’d rather have a midwife who just came to work than one who had been working for 22 hours.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I have given birth in hospital twice. Both times I actually delivered during the shift handover. It’s… additionally difficult.

            (Baby #3 was a home water birth with my named midwife)

      2. Ash*

        Emergency medicine is fundamentally different than a company that is just launching a “business model.” There is no way that is life or death. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s how much work out there is truly superfluous and therefore can be flexible and paced out reasonably. Oh wait, but that means CEOs can’t be worshipping at the altar of the almighty dollar.

  7. Alldogsarepuppies*

    When I had my sibling die unexpectedly my company gave me way more than the officially offered leave, and again months after I came back for the funeral (delayed several months for various reasons). It was probably brutal on my team, but empathy is so much more important. I think sibling loss is overlooked in general – rather than spouses, parents, and children/infertility loss. But the pain is real and deep. The lack of a cultural narrative around it makes grieving so much harder. If you lose them before you lose your parents you also have to put the brave face on and take care of your parents not knowing how to exist in a world without their child. Companies that can give you ample support when you go through the impossible is the least that can happen, not something to be criticized.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I think sibling loss is overlooked in general – rather than spouses, parents, and children/infertility loss.

      I think any loss outside of the spouse/parent/child sphere is overlooked. My uncle was found dead on Saturday afternoon. My grandpa found him and sat with his dead body for four hours waiting for the coroner to come and take him away from the group home where he was living. Apparently, he may have been dead for days and no one knew (grandpa last saw him Tuesday when he took him to get his schizophrenia shot and didn’t think much of it when he didn’t hear from him on Wednesday and Thursday figuring they saw each other almost every Saturday when grandpa would take him to run errands and get dinner).

      I lost my shit and have been crying off and on for days now. My company policy is to only allow one day of paid bereavement leave for an uncle – this man was more of a father to me growing up than my own father ever was, and I would have only been offered a day to grieve if my manager hadn’t stepped in and gotten HR to give me the week of paid leave that’s given for the loss of “immediate family.” I already had off next week – my vacation time was approved months ago, so I’m definitely taking it now. And my uncle’s funeral will be held virtually next week, so even though I’m not planning to attend because I can’t see him in a casket or I’ll effing lose it, I need to be available to comfort my mom virtually after it’s over – this is her little brother, the kid she spent her whole life trying to protect, and he’s gone now. She’s not handling this well at all.

      I’m not sure if my manager remembers I had pre-scheduled vacation for next week, but I’ll remind him on Friday. But I wish somebody would complain about me being gone for two weeks right now with everything that’s going on. As people above said, if the people left behind in the office are being overworked, that’s a management problem and the company needs to figure that out. The manager’s manager should have made arrangements so something like that didn’t happen.

      1. Observer*

        Oh, no! Such a terrible loss and what a way for it to happen.

        I hope you, your mother and grandfather can find some comfort with each other…

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Thanks. My grandpa is not a favorite of my mom (he was horribly abusive to all of his children growing up and is partly responsible for my uncle’s issues), so she won’t be finding comfort in him at all, though she does have a tiny smidge or sympathy for him since he’s the one who found the body. But I’ve got her. We’ll get through it together.

      2. Kim D.*

        I am very sorry for your loss, especially in these very trying time.
        My sincere condolences.

      3. Susie Q*

        I don’t bereavement leave for uncle. I don’t even get it for a grandparent. My father and I work for the same company. When my grandfather died, my father got to use the 3 days of bereavement leave for his father-in-law and I got absolutely nothing. I had to use my vacation.

      4. hbc*

        I’m so sorry for your loss.

        I think a lot of these policies limit who is close because of concern about things stacking up–I’ve had coworkers with 8 siblings, two dozen aunts and uncles, and probably fifty first cousins. I would hope that any manager or HR department would flex under circumstances where it’s clear someone just isn’t taking advantage. I personally never turned down a stretch of the policy–if you care enough to ask for an exception, it almost certainly meets the spirit of bereavement leave.

        1. Dahlia*

          I think if you lost five or six siblings in the space of a year or something, you probably wouldn’t be a very productive worker regardless of your time off.

    2. B*

      Yes, when my sister passed we had support from many uncles and cousins. Most bereavement policies don’t allow you to use that leave for extended family. Yet we found all of our jobs were understanding and flexible. It was a blessing to be treated well in that time. I know it’s not something most people think about until it happens.

    3. MK*

      I assume this is cultural, but where I am from sibling loss is generally considered on a par with spouse loss, second only to losing a child. Parent loss, once you are an adult, is seen as part of the natural cucle of life, something tragic, yes, but also something we all will expierience sooner or later. My mother certainly took her sister’s death much harder than her mother’s; she grieved, but there was no “what am I going to do without her” element, like with my aunt.

      1. A nonnie nonnie non*

        MK- I can totally see that. When my grandma passed it was very expected, as she was ill and quite elderly. It was difficult. However if my Mom, lost one of her siblings now she would be a mess. It would very difficult for her. They see each other (pre-covid) several times a week. Now duing co-vid they meet for “coffee” in a parking lot. They stay in their cars and chat through the windows. She would devastated.

    4. Vina*

      There is an increasing understanding that many people grieve far more for siblings than parents if the sibling relationship was a healthy one.

      If the sibling relationship wasn’t toxic, then that person is the one who will likely know you longer than anyone else and have the most same shared experiences. Sometimes, this shared experience bond is even stronger than with a spouse or life partner.

      Also, no one has as similar of DNA as a sibling. So, as someone who knows how much DNA can impact you (as an adoptee who has met bio siblings), I’ll likely grieve the bio siblings more than my adopted sister or anyone other than my husband. My bio ½ sister is more like me than anyone else I’ve ever met. We don’t always agree, but we do just get each other. It’s an easy simpatico with her. We’ve never, ever lived in the same space, so it’s not that either. I can’t imagine the level of grief if you have someone like that and you were reared with them in a household.

      While we do diminish any non-parent/child or spouse relationships, I think there is something special to a sibling bond. It’s not the same as anyone else.

      1. soon to be former fed really*

        So not true, I’ve lost both brothers and both parents and I grieved like hell for all of them. There is no grieving olympics or comparative suffering. It all sucks and different people handle it differntly.

        1. Vina*

          Where did I say those were not necessarily as bad for SOME people.

          All I’m talking about is (1) how the world doesn’t value sibling loss and (2) my personal POV

          Nothing I I said invalidated your experiences. I didn’t say “siblings are more important than parents Always and for everyone.” The word sometimes is in the second paragraph.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      You are singing my song, Alldogs.
      I will go one step further.
      I don’t think that companies should define who we think of as family. More now than ever we have blended families and we have people who have left their family but have friends who give them a sense of family and belonging.
      I personally favor an honor system where people request bereavement time for the people of their choosing. Of course, they can’t ask for bereavement time every week. But I think our society needs to move to a looser system where employees choose which funeral is important to them, not the company’s choice.

      I have noticed a double standard. If someone important dies at work all of the sudden everyone has bereavement time to go to that funeral. Yet by policy they should be denied the request because the person is not technically family. If they can make exceptions for important passings at work, then they can offer a looser policy for individuals private lives.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I was literally going to rant about this in this week’s Friday Open Thread, lol. I agree with you – we need to broaden the definition of family in the workplace and not do tiered leave allowances based on how someone in an HR department feels we should be ranking our loved ones in terms of importance.

        My company gives employees who lose “immediate family” members five days of consecutive paid leave, which is about two days more than a lot of places I’ve worked in the past (my mom’s company’s official policy is three days for immediate family I believe), and immediate family is a parent, sibling, spouse or partner, grandparent, grandchild, or child. “Close relatives” only get one day of paid leave, and a close relative is an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin.

        These policies have always pissed me off. Families are complicated for a lot of people, and not everyone has a functional, close relationship with “immediate family.” If my father died today or tomorrow, I wouldn’t shed a single tear – I care nothing about that man. I have more compassion for a stranger than I do his ass. But this company was really going to only allow me to take a day of paid leave to mourn the loss of an uncle that acted as more of a father to me than my actual dad did, that is, before he lost his mind and left his whole family to go back living on the streets where he said he felt safer (I was 13 the last time I saw my uncle, and now I’ll never see him again when I thought he was getting better and could do so after this pandemic stuff calmed down).

        And this company’s policy basically also says that if, god forbid, my five-year-old and two-month-old nieces died, I’d only get a day to mourn those babies/attend their funeral(s). Those are my girls, y’all. I didn’t give birth to them, true, but I love them just like they were mine. Who is an HR rep to tell me that my nieces lives are only worth one day off? My brother, who is my best friend, would be inconsolable, so I would have to take on all of the arrangements for him and try to comfort him in his grief – there’s no way I could do that in a day. I have a fundamental problem with people telling others what relationships should be most important to them – you don’t know everyone’s situations. I care nothing about my grandparents on either side, so I don’t need five days to mourn their loss and help make their funeral arrangements. But my little cousin that I watched grow up, changed his dirty diapers, rocked him to sleep, and love like a little brother would only warrant me a day? Really?

        When I go back to work, I’m going to advocate for my company to change this bereavement policy going forward to give five days for any loved one as paid leave. No one should have to be worried about dipping into vacation time they may not have or possibly going without pay when someone they love just died – that’s insane to me. And love doesn’t know labels; no one gets to tell me or anyone else who qualifies as “family” and how close those relationships are.

        1. doreen*

          Nobody gets to tell you who you consider family and how close those relationships are – but no company is ever going to have a policy granting you five extra bereavement days * for any loved one. For one thing, they can’t ( and shouldn’t) get into “Diahann Carroll isn’t going to mourn her father so we won’t give her any leave for his death, but will give her leave for her uncle’s” and for another, this restriction cuts down on how many bereavement days any particular employee might get. I’ve worked at my current employer for 25 years and have attended at least 20 funerals for family members in that time- but only one was a close enough relative to qualify for bereavement leave. No employer would want to give me 5 additional days for each of the deaths- most wouldn’t even be willing to give even one day for every relative.

          * I specify extra days, because at my current job, we don’t get any extra days – we can use up to three weeks sick leave per year for bereavement, but we don’t get X additional days per death.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            My company gives us five days of bereavement leave separate from our PTO/sick time, so yes, some companies will give you that. Just because you never got it and it’s not common doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t be done. Second, my point is if they’re going to give the extra leave at all, then give it across the board and don’t make distinctions between whether it’s a parent, or a child, or your uncle, or your spouse, or your best friend that was like your sister, etc. They are making those judgment calls you talked about when they do that, and that’s not HR’s place. So yes I will be taking this up with my manager and HR when I come back to work because my company is awesome when it comes to leave, benefits, and just generally being decent people, so this might have been an issue of them following standard policies from other industries, adding two additional days to be competitive, but just not taking into account that familial connections are not that cut and dry and should be left to the discretion of the direct manager to decide how leave is handled.

            1. doreen*

              I may have worded that poorly – but when I said when I said that “but no company is ever going to have a policy granting you five extra bereavement days * for any loved one” , I didn’t mean that no employer will ever grant five days bereavement leave. I meant that employers that give you five days are not going to give it to you for every aunt, every cousin, every niece , every friend and so on, where in some particularly bad years, I might have taken a week off after each of four different relatives died. They are going to limit it in some way, either by relationship or by a maximum number of days per year.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                And I said they need to stick to by days per year instead of making judgment calls about which relationships matter and on what level of importance.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                I am not sure how we went from people wanting to go to a particular special funeral to people wanting to go to every funeral they see.

                The fact that companies define family by blood/legal ties is an antiquated way of thinking. There are plenty of people like me who are on their own in this world. In order to move on in our lives we build new “families”, we develop close friendships with people who anchor us in life. They provide us with a sense of continuity and a sense of belonging, the way family should but no longer can. These are the special people who enable us to continue on working and contributing to society in spite of our “alone-ness”. They give us purpose and enrich our lives all in the same stroke.

                I have no problem with setting limits on how many BFFs a person can have. I do have problems with people telling me who I should consider my family. If you think about it, they already do limit the number of days per year. If they list off 6 types of relationships covered under the bereavement policy, then that is 18 days per year they are considering as max. (Barring large tragedy, of course.) If you go in and tell the boss your 5th mother, 7th dad or 9th grandparent died, the boss is going to say, “Too bad. We can’t help you.”

          2. Washi*

            I don’t know, maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think the opportunity to take bereavement leave for any loved one, rather than a list of specified relationships, would get abused by good employees. Just like decent workplaces don’t require a doctor’s note or detailed list of symptoms for sick days.

            1. noahwynn*

              Like you said, good employees won’t abuse the system. The bad ones that do, are likely doing other things and should be managed right out the door for their other actions.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              The gamers stand out like sore thumbs. We had a person who said their grandchild died and they needed time to go to a funeral. We heard the story in the news and saw it in the paper. We were all hugely supportive and they went to the funeral.

              Then two weeks later the newspaper published the upcoming date of that funeral.
              This person lost the respect of just about everyone.

              Looking back on it, I feel I should have said or asked something but I didn’t. People who lie about deaths attract the anger of just about everyone. The peer pressure is huge.

          3. nonegiven*

            Maybe companies should let you name x number of people for your bereavement leave as part of onboarding, and even let you change the list later. That way you get to choose who is close and who is not.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I wish there were more attend the funeral-type leaves to support the people who are grieving. I probably don’t need to attend my great-uncle who I only met twice’s funeral or the funeral of my best friend’s dad for my own benefit, but I do need to be there for my parent, grand-parent or friend who is struggling.

  8. Dan*


    I send work emails at 2 or 3 am. It raises an eyebrow, but people are used to it by now. On the flip side, my work people know that if I send a work email at 8am, something is seriously wrong.

    One of my former managers used to ask for things by “COB”. COB at my org is a euphemism that doesn’t mean anything concrete. Every time she’d say “COB” I’d shoot my hand up in the air. Then she’d say, “Ok, for everybody else, that means before you unplug for the evening. For *you* that means it better be in my inbox when I get to work at 8am.” Everybody was happy!

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yeah I kind of disagree with Alison here, and your comment is the reason why. You need to set expectations. I know in the past I’ve had managers with small children, who would leave the office at 5, go home and spend time with their family, and then finish their work later in the evening. If you choose to respond to an email at 10pm knowing your manager doesn’t expect an answer until the next morning, that’s on you. I used to work with someone who would always respond to emails when he was on PTO, even if I specifically said “this isn’t urgent” – I just didn’t want to forget about it. It used to bother me at first, but then I realized that he was making the choice to respond when it was totally unnecessary and I stopped feeling guilty.

      1. IT Guy*

        If I don’t get to non-urgent matters while handling other urgent matters in my inbox while on PTO, the non-urgent matter would be forgotten about until I’m reminded it’s not done by the requester much later.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’m used to working at global companies with teams in multiple time zones. Emails time-stamped outside of ‘normal business hours’ don’t really raise an eyebrow, there’s more focus on what the email says or asks of me than when it was sent.

      At my last company, if we really needed to get someone’s attention or had an urgent situation, we texted or called them. Emails were for the day-to-day ‘normal’ stuff. As so many others have said, it all depends on your work customs and norms.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, the last time this came up I noted that my husband and daughter both work on international teams–it’s not possible to send an email that isn’t arriving in the middle of the night for someone. I work on fully remote teams where people set their own hours apart from meetings, and 10 pm Tuesday or 10 am Saturday means that’s when it worked for you to get to this project–I would be very frustrated if I couldn’t send off a quick “X is done and on the server” or “There are conflicting directions for the captions, are sentence fragments okay or not?” Especially as I actually don’t usually work evenings or weekends, so if I am finishing something up it’s to free my mind to not niggle at this work thing–I just want to send off the email when it’s ready, not at some special time tomorrow. I assume people will answer when it makes sense for their schedule, without fretting about the answer arriving 9-5 in my local time, which they may not even know.

  9. Blaise*

    WOW, I’m blown away by the amount of bereavement leave considered normal here! This must just be one more check to add to the list of ways teachers get screwed… after five teaching jobs, it’s always been exactly three days. I had to take two PTO days for my little sister’s funeral to make a week, and I thought that was normal. I feel terrible being jealous about something like that, but man that would’ve made things a little bit easier…

    1. Casper Lives*

      I’m sorry for your loss. It’s the same at my big Fortune 500. Close family gets up to 3 days. That includes siblings, but not, I sadly discovered, uncles.

      1. Blaise*

        Yikes, that’s even worse As far as I know, it’s always just been three days in general for me (although if you took the full three days for a local funeral of a family member you weren’t close with, it would look really bad). I’ve never had to use it for anytime other than my sister so I’m not sure (thank you for the condolences, btw), but I feel like I could easily use one day of leave for an uncle, or more if I had to travel for the funeral. I’m sorry your workplace did that to you

        1. TiredTeacher*

          Teacher here too and have also only had 3 days of bereavement plus 3 days of personal leave. This thread has me thinking about what will happen when my husband’s parents pass. They live in a country that takes about two days worth of flying to get to. Travel time plus the length of their funeral traditions, and I could easily be looking at at least two weeks off. I guess I would have to take unpaid time? I think school contracts in the US have a long way to go in being more inclusive of other religions, non-traditional families, etc. I’m not even allowed to take off for my husband’s religious holidays to celebrate with him and our child because it’s not “my” religion yet everyone gets Christmas off whether they’re Christian or not.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        Technically, my company didn’t extend it for uncles, either. But my boss pushed it through anyway when the uncle who practically raised my father passed away.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s very common for the bereavement leave a company offers to be three days. But that doesn’t mean people only take three days; they may take more, pulled from other types of PTO. The three days bereavement leave is just a separate bucket of leave that the company offers on top of whatever else you have.

      (And the intent is not that you’ll be done grieving in three days; it’s usually to allow you to attend the funeral and other logistics.)

      1. LDN Layabout*

        This whole discussion had me checking my bereavement policy and I think it’s good?

        The org gives guidelines bit explicitly says they don’t want to be prescriptive and leave it to line manager’s discretion (making it clear they should take account of circumstances etc)

        I quite like this, but I suppose it leaves people open to poor managers if there’s not a firm policy?

      2. Ego Chamber*

        that doesn’t mean people only take three days; they may take more, pulled from other types of PTO.

        That’s news to me. Everywhere I’ve worked (admittedly: food service, retail, call centers and other flavors of customer service hellvoid) has been 3 days and then you come back to work. Unless you have a breakdown and decide to finally quit your horrible soul-sucking job, but then they retroactively don’t pay you for the 3 days, so people usually do come back.

      3. Governmint Condition*

        In government, 3 days is usually standard, though some agencies allow 4. However, you must charge it to one of your PTO accruals. You don’t get any extra days off. The only benefit for the 3 days is that your supervisor is not allowed to deny the leave, and you can charge it to sick leave without a doctor’s note.

        1. Library Lady*

          I work for local government and reading all of these comments has made me realize that my employer’s bereavement policy is pretty generous. We can use up to 40 hours (normal work week) for immediate family. Also, immediate family is considered spouse, parent, child, sibling, and grandparent (including in-law, adoptive, and foster relationships). I have also seen flexibility for those that need longer.

        2. Lynn*

          Not in my government job. I get 5 days for immediate family and 3 days for other family. That’s in addition to any other PTO.

        3. J*

          I discovered this last month (new-ish federal employee). I was f*cking flabbergasted. I had to charge it against my annual leave?! Heartless.

    3. MissBookworm*

      I’m sorry about your sister!

      My company does not handle bereavement leave well at all. We get a really good amount of PTO (compared to other companies), but bereavement is rolled into that, along with sick leave… so it’s like we all need to keep a few days set aside just in case someone dies/we get sick or else it’s unpaid leave. I had emergency surgery two years ago, using up what was left of my PTO about two months before my anniversary date (which is when my PTO renews). Three weeks later my aunt died. I couldn’t attend her wake or funeral because I didn’t have any time left and would have had to take it unpaid (which I also couldn’t afford thanks to the surgery and other unexpected savings-draining events that had happened that year). Two years later I’m still angry.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I think you have the right to be angry.

        I think your experience highlights why I find the concept of one pot PTO so weird and gross. I get how it can work well individually but like…we live in a society. So yes, your coworker who’s had medical issues should get those days paid AND get paid days off too.

    4. Asenath*

      It’s always been 3 days for an immediate family member at any job I’ve had – including ones other than teaching. You might be able to take longer if you have other kinds of leave available – I remember working out some arrangement using different categories of leave for someone who had to travel internationally for a parent’s death, which was simply impossible to do in 3 days. I was able to take time and make it up before (which was really when I needed it) and after a parent’s death, but that was extra – officially, I got 3 days.

    5. QCI*

      When I worked for a temp service their bereavement policy was “we wont count it against you for a few days”, and that’s it. No pay, and bring in some proof that someone died.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Oh man I forgot about the required proof of death. :(

        “Forgot to say something before you left but to get the paid time approved you’ll need to bring in a copy of the obit listing you as a surviving relative, or if you don’t have that you can bring in a copy of the death cert and a stack of paperwork showing how you’re related to this person. Just set up a whole Pepe Silvia board for HR and if they don’t think you’re legit, they won’t approve the time off and you’ll retroactively not get paid for it.”

        1. Lentils*

          Haaaaah, yeah, this is how it works in my office. Except it’s technically classified as LOA so you won’t get paid at all! I had been going to fly with my wife to Texas for her grandma’s funeral as emotional support (I wasn’t allowed to attend the wedding but still) and then my job was like “ok we’ll just need proof of death and proof of relation and then you can have up to five unpaid days” and I was like “never mind” and just took a day of PTO to drive her to the airport instead.

    6. Koala dreams*

      I actually find three days to be pretty normal, on the generous side. One day for the funeral, two days for travel (or one for travel + one for planning). In my country (in Europe) bereavement leave is usually between one and three days. When people take longer leave, it’s usually sick leave or vacation, so it’s similar to PTO. It could also be unpaid days off. For sick leave you might need a doctor’s note, at least for longer than a couple of days. I’ve always seen bereavement leave as leave for the funeral, not for grieving or all the administrative tasks. In your situation I wouldn’t feel cheated, I would feel fairly treated. You are free to feel how you feel, even jealous, of course, I just want to offer my perspective and maybe make you feel less alone. Often people post if they have a very generous or a very stingy employer, not when they have a just so employer.

      1. Hekko*

        Although I think most European countries would have more general PTO set in the laws. Here in Czechia the bereavement (or rather funeral) leave is 1-2 days depending on how close you were, plus one day extra if you are making arrangements for the funeral. But we also have 4 weeks PTO minimum a year and sick leave is handled separately (sick leave is only partially paid, but then the health care itself is covered so it kind of balances itself, I think).

        1. Koala dreams*

          Yes, the rules for sick leave and vacation differ a lot from the US of course. We don’t have combined PTO so it’s hard to compare that part. Still, the bereavement leave is similar.

      2. Jackalope*

        A little gentle pushback on the idea of three days as enough: my personal experience, which I understand is to a certain extent anecdata, is that travel is often necessary. If the person is an hour away, no problem. But I’ve had to take 2-3 extra days for travel because it just isn’t feasible to make it round trip and not take that extra time (the 3 days was a case where there was exactly one flight from my city to the city where the deceased lived). That’s something I’ve heard from many other people as well. I understand thinking it’s sufficient, but when I was planning a parent’s funeral a few years ago I had to take 4-5 days just for funeral planning, funeral, and getting back and forth from their city to mine. Not the case for everyone, but in the US at least it’s not unlikely.

      3. Springella*

        No, in Europe bereavement is around 5 days, plus nobody complains if you take annual leave (at least 28 days, public holidays included, in EU). Also, working week can’t be more than 48 hours a week (EU Directive).

    7. Lucette Kensack*

      3 days IS normal. I’ve never had more than that. I have none now (although that’s because my employer has unusually generous PTO).

    8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Most places I’ve been have had a 3 day bereavement policy, but will leave it up to managers as to what they allow. When my mom died in 2009, I had only been at my job for 5 months. I took the 3 days, but my manager offered for me to take more – I ended up leaving work early one day later that week to meet friends for lunch. I felt guilty about it, but he insisted I go.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ours is 3 days for immediate family, 1 for someone like an aunt. Previous job had the same policy. My dad passed away late on a Thursday night when I worked at the previous place, so I was able to take Friday and then Monday and Tuesday the following week. It really helped. We spent all day Friday talking to the funeral home. The funeral itself was on Monday which was the earliest they could make it. I was doing most of the organizing, because my mom can barely speak English and my sons were teenagers, and I’m an only child. We also had to get an early start on cleaning out dad’s apartment, because he passed away late on the evening of the 18th, and we had to move his things out by the end of the 30th the latest. I probably would’ve had to take PTO if it’d been just three consecutive days. It was all work and paperwork and no time to grieve and 3 days would’ve still been not enough time. (Not a teaching job – office job at a large company.)

    10. kittymommy*

      This is actually my first job that has offered bereavement leave (3 days for immediate relatives). Outside of a few 3rd and 4th cousins, all of my family is deceased and I think the most I took was a few days of sick leave fro my mom. From what I’ve heard 3 days is more the norm in the US.

    11. The Original K.*

      A previous employer offered a week for immediate family (parents, grandparents, siblings, children, and that included step-family) and 3 days for everyone else. They were also generous with PTO so one could easily be out two or three weeks on bereavement leave. I took a week when my grandmother died and my boss wasn’t happy, but that was because she was a workaholic, not because I was doing anything against policy.

    12. SheLooksFamiliar*

      When my sister and BIL lost their adult child in a car accident, I was devasted – I love this child as my own. They were in no condition to plan the funeral or work with the hospital, police, auto insurer, etc., and asked me to do it. I was in a daze and very busy for about several weeks during and after the accident, and had loose ends for about a year.

      I’m forever grateful that my boss simply told me to take the time I needed and to let my team know when I would be out of the office. And I’m saddened by how unusual this kindness is in Corporate America. A week wouldn’t have been enough time to manage the planning and legalities, let alone 3 days – and that’s IF a nephew or niece would be considered a close relative!

      What also helped was that for a month or so after the funeral, my boss was more focused on work deliverables instead of a schedule. As long as I stayed on top of key deliverables and was in the office when I needed to be, she wasn’t too concerned about when or where I did it. If I was having difficulty with a project, as long as I kept her informed she ran interference for me. This is how leaders behave, IMO.

    13. RussianInTexas*

      My company does not have any specific bereavement time at all.
      On top of the only 4 sick/personal days and 5-10 vacation days per year (depends on the length of employment), and 5 (five. We don’t get Memorial Day off, nor Black Friday, nor Christmas Eve) paid holidays.
      They will gladly let you take time off unpaid. Very generous of them.

  10. Observer*

    Let’s see – you have a busy season that in a good year requires people to pull 80 hour weeks. Into that you throw on boarding of 1-15 new people AND the roll out of a new business model. And then you want to know why a person who had just suddenly and shockingly lost a sibling didn’t rush back to work? Even if she had not suffered a tragedy and had been there at her best and most efficient, just how much better do you thing it would have been? She’s not a magic maker.

    The planning here was atrocious and frankly, the whoever was in charge deserved the mess that resulted.

    Keep this in mind. People don’t just spring back to normal after something like this in a week and a half. Which means that she quite probably COULD NOT come back to work at that point. Sure, in a normal environment she probably might have been able to manage, albeit at reduced effectiveness. But into an environment that requires 80 hour weeks? Not so much. Into an environment that takes already high pressure and add a ridiculous amount of change, chaos and pressure? To the point that people literally don’t have enough time to eat an sleep? Just not possible. People just don’t have that kind of fortitude and stamina in the wake of a tragedy like that.

    And, had she come back, it could have actually made things WORSE for everyone else – how much good would it have done you if she’d wound up having a meltdown or a breakdown?

    1. River Song*

      I agree with this. When my little sister died I was in such a state of shock, I couldn’t function for weeks. I didn’t eat for days and days. I guarantee the manager in #1 wasnt “relaxing on the beach” like she was on vacation. She was miserable, trying to figure out her new reality.

      And if she’s like me, she doesn’t care how much harder it makes her coworkers lives. I was really, really angry at the world for a long time afterward, and if someone had suggested I do something different to make their lives easier, I probably would not have handled that well. Just right then, I had it worse and I wasnt about to pitch in for others. It may be wrong, but it’s all I could handle.

      1. Dan*

        “And if she’s like me, she doesn’t care how much harder it makes her coworkers lives.”

        People have this strange tendency for *blaming their coworkers* for bad management/staffing practices. People are human and can be out at inconvenient times. Management’s just, by definition, is to *manage* and plan for those potential absences.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Yes! Like the letter yesterday when the manager was asking if they could say no to someone’s PTO because they were planning on traveling and they were afraid he could contract the virus and be out sick for a while. That’s poor management – you need to be prepared if anyone, for any reason, is suddenly unavailable to work for an extended period of time. The scenario laid out in this letter is a disaster waiting to happen.

    2. MK*

      I agree. Actually, a lot of people (I hesitate to say the majority, but certainly almost every bereaved person I have known) really prefer to go back to their work after a few days. Some need time to become functional after a loss, but many see returning to some kind of normality as the best way to move on and would go crazy staying at home thinking about their loss all the time.

      But that is about returning to a normal routine, where people will be understanding about the bereaved not being at the top of their game for a while, not to the horrorshow the OP descibes; I cannot think of anyone who wouldn’t be daunted by the thought of jumping to a high-pressure, exhausting schedule a couple of days after their loss.

      1. Mary*

        My mum died when I was two weeks into a new job, and it was like it just wiped everything I’d learned in the first two weeks. She died on a Friday, and I went down to my parents’ house that evening, stayed until Wednesday and then went back to work on the Thursday and Friday just because I wanted to be around people and doing stuff, but I was basically only a warm body! If you’d asked me to do anything mission critical I would have just stared at you.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, my therapist told me to try to retain my routine as much as possible so that I can begin grieving properly (and I guess not sink into a depression). I’m going to attempt it today, minus the going to work thing – I can’t imagine being at all productive right now after losing my uncle. On the other hand, my mom is itching to go into her job this week because a) her company is testing everyone who comes in for the coronavirus and b) she needs to do something mentally taxing to take her mind off the death of her brother so she doesn’t get angrier than she already is. I can respect that.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yup. Everyone grieves differently, and that’s okay. My mom throws herself into taking care of others, while my dad gets snarky and prefers to brood in solitude for a few days at least.

    3. Mookie*

      Also, the disruption could go both ways. It can be very awkward for colleagues to navigate closely and under immense work-related pressure around a colleague still feeling such a profound recent loss. And as others have stated, if the team’s reputation was relying upon the last two weeks of this project‘s pre-launch, complete with training fifteen new staff members, they were already cutting it precariously close. Sounds like failure (or an underwhelming debut) could have been eminent in any case. There was no second-in-command? The entire team had to take on that many hours to “replace” the manager? No overtime was anticipated before the manager left? I can’t really fathom where that is both plausible and reasonable for a functioning team with a proper set of contingency plans.

      1. hbc*

        And really, if they’re going to plan to be at 80 hours, who the heck let an elective surgery be scheduled during that time? I’ve never worked in an environment with that kind of crunch time, but if it’s 80 hours a week in a good year, I’d imagine you’d have to be dying to get that time off.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Also surprised by this but elective just means planned in advance. Might have been the soonest time the coworker was able to get it scheduled and it was something that should have been done sooner than later but potentially an out-patient thing. Then you find out you need to work another 20-40 hours for the foreseeable on top of the usual 80. Yikes.

          Looking at how the LW questioned their manager’s decision to take some time off during crunch, I expect the coworker who needed surgery was hearing similar noise from the rest of the team and didn’t want to piss everyone off even more. (Hope they’re okay.)

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          Fun fact: the surgery I needed to remove growths from my endometriosis was deemed “elective”. Apparently me being in constant gnawing pain, unable to eat properly since it was all up in my intestines, and having an overt amount of blood loss every month-ish wasn’t a “required” surgery. I can only assume a non-elective surgery for this would have been my uterus twisting itself into a pretzel and exploding.

          It may have been set up significantly in advance and that’s the only time the doctor could do it within a reasonable time frame.

          1. Dahlia*

            Basically if you’re not in immediate danger of dying, it’s considered elective surgery. It’s elective and emergency.

        3. Observer*

          Because “elective” does not mean “optional”, it means “not an emergency YET”. And given that crunch time is “a few short months” the person may have been pushed by their medical team to not wait those extra months.

        4. hbc*

          I get everyone’s point, but if “elective” is not the same as “optional” or “easily pushed to later,” I’d be damned if I’d have cancelled. I just don’t see “I’m a tax specialist and I have to schedule my surgery for April 10th” being the case but then “we’re missing exactly one person, I have to cancel my surgery.”

          Either it shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place, or it shouldn’t have been cancelled at all.

          1. Observer*

            You are right – it should not have been cancelled. But what are you willing to bet that the person was bullied into cancelling.

            “you were stupid to schedule that surgery to start with. We should never have allowed it. Now, we’re short handed. If you don’t cancel, don’t bother coming back after surgery and don’t think you will ever work in this industry again, or any industry we touch. Because your reputation will forever be totally mud.”

  11. Lady Farquaad*

    “As a department, we were torn on whether this was completely legitimate or a really bad look.”

    It can be legitimate and also a bad look. If the bereaved manager was a friend who asked for advice on how to phrase her absence, I would tell her to avoid mentioning the island relaxation and go no more beyond “I need to take x weeks bereavement leave.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to go on holiday or whatever else you need to do to help process a family member’s death. And it’s understandable the manager wasn’t considering her wording. But if she did have a moment to read the room, she could have realised it would raise a few stressed out eyebrows.

    1. Koala dreams*

      Yeah, I guess when it becomes normal to postpone surgery and work more than twice a regular work week it also becomes out of touch with the office culture to take extra days of vacation after the funeral. The thing is, everybody who needed it should have been able to take time off. The manager not taking those days off is not the solution.

      My advice would be for you and your team to push back against the unreasonable overtime demands as a group. If the surgery hasn’t happened yet, offer to go together to with the co-worker to support them when they ask for the time off. And remember, next time you are asked by your employer to sacrifice family obligations and mental health for unreasonable overtime, it’s possible to push back. You deserve time off for your life events too.

    2. Vina*

      She was grieving a sibling. Asking her to “read the room” in the same way she might have been able to if she were 100% in her right mind is absolutely unrealistic.

      As someone whose law practice involves dealing with a lot of people with trauma and with grief, I absolutely believe you are asking to much of the manager.

      Where’s the basic human sympathy toward someone who has suffered an absolutely tremendous loss and whose mental state is, at best, compromised?

      Also, manager isn’t writing in. The LW did. My advice to her is to put the blame where it belongs. That’s on the company. It’s not on the coworker.

      1. Koala dreams*

        It’s not a competition. You can have sympathy for the grieving manager, the co-worker that was pressured to postpone surgery, the co-worker who worried about I’ll family members they didn’t had time to visit and the over-worked parents with childcare troubles. All of them. There is no need to ration compassion.

        1. Observer*

          The issue here is not about rationing compassion. The issue the utterly inappropriate expectation that the manager should have “read the room.” And the fact that the team as a whole actually looked at HER as the reason for their problems, rather than the upper management.

          The whole team was hurting. But just because you are hurting does not mean that you get to blame the most convenient target.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I think it’s not about expecting what she could have/should have done–just recognizing that it might have gone over better if she had. Obviously that doesn’t help anyone in this situation that has already happened in the past, but it is still useful to discuss because this is of course sadly something that will happen to pretty much everyone at some point.

          2. Koala dreams*

            It seems to me that you are making it into a competition. The way you put it, the employees who were denied time off for their own or their family’s health needs don’t deserve compassion from the manager, but the manager deserve compassion from them? Why argue about who deserves the compassion more? I believe everybody needs compassion.

            Sure, the company should have handled this situation totally different, but that’s not in the hands of the individuals. As individuals we can only do our best to treat co-workers with kindness, no matter what goes on in our own lifes.

            We can’t go back and change things, but we can do our best in the future, and try to remember that everybody has their own struggles. Care taking responsibilities, illnesses, deaths.

            1. Observer*

              This is the exact reverse of what I EXPLICITLY said. The whole team was hurting. They ALL deserve compassion. That doesn’t mean they get to blame the manager. They should put the blame where it belongs.

              It belongs to management that is AT BEST negligent and malignantly incompetent.

              As for “treating people with kindness” – of course. But that means not blaming people for things they can’t help. The manager was not “unkind” to her staff. On the other hand blaming her for her for not postponing her grief, is NOT kind in the least bit.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        I agree that this was an upper management and poor planning problem and not a project manager problem; however, I also agree with Lady Farquaad here. The “read the room” wording may have been insensitive to the bereaved, but it’s true that she should have just kept her vacation plans to herself if it wasn’t already pre-planned and her coworker’s didn’t know about it. When people are stressed and overworked and can’t even take time off to get needed surgery (!), they’re not going to be thinking compassionately about someone else’s ability to take time off even if they know intellectually that the time off is for something tragic. So why invite that kind of resentment when you can just say nothing at all?

    3. Batgirl*

      I am both baffled at why the OP would write down comments about a colleague and also why anyone would care (The first bit may be a me-thing. My first professional jobs were as a reporter where it is amazingly common to go through each others notebooks and address books). If you see that the notebook is more private than you first judged it to be, you stop reading and pretend you saw nothing. Why does the manager care about OP’s private feelings if she’s not expressing them? If she simply wants the OP to stop writing stuff at work in case someone else were to see, why not simply say so? Very baffling.

    4. Observer*

      But if she did have a moment to read the room, she could have realised it would raise a few stressed out eyebrows.

      And when exactly would she have had the minute to “read the room”? Beyond time. what makes you think she had the headspace for it?

  12. Casper Lives*

    I’m disturbed by #4. Legally they can go through everything you have, even your purse locked in your drawer. I get that. It’s gross to me that a coworker would pick up what’s clearly a notebook, see it was someone’s journal, and read through it like an untrusting parent through a teen’s diary. Then run to the manager. I wouldn’t trust anyone at your workplace, #4.

    1. PollyQ*

      Yeah, between a snoopy tattle-tale colleague, a boss who is receptive to her nonsense, and an HR department that apparently is willing to entertain some form of “discipline”, I’d say LW would do well to start looking around. This sounds like a terrible place to work.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        It was literally in the first line of the letter: I work in a hospital.

        Coworkers think everything still works like middle school and they’re mean girls™ who will literally die if they don’t have enough drama to feed on; manager escalated it to HR because manager has no official management authority but they need to be called a manager so the company can make them exempt and work them all hours which is definitely great for everyone; HR will absolutely discipline LW4, probably for “causing drama” or “not addressing the issue directly” or (maybe, if they’re complete assholes) “insubordination” (since the only time that’s ever used is when they don’t have a real reason to get you).

        I’m not saying all hospitals are run like this—but it is very, very common for them to be run like this.

        1. Lana Kane*

          I second this. This is par for the course in the hospital world (down to mediocre managers and the whole need for drama – why? Don’t we have enough as it is?) What’s funny is that in my new employee orientation, we were told never to rummage through anyone’s desk looking for something, even if it’s work related. It still happens all the time.

          The other possible outcome is that the manager goes to HR and HR tells them how to handle it. This is more likely in my hospital because it’s unionized, so in many cases you definitely need to check with HR before taking some actions. But the “I’m reporting you to HR” bit makes me think Ego Chamber’s scenario is the more likely one.

        2. KoiFeeder*

          What is it about hospitals that attract so many middle school mean girls? It’s awful enough to deal with as a patient, working with those people is probably a circle of hell.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            It’s because you have two kinds of people who are drawn to hospitals: those who genuinely want to help, and those who thrive on drama.
            The former are, sadly, the ones most prone to burnouts because they give until they’re empty, and then wring themselves out to give some more. They rarely have the excess energy to fight a hostile takeover by the Mean Girls.
            Meanwhile, the drama queens just can’t get enough of the juicy gossip and emotional upheaval that comes with many medical dilemmas. If they can’t find enough drama in that, they stir it up among the staff.
            Sadly, I am not all that confident LW4 doesn’t fall into the latter category. The fact that she was writing those things at all shows her own propensity to stir things up, even if she tends to internalize the gossip instead of spreading it out loud. When dealing with nosey, catty nurses, you cannot trust anything that isn’t locked. And even that is still risky.

    2. Eliza*

      It occurred to me that I’d be very nervous about documenting any harassment or illegal behaviour in the workplace if I thought my coworkers might go through my personal items the moment I looked away from them.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Documenting harassment/illegal behavior and writing down personal opinions about co-workers are 2 different things. It sounds like instead of verbally venting to people about other colleagues, she was writing it in a notebook.

        1. EPLawyer*

          which is actually probably better than venting to colleagues. It keeps the drama down.

          Seriously all she wrote is “rude” about people talking during meetings. Which, yeah, it is.

          If I had to document at a place like this (and LW might need to if she is being dragged to HR over this, she needs to document everything that happens to her from now on) I would take notes on my phone, then send them to my private email when I got home, then erase from the phone. Do not leave ANYTHING at work or in something accessible by someone else.

    3. Lizard*

      Can they really go through your purse locked in your drawer? I assumed the notebook was on the LW’s desk or in the drawer, ie a reasonable place for work materials to be stored. If the notebook was in their purse, that would be a gross violation of privacy to me. It can’t be legal to be able to go through your coworkers’ purses and bags.

      1. Dearth Mofongo*

        You have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” for your personal effects at work (which basically just means your purse or briefcase, your body, and your clothing).

        There are definitely exceptions – if you’ve been notified in advance that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, if misconduct is suspected, and many more. But generally, you have that reasonable expectation of privacy and can complain (or hire a lawyer) if it is violated.

        1. Vina*

          Yes, Allison isn’t quite correct on this one. The answer on a reasonable expectation of privacy personal items is “it depends.”

          If the personal item is clearly personal, like a purse or briefcase, then it is a violation of privacy to look through it unless there is an emergent circumstance warranting search (e.g., safety, reasonable suspicion of theft).d.

          If it’s a notebook, it depends. Did the notebook look business like or was it something clearly personal?

          Also, where Allison really falls down is on this: If the person was looking for a report or piece of paper and picked up the notebook and something fell out, that’s probably ok. But looking for a piece of paper that would be “tucked in” in no way gives the coworker permission to read something the coworker immediately knew was personal. The very second the coworker recognized the notebook as personal, she should have stopped/failed to start reading.

          From workplace fairness:

          “The law generally states that employers must have a reasonable basis for a search, and the search must be confined to non-personal items. Searches of personal items, like handbags, generally cannot be searched unless the employer has a valid reason to do so.”

          There was no reasonable basis for a search. Wanting a report doesn’t give a coworker a right to rifle through personal items. Also, again, once coworker saw this was a private diary/journal/notebook, coworker was under an obligation to stop.

          If I were LW, I”d point this out to the boss. The coworker’s behavior was unreasonable to begin with. It became more so when she read what was written if it was obviously personal and not germane to her excuse to search.

          If LW were my client under the laws of my state, there would be no question this was beyond the pale. I can’t speak for every state, but those I know and have practiced in would view this as a breach.

          It’s also the old “elephant int he glove box” rule. You have to be able to peg searches in scope and action to the expectation you will find what you want. I can’t reasonably expect to find an elephant in a glove box. I can’t reasonably expect to find the report I’m looking for by reading what is a private journal. I might reasonably pick up the journal and shake it to see if anything falls out. I say “might” because it’s not clear. Depends on what the journal looked like. If it said “personal journal of Jane,” clearly no. If it looked like a work binder, yes.

          There is zero excuse for the coworker’s actions. I’m really surprised at Allison bending over backwards to excuse it.

          A lot of companies would try and brush this under the rug and focus on LW’s alleged wrongdoing. But that doesn’t make it legally or morally correct. Even if I’m legally wrong in the state where LW lives, it’s still fundamentally morally wrong and grossly invasive. The coworker didn’t accidentally stumble on this. They purposefully read something private.

          1. Vina*

            PS – I’m a lawyer. I’ve dealt with a similar issue in my state. Here, LW would have a case to complain about coworker’s actions.

          2. Vina*

            PPS An example from a colleague. Major warehouse company (yes, that one), was searching employees after shift to make sure they didn’t steal anything. A manager found a datebook in an employees pocket and rifled through it and read an employee’s personal calendar. That was a clear violation of privacy as there was a reasonable justification for the search for stolen property, but that didn’t include reading personal data. The info int he datebook didn’t relate to the theft in any way.

            The only way that reading LW’s journal is justified if it related to what the coworker was searching for. To me, it didn’t and doesn’t. It’s like the datebook at Warehouse Co.

          3. No SoCal*

            Thank you for your comments here. I agree and glad that someone addressed this.

            Also- for employees of the government, are there additional items to consider? For whatever reason, I recall there being another layer, maybe 4th amendment?

          4. A Wandering Wierdo*

            THIS! Something very similar once happened to me and it was one of the final straws that got my boss, the Executive Director, fired by the Board of Directors!

            I was the new Director of Education at a nonprofit, about 4 months in. Part of my pay/benefits package was that I got to live on-site for free and had use of the facilities for personal use. One day I accidentally left my personal flashdrive attached to my workstation in the basement office. The flashdrive was titled along the lines of “DTargaryen_Private” and the only two things when you first open it is a file that says “What to do if you find this lost flashdrive” and a folder called “Personal Files” under which everything else is nested in its own folders. The flashdrive itself also has my name written on it and “private” versus my work one which has my name and “work.” (I’m anal retentive, ok?!) It was clearly a personal flashdrive and didn’t contain anything pertinent to work that she needed. She should have removed it and let me know I left it. Instead, she went through it and got upset at what she found (in a folder that was buried DEEP my friends!). She brought me into her office the next day and ranted to me about the “false” record I was keeping of the toxic and borderline illegal things that were happening in the office, particularly by her. And she told me I was out of order for preparing a special report for the board of directors on these issues. She said that I had four weeks and then I was fired, that I was legally required to stay those 4 weeks because she needed me to finish up the summer programs and I can’t leave early.


            First of all, clearly private property and as Vina points out, I still had an expectation of privacy with this. Second of all, the Chairwoman of the Board specifically asked me for this report. I had the emails to prove it. Because the nonprofit was struggling financially, we had humongous staff turn-over for the past 5 years (I was the 5th Director of Education in 3 years….wish I had found THAT out when I did my research before taking the job! And several other high level positions had similar turn over), plus the ED had many complaints against her from enough community members and volunteers to warrant the Board doing an inquiry. I had talked with the Chairwoman once before about concerns I had so she came to me and asked for an official report. Which is what the ED found when she snooped through my personal flashdrive. Third, how DARE you say that I am fired but expected to work FOUR WEEKS to finish work for you? I’m not under a contract. This is At-Will employment. You want to fire me, then I’ll walk out when I dang well please lady. I’ll stay to keep getting paid while I job search, but if I find something before then I am out and there’s nothing you can do about it.

            I went to the BOD that day, delivered my report and explained what had happened. I got to keep my job and a month later the ED was gone. They had enough reports of her mistreatment of staff and mishandling of money that they fired her. My flashdrive incident wasn’t necessarily on the “record” but I’m certain that it would have held up in court for all the reasons you say if it somehow came down to it!

          5. EPLawyer*

            I took she wasn’t looking for a specific paper that might have been tucked into the notebook, but for “a” piece of paper as something to write on. Which you open the notebook and see writing. You can’t use those pages for writing so you CLOSE THE NOTEBOOK and move on. You don’t sit and read what is written.

            1. Vina*

              Agreed. I see no case to excuse this.

              Just spitballing here, but I think there are very few justifications for ever reading private journals. Unless they were worried she was suicidal, violent, or stealing IP, I can’t see this as reasonable.

          6. MsSolo*

            Though I’m generally with you, I don’t think this is necessarily obviously a private journal – the way I read it, she’d made the note about rude coworkers /during/ a meeting, as in she was making notes during the meeting and as well as all her actions and reminders one was a comment on her coworkers behaviour. If you’re journaling about meetings after the fact to complain to yourself about your colleagues, keep that journal at home! If you’re using the same notebook for venting and actual work, it’s not unreasonable for someone else to expect all of the contents to be work related. Without knowing what the coworker was looking for (and, as someone else says below, it’s unclear if it was something specific or just blank paper) I think the OP’s feeling that it was obvious it wouldn’t be in the notebook may be more to do with the emotional response of being caught in the wrong than a reasonable expectation that a colleague would know not to look there. Anything you record in a work notebook should be treated like anything you send via work email or announce loudly in the work toilets.

            1. Vina*

              That’s why I said “it depends.” Allison cannot say “not protected” and I can’t say “protected.” We don’t have enough facts to know.

              To reiterate, a lot depends on what the coworker was looking for. If she wanted a piece of paper to write on, she had no business reading the notes. If she was looking for a report that’s always on pink paper, she had no business reading the notes.

              I have no idea if this was reasonable or not, but I don’t we should clearly state that it was and that all bets are off if something is at work.

            2. Laura*

              That’s where I’m coming down. In my department, several of us take notes at meetings in Vera Bradley notebooks. It could look like a journal. I could see if I was out and something happened for someone to grab it off myself to flip through it for my notes from the 5-1 llama meeting. (Probably couldn’t read it because of my handwriting but anyway)

          7. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I assumed it was a notebook on or in her desk, not something in a purse or other personal item (especially since the OP wasn’t at work that day), and not an obviously personal diary.

            I’m certainly not bending over backwards to excuse the coworker. And I do think it matters what was in the notebook.

            1. Vina*


              You said this: “Assuming you’re in the U.S., there’s no legal issue here; there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy connected to the things you keep on your desk at work.”

              That’s wrong as a matter of law. Full stop. The answer to whether or not there is legal protection is “it depends.” It depends on whether it’s a purse or something that looks like it belongs to the company. It depends on which state. FTR, some states like California tend to have much more stringent privacy rights than most others.

              You really did get this wrong on that count. Please consider rewriting that sentence in case someone comes on here and assumes there is no privacy expectation if you leave something out on your desk. As I said, that’s flat wrong. Your employer has no right to go through anything obviously private without cause.

              Both EP Lawyer and I agree on that one.

          8. Jennifer*

            Any notebook has the potential to be business or personal. Unless you go full middle school and write on the front PROPERTY OF JENNIFER-KEEP OUT- THAT MEANS YOU!!!

    4. LifeBeforeCorona*

      At my workplace a notebook is kept on the manager’s desk and everyone is expected to use to note anything that needs to be shared. A new recipe didn’t work, an extra vegan meal is needed, someone left 2 hours early, the health inspector stopped by. The expectation is that it’s only for work related purpose so no-one is repoting on each other. The pages are numbered so they can’t be torn out to hide anything negative.

      1. Rose*

        This is such an obviously different situation that I’m really struggling to see why it’s relevant to bring up in response here.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Let me try: it was either because there’s a notebook involved in both scenarios or because the letter involved someone reporting LW4 to management and the notebook at LifeBeforeCarona’s work is the only thing keeping everyone there from trying to destroy each other, so it was being offered as a potential solution to diffuse LW4’s current workplace tensions. Not sure which.

    5. Cake decorator*

      I am seriously having difficulty organizing my thoughts because I am so incensed on the LW’s behalf. I would push back against any “discipline”. It is ridiculous. The co-worker most likely knew that the journal was personal and went through it when she was not in the office to get her coworker in trouble. Why else would she then run to the boss with what she had found? Newsflash, people who talk to each other and ignore the speaker in a meeting are being rude. My final thought, I do not buy for one minute the co-worker’s “reason” as to why she went through the journal. LW, this coworker is not your friend, be very careful, and take anything you don’t want someone to snoop through home with you. Good luck!

    6. Jennifer*

      Same. I get that it was not technically illegal, and understand that there are times when you may legitimately need to go through someone’s desk, it’s one reason why I was always careful with what I chose to bring to work. However, this coworker was very obviously snooping. If I needed a scrap of paper the last place I’d go would be my absent coworker’s desk. Then writing down that someone is “rude” isn’t exactly the scoop of the year.

      Then she didn’t have the decency to at least keep that to herself and went and tattled to the manager about it. And now it’s going to HR? I hold out some small hope that maybe someone in HR has common sense and these two are just one-offs at the company.

      So technically legal but all kinds of messed up.

    7. Dagny*

      My question is what the LW is being reported for. There’s no legal standing that her notebook creates a hostile work environment, is harassing, or is otherwise violating company policy. Yes, she’s “at will,” but that still doesn’t mean the company gets to invent stuff to be mad about.

      1. Certaintroublemaker*

        This. It kind of reminds me of the stolen spicy lunch. LW wasn’t intending the “rude” comment for anyone else. It was written in LW’s closed notebook on LW’s desk, where LW was not expecting people to come across it.

  13. My2Cents*

    #3. I think it depends on the office and who the email is going to. In my office, we don’t get all-staff emails after 6, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my boss emails me at 10. I really doubt it’s a problem, but if you’re husband uses gmail, there’s a cool feature where you can draft an email and schedule it to send on its own later.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Is it weird that I don’t ever pay attention to when something is sent? I figure if people are like me, they remember at odd times and send emails when they think of it. The exception to that (for me) is not sending emails to my staff on evenings/weekends. But sending to my boss or others in the company I don’t think twice about. I realize some of this could be me working for a reasonable place that has no expectation of my availability after hours.

      1. A*

        Nope! I rarely check! Granted, I’m in a global position so with all the time zones taken into account it is expected that emails will come and go and all hours.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        No, I have never once thought “Oh no! They composed an email NOW?!!!” and find it really odd that people even notice.

        Sometimes I am reading AAM’s weekend thread and a note pops up saying “Is this caption supposed to say mustard?” and I will pop back “Yes, mustard is the correct term” or “Oops, sorry, that should be alpaca residue.” Or it’s lengthy directions for the next project and I think “Mm” and let it ride until Monday morning. And that’s how I assume people respond to my emails, whenever in the day they happen to read them.

  14. Lady Heather*

    OP1, your company seems to have an extremely low bus/lottery factor. (The ‘how many employees need to be hit by a bus/win the lottery and take off without notice before the project/department/company gets into trouble’. Higher is better.)

    Try to redirect your anger/frustration away from your manager. If she had been hit by a bus and needed to spend 2,5 week in hospital, you’d likely – hopefully – be angry at the company for not having adequate arrangements for such events. Just because this seems (or maybe even is) more elective on the manager’s part doesn’t mean the problem isn’t still the company.

    1. Sharon*

      In one of the many dysfunctional workplaces I had the pleasure of spending time, my manager refused to let me cross train with my other co-worker (effectively making time off impossible). The other co-worker was on board with our manager and didn’t want anyone else being able to do her job.
      I brought up the lottery / bus argument. When I said, “what if co-worker wins the lottery”, she said, “I’d still come in to work”. When I said, “what if she gets hit by a bus?” she actually said “I’D STILL COME IN!”

      1. Lady Heather*

        Did you reply with a variation of ‘ I won’t – I can’t stand the smell of decomposing corpse’?

    2. RemoteHealthWorker*


      As someone who missed a product launch due to emergency surgery and came back to a pit of snakes who were pissed I was out 2 weeks and thought I needed to come back on my hands and knees thanking them for covering for me….

      PLEASE OP reframe your attitude and help shut this toxicity down.

      My situtation was also mostly on the company. I had no redundancy in the org. We not only launched a product but acquired a new hospital AND we did all of this during the busiest time of the year.

      The struggles weren’t on me, and they aren’t on your coworker. They are on your company and sr leadership.

  15. Nita*

    #3 if your husband has GMail, he can try Schedule Send. These days I use it when I want to respond to someone fast but know I’ll be tied up with other things in the morning. I could just send them the information when I’m done working on it past midnight, but I always wonder if their phone pings when they get mail, and I’ll wake them up or something. It’s nice to have the option to have the email go to them at some decent time like 8 am!

    1. Sally*

      You can do this with Outlook as well. Fully open the email (don’t leave it in the preview pane); it’s under Options.

    2. Grbtw*

      This, I was checking to see if someone else had mentioned this. It only takes a few seconds. Sending emails in the middle of the night implies urgency, there’s no need to do it when there’s a tool to prevent it. I, like many people, keep my email on my phone, I get alerts and middle of the night alerts make me angry, especially when they’re nothing important. I have to keep my email on my phone in case something time sensitive is sent and more than once have I been woken up over nonsense.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think for a lot of us:
        a) Emails sent in the middle of the night do not indicate any sort of urgency. They indicate, for example, that the colleague is sending this from a time zone well outside my own, or seizing a few free evening moments to tackle their in-box.
        b) Emails (unlike phone calls) are for things where no immediate reply is needed.

        If your company has set it up so that urgent must-respond-immediately crises are sent by the same format as mundane updates or requests, they need to adapt that system. If it’s worth being woken up at 3 am your time, that should be some sort of special alert.

      2. noahwynn*

        If I had alerts on my phone for email I would be up all night long, especially right now. Everyone is working odd hours trying to fit in childcare and life. Not to mention all the automated email reports I receive. Email is designed to be asyncronous.

  16. Rafflesia Reaper*

    #3 — With most email clients, you can schedule an email to send at a specific time. If nobody needs to care about your email until sunrise, set it for 8:03 a.m. (so it’s a slightly random time and looks less pre-scheduled.)

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      I used to do this all the time. I had a report that would generally go out at 3pm on Mondays. I would start getting calls at 4pm if it wasn’t out. There were a few weeks in a row where I was able to get it out early and all of a sudden I started getting calls and emails around noon asking where the report was. I started scheduling the emails to send at 2:57 or 3:02 if I got done early – wasn’t worth the hassle to get there expectations up and if I didn’t schedule it I would completely forget to send it.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I had a boss whose witching hour was between 4 and 6 pm. He was really disorganized and spent most of his day goofing off, and then tried to make up for it by cramming everything he had to do into those two hours, which meant that if you were a diligent employee who did your work all day, he would ambush you just as you were wrapping up for the day and getting ready to go home and make you work off the clock for free.

        I started scheduling emails to send at the same time I was walking out the front door.

  17. Catherine*

    OP #4, I sympathize! I have a one-notebook bullet journal system–if I separate into work/life books neither will get filled out.

    But coworkers like yours are why my journal never leaves my side and everything remotely personal, objective, etc is written in my own shorthand substitution cipher (and sometimes blacklight ink, too!). None of my coworkers get see my opinions on anything or know when my next doctor’s appointment is or what it’s for.

    1. Catherine*

      ugh subjective not objective that’s what i get for commenting during the post-lunch carb slump

    2. Jon*

      There was a period of about a year where I kept one small office notebook — not a nice, bound journal thing but just an office reporters’ notebook — among my pile pads on my desk where all I wrote in it were rants. I would put the date on a line and a single sentence griping about whatever stupid office interaction or whatever set me off. I used it as this sort of way to recognize whatever was irritating me and give it an outlet — AND THEN TO LET IT GO. To flip the top down, and to then, seriously, let it go, so I could get along. It worked! I did throw it away at about one year — I didn’t need the exercise externally anymore, and I admit, though I didn’t use names I worried about the fact that I had put any job-related frustration at all in writing, it seemed such bad judgment in hindsight.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I just read an article that said keeping a stress journal for work can be helpful in managing emotions. I am glad to hear it worked but might need to rethink where I keep it (in bag vs. on desk)

    3. Amethystmoon*

      Yes, if you like to vent about your job, even in a paper journal, never ever leave it where your manager or coworkers can see it. My journal never leaves my apartment. I also never put my venting on the Internet where it can be found. No matter how top secret you think you’re making a blog, it can eventually be traced back to you by someone who knows what they are doing.

  18. Lady Heather*

    OP2, if it’s been a while since you worked together, your ex-coworkers’ qualifications may have changed since then.

    Hopefully your required qualifications are listed clearly on the job posting. They’ll know when applying that they ‘need’ to have these qualifications.
    If they reach out to you about the posting, you can warn them that these qualifications aren’t optional.

    If you’re not clear in the posting about what qualifications you require.. please be. Otherwise you’re wasting applicant’s time.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I came in here to say the same. Let’s say you are a llama farm manager, and you used to be a llama groomer where they were stablehand. Sure you see them socially now — but who really tells a former co-worker the details of how a company survived their departure? I can think of times when a co-worker’s departure left a department in the lurch and an unexpected person stepped up & learned to do the work before a permanent person was hired — and that co-worker’s _next_ job was the job they covered.

    2. OP*

      Even though Alison responded incredibly quickly to my question, I had already responded to them – I emphasized the experience I’m looking for and encouraged them to apply if they felt they would be a good fit. In the end I thought it was best to just put them through the process up against the other applicants and let it play out.

      The job posting is very clear – it is a very technical role in a very specialized industry. However, many folks in the industry have been laid off – so there is a scarcity of jobs. I always tell my friends to “shoot their shot” with jobs they are interested in, even if they feel like their qualifications don’t meet the role fully – and that’s what I would want these folks to do too.

  19. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. I agree that the leave should have been worded as X weeks of bereavement leave, as even if employees are trying to be sympathetic to a tragic situation, the idea that somebody was taking a week’s holiday comes across badly.

    I hope the work situation improved for everyone.

    1. Heidi*

      The phrasing “not a good look” makes it seem like people are accusing the manager of using her sister’s death as an excuse to enjoy a vacation and that she wasn’t legitimately grieving. I’m guessing this is not how anyone is really interpreting the situation, so continuing to blame her for not being there is really not a good look.

  20. Fikly*

    LW1: You’re mad at the wrong person here.

    The problem is not the person who took 2 1/2 weeks to deal with her sister unexpectedly dying. The problem is your employer, who clearly has no backup plan to deal with the absence of staff during the busy season. What if she’d been hit by a bus?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Especially because it could happen this year if staff members come down with CV19.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Right, companies need to cross-train people and have backup plans. You really just never know. A team could win the lottery and quit that day. Or they could all get the flu at the same time.

  21. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    #3 – It wouldn’t be the first time somebody suddenly realized they’d forgotten something they want/need to take care of right away. Especially if it’s a quick email.

  22. TechWorker*

    #4 – I’m a manager and whilst I am very careful to keep things like printouts of anything related to salary/performance off my desk, I have a notebook that comes with me to meetings and if someone went through it in detail there would be the odd detail not intended for general eyes. I am 100% sure in my workplace it would not be acceptable for even a peer to go through it. Is there some special line where mgrs get assumed privacy? Am I being irresponsible leaving *some* confidential info in a notebook?

    Im not sure what LW4 actually wrote here but if it was like ‘x was chatting in a meeting and I found it so rude’ then like, who cares? That feels entirely explainable to HR (‘I did find it inappropriate and wasn’t paying attention to what I was writing down. To be honest, I also didn’t expect anyone to be going through my desk, but I’ll be more careful with what I write in future’) – *surely* they just can’t care much….?

    1. Jemima Bond*

      I too am genuinely bemused that this was taken to HR. So OP wrote down in her own notebook that someone was rude. So what? I don’t see what there is to get so bent out of shape over. She wasn’t badmouthing coworkers to anyone else. If one of my direct reports came to me with this I’d first say, well were you acting rudely? Is this something you need to think about? If not well maybe I need to talk to OP and see if there’s an problem we need to sort out. I’d also point out it looks like the possibly-rude colleague was snooping; did she really need to flock through that notebook?
      But the manager seriously went to HR to report that one of her staff wrote down that another of her staff was rude, and didn’t show that note to anyone??? Does she literally have nothing better to do?

      1. Barney*

        Yeah, that’s what makes me think that OP is leaving something out of the story.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Me, too. I wonder if something has been ongoing and this is a form of retaliation?

      2. Kate*

        I could only understand it if it means “we want to make sure what did that rude coworker do and should we be worried about it”.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yeah I’m confused. IME I’ve seen management go to HR for things like verbal threats or lewd comments. Not because someone wrote “coworker was being rude in a meeting” in their private notebook, that they then closed and put away. If this is the whole story and there wasn’t anything else in the notebook that was HR-worthy, then I’m really and truly puzzled.

      4. WellRed*

        Actually, she probably doesn’t have anything better to do. Little minds at dead end jobs who never learned professional on the job norms.

      5. Colette*

        It depends on the situation – does the OP generally get along with her coworkers? Does she have a reputation for complaining about people? What about the person who found it – does she like to stir up trouble?

    2. Adultiest Adult*

      To reply to TechWorker specifically, if anything you’re writing is confidential (either legally, or in the sense that you wouldn’t want a random person to come across it), it should be physically locked up if it’s not in your direct control. The managers in my office are the only ones with file cabinets/desk drawers that someone actually has a key for! Sounds like that notebook of yours should be locked as well.

  23. Zoe*

    #3 I actually have a question. As far as I can tell your can’t schedule/postdate emails in office 365 web based edition. Ergo, I’m sending emails as all hours. On my desktop I can schedule them. I have insomnia and during cover I’ve just been like f it.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      Outlook does have the ability to do this. In my version, there is a small arrow next to the “Send” button that allows you to “Send later”. However, I discovered that even if you schedule for later sending, the recipient’s header info shows the time you drafted the email, not when it was eventually sent. I ultimately decided that was an even weirder message than just sending something at 9 pm. So now I either send an email when I draft it, or I leave it open as a draft on my desktop and hope I remember to hit send the following morning.

    2. WellRed*

      We are switching to Office 365 at some point and I was hoping I would be able to schedule emails, which I am currently unable to do. Say it ain’t so!

    3. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

      I have mostly worked at places with Gmail for office (or, at once office, I worked on a team where we all used our personal Gmail instead of outlook, which is weird to think about now) and now I’m a freelancer so it’s just regular Gmail all the time. I’ve used a plug-in called Boomerang for years that lets you schedule emails, which I’ll sometimes do when I’m up late late or just want to make sure my email to a contact doesn’t get lost in the morning email barrage and might show up with they’re at their desk working. Plus, they have a feature where you can get emails to pop back up at the top of your inbox, which I like doing for things that may ask for a response by a certain day, etc.

  24. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    When I had a miscarriage, I ended up being out of the office for almost three weeks – some time in hospital, some time recovering at home, and a week on a planned vacation. I think it very likely I would have needed to be out of the office for that last week even if it hadn’t been planned far in advance. I doubt anyone there but HR would have known precisely how each part of the absence was coded unless they had paid unusually close attention to my schedule before I left the building.

    It would have been a little better if the manager’s absence had all been called bereavement leave (regardless of confidential coding in HR/Payroll offices) but functionally the real failure was in crisis planning, which is very likely higher management and not that individual’s failure.

  25. Batty Twerp*

    I’m looking at the maths in a slightly different way (it’s also early in my working day and I didn’t sleep well, so apologies if this isn’t as coherent or the numbers are miscalculated)
    During the busy season, everyone works 80 hour weeks. Our bereaved coworker was off for 2.5 weeks. That’s 200 manhours of labour “lost”. For the rest of the staff to suddenly be pulling 120 hour weeks for two weeks is an additional 80 hours per person. For them to be chronically understaffed by one person, means there are only 3 other people in the company? (200 lost hours divided by the extra hours worked per person is 2.5 people)

    So surely the worker bees would have been dramatically overworked during this period anyway and piling this on someone who has lost a family member just shouts of blaming the cashier for the shortage of toilet paper, instead of the thousands of people who hoarded it.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Yes, their staffing model needs a hard look! I used to work at a company that ran pretty lean so that if we had downturns we could weather it without layoffs. That meant in our busy time we could be extremely busy and I never once worked an 80 hour week, let alone 120. That is outrageous.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Yes. It seems like they need at least a temporary staffer or two during the busy season at least.

      But, you know ‘Merica! Land of the little time off.

    3. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      I think people are going a little too far in reiterating this point. If the company knows it has a very short, intense busy stretch once a year, it doesn’t make sense to bring in temps or seasonal part-timers; their training might take longer than the stretch that they’re actually needed for. Some industries just throw you for a loop, and it’s a given that employees will have two extremely busy weeks a year. Just because a business doesn’t fit a standard staffing mold doesn’t mean that it has no right to exist.

      I think the issue is that the manager’s extra week off was announced at the last minute, not that she took the time at all.

      1. Observer*


        The company KNOWS that this busy season comes every year. 2-3 weeks of “only” 80 hours is untenable to start with – that is NOT “intense”. It’s ridiculous. But the management failure is even worse. Management CHOSE to add TWO high stress items to an already over-stretched period. You do NOT roll out new processes nor do you onboard a significant number of people during crunch time!

        Also, exactly how was the manager supposed to let people know in advance that her sister was going to get killed?

        1. sfdgf tr*

          Not advanced notice that the sister was going to die. Advanced notice of “extending” the bereavement leave – that last week. If up front, it was known she’d be gone 2 1/2 weeks it would be different. Expecting her back after 1 1/2 weeks, and then finding out later there was going to be another week changed expectations and response.

          1. Observer*

            That’s not “advanced notice”. And it would not made any difference – by that time stuff was already beyond messed up. That’s way too late to do anything.

            It’s really gross to blame someone for not handling the sudden and shocking death of a loved one in a way that takes away any burden from the business while totally ignoring the grossly bad non-planning of management.

      2. WellRed*

        Well, that’s how unexpected death often works. Not a lot of advance notice. Should she not have taken the time she needed because it was last minute?

      3. Kate*

        Are we speaking about two weeks that manager was off, or “a few short months” as OP called their hectic time?

      4. BrendanM*

        But it does make sense for the company to put off bringing in and training new people (if they can’t help during the busy time). And if they know that there is an annual busy time, find other tasks that can be put off, or done by temps, to give the core group time to focus on the main work.
        And in general, people working 80-120 hours a week are making mistakes that they or others have to take the time to fix. There’s a point at which more overtime hours means productivity is going backwards.

  26. coffee cup*

    Work is very important. We all know that. But there’s way too much emphasis on working no matter what else is going on in your life. A bereavement like that would be a massive shock. If it happened to me I wouldn’t physically be capable of going to work and doing my job normally. It’s in everyone’s best interests to let an employee have time to recover, at least a little, from that kind of thing. I actually feel that bereavement leave should be a lot more generous – it’s a trauma someone is experiencing that they can’t just bounce back from. I would have been thinking more about my colleague in that situation. Even if it’s hard going for the others, that’s a company problem, not the fault of a person who’s experienced a dreadful loss.

  27. mimsie*

    For #1 – if ONE person taking unexpected leave for 2 weeks wreaks that much havoc on a team and a business, there are bigger systemic issues at play.

  28. staceyizme*

    For the LW who questioned her manager’s two and a half weeks off after losing a sister, it seems like the organization had really excessive expectations for work hours to begin with. You’re basically saying “we get it, you’ve suffered a shock”, but then immediately turn around and go “but you should have come back to work ASAP because we’re super short handed”. The timing sucked because there wasn’t much of a plan in place to manage day to day impacts of the role. Spending a fortune on emergency childcare and postponing other important events suggests that the organizational culture is too demanding. People burn out. It would be interesting to see whether she might have been able to come back sooner if the stress of her role were more reasonable. Because it wasn’t just about coming back, right? It was about stepping up in a major way with new hires and a new business model. Practically speaking, how would she have been expected to have the resources for that in terms of energy, focus and resilience? I also don’t get the quibble over going to an island to relax as compared with calling it bereavement leave? She was honest about what she needed, but probably wasn’t clear headed enough to put it in the most tactful possible way. Presumably, if she’d been seeing a therapist and getting grief support, that would have been more palatable? In terms of responsibility, the pain of that episode belongs primarily with the way that the organizational culture has been allowed to develop. It just showed up in a somewhat stark fashion here because one person dared to take care of themselves during a time when it was wholly appropriate to do so. (Just my two or three cents.)

  29. TimeTravlR*

    If your staffing model in your busiest season is such that being one person down makes such a difference than everyone else has to pull 120 hour weeks, then your staffing model needs looked at. I’m glad she took the time she felt she needed.

  30. Lynca*

    “It seemed to many like a discretionary vacation on the heels of a long absence might have been better postponed until things had calmed significantly in a few short months. What would you have advised someone in the same position?”

    This sentence stuck out to me a lot OP.

    1. Not knowing all of what the manager had to do to arrange the funeral, deal with various family members, etc. It may take a week or more to get to the point where you get to process your own grief. I distinctly remember the point where I finally had to face what had happened and that was at least a week after the hectic arrangements (my father died right before a major holiday). It is not unreasonable to need more time than a week. And I am someone that throws themselves at work so I have something to focus on besides grieving. I wouldn’t bat an eye if someone took 2 weeks or even longer. Not everyone processes things the same way.

    2. Your busy season is months? You really can’t expect someone to put their lives on hold for months just so that the timing is better. That’s a pretty skewed perspective and given the hours you had to work I understand why you would feel that way. Especially if the manager described it as “relaxing” while the rest of you were being crushed by work. That’s pretty tone deaf. But it wasn’t truly a vacation. Her sister had died and she wasn’t up to coming back to work yet.

    I agree with everyone else that the problem is not the leave or what it was used for but that the employer has the employees scrambling with unreasonable working hours. 80 hours per week for months is still not reasonable even if she had been there.

  31. capedaisy127*

    Posting 1:
    I lost my mum unexpectedly 13 years ago, during the Christmas work shut down period.
    Her funeral was on 5th January and a week and a half after that, I was told I had to return to work by the CEO, as a year end report needed completing, as people had their quarterly bonus riding on it. I was the only person in the company who did the report. The bonus wasn’t life changing and a small percentage of their normal wage. The recipients were well paid anyway.
    On my 1st day back for phone was diverted, to help me concentrate on the report. On the 2nd day, back to normal and I ended up working an extra 2 hours unpaid, as I was so busy.
    I could barely function due to grief and shock, but what I was going through wasn’t important. Going back to work that early, without any support from work, set me back mentally, for years.
    I stayed with the company for years, due to being the only breadwinner, but was bitter and twisted about how they dealt with it. After that, I had years of back stabbing and incompetence piled on top of me.
    When I did leave, I walked out, giving them no notice. Not professional but they were terrible people who didn’t deserve my time any more.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I’m sorry your job was so bad handling this. There should always be a backup who can also do reports. What would have happened if you had been stuck in the hospital? Employers need to think.
      If nothing else, the bonuses could have waited and been retroactive.tontje earlier date.

      1. WellRed*

        Right! What if you had been unable to do this report? They would have figured it out. (I disagree, however that bonuses could have waited. But it was on the company to figure it out.) Glad you walked out on them!

  32. Alice*

    ”If you’re a manager who does this, it can make your staff feel like you expect them to be checking their email late at night, even if you explicitly tell them you don’t.”

    This drives me batty. You tell people “I don’t expect you to be checking email late” and they interpret it as “I do expect you to be checking email late”? Listen to the words!
    Email is asynchronous. Many teams have different work hours and members/customers based in different locations with different time zones.
    My company does not have any expectation of immediate responses to emails during the day, but our CEO performatively respects work life balance by criticizing anyone who sends an email after 6pm.
    Keep in mind that Outlook mobile doesn’t have the delayed send feature. And even on Outlook desktop, you need to open the message draft in a new window, click the options menu, click the delayed delivery button, and change the delayed delivery time from its stupid 5pm default.
    If you really respected work life balance you would let me flex my schedule to take my husband to physical therapy. Changing the time that emails arrive is not that helpful.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      Agreed. Who is even looking at the time of delivery? It has never once occurred to me that a late night email means anything.

      If my supervisor said something like, “I sent that last night, why didn’t you take care of it last night,” THEN I would think the delivery time meant I should be working at the delivery time.

      In other words, delivery time means something if you are actually expected to respond within minutes rather than the next day. But absent something to suggest immediate reaponse beyond delivery time, I don’t think we need to assume that.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Because people are weird and anxious about being fired. They think if their boss thinks if they aren’t working 24/7 they aren’t worth keeping around. People have it really ingrained that you MUST dedicate your life to your company (look at how many emails we get about people feeling guilty for quitting or not sacrificing enough), and that even if the boss says its okay, they think its really not.

      It’s very much know your team and/or office culture thing. If the office culture is “work hard play hard” then yeah people are going to think they need to respond at whatever O’clock to the emails. But if its “go home at 5, and we will see you tomorrow at 9” culture, then they will know the boss means what they said.

      1. Dasein9*

        Yep! Also people have it ingrained that “important people work all hours and are needed at all hours.” Everybody wants to be important.

        1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

          Especially when there are furloughs and layoffs coming due to economic troubles.

    3. Observer*

      You tell people “I don’t expect you to be checking email late” and they interpret it as “I do expect you to be checking email late”? Listen to the words!

      In functional work places, you are right. But SO many managers say one thing but do another. For most people what you DO is more important that what you say. And with good reasons.

      If you want people to believe that you are not expecting them to respond to late night emails in middle of the night, you need to ACT that way – treat those emails as having gone out in the morning.

    4. doreen*

      I’m going to disagree a little bit – I am expected to respond to certain emails/phone calls outside of business hours. Which is fine, I expected it when I took the position , but I also expected that I wouldn’t be receiving emails outside of business hours for non-emergencies . The problem is when some of my previous managers would “catch up” on their emails during off hours, and I would wake up Saturday morning to 20 emails that could have waited until Monday. Now they could tell me all they wanted that they didn’t expect an immediate response- but I had to at least glance at those emails to make certain none were from someone else who did need an immediate response.

      1. Alice*

        I don’t know if this would work in your situation — but, do the emergency emails have to go to your “normal” email address? Maybe it would make sense to have a separate email for the urgent on-call stuff; you only need to monitor it when it’s your turn to be on call.
        Another benefit: if there was a generic email address (or distribution list maybe) for emergencies, your colleagues wouldn’t need to look up the rota and see who is on call when they need to let the on-call person know “the server room is on fire” etc.

        1. doreen*

          It’s not a matter of me being in a call rotation – think of it more like I’m the chief of police in a small town with a small police force (I’m not, but it’s close) , and I have officers working 24/7/365 even though I mostly work business hours. Whenever big something happens, I get a call or email no matter what day or time it is , and that’s fine – but I don’t need to get revised Directive 2261 at 10pm Saturday because that’s when it was convenient for my boss to send it. Problem is, I don’t know that it’s Directive 2261 rather than an email telling me 2 of my officers are at the hospital with a prisoner and need to be relieved until I look at the email ( and yes it’s usually a phone call for something like that but not always)

  33. Policy Wonk*

    I always had a couple of co-workers who were night owls and would send late e-mails. Now, in the time of Coronavirus, there are several who work late at night simply because the network isn’t overwhelmed and they can get things done more easily. With the notable exception of the martyr type – the person who is always pointing out how late they sent the message and how hard they work – it is no big deal.

  34. JR*

    Re: late night emails, you can also use outlook to schedule emails to send at a certain time.

  35. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

    Re#1 “most of them pulling 90-120 hour weeks over their usual hefty 80 during the seasonal rush.”
    The organization is way understaffed, and not-that-rare bad luck (two people getting a bad cold or seasonal flu, for example) could really mess things up. That’s the real issue.

  36. Thankful for AAM*

    Re #4
    What does HR want to hear in this case?
    What can OP say to HR if the OP said nothing more than, “it was rude when coworkers x and y talked during the meeting.”

    And, what can OP say to HR if there was more to it than a brief comment, what if it was a very rude or groas comment about the appearance of the rude, talking coworkers or long diatribes about coworkers?

    As long as I remain professionally cordial to coworkers, what else can HR or a manager expect? If you saw my texts to a close friend about one of my coworkers . . . !! I’m venting and it helps me stay cordial.

    Would OP say, I’m professional to coworkers at all times, those were my personal opinions, I’ll keep them out of the workplace in future.

    Would OP say, I’m very surprised that coworker not only searched through the storage drawer assigned to me but read through something obviously personal. And I understand it was upsetting to read, I won’t do it again.

    What does HR want to hear?

    1. juliebulie*

      If I were HR I would not want to hear about something that a nosy person found in someone’s notebook. I would tell the nosy person she was lucky if that was her biggest problem.

  37. Christmas*

    When my mom died, I took my 3 days of bereavement and then came back to work. I needed to. I was going mad at home. But guess what? My coworkers lost their minds. Everyone kept telling me to go home, and then escalated into murmuring about how heartless I am for “only needing 3 days” to grieve for my mother.
    There’s just no winning. Everyone should do what is best for them.

    1. MAB*

      That’s ridiculous! I’m so sorry. That’s a loss you grieve for the rest of your life- the time you take off work has nothing to do with it.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      This is also true. And you weren’t heartless at all. My coworker did the same thing two years ago when her dad died – she was off for a couple days to help her mom make funeral arrangements and to get his affairs in order, but she said she needed to be working to not spiral into a depression. Our boss kept asking her if she was okay and assured her she could take more time, but she said she didn’t need it. No one accused her of not caring about her dad. In fact, I admired that she was able to come back in and laugh and joke – I could never do that when someone I loved passed away. I know that when my mother finally goes (and god, I hope that’s not for many more years/decades to come), I’m going to snap, so I’m in awe of you guys’ emotional fortitude. I wish I had been born with it, but I wasn’t. I just wasn’t.

      1. Kate*

        I went to a mask ball only a couple of days after my grandfather’s funeral. I just had to, for similar reasons.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          That sounds amazing, and I would totally do something like that myself. Anything fun would be welcomed now, but alas, I’m stuck in the house because of corona and can’t do anything but watch TV.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m so sorry this happened to you! What a pack of concern trolls.

      I worked throughout most of my dad’s medical problems and while he was hospitalized, I still went in daily but after work. He frigging TOLD me to go to work and to stop fussing. People didn’t understand that either.

      Everyone has to do what’s best.

      My method is if someone seems to come back fast is to just make sure they know they don’t have to, so they don’t rush back because “well you said 3 days and here I am, 3 days later.” but when they say “no, I need this normalcy.” or whatever they want to phrase it as, I say “You do what’s best for you, I just want you to know we can accommodate whatever you need if you need it.” and move the ef on. Nobody needs to be shamed or berated over how they grieve.

  38. Catabouda*

    #3 is completely normal in my work experience. People send emails as they work and the recipient responds on their schedule. The idea that 10pm is too late to send it because reasons is odd.

  39. Karia*

    1) the issue here is that your company’s ‘solution’ to one person being off is ‘everyone else work themselves to exhaustion’. They need to have contingencies in place and elasticity. Illness, accidents, bereavements – they’re going to happen. (It horrifies me that one of your colleagues postponed surgery for work).

    Be mad at your company here, not your manager.

  40. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – if your department is that put out by 1 person being unexpectedly our for an extended period of time, that’s the issue here. Companies need to be prepared for unexpected employee absence. The scenario in the letter sounds like a dumpster fire. The manager being on bereavement leave is not the problem.

    #3 – use your words and set expectations. If people feel obligated to answer emails after hours when you’ve explicitly told them it’s not necessary, that’s on them.

  41. RF*

    For #5: if there’s any chance that your overtures could have been taken as romantic interest, you’d be better off not sending her any kind of note and leaving her alone.

  42. Trout 'Waver*

    In regards to #3, the best boss I ever worked for did his e-mail between 1:00 and 3:00 am. He didn’t expect a response at that time. But it was completely normal to receive a well-worded critical e-mail in the wee hours of the morning. I wouldn’t think twice about it.

  43. MAB*

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand people who have this strange aversion/judgement towards others for the time at which they respond to emails, or just do work generally. It’s just incredibly petty and pointless to me. Different people have different periods of high productivity- why should it matter at all?

  44. Delta Delta*

    #3 I think you need to know your workplace. In some places it’s totally common for people to work odd hours and send emails when they’re thinking of it. In other places not so much. I actually worked for a manager who frequently worked on Sundays and everyone knew that. Yet his emails he sent on Sundays had a tone demanding immediate response (and in one case suggested people needed to go in to work just then). It got to where I’d feel physically ill if I got an email alert on a Sunday because of the weird demands.

    1. Alice*

      That does sound terrible — but it’s a bad manager problem, not an email-on-weekends problem.
      And if there’s anyone in a situation where you are internally annoyed/intimidated by email notifications on the weekend, but you have a reasonable boss who doesn’t mean to annoy/intimidate (that part sounds like it was missing from Delta Delta’s situation) — turn off notifications or take work email off your phone.

  45. roll-bringer*

    what sort of work are y’all doing that requires 80 hours a week? and then 90-120??? at the high end, that’s working 17+ hours a day. are y’all curing cancer or something? no product you’re selling can POSSIBLY be so damn important that it’s worth burning out your employees like this, and your company should reevaluate how they roll shit out.

    1. Colette*

      A lot of that really depends on the business. If you have a major sales conference or event, people are going to be working a lot of hours to make sure that happens, for example – and if it starts with breakfast and finishes with dinner, that’s easily a 15 hour day for those running it.

      1. Ranon*

        That’s also why the concept of shifts exists? It is entirely possible to hand things off from one person to the next, I know the norm lots of places is one person does the whole thing but given that there are zillions of jobs where people do indeed manage to share work (often of even higher degrees of complexity) it’s still silly to treat 15 hour days as completely unavoidable in the vast vast majority of non life and death situations.

        1. Colette*

          That’s not always possible. If you have 5 full-time employees working reasonable days 51 weeks a year, you may need all 5 to work unreasonable hours one week a year. While temp workers can help with some stuff, they can’t help with being the one responsible.

          In the OP’s case, it’s likely the employer was going more by dreams than plans, but the details make a big difference.

          1. Observer*

            Well, according to the OP, the crunch time lasts “a few short months”. And that they worked for 90-120 hours for 2.5 weeks before manager came back.

            Also, there is a difference between “unreasonable hours” and INSANE hours. PLANNING for 80 hour weeks for more than one week is exploitative and stupid. Throwing all the extras in during that time? No. Not if you are a decent human being with half a brain.

          2. J*

            Except this isn’t 51 normal weeks and one cuckoo week. It’s multiple MONTHS of 17 hour days. You’re right– the details do make a big difference. And the details here indicate that this is a badly-managed company.

        1. Observer*

          Not even for WEEKS. And no one adds new processes and a huge onboarding to the conference week.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Tax season is usually around 60 hours a week, so I’m screaming inside that they’re up to literally 17 hours a day, how, how, how even?

      I can see it happening for a very small portion of the time if something comes up unexpected but if your BUSY SEASON is that crazy pants…that’s the whole concept of SEASONAL HELP screaming at you [CAPS LOCK FOR SERIOUSNESS THOUGH, REALLY!]

      I’d assume some of this would possibly be because of travel and travel is included in the “work” day? I

  46. CupcakeCounter*

    Since you are the hiring manager, you could use “conflict of interest” or “favoritism” in your reply.
    Such as “Hi Former-Coworker! Thanks for the message. I am actually the hiring manager for this position so I really can’t put your name forward or give out extra information as it would be a conflict of interest. You can go through the online application portal but I really have to be honest that due to our history together it could easily be seen as favoritism as we have a ton of really qualified applicants who check every box on the list.”

    1. WellRed*

      but this is how networking and hiring often works. It’s not conflict of interest to … hire someone you know is fit for the job or have worked with before. You still can direct them to proper channels per company policy.

      1. Allison*

        Right! I mean, it could look sketchy if you hired a friend or family member who was obviously not a strong candidate, but people hire people they know all the time, especially former coworkers.

  47. What the What*

    LW writes, “The business model also, despite everyone’s efforts, didn’t really get the launch it deserved because we were constantly in triage mode and our new staff felt the strain.”

    Only the new people, huh? I mean, it’s hard to believe that they felt the strain of working anywhere from 13 to 17 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m sure the more experienced robots were able to get through that at peak performance!

    Unless this manager had the actual authority to determine how many hours people were working, then you’re looking the wrong way for someone to blame. That said, if the “manager” is the owner of the company or something, then yeah, going on a vacation, no matter the reason, while asking people to work 120 hours a week, is inappropriate. But only because people working 90-120 hours a week is inappropriate.

    I work in an industry with a well defined busy season. If at any point in my career, someone had asked me to work a 120 hour week, I would have just quit on the spot.

    1. Kate*

      Is it even possible to work 120 hours a week? I mean really work, not just to be at your workplace.

      1. Karia*

        I doubt it. The 8 hour workday came from a Victorian industrialist and philanthropist. He wanted to help people, but also noted that workers who did 8 hours instead of 12-15 had fewer accidents and made fewer mistakes.

  48. Soylent Minority*

    On boarding 10-15 people during a well defined busy season with staff levels so tight that one key absence results in everyone else pulling long hours reeks of horrible planning by management, not an unreasonable choice by a bereaved co-worker. That they were rolling out an important new business initiative on top makes me wonder if they were incredibly cheap overall or poor planners in general. Sometimes you it’s worth it to bring people on 3 months before you NEED them to avoid training them when you really need them to be fully functioning and don’t need the people showing them the ropes distracted. It’s also worth paying a few “extra” staff during busy season to be able to absorb the normal life events that cannot be scheduled like unexpected deaths and illness of workers or family members. Not rocket science and not the responsibility of the individual worker.

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I have worked for people who are energized by a crisis. They always liked to just drive the car right up to the starting line, without checking the tires or putting in gas. I actually find I generally really like this personality type as humans, but they are hell on their employees. Most people can’t run on adrenaline for long, and most people are (justifiably) not so committed to someone else’s business that they want to live at the office for three weeks during panic time.

  49. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #4 – aside from everything else, why were you writing notes like that in the first place?!? If I’m in a meeting, I’m not going to write down that I think a coworker is being rude about something. That’s not the purpose of meeting notes. My notes are things like what was talked about, decisions made, followup needed, etc.

    1. Observer*

      That’s not the purpose for YOU. The OP was not writing notes to for other people. They were notes / comments / vents FOR THEM. It’s not anyone’s place to decide how someone should be taking notes, as long as they are not disruptive and retain the necessary information.

      1. Colette*

        It’s reasonable to point out that that’s not the kind of thing you should be writing down at work, though. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend writing it down anywhere, because making a point of remembering negative things about other people affects how you interact with the world (and not in a good way.)

        1. Observer*

          Not at all. People get to write down whatever they want. Again, as long as they are not being disruptive and are doing their jobs it is just no one’s business.

          Of course, if you don’t want people to see it, don’t leave it for people to snoop through. Because there are always going to be snoops. And while it may be legal, it’s also gross behavior.

          It’s one of the few issues I strongly disagree with Allison on, in fact. workplace snoops are common, but they are generally toxic. And they tend to flourish in toxic environments, which is what the OP seems to be describing.

          1. Colette*

            I mean, people who think a key takeaway from a meeting is “Coworker was rude” are adding toxicity. Sure, you can write it down, but it benefits no one, including (and especially) you.

            1. Freeway*

              That’s incorrect for many people. I wouldn’t do it at work, but I’ve vented in writing at home and used it as a catharsis. I then don’t bring it to the office. You don’t take into account the personalities or even quirks of different people, nor apparently different genres of fiction.

      2. I'm A Little Teapot*

        Sure, in your private journal AT HOME. At work? No. If I’m unavailable, and there’s information in my email or something that is urgently needed, then it’s reasonable for management to have IT give them access or whatever. Work is fundamentally not private. OP forgot this, and now is facing the consequences. It’s fair to debate if those consequences are proportionate, but that is a different conversation.

        1. Observer*

          This wasn’t in their email. It was in a private notebook. Email is a whole different kettle of fish and you should NOT EVER put anything in email that you cannot afford to have someone at work see. No expectation of privacy on that whatsoever.

          Sure, I agree that the OP was stupid to leave it at work. But “the purpose of notes” is whatever the note taker wants / needs it to be, if you are talking about personal notes – and the IS what the OP was talking about.

          1. Anonny*

            I’m surprised by many of the comments questioning why the LW was writing in their journal. Maybe they were documenting issues. Something AAM has advised often when resolving workplace problems. I work for a large healthcare organization and I could write about the culture here that honestly, would not be believed. Whenever AAM posts a crazy story about something in the healthcare industry, I don’t question the validity. I’ve seen coworkers get fired based on hearsay, administrative misconduct, I could go on.

  50. Myowndamnboss*

    Busy season or no busy season, if you can’t run your business with employees working reasonable hours, even with a key manager on leave, then you can’t run your business.
    The manager taking bereavement leave and vacation wasn’t the problem, it only brought the problem to the surface.
    Yes, they got things done, but the number of hours they had to work to do it was almost as insanely stupid as the number of hours they would have had to work otherwise.
    The hard-charging, energetic, go-getters who think that 80 to 90 hour weeks, even in the busy season, are normal are the people who lose every relationship outside of work and eventually end up burned out too badly to be effective.
    The advice to bring in extra staff won’t be taken. A company who didn’t staff up to prevent 80 hour weeks isn’t going to staff up to prevent 120 hour weeks.
    They will push their small staff to work harder and longer while making them think they are lucky to be beaten with such a lovely stick.

    1. Karia*

      “ who think that 80 to 90 hour weeks, even in the busy season, are normal are the people who lose every relationship outside of work and eventually end up burned out too badly to be effective.”

      Yep. Source, me. They weren’t 90 hour weeks but way over the regular 40. Took me years to recover.

  51. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    All I can say is that the bereaved coworker must have been Wonder Woman – it took a staff of *several* people EACH adding a full extra 20-40 hours of work to their week to make up for her absence? She must have been amazing. Or perhaps you were not as prepared for the launch as you remember, and resentment is coloring how you view this after the fact.

  52. BRR*

    #5 Adding on to Alison’s add on. I was laid off last year and I still use the wording “wasn’t considered essential” in my head. The reality is, it wasn’t about who was essential. It was more like they had to reduce spending by $x which meant laying off Y number of people. I had coworkers who were laid off that were promoted just a few months prior and others who were the sole person running a grant-funded program. I’m not sure what happened to those programs and they were funded from large and repeat donors, i.e. if they botch them will that end the relationship with those donors? Essential people were let go.

    1. Colette*

      I look at it a little differently in that there is no one definition of essential. If you’re a grocery store, you need employees to run the meat department, baked goods, produce, and run the cashes. If you decide to change to a coffee shop, you still need someone to deal with baked goods and run the cashes, but produce and meat are no longer essential because you have changed your focus.

      Similarly, right now I am working from home. That means that I no longer buy my lunch on occasion or take the bus to work – so those are not essential services for me right now. If I were in the office, they would be. The value of those services has change for me right now – not because the people who perform them are any less important, but because I am no longer in a position to take advantage of them.

  53. Amber Rose*

    I remember having to reschedule a job interview for two weeks later due to my mom’s death. I was treated like absolute garbage when I showed up, with someone commenting that I was the one who rescheduled for a vacation.

    Losing someone you love is an immense, overwhelming pain. That dude was lucky I was even able to speak three words without bursting into tears.

    The way we treat people who are grieving is BS. Please don’t perpetuate it. We are not robots who live to work FFS. Other stuff is more important.

    1. Observer*

      The way the OP’s company treated ANYONE was BS. I hope the responses here help them see that.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Omg, you had a ton of restraint because if I had been treated like that after losing a parent, I would FLIP, lol. A stapler may have even been thrown, I don’t know.

  54. Ladylike*

    OP #4 – I just wanted to share a personal story with you about something similar that happened to me. Several years ago, I was preparing for a significant audit at work and the management team was not cooperating with me. It was pretty typical workplace frustration during a very stressful time. I had read articles recommending that when stressed, you should write down your feelings and then tear up the paper. So I took a photocopy of the audit standard I no longer needed (scrap paper), and in the margins, wrote out my frustrations: “Kevin won’t provide document X, John is being a jerk, Jack is a poor manager,” etc. I ripped it into shreds and threw it into my trash can.

    Well, as it turns out, Kevin’s wife had been hired as a night janitor, and Kevin helped her empty trash that night. He spotted his name on a shred of paper in my trash can and proceeded to fish out all the shreds and reassemble it. The next day, I was called into a meeting with Kevin, HR, and the Plant Manager. When I arrived, the shredded paper was reassembled on the table in front of them and they immediately began to interrogate me about my intentions to sabotage the audit by sharing negative information about them with the auditor. I had NO such intentions, and I had never been more mortified in my entire life!! Soon, anger replaced the humiliation, and I took great joy in reminding Kevin repeatedly that he *went* through my *trash*, which enraged him. I went immediately from work to see a recruiter that day, and left the job as soon as I found a new position.

    I swear this is 100% true. I was an excellent employee who always achieved high scores on audits. They had zero reason to believe I would commit sabotage – they were just angry at seeing my private thoughts about them on paper. It was so petty, and so boundary-crossing, that to this day, it stands as the worst thing anyone has ever done to me at work. I totally sympathize with you. Legal or not, someone going through your private things and punishing you for your private thoughts is insanely inappropriate. I hope you find a better job soon.

    1. IT Guy*

      This is a perfect example why you don’t write something at work you wouldn’t want read by your boss or HR, even if you plan to throw it away.

      1. JM in England*

        Either that or put the paper through a cross-cut shredder, which leaves virtually no chance of it being reassembled into a readable state…

    2. Observer*

      I don’t think I have ever heard of a place where someone snoops and where HR acts on the snooped information, which is NOT toxic.

  55. Andrea*

    Why would anyone care what you wrote in your own notes? If you weren’t out there defaming people for their rudeness or spreading it on the company email, why would HR or any other line of command have any ground to reprimand any worker?

    1. Karia*

      My only thought was whether what she wrote falls into protected category territory? If OP was paraphrasing etc. I can’t see HR being interested unless there’s liability involved, or else maybe it’s a last straw in a long line of issues.

  56. MommyMD*

    Her SISTER suddenly died. She took 2.5 weeks of bereavement time. This was not a “fun” vacation. It’s an unexpected trauma. Your tax season or whatever, can weather one bad year for someone’s personal catastrophe. Death doesn’t care about busy work times. Not even close to excessive.

    1. JM in England*

      You’ve hit the nail on the head!

      At OldJob, had my annual review about three months after my mother’s passing; I had taken off two weeks leading up to this to visit her in hospital plus three days to attend the funeral. At the review, asked my boss to take this event into account when determining my rating. He replied that I should be starting to get over it. My response was along the lines of that mourning doesn’t follow a timetable…

  57. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    You were one person down and that resulted in everyone taking 10 to 20 hours more on?! That system failed dramatically. No one person should be that much of a force. It’s not her fault. Blame your awful company for thinking io that unbelievable setup. Yuck, I’m glad she took an extra week.

    Ngl. I would have quit or went on indefinite leave myself. Her sister died… you don’t bury immediate family and jump into an 80hr week the next week.

  58. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    “Essential” means “necessary for survival”.

    Human level, it means you need to eat for example. Business level we define it as a “skeleton crew”. Bare essentials to stay open. But doesn’t mean positions aren’t important or make everything better.

    Allergies aside. We can live in bread and water. Sure doesn’t mean we ever want to! Life won’t be pleasant, we aren’t strong and or as healthy as if we have a complex meal structure. Same with business.

    Everyone has a purpose and the word “essential” can be buried with Rona itself any time now.

  59. Vox Experientia*

    for 1. Taking long bereavement leave during a busy time-
    It seems to me your frustration and judgment are misplaced. It’s not this individual’s fault for taking an unexpected leave. it’s your company’s management that is responsible for seeing that they have adequate resources on hand for projected business. unexpected absences happen. What if she had died herself? When the company’s ‘plan’ is for everyone to work 80+ hours for weeks to meet the needs of their job – the problem is their poor planning. Staff up. Plan ahead. That’s what businesses do. The company’s poor planning does not constitute a failure on the part of the people who have every right to expect a reasonable work load with manageable hours.

  60. Sled dog mama*

    Bereavement leave is not for getting your mourning done (I love that current company calls it funeral leave), it’s for getting done with some of the social and government aspects of a death in the family.
    My grandfather passed away in February, 6 weeks into my new job, boss and I had already discussed that due to his health Grandfather’s death was on the horizon and I didn’t have any leave built up yet. His response? “You go be there for your parents, we’ll figure out how to get you paid when the time comes.” I ended up being off for four days but doing a few things remotely during that time.

    Four years ago I had an awesome HR person who fudged the rules to get me funeral leave for my 27 year old cousin’s funeral after he died very unexpectedly, four months after my daughter passed away. I was on maternity leave when my daughter died (8 weeks and I was still a mess when I returned to work) so she told me she was coding as bereavement leave for my daughter’s funeral.

  61. agnes*

    #1 An organization that can’t meet deadlines and has people canceling surgeries and paying for emergency childcare because one person is out for 2 weeks is an organization that is WAY understaffed. I bet if you asked your employees they would say that even fully staffed, they are overworked and strung out.

  62. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

    LW #1, another thing to consider is there didn’t seem to be much in place in case something like that happened. For instance, why is 80 hours / week the norm for everyone during the busy season? Some may see that as suggesting there are not enough employees and “busy season” should mean 60-65 hours / week. Also, did she have an assistant manager? If so, was the assistant manager able to pick up most of the manager’s work during the 2 1/2 weeks? If not, why not? Having an assistant manager would have mitigated a lot of the extra work that instead went to the entire team. Who knows, maybe all of these things were addressed either before or as a result of the manager being out, but from the outside, the infrastructure concerns cause a little bit of pause.

    1. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Agreed. I just left a similar comment before I saw yours. Sounds like the issue is with the workplace and crazy work hours.

  63. Just stoppin' by to chat*

    Re: #1 – My concern was more with the other employees working 90-120 hour work weeks. I get that sometimes work is busy, and I have changed medical appts and other personal needs for work in the past. But not anymore. I hope this was truly a 1-off, and not part of the company culture. If so, then I think that is the larger issue. That taking even 1 add’l week of personal time to deal with the sudden loss of a loved one was possibly viewed as excessive seems to be pretty telling about that workplace.

  64. Allison*

    #2, I just applied to a job where two former colleagues work and one is the hiring manager. I actually chatted with her about the role yesterday and she said she’d reach out today once she’s a little clearer on what kind of person she needs to hire. I realize I may not be a fit for the role, I’m not entitled to special consideration just because of my connections, but if I’m not a fit, I’d prefer she be upfront and honest about it, as soon as she’s made up her mind.

  65. Kettricken Farseer*

    When I was but a wee programmer, my father died. Because of the way they’d set up our roles, I was the only person who knew how to do a very critical part of the work, which meant I had to come in the day after the death in order to do a release. I was so upset, I just cried the whole time. And I vowed to never let that kind of thing happen in the future; single points of failure should not be allowed to exist.

    Last year, my sister died after a long illness. She was off and on life support over the span of a couple weeks. When she first went on life support, I took a couple days off to be with the rest of my siblings. But then she came off life support and I went back to work. Then, of course, she lost her battle and I wanted to take the 5 days I get for bereavement, but when I asked, my boss said, “You already took two days off.” So I just sucked it up and spend a lot of time in the parking lot crying.

      1. Kettricken Farseer*

        Yeah, current boss made it sound like my whole team would fall apart if I wasn’t there — which is so far from reality. I have a great team and they work pretty independently.

  66. Claudia*

    I just returned to work after taking a week off to fly to New York because my 36 year old brother died suddenly. The week I was gone was not relaxing in any way. I didn’t come back rested or ready for work again; I came back tired, disoriented, immensely sad, and in need of therapy. Taking a week to go to an island is how your coworker is dealing with her grief. I hope your team can see that.

  67. LW1*

    First, thank you for all the thoughtful comments! I have a lot of reading to do but will get to them all as soon as I have the time to digest everything. A few updates: 1. Other than the manager, no one on that team – me included – still works there. The hours were a deal breaker for a lot of folks and certainly had a lot to do with those feelings. 2. The issues at the top are real. There was never any plan for anyone to be out in their busy season, but to be out for more than a few days for any reason was just not a part of the culture. Whether or not that is toxic is certainly valid to ask! I have a lot of horror stories. 3. I did not mention in my letter. This manager was, and this in no way justifies anyone judging her for grieving, very much an agent of that culture. One of the harshest offenders in terms of rushing people back to work. She was notorious for calling folks at funerals, in the hospital, etc. asking them for work, threatening that if they couldn’t get back soon maybe the job wasn’t for them. She’d been disciplined multiple times for interfering with folks on FMLA. I do think a lot of my team couldn’t separate how ruthless she was from the standard she expected for herself, but I can see how that is very problematic. Saying something awful about her because she did the same to others certainly doesn’t make it right. 4. She was also the upper management so, in this case, the failure to plan for an emergency despite the clear and documented objections of her staff was partially her decision. Again, this is separate from whether she made the right choice but as I read these comments I think helps explain the conflation of the culture she created with who she was and what she deserved as a person, if that makes sense.

    Thank you everyone for your thoughts!

    1. Blueberry*

      It sounds then that your manager was a FLAMING HYPOCRITE. I definitely understand better your reaction to her situation, being as that she helped create it and was utterly merciless to others.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Ah this makes so much more sense why you were so critical of her choice, thank you for this extra background.

      LOTS of people like her have a different tune about what they should be allowed to do, verses what the people around them should. It’s the “Do as I ‘say’, not as I ‘do’.” syndrome. She’s above the rules, she creates the rules BUT those rules are for others, not herself! Nasty humans those people tend to be, yuck.

      That place just from this post screams “toxic waste dump”. Nobody should ever work you to the bone, nobody should ever expect you to be there when someone has died, is sick or is in any kind of turmoil/crisis. They burn the candle at both ends and then melt away the middle just for giggles its sounds like.

      That’s not a sustainable life and I’m relieved you’re out of there.

    3. Jennifer*

      Wow. With that new information I see why people were so salty about her taking two weeks off. If I had been called at a funeral and told to return to work immediately, then had to cover for her when she was grieving for over two weeks, I’d be pissed too. I don’t think she was wrong to take the time off but everyone deserves the same accomodations.

  68. semperfiona*

    When my grandmother died, my employer had a 3-day bereavement leave policy. I took no days immediately, since she died in Wisconsin and was to be buried in California and it was going to be some time before a memorial service could be arranged. When I wanted to use bereavement leave to attend the service a month or two later, I got a lot of pushback on the grounds that funerals had to be immediate.

  69. LW1*

    Also, the question about how one person being out could so increase the burden on everyone else’s hours. Without giving too much detail, it was a job that required a lot of travel in the busy season over a wide territory and events in different cities. Most people spent ~7-8 hours of the day at work on logistics/customer service/etc. and then 7-8 hours a day on various in-person events making sales or en route to making sales.

    The CEO was unwilling to cancel events, and managers had the most events, so folks would often need to add an extra 1-2 events to their week, along with all the customer service issues those created, in order to come up with as many events as the manager covered herself. That would be on top of their regular schedule, and oftentimes would be on the other end of the state so it wasn’t as simple as just doing 2. It was more like trying to be two places at once without accounting for travel time, so to add an extra event in City A to a day you were already working in City B could add up to 4 hours round trip to your travel time, most of which would be spent on calls putting out fires. I think management thought her work could be neatly covered in a one-to-one ratio (despite it being explained how that was not the case and not possible) and also couldn’t understand how one person being out created a domino effect that was much bigger than the time it took to do her actual work.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is SCARY, AF. You’re on the road…being that stretched thin and tortured is a recipe for disaster. You have more accidents when you’re sleep deprived and worked to death.

  70. nerfherder*

    Re #3: I work at a nonprofit and it’s not really expected for people to email at odd hours, but they often do anyway. Especially these days, but it happened frequently in the before times, too.

    One thing I don’t like about our organization’s culture is that when it happens, it often gets called out positively in group meetings. “Judy was answering emails at 2 in the morning, let’s all thank Judy for her dedication!” On the surface that sounds nice, but it sets the expectation that this is something to aim for. If you’re sending emails at 2am, you’re overloaded (which is a problem, not something to celebrate!) or you’re having trouble sleeping (which is another kind of problem!) or you’re being constantly interrupted during the day so you can’t get your stuff done (also a problem!) It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re more dedicated than the person who is able to shut down and go to bed.

    Also, just the hypocrisy. My organization will say all the right things in all-staff emails about taking care of your mental health and taking time to log off, but then we go to meetings and hear about Feats of 2am Effort with great praise.

    ANYWAY. My point in all this is that people do notice, but what people think about it can vary a lot.

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