mixed messages after layoffs, called back to the office but I’m a single mom with no child care, and more

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

1. We’re sending mixed messages to our laid-off employees

I work for a small nonprofit that had to lay off about half the team two weeks ago because of Covid. I am still employed, and while I serve on the leadership team and was consulted on how the process should be handled, the communication about the layoffs came from our executive director. This has been really hard on our small team and while we would like to be able to bring everyone back on in 2021, we know that might not be financially possible.

Because of the desire to bring people back, the layoffs were first communicated as furloughs, but when no clear rehire date could be given, it switched to layoff. I am concerned because I think this mixed communication is really confusing people. For example, one colleague of mine has changed his signature line on his personal email account to list his title and the organization name from when he was still employed, as though he is indicating he still works in that capacity for our organization. In addition, not everyone had their email access removed. Our IT person, who was laid off, still has access to all of the email accounts, server files, etc. He can read anyone’s email when he wants. And when another ex-employee’s email account was turned off, he went in and turned it back on so she can see her emails even though she no longer works for the organization.

While it has been said many times that no one can expect to come back, clearly mixed messages are being delivered. Do you have any suggestions on how to put the genie back in the bottle on this? I’m very concerned about the liability for the organization if, when someone realizes they’re not being rehired, they have access to all these files and emails. I also worry that they aren’t going to be looking for new work, and I don’t want any of these people to be hurt. But when I raise concerns with the ED, her response is, “We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by cutting them off, especially since we may be bringing some people back.” I have recommended that it is easier for everyone to have a clean break, but they keep waffling on what to communicate, and it often changes based on the person.

Aggggh, your ED. The issue isn’t “hurting people’s feelings”; the issues are breaking the law, opening your organization to real security issues, and giving people false hope.

Let her know it’s illegal to allow people to work while they’re not being paid, and if people are reading and responding to work emails, that’s potentially a legal issue. Point out that it’s a huge security loophole to give non-employees access to work email (let alone the person who has access to everyone’s email, good god) or to let them still identify themselves as employees. And tell her that people are putting themselves in financial jeopardy by not seeking other work as actively as they should, because she’s helping them believe their jobs might come back — and that it’s awful to allow that because it’s more comfortable than making a clean break.

I have a feeling she won’t care about much/any of this, given her response so far. But you can and should try.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I’m being called back to the office but I’m a single mom with no child care

I have worked for the same small business for 5-1/2 years as an office manager. When COVID hit, I was directed to work from home and stop in the office twice a week to drop off and pick up work (we decided on times and days so they could ensure no one would be there). The owners (husband and wife) are working in the office with the other two of us working from home. We have several field guys who travel a lot and go from job to job. My working from home has been successful with no complaints on my work or performance. The few times something came up and I had to go into office for a short while, I did.

Today one owner told me I need to start going in office Monday through Friday for regular hours. I am not comfortable with this given the pandemic and due to the fact I am a single mom with a child who cannot be left home all day every day alone. Usually during the summers I send her to day camps, but there are none in our area now. I had a conversation with them and they were adamant that my job is in the office and would not listen to the fact that I have been able to do my work from home successfully. We had a heated conversation and I told them I was taking vacation the rest of the week (I need to take time to figure out what I am going to do). The owner sent me an email refusing my time off and demanding me in the office the next day. I read up on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and called the DOL and they said I qualify for that leave. I would rather not make them pay me to take time off through the Act and would like to continue working from home, but they will not see to it. Any thoughts on what I can do? I am desperate!

You should indeed be eligible for 10 weeks of expanded family leave under the FFCRA at two-thirds of your regular rate of pay; the new law specifically provides for that if you’re unable to work because you need to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed for reasons related to COVID-19. If they’re demanding you return to the office full-time, that may be your only option. And you wouldn’t be “making” them pay you for that time off; they’d be the ones choosing it if they refuse to let you work from home anymore.

I would frame it this way: “I’d like to continue working, but because of the pandemic-related child care closures, I’d need to continue working from home. If that’s not an option, I’ll need to take the paid family leave provided by the new FFCRA law. My preference would be to continue working from home, but of course it’s up to you. Let me know which you’d like me to do.”

Also, be aware that it’s illegal for them to retaliate against you for using or requesting this leave.

I’d also try to figure out what’s going on. Why are they suddenly being this insistent? Is it related to the way the virus has been politicized, and pretending all is now fine is a political stance for them? Are they anti-telework in general? Have they been adversarial with you about other things? Something is up, and understanding what it is will help you navigate how to respond.

3. I feel awkward about editing senior colleagues’ writing

I’m an early-career analyst coming out of an adjacent degree in writing and copyediting. I’ve received really great exec feedback at several different workplaces on the documents I send up the line, and I think I have a good ear for the type of technical writing I do.

However, I keep running into an awkward situation when a supervisor asks me to edit, re-draft, or review a document written by another, usually senior analyst who doesn’t have the same background. I go back and forth on how to handle these situations. On one hand, I can light-touch these documents, but I spend a long, stressful time fretting through whether a change will feel personal to the original writer, how I can justify what my “ear” thinks is better if asked, and whether I’m being arrogant. On the other hand, I can pretend it’s my own draft and cut/shift to my own tastes with abandon. Short, clear documents are highly valued in my industry and often have to be turned around in an afternoon. I can almost always cut 10 to 20 percent more when I let myself loose, and turn the document around easily three times as fast.

For clarity, I’m not editing personal style bugaboos like a particular approach to the Oxford comma. I’m not the type to get picky over that kind of thing unless I’ve been explicitly asked to edit to a style guide, and I wouldn’t dig my heels in on anything but factual information if somebody wanted an edit reverted. Instead, the type of editing I’m doing is fairly large-scale shortening, clarification, and information ordering.

Ask whoever delegates the work to you. Say, “Do you want just a light-touch copyedit, or do you want me to edit for style and voice too?” In a case where you suspect you’d ideally cut a lot, you could add, “I can often tighten things up significantly, but I don’t want to edit more heavily than you want.” If someone frequently assigns you the same kind of document, you can also ask the question more broadly (“with this kind of thing, do you mostly want X or Y?”).

Preferences can vary wildly on this, and can vary by the type of document or the particular context too. There no one rule for how you should always do it; the only rule is to ask!

Also, if you’re worried the writer of the piece won’t realize your boss asked you to do a heavier edit, when you return edits to them you can say something like, “Jane asked me to edit for length and voice, so you’ll see some tweaks along those lines.”

4. Arriving early for video interviews

I have a remote interview coming up next week, and I just have a quick etiquette question. I was taught that showing up 10 minutes or so early to an in-person interview is expected, but is there a similar expectation for remote, video-based interviews? Some platforms have digital waiting rooms that let the hosts know you’re waiting, some platforms allow the host to admit participants individually, some platforms let everyone in at once. Since this is a panel interview, I don’t want to arrive before the people interviewing me arrive and get themselves organized. At the same time, showing up early is a good idea and gives me a chance to work out technical difficulties.

It’s not a bad idea to be set up and logging in 5-10 minutes before the call time in case you run into technical issues that you need to troubleshoot. I wouldn’t worry about not giving them enough time to get themselves organized — they probably aren’t logging in that early on their end (the “show up early” advice applies to candidates but rarely to interviewers), but even if they are, it won’t be a big deal that you’re set up and waiting. But if you find them there, you can always say, “I just wanted to test the connection, but I’ll pop off and be back a few minutes before we start.”

5. How can I signal I’m not defensive about feedback?

I recently had an odd experience at a summer internship and wanted your advice on how to deal with this situation. A year ago, I decided to leave my career and go back to graduate school. I’m about 10 years out of college, while a lot of my peers went straight from college to graduate school or have 1-2 years of work experience. This summer, I set up two internships in my new field that will hopefully lead to permanent job offers after graduation (this is commonly how job offers are made in my field).

At my first internship, every time a superior was about to give me feedback, they would start with something like “I know you may be new to receiving professional feedback, and it can be awkward to have your work critiqued. When I was first starting out, I thought I knew more than people in the field and got defensive, but I encourage you to take this feedback seriously.”

This happened with four different people. I was wondering if you had any scripts to either cut this off or signal that I’m not uncomfortable receiving the feedback, but just don’t want to hear this condescending speech. I know this odd behavior didn’t stem from actual defensiveness on my part, because in my final performance review the grandboss for the company told me I “exceeded expectations” at receiving and incorporating feedback from superiors. I also brought a pen and paper to each meeting and made sure to take down notes, thank the feedback giver, and incorporated the feedback into my subsequent work to avoid making repeat mistakes and better conform my work to the company’s preferences and style.

I’d really like to have some language to use in case this happens at my next internship too.

This almost definitely stems from either (a) past experience with interns who did get defensive at hearing feedback or (b) the feedback-giver’s own discomfort with giving feedback. But you can easily signal that you’re on board with it — the key is to make it clear that you actively welcome feedback, rather than it being something that you feel awkward about.

If someone makes another of those remarks, you could say, “I’m here to get feedback, and I’d appreciate any you’re willing to give me!” You can even preemptively address it before it comes up by saying something like, “I’d especially love any feedback you have for me, at any time. I’m here to learn, and I’d welcome any suggestions you might have for me!”

{ 365 comments… read them below }

  1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP5, if the conversations have been this similar, it sounds as though the company may have come up with a script to use with interns. It probably does sound condescending to someone with your background, but it’s also probably appropriate and necessary with many others. The only thing that strikes me as odd is that they don’t realise that you have 10 years of work experience!

    Good luck with your internship :)

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I’m wondering if it’s a larger company and maybe the people she’s getting feedback from didn’t see her resume. Like it’s not just the hiring manager but other team members that don’t know her work history.

      1. jotpe*

        This seems very possible. I often feel very conspicuous as a grad school intern — like, clearly I am way old. But the fact is, lots of people just don’t really think about it. You’re the intern, you’re here to learn, you must be young.

        I would also say, if you find this speech condescending, you might start tensing up when you hear it — which could also read like resistance to feedback if they are already expecting you to be resistant!

    2. Courtney*

      This is what I was thinking – it’s likely a blanket script, and it’s not a bad one for people with little to no work experience to hear. They are aware of your previous work background, but might not want to deviate from their standard delivery in case people think of it as some kind of separate treatment. Or because it’s easier than trying to figure out a new script. Who knows, but I wouldn’t take it personally :)

      1. Batty Twerp*

        I’m thinking blanket script.
        I’m a career-shift apprentice (there’s no upper age limit any more), and I’m 40 years old. The training provider is having me fill in evidence sheets proving that I know how to write a formal email, answer the phone professionally, organise files and understand that the workplace is not like school. This is the same proforma that 16-year-old apprentices fill in, and I’m a 20-year office veteran, so for me, it’s a box-ticking exercise. For the training provider, it means they get their government funding. It’s a stupid PITA one-size-fits-nobody system. But I’m playing nice because it’s getting me a formal qualification that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford the time or expenses to complete (study is 1 hour a day on company time, and the course is free to me, otherwise several hundreds/thousands of pounds).
        It has been a little fun getting a call from someone new at the training provider and hear them going through mental gymnastics when they realise they’re talking to someone with twice as much life experience (never mind work experience) than most of their students and their standard scripts don’t apply.
        If you can OP, let it go. It’s a small niggle in the grand scheme of things. Personally, I can look forward to approximately 44 more months of well-meaning student support treating me like a child/young adult, but I’m getting what I want out of the arrangement, and it’s a price I’m prepared to pay.

        1. Casper Lives*

          I like your attitude! I’m trying to not sweat the small stuff as much. It’s nice to be reminded that some annoying things at work are worth the trade-off. :) Sure this is annoying, but you and OP5 are getting important stuff for your field out of it.

        2. PeanutButter*

          I’ve had the same thing! My previous work experience were in places where feedback could be harsh, but it had to happen immediately (ER/critical care in a hospital/prehospital setting). I’m used to getting reamed one minute and then getting praised to the moon for catching a patient decompensating the next, by the same person. Feedback in that setting was not (usually) personal, it was how we communicated in a fast paced environment that had no time or room for egos.

          I’m now in an internship in a completely different environment (computational biology in a medical research lab) and most of my grad school cohort are 15 years younger than me, with no work or life experience. When COVID19 hit, our internships were mostly changed to remote until the internship coordinator “felt like they could safely send students to a new city without it being entirely shut down.” It took me awhile to convince them that I was 35 gotdamn years old, and I was entirely capable of finding my own apartment/food/necessities of living in a major metropolitan area, and all I would need from the “student coordination office” was the address to send my moving expense receipts for reimbursement.

          The work is still remote (thank goodness) but I’m getting much more out of the internship by being in the same city/timezone as the rest of my lab at least.

    3. MK*

      I don’t know, in my experience more mature entry-level employees can be just as resistant to feedback. I work in the court system (not U.S.) and we get many spring-summer interns; two thirds coming straight from law and grad school and the rest after having practiced law for a decade or more. You do occasionally get one of the first-time workers thinking they know it all, but most of them are aware of their inexperience. The ones who have been in the workforce a long time time, it’s often much harder to get then to understand that e.g having been a trial lawyer does not mean you know how the inside of the system works, and by the way, you need to radically alter your mindset and attitude immediately if you want to succeed. And they are not particularly open to feedback, especially from people who they see as less experienced, qualified or successful.

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        That is a good point. And sometimes people aren’t resistant to feedback but they get emotional at hearing it.

        I’m always convinced I’m about to get yelled at or fired. No reason- I’m just convinced that’s what is going to happen anytime someone says they want to talk to me. (And no, I’ve never gotten really bad feedback anyplace. And I’ve never been fired. I’m just constantly waiting for the first shoe to drop.)

        1. EH*

          Same! Been this way since I understood what an authority figure was. Anxiety’s a PITA.

    4. Anonys*

      I would be quite taken aback if someone said to me “you may be new to receiving professional feedback” when I’ve worked for that long.

      I think it’s totally appropriate (and the easiest solution) to say (cheerfully): “Oh, since I worked in (other industry) for 10 years, I’m pretty used to receiving professional feedback and welcome it as an opportunity for growth! Please go ahead.”

      I also wonder if OP looks quite young? I agree that it’s mostly a blanket script, but even if OP’s experience is in a different field, 10 years of professional experience are valuable and I think it’s not a bad idea to clarify that they are not fresh out of college when that assumption comes up (as long as done cheerfully and not in an obnoxious way).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I like this a lot.
        OP, I had a setting where I started working in a new-to-me arena. I was totally unfamiliar with all the nuances of that arena. Additionally, I saw that the boss had 2 settings for levels of feedback: Level 1 was the delivery so subtle that most people would miss the cues. Level 2 was tirade type delivery.

        In order to break this pattern of delivery, I said early on: “This is a new-to-me arena. If I am not doing something right, I want to know immediately so I can do it correctly. I want my job and I want to do well with my job. But I am dependent on you to let me know when I have missed something.”

        And from time to time I would ask questions that started with, “I want to know what is ethical here….” or “I want to know how I am expected to handle this…”. It’s kinda cool actually, because once I got this down pat, I have used it often in other jobs.

        Granted the scripts are not a good fit for your setting but the overall tone/ demeanor would still assist you a lot. My general idea was, “Tick-tock, time is flying by. Just show/tell me what it is you want me to do. I am here to help and I cannot help if I do not have adequate information. How do I best help here?”
        Of course you can’t say this, but you can use the idea that you want to make yourself into a valuable employee for the company. And there are many ways of working that into conversation.

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        Also, people sometimes see what they expect to see. I don’t look particularly young, objectively, but I’ve been in situations where I was older than the average person by 5-10 years, and people were often surprised (or acted surprised) if they happened to learn my actual age. “Oh, I thought you were the same age as the rest of the [whatever].”

      3. OP5*

        I wish I’d had the moxy to just say something like this! I felt like I was already doing everything I could to signal I wouldn’t be defensive (putting a line in my emails saying I would welcome any feedback or be happy to make any revisions, showing up to every meeting with a pen and paper ready to take notes, thanking people for the feedback once they actually gave it, and making a good faith effort to incorporate all feedback into not just the project at hand but all future projects).

        Also, it’s very possible I look young! One partner compared me to his 18-year old daughter…

        1. Smithy*

          If saying that something like “I’m used to receiving professional feedback” feels too moxy forward, you might also consider something along the lines of “in my past work experience, I’ve found feedback really helpful to grow professionally as well as learn specific company styles and practices”.

          Additionally, if this is perhaps part of a larger script that “intern managers” are given – it might also be helpful to think of a 30 second personal intro? Something like “Happy to meet you, I’m OP#5 and excited to beginning a career in Teapot Design after spending 10 years in Teapot Sales.”

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I also look younger than I am. I saw Behavior has changed around me when some co-workers learned I had just gone to my 15-year college reunion. So, consider if you want to post something silly that happens to indicate your age, like I did.

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Taking critique and feedback is a challenge for me, in part because I rarely do things carelessly and in part because standing my ground when I know I’m right is one of my strengths. I just offer that for context.

      When it comes to receiving feedback, I announce “I’m listening.” I’ll mute my phone and turn it face down, set my instant messaging to do-no-disturb then lock my computer, and focus on the person giving me feedback exclusively. If anyone tries to interrupt, I’ll politely make note of whom to follow up with and when to do so, then go right back to focusing on the feedback. I try to get the feedback in its entirety before saying anything of my own (defense, justification, explanation, etc).

      I think once you convince the feedback-giver that they’re going to be heard and listened to, that’ll help. The only times it has failed for me is when the feedback-giver was too stunned that they’re being heard to say anything!

      1. Remote All The Things*

        “The only good language is a dead language” ← This made my day, thank you.

    6. Remote HealthWorker*

      Intern manager here. I use the exact kind of script with my students. However I first get to know how much work experience they have and then tailor my program to them. I wouldn’t say this to someone with 10 years experience! I would probably ask what they would find helpful and want from the intern in lieu of “this is how the working world works” training.

    7. Nanani*

      This was my thought too. It might be a script or something from “How to give feedback to interns” that is being applied in a one size fits all way, even when it clearly doesn’t fit!

  2. Mid*

    5. Are you possibly older than the people giving you feedback and they feel weird about it? Or, is it possible you might be giving off a defensive vibe? I recently learned that I have pretty bad RBF so people think I’m upset/angry/glaring when I’m not—I’d just check with yourself or a trusted friend or coworker to see it you’re unintentionally giving off that vibe. If not, don’t stress about it! It’s probably them being used to less mature interns with less workplace experience.

    1. Lena Clare*

      No such thing as RBF. It’s others’ problem if they make assumptions on your ability to receive feedback based on the fact you’re not smiling (?!).
      I wish people would eliminate it from their vocabulary.
      Not having a go at you, just hate the phrase RBF!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I like the variation RGF…resting grumpy face.
        The “B” part is gendered…and the worst sufferer I know is a guy. He could be sitting at happy hour trading jokes and look scary levels of grouchy.

        1. Quill*

          If you search my family tree you’ll find a lot of those guys, but they get called “a character” or, lovingly, “a stubborn old coot” once their hair goes grey.

          Most of them will pull over on the side of the road to change your tire and lecture you about how you’ve gotta learn to do this yourself. No guarantee you’ll have a good conversation past that though.

        1. Jenna*

          Oh no! Accidentally hit submit, lol. Was saying I like it except for the gendered aspects. I definitely agree folks aren’t required to smile all the time. (And esp. bc that expectation is foisted on women more often than on men.)

          But, a lot of folks’ resting face can look pretty grouchy or intense, and I think the popularity of the phrase means people are less likely to make an assumption about someone’s m

        2. Jenna*

          Good gravy, I did it again; sorry. …”make an assumption about some’s mental state based on their resting facial expresion.”

          I say this as someone who has Resting Concerned Face.

          1. Forrest*

            I’ve just come off a call where I did a presentation to five senior members of my organisation, and they sat through my presentation with faces like thunder, and then at the end said, “That was great! Some really great ideas there, yes, we can definitely take that forward!”

            Obviously this particular thing is exacerbated by being on MS Teams rather than in person, but like, looking to people’s faces to figure out what they are thinking about what you’re saying is not weird, aberrant or unreasonable behaviour–it’s how nearly all neurotypical (and quite a few neurodiverse) people communicate. It’s definitely important to remember that not everyone shows their emotions on their face, and that there are significant cultural, ethnic and gendered differences in how people express their emotions and how we read them, but the general principle that someone’s face reflects to their emotions should not be a controversial one!

            1. Spencer Hastings*

              But if someone is employing a heuristic that causes them to come to false conclusions, isn’t the onus on them to develop a better one, or reserve judgment, or something? “The last time I thought Bob was mad at me, it was just because he was concentrating. What’s the probability of angry vs. focused this time?”

              1. Yorick*

                Well, that’s the utility of the concept of RGF – you learn Bob’s face just looks like that, so you don’t think he’s angry the second time. And it even works with strangers: you might suspect someone’s angry but not totally jump to conclusions because you’re aware he might have an angry-looking neutral face.

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                I’m not sure how else we’re *supposed* to gauge how people feel (toward us or in general)…?

                I mean, I’m a person on the autism spectrum who’s far from perfect with social cues or reading people, but if someone has what I perceive as an angry face I’m going to assume they’re angry.

                I guess there’s also body language, but that’s even more variable than faces. Tone of voice isn’t infallible either, and I think we all know that people’s words don’t always convey the whole story (or sometimes even directly contradict the message they are really trying to get across).

                I mean, if I *know* someone tends toward a resting expression that looks sad or angry or whatever, I can take that into account. Of course, that requires that I know the person pretty well.

                None of us are mind-readers, and it’s unfair to expect people to be.

                1. James*

                  “I guess there’s also body language, but that’s even more variable than faces.”

                  I once had a conversation about martial arts with a guy with multiple black belts on a jobsite (we had some downtime and were chit-chatting while waiting). We both thought it was a fun conversation. Then we realized that everyone else had retreated to a safe distance because they thought we were in fighting stances. We weren’t, and WE knew it–there’s a sort of half-stance you go into to indicate, rather than prepare for, various moves–but everyone else was convinced we were a half-second away from trying to kill each other. We both got a good chuckle out of it.

                  Point is: You’re 100% right. Body language is really complicated, and depends a LOT on one’s history, training, and culture. If you don’t know those, it’s REALLY easy to misinterpret.

                2. Spencer Hastings*

                  Nobody’s expected to be a mind-reader — on the contrary, the point is that people will use their words and won’t come to the conclusion that someone’s behavior (or, uh, face) is hostile unless a fairly high threshold of evidence is met. (This is what I meant by “how likely is this to be the case?”)

                3. Gazebo Slayer*

                  @Spencer Hastings: if someone tells me in an angry voice “I’m not angry,” I’m not inclined to believe them.

                4. Spencer Hastings*

                  Ah, and that’s a place where I’ve run into trouble a couple of times, actually. I’m a stutterer, and I’ve sometimes been in a situation where I started stuttering in the middle of a totally emotionally neutral conversation…and the other person went straight to Emotional DEFCON 1 because they thought I was “agitated” or “upset”.

                  Smash cut to me trying to deescalate (while also trying to get a handle on my disobeying jerkmouth) and defend myself against the “I don’t understand why you’re so upset…”.

          2. EH*

            I like “resting murder face” – it’s clear, and it also often reveals any Metalocalypse fans in the area. :)

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        The RBF Face thing isn’t about smiling or not. It’s about whether your resting neutral face comes across as neutral, or comes across as grumpy, angry, or otherwise sour when you’re actually just feeling neutral.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Oops, “RBF face” should just be “RBF”… I did the equivalent of “ATM machine” hah.

      3. lemon*

        I struggle with this phrase, because I don’t like the gendered component of it, but also, it’s definitely a thing for some folks. I like Seeking Second Childhood’s suggestion of “Resting Grumpy Face” quite a bit, so I’m going to start using that.

        But yeah, all these pandemic Zoom meetings have shown me that I definitely have a bad case of RGF. For years, I’ve been wondering why people think I’m angry all the time, and it’s because my thinking face very much looks like an angry/disgusted face. I’ve been trying to soften up my face and smile more during meetings, but I still look very awkward and uncomfortable. :(

        1. snuggly doob*

          same thing is happening to me! I was typing something in a meeting and someone chatted me to say “your face! you look disgusted!” I was not disgusted and having to not look disgusted is getting exhausting.

          1. nonegiven*

            This is what I look like. Please, keep your comments about my appearance to yourself.

    2. Anonys*

      I think if the other people presumed themselves to be younger than OP, they would assume that OP is new to receiving professional feedback. My guess is that OP looks young for their age, and thus the feedback giver doesn’t realise that OP, in contrast to the other interns, already has 10 years of professional experience, therefore using the same blanket script they use for inexperienced interns.

      1. Anonys*

        Correction: If the other people presumed themselves to be younger than OP, they WOULD NOT assume that Op is the new to receiving professional feedback.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It could be that it’s just something they “have to” say. It does sound like a script, since they are all saying similar things.

      Rather than trying to fix it, I think that OP could redirect it. “I really appreciate you taking the time to go over things with me. I do realize that not all companies do this, they wait until AFTER I have done something wrong to tell me never to do something. I prefer knowing what best to do upfront as I am really happy about this job and I want to be a good and trusted employee.”

      The first time I started talking this way, it felt like I was wearing my heart out on my sleeve. But I got feedback saying that not to many people actually express these types of thoughts and my candor was appreciated.

    4. OP5*

      I honestly don’t think this could be from a defensive vibe from me, since the speech was always given before any feedback had actually been given. I would tell project leaders in my emails that I’d welcome any feedback, frequently thanked people for the learning opportunity and feedback, and always showed up to these meetings with a pen and paper, ready to take notes.

      1. Mid*

        Okay! I figured it might not have been true, but it’s always good to check in with yourself on these things. I never knew that I always looked grumpy even when I was happy, and I realized it explained a lot of past interactions.

  3. Mid*

    4. If you can, keep your mic muted and your camera covered until the start time/someone joins the video chat, just to minimize the odds of getting caught doing something weird (adjusting straps, checking your teeth, doing a chipmunk impression for your child, singing to your cat in a falsetto opera voice, etc

    1. FaintlyMacabre*

      This. I was waiting for a video interview and the interviewer came in just as my dog figured out the door wasn’t totally latched and headbutted her way into the room. Their first sight of me was me shooing the dog out (which is why I always wear interview appropriate pants!). They didn’t have much of a sense of humor about it and I suspect I dodged a bullet in general, but yes, coming in too early has the potential to be fraught.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Yes you dodged a bullet. If an interviewer can’t laugh at someone shooing the dog out so you can be focused on an intervivew, that is not a place to work. Interruptions happen — even in the office — it’s how you handle them that matters.

    2. Do As I Say, Not As I Do*

      Yup! It wasn’t an interview, but I got caught on video for a meeting with my phone blaring “It’s Raining Men” while trying to corral my cat so he wouldn’t interrupt the upcoming meeting.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        That’s hilarious! My stepmother’s cat once interrupted a video interview way back when I was fresh out of college looking for my first entry level gig. He was a big, fat, fluffy cat and took up the entire screen before I managed to shoo him away. Now with the hindsight of a decade of work/life experience, I know I should have shut myself up in my bedroom instead of interviewing at the kitchen table, but the interviewers all thought it was funny and I got the job despite old Cappy’s antics. :D

    3. Angelinha*

      This is probably a small thing but if you don’t want your video showing ahead of time, I’d recommend just turning it off temporarily rather than covering up the camera! I’ve worked with a few people whose video pops on and then they clearly put a sticky note or something over the camera – comes across as a little unprofessional and makes me wonder, do they just not know how to turn off their video if they don’t want it on? (Same with the people who turn their camera around so it’s facing the wall or a different part of their desk…we don’t want to see your coffee mug in lieu of your face!)

      1. Mid*

        I always cover + turn it off, because some programs seem to turn on my computer without warning. I was in a zoom meeting and had my camera off, but when a person joined in, it automatically turned my camera back on. I’m sure it was user error somehow on my part, but I’m a fan of redundancy on this!

      2. lemon*

        I used to keep my webcam covered with tape just to be extra cautious. Your webcam can be hacked, and the light that notifies you it’s on can be disabled. I’ve stopped due to all the pandemic Zoom calls, but as soon as thing are back to “normal” (whenever that may be), the tape is going back on.

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        With something really important like this is to me, I want to physical solutions that I can control and I distrust software. Cameras *can* be hacked but the sticky note I put over my camera is un-hack-able. (Too many years of watching people trust FB’s privacy settings only to get them changed up wholesale has eroded my trust in expecting other people’s software to protect me.) Also, I can see that sticky note really easily and it’s always in the same place.

      4. Pippa K*

        I’ve found camera cover slides very helpful, and easier/more reliable than the sticky note I used to use. Just search “laptop camera cover slide” on amazon (or whatever less-evil provider you prefer). They’re cheap and they work great.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I have one and I love it. Actually, it came in a pack of six. I’m one of those paranoid people who keep the webcam covered at all times; the slide is discreet and doesn’t interfere with closing my laptop.

        2. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

          Be careful of the cover slides if you use a touchpad mouse and close your laptop regularly. Our IT dept forbade us to use the covers because of the damage to the touchpads, so I was using a Band-Aid to cover my camera until the WFH mandate included a mandate to use our cameras.

    4. Poster 4*

      Thank you, that’s great advice! Muting and turning off my camera also means I don’t have to sit there looking interested or occupied for a several minutes!

  4. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP2, you don’t mention how your bosses are, usually. Are they good managers? Is this type of behaviour unexpected? Or are unreasonable demands the norm?

    You also said that *one* of them said you have to come back into the office. Are they typically on the same page with business and management decisions, or do you get mixed messages from the 2 of them? Would there be any point in speaking to the other boss?

    Is it possible that one of them pushed for the work from home setup and the other is now trying to put their foot down and stop the arrangement?

    I don’t have any real advice, but it would be helpful to know more about the situation. It sucks. I hope you get it sorted out with minimal conflict, but stand firm on your right to take that leave, if you have to.

    1. leapingLemur*

      My advice – look for another job. Even though they’re not legally allowed to retaliate, this boss sounds like he probably will.

  5. Senor Montoya*

    OP 5, you sound a bit like you have a chip on your shoulder…you’re an intern, they’re treating you appropriately for that position. They’re not being condescending, they’re being *helpful*. Alison’s scripts are great. But make sure you’re not letting the prickliness show.

    1. Who the eff is Hank?*

      I disagree. If OP has 10 years of work experience then I’m guessing they’re in their early 30’s or so. That speech is condescending as hell for an adult of that age who has been in the workplace that long. OP is obviously not new to receiving professional feedback, so having their colleague claim that this is a new experience is downright strange.

      1. Michaela*

        The person saying this might not be the one interviewing and receiving the resumes.

        I’m in my thirties and there are 20 something’s who look way older and everything in between. The person providing the feedback might just think he’s a kid too.

      2. NoviceManagerGuy*

        It reminds me of the speech the car dealer gave us when I was helping a relative trade in her car. “Now, we don’t want to bash your trade, but we have to evaluate them as the market would and there are some things we noticed…” Dude, I had to use a ratchet strap to hold the exhaust pipe off the street to drive it over here! We know it’s a POS! They gave her more than we expected for it.

        1. NoviceManagerGuy*

          Just in case you want more of a visual, the exhaust had fallen off the engine, not at the back. Driving that thing was LOUD and everyone in the parking lot stared as I drove it in.

          The power steering was also out.

    2. Observer*

      No. The speech the OP was getting WAS condescending. They are not a child, nor even a newbie to the work world. Someone who has been working successfully for 10 years is not likely to need a speech about being new to receiving professional feedback. That is NOT what they are doing internships for.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Maybe I’ve just had bad interns, but the ones who most desperately needed a speech on receiving and incorporating professional feedback were almost always the older ones. The younger interns have some expectation of feedback from their school, but the older ones have trouble understanding that their ten years of Wooden Spook Making had not baring on the Chocolate Teapot Designing I was trying to teach them.

        1. Junger*

          Being older certainly doesn’t make you magically better at taking feedback. But they frame it as the OP being resistant because they’re new to working, not because they’re experienced or have the wrong mindset. Which is kinda weird.

          1. Observer*

            That’s my point.

            Defensiveness and resistance to feedback is not a function of youth or even inexperience. Framing it that way is condescending, especially when it’s factually incorrect.

          2. LQ*

            They didn’t. They frame it as new to professional feedback and then use “own experience” in it with the new to working part. You can be new to professional feedback at any point. It’s not a great script, but it actually works at any point in someone’s career. “may be new to professional feedback” sure, but also may not be both options are covered. You can get professional feedback in your jr high job too.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. I read the question as, “How do I get through this spiel without spitting nails?” It’s very condescending and very grating.

        I work at something that requires me to explain basics to people. Some people already know and grow impatient with my process. But I have no choice, I have to say a, b and c to everyone. I have taken to saying, “I have to tell everyone this, but you are probably already aware….”. People seem to get it when I take the time to do this intro for my routine that I have to go through. And they seem to realize that it’s all a part of “being fair”, which is a huge component of my job.

        1. OP5*

          I would bet just adding that one line really goes a long way with the people you’re training!

          Your description of my question is spot on! I didn’t have any trouble getting the actual feedback, but no one (even someone who would have been fresh out of college) wants a condescending speech about how some people thought they knew-it-all in the past before going over your work product.

          1. Remote HealthWorker*

            OP is it possible you are signaling your reluctance in some way and that is why multiple people have given you this feedback?

            I get the sense from your comments that you are taking this feedback very personally. Like the givers are somehow belittling your experience level?

            You may not feel that way but that is the sense I am getting so perhaps you are giving off that vibe to your intern supervisors too?

            I will say that I can’t count the number of times I have had to sit through someone give me a two minute pitch/explanation of something I already knew. Patiently and pleasently listening and assuming positive intent of the giver is just part of being good at receiving feedback and building good relationships.

            1. OP5*

              In the least defensive way possible, I just don’t see this being the case. This speech was always given the very first time I sat down with the person to get any kind of feedback, usually on the heels of an email conversation where I said “I’d love to get any feedback you might have for me and would be happy to make any revisions here.”

              For example, the very first time this happened, I actually emailed the supervisor to ask for a feedback meeting because it was the first time I had done that type of project. I think I said something like, “Would you have 15 minutes to meet to discuss the llama grooming proposal? I’ve got a working draft completed, but would like to get your insight before I spin my wheels on something that may not be helpful.” Then we met, and que the speech.

              This isn’t really a field where the feedback given was something simple, though I would have sat through that politely and took notes. My only qualm was the “you might assume you know everything but you dont” speech.

              1. Student*

                OP5, I’d suggest working on re-framing this in your own mind to something that doesn’t grate on you quite so much, rather than looking for a shortcut out of this part of a feedback speech.

                If you try to cut people off as they’re saying this because it’s not applicable to you, it will likely rub the feedback-giver in the wrong way no matter how much time you put into finding a polite way to say it. You’re right to think it’s off-putting to your specific circumstances. You’re wrong in thinking that the feedback-givers ought to know ahead of time that you’re safe to give frank feedback to. Trying to cut this brief speech off because it grates on you may reaffirm their beliefs that giving feedback is often painful and risky, rather than assure them that you’re open to feedback.

                Instead, I’d encourage you to think something like this when the speech starts: “This person has had a bad experience giving feedback before, but still thinks feedback is important enough to my professional growth that they’re willing to risk a bad response. Thank goodness they are giving me this annoying speech instead of abandoning giving feedback out of awkwardness.”

                If the same person gives you this pre-feedback speech multiple times, it’s worth talking with them about the pattern – but getting the speech from different people once is something you should suck up.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Ugh. So very ugh. It sounds like they are not even listening.

                snark/ Yes, I would like some feedback. I’d like to know what I am doing that makes everyone think I came down with yesterday’s rain./snark
                Do not do this. But I feel ya.

                Okay so what I would do here is go person-by-person. Give people one free pass, they don’t know you or they have to say their scripts, whatever. If the same person does it a second time, I think I might try to ask a question. “Oh, yep, I remember you saying this before. Is there something I am doing that might lead a person to believe I don’t do well with feedback? If so, I want to fix that right now.”

                Notice the shift to third party in the last sentence. When you finally go for the question, third party it as in “might lead a person…” . Don’t say, “you” as in that particular person.
                Tone of voice matters. Speak in a soft, slow concerned tone. Make it sound like the tone of , “Oh jeepers, did I make a mistake some where?”

                It sounds to me like this is ingrained in the culture of the place. They all talk to each other over lunch, coffee, etc and complain how people just don’t know how to take feedback anymore. And they spend time commiserating with each other.

                The one thing that I would look at here, just quietly to myself, if they are all saying this and concerned about it, maybe it’s THEY who don’t know how to GIVE feedback.

                My last suggestion is one that has served me well. I sit through these driver safety courses every three years because I think it’s the right thing to do. Honestly, there is NO better sleep aid on the market now. And it doesn’t matter where I go, the courses have me nodding right off. So I created a challenge. I have to find three things in the course I did not know. This makes me stay alert looking for those three things. Maybe you can view the conversation as, “I focusing on finding actionable take-a-ways in this conversation.” And this refocus might help you skate by the preliminary stuff. I hope they stop saying it very soon.

      3. doreen*

        Sure the OP doesn’t need this speech – but it’s also kind of unrealistic to multiple people to remember every intern’s background , and to know that the OP has 10 years of experience when her peers have 1-2 at most and some went straight to grad school. Even if it’s obvious she’s 10 years older (and it may not be) , there are many ways she could have spent those 10 years without becoming accustomed to receiving feedback.

    3. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Um, I’m currently working with interns and I would never use the kind of language OP5 related. If I felt I NEEDED to, then I’d be having a conversation with someone else about the intern’s professional demeanor and attitude. I just provide feedback, politely and professionally.

      1. Willis*

        I agree. The first line isn’t too bad but the part implying that the intern thinks they know more than the people with experience in the field is super eye-rolly. It’s not something I’d say unless I had some evidence that the particular person I was speaking to thought that. I don’t think the OP seems like she has a chip on her shoulder.

        1. Remote HealthWorker*

          I agree with the think I knew everything line. But, I have also learned that if I focus too much on how the feedback was delivered, which is usually flawed, and not the substance of the it then I am not really receiving the feedback either.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        So very much agree. I have trained a lot of people and I have never spoken to anyone under the assumption that they cannot take feedback. I have used the wait and see approach. I can’t remember ever having much problem with people dealing with feedback. At most I have seen blushing, which I read as “time to wrap up” so I would say, “It’s over now. Clearly no one ever told you not to do x, how would you know otherwise? So we chatted and now it’s over and we go back to life.”

      3. Joielle*

        Yeah, I’ve managed interns and this is a speech I wouldn’t use up front – only after an intern had shown themselves to be unreceptive to feedback. In this case it seems like a speech that the company has people give to interns as a general rule (since several people did it), so I wouldn’t take it personally… but it is kind of weird. If you have interns who are at least in college, they’re adults, so talk to them like adults unless/until you determine they need more hand holding than that.

    4. Nanani*

      Nope. They’re having an appropriate reaction to being treated like a newbie when they aren’t.
      Identifying the reason might help, but nothing makes it not condescending.

      1. Remote HealthWorker*

        I disagree. Maybe it’s because I grew up below poverty, but I really wish I had had this instruction when I was first starting out instead of being left to flounder and find out the hard way. I make training about feedback a part of my internship program.

        I think when we assume that everyone “gets” how to receive feedback, how to navigate disagreements, etc. In a white collar professional setting that we systematically exclude impoverished and minority communities that have historically not been a part of that group. If it doesn’t apply to you to learn something … Great? But don’t get a chip on your shoulder because someone is taking time from their day to try and help you succeed.

  6. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP1, your ED sounds very selfish. Making the choice to give people misleading information, so that you can avoid the discomfort of giving them an accurate and truthful update, is a horrible thing to do.

    Is she hoping that the situation will automagically resolve itself without her having to say anything “mean”? Like maybe, people will get desperate and go away quietly to look for a new job?

    If you have an HR or legal person (friend or company resource) you could mention this to, you may get definitive enough feedback that you can take to your ED and say “this is how we are putting ourselves at legal risk”.

    Good luck with resolving an unpleasant situation.

    1. Heidi*

      Yeah, wanting to avoid unpleasantness is understandable, but your employer can’t just ghost you and hope you figure it out. There’s also a real flavor of disorganization here. Is anyone doing the IT now that the IT person has been laid off? Or is there no one still working there that can change email account access?

      1. Izzycat*

        Technically the IT was handed over to our director of finance. But again, what was handed over and what needed to be turned off for laid off staff was unclear. We are all operating with no clear direction. And the ED just keeps saying we are so lucky to have staff that care so much about the organization that they want to stay involved. It just screams liability to me.

        1. Beth*

          I’d lay bets the director of finance has no idea how IT works. The whole situation has me cringing!

          I think your ED is an idiot.

        2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          “we are so lucky to have staff that care so much about the organization that they want to stay involved”

          Yes, nothing to do with wanting to pay the bills and put food on the table. Your ED is clueless.

    2. Casper Lives*

      Yeah, the ED could the advantage of the best employees being available to bring back. They weren’t job searching due to the mixed message. All other former employees could be blind-sided. It’s not kind.

    3. Izzycat*

      The ED is very conflict avoidant generally. Her way of being clear has included sending laid off staff other job listings. I agree about looping in an outside HR or legal professional, and it’s too bad we don’t have any of that expertise on the board.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Sending laid off employees other job listings is a pretty clear message, all the employees were told they were laid off correct?

        I do agree that not cutting off employee access to emails is a bad security/IT policy. The organization should hire an outside IT company on an as needed basis to come in and properly shut down laid off employee’s email access.

      2. PrgrmMngr*

        Is the ED fully aware that allowing staff to use their work email addresses creates a liability for the organization, and if for any reason there was an investigation into this by authorities, that would further hamper the organization’s ability to focus on mission based work in this environment.

        I’m also not clear about if people have been explicitly told that they are now considered laid off instead of furloughed. If not, they should be, ASAP.

        I’ve been in the non-profit sector for 18 years and I’ve found that when we bring in a senior leader from the private sector at the organizations I’ve worked at, there is generally some horror at some of our practices. It’s not unusual to overlook laws that you haven’t really had to think about with in the past. There’s some magical thinking that you can’t get in trouble when you’re working on the betterment of society.

    4. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I think people should already be looking for a new job. I don’t really think the ED has given much if any misleading information. Right now the information is not concrete because the organization itself does not know what it can or can’t do in the future. I think the company acted properly in relabeling furloughs as layoffs. All the employees have been told “You are being laid off right now, we want to bring people back, but we don’t know if, when, or how many people we will be able to bring back.” If people are blindsided at not having a job 3 months from now it is there fault for shutting their eyes, and willfully ignoring the reality of the situation.

      We have had several questions from people I was furloughed/laid off should I look for a new job? The answer has always been yes, the company does not have a commitment to you, nor do you have a commitment to the company.

    5. Beth*

      What boggles me is that they laid off their IT person and did not revoke all access. Actually, the IT person should have been the LAST person they laid off. Holy hectares.

  7. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Wow! For once I have something to say for each letter writer. So here goes it!
    #1 your boss and this situation just feels icky. Definitely try and reason with them.
    #2.. Definitely bring up FFCRA, and if possible email them the info with specific items highlighted about child care. I like AAM wording because I would say something much more snarky, like “well you can either pay me to WFH or I can take leave, you will still have to pay me and either do my work yourselves or hire a temp. Your choice! Also, document the heck out of everything. Save and make copies of any communication that you have, especially if there’s anything where they have given you positive responses about your work specific to when you were WFH. I can totally see them firing you and making it sound like there were issues for a while.
    #3. I think you might be over thinking things. A writer, even a senior analyst, should be expecting the edits you need to make. From what I know of copy editing there should be some communication on what you should be looking for, so definitely take Alison’s advice and check what’s needed. But a senior analyst should have at some point been in your shoes and shouldn’t take it personally. Unless the person seems to be overly sensitive you shouldn’t have to worry.
    #4. I think that the comments you’ve gotten are just automatically ingrained to be said to interns. You mentioned that others typically go straight from.college to undergrad and that others in your field may have 1-2 years work experience while you have 10. The people giving feedback probably aren’t used to someone who has a lot of work experience and has most likely gotten feedback before. They may not realize you are used to feedback. I really like Allison’s advice and would use her scripts.

  8. Heidi*

    For Letter #2, I get the impression that some people think if you can do your job on a laptop in your bedroom slippers that it must not be legitimate, substantive work. Like it’s not “real” to them somehow. It sounds like your bosses have really dug their heels in on this issue, but I really do hope it works out.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yeah I really don’t get it. It seems like so many managers and companies who are adamant about not allowing people to WFH think that because they can’t see them sitting at their desk, that they’re goofing off. But if you’re in the office, it’s highly unlikely that your boss is standing behind you all day every day watching you to make sure you’re working. People who slack off will slack off no matter where they are and who’s around. Your work productivity should be the only thing that matters.

      1. Lemon Ginger Tea*

        I’m back in the office after WFH for 3+ months with a little kid– I was imagining getting SO much done once the office was open again, but I’m finding that I’m less productive than I was at home, even with the kid. There’s just so much logistical muck, and so much time spent chatting with coworkers, wiping down surfaces, dealing with power surge protectors and wifi, etc. Often 3pm comes and I’m shocked that I haven’t crossed more off my to-do list. I used to worry that I wouldn’t be able to focus and be productive while WFH but clearly that’s not the case.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Yeah at my last company (in an office of 1000) I worked from home on Fridays and I was so much more productive. People only reached out when they needed me for something work related (instead of stopping me to chat) and I had no distractions at home. I know that everyone is different and some actually are more productive in an office, but assuming the worst when people WFH drives me batty!

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I’ve been remote for almost 9 years in my current position. Around a month or two into the role, my supervisor asked me to come onsite for a week but didn’t really have an agenda. I think he just wanted, in part, to see me work–not so much *that* I work, because he was vocally very happy with my productivity, but perhaps *how* I work, since I inherited a 3+ month backlog and it was melting like ice in the midsummer Carolina sun while staying current with new work.

          That Thursday morning, he stopped by my desk to send me home. That wasn’t trivial; it’s an 8 hour drive home. He told me “You get too much done there” and implied “to justify keeping you here.”

          At one point, well before Covid-19, I think I went just under 3 years without stepping foot in the office. Each time we remotes do come onsite, we spend the week prior managing expectations and the week afterwards catching up and getting back to abnormal. We triage stuff onsite that would just get knocked out remotely.

          My hunch is that it’s due to a few things:
          At home, each of us has a desk/workstation tailored to our work habits. Onsite, the desks are standardized and one-size-fits-none.
          At home, no one gossips, chats or mingles. We just work.
          At home, there’s no transit time. I start around 7:30 am at home and 9:00 am in the office.
          At home, those who talk to themselves can do so.
          When we’re in the office, we have to attend meetings so certain employees can justify having jobs (the LEAN and training specialists).
          Remotely, communication is far more disciplined. Instructions have to be written and specific, and can’t evolve retroactively. Everything has a built-in paper trail in the form of the communication medium.*

          I’ve declined several job offers over the years; once I ask why the would-be employer’s processes need to have me on-site, I usually get a succinct summary of their office dysfunction and the decision makes itself.

          *Personally, I think this is the biggest one.

      2. Nanani*

        I suspect there’s a heavy dose of projection in that mindset. People who only work because they feel a need to “look busy” in the office can’t understand actually getting work done without someone to see how oh so busy you are.

    2. MsChanandlerBong*

      Like when I used to freelance and my mother didn’t understand the concept of my “internet money.”

    3. Luke*

      From what I’ve seen , resistance to remote work can be rooted in traditional views of what work “is” . That’s not a bad thing necessarily- but it does mean some who consider real work to be physical presence over 8+ hours are emotionally not comfortable with remote working. We can present facts in support of the practice , but some people will (sadly) not budge from the traditional belief real work means physical presence. I suspect the LW2s owner is in this category.

  9. Michele*

    OP 4 – I actually disagree with Alison’s advice. Showing up early for in person interview is expected, and the interviewers usually have some way to accommodate you until they’re ready for you – in a waiting room, or showing you into the interview room early. That allows time/space for the interviewers to do whatever they need to before the interview starts, such as having a premeeting to go over questions, or or printing something out. In this virtual world, many interviewers probably have done something similar with a virtual waiting room, but it’s a new platform/way of doing interviews for many so they may not have thought of that, and you may be deposited right into the meeting. If you show up 10 minutes early, you might disrupt your interviewers – they might have been preparing for the interview among themselves (since you can’t do it in person and it may seem easier to just jump on the meeting early), or you might have someone who themselves jumped on a little early to make sure their camera worked and is now in the awkward position of perhaps feeling like they have to converse with you until the interview starts. It probably won’t reflect badly on you to show up early, but there’s a risk to catching the interviewers off guard that you may as well avoid if you can.

    Do make sure you do your own troubleshooting to make sure your microphone and video work in the particular program the interview is using, and then enter a minute or two early just in case there’s some hiccup in entering the meeting – but not 10 minutes.

    1. Laowai Gaijin*

      Another perspective: I teach remotely using an online meeting platform. My students often show up early, but keep their mics muted. I can prepare for class without them seeing anything I’m doing, since I keep my mic and camera off until class begins, and I have to share my screen for them to see my desktop. The LW’s being in the meeting room won’t affect the interviewers in any way except to know that she’s there. I strongly recommend entering at least five minutes early, because I’ve had technical issues myself (usually when I’m running late, of course).

      1. Southern Academic*

        The difficulty is that if there’s multiple people in the meeting already, talking, YOU can hear THEM. So if the interviewers are using the space to plan the meeting, and the candidate pops in a few minute early, then the candidate will be able to hear the end of the planning conversation. Even muted, the candidate can still hear.

        I’ve actually entered Zoom sessions during these planning meetings (though for webinars, talks, etc, not jobs). It’s SUPER awkward, and I’d echo Michele’s advice above, to test your equipment w/o actually entering the meeting, then enter a minute or so in advance

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Eesh, that’s awkward. Definitely an argument for requiring a waiting room on such meetings.

          1. Academic Addie*

            Yeah. If I have meetings stacked on top of each other in my personal meeting room, I enable the waiting room and admit people as I’m prepared to accept them.

        2. The Rural Juror*

          Hopefully the person acting as the host for the meeting is paying attention to these sorts of things, and setting up a waiting room where they have to admit you to the meeting, but it’s better to approach with caution!

      2. Poke*

        There’s a difference between showing up early for a large Zoom call and showing up early for a 1 on 1 call. In large calls there is less expectation that each person is acknowledged individually as they enter, but in a 1 on 1 call, if both show up early it’s weird not to acknowledge each other, just like if there were 2 people sitting in a conference room waiting until exactly 9:00 to talk to each other.

    2. snowglobe*

      Different platforms can have different rules – when I set up skype meetings, the meeting link is the same for all meetings. So if I have two meetings back to back, some early people for the second meeting can end up joining the first. Could be awkward for interviews. (For this reason, I never schedule interviews right after another call.)

      1. quirkypants*

        I came here to say something similar. I try my best to leave a gap before interviews but my schedule is sometimes back to back and this could be awkward.

        I would be ready, with notes, glass of water, etc. 10 minutes early but only login about 3 minutes early to reduce the chance of awkwardness

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That’s exactly what I did. Two recent Zoom interviews, and for both I got ready well in advance, including testing my camera, then entered the meeting two minutes early. I looked over my notes during those two minutes so I wasn’t just staring at my face. My interviewers showed up exactly on time.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Most platforms have a way for the meeting organizer to have the power to allow someone into the room before starting the meeting. I wouldn’t show up super early, but a few minutes isn’t going to be a problem.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        When we first started using Webex, it was set up so the meeting couldn’t go ahead until the host started it (so in this situation, OP wouldn’t have been able to get in early anyway). Later the setup was changed so that people can join five minutes early and begin the meeting without the host (there had been a few instances of technology fails where the host hadn’t been able to start the meeting on time and other people couldn’t get in).

        1. The Rural Juror*

          We’ve been using Zoom for staff meetings and I’m usually the one hosting. One time I forgot to click the option to allow people to enter before me. I was ONE minute late for the meeting and had at least 5 texts telling me, “Something’s wrong! I can’t get into the meeting!”

          We had a good laugh about it. Most times people would trickle into 3-5 minutes after the start time (no big deal, the meetings are casual). The one time I was a minute late and everyone else was early (eyeroll).

    4. Phony Genius*

      This may depend on the software they’re using for conference calls. Where I work, you can’t connect more than 5 minutes early. Usually, you get an error message. However, on one occasion the software malfunctioned and there was no error message. Somebody who tried connecting 10 minutes early was instead put into an empty virtual room that nobody else would ever have been connected to. When everybody else was 5 minutes late, the person disconnected and reconnected to find we were all waiting. Oh, it was the boss that this happened to.

    5. Poster 4*

      Thank you for the advice! After reading Alison’s advice and the comments here, I think I’ll enter the interview no more than 5 minutes early, test my equipment, then put myself on mute and pause my video feed until the time the interview begins. If I log in and see the panel is using the space, then I’ll excuse myself and log back in at the time the interview begins.

    6. JessicaTate*

      I agree, Michele. I think you should be at your desk and ready 10 minutes early – like showing up in the lobby of a building. But then you need to be your own receptionist. Don’t log on until your meeting time or… a minute early at most. While there ARE ways the interviewer could manage the video platform to keep you in a waiting room, many people are not super savvy at this tech. Some people book back-t0-back meetings/interviews in the same room, and you could stumble into that, which is really awkward. (I’d honestly be a teeny tiny bit annoyed at someone logging in a a full 10 minutes early, even if I only got the Zoom notification in my email and they didn’t interrupt another meeting. “It’s 9:50, buddy. Your interview is at 10:00. Easy there.”)

      Depending on the platform, most usually have some way to test your technical set-up, video, audio without logging into your actual meeting. Search “PlatformName test my setup” or something. Do that test again in the 10 minutes instead, if you want to double-check that everything is ready to go.

    7. hbc*

      Agreed, and there’s so many things that can affect this on the host’s end. Our platform has “conference rooms” and individual call numbers, and you really can’t tell as a guest which one you’re getting (if you even know there’s a difference.) Calling the individual number is basically like calling a person’s phone. For the conference room, you may well be jumping into a meeting. There are probably ways to error-proof this on our end, but I have no idea what they are, and it’s low priority.

      I suggest treating a VC more like a phone call, where you expect the phone to ring at pretty much the scheduled time. Any testing of equipment should be done with the options available through the platform before you connect to your meeting.

  10. Aggretsuko*

    I think for online Zoom you should log in somewhere like 3-5 minutes early. Be ready to go as much as you can, but don’t try to enter the room until then. And even then they might not have logged into the meeting themselves or have a waiting room for you.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I guess if you really want to test the platform (for example, if you haven’t used Zoom in awhile there may be updates) you could send the scheduler a heads up that you will be logging in early to test the platform but then logging back at out and you are just giving them a heads up in case they see a notification.

        Also, for virtual depos, the company usually makes us all do a test run with them. If an admin is scheduling your interview maybe you can ask them to do a quick test call with you with the link at the time of scheduling.

        1. Colette*

          I’d suggest asking a friend to do a test call with you instead. You can verify your camera and microphone are working without involving the person you’re interviewing with. (And if you log in early, you can’t actually verify your microphone is working because there is no one to give you feedback.)

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I had to run back and forth between rooms to test mine! If someone had been able to see me I’m sure it would have looked comical. I had the laptop in the kitchen with the radio playing in the background, then my phone in the other room (where I couldn’t hear the sound) using the mobile app to test and make sure the microphone was picking everything up ok. Luckily I didn’t have any major hiccups, but I felt funny going back and forth.

        2. bishbah*

          Zoom lets you test the camera and audio settings from inside the app without joining a meeting. You can check your camera position and lighting and set up your headset or whatever for sound so that when you enter the meeting it’s all ready to go. I would definitely practice all of that ahead of time, though, so you’re not poking around the controls during the interview itself.

  11. Bilateralrope*

    For LW 1, does the former IT person, who can read all your emails, already know the truth ?

    How much damage is possible if he decides to sabotage you ?
    Maybe out of anger. Maybe because someone pays for your confidential information and he needs money.

    This will end badly for the organization.

    1. valentine*

      does the former IT person, who can read all your emails, already know the truth ?
      This is a great question. I do wonder why you would keep someone who reads others’ email unnecessarily and weirdly restored someone’s email.

      Step one should be shoring up IT security.

      Is the ED the last word on everything?

    2. MK*

      Eh, that’s not impossible of course, but it6a bit of a stretch. The IT person can read all emails, but it’s highly unlikely that he does so. The organization should remove his access for security reasons and clarify the situation with their former employees, but I doubt bringing conspiracy scenarios to the cavalier ED will be effective.

      1. Violet Fox*

        Wonder if they are set up to be able to remove air IT person’s access without having access to the IT systems. All of this seems very poorly thought through.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          It’s certainly causing all my information security hackles to rise. While 99% of IT staff would not kaboom a system on their way out there’s still a small percentage who might.

          And that’s why if someone has high level access to your systems you make sure you have good security polices in place and they are enforced to the letter.

          (I spent 3 months on gardening leave once because once I was given notice of redundancy the company policies simply shut down all my access. I had the kind of level that could have shut down the company for months)

          1. LQ*

            I also think that the 1% who might grows more likely to do it if they feel like they and the people who worked with them are being strung along and mistreated. It’s the kind of thing where you’re sort of making yourself twice as vulnearable as you need to be.

          2. Violet Fox*

            I’m just not sure in this case that the IT staff is even fully aware that they have actually been laid off, or that other people have been.

            Stuff like this does make me happy though that I work at a large enough place that we have separate personnel systems that deal with accounts automatically when people leave, and that as an IT person I can actually focus my energies elsewhere.

            1. Izzycat*

              Everyone knows they are no longer employed, but there seems to be a lot of denial around when or if they are coming back. Multiple people have said that since they are coming back eventually they should just stay involved as volunteers – but we don’t know when or if we can hire anyone back.

              1. PrgrmMngr*

                Has it been brought up with people what needs to happen for their positions to be restored?

                The message from senior management at my organization is that the program is on hold and they’d like to bring me back at some unknown date. I can see how some would assume they should ride this out, though my analysis is much diff
                erent. I know that for my program to be restored, the state needs to fully fund the line item that has been the program’s main source of funding and that my line of work needs to remain a priority for other funders (plus there is an earned income portion that is at risk, too). I am familiar with our state’s finances and lack of a budget, I know at least two funders have altered their commitment to “wherever the organization’s needs are most urgent”, and I don’t see any way that my program is returning in the foreseeable future unless the state really ups its commitment to my line of work (a possibility, but not one I’m banking on). If I weren’t as involved in bringing in the resources to run my program, I may look at things differently, too.

              2. New Jack Karyn*

                Are you in the US? Because there are laws here about volunteers doing work for an organization that used to be paid work.

              3. AnonNow*

                If my furloughing company was a non-profit, I’d swear I worked with you. There needs to be clear, solid communication and no more blowing smoke about “we hope to be able to hire people back in 2021”. Deal with that when 2021 comes around, and don’t give people a shred of hope that their jobs might come back, because they will latch on to that.

                I am seeing the effect of that with my old company now: their lack of communication with staff is really harming job searches, and it’s abundantly clear that 75% of the jobs are gone for good, yet they refuse to admit that on an individual level.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It doesn’t help much, but what kind of a company would let their sole IT person go? I would think that person would be one of the last people to leave.

      There are visual cues that something is going under. A friend pointed out when churches remove their pipe organ and their stained glass windows, any court order to delay the demolition of the building probably won’t last long. The building is going. You don’t take out the pipe organ and the stained glass if you expect to start up again.

      I could be mistaken here but letting the IT person go, seems to be on a par with a core necessity like a pipe organ or windows. And to be so slap shot about controlling access also kind of makes me think other bigger things are going on and distracting them so they do not see the IT questions as being a big deal. I’d take a look at their financial reports if you can access any of them. You might get more information that way.

    4. Esme*

      This being the former IT person who switched an ex employee’s emails back on?

      I… think the might need to be fired.

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Does the IT person knows the employee’s account was turned off for legitimate reasons? If they’re ghosted like the rest I’d give them the benefit of doubt.

        1. Annony*

          That’s what I was thinking. The company is communicating so poorly that the former employee and former IT person may think that they are still employees that are just temporarily on unpaid leave and access was turned off my mistake.

        2. cmcinnyc*

          Yes, if the IT person thinks s/he and everyone else is furloughed, I can see that leading to a lot of confusion. Starting with–what does furloughed mean? Everyone can define fired, and most people can define laid off (there are still people who think it means fired!), but fewer can define furloughed. If IT still has full, unfettered access, they have no concrete reason to believe they’re unemployed! What a mess. This is when “not hurting feelings” is a truly weak position. The ED is so afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings she decided to hurt everyone professionally instead. Weak, avoidant, clumsy, and so deeply unimpressive. If I were OP I’d be job hunting.

        3. Beth*

          That’s a good point — given the terrible communication and general messed-up-edness, I can imagine the ex-employee saying “Hey, my email access is gone, oops” and contacting the IT person to ask to have it restored. Loss of access to email happens so often, even in a stable company, that it’s a very common service request that raises no flags in the normal course of events. The IT person could even be basing their actions on the grounds of “I still have access, so I’m still an authorized administrator, because the first thing any competent company does when the IT person leaves is revoke their access.”

          Both the ex-employee and the IT person could easily have been acting in good faith — and their good faith could blow up in their faces.

          . . . the last time I left a job (almost a decade ago, yay), I revoked my own access. None of my bosses would have had a clue how to do it. And yes, I could have left the place in flames.

      2. EPLawyer*

        That did give me pause. I doubt they are really reading the emails because even if you are sitting at home off work, y ou aren’t bored enough to read other people’s work emails just for the heck of it. Switching the email back on though? That is some active involvement still. But who knows maybe ED asked it be switched back on.

        You never ever let IT still have access to the system once they no longer work for you. Furloughed means no longer work for you.

        ED is thinking about herself instead of the actual employess. The kinder thing in reality is to let them know they need to start job searching. If jobs come back in 2021, they can always reach out and see if someone is available. But otherwise, it’s cruel (the exact opposite of ED’s claimed intentions) to have them thinking if they just hang on, possibly depleting their savings, for a few months, come January they will be back at work.

        1. foolofgrace*

          Actually, furloughed employees are still technically employed by the company; the company pays their health insurance. Layoffs are terminations. I googled the difference and that’s what I got.

          1. Ariaflame*

            So does that mean that they haven’t told some people that they’ve stopped paying their health insurance and they need to sort it out on their own? Because in the USA that would really really suck.

      3. Observer*

        Nope. The one who should be fired is the ED. The ED *clearly* has not communicated appropriately with anyone. The ED needs to stop pretending and be 100% clear on who is and is not currently employed, and also make it clear that anyone who is not currently employed should not have IT access – INCLUDING THE IT PERSON.

  12. Observer*

    #5 – As others have noted, it’s possible that the people saying stuff like this don’t actually realize your background. Perhaps you could lightly say “Accepting and incorporating feedback is a transferable skill from my old career. That’s what I’m here for.” That not only tells them that you are open to feedback, but signals that you’re coming in with more real world work experience in general that most interns.

    1. Jenna*

      Ooh, on the one hand I like this, but on the other, I wonder if the feedback-giver might actually interpret *that* response as mildly defensive. (The irony, lol.) I like Allison’s suggested responses because they signal the LW is receptive to feedback without using the term ‘transferrable skill,” which I think is twhat concerns me.

      I also think it might work to say “Thank you for that! I actually became comfortable receiving feedback earlier in my career, so I really welcome any you have for me.” That alludes to the longer work histonry without it sounding like LW is

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Yeah, depending on the relationship you have with the person you could even lighten it up a bit with, “Oh, don’t worry, I worked in an office for ten years before grad school so I have no problems with feed back. Fire away!”

        I would cater my response to the personality of the person I’m talking to, but I think keeping it light and in the vein of, ‘Don’t worry, I’m ready to hear what you think’ is a good way to go. I also think OP should keep telling themselves, “this isn’t personal, they are used to college kids with no work experience,” because I do think you need to just get used to hearing those kinds of things, at least at the beginning of internships. I know it’s really annoying, but they probably aren’t trying to be condescending, they’re just covering their bases.

  13. Bex*

    OP1, I didn’t even read the rest – came here immediately to tell you your organization absolutely MUST change all passwords and IT access immediately. Spend the money if you need to to hire an outside consultant but you absolutely must do this. You have people who have access to confidential information, who have no qualms about reinstating suspended access, and who can destroy your network if the mixed messages your ED is sending push someone to rash decisions.

    It is imperative that all passwords be changed, that all external access (including VPN and/or outward facing server access points) be updated and secured, immediately.

    Someone who has had to try and clean up the mess when former IT or employee access hasn’t been revoked in a timely fashion.

    1. Bex*

      I can’t edit, so commenting again to say consider looking at MSPs (managed service providers) in your area, who might be willing to cut a deal or offer services for free for charitable write off. Failing that, if there’s a university or college in your area consider approaching them (if you don’t have the money to hire someone). But seriously. Do this.

    2. WS*

      Yes, I have also been in that position, and it wasn’t in any way malicious, just a disorganised IT person who deleted too much on their way out and didn’t keep copies.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      In one job I got hired basically to get the systems back online after a former IT tech had completely trashed them on her way out. She’d been fired for…biological messes we’ll say. She’d managed to drop a main production database, erase the backup servers (which were in a different datacentre to production) and screw up a load of group policy settings.

      I had to work with what I could get from offsite backup tapes, we still lost a lot of transaction information though. Pretty sure I started to go grey about then…

      1. JustaTech*

        One place I worked we had an IT guy (who’d been slacking spectacularly for about a year) rage quit over a genuinely impossible task load. And management asked him to finish out the week.

        My gob was thoroughly smacked.

  14. OxfordCommaAllTheWay*

    #3. Regarding “personal style bugaboos like a particular approach to the Oxford comma…” Style issues, such as the Oxford comma vs the AP style of using commas, should be decided upon and documented by the organization, so that the documents are consistent among its writers.

    1. ceiswyn*

      Should be, but often aren’t. And many documents get written by senior people or SMEs who are not going to go through a multi-page style guide first. So when faced with a document of that nature, you have to be clear on the level of editing that the organisation requires and will back you up on.

      All of which reminds me of the time I was asked to edit a document from a (much larger and more successful) partner company about a joint initiative. My instructions were ‘Just fix things that are actually wrong, ignore what’s merely bad.’ It was everything you might imagine and more.

    2. TechWorker*

      There are times when precise usage of commas might matter, and times when it absolutely definitely doesn’t, so I’m not sure I agree this is something every company ‘should’ spend time on.

      1. One More Opinionated Writer/Editor*

        Did you hear about the dairy company that got hit with a $5 million settlement due to a missing Oxford comma? Even if commas may not matter all the time (an idea I would happily debate), they can matter a great deal. For that reason, it’s worth the time to standardize an approach within an organization. As a plus, doing so can cut down on the endless debates over comma placement that are otherwise guaranteed to occur.

        For all concerned, have a heart. And an Oxford comma. :)


    3. Chris*

      “Stylistic” has very negative connotations in my office. “Length and tone” would be more acceptable terms for explaining revisions.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, that comment surprised me a little–I would have thought that’s exactly the sort of thing a company would want you to edit for. If editing is a frequent part of their job I suggest that in addition to asking how heavy they want the editing to be, they should also ask whether the company follows a specific guide or has its own rules on things like commas and the number of spaces between sentences that they want to be consistent on.

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      meh. The Oxford comma gets far, far more attention than it merits, mostly because it is quick and easy to explain, though many people don’t understand the real issue. Sometimes an Oxford comma will avoid ambiguity. Other times it will create ambiguity. Most of the time it makes not one jot or tittle of difference. Most of the time when there is ambiguity, the context makes the intended meaning clear. This leaves very rare instances of genuine ambiguity, but a simple rule like “always use the Oxford comma” or “never use the Oxford comma” does not help. Indeed, it makes things worse. In any case, English is a minefield of potential ambiguity. The presence or absence of the Oxford comma is a tiny, tiny part of this. Making it a crucial matter of style which everyone must follow is absurd, both on its substance and on the resources necessary to enforce it.

    6. hbc*

      Many, many places don’t need documents to be consistent among its writers, but they do need documents to not be long-winded or objectively ungrammatical. I can’t think very many people would notice *and* care if they read two documents from an org and they differed along those lines.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        No place needs documents to be consistent on the level of Oxford commas. They need documents to be clear. A rule about the Oxford comma is at best irrelevant to this happy goal.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nah, some places need to be consistent about it. I notice commas, and if an org is putting out materials that are inconsistent within the same document, some of us do notice it and think they’re less polished. It may not matter, but sometimes it does.

          I agree it’s not the #1 issue, but it’s not nothing.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Are we talking about consistency within a document, or between documents? I agree that a document should be internally consistent. I just don’t think it matters if some other document produced by someone else in the same organization does it differently.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              I think publications should be consistent (eg if the company has a blog or news section on its website, or a newsletter or verified brochure).

              However, if I noticed inconsistencies in letters/formal emails, eg Kate seems to prefer parentheses where Alex uses em-dashes, I’d just consider that “voice”, and they would be consistent communications so long as the overall font/layout/jargon was the same.

    7. CatPerson*

      Ha! In my organization, even the communications team does not even know what an Oxford comma is! Nor can they distinguish between advance and advanced, they employ frequent use of the grocer’s apostrophe, use ask as a noun and decision as a verb, etc.

  15. SigmaMeetsTheta*


    I’m a lead data scientist, and I would give an arm and a leg to have an analyst who could help with significant copy edits. I’ve got a lot of skills, but I don’t write fast, and real editing takes even longer, I hate to say it’s a waste of my time (good editing is never a waste of time), but I often feel like I’m not improving things as much as I’d like, as I go over (and over) a document, trying different approaches to communicate an idea, then introducing voice, structural and sometimes even tense errors that I see right after I submit work.

    But the best part about working with someone like that would be how good an opportunity it would be to share ideas! Anyone interested enough to read my work closely enough to do a good edit is going to be interested enough to make valuable contributions.

    One thing I’ll say, though, don’t be shy about asking for credit if that’s a thing in your industry, the kind of editing you’re suggesting doing can come close to the level of work required for a co-author credit. Not necessarily a light editing, but if you’re doing significant structural work (and especially if you’re contributing ideas), your work should be acknowledged.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I’m a technical writer. OP 3, depending on how familiar you are with the subject matter, for heavy edits I recommend having the author review it to ensure the technical content is unaffected. This kind of review is standard in my industry, particularly with junior technical writers and editors.

      As you gain more experience, you’ll pick up technical knowledge and be more confident in your changes. I take courses and request demos or hands-on training with new systems and equipment to build my knowledge base. It’s fun to learn new things!

      1. Anon for this*

        This reminds me of the time when some customer documentation as part of a press release published on the company website was edited by a non-technical person to include the meanings of standard acronyms – except they’d chosen the first thing on google and they were ALL WRONG. Embarrassingly so (think, made absolutely no sense, a customer would immediately go ‘Er what’). And then it took about 2 months to fix because it was just a ‘soft launch’.

        I am sure you are not that editor. Don’t be that editor.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This reminds me of a story (sadly likely apocryphal) about the first president of the American League. His full name was Byron Bancroft Johnson, but he went by Ban Johnson and that is what he is invariably called in baseball history. The story is of a copy editor of a history book who helpfully went through the manuscript, changing “Ban” to “Ben.”

      2. Esme*

        This reminds me of the time a junior editor tried to change ‘experience designer Thingy Bob says…’ to ‘experienced designer Thingy Bob says…’

        We would have looked so very stupid if that had gone to print!

        1. Esme*

          It was about UX design, if that wasn’t clear.

          They thought ‘experience’ it was a typo…

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            If that was their title, shouldn’t it have been initial-caps? “Experience Designer Thingy Bob” reads differently than “experience designer Thingy Bob.”

        2. Colette*

          Yeah, I’ve also had technical writers make changes that changed the meaning. (They were doing their job, but didn’t have the subject matter knowledge.) But I was never concerned about whether/how they edited my original documents, as long as the meaning was clear and correct.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        My personal experience with having my writing professionally edited is that about a quarter of the changes genuinely improve it, a small but vital number are disastrous, and the rest are irrelevant stuff like changing “which” to “that.” You have to watch for the disastrous stuff. When I got the proofs back on my book, the problem was not so much changes of meaning as just plain clumsy writing. As I read through it I would come across a passage and wonder “Did I write that?” and not in a good way. I would refer to the manuscript I had submitted and find that no, I had not. So I would change it back. A friend of mine joked that I should get a rubber stamp with red ink, with “STET.” If this sort of thing were still done on paper, I would have seriously considered it.

      4. Annony*

        It is so frustrating when someone edits a document for me and decides they don’t like my word choice and changes it when it is actually a technical term with a very specific meaning in that context. I started asking for comments instead of changes in that situation.

        1. Altair*

          Do your editors know the technical terminology, and should they? Maybe a brief glossary would help.

        2. James*

          I had a colleague remove his name from a publication over this. This was after three conversations that amounted to “I am the subject matter expert, there are legal ramifications here, you CANNOT change that without exposing the company to liability” and the editor saying “Yeah, that’s fine, I’m going to change it anyway”.

          Lawyers are the worst for this. I remember a conversation where they asked us to find a simpler term for “facies” (a technical geology term that means “any group of rocks/sediments that the geologist chooses to group together”, but with rules) and for a genus name.

          Lawyer: What’s the common name for this animal?
          Expert: This IS the common name. It’s the only name it has.
          Lawyer: What do people who handle these animals call them?
          Expert: They call them this name. The only people who deal with them are scientists, and this is what we call them.
          Lawyer: What about people who raise them?
          Expert: They’ve been extinct for 20 million years. You CAN’T raise them.

          Repeat for about an hour. :D

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I am confused. Why are the lawyers asking for less precise language? Their usual inclination is just the opposite. I would expect it to be the marketing types asking for this sort of change.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Lawyers don’t like words they don’t know, would be my guess.

            2. James*

              We were told to keep it at an 8th grade reading level. He was terrified that technical language would result in liability somehow. And the lawyer couldn’t understand that he was not, in fact, an expert in every field–he seemed to think that knowing the law made him knowledgeable about all human knowledge. All of us Subject Matter Experts had issues with him trying to change technical aspects of our writing.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Ah, he was a Bad Lawyer. Not so much for his belief in his omnicompetence as his favoring imprecise language. This is not typical of the species. Though come to think of it, the two might be related. I know people who think of themselves as omnicompetent but in reality have poor literacy skills, who upon seeing a word they don’t know conclude it must be meaningless rather than thinking to look it up.

    2. OrigCassandra*

      I’m an instructor in higher ed who also publishes in my discipline’s literature. Journals seem to have two reactions to my writing: “leave it alone” or “edit the living daylights out of it.”

      Those who choose the latter invariably find me editors who zero in on the really awkward bits and just — fix them. I love these people! I salute you for being one of them, OP3!

    3. Esme*

      “One thing I’ll say, though, don’t be shy about asking for credit if that’s a thing in your industry, the kind of editing you’re suggesting doing can come close to the level of work required for a co-author credit.”

      I’ve been involved in writing and editing for decades, and this would look tone deaf absolutely everywhere I’ve worked or freelanced. It would be a very strange thing to ask for, and I would not advise the LW does it.

      1. Coalea*

        This. In medical publications, for example, there are very clear guidelines about what contributions determine authorship and what the LW is describing doesn’t make the cut. That said, those same guidelines also dictate that medical writers and editors must be acknowledged.

    4. blackcatlady*

      I’m in research science and have 30+ years experience in our lab. Even though I’m a tech, I always get manuscripts to read. I have found over the years the original author is so up close and involved with the paper it is hard to be objective. Some point that is crystal clear to them (they did the work!) is obscure in the text and needs to be clarified. Some times they belabor a point and have to reduce the length. Some researchers just aren’t very good organizers and story tellers. They present the work chronologically as they did it rather than look at the whole picture and arrange the results to make a good narrative. Having someone give it a read and edit makes a better paper for submission in the long run.

      I would go to each original author and ask what level of editing they want. And if you can give them specific examples and explain how your edit makes the paper better it helps to avoid hurt egos.

  16. Casper Lives*

    I’m concerned that the boss for #2 has already manufactured a “legitimate” reason to fire her. By rejecting the vacation request. Did OP2 go into work for the rest of the week?

    1. Black Horse Dancing*

      I wondered this too. Especially when the OP stated she told them she was taking leave. Depending on what was said and how it was said, they could claim insubordination or job abandonment as they emailed a rejection of the leave request.

    2. WellRed*

      The fact they rejected this request tells a lot about this company. Combined with the unreasonableness of the rest of it and I think our OP is in for a rough road and a job search.

    3. Persephone Underground*

      I hope the OP took the federal leave or found a way to handle it when they backed her into that particular corner (or Alison answered her directly before publishing the answer to us, I recall she does that sometimes), but if she just took the vacation time while trying to sort out child care she would probably have a good case if they tried to argue she quit, if they tried to fight giving her benefits. Hopefully they’ll be more reasonable than that and the OP will get somewhere with the scripts Alison gave, so it won’t come to that.

      If they did fire her, it’s a pretty narrow technicality to say “we didn’t fire her for attempting to take FFwhatever leave, we fired her for trying to take unapproved vacation to care for her child when ordered to return to work with no notice, before she formally asked for the correct kind of leave!” … because she should have committed child neglect and left her kid/s home alone (or brought the kid to the office where boss would then fire her for that instead)?

      Basically, they (in this hypothetical) fired her for the thing the leave exists to protect her from being fired for. I don’t think an actual judge would be too sympathetic to trying to claim it wasn’t retaliation for attempting to use that leave just because she didn’t use the magic words in time. I am not a llama, but a real lawyer could likely be found to take that case on contingency. And there are lots of organizations right now working to help people in her situation as well.

    4. Case of the Mondays*

      This employer is clearly being a jerk but we are all, employees and employers being put in an untenable position by this pandemic. It would have made so much more sense for the phases of reopening to be flipped and that daycares/camps/schools reopened before workplaces. If they couldn’t stay reopened safely than non-essential workplaces didn’t reopen.

      This business could obviously let OP work from home still.

      1. mayfly*

        Our statewide phased re-opening plan had nothing in it about daycare, camp, nannies, etc. I was floored.

        1. JustaTech*

          Weirdly, in my state, if one adult in a household was an essential worker, you could still use your normal child care (assuming they were open). I had one friend who was able to *ask* her nanny to keep coming in (they did, it was a low-risk environment) and another friend who’s been working flat out this whole time at a child care center for the kids of hospital employees.

          But if you’re not an essential worker, well, I hope you’re rich enough to have an au pair because otherwise you are SOL.

      2. Academic Addie*

        But bars need to be open! Screw childcare and women’s participation in the labor force!

        Our daycares are back, but the one my kids attend has already had to close for cleaning multiple times after positive staff tests. Even when things are reopened, there will be childcare outages. Best wishes to OP, but it might be time to start looking.

      3. Librarian1*

        Yes, but schools, daycares, and camps don’t contribute to economic growth and aren’t owned by the rich people who have the money to lobby politicians./s

    1. Rainbow Brite*

      This is a bizarrely hostile comment. Nobody currently working from home has had “three months off,” and OP has a genuine reason (even apart from the pandemic, which, yes, is a genuine reason!) not to be able to work from the office.

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      So what’s your suggestion regarding child care? I honestly don’t understand how the OP is supposed to make this advice work. Give the child opiates and take them to work 19-th century style?

      1. Mami21*

        I’m also an office manager and a parent. I’ve been working from home since we first went into lockdown. I’ve been fully compensated during this time, and will continue to be while both the office and schools are closed.
        You may be amazed to learn that this job involves far more then just hands-on work in the office.
        So, I’d also like to hear your solution for this working parent with a child at home? Please, don’t back off now you’ve made your big decree about ‘bad, lazy employees’. Do tell us the solution, we’re all ears.

        1. EPLawyer*

          I did wonder about the office manager part. To me, especially in a small company that seems an in office job that would be hard to do remotely. But there is still no reason for the boss’ to be hostile. If they really feel it can’t be done from home but have kinda sorta got it done that way, that’s what you explain. You don’t just say “you have to come in period.”

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I can kind of see the owner’s point of needing an office manager in the office if they’re also working in the office. Business may be picking up and there are things that can be left undone for some time but not forever. But I agree the hostility is weird. Why wouldn’t they work with the OP to let her come in with her child for 3 hrs a day or something like that? (It’s such a small office that they can make the rules. I wouldn’t suggest that for my own 1000 person office with very strict COVID protocols for returning to work.) Sounds like this is a school age child, too, and maybe it would be okay to leave them home for a few hours but not 8+ hrs. Depends if we’re talking about a 7 year old or a 10 year old.

            1. Raea*

              Agreed. It’s the all or nothing attitude that is blowing my mind here – why go straight to back in the office 5 days a week? Could the on-site responsibilities be consolidated into one day each week? Or OP comes in for 1-2 hours each morning with child?

              Seems almost purposefully inflexible right out of the gate.

              1. Raea*

                Also wanted to add, some states have ‘latchkey kid’ laws setting the minimum age a child can be left at home unsupervised for (in connection to a certain number of hours which also vary by state, but typically hover around the 3+ hours range). Some states are as high as 12-13 years old.

          2. Anon Admin*

            I’m an admin/office manager. When I was WFH, I would mask & glove up, check the PO box once a week. Take it to the office where only 1 security guard was working and anything urgent was scanned/emailed to the employee. If someone needed office supplies, I would order and have it delivered to their home. We put a message on our phone that we were closed due to COVID, please email any questions to info@companyname.org and I would answer them or forward to the correct person. We usually got back to people within 24 hours. I participated in video meetings, distributed minutes and worked on the staff calendar all from home.

            It can and in my opinion should be done from home if possible. OP stated her child is too young to be left home alone and I’m sure the bosses do not want her to bring the child to work with her. Even if they said yes, it’s unfair for all the reasons discussed in yesterday’s post from the person who had coworkers bringing their children in.

          3. Jules the 3rd*

            A lot of office managing is paperwork, which can almost always be set up to do remotely. Ordering supplies, entering budget numbers, paying bills, assessing customer / vendor correspondence – you can swing by the office once or twice a week, pick up the mail, process it at home.

            If OP’s been doing it successfully for 3mo, there’s no reason why it can’t continue until child care is safely available again. What’s probably going on is that the bosses have to think about schedules and availability, which they didn’t have to do before, and they’re tired of doing that work.

          4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            This is because of the misconception of what “Office Management” entails. It can be anything from a general receptionist to an office assistant to someone who’s actually a Facility/Operations Manager but geared towards the front of the house, aka the “Office”. Someone once read my actual job description and was like “Da fuq, you’re basically a COO.” Pretty much but at the same time, it’s weird to be a small organization with a full C-Suite, like how inflated do you wanna be, lol. You can also sometimes see it listed as a “Business Manager” which is a bit more on par but it’s still not something that’s taken off. “Office Manager” is a great term until it started getting crazily watered down.

            Regardless. You can 85% of my duties remote, I can’t check the mail, process that mail or easily just walk to things like I would in the office. But I can do all the accounting, budgeting, projections, marketing, payroll, procedure documentation, purchasing and customer service work remotely [we don’t do walk-in customers, so it’s all online anyways.] I can even do most of the HR work because it’s again, paperwork and often electronic. Oh you have a question about your benefits, call me on the phone.

            Seriously. Most of my day is sitting at my office desk. I often find reasons to get out of my desk, so I’ll walk people somewhere or I’ll fuss with the lobby because I don’t want to be sitting anymore. We have a janitorial team, so I don’t have to bother with cleaning but I’ll do it anyways just so I can be all “Oh I needed to stop looking at the computer!”

            All our filing is electronic. I do stuff using Docusign. I can even literally unlock our building remotely ;)

            This screams more of “I don’t get to see you and therefore I can’t see you busy working at your computer!!!!’ more than anything else.

      2. Washi*

        Yes, not only is this person misreading the letter (the OP has not had 3 months off! In fact the opposite, she’s been working from home for 3 months while caring for her child) but I don’t get what they expect OP to do.

        Things are not back to normal if no forms of childcare are open.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Neglect their child and leave them home alone all day, I bet. Because aren’t the Puritan work ethic and being a perfect capitalist worker bee more important than a mere child’s safety?

          (sarcasm, obviously)

          1. Persephone Underground*

            Lol, yeah, and get arrested/ their child taken away for neglect. Hard to be a good office manager from jail!

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Or, tell them they’ve got to drop the kid off with friends/family who are retired/disabled/unemployed and that’s their problem if they don’t have anyone who can do that!

            (Had to explain to someone the other day that while I’m unemployed that doesn’t mean I’m suitable to watch their kid all day at home..)

    3. Cicely*

      What a ridiculous comment! The OP clearly states they have been working from home and have gone in to the office when it was absolutely necessary. They have been able to do their job from home. And the commenting rules here say to believe the OP!

      You sound very hostile and bitter. Have you lost your job over the pandemic? If so, I’m so sorry. That really sucks. But please don’t take it out on others – people can have genuine problems even if they aren’t the same problems you have.

      In this case, there is indeed very good reason to be uncomfortable working in an office setting during a global pandemic (if you genuinely don’t understand that, you have bigger problems than this!) and in addition the OP has a child to care for and no childcare options. This is WHY there is a legal option for people in that position to pursue.

      The world is not trying to “get back to normal”. (Maybe the USA is? A lot of Americans do seem to be ignoring the pandemic from what I see on the news. It’s terrifying!) But trying to “get back to normal” under current conditions is stupid, dangerous and ignorant. We are trying to operate under a vastly changed set of conditions, and that necessitates flexibility and accommodation wherever possible.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, the US trying (stupidly and dangerously, as you say) to get back to normal has us at 3M cases. There is no “back to normal.”

        OP has a kid and no options for child care, so “suck it up, buttercup” can’t apply here – and the fact that she has no child care options indicates that things haven’t gotten back to normal. Her employer ignoring that is incredibly short-sighted.

    4. WS*

      Why do you know the OP’s job better than she does? She’s been working remotely with no problem for three months. Either there is a problem that her bosses need to tell her about, or there’s not and they need to work something else out. If everything was back to normal, she’d have school camps and childcare available.

    5. 36Cupcakes*

      We don’t know their other circumstances. Maybe they have a high risk person in their life they are trying to protect or maybe the are in FL or TX where cases are again surging. This isn’t helpful or kind advice.

      1. Jenny*

        My mother in law is a teacher in Florida and my father in law is incredibly high risk (he had a heart attack last year). The fact that they’re forcing schools fully open means she has to choose between potentially quitting a job she loves or risking her husband’s life (and her own, she’s 60 herself). The school she works at was incredibly overcrowded before all this started so social distancing is a joke.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I really hope your in-laws stay safe. That’s a horrible position to be in.

          (My husband’s firm isn’t planning on having the office staff back till 2021 at the moment, because they can’t figure out a way to make the office environment safe enough, and there’s a lot of employees with high risk family – I’m disabled for instance – or children that can’t be left alone)

    6. Jenny*

      This comment is absurd. In the US things are worse now than they have ever been and things are reclosing. This disease is not a joke, I have a friend who was a healthy 30 year old before he got it and he is still experiencing health issues two months later. We all read about that healthy 41 year old who died this week.. Needlessly forcing people back into the office will kill people.

      And what’s your magical solution for her not having childcare? My son’s daycare remains closed and it’s so competitive out there for childcare hiring a nanny is impossible and prohibitively expensive.

      Thank goodness my employer has let me work from home full time and adjusted child care policies.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Indeed. I’m very angry on the OP’s behalf. OP, I’m sorry you were subjected to weird, unjustifiable hostility from your employers and the same here. Please know that most of us understand your situation and realize that you’re being asked to do the impossible–and then berated for not accomplishing it.

    7. Gazebo Slayer*

      “The world is trying to get back to normal. Therefore work must resume”

      In many areas, COVID is still rampant. Ignoring this and insisting everyone pretend things are “normal” is delusional. Worse, it’s dangerous.

      People like you are the reason so many people in the US are dying.

    8. Perfectly Particular*

      What on earth? As the US heads back into lockdown and many countries have banned travelers from the US, you think everyone should just head back to work? My husband and I are in our 5th month of working from home with 2 kids, and I can promise you, it has been nothing like having 5 months off! We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be employed when so many have lost their jobs, but that doesn’t mean that there is no added stress. First there was homeschooling along with a full workload, and the kids can’t really wait until we get off work at 6pm to start their schoolwork, so we had to figure out ways to incorporate it into the work day. Now we have to try to take care of them while continuing to attend hours of meetings daily and achieving our Goals and Objectives for the year. (My mid year review is tomorrow – argh). Since all of our colleagues are working from home and no one really has plans at this time, work just continues into the evening and through the weekend… 50-60 hour weeks have become the norm, and neither of us is in a field where that is typical.

    9. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      The world is trying to get back to some approximation of functional. “Normal” would mean I could visit my mother, without having to quarantine for 14 days or wonder whether I might be an asymptomatic spreader who shouldn’t hug or sit near someone in her 80s.

      You might be prepared to abandon your family and risk the health of your neighbors in the interests of “normalcy,” but that’s not actually helping anyone.

      Where I live has just started stage 3 of reopening, “vigilant.” The official plan, says that the state won’t go to phase 4, “new normal,” until “Development of vaccines and / or treatments enable resumption of “‘new normal.'” And even then, expect differences from how we lived pre-COVID.

      In the meantime, people like you aren’t “weeding out” “bad, lazy employees.” You’re pushing single parents, and women whose partners assume that childcare is women’s work, out of the workforce, and thereby making more room for less-competent men.

      I hope but don’t expect that you’re calling your senators, congressmember, and state reps to demand welfare that can actually support a family, for as long as they need it. We don’t live in a society that comes close to that, or food banks begging for charity so people don’t starve wouldn’t have become routine and normalized.

    10. Lizzy May*

      “Be grateful you have a job”

      This is such a toxic attitude that really diminishes the work and value of an employee and I hope we can get rid of it. Yes, there are great people who are not working right now because of covid and are in an awful job market. I feel awful for people in that situation and I want to see them supported until they are able to return to work. But that doesn’t mean someone who is employed should be grateful for scraps or banned from raising issues with their work situation. Work is a two-way street. The employer is getting value from the work the OP is doing. She is not being paid from the kindness of their heart; it is compensation for the value of her labour.

    11. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Life isn’t a competition and I’m really tired of the “at least you have a job” comments. And WFH for is not like having a 3 month vacation. This isn’t helpful or relevant. If daycare and camps are closed, what exactly is OP supposed to do? She’s been working from home with no issues, and the bosses are being unreasonable. Take your bitter pill somewhere else, because there’s no place for it here.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        When people hint at or tell me they think “work from home is a vacation,” I tell them that “work from home” is equally “live at work.” Framing it that way has helped break the ignorance.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          ‘Work from home is the same as living at work’….okay, I’m embroidering that somewhere because that’s a truly brilliant way of putting it!

    12. Observer*

      Hi Boss!

      Accusing the OP of lying and totally misrepresenting the situation is neither decent nor useful.

      1. Jzilbeck*

        HA! Glad I’m not the only one thinking it was probably the boss making this snide comment.

    13. Archaeopteryx*

      Nobody gets to choose whether things actually are back to normal until there’s a vaccine. Your choices are pretending things are magically back to normal, or accepting the reality that they currently are not.

      1. just a millennial*

        Well said! Clearly, in the US, this summer has shown that you can’t just choose to ignore the virus. This isn’t about choosing “economy or pandemic.” The pandemic WILL affect whoever it wants to affect.

        I have accepted that things will not be normal until there is a vaccine.

    14. Tuppence Beresford*

      Wow, this comment is unnecessarily harsh and accusatory, particularly the snarky gimmick of “insult” followed by “not saying you are, just saying.” Leave that at the door please. Also, the OP did not have “3 mos off” nor does she say she is “uncomfortable working during a pandemic” — she clearly stated that she has been working from home and is now facing an order to return to the office full-time but lacks adequate child care options. Get the facts straight.

    15. Persephone Underground*

      Alison’s rules include being kind to LWs and not accusing then of lying. Way to violate that.

      “You’re not “uncomfortable working during a pandemic”. You just want to be remote.”… Wow.

      You have no idea what her comfort level is, or where she is, or what the risks are there (plenty of places are having new spikes in cases, or the infection rates never really slowed at all). With a child at home of course she’s concerned about working during a pandemic, she doesn’t want to get sick or get her kid sick (this is leaving out any other completely legit reasons she may have to worry)! I’m going to leave this here, but seriously? Get some empathy installed, stat, and reread the commenting rules.

    16. Me*

      Are you serious with this comment? Danger of coronavirus aside what exactly do you suggest she do with her child when daycare isn’t available due to corona? This was unhelpful and unkind.

    17. introverted af*

      The US may be trying to get back to pre-pandemic norms, but those were terrible and already damaging and difficult to deal with for many people. 40 hour work week, at pay that hasn’t grown in decades, with rising cost of living (including housing, groceries, childcare, and other expenses that weren’t the norm years ago), and an increased reliance in the US on service-based jobs – the worst of the economy has become untenable in the current situation, but we were already on the brink.

      The economy and workplaces should absolutely get back to fully functional when it’s safe to do so, but none of us should accept things going back to exactly the way they were before. An office manager job will likely still require someone to be in the office regularly, but many many jobs can and should be accommodating to their employees while childcare is less accessible than ever.

    18. op2*

      As a someone who was in the single parent situatuin, I understand how she feels. However, being in an office management role probably reqiers more in person hands on activities. I happen to be an esscenal worker who didnt get to stay home at all! You just have to do what you have to do. As for politics, everyone has their opinions and soemtimes its just not accurate no matter who’s talking. Do whats best for your family and use wisdom.

      1. virago*

        ” being in an office management role probably reqiers more in person hands on activities”

        I thought so, too, but Jules the 3rd pointed out in another comment:
        “A lot of office managing is paperwork, which can almost always be set up to do remotely. Ordering supplies, entering budget numbers, paying bills, assessing customer / vendor correspondence – you can swing by the office once or twice a week, pick up the mail, process it at home.”

        “I happen to be an esscenal worker who didnt get to stay home at all! You just have to do what you have to do.”
        Thank you for doing what you do and for being on the front line. As someone who has been able to work from home, I know how lucky I am. But my employer also benefits, because I have been more productive. OP2 says she has had no complaints about her performance, so why wouldn’t her employer want to keep her?

    19. Nip It In The Bud*

      I have a tremendous amount of empathy for LW 2 and I realize that we are living in unprecedented times. But, I’m not sure exactly when it became the employer’s responsibility to make sure that their employees have adequate childcare. At some point, the employer will have to say “This is what the company needs and if you can’t fulfill that, we need to sever ties.” And it is the employer who gets to decide whether someone is needed in person inside the office. I see alot of comments along the lines of “well work from home has been OK the last few months, why shouldn’t it continue?” The bottom line is that it is the employer’s decision. I don’t want to sound heartless, because I do empathize greatly. But the employee’s childcare is their responsibility to arrange, not the employer’s.

      1. James*

        A rational employer will acknowledge that stress from dealing with child care situations can degrade employee performance. This increases incidents of error, which exposes companies to liability and losses. Employees that aren’t worried about affairs outside the workplace are better able to handle affairs within the workplace and therefore work better/faster/safer. OSHA and industry standards have increasingly focused on reducing employee stress for exactly this reason. So while you are somewhat correct–the employer can state the terms and conditions of employment–the notion that the employer can ignore the employee’s private lives is about 20 years out of date.

        Secondly, the pandemic (among other things) have exposed the butts-in-seats mentality as the farce it is. Employees are perfectly able to maintain production without being under the watchful eye of a manager. In the modern world far more jobs are capable of being performed remotely than people realize. This is good for everyone if done right. The employees are happier, commutes (which have a demonstrable affect on health) are reduced, the company saves on overhead, and outside pandemics employees are generally more productive. It’s the employer’s right to maintain outdated and antiquated systems. But it’s really freaking stupid. If you’re a manager and you turn down a proposal that will cut overhead by 5%, increase productivity by 10%, and increase employee satisfaction by 15%, you deserve to be fired.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          Actually, it’s not good for everyone. What this exposes is a huge wage inequality and what will increase. Some people will get the luxury and perk of working from home and most likely have the higher wages. The essential workers–from grocery clerks to government administration and workers to more will be forced to work outside the home and get no additional increase in benefits or wages.

          1. James*

            My “good for everyone” comment was in reference to everyone involved in the company allowing work from home. I apologize if that wasn’t clear.

            I’ve been working at a job site for about 95% of the pandemic (brief stints working from home), and my job isn’t one that can readily be done remotely–it’s really hard to inspect things when you’re not physically there to do so! So obviously I get that some jobs won’t be remote. I don’t think it’s a “wage inequality” thing; its’ a matter of the nature of the job. Knowledge workers–a huge swath of our economy–can generally work from where ever they want; folks who need to manipulate physical objects (machinists, plumbers, grocery store clerks, equipment operators, etc) obviously need to be where those objects need to be.

            And as someone moving into a more office-heavy role, I’ve little sympathy for the hostility towards management I often see on this blog comments section. I get that some managers and executives suck and aren’t worth their pay. But I also know that in many jobs, the management position is the most stressful and high-risk position to be in. Ideally responsibility and compensation go hand in hand; a manager making decisions on policy that carry the potential for fines and jail time (I’m in that position) justifiably is going to earn more than someone spinning a hand auger or stocking shelves (done both).

      2. Heidi*

        Well, I don’t think that the LW is asking for the employer to set up childcare. I think the situation is that the traditional and responsible sources of childcare are no longer available due to the pandemic. She is asking the boss to understand that she isn’t going to prioritize her job over the care of her child, and I don’t think it’s going too far to say that it’s unfair for the employer to ask this of her. Especially since we know that she can do the work from home. The boss obviously have the option to fire her instead of letting her work from home, just as the OP has the option to quit. However, if a mutually beneficial compromise can be reached (OP works at home, does her job, and takes care of child while employer gets all the work done and doesn’t have to hire and train someone new or pay for leave), I say reach for it.

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        Just because it *has* been the employer’s decision, without consideration for the employee’s needs, doesn’t mean it always has to be. It’s not some immutable law of the universe.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        We are living through an unprecedented crisis. The solution cannot be “fire all parents.”

        I know you’re not quite saying that … but it’s the result of what you’re saying. If parents won’t be able to work, there needs to be massive govt intervention to pay them. Until/unless that happens, employers are stuck needing to make it work. It’s part of being a decent corporate citizen during a massive crisis.

      5. Starbuck*

        When did we go from “it takes a village” to “parents, you’re on your own?” What a failure of our society. To pretend that one or two parents can raise young kids without any kind of community support, that this is normal and fine and should be expected, is absolutely absurd. Especially now that fewer people are able to live near/with extended family with the way our work world scatters people geographically, that slack must get picked up by the community. Schools, daycares, youth clubs, other chilcare workers – and yes, employers! These people all need to be part of the solution.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          Maybe when we told all non parents to suck it up. Do you think they get people to help them in their time of need? Nope. That’s why go fund me because so big.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Let’s not turn this into a childfree/childless versus parents thing please? It’s in no way relevant to the original question (OP can’t choose to not have a child they’re solely responsible for during these times)

            1. A*

              There was a question asked, and so it was answered. I don’t think it’s out of line to point to the childfree/childless debate as part of the answer to ‘when did we move away from it takes a village?’.

              And I am by NO MEANS trying to open up that debate, because that isn’t the point (nor did it appear to be the point made by BHD). The point is that these have been unprecedented times for EVERYONE, including those without children.

              In my case, I started to be challenged in my support of colleagues at home with children (I live alone, no children yet) once I hit the 4 month mark of carrying far more than my fair share. I still do it, because there’s really no other option and I otherwise love my job – but it’s silly to pretend that this hasn’t been rough on everyone and that there is a real trickle effect. BHD was responding to a question of why attitudes have shifted, and this is a valid and real reason.

              And to be clear, I will continue to carry my colleagues weight as long as I can as I know that these are unprecedented times. However, there are thoughts/feelings that go along with putting my life outside of work on pause because there is no other option for the work getting done.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                I was responding to a post that inaccurately said that all non parents are told to suck it up and that none of them get any help when they need it.

                That’s all.

              2. Librarian1*

                attitudes haven’t shifted though – the dominant narrative in the US has been “parents, you’re on your own” for decades if not longer. Or, I guess, more accurately, it assumed that there’d always be two parents in the household and one would work (usually the man) and the other would take care of the children full time (usually the woman). And now that’s not the case anymore and yet we haven’t set up strong social safety nets for childcare. And that happened long before the pandemic happened.

      6. Just no*

        …except surely you understand that “firing all parents” will really mean “firing most/all women,” which is hugely problematic.

        1. A*

          ” “firing most/all women,””

          Huh? So I absolutely disagree with the whole ‘fire all parents’ thing… but this comment really bugs me. More and more people are opting not to have children (not to mention those that can’t, are waiting to try, etc. etc.) and I don’t think it’s a safe assumption that MOST/ALL working women are mothers.

          I actually have more direct female colleagues that don’t have children (and don’t plan to), than are parents. That’s held true now across two major metro cities and two industries, although I’m sure is not the norm across the board.

          1. Librarian1*

            okay, but since women still do much more than their share of childcare, it’s safe to assume most of the parents who would be fired would be women. I say this as a currently childless women. I know how this works.

          2. Salsa Verde*

            I read it as, Just No was pointing out that if a parent gets fired/has to quit in order to take care of children, it would be mostly or all the women parents, as opposed to the man parents.

      7. anon for this*

        And since everyone’s out for themselves, she ought to take the full ten weeks at 2/3 pay without doing any work — since it’s her right according to US law :)

      8. fhqwhgads*

        I think the difference here IS the unprecedented times. When it’s literally illegal for schools, camps, daycares to be open, it’s not just “sorry, it’s your responsibility to have childcare”. It’s literally “there is no childcare at all, unless you let someone potentially infected in your house, which might mean instead of having me the employee work from home, I or my child ends up hospitalized or dead”. At some point, the employer must treat human lives as though they matter.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Even if the misguided employer doesn’t care about the child, the child is going to infect their parent, who will in turn infect the entire office, including boss. While that sounds like Karma, that’s a pretty high cost to see a butt in a seat.

    20. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Dunno if you’ve noticed, but there’s a deadly virus doing the rounds and nothing will be back to normal until it’s eradicated. Which it hasn’t been.

      Working from home is not time off

      Having to look after family members is mandatory if there’s nowhere else that can take them

      It’s not laziness to not want to abandon your responsibilities and put yourself at risk of a dangerous virus just because your employer says so

      The onus should be on the employer to find a solution if they really want people back in an area that has no childcare available.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Additional, for some concrete solutions for the employer:

        They could ask OP to come in for a short period of time to get any essential duties that can’t be done remotely completed, and either allow them to bring their child along or assist in finding someone who can look after the child.

        (Btw I’m unemployed and have no kids so parents at work please feel free to correct me if anything I’ve said is wrong!)

        1. James*

          A lot is going to depend on the child. A 6-month-old may be okay to bring in if they’re not a fussy baby. A 2 year old may not be great to bring in, especially in an area with a lot of activity/dangerous equipment/expensive equipment. A 12 year old can entertain themselves, especially if you can set up in a room for them to do school work in. Obviously children with special needs are going to have unique issues that’ll need to be addressed.

          I’d have few qualms about bringing my 6 year old into my regular office. He’d do his homework and watch Pokemon in one of the offices. My 3 year old? No way. She’d be too easily distracted and, being young and cute, would too easily distract my coworkers (the kids have come in in the past, to pick me up or drop stuff off with my wife, so I have a little experience with the office’s reaction to my kids). My 5 year old would want to know what everyone’s doing, and may end up as an engineer, so I keep him away! (I’m a geologist, there’s a little good-natured ribbing between rock-jocks and engineers.)

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Ahh, I understand a bit better now, thank you!

            (Many happy memories of being taken into dad’s office as a kid, he was an engineer, and just sitting in fascination at all the work going on was what I did. But remembering a bit more…my younger sister never sat still and would cry if she wasn’t allowed to do whatever she wanted.)

  17. cncx*

    RE OP2, my bestie has this phrase when misunderstandings happen: “ok what is REALLY going on”

    this isn’t about the apparent issue at hand, OP coming into the office

    there’s either politics around WFH that may or may not involve OP or only tangentially

    OR they’re just bad managers

  18. T2*

    LW1. Not kidding or hyperbole. Your IT person needs to be permanently cut loose and not rehired.

    Any IT person who takes an action to reactivate an email account without direct management approval is unethical at best and dangerous.

    I am an IT person. We are not gods. We have elevated system access and often we need that to do our jobs. But we must be purer than the emperor’s wife in all things.

  19. Forrest*

    >>Instead, the type of editing I’m doing is fairly large-scale shortening, clarification, and information ordering.

    OP3, editing isn’t my main job but we produce a lot of written materials in our office and I’m good at it so I do it. I also have the same qualms about whether I will be hurting someone’s feelings. On the flipside, when someone takes my work and edits it well, I LOVE IT. They are doing me a massive favour by turning my thoughts and initial ideas into something tight, clear and concise. When I have no particular reason to suspect that someone will feel hurt if I change their words, I remind myself of how appreciative I am when others do it for me and set to with a will.

    Some people are more precious about their work than others, so I can’t promise that everyone will feel this way. But where people have given you their blessing to edit their work properly, or where you know it’s officially part of your job but you still feel hesitant just in case, I recommend focussing on the fact that good editing is a wonderful thing. You will hopefully get to the stage where you know that the majority of people whose work you edit appreciate it enormously, and that the few who don’t are outliers.

    1. Saberise*

      It’s also very possible that they know and rely on the fact that someone will fix their writing so only aim to get the nuts and bolts down. We have a technical writer that works on grants and very little of the research proposals are left untouched. It’s full of strikethroughs and insertions.

  20. L.H. Puttgrass*

    “Let her know it’s illegal to allow people to work while they’re not being paid.” LW1 said that they work for a nonprofit. Surely it’s legal to volunteer at a nonprofit, right? The situation there is messed up, the IT situation needs fixing immediately, and people absolutely need to be clear on whether they’ve been furloughed or laid off. But framing it as an illegal work issue might not be the best approach at a nonprofit, where working for free may not actually be illegal.

    1. doreen*

      Generally, non-profit employees cannot volunteer to do their regular job. For example, if you are paid to sell tickets at a museum , you can’t volunteer to sell tickets but you might be able to volunteer to give a talk about an exhibit.

  21. Poke*

    “one colleague of mine has changed his signature line on his personal email account to list his title and the organization name from when he was still employed”

    I’m not sure I understand this. Was he using his personal email to continue doing work? Or just representing himself as an employee of the company in his personal emails?

    1. Izzycat*

      He is representing himself as an employee of the organization on his personal email account.

    2. JohannaCabal*

      I’m confused too. Maybe he’s trying to make it look like he’s still employed for job hunt purposes?

      1. Izzycat*

        Honestly, I have no idea why he is doing it. I think he really doesn’t want to let go. He has flat out said he won’t look for new work and can “hang on” until January. Even though he has been told to find another job because we don’t know when or if we will be able to bring him back.

  22. Kage*

    Regarding Letter 2-
    Alison, how does your advice change if the OP isn’t eligible for FFCRA? My understanding from both this site and other readings is that companies with less than 50 employees can be exempt from the 10-week childcare leave portion of the FFCRA. Based on the OP’s description, I think her company is definitely smaller than 50 people (“husband and wife owner” + “the other two of us” + “several field guys who travel”). So she might not have access to that program…

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yep, sadly. (Even more infuriatingly, it doesn’t apply to employers of over 500 people, because so many of those essentially engage in legalized bribery of politicians via campaign contributions.)

      1. Bear Shark*

        Spouse and I both work for employers of over 500 people so we are at the mercy of whatever our employers decide for childcare related leave. Our school district says it’s planning on offering a choice of in-person or distance learning and I’m expecting there’s a good chance that employers in our area who aren’t required to offer leave under FFCRA will say that since in-person school is available that you don’t qualify for childcare leave if you have school age children.

        1. Doug Judy*

          Yep. I see some may parents asking “What are you going to do with your kids” as if most are privileged enough to have any kind of choice. If my kids school decides in-person 5 days a week, that is what they’ll have to do, regardless if I’m ok with it or not. My employer will either make us come back to the office, or start reinforcing their childcare requirements while WFH.

    2. Natalie*

      That exemption only applies if granting the leave would “jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern”. Given that the leave pay is fully reimbursed by the government, that’s a pretty tough sell IMO.

      1. Kage*

        I’m not sure it is that tough of a sell. The leave cost is only given back by the government at tax time. So a very small business could probably pretty easily show that paying essentially double for one position could put them out of business before tax time (the paid leave + the paid temp to cover) – particularly if their income is already reduced/impacted by the pandemic in general…

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I don’t think they have to wait until tax time. The discount comes from their payroll taxes right away. I’m not an accountant but that’s what one told me.

    3. Narise*

      I had the same question. I am concerned OP will not be able to use FFCRA and be forced to quit or be fired and then hopefully qualify for unemployment.

    4. Massive Dynamic*

      Came here to say this too… it sounds like the OP wouldn’t qualify. OP would get unemployment though, should they axe her over it.

      Good luck, OP. This is absolutely lousy for you and I’m so sorry. FWIW, maybe the owners’ bizarre stance is a sign that the business is about to fold under anyway.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She talked to the DOL and heard she’s eligible, so I’m assuming she’s actually eligible. If she’s not, her other alternative is collecting unemployment (new rules allow it for people in her situation) but that’s obviously not a great solution.

  23. Boomerang Girl*

    OP #3.
    What I do when I have to edit senior executives’ work is as follows:

    1. Turn on track changes (if possible For that format) and embed comments where I am changing significantly the content.

    2. Make a note of style questions that apply throughout the document (e.g., do they want to use Oxford comma, British vs. American spelling, use of first person vs. third, etc.) It’s important to be consistent, but there is not usually a right or wrong answer. After my first review of the document, I send a note posing the questions. Of course, if you have access to other writing by this person, you may be able to infer some of the answers and you can choose whether you want to confirm with them.

    3. I send them a clean copy of the edited document and the version where changes are tracked, in case they want to compare or see why I made changes. This also gives them the opportunity to NOT accept all my changes. I will sometimes accept the obvious changes, like typo corrections, just to help them focus on the more important ones.

    I hope this helps!

    1. Sparrow*

      I use your same approach with track changes! It’s helpful. Overall, the key thing for me is to contextualize the edits upfront so they understand what they’re looking at when they open the document. I also give them the opportunity to respond to (and potentially reverse) the edits.

  24. Luna*

    LW1: I would like to point out to that ED that waffling so much and not saying things straight up would hurt my feelings a lot more than just being given the clean break. At least then I *know* that I won’t return to this job, giving me a clearer path to search for new employment. After all, with the clean break I can tell any place I apply to that I am free to start for them ASAP, and not worry about when I would have to put in a two week notice.

  25. Esme*

    #3 I have done a lot of editing of other people’s words, and I have two observations from my own experience that I think will help you.

    1. If you edit well, people won’t notice. It will still sound like them. If you have to make substantial changes to the order, by all means let them know, but bear in mind they’re often unlikely to remember exactly what they wrote anyway.

    2. Introduce it well. “I’ve just made a few tweaks” or “this was great, I’ve made some background edits but nothing major”.

  26. agnes*

    the LW with child care issues may not be eligible for Families first expanded leave. It sounds like she works for an employer with fewer than 50 employees. Employers with fewer than 50 employees can be exempted from the leave requirements:
    ” Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern”

    Now it doesn’t sound like this applies since the business has continued to function with her working from home, but businesses are very good at finding these loopholes.

    1. BeadsNotBees*

      Yes, I was getting ready to leave the same comment. OP, not sure if you mentioned when you called the hotline that your employer has less than 50 employees. They do have to comply with the first part of expanded leave (for those under mandatory quarantine or seeking treatment for coronavirus), but they absolutely get an exemption from the “lack of childcare” clause based on their size. This may not be an option for you, especially if they’re already being difficult.

      1. Natalie*

        they absolutely get an exemption from the “lack of childcare” clause based on their size

        No, they don’t. If they are small *and* if granting the leave would threaten their ability to stay in business, then they would get an exemption. And they’re being reimbursed for the leave pay, so it would have to damage the business for some reason beyond their finances.

        1. BeadsNotBees*

          Sorry, I missed a word I meant they absolutely CAN get an exemption from this. While I agree it probably wouldn’t technically cause hardship based on what we know from OP, sometimes a business that’s already acting in bad faith and knows of a “loophole” can make life difficult for the employee or continue to act in bad faith. Businesses sometimes take advantage of the fact that employees may not know the full nuance of the law or that they may be discouraged by the process/time requirements to file a complaint, go through all the proper channels, provide documentation, etc. to be properly compensated.

          1. Persephone Underground*

            I guess you mean “can try” by “can”? As in it’s possible (lots of ways to read the word come to think of it)? I think it’s important that OP know that they would be wrong if they try that “we’re too small” argument unless they can prove it would likely put them out of business. So, good to be aware of the argument so she can counter if they act in bad faith like you described. It’s funny- people aren’t always consistent. They may pull one bad faith move but not others, after all, but it doesn’t hurt to be ready to rebutt the argument if they try that approach.

            1. BeadsNotBees*

              Yes, this is what I was trying to get at- the employer may not even try to claim the exemption, but knowing it exists, its’ definitely a good idea to have a rebuttal and a back-up plan ready and prepare for the “worst”. Even if OP is 100% in the right, if the company remains hard-headed about this or claims they don’t need to pay, she may need to jump through a few more hoops in the short term to get what she needs.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She talked to the DOL and was told she’s eligible. She might not have given them all necessary info, but I’d imagine they asked. I’m inclined to give weight to the DOL’s response over pure speculation from us strangers here.

  27. AthenaC*

    OP3 – Any sane person would be okay with edits / suggestions, even significant ones, because an alternate perspective is so helpful. Plus, there’s no requirement that the writer take all your edits; presumably, they can review your suggestions, implement some, and pass on others. That’s all normal!

    I’m in a field where my work gets marked up, I mark up others’ work, and clients mark up everyone’s work … it’s all a continuous dialogue throughout the process, and it’s much more efficient if everyone gives us all their thoughts right away.

    Good luck!

    1. Mockingjay*

      Another point for OP #3 to consider is personality. In this career, she will work with people who:

      a) are genuinely grateful for polishing their words for best effect and will work with you side-by-side. (The vast majority!)
      b) will nitpick grammatical changes and minor edits on each document. (Only a few people. Writing is very personal; it can be uncomfortable to be critiqued and edited. Let them get to know you and they’ll come around.)
      c) will thrust a handful of post-its and a torn sheet of notepaper at you and say “fix it, please!” (I like working with these people; most are really happy when I teach them how to organize a report, just like I enjoy learning from them about what they do.)

      Remember you are part of the team and what you do showcases what they do.

  28. Ancient Alien*

    Is it possible they are trying to get you to quit? I know absolutely nothing about unemployment rules and regs, but I have also worked for a small family business like this where the husband would drive people out with extreme nastiness. I have no idea if this is true or not, but he indicated that he did this because the more people that were let go (as opposed to leaving on their own) from his business, the higher the taxes/fees/whatever he would have to pay to the state for unemployment.

    That’s what this smells like. They can’t continue to pay your salary because their business is swirling the toilet bowl, but they don’t want you to be able to file for unemployment. Why would an employer honestly expect you to endanger your child? It’s beyond ridiculous.

    All of this could be wrong, but this definitely seems like there’s an ulterior motive at play here that goes way beyond just wanting people back in the office.

    1. Elaine Benes*

      Hmm this makes the most sense to me as well. It’s such a black & white situation- there’s no way to get care for the child atm, she can’t leave the child at home alone- that I think they have to be being deliberately obtuse. Stick to your guns, OP- because if what they want to do is fire you, they’re going to have to actually do it themselves and give you unemployment.
      Just keep putting the problem back to them- okay, what should I do with my child during this time? I can’t figure out a solution, and if you don’t have one either, I really don’t see how this can work. I’ll continue to work from home until we can come up with a better idea.

      1. nonegiven*

        I think she needs to request the child care leave right away in order that anything they do in response will be retaliation. If she just gets fired for not going to work or for bringing the kid, that would not be illegal retaliation.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      Honestly, I doubt they’ve thought about it that deeply. They need her back in the office, or maybe they just want to feel like things are more normal again. Employers as a group are used to being able to tell women, “well, figure something out!”, and we do. Or we don’t, and get written off as “ah, her head just wasn’t in the game”, but that’s all right because there’s plenty more where that one came from. The idea that there SERIOUSLY are NO OPTIONS for ANYONE with children too young to be home alone is a new one.

  29. Mt*


    Is the business less than 50 people? If so, they are eligible to request a waiver for the child care time off requirement.

    1. virago*

      OP 2 has talked to the Department of Labor and they’ve told her that she’s eligible for FFCRA leave. I presume they asked this question.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It does not.

        FFCRA covers everyone in a business under 500 employees.

        There’s a lot of sub-sets of rules under it. And this includes assistance to those under 50 employees for the waiver that Mt is talking about :)

      2. Mt*

        Every company is opted into the leave requirement, they have to ask for the waiver. Which is well publicized if the company does any research

  30. Amy*

    I wonder if there’s a compromise with the office manager. I’m guessing there are some aspects to the role that do require an on-site presence.

    Could you do 2x per week in the office / 3x remote? With the cost of camp originally budgeted, could that go to an in-home babysitter 2x per week?

    (And I say this as someone with 3 kids under 5 in a hard-hit area. We also got part-time childcare for a while because it was getting too challenging with our jobs. But while it looked like camp would be cancelled all summer, some started opening last week in my area so now we do camp)

    1. Observer*

      How does the OP find an in home baby-sitter? Also, the cost of full time camp for one kid is generally a lot less than in home care for the same kid, so the numbers still don’t work. By the time you get to 3 kids, the calculation changes a LOT.

      1. Amy*

        2x per week of in-home babysitting will be comparable to the cost of camp in many places. Because of the ages if my kids, 2 are in one situation and 1 is in another.

        In terms of finding babysitters, it’s a buyers market. There are a huge number of people who don’t normally babysit who are offering services, full-time caregivers who are out of work (because the parents are home) and many co-ops have sprung up. If you place on ad on Care.com right now, you’ll have have 50 applications. I would be crowd-sourcing this issue in a parents’ group rather than AAM because there are many different creative solutions that parents are doing for this exact issue. It’s very common and many many people are in the same boat. Like others here, I wonder if the Family Act will apply to a small business and it’s possible a compromise / cobbled together childcare is the only way to keep the job.

      2. A*

        I have several friends and colleagues that have started to use babysitters in the last few weeks (all previously had their kids in programs currently shut down, or being watched by a relative that is in a vulnerable group). They are definitely out there.

        Now if you’re unable/unwilling to have anyone enter your home that is not living under your roof, obviously that’s a greater challenge. Unfortunately most the people in my life haven’t had the luxury of making that choice however.

        People can also get creative – I’m WFH but I watch my best friends 2 year old a few times a week on days where I’m mostly on conference calls, so I can still run after him with my ear piece in and mute/unmute as needed. Obviously this requires a willing participant, but point being – there are options.

        1. A*

          Just wanted to add in re: to the financial piece. I don’t charge my best friend for babysitting. These are unprecedented times, and she reached out asking for my help as a friend because she was in a tough spot. I just hope anyone who is struggling realizes there is ZERO shame in asking for help!

    2. Starbuck*

      I would be pretty concerned about part-time in-home child care, because presumably that person is filling the rest of their week working in someone else’s home. Doesn’t seem very safe.

      1. A*

        Yes, but I wouldn’t disregard it as an option based on that assumption. Absolutely worth looking into, but a lot of babysitters will have a primary family they are with the majority of the time, but available to take on 1-2 other children sporadically on top of that. My coworkers babysitter only sits for one other family.

  31. Natalie*

    I would rather not make them pay me to take time off through the Act

    They aren’t paying you, we are, collectively. The leave pay you receive is 100% reimbursable through refundable tax credits, meaning they receive the full amount even if they have no tax liability. The credits can be applied to their payroll tax deposits so they don’t even have to wait until next year’s filing to receive the cash.

    1. Gaia*

      Yep. And for what it is worth, I (a taxpayer) am fine paying you for the leave if your employer is a jerk.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’d sure as heck rather my tax dollars go to my fellow citizens than the bombs and [deleted because political rant inside my head]…than to bombs, yeaaaaah. Sigh.

  32. MCMonkeyBean*

    #4: Logging in a few minutes early should be fine but I think 10 minutes would be *way* too much. They will probably have a notification pop up that you have joined and if I were them it would honestly annoy me.

    A couple of years ago my company did a big outsourcing project and we had to set up a ton of training sessions with our overseas “partners” and record the meetings for documentation. 8/10 times I would get a notification that someone had joined my meeting 10-15 minutes before it was scheduled and it always made me feel rushed and like I had to wrap up other things I was working on. I’m sure that was not their intention but it feels awkward to just keep doing what you’re doing knowing that someone is just sitting silently in your online meeting waiting for you!

    Some meeting software have a built in test function, I would check for something like that as well if you want to make sure everything works okay far in advance of the scheduled meeting.

    1. Snark no more!*

      I suggest that feeling rushed is on you. We regularly have people log in to meetings early, complete with the notifications, but when the meeting time arrives, they’re finishing up something else. They’ve tuned in early because they don’t want to get so absorbed in the task that they forget about the meeting.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Well yeah, of course it’s on me! That’s why I said that I know it isn’t their intention. But that’s still how I usually end up feeling. Feelings aren’t ruled by logic. If you’re annoyed you’re annoyed.

        I’m sure not everyone would feel the same as me, but I’m also sure I’m not the only person who would feel that way. That’s why it’s commonly shared advice that you shouldn’t show up too early for in person interviews for similar reasons. I’m sure lots of people couldn’t care less how long you sit in their waiting room, but it bothers enough people that it’s generally not advised to do so. There’s usually no logical reason it should matter—it just seems odd to enough people that it’s best to avoid it.

        So if it’s already established that you can arrive too early to in-person interviews, I think that would certainly carry over to online interviews. In person I think people often recommend 10-15 minutes early is the max you should aim for. This allows some time for parking, checking in with reception, water or bathroom breaks if needed, etc. For an online meeting almost none of that would be necessary. Water and bathroom breaks should be taken care of beforehand and there’s no physical traveling to navigate. You can test your internet and your sound before the meeting starts.

        There’s obviously no hard and fast time everyone will agree on, but I think given the above it should be less than the 10-15 minutes generally recommended for in person interviews. I’m sharing with OP that personally, being 10 minutes early would annoy me if I were their interviewer.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Also I think this is different for like team meetings with coworkers vs an interview or an important one-on-one meeting. We have weekly team meetings now that we’re remote and if people get on those early it wouldn’t bother me because there’s no feeling that they are waiting on me specifically.

        2. Morning Glory*

          Yeah I agree with this. I have my room set up so people need to wait to be admitted, so there would be no risk of them interrupting another meeting that was wrapping up, but it would strike me as weird and kind of annoying because it’s so unnecessary, unlike in person interviews.
          If there’s no real benefit you risk annoying the hiring manager, why do it at all? Test your webcam in another app, make sure your internet and mic are all set, and then join the Zoom one or two minutes early at the max.

  33. Heat's Kitchen*

    #4 just beware if the employer uses the same web meeting (i.e. personal room) for multiple interviews. I’ve had this before where I was booted from a room because they were finishing a conversation. That’s not on you – it’s on them for not using secure rooms.

  34. LGC*

    LW2: To add on to this – I was in a similar situation. I got called back in May (well before I felt safe returning to work, and even now I’m a bit wary – I’m in NJ, so cases dropped through May and June), and while my job is primarily an in-office job, I was able to do a lot of supervision remotely. I’m a single guy with no kids, so while I did feel uncomfortable, I felt like I had no options other than quitting (which I really don’t want to do in this economy).

    You don’t say how their general attitude is towards WFH, but my job’s is…not the greatest. We are very butts in seats and face to face, even when there are other options. (To wit, some people refuse to learn how to use Microsoft Teams.) I suspect that you might be in a similar situation – they tolerated you doing WFH for the interim but have decided that coronavirus is now cancelled.

    1. Rebecca*

      I was forced to come back to the office, and as far as I know, our group is the only mandatory group in our entire company, everyone else is still at their discretion. No matter that WFH worked really well, kudos all around, it’s time to get back to the office according to our manager. We’re supposed to wear masks when we leave our desks, observe distancing, etc. but that’s not happening. For the first two weeks I was the only one wearing a mask. My coworkers feel like they’ve had enough of the virus, and they’re over it. I feel unsafe, but like many others, I don’t want to be job hunting in this environment. Right now several people are on vacation at crowded beaches and I’m terrified that when they return we’ll have virus exposure. And as far as retaliation being illegal, well, so are many other things and companies do what they want to do. You have my empathy.

  35. Just no*

    OP2, in addition to following Alison’s advice, please (1) document everything, (2) begin looking for new jobs, and (3) begin looking at other ways to generate income. I am worried they are setting up to fire you. It doesn’t matter if it would be illegal for them to do so; it could still leave you in a very precarious position in the short term.

    I also have small children, and I cannot even imagine the stress you are under right now. I am so sorry your employer is treating you this way. You deserve better. This isn’t fair.

    1. Just no*

      Clarification…it does matter if it’s illegal, but it only matters in the long term, and only if you decide to take action. You’d still be out of a job in the short term.

      Good luck. <3

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, in my experience a lot of employers don’t care what is or isn’t legal. From a purely mercenary, amoral perspective, why should they? American labor law enforcement is deliberately underfunded to the point of near uselessness, the penalties for violating the law are usually a joke, and most of the cost, risk, and effort of pursuing cases is on the employee being mistreated, not the regulatory agencies.

        If we had proactive enforcement, where random audits and inspections were likely, things would be different. If we had fines big enough to seriously damage a large company, scaled according to company size, that would also be great. In egregious cases, the managers, executives, or owners who made the illegal decision should have personal assets seized and go to jail.

  36. Sleepless*

    Humans and other great apes communicate their emotional state with the muscles in our faces. We’re programmed to perceive certain things about others’ feelings based on the look on their face. It’s a completely understandable thing to do. Which definitely doesn’t make it ok for men to tell women to smile or anything. Says the person who has both a stern resting face and slightly tense body language. I basically go through life looking like I don’t want anybody messing with me, when I’m actually a pretty friendly, chill person.

  37. Time_TravelR*

    I also edit other people’s work, as part of my normal duties. I was like this at first too… didn’t want to offend. Now I just approach it as … you are the subject matter expert and I am the writing expert. Most people are pretty receptive eventually!

  38. juliebulie*

    OP3 I heartily endorse every word of Alison’s advice. It’s so on-the-nose that I suspect her of having done similar editing work in the past.

    After you have worked with these people for a while, you will know which ones are better writers to begin with, which ones will take your edits as a personal affront or like young students who are afraid to get a bad grade, and (on the fun side) which ones will almost enjoy seeing you disembowel their work, toss their words around like a salad, and sew it all back together in a neat package. (Sorry for the mixed metaphors)

    I’ve done some freelance editing during periods of unemployment, and it’s very interesting how paying clients (as opposed to coworkers) react to being edited. They are much more likely to be pleased and happy for the help. Especially if they end up getting that research grant they wanted.

    1. James*

      “… and (on the fun side) which ones will almost enjoy seeing you disembowel their work, toss their words around like a salad, and sew it all back together in a neat package. (Sorry for the mixed metaphors)”

      I actually did this for a paper in college once–well, sort of. My sister reviewed an essay I wrote and stated that it should be taken apart and re-assembled. The pieces were there, it just didn’t work as an essay. So I physically cut out each clause, taped them together into one long scroll (my mother thought I was freaking insane because I was doing this on her kitchen table), and proceeded to re-write the essay, using that taped-up monstrosity as my template. The professor required us to submit our pre-writing, so I included this huge taped-up Frankenstein scroll. The look on his face as he pulled it out of the folder was worth it! :D

  39. JohannaCabal*

    Dumb question pertaining to No. 1: If someone does work while being furloughed/laid off because access wasn’t shut off or even at home, could they potentially be entitled to pay? I feel so many cans of worms have been opened for LW1’s organization…

    1. Izzycat*

      This is one of my biggest concerns. That people will later on say that they were working and are entitled to pay.

  40. Oxford Commas & Tequila*

    OP3: I’m in academia (administration, not faculty), and over the years have had to edit many a document for a university dean or college president…definitely folks who outrank me! My suggestion is to use tracked changes in Word so that whoever has the final say on copy can easily pick and choose which of your edits they’d like to accept, without having to go back to the original document to figure out what sentences you’d deleted that they want to re-insert.

    I have occasionally gotten complaints that tracked changes make it hard to read, so I’ve got a really simple tutorial ready to go, with screenshots, that shows how to go from viewing all changes to the clean “No Markup” view in the Review tab. If people really hate tracked changes, I won’t push it, but most people appreciate having a record of my edits without having to do a line-by-line comparison to the original draft.

  41. Green Mug*

    OP #3 Absolutely ask! Use Allison’s language. It’s perfect.

    Speaking as a writer, please know that having a capable editor is a tremendous relief. When I’m writing, my mind is on content. In a perfect world, I would have time to masterfully edit all my documents. In reality, I don’t always catch what is on paper verses what is in my mind’s eye. The goal is the final product which is why the positions of both writer and editor exist. I am always appreciative when I have an editor who simply improves my writing and doesn’t feel the need to explain or ask about every little edit made.
    PS The only time I get irritated with revisions is when the editor changes a correct statement to an incorrect statement. Don’t do that, and you’ll be fine. Good luck!

  42. Bookworm*

    LW2: No advice but sending you my sympathy and good thoughts. I do hope you can work something out and your bosses stop being weird about this. :/I’m sorry.

  43. Delphine*

    LW1: Pretty terrible to keep stringing employees along. You shouldn’t even be saying that no one should “expect” to come back–it should be a straightforward admission that they have been laid off, so they can start searching for new jobs.

  44. aett*

    Regarding #2 – this letter so closely mirrored my wife’s situation that it blew our minds. My wife isn’t a single mother, but we do have two kids (one with special needs) and I am also working from home full time, so we need all the help we can get at home. Plus, when school starts next month, our kids are going to be attending two different schools and neither one will have a bus, and I can’t be in two places at once.

    But yeah, in my wife’s case, at least, it is 100% a political issue. Her boss has hinted at his awful views regarding certain stances over the last few years but this pandemic has really shown his true colors. What’s also scary is that the boss is currently refusing to talk directly to my wife and he is making the manager do it – and any time my wife has a question or comment about the situation, the manager starts acting bizarrely robot-like and just repeating the same scripted line that she clearly was told to say by the boss.

    Fortunately, our state is one of the better ones as far as it goes with this pandemic (not saying much), so my wife has a slightly-better version of the FFCRA available to her. She told her manager that she needed to use it, and they treated her like she was bluffing. The manager mentioned the 2/3s pay and my wife calmly responded with “I’m aware, and that’s something that we’re just going to have to deal with.” The manager was apparently surprised by this, then said “You know, there’s a chance the school districts might change their mind and not have the kids go back,” to which my wife said “Well, then I need to be home to care for them even more, especially with full-time distance learning” and the manager repeated the phrase from the boss: “This is a fluid situation.” It’s so creepy!

  45. PNW Tech Worker*

    OP3 – I am a senior member of my team that frequently writes reports/white papers. I LOVE it when junior members of the team take a heavier hand my work because 1) while I’m very smart and good at analytics, I’m also verbose. I’ve learned a lot from folks even 1-2 years out of college because their writing styles are frankly stronger than mine. I have a good relationship with one analyst in particular – we have a weekly lunch (now virtual) where we share what we’re working on. I give her tips on things to consider for the projects she’s working on and she gives suggestions for how to improve what I’m working on or recommends resources or something like that.

    Now, if one of them sent me back a heavily redlined paper questioning substantive things like conclusions or whatever in a very bossy tone, that might rub me the wrong way if the feedback is done under the presumption that I’m wrong. But I’d never get mad at a junior person asking “Hey, I’m not quite following this section, how did you make this decision?”

    So if you can spot an opportunity to build a relationship with the person whose work you’re looking at I think you’ll feel much more comfortable.

  46. TeapotNinja*

    re: #5

    I think it’s a script people in that company have been given when giving feedback to people early in their careers, like interns, and they’re following it blindly not realizing OP5 is not early in his/her professional career.

  47. No bees on Typhon*

    OP3, when I first started working in roles that include editing text written by more senior colleagues I’d send my track changes version back to the author saying “I’ve made some suggestions in the attached”. I’d also add comments explaining why I made some of the more complex changes, or highlighting any ambiguous wording where I wasn’t fully confident I knew what they were going for.

    I still use this approach when working with a new author for the first time; with people I know well, I’ll say “here are my edits” instead of “suggestions”, and skip most of the comments.

  48. Hannah*

    Regarding EFMLA while the DOL can confirm that your employer meets the qualifications to provide it, the way the law is written, your employer DOES NOT have to provide the leave if they can prove that providing EFMLA to employees would cause them a hardship. (A few things fall under the hardship category but the primary one cited is finanical hardship- which the DOL does not define.) Orginally the law stated that employers would need to seek an exemption from the DOL but that was revised to state that the employer now needed to document why they were denying the leave to the employee and keep the records for 7 years in the event of a claim against the business for denial.

  49. Dagny*

    OP5: your company almost certainly has a script that it is using. I would imagine that if it’s something like law, it would be very, very important to find employees who are receptive to and incorporate feedback. It is also a field that attracts a lot of people who have never had a real job (internship or employment) before this, but is filled with people who are used to being very, very good at what they do.

    When people have scripts like this that they use, I often say things to signal that I understand where they are coming from and quickly explain my own expectations. For this type of situation, I would say something like, “I’m a career changer, and the longer I was in my previous job – it was a decade – the more I valued the feedback I was given. Thank you for taking the time to do this.”

    1. OP5*

      This language you’ve given here might be my favorite I’ve seen so far! It feels really difficult to accidentally come across as passive aggressive but also highlights my experience and genuine willingness to receive the feedback. Thanks!

  50. Mahkara*

    I’ve been doing virtual interviews and wanted to echo Allison’s advice that logging on early isn’t a big deal.

    I’ve often been the first person on my team to log on (mostly because I’ve been asked to make sure it’s working), and when the interviewee is always there, we can make chit chat for a few minutes while we wait for the rest of the team to appear.

    Honestly, I think it helps them to be on a bit early as they can meet some of the team less formally and it looks good that they’re on time/prepared.

  51. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP3: you need to ask for directions as to how far you need to go, .
    I once found myself in the shoes of the people whose texts you are editing. A young intern had to give my texts the final edit. I noticed that she hardly ever suggested any changes and realised that she was rather in awe of me and thus maybe frightened of criticising my work. So I deliberately introduced some errors and told her I had done so. This meant she had to tear it apart and at last made the necessary changes to my text without being afraid of upsetting me.

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