staff says safety rules “make them feel contagious,” owner pretends not to be in meetings, and more

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

1. My staff is upset that our safety precautions are “making them feel contagious”

I manage an essential small business with 10 employees. We’ve had employees work in teams (and work from home for those who can) since the beginning to limit cross-exposure to each other. We’ve made some missteps, but we’ve mostly done a lot of things well during COVID that everyone seems to feel good about (based on ongoing feedback).

However, last night half the staff from each sub-team went to dinner together at a restaurant with no masks, and in response we changed the teams to separate those who went and those who didn’t. Those who went are really upset because I made them feel “contagious” and what they do on their time is their business, and they are talking about finding other jobs.

I agreed that their time is their own, but when it is half the staff and from across the sub-teams, it drew my attention from a risk management standpoint. The separation is the strategy we’ve used all along, just with a new configuration (if anything, I thought they’d be thrilled to be teamed together!). I am dumbfounded by their response and now I’m questioning everything.

They’re upset because you “made them feel contagious”? Excuse me while I cry with frustration before answering you because four months into the pandemic people still aren’t clear on how this works.

The point of splitting them into teams was to limit potential exposure and infections. If they essentially formed a new team for an in-person dinner, they’ve undone what you were trying to accomplish and of course you have to switch up the teams. Otherwise you’re exposing the people who didn’t go to the dinner to additional risk of potential infection.

And no, what they do on their own time actually isn’t their own business when they’re doing it with other employees. You get to have thoughts about that, and you get to rearrange what you’re doing when they expose other employees to risk.

Tell them you’re not willing to risk additional exposure for those who weren’t there, and the new teams stand. (But also, consider that you might actually need three teams for the next 14 days. You’ve got the people who were all cross-exposed at dinner, the Team 1 people who didn’t go, and the Team 2 people who didn’t go. If you combine those last two groups and one of those groups was recently exposed, you’re spreading it to the other.)

2. Interviewing candidates before the job has been approved

I have had six interviews over the course four months with a company. I know that at least three others were interviewed in the early rounds. I’ve interviewed with every team member I’d be working with and the hiring manager twice. She has been encouraging and said the team loves me and she wants to hire me. But she claims to be having trouble making a convincing business case for the hire.

Why interview several candidates multiple times without an active business case in place? Is this the way hiring is done? This sounds more like fishing for candidates than hiring. Hiring to me implies that there is a position to be filled. And that when you find the right person, you’re in a position to move forward, no just leave them on the hook indefinitely.

In general, yes, you should have approval for a hire before you move forward with it (and that approval will usually be based on there being a convincing business case for it). That said, sometimes hiring moves forward before that happens because it’s assumed the approval will be forthcoming (because the case seems obvious or because it’s always just been rubber-stamped in the past or so forth) or because it’s a “see if we can find the right person before we decide for sure” situation or because things are in flux (like a reorg is happening and final roles aren’t clear, but project demands mean they can’t put everything on hold meanwhile) or all sorts of other things.

When that’s happening though, it’s not okay to subject someone to six interviews. That’s excessive in any circumstances, but especially when they don’t know if there’s a definite slot to be offered. I’d let them know you’re very interested in the position (if you are) and ask them to get back in touch once they have approval for the job.

3. Owner pretends not to be in our meetings but feeds questions to his wife

With COVID, our entire recruiting team works from home now. One of our recruiting teammates is the owner’s wife. We have Zoom meetings once a week and the owner sits next to his wife and gives her questions to ask. He doesn’t admit he is there but it is painfully obvious because the questions he has her ask are not something she is capable of asking or would ask. He is not an invited participant and in my mind this is unethical behavior because he is basically hiding and not part of our team. Thoughts?

I mean, he’s the owner, he can participate in whatever meetings he wants — but you are free to think he’s doing it in a shady way, disrespecting his wife, and generally being weird and unsavory. You are also free to call it out by saying, “Fred, can you move on to camera so we can see you?”

4. My company wants me to reschedule surgery to a date that better suits them

In a little while, I have a surgery planned on my leg. The surgeon provided me with a date, and I accepted this. My management asked me to re-schedule the surgery since it doesn’t fit into their planning and they informed me that they will get back to me with a date that suits them better. I don’t know how to handle this situation. It’s not a vacation or cosmetic surgery. It’s a needed surgery to improve my life. How would you recommend me to handle this?

Wow, no, that’s not how this is supposed to work. Say this: “Unfortunately I don’t have much flexibility here — the surgeon’s schedule is booked in advance, and I can’t delay the surgery because it’s medically necessary.”

To be clear, if that for some reason that’s not true — if the surgeon does have more open appointments that wouldn’t unnecessarily delay things — it makes sense to be a little flexible if you can do it without discomfort or hardship, but otherwise, this is reasonable to say.

5. Can I return to a job I quit twice?

I have been working at Job1 for a year and a half. I have also been working part-time at Job2 at the same time. Last fall (about a year into Job1), I wanted to quit Job1 and go to Job2 full-time. Almost at the last moment, I changed my mind and rescinded my notice, and was approved by my wonderful manager to stay at Job1.

I was then contemplating whether I made the right choice by staying in Job1. At the end, six months later, I decided again to resign from Job1 and go to Job2.

I have to say that I am a great employee, I can tell that my boss likes me, and I am leaving on good terms. However, did I burn all the bridges by quitting not once, but twice? I am wondering whether I will be allowed to come back to Job1 ever again, down the road.

Well, it’s not super promising. You kind of yanked them around twice, so there’s a good chance they’re not going to want to sign up to risk it happening a third time. And your manager might think it takes an awful lot of chutzpah to raise it.

That said, if they genuinely value you and some time goes by, it’s possible the door isn’t completely closed. But only if some significant time has passed — if you propose coming back in another six months, you’re going to look profoundly flaky and like your decisions can’t be relied on. I’d give it at least a couple of years before you consider it.

{ 634 comments… read them below }

  1. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW1. Maybe you can have an official from your local health unit give a lecture and then host a Q&A for your employees to refresh them on how viruses work?

    1. Hornswoggler*

      And also, make the point that people can’t take it *personally*. You’re not doing this *at* them, as Captain Awkward would say.

      1. Esme*

        I think this is a useful concept that sometimes gets a little overused on here. Actually you are doing it at them, because they specifically made choices that put other people at risk – it IS personal and if they don’t like that, then tough.

        1. Hornswoggler*

          Haha, yes, you have a point. I suppose I meant that people seem to take the virus personally – as if being infected made them bad people. in this case, they have brought the situation on themselves. but even so, the LW can point out that *whoever* had done it, the same consequences would pertain.

          1. OP1*

            Horns: “point out that *whoever* had done it, the same consequences would pertain”

            THIS. I said this to them, but I probably didn’t emphasize that point enough. This really might explain why they are taking it so personally. Hmm.

            1. pancakes*

              How do they not understand that violating social distancing and mask protocol puts them at risk of spreading the virus, though? There’s nothing personal about how viruses work. It’s not inappropriate for them to feel potentially contagious after having chosen to violate social distancing and mask protocols designed to minimize contagion. If they want to be seen as people who minimize risk, they need to observe safety protocols. This isn’t complicated. It’s hard to understand where the disconnect is.

                1. Mama Bear*

                  This should be the presumption anyway. I have a family member who was asymptomatic positive.

                  Maybe instead of shuffling teams look at the protocols in the office. You can’t keep people from doing things outside the office that aren’t entirely safe, but you can control things like having all team meetings be online, mandatory masks, one way stairs, and enforced social distance in the building. My office hasn’t broken us into teams, but has done things like keep people to their own floors/offices as much as possible.

              1. JSPA*

                Presumably because in some states, people are still being encouraged to go out and eat together, in person, dine-in, with essentially nobody saying, “this means people who are already in your work or home cluster, otherwise, you are adding to your risk level.”

                When people are feeling free to go to bars and hang out for an hour’s worth of drinking in a crowd–such that cases have been accelerating for 2-6 weeks (depending on when your “opening” was), and with an ~20 day delay, deaths are also rising–it’s understandable that your employees are just as unclear on the concept as anyone else.

                1. No Longer Looking*

                  It is definitely understandable, but that does not make it ACCEPTABLE. The entire group is 100% to be treated as contagious until and unless the group tests negative. Since we as a country are not even remotely serious about ramping up testing, that isn’t likely to happen.

                  Also, I agree with Mama Bear that effectively all of us should be treated as infectious (again, until the entire group and everyone they are in contact with tests negative), and protocols need to be in place to keep any of us from becoming spread vectors.

                2. JSPA*

                  No Longer Looking–

                  Totally agree it’s a bad choice. And also, a demonstration that they’ve been nodding along to the information from OP, without taking it to heart and internalizing it.

                  They’re acting like teens who sort of get, “don’t drink and drive,” but figure that seeing it’s illegal for them to be drinking anyway, it’s not much worse to also drive, so long as they only had two beers and are “barely buzzed,” especially because Josh drove home totally wasted last week, and made it home without an accident.

                  But it sounds like OP is not primarily looking for validation, but mostly for a way to get inside the mindset of the people who are causing the problem, so as to manage both them and the situation more effectively. So that’s what I’m trying to provide.

                  “We’re trying to provide everyone with a higher-than-official-minimum-level-of-safety, we need everyone on board with that, though, to make it happen” is probably the most effective tack to take. Because in most places, “official minimum” is still shockingly low, given how much uncertainty remains about transmission, about who-all is extra vulnerable, and about long-term effects from so-called “mild” infections.

                3. pancakes*

                  People are being encouraged to go to restaurants, etc., in some states for economic reasons, not for public health reasons. It’s not unclear that people with expertise in public health don’t recommend going out to dinner in groups. It seems to me that the only way someone could be genuinely confused on this topic is by avoiding in-depth reporting and all international news. (Many Americans do seem to avoid both of those things, in favor of local TV news and other infotainment).

                4. OP1*

                  JSPA “And also, a demonstration that they’ve been nodding along to the information from OP, without taking it to heart and internalizing it.”

                  Oh my gosh, you’re so right! I didn’t realize this; this observation helps A LOT. Thank you!

              2. Cj*

                But did they violate the rules? In many places restaurants are allowed to be open at reduced capacity. You can’t wear a mask while you’re eating. And Gatherings of 10 or less are also allowed in many places. In my area I believe restaurants are allowed to seat somewhere between 6 and 10 people together. I’m not sure of the exact number.

                where they live and what is going on there is also a huge consideration. There have only been 46 cases and two deaths in the county I work in in South Central Minnesota.

            2. KayDeeAye*

              I just had a long and illuminating talk yesterday with my brother, who is part of one of the teams that’s working on a vaccine, and…

              Well, let’s just say that I won’t be going into any restaurants any time soon! I’ve only gone twice since March – once when I didn’t have much of choice, the but the second time I absolutely did have a choice, but I won’t be going again for a good, long while. The new data on aerosol transmission in enclosed public spaces is extremely disquieting.

              1. pancakes*

                This isn’t new news, though. Have a look at a May 12 article in Scientific American titled “How Coronavirus Spreads through the Air: What We Know So Far,” for starters.

                1. memyselfandi*

                  In fact there is new data on aerosol transmission in enclosed public spaces. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6498/1422

                  The debate started in April with a letter to the National Academy of Science Proceedings and the idea that the virus could be transmitted in aerosols created by breathing and speaking (and not just coughing and sneezing) became generally accepted in late June.

                2. KayDeeAye*

                  Yes, at least from what my brother said, the suspicion has been there for a while but the hard data is actually pretty recent, epidemiology-wise.

                3. pancakes*

                  I didn’t mean to imply that there isn’t new data on aerosol transmission. There will hopefully continue to be new data for months to come, as we learn more and more about transmission. What I was & am objecting to is the idea that eating in restaurants was not considered possibly risky until very recently.

                4. KayDeeAye*

                  No, no – it absolutely was considered risky, and I’m sorry if I seemed to be saying that it wasn’t. It’s just that now the data is much clearer re. how risky it is. Before it was “Eating in restaurants is probably a bad idea, and here are our well-supported theories as to why,” whereas now it’s “Eating is restaurants is definitely a bad idea, and we have the data to prove it.”

              2. Gymmie*

                This is something we have all known for months though – which is why the masks have been important. I’m so frustrated it seems like people have been asleep for months, but also, when you have a cold or anything else, you wear a mask at the doctor, etc. This isn’t a hard concept to understand.

                Sorry, not upset at you, but I don’t understand why a mask isn’t the same as going out with pants at this point.

                1. Anononon*

                  In the US, at least, in my experience, masks were never really worn before by most groups, including when you’re sick at the doctor’s office. I know I never ever wore one before, nor was I expected to. This is why it’s such a big shift – masks for public health were never a “thing” before the pandemic.

                  (I am 100% in favor of everyone wearing masks right now whenever you’re near another person.)

                2. KayDeeAye*

                  It’s always been known/strongly suspected that it can spread through the air, but now they have hard data – e.g., they’ve traced the way the droplets spread from one infected person to others in some specific cases – and they can spread quite a long way – more than 50 feet (!) in one case. It was…a very illuminating conversation. I have always taken the virus seriously, and I’m a dedicated mask wearer, but I am going to become even more dedicated now!

                3. JSPA*

                  Hospitals or larger doctor’s offices having free masks at the entrance is something I only started seeing in my part(s) of the U.S. within the last year or two. I’m assuming that means there’s plenty of the U.S. where it’s never been a thing, even within clinics and hospitals, let alone out on the street.

                  I mean, it’s obvious that it should be helpful, once you think of it.

                  But it took years, if not decades, for “safer sex” to become broadly accepted in the context of HIV (and then rejected again, by many, once PrEP was more widely available…as rising rates of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, and now also antibiotic-resistant syphilis attest).

                  “I understand that it would be good for people to do it” and “I commit to doing it myself, because I’m willing to believe that the risk applies to me and to the people I associate with” are two different things.

                4. Ophelia*

                  Yeah, and in relation to JSPA’s comment on safer sex, harm reduction is something the US seems to be particularly bad at. We (loosely used here…) seem to want absolute certainty that something is Totally Effective All the Time instead of recognizing that multiple small steps to reduce risk can overall make a big difference. It’s not that distance OR masks OR anything else are perfect, it’s that when you add them all up, you get a much different risk profile than doing either none or just a few of them.

              3. Amethystmoon*

                I talked to a nurse recently since I have a Dr. Appt coming up, and she didn’t trust the restaurants right now either. I’ve been cooking at home all through this, but I did that mostly anyway before. I might have eaten at the workplace cafeteria once or twice a week, but I don’t even have that option right now.

                1. KayDeeAye*

                  Yes, we’ve just barely started to open up (although I’m still mostly WFH), but the cafeteria isn’t opening any time soon. I mean, there’s just no way to make it at least minimally safe! I haven’t tried it yet, but I hear that they’ve set up a service where you can order a meal from a limited menu and it will be delivered to you, the mask-wearing customer, by a mask-wearing cafeteria employee to the common area of your choice.

              4. KoiFeeder*

                Apologies for the digression, but do those teams have sign-up sheets for being a guinea pig for a vaccine, or is that going to come along when they’ve actually got something potentially viable?

                1. Quill*

                  Based on my knowledge of clinical trials: people don’t sign up until there is a product to test and it’s gone through all the pre-human testing.

            3. Ominous Adversary*

              They’re taking it personally because they know they screwed up and they’re feeling defensive. They understand how viruses work and what they did. They just don’t like consequences.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                This.

                They ARE potentially contagious, and need to be isolated from their more responsible coworkers.

              2. tangerineRose*

                “They’re taking it personally because they know they screwed up and they’re feeling defensive.” Yeah, that’s what I think too.

              3. Gazebo Slayer*

                Yeah, I’d say exactly that to these coworkers if I were their manager. Screw their feelings.

            4. Zombeyonce*

              You said that they’re complaining that you’re treating them like they’re contagious and they’re taking that personally, but that’s exactly what you have to do and they need to understand that. It’s the only way to keep everyone else safe!

              I’m sure that everyone in the office that could potentially be given a disease by the people that made the personal choice to all go out to eat together would take it personally if they got coronavirus; it’s a pretty personal illness, after all. It’s not like some people went to a party and didn’t invite others so someone’s feelings got hurt. This is life or death for people and their families. If the offenders take it personally, that’s just fine. They should. Maybe it would impress upon them the gravity of the situation. What was a fun night out for them could be the hospitalization of a coworker, the death of a coworker’s mother, the illness of their child. Their feelings are the least important part of this equation.

        2. Anonys*

          Yeah. Also their complaint that it is making them feel contagious is so unreasonable. They ARE potentially contagious. We all are. That’s why, as well as trying our best to take measures not to get infected ourselves, we all have to take precautions for the possible case that we are contagious and have to limit spread in that case.

          1. Wednesday of this week*

            I have to quote Nirvana. “I feel stupid and contagious!” They may or may not be contagious–no way to know–but they definitely did something stupid. They can now smash their guitars or whatever they need to do to work through it.

            1. Lizzo*

              That is probably the thing they’re most upset about, TBH: it’s not the change in teams, it’s that they did something stupid, and they know it. They also got caught being stupid. Nobody likes that.

              Stay the course, OP!

                1. TootsNYC*

                  well, they’ve been “caught” as in “management is changing things at work and it feels like a punishment.”

            1. TootsNYC*

              we have known for DECADES that with the cold, the flu, etc., you are most contagious right before your symptoms manifest themselves.

              I have said, and I have heard others say, “Oh, I have the sniffles this morning, but I probably already gave my germs to everybody yesterday anyway, so I’ll go to work after all.”

              None of this is new. None of it.

              1. fposte*

                I’ve heard that but I think it’s a bit of a misconception; you can be presymptomatically contagious for a day or so with several cold and flu strains, but the most contagious time is generally the first 4-5 days–there’s nothing special about the presymptomatic phase that makes the virus more contagious then.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  I can’t speak about scientific studies, etc., but it absolutely is in my own sense of “things I’ve heard about the world” that you are most contagious in the day or two before you show symptoms AND in the first couple of days of symptoms.

                  And I’ve heard other people say similar things.

                2. fposte*

                  @Toots–right, you’re generally at your most contagious in the first few days of an illness, but that means you’re mostly at your most contagious when you’re symptomatic, not before you have symptoms. I think what you were trying to get at was that you’re contagious presymptomatic with other diseases, which is true, but that’s not the same as being *more* contagious presymptomatic.

                3. JSPA*

                  The calculus isn’t straightforward.

                  Highest viral load / greatest shedding (at a cellular level) may not be the point of highest contagion.

                  If you have your own distanced desk, and are not a toucher of shared surfaces, maybe you (individually and specifically) are more of a risk when your shedding has already dropped considerably, but you’re both coughing and sneezing, and aerosolizing like mad.

                  If you also have hay fever, or are hotdesking and have a nose touching habit, or you’re that person who sprays a bit when you talk or laugh, or your team are all on top of each other, doing an involved multi-person assembly task in a small space, while handing tools back and forth–basically, if your default situation is that you’re sharing whatever germs you have–then maybe viral load matters more than that explosive sneeze.

        3. XF1013*

          That’s true, but if the employees are already sensitive about being judged, there are less aggressive ways to say it. OP1 could frame this solely as a business decision, like the teams must be rearranged to reduce the risk of closure to the business in the event of viral transmission, not as a personal judgment on employees’ behavior even when it’s so foolishly reckless. The personal judgment opens the door to disagreement and hurt feelings; the business decision does not.

          1. OP1*

            XF – Yes! This is exactly what we said at the beginning (March) and again when we made changes in response to their evening out on the town. The business requires a minimum of 4 people to run – mayyyybe 3 for a day or two and having half or more of the staff exposed / infected / at elevated risk legitimately threatens the business (and our job security! how do they not see this? We’ve talked about this very point for 4 months now!).

          2. pancakes*

            Being judged by who, exactly? I don’t at all like the idea of pandering to people who persist in misunderstanding how viruses work. The letter writer’s coworkers need to understand that they took risks regardless of how they feel about themselves or how they’d like others to feel about them. Disagreeing with their employer’s social distancing protocols doesn’t entitle them to disobey the protocols without consequence, and not feeling contagious doesn’t entitle them to have everyone in their vicinity play along and pretend they can’t possibly be contagious.

            1. TootsNYC*

              They aren’t entitled to insist that other people (like their employer, or other colleagues) should be comfortable with their own level of risk.

          3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            I see no judgment here. The OP is making a decision based on science and facts. If the employees are taking it personally, that’s on THEM.

        4. Paulina*

          It’s not even consequences just for those people who went to dinner; it’s a reorganization of the entire staff, so that one team aligns with the group that socialized. It may be that they socialized because of the team split (they missed the people on the other team), but the change isn’t a punishment directed at them. It sounds like a lot of the staff don’t really understand the reason for subdividing, and that we all have to consider that we may be or become contagious at any time, and take appropriate precautions.

          It’s not “you might be sick and that makes you bad.” It’s “any of us may get sick and not even know it.”

          1. OP1*

            I think you may be right; however, it’s ludicrous that they could be so naive at this point. They have said that they “just want to go out” “back to normal” and that they miss each other (lots of extroverts!). They KNOW we split the teams to prevent cross-exposures. We literally paid them full pay and benefits to stay home specifically to avoid contact with each other for more than 200 hours each over the past 4 months. They 100% know this. I think they were being willfully naive.

            1. WiscoDisco*

              There are a lot of people who are having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that “normal” is not on the menu, and won’t be for a very long time. I know many of them and I try not to judge them because they really are struggling with the concept of such drastic change.

              1. OP1*

                ““normal” is not on the menu”

                SO MUCH THIS ^^^. This is SO difficult for so many people to accept. It reminds me of the meme with the text: “Introverts, check on your extroverted friends. WE’RE NOT OKAY.”

              2. IntroVersion*

                I’m an introvert who’s had to spend my whole life “retraining” myself to behave according to extrovert expectations in order to even marginally get by in workplaces. Sometimes I get treated like a weirdo if I express different preferences than them even after working with them and developing working “friendships” with them for ages. Sometimes I get called a liar if I suggest I’m an introvert trying to pave the way for expressing those preferences.

                Which is all to say, I’m judging the extroverts right now. I’m judging them HARD.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I’ve tested 100% Introvert on every MBTI test I’ve ever taken, and I’ve never been so thankful that it’s my personality as during this pandemic.

                  My condolences to the Extroverts, but Introverts have been living in their world for most of our lives. They can live in our world for a while–that should beat the alternative.

                2. Paulina*

                  I’m an introvert. I also had a lot of plans for this year that have gone to dust thanks to the pandemic. I try not to think about them too much because curling up into a ball and sobbing isn’t helpful, and trying to hang on to wishes for normality is similarly counterproductive.

                3. Amethystmoon*

                  I once was told in a work place that introverts did not exist. I kid you not. I know this person went to some weird kind of church, but I am not sure which one was pushing that sort of dogma. I guess the whole Myers Briggs text I had to take in college was a waste of time, then. I got INTJ.

                4. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

                  Being an extrovert just means this is really hard, to be isolated. It doesn’t mean you have to defy the need to stay isolated. That’s just being irresponsible.

                5. datamuse*

                  I’m an extrovert married to someone so introverted that there were guests at our wedding who’d never met him before, even though we’d been together for almost ten years and cohabiting for most of that time.

                  It sucks for us extroverts right now, no doubt! But getting sick and possibly dying of COVID-19 sucks a lot worse. I find ways to deal. It is what it is.

                6. Curmudgeon in California*

                  Bingo.

                  Extroverts are going to have to live in our introvert kind of world for a while. Of course they’re whining – they’re used to calling the shots and making us do things their way.

                  Now the shoe is on the other foot, and they just need to suck it up and deal like they’ve always made us do.

                  It’s the year of the introvert, so they need to fake being introverts – just like they’ve always made introverts fake being extroverts just to stay employed.

                  Really, I don’t have much sympathy. I’ve spend most of my life being made to dance to the day person extrovert lifestyle. They can spend a while in my universe for a change.

                7. JSPA*

                  I heard the suggestion, “better not to face the person you’re talking to, but angle away instead,” which I forget if it was NPR or NYT or BBC or Reuters, but it’s a legit suggestion by a specialist, and had an, “ooh yeah, CAN DO for sure” moment.

                8. pancakes*

                  Amethystmoon, to my knowledge Myers-Briggs testing has never been considered scientifically valid. There are numerous articles about why. “Nothing personal: The questionable Myers-Briggs test” from a 2013 Guardian science blog is a good overview, as is a 2013 article in Psychology Today titled “Goodbye to MBTI, the Fad That Won’t Die.”

                9. Amethystmoon*

                  Pancakes, maybe so, but to the point where no introverts exist? Come on. There has to be a reason I have always felt drained after being “on” for a long time and being alone makes me feel more recharged. I don’t hate being around people, but I would rather take it in small doses.

            2. pancakes*

              Being willfully naive isn’t a thing. Naïveté is innocence and lack of knowledge. Pretending not to know something one does know is being disingenuous.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  “Willfully ignorant” is the phrase I’ve always seen used… but the meaning of “ignorance” shifts and can be offensive.

            3. Caroline Bowman*

              You have done more than enough to be fair and reasonable and non-punitive. Unfortunately they have made decisions as they are entitled to do – fine, okay – but now, as their employer / manager, you need to act accordingly.

            4. Paulina*

              Sadly, a lot of people do not pay attention to explanations, and will do their best to avoid understanding things that they prefer not to understand. Deliberate ignorance, as others have said, and wilful misunderstanding. You’ve done all you can, even above and beyond, and the reorganization sounds extremely sensible.

            5. Tiny_Strawberries*

              Can’t help thinking about how everyone else in your office might feel. If folks in my office did this I’d be distraught at their lack of respect for me and my loved once LIVES.
              I’m so angry. The naive part of me says I wish they’d be fired, so that the job could go to one of the many people who don’t have work right now and are respectful, decent humans. These people don’t deserve their jobs.

              1. OP1*

                The non-diners ones who know what happened are livid that the group took this risk TOGETHER – especially two who are considered high risk (they’ve volunteered this information / not an assumption).

                1. Zombeyonce*

                  Is there a way to better protect the people you know are being extra careful and will continue to be so? Putting them in completely separate areas permanently, letting them work from home permanently (rather than having rotating shifts of being in the office or covering certain areas if that’s what you’re doing)? You’ve got people that are being reckless and I expect will continue to be so, whether or not they admit it again.

                  You can keep these teams separated for the two weeks, but I can assure you that a good number of people that went out to dinner are practicing other bad behaviors outside of work and putting your safer staff at high risk. You can’t keep them all safe if they’re ever exposed to these people, so if you can find ways to keep more of them safe by moving them totally away from each other or out of the office entirely, you should do so.

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            It may be that they socialized because of the team split (they missed the people on the other team), but the change isn’t a punishment directed at them.

            If that’s the rationale, you’re likely hosed, because they’ll do it again so they can socialize with the new “other team(s).”

            1. Paulina*

              Hopefully not, since one team is now composed of the people who think cross-team socializing is ok, and the other team has those who don’t (or at least haven’t been doing it). Even though the rearrangement isn’t specifically punitive, it does protect those who follow OP1’s clearly explained protocols from those who have their heads in the metaphorical sand and would likely endanger the others.

        5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          It may be personal but that’s because the employees made it personal, not the OP. So not really the same.

        6. Jaydee*

          I think the issue is not whether OP is changing the teams specifically in response to the actions of the group that went to dinner together (she is) but whether it is meant to be punitive (it’s not). Many people seem to believe that any negative or unfavorable consequence of their actions is punishment. This seems especially true when the consequences come from another person’s response to your actions. But we even treat things like illness, poverty, etc. as some type of metaphysical punishment and assume that the person must have done something “bad” to deserve their suffering.

          LW is not punishing the workers who went to dinner. The decision to change teams is not some sort of arbitrary step taken to discourage them from doing it again. This isn’t parents taking away privileges because their kid didn’t follow a rule. The decision to change teams is a result of an action that affected the purpose of creating the teams in the first place. If an employee gets sick, teams ensure they only potentially expose 2-3 coworkers rather than all 9. But if members of those teams intermingle (whether it’s a group dinner or attending a training together or whatever) that opens back up the possibility of one sick employee exposing all coworkers.

          1. Ophelia*

            YES. I feel like this entire pandemic is like watching 100 million adults learn in real time that actions have consequences.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Seriously. Even then, their friends and families don’t learn.

              The number of people who end up dead after saying the pandemic is a hoax or not real is mind boggling.

              I wonder whatever happened to the vaunted American horse sense.

        7. TootsNYC*

          Esme’s point

          I think this is a useful concept that sometimes gets a little overused on here. Actually you are doing it at them, because they specifically made choices that put other people at risk – it IS personal and if they don’t like that, then tough.

          links to one of the other principles of the world:

          it is ok to judge people by the things they choose to do. Even clothing–though sometimes people have very little choice, if they’re really poor.

          Not skin color, because that doesn’t reflect people’s choices or judgment.
          Not accent–again, most of us don’t choose that.
          Not weight–it’s not as easy a thing to choose to control as fat-phobics like to think.

          But comments? word choice?
          Going to a restaurant?

      2. Loolooloo*

        Yes! Our in home daycare provider had a party with multiple households, no masks in the room where they care for our kids, and when I explained we were pulling our kid out for now, and asked if they’d be willing to be tested, they got super offended. They said we implied they were putting our kids at risk. But….weren’t they? Is private behavior allowed to be considered in business relationships now due to corona risk? One lost a family member to covid, no less, so I can’t believe they’re being so cavalier.

        1. Quinalla*

          Yes, they were putting your kids at risk. Unfortunately, the issue of mask wearing and social distancing has (1) become politicized and (2) is running up against folks ideas of what should be personal and private vs. business and/or public. What people forget though is the virus doesn’t give a shit if you have a party in your private life and carry on in your public life as usual, if you get it is private you can spread it in public. We tend especially in the States to want to keep those spheres separate, we don’t have that luxury now and honestly it was somewhat of an agreed upon illusion previously anyway. The stripping away of that is another weird affect of this pandemic.

          1. Lizzo*

            It’s a weird thing, but as I’ve commented on other posts recently, it’s been hugely beneficial to see people show their true colors…especially business owners. It helps me make decisions about where to spend my time/money–both of which are in short supply right now.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Just mentioning that being around them is a risk is apparently a far worse sin than acting irresponsible and potentially infecting the people around you.

          It’s sort of like when people act like being called racist is more offensive than like… actually being racist.

        3. Nea*

          Is private behavior allowed to be considered in business relationships now due to corona risk?

          Since when did risky private behavior *not* count in business relationships? How many people have been fired when their employers discovered they were getting drunk, high, or belligerent off company time but still potentially impacting the company’s work or reputation?

          1. Amethystmoon*

            Or all the people who got fired for posting dumb things on social media using their real name?

          2. Loolooloo*

            Thanks- this is a point I hadn’t thought about before- it’s absolutely true. Someone added later about disease transmission having a moral association with it, which is why the idea offended them.

          3. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, I’ve worked at several companies where being a driver means that you can get fired for a DUI, even if the DUI was on your own time. Also, anywhere that you need to have a clean driving record doesn’t care whose time you got the ticket on. We won’t even start on operating heavy machinery and drug testing.

        4. JSPA*

          The answer is, “Risk is not like a light switch, that’s either off or on. Everyone’s a tiny bit at risk. Every additional contact is added risk. A party is higher risk than no party. That doesn’t mean a party is evil or wrong. It does mean that it creates a slightly higher risk than what we, personally, can allow for our family.”

          Maybe add, “We understand, and are grateful, that your job means that you have to tolerate a higher risk, by being in contact with more families, by running the daycare.”

          And frankly, having the staff tested may not address the risk all that well, as they’re already in close contact with people (i.e. kids, as well as parents dropping kids off) from many families. Ideally, they’re good at their procedures, both inside and outside of work hours. If not, the situation was already somewhat risky.

        5. No Longer Looking*

          Next time someone says “You’re implying we’re putting your family at risk” please respond “My apologies then, please let me rephrase. You are 100% putting my family at risk and this is unacceptable behavior.”

          We have been raised to be polite. Polite responses to aggressively risky behavior during this pandemic, is leading directly to increased instances of injury and death – we need to start being blunt instead of polite, until people cannot help but understand the problem.

          1. tangerineRose*

            I kind of love this – sorry I implied it, I meant to say this outright!

            I haven’t been out of the house much, but when I have, most of the people seem to be wearing masks. Not everyone is as careful with distancing as I’d like. Seems like a daycare center would be more careful though.

      3. TootsNYC*

        They are contagious. Potentially.

        But the contagiousness is not a moral failing. Getting a virus doesn’t mean you are a horrible person.

        (However, going to a restaurant, sans masks, IS, and that is why they feel judged. They KNOW they were wrong, and they object to being made to feel that way. But don’t tell them that part; defensive people won’t listen.)

        Hold tough, OP!

    2. Threeve*

      Does anyone else suspect that there is a single strong personality behind this? The unnecessarily risky dinner, the ridiculous complaints, all of it? This just screams “incredibly persuasive ringleader.”

      (Dress code petition intern, anyone?)

      1. OP1*

        YES! You’re exactly right!! The ringleader’s words:

        “I think it was very extreme how it was handled. I’m sure everyone does their thing it’s just not broadcasted and you don’t know about it. We took precaution and my/our intent wasn’t to harm anyone or put our jobs in jeopardy. Everything is opening back up which may be giving me a false outlook on this whole thing but I did everything that was expected of me. I felt a false sense of freedom when things were beginning to open again and I didn’t stop to think much about it.”

        OP1: “You feel that changing the team configuration is extreme?”

        “You’re treating us as if we are contagious. That’s how I feel.”

        1. Forrest*

          This whole thing would be a lot easier if we didn’t have a cultural sense that there’s a moral element to contagion and illness. People really take the idea that they might transmit a virus as a personal attack.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            People really take the idea that they might transmit a virus as a personal attack.

            I think it’s more that it’s an attack on their judgment (joke’s on them, it is a marker of impaired if not outright bad judgment).

            1. Jim Bob*

              It’s more impaired empathy, I think. Some people, particularly those in low risk groups for whom this will be a bad cold, really just don’t care if they spread it to others as long as they themselves aren’t inconvenienced. For some, all the rationalizations spring from a place of apathy, and so you’re never going to get them to take measures to protect others that have no benefit for themselves.

              Call me cynical, but we really do give too much credit to the goodwill that most people are willing to show fellow humans they don’t know and will never meet.

              1. TootsNYC*

                “low risk groups for whom this will be a mild cold”…

                “for whom this MIGHT be a mild cold…”

                1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  Yes, I just saw a story about a 34-year-old triathlete who couldn’t run a mile anymore. We did a huge disservice by characterizing it as mild cold or death, there are so many stories of permanent injury of survivors, even (and possibly especially, though the jury’s still out) of people with cases that seemed mild. And they run the gamut from psychosis to diabetes to limb amputation, which is equally terrifying.

                2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I read a story on Vox last night where we’re starting to see evidence of Covid re-infections–and it seems to be worse the second time around.

                  So just because it was mild when you catch it in July doesn’t necessarily mean it’s nothing to worry about personally…

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                Oh, a lot of it is impaired empathy. There are large swathes of our society that see empathy as “weak” or “unmanly” or “socialist” and actively discourage it.

          2. OP1*

            A helpful point! I tend to think in logic / black and white terms and I hadn’t thought about this perspective.

          3. Sharon*

            It might be helpful to frame it as a standard business procedure implemented without blame. If you were manufacturing or using medical scalpels, for example, and some got dropped on the floor or the packaging was ripped, you would throw them out of sterilize them, even though they might not actually be contaminated. You’re just taking a precaution to reduce risk. (Note that if the business truly believed sterile instruments were important, procedures would not incent a worker to lie about dropping the scalpels on the floor so they could still meet their daily quota.)

        2. AnonEMoose*

          I have zero patience left with people like this…none.

          They’re basically saying “I know I did something dumb and entitled, but how dare you actually act on that?!”

          I might actually say something like “I am sorry you find this off-putting. However, because of the potential seriousness of the virus, it’s important that I put the interests of the business and the employees who did not participate in this dinner first. That means that I have to treat all of you who did participate as though you may be contagious, which is not a statement on your character or anyone else’s, it is simply a medical fact.”

          I would be tempted to say something like: “Look, you whiny little snowflake. You put yourself and the other employees at risk through this dinner. I hope you’re proud. And now you want me to put your precious little feelings ahead of the safety of the employees who did not participate in your stupidity? NO. Your actions have consequences, and I just hope those consequences don’t involve anyone – even your dumb self, landing in the hospital or worse. DEAL. WITH. IT.”

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            At this point, I would go with your last paragraph. I’m done catering to the delicate sensibilities of the freedumb crowd.

        3. Anonys*

          Some of what that person says about having a false sense of security around things opening up again actually makes sense to me – It’s difficult when the government minimizes the issue. But if the RECOGNISE their view on the issue when going to the dinner was false, I feel it would be logical to agree with the steps you have taken!

          Considering their comment on being contagious, they clearly still don’t understand how this pandemic works. What a lot of the anti-spread measures are about is really treating OURSELVES as if we are contagious. I mean, when I wear my reusable cloth mask to the supermarket, it doesn’t protect me, it protects others from the viruses I might breathe out (so to speak) I don’t THINK I have coronavirus, but I recognize that I can’t know for sure.

          1. TootsNYC*

            (depending on how it fits, it does actually protect you–not as powerfully as it protects others, but it absolutely protects you some as well)

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              How it fits and how it’s made do affect how much protection you get. A decent mask will afford you a little protection as well as others.

          2. Paulina*

            Yes, the ringleader starts to sound like they’re going in the right direction with “false sense of freedom”, but manages to retreat into defensiveness and denial anyway. Sigh.

            I’ve been seeing a lot of magical thinking with respect to places that are opening up; they’re not suddenly all ok and safe just because the government is allowing businesses to operate. And many of the people hiding behind “the government let the restaurants open, so it’s safe” aren’t those who were trusting the government much before, so it’s cherry-picking to suit what they want to do.

            1. LunaLena*

              I feel that this a big part of the problem right now – there’s different information coming from everywhere, including from the highest levels of government, so people are free to cherry-pick the information that suits their interests and believe it.

              The ringleader’s words also sounds like they don’t realize they made a series of decisions. Instead, they talk like they were tricked into or accidentally stumbled into going to a restaurant with co-workers (I’m picturing a restaurant with a “we’re open!” sign looking like a Venus flytrap now), so since it’s not their fault and it wasn’t intentional, it’s not fair that they’re being “punished” for it. I wonder if they are also upset about this because OP1 having to take action in response to their actions threatens their illusion of safety/normalcy, and they’re mad that they’re having to face the reality that 1) they were wrong and made a bad decision, and 2) we’re not back to normal yet, no matter how much we all wish we were.

          3. Zombeyonce*

            But if the RECOGNISE their view on the issue when going to the dinner was false, I feel it would be logical to agree with the steps you have taken!

            Exactly this! A de-escalating response could be, “I understand that false sense of freedom you got that led you to going out to dinner and am glad you’ve stopped to think about it now and realized its inherent risks. Changing the team configuration will take your own group selection from the dinner and make it official for a period of time in the office to keep everyone safe. I’m sure you want to limit any potential exposure to the virus that may have happened while you were out and keep all your coworkers healthy.”

            1. OP1*

              Oh my gosh, Zombeyonce! I don’t know what kind of work you do, but every one of your comments to my post have been so helpful and on target with every nuance of the situation. I think you’re awesome!

        4. Anon today*

          Ugh. I’m in a hotspot state. A coworker recently returned from vacation to another hotspot state, and immediately returned to work. Coworker and partner both developed symptoms. Partner tested negative. Coworker decided not to get tested because office policy specifies that after testing, employees cannot return to work until they receive a negative result.

          CW finally changed their mind and went to be tested *secretly.* When our manager learned of this plan, she reminded CW that they cannot come to work until obtaining negative results.

          CW complained to me that they were being penalized for doing their civic duty of being tested. I’m mind-boggled, because dude, you shouldn’t have even been allowed to return to work – travel to hotspots really should require a two-week WFH period before returning to the office. Grrr.

          (Coworker insists it’s allergies. It may be – I hope it is! – but there are other factors I’m not going to get into here, that may NOT be allergies.)

          We have generous leave policies, and although we’re not allowed to work from home, this circumstance would have given SOME flexibility. I thought it was incredibly selfish of coworker to prefer to continue potentially exposing us, rather than get a test and stay home for a few days.

          COVID has shown me a lot about certain coworkers and about my great-grand boss, and much of that is disappointing.

          1. Jayn*

            “(Coworker insists it’s allergies. It may be – I hope it is! – but there are other factors I’m not going to get into here, that may NOT be allergies.)”

            The first case in my state took a while to diagnose for exactly this reason—the person had pre-existing respiratory issues and so Covid symptoms were masked by normal symptoms. When in doubt, assume it’s not allergies.

          2. Koala dreams*

            How weird that the policy is to require quarantine after testing but not after traveling! That policy really is targeted at the responsible people, and not people like your co-worker. Why not have the same requirements for travellers?

            Let’s hope it’s nothing contagious.

            1. Evan Þ.*

              I agree! Coworker is absolutely correct this policy is punishing people for doing the public service of getting tested! The office can quarantine people based on travel however they feel best, and perhaps require some people to be tested as well, but getting a test in itself shouldn’t trigger anything.

        5. pancakes*

          I think it was a mistake to get into an extended dialogue with this person about how they feel about the changes to team configuration. It isn’t extreme no matter how strongly this person professes to feel about it. It doesn’t matter what their intent is in violating social distancing protocols, either, since the virus doesn’t care. At least you now know, going forward, that by their own admission they don’t think much about risks because they’re swept up in their own feelings instead. It’s pretty remarkable—or would be in my profession, at least—for someone to tell their supervisor they have terrible judgment!

          1. OP1*

            You’re so right, pancakes. She was just SO overcome with emotions at our sudden team shuffling in response to the diner that I felt compelled to get her talking. I’m glad to know what she/they are thinking and feeling about the operational response, but if I look at it objectively (sometimes to do that I imagine how a man in my job would likely handle a situation) I probably should have let her spin in her own misery. I typically wait for people to come to me, but because so many staff members were involved in the “feelings”, I guess I panicked and initiated the conversation.

            1. TurtleIScream*

              “I like my coworkers, and miss spending time with them since our office instituted Covid protocols. So, I organized a dinner so we could spend several hours together outside of work. Now, my boss rearranged our work teams so I have to work with these people! It feels like a punishment!”

              What??

              Take the virus out of the equation. The manager observed team dynamics, saw employees’ natural affinities, and realigned the groups to closer match how the individuals functioned. Would she still feel personally attacked? Her defensiveness shows that she knows she messed up, but is trying to pin it on the manager as a bad business decision.

            2. tangerineRose*

              I don’t know. When a direct report is upset, it can be useful to listen to why. In this case, the direct report is not thinking clearly.

        6. Musereader*

          The rest of it should go

          Op1: because I am, because you took a risk that means you could be. This is not a judgment but a cautionary measure only because you could be contagious.

          “you’re saying I did something wrong!”

          op2: No matter how you feel this is precaution I have to take.

          (anything other than acquiescence)

          op2 this is a precaution I have to take.

          Be the broken record, once you have explained yourself that is all you need to do and just keep repeating it grey rock style – a precaution I have to take.

        7. Lizzo*

          But they didn’t take precaution!

          And trying to argue that “my intentions were good” only now that they realize there are professional consequences to their actions is just trying to make you feel bad, OP, so that you walk back those consequences. Don’t do it!!!

            1. tangerineRose*

              I also don’t get why people would be so upset at logical consequences for this. They did something risky, so they should stay away from people who are being careful.

        8. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Your coworker’s first argument is the equivalent of someone stopped for speeding, objecting to a sobriety test because “lots of other people drive home from the bar too.”

          You’re treating them as though they might be contagious, because you’re treating everyone as though they might be contagious, because everyone might be. “I didn’t stop to think much about it” is neither blame nor justification, because taking a risk on purpose is exactly as dangerous as taking it by accident.

          No, their aim wasn’t to put their jobs in jeopardy, and neither is yours. The difference is that your aim is to keep everyone–including the people who didn’t go out and have fun–safe, and this person clearly doesn’t care about that.

          You have employees who prefer an actual risk of sickening or killing someone to the possibility that other people will know that the risk exists. Given that, them talking about looking for other jobs isn’t much of a threat.

        9. Malarkey01*

          Honestly OP in that exchange my next line would have been:
          That’s a very valid and perceptive feeling, because that is exactly how I am treating you. It’s not extreme, it’s a reaction to you and your group flouting our organizations team splits. If anything I’m upset that you all knowingly circumvented all the work we’ve done to set up these teams.

          I get these are such crazy times, but really this is bad judgement on their parts and we all know that displaying bad judgement is a red flag at work.

        10. Caroline Bowman*

          ”Well ringleader, you are completely entitled and allowed to feel that way. We’re all allowed to feel how we feel. As the manager, part of my duty is to look out for the best interests of everyone and to this end, we’ve divided up into teams for this express reason, as you know, when it was announced on X date. As you say, what I don’t know I cannot do anything about, but the idea of not wearing a mask feels really thoughtless, just on its own, so my decision stands. I’m sorry you aren’t happy, I get that it’s frustrating, but this is how it’s going to be.”

          if they quit, they quit.

          1. Lizzo*

            You have a right to have feelings, but you are not excused from the consequences of those feelings. (Or your actions, for that matter.)

            See also: right to free speech.

        11. JSPA*

          Well, assure them that their jobs are not in jeopardy. They thoughtlessly mucked up the system, so there’s a new system, but that’s not a firing offense.

          1. OP1*

            We didn’t threaten their jobs – she meant the job in jeopardy part about the risk to the viability of the business operations (e.g. we could all lose our jobs if we can’t operate / have “healthy” employees to work because there are so few of us).

        12. Idril Celebrindal*

          Wow, so Ringleader explicitly admits to a failure in judgement and lack of forethought and critical thinking, and but is still offended by the idea of consequences? Yeah, absolutely they sound like they are feeling defensive about being called out on something they know was wrong.

          Also, OP1, I wonder if it is worth looking closer into Ringleader’s behavior in other areas, if they’ve managed to convince half their coworkers to violate workplace policies and medical safety guidelines, are there other things they are doing that are bullying/pressuring other staff, or other failures in judgment that affect your business that have so far not been noticed? In my experience, when someone can be this persuasive, it’s because they have been gradually ratcheting up the persuasion and others are either too cowed or too tired to resist anymore. I don’t say that’s what’s happening, but it might be worth examining to make sure that’s not the case.

          1. OP1*

            You’re exactly right, Idril! She does wield a lot of influence within the group and we are careful to test or verify when she says “we” “everyone” “all” (and frankly, anything she says anyway). It feels like she’s has been / is forming a posse of followers – we’re very concerned.

            1. Idril Celebrindal*

              Glad you’re keeping an eye on this, and I’m sure your other employees are very thankful for you right now. I think you’re doing a really good job of keeping everyone as safe as possible and taking care of your employees/business for the long term. Good work and good luck!

            2. Gumby*

              That actually sounds more concerning to me than the dinner. At least long-term. Not that influence is always bad but if it is tied with dishonesty… are you sure you want to keep this employee?

              Yesterday she’s convincing people to break social distancing rules, today she has convinced them that re-aligning the work teams is extreme and punitive, what will she spread tomorrow? We should break this little rule – it isn’t that important anyway? How important is it *really* to follow OSHA recommendations? Management is horrible and only out for themselves? I bet we could do a better job at this; want to break off and start a competing company?

              Some of those are extreme, yes, but not impossible.

        13. Zombeyonce*

          “You’re treating us as if we are contagious. That’s how I feel.”

          “We literally have to treat you as if you’re contagious. That’s how virus containment works.”

        14. Curmudgeon in California*

          OP1: “You feel that changing the team configuration is extreme?”

          “You’re treating us as if we are contagious. That’s how I feel.”

          That’s because, for all intents and purposes, they ARE POTENTIALLY CONTAGIOUS!!

          I don’t GAF how they “feel” about it. Feelings don’t matter to a virus. Feelings don’t count when it comes to keeping their coworkers and their families safe.

          They violated, grossly, the social distancing rules that the company put in place for everyone’s protection.

          OP1, IMO you would be well within your rights to fire them, or make them quarantine at home for 14 days.

          As the expression goes: “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” They need to feel lucky that they still have their jobs after a stupid stunt like that.

          1. tangerineRose*

            Also, in the US we became very aware about this in mid-March. It is now July. People should know at least the basics by now!

          2. LunaLena*

            “Feelings don’t matter to a virus.”

            Oh my gosh THIS. I feel that a lot of people don’t understand this for some reason. Viruses don’t care if you’re off work hours, or on vacation, or young and healthy, or physically strong, or rich and famous. Viruses don’t care if you’ve been careful for months and decided to get a drink at a bar for one night because “I’ve been good, so I deserve this.” Viruses care about one thing: finding a host that will allow them to replicate and spread. They don’t care if they can infect you directly or if you’re just a carrier, as long as they can use you to stay alive.

            Of course this group of co-workers are contagious, and how dare they act like they aren’t. Viruses don’t say “OH, well, this group only hung out after work, which means I was clocked out for the day too, so I’m not going to bother trying to infect them.” Nor do they think “Weeeeeell, they were having a meal outside of work hours, so I should make sure they were only contagious when they were together. At work is a completely different situation and it wouldn’t be fair to affect their work life that way!” Viruses don’t respect people or our feelings or logic! They’re too busy trying to infect as many people as possible and ensure their own survival to care about where you were or what you were doing or why it’s not fair that you were infected.

        15. Malty*

          “You’re treating us as if we are contagious. That’s how I feel.”
          Honestly would be so tempted to reply ‘Good, glad we understand each other’

        16. Avasarala*

          “You’re treating us as if we are contagious. That’s how I feel.”
          Good. Because you might be.

    3. Free Meerkats*

      With the key word here being “lecture.” The health professional can take the tack of “You were irresponsible and this is the least of what should have happened to you.” without the fallout being on LW1.

  2. Something Clever TBD*

    #3 I’m not so sure he can join just because he is the owner. Many states are two party consent – you can’t secretly listen to a telephone call without the other side knowing. Would that apply to video chat?

    1. Kimmybear*

      Ianal but I don’t think listening to a call and recording it (where two party consent is generally an issue) are the same thing.

      So yes, he can listen to calls, or look at his wife’s emails, or whatever because he is the owner but that’s still odd.

      1. Something Clever TBD*

        You’re right re “two party consent” – I realized applies to recording as soon as I hit post.
        But, is it really legal to listen to phone calls when people don’t know, as long as you don’t record?
        Email is different – work email belongs to company. But a live conversation from your home?

        1. valentine*

          It’s work they’re doing for him. He can’t legally show up on their porch for every meeting, but he’s in his own home as well, so he can join their work meeting just like he could anywhere that’s not their personal property they’re willing to turf him from.

          1. Vina*

            Not necessarily. Not in California.

            I KNOW this. I was involved in some cases where this was an issue. As a lawyer.

            There are situations in California where his actions are ok and actions where it’s a violation of the eavesdropping laws.

            Of course, whether it’s legal isn’t really a critical point unless LW is prepared to take such action.

            Even if it’s patently Illegal where she lives would that help her? Because I don’t think it would matter one bit to the bosses.

            1. Vina*

              The key thing here is that letter writer knows that he’s listening in and she chooses to continue to talk. Even if his actions were initially wrong under California law, the fact that she continue to speak instead of objection may well mean she’s waived The right to expect privacy

              I can’t say for certain either way because I haven’t looked at this case law and at least several years and I don’t know if there’s been any cases since then. My point is that this isn’t as black-and-white as some posters here making it from a legal perspective

              But I think the key issue is whether or not you can expect privacy on a zoom call in an age where everyone is working at home. I think unless the matter you were discussing is highly confidential or you stayed ahead of time that you want it to be just between you and the other person, you have to expect that spouses and children and others mind over hear

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                The way I read that this , OP is one of the interviewing people, and owner’s wife is another interviewing person. And OP wants to know if the owner should be announced on a phone call with a potential employee being interviewed.
                I’d suggest at least letting the interviewee know that the owner might stop in on the call at some point.

            2. Mockingjay*

              I view this as no different than the boss or a coworker chiming in or scribbling a note to someone when he overhears something in a cube farm or a conference room. It’s work; it’s not a privileged or private conversation between two parties. As the owner, he gets to be involved or have access to company actions and information during business hours.

              Annoying, yes. Illegal, no.

        2. Once & Future Boss*

          IANAL either, but I think you’re conflating things here that aren’t the same.

          Listening to a phone call (by lurking nearby) isn’t the same thing as listening to a phone call by some kind of secret surveillance like wiretapping. I doubt that eavesdropping on a conversation is illegal (it’s just questionable behaviour).

          But apart from that, a work Xoom call/meeting is not a phone call.

          I don’t think this is different to your email example; I actually think that’s a great example of *why* the owner can listen in if he wants. This isn’t a “live conversation from your home”, it’s a work meeting held over Xoom. The fact that you’re participating in that meeting from your home isn’t relevant.

          I agree it’s really weird, but it’s not one of those (rare) things that are illegal.

          And I really like the idea of calling it out as Alison suggests.

          1. Vina*

            Sigh. In some all party consent state eavesdropping is illegal.

            California clearly includes in in its all party consent law.

            It isn’t as serious bc there’s no federal crime. That’s always The issue with the recording. Most states won’t prosecute you for it unless there’s some other underlying crime. However, if they really want to go after you and there’s a federal component that’s when things get serious

            1. Vina*

              Cali says “recording or eavesdropping” requires all parties to consent.

              The issue is Whether this would be considered eavesdropping. That would require a better writer to have a reasonable expectation that the conversation was entirely private. Does she?

        3. MK*

          It’s not a phone call and it’s not private conversation, it’s a Zoom work meeting. I seriously doubt laws about phone conversations would apply. These laws are in place to protect people’s privacy; you have no expectation of privacy at a meeting that is about work, from the owner of the company no less!

          1. jenkins*

            Yeah, I would assume the owner of my company has access to whatever the hell he wants, to be honest – the content of my company Slack chats, anything that’s said in meetings, whatever. It is shady and ridiculous for him to pretend he’s not there, but there’s no privacy issue here because there’s no expectation of privacy in a work meeting.

        4. nnn*

          IANAL, but I think the fact that part of the live conversation is taking place in the owner’s home (i.e. his wife is working at home, and he presumably also lives there) would make it very difficult for it to be illegal in this specific instance. If the wife is on the call without a headset, she’s essentially playing the call over speakers. So the husband is essentially sitting in his own home, hearing something that another member of his household is playing over speakers.

          1. Beth Jacobs*

            Yeah, I think many of us have been unvoluntarily “wiretapping” the work calls of our partners or roommates in the past months! Hardly illegal.

            1. No Longer Looking*

              I’m eavesdropping my wife’s conference call as we speak. I’d much prefer not to be, I’m on a different floor but her voice carries. :)

          2. Vina*

            Eavesdropping can be illegal but I think your point About people walking in and out of zoom meetings in the background is what is salient here.

            Where the boss in her private office, There might be a reasonable expectation with the conversation was strictly limited to the two of them. But with everyone working from home, I think we all expect that occasionally spouses and children overhear.

            That’s what makes this likely ok even in states where eavesdropping is barred.

            You can’t have an expectation of privacy if you know people are coming and going. This makes this more akin to having a conversation in the break room in a private office

        5. AvonLady Barksdale*

          If it were illegal to listen to a phone call without the other side knowing, then half of all daytime Starbucks patrons would be breaking the law. People listen to phone calls all the time, wittingly or unwittingly. In their own homes and in their offices.

          1. Vina*

            No, because that’s a public place where you cannot have any expectation that nobody’s going to hear you.

            This is very different then if two people are having a conversation in a private office

            In a state like California with all party consent, It is illegal to record audio in public places like Starbucks. It is not legal to listen through a door to a private conversation.

            The salient issue here is whether or not zoom it’s like Starbucks or if it’s like the conversation in a private office.

            I think it’s more like Starbucks. Unless you know for a fact the other person lives at home and never has any company, you have to assume that some portion of your zoom conversation can be overheard in the same way as if you were sitting in a public café

        6. Vina*

          Actually, that’s not correct either.

          Back in the day, I had to do some research into this as a lawyer.

          In some all party consent states, such as California, listening in is also a violation. Recording is not required. It’s called eavesdropping.

          I would never assume not recording it makes it ok in all party consent states.

          California laws say “record or eavesdrop.”

          California also has – maybe had as I haven’t kept up with it – a weird quirk where you could record video without sound as long as the place recorded didn’t have an expectation of privacy (eg a kitchen in your own home but not a bedroom). But you could not have sound bc of the all party audio consent required.

          FTR, the proper term is all party consent. Because if there are more than two people, everyone must consent.

          1. Vina*

            California makes it a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, including a private conversation or telephone call, without the consent of all parties to the conversation. See Cal. Penal Code § 632.

            Eavesdropping does Not require use of any technology. What it means is that you purposefully overhear a conversation you know that is intended to be private. Sometimes, it’s clearly not. For example, when I’m speaking to my husband in the checkout line at Kroger. Other times, it’s clearly intended to be private. For example, I’m confirming with the client behind a closed and locked door.

            There are many cases with this is not clear. However, I think in zoom meetings in People’s homes in the age of Covid where everyone is at home, you can’t really have an expectation of privacy in those conversations because children, spouses and others can come wandering in.

            1. doreen*

              OK , now I’m a little confused. The idea that listening through a door is illegal seemed a little odd to me – so I looked up Cal. Penal Code § 632 and found a bunch of lawyer’s websites that essentially say that the use of an electronic device is an element of the crime – it doesn’t have to be recorded but an electronic device must be used to amplify or record the conversation. So using a microphone so you could hear the conversation in a different place would be a violation even if it wasn’t recorded but listening outside a door wouldn’t be.

              And then I looked up the actual section and got

              632.
              (a) A person who, intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, uses an electronic amplifying or recording device to eavesdrop upon or record the confidential communication, …

              , which seems to say that some electronic amplifying or recording device is an element of the crime.

          2. Vina*

            PS I’ve been involved in several cases where this has come up. Once, I had to do some fairly extensive research into the matter. California law is a lot harsher on eavesdropping than people think.

            Also, if you live in California, be very careful taking your cell phone out and taking selfies in any bathrooms, dressing rooms, or spas. I have seen people prosecuted for that. There’s usually no jail tune, just fines. it’s really not some thing that you want to have to explain to a potential employer.

            In essence, in California, you can’t record or even listen to a conversation by anyone else, where they expect that conversation to be private. So long as that expectation is reasonable. With video, do you have a much broader right to record in public places so long as there is no sound. You can also do so in your home or business with no sound,Provided that the space is not one like a bathroom or bedroom or dressing room where people will be engaging in activities that are private. However, if you give notice to people that you were recording sound and they continue to speak, they waive their right. This is why all companies now inform you that they are recording phone calls. There’s a pretty infamous case in California where a company based in another state recorded calls with Cali residents. let’s just say that things did not turn out well for them.

            But one thing to remember is that just because eavesdropping might not be allowed does not mean that the boss couldn’t turn right around and tell her husband everything that was said in the conversation as he also works there in a position of authority

            So even if what he was doing was 100% illegal, it’s still doesn’t solve the letter writers problem. It’s not just the boss listening in the background. It’s how he’s interacting with his wife with respect to her interactions with employees. The whole thing seems a little bit dishonest, micromanaging, and creepy

            1. Phony Genius*

              I am wondering what the definition of “party” is for the purpose of a company call. I would have thought that in a company work call, the party is the company as a whole, and not the individual on the call, as long as the call is work-related.

          3. Oh No She Di'int*

            I’m not getting the sense that OP thinks that a legal violation has occurred. I think the concern has more to do with the business ethics involved. Not saying that this situation is in that category, but there are loads of things that are legal, but are nonetheless unethical.

            1. pancakes*

              What’s unethical about this, exactly? It isn’t clear what the letter writer has in mind. What the boss seems to be doing is strange, but strange and unethical aren’t synonymous. It’s also strange to me that they don’t feel capable of simply asking what’s up while it’s happening.

              1. Oh No She Di'int*

                I don’t think that it necessarily is unethical. But people seem to have gotten onto a tangent about whether the behavior is legal or not, and I’m saying that the OP wasn’t asking about legality, they were asking about ethics. Different things.

        7. LQ*

          Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that your work phone calls aren’t work in the exact same way as email. It’s skeevy, but the owner is absolutely allowed to join in the calls. It’s weird the WAY he’s doing it. If he was just joining as himself and sitting there on mute listening it would be entirely reasonable. (Maybe not entirely.)

        8. Gymmie*

          I mean, my kid can hear my online Microsoft Team meetings. I don’t disclose he is there.

  3. TiffIf*

    OP3
    “she is not very intelligent” “the questions … are not something she is capable of asking or would ask”

    Um…wow. That’s some really disparaging stuff about one of your own teammates, even if she is the owner’s wife.

    1. Casper Lives*

      That’s what stood out to me. Disparaging your coworker like that can’t lead to a great working relationship.

    2. Larry Gossamer*

      It also implies nepotism, which would be a bigger problem than the original complaint.

    3. I heart Paul Buchman*

      Yes! These comments don’t come across well. Do you actually have grounds for them or have you made the mistake of assigning all intelligent thoughts to the male party in the marriage?

      1. Peggy*

        I don’t think this is warranted. While the assessment of this colleagues capabilities could have been more nicely worded, we should trust the LW on this.

        I know that I would also be very surprised if some of my colleagues had insights that they do not normally have/thought in directions where they do not normally go. Some people just are not that intelligent/insightful/do only ever think about A but never consider B – I can still value them for their contributions in the tasks/fields where they shine. And this has nothing to do with gender – my colleagues are almost exclusively male.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m removing the remark in the letter about the person’s intelligence as it’s clearly going to derail the discussion and isn’t central to the question. I’ll ask that we take the OP’s word that the questions aren’t something the wife would normally ask on her own.

  4. Jennie*

    Re: the surgery post — there is no way on God’s green earth in the era of COVID that I would move a necessary surgery appointment for the convenience of my employer. There have been far too many surgery cancellations happening in the last few months, some at the very last minute due to the very real constraints on the medical profession. If you have a firm date in hand, you should keep it as there are no guarantees you won’t get bumped due to hospital availability, the surgeon getting sick, etc. There are a ton of things that can go wrong to make a change like that worth the risk when you’re having this to improve your life. Good luck with your surgery :)

    1. nnn*

      OP could use that! Something like “Given the pandemic, this is when they could fit me in” or “There’s less scheduling flexibility because of the pandemic”.

        1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

          I had to wait six months for a colonoscopy that was a follow-up from when I had colitis last September. Appt was originally scheduled for the end of January but doctor had a personal issue. Rescheduled for March. Cancelled due to COVID. Finally had it done at the beginning of June. And all the screening I had to go through prior was major…..COVID test (my 2nd) three days prior, temp scans at multiple locations throughout the hospital. None of it was easy.

      1. Not Australian*

        Yup. Strong emphasis on “I was lucky to get this, I’ve been waiting xxx long.”

    2. Casper Lives*

      Even if there wasn’t COVID, OP shouldn’t have to move the surgery. Especially when the business doesn’t even have “good dates.” They want OP to cancel with no back up time! Not humane

      1. OP Surgery*

        I’m OP

        Thank you for your advise y’all. I still cannot believe they asked me to reschedule. I didn’t even think about the pandemic. This is indeed a risk too. However, in the meantime they informed me the set date was actually the date that suits them best.I hope never to need surgery again since the way then handled this situation. I can understand there are time that suit better, but I think it is never a good time…

        1. Beatrice*

          I’m glad that worked out! Hopefully they came to their senses. Is your manager fairly new at managing? I hope you never need surgery again because you have good medical fortune in the future, but if you do, it’s absolutely appropriate for you to push back on your employer having any say whatsoever in when you get medically necessary treatment.

        2. SweetestCin*

          I’m really glad that they seem to have come to their senses. I also hope you never require another surgery, and wish you the best!!!!

        3. EPLawyer*

          Clearly no one involved in this decision from the company ever had surgery before. Even before Covid, you took the date they gave you because rescheduling was likely going to get a date months later.

          Your company does know you don’t exist merely for their convenience right? This is so tone deaf, you would be smart to keep an eye out for other areas where they are treating employees badly. Maybe something you just didn’t realize was bad before but now you see it as part of a pattern.

          1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            You’re not wrong here. Having to reschedule my surgery (because the other person in my position was going half-way across the country to pick up a new expensive toy) because I was refused time off for it was the first glaring sign. It wasn’t a one-of, either. The final straw was when I couldn’t tell them what time my child’s ENT surgery was until the day prior. Because that’s when the surgical center was to let me know, the day before. They didn’t want to approve a full day off, they still wanted me available. Because it was inconvenient to have me a take a vacation day.

            1. Matilda Jefferies*

              I’m sorry, what? It was “inconvenient” for your company to have to take a vacation day FOR YOUR CHILD’S SURGERY????

              The mind boggles. You said it was the final straw, so I hope that means you’re well and truly out of there, and working for decent human beings somewhere else. I hope your child is okay now too!

              1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

                My mind boggled as well, and I spent my day off both cuddling a sleepy child after have E-tubes put into his ears with polishing my resume. I mean, it was bad enough that surgery on my foot was “inconvenient” for them, and me being on painkillers that prevented me from driving so I had to work from home for two weeks during the slow season was “inconvenient” for them. And that asking I be allowed to work from a little used conference room while I was on crutches, as my office was upstairs with no elevator, was inconvenient for them. But inconvenienced because of my child’s need to hear and how the medical world functions? Eff that.

                I’m well and truly out of there and in a much better place. Took 3 weeks to find a better job with better insurance and benefits.

                And the child? He’s a teenager who frequently goes out of his way to let me know that he can hear me JUST fine, Mom. He just doesn’t like doing XYZ so he’s trying hard to ignore me, LOL!

          2. TootsNYC*

            years ago I had a surgery that was important but not urgent. My doctor said, “when would you like to do this? You need at least a week afterward for recovery.” I picked a date that fell AFTER my big monthly two-week-long deadline, so I’d have that week and another for cushion before hitting the crunch period again.

            I told my boss about the surgery and the dates, and how it related to the deadlines, and she said, “You shouldn’t be planning around the deadline! You should have the surgery as soon as you can!” but in my case it really didn’t matter; two weeks later vs. two weeks earlier….

            So in some cases, you can pick the date and schedule it around things. (My MIL had breast cancer surgery AFTER her two-week trip to Europe w/ my kids; her doctor said, “Go, have fun, this will not get worse while you’re away, and you shouldn’t worry about it while you’re vacationing, because I’m confident it is not at all dangerous.”

            1. dragocucina*

              It never hurts to ask what the scheduling options are. Surgeons and their offices are bad about slotting someone in without asking if its convenient for the patient. We had just returned from a family trip to find that my gynecologist had scheduled THE surgery for Monday. I told them no, it would have to wait at least two weeks. I had children for whom I had to make arrangements. Since my husband was on call at the hospital every other night that next week we couldn’t plan on him being available. The doctor’s staff just assumed we had family in the area that would pitch in.

        4. WorkIsADarkComedy*

          There is quite a bit of heartlessness in (1) asking you to postpone important surgery for their convenience, and then (2) taking their own sweet time to come up with an alternate date.

          If they are this cavalier with your personal health, I’m willing to bet they are toxic in other areas as well. Could this be a blessing in disguise to cause you to look at the totality of this workplace and evaluate whether it remains a good place to work?

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

          Glad it seems to work out but your employer seems to be a bit tone deaf. With COVID there’s limits to surgery now. Plus you might feel safe to do it now but if you rescheduled you might not feel as safe if there were more cases in your area or what not.
          Also, is there ever a right time to have surgery?

        6. Still Trying to Adult*

          Oh, yeah, asking you to reschedule your medically necessary surgery for THEIR convenience? Oh, had a boss do this for reconstruction on a broken wrist – being the easygoing person I am, I did, by a couple of weeks. Fastforward a couple more weeks, he asked me again, because ‘business plans & important projects’ I said no, but politely.

          He tried to tell me he’d never denied me a vacation request. I promptly responded with 2 examples where he had denied me, plus the first request for surgery reschedule. He then yelled at me “OK, I’M A ***** LIAR THEN!!!” (which I already knew, several years over). It was the real beginning of the end of my time there.

          But requests to reschedule surgeries are now one of my red flags for a boss or company; it’s an unforgiveable violation of boundaries, and a definite strike against their record, never to be forgotten.

          OP, you don’t owe them any consideration to reschedule, no matter what their problem. Your health is your business, not theirs.

    3. Caroline Bowman*

      Completely this. Unless it is extremely easy and only a very short delay, I would use Alison’s script with your company. This surgery affects your entire life and unfortunately their business planning is not the top priority in this situation.

      Please don’t defer unless it suits YOU. Your life is your own and worth more. Just tell them it’s medically necessary and the surgeon won’t be available for months so you’ll see them on X date as planned, thanks for understanding. End of story.

    4. Dagny*

      There is also a nationwide blood shortage, which is causing elective surgeries to be cancelled. (If you are young and healthy, please donate.)

      1. Syfygeek*

        Thank you for the reminder! I’m O- and need to donate.

        And I want to share a surgery story that I still find hard to believe. I had surgery for varicose veins on right leg, then left leg. Follow up was in January. Doc says there might need to be another procedure for hardened veins, but we’ll check in March. Due to COVID, March appointment was pushed to April, April’s appointment pushed to May. May 18 I finally see a doctor- not my original doc, he’s been deployed to the middle east. We all agree I need the other procedure. And I throw out that my insurance runs June 1 to May 31. I’ve met all deductibles, what are the chances of getting the procedure before May 31? That’s 9 working days. Somehow that staff got approval from my insurance, found a time slot, and got my procedure done before my insurance renewed!

        1. ToS*

          Generally, for initial scheduling I do point out scheduling conflicts after learning what availability looks like. If the resulting date is the best available, that’s what’s mentioned if work schedule wrinkles arise.

          I do sign on to the wait list for cancelled appointments if that might help. That’s often not possible with surgery.

    5. Anon-y-mous*

      I think this site sometimes has mixed messages. We hear all the time here about how we should be responsible employees and being conscientious in the workplace. For example, many thought the employee was horribly bad/improper who just up and booked their vacation reservation without formerly asking for the time off first. How is just up and booking your surgery and possible significant time off without asking beforehand any different? Provided it is NOT an urgent medical need (Needed, yes, but many medical procedures are “needed” that aren’t exactly so urgent that they couldn’t wait, and I’m not arguing whether OP’s particular case is or isn’t medically urgent).

      Big difference between and employee coming in with:
      “I’ve got a surgery scheduled for X and will need three weeks off.” versus
      “I’m planning a non-urgent surgery that will require some weeks off. How does the month of X or Y look scheduling-wise?”

      I mean everyone is saying push back, push back here, but the employer might have good reason to be kind of annoyed if it was sprung on them and it’s happening during a busy time. Obviously, this depends on the nature of the surgery–if it’s needed urgently you have to go. But shouldn’t asking for ANY planned time off still be the same process and one should give advance notice to schedule it with their employer first?

      1. TootsNYC*

        For example, many thought the employee was horribly bad/improper who just up and booked their vacation reservation without formerly asking for the time off first. How is just up and booking your surgery and possible significant time off without asking beforehand any different?

        Because your surgeon’s availability is MUCH less flexible than an airline ticket.
        Because your health, even minor and elective health, is MUCH more important than a vacation.

        It’s just different.

        And this is from someone who DID schedule a surgery around a monthly crunch time.

      2. Rayray*

        I don’t know.

        I think a surgery is different since the hospital and surgeon would have limited availability and dates, so you’d have to just take what you could. A vacation is an optional luxury. I personally believe that work places should be accommodating and approve time off requests if you ask with suitable notice. I don’t think you’re doing your workplace dirty if you book the vacation first, and maybe it’s the worry wart in me but I’d just want to make sure my time off request was approved before I went on a vacation. If I needed a surgery, I might only have one option in the near future.

      3. Llellayena*

        It’s two different scenarios that require two different approaches. Flights to a vacation destination are available at multiple times on multiple days, so making sure that your planned vacation doesn’t overlap critical times at work makes sense. And this site does make exceptions for time-critical vacations (grandpa’s 90th b-day in Europe, gifted cruises or vacation packages, weddings…) by providing “I know it’s a bad time, but…” language. Surgery is often “The surgeon is available on *this* date, if we don’t do this then, their next slot is 4 months from now.” Medical issues don’t always allow for that kind of delay, even minor procedures if delayed could have cascading effects (eg. postponed knee/hip replacement could mean additional damage to cartilage/bone making surgery more risky). And medical issues that affect daily activities can fall under ADA accommodations, so denying a surgery day can skirt legal issues.

      4. Dagny*

        “Need” and “want” are not binary; there are different levels of each. Vacations go in the ‘want’ category (even though most people cannot work indefinitely without time off, at least not without harming their mental health); non-cosmetic surgeries are in the ‘need’ category, even if there’s a difference between, say, open-heart surgery and a lumpectomy.

        1. Coffee Bean*

          Agree with you Dagny. This may be elective rather than emergency surgery. However, elective doesn’t mean “not crucial”. This could be surgery to relieve pain, obtain a diagnosis, etc. Rescheduling could mean delaying for a substantial time period.

      5. Jennifer Thneed*

        > many thought the employee was horribly bad/improper who just up
        > and booked their vacation reservation without formerly asking for the time off first

        The problem here is that the employee didn’t know if anyone else had vacation plans approved. That is why we check with managers first before buying making financial decisions like buying plane tickets. We don’t necessarily know how our absence will affect the group but our manager is supposed to know that.

        But this ties into what others are saying: vacation is a want while surgery is (usually) a need. If my coworker needs surgery, I’ll pick up any slack and sooth my irritation by remembering that it’s a health issue. But if I have to pick up slack because my coworker is jetting off on vacation I’m going to grumble about someone (boss, coworker, both) and feel entitled to my irritation.

    6. Mama Bear*

      I would hold firm. This isn’t elective and everything right now needs to be carefully scripted re medical care. I’d work on whatever knowledge transfer is needed to keep the lights on and continue with the surgery. This is your health, not a vacation day.

  5. CastIrony*

    #4 I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I disagree with Alison because most likely, surgeons do not have more flexible schedules, especially now because of COVID. It feels tone-deaf to me even suggest this!

    But I do agree with the first part. Tell them it isn’t convenient, but that it is really necessary. Good luck on your surgery!

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, I also disagree on the second part of the advice. Plus the company didn’t ask OP about possibly moving it a day for some reason, they just want it moved indefinitely (till they come up with a convenient date for them….wtf!?!) I don’t think the OP should give an inch on this, even if there might be later dates available on the surgeon’s calendar. This sounds like a needed surgery and OP should have it as soon as they want to and can.

      1. WorkingGirl*

        Even moving it by one day isn’t always possible… my orthopedic surgeon operates two days a week and it’s only one day per week in two different hospitals!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think we disagree. As I wrote, that only applies for for some reason there’s actually flexibility there (which I agree may be unlikely, although it can depend on the type of doctor).

    3. A Silver Spork*

      Hard agree, medical staff are more, not less busy. And LW should not delay surgery, especially on something so critical as the legs! I’ve had bad pain in my leg since late last year and I would kick myself (if that wouldn’t hurt the busted knee) for not getting it checked out before everything exploded like this.

      LW, think of it like this – you don’t owe your employeer more loyalty than they give you. Would they rearrange their super important schedule to better convenience you? Absolutely not, so you shouldn’t do it for them either.

    4. MK*

      Eh, maybe? Not all doctors are swamped because of Covid, as not all specialties are useful, and also because a lot of people are postponing non-urgent procedures.

      1. Asenath*

        It’s not just the doctors. There are still entire categories of procedures that are not being done in my area because the hospitals think that if they have too many people who might need ICU care coming out of surgery, they won’t have enough ICU beds for COVID patients. So they aren’t doing many surgeries where there’s a risk the patient will later need an ICU bed. That covers elective surgeries as well as ones that aren’t really elective, but aren’t all that urgent either, and maybe can wait a little until there’s less worry about beds. If I were scheduled for surgery now (as a friend was), there’s no way on earth I’d put it off.

    5. Dreaming of Dots*

      I agree. It doesn’t matter if the surgeon DID have some flexibility (which is very unlikely) – OP still should not have to offer to reschedule. They’re having SURGERY! It feels really icky for AAM to suggest that they should to offer to reschedule that for the convenience of their employer, even if only in limited circumstances. I felt deeply uncomfortable reading that. (NB I’m not American, which may play a part here? Maybe in the States it’s more common for employers to get to dictate their employee’s health treatment plan, since you guys have tied healthcare to insurance to jobs? Not sure.)

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I think it is common for employees to be respectful of their work schedules for more flexible procedures that have no major urgency behind them – but it is for the employee to handle, not the employer! My doc gave me a few options when I was having a non-urgent surgery and I went with the dates that worked best for my work and my husband’s work so we would be less stressed dealing with my recovery. I would not have appreciated it if my employer questioned my judgment on that.

        1. hamsterpants*

          Yes, exactly. I do try to schedule my elective surgery around work — and I would be mortified if my boss questioned that I wasn’t already doing this.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I actually chose to schedule my surgery for a time when it would be easier for my employer.

        But then, my SURGEON said, “when would you like to schedule this? You need at least a week afterward for recovery.” My surgeon didn’t just offer a date.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Oh, and…when I told my boss that I’d picked non-deadline weeks, she was aghast at me.
          According to her, I should have had the surgery–at a time that worked for me and my health.

          I assured her that the time I picked WAS okay for all the other reasons too, but it took some doing.

          Some of it is just the “how it looks” aspect. Which people sometimes think shouldn’t matter because it isn’t strictly logical. But it DOES matter.

      3. noahwynn*

        I had an employee last year who needed knee replacement surgery. It wasn’t urgent and she looked at the vacation calendar and planned around everyone who already had summer vacations booked. I appreciated her for thinking about it, but I totally would’ve given her the time off either way.

        I think it is more of a courtesy thing. If it is flexible, and some medical procedures/surgerys are, it makes sense to plan around if you can. If it is urgent, then the company can deal with it the best they can.

        If I were in the company’s shoes, I wouldn’t ask the employee to reschedule, but I don’t think it is wrong that they did. The employee can always say no and the date stays as-is.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Part of what bothers me is that the company didn’t know when a good day would be.

        2. Altair*

          One can’t just say no to one’s employer. Unless one is independently wealthy, anyway.

    6. Koala dreams*

      Yes, that’s my thoughts too. It’s super weird of the employer to assume a surgery can be moved whenever, but especially weird now in these times. The pandemic makes healthcare a lot harder to plan for!

    7. Shannon*

      In the medical field, and I disagree. My hospital system has reduced the number of open ORs at any given time. Staff are being shuffled around to areas that need more immediate coverage. The *surgeon* may be more flexible but the dozen or more other people involved (and materials needed) may not be flexible.

  6. Confused*

    1. My staff is upset that our safety precautions are “making them feel contagious”
    If I was working at your office and was part of the group that did NOT go out I would be very much relieved that my supervisor has enough awareness and is erring on the side of caution in separating the teams.

    1. SwiftSunrise*

      I’d start calling every single one of those idiots “Mary” (as in “Typhoid”), but I am not a very nice person.

      1. Kiwi with laser beams*

        Add me to the list of “not nice people” because when I saw the part about them looking for new jobs I thought “the trash is taking itself out”.

        DO NOT SECOND GUESS YOURSELF, LW. If someone violates public health policies, other people need to be kept safe from the impact of that violation to the greatest degree possible. And if the policy violators feel contagious, well, feeling contagious is not bad even when complying with the policies. Our authorities explicitly told us to “act as if you have COVID-19” because the reality is that when covid is in the community, anyone could have it, including you. And if you get treated like you’re extra contagious because you were extra reckless, that’s a natural consequence of your actions. I say remind them of that and tell them to stop sulking about it.

        1. JM in England*

          This is exactly the advice given by the UK Government during the early days of lockdown.

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            Going out in public in a group not wearing masks? Violations.

            1. Clisby*

              That’s going to depend on where you live. It would be perfectly legal in much of SC.

              However, the no-masks might just be the icing on the cake here. I thought the idea of splitting the staff into teams was that each team would associate only with the members of that team. Even if they had worn masks and scrupulously followed all the public health directives, it seems to me they shouldn’t be associating with each other.

              1. tangerineRose*

                Legal doesn’t equal safe. It probably was legal, but it didn’t follow the protocols of the company.

            2. Oh No She Di'int*

              Depends on where they are and how big the group was as to whether any “policies” were violated. They vary from place to place. But the problem from OP’s standpoint isn’t whether public health policies were violated; it’s whether other employees were put at risk. OP wisely understands the difference.

            3. Kyrielle*

              If restaurants are open for dining in, there are probably waivers for masks when doing so – there are here. It’s hard to eat through a mask.

              If I go into the local Subway, I am expected to have a mask on. But I can take it off to eat. (Or I can pick up my mobile takeout order and scamper back out the door with the mask still on, which is what most of us are doing. But it’s not a violation of the current *requirements* in my area to take the mask off to eat in.)

          2. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

            Even if it didn’t, the dinner violated common sense. There are manywho are young and don’t care either but the don’t care folks end up making people sick and killing one. I agree, let the trash take itself out, who cares how they feel? It’s not all about them abd their fee-fees.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Plus, young, apparently healthy people have died from this. There are also side effects, some long-term.

          3. Curmudgeon in California*

            You’ve got to be kidding me.

            Socializing without masks in an indoor venue is a violation of public health policy and common sense.

            I don’t leave my house without a mask, and I sure as hell wouldn’t go to dinner with a bunch of people that I don’t literally live with.

            1. Old and Don’t Care*

              To be clear I am referring specifically to the public health orders in place in a state, county, etc. In about 75 of the 88 counties in my state there are no mask requirements and this dinner (which the OP later stated was on a patio) would not violate any public health orders.

              I feel like this is not a small point. People must comply with laws, public health orders and their employer’s’ policies. Absent that, they get to decide what is common sense. People are having dinner in restaurants. (Not me, but that’s not the point.). They get to decide that for themselves.

              1. Kiwi with laser beams*

                LW’s definition of common sense is the one that has flattened the curve or outright eliminated the virus in other countries. If those employees legally get to decide for themselves then I can’t control that, but I can encourage people like LW who are in the right and showing the strong leadership that is needed when it comes to anti-covid measures but are facing so much backlash that they were starting to second guess themselves. And there’s a certain kind of whining that really needs to be met with bluntness because if you give those people the response they’re looking for, you’re teaching them that they can do it again in future.

              2. ...*

                This was all on a patio????? Oh lord the pearl clutching in the comments is beyond today (although granted people might now have known that at first).

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Add me to the list of “not nice people” because when I saw the part about them looking for new jobs I thought “the trash is taking itself out”.

          If you’re not nice, my instincts are downright cruel.

          When I saw “Ringleader” above, my first thought was “If there’s a Ringleader and that individual doesn’t realize what they’ve done wrong, my sentiments are that the Ringleader has earned a day or three off to reflect on what better decision-making process could be applied going forward.”

          1. katelyn*

            At my company it was made very clear from the beginning that team A and team B were not to associate with each other in any way. Everyone had to sign an acknowledgement that they knew which team they were on and that they would quarantine (without pay) if they violated the terms. Failure to do so would be a firing offence.

            Now granted, we aren’t in one of the countries with a runaway problem, but it was clear that management was taking this extremely seriously and that employees were expected to do the same.

            Ringleader would have been fired for deliberately organizing an event counter to the company’s safety procedures, and the attendees would be given a very serious talking to at the minimum for participating.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            IMO, the ringleader should consider themselves lucky they still have a job after that idiot stunt.

            If they quit it wouldn’t be a great loss. If their judgement is this bad about infection risk, what else do they allow magical thinking and delusion to affect their judgement on?

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Yep. I would tell Ringleader “This is your final warning. If you ever do anything like this again, you will be fired. Your feelings on this matter are completely irrelevant.” If she quits, fine; she’s replaceable.

        3. TootsNYC*

          If someone violates public health policies,

          Part of the ringleader’s argument is that they didn’t violate public health policies.
          But they violated their employer’s PRIVATE (but not secret) health policy.

          And anyone who violates anyone else’s personal standards on health deserves whatever ostracization they get.

          There’s a lot of talk about consent, especially in sexual things. But consent is really important with this virus as well.
          Our OP and their other employees don’t consent to being exposed to this risk.

          My MIL lost her husband (FIL) recently, and my family is taking turns spending a couple of days with her. A cousin has also been helping a lot, but I see them come in and take their mask off because they’re across the room, and I think, “what you’re breathing out is going to linger in her room for hours.” We wear our masks in her home except when we’re eating, and even that makes me nervous.

          But MIL just told me those cousins are going to a pool party in the neighboring state. I’m thinking, “they shouldn’t come visit you, then. They need to stay away until it’s clear they didn’t pick anything up.” (One of them is a respiratory therapist who worked in a public NYC hospital!!)

          But there’s a lot of pressure to not say anything–one cousin has said, in response to my Facebook worry about not spreading the virus at the wake, “I’m sure you would do what was necessary to protect yourself” in a snarky way, so she’ll tap into that dynamic if anything is said.

          So the OP should absolutely hold firm. There will be people on that stuff who think they can’t say anything; they don’t have the authority.

          1. OP1*

            I’m so sorry about your family’s losses.

            Your points are so spot on! One of the other people who attended the dinner was a former co-worker who happens to work as a RT in the ICU at our largest hospital in a higher risk county. Layer upon layer of elevated risks.

      2. WorkerBee*

        I am young, healthy-looking, and have a serious medical condition that means COVID would absolutely kill me if I got a serious case. Most people who know me have no idea, so it’s my secret weapon. My tactic is to tell the person very bluntly that their activity could cost me (sweet, friendly me they have worked with for years) my life, and watch. them. choke. It’s very, very hard to defend your actions when you know someone who might be profoundly affected by it.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          YES. I once shamed a former boss into silence when he was blathering about how government-subsidized health insurance shouldn’t exist by informing him that I had government-subsidized health insurance AND had just found a growth that might be cancer. I said, “By telling me this, you are telling me that I and other people like me should just lie down and die.”

          Fortunately, testing later revealed that I didn’t have cancer, but seeing his absolutely stricken look was perfection at the time.

          Sometimes, people need a good hard verbal slap to the face to realize their actions and views are hurting real people.

      3. Margaret Liepmann*

        I can tell I’m not ready for management yet(and/or I’ve been in semi-essential retail for too long) bc my first reaction to this would be…very impolite, probably very loud, and likely get me in trouble.

        People Are Dying. People Have Died. We have the numbers. Feeling insulted for taking proper precautions is immature and dangerous on many levels. You cannot play dumb and ignore the fire alarm when the house is very much on fire.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Absolutely this, if I were an employee from the group that didn’t join this dinner outing, I would feel confident in you as my supervisor for prioritizing my safety and health.

      It boggles my mind that they say you’re “making them feel contagious.” The info about the high risk of dining together indoors is everywhere, so this is on them. I would avoid getting into an extended debate with these employees, and instead send a matter of fact link to whatever standard COVID health safety guidance is most appropriate for your location (county, state, CDC, etc.).

      If they’re threatening to quit, they have that option. Unless your essential business is in a field that is hard to fill, there are many people out of work looking for a new job that would appreciate the opportunity.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yeah the offense at the mere suggestion that they might be contagious is magical thinking at its finest.

    3. Beth*

      Same! OP1, no matter what you do, someone will be upset–if you keep the dinner-goers divided out, they’re mad about it, and if you put the groups back to how they were before, everyone else who is practicing distancing well will be upset. So do what you know is right and keep them divided out. If they do quit over it, I’m sure you’ll find people to replace them; plenty of people would appreciate an employer who is taking the pandemic seriously right now.

    4. Caroline Bowman*

      Letter one made me laugh out loud! ”Making them feel contagious”… well Karen, it’s because YOU ARE LIKELY MORE CONTAGIOUS, ya know, with the no masks and so on, right?

      This supervisor has done their level best in very difficult circumstances and should 100% hold firm to protect the rest of the employees AND the people who went to the dinner AND themselves.

      1. Sharon*

        While I am 100% in agreement with everyone here and Alison, I do empathize with the “contagious” people. I commented to someone in my personal life not too long ago that it sucks that we have to now treat each other like plague carriers. It’s socially awkward if not downright embarrassing. (I do still wear my mask and keep distance, it’s NOT an excuse.) But I felt like stating that out in the open helped. Addressing the elephant in the room, as they say.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I commented to someone in my personal life not too long ago that it sucks that we have to now treat each other like plague carriers.

          But it’s still easier than digging graves for each other, and better on morale.

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Yes, that’s hard.

          And there’s still a difference between “I hate not being able to hug my friends” and “I’m going to hug all my friends, because I don’t want to think of any of us as contagious.”

        3. pancakes*

          It isn’t inherently socially awkward or embarrassing. The idea that minimizing contagion is embarrassing is cultural. In Hong Kong mask compliance on public transportation at the height of the pandemic was around 97%, and many of the 3% who weren’t wearing masks were reportedly western tourists. There’s nothing inherently awkward about people taking the step of wearing a mask knowing that it’s a good way to minimize the spread of a deadly virus. It minimizes the spread of non-deadly illnesses as well. I’d think it would be far more embarrassing to be so vain or stubbornly insular as to regard caring about public health as some sort of weakness.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I’d think it would be far more embarrassing to be so vain or stubbornly insular as to regard caring about public health as some sort of weakness.

            This.

            Where this macho garbage of acting like caring about the health of strangers, friends and family is “weakness” came from, I don’t honestly know or understand. But it’s such a garbage take on your responsibility to others and the social contract that I want to scream.

            We stop at stop lights so we don’t hit other cars, and get tickets when we “forget”. Why is wearing a mask or not endangering everyone you work with any different?

          2. Mameshiba*

            Chiming in from Japan, where the vast majority of people I see out and about are wearing masks (I would say 80%).
            Except of the Western people I have seen (who can’t be tourists as there are none anymore), it’s like 40% wearing masks.

        4. Grapey*

          Yes, like when dealing with tantruming kids, it helps to plainly say what the painful part is so you empathize without enabling them to avoid the situation. It’s a form of self soothing to say “we will get through this”.

          People often just want to be heard and go through misery together (or complain against a certain outgroup etc).

        5. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

          I don’t empathize with them one bit. I conisder myself a potential plague carrier! It’s a pandemic, folks. Nothing personal, just intelligence at work by taking every precaution until a proven vaccine is developed and enough people take it. Ironically, the same folks accusing others of making them feel contagious likely overlap with folks that won’t get vaccinated. These selfish people want others to do all the work of protecting their health. I can’t stand them.

          1. Kiwi with laser beams*

            “These selfish people want others to do all the work of protecting their health.”

            And when people like them actively abdicate their part in it, it makes the whole thing so much harder for those who are working on it, and prolongs the whole thing.

            I mean, look, kindness is a really big part of our prime minister’s ethos. The bluntness I’ve been showing in this thread isn’t my default, nor is it our leaders’ default. Hell, if those employees had listened to what LW said, accepted LW’s distancing measures and promised not to be cavalier in future, my response would have been much different. But the sheer AUDACITY of saying “your safety policy makes us feel contagious, therefore you shouldn’t take steps to minimise the spread of the virus” is a sign that they need a big reality check.

        6. Beth*

          I mean…we ARE potentially contagious! We are all potential plague carriers! This particular virus is known to be contagious for at least a few days before it’s symptomatic or visible on tests; any one of us could be carrying it and contagious, and not even realize it. No matter how good we’re being about social distancing, we all have possible exposure points: food deliveries, a walk outside where someone happened to jog by us, an essential errand that we either went out to do or had someone stop by to help us with. Doing things like maskless dinners significantly raises the odds of exposure, but any of us could be a carrier at any given time.

          In a context like this, acting like a potential plague carrier isn’t embarrassing. It’s a sign of respect for others and of a community oriented spirit. What’s embarrassing and awkward is people who try to insist that their individual comfort is more important than everyone else’s safety.

      2. Forrest*

        >>YOU ARE LIKELY MORE CONTAGIOUS, ya know, with the no masks and so on, right

        That’s not actually true–there is a higher likelihood that they are contagious (because they are slightly more likely to have been exposed), but that’s different from being more/less contagious.

    5. Mongrel*

      I’d love to know why people get so offended by basic risk management.
      It’s just easier to plan on the assumption that someone was infectious and go from there.
      Are there any examples you could give from the working environment that they could relate to? “We do (task X) a slightly more difficult way because if (Y) happens it causes disruptions for everyone and delays the monthly teapot report by an inexcusable amount”

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Based on my observations, people get offended by these risk management procedures because they:

        A) refuse to believe the virus exists
        B) believe it exists but that it’s not serious
        C) believe in some conspiracy theory
        D) assert that their ‘right’ to do whatever they want, go wherever they want, say whatever they want, go travelling and socialising should be absolute and have no repercussions
        E) want to convince themselves and others of the delusion that everything is back to normal
        F) believe only those at high risk are the problem and nobody else needs to adhere to the protocols

        Or some combination of the above.

        The basic procedure these days across the globe is to assume you’re a carrier even if you have no symptoms. Every human on the planet contains pathogens, all of us, it’s impossible not to (fun fact: there are more bacterial cells in your body than human ones), so maybe pointing that out might work?

        We’re all carriers of something. It makes no sense to get offended about it.

        1. Asenath*

          Plus “I’m not contagious and neither are my friends and I can tell because we all seem so nice and healthy.” I think it’s a form of denial, this fantasy that you can tell whether someone is contagious by looking at them You run into this attitude sometimes with sexually transmitted diseases – “I can’t catch anything from New Lover, who is so nice and looks so healthy!”

          1. EPLawyer*

            or the opposite — well if I want to risk my health it’s MY business. Which totally ignores the fact that if you are contagious, you can be risking someone else’s health. Which very much makes it everybody else’s business.

            1. Wednesday of this week*

              Yes, the idea that Covid precautions are a personal health choice, like exercise or something, is a problematic framework. I think we should push an analogy to drunk driving instead. Plenty of people still think it’s fine for them personally to drive drunk, out of the same type of arrogance and denial. But they know that it’s illegal and usually know why. *You are risking other people’s safety without any knowledge or consent on their part.* Same with breathing on strangers right now.

              1. Lizzo*

                1000% this.
                I have seen posts recently that call for public health messaging re: masks and social/physical distancing that are similar to how we convinced people to wear seatbelts, use condoms, etc. If we had better leadership, this might be happening now, and we’d all be better off for it.

                1. Curmudgeon in California*

                  IMO, masks are “face condoms” these days. COVID-19 is a BTD – breath transmitted disease.

              2. tangerineRose*

                “I think we should push an analogy to drunk driving instead.” Yes! So much this!

          2. virago*

            “I’m not contagious and neither are my friends and I can tell because we all seem so nice and healthy”

            Or “I’m usually not around anyone who could catch it,” which is the attitude that a congressional candidate in my state expressed last week when asked whether or not she wears a mask.

            She said she’d put one on when she visits her father, who has COPD, or in a hospital, but she won’t wear one in general settings.

            Apparently this genius knows — KNOWS! — that she’s never been in a grocery line at the same time as someone who has MS or who has been through chemo. (To name just two circumstances that raise the COVID risk.)

            It’s hair raising to think of how many people she may have exposed during her campaign for Congress.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Plus, she could have infected someone who would then infect a high-risk person.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                And it’s not just high risk people who are at risk of dying from this either. She could spread it to a perfectly healthy person who then goes on to die.

        2. Harper the Other One*

          I think all of the above are heavily rooted in denial. “It’s terrifying to think I could get super sick – but I can’t, because the virus isn’t that bad anyway and I don’t have any risk factors and it’s only killing old people and we’re back to normal anyway…”

          I think even the “my freedom” and conspiracy theory people are subconsciously driven by this, because they don’t want to believe that they could really be made extremely, possibly fatally, ill, and both of those are handy deflections.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            You and Asenath above are quite right; I forgot about just total denial.

            Ironically since I’ve been as guilty of it myself. Not to the extent of going outside and putting myself/others at risk, more to the trying not to think about it all to save sanity while stuck in the house.

            (Still guiltily. It’s my birthday soon and the one thing I want more than anything is a hug from my parents. Can’t have it. Still like to dream it’ll be okay though)

            1. tangerineRose*

              My mom and I do “air hugs” – from 6+ feet away, with masks on. Not really a hug, but it’s a lot safer.

            2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              I don’t think it’s denial to decide that you’ll do X, Y, and Z to keep yourself and others safe, make a habit of those things, and then not think about the reasons.

              I have a medical appointment on Friday. It’s going to be telemedicine. I don’t have to think about why I’m not going to be at the doctor’s office, I just need to make sure I’m dressed and can take the Zoom call.

          2. pancakes*

            They’re not good deflections, though. They’re extraordinarily childish and simple-minded, on the level of believing there’s a tooth fairy. The question is why they’re nonetheless seen as handy deflections.

            1. Harper the Other One*

              I don’t mean handy as in good; I mean handy as in useful.

              We have a family member who LIVES in denial and it is astounding the lengths people will go to in order to avoid facing unpleasant realities like “you can do everything ‘right’ and still have something bad happen.”

              1. pancakes*

                I’m sorry, and could’ve been more clear — I thought you meant useful rather than good. I did too, fwiw. There are all sorts of beliefs and conditions that might fall under the umbrella of “living in denial,” and in the US we don’t have the resources to properly deal with many of them.

          3. WorkerBee*

            I love how old people (and sick people) are suddenly expendable in these people’s eyes. There are a lot of people they know and love who would be at risk from COVID, whether they realize it or not.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              And healthy, low risk people CAN die of this too! Assume everyone is at risk, including yourself.

            2. tangerineRose*

              I am frustrated with this expendable thing too. I keep thinking these people must not have anyone they care about in that group.

        3. OP1*

          Oh, Keymaster, this is SO good!

          In our situation it’s a miserable mix of B, D, E, and G) “We miss each other and we just wanted to have fun!”

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I feel that. I’m caught between wanting to see my parents and grieving the loss of two friends to this virus.

            Viral infections aren’t ever a moral label, it doesn’t mean they’re ‘filthy’ or ‘revolting’, just that we’re all trying to save lives here and that results in some temporary discomfort for others.

            You’re trying to save others from grief, that’s to be commended.

          2. lost academic*

            Well if they miss each other and want to have fun so badly, they can quit and have a lot more time to do so. They have responsibilities to their coworkers who they callously endangered. If I were in a coworker’s shoes I’d be livid because their actions would force me to take my kid out of daycare for two full weeks while we all quarantined. Think they’d pay me for that?

          3. Paulina*

            And you’ve now made it easier for that group to spend time together, so what’s their problem?

            1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

              Everyone is tired and frustrated. I don’t live withe the person I’ve been in a relationship with for five years. We decided not to have sex right now or see each other much, as I have several risk factors and seldom leave the house, while he is out there (careful, but still out there. Think that’s easy? Not just sex, but giving up hugging and kissing? We had a robust sex life and abstaining is definitely getting old, but it isn’t wise to just say to heck with it and do whatever you want.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                It’s hard. By god it’s hard. I lost 2 friends to this and had a total nervous breakdown earlier this year and the one thing I want more than anything is a hug from my parents. But they’re high risk, so am I.

                My heart goes out to those in your situation and anyone else suffering from the isolation. I’ve tried to console myself that I’m saving lives this way, and that eventually this will all be over.

                I know it’s not much coming from a stranger, but virtual hugs to you mate, and all the tea and sympathy there is :(

        4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Keymaster, the point about traveling because I want to really hit home for me. I had a weeks vacation last week – and my immediate supervisor and both of the supervisors one and two levels above wanted to know my plans before the time was approved so they could gauge the risks of letting me go off. I was not and still am not offended because we are essential and they needed to judge the impact risks for all of us to my going on vacation.

          For the record, I went dispersed off-field camping in a state park. We went specifically to unplug from the news and the world and plug into hanging out and fishing with the family. It’s the sort of getaway where social distancing is completely possible – but we also still took and wore when needed our face masks.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            And we also went during the middle of the week so that there would be fewer people in the camping area (which we could really see when we were packing up – nobody even remotely around on Tuesday, starting to become a total madhouse zoo of people on Friday). We did everything we could to reduce our exposure.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            You see, you and your employer are smart and considerate :)

            Whereas I’ve got a former coworker who went for 2 weeks to NYC (from the UK) and is now complaining because the company won’t let her back to work…and yup, reckoning it’s none of the firm’s business where she went and that she was entitled a fun time because of all the stress this year.

            I suggested going to a remote location in the UK, like a solitary camping trip, but she wanted to ‘party’.

            You: smart
            Her: flaming idiot

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Thanks for the compliment. It was a case of the kiddos are going stir crazy and need to see something other than the same collection of walls, so how do we do that while also keeping ourselves and our germs quarantined to ourselves in the process.

              (Also, love the Ghostbuster’s reference!)

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                Egon was my idol :) (RIP Harold Ramis)

                I can’t personally understand what it’s like having kids in the house 24/7 but my sister in law has 6 and I know it’s driving her up the wall.

                Desperate times need inventive measures. I’ll actually pass on your solution to my SIL if that’s ok?

                1. Lizzo*

                  Desperate times need inventive measures.

                  So much this. I have more to say on the topic but I think it may take us too far afield from the original post.

                2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Absolutely Keymaster, feel free to pass it on. We actually looked up the types of plants and animals that would be normal in the area we were going to as well. It was almost a bingo card, how many of these things did you find while we were out there situation.

          3. Kyrielle*

            When I asked for time off for a long weekend later this summer, I specifically told my boss I was going to be attending an online convention from home. Same reasoning – I don’t want them to worry that I will impact the business beyond my actual days off. (And yes, I really am. It’s a nice chance – I haven’t been able to go in person for years, actually.)

      2. OP1*

        “Are there any examples you could give from the working environment that they could relate to?”
        That’s a great question! I’m going to think about that!

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        “And for everyone’s well-being, it’s best to act as if you are contagious as much as you can. Not just at work but in general.”

        1. SarahKay*

          This! So much this!
          OP#1, if you made them feel contagious then good for you. They should feel contagious, because they have just massively increased their risk of being contagious. If I were in the non-dining half of your employees I would welcome your action, and be very unhappy if you backed down.
          The dining group made a choice, but they don’t get to force that choice onto all your other employees.

          1. tangerineRose*

            “The dining group made a choice, but they don’t get to force that choice onto all your other employees.” This! SO much this!

        2. BRR*

          Yes exactly! I’m high risk so when my office reopens next month I will be continuing to work from home. Would that make them feel contagious? We’re going to have staggered schedules, does that them feel contagious?

          I have to go to my home inspection later today and will be wearing a mask and staying far from the home inspector, does that make me feel contagious? No! It’s called taking precautions to try and minimize spread and it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

      2. Joielle*

        This was my first thought too – like, yeah, you might be contagious, so I don’t understand the conversation we’re having right now. Perhaps it’s good that I don’t manage people….

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I almost laughed out loud at the painfully obvious total non-comprehension of how disease is spread. This is stuff we learned in the early years of our lives. We are all potentially infectious to each other, think about the common cold or the flu. I have a horrible story about an intestinal thing that ripped through an assistive living home. Just walking into the place meant you probably caught it. Don’t go to the hospital to see your loved one, because you would catch it there also. This happened 20 years ago and it still scares me.

      Additionally, it is irrelevant if they do or do not believe in Covid-19. Employees have to comply with what the company says and what the boss says. I’d say good luck finding a “better” employer. No job is worth dying for. And people who “don’t believe in Covid” can STILL get Covid, so there is that.

      Sometimes we have to stand firm while other people sort out their own dense thinking. I have often thought of this as a waste of time and energy, but it is better to think of it as just part of the job. Know you are correct, OP, stand firm and just wait for them to sort themselves out.

      1. tangerineRose*

        If only we could adjust things so that the employees who don’t believe in COVID-19 worked for the employers who also don’t, and the employees who are sane and sensible worked for employers who shared their beliefs.

    7. Hotdog not dog*

      It’s a virus, not a moral failing that they’re “accused” of and it’s quite possible that the dinner team may have exposed themselves to it. Unfortunately they are showing a moral failing as well by disregarding their teammates’ safety. They should be feeling awkward about making a fuss about switching teams, not about being treated as though they are contagious. However, they didn’t ask for advice, the LW did. I agree that the LW should stick to their guns on this one. Keep them separated!

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      I could weep. Every step we have to get R value below 1 is based on the well-supported idea that you might be contagious and not know it. After four months this shouldn’t be a revelation.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This.

        The number of people who deliberately refuse to understand this makes me want to grind my teeth in frustration.

        My entire household is high risk. Our one extrovert got potentially contaminated when she was out by eating a snack unmasked (she’s diabetic) and having a street person deliberately cough on her. Now we have to wear masks in the house until her two week quarantine is up and her second test comes back negative.

        We have to take it seriously, because if one of us gets it, we all could get it, and at least one of us is likely to die of it.

        We’ve been wearing masks since March.

        IMO, anyone pleading ignorance is either lying or stupid. This pandemic hasn’t gone away, even if some politicians want to pretend it has.

    9. JimmyJab*

      Excellent point. OP should focus on the responsible staff she is protecting who are surely grateful.

  7. Coder von Frankenstein*

    LW5, it seems like you’re having a lot of trouble committing to a decision here. You decided to leave Job 1 for Job 2, then changed your mind and stayed at Job 1, then changed your mind again and went through with leaving, and now you’re wondering if the door might be open to return to Job 1 down the road.

    It might be worth thinking about what’s making it so hard to stick with your choices here.

    1. valentine*

      It might be worth thinking about what’s making it so hard to stick with your choices here.
      And why you think you only have two choices and why you want Job1 as a permanent backup. Maybe you’ll want a full-time Job3 or a diverse or different career.

    2. Heidi*

      This is a letter where the advice might vary depending on the details. Is Job1 better paying, but Job2 more interesting? Or is Job2 better in terms of working conditions but you have lots of friends at Job1? If it’s so hard to let go of Job1, why not continue doing both for a while longer? Also, how does the Job2 boss feel about being told that you’re going to work full-time, then that you’re not, then that you are, then maybe not?

      1. Yvette*

        Agreed that it depends upon the details. Are these front-line type retail jobs? Most retail jobs, if you leave in good standing having had a solid work history, good performance evaluations, give two weeks notice and a graceful exit (no spelling “I QUIT!” in seafood) you are considered eligible for re-hire, and most retail jobs have a decent amount of turn-over, so they almost always need people.

        1. Hotdog not dog*

          Back in the day, I went part time on a retail job in favor of a full time office job. Eventually I quit the retail job entirely, but ended up going back to it several times when I needed extra income or was between jobs. It worked because I had developed a good relationship with my retail boss, who could count on me hitting the ground running at minute one. There ended up being times when they asked me to come back for a few weeks during busy seasons or when they were short handed. Without that context, it seems flaky that I went back and forth so many times (it was over a 7 year period, and I couldn’t even guess how many times I left and came back!). I haven’t worked there in years, but still love to shop there.

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      Indeed. Why are you looking to leave this job in the first place if you might want to go back to it? Jobs are not like, say, shopping for wedding dresses or cars, where if you aren’t quite sure if you want to settle on this one, you can always leave and come back to it because it (or a very similar one) will be waiting for you. Your boss is not in any way obligated to take you back once you leave. In fact, many a person who thought they could just go back to a job where they were beloved are shocked to find out that their replacement is better at the job then they were.

      Also, many people learn that the grass is not greener when they leave a job for something else that was great as a part-time side gig, but which becomes a whole different situation when it’s full-time and you have to support yourself with it.**

      Unless you hate job 1, it sounds like you have a pretty good situation with being full-time at job 1 and part-time at job 2. If you do hate job 1, find a different job 1.

      Also, note question 5 at this link: https://www.askamanager.org/2017/10/my-coworker-keeps-saying-shes-my-boss-my-boss-didnt-reciprocate-my-gifts-to-his-kids-and-more.html

      **I work full-time for the government, and I teach group exercise classes part-time, a couple of classes a week, or I did before coronavirus time (in The Before Time, as I’ve heard people say). As much as I love teaching classes, I like that balance, and I would hate to have to try to support myself teaching group exercise. Two or three classes a week is fun; 20 classes a week would be a drag for me. In my case, I wouldn’t leave my full-time gig to try to make my part-time gig full-time. Some jobs are meant to stay part-time.

      (Note: most people who fully support themselves by working in fitness full-time do more than just teach group classes. They do personal training or private yoga lessons or they present workshops or they sell a product or they are on the management team at the facility. Then, there are many others where fitness is their only job, but they don’t fully support themselves with it because they have some other source of income, like a partner who is the household breadwinner.)

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        Fitness is such hard work! You have to work around clients’s schedules, which means early mornings, nights and weekends. I would not like to do it fulltime, because even if you work a reasonable number of hours in total, your off-time is cut up into little pieces.

      2. UKDancer*

        Most of the dance and fitness teachers that I know don’t do it full time . It’s very difficult to make a profitable living out of it for one thing.

        I study (now over zoom) swing dance with an engineer, bellydance with a lawyer and bhangracise with an IT programmer. All of whom enjoy what they do but don’t want to do it all the time. My ballet instructor is a professional dancer but he also does fitness coaching, performs and models to try and has to juggle everything pretty hard to keep going.

        Personally I love doing embroidery but wouldn’t want to do it for a living. I like being able to take my time, do the pieces I want to do and if it annoys me take a break. Some hobbies work better as hobbies.

    4. Calanthea*

      I think this really does depend on the jobs though – thinking of friends, if LW5 is a mechanic, a childcare worker or a swim teacher, it’s not uncommon for people to move back and forth between employers. As Yvette says, if you are a good worker and leave politely, people are keen to have you back.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      When I have hit parallel situations in life like this, I have often thought the answer is to let go entirely.
      Using this letter as an example, it might be possible that I would be thinking of Job 1 as a safety net. Hey, if things go bad, there is always Job 1.

      The kicker here is something like Job 1 can become a crutch that does not allow me to move forward because of my over-reliance on it and my own lack of a better and stronger plan.

      I’d encourage you to get a stronger plan, OP, the plan you are using is causing you to go in circles like one shoe is nailed to the ground.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        I actually did have a situation akin to this some years ago when I was temping. I was in a long-term contract where everything was reasonably good, but the pay was barely over minimum wage, and I was barely scraping by. I left for a better-paying job… that literally decided “it wasn’t working out” after two days and let me go. Job 1 graciously called a mulligan and took me back. Later on I picked up a different contract that I did part-time on the side for months (afraid to suddenly leave again), before eventually leaving Job 1 for good to do that full-time – only for *that* contract to end abruptly two months later (it had been expected to go on longer). I actually did check in with Job 1 again, but they couldn’t take me back. The manager in Job 1 was not in control of the pay and understood my circumstances, so he was fairly nice about the whole thing. But I’m glad that period of my life is over!

        In the end, there are certain workplaces that you can kind of… keep in your pocket if needed, especially at lower levels. But in the LW’s case, this doesn’t sound like one of those jobs, so she’ll need to assess the risks and make a real decision.

    6. highbury house*

      I’m willing to bet that your assessment that Job1 boss likes you is…probably overly generous. LW5 should consider that possibility, anyway.

      That said, I have worked at places that rehired people that had quit (in less than amicable circumstances, even!), but that always was a ‘at least [person] is a known quantity, who won’t need training’ situation, i.e. path of least resistance, rather than a thing good for the business. It was *never* good for the business.

  8. Grand Mouse*

    If they don’t want to feel contagious maybe they could… not do risky things that would cause risk if they were contagious. This virus is particularly dangerous and tricky because they’ve realized you can be contagious before you have symptoms.

    I have little sympathy because I am an essential worker in a critical role and done all I can to minimize the risk. Dining in is… very low on the list of wants vs needs.

    Everyone in this time has to be treated as potentially contagious. The quicker people adapt to this and take precautions, the faster we can flatten the curve and recover. It’s bigger tban any individual.

    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      Yes! The correct answer to, “You made us feel ‘contagious,’” is, “You might be contagious!”

      From the long pre-symptomatic period to the large numbers of asymptomatic carriers, none of them can guarantee that they aren’t exhaling virus with every breath. Unless they have access to the rapid response test the White House uses, they don’t get to risk their co-workers that way.

      1. tangerineRose*

        People should act like they’re contagious even if they probably aren’t. “Feeling contagious” during a pandemic might not be a bad thing.

    2. MommyMD*

      It will be a very long time before I dine in. This may improve but it’s not going away until we get a vaccine.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Not relevant to the OP but I notoced 2 of you said “dine in” to mean eating in a restaurant. Where I live, ppl say “dine out” to mean going to a restaurant. Is this regional or has covid changed how we say this?

        1. Harper the Other One*

          I think people are saying “dine in” as the alternate to “take out,” which most experts seem to say is safer that actually eating in the restaurant.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Yes, that is how most people are using “dine in” here in Texas right now. It’s a way restaurants are indicating that their indoor dining rooms are open. In the Before Times, the only time I heard “dine in” was if I was calling an order in and the staff asked “dine in or carry out?”

          2. Clisby*

            Here (SC) “dine-in” means dining inside the restaurant as opposed to eating in an outside seating area. SC let restaurants serve people outside well before indoor dining was allowed.

        2. OP1*

          In our situation it was a dining at a restaurant outside on a patio and taking endless group selfies (no masks obviously).

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            While outside is better, the selfies thing is cringeworthy.

            They should all have to work with each other and not risk infecting other coworkers with their idiocy.

            If it were me, I give them all a formal write up, but I’m not very nice.

          2. tangerineRose*

            Group selfies make it sound like they were probably crowded together to get the pics. What is wrong with them?!

        3. fhqwhgads*

          I don’t think it’s regional or a covid-based change. From my experience if I’m going to eat out or dine out tonight, I’m getting restaurant food. Those phrases are juxtaposed to making food at my home.
          Whereas “dine in” is juxtaposed to “take out”. Both of those involve getting restaurant food, but indicate whether you’ll eat it at the restaurant or take the food away with you to eat at home or in the car or otherwise not at the restaurant.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If they feel contagious they should quarantine for 14 days.
      “So tell me, Employee, you say you feel contagious, what symptoms are you having that make you think you might be contagious?…. What do I mean? Well typically when people say they feel they are contagious they have symptoms that they think might spread to others. I was wondering what symptoms made you think you could be contagious.”

      It’s such an odd word choice that one has to wonder what they are really trying to say.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yes, +1, all of this.

      As someone who has spend 25+ years in health care, public health, and health education, everyone should be acting like they have it. If we could get these….people to do that one thing, we wouldn’t be seeing a surge in cases. Heck, we might be right there with New Zealand, zero new cases!

  9. PollyQ*

    #1 — I’d be really tempted to fire them all, on the grounds that I don’t want whiny reckless idiots working for me. I probably wouldn’t do it, but I’d be super duper tempted.

    1. Ludo*

      Yeah honestly reading that question I already can’t stand that team and if it was up to me I’d let them go, but obviously losing that many employees at once may not be feasible

      1. Sara without an H*

        The only correct response to threats to quit is, “Well, you must do what you think best. Be ready to hand in your badge and keys by 5:00 p.m., and I’ll have HR cut your last check.”

        1. The Other Dawn*

          When I first started out as a manager, a team member threatened to quit if she didn’t get her way on something. She was very vocal about it. It was something very minor, but we just couldn’t accommodate the request at the time. When I went to my manager in a panic that she was threatening to quit, OMG what are we going to do?!, how can we stop her from leaving?, etc. He said, “If she feels she can’t work here anymore, it’s her choice. And do you really want to work hard to keep someone who would threaten to quit over (minor thing)?” Ever since then, I don’t get upset when someone threatens to quit. (It has happened only a couple times, thankfully.) I just say, “OK, if that’s what you feel is best for you then write up a resignation letter with your last day noted and send it over to me.”

          1. OP1*

            OMG, I LOVE THIS! I’ve been feeling so threatened by their job searching. Employees come and go for a variety of reasons obviously, but the % of staff that are upset and purportedly “job searching” shook me up a bit and that’s what made me question myself and our decisions. Regardless of the percentage of staff involved, this is really good advice, The Other Dawn! Thank you!

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Think of it this way: they’re essentially threatening to quit unless you pretend that the virus isn’t a big issue.

              Call their bluff. I think, the economy being what it is, they’ll pull in their claws when they realise a job with a few easy to manage safety measures is better than being able to do whatever you like but being unemployed.

              (Speaking as one who is unemployed, high risk and seriously looking for work)

            2. anonymous 5*

              Not for nothing, but if there were ever a time when you’d stand a good chance of being able to hire qualified replacements quickly, I’m pretty sure this is it.

            3. Dream Jobbed*

              How much of the staff has told you they are job searching? Several, or just the ringleader? If several are, you might have a separate moral issues, but if one person is speaking for all… well, they probably aren’t.

              I don’t think you need to get rid of all of them, just the one who is being so absurd about the workplace trying to remain safe. That would be the one I would be telling to get me a resignation letter ASAP.

            4. The Other Dawn*

              You’re welcome!

              I agree with Keymaster of Gozer–call their bluff. I’m betting that will likely be the end of it. At the moment they think they have the upper hand, but they don’t seem to realize there are likely LOTS of people out there who would happily take their jobs. If you give into them they will see they can get their way on other things. Not there should never be discussion or push-back when warranted, but I don’t think you’re being unreasonable at all in this case–we’re in a pandemic!

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I’d go with “Please update your documentation before you finalize your decision.” In my experience, nothing is quite the cold shower that preparing to move out without someone is.

          Lots of phrases that get the job done. As far as the sentiment, while (true) +1;

      2. FormerFirstTimer*

        I would honestly be questioning if I even wanted them to stay. They’ve displayed poor judgement and are whining about the consequences. That’s only acceptable in toddlers who don’t know better.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Soooo many people these days seem to think it’s okay to act like entitled toddlers that it’s positively unreal. I’ll be glad when the fad passes.

    2. Threeve*

      At the very least, a VERY stern “this is a ridiculous objection, and I don’t want to hear about it again.”

      Because it’s a ridiculous objection, and LW doesn’t want to hear about it again.

      1. OP1*

        Totally agree!

        Here’s the thing – it isn’t being discussed anymore, now it’s an icy demeanor toward the non-diners – especially toward me and their direct manager. They were all upset about the response to their personal time dining decisions, but one “ringleader” (as a commenter on a different thread suggested) is really leaning into the us/them.

        1. Sara without an H*

          I can live with “icy demeanor,” but I’d keep an eye on that ringleader. Do NOT put up with insubordination.

        2. Nanani*

          So they’re making life harder for their coworkers who aren’t taking stupid risks during the pandemic?

          Yeah I think you need to keep an eye on the diner team, -and- offer support to the non diners. Maybe find a way to let them know you have their back and they shouldn’t feel pressured to go to stupid unnecessary outings for “team building” or whatever excuse the ringleader likes to use?

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          Fire the ringleader. This whole tantrum has been insubordination.

          I don’t often say stuff like this about an IC, but when they are essentially organizing your employees to engage in risky behavior that risks their coworkers (both the people who went to dinner and the ones who didn’t but are now at risk) they are a liability.

          At the very least give them a written warning. This could be a threat to your business.

          1. Paulina*

            Insubordination, and a power play. They don’t like your rules so they’re organizing others to join in in breaking them, including bullying other staff that don’t go along. Which is all the more reason to keep the new teams separated (non-diners should not have to work with the diners who risked everyone’s health and the company, and are also bullying them), and also to keep your eye on how the diners behave. Bullying coworkers for not breaking separation should be fireable.

    3. OP1*

      You got me – that was TOTALLY my first reaction. I actually messaged their manager and asked her to tell me why we couldn’t just fire all of them. I was so frustrated, angry, disappointed, and gobsmacked that I wanted to just throw in the towel or fire all of them.

      1. Malarkey01*

        And really, they screwed all your business operations up by going around the team splits. That would have me seriously wondering about their judgement and ability to follow office protocols in general.
        I’d have pushed back hard with their threats about quitting and outraged feelings, and with the ringleader especially. It’s one thing for people to make a wrong decision, when they start fighting you on it and threatening to quit they’ve shown that they aren’t someone you want working for you.

        Also- who threatens to quit with 11% unemployment and an escalating pandemic. These people are idiots.

    4. cmcinnyc*

      I especially love that they’re whining and threatening to quit. I would take any “maybe I’ll quit” folks up on that offer right quick. Interviews would stress that the company is looking for team members who not only are qualified for the work but are committed to COVID guidelines that protect the whole team.

    5. Nanani*

      Honestly, if this happens again with no consequences, the people who do take precautions seriously are likely to quit. Pick your poison LW.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yup. Refusing to discipline assholes tends to drive out non-assholes. Which group of employees do you want?

  10. valentine*

    Unless the teams work in different buildings, shouldn’t Team Outbreak spend two weeks at home?

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      That’s probably not feasible for the business and, depending on the number of cases in the area, may be overkill. Mixing teams doubles the number of possibly infected people, but only if you had an infected employee in the company to begin with.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        Yes, this. Where I am, where we are peaking at the moment, friends who work in civil engineering and similar industries, where there are a lot of people on a job, many of whom are using public transport and in widely varying living circumstances (so it’s very difficult to ensure compliance with masks, sanitising and so on), the teams are very set, so as to limit interaction and reduce fall-out if and when people get it. So far it’s worked well. Group A will work on this floor / section / whatever, have their breaks at such-and-such times and group B will work in this section and have their breaks half an hour after / before. Obviously nothing is perfect, but it has massively lowered risks and they’ve made sure the teams are comprised of people who work well together and understand the reasons and so on.

      2. OP1*

        Exactly right in our situation – there just aren’t enough employees to quarantine the diners for “just in case”.

    2. Cj*

      If they didn’t do anything against their state or city guidelines, I don’t know you can require them to self isolate for 2 weeks. The only way that would be reasonable is if the came in contact with somebody that tested positive.

      Regarding combining the remaining team members,
      unless they are self isolating, which again isn’t reasonable to require, they could be exposed at any time during those two weeks and still give it to other team members.

      I don’t disagree with the manager’s decision. Given the fact that half the team members could have been exposed at 1 dinner, it makes sense to keep them together. but with things opening up more and more, there’s no way you’re going to prevent team members from being exposed. The best you can do, in my opinion, is require the wearing of mass and as much social distancing as possible at work.

      1. Cj*

        If they didn’t do anything against their state or city guidelines, I don’t know you can require them to self isolate for 2 weeks. The only way that would be reasonable is if the came in contact with somebody that tested positive.

        Regarding combining the remaining team members,
        unless they are self isolating, which again isn’t reasonable to require, they could be exposed at any time during those two weeks and still give it to other team members.

        I don’t disagree with the manager’s decision. Given the fact that half the team members could have been exposed at 1 dinner, it makes sense to keep them together. but with things opening up more and more, there’s no way you’re going to prevent team members from being exposed. The best you can do, in my opinion, is require the wearing of masks and as much social distancing as possible at work.

        1. NP204*

          That’s where I’m having a hard time with this. If their state allows restaurants to be open then people are allowed to go to restaurants. We can have ‘large’ group gatherings (of a mandated size), if I were to attend one as state guidelines say I can, can my work really give consequences for doing what citizens of our state are allowed to do?

          Now this does specifically say they were maskless. But if I’m wearing a mask, washing hands and following social distancing guidelines, I should be allowed to do whatever the state says is allowed to be open.

      2. Carbondale*

        You’re right that any one of them could become infected at anytime, but if they hadn’t gone to dinner together, they would have only been at risk of infecting half of their coworkers. Now they have put the entire staff of the company at risk. That’s the rub.

        1. CJM*

          Yeah, I get that part. And like I said, I don’t think the manager is wrong for re-organizing the teams. But I don’t see how you can require anybody who has had any social contact to self-quarantine for two weeks if they haven’t been in contact with somebody who tested positive.

          I personally am pretty much staying home even though there have not been that may cases where I live. But other people are going out as allowed by the state. Our admin was not in the office today because she had to be tested. And I work for a CPA firm that has an extended tax deadline on Wednesday. This has caused real problems, so I definately understand the managers concerns. But she didn’t go anywhere or do anything that violates our state (Minnesota) guidelines.

      3. Thankful for AAM*

        My workplace has had a rule in effect since March that if you travel outside the county or state you have to tell them. They would then use that info to tell you to stay home for 2 weeks if they thought that was necessary.

        So I think they can tell the ppl who dined out together to stay home.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Thankful, my workplace is doing the same with regards to time off requests. I have no qualms at all about that all. They are doing the best they can to minimize the risk to all of us on staff.

          When I requested time off to go dispersed camping with my family I had to give them all my plans and the list of precautions we were taking while traveling.

        2. Cj*

          Just curious to say if you really meant if they travel out of the “county”, or was it supposed to be “country”?

      4. Colette*

        Of course they can. Employers can set a dress code, tell you when to show up, schedule your breaks, and otherwise require you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. They can certainly tell you to stay home for 2 weeks, even when there is not a pandemic.

    3. Perfectly Particular*

      I am going to take a counterpoint to this, but let me start by saying that personally, I have been wearing masks (not required in my area until 2 days ago), avoiding public places, definitely not dining in, etc.

      Unless the employer specifically stated ahead of time that any socializing with teammates outside of work hours would cause the teams to be reorganized, I can understand the feeling of privacy invasion that is happening. We are (at least in some areas) getting mixed messages about what is safe, and here, we have been told that going to restaurants in groups smaller than 10 and with 6ft distancing to the other parties is ok. I would feel really weird if I found out that my company was monitoring my behavior and took issue with what I was doing on my personal time, especially if it was in-line with the health-authority messaging. If Team A and Team B we’re having lunch together daily or something , that would have to be stopped, but for a single dinner, I can see how they feel that you may be overstepping.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I think this is a really good point. In my area restaurants are at something like 25% capacity indoors and there’s a huge push for people to go to them so they can stay in business. Some people do, some people don’t. There are also some restaurants in my area that have completely figured out takeaway/outdoor dining as an option (there’s a place near me that has a huge lawn – it’s turned into a popular picnic destination because everyone can be at least 25′ apart). Would it make a difference if the dinner was at an outdoor place?

        FWIW – I don’t see myself eating at an indoor restaurant for at least another year.

        1. grace*

          Yep. I mean, I get where OP1 is coming from, but I can say that in my state, what they would be doing isn’t against any guidelines. You can disagree with that all you want, and as an employee can obviously set higher restrictions, but it’s hard to enforce if you haven’t explicitly said at the beginning what is and isn’t okay — that said, it sounds like OP1 has done that. And frankly, I’ve eaten out with friends and have been wearing my mask as required by my state (even before it was required, actually), but I wouldn’t be pleased by my employer shaming* me for doing what my state allows.

          * I don’t think OP1 is shaming them, but I do think they may be interpreting it that way, which may explain some of the reactions.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I don’t GAF what the state “allows” – some states are being outright stupid.

            The employer has a duty to protect the other employees from covidiots. Even if what the covidiots are doing is “legal”.

            An employer can regulate some private conduct if it affects the business or their coworkers. See drug testing, drivers license requirements, vacation time blackout periods, etc. This employer has decided to manage their company risk by reducing cross contamination between two teams. The diners violated that.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              We’ve had employees work in teams (and work from home for those who can) since the beginning to limit cross-exposure to each other.

              It doesn’t take MENSA to follow that cross-exposure could occur outside business hours. It’s not like your employer’s instructions to keep your passwords secret, or restrictions on using the equipment for non-business purposes, only apply during business hours.

        2. pancakes*

          The “huge push” for people to go to restaurants in areas like this, though, is specifically coming from people motivated by economic concerns. No one with expertise in public health is pushing for it, and no one with expertise in public health is recommending it.

      2. pancakes*

        You’ve been told that by people with expertise in public health, or by politicians? There’s often little to no overlap between those categories.

      3. Leenie*

        The problem is that these specific people were supposed to keep away from each other in order to limit an outbreak at the workplace. So mixing those teams up put a massive wrench in that plan. If they went out within their own groups, although one might question the wisdom, it wouldn’t have impacted the safety plan. But once you mix those groups up – on the clock or off – you’ve opened the workplace up to needing to send the entire staff home for two weeks if there’s been an exposure, instead of half the staff. It’s not overstepping. It’s reasonable.

      4. noahwynn*

        I’m right there with you. Unless you made it clear early on that the coworkers shouldn’t interact outside of work it does feel invasive because it seems like they were likely following the current local restrictions. I know where I live we can eat out but restaurants only allow smaller groups and the tables are set further apart. Masks can be removed once you’re seated at the table. I’ve been out with friends, coworkers, and family since this was allowed.

        I don’t think OP did anything wrong by rearranging the teams to prevent exposure. However, depending on how it was communicated, I also understand the frustration from the employees side as well. They feel like they were following the requirements and still are being called out for doing something “wrong”.

        1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

          Employers cannot anticipate everything employees might do, geez. The other side is being held accountable, if they want to view it as they did nothing wrong and whine about it, so be it.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            IDK, it sounds like it’s a very small company with staff who know each other well and interact outside of work. If that’s the case then you don’t exactly need a crystal ball to figure out that they might want to meet up at some point. So if OP did not make it explicitly clear that these rules applied to their personal lives as well as work, I think that was perhaps an oversight. Of course the employees should have figured that out and they’re being ridiculous by doubling down, but it’s sensible not to leave room for this kind of misunderstanding (or “misunderstanding”.)

            1. Leenie*

              The OP commented that they’ve been having the teams work different days so that there isn’t any in person interaction between the teams at work at all, and there’s thorough cleaning between their shifts. It’s not a lot to ask that the employees might consider that the company is going through that hassle that for a reason. I agree that the OP being explicit might have helped, but under the circumstances, it probably didn’t occur to her that this needed explaining. If they were all at the office at the same time anyway, I’d be more inclined to agree that the OP should have been clearer.

      5. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        Governments reopening astuff are not basing guidelines solely on medical considerations. Restaurants are known outbreak sources. There is no such thing as 100% compliance with guidelines, because people are people.

        NOTHING IS SAFE! Everything has a risk attached, some much more than others. Some can be avoided, some can’t. Nobody needs to eat out with coworkers. There is NO overstepping here. All the rule-lawyering in the world doesn’t do a thing to protect anyone from the virus.

      6. BethDH*

        Doesn’t sound like they were wearing masks OR maintaining 6 feet distancing (see OP’s mention of all the group selfies). So it’s not just the dining part.

      7. ...*

        I am also distancing, always wearing mask, limiting outside contact (but not eliminating it, I do outdoor get togethers with small groups) and I agree. I think you would need to agree to this ahead of time and have them sign a contract if you want this. Especially if its all allowed an in line with local regulations.

      8. Mameshiba*

        I kind of agree… in the sense that, my country has been doing better with COVID than the US, and we can eat in restaurants now. But we are still minimizing who is in the office and having team dinners/parties online. It would be technically OK to have a dinner on the patio, but it wouldn’t be good common sense. It’s like ordering probably-undercooked dollar shrimp from that sketchy restaurant for your next team lunch… your office/local government probably doesn’t have a policy against it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

  11. Mollyg*

    #2 I have flown across the country for jobs that had no funding and had phone interviews for others. I think it is unethical for a company to do that for it is disrespectful of the applicants time and provides false hope. It is even worse when companies interview you for a “job” but they are just going to use your resume in a bid proposal as an example of someone they may hire.

    1. Flair of Ashes*

      What do you mean by the last part?
      I’m not a working person yet so maybe that’s why I don’t know

      1. SaeniaKite*

        I read it as when companies are bidding on work and want to strengthen their proposal. Say the project might need a person with x skills but they don’t currently have such a person, they post a job opening for those skills and then take the resumes to show the type of candidates they can pull in if needed.
        (Sorry for double posting, nesting fail!)

        1. SweetestCin*

          That’s how I’m reading it as well SaeniaKite. And at least in my own line of work, that would still be unethical, as bid proposals ask for resumes of skilled employees proposed for the project, not potential employees who have not been hired yet.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            That’s how I read it, too.

            Say the business wants to bid on a Rapid Teapot order, but has no Rapid Teapot specialists. They may well advertise the Rapid Teapot Specialist position, take a résumé/CV from a strong candidate as pass it off as someone who would be on the project, since they would (probably?) try to hire said person if the company does win the bid. It’s ethically grey IMHO because it misrepresents the assets and capabilities on hand, but I’ve been interviewed as the contingent hire enough times to realize it’s probably more mainstream than I would naively give it credit for.

      2. The One with Unpopular Opinions*

        Hear me out. Let’s say that each of the team members went out to dinner with family or friends instead of their team members, which appears to be allowed by the govt in their region, and report to work like usual the next day. The risks of catching and spreading are roughly the same, yet managers wouldn’t try to regulate that. I don’t fault the manager for wanting to keep risks low, but nor do I fault the team for getting twisted about it.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          Well, it’s still unlikely to infect the whole staff at once which is what team segregation seeks to achieve. Moreover, it’s not like the employees did this unwittingly! They knew they were supposed to keep seperate and were presumably not given similar instructions with regards to their family members.

          1. BethDH*

            Exactly this! It’s not “you did something in your spare time that increased your risk and that of your immediate coworkers” it’s “you did something in your spare time that increased the ENTIRE staff’s risk.”

        2. MK*

          I do. If you engage in reckless behaviour, even one allowed by the government, you don’t get to be upset that other people are trying to minimize the consequences for themselves. It doesn’t sound as if the switching of the teams had had any real adverse effects on anyone; these people are complaining about their hurt feelings! They sound like toddlers.

          Also, consider that these people are probably also socializing with their friends and relatives; the coworkers dinner was on top of that.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          If I found a staff member had been out socialising with large groups, unprotected, I’d be isolating them more from the rest of staff.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Reality is that companies can and do step into people’s personal lives.

          I fell off a motorcycle at 60 mph. I was out of work for 6 weeks. When I returned, they informed me that if I got on a bike again I could consider myself automatically fired. I called DOL. Yep, it’s legal. They could fire me for riding (as a passenger) on a motorcycle on personal time.

          At some point arguing right and wrong is moot because reality wins out.

        5. Paulina*

          It’s about trying to limit exposure of the entire staff. Originally, if one employee was diagnosed with Covid, their team could be quarantined and leave the other team working. Now, if one of the diners tests positive soon after the dinner, everyone needs to be quarantined and there’s nobody left to do their essential work.

      3. Mockingjay*

        It’s called a contingent offer. Done properly, it means you agree that a company can use your resume in their proposal bid as part of their staffing plan. If they win the contract, they offer you the job. Note that you are not obligated to accept the offer. Most contingents are valid only for one specific proposal or bid. A good company will never use your resume without your permission.

        Contingent offers are used a lot by federal contractors when bidding on new or expanded work. It’s a way to staff quickly upon contract award – normally a company has only 30 days to get up and running.

        1. MollyG*

          Each time this has happened to me, there was no contingent offer, they just interviewed you as if there was a job, then at the end said they want to submit your resume in their bid. I say yes because it is marginally better then saying no. The job postings that I applied to are written as if the job is funded and ready to go.

          1. Mockingjay*

            Molly G, sorry to hear about your experiences. Check the job listings; reputable companies will put “this position is contingent upon contract award” somewhere in the description (usually at the bottom). These companies are the ones I will let use my resume, pending a satisfactory interview.

            In the interview, ask about the company’s contract awards – current, pending, and future anticipated – as well as the health and competition of the industry the company works in. Some companies will bid anything and everything (ExToxicJob was like this) and have a very low win rate. If you don’t feel a good vibe about a place, tell them they can’t use your resume. No reason to prolong the interaction.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I should have kept reading; this comment nails the situation!

      4. Mme Pince*

        This is certainly true in government contracting. Many contracting companies post positions for contracts on which they plan to bid and then submit resumes with their bid. Some are more upfront with candidates than others about it, but many obscure the fact that there are already people in the positions on the current contract (with another contractor) who will likely get the first choice to stay or not, so the jobs may never materialize even if the new contracting company wins the bid.

  12. andy*

    L5: I have seen people actually leave multiple times and come back. Or talk about leaving for long before leaving. So at least in some companies, you can come back if they have good experience with you.

    However, if you come back quick, they will assume you are sort of person that changes opinions often and you will get one of those positions that have higher turnover or does not require much training.

    1. GDub*

      I have left and returned to THREE companies in my career. If you are a valuable employee, you can find an eager welcome back, even years later. But waffling like this . . ??? I’m not sure.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Yeah, it isn’t so much the going back that’s an issue; it’s where LW5 was about to leave, then didn’t, then did, and is now thinking about maybe un-leaving when they’ve only just left.

        If you leave a place on good terms, and a few years you’re looking to move on again and you see an opening at your old employer and apply, that’s different.

    2. Mbarr*

      Ditto what was said above. One of our coworkers worked for the company for a year, then quit. Then came back a year later, then quit again. He did well at his job, but Management has expressly said they won’t take him back again due to unreliability. Now, maybe it it’s been a couple of years, and his resume shows that he committed to a single company in that time, they might reconsider, but until then, he’s persona non-grata.

      1. Paulina*

        Even if he shows he can stick with another company, he can’t expect the original company to be happy being apparently his backup plan, unless the position allows for it.

  13. Bleah*

    I think for #1, the reason they may be a little upset is that this is an extremely small company 10 people total. So when they say half of two sub-teams went to dinner, that’s five people. And actually, re-reading, I’m not sure it’s even five people since they don’t mention how many teams there are. If there were only two people that went to dinner together, it does feel like this is an overreaction from the company.

    I mean, I’m all for keeping people separated, but I suspect that in such a small company, they aren’t as separate as the OP thinks they are. So they might feel that keeping up the appearance of such strict separation isn’t real. Maybe they know that other members of other sub-teams are going out together too. I mean, if one set of people is going out with other sub-teams, what’s preventing these same people from going out with other random friends. Is the OP asking their team to avoid all contact with non-family members?

    It kind of feels like these precautions give you the illusion of preventing people from getting the disease, where the better thing to do is pretend as if every single person has covid and keep as much distancing as possible and wear masks, wipe down surfaces, and wash hands frequently. Because, there is no way to prevent each person in your company from coming in contact with random other people as everything re-opens.

    1. Esme*

      OP said they were separate, they’re probably in the premises on different days and either way can we take them at their word?

      1. OP1*

        Esme, Exactly right – the teams works on different days with thorough cleaning before and after each swap.

    2. LGC*

      …honestly, I think you’re right to a degree. But I have a slightly different opinion – I think the problem isn’t the safety measures taken in and of themselves, it’s the messaging around them. It’s a pandemic, yes, but you’re also dealing with humans here.

      So LW1 should still continue with the re-org, but also acknowledge that it is inconvenient to everyone and why they’re doing it.

      1. JustaTech*

        I mean, it sounds like they were really clear about why they’re re-organizing the teams: if everyone gets sick the business shuts down and everyone’s out a job.
        It’s a small company, and they can’t afford to have everyone sick at once.

        I guess it’s because in my industry we work with (potentially) dangerous stuff every day, so we all know that you have to be careful *all the time*, and that being careful most of the time isn’t enough when one slip up can give you a potentially deadly disease. We don’t work in a state of fear, but with respect for the risks.

        I guess this is a harder thing to teach everyone than I expected.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It honestly doesn’t matter if they have 10 employees or 10,000. The employees are being unnecessarily reckless. They were separated for work for a specific reason, and yet they chose to mingle within those separated groups outside of work. I’m really tired of people brushing this pandemic off like it’s no big deal because they haven’t been affected personally. No you can’t control who they come into contact with outside of their work colleagues on a daily basis, but these people are working together regularly and keeping them separated was a way to lower the risk, which they blatantly chose to ignore. If they want to leave their job, BYE.

  14. MommyMD*

    The surgeon decides when the surgery is scheduled. Trying to move it may put you months out. What a rude request by employer.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’ve had enough surgeries to know that the nurses hold a lot of power :)

        (I always do little embroidered cards for the surgeons, anaesthesia teams and nurses afterward. Not sure if that would be at all welcome in this time due to possible contamination risk)

        1. The Rural Juror*

          You could send it in a little baggie with a note to let it “quarantine” for 72 hours haha. Jokes aside, that’s a very thoughtful gesture.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It is the OR scheduling nurse, in conjunction with the surgeon (who decides on the urgency of the medical need). But if you do not have an urgent medical need, there can be some leeway to schedule when it’s convenient for the patient, even if then you could be pushed some months out.
      However, I know this from my own non-urgent surgery. 1-2 months prior to your surgery, you often have to get other tests. I had to have blood work, an EKG and a physical prior to having my surgery to make sure I didn’t have any other underlying conditions. Once you get the tests submitted to the surgeon, they are only good for about 30-60 days prior to your surgery, or you may have to do them all over again!

      If this surgery wasn’t an urgent medical need (it didn’t sound super urgent from letter, but IDK) the OP should have discussed the required time off BEFORE scheduling the surgery to try and pick an optimal month. I don’t know that they did that at all or just went in and said “I have a surgery scheduled for X?” I mean, this would be the same as asking for any planned time off really, and you should try to give a head’s up if possible. Obviously though, if the surgery was needed ASAP, your employer really doesn’t get to decide this.

  15. CouldntPickAUsername*

    “makes us feel contagious” guess what, as far as I am concerned you are contagious. It’s the only safe assumption these days.

    I’m so ready to go off on people about the pandemic. Seriously, anyone from people not wearing masks to employers being idiots about employees working from home or being distracted by the major global crisis happening right now.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “Well, if you feel contagious then you should leave right now and go to a doc. You should not return until you have a doctor’s note. You are telling me that you feel contagious, so I have to assume that means you feel sick.”

      Their word choice is just grating on me.

  16. JM in England*

    Re OP#2

    There have been several instances during my career to date where I’ve interviewed (in some cases both phone screen then in-person) for jobs that then cease to exist due to management approval and/or funding being withdrawn at the 11th hour.

    Demoralised does not even begin to describe how I felt when finding this out!

    1. Alex (UK)*

      Yes, I’ve interviewed for a job previously where everything was going swimmingly, I was told to expect an offer within a week or so, only to get another email about 3 days later saying that all hiring had been frozen for the company and so the job was off. It was SO frustrating, both for me and for the hiring manager & her team – they’d been trying to get the position filled for months, and the hiring freeze was dictated from the contintental management team several levels about the hiring manager, who had no say or warning that it was about to happen.

    2. Sparrow*

      I think that is happening a lot right now – positions were approved but later stalled due to covid. My organization is still hiring, but it requires a lot of additional paperwork and case-making to HR that the position actually is critical. That was the first thing I thought of here – it might’ve been approved, but due to Circumstances, they’re having to make additional justifications to the company in order to move ahead.

    3. Colette*

      I’ve been on the other side of this – on a team that was anxious to get someone new only to have the job cancelled. It happens; I’m not really sure it would be demoralizing. (Would it be better to be laid off on your first day?)

      (In those cases, we had approval to hire until we suddenly didn’t; we weren’t doing multiple interviews without going through the steps on our side.)

      1. JM in England*

        I will expand on my last sentence.

        In most of the instances I describe, the time when the company and/or recruiter said they would get back to me came and went; it took me repeatedly contacting the company/recruiter to find out what was happening. It was having to put in this additional effort to find that the job had been cancelled that was demoralising. In some cases, I was unemployed and the particular job was my “last hope” at the time…

        1. Colette*

          That makes sense. I do think that thinking of it as “demoralizing” is probably making it more personal than is healthy. They’re not rejecting you; in fact, it’s possible that they’d love to hire you but they can’t. But of course it’s disappointing. And they should definitely tell you, but (again from experience) they’re probably trying to figure out what to tell you. (Is the job frozen or cancelled? When will they likely be able to hire again?)

          1. juliebulie*

            Well, you don’t have to think of it demoralizing, but I would. It’s not that it’s personal. It’s demoralizing to think that even when you can jump the hurdle of finally getting an interview (with all the prep that might entail), there might not be any job after all. Many if not most would take that as a hit to their morale.

            1. Colette*

              I think in order to be demoralized, you have to be pretty invested in getting the job. And after a bunch of interviews, of course you are invested to a point, but … the vast majority of people who apply for any one job do not get it. I understand being disappointed, but if you can remain a little less invested that’s probably better for your mental health.

              1. Another freelancer*

                I can see where Juliebulie is coming from, having been unemployed (and may well be unemployed again in a few weeks). After weeks, if not months, of unemployment, it means so much to get that job offer and you start to think that maybe your life is going to be OK. You dare to hope and to look to the future again.

                You start thinking about maybe buying new clothes to wear to the office, you wonder about your commute, you imagine what your coworkers will be like and so on. When that job just disappears, it’s so hard to pick up the pieces. It stinks, especially when you got to the point where you had an offer in hand. Honestly, I’d rather be outright rejected at some point in the process than to have the rug yanked out from underneath me after receiving an offer.

                1. JM in England*

                  That has been my experience too. Being unemployed definitely ups your level of investment in landing the job offer, which Colette tells us not to do but it can’t be helped!

      2. Grapey*

        I’ve been in your shoes too (looking to fill a role) and it did feel demoralizing to have mgmt tell your department to do more with the same amount of resources.

    4. juliebulie*

      Last summer we got to open a req. We interviewed someone just before lunch. When we came back from lunch, the req was closed. Our director had decided to fill it with one of his (totally unqualified) tennis buddies. It didn’t work out, but we didn’t get to reopen the req. On the other hand, we have a new director now.

      I had a friend who accepted an offer, gave her notice, and on the eve of starting her new job was informed that the company didn’t get the contract, thus she would not be starting.

      Sad but true, even when you get an interview, sometimes NOBODY gets the job. Or the director’s (totally unqualified) tennis buddy gets it. It sucks.

      1. JM in England*

        Your last sentence is spot on.

        I have also had instances of where the employer decided that none of the interviewees matched the job requirements and decided to start again from scratch. Again, it took me contacting the employer/recruiter to find this out.

    5. Grey Coder*

      I’ve been on the hiring side of this before. It sucked for everyone, and really sucked for the candidate, but really wasn’t about the candidate as a person. (It was, in my case, a symptom of having a bunch of jerks for a board of directors, though I’m sure it also happens for normal business reasons.)

  17. Frustrated llama*

    I’m glad LW1 is being responsible and cautious about the whole situation!

    I recently found out one of my coworkers- who is in their 70s – went on vacation IN ANOTHER STATE, with a bunch of relatives who were also from different states. They’re gotten tested, but are still waiting for their results and have been coming to work as normal instead of self-quarantining like they probably should.

    I’m just dumbfounded that it didn’t occur to this person that their vacation was risky and that even though “they’re all family” there were people from different households all living together for a week or two. *lets out a frustrated groan*

    Meanwhile another co-worker just walks around our open office without a mask on, running their mouth the whole time and probably spreading germs.

    I’m not allowed to work from home 5 days a week anymore but my anxiety has been through the roof because of my coworkers’ stupidity.

    1. Boop*

      Yeah, asking people to manage their own risk was too much of a lift for most Americans. People seem to assume that THEIR vacation/party/whatever is okay because _____. The “good” news is that you’ll probably be back to working from home by September once these lockdowns go back into place….

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Ahh yes, the “what I do in my own time is no business of anyone else, much less my employer” thing. Which might be ok in a normal time but this isn’t normal times. We’re trying to stop a virus getting into offices/places of work and killing/maiming the other staff.

      There’s a huge difference between an employer deciding you going to a LGBT+ event out of hours means you ‘don’t fit in’ with their ethos and firing you, and an employer deciding that you going on holiday (let’s say) during a worldwide pandemic on your own time means you’re a higher risk to the rest of staff when you get back.

      I also have a high amount of distaste for anyone who thinks masks et al are unnecessary. To me that’s no different to deciding your hi-viz gear and protective clothing working trackside is ‘unnecessary’ because you’ve personally never been hit by a train.

      1. Boop*

        My hot take is that the employer generally doesn’t have a right to complain that the employee is doing “dangerous” things if the employer is choosing to have people work on site. Any congregate setting is dangerous, and I don’t think it’s fair for the employer to coerce their employees to risk their health for their bottom line yet also punish the employee for risking people’s health for their own reasons.

        Yes, there are places where the employer doesn’t have a choice but to bring employees in (like hospitals, obviously), but let’s be honest that a lot of businesses do not necessarily need to have their employees on site or could be modifying their office setups to be much safer.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          In terms of risk management, being in an office where proper safety procedures are adhered to (distancing, masks, proper sterilisation) is far less of a risk than socialising in groups where nobody is wearing masks/distancing properly etc.

          I’m not going to get into whether a company is remiss in bringing staff back. I don’t have the information.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            (This is, assuming the employer is abiding by proper safety, which OP1 here seems to be doing admirably!)

        2. OP1*

          Boop, “I don’t think it’s fair for the employer to coerce their employees to risk their health for their bottom line yet also punish the employee for risking people’s health for their own reasons.”

          I understand your point, but we are literally trying to protect the viability of the business operations (and our jobs!). Employees who can work from home are (and have been), and only those who have to be physically present to perform their work are on-site. We have a ton of precautions in place on-site and masks are required.

          “punish” – it’s a risk management response, not a punishment
          “the employee for risking people’s health for their own reasons” – we know employees are going out and about and aren’t being as careful as I’d like, but that is one employee at a time, not literally half the staff being exposed in a high risk environment at one time.

        3. Paulina*

          Where’s the punishment? All OP1 has done is reorganize the teams to line up with who seems to like to socialize together, to manage risk.

    3. OP1*

      Oh my gosh, I’m SO with you Frustrated! We have another employee who is trying to take her vacation in F-L-O-R-I-D-A and just “can’t decide”. *my every nerve-ending standing on end*

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        OP1, I so feel your pain as I have relatives that live in FL. They are upset but understanding of the fact that we won’t be visiting them this year. Travel is going to be fairly fraught for the duration of this pandemic.

      2. Loves Libraries*

        My husband’s boss just returned from a week’s vacation but he didn’t ask him where he went??? We are in Georgia so Florida is a real possibility. Hopefully he will ask next time he is in the office. Unfortunately his office isn’t taking this very seriously but may change since 2 have been diagnosed.

  18. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1: Where did you hire these people from, a nursery school??? Because that’s what they’re acting like.

    OP4: Your company is a bunch of glass bowls.

  19. Darren*

    So in regards to letter 3 what exactly is the problem with the questions?

    I know you don’t think this person is capable of asking those kinds of questions (I’m going to assume due to her general previous level of performance) however if you confront her in a meeting with all of your team mates there and accuse her of being fed questions by her husband and she pans the camera to the left and right to show he isn’t there what exactly do you think is going to happen in this now terribly embarrassing situation for you where you have called her out on asking questions you felt she wasn’t skilled enough to know to ask in front of your entire team and are now in the awkward position of at least appearing to be very very wrong? Even if she wasn’t the owners wife I would expect the rest of your time at that company to be extremely short after creating such as hostile environment.

    If you think he is doing this to improve his wife’s performance (discreetly) do you really think accusing him of being there is actually going to get him to reveal himself? You are more likely to end up again in the situation above where either she denies it, or proves he isn’t currently in the room.

    There could also be legitimate reasons maybe he doesn’t want to attend the meeting (he has other things to do) but he does want to know the answers to several specific questions (how are we doing on our recruitment metrics, how is the progress going at onboarding this new agency to get the pipeline in place, etc) and has delegated his wife to get those answers for him (as he could easily have done with any employee attending the meeting and I’ve definitely had my boss delegate me a question or two that he wanted the answer to but didn’t have time to attend the meeting himself).

    I think you need to work out what is bothering you about the questions, that will give you an idea of what to do next. However frankly I expect your best bet is just going to be to for now at least take it as a given that it’s her asking the questions and answer them as such.

    1. Reb*

      Yeah, that was my thought too. I wouldn’t call out the husband’s presence unless I was 110% sure he was actually there, and even then, it’s a risky thing to do. She could have more understanding than you realise, depending on what they talk about round the dinner table.

      And there could be legit reasons for him asking her to ask the questions. He could be working on something else on the other side of the room – close enough to hear the call but not close enough for the mic to pick him up.

      Managers in my company often sit in on meetings while working on other stuff. They’re got too much work to be able to give 100% of their attention to every meeting, but they’re there for the bits where they’re needed. It’s not ideal, but it works.

      1. Strawberry Pie*

        With being home together too, the wife likely hears much more than the OP is aware of. I know way too much about what my husband’s office does now. Enough so when he was on a call last week I passed him a note when someone on the call was giving out bad information that I had overhead the day before and we work in highly different fields (Finance and IT consulting). I’m not saying the Owner isn’t feeding the wife questions but I’m not sure how right OP is on this with C-19 and everyone being home together.

    2. MK*

      I don’t think the OP has a problem with the questions, but with the owner being secretly present at the meeting; I am assuming they feel monitored? Though I must confess I would feel tense and carefull what I say at any meeting where my boss’s spouce was present. But from a practical point of view, I agree that there is no point in trying to call him out. I think this is just general frustration at the awkwardness of having the onwer’s wife for a coworker, especially since it doesn’t sound as if the OP has a particularly hugh opinion of her skill.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      I did not think OP was questioning the wife’s skills in general but more like the wife is asking questions about engineering when her skill set is not in engineering.

      I read it as this is a meeting they don’t particularly want the owner at bc they dont want the agenda highjacked by the owners engineering questions and have other business to focus on.

      Or it is just odd and made more frustrating by covid.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Oh, Alison removed some of the parts of that letter so I did not see the original.

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

      LW 3. Why do you think the owmer is feeding her questions? Is it something so specific that it could only come from him?or are you hearing him off camera asking her the question or something?
      Maybe it is something he asked her about earlier and she brought it up I’m the meeting. There seems to be some underlying feeling about the wife. I would consider thinking through your feelings.
      Furthermore why are you getting so bent out of shape if the boss is listening in to meeting. He’s the owner and has every right to sit in the meeting, even if he’s not invited. Would you put up a fuss of you were in the office and he stopped in to the meeting room?
      Yes it’s weird that he seems to be staying out of camera if he is in fact feeding her questions. But it’s his company.
      I could see if this was a one on one meeting where you were she was your manager and you were talking about more sensitive things, like harrasment or needing accomodations. That would be wrong. But the owner coming to a meeting seems natural.
      Also, if he is doing this, what good is it going to be to call him out. It’s just going to cause drama.

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

      That’s a great point. He may be delegating questions to her now, when he didn’t before because she’s there and it makes more sense to talk with her over morning coffee rather than send an email or call a different member of the team.
      And maybe he is in the room with her, but doing his own stuff.

  20. Rexish*

    #3 Why doesn’t he just participate to the meetings as an official participant? Or send the questions he wants beforehand? Maybe when you Schedule next meeting, just ask if an invite should be sent to Fred as well?

    1. MeTwoToo*

      I’m wondering if they are requiring everyone else to have their cameras on? And he doesn’t want to be on camera for some reason? so just isn’t admitting he’s there at all.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      I think bc he was not invited to the meetings but he wants to micromanage anyway but is so conflict avoidant he wont say, please add me to this meeting.

      1. schnauzerfan*

        Could be. Or maybe he’s attempting to mentor her. Previous meeting “what did they say about x. It wasn’t mentioned. ” “Did you ask about Y?” “Oh I didn’t think about that.”

        OK. Next time, I’m gonna sit in and show you how to do it. “I think that would undermine me with my team.” “Nonsense. They won’t even know I’m there. I sit off camera, and I’ll just be there in case you miss something.”

        1. Mama Bear*

          So if OP thinks he’s there, and he’s not asking to be invited, perhaps put him on the invite officially and see if he joins in or not. If he’s on the invite, then everyone should have the expectation he will be there and act accordingly. I used to do many meetings via conference call and there would be times we’d quietly send a message to get something answered real-time. And even though roll was called at the start of the meeting, I always assumed there was a +1 since I couldn’t see them. Once my boss was running late and I didn’t know they’d arrived until well into the meeting when there was a pause to announce them. I realize that’s not entirely the same here, but short version is assume boss is there.

  21. Πενία*

    Re #1:
    The world is trying to return to normal, as horrible & shortsighted as that is. Non-essential businesses are opening back up, companies are clawing back hazard pay, etc. As the essential workers have carried much of the economy on their backs for the past several months, I can see they might want some of that normalcy for themselves; they’ve been putting themselves & their families at risk during their working hours for capitalism’s sake, they may think there is little extra harm in taking risks during their off-hours.

    They’re wrong, obviously, but I think coming at this from a place of righteousness will do more harm than good. These are essential workers, whose company admittedly took missteps during the past few months. If the company deserves good will for ‘mostly doing well’, maybe the workers can get a little bit of understanding for this misstep. The past can’t be changed, but I think everyone would have been better served if the employees had been included in the conversation regarding the change, as opposed to having it forced upon them.

    Someone has already invoked Typhoid Mary above and, well, I think it behooves us all to remember that Mary Mallon willingly took a different job, in laundry, but the wages were much lower than she’d been previously earning as a cook. As a single female Irish immigrant, she had few options to provide for herself. It’s easy to villainise her, because perhaps taking a deep look at the system that failed her, and the public, is too uncomfortable for some.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      One would expect, however, that essential workers who have been in the direct line of fire from this the whole way through would understand *better* than anyone else that “I don’t want to feel like I’m contagious” isn’t a remotely reasonable accommodation.

      1. WellRed*

        Essential workers has a pretty broad definition, though it seems like they’d all be healthcare adjacent or similar.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Oh I get that, no worries! One of my former employers was a railway engineering firm that has stayed open throughout because they’re essential services (apparently made staffing the control rooms interesting)

          Just meant that’s if you’ve been working the whole time you can’t really claim ignorance of the situation and safety guidelines or make them out to be personal attacks on yourself by now.

        2. Mama Bear*

          Some of us have been in the office this whole time, but not on the frontlines of healthcare. There are a lot of jobs (manufacturing, food services) that require a presence in an office.

    2. SarahKay*

      Ummm…Mary Mallon / Typhoid Mary only agreed to take a job in a laundry as a way of escaping a forced quarantine – which was put in place because she refused to believe she was a carrier and kept taking new jobs as a cook. And having taken the job as a laundress she then changed her name (more than once) so that she could go back to working as a cook.
      I’d say she’s actually an excellent example of why OP#1 is doing the right thing – people just don’t like to believe that they could be carriers, putting others at risk.

      1. A Non E. Mouse*

        I read a book about the whole Typhoid Mary thing and yes – she is an excellent example of how public health officials and policy sometime have to feel pretty draconian.

        She didn’t believe she was a carrier, and didn’t understand how she could be spreading it – because she was asymptomatic.

        Which is exactly the problem with The ‘Rona – asymptomatic people can be spreading it far and wide, and unless we are *all* wearing masks, we’ll never stop it.

        What frightens me, personally, is the specter of my children getting it. Yes, they seem less likely to get it, and more likely to survive it, but since reading “Asleep: The forgotten epidemic” years ago I’m terrified of long-term health effects from a seemingly normal round of flu (link in another comment).

        This is serious business, and some people just are not taking it as seriously as they should – and they could be exactly the people most likely to be Typhoid Marys.

    3. Carbondale*

      There are plenty of ways that each of them could have experienced some normalcy without potentially infecting ALL the staff of an essential business when the manager had taken specific steps to prevent that. It wasn’t just a misstep. It was a really stupid decision and they should have known better.

      1. Boop*

        How do you “experience some normalcy” without risking infection in a country where cases are spiking across much of the country? Even in the very best case scenario, sitting down in a restaurant requires you to be exposed to at least your server, who has probably waited on dozens of people that day while wearing a little cloth mask. Why does the employer get a pass for their mistakes (“We’ve made some missteps”) while the employees are “stupid” and “should have known better”?

        1. Carbondale*

          They could have each experienced normalcy by going to dinner with literally anyone expect each other. That’s the stupid part. The manager made a policy of splitting them into 2 teams to prevent the entire staff from becoming sick at the same time, which would likely be devastating for the business. They knew that keeping the 2 teams separate was important for the continued operation of the business and they disregarded that.

          1. Leenie*

            Exactly, there are about 5 people in the world that they’re being asked to stay away from. It’s not exactly onerous.

    4. PVR*

      I think the company can be understanding but that doesn’t change the risks that need to mitigated. If they keep teams as usual as 1 person at that dinner was pre-symptomatic/asymptomatic you now have 2 teams that will be taken out due to sickness and quarantine. Being a small essential business means that could be devastating to operations. So OP can implement these changes in as much of a sympathetic manner as they wish, but it doesn’t change the steps needed not only to keep the most team members safe but the business operational in the event of exposure.

      1. Sparrow*

        “I think the company can be understanding but that doesn’t change the risks that need to mitigated.” Completely agree.

    5. Boop*

      Yeah, I agree with this. OP1 has a communication problem with their employees. OP needs to see it from their perspective–they expect their employees to come to work and expose themselves to the virus with the team OP selected for them yet reacted to their employees’ decision to go to a restaurant (which is open–doesn’t that mean it’s safe? NO.) with a solution that felt like a punishment, and no one likes to be punished. It comes across as, “How dare you guys risk yourselves doing things that don’t help our bottom line!”

      It’s also probably pretty ineffective policy. Unless OP1’s company is requiring the teams to live and socialize only with each other, then realistically neither team is “clean” anyway. Separating the restaurant-goers probably isn’t doing much to prevent the spread of the ‘rona and just comes across as stigmatizing, which is what the employees are complaining about.

      1. pancakes*

        The letter writer commented that the teams work in shifts and the office is deep-cleaned in between shifts, so no, I don’t see any particular reason to believe keeping the teams separate is ineffectual. Limiting their contact with each other is a pretty straightforward and effective way to try to reduce risk for everyone.

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

    If I were LW1 I’d afraid that someone took a picture to name and shame those employees (and the company), especially if they went to have dinner straight from work. A tweet like “look at these Corona Karens from Teapots Inc having dinner like nothing happened” could destroy LW1 efforts and reputation in seconds.

  23. Thankful for AAM*

    My employer, which is requiring us all to be butts in seats though a segment of us can do 100% of our jobs from home, did not tell us that one person tested positive.

    They said the person felt shame and did not want people to know bc if the company announced a positive and this person stopped working, we could figure out it was them. HR told me HIPPA laws prevent them from telling us about the positive test even without identifying the affected person. They did, apparently, tell people who worked with that person but when I asked how they decided who worked with them and for how many days back did they go, they just said we have followed all the rules.

    1. fposte*

      FWIW, the EEOC has issued guidance that associates the ADA with COVID confidentiality. It hasn’t explicitly said “You can’t say who tested positive because of the ADA,” but that’s a reasonable extrapolation. However, that absolutely doesn’t prevent informing people that there’s been a case in the office.

  24. doreen*

    #3- I really don’t understand the comments I often see regarding this situation, about the “owner” and (usually) his wife who are both working in the business. Often the comments are about nepotism , but not always – I remember a letter about a funeral collection where there were a lot of comments referring to the “owner’s wife” or “owner’s mother-in-law” when the letter writer said the husband and wife were co-owners. I don’t get the assumption that one is the owner and the other works for him/her rather than they function as co-owners regardless of what’s on the paperwork.

    1. Myrin*

      Today’s comments say “the owner” and “the owner’s wife” because that’s what the OP calls them in her letter, not because they’re assuming something.

      1. doreen*

        This is what I get for commenting too early in the morning – I didn’t mean to distinguish between what the OP calls them and what the commenters call them. I get that technically one only spouse might own the business – but it seems to me that if they both work there , it’s very likely that they function in many ways as co-owner, and nobody would refer to a co-owner working in the business as nepotism.

  25. EventPlannerGal*

    OP3 – I would not call this out unless you are absolutely, completely, 100% sure he is there. Not in a “well these questions are too smart for her to ask so he must be there” way but, like, you can actually hear his voice or see his arm in the shot or something like that. It sounds like you don’t have a very high opinion of this woman and if you are wrong (or even right but he has written the questions down for her or given them to her ahead of time and isn’t there on the call that second) you will just look like you are insulting her by saying she’s too dumb to ask these questions.

    1. jenkins*

      Yes – calling this out and then discovering that he’s not actually there would be painfully awkward. If you can actually see or hear him then maybe, but otherwise I’d honestly think it more likely that either she has more understanding than you think, LW, or he’s simply delegated questions to her ahead of time.

      (Also, if you *can* see/hear him then he’s not being all that secretive. Maybe they work in the same room and he listens/contributes with half an ear while working on something else, rather than devoting full attention to a meeting unnecessarily? My grandboss’s wife works for the company too and I could see them doing something like this, just kind of casually without thinking anything of it.)

    2. Boop*

      The upside of calling it out is that we might see a letter in a couple of weeks titled, “My coworker accused me of being my husband’s sockpuppet in a Zoom meeting.”

    3. Lexi Kate*

      I don’t see commenting on this going well in any way. If the OP feels they have to they need to be ready for the consequences, which may include looking for a new job.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yeah, actually, the more I think about it the less convinced I am that there’s any reason to call it out even if OP is sure. There are so many innocent explanations for why the boss might be in the same room or give his wife questions to ask – or hey, during COVID they’re probably around each other and each other’s work a lot more, maybe she’s picked up some new knowledge/terminology from him by working in the same place all day. Maybe she doesn’t feel confident asking complex questions in person but has more confidence doing so over zoom. Maybe she just isn’t as dumb as the OP thinks she is.

    4. juliebulie*

      I agree that it’s a bad idea to call this out, but it might not be a bad idea to ask “where’s Fred? Is he around? What does he think?” and then wait for the sound of coconuts clopping together as Fred pretends to hurry to the camera.

  26. Sled dog mama*

    Op #4 another thing to be aware of is that in the US rescheduling a surgery can lead to insurance issues. My husband needed to move his knee surgery a few years ago from a Tuesday to a Thursday and it created a huge nightmare with the insurance. They decided that if it was being moved (by two day) it must not actually be necessary. From that perspective it is totally unreasonable for the employer to ask you to move the surgery.

  27. Boop*

    It would be incredibly embarrassing if OP3 did “call it out” and the boss wasn’t actually there.

    As another agony aunt once wrote, confrontation has a great PR person. Even in the best case scenario where OP is right and the boss fesses up to it, what does the confrontation actually do for OP?

    1. MAB*

      This is what I’m thinking! It’s like a high-risk, low reward scenario. If she does call out the boss for being there and he’s not there, she’ll completely undermine the wife and make herself (or himself??) look like garbage.

  28. Case of the Mondays*

    Question 1 brings up a question I’m dealing with a lot lately. In a pandemic, how much can employers control the lives of their employees outside of work? I live in a state that requires people arriving from out of state (with a few exceptions for neighboring states) to quarantine at home for 14 days before arriving here. They can leave for essential goods and services provided they stay 6 feet from others or wear a mask. They have to sign an attestation that they did this when checking into short term lodging. Some businesses I deal with want to resume business travel between their offices (out of state to my state) despite my advice not to. Can they require their employees to quarantine for 14 days to enable them to legally travel?

    Another situation I encountered. A business decided to start bringing employees back. It’s a small business and they had business reasons that working remote wasn’t ideal. (It’s a collaborative type of artsy design stuff.) When they returned, they quickly learned that some people were taking the virus super seriously, staying at home and only going out for necessary items and maybe seeing one friend or extended family member. Other people were not and were posting 4th of July party pictures on their FB with them and 15 of their closest friends. The people taking it seriously were super upset and wanted to know why the employer wasn’t requiring everyone to behave safely prior to coming to work. The employer decided they can’t dictate what people do in their free time and instead let everyone go back to WFH, even though it is difficult for their business.

    For places that are essential and can’t work from home, do you think an employer can tell employees what they can or can’t do outside of work to limit spread? What if the employer is stricter than the gov’t orders. It is one thing when you are under a stay at home order. It’s another when you are not.

    I’m taking the virus super seriously but I see how this is all very tricky in the employment law arena.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      You can’t control how people live their lives outside of work. You have to trust that your employees will be honest with you and unfortunately not everyone will be, either because they’re embarrassed (not sure why, it’s a virus that doesn’t discriminate) or they think it’s no big deal. But you also can’t ignore something like this when you know it’s happened.

    2. Colette*

      Sure you can expect people to behave in a certain way outside of work. That’s why people can be fired for hateful posts on social media.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        This. You can be fired for violating company policy on your own time. Thing like “no outside gigs” in a employment agreement are a prime example of that. I’ve had several employers that I had to negotiate the right to contribute to open source software that has nothing to do with the business and on my own time. Government employees have restrictions on political activities, too.

        If it has the potential to affect the business, they can tell you not to do it.

    3. mreasy*

      You can’t control what they do as an employer, but you can absolutely require them to quarantine, fire them for lying about their out-of-work activities, or straight-up fire them for not respecting quarantine out of work. IANAL but I can’t see what law (in the US at least) would prevent this.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I’m thinking of the laws like on-call laws that require employees to be paid if they are not in control of what they can do on their free time. Engaged to wait rather than waiting to be engaged. At what point would an hourly worker have to be compensated if the employer is basically telling them they can’t leave their house?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          If they’ve willingly refused to comply with basic safety (like if they socialise without masks or go on holiday to crowded places) then I don’t see why they should be compensated. They, in essence, made the choice to do something they must have known would get them quarantined.

        2. Colette*

          They can do any number of things in their spare time – watch TV, have a drink, go for a run, etc. – and will not be interrupted by work. They are not on call.

        3. doreen*

          Usually, the distinction between “engaged to wait rather than waiting to be engaged” is described in terms of duration, predictability and location – firemen can sleep or watch TV or go grocery shopping during their shift, but they have to sleep/watch TV at the firehouse and go shopping as a group with the firetruck because they never know when a call will come in. They’re engaged to wait. People who are waiting to be engaged are relieved of duties for a certain amount of time long enough that they can use it as their own ( like a bus driver who works the morning rush and the evening rush but has six hours off in between) Being told by your employer to quarantine isn’t really either one of them – you might be told not to leave home except for obtaining essential goods and services, but you can do whatever you want in your home outside of working hours without fear of being interrupted by work. And it’s absolutely possible to have job restrictions that apply during your off-duty time – truck drivers and airline pilots cannot drink within a certain number of hours before starting their shift and it’s not uncommon for law enforcement officers to be required to “be fit for duty at all times” – which is another way of saying “don’t get drunk even off-duty”

      2. Georgina Fredricka*

        if I’m being completely honest everyone needs to behave as if a co-worker is doing the wrong thing and act accordingly (out of their own self interest, not because it’s fair). If you start cracking down on what comes up in social media, guarantee people will just make sure they’re not tagged in anything – it won’t necessarily fully change behavior.

    4. Mediamaven*

      I wrote essentially a similar comment before I saw yours. I’m dealing with this right now. I don’t want to feel that we have to work from home indefinitely because some people refuse to socially distance, but I don’t want to endanger people who are taking it seriously, and I don’t know that it’s feasible to police employees personal lives. This is uncharted territory. I’m at a loss on it.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        I am being more cautious than the state and local governments require, in part because other people aren’t. I can stay home a lot, stay out of restaurants, bookstores, and the subway (things I do miss), and wear a mask when I go out. There are a lot of good things I can’t do–I’m not eligible to donate blood, for example.

        I mind having to be more careful because some people are being careless. But it needs doing, so I’m trying to think of it as a mitzvah, a small but real contribution of the ongoing project of trying to make the world a better place.

        And then I trust Past-Gollux, from a week or three ago, and act on her decisions rather than re-analyzing things in the absence of new information.

    5. Nanani*

      It’s not -tricky- to require people to quarantine at home until they have negative tests, require masks, etc.

      It’s about picking human lives and health over profits. End of.

  29. Luna*

    LW1: My vindicitive and frustrated side makes me want to tell them that they deserve to ‘feel contagious’ if they blatantly do things that are clear to be things that can spread the virus further. I understand that the restrictions are annoying, I know wearing masks in public is inconvenient, and can feel restrictive and like you are being choked. But those are *minor* issues that you have to deal with, in contrast to the big picture.
    To those employees, all I can say is, I don’t care what you do in your leisure time, as long as it doesn’t somehow harm or risk other people’s health.

    LW3: “Well, owner, to answer your question…”
    If he wants to make his wife the middle-man, he can do that. You don’t have to.

    LW4: “Unfortunately, the date for this necessary surgery is non-negotiable. I know it’s not a convenient time for the company to have me be away and recoup, but… well, health issues care nothing for convenience.”

  30. it_guy*

    Op #4- What happens if business needs change again? Are you expected to change your surgery date? I was scheduled for a necessary surgery, but pushed it back a couple weeks because of a work project.

    And then Covid19 hit.

    And the project got extended, and is still not done. so scheduled it for the first available time. Bottom line is: The company can get by without you. If they can’t there is something wrong.

  31. animaniactoo*

    LW1

    “Yes, I’m sorry that this bothers you, but we are treating you as potentially contagious because you took a risk that makes you possibly contagious. We are dealing with a virus that does not care if you were on your personal time or official work time, and when your actions outside of work create a potential impact on your work, we will adjust accordingly to limit that impact.

    Since our goal is to limit the number of people who are exposed to each other, we do need to make decisions that continue to keep exposure to others as limited as possible, and keep groups who have been in physical contact with each other separate from other groups who are in contact with each other.”

    ————————–

    Separately – OF COURSE they’re offended. You’re dealing with the people who don’t believe that this is that big a deal – or they wouldn’t have met in person for that dinner. They don’t see the logic of this. They see that they’re being hampered and inconvenienced, and now feel that they’re being targeted and victimized because in their minds, all these safety precautions are just for here or there and are really a bunch of stuff and nonsense for the most part. So how dare you make it – in their minds – their problem that they didn’t follow the safety rules on their personal time? How do you call it out and make it obvious to all the rest of their co-workers that they didn’t follow the rules? How dare you shame/embarrass them like that? Harass them for that?

    I speak to this last part not because you will be able to do anything to convince them otherwise. But only because it will help you adjust your expectations, and be prepared to calmly, firmly, and professionally address it as across the board treatment and a commitment to YOUR goal of creating teams that allow people who are or have been in physical contact with each other to be kept separate from others. Whether that is by the original teams/groups that you set up, or by the reconfiguration after cross-contact has happened.

    1. OP1*

      animaniactoo, your comment is SO helpful. I’ve read it three different times today! THANK YOU!

    2. tangerineRose*

      If these people had some compassion for others, they’d abide by the company’s restrictions even if they didn’t believe they helped. The restrictions aren’t that restrictive.

  32. Bob*

    LW1: So you are taking Covid-19 seriously which helps your business and helps society. But these employees want to make it more contagious and threaten to leave if you don’t agree to help the virus rapidly spread through your company.
    They can take their collective pressure campaign elsewhere, if they leave of their own volition they are doing you a favour.

  33. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 infuriates me. We’re going to be in the middle of this pandemic for years because aren’t taking it seriously enough. OP you’ve done the right thing and your employees are acting like toddlers. If they want to leave, hold open the door for them. I realize you can’t control everything they do in their free time, but you’ve specifically separated your teams to lower the risk and they chose to ignore that by mingling outside of work. As far as I’m concerned, until proven otherwise, they ARE contagious.

    I’ve cancelled plans and said no to things even though the risk is very low because I’m trying to protect myself and my family. Does it suck? Yes. I miss my friends. But this virus is no joke and too many people are acting like it’s no big deal. I’m so over it.

  34. agnes*

    LW #1 is doing what is necessary to keep other people safe and to keep their business open and operating. People need to get over themselves.

    We had one person in or organization test positive who assured us that they hadn’t been in contact with any other employees. (and their job didn’t usually bring them into contact with others). However,when others found out about the person’s positive status, they came forward and said they had all been at a party together after work and the person had actually mouth kissed (multiple times) several of the party goers. Th e original person admitted that this had happened. We had to put over 20 people out of work for 14 days because of it..

    1. WellRed*

      Wait, what? Is mouth kissing your coworkers something that happens frequently at your organization or is your coworker a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen?

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Holy WTF Batman! Mouth kissed several coworkers, at a party, then lied about it?

        Give that jerk their walking papers, they have no ethics or scruples, and execrable judgement. Put the people the allowed him to kiss them on written warnings.

        This is bad both from a pandemic perspective *and* a sexual harassment perspective.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN the kisses were 100% consensual before issuing the other employees a written warning, because otherwise you might be inserting yourself into the wrong end of that sexual harassment suit.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            That’s why I said “the people that allowed him”. If they didn’t consent, they didn’t “allow” it, it was forced on them, and is more ammunition to fire him with.

  35. KuklaRed*

    Re #4 – I went through something similar 3 years ago when I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. My surgeon gave me a date for my radical hysterectomy, but my company told me that I had to postpone the surgery until after the annual All Hands week at our European headquarters. (I am in the US.) It amounted to about 3 extra weeks, and my surgeon approved it, but I still think it was pretty nervy of them to demand that.

    Of course, they also eliminated my job as soon as my pathology report came back, but that’s another story. (Yes, I sued. And won.)

    1. Scarrie Fisher*

      Congrats on winning the suit! I hope you are better now and, if working, in a much more accommodating workplace.

      1. KuklaRed*

        I am cancer free (!) and working with much nicer people. It definitely destroyed my illusions of European companies being more “enlightened” than US companies.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      You are my hero for suing those f*ckers and winning. I hope they lost a lot of money, and I’m glad you’re cancer-free.

  36. blink14*

    Op #4 – I think the way to look at this is – there really is no “best” time. As long as the surgery isn’t smack in the middle of a highly important project or event that you’ve committed to, your company needs to work around your surgery date and recovery time. Even if you were in the midst of something you had committed to, this is an incredibly difficult time to get anything scheduled beyond a routine or follow up visit, and your company needs to take scheduling concerns due to COVID into account. If you work full time, year round, any time is going to be inconvenient for surgery. The goal is to be prepared for how your surgery and recovery time will be covered, if you’ll be working from home before returning the office full time (or just returning full time if you’re remote right now), etc.

    6 months into my current job, I had major ankle surgery. I was given less than a week’s notice of the surgery date and I knew I’d be out for at least 4 weeks – ended up being about 7 weeks with months of PT appointments. It happened to fall in the summer, which is a slower time for my job, but it was still really inconvenient just to have me out. I had been pretty open with my manager when I was hired for the job, as I had already been injured for several months and knew that surgery was a high possibility. This made things a bit easier, but ultimately I prioritized my surgery, no matter the date, because it needed to be done and that was that.

  37. agnes*

    Well we were as surprised as you are……….. it’s a large front line service organization and all the parties involved were peers, but it was concerning to us. We also found out that two of our employees are actually a “couple” in violation of our policy about family members working together. It was quite revealing…

  38. Junior Assistant Peon*

    #2 – is there any possible legitimate reason for SIX ROUNDS of interviews, or do people just think it’s funny to jerk candidates around?

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That was my thought, too. OP#2 should put that in the initial job listing (“Expect in excess of 5 rounds of interviews”) so people who value their time can self-select out.

    2. Scarrie Fisher*

      Honestly, it’s probably a way to keep candidates on the hook while they drag out the process of approval to actually hire for the position. It’s heinous, honestly.

      At the end of this month, it will have taken me 4.5 months to get a reclassification from my current position. The only reason I didn’t start looking elsewhere (well, that and the pandemic) was that my supervisor was decent enough to keep me updated along the way. It’s STILL not official yet, but at least it’s been confirmed.

      It took me six months to be rejected from another internal position, too. Don’t work for the state unless you have infinite patience (which I do not). Ugh.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yes to your first paragraph. One of my brother’s former employers strung him along like that for NINE MONTHS. All the while he was unemployed, and they kept telling him he was starting in a few days, they just needed to finish the paperwork.

        Two months into the job, they closed the whole East Coast office where he worked and moved all its operations to Texas. They didn’t even offer him the opportunity to relocate if he wanted, just left him high and dry.

  39. Bertha*

    OP5 – the accounting firm doesn’t want you back this time, Ben Wyatt.

    (.. had to..)

    1. Amelia Shepherd*

      love the reference! :D

      I’m a librarian and I got to talk to someone named ben who works in my local the parks and rec department last week, which I got the biggest kick out of.

  40. MAB*

    For LW3–this might be a misread, but I’m sensing some general dislike/mistrust/lack of confidence in the abilities of the owner’s wife on your part (specifically referring to the “she wouldn’t be able to ask this question” sentences). Given this perception, I would make sure your 10000% sure the owner is actually in the meeting, feeding his wife questions before calling him out as Alison suggests. Also, I might also do some self-checks to make sure your (possibly negative?) feelings about the wife are not seeping into your interactions with her.

  41. Sparkles McFadden*

    1. This is why we have no hope of getting this pandemic under control. General, sensible precautions are being taken personally. “How dare you suggest I’m dirty and diseased!”

    2. Posting for a job opening that hasn’t been approved yet is common in larger corporations, especially when that corporation is hoping to cut staff by attrition. If someone resigns, the manager may have to prove why the rest of the staff can’t just deal with a missing member. You need to prove need all over again. Eventhough one may be sure the approval will come through, you know the process will take longer than it should, so you start the hiring process in hopes that the search timeline will mesh with the approval timeline. When I applied for a job where the hiring manager was increasing headcount, it took months before they could hire me. My future boss called me once a week to assure me “there will be a job.” Eventually, I did get hired.

    3. Yep, what Alison said.

    4. Take whatever surgery date they can give you. It’s your health and the doctor’s schedule is probably tighter than anything at your company. Plus, if there is a delay, your insurance company might determine that, if you can delay, then maybe you don’t need the surgery. Mediocre managers ask all kinds of crazy things to see if you’ll do whatever it is.

    5. Wow, no. Stay away for awhile.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Regarding #4: your employer might *also* decide that, if you can delay, you might not really need the surgery and they may be able to pressure you out of it altogether.

  42. BuildMeUp*

    #1 reminds me of how doctors in the 1800s pushed back on being told to wash their hands before surgeries because “a gentleman’s hands are clean.”

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Oh yes. No masks during surgery then either.
      No belief in those invisible germs.

      I want to cry that people are so uneducated about simple health precautions.

    2. JM in England*

      One such campaigner was Ignaz Semmelweis. He saw a connection between the spread of childbirth fever in maternity wards and the affected patients being treated by doctors who had been performing autopsies on fever victims beforehand. He managed to persuade a small group of doctors to wash their hands after performing autopsies and the mortality rate amongst patients treated by these doctors fell by 90%!

      Sadly, his argument fell on deaf ears despite this evidence and ended up being commited to a mental asylum for the rest of his life.

      During those times, surgeons had a dedicated operating coat. The amount of blood, pus and other such fluids on it was regarded as a measure of their experience…..

  43. MissDisplaced*

    My staff is upset that our safety precautions are “making them feel contagious”

    We need to act as though EVERYONE is contagious, that’s the point. What part of “global pandemic” and “people dying” do they not get? I mean, honestly!

  44. nunyabeeswax*

    op 1.Trying to police your staff for their after work activities is counterproductive. Your intent may be good, but its futile, and going to cost you. So you found out about this one. What interactions do you not know about? Instead of antagonizing your staff, and having them now play “identify the snitch and retaliate”, manage the work space, not their lives. Configure your workspace for individual, not team separation, focus on cleanliness, because anyone on any team could be exposed form a source outside your workplace. They all have to eat, get groceries, contact the world at some point. Your firewall of individual separation is what is important, not this team splitting. Punishing them (and this is what this will be perceived as) for their social life is a foolish road to go down. Do you want to be recruiting during this time?

    1. Colette*

      Do you know what their business is or why they have organized things this way? Do you even know that they haven’t configured the workspace individual protection?

      It is not possible to keep people entirely apart in a typical office. Think bathrooms, elevators, and other things that cannot be individual. If people need to come into the office to do their jobs, it makes sense to minimize the chances of an entire team getting sick/being exposed as the OP’s business has done.

      1. fposte*

        It’s kind of like having them fly on separate planes to conferences, I suppose.

        I will say that my feeling about this is somewhat dependent on the matters you allude to about the nature of the business and the in-office protection. I’ve been doing medical stuff throughout lockdown and the health professionals I know don’t have stricter requirements than the gen pop on their off hours.

      2. tangerineRose*

        “If people need to come into the office to do their jobs, it makes sense to minimize the chances of an entire team getting sick/being exposed as the OP’s business has done.” Yep.

    2. Anon for work here*

      This isn’t futile at all. These are necessary precautions that need to be taken in this situation and in many situations to ensure that the business can survive. This isn’t about punishing anyone, or a group, for a “social life” – this is having to make adjustments because an entire group of people flouted public health recommendations and company requests and put every single other person at risk without their ability to make their own decisions to prevent exposure. My current company has restrictions on things that we can do outside of work (including using a phone while driving regardless of local laws) and they will absolutely fire you if they find out you have done so, no warnings. You can’t expect that you’re going to know about every off-hours violation, but that doesn’t at all mean you can’t or should not act when you learn of them, especially in such an egregious situation as this.

    3. Scarrie Fisher*

      This isn’t trying to police employees. This is about a specific situation that LW 1 learned about and is trying to mitigate possible catastrophic outcomes. If I had to be working with people in-person, I sure as hell would want to know who is behaving irresponsibly so I can stay far away from them. This is such an ignorant and dismissive comment.

      We are all teleworking but allowed to go to the office for short tasks, and my organization alerts employees every time they been in the office within a timeframe of about 1-7 days after a diagnosed employee was also in the building. Should people also not self-report to HR? Should employees also not be informed when they have been in a space with another infected employee just because everyone may not self-report?

      1. JustaTech*

        Exactly! OP1 didn’t say they were changing the teams *forever*, just for right now to keep the people who’ve been exposed to each other together.

        The whole point of the separated teams is so that if one person is infected outside of work they won’t infect *all* of their other coworkers, but only *some* of their coworkers (their team) so that there will be enough non-quarantined, healthy people to keep the business running until everyone either tests negative or is healthy enough to work again.

    4. Gazebo Slayer*

      Considering how many people are unemployed, I’m not sure this is a bad time to be recruiting. If these tantrum-throwing children quit or get themselves fired, so be it.

  45. blackcatlady*

    About LW1: Warning – mini rant ahead. The US in in the middle of a pandemic and is one of the three leading countries in the world for number of cases. The science says this is a highly contagious airborne virus. It has killed over 130,000 people in the US. Recovery can be slow with life long effects. In spite of all this news some people refuse to wear masks and party like there is no pandemic. It’s a front row seat to watch Darwin in action.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      +1000

      I will always default to the best precautions I can reasonably take for the duration of the pandemic. By my definition, “the duration of the pandemic” is the time from the start of cases to the point where there is a widely deployed vaccine and/or effective early treamant – ie when people stop dying from it.

      Anything else is courting evolution in action.

    2. Dancing Otter*

      Oh, if only it were only themselves they were endangering!

      There are going to be so many, many candidates for the Darwin awards this year, I suspect the organizers will have to institute an ensemble category.

  46. Xtina*

    I get wanting to have separate teams to avoid COVID spreading to everyone and shutting the whole business down. However, if the city is open, Anyone from any team could go to dinner with their spouse and get it. Employees could could live with a husband who has a job that exposes them to Covid and bring it to the team that way. Employees could get it from their child’s daycare or there weekly grocery trip. So unless you are going to start policing everyone’s actions outside of work And ask all staff to truly quarantine it does not really make sense to separate teams based on one meal. I suppose going forward you could ask people on separate teams to not socialize outside of work but again unless this happens frequently I don’t know how much of a difference it will make.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      The goal of separating people into teams in the office is to contain a potential outbreak within the office broadly. The goal is not to stop anyone anywhere from getting sick. As you rightly point out, a team member could pick up the virus from the outside world. However, with an effective team configuration in place, there is at least some hope of containing the exposure to that set of 5 or 6 or 7 or however many people. If teams begin to cross-pollinate outside of work, then the team structure has been undermined.

      OP’s goal is not to stop the spread of COVID in all of society; OP’s goal is halt the spread of COVID at work.

      1. Carbondale*

        Yes, exactly. Asking coworkers not to socialize with each other under normal circumstances would be a huge overstep, but in this case it’s crucial that they stay separated in order for the business to continue to function.

  47. Amber Rose*

    Please share the story of Richard Rose III, the dude who posted that masks are ridiculous, did not distance himself, caught Covid and was dead, all in about three months.

    Or the story of the friggin seatbelt, the safety device in cars that has saved millions of lives that car manufacturers lobbied against for years because it made cars seem unsafe.

    People. Are. DYING. Honestly, if your staff are that ignorant, I wouldn’t even want them working for me. Let them leave. I’m so friggin tired of this crap.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I saw a funny video this morning that was something like “How Anti-Maskers Would Behave on the Titanic.” It was pretty hilarious. Basically at the end, (*spoiler alert*) when the ship was sinking, they were drowning and asking why no one took that iceberg more seriously…

      1. Amber Rose*

        Personally I like all the edits people have made to the video Disneyland posted about reopening, with everyone crying and coughing, or begging you to stay home.

        But I also like the 100% not fake article about how amusement parks in Japan have banned screaming, so you should “scream in your heart.” The slogan for 2020!

        1. JustaTech*

          Or the videos that compared the Disney World re-opening to another (fictional) park with a few … safety issues … Jurassic Park.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Hear, hear.

      It’s time to fire the willfully ignorant and selfish people, and hire the many decent people who are unemployed instead.

  48. Mediamaven*

    Letter 1 brings up so many issues I think a lot of business owners are starting to have as we consider reopening things. Like, I can’t tell my employees what to do in their personal lives but at what point can we speak up and say you aren’t being responsible and it’s putting all your coworkers at risk. Employee travels to a hot spot so they can’t come back in the office, but I don’t want people claiming necessary quarantine forever to avoid coming to the office. Employee has a party at their house knowing it’s not recommended – but I can’t forbid that! I’m not their parent and I’m not law enforcement. Can you fire an employee who chooses to be careless? Can you tell them if they don’t follow the mandates they will lose their jobs? Can you require them to social distance? I haven’t reopened our office yet but I would like to if things start to look better but it’s a slippery slope in dealing with people who aren’t following guidelines.

    1. fposte*

      I also think it’s really hard for employers to be more restrictive than their state/locality. I don’t mean it’s unjust or unreasonable, but it’s an uphill climb. Dinner at a restaurant is allowable in a ton of states now, including ones that have been pretty conservative in their measures, and masks come off for eating and drinking even for regular mask wearers. I think the OP would benefit from acknowledging that discrepancy and making her case for the special needs (and, hopefully, compensations) of her business.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      IMO, yes, you can (and should), if that is what you need to do to protect the rest of your employees and your business.

      If people don’t like it there are other employers who don’t give a damn.

  49. Scarrie Fisher*

    For #1, I’d be really interested to learn where a large group of people think they are going to easily find a new position during a pandemic.