company fired employee for being unhappy, asking about dress code in an interview, and more

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

1. My company fired a great employee because she was unhappy

This morning I received notice that a colleague had been let go and would no longer be working for my organization starting immediately. The employee who was fired was, at least in my opinion, exceptional. The last year has been really hard on her personally but even when you could tell she was upset, it never showed in the quality of her work. She worked hard, put in extra hours on a regular basis, and the work she produced was always well done. During her two years here, she’s always gone above and beyond to help colleagues out when we’ve needed it.

The reason the organization is giving for firing her is that she has been unhappy for the last six months and other staff have been able to tell that she’s unhappy. She’s had some pretty big changes in her personal life in the last year, which management is aware of, and the last six months we’ve all been stressed and a bit unhappy due to the pandemic. This whole thing sounds entirely tone deaf to me.

My manager knows I worked closely with this staff member, and has reached out to let me know I can talk to her if I have any concerns or questions. I have some very concrete concerns in terms of work flow … but mostly I’m concerned that management doesn’t know how to appreciate quality employees. This has seriously impacted my trust in the organization. Is there an appropriate way to bring this concern to my manager?

If they really just fired her for being unhappy, that’s awfully messed up. But there could be more to it than that — like that her unhappiness was playing out in ways that caused work problems (like that she kept complaining to her manager about X past the point of constructiveness, or that she wasn’t receptive to feedback on her work in ways that become unsustainable, or who knows what). It’s possible that her manager was seeing things you weren’t; managers often have a different vantage point on a person’s work.

I’d ask yourself what you know of how your organization and your manager manage. From what you know, does letting someone go simply because they were unhappy seem like something they’d do? Or is it out of sync with what you know of them? That won’t necessarily be fully conclusive, but it’s worth reflecting on.

It’s also okay to talk to your manager about it, especially since she invited you to. I’d frame it as, “I understand if this isn’t something you can discuss with me, but since you invited questions about it — is it true that we let Jane go simply because she was unhappy, or was it causing work problems that couldn’t continue? It was presented to the staff as the former and that concerned me, especially with so many people struggling with mental health this year.”

2. Asking about dress code in an interview

During a job interview, is it a good idea to ask the interviewer(s) what the dress code is? It may save me trouble if I’m expected to dress business casual or professional. I like to dress nice, but not even as formal as “business casual.” And often, I’m not interviewed in an area where I can see other employees. If it helps, I’d like to apply for a decent paying job that doesn’t require a strict dress code.

I wouldn’t make it your first question but it’s okay to ask, maybe as your final question. The reason for not leading with it is really about optics. If dress code is a deal-breaker for you, you should be able to ask it right up-front (hell, you should be able to ask it before agreeing to an interview), but the reality is that to many/most interviewers it’ll come across as an odd thing to  prioritize so blatantly. It shouldn’t — you can prioritize whatever you want — but it will. So save it for the end and ask a few other questions (ideally focused on the work) first.

3. My manager always got the holidays off and I had to work

A few years ago, I worked for an office that didn’t give any time off around the holidays other than Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. In my department, I was one of only two employees — my boss and myself (for reference, this was Marketing). During the holidays, there always had to be at least one employee covering each department.

Every year in June (so, six months before Christmas), my manager would email me to let me know she’d be taking about 10 days off around the winter holidays. She always asked if there was any conflict, but there never was since I don’t make Christmas plans as early as June. Closer to December, I would typically ask her if I could even take just a day or two for the holidays and the answer was, “No, you have to be here. I can get fired if I let you take off. I have kids and it’s important that I celebrate the holidays with them.” Then when December rolled around, she would take her 10 days and I’d be covering the entire holiday.

Am I off-base in thinking this was unfair? I’ve never been in management, so it’s definitely possible that I’m seeing this through the wrong lens. I know that she was my manager, and that there were only two of us in our department. However, I always felt like there should have been some kind of compromise in determining time off for the holidays. What’s the norm in a situation like this?

Different offices do it in different ways — some do first-come, first served; some do it by seniority; some let you prioritize which dates you want off throughout the year and try to ensure you end up with at least some of them. But as a general rule, managers’ vacation schedules shouldn’t trump everyone else’s.

The thing is, though, I’m not sure that was happening here! It sounds like your manager did check in with you each year to give you a chance to mark off days before she reserved them but you didn’t take her up on it because it was so far in advance. I can see why you were blindsided the first year, but after that experience, it would have made sense to start reserving days much earlier — and definitely when she asked you each June whether you had any conflicts.

4. Letting interviewers contact a job I was fired from

Is it better to forbid potential employers from contacting a former job and having them think you were a terrible employee fired after 11 months for performance-related issues, or to allow potential employers to contact a former job and having it confirmed that yes, you were a terrible employee fired after 11 months for performance-related issues?

(I know the “correct” answer to this question is to omit the job from one’s resume entirely, but I’m not sure that’s a good option in my particular case, as I dropped out of a Ph.D. program ABD to take the job in question, and since being fired a year and a half ago, the only job I’ve been able to get is as a graveyard shift fast food worker.)

I’d actually suggest a third option: Come up with a way to talk about what happened at that job that makes it clear you’ve learned from the experience (even if what you’ve learned is just “don’t take jobs doing XYZ again”) and that you’re moving forward from a stronger place. Here’s some advice on doing that.

That’s easier if the performance-related issues are ones that aren’t relevant to the work you’d be doing in the job you’re applying for, of course.

5. Applying for jobs long-distance

My husband and I are starting to reconsider where we want to settle down. We just had our first child and want to move someplace more family friendly, but that leaves lots of possibilities and we are very open to locations. I’ve started to look for jobs in various cities across the country and have found a few that are really interesting and making me excited to start applying. I’m mid-senior level in my career and have a particular area of expertise that makes me well suited for some of these jobs.

How I should present my current address and relocation plans? Someone suggested I use a local address so that potential employers won’t know I’m from out of state (for one job I’m considering, we have family living in the area so I guess I could use their address). But that feels disingenuous. I’ve started writing cover letters where I explain that I am looking to relocate, and thought about mentioning that we are already in the process of moving to said location. While that isn’t entirely true, I don’t want potential employers to be concerned that I’m not a serious or realistic candidate. Any advice?

It’s true that it can be harder to job search when you’re not local. If employers have lots of local candidates, it’s often easier for them to just focus on those (for all the reasons here). However, the more senior or in-demand your skills are, the less that’s an issue and the more employers expect to need to consider out-of-state applicants. Still, though, it can put you at a disadvantage compared to local candidates.

I’m not a fan of lying about your location. It can come out and make you look intentionally deceptive, and it can put you in situations where an employer asks you to come in for an interview on short notice, which can be hard/impossible to do when you’re not anywhere near them. (However, that’s less of an issue right now when so much interviewing is being done virtually.) But the more you can make your move sound like a done deal, the better — for example, you can put “(relocating to Portland)” directly below your address on your resume, and note in your cover letter that you’re planning to move to to the area soon. (That’s trickier in your case since you’re considering multiple locations, but hey, if you get a job you like you do plan on moving.)

{ 490 comments… read them below }

  1. PNW Jenn*

    LW 3:
    I’m currently chairing a committee to fill an exec assistant position. Our candidate pool has been excellent and I noticed 2 of the too 13 candidates are from out-of-state. Neither did a good job of saying why this job at this time, nor did they address the relocation issue.

    As a reviewer with a large pool, I’m looking for reasons to rule people -into- the process. Be explicit about your move and your incentive to relocate: “I have always wanted to do llama farming in Timbuktu because ____”.

    If either of the 2 out-of-state candidates had said why they wanted to consider moving to our area, I’d have been more likely to consider them a serious candidate. As it stands, I’ll probably only move forward with local candidates.

    1. Diatryma*

      Does it make a difference if the reason for moving is ‘got this job’? I applied to hundreds of positions around the country after grad school, but didn’t move to any of the cities because I didn’t want to rule anything out and have moving expenses on top of that– why move to Seattle hoping for work there, only to get a job in Virginia? I had a few places I permitted myself to avoid, but was honestly willing to move anywhere for a decent job.

      1. Not playing your game anymore*

        When we get applications from far away we like to see something more than “I move if you hire me”

        I assume that people in some places assume everyone would give their eyeteeth to live where ever. But we know we’re not everyone’s dream locale. So tell me “we visited my grandparents every summer in your city. I’ve always wanted to get back “home”” Tell me “I’m a winter sports fan, love the idea of skiing at X and I know your snow machine trails are awesome” Tell me that you’re a mountain biker and would love to ride the Mickelson Trail … Tell me a city of 50,000-100,000 people is in your just right zone. Something to show me you have a fighting chance of being happy here 7 hours from the nearest pro football or baseball team. Tell me you understand that you’ll be 7 hours away from the closest dog show and understand that showing every weekend isn’t a thing that’s likely to happen.

        1. Diatryma*

          Is that cover-letter content, or should it come in later?

          I did really like the few job postings I applied to that, before going into any other detail, made it clear that NOPE THIS IS THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE and also BEARS and seriously MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WITH BEARS. They’d clearly been burned before, and while they didn’t move forward with me at all, I thought I would have been a good fit for at least a few years. Even with bears.

            1. AnywhereThatFits*

              I’m in a similar situation and I’m glad to see this question pop up.

              But now I’m wondering, does putting “relocating to Portland” in your resume mesh with “explaining why you’d be happy to move to X location” in your cover letter? Those two things seem like they might be contradictory?

              But if you only explain in your cover letter, it seems like you might discarded based off your current address before the interviewer even gets far enough to read your explanation. (Assuming you put current location and nothing else in the address spot).

              1. Smithy*

                If this is truly a case where you’re applying to jobs all over the US or a larger region – then I think there’s a way to weave those two together. Instead of using just “Relocating to Portland”, you could change that to “Looking/Aiming to Relocate to Portland” and then in the cover letter list off why Portland is appealing/exciting. That would give you enough ambiguity without making it confusing if it later comes up that you’re also interviewing for a job located elsewhere.

                I do agree that finding ways to include that statement in both the cover letter and resume are helpful. In my last role, it was really eye opening to see managers on the same team where sometimes cover letters mattered a lot. And other times – not so much.

          1. NYWeasel*

            Heh we have bears here and it’s one of the things I like best, even if I’ve had a few encounters that were a little close for comfort. Bears are awesome and not nearly as scary as our other neighbors, the occasional moose!

            1. Oui oui*

              I agree! One of my fun memories when I had a WFH job and lived in a small community with lots of local wildlife was driving two of my co-workers, who were visiting for the day, and having a black bear run across the road in front of my car.

          2. Smithy*

            In addition to mentioning it in your cover letter, I also think being ready to give a more personable response is very helpful. In addition to flagging, yes – quite excited to move to your city! Being able to follow that up during questions was also helpful.

            Certainly if a job is in a more rare/difficult to access industry, those questions aren’t as prevalent. However, as a woman – and maybe I’m reading too much into this – I’ve always felt employers relaxed more hearing that if I was moving for a job, I had some kind of support network accessible. When I was applying to jobs in my mid-thirties in New York City,it was for an industry that came with neither wildly high salaries nor the capacity to provide significant moving support. While it’s certainly common for people to dream of moving to NYC no matter the challenges, the reality being a struggle and thus making a person unhappy in their home life isn’t a situation most employers dream of for their staff.

          3. Professional Straphanger*

            I used to work at a place where we all did the same thing but half of the people stayed at the home office and the half I worked in traveled frequently to very out of the way and undeveloped countries for 6+ months at a time. It was an exciting and challenging job but hiring was always frustrating because even though the first line of the job description was literally “TRAVELS OVERSEAS AS NEEDED FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME TO…” new hires would start asking after 4 – 6 months, while they were still in training and hadn’t even had a tour of duty outside the country yet, “How soon can I transfer to the home office side of the house? I have kids.” Argh, did you not read the job description! These people tended to make it through training and then realize we were serious, they were not special, and they were going to spend a big chunk of time overseas so they’d quit and the cycle started again.

        2. Lora*

          Yeah, this. CurrentEmployer has some sites that are…well, if you’re not REALLY into cross country skiing, and you don’t mind stepping into a 50-year time warp, you’ll do great. If you enjoy eating something other than potatoes / ham / cheese, occasionally seeing live music and perhaps having friends outside of work, a non-skiing hobby that involves other humans, or are a religion that isn’t the particular local flavor of Catholicism or Evangelical Protestant…you’re SOL. We also have a site that we advertise as being in Major City, and in real life the site is a solid hour in non-rush-hour traffic from Major City, in a sort of crappy suburb-ish thing that has, uh, a mall and a gas station. It’s a real mystery why our only candidates for jobs there are kids fresh out of school trying to get experience on their resumes and transfers who get a big promotion to go there. It helps if you can speak to that somehow, explaining your love of skiing or you have family nearby or something, because nobody is moving there for any other reason.

          1. Student*

            I think you’re projecting your own values/needs/motivations quite a lot on your candidate pool.

            I moved to a place very similar to what you’re describing. I had no personal or familial connections there. I had no interest in the single local flavor of sports. I wasn’t a member of the local, heavily dominant religions. I only went there for the job.

            And I did great. I made friends, who had also moved to this weirdo, isolated crap hole for their own jobs. I stayed for about 5 years (good tenure for my type of work), then moved on.

            Why? Because those things you’ve listed – family, sports, religion – don’t motivate me personally. They don’t excite me, they don’t drive me. My work is what excites and drives me. I’ve adapted techniques to live happily and form social bonds in isolated crap-holes, because that’s where my career flourishes. I talk with and visit friends or family who live elsewhere on my vacations or weekends. I have hobbies that I can do in isolated crap-holes.

            I was happier than a lot of the actual locals while I worked in that crap-hole town, and I complained less about the crap-hole qualities of the area. The locals felt stuck in the crap-hole, while I had chosen it voluntarily, knowing what it was.

            I think you should make room in your hiring for people like me. We exist, and there’s quite a lot of us in my own field. It makes sense to be forthright about the local shortcomings with your finalist candidates to weed out people who aren’t aware of the area’s issues to protect yourself from fast turn-over. But I think you’re jumping too quickly to weed people out based on only how YOU evaluate jobs and moves, instead of leaving room for people who approach life very differently from you.

            1. Lora*

              OK, but then this is ALSO a thing you can say in a cover letter: Dear Hiring Manager, I am happy to move to Isolated Craphole because I can enjoy my hobbies of online gaming / knitting / making YouTube tutorials anywhere I go, and I’m especially interested in this job because I just love attaching clamps and gaskets to chemical pipelines all day. That’s cool too, I am totally glad you can do that – but definitely explain that! Because while you are a unique individual, there are just not many of you in the world, and the vast majority of people DO have concerns like, “how are the schools around here? what is the housing situation? where is the nearest synagogue / temple / Unitarian drum circle? can I buy foods which are not potatoes and ham in the local restaurants and grocery stores? what do people do for fun after work? can I find a nearby CrossFit gym / yoga studio? am I going to be literally the only Black or Hispanic person for a 200-mile radius, and do they have annual parades with racist caricatures in said parade?”

              Seriously, we will hire …damn, sometimes I think anyone with a pulse… with a modicum of technical skills to work at these sites, but we don’t like to waste time and money bringing people in for interviews when they may not realize HOW middle-of-nowhere these places are.

              1. Cj*

                Then why on earth are you stating in your ad for the one site that it is in a major city instead of explaining exactly how middle of nowhere these places are?

                1. Lora*

                  I KNOW, I wish they would stop!! It is the absolute pits! We churn through HR people there also, so this conversation happens All. The. Time.
                  “Let’s note in the ad that in fact this is Tinytown, not City, so people do not get confused – even the Google Map address is misleading if you say it is in City.”
                  ‘But if we say it is Tinytown, nobody will apply at all!”
                  “They’re going to find out sooner or later, how about instead of wasting people’s time screening applicants who have no chance of coming here, you get only a few candidates but they all know the score?”
                  “But if they know that City is nearby, they won’t feel like they are stuck in Tinytown!”
                  “They ARE stuck in Tinytown….”

                  Ultimately I think it’s the way the HR metrics are set up – they get judged on how many candidates meeting the skill sets they bring in, even if they bring in no more than a resume or phone screen and the candidate nopes out. Because it’s not their decision to hire the person or not, it’s merely their job to find skilled people for the hiring managers to speak with, so they can blame the hiring manager for being picky if all the candidates tell them No Way.

                2. Cj*

                  ETA: By the way, the vast majority are *not* like you. Other than good schools and affordable housing, I don’t know anybody who cares about the things you listed.

                  Many, many Americans live in rural areas without the things you name, which you consider to be “isolated crapholes”. Reminds me of Trump referring to “shithole” countries, for which he has neither respect for the countries or the people who live there.

                3. Lora*

                  CJ: I grew up in, went to undergrad in, and lived for four years after undergrad in Isolated Crapholes. Those of us who live (or in my case, used to live) in isolated, rural areas, are actually aware of how isolated it is and how it is perceived, and we often joke about it, but clearly the joke fell flat for you. Student brought it up sarcastically, that is what I was replying to.

                  The point is that when you are running a STEM-oriented tech business, almost the entirety of your hiring pool is in major cities – and it is very very VERY hard to convince someone who is making well in the six figure range and who has concerns such as “flying home to see family in Beijing,” “quality of local schools,” or “will I or my family be able to fit in and make friends” that they should take a 40% pay cut to live in an isolated area where these things are a big unknown. In choosing a site for a large facility, you don’t care that 15-20% of the entire US population lives in rural areas, you care about “can I find 1200 reasonably qualified people of working age who can pass a background check and drug screen, at least 200 of which must have particular college education and prior work experience, all of which must own reliable transportation, within a ~30 mile radius”. By definition, rural means not many people live there. However, there is a SMALL demographic (trust me, SMALL) who does wish to live in such areas, who definitely do not comprise the vast majority of applicants, who we would love to find! If they could self-identify as “hi, I would love to live in Middle Of Nowhere! My hobby is posting films of gorgeous nature scenes on YouTube, and I am currently hoping to move somewhere that I can do trail riding on weekends / enjoy amateur astronomy somewhere with a truly dark sky / take up dogsled racing” then they should SAY THAT and we will move your resume to the top of the pile, seriously, if you can tell us why you want to work HERE, of all places.

              2. Yorick*

                This would be a crazy thing to put in a cover letter. If someone is applying for the job, they want the job. They are almost definitely going to move there for the job. Of course, except that in your case, the ad is misleading – so that’s what needs to change, not the candidates.

        3. Works in IT*

          Then there’s the counter argument, which is that some people genuinely don’t care where they live, and seeking enthusiasm would rule them out. I don’t care about dog shows or sports teams. As long as I’m somewhere with non dial up internet, and I’m being paid a salary that allows me to keep my cats fed, I am happy. My hobbies, which make me very happy, are hobbies that can all be done regardless of location.

          1. Cj*

            Not a sports fan here, either. It would certainly never occur to me to say I don’t care if I live nowhere near where an NFL team plays, because sports never cross my mind. Let alone dog shows. I’m a dog lover and have three of my own, but I prefer mutts to purebreds, or at least recused purebreds, who wouldn’t be in dog shows.

            I can understand naming what you *would* like about the area, but who on earth would list what you wouldn’t miss? That list could be endless, and would depend on knowing what the person reviewing your cover letter would miss, and thinks that most people would. Which is a biased way of evaluating applicants.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        After grad school is a bit of a special case – in my field it’s actually rare to get a job in the same place you did grad school, and moving countries is not unusual. But if the answer is “I’ll move if you hire me”, it’d be good to specifically say that you’d relocate for the job, and could do so within X weeks of accepting a position. And, of course, having a general plan in mind for doing so. I’ve moved to cities for jobs and found a place to live after getting there more than once, so it’s doable.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I think tenure track academic positions are different. I have a lot of family in academia. Only one is in a location I would ever consider moving to on its own merits. Why did the others go where they went? Because it was a tenure track position. You go where the job is. I never got the impression that there was any necessity to pretend otherwise. (Oddly enough, the one family member in that reasonable place is the humanities professor. The others, living off in the wilds, are in the hard sciences.)

      3. wanda*

        If you were applying to faculty or postdoc positions, that’s different. Faculty positions, in particular, are thin enough on the ground that you don’t really have to justify why you’d like to go to a particular geographic location. I’ve also met someone that looked down on applicants who mentioned the geographic location because caring about where you live is apparently “superficial” and beneath serious scientists. This is BS, but what if someone like that is screening the applications? It’s good to mention other aspects of the institution you like, though.

        1. anon prof*

          I think it’s more about the fit with the school. Theoretically faculty positions can be forever, so the goal is someone who will be happy in their job and not constantly annoyed that they aren’t at the type of school that they want to be at. So if the only thing in the “I want this job because” reason is the location, that’s a yellow flag for potential disgruntlement. As long as there is also a demonstration of understanding of what that job actually is and a desire to be in that work environment, mentioning the location is fine.

        2. tra la la*

          This is true, but, higher ed institutions in what are perceived to be less-sexy locations are also concerned about retention. I had a temporary one-year job at a school in a location that was pretty remote and bleak, and they had trouble keeping their new hires (though the pay was good and the COL was low).

          Last year I went on a multiple-day onsite interview — it was longer than usual because they gave me multiple tours of the town. It was also in a very remote town, and they clearly wanted to make sure I had a good sense of what I’d be moving to. I think this was especially the case because I live in a big city that on paper sounds like a cool place, but which has always felt very impersonal and unfriendly as a place to live. I moved to this big city solely for the job, because yes, I’m in that kind of field. But honestly, my issue has been convincing schools that I would honestly prefer someplace smaller — they don’t believe me.

    2. Ana Gram*

      I’m surprised that this is an issue. I hire cops and civilians for a law enforcement agency and we routinely get applications from all over the country. In interviews, I ask why our agency but never why they want to move. I figure they’ve looked into the area, like it, and will move if hired. Nobody gets dinged for not explaining that.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        I can see your point. However, given how many people send applications out without looking carefully at the *job description*, I suspect a non-trivial number of them also haven’t looked carefully at the location, either. Therefore, if the employer’s organization knows people sometimes struggle with any one of a number of things that can cause employee retention problems (moving to a remote village, high cost of living, extreme weather, lack of local healthcare/cultural opportunities, crushing commutes, etc.), the applicant can do a lot to assuage that concern if they are applying from outside the area.

        1. TechWorker*

          I hire grads and a reasonable proportion come to interview without having properly looked up where the office is (or assuming cos we’re a big company that they could work from any office when actually I’m only hiring for my site..)

        2. Ana Gram*

          That’s true. If it were an unusual location, I probably would explain why I was drawn to it. I had a friend who was a firefighter in Antarctica and he definitely made a point of explaining why working there appealed to him!

          1. Adam*

            I had no idea this was a thing! How often does Antarctica have fires? What are the working conditions like? I have so many questions.

            1. coldbrewraktajino*

              Firefighters are often also paramedics, and there’s definitely a need for EMS there!

              It seems like a not uncommon topic for AMAs and blog posts. Here’s a bbc article about firefighting in the Antarctic:

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, we moved several times when I was a kid and it was just assumed that unless a place was genuinely unlivable for X Reasons, if you liked the job, you’d move. I thought it was pretty normal to apply for jobs in places far from your current residence.

        1. Not playing your game anymore*

          It is. And people do. But there are two pieces at work here. In a time of low unemployment where we only get 5 or 6 applicants for every job we’ll talk to everyone remotely qualified, but the local candidate still has an edge. They know the area, we can (before the virus) talk to them in person. But we’d at least talk to the distant person and if we like the distant candidate we’d like the reassurance that the bears (we don’t actually have bears, cougars yes, bears no) won’t be a deal breaker. Will they run leaving all their possessions behind for us to pack up after the ugly little rattlesnake incident?

          In the sort of job market we are facing now? The game has changed. After the great recession it was common to get 75+ applicants for each opening. One job we had 178 candidates. We were eager to pare it down to 10 or so for a phone screen. The only way you’re getting a call in that market is to be a great match for our job, and it’ll help if you convince us you practically live here already or at least can see yourself doing so. Because fitting the area is part of being a great fit.

          We are an academic library, so it’s also good to talk about interest in the programs too. Don’t get me wrong, have once wrestled alligators at a wildlife park is a plus, but being interested in concrete canoes and neutrinos is great too. You don’t need all of that in a cover letter certainly, but if we’re going to ask you to move here from Hawaii or some major city with a theater district? We’d like to know you yearn for the mountains and can handle a certain amount of solitude. We’d like to have someone who’s thrilled with a 15 minute drive as a commute, rather than the one who resents the fact that they’re going to have to drive themselves. We understand that people move on, but when they are miserable here before the weather has even turned cold? We’d like to avoid that.

        2. hbc*

          It’s pretty normal, but it’s also pretty normal for someone who’s doing hiring to worry that you won’t stick around for long when you realize that it’s too hot or cold, more lonely being away from family than you thought, too crowded or too sparse, too liberal or too conservative, too rainy or too dry, or that they miss hockey or lacrosse or candlepin bowling too much.

          Also, people who look like they’ll take Any Job in Any Location are most often the people who will take off quickly for Slightly Better (at least on paper) Job in Any Location.

          You just need to show them that you would find staying at this job to be compelling. Since you don’t already have the unstated “my apartment and coffee shop and D&D group are all here,” you have to show why the location is attractive.

        3. Tinker*

          I also grew up in a family where it was presented as standard that you moved wherever the job was regardless of location. The thing I’ve found since then is that my family of origin was a lot more self-contained than average — for instance, my parents actively do not believe in having close friends you are not married to — that my father was a well-compensated professional in a field where the impact of geographic mobility on your career trajectory was unusually significant, and that my parents are at least somewhat outside the norm in the degree to which they prioritize professional success over other considerations. Without those factors, moving becomes more expensive and pays off less, and most people I see tend toward not doing it.

          What seems to be more common is that when people move, the selection of place comes before the selection of job — so, I’m moving to this city to live with a partner, or I’m moving to one of these cities because I want to live in a place with certain parameters, and the job question is more “when I find a job / unless I can’t find a job” than “because of job”. Even in those cases where the move is basically job-motivated, it seems usually to be according to a pattern of “this place is known to be more central in my field than where I presently live” rather than “I applied to jobs with complete disregard to where they were at, and this is what popped out of the lottery hopper”.

          So yeah, judging by the way I’ve tended to see people behave and also by the way I’ve seen people react to me when I was operating by that geographically-independent assumption, it’s not the sort of ‘normal’ that goes without saying most places.

          1. tra la la*

            Oh wow, my family was like this too. My dad is a retired professor and we moved several times when I was a kid; the last move was because he went through a nasty tenure battle where his work friends were turned against him. I have always really struggled with how resistant they have always been to making friends (and I’ve always worked in higher ed and have the same ‘go where the job is’ mentality). I’d never made the connection between the “move where the job is” and “no need for friends” before I read your post.

      3. CM*

        There was a letter earlier this year, I think, from somebody who said they kept hiring people who would last six months in their difficult geographic location, and then quit. So I think it’s pretty common for people to think, “Sure, I’d move anywhere,” but once they actually get there, they realize it’s not for them. I can see why in some jobs, the hiring manager would want validation that the person actually understands where they are moving to and is fine with living there. Probably not necessary if the job is in a desirable location or the nature of the job/location is well-understood (like a US federal gov job in DC).

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I’ve even done it with jobs in London and I’ve lived there for 20 years. You think it’s fine, how bad can it be, so you take a job somewhere that involves two changes on the Tube, and after a few weeks you realise it only takes one slight delay before you’re not getting home until 7pm, and actually schlepping across town is pretty exhausting long-term. I now have a rule that I won’t do more than one change of line as part of my commute – preferably no changes!

          1. UKDancer*

            It’s critical to know. I prefer to be able to take jobs I can get to easily from the station my train comes into in London as I don’t particularly like long tube journeys at rush hour.

        2. Hillary*

          This. One of my family members used to hire in a relatively difficult location. It was great if you liked the outdoors, but there weren’t professional sports or cultural events, and it would be hard for a spouse to find a job. They had too few people in the org for over 15 years.

          They eventually focused their recruiting on the spouses – if the spouse liked the area the family stayed.

        3. Smithy*

          I think for less desirable or difficult locations that’s certainly part of it. However, as someone in the nonprofit sector – I do see there being some hesitancy for those looking to move to “big/exciting” cities due to a worry that they’ve not really done their cost of living calculations properly.

          It can be really frustrating for people who see a job as both a professional step up and an increase of salary to then find themselves in a city where they haven’t truly accounted for the impact on their home life. It can be the length of commute to ensure they have the amount of living space they deem acceptable. Or the fact that while they budgeted for the different cost in housing, the didn’t account for how much it’d affect consumer goods. Or that while cool city may have loads of cool things to do, it ends up not being so easy or regular to access.

          So someone who says “it’s been wonderful living in the Middle of USA for a while, the prospect of a job that could take me back to expensive costal city where I lived and still have friends/family” – that still matters.

    3. RedinSC*

      I cam in to say the exact same thing as PNW Jenn. I received a couple of strong resumes from people very far away from CA and they didn’t mention at all why here, why this job, what their plans were. I put them in the Maybe box because I have local candidates and a few relocation candidates who did explain that very well.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      When you write “saying”, you mean pro-actively addressing the issue in the cover letter? Or having a good answer when asked during a phone screen?

  2. Viki*

    OP 1- a good manager will not let other employees know the private issues with another employee’s work if it doesn’t pertain to other employees.

    I have someone on my team who is seeming excelling to others but on other issues (soft skills with vendors, individual projects they are missing marks on and, are on a PIP). If you asked his colleagues on whom his work does not involve, he would be a great employee.

    All this to say, you don’t know everything that goes into making the sausage. Ask but understand there can and probably all, multiple factors at play.

    1. Batty Twerp*

      But I think knowing if the sausage contained 10% donkey meat is useful information. I don’t even need to know which bit of the donkey. We don’t need the detail, but a confirmation that it’s not just because the employee was unhappy would be reassuring.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. There’s a difference between Sally had life issues going on verses Sally took her at-home difficulties out on her cohorts.

        What made my eyes pop here, was the fact that they fired a WOMAN because she did not ACT happy. I would be very, very concerned about this. And I would want to know if I have act happy to retain my job because I am a woman.

        So I guess my conversation with the boss would be how this impacts me and MY on-going employment with the company.

        1. Snow Globe*

          Ooh, good point, I hadn’t thought of it from that angle, but I agree that there are generally higher expectations for women to see bright and happy.

          If there are other issues at play, the problem is the way it was communicated. It very much does sound like she was fired for being unhappy, but they may have meant, she wasn’t happy working here, which you all probably noticed, and this impacted her work in some ways. Maybe she was actually relieved to leave the company (I have seen that happen, when someone is relieved to be fired.)

          1. EPLawyer*

            I was reading it that way too. Unhappy was codeword for didn’t really like working here, was not motivated in the job although she did her work, etc. The company didn’t want to go into the details so they said this. Poorly communicated? yes. You don’t want people to think you can be fired for not smiling enough. Just like you don’t want people called into the Boss’ office then never heard from again with no word on their no longer working at the company.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              “She worked hard, put in extra hours on a regular basis, and the work she produced was always well done. During her two years here, she’s always gone above and beyond to help colleagues out when we’ve needed it.” This doesn’t sound like she wasn’t motivated in the job, when she was working extra hours and going above and beyond. It’s certainly possible that she was fired for more than just not being happy enough, but it doesn’t seem like it was because she seemed unmotivated and like she didn’t want to be working there.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                I agree that it sounds like there’s a disconnect, but I’ve had times where I’ve been unhappy in the job and hated the company but still wanted to produce good work (doing that right now, as a matter of fact!). I’m with EPLawyer here– “I’m unhappy” is usually code for, “I don’t want to keep working here unless X or Y improves,” not, “I’m upset and sad.”

                I can totally envision a scenario where someone is unhappy with the company and shares that a little too freely with colleagues, thus creating a tense environment, or where a company tries to rectify the situation but the person still isn’t satisfied, and the relationship deteriorates even if the work doesn’t.

                Bottom line, my read is that the LW is taking “she was unhappy” as more about her emotional state when it was really about the work or the work environment.

              2. Louise*

                I had a coworker who was well liked, constantly putting in extra hours and goes above and beyond, helped others … and she sucked at her job. Sometimes you can help others at their job and suck at your job. Sometimes extra hours is cover because you can’t get your job done. I agreeing the messaging on the firing is terrible if that is what employees are thinking, but unless you are the one dealing with the employee day to day and cleaning up their messes you don’t always realize.
                I have lost count of how many times I have been given others messes to clean up by problem employee eventually left and people were said when they left because they were so nice but meanwhile I had way less work to do because I wasn’t constantly fixing things. (We have hiring / managing issues galore but there are job perks that make me deal with it.)

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Oh, for sure. You’ll notice I didn’t say that because she was working hard, that meant she was good at her job. I definitely don’t think that’s true. I was disagreeing that she would have seemed unmotivated. I’ve worked with a lot of people who came across as unmotivated and unhappy to work at the organization I worked for, and none of them voluntarily worked longer hours than they had to or went above and beyond to help others. But maybe my experience with “I hate being here and have no motivation” types is an outlier.

                2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  This is a good point. I worked with someone like that too. And *she* got promoted to management. I’m happy for her, but highly concerned for her reports, and that promotion would be a massive morale killer for me if I still worked there.

            2. JohannaCabal*

              This could be it. During the recession, I worked for a company that hired some recent graduates who could not find jobs in their fields and some seemed to take their frustrations out on the job (I was empathetic because while not a recent grad, I had been laid off and this was the only one I could find).

              Although I could understand their frustrations, for some, there came a point where the unhappiness was bleeding into their jobs and also negatively affecting the teams they were on.

              It was not that they were fired for being unhappy; they were fired for not meeting the requirements of the job.

              1. JustaTech*

                I had a coworker like that: his group had been dissolved and he was moved to my group, which wasn’t doing any of the stuff he was an expert in or wanted to do. So rather than find a new job he just took it out on the non-PhD members of the group (eventually just me) by being lazy and borderline unsafe in his work. For *years*. I was thrilled when he left.

                We had other people in our group who weren’t thrilled with their positions (having been dumped in my group when theirs were dissolved) but they did their jobs well, didn’t take their unhappiness out on us, and then found new work where they were happy.

          2. HB*

            Yeah, I’m kindof wondering if there’s any feasibility to the idea that the decision was at least a little bit mutual. I keep thinking of the dumb TV scenario of “Let me fire you so you can get severance rather than you quit” which I know is borderline fraud, but maybe there’s some wiggle room in that idea that works here?

            For instance management and coworker have frank conversation about coworker’s state of mind in which she admits that she’s miserable and that continuing to put in the work is taking its own toll. Rather than resign without anything lined up, management offers to let her go with some small severance.

            The thing that makes me doubt that’s the case is the fact that the smarter option would have been to let her take some sort of leave of absence and if there was any indication that the decision was mutual, then I don’t think the LW would be using the term fired.

        2. Momma Bear*

          At a prior job, several people were laid off and some of the team were blindsided by it. Some of us were not. Those of us more closely involved with the client knew the client was dissatisfied. After that, management took the step to implement a better review process and assured the rest of the team that no one who was left was in danger of being let go. That step was necessary since we were all looking over our shoulders until we were reassured that what had just occurred would not happen again.

          I think OP needs to know what this means in context to OP and also let the manager know in professional terms that the optics are concerning. Management may not be able to give details but letting OP and the team know there was more to it than simply being unhappy/having a hard year could be important to morale and employee retention.

          1. OP #1*

            I did end up speaking with my manager. A I expected, she wasn’t able to share any information with me. I would have been really surprised, and honestly worried, if she had. But the conversation didn’t really go the way I would have liked. My concerns were interpreted as being upset about a friend getting fired, rather than the bigger picture, organizational culture concerns that I have. But I’ll clarify a few things, and give a bit of an update.
            First, my organization is very small. So small that there’s almost no way to hide it if something is going wrong with someone’s work; there’s too big of a ripple effect if one person’s work is off. No one who wasn’t involved in the decision saw this coming, including the colleague who was fired. They also told her that she was let go because she was unhappy, and must have implied that she wasn’t controlling her emotions enough, because she’s apologized to a few colleagues for being too emotional after getting fired.
            The colleague who got fired and I do not share a manager. The manager in charge of her work is the last of an old cohort of managers at this company. This manager has refused to do performance reviews in the past. And this company has had some shoddy practices when it comes to hiring and firing. In the past they’ve fired people while on medical leave, held on to people who were not doing their job at all, and recently forced another member of staff into retirement. So, I would not put it past this manager to fire someone for being unhappy. Whether its unhappy in their work, or unhappy in general. But, I was under the impression that the organization was trying to turn over a new leaf and improve their culture. They were doing a reorganization. They changed up a lot of the management, and said the reorganization was over. It seemed the reorg had worked, and everything was looking up. Everyone was feeling pretty positive, and we had a really great team dynamic going. Until the sudden firing.
            Since, the company has created a new position within my department, and has started the hiring process for this new position. They announced that they were doing this right after they let go of my colleague. So now it seems like they may have just been getting rid of her position all together. But if that were the case, why bother with all this “unhappy” nonsense? Why tell us the reorganization was over? It would have made a lot more sense to lay her off as part of the reorganization, rather than fire her and throw us all for a loop.

            1. Anon for this*

              Oh, wow, I agree, this is confusing and potentially worrying. We’ve had workplace positivity being pushed overly eagerly at our workplace (up to and including a team being told by a manager to “be grateful that you still have your jobs”), so that was where my mind went; toxic positivity.

              They also told her that she was let go because she was unhappy

              Ugh, gross. And not great for the morale of those left behind. Especially if as you say, her unhappiness had no negative impact on her or anyone else’s work that anyone could see.

              It would have made a lot more sense to lay her off as part of the reorganization, rather than fire her and throw us all for a loop.

              Wouldn’t she have gotten severance if they’d laid her off?

            2. MsClaw*

              It’s unfortunate that it sounds like this really is what they meant instead of it just being a turn of phrase. Ugh.

            3. hbc*

              Thanks for chiming in!

              I think there are a bunch of options here that don’t boil down to “They fired her for not being happy enough.” If she was having emotional outbursts to the point of needing to apologize, that’s often something that can’t be tolerated, even if everyone is sympathetic to the reason and she’s producing good work. And sometimes, “unhappy with work” can mean being complaining to management about every little hiccup in the workflow.

              Also, if your organization is really that small, it might be that her exit allowed a restructuring that wouldn’t have happened without the opening. There’s a big difference between laying off a good employee to get to a better structure, and firing a problem employee and then assessing whether that headcount could be better used elsewhere.

              1. OP #1*

                I’ll clarify a little bit again. I said she apologized for being emotional, but not that she needed to. At least, from a non-management standpoint, none of us ever saw her have anything close to an “emotional outburst.” The general reaction to her apologies has been “Why are you apologizing?” Obviously I don’t know what happened with her manager in private meetings. But from my, and my other colleagues view, the worst we’ve ever seen from her is a few quiet tears. And that was under extreme circumstances, when we were in the office after hours working over time, and she was grieving a recent loss.

            4. JM60*

              This manager has refused to do performance reviews in the past. And this company has had some shoddy practices when it comes to hiring and firing. In the past they’ve fired people while on medical leave, held on to people who were not doing their job at all, and recently forced another member of staff into retirement.

              Wow. If I were working there, that would make me constantly worried that I’m about to be fired, regardless of how well I’m performing. Ironically, the way they manage firings would make me unhappy to work there.

        3. Mr. Tyzik*

          Firing a woman for being unhappy is SO problematic and SO hard to prove.

          I was laid off for not showing “passion” about server procurement and database projects, but the *official* reason is salary level for the position. All about reducing cost. Forget about the things my manager actually said vs. what was in my file. I just let it drop – no action to take conclusively based upon evidence.

          I got the best revenge. I got the job I wanted at a competitor for more money and get juicier projects now. No lack of passion for me!

        4. Screech Owl*

          What made my eyes pop here, was the fact that they fired a WOMAN because she did not ACT happy. I would be very, very concerned about this. And I would want to know if I have act happy to retain my job because I am a woman.

          That raised my hackles as well. And it’s one of those squishy things that you can’t prove discrimination around, but I’m betting they wouldn’t do that to a man.

        5. Chinook*

          I too would like to know the contents of said sausage because there is a world of difference between her actions causing her dismal and her emotional state. As someone with a mental health condition that can cause depression, I would bee 100% paranoid if I heard that a coworker was fired for being unhappy at work. I would find myself second guessing myself on my bad days, wondering if I was acting happy enough or if it looked like I was overcompensating.

          I pride myself on being able to control my illness at work (though I can see in hindsight when it has bled in) and having my breakdowns off the clock, but I would have seen the wording of this firing as a sword hanging over my head from this point forward.

      2. MsClaw*

        It might be useful information — but it also might be none of your business. I don’t mean that harshly. Just there seem to be two main possible interpretations here:
        1. The bosses are assholes who fired a woman for not being cheerful enough, despite being highly competent.
        2. There was something going on that OP has no insight into and that management is choosing not to share, and in fact may be legally and/or ethically bound not to share.

        If OP is really concerned, it would be worth having a chat with her manager to raise her concerns and see if they want to fill in the blanks at all. But it’s entirely possible that ‘she was unhappy’ is a fig leaf for something that management is not going to discuss.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This is where I am, having been on the management side of this several times. I have to take the hit for firing someone for “no good reason” because I can’t share the damn good reason. There are some really charming, personable people who are great at building relationships their coworkers that also do underhanded and crappy things we can’t discuss with anyone but HR.

          We have a very well documented, posted-to-the-intranet process for performance improvement, solid management training on coaching and addressing performance issues, and a list of things that will get you fired on the spot. I am still impressed with the creativity of some of the grapevine reasons people were let go.

          1. hbc*

            My favorite was a couple of people who blamed me for firing the guy who held himself up as a champion of the blue collar workers. Leaving aside whether he ever did anything for them that didn’t benefit him directly, he resigned! Worked out his two week’s notice and everything.

            They must call it a grapevine because it’s got all kinds of crazy twists and turns.

        2. Batty Twerp*

          So you end up with Stepford workers? Can’t let that smile drop or I’ll be fired!

          If it’s something management can’t tell for legal or ethical reasons, don’t be euphemistic and say it’s for something else that will just cause concerns and letters to AAM.
          If you can’t (or won’t) tell me about the donkey meat, don’t tell me the sausage is 100% camel.

          I completely get it – there will always be things that management sees that the worker bees don’t, and that’s absolutely right and correct. But good management shouldn’t send out such confusing messages that suggest something outside of the worker’s control (their *perceived* emotions on any given day, or over a given period) is grounds for dismissal.
          If it comes down to it, management don’t need to say anything at all!

          1. MsClaw*

            I have no idea how you’re getting to Stepford workers from my comment.

            We (and OP) don’t know what the managers know. Maybe she had a serious conflict with a coworker. Maybe she was staying late to work — and to get drunk at her desk. Maybe money went missing. Maybe she missed an important deadline on a project that OP isn’t involved in.

            I also think people are probably way overloading ‘unhappy’ here. Happy is not the same as cheerful. She was unhappy working here is a pretty bland phrase used to indicate that someone was dissatisfied with their job. It’s likely that by ‘she was unhappy’ they meant ‘this just wasn’t working out’.

            If they really did fire someone for not smiling enough, that’s a very real and different problem. But letting someone go who has been ‘unhappy’ at work is probably not primarily about her facial expressions.

            1. PT*

              I worked somewhere where we had someone fired for gross misconduct. Bullying. Stalking. Harassment. Obstruction of people’s work (like, she would create a micromanager chokepoint in her subordinate’s workflow so they had to ask her permission to do basic simple tasks, and then she would say Thank you! and not do it.) Terminating good employees for petty reasons. Playing clique games. Dozens of people quit because of her!

              The excuse given when she was finally fired, was that “Lucinda is no longer with the company, she is pursuing an opportunity elsewhere and we wish her the best of luck.”

              Not “Lucinda was unhappy with her job so we fired her.” Or even that Lucinda was fired at all! This is fishy IMHO.

            2. SimplyTheBest*

              But management didn’t say she was fired for being “unhappy with her job.” They said they fired her for being “unhappy.” That’s not the same thing. And when you know your unhappy colleague 1. has a lot of personal troubles at the moment and 2. goes above and beyond at work (as OP says) you’re not going to come away from that thinking “oh, she was unhappy in her job and wanted to leave.”

              Hence, Stepford. If I was told one of my coworkers was fired for being unhappy, I too would think I had to pretend to be happy at all times or risk being fired.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yep. I know people beloved by their colleagues who were doing things like passing others’ work off as their own, shoving deadline assignments in drawers and ignoring them, and deliberately releasing confidential material – the “reason” spread through the grapevine for some of these departures are impressively creative and not being able to comment on specific personnel situations makes them difficult to dispel.

      I can tell people what our process looks like for addressing performance concerns, and it’s thorough and fair. I can also give examples of things that would result in immediate termination. Both of these are also laid out in our employee handbook (reviewed during orientation and available at all times on the internal company HR page). I cannot tell you that Jane was fired for repeatedly complaining about her job to key client despite being counseled not to do so a dozen times and that they key client reached out to us to ask for a new rep.

    3. Lacey*

      Yeah, but I think a good manager will also not imply that not being happy enough would get someone fired.

      I think this was probably a poorly worded explanation of the firing, but for anyone who gets told their resting face is unacceptable or they need to smile more – that’s going to be an alarming reason.

      And I think that managers do need to find a way to reassure their employees that there was more going on there, if there was!

    4. Lexie*

      Here’s a little different take based on the employee being told she was let go for being unhappy. They had a reason but that reason could cause the company problems. I’ve seen it happen before, a person is fired for some reason not related to their performance that is legal due to at will employment but it just so happens to coincide with the employee declining to do something unethical or even illegal. They don’t want it on the record so they let the person go with severance.

    5. tamarack and fireweed*

      Yeah, but if an unfounded rumor circulates that the dismissal was due to something that would depress morale then the manager needs to know about it and would be able to address it even without giving away confidential personnel information.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        (Also, toxic positivity is a thing, and some workplaces *might* penalize an employee who is appearing insufficiently enthusiastic about just being there and life in general. And that’s not a good thing. It should be a fair topic for an employee to inquire about, and a manager should not imply that personal happiness is a factor.)

  3. KWu*

    LW3: you don’t need socializing plans or conflict other than, “I would like to take some days off around the holidays.” It does sound like after the first year, your boss’s view was that it was settled you would be covering the entire holiday period whereas you wanted some flexibility and didn’t really take it as a done deal based on what was decided in June. You can disagree about the need to decide that early but your boss is allowed to make that call.

    Though the boss implying she’s more entitled because she has kids is BS.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I have kids, too, and I get this. Luckily I also work for the government in a country with an official state church, so my office is closed for the major Christian holidays (I’m not a believer, but I do enjoy getting together with my family when that’s an option and celebrating Christmas and Easter with traditional dishes). That said, I would hope that employers would consider giving everyone a fair shake at time off work around the holidays. I especially feel for single young people who’ve relocated to the other side of the country for their job and who don’t necessarily get to visit their parents for years, because other people get first dibs on time off.

      1. Urt*

        Thing is we don’t know whether the boss would have hogged all the holidays if LW had said in June: yeah, I wanna take Christmas off instead naw, go ahead, I don’t wanna do anything then.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            True, sure, but… if as a manager you have this same conversation every year:

            [in June]
            B: Do you have any obstacles or constraints around the end-of-year holidays?
            E: No, my family and I just can’t plan ahead that far.
            [in November]
            E: I would like to take off Christmas Eve or Boxing Day to spend a longer holiday with my family
            B: Oh, no, that won’t work – I have children and I need to be with them for the holidays.
            E: [is visibly disappointed]

            … and never change up anything, I wouldn’t be super impressed with your management skills.

            I agree that step 1 is for the LW to plonk down some holiday requests in June.

      2. Chocolate Teapot*

        Some new people (doing the same job as me) were starting in September, so I needed to wait before organising Christmas holidays. (I go back to my country of origin, so tend to book flights as soon as the winter timetables come out) One person took almost 3 weeks for long distance travel to see family, and the other played the “Oh but I have to be with my family” card. I asked the boss for help for planning, as I too have family, and got the “Sort it out yourselves” response.

        1. Dave*

          Ugh I got a variation of this this year! The sort it out yourselves response for something like this can be really unhelpful and why there should a policy on vacation requests and approvals and how many people can be out at a time clearly outlined.

        2. Lacey*

          Such a nightmare! For years I didn’t have to deal with this at all. My office closed for the week of Christmas. It was glorious. Now I work in a normal office and it’s so hard to remember to make my plans far enough ahead to work it out with my coworkers.

    2. Willis*

      Yeah, it does sound like the OP was saying there were no conflicts because she had no specific plans yet. But I think the boss meant it like, does this conflict with whether you’ll want to take time off. And after covering the first year, the OP could probably figure that yes she would want X number of days off around the holiday.

      1. EPLawyer*

        OP took plans to mean “what specifically are you doing, where are you going, who are you going with, etc?” While Boss probably meant “Do you want time off at Christmas before I lock in my plans.”

        You don’t have to know details yet to pick days you know you might like to have off. That is the plan — I want X days around Christmas off. Fill in the details later.

        Although your boss sucks by ALWAYS taking the holiday. OP you should have recognized the pattern sooner, but so should she. Part of being a good manager is not hogging the good stuff just because you are the boss.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          I don’t even agree that she sucks for always taking the holiday. I would always take a week off at Christmas if I could. She only works with one other person and that one other person is telling her she has no conflict. You think she should just not take time off for…what, optics?

          1. Jam*

            The other person is saying they don’t want it in June and then asking for it in November/December. It does sound like a more conscientious boss would have caught on and sorted it out but it also sounds like they knew they had a good thing going and felt entitled to hog the holidays ‘because kids’.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes, you may not know what you’re doing on Christmas Eve, but you still know it’s Christmas Eve. After the first year it would’ve made sense to ask for a couple days off and the fit your plans around that, instead of the other way around.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Agreed. It’s December and I still don’t fully know my plans, but I know that I would probably like to have a leisurely Christmas Day.

          The whole kids thing is, I agree, not cool. Everyone has reasons for time off and kids are no more valid than a non-parents’ plans.

          June is awfully early to plan December, but if you know this is how the boss works, put something on the books.

          1. Ashley*

            We book our hotel 12/13 months out because if I waited till June we may not have availability (and staying with family is not an option for sanity) so to me June is by no means early to know when you want off for Christmas.

        2. Public Sector Manager*

          In my government office, our agency head makes us declare in February what time we want off for the rest of the year. If you want to add time later on, you’re allowed to. But don’t plan on adding time around U.S. Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve, because those will be blocked out.

          We’ve all learned to adapt to this. Some people do a system of rotation, working the holiday week one year and getting the holiday week off the next year. Some people flip their weeks–e.g. year one work Christmas week and then take off New Year’s week (usually not as popular), and then year two have Christmas week off and then work New Year’s week. And one of my coworkers works both Christmas week and New Year’s week every year in exchange for taking the Monday after U.S. Thanksgiving off until about December 18th or so.

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      I think LW3 waited for Boss to *offer* her some days off, but Boss aggressively took LW3 at her word that she didn’t need time off at the holiday and forced a little bit of malicious compliance to LW3’s earlier lack of plans. LW3 assumed that Boss would know that it’s common to take some time, and Boss — who, year one, had information LW3 did not have about how the office operated — had already gotten out in front of the request. It was like LW3 agreed to something while she was asleep and Boss held her to it instead of agreeing to discuss it while awake.

      That said, this was a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” situation.

      Once LW3 knew from experience that Boss was perfectly fine rolling out on December 17 and not looking back, and wasn’t one to be generous voluntarily about holiday time off (largely because that was more convenient for her child care schedule), she should not have committed so early AGAIN to working the whole holiday. “Actually, my plans are still up in the air, and I will want to take at least couple of days this year. Can we revisit this a little closer to the date once I have things nailed down?” would have been fine.

      At a minimum, Boss would have known LW3 wasn’t going to be outmaneuvered again.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        “but Boss aggressively took LW3 at her word that she didn’t need time off at the holiday and forced a little bit of malicious compliance to LW3’s earlier lack of plans.”

        This is a weirdly hostile take. The boss specifically mentioned she was planning on taking 10 days around the hollidays in a job that needed coverage. So when LW said no, she booked her time off, and then LW’s job was in fact to cover. Since LW never even mentioned she’d like any time off at all, I don’t think it’s on the boss to guess she wanted the time and adjust her own plans in advance with that in mind, when they had an agreement. Many people don’t value the season at all, so how should the boss know?

        Sure, the first year LW was blindsided. But from then on, she knew holiday plans were settled in June, and it’s on her to come up with the days she’s like off by then. If the manager had then denied her any days, that’s a bad manager and company. But as it is, the problem seems entirely due to LW not communicating properly, and being stubborn about not making her own plans “too early”.

        1. Washi*

          Right, should the boss have avoided making plans even though the OP said she didn’t have any conflicts for those days?

          I do think that when the OP later asked for some days off during the holidays, the boss should have said explicitly “no and the reason is that you already agreed to cover these days when we discussed it over the summer” and not “no because I have kids.” But it’s pretty common in coverage-based jobs to need to arrange who will work what holidays 6+ months in advance, and OP should just have that in mind going forward.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Also waiting until early December to ask for days off around Christmas is probably a little late in most offices. Depends on the leave policy of course. But if the job is coverage based, by early December it is pretty locked in who will be working in just a couple of weeks.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Yep. I have an explicitly-stated minimum coverage requirement on my team on top of specific project staffing. Every year, we poll multiple times for holiday time off requests to plan staffing, including seeing if there are volunteers to work, and every year, 85% of people schedule their plans and coordinate and 15% submit vacation requests on December 18th for the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s and are then very put out when it’s rejected because we hit minimum staffing already.

              I don’t need people to have plan tickets or party times in June (and we’re a bigger team, so we start in September/October), but a basic idea of if you’re planning to take time off at all is helpful.

            2. Risha*

              I have just a couple of people under me (as a technical lead, not a people manager), and one of them is a guy who always decides he wants to take a day off around a holiday at the very last minute, sometimes that same week. I, on the other hand, always put in my end of year vacation requests early and get them approved in September or October usually, though I waited until November this year because everything was up in the air because pandemic.

              I end up feeling guilty because he then asks for days where he’s the only coverage and gets turned down, but also part of me gets pissed because, why should I not be taking my planned time off just because he’s my sorta-subordinate but can’t be bothered to plan ahead like everyone else.

              1. Khatul Madame*

                This is very similar to the OP’s situation and can be helped by the late-planner learning his lesson and submitting leave request early the next year.
                You, as the lead, should tell him that holiday time off is a hot commodity (obviously!) and he should make plans well in advance. If you did, you shouldn’t feel guilty.

                1. Risha*

                  Actually, I finally did start asking him if he was planning to take time off, albeit I can probably stand to do it sooner. But our shared person manager also always starts warning people in September in our weekly meetings, so I feel justified in not going _too_ far out of my way.

            3. SimplyTheBest*

              I work for a Jewish temple, and as the only person in the office who celebrates Christmas, even I can’t wait until December to ask for time off around Christmas! That time will already be gone.

          2. SimplyTheBest*

            I assume also the “no I have kids line” is less “I am therefore more important” and more “this is why I can’t just give up one of my planned days off we already agreed upon to let you have off.”

            1. Willis*

              This is what I was thinking. Like, it was her half-assed response to why she couldn’t change her plans in Dec when the OP did ask for time off. “I would try to change, but kids…” Now, if OP asked for time off in June and the response was no, because boss needed to be with her kids for two weeks over the holidays, that would be more cause for outrage.

      2. Gilmore67*

        How is the Boss “aggressive “? She asked the OP if she wanted time off. OP said no. That’s that.

        What was the boss supposed to do? Not confirm her own plans in case the OP changed her mind? Keep asking the OP.. are you sure you don’t want time off ?

        I actually think the OP is a little disingenuous. I mean she says so I don’t need time off. Then changes her mind and then gets a little miffed when she can’t get it. Not fair to blame the Boss on this.

        There is nothing to indicate the Boss did anything wrong here. She asked. OP says no. End of story.

      3. Holy Coffee, Batman!*

        I’m OP #3…GammaGirl, your take on this made me chuckle. From what I know from working with this woman, I do think she did sneak in there the first year and get that time off. But everyone else on this particular thread (including you) is right – I 100% thought she was asking if I had concrete holiday plans, when in reality I could have just used your script to tell her I did want to take some time off around Christmas. Thanks for the input – I’ve been DYING to get feedback on this for years!

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          TBH, I would probably assume that if someone said they didn’t have any plans for taking Christmas off, even if it was in June, for a coverage job, I would probably assume they didn’t celebrate Christmas or celebrated some Orthodox church’s Christmas in January.

      4. Salsa Verde*

        I agree with Lady Meyneth, this does seem like a weird take – it seems like you are putting negative words into a reasonable scenario to make it seem hostile – taking someone at their word would normally be a good thing, so describing it as aggressive seems weird.
        It sounds like if OP and her boss had both taken each other at their word, this wouldn’t be an issue.

        When I went from restaurant work to office work, the fact that people planned their holiday time off in June did come as a surprise to me, but then after the first year, I just picked some days, even though I didn’t have any specific plans, so I could get some PTO days on the board, and that has worked out fine ever since.

    4. Holy Coffee, Batman!*

      I am OP#3…I’m sitting here laughing because in the years since this first happened, I have never, EVER thought to just tell her in June that I wanted a few Christmas days off (even though I didn’t have concrete plans). It’s amazing that I somehow never saw that as a solution, even though it probably would have been effective. Even when I was writing the letter, I STILL didn’t see it!

      1. Salsa Verde*

        Thank you for being so gracious to people pointing this out to you in the comments! Happy Holidays, and I hope you always get the time off you need in the future!!

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I think this is totally normal – sometimes, we get so accustomed to or into the weeds on something, it’s easy to miss an obvious solution. This is something I love about the handful of people I use as a sounding board… sometimes, they’re just like, “Is there any reason you couldn’t do Very Simple Thing?”, and I realize yes, yes, I can.

      3. Shenandoah*

        This gave me a good chuckle – I can’t tell you how often I’ve been ranting about something, and a friend has pointed out a completely obvious solution that just passed me buy.

        1. Ashley*

          Yes! And I did need this today as I keep dealing with a few people who are missing the obvious solution even when pointed out to them.

      4. KayDeeAye*

        LOL – good for you, OP#3! It can be hard to just…ask for what you want. Believe me, we all know that. So give it a try next year, and see how it goes. Even if your manager is a good one, it might disconcert her for a bit – she’s become accustomed to you leaving everything up to her. But if she is a good manager, the chances are excellent that you can take some days off during the 2021 holidays.

        I confess that I love taking time off around the holidays – love it, love it, love it. I don’t have kids and I seldom travel, but I still just love it. I know that there could be years when this isn’t convenient for everyone else, though, so I always do ask. But if everybody acts like it’s OK, I am not going to question that. I’m just going to schedule my days and hope they’re telling the truth.

      5. Lady Meyneth*

        Ha, this gave me a laugh. It happens, and I’m sorry you missed out because of this misunderstanding, and thank you for being so gracious and clarifying it for us!

  4. Roci*

    I think the holiday boss is acting in bad faith. They know that either they or OP has to be there every day. June is extraordinarily early for most people to plan December holidays, and 10 days is a lot of time, that’s 2 full weeks. By scheduling really early and for a long time, the boss is effectively ensuring that OP can’t have any holiday time off, too bad so sad, you get one chance to ask and if you miss it then screw you. Then boss tips their hand: “besides, OP’s time isn’t as important as boss’s, because they don’t have kids.”

    Looks like power harassment to me.

    1. Kat*

      I read it the same way – it seemed like the boss was being a little manipulative to me by both 1) putting in their own time off so absurdly early in advance 2) insinuating that the LW’s time off requests were less important because the LW didn’t have kids.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I really, really agree. This is not in good faith at all.

        The email from the boss as described doesn’t seem like a question that genuinely expects any pushback. If they were saying something like “I’m starting to plan my vacation and wanted to make sure we don’t have any conflicts,” but wording it from the perspective of having already planned the vacation makes it clear that if the OP speaks up the boss would have to change the plans already made. I think many (if not most) people would not feel comfortable responding to that email asking to have some of that time for themselves. Especially when you add in the context that the boss regularly says how important it is for them to spend the time with their family on the holiday.

        This boss is very selfish and very crappy and I’m pretty disappointed with the response on this one to be honest.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The boss asked her each time if she had a conflict and the OP always said no. Instead, when the boss asked each June if the OP had any conflict with the December plans, the OP needed to say, “I’d like to take off X days around the holidays — if we need to nail it down now, how about (dates)?”

      It’s not ideal to have to plan the specific days six months in advance, but by waiting until close to December she was ending up with no days.

      1. NYWeasel*

        I worked at a union job that had an annual vacation pick. In December each year, you had to go in order of seniority and make your vacation picks for the next year. In our team of 3, only one person could be out on any given day. I was low in seniority, and the #1 guy in our department had something like 6 weeks plus, so by the time he and #2 picked, pretty much any typical holiday was gone. One year I took a bunch of December Fridays off at the start of the month. The next year, #1 took them off so I had to grab Mondays instead. You didn’t have to pick all of your days at the first pick, but since the reward for working holidays was more flexible vacation days, over 14 weeks worth of days might get booked up between #1 and #2. Waiting just meant that you might get stuck with “Random Weds” holiday instead of anything you actually wanted.

        And I had it good. There were teams of 12-15 people where some long-standing employees had college aged kids that they’d never been able to take a week’s vacation with bc there were enough higher seniority folks that would go and just take 35 Fridays or something annoying like that. I put up with the headaches for a few years until I found a much better job where my boss let me take all the time I wanted off.

        1. Christmas Carol*

          My old union job had a similar policy, EXCEPT, the senority rule had adjustments for making sure no one could take the same days every year. If multiple people requested the same day off, ties were broken by whoever had requested that day the previous year(s) and been denied due to seniority going to the top of the list. For example, one coworker’s husband had his birthday at the end of May. He demanded that she take Memorial Day week off for his birthday, every year. Nope. There were three people in the department, and she got to take Birthday Week for vacation only every third year. BTW, her hubby used to call me and DEMAND I give up that week on my years because he was “entitled” to have her home to honor him for his special time. Nope. My own man isn’t allowed to bully me, much less someone elses.

          1. NYWeasel*

            Uggghh! Good for you to stand up to him!!

            Yeah, at one point the membership voted in favor of allowing only 2 weeks to be chosen during the first pick cycle, so that there would at least be some opportunities for the younger staff to get a full week off. I personally overheard the union leadership (all of whom were top seniority) wait until almost everyone had left the room, and then laugh that they’d just ignore the vote and keep the old policy. Meanwhile they’d also complain that the younger staff didn’t support the union enough. :facepalm:

            That place was a cesshole for MANY reasons, lol.

        2. Bagpuss*

          That sucks. One of the places I worked had a ‘first come, first served’ rule for holidays generally but for Christmas the rules were a bit different – as I recall (It’s a while ago) if you had the days off around Christmas one year, you were automatically last to pick the following year, and I think also if more people requested the days than could have the, they prioritized the requests so that the longer it was since you had had those days off, the higher up the list you were. I can’t remember what they did for new starters in their first year.

      2. Lady Meyneth*

        Honestly, it doesn’t even sound too early to me. If you need to travel over the holidays, booking flights around June seems like a good idea. And since the boss wanted a longish time off, it seems likely there was travel involved there.

        Maybe that’s a cultural issue, but to me it’s pretty normal for holiday time to be scheduled 3 or 4 months ahead, and that’s for jobs that don’t need coverage.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, I’m thinking about flights by September at the latest; if I wanted flights at a better price, June would be a good time to book. (I’m rarely that organized.)

          And if I asked the person I shared coverage with and they said they had no plans, I might take them at their word. (I think the manager should have been a little more explicit, though – “OK, do you mind if I book Dec X to January Y off? You would have to work since we need coverage, so if you want any days off in that time, let’s sort it out now.”

      3. Kjthe8th*

        Sometimes there are weird power dynamics at play. I have worked places where my boss saying they are taking 10 days off around the holidays with a question about my plans seemed to be presented as “I am taking 10 days off, do not plan on taking time off then yourself”with the question about my plan being only included as a formality.

        Even if LW could have said they’d like sometime often it feels like you don’t have the standing to request it.

      4. MS*

        Everyone agrees on the details. The boss asking is what they’re defining as bad. Because it is, Allison. It isn’t about the LW asking in December…it’s that she had to know in June.

        It’s not just “not ideal” it’s a manipulative trap from a bad manager aware of her power and authority over the situation.

        I can’t help but see your poor response to this letter as an admission that you would do the same because of how much time you feel your position entitles you to.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          What the hell? That’s wrong, and I’ve said consistently that the boss’s behavior is a problem. But it’s really not terribly unusual to have to figure out days off early in the year; lots of place do it. Once the OP knew her team was one of them, there was a very easy way to avoid being left with no days, and it would be bizarre not to point that out (which the OP has agreed with in the comment further down).

          1. Ramona Q*

            Whether it’s usual or not isn’t the point – lots of places do bad things all the time! MS is saying that it’s a manipulative use of power that’s bad for employees.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I don’t think it’s about having to book early, it’s the way that it is presented that is the issue, and I’m also very surprised that you can’t see where everyone is coming from on this. You usually have excellent insight into the inherent power dynamics of work relationships! You really don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that someone needs to essentially tell their boss to change their vacation plans? Because that is how it is playing out here.

                The boss is telling the OP that they have already planned for that time off, so if the OP were to respond and say they wanted some of those days that would mean the boss had to rearrange their plans. I think many people wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for that. And that even assumes that the boss would actually be *willing* to rearrange if the OP asked for it, which I don’t think is necessarily a good assumption given the comments about how important it is to spend the holidays with their kids.

                I know vacation planning is always contentious because if there has to be coverage then there is usually no answer that everyone would be happy with. But I think any even remotely reasonable boss should have an interest in making sure that their only direct report at least *sometimes* gets to have that time off instead of claiming it for themselves.

      5. Mamunia*

        But the boss is asking if there’s a conflict, which to me implies something that is more set in stone like a plane ticket or firm travel plans. (A conflict that would be difficult to adjust.) The simply boss doesn’t ask if the OP would like to take any days off. It’s the language that makes it seem like the boss is going to take it, unless there’s a problem.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s interesting to know some people would take it that way. For what it’s worth, that language is very commonly used to mean something much more broad — “before I book this, here’s a chance to tell me your own needs.” It’s doesn’t mean “only tell me if you have specific plans already in place.”

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t have interpreted it like you. A conflict is “my hip surgery that I waited for 2 years for is scheduled then” or “my daughter is getting married” or “before I was even hired I pointed out that this week is taken, and I was assured in my negotiations it would be ok”.

            Or *maybe* “my plane ticket is booked”, but you can’t book plane tickets before you get the holiday approved, so this is a little circular.

            I think it just didn’t come through that you actually disapproved of the boss, too, and because the solution puts 100% of the onus on the LW. And I would totally expect that if she does (what should should have done!) and asks in June the answer will be “no”, because the boss does sound crummy. Good if it’s not that!

            1. Sam*

              I think it’s totally reasonable for the conflict to be “I would also like to take time off during that time”. It’s literally what they’re being asked!

              Even if that’s not the case, it’s still perfectly fine to say “I’m not sure, but I know I’m going to want some time off”. In fact, I’d say that this is exactly what the conversational gambit is trying to achieve.

              The onus to announce your needs is, especially when asked, is in fact on you! How could it be on anyone else?

      6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Also, since not everyone celebrates Christmas, or doesn’t celebrate 12/25, having someone say they didn’t want any days wouldn’t be all that surprising. My faith-by-culture has Christmas on January 7th so I’m always OK with covering western Christmas unless Mr. Gumption wants us both to visit his family for the holidays.

      7. Hiring Mgr*

        Agree to an extent, but the boss has also gone through this a couple of times now, so it seems a little odd to just keep taking the whole ten days knowing the OP will probably come back at some point asking.. Yes the employee should speak up in the moment, but come December is there really no flexibility for boss to give the OP a couple of days out of her ten?

      8. ManagerM*

        I am the manager/owner of my company, for reference. While I agree that OP’s manager did technically leave some opportunity for OP to claim some days off, I can also see where an employee would be too nervous to actually insist on that time. From what the post says, the manager seems to expect that time, and feels that she deserves it because she has children to spend the holiday with. If one of them always has to be there, and therefore one of them will always have to work on Christmas, it could feel like a bit more of a “thing” to insist upon having the holiday, especially if the person with whom you are competing for that holiday is in a position of power over you. The manager is absolutely taking first dibs on the time, and THEN asking if there is a conflict so that OP needs to create a conflict, which puts OP in the position of throwing a wrench in those plans. I don’t think, from reading this, that OP really would be allowed to have Christmas Day off without consequences.

        Previously, I was a teacher, and was expected to work extra events without extra pay. While the union makes it clear that the administration could not force us to do the extra work, refusing invariably came back to bite employees in the butt down the line. Especially new employees, who want to still have the job next year.

      9. Roci*

        I think once is a misunderstanding. But the next year boss should have remembered OP’s sad face when their time off, even one day, was denied. And instead of phrasing it like “Do you have a problem with me taking all the holiday off?”–which is presumptive and requires the person with less power to say no to the person with more power– boss should have said your script. I think it’s the manager’s job to make sure their workers are happy and not burned out, and if you need coverage during a period, it’s not fair to make your subordinate work the whole time because you pressured them to say no to you 6 months ago.

    3. Amaranth*

      It seems doubtful that OP stating ‘oh, thanks, I’ll need to be out for those ten days this year’ would be wholeheartedly supported, but if they said they needed x days off in a row, it might have been negotiated. I tend to think that a boss playing the ‘but I have kids’ card insists on Christmas Day No. Matter. What.

      1. TechWorker*

        It sounds like the office is shut Christmas Day and New Years Day anyway. Obviously we don’t know, but OP might have been able to negotiate for New Year’s Eve, or one of Christmas Eve/Boxing day, or some of the days in between.

        I agree boss was being a bit unfair but also think it’s naive to basically agree to cover in June and then be grumpy about it come December.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Especially the SECOND TIME. Once you know Boss is a person who is fine doing this, you can’t wait around expecting her heart to magically grow three sizes.

      2. childless*

        Don’t forget that there are people who actually like working those days. I was the only childless person in my group for a while, and Christmas is not a holiday for me. Working those days was, IMO, a great way to build up goodwill and it cost me nothing. In fact, I kinda liked being in a nearly-vacant office so I could catch up on projects with no interruptions.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Yep, before we had kids I would much rather have worked between Christmas and New Years, when it was relatively quiet, and taken time off earlier or later

        2. NYWeasel*

          Until last year, I *always* worked between Xmas and New Years for the same reason. It was gloriously quiet and I could get done lots of things on my “someday” list. Last year, they changed the brackets for getting more vacation time, and I ended up with two (!!) extra weeks each year, so I started taking it off the whole week. I sort of miss having the dedicated focus time but not gonna lie—having a week+ off with no major plans is glorious as well!

        3. Kippy*

          Yeah, I don’t have kids and my family is all local so I don’t have to travel so I always work those two weeks around Christmas and New Years. I work the Monday to Wednesday before Thanksgiving too. Our office is always super quiet and I can get a ton of stuff done. This year I still have four vacation days to use before the end of the year so I’m taking my time off next week but will be back in the office on Friday the 18th and will work December 21-23 and 28-31 (we close at noon on NYE).

        4. Butterfly Counter*

          I’m a teacher, so I always have the winter holidays off. However, I totally get this. I tend to prefer to do my traveling to visit family on spring break rather than Christmas because the travel is so much easier (not all schools have the same spring break, but all places have the same Christmas) and it’s just so nice to stay put when everyone else is running around and stressed.

        5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Same. Our Christmas is 1/7, so I loved working those days. Folks that don’t celebrate on 12/25 tend to have no problems not having time off, especially if working a holiday many people want gives you extra negotiation points for the holidays you do celebrate.

        6. UKDancer*

          Yes there are people in my team who don’t celebrate Christmas, people who want their leave at other times of the year (one colleague always takes 3 weeks in the summer to visit family abroad and works over Christmas). It counterbalances the people who do want leave then. If someone doesn’t want leave over Christmas that wouldn’t actually be surprising for me.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        “But I have kids” is what makes me skeptical, too, about whether OP saying “yes I do have conflicts this year” would’ve gotten her anywhere. Boss approves the vacation. Boss thinks she needs the vacation more than OP does, because she has kids. I’m suspecting she would’ve just denied OP’s request.

        1. Nikkole*

          I agree, I seriously doubt the manager would have given the days anyway especially if they were in the middle of the time she wanted off for herself. she would have cited ‘seniority’ or simply claimed she had already put them in earlier if LW told her exact days.

          1. Green great dragon*

            Possibly, but there may well be ways to give both people leave, like boss works up to Christmas while OP is off, then OP works the days after Christmas.

        2. SimplyTheBest*

          I’m not sure I agree. “But I have kids” wouldn’t be a great excuse in June. but it is a good excuse when it’s December and you’ve already made your plans assuming that OP told you the truth that they had no conflicts and your kid is out of school and in order to give up one of your planned days off so OP can have it you have to search for childcare.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            No. “But I already made my plans” would be somewhat reasonable in that scenario. “But I have kids” is always a crappy reason that implies that people without kids are less deserving of time off to enjoy the holidays.

    4. Brusque*

      I guess the boss asked so early because she has to plan so early herself but still wanted to give LW a chance to chime in.
      The least LW should do is tell her that she might need more time and that it was too early. Assuming the early planning was a boss-play without further proof and without LW having said something when the topic came up seems overly adversarial to me. Without further proof I’d not be so fast assuming the boss wouldn’t accomodate LW if they had spoken up in june.
      Usually, if it comes to boss-play, holiday time off is granted by position and senority. Then the boss wouldn’t have asked but just told LW the facts. Here it seems first come first serve to me so boss gave LW a heads up and then was no longer able to accomodate her later when she had already plans with her kids. While it is unreasonable to prefer parrnts when it comes to granting time of, it is very reasonable to consider kids when it comes to flexibility in rescheduling. A parent of small children can’t reschedule their planned te easily for the simple fact they’re not dealing with understanding adults who should know that sometimes mommy needs to cancel plans but with emotional children who won’t understand that first mommy promised to visit granny this year and then all of a sudden drew back.
      So expecting parents to respect your needs in advance is fine and reasonable, expecting them to accomodate you spontaneously not so much. In that case LW should be grateful they get a chance and try to compromise and plan earlier or at least speak up about their needs instead of expecting her manager to cater to their whims later after time off is already approved. They have gotten enough hints already how the process works and shown nosign of speaking up in time. Assuming the boss is no clairvoyant that’s the least they need to do before we make the boss into the nad guy here.

      1. Karia*

        She should be grateful that her boss consistently snagged all the holiday for herself instead of fairly dividing it up? What? No.

        1. Brusque*

          That’s not what Isaid. I said she should be grateful she gets a shot in june and show some willingness to play niceby talking with her boss about it when it comes up instead of complaining later.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            Part of the issue the first year was that LW had NO idea how inflexible that time off was.

            Now, I’m the first one to point out that, quiet as it’s often kept, December 28 is not a holiday. If you’re going to be out, you DO need to make arrangements at most offices; you’re not entitled to a week off between Christmas and New Year’s.

            But it’s hard to imagine that the marketing department REALLY needed to be wide open and staffed in-person from 8-6 Dec 26-31, or that they couldn’t even get a temp for a couple of days. A lot of offices — especially those that aren’t doing critical 24-hour work, where there is no real expectation going in that working around holidays is a hard requirement — cut people a lot of slack on, like, December 24th and 26th and December 30 and 31, regardless of who else is out of the office.

            1. Holy Coffee, Batman!*

              OP #3 here…GammaGirl, our department was DEAD for the entire break. My first year there, the other departments told me not to fret, everyone wears PJ’s and gets lunch and has a good ‘ole time during that week because all our partner organizations are closed and there’s pretty much no work to be done.

              1. irene adler*

                Then someone should revisit the policy of requiring someone work over the break.

                Initially at my small company (under 20 employees), they insisted the company be open for business for all but three days (Xmas, Xmas Eve and New Year’s Day). At first, folks came in but had nothing to do. No business occurred during the time between the two holidays. After a few years of this, almost everyone opted to take vacation time so as to take the whole week off.
                The company opened on those days, but no one showed up (except for some of management).

                Management realized they ought to just close the company for the week (perhaps they felt lonely). So now, company closes for the entire week, and folks use their vacation time for those days off.

                1. That's not vacation time*

                  Wait what? If the company is closed, why would anyone need to use vacation time? What happens if someone doesn’t use vacation time?

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              yeah, marketing should be long-term stuff, branding and so on, I don’t see why it’s so important to absolutely have someone in the office. Not like sales where if a client wants to place an order you need to handle it quickly.

          2. WellRed*

            OP fell down on the job so to speak, but I think you’re giving the boss too much credit. She sounds pretty thoughtless.

            1. GothicBee*

              I feel the same. It kind of depends on how boss is phrasing the request, but if she’s telling LW in June, “Hey I’m planning to take week of Christmas and week of New Years off, do you have any conflicts on those days?” It’s a bit intense. I mean I’d push back on that no problem unless I felt the boss was so unreasonable I’d be risking my job, but I feel like the boss has an obligation to be a little more flexible up front with her request since she knows they both can’t be off at the same time.

              LW still should have just said they wanted time off in June, but there are a lot of people who feel unreasonably pressured to go along with their boss even if they’d prefer otherwise. I feel like a good manager would make it clear up front they want to work with their employee on a solution to making sure they both get some time off around the holidays if they want it.

        2. BRR*

          She didn’t snag them though. Making December plans in June is earlier than usual and I’m not in love with it, but there is a lot of room for the LW to have said something. At this point though it’s basically “I tried nothing and it didn’t work.”

        3. Lady Meyneth*

          What’s even “fairly dividing it up”? There are people who actively like working during the holidays, when the office is quiet. The boss asked LW if she had any plans, and she said no *for multiple years*.

          Sure, the question might have come up earlier than usual, but after the first year this is much more on LW for never even saying “I’d like X days over the holidays”. Effectively, at that job, holiday time was decided in June, and it’s on the employee to adapt and make plans with that in mind, not be stubborn about it being too early *for years* and then complain they don’t get time off over the holidays.

          1. BethDH*

            Yeah, in my first “real” job I got asked about this really early. Being young and poor, my plan had been to save money for my flights a little longer and then fly whatever days were cheapest.
            I was shocked when my boss started asking about it in like July or August, especially since she wasn’t traveling herself, but it turned out she had family who would be flying to see her and needed to tell them what dates to aim for.
            Holiday plans are like dominoes that often rely on a lot more people than the one you see at work.
            I wouldn’t push an employee if they said they had no conflicts about why they had no conflicts. The reason could be sensitive/very personal. I feel like the more normal answer for OP’s situation was something that indicated her goals for the holiday even if tickets weren’t booked. OP’s self-reported answer sounds like the end of a conversation, not a request to delay it till later.

          2. KRM*

            Exactly. It’s possible that the boss asks in June, employee says ‘no’, and then the boss goes ahead and books flights, etc because they take the employee at their word. Then when the employee in Dec says “but actually I want X days”, the boss has already booked tickets and made plans, so they can’t really change. Year 1 was a hard way to learn that the schedule is pretty inflexible, but the way to deal after that is not to say “well I don’t like to make plans this early so I won’t” and then be angry when they can’t have any days.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              But did she book flights though? Why did she never mention the flights whenever OP asked for a day or two in December?

              1. doreen*

                But it doesn’t have to necessarily have been that she booked flights in order to have made plans that are difficult to break. Maybe she has family coming to visit her who have booked flights , maybe she didn’t make other arrangements for childcare over the school Christmas break, maybe her nanny asked in June for time off in December to visit her family.

          3. EPLawyer*

            My husband’s job, they have to pick their vacations days in January each year. Even if we don’t know what we are doing, we block off some dates. It works out because being a lawyer, I need to plan ahead too and can say at scheduling, Sorry on vacation. Before this I would get to the end of the year and realized I never took a vacation because something always came up.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        While it is unreasonable to prefer parrnts when it comes to granting time of, it is very reasonable to consider kids when it comes to flexibility in rescheduling. A parent of small children can’t reschedule their planned te easily for the simple fact they’re not dealing with understanding adults who should know that sometimes mommy needs to cancel plans but with emotional children who won’t understand that first mommy promised

        Some children are taught at a very early age that the world doesn’t revolve around their wants, and that mommy’s job is ultimately about making sure that their needs are met, though. My mother frequently had to cancel plans or treat holidays as irrelevant because of work. I didn’t get to complain. Other people have the choice of raising their children this way and curbing everyone’s sense of entitlement.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          When I was young my (divorced) parents had to make plans around my school breaks and such. Not because I was entitled but because we did a every-other-year type deal and neither could afford a baby-sitter for a week if they didn’t have flexibility to at least have some days off when I was going to be with them – whether it was their turn or not. And when they could afford to put me in a day camp they had to know a month or two ahead of time to make sure I got a spot…as a non-parent I do realize there are sometimes things out of a parents control/financial ability.

          I think there are a lot of parents not in this situation, but there are a lot that are. I also don’t think the default should be ALL parents get the time off and ALL singles get the work, but I do think there can be flexibility and consideration in both directions.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            I’m a non-parent, but I was raised by a single parent who took time off for childcare reasons. Similar situation to yours – limited budget for childcare or day camp. But as soon as I was old enough, my parent stopped prioritizing taking time off for holiday stuff because I didn’t need supervision. I didn’t get to argue with that and I sure didn’t get to be bummed about not having fun family time.

            The parents I’m side-eyeing here aren’t the ones like ours who are doing this out of pragmatism, but instead those who think that they must give their kids a perfect holiday experience. I know it’s not a great bias, but I’d much rather cover for a parent who’d otherwise have a logistical or financial mess due to childcare arrangements than I would for a parent who thinks that their children are entitled to fun and togetherness that I had no choice but to cope perfectly fine without.

        2. DarnTheMan*

          +100; my mom was pretty senior leadership in her role when I was small and she made a point to never take more than a week at Christmas so her staff could have time off (and frequently took the week after Christmas since she knew the week before was in higher demand). There were a number of Christmas Eves where waiting for mom to get home from work to start the celebration was half the excitement (plus the feeling of responsibility of being delegated tasks to help my dad prepare while mom was at work).

      3. pancakes*

        “A parent of small children can’t reschedule their planned te easily for the simple fact they’re not dealing with understanding adults who should know that sometimes mommy needs to cancel plans but with emotional children who won’t understand that first mommy promised to visit granny this year and then all of a sudden drew back.”

        It’s not a fact that the children themselves need to understand the planning process, or that the employer needs their buy-in, no. It *is* a fact that parents of young children often have to coordinate childcare with a a nanny, a daycare facility, etc. – that’s a far better reason to be flexible if possible.

    5. MK*

      Many people hqve to plan vacation around when they have time off and they do just fine. The OP didn’t have to make firm Christmas plans in June, she just had to think about what days would likely be convenient for her to take and then plan around them. It’s possible that the boss was acting in bad faith and would have shot down any request, but it’s also possible she would have given her the days.

      1. Anononon*

        Also, it seems like, for many people, Christmas plans tend to be the same or very similar each year. So for Christmas even more so, it seems like a holiday that can more easily be planned in advance. (For many people, not all, yes there are exceptions.)

        1. CTT*

          Yeah, this is where I come down. Asking me in December if I want to take time off in June is a crapshoot, but I generally have an idea of what time I would ideally like off every December.

          1. londonedit*

            Same here. Luckily my office closes between Christmas and New Year, and we don’t have any particular rules about not being away at the same time as a co-worker, but I know that I’m always going to aim to take the full two-week Christmas break (simply because in normal times I live 150 miles away from where I’ll be spending Christmas, I don’t want to be trying to pile on the ridiculous 19.03 train with seventy million other people on the evening of the 23rd, and it’s cheaper to book train tickets 12 weeks in advance so it’s good to plan ahead). It’s the only holiday I reliably know what I’m doing with – summer holidays could be any time in June, July, August or September depending on what I fancy doing that year.

      2. Bagpuss*

        This – and it can be true or other holidays as well. I’ve booked time off in the summer without knowing what I might use it for, because I knew that if I left it too late there might not be any time left available.

        I do think that fter the first year, it would have been sensible for OP to have responded, when asked, that she would want time off (and could have offered to be flexible – e.g. “I’d really like 26th – 30th Dec but might be able to 23rd-26th of that works better for you” or something similar . And then she can plan what she intends to do with that time.
        And if it gets closer to the holiday and she either doesn’t want those days, or has an exciting invitation for a different date, she could then approach the manager to ask about cancelling or switching the days.

        I do think that the manager should also have been more considerate and been clearer both about the number of days she was planning to take, and that there wouldn’t be any flexibility once they were booked in, and to have made clear to OP that she should pick some days if she was likely to want to be out of the office at all during that period.

        It’s possible of course that the manager was only paying lip-service to the idea that OP could have any of the days. When I was younger, I was the only person in our small department who didn’t have kids, so time off during school breaks was popular and mostly, I was willing to work around it., and tended to avoid booking time off in those peak periods.

        One year, I needed time off as it was my grandmother’s 80th birthday and we were planning a big family party, which involved upwards of 100 people, from all over the country. I lived abut 4 hours drive away. I booked the time off a year in advance, at which time I knew it was probable, but not definite, that it would fall within a school holiday. the time was approved and booked in.
        About a month before the event, a colleague asked me to cancel my time off because they wanted those dates, as it was the school holiday. I said no, and explained why. She then went to our boss, who came to me to as if I would agree as colleague has a child and family is soo important. I pointed out that family was, indeed, important, which was why I and the rest of my family had arranged this well in advance and I had made sure I could have the time off, and that no, I wouldn’t change my time off. What made me particularly mad was that boss knew, before she asked me if I would change, why I had booked the time off. And the coworker’s child was 14, so it wasn’t a case of her being desperate for child care.
        Fortunately, they both knew that it would be against our firm’s policies to force me to cancel and just pressured me rather than anything worse. (I suspect Boss knew that I would go over her head if she pulled that stunt, and it would not go in her favour)
        I did at other times have conversations with them where I pointed out that even if I don’t have children, I have friends and family members who do, and friends and family members who are teachers or in other jobs with fixed holidays so if I ever wanted to spend holiday time with other people I needed to consider their availability as well as mine, so it wasn’t reasonable to expect me to never have time off during school holidays, but they didn’t get it, and always grumbled if I dared book time off in a school holiday. The same individuals assumed I would be fine with an arrangement whereby I as the only person who was ever expected to stay an extra 2 hours once a week to provide extended opening – they needed to get home because of the kids, y’know. Staying late did not result in any extra pay or time in lieu, and I made clear I was prepared to stay late one week in 3, to share the load, but that I have other commitments as well and wasn’t prepared to pick up their slack. We stopped opening late.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ugh, I just cannot with this attitude. I somehow managed to raise two children to adulthood without having to muscle a colleague out of a vacation once. It can be done. I was on a 24/7 on-call rotation for six years between when my kids were 4 and 7, and 10 and 13, and missed a number of my kids’ events because they fell on my on-call week. It is what it is.

          A 80th birthday is a huge deal, there might not be an 85th and the logistics of getting a large family together are more complex than I can begin to imagine. I cannot believe that her reaction after you explained the reason for your vacation to her was *going to the boss*, and that the boss took her side(!) And her 14yo probably secretly hoped to be home alone for at least part of a day that week anyway.

          1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

            +1 on “it is what it is”. There’s a part of me that suspects that our worldview about the sanctity of special occasions (lol) is just really unrelatable to people who’ve lived all their lives in a very white-collar (or non-health care or essential services) bubble.

    6. pleaset cheap rolls*

      I don’t agree.

      The OP could and should have said, in June, something like “Possibly, I might want to take a few days off. Can we discuss this in September?”

    7. I'm just here for the cats*

      I agree with that June is way too early, especially if the boss is asking for specific dates. My counterpart at work is looking for coverage for April and July in early December! And I needed to answer immediately. Like I can’t do that I know what my family is doing 7 months from now!

    8. Mamunia*

      I agree. I think her asking about conflicts is a polite fiction. How would the manager act if OP said that she did indeed want to take the holiday off?

    9. AKchic*

      Depending on office politics, it could be that the boss has learned to plan that far ahead.

      At my last job, we had a receptionist that would put in her Christmas leave request at 8:01 AM on January 2nd (the day we returned from the New Year’s holiday). Because she *knew* her mother would buy her plane tickets to come “home” and there would be no problem. She would just need to have the time off. If her leave time was denied she would quit. She did not care. After a few years of dealing with it, I really wish management had just denied the leave and let her quit over it.

      1. sb51*

        Yeah. At my previous employer, my first year there, the office manager quietly took me aside not long after I joined (in June) and let me know that Christmas scheduling was weird*, and if I wanted it, I should schedule NOW. So I thanked her and made my best guess at how many days I’d want and put my name down. (*We did not have coverage needs, but it was a small company and the owner didn’t like to have “everyone” gone at once, so once he started feeling like “enough” people had booked time then, he’d evidently start denying vacation requests.)

        If the policy had been seniority based, or some sort of raffle/alternate years/etc policy, I’d have done that, but it was first-come-first-served, and I wanted to see my family at least once a year (and at Christmas I could see a lot more of it since other far-flung members would come home too). I’d have done the same as your former colleague, if I’d needed to, and I don’t blame her at all. Whoever set up the system, yes, her, no.

  5. Eye roll*

    Setting holiday schedules six months in advance, by only asking for conflicts, certainly makes it seem like the manager prioritizes her holiday times over anything but a direct and existing (in June!) conflict. And taking off 10 days (the entire week of Christmas and New Years) every year, in a department of two, is just terrible optics. The manager is guaranteeing the letter writer has to work every day during the holidays, and saying outright it’s because the manager has kids.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t disagree with this, but the boss gave the OP an opportunity to ask for her own days and the OP never took it, year after year. I’m not saying the boss handled this well, but the OP had a way to help herself that I wish she had used.

      1. Dutchie*

        I agree, but if the LW asked their boss later for a few days off, several years in a row, the manager could have also taken a clue that LW wanted some time off, but didn’t know 6 months in advance. I agree with Eye roll that the wording (asking for a conflict) really implied that the boss expected LW to either already have plans or agree.

        (Again, LW could have indeed solved this by saying they also wanted some days, but I think the manager had a bigger role in this than you do.)

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            I also think LW3 kept waiting for Boss to *offer* that maybe LW would like some time off in December.

            I don’t know why LW didn’t make the leap after the first year that Boss was perfectly happy to take the (zero-sum) time if LW did not, and that she needed to stop saying yes when she really meant that she didn’t know yet. Once Boss leveraged LW’s surprise to insist that she stay at work the whole time that first year, LW needed a different answer when the question rolled around again.

            Instead somehow LW was surprised every time that time off was zero-sum and Boss was going to take her at her word and was not going to offer to share.

          2. Holy Coffee, Batman!*

            I am OP #3…looking at the comments here, I also wish I had just mentioned that I would like a few days off as well (even without having concrete plans). I somehow never saw that as an option – I always assumed I needed to have concrete plans but now it seems pretty obvious that I could have just asked for a few days off.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Yup– you never need plans to take a day off, even if you’re planning in advance. Write that down. :) You can even plan for a Friday off at some point and plan it later.

            2. Mamunia*

              That is how I would have received that language… do you currently have plans that would conflict with my plans, or are you free to be at work for those 10 days?

              1. Cj*

                The plan is to take the day off. We never, ever go somewhere for a vacation, but I still sure as heck take days off.

              2. Heather*

                …and then OP says “yes, I have plans to take X days off for Christmas this year, let’s look at a calendar and figure out a split”.

    2. Juniper*

      Agreed. Sure, if we want to go by the letter, rather than the spirit of, this vacation policy, the boss is in the clear. But by any reasonable application she is acting in bad faith. Most people have no idea how their holidays are going to look that far out, and short of the boss needed to book flights to fly somewhere there isn’t a great reason to have it this far in advance.

      Plus the power discrepancy is an issue that I’m surprised wasn’t touched on. Part of what makes a good manager is instituting fair policies and advocating for their employees. If they were colleagues and their boss instituted a first-come, first-served vacation policy in June, I might be a little less skeptical of the same person snapping up 10 days in a row year after year. But this is the supervisor we’re talking about and she should know better.

      1. doreen*

        Regarding a “great reason” for asking s0 far in advance – before my current manager was assigned, I typically requested vacations 4-6 months in advance. Because I tried to vacation on cruises and they typically require payment 120 days in advance, I’d arrange coverage with my peers and ask my subordinates if they had any plans for time off 4-6 months in advance. But this manager will not approve vacation more than 60 days in advance, so I’m always afraid I’m going to lose money if my vacation isn’t approved for some reason.

        This year, she threw something new into the mix – I have to ensure that one of my two peers can cover for me – plus only me or one of my direct reports can be out at the same time. I asked the direct reports weeks ago if they wanted any time off around Christmas. One answered right away- the other didn’t ask for time off until last week, after I had already gotten my time off approved. How long was I supposed to wait for her decide before making my own arrangements?

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, that’s just it – sometimes there are good reasons to make vacation plans in advance, and travel is one of them. That doesn’t mean the manager is necessarily travelling – she could be trying to sort out how to deal with schedules that are out of her hands (e.g. shared custody, daycare closure, grandparents coming to town from out of the country, etc.)

        2. WellRed*

          I would suggest checking in again with a direct report to ensure they don’t want time off. You shouldn’t have to but…

          1. doreen*

            I did, a few times. But I think she didn’t have any plans until last week , and that’s why she didn’t ask until last week. Fortunately, she’s only asking for one day but now I’m stuck with three undesirable choices – change my plans, disapprove her time off, or keep my plans, approve her time off and hope my manager doesn’t notice we are both out on the same day.

      2. Green great dragon*

        There’s plenty of reasons some people would need to plan. Maybe great-Uncle Fred needs international flights, or niece needs to book time off well in advance, or stepdaughter’s birth mum is the ultra-organised sort.

        I suspect if LW had said ‘I’ve no idea what I’m doing but I would like a few days off’, boss would have been willing to work something out.

        Personally, I do holiday cover despite having kids, because parents visiting for Christmas=free and willing childcare. Everyone’s different.

      3. Bubblegum blue*

        We put in Christmas leave forms for my husband in January. To get sale flights and reasonably priced accomodation in desirable locations, you need to book ahead and I can’t book until we have leave approved. Work certainly isn’t going to refund our deposits. If in June, LW3 said “I would like x &y days off at Christmas” and the boss denied it on the grounds of no kids, I would be outraged. But all you had to do was choose the dates you wanted off in advance. You don’t need anything concrete planned to put in a leave form. I would actually find it very frustrating when I ran the dates by my employee, I have flights, accomodation booked, arrangements made with other people to meet up, childcare booked and then a few weeks before I leave, my employee starts complaining they want time off too.

        I can be flexible with my dates before I start booking but I shouldn’t have to take a rubbish holiday booked last minute at three times the cost because my coverage won’t make a decision.

        1. Bubblegum blue*

          On reread, that comes across a lot harsher than I meant it to be. However, I stand by the sentiment that LW knows the drill and just needs to select some days they would like off too.

  6. Boots*

    OP #1 disclaimer because I don’t know a whole lot about American workplaces other than what I’ve picked up here on Alison’s blog:

    Could the firing have been a kindness to allow the employee to collect unemployment if she was gearing up to quit anyway? It’s my understanding that if you quit you’re on your own but unemployment gives some safety net while you’re job searching.

    Either way, I don’t think you’ll ever truly know what’s going on behind the scenes. I’m currently working closely with a manager whose genuinely lovely employee is on a PIP and likely to be let go. I manage quality outcomes and do investigations when errors and trends are identified, and feed this back to people leaders when needed. I can almost guarantee that most people will be surprised even though the firing their will be justifiable with multiple warnings and almost a year of coaching.

    1. Tipcat*

      “Could the firing have been a kindness to allow the employee to collect unemployment if she was gearing up to quit anyway?”
      Probably not. In general, people who are fired are not eligible for unemployment.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Actually, lots of people who are fired are eligible for unemployment! In most states you can get unemployment as long as the reason you were fired wasn’t something like a clear-cut rules violation, absenteeism, insubordination — really obvious “you can’t do that” stuff. If you were fired because you just weren’t doing well in the job (didn’t have the right skills, or couldn’t see the bar they needed), in most states you’ll be able to get unemployment benefits.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Adding: In my area I have seen first hand that unemployment knows which employers are bad actors, so they just push the application through. One large, well-known employer in is area is known for firing people for stealing. There have been so many people fired for stealing that the unemployment office pretty much ignores that claim by the employer. Summed up the feeling is, that it’s not possible for this many people to all be stealing and/or learn how to make better hires. Employers CAN get a rep and they CAN discredit themselves.

      2. Lacey*

        I was once fired because they didn’t think I was doing the job well enough and I got unemployment!
        It’s much better than nothing, but I don’t know that I’d consider it a favor to be fired before I’d had a chance to find another job – if I was looking to leave.

    2. MK*

      I have to say, it seems unlikely to me that a company would fire a good worker because she was unhappy; most companies, even good ones, don’t really care about your personal happiness to that extent if you are doing your job well.

      I do wonder if they really gave unhappiness as the reason for firing her or if it was a smokescreen. Saying “Jane has been unhappy here and others noticed, so we decided to let her go” is pretty unambiguous, but “We have let Jane go. As many of you have noticed, she has been unhappy here for a long time etc” sounds to me as more of vague answer you give when you don’t want to say what happened or possibly a try at justification, as in we fired her, yes, but it’s not as if she wanted the job.

      1. NYWeasel*

        Also a lot of companies use vague speak in making these types of announcements. “Jane has moved on…” or “The department will be moving in a different direction and because of this, Fergus’ last day will be Thursday” are common ways this sort of thing gets messaged. So getting a note like that and having the manager follow up with “Jane was unhappy” could still mean a wide range of situations.

    3. PollyQ*

      In addition to it not necessarily helping with unemployment insurance, many job applications will ask “Were you ever fired from a job?” and even more potential employers will ask “Why did you leave your last job?” Having a firing on your record won’t disqualify you from every job ever, but it is likely to make it harder.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yes, if they truly wanted to do it as a favor, they could have easily made it a layoff instead. Nobody would blink twice at a layoff during this crisis. Firing is different.

        1. Kimmy Schmidt*

          Are there rules or specifications a company has to meet to consider something a layoff? I didn’t know a company could decide to call something a layoff when it’s just one employee and it’s for performance reasons rather than financial ones.

          1. Ellen Ripley*

            It depends on the size of the company as well as if they have a unionized workforce, etc. The WARN act applies to most employers with 100+ employees, but it only applies to “mass layoffs,” so wouldn’t apply to one person being let go.

  7. Heeryor Lunboks*

    I guess I’m an anomaly in thinking the June discussion / request is perfectly reasonable. As a co-parent of a kid who splits time between two households, I *have* to plan out my work year in advance – even earlier than June – because our parenting calendar does that for me. When my child was younger, I had to allocate X days of vacation to cover holiday breaks to make sure I was home with them – and I darn sure put in my specific requests on the first day it was allowed. I don’t understand people who wait until October or November to plan their winter holiday schedules!

    Point is, there may be other reasons that Boss is planning that far in advance. “I have kids” may not actually be the callous, unfeeling thing that it sounds like at first.

    1. Megs*

      That’s what I was thinking to. June if bot that far out especially if you have multiple families involved In planning or are heading out of town. OP really needs to mention something if they want time off around the holidays. OP can’t expect other people to not plan early to accommodate what they would like off in case they want something. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what the manager is doing besides their comment about having kids so it’s more important for her to celebrate with them.

      1. Karia*

        No adult human should have to be informed that other adults might also like time off at Christmas and that it’s not fair to snag all the holiday for themselves. People shouldn’t have to *ask* to be treated with basic courtesy.

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          Strong disagree. Plenty of people don’t mind working over the holidays, and plenty more actively prefer it because the office tends to be really quiet. Being treated with basic courtesy means getting consulted and given an opportunity to choose. OP was given this opportunity, year after year, didn’t take it because it felt too early for her, and then was upset the boss couldn’t or didn’t want to change their own already booked time off. As it is, we have no way to know if the boss would be flexible or not if she had asked.

        2. Asenath*

          But this person WAS treated with courtesy – each year she was asked if she had any conflict with her boss’s planned holidays, and each time she said no. Her boss could hardly hold up her own holiday plans in case the letter-writer decided she wanted days off at Christmas when they were closer to the date!

        3. Amy*

          The way Christmas falls this year, I’d rather have the 28th – Jan 1st off. (Which I’m taking) I’d be happy to work through 5pm Christmas Eve.

          1. Week old sourdough*

            Yeah but that’s the issue, boss took 10 days, which is 2 weeks. Seems like bogarting all the PTO around the holidays.

            1. Amy*

              I don’t think the boss is great in this situation. Bu if there must be coverage, there are only two people and one needs to plan in June, it means both the people need to plan in June.

              So LW says, okay – I need 24/25 and 5 days in August, then that’s what you do. She may not have naturally wanted to plan in June but it’s not that uncommon. I prefer a 2 week August vacation myself so I don’t know it’s a forgone conclusion that everyone’s major annual vacation preference is in December.

              1. Week old sourdough*

                I mention this down thread, but my concern is only off LW could take, say, two days off in the middle of the 10. I don’t take full weeks off at Christmas but I don’t mind a day or two (Christmas Eve or Boxing Day) depending on when the holiday lands during the week. It’s easier for me to make the holiday a long weekend.

                1. Colette*

                  But when the holiday lands during the week is information that the LW had in June. Yes, maybe the manager wouldn’t have liked the LW taking time off in the middle of her 10 days – or maybe she would have shifted her days to accommodate. We don’t know, because the LW didn’t ask.

                2. Washi*

                  The thing is, since it doesn’t seem like the LW has ever actually tried to negotiate, we don’t know how flexible the boss is willing to be! We can speculate, sure, but it doesn’t do any good to assume that she wouldn’t have gotten any days off even if she’d asked.

                  I don’t think the boss is handling this super well, but since the LW wrote in, the first step is for her to just speak up and ask for the days she thinks she’ll want and see what happens.

        4. Guacamole Bob*

          Plenty of people don’t celebrate Christmas and wouldn’t care at all about the boss always taking that time. Or if they do, the celebrate on the day of with family or friends who live locally and they don’t care about taking much vacation time then. Plus, as others have said, it’s often a quiet week at many offices and some people enjoy that.

          I think the idea that everyone treats that time as if it’s a universal 10-day festival is because we all (in the US) grew up with it as a school vacation, so it felt that way to many of us as kids. And plenty of people do travel, or take off time for child care while schools are closed. But it’s not important in that exact way for everyone and it’s weird to assume that it is.

          I agree that the boss should have been a little more thoughtful, but OP really should have spoken up sooner.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          I so agree that people should not have to ask for basic courtesy.

          Reality is that we do though. And it’s another good skill to learn, how to explain obvious things to people who do not see said Obvious Thing.

          If we sit around and wait for people to figure out what they “should” know, we can wait a life time in some instances.

    2. Karia*

      You think it’s fair for one person to have all the holiday and the other person none?

      Look, planning ahead is fine. Selfishly arranging it so that your colleague gets no holiday ‘because kids’ is not fine, especially when you’re in a position of power over that person.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The boss keeps giving her a chance to say she wants days off that month. She’s asking earlier than the OP would like, but she’s asking and the OP is saying no.

        To be clear, I’m not saying the boss handled this well — she definitely didn’t — but the OP had much more room to get her own days off than she actually used.

        1. Karia*

          She shouldn’t ask though, because she’s in a position of power over LW. An ‘ask’ from a boss is quite often a ‘tell’.

          Especially the way this is framed. This doesn’t feel like asking. “I’m taking ten days off unless you have a conflict,” reads more like “I might be able to accommodate a dentist appointment,” not “let’s split the holidays fairly.”

          The fair thing would have been to take five days each.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You’re reading an awful lot into the letter that isn’t there.

            “I’m booking vacation time, let me know if these days will cause issues” is a really normal thing to ask, and employees need to be willing to speak up and say “I’m hoping to take off (dates).” The OP is an adult and it’s reasonable to expect her to speak up when she needs something she’s not getting, especially when her boss is directly asking.

            I actually think your line of reasoning there can be pretty damaging to people, especially early-career people or people who tend to be unassertive — who need to know it’s okay to assert their own needs politely and professionally, until/unless something in their specific work environment indicates the contrary. Generally it’s going to be fine.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              “The OP is an adult and it’s reasonable to expect her to speak up when she needs something she’s not getting, especially when her boss is directly asking.

              I actually think your line of reasoning there can be pretty damaging to people, especially early-career people or people who tend to be unassertive — who need to know it’s okay to assert their own needs politely and professionally, until/unless something in their specific work environment indicates the contrary. ”

              All this.

              AAM – really I hope you do some focused content on this second paragraph. It’s apparent by so many letters and comments here that people need to learn to advocate for themselves.

              1. Fieldpoppy*

                Alison, i agrée — id love to see a focused column on speaking up. I’d include the person who didn’t refuse when the boss told her to zoom while driving and the person who stayed in a gas-filled room, vomiting, because the boss told her not to leave. I would love some insight on confronting blunt power dynamics.

              2. Jennifer*

                100% agree. At some point in life we are going to run into situations where we need to advocate for ourselves. Yes, the boss was wrong, but nothing is going to change unless you speak up.

              3. BRR*

                I apologize for this sounding far harsher than intend but is not a good portion of the site about advocating for oneself/being more assertive? A lot of answers are “you need to speak up directly about something, here’s suggested language that is clear, direct, and professional.” I’m not sure how their could be more focused content on this.

                1. boo bot*

                  This is definitely a huge theme on the site, and I am grateful for that! I do think sometimes people who are very new to the workplace, or people who tend to be unassertive, don’t necessarily translate “people at work can advocate for themselves” or “this person in this situation can advocate for themselves,” into “you, yes YOU can advocate for yourself!” And, sometimes people really should question their own judgment on what’s okay to speak up about – the interns with the dress code come to mind… So I can see it being helpful to talk about (maybe a good topic for an open thread?)

                  On the other hand, it’s tricky to try to generalize, because we live in a world where a lot of really weird things are totally normal, “normal” varies wildly from one industry to another, a lot of shady things are legal, and a few extremely shady things actually are illegal, just to throw us off the scent. So, if my company schemes to claw back my $1200 government stimulus check, my boss tapes people’s mouths shut, and my husband’s job starts secretly bugging my house, then I, a reasonable adult human being, am going to write in to AAM to ask, “I’m sure this is legal, but it’s bad, right? Or am I overreacting?”

                  I think those kinds of problems are so many and so unique that we must learn from each as its own example, and hope that future civilizations will do the same.

                2. pleaset cheap rolls*

                  I think a general principle in life (at least in the US) is that, absent other information, if someone says something, take it at face value. I find this so much simpler than second-guessing what they mean.

                  Don’t assume “Do you have any plans for December” means you should say “No” just go along since you’re junior. Just tell the truth. Use soft language if you’re worried about coming off wrong, but the content should be true.

                  That’s *barely* even advocating – it’s just not disempowering oneself.

              4. Mockingjay*

                Speaking up is so hard when you are a young employee. It took me 5 or 6 years before I was confident enough to advocate for myself. Some of the difficulty was due to the industry I was in and the era: very male dominated and hierarchal. Even back then, eventually I learned that most managers are open to reasonable requests. I do think workplaces are much more collaborative these days, which makes these discussions easier.

                In this case, OP could have said: “I intend to take a couple days off, but I’m not sure which ones yet. Can we pencil in tentative dates and confirm later?”

                1. Anonapots*

                  I spend a lot of time working with my students on speaking up and advocating for themselves. It’s great when they do it! Although, as earlier this week has proven, they frequently need some fine tuning. Combine poverty with being young and I run into so many kids who don’t know they are allowed to ask for what they need.

                2. Anonapots*

                  I meant to add, so if you’re a young person starting out in a white-collar job, this might not be something you know how to do.

              5. hbc*

                I don’t even see it as advocacy. It’s just…not having the mindset that a question is a trap or only asked out of politeness. If I ask, “Do you want some overtime?”, don’t say “yes” and then resent me that you’re working extra hours this week!

                In this case it’s a little trickier, in that the straight answer to the boss’s question was that no, she didn’t have plans. But it’s okay to give extra context to your answer or give the information that might be useful. “I don’t have particular plans, but I’d like at least a few days connected to one of those holidays, ideally Christmas.”

          2. Karia*

            I do appreciate that LW only has control over her own actions, and that it is useful to encourage her to exercise as much agency as she can!

            I’m just frustrated that some people seem to think the boss did nothing wrong at all, and are ignoring the power differences involved.

            1. Heeryor Lunboks*

              There certainly are power differences involved, and the boss is handling this very poorly, IMO. A good leader shouldn’t put themselves above their team’s needs. Back in the dark days when I was a manager (never again!) in a 365-day business, I often scheduled myself for holidays so that my team could have the day off, and volunteered for regular weekend shifts on the rotation. It was good for me to keep a hand in things, good for morale to see the boss in the trenches, and good for my team to have a holiday with their families.

              That said, this employee needs to be an adult, speak up, and have a conversation with their boss. If not, the boss is going to assume everything is hunky-dory. Part of this is on the employee to state their needs and ask questions. It’s not on the boss to read peoples’ minds.

              1. Green great dragon*

                But the boss wasn’t putting themself above the teams’ needs because she didn’t know LW had those needs – she asked, LW said ‘no conflict’. Many people are happy to take minimal time at Christmas (like me) and save their leave for other times.

                (But good for you being willing to take some ‘bad’ shifts – I agree with all the rest of your comment.)

            2. harley*

              Literally no one has said the boss did noting wrong and handled this perfectly. She absolutely didn’t. But she is not the one writing in, the OP handled it poorly as well, and she is the one asking for advice.

              Also, there is a difference between how things would work in an ideal world, and how they work in reality. It’s not helpful to the OP to talk about an ideal world situation when they have to work in the real world. Ideally, yes, the boss would have done x and y. But they didn’t. So how can the OP handle things better in the real world?

            3. Juniper*

              Agreed, and I don’t understand why people aren’t paying more attention to the supervisor-employee dynamic. It sounds like the boss catches employee off guard some random day in June asking about holiday plans, employee doesn’t know how else to respond other than that they don’t have plans, and that settles the matter. Now, if boss sent an email in early June, asking for concrete dates by the end of the month so they can divide up the holiday days fairly, that would be one thing. But it sounds like the boss is paying lip service to being accommodating while grabbing the entire holiday to herself.

              1. Anononon*

                After the first year, OP should have known how to respond. Even if OP said, let me look at my calendar and I’ll get back to you in a week. You’re pushing this really strange dynamic where OP has no standing or ability to be assertive.

                1. BRR*

                  Yeah I’m not seeing where people are getting this power dynamic. I don’t like how the boss responds when the LW does ask but this shouldn’t be a surprise year after year. Something like “I don’t have concrete dates lined up yet but I would like to take some time off at the end of December.” The lw may have to decide on dates earlier than they would like but I’m not at “the boss is using their power to deprive the op of taking time off in December” yet.

              2. Colette*

                If the OP isn’t prepared when the manager asks, she could say “let me check my schedule and get back to you tomorrow”. But she’s not saying that – she’s saying “I have nothing planned” – and I don’t think the boss is obligated to wait until some later point in the future in case the OP makes plans. Once the OP has said she has nothing planned and the manager books the time off, the OP has to work around that. That’s how vacation time works in many places – you check if the person covering for you is taking time off and, if they aren’t, you book your time. It’s really, really common.

                I assume the manager has a reason why she’s booking in June (daycare closure, travel, etc.) – so if the OP wanted the time off, she has to be prepared to ask for it then. Not everyone wants additional time off in December for many, many reasons (don’t celebrate Christmas, planning a big trip another time, have enough family time on the day itself, like working when the office is empty, etc.) so if the OP does, she needs to say that.

                1. EPLawyer*

                  THIS. OP even says “who has plans that far in advance.” OP does not plan in June. She admits she waits until early December to decide her plans. Then was surprised every year it wasn’t possible.

                  I don’t think anyone actually said the Boss is 100% right. There are lots of comments that the Boss should have recognized what was happening too when the OP came to her year after year asking for time off in December that maybe they needed to coordinate a little better.

                  Basically both of them could have handled this situation better.

              3. RabbitRabbit*

                After the first year, the OP should have been saying something other than ‘no plans’. Even if she’s caught off-guard in the moment, she should then go back a couple days later or something and say “actually I’d like a couple days” and plan something out with the boss – ask when it has to be finalized, something. Anything.

                The boss is not blameless 100%. But even with a power differential, there is no reason the boss should have to coax plans out of the OP. Maybe Boss has an overseas family group that plans need to be made with, and a week-and-a-half getaway involving pre-booked flights and hotels is involved, hence the early planning and later inflexibility. OP needs to be able to say *something*.

            4. Alice*

              Look, it’s not the boss writing in. OP is writing in, will read Alison’s response, might read the comments. Of course the comments are going to focus on things that are in OP’s control.

              1. Littorally*

                THIS! One of the things I like best about AAM is that she’s very good at focusing on who is asking and what is actionable for them. We can sit in a circle all day and talk about what the boss ought to do differently, but that does not help OP.

                1. Someone Else*

                  Nothing here would be helpful to OP, because they don’t actually work there anymore. It’s all hypothetical now.

          3. Willis*

            But maybe they could have taken 5 days each if the OP said she wanted time off around Christmas. I agree that June is earlier than I have Christmas plans but if that’s when my department did their Dec vacation calendar I would say if I wanted time off then and plan around that.

          4. Sylvan*

            If a manager shouldn’t ask an employee which days they want off, how should a manager approach it? The managers at my job also ask us about our winter PTO plans in advance, and it’s always seemed like a fine way to handle it to me.

            1. Uranus Wars*

              I think this is where I land. Before I make plans around popular leave times I ask my staff if they plan on taking off, my boss does the same for his staff, up the line. But the boss/manager waiting until everyone has made their decision on when to take off, which might be the last minute or not at all for whatever reason, doesn’t seem right either.

      2. Heeryor Lunboks*

        No, I never said that. Please don’t put words in my mouth. I was responding to the folks who opined that asking about December plans in June was far too early.

        1. Karia*

          I’m sorry I misinterpreted you. I am finding this letter personally upsetting so I’m bowing out. I’m sorry if I upset you at all.

    3. MK*

      I would agree with that if the boss hadn’t then proceeded to take the entire holiday season off. If e.g. you share custody of a child and you have to split the holiday so that you get Christmas and the other parent gets New Year’s, you tell your employee that you will take, say, from 21st to 29th December, and they will have to take PTO in the remaining days. Or if your child’s or family commitments mean you need time off on December 23rd, 25th, 26th, 30th, 31st and January 2nd and 3rd, you book these days and let your young single employee plan their holiday around your schedule, tough luck. But it sounds to me that she booked the entire season in June, which really was selfish.

      1. doreen*

        It would have been selfish if the OP had said something in June to indicate that she will want time off in December – but she didn’t. Not everyone takes time off in December. I seem to be in the minority, but I’m not convinced it’s reasonable to expect the boss to remember that every year the OP says in June that there are no conflicts and every year she then asks for time off later on. * And if OP doesn’t say anything, I wouldn’t expect the boss to take only one week because the OP might decide later on to take a week off.* Sure she might- but she also might decide to take the week of Jan 4 off instead. In which case the boss is working a week she didn’t want to work and didn’t need to work ,

        * My thoughts about this are probably colored by the fact that i know someone who used to complain about vacations and days off being canceled. One day , he said he reminded his boss to prepare his paycheck for next week because he was on vacation,and the boss said he couldn’t have the week off because boss was out. When my acquaintance was asked how long ago he requested the vacation, he replied “I always take the third week of June”. He had never actually asked for the week off , just assumed that the boss would know he always takes that week and would never take a different week and therefore expected the boss to plan his own vacation around that. He had very likely done that for all of the cancelled vacations and days off and we didn’t know because we hadn’t asked that specific question.

    4. Urt*

      My company locks in vacation at the beginning of the year. Changes are of course possible. But if the short stick for Christmas fell on you, you’d have to have a pretty good reason for wanting out of that.

      And by short stick I mean, the group and their boss hash it out and you can be sure that people will know who hasn’t done it recently if nobody grudgingly offers to take one for the team.

      (Newbies are never Christmas coverage, that’s always experienced people, but they can come in if they don’t mind working Christmas and want to use their vacation days otherwise.)

    5. Juniper*

      I’m one of the ones who thinks June is pretty ridiculously early, but I can grant that some people have extenuating circumstances that make this necessary. In that case, the fair, and good manager thing to do, would be to split the holiday up. Boss gets first-come, first-served if she has certain dates in mind, and employee gets the other half. But just because employee doesn’t have concrete plans that far in advance, doesn’t mean that boss should lay claim to the whole 10 day period.

      1. Colette*

        Should the OP be obligated to take the time off if she doesn’t want to? Should the manager have to work even if the OP is in the office?

        If the OP said she wanted time off, I’d agree that splitting the holiday would be a good solution. But she didn’t – she said she had no plans.

      2. Amy*

        It might seem ridiculously early to plan for Christmas in June (if you don’t need to book flights and then it’s not that early)

        But you could also just consider it part of annual vacation planning. Maybe you’re visiting family in Peru for two weeks for your mom’s birthday in July. Maybe your sister rented a cabin by the lake in September and you want to join for a week. Your plans for the year may well inform December since vacation days usually aren’t unlimited.

        I don’t think it’s that strange.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes, it seems much more normal to figure out what dates you have off and *then* decide your Christmas plans, even if there’s not travel involved. Even if all you tend to do around Christmas and spend Christmas day with your family and your family is local, you can still pretty reasonably assume that you want a bit of a contiguous break around that time of year, and ask for a few days off in a row. Even if you don’t end up making plans-plans on them, you still then have those days to relax.

          Like, whatever your personal relationship to Christmas is, most people have it pretty solidly figured out for themselves. June isn’t too early to figure out what you’re going to want in December.

      3. SimplyTheBest*

        Why? Why would the boss not take all the time she wants if OP says she has no conflicts with the boss taking that time? I really don’t get the people wanting the boss to be a mind reader or performatively generous when the OP won’t tell her she wants time off in December.

    6. Staja*

      I also agree that June isn’t too early to start thinking about days off (I mean, my husband already asked me what days we should take off in 2021, and we don’t have kids or outstanding commitments)

      As Alison said, the boss asked about date conflicts every year, giving OP time to mention that she may want a few days in December. And, it could change yearly- if OP says she needs/wants time, boss may change her plans to Thanksgiving or earlier in December.

    7. I'm just here for the cats*

      If the issue is that boss will have kids over the holidays and needs that time off couldn’t she at least split some of the time with her employee? I’m not sure what the days are but could she at least give a few days and find a sitter for her kids? I think it is in bad taste that the boss is taking up the holidays.

      1. ceiswyn*

        She could, but the OP keeps telling her that it’s not necessary.

        At what point should the manager assume that the OP is lying about that?

      2. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “If the issue is that boss will have kids ”

        No, the issue is the OP said something that was not true – they they had not plan. That’s the current issue.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think if you want to plan that far in advance it is fine. But given the power dynamics in play they should be setting up the discussion with something like “I am planning out my holiday PTO now so let’s find a time to talk about coverage” rather than “I have already made my plans but tell me, your boss, if you have a problem with that.”

  8. Willa*

    In #1 was she fired or let go? In this case wording really matters.

    Could she have asked to be let go if she unhappy? It would be messed up if she was fired for it, but understandable if she asked to be released.

    1. Frank Doyle*

      I thought that “let go” was a euphemism for “fired.” What’s the distinction? And if she “asked to be released,” isn’t that a resignation?

      1. PollyQ*

        I think “let go” could also cover a layoff, but I agree that in America, where we don’t generally have contracts, there’s no such thing as “asked to be released.” We just quit.

      2. Xenia*

        ‘Let go’ can vary. ‘Fired’ has a connotation of ‘you are doing something wrong’, while ‘let go’ can mean ‘we don’t need you/can’t afford you right now’.

      3. OP #1*

        She was fired. The company has very different ways that they handle lay offs and firings. For someone who is fired they basically walk them out the door that day. For lay offs they might work for a week or two and wrap things up before they leave. In this case they did as close to walking her out the door as they could when everyone is working remote.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “Let go” typically means “fired” in the U.S. It’s sometimes used to mean “laid off,” but it’s generally understood to mean fired. (But people are also oddly sloppy about language around this — lots of people say “fired” when they mean laid off, which they really, really shouldn’t do because it makes it sound like it was about their performance, when a layoff often isn’t.)

      1. NYWeasel*

        And a lot of companies use other euphemisms too. I’ve seen “Mutually decided that Jane’s last day was Thursday”, “moving in different directions and unfortunately Jane will not have a role”, or just say “Jane will be moving on”. And I’ve seen all three of these all used for firings, layoffs, and the occasional “yes, Jane actually did make the choice to leave, but they worded it weirdly”. Absent direct proof or admission that Jane was fired, I’d caution the OP from assigning an interpretation to any vague corporate speak.

        Also, even if Jane was fired, the reason might not be her mood. We had an exceptional employee get walked out the door, and through the grapevine I found out much later that he’d been seen on camera loading his car up at the docks. NO ONE would have suspected this of him, and think instead that he was unfairly pushed out the door for no reason. (Even knowing the reason, I still suspect he’s only guilty of not securing paperwork—he was that good a coworker—but he’s taken the high road and doesn’t talk smack about the company.)

        1. Anonapots*

          “Mutually decided that Jane’s last day was Thursday” is the business equivalent of “conscious uncoupling.”

  9. Andy*

    Those videos that automatically play loud sound and can not be paused of silenced are evil. Right now, I ended up throwing headphones down because it was too loud and I did not expected that.

    I understand why ads are needed, but less intrusive way would be better.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ads that auto-play sound are not allowed here so if you encounter one, it’s a mistake — please report it to me with the name of the company so I can get it blocked. There’s a form to report bad ads linked right above the comment box.

  10. Karia*

    LW3: meh, I kinda disagree with Alison here. The sensible and fair thing would have been for you to have five days off each. And the “it’s important for me to have ten days because kids” really rubbed me the wrong way; non parents still deserve to see family at the holidays. I think your manager was being selfish, unfair, and was taking advantage of her position of power.

    1. TechWorker*

      I actually don’t think anyone disagrees the way the manager behaved was selfish/unfair. But the point is OP had this happen the first year and then in subsequent years still said ‘no conflicts!’ in June even though they knew their manager would want to stick to that in December. I’m not saying it’s a good way of doing it, but once you know that’s how it’s done, you have to negotiate days in June, not wait til later because that’s when you’d prefer to think about it.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “I actually don’t think anyone disagrees the way the manager behaved was selfish/unfair. ”

        I disagree. The manager asked. The OP is an adult. If the manager is generally a tyrant, than yeah, the “asking” could be fake. But a reasonable person asking for a head’s up six months out. Seems fine to me. The OP could have simply said “I’m not sure if there’s a conflict” and had a conversation. Saying there is no conflict when there might be is a mistake.

        Read AAM’s comment from December 11, 2020 at 3:18 am

        1. Colette*

          I think the manager should have been more explicit the first year that if the OP didn’t ask for days off then, she’d have to work the whole time.

          But other than that, this is how vacation works. You check if the person covering for you is taking time off; if not, you book your time off and they cover.

        2. TechWorker*

          Okay, I’ll weaken my statement :p it’s possible to think the manager is acting selfishly and still think LW could have handled it better.

        3. tiny cactus*

          I do think the manager was leaning into her own position of power to get something she really wanted for herself. If she really cared about equitable division of time off, there are many ways she could have approached it to make sure the OP was really okay with it, so I don’t think she was really making these requests in good faith. But the OP certainly did have a lot more room to advocate for herself than she took advantage of.

          1. SimplyTheBest*

            I don’t understand the choice to assume bad faith when all we know is the boss asked OP for her plans in December and OP said none. We talk a lot on this site about whether or not you can assume your manager is a reasonable person, but managers also have to be able to assume their employees are reasonable people and can answer questions about their plans for vacation time with truth.

            1. tiny cactus*

              Just based on the details in the letter, I think the way she handled it was not ideal:
              –She didn’t give the OP any advance warning about how early she normally sorted out the holiday schedule
              –She framed the question around her own expectations for time off
              –She didn’t provide any flexibility for the OP when it became clear that she hadn’t fully understood the system in the first year
              –Her explanation that she needed to spend time with her kids was pretty entitled
              –She continued to expect the OP to cover for her extended holiday vacation every year and never checked in to see if it was okay with her

              I don’t think she’s a monster, but I do think she is prioritizing her own desire for time off in a way that isn’t really appropriate for a manager.

              1. pleaset cheap rolls*

                “–She continued to expect the OP to cover for her extended holiday vacation every year and never checked in to see if it was okay with her”


    2. Cj*

      You do not need to celebrate the Holiday’s with your kids for 10 whole days. We don’t even know if the are kids that still live at home, or if they are adult children. Which, if they are adults, would be no different than the OP’s parents wanting to spend time with her over the holidays.

      That said, OP had every opportunity to say she wanted some time off. Should could have just said a day or two or five, and worked out what her exact plans were later. Once she said no, she didn’t need time off, I see nothing wrong with her boss taking 10 days.

  11. Hi Old Job*

    OP #4: I was in a very similar situation last year. I had recently been transferred/promoted from one division to another and it turned out to be a disaster. Performance, position, and supervisor-wise, it just wasn’t a good fit. I ended up being fired after nine months when a small misunderstanding was coupled with the larger performance issues.

    In my job search/interviews, I would list the position on my resume and the experience that I gathered from it. But in interviews was always clear what I had learned from the (failed) position, why it wasn’t a good fit, and why I was looking for the position I was applying for. It was certainly scary to have a resume with a nine month position at the top, but I was able to put in context why I had moved into that position and why it didn’t work out. When asked for references, I utilized recommendations from my initial position completely skipping the nine month role. I figured those hiring would prefer references from a position I held for several years rather than one I had for only 9 months. I ended up in a similar role to my first, but in a more desirable geographic area for me and my family. (Just in time for COVID to hit ~yay!).

    1. Retired Prof*

      Also for LW#4 – if you decided to go back to your PhD program and do your dissertation, then pursue an academic job, this firing will essentially disappear from your record. I have been on a zillion hiring committees, and we have never ever looked at any non-academic work record or any references other than from graduate school or a teaching gig. I am emphatically NOT saying that you go back to your PhD for this reason – you’ve got to really want an academic or research life, or else you might be overqualifying yourself for other jobs.

  12. Jessica*

    LW3’s boss kinda sounds like a jerk, but on the other hand, those ten days are like the last doughnut in the break room: if I ASK you if you want it, and you SAY NO, I’m going to eat it myself.

    And I don’t see it as automatic that I should assume you’d want holiday time regardless. If I were the boss, I’d certainly talk with you about it, and assume that you’d be likely to want it, but if you said you didn’t? Maybe you don’t celebrate those holidays. Maybe whoever you’d want to see lives right nearby and you don’t need to travel, or maybe in your family you’re the one who hosts and others come to you. Maybe you prefer to save your vacation days to do something else at some other time of year. People are not all the same, so who knows!

    But if I asked you, and you said it was fine, and I made my plans, and then at the 11th hour you came back at me with a request to take the same time off? Especially after being in the job long enough to know about the requirement that one of us has to be here? Yeah no.

    Come to think of it, I was formerly in a similar situation, and folks may think I was a jerk, but I feel I at least cleared the bar set by LW’s boss. I was the boss, had one employee, my family lived far away and December was the only time of year I got to see them, so what did I do? I made it an up-front condition and told people at the interview stage that if you take this job, there are some times you can’t take vacation days (there were a couple others due to nature of the work), and one of them was between Xmas and New Year’s.

    1. ACM*

      Yeah, I work (worked? furlough is so fuzzy) in a private language school where we stayed open every day except the 25th and 1st. I’m not a manager, but last year in July I put in for those 2 weeks off because I wanted to travel to spend Christmas with my family in another country for the first time in years (student numbers are low that time of year anyway so a few people can take time off, just not more than maybe half). Somehow a lot of other people still felt blindsided come November even though we had been through the same sturm and drang the year before about being open through the Christmas weeks. I felt bad about it (enough to propose at the next staff meeting that we ALL transparently work out the Christmas holidays in July every year), but also, I was working with the exact same information as all my coworkers. It doesn’t sound like the boss’s situation, but people who travel (or have people traveling to them) often do need to work out their Christmas plans 6 months early.

      But yes, as much as LW should’ve probably seen it coming (you can always take a couple days off way early and then plan around them), it’s not as good a look on a manager. Any job where coverage is needed through the holidays should have a system for working out a fair system year to year.

      1. Urt*

        Sounds like they have a fair system. The boss did after all offer them input and their input was “I don’t have plans to take vacation then”.

        How is the boss supposed to know that LW isn’t one of the people who do typically want to work for Christmas.

        We had coworker who didn’t mind covering Christmas so the rest of her group got to take off. We also had coworkers who announced years in advance that they want a specific Christmas off because they want to visit relatives in Australia.

        LW should start making plans in June and then be one of the family members who has to be coordinated around instead of waiting to close to Christmas when everybody else has made plans for their convenience.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          My mother volunteered for Christmas Day on-call (hospital) for YEARS after my sister and I reached late teens/adulthood. Our big thing was Christmas Eve and since many of her coworkers had younger children, she built up a TON of goodwill by volunteering for that on-call shift. It got to the point where the scheduler just put her name down every year.

          1. Shenandoah*

            My mother (also in healthcare) did this too when we were older – she had a colleague to did it for her when we were younger, and wanted to pay it forward. I certainly don’t think people with no children or older children should be obligated to do that, but I also think it was a lovely and kind thing for our mothers to have done.

      2. Week old sourdough*

        I also think it’s something they need to talk about more often! I do not work a coverage based job, but I know holiday plans for my small group in the fall- at least an idea. My boss also has small children and lots of PTO and she’s usually out a lot for thanksgiving and Christmas. But we talk about it often, usually at every team meeting (biweekly) just so everyone is aware and can plan.

        1. VelociraptorAttack*

          There are two of them. Do they really need to discuss every other week for the next 6 months “oh, just so you don’t forget, I’ll be out of the office these 10 days at the end of the year”?

    2. Workerbee*

      I admit, I am curious as to the responses of the interviewees at the time, and then the reality of the situation once the holiday rolled around. Any resentments, or requests for at least one day from the pack of days, etc.

    3. EPLawyer*

      That would be a deal breaker to me. If the boss gets to always take the prime vacation days, I wouldn’t even bother signing up. Other people have family too and December might be the only time they can see them also. For the Boss to announce seeing their family takes priority over me being able to see my family makes me wonder what other things the Boss might do just because they can.

      Even though you are the Boss and can do this, doesn’t mean you should.

      1. Evan Þ.*

        And that’s why Jessica announced it in the interviews: for some people, it’s a deal-breaker, and she wanted to give them a chance to select out of the job up front.

        I’d be one of them, and I’d be glad she was so clear about it.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      It’s a small but significant difference between “Do you want the last donut?” versus “I’m going to eat the last donut, unless you want it.” When people say it the first way, I would take that as a genuine question. When people say it the second way, it seems more like a rhetorical politeness than an actual offer to share.

  13. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    I really hope for their sake LW 1 didn’t fire someone just for being sad. That is so discriminatory against someone who may have a mental health issues. And if it was and fits the legal definition of discrimination based on health/disability, I hope the woman who was fired sues the company.

    I really want this *not* to be cut and dry.

    1. Disabled trans lesbian*

      Same! Given that I’m disabled, this letter really makes the hairs in my neck stand up.

    2. mreasy*

      I thought the same thing. My mental health conditions are covered by the ADA, if this is truly the firing of an excellent performer due to a vague “attitude” complaint during a pandemic, thats unconscionable – and I hope lawsuit-worthy.

      1. Chinook*

        The downside to being covered by something like ADA is that you have to disclose it. I am truly reluctant to tell my boss that I am bipolar because of the stigma as well as the fact that too many people decide on your behalf what they think you can handle and will take away anything that think is stressful, often without your knowledge.

        Dude – I have been through a school burning down during class time that included 20 minutes of not knowing where my homeroom class was (they exited out the other side of the building) and the worst field trip ever that included 2 ambulances and me making the decision to bum a smoke to help a 10 year old cope, all without breaking down. The triggers are chemicals in my brain, not the activity going on outside of it.

        1. Anne*

          Yeah, this concern is real. My new boss has been subtly retaliating against me for six months, and all I did was use the words “mental health” in May, in a conversation I proactively initiated saying I was struggling with the pandemic and aware of the problem and doing things to fix it. You’d think of all moments that mentioning mental health and saying you’re struggling wouldn’t trigger stigma, spring 2020 would be it, but apparently not…

          The good(?) news is that I have a tendency to move heaven and earth for a manager I respect, and feel respects me, often at a significant cost to myself. I lost all respect for her with that phone call – which has made it far easier to prioritize my own health.

          It also helps that I am not attached to staying in this job, and have a good alternate plan no matter what happens, and I am not all that dependent on her for workflow/we don’t interact much.

          I’ve been taking intermittent FMLA, and doing my own thing. I basically don’t have a manager.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      My mind went to grieving people. Sometimes people hit low points in life. The continuity of one’s job can make a difference. I firmly believe there is no good reason to be snotty/mean to others. But if a person is having life events they are not going to be Fun Times Charlie or Charlotte.

      I want to believe that this person was just subdued. I do have a bias. I have noticed over the years that the people with the worst attitudes also tend to be the worst workers. OP, is saying that her work was good. It’s unusual in my experience that a good worker has a nasty disposition with others. Of the few that seemed to be good workers with a bad attitude, it was later found out that their work wasn’t good either.

  14. ACM*

    LW2, I’d be wary about writing off any job that claims “business casual” as their dress code. A lot of people just say this because it sounds good. I’ve been in jobs where “business casual” was officially the policy but seemed to include pretty much whatever didn’t have holes in it.

    1. KimmyBear*

      And extended COVID remote work is pushing the boundaries of dress codes even further. There is lobbying for yoga pants being added to the dress code in my office which was already pretty relaxed.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      This- “business casual” seems to cover everything from slacks and nice shirts to t-shirt and non-ripped jeans, depending on the place. “We’re casual, but we’re a business, so…” Heh.

    3. Lyssa*

      I thought that, too. IME, biz cas is basically everything except sweats, graphic tees, ripped clothing, and shorts. If the LW “likes to dress nice,” I’d be surprised if s/he can’t be comfortable in most places that call themselves business casual.

      1. DarnTheMan*

        I’ve actually gotten away with wearing graphic tees at my ‘business casual’ office; granted it was with a blazer and a pair of ponte pants but some offices will even extend business casual into graphic tee territory.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is what I hate about the term “business casual” – it used to mean (and still means, in my office) one step below suits and traditional office attire (slacks, business dresses/skirts, cardigan sets, polo/button-down with no tie, etc.) and it seems that some places now use it to mean anything other than loungewear. To me, nicer t-shirts, jeans, leggings, and oversized sweaters are just casual (no “business”). When we have candidates in for interviews on Fridays, which is our casual casual day, the HR recruiter typically mentions it.

      I actually prefer it when people name the things important to them in a workplace early in the process so that we can determine that it’s not a good fit without wasting a lot of either of our time. Conversations with employees about dress and grooming are the least comfortable ones, so I’d love it if someone was upfront about not wanting to work somewhere that didn’t consider a hoodie and jeans work attire. Interviews are a two-way street, and if we’re not what the candidate is looking over, that’s not a problem on my end and better to figure out before a hire is made.

      1. JustaTech*

        I remember in the 90’s when the company my dad was consulting for went to “business casual” and expected their consultants to do the same. He and his coworkers were completely stumped. They’d worn suits their entire working lives. My dad wore a suit to church. It was suits or sweatpants or a couple of pairs of really beat up jeans for yardwork.

        They were consulting for a company in Dallas, so when they asked around about where they could get some “business casual” someone suggested Nieman Marcus. Which is called Needless Markups for a reason.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, I think technically the term “business casual” is meant to have emphasis on the business but most people now read it as having emphasis on the casual. I was surprised when I worked briefly at a bank that the outfits expected there, which I would have described as “business,” were actually what was considered “business casual.”

        I started referring to my next workplace as “casual business casual.”

        I also was surprised when they switched to letting us wear jeans all the time to find out how much I liked that and it became so important to me that when I wanted to leave I literally applied to a jeans company because I thought to myself “I be they can wear jeans there” haha

    5. Lacey*

      Yes! I interviewed at a place that seemed pretty business casual – and it was in some departments. But in mine, it was expected that we would dress up every day, even though we were 90% behind the scenes.

    6. Bee*

      Also, that is a LOT of jobs – unless you’re in a notoriously casual industry (tech, the arts), most of the jobs you apply for are going to at least call themselves “business casual.” If you won’t consider any of them, you’re going to find your options really limited. And yeah, my current job is business casual, and my most frequent outfit is good jeans with a blouse or sweater.

    7. Anonapots*

      I’d also question why this is such a deal breaker. This person might struggle to find any job since most places are business casual in the “at least wear slacks and a polo, but no ties required.” Most jobs that pay a living wage are going to ask you to dress more professionally than jeans and a t-shirt.

      1. judyjudyjudy*

        I wonder about that too! Maybe the LW has a very very strong preference about clothes AND the ability to be choosey. Good luck to them!

      2. Sam*

        This is not even remotely true! Maybe for some specific industries, but there are plenty of well-paying professions where the dress code is just straight-up casual.

      3. HardlyLovelace*

        Some of us have sensory sensitivities that make it impossible to focus while wearing uncomfortable business clothes.

      4. Tinker*

        The things you are stating as absolutes aren’t, which goes some ways to explain it. Not all jobs are even office-environment jobs, for one thing — there are jobs where the requirement regarding ties is that you *not* wear them — but also what is considered standard even within office-environment jobs varies according to region and field.

        There seems to be something about the way these things are spoken of that means people from more formal environments are more likely to be unaware of this point in a way that people from less-formal environments don’t tend to be. I’m not entirely sure why — it may be the value judgment, as that means that a person from suit land can go to an office where nobody else is like that and comfortably come away with the conclusion that they were the only person in the room not dressed wrong (!) where the reverse is pretty much not going to happen.

        On the other hand, it’s also true that while I’m aware of other standards, the expectations I have for a job I’m looking at are governed by local norms. I was joking to a friend recently that I might scratch a job posting off my list because it had a group photo of the company where nobody was wearing a shirt without a collar and I wasn’t sure as I wanted to have to buy shirts with collars or work in a place where people were “some kind of weirdos about clothes”. And I might not literally write them off, but it’s not a joke that they rather than me are the misfits whose weirdness might not get accommodated.

        Maybe LW is different from me and is actually tilting at windmills — but I’ve had enough experience with cases where the reason folks are telling me “you need to dress like the boss and not like the peons” is because I’m dressed like my boss and *they haven’t seen my boss* that it seems worth pointing out the other explanation.

        1. But butt*

          Are you saying that someone who wants to dress more nicely than wearing a T-shirt is a “weirdo” and “misfit”? If that’s the case, you would not be a fit for my workplace because we don’t judge other workers based on what they wear or treat each other with disdain.

      5. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “most places are business casual in the “at least wear slacks and a polo, but no ties required.””

        Not true.

        Every day I see people working jobs that are not that. Often “blue collar”/manual labor but even some creative jobs.

  15. Cal B*

    #5 – I recently hired a candidate who lives 2 hours from our office. On their resume they listed two addresses (a local one to us and the distant one) – and explained that while they currently live in x location, they have accomodation available close by as well at y (parents house) where they can stay while they establish a new residence. It put me at ease knowing they had a plan in place and family already in the area, so I saw them as a more stable prospect than someone who was just applying from far away.

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      Thinking back, I did this when I was looking to relocate closer to my husband (we were maintaining two households due to job locations and we were over it…whoever got a good offer first was going to jump. I looked near his address, he looked near mine). I do remember it coming up in the initial interview, basically as a “I see you have two addresses listed? Could you elaborate a little?”

      Anymore I don’t even look at the area code unless its really out of line…but any area codes that are from my own state and the immediately adjoining one (I’m an hour from the state line)? Shrugs.

    2. Lisas*

      Our new hire was interviewed over Zoom. (This is how my boss told me, so I don’t know specifics). My boss did t ell me they interviewed the new person over Zoom and learned that the new employee was moving within a few days or weeks to our city. My boss liked this person so much that she hired her after the Zoom call. It is working out well. My boss is also the best boss ever and told the new person if they need time off for moving etc., they could do that. Some of our work is seasonal so we are a little slower now but will be busier in the next few months. With all that is going on right now I think its great that my boss decided to go in this direction.
      OP I would say decide where you want to go first then try to get a job in that area.

  16. Harper the Other One*

    I’m going to add my voice to those saying that LW3’s boss didn’t handle things perfectly, but that they’re not an ogre either. I think it’s easy to forget that they Christmas-New Year’s stretch isn’t important to everyone! My husband is a minister and that is a busy time for him; before child care was an issue, I much preferred taking the first week of January off so we could have time off together. Folks who don’t celebrate those holidays (or don’t celebrate them at that time) might be just as happy to work in an empty, silent office.

    I also think it’s possible the boss’ mention of kids on the holidays may have been relief – “oh, LW3 doesn’t care about taking that week off, and that’s going to make child care during the school break so much easier!” Again, not a great thing to do because of the power differential, but not necessarily malicious.

    This does remind me of the conversation about ask versus guess culture and I think it’s in some ways a good reminder to both sides: askers have to remember to check in explicitly if something is all right, and guessers need to remember to articulate their needs clearly

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        And the LW didn’t talk about it at all, just “accepted their fate” and disliked it. (IMO, they should have booked time off in June, and then they would have had that time free for making plans in.)

  17. Bob*

    If they did fire her for being unhappy then they have just started a snowball of demoralizing employees.
    Do ask her about this.

    Many employers think of employees as replaceable nobody’s, many balk at accommodations for illness or disabilities, paying market wages or even treating employees like human beings.
    There are of course many exceptions but as a rule its amazingly common to find employers who look at the almighty dollar as king and employees as rungs on the ladder to success (so don’t hesitate to step on them). This is a Ferengi Rule of Acquisition for those who are Star Trek fans.

  18. Kiwiria*

    LW2: I do a lot of job interviews, and always make sure to mention the dress code as part of it. Our dress code is business casual and we want to make sure that our applicants are comfortable with that. So if for some reason I forgot to say it myself, I’d actually be really glad if I was asked about it. I agree with Alison not to make it your first question though, but once things are wrapping up, it’s a completely valid question to ask… at least in my line of work (IT).

    1. Nicki Name*

      I’m in tech as well, and it’s always been one of my standard pre-interview questions. “Okay, so I’ll show up at (place, time) and ask for (interviewer). BTW, what’s your office dress code?” (Assuming I’m not talking to someone like Kiwiria who has already made a point of mentioning it.) It’s a totally normal question in tech because there’s a huge range of possible dress codes.

  19. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    #2: I’m a little confused about “I like to dress nice, but not to the level of business casual.” I wouldn’t even consider business casual to be “dressing nice” most of the time, so I’m not sure what level of “dressing nice” also doesn’t reach the formality level of biz cas.

    1. Jennifer*

      I took it as they consider themselves to be a fashionable person, but the clothes they like to wear wouldn’t really be considered business casual. Casual but not business casual.

    2. Hi there*

      This struck me too. I think this will greatly depend on the workplace. The LW may have a more formal definition of business casual than the workplace does. I am thinking of something like nice jeans, which could work almost every day in some places and only very occasionally in others.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yeah at most places I’ve worked jeans are not considered business casual. I know in some places they are.

        I usually just take note of how the people interviewing me are dressed. If it’s an in-person interview, I take a look at how the other people I pass in the hallway or in offices or cubicles are dressed. It usually gives you a good sense of what is expected.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I was thinking that and cute dresses/skirts– in some places, business casual leans much more towards slacks, blouses, cardigans, that type of thing. Zara vs. Banana Republic/Ann Taylor.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          Dark wash jeans, not baggy, in excellent condition, could be business casual in some places. There’s even a look among some tech bros – those jeans, blazer, dress shirt.

    3. Anononon*

      Yeah, that stuck out to me as well. Maybe they’re using the strict definition of business casual? Nowadays, I think most people consider business casual as not jeans and T-shirts (so khakis, nicer pants, polos, blouses, nice sweaters, skirts, etc.). But originally, business casual was, more or less, business without a jacket or tie.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        Yes! The term Business Casual has definitely evolved in my 20 years of working, just in the way you explain. No t-shirts, jeans, or tennis shoes but almost anything else!

    4. Tinker*

      I would say almost precisely that, and I might actually go so far as to say “I like to dress nice, *rather than* dressing business casual” for some contextual definitions of “business casual”. It’s because, basically, these things lie on different axes.

      When I say “I like to dress nice”, I mean that the primarily-visual aesthetic of what I am wearing matters a lot to me — I like to have a pleasing look. Hence, it matters to me that my clothes fit well, that their shape flatters my body type (and that the type of flattery is a masculine rather than a feminine mode), that they are visibly of good quality, that the fabric has appealing texture and weight. I also like my clothing to, in addition to actually being functional, have a “functional” look — which is not quite the same thing.

      Concrete example: what I tend to wear to work and also sometimes to look nice for social things (back when that happened) is along the lines of “waffle henley, straight-leg brown pants dyed such that they take on intentional wear marks with age like raw denim does, heritage style ‘work’ boots”. It’s sort of an “inspired by the miners of olden days” workwear type look as if I could conceivably (also actually) get on a horse and ride away, but also I do not work with horses for a living and the people who do don’t dress like that.

      To get right down to the crass level of saying this out loud, I’m displaying that I have a certain amount of extra money and time to spend on clothes but by way of things like nicely coordinated colors, more expensive materials, minimal display of brand names (and the grade of those brand names displayed), and the (accurate) implication by my overall aesthetic that I’m a software engineer who pays money to ride horses, rather than by style elements of a higher formality level.

      Which goes right into the matter of business casual, because that (particularly in the context of dress codes) is much more about “style elements of a higher formality level”. That outfit noted above does fall under the lower end of forms that are called “business casual” because the pants are full length and neither sweatpants nor jeans, the boots are not sneakers, the shirt is neither printed nor a basic T-shirt, etc, but it generally does not fall under the more standard definitions of business casual: the shirt is knit rather than woven and lacks a collar, the pants do not take a crisp finish and have the wrong type of pockets (patch rear pockets, horizontal rather than vertical front pockets), and the boots are potentially marginal in that they have an unduly functional appearance and shine only moderately well. Hence, nice but not business casual.

      It’s also possible to do “business casual” and not “nice”. If I go to the workwear department of your average discount store, I can readily find an array of woven shirts with collars and lightweight fabric pants in light earth tones with the correct formality of pockets, a belt that isn’t obviously utilitarian or synthetic, and nondescript ankle-height shoes. I can then pick items from these that do not have major markers of unacceptable fit and that are not massively incompatible with either each other or me in terms of color — and, yes, being a white man who is within the range of commonly stocked sizes has a lot to do with how I can trivially get this far — and be fully blameless in terms of displaying submission to the people who defined the dress code I’m working to, and yet also having a visibly less pleasing aesthetic (and displaying less money) than the sort of clothes I usually wear. When I’m being a tacky boy, I would say “dressed like a cell phone salesman” and in all seriousness this is a look inclusive of service industry folks who are selling something that’s at least a bit expensive and isn’t installed by crawling under your car.

      (Also yes, you can climb the ladder of “nice” with the formality elements of “business casual” — a couple levels into engineering management at the larger companies I’ve worked for, the look of “collared long-sleeved shirt (closely achieving all markers of correct shirt fit, including fabric volume around the sides) in medium scale plaid of pastel-ish colors with white base, ironed-type light tan khakis, leather belt, wingtips definitely made of polishable leather” comes into view — if the job I wanted was to attend meetings for two years followed by an announcement that in light of recent strategic reallocations I was spending more time with my family, this would be dressing for it.)

      Anyway though: that business casual look is one that I’ve had difficulty making work for me (‘fits’ is easy, ‘fits well’ is hard and some of the failure modes cause me dysphoria) and/or also don’t really like, and since I do care about aesthetic the distinction matters to me.

  20. Jennifer*

    #1 There has to be more to this. It’s possible that management saw things that you did not, as Alison suggested. Her work may be exceptional, but soft skills matter just as much, if not more.

    However, the company really needs to fix the messaging on this and I’d bring it up to management. If people really think that she was fired for being unhappy, they may hesitate to complain about things that really need to be referred to a manager to HR to avoid appearing unhappy. I would also feel a pressure to put on this fake happy persona everyday which can be exhausting and lead to mental health problems.

    I wish they’d just stuck to the generic “she left to pursue other opportunities” and left it at that.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am so hoping there is more to this because it sounds like she did not smile enough to suit them. In which case, if this is what the OP is seeing I would be worried also.

      OP, a tool I have used in that past that has given me the information I needed was to say, “I heard Sue was fired for X. I don’t want to lose my job. Knowing that X is an issue, how can I do better myself?”

      At that point, I find out any number of things such as Sue was actually caught stealing or Sue was not fired at all but had quietly given notice. OR I find out that because I do A, B and C I will never in a million years have Sue’s problems. The last one is the best, because I learn to just keep doing A, B and C and I will be okay on this point.

      1. Chinook*

        Absolutely. Best Boss Ever had to let two guys go within a week of each other, which made the rest of the staff nervous about the solvency of the tech company. He held a small staff meeting to explain that one was for attempting to deal drugs and the other skills issue which he was given ample time to improve but just couldn’t. He also gave everyone an opportunity to talk to him one-on-one if they had any concerns. The stress level in the room dropped immediately.

  21. Myrin*

    #3, I think neither OP nor her boss handled this ideally and I also think at least some aspects of this situation can’t be properly commented on without knowing other circumstances, like how their relationship was beyond this issue or whether the boss was a generally warm, reasonable person. Some random and probably somewhat jumbled thoughts:

    I don’t love how the boss would send an email “to let [OP] know she’d be taking about 10 days off around the winter holidays” because if that’s indeed the kind of wording used, even with a disclaimer of the “is there any conflict?” variety, that sounds more like it’s already a done deal in the boss’s head and she would yeah maybe *sigh* if I absolutely have to but rather give OP one day off if she already knew she had a big family reunion or something, but unhappily.
    And it’s totally possible that it actually wouldn’t have been like that at all and boss would’ve gladly answered a reply to that tune with “of course, let’s divide in X way, no problem!” but IMO it would’ve been much better to phrase this differently from the get-go, like “Do you already have any plans for [timeframe]? I would like to take vacation on [days] but we can alternate in daily or weekly increments or think of a certain system, if you’d like.” or something like that.
    So if she used the same phrasing as OP did here I find that a bit iffy, especially coming from a boss to their subordinate – depending on how the boss behaves normally, that might well come across like a command she only really phrased as a question out of pretend-courtesy, not a real search for a mutually beneficial solution.

    On the other hand, I don’t understand why OP, even in the very first year, didn’t answer with some variation of “I haven’t made any plans yet but I’d likely want to take one or two days off around then, can we revisit this at a later date?” instead of simply saying that there was no conflict – there might be more to this as well but at least in and of itself, I can’t fault boss for interpreting OP’s “No, there isn’t a conflict” as a final thing and then acting accordingly. On yet another hand, one can easily write this off as a miscommunication when it happened in the first year.

    However, now, after that first year, I can’t really understand the behaviour of either person.

    OP knew now that boss was inflexible in this regard, so why not use something akin to the “can we revisit this later?” script I used above at least, or maybe even a downright “yes, I’d like to take off Day X and Day Y during that time”? I don’t understand why OP kept coming back to her boss closer to December with her own wishes for what appears to be several years when it was clear in the first year that the boss wouldn’t budge on what they’d planned back in June.

    On the other hand, I don’t understand why boss, too, wouldn’t be more anticipatory after that first year and soften her language in the following years when it became clear that OP had misunderstood her inquiry as something that wasn’t yet finalised; she could’ve even had a whole conversation with OP about how they like to handle the holidays at this company and whether there’s a system they could agree on which would work for the both of them. As it stands, boss saw OP coming to her in, say, October every year asking to get days off around Christmas/New Year’s and never adjusted her behaviour accordingly.

    So really, what this letter boils down to for me is two people behaving for years like it was the first time they encountered an actually recurring situation and that could very definitely have been handled better on both sides.

    I have to say that I can personally imagine very well that boss was only paying lip-service and never really intended to give OP any days off during that time – a lot of what I detailed as somewhat inexplicable above could be explained by “she knew exactly what she was doing and did so intentionally”, and the way she phrased both her initial email as well as that “I have kids” conversation leads me to indeed assume that. However, like I said in the beginning, we don’t know the full scope of their relationship and the boss’s personality in particular, and it could just as well be someone who’s just socially awkward or thoughtless/selfish or just really not that great of a boss.

    But I also agree with Alison that it’s important to seize an opportunity to voice your own wishes/preferences when it’s so blatantly presented to you (and even if there isn’t, but this setup makes it really easy) – “Is there any conflict” is the perfect setup for a reply of “Yes, there is!”. It also would’ve said a lot about your boss – both her personality as well as her managing style – depending on what her answer would’ve been.

    1. Washi*

      “Two people behaving for years like it was the first time they encountered an actually recurring situation.” Yep, this was my take on the letter too!

  22. Jennifer*

    #3 Just for future, if someone puts you on the spot like that and you don’t have an answer right away, you don’t need to give them one then and there. If this happens again just say, “Can I get back to you?” Then coordinate with your family and figure out what what days you want to take. I ended up in situations like this when I was younger just because I was caught off guard.

    It does seem like the boss asked if there was a conflict as a formality, assuming you would just agree, but she did ask.

  23. Snark no more!*

    I would really like to know what would happen if the LW in #3 got sick during the two weeks her boss was on vacation. I didn’t see anyone else mention that yet in the comments. I’m not suggesting LW 3 call off to see, but I am curious in the time of Covid.

    1. Green great dragon*

      Well, it happens. Either Boss is called in, or work is affected. People understand that unforeseen circumstances happen, but that doesn’t mean it’s fine not to have cover planned.

    2. Cj*

      Probably the same thing that would have happened had either one of them been on vacation at any time of the year and the other one got sick. It’s likely that they always had to have one person there covering, not just during the Holidays.

  24. Workerbee*

    #2 I’d consider a dress code question a great one! Shows that the interviewee is curious about and invested in learning the office culture. I wouldn’t penalize anyone for asking it earlier in an interview. I myself appreciated it when an interviewer would bring it up early on, themselves. It sure was nice when I was coming from a casual environment to business professional. (And then I asked a couple would-be coworkers and they let me know it was more between business casual and business professional, which saved me some money.)

    #3 Yeah, the boss did ask. Her citing her family was a bit of a pile-on to me.

    Generally, as a boss, while rank has its privileges and all that, I also think showing a little more fairness to one’s staff wouldn’t be a bad thing. It’s a substantial stretch of time from Christmas to New Year’s.

    Even during something like a summer hours schedule, one of my colleagues in OldJob who was a boss of his team wouldn’t just snap up the coveted Fridays off because he wanted to give his team a chance to have it.

    And as a coworker, I ask my colleague with whom my job overlaps if my taking off certain days would conflict with anything he’s planned or has been planning.

    #5 When a friend was hoping to move to Seattle and job searching, his recruiter told him to get a local number so companies there wouldn’t automatically write him off as not-local or too much trouble to move. Their point was to get the skills and talent noticed first to excite and dazzle.

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      I wonder if the phone number advice is still worth it in times when people keep cell numbers as they move around for schools and jobs

  25. grogu*

    alison, i really think you should take into account at least some of the pushback in the comments re letter 3. (not all of it. some of it was bad.) it’s pretty obvious the manager was coming at this from a position of bad faith. like yeah okay woulda coulda shoulda for LW3, but that manager is straight trash.

    1. grogu*

      thinking about this more, the LW didn’t specify if the manager’s plans were already solidified when manager asked her in june, but if the manager was like “i’m taking off dec 20-30. is there a conflict?” what is LW supposed to do here? ask for the 23-24th off and probably get a no? the manager has already made their position clear on someone needing to be in the office always and who that someone should be.

      1. Week old sourdough*

        That’s my other concern- can OP decide to take a few days in the middle of the boss’s 10, or is the boss just going to take all 10 (which is two work weeks) and that’s that? Seems annoying at minimum.

      2. Anononon*

        I disagree with you. While the boss isn’t squeaky clean, the fact that we actually have no idea what would have happened if OP asked for days off (because she never asked, over multiple years!) says a lot.

        1. EPLawyer*

          THIS. For multiple years the OP knew that the Boss planned in June. OP thought that was weird so ignored it. Then for multiple years, instead of acceping this is what the Boss did, would wander in to the Boss in December and be surprised they couldn’t take time off. I get it, OP, you are not a planner. But other people are. They cannot wait for your spontaneous decisions in order to make their own plans.

          We will never know if the Boss was only asking about conflicts to CYA when she booked the time or really meant it. Because OP NEVER ASKED FOR ANY TIME IN ADVANCE. If she had and Boss had say hahahahaha, just kidding you have to work all the holidays, it would be a very different response.

      3. Colette*

        If the OP had asked, maybe the manager would decide to take December 26 – January 4 instead. She may have been able to be flexible in June but have made commitments by the time the OP asked for time off later.

      4. Qwerty*

        How is it better to agree to work those days then try to back out five months later when December rolls around? By the time OP put in her request, she had already agreed to work those days and the boss had presumably made plans. We don’t actually know if the boss would have rejected the vacation days if they had that conversation in June. They could have worked out a system so the boss shifted her 10day break forward or backward. Even if the boss consistently refused, at least the OP would be able to point to having tried to work out a solution where there was still coverage in the office and could take different steps to escalate/remediate the situation.

    2. socks*

      From where I’m sitting, the commentariate seems pretty split on whether the manager was acting in bad faith. It’s not like its a situation a situation where literally everyone agrees Allison missed the mark, so I’m not sure what you think “taking into account at least some of the pushback” would look like. You don’t have to agree with her, but she doesn’t have to agree with you either.

      (FWIW, I dont think the manager has behaved perfectly but there’s no reason to believe she would’ve shut the LW down if she’d asked for time off in June.)

      1. socks*

        It’s entirely possible the boss is acting in bad faith, but I can also imagine this letter from the boss’s perspective going something like:

        “I need to book holiday travel early because I’m traveling with children, and that gets very expensive if I wait until late in the year to book flights and hotels. Every year in June, I ask my employee if she wants time off before I book my plans, and every year she says no and then waits until two weeks before Christmas to tell me she’d like time off after all! By that point, everything is booked, and I’d be out the money I paid for travel, plus I’d have to arrange last-minute childcare (not an easy thing to find for the weeks around Christmas). How can I get my employee to understand that I’m willing to give her time off around Christmas, but these last-minute requests just aren’t workable?”

        1. Colette*

          Agreed. She might be able to be flexible in June; by December, it’s much more difficult and expensive (and may not even be possible – childcare isn’t trivial to find if her regular place is closed, and if her plans involve other people who also booked vacation in June, they won’t be able to change at the last minute.).

    3. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “it’s pretty obvious the manager was coming at this from a position of bad faith.”

      No. To you maybe, but does not seem like that to me.

  26. Week old sourdough*

    3 is interesting. I believe it’s on the employee to understand how PTO works, and holiday coverage. I think it’s pretty obtuse for the boss to make one request in June for holiday coverage- some of us have dynamic lives and can’t plan that far ahead (even with kids!). But this should be something you’re capable of addressing with the boss. It’s something I would make a point to keep up on.

  27. CupcakeCounter*

    There are a ton of way you could frame this as less of a negative. My understanding is that PhD programs are incredibly demanding so you could go the burnout route. “I was burned out from the intense study of my PhD program and jumped at the first interesting opportunity that came along without taking any time to deal with the exhaustion from my program. Jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak, and I did a very poor job of handling it. While I can’t say I’m happy I was fired, I understand that I was not in a place to give the company what they deserved and it did give me the time I needed to recharge and I’m in a much better place and ready to tackle a new challenge/role.”

  28. Lifelong student*

    In June employees may be planning both summer and holiday time off. If boss saved all available time off for Dec and would lose it if not taken , it could impact summer plans. A possible reason for the early scheduling. Don’t assume malice without all the facts. Employee should have been able to respond , at least after the first time it happened if that was a problem.

    Of course, I do not understand the whole idea of holiday time being two weeks of vacation, absent travel plans. We are not in school where the business shuts down.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “If boss saved all available time off for Dec and would lose it if not taken , it could impact summer plans. ”

      Good point.

  29. CupcakeCounter*

    For #3…
    Do we know that the manager’s family is local? If she has to fly to see her family at Christmas time planning in June is still on the late side – trying to get flights for Christmas in Nov/Dec is very difficult and VERY expensive. Last year we traveled around Christmas and I think I booked in the April/May range. Additionally because of kids, she probably has to find childcare for those dates since they aren’t in school. My coworker is having a really hard time right now finding childcare for her son on the 23rd and 24th since his daycare has decided to close at noon on the 23rd since they can’t get their weekly sanitization cleaning done on Saturday and unfortunately we can’t WFH on those days because of some year-end items our team has to do.
    So basically OP needs to speak up in June when the manager asks. Probably nothing concrete but at least open the dialogue “I’m not sure my plans yet but I know I will want a couple days off around then. Can we set something up next week to look at the calendar and see what makes the most sense for both of us?” OP knows boss plans ahead – they have years of knowledge that come June, boss is going to start asking about the holidays. Why should boss have to change their plans because OP can’t plan ahead or speak up? I do think the boss should have clued in after OP asked about taking a day off here and there around the holidays closer to Christmas that this system wasn’t working for them both and had a more in depth discussion about it, but when working a coverage based position you have to plan ahead. My husband’s family start talking about Christmas in the summer because we have 2 people who need to arrange coverage since their employers are 24/7 type places (medical and food production).

    Sorry but if I tell you in June I want to take X days off and you say “no problem – I don’t have plans at that time”, I am taking the time and making plans. I’m not changing flights or water park reservations or whatever because you decided Dec 1 you wanted the day after Christmas off. At that point I’m out money and probably can’t find childcare since for the holidays – my place requires you to select dates before Thanksgiving so they can figure out their staffing requirements and give people time off PLUS its an all or nothing deal so even if I only need 1 day of care, I have to pay for the whole week. So while the “because kids” is a TERRIBLE reason to hog the holiday dates, there are a lot of logistics involved when you have young(er) children not in school around the holidays and last minute just isn’t going to cut it. Assuming no travel is involved, pushing back to have the conversation in October/November is reasonable though.

    1. Lady Meyneth*

      That’s my thinking.

      Also, even if the boss isn’t traveling, she might still be the Holiday host and need to tell her family which dates they should aim to get off., so planning it early would be equaly important. Holiday plans are a domino effect, and somebody needs to be the first to start the chain.

    2. Holy Coffee, Batman!*

      OP #3 here – she never traveled/all plans were local, but 100% yes I should have spoken up in June. I always assumed she was asking if I had concrete plans, but now I see that I should have just mentioned that I wanted a few days off around the holidays!

    3. Littorally*

      This. I have to book plane flights to see my family, then schedule pet care and housesitting. Planning in June or even earlier is completely normal for me. The fact is that every year, in every job, I put my request in as soon as possible and sweat bullets until time is granted, watching plane fares tick upward (yes, I use an incognito browser to check, I’m not stupid) until time off allocations are announced.

      The manager who earned my undying enmity is the one who shrugged and told me he doesn’t make vacation decisions until three weeks out from the requested date. That does not cut it when plane travel is involved. I booked my tickets and planned to quit if I didn’t get the dates.

  30. I'm just here for the cats*

    Can we talk about how in # 3 the company only has 2 people to cover this area that HAS to have someone every day? It’s marketing so what’s so darn important that someone has to work Christmas eve?

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      Can we please?

      I mean, we had a full on revolt when it came down to “we need someone to cover the phones so two of the ‘girls’ will have to work Christmas Eve and the other two of the ‘girls’ will need to work New Year’s Eve”. Of the four “girls”, only two worked as administrative. The “revolt” was….ugly, and necessary. The solution was that the office was not open those days at all. (In truth, the place was full of bees. Polite bees most of the time…but still…..bees.)

    2. Amy*

      I work in a B2B sales job where yes, large orders due come through towards the end of December and need to be processed ASAP (usually to do with grants or end-of-year budget reconciling.)

      But.. it’s always worked out to just check email every few hours from your phone. Yes, I’d probably prefer to be fully disengaged. But if I must choose between 30 minutes – 1 hour of work a day in my jammies in front of the tree or going into the office for a full day on 12/26, yeah, I’m happy to do it from home.

      Marketing also seems like something where basically you could just watch out for fires and big things and that’s it.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        At one point I worked in a function that supported sales and we needed coverage on the off chance that the sales team needed something between Christmas and New Year’s. It used to be soooo slooooowwww– until right around 2008, when there was a lot of scrambling because clients realized they had unused funds in their budgets. Back then, we couldn’t work remotely very effectively– VPNs weren’t widely used at the company, if at all, and many of us still had desktops– so I would hope that these days it would be a matter of exactly what you say, checking email once in a while.

    3. Jennifer*

      I was going to say this too, but I wonder if it was some sort of business where they really do need coverage on those days? Not just someone to sit there so there’s a butt in the seat. For example, I used to work in a call center that was open 24/7/365 because we supported some clients that had business open on those days. The call volume was less on those days, but enough that someone would need to be in.

      OTOH, that seems a lot for one person to handle. What if the OP got sick or had a family emergency? It seems there needed to be a backup.

      1. Littorally*

        Yes, I also worked at a job that needed coverage all holidays. They talked about it upfront during hiring and paid holiday pay very generously (a 10 hour shift on a bank holiday effectively got me 22 hours of pay). They never lacked for holiday coverage and in fact there was usually competition to work those days, not to be off for them.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          I’ve worked call center where we’ve had to be open almost 24 hours a day and on all holidays. Unfortunately we only got time and a half, and only got that if you worked your shift before the holiday and after the holiday and didn’t come in late or leave early. Really stupid, especially for in the middle of winter when roads can get bad.

          1. Littorally*

            We also had the “must work the shift before and after the holiday” rule, yeah, and I fell afoul of that one once — came back from a trip sick as the devil and had to call out the day after New Year’s in order to go to the doctor. Even with a doctor’s note, they wouldn’t give me the holiday pay.

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        This was my thought exactly. What happens if the Boss is out and is traveling (non covid times) and the LW got sick and was out? If someone is actually needed, like to take calls or something, then they should have some people cross-trained.

        1. doreen*

          There may be people cross-trained – or maybe not. But I’ve always had minimum coverage requirements at my job and there are always times where we don’t have the minimum because someone got sick or had an emergency or a hurricane/blizzard hit and people couldn’t get in. There have been times when I am the only one working ( or nearly so). But just because I will try to get by manage with little or no staff other than myself in an emergency doesn’t mean I’m going to deliberately put myself in that position by giving too many people the same time off.

          1. Jennifer*

            Of course. I wouldn’t give everyone Christmas Eve off if we needed coverage for that day. I just think it’s odd that the OP’s former boss put all the responsibility on one person’s shoulders which makes it likelier that she’d be left with no coverage over the holidays if the OP had an emergency. Having at least one back up would make more sense.

            At any time of the year, it’s possible that there could be some sort of natural disaster or other event that could prevent the entire staff from coming in.

            1. doreen*

              But it doesn’t say there aren’t any backups from outside the department in case of an emergency. It says they were a 2 person department and there had to be at least one person covering each department – that doesn’t mean that if the boss is on vacation and the OP has an emergency that the person covering accounting or payroll can’t cover marketing in some fashion ( even if it’s just answering the phones). But having someone covering two departments due to illness, emergency or weather is very different from doing it because the two people in the department on on vacation at the same time.

    4. Generic Name*

      I was wondering this as well. Obviously, some company functions, and even some entire companies need full coverage year round, but it sounds like this may have not been the case for the LW’s company since they mentioned a lot of their clients’ offices being closed. Like, the company really can’t function for a few days with none of the marketing staff being on site?

    5. I'm just here for the cats*

      After rereading the letter, and some of the other comments I would like to add in what if the LW had kids? Why couldn’t they be allowed to have some time off with their kids.

      And in reply to many people stating that LW should have spoken up perhaps they felt like they couldn’t. Perhaps boss is very bad boss and would punish them for not working. Or perhaps it would have been Too bad I need to take the time with my kids.

  31. agnes*

    I’ve learned that I usually don’t have all the information when it comes to someone else’s work performance. If the company has generally treated you fairly and you haven’t seen other egregious issues arise, I would suggest you stay out of it and presume that you don’t have all the information. Employees can tell each other whatever they want; employers must maintain confidentiality when it comes to an employee’s information.

  32. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    LW2: most organizations have some sort of dress code, even if that’s just business casual, so if you’re looking for a well paying job that lets you wear whatever you want, you should make sure you have some valuable and relatively rare skills to offer. Or, go into the creative field but be aware that there’s a ton of competition and you’ll need to be exceptional to get the well paying jobs in this field.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Hard disagree with this! I have worked at a bunch of places that pay very well (at least, they do as you progress) and there was no real dress standard. This includes a massive global corporation as well as companies that serve big clients. Granted, there is often a different standard for client-facing vs. in-the-office (my current boss wears shorts and sports jerseys in the office and suit jackets with jeans for client meetings), but I don’t want the LW to get the impression that a strict dress code is the norm. It is in some industries for sure– but many other places are looser.

      I do think the LW should ask at some point if it’s very important to her, and I do think she should understand that depending on the role it may limit her options, but her options are not so minimal that she must start setting aside money for work clothes right now.

      1. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

        This might be location-specific too. Where I live, it’s rare to find a lot of white collar jobs without a dress code. But other cities or areas might be more casual.

      2. DarnTheMan*

        One of my previous jobs was for a museum and we could always tell which days important guests were coming in, or board meetings were happening because our president would be in a suit. The rest of the time? He had a standard uniform of khakis, checked shirt (short sleeve in spring, long sleeve in winter) and fleece vest in the cooler months.

    2. windsofwinter*

      I dunno, my current job is very flexible with dress code. In fact, almost everyone wears jeans. It’s an office job but I pretty much wear what I want and I don’t exactly have rare or valuable skills. I think many employers are moving toward more casual and flexible dress codes.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yeah, my job is very flexible about dress with a few specific exceptions: the folks in manufacturing were company-provided scrubs, and if there’s an inspection, no jeans and no ripped pants (so you’d better have at least a week’s worth of interview clothes ready to go), and if you’re seeing outside people you should be dressed up to the top end of “business casual”.
        I had a coworker who always wore those hiking pants that go swish swish when you walk, I have two coworkers who are very fashionable, I had two coworkers who were always cold so who knew what they were wearing under a down coat or fleece?

        We’re a lab, so most of the dress code things that impact us are basic safety stuff (no open-toed shoes). All of these jobs are well paying. It really depends on your industry.

    3. Anononon*

      Eh, I’m an attorney (connected to the banking industry) who gets to wear jeans and converse sneakers on days when I don’t have court appearances. I’m in a major city on the east coast as well.

  33. voyager1*

    LW3: I think you (and AAM) are focusing on the wrong thing. The idea of doing a Xmas vacation request in June is silly, it is also not the important part of what your manager is doing. The whole “… I have kids and it’s important that I celebrate the holidays with them…” is the lead here. I honestly don’t think your manager is acting in good faith, but I have know way of knowing for sure, but to me that is very telling that she said that.

    I would put a request in for Christmas week next year and see what happens. I imagine that there will some kind of push back or sulking by your manager if she approves it.

    1. Holy Coffee, Batman!*

      OP #3 here…fortunately, I am no longer at that job, mostly because of my manager (who, amongst other things, was an extreme micromanager). Knowing what I know about her, I do think her method was a little subversive. I absolutely should have spoken up in June to indicate I wanted some time off, but she was a handful all-around. She had a big heart, but most people in the office had a hard time dealing with her – working for her was worse. :-)

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        In my family, some holidays in the last few year have involved booking lodging at a popular ski resort, ferry reservations to visit my mom that can sell out several months in advance, and plane reservations/visas for international travel. And camp for kids that fill up.

  34. Broadway Duchess*

    I do think that the way Boss framed this could have impacted OP’s response — the first time. After that, though, I don’t understand why OP would’ve remained passive.

    As far as holiday time being two whole weeks, that’s a matter of preference. While my role isn’t coverage-dependent (so this is a bit of a different situation), I almost always take off the last two weeks of the year. Sometimes it’s for travel, sometimes a big celebration at home, but either way, I take two weeks. I plan time off in January just for this reason: to be able to wind down and begin the new year fresh.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, it’s not unusual to take 2 weeks off at Christmas. The manager should have been willing to adjust so that the OP could have some time off – but the OP didn’t ask for any until the manager had already booked hers, so I don’t think that’s on the manager. (I agree she should have been very clear the first time, though.)

  35. Not So NewReader*

    OP #3. I could hardly read your letter because it hit way, way too close to home.
    Okay so I have two thoughts:
    1) On the ideal level, this is so very much less than ideal But sometimes we can look for the ideal on a given situation for many years and never find it. That is because the ideal is not there and never will be. This brings me to my second thought.

    2) This is who the boss is and how they operate. If you don’t want to work over the holidays you have to say so 6 months in advance. I totally understand that you don’t plan that far ahead. When I was in this spot, guess what? I suddenly had to plan that far ahead. She was the boss and I was so NOT. For reasons too long to explain here picking out those damn days off involved CRYING on my part.

    In the end, I had to look at why was I crying and why was this so fn hard? (life stuff, dying parents, etc). I was basically scared to pick out time and then suddenly need the time in a different part of the year. I ended up deferring to what the boss and others wanted and I was left with the scraps. Eh, you can’t pick out what you don’t know you will need.

    Then finally, I landed on that I was just plain TIRED. It did not matter when I took time, it was more important to take the time and get some rest. I set my vacation time at roughly even intervals of once every three months I took a week to myself. My husband had substantially less time accrued and I was on my own for vacation. That actually worked okay because I was always looking forward to my next week off to rest up from life issues and the draining job.

    The boss was not going to change what she was doing. So *I* had to be the one to change. Is it right? no. Flat out NO. But if I stopped wishing for my job to be something else, I could then realize that this problem was MINOR compared to other issues that were running at the same time. This vacation time problem was a symptom of a much, much larger problem.

    Until I could extract myself from the whole thing, I told myself that I was proud of my ability to flex. The boss could not flex, could not bend and that problem IS a quality of life problem. People who want a good quality to their life learn how to flex.

    1. J.B.*

      I keep thinking of my in laws, and how any time they plan to come to my house I have to drag the travel plans out of them. Oh, you’re showing up for TEN DAYS?

  36. Bruce Wayne*

    LW#4: A year and a half after leaving a PhD program and you settled on fast food worker? Late shift at that??!! I hope you are getting a shift premium at least! I honestly don’t believe this could be true or the LW is so hung up on “student” that they believe they must work close to minimum wage jobs. That is a falsehood also, just because you go to school doesn’t mean you can’t work a good paying job, probably at night, full time after classes. Isn’t there a plant somewhere within a 50 mile radius you could work? Maybe make $15 – $20 something an hour? And Uber and Lyft on the side? Instead you work 3rd shift fast food with a college degree and maybe a Masters while you hold out for the real, dream job. Fast food is the placeholder to tide you over until you find that special job that is equal to your academic standing. If you worked a $20/hr blue collar job it would be beneath you.

    1. Colette*

      That’s really projecting. Sometimes fast food is the job you can get – and there’s nothing wrong with working fast food. (The pay isn’t great, but it’s honest work.)

    2. JohannaCabal*

      Also, as someone who was fired once (although I like to think of it as being a “mutual agreement”–I hated the place!), it can come as a severe shock to self-confidence. Particularly, if LW was someone like me who was a strong student. After my firing, I hit a severe low and I could see myself settling for something like fast food.

      LW should consider getting back into the academic program. Also, maybe consider reaching out to the former company to see if they would at least offer a neutral reference and reclassify the firing. To be honest, if I had done that, I think my former employer would have agreed.

    3. pancakes*

      You seem unaware of both the number of unemployed PhDs in the US and the lack of interest other industries have in hiring academics. You also seem unaware of the fact that plants that hire blue collar workers tend to be located in areas where real estate is a bargain, not spread throughout the entire US.

    4. Kimmy Schmidt*

      This comment is terribly unkind. We’re in a pandemic, people need jobs to pay bills, not all industries exist in all locations, we don’t know how much this person is making, some people like food service, some people are unable to work different types of jobs for various reasons, and there are so many other potential factors we’re not privy to about why LW5 took their job.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yup! way to make the OP feel even worse about their circumstances. They’re admitting their faults, no need to rub it in.

    5. pancakes*

      An article about poverty in academia, which you seem to think is a choice:

      A bit more about academia’s “permanent underclass”:

      “According to the American Association of University Professors, 73% of instructional positions are off the tenure track. These positions are insecure and offer few protections for academic freedom. Notably, these positions do not pay well. More than half of adjuncts have an income of less than $35,000.”

      1. Someone Else*

        Yes, which is why LW should not waste her time and money going back to school/finishing a phd. There are no jobs.

        1. pancakes*

          Having post-grad debt without a post-grad degree to show for it isn’t a great situation to be in, either, though.

    6. I'm just here for the cats*

      As others have said, this is very harsh and unrealistic. You mention factory work. This is not available for everyone. Depending on the factory she might not be able to do the work. For example, there were 2 factories in my small town. one was fiberglass manufacture. I am allergic. The other was a furniture builder where I would be required to lift 70+ pounds continually. I can’t do that. But I could do late shifts at the deli. Yes, I occasionally would have to lift heavy items, but it was not continually all day. The LW may be in a similar situation where the only job that she can get is fast food. I’m sorry but you sound a bit snobby

    7. JustaTech*

      A PhD program only has “classes” for the first year or two. Then you’re out doing research, collecting the information you need to write your thesis. So you might be out on an archeological dig, or in a lab, or in the bowels of a library. In the sciences grad students are usually also TAs (teaching assistants) or RAs (research assistants) who get paid a tiny, tiny wage by their university, but are expected to work frankly shocking hours. There is no *time* to get a job at a factory or call center or drive for Lyft. Grad students are regularly expected to work 10+ hours a day and on the weekends as well.

      This is the second day in a row you have expressed HUGE distain for higher ed. Maybe think about that some and find a different forum for your thoughts and feelings on the subject.

  37. Emilitron*

    LW#2 – about how to get the info you want without being seen as “oddly fixated on clothing”, one of the fairly standard questions from interviewees is asking what the work culture is like, and dress code is part of culture. If you couch it in those terms, it can be one of the first questions you ask without seeming weird. “What can you tell me about employee culture – what’s the dress code like, do people generally eat lunch onsite or go out, does everyone work the same hours?”

    1. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

      That’s a great approach! I actually try to get a look at the entire employee manual if I can (but it’s easier because I’m usually being interviewed for CAO-type roles) — an absolute deal-breaker for me is a no-sandals rule. If it’s important to your organization to oblige me to wear closed-toe shoes in the heat of the summer, there is going to be a whole lot else about the institutional culture that is going to make this a very bad fit.

  38. employment lawyah*

    1. My company fired a great employee because she was unhappy
    That’s a bit odd.
    AAM is right. I would consider, also, the reality that sometimes (not always!) the company needs and employee needs conflict. Companies can carry employees for a while but not always all the time and even if the unhappiness wasn’t her fault the company may have decided that it was impacting others enough to matter.

    2. Asking about dress code in an interview
    Save it for later, don’t do it in the interview.

    It’s pretty unusual to care enough about dress code that you literally wouldn’t take job which required “business casual” and asking up front will make you appear weird.

    3. My manager always got the holidays off and I had to workou each June whether you had any conflicts.
    This is partially odd, but also common because higher-ups get perks which others don’t.

    4. Letting interviewers contact a job I was fired from
    The main point is that you CANNOT ACTUALLY “FORBID” people from doing anything they want, and if you try you’ll simply appear to be a naif. It’s common courtesy not to call anyone’s CURRENT job without a heads up, but there is no such limitation on past jobs and i cannot eve imagine NOT calling a job where someone was fired, to ask why.

    So if you don’t want to leave it off the resume, you’ll need to disclose and address it.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      It’s pretty unusual to care enough about dress code that you literally wouldn’t take job which required “business casual” and asking up front will make you appear weird.

      The OP said they wouldn’t apply for a job with “strict” dress code, not simply business casual. Yeah it might be a deal-breaker. I’d think twice myself before accepting a job where I’d need to wear, I don’t know, suits and high heels every day. (They do exist.) Or suit and a tie every day if I were a man. I also knew someone who negotiated themselves an additional raise at a new job that required suits every day. The person pointed out that they only had one suit at the moment, and that with their junior-level pay, it would be financially difficult for them to purchase, and pay for the upkeep of, several more.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        I asked at my interview for current job if pantyhose was required. My now boss lifted her foot to show me her sandaled (non-hosed) foot, so I was glad I asked.

        1. JustaTech*

          Oh pantyhose! The only time it was ever mentioned in my company handbook was, if you were going to the “clean” area, and you were wearing a skirt, you had to wear tights or pantyhose. No shorts, ever.

          But that was about covering your skin so you didn’t shed skin cells and bacteria in the clean area, not about how you *looked*.

          Now you have to wear scrubs, so it’s the same for everyone.

      2. Lacey*

        Yeah, after working a job where we were expected to dress very professionally – and very stylishly – even though we were 90% behind the scenes, I never want one of those again. It added a massive layer of stress to my life to try and conjure up a stylish, professional wardrobe on the cheap.

        When I interviewed at my current job I saw my interviewer wearing jeans and another employee wearing flip flops and I knew that I would be very happy there. And I am.

        1. GothicBee*

          Dressing professionally really can be stressful. My current job has finally switched to allowing us to wear jeans (previously we were strictly Business Casual, no jeans allowed) and I love it. I know some people are the opposite, but I’m someone who hates wearing anything but jeans for bottoms (or sweatpants, but I don’t expect to be able to wear those to work). If I could eventually find a job that would let me wear jeans and t-shirts, I’d be in heaven, and conversely, I’d absolutely be willing to turn down a job with a super professional dress code (unless the pay was crazy high to make up for it).

    2. GothicBee*

      Re #4, I was interpreting this to mean that they would select “No” on those online applications that you have to fill out for some jobs where they ask for each job you’ve had, “Can we contact this employer for a reference?” I do agree that regardless of what you put for that, there’s really no reason the employer *can’t* contact a past employer, but it’s kind of acting in bad faith to ask the question if you’re not going to go along with the answer. That said, I’d also worry that selecting “No” to that question might get you auto-rejected.

  39. Anon in Canada*

    If you are currently employed, lying about your location isn’t an option – the prospective employer will know where you are from the location field of your current job, and such a contradiction will almost certainly get your resume in the trash pile. Using a family member’s or friend’s address in a different city is only possible if you’re not currently employed.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I agree that lying is not an option, but I don’t think the contradiction would put the resume automatically in the trash pile. You could be working remotely. For example, at an old job, we had a senior member of the team leave because her husband had been excepted at grad school in the upper part of the state, about 300 miles away. They arranged it so that she could keep her job (we were down a supervisor and really needed the support of the senior team members) and she worked remote. Now on her resume, it would show she lived in X city but the location for her current job was Y city.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        But in this case, that person would put the word (remote) after the company’s corporate location. If the job isn’t remote, there would be no way around the job location/address mismatch.

      2. pancakes*

        Sure, but if you have a big stack of resumes to get through, it’s easier to just put the ones that raise questions in the no pile than it is to follow up with those candidates.

  40. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #2, one thing you should keep in mind is that the company may have a dress code (or lack thereof) while your department has a different standard if not a written code. For example, IT and admin might be more casual while sales tends to get dressed up. Often the line is client-facing vs. non-client-facing. Try to discuss it with a peer or the hiring manager if you can rather than a recruiter who is familiar with company policy but may not be with individual teams.

    1. Lacey*

      Yes. My current company has a pretty strict dress code – except that dress code is actually only for the sales department.

      My previous company had a business casual dress code, but my department head wanted us all dressed professionally and stylishly.

  41. Nonprofit Lifer*

    With regards to #3, holidays: I do think the boss sounds tactless, but I think some comments are overlooking an aspect of the “I have kids” part.

    If you’ve got school-age kids, work a job that doesn’t close over the holidays, and are either a single parent or have a spouse who also works over the holidays, you can have significant childcare issues in the winter. That’s the kind of thing where you absolutely need to know which days you will have off months in advance because it could take months to arrange childcare. Most young babysitters have their own family commitments, institutional childcare providers are either closed or fill up fast, etc.

    So please don’t assume she thinks having kids makes taking time off around the holidays more important because she’s thinking of baking cookies or other Hallmark-ready moments. It could be that she needs to minimize the number of days she has to leave them at home alone with Mrs. McGillicuty from across the hall checking in on them every two hours.

    I really think this is a good reason why all offices providing nonessential services should consider a “soft” closure over the holidays. Maybe let people work from home, or check messages, but have everyone put up an out-of-office message and don’t expect desks to be staffed.

    1. Jennifer*

      A great point. If the OP is quoting her exactly the boss could have phrased it better but she may actually have needed to be home to look after her kids.

      I like the idea of letting everyone work from home during that time of year.

      For some reason the name Mrs. McGillicuty is making me laugh.

      1. Nonprofit Lifer*

        Thanks. And in hindsight, I think it should have been spelled “McGillicuddy.” I was reading “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel” by Virginia Lee Burton to my kid the other night and I think that’s why that name popped into my brain. Speaking of books that have some labor/managerial issues…

    2. Shenandoah*

      Yup, agreed with all of this! It would be really helpful for me if there was an expected slow down around that period – both for kid reasons and SAD reasons.

      (If the boss’s phrasing was verbatim and her intent was that she was “entitled” to a Hallmark kid holiday, UGHx1000)

  42. I edit everything*

    Did anyone else read letter #1 and think “Desert Bluffs. Obviously. The bosses are adherents of the Smiling God.”

    No? Just me?

  43. introverted af*

    My husband just went through a job search (big thanks to AAM and Allison’s advice, he got a job offer and is talking to the director about specifics and finalizing it today!) and he did ask questions about dress code in the interviews he had. He also had several more substantive questions so at least in his opinion it came across as just a point of curiosity, not a big deal.

    For context, he is a graphic designer. His current job dresses casual unless they have clients in the office, in which case it’s business casual. If he was going to be expected to be at a strict business casual or just business dress, it would definitely have an impact on our budget to get him a suitable wardrobe but also I think just with his satisfaction with the job. Other questions he asked included things like, do you ever work with clients that could be considered controversial or distasteful in any way, how do you handle assigning work among the team, are there busier seasons or do things stay at a relatively high pace, etc.

    1. I edit everything*

      Yeah, I think it’s a perfectly reasonable question as a work-environment question. Also as a, “I’ll have to do some prep for that before I start” question. Because not everyone has a wardrobe full of khakis/skirts and blouses/button downs, let alone suits.

  44. Admin of Sys*

    LW#2 – I also feel like companies that are not in step with the business standard for the industry have a lot of opinions about their dress code, so asking won’t seem out of line from their perspective. I once interviewed years ago for a tech support position that was very proud of the fact that they required everyone to be in business wear (not business casual, full on suits and such) even if folks were doing phone support where no customers could see them. They actually brought it up unprompted (possibly because I was wearing nice interview clothes that barely matched everyday wear for the office). There were other reasons that wasn’t a good fit for me, but I was glad of the extra evidence the dress code offered.

  45. juliebulie*

    Well. I had no idea that one could be fired for being unhappy. I distinctly remember, early in my career, that they weren’t paying us to be happy. So it stands to reason that they shouldn’t fire people for being unhappy either.

    1. irene adler*


      We had three newer employees who were laid off because…they were unhappy.
      This is a small company (under 20 employees) where we don’t get perks like large companies (annual raises, alternative compensation if one does not take the health care benefit, etc.). These three felt that was not right. They used to huddle together and complain to each other about this ‘abuse’. Some said that it was illegal to deny us these things. Not true.

      One of these three reported to me. She used to insist that the company had lots of money and could very well give annual raises. It got tiresome explaining to her how we were barely able to pay the bills so we could have basic stationery supplies, lab supplies and ship product. She insisted that management was hiding money. This got old fast.

      I was about to ask my report to got to our CFO and point out where this hidden money was (she could sure use it to pay the bills!), when all three were laid off.
      Management said that these three weren’t happy and they didn’t want their complaining to burden the remaining employees.

      1. I edit everything*

        If you had to lay people off, then it makes sense to lay off the ones who were impacting morale and the rest of the company. That’s the kind of grousing that can really affect everyone in a workplace. It’s insidious.

        I wish we knew more about LW1’s situation. I think if the colleague who was fired (not laid off) was participating in that kind of non-factual rumor-mongering and stirring up discontent, the LW would know about it.

      2. juliebulie*

        I think the relevant issue was not that she was unhappy, but that she was being a PIA and making management unhappy. :-)

  46. Des*

    LW#3 if days off are a priority for you then prioritize them and let your manager know that you have a conflict on days X,Y,Z when you need to take time off. Now that you’ve had several years of experience with this, you may be able to predict how many days you will need during the 2021 holidays. Let her know in advance.

  47. Not So Super-visor*

    LW#2: I don’t see this as an odd question at all. In fact, as a manager, it’s something that I usually address in the interview. I typically tie it into my “What do you know about Teapots Intl?” question. After they respond, I usually go into Let Me Tell You More mode and this is one of the topics that I bring up. It’s a way of making sure that the company is a good fit for the prospective employee.

  48. BlueBelle*

    I can’t imagine business casual being a deal breaker. It is pants that aren’t jeans and a shirt that isn’t a t-shirt, in most places. I would say that the majority of offices in the US are business casual. If you are willing to turn down a job because it requires you to wear something more than yoga pants then you must not need a job that bad. I am flabbergasted.

    1. Lacey*

      It really depends on the industry. In IT or Graphic Design there’s an awful lot of jeans and hoodies and it could be a deal breaker for someone to have to buy a whole new wardrobe for the job.

      1. introverted af*

        Agreed, this is definitely a thing in those areas, also devs tend to be really casual. It probably wouldn’t be a deal breaker, but it would be a consideration on what’s going on.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think there is a growing misunderstanding about what business casual is, although I guess like most things in language if the misunderstanding grows enough it becomes the new meaning. When I worked at a bank the dress code of “business casual” meant basically wear a suit but you don’t need the jacket and maybe sometimes you can get away with forgoing a tie.

  49. I'm just here for the cats*

    I think I put this in an above comment but I’ll add it here. The “business casual” title can vary. Business casual used to mean, and in many industries still does, one step below suit and tie. so like a suit with no tie and leave the coat. This may be what LW is thinking, but some places also have business casual to mean Dark wash jeans and nice shirts up to the more formal business casual.
    It depends on what the LW is looking to not wear. I think better question would be, what do people tend to wear? Is jeans ok?

  50. Them Boots*

    OP#1: I’m so sorry to hear about your co-worker. Whether or not the firing was the right thing to do, she’s obviously been in a rough patch. I had a similar situation with a coworker at our llama grooming business – and in this specific instance my bosses did make the tough, but correct call. My colleague, Titania, had a very sick mother and an extremely difficult brother who was supposed to be caring for the mother. She was having trouble doing the core elements of her position so they adjusted her responsibilities to give her more flexibility to deal with her family without changing her pay and the rest of us took up the slack. Cool. But then llamas kept getting loose after she took them for walks, grooming, etc and a couple got injured when they were out all night. This was happening almost weekly. Repeated warnings were met with ‘it’s not my fault, I have too much to do.” Now my bosses own that people do have brain farts and make mistakes and everyone has made this mistake once, and then we come up with ways to double check ourselves. She wouldn’t take responsibility so of course she wouldn’t come up with a solution that worked for her and she blew off bosses suggestions as ‘too much trouble’ & ‘I shouldn’t have to do that’. Her attitude was also unpleasant and there was so much venting and complaining and I watched her suck a younger colleague/friend down into the whirlpool with her over that year and a half. (I was still new and managed to stay on the edge, but it took so much energy!) And she kept making other mistakes. Finally she ended up making a series of small errors that culminated in a situation where one of our (previously abused, so handle with care) llamas was improperly equipped by her and it almost got me killed. This was an error that she might have made as an absolute beginner llama handler and would have been caught by a person such as herself. Luckily I noticed how agitated she was and double-checked the equipment and it took three passes to realize she had made such a novice error. That was the tipping point because she almost got me killed, the errors leading up to that were also inexcusable at her level, she was dragging morale down and there wasn’t enough work for a full time staffer to do that they could rely on her to do without the above problems. They did give her a generous severance package that meant she could pay her bills for the following year with just a 2-day/week part time retail job for income because of her standout work prior to the family issues. It was a tough call because she’d been with them for years, but it had to be done for her colleagues, the llamas & the success of the business itself. *And yes, after she was no longer working at the llama farm, no further loose llamas happened until we got a new staffer two YEARS later…& it only happened once to her. Also, it was noted that a significant number of llama handling students that she had been working with before the first job adjustment also made the same basic, extremely dangerous mistake she did and had no idea it could cause problems. She’d/we’d been so lucky our llamas are such good natured! And now that we’ve re-established standards, their equipment is correct & comfortable and their wonderful natures appreciated more than ever, so that was the right call for our business. All this to say OP, do ask your manager for some clarification. It’ll either settle your mind if there was background you didn’t know about (perhaps she was meeting goals because her manager was putting in weekends to supplement her?) or you will learn an ugly truth about your company that you might want to guard against any unhappiness breaching your work barriers if you are in a similar situation and need to stay employed. The latter sucks but it’s useful information to have in case.

    1. Non non!*

      I really need to know more about the part that “almost got [you] killed” — was that an analogy for something else bad? Or was your life really at risk?!

  51. Bubblegum blue*

    I have been thinking about spending time with the kids part of LW3. I juggle full time work with kids and it is not an easy balance. While they are good kids and understand that I have to work, they are possessive of the time they get with me. They are disappointed if I have to go in on weekends for overtime because that is my time with them. Unbroken holiday time is a big deal because out comes fun mummy. I actually relax, I have the energy to do fun activities, we get excited as a family about the fun things we are going to do. Breaking those promises and going to work is a big deal. She might not have explained herself very well but she genuinely does have to spend unbroken time with her kids.

    I think it is fine to believe an adult when they say they don’t want time off. However when LW3 wanted that time off at Christmas, the boss probably should have sat her down and explained that once she books leave in June, it is set in stone. She always books time off in June so LW3 needs to advise her then if she wants any time off over Christmas. This would have made things more clear. From her perspective though, she probably believed that she already covered this when she actually asked LW3 in June. I don’t think the manager was being selfish or unreasonable though.

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