updates: boss assumes we’re slacking off when we work from home, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. My boss assumes we’re slacking off when we work from home

Phil got worse. During the first week of May, Phil ordered everyone to come back to the office full-time, no more WFH whatsoever. I tried to gather a few of my coworkers together to explain to Phil that our productivity had not suffered while WFH and that we were not comfortable with the risk of returning to the office, but they all seemed pretty scared/nervous and ended up not wanting to confront him with me. I asked Phil if he had any particular concerns about my or my coworkers’ productivity and he was unable to give any real answers (just “you need to focus” and “I need you all on board”). I already keep diaries of all of my completed tasks each day so I offered to show them to him to prove that my output was more than fine but he was not interested. So, yeah, brick wall.

He stopped enforcing social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing around that time. Two people in our office ended up getting COVID and Phil did not change anything. A couple more people got COVID recently and Phil ordered us to research ways to “get around” paying them for their mandatory 2 weeks off for quarantine. Three people have quit since May. I’m looking for a new job but it’s hard right now and I’m terrified of ending up with another Phil. Pray for me, I guess.

2. Tokenized on International Women’s Day (#2 at the link)

Our office didn’t do its own presentation this year (most were working on site or unfortunately laid off), but our head office presented and anyone could watch it live, which I did.

Their presentation was a panel discussion with women in STEM, admins and the business group leader for Ontario (who is a man).

It’s hard for me to remember everything that was discussed but two things stood out.

1. One of the women had just become a new mom and was talking about how the company offers flex hours so she could manage work and childcare. (Since the pandemic the company recently stated that even if all locations return to work full time, anyone working from home or working flex hours can continue to do so if they need to for childcare).

2. The facilitator called the biz group leader out on equitable pay for women, who replied they review salaries and do a market comparison yearly. Despite that though they are still on the low end of the scale for everybody, not just women. It’s the main reason why people leave to work elsewhere.

My location hired another woman (yay!) but she’s on mat leave currently. We were also looking to hire for site work and received about a dozen resumes – only one of the candidates was female, who unfortunately was not qualified. As well, head office has announced several women leaders of business groups at other locations.

I believe they are trying but thanks to you am ready and raring to push back when the time comes!

I also want to thank you for providing a safe space to ask, share, comment, empathize, sympathize and also laugh – it’s therapeutic.

3. Explaining time away from work when returning to a job hunt (#4 at the link)

I really appreciate your reply and the commenters’ feedback and kindness. About two weeks after you answered, I was called for an interview at my first choice of employer, and had your reply in mind. At the second interview with the whole team, one of them asked about a sacrifice I’d made for something important, and I described leaving my job to care for my dad, and that it was a privilege as well as a sacrifice. I was hired, have been there nearly two years, and it’s been a great place to work. I’m a daily reader and regular recommender, and I’ve learned so much from your site. You’re providing a crucial service especially in these uncertain and complicated times – thanks for all you do.

4. Why do highly qualified people stay at dysfunctional companies?

A couple of months after I wrote the letter, the Senior VP and VP in our office stepped in to try to salvage the team. We ended up being split in half and getting reassigned to completely different projects. I think it was an effort to give people something to work on besides the Evil VP’s pet projects. Unfortunately, for some people it was too little, too late. We lost more great people including 3 managers (but honestly, they moved to better paying jobs at more prestigious companies).

I and others ended up being shifted into another org, so we no longer report up to Evil VP. I’m somewhat happier in this new organization. Unfortunately I smell smoke – the Senior VP that “saved” us retired this summer, and other members of upper management are also either quitting or being reorganized. Also, the sole remaining VP in our office quit, so I don’t know what the future of the office in our country is.

I’ve been at this company for less than 2 years and I’ve been bounced from team to team about 5 times. I used to be very self-confident about my skills, but now I’m floundering because I keep being assigned to work I don’t have the skills/knowledge for. I’m just trying to keep my head down, build up my knowledge, and keep getting paid.

{ 49 comments… read them below }

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – OP one best wishes on finding a better opportunity – they are out there (but harder to find right now).

    2. Lucious*

      LW1 made her data driven case to Phil, and he refused to listen. It is unlikely he will change his mind.

    1. Lucious*

      Hang in there OP1. You’ll have a chance to “fire” your boss once the economy picks up post-pandemic.

  1. MissDisplaced*

    I’m so sorry for #1 and #4. All I can say is keep looking for a new job and don’t give up on it. Be consistent with your applications and something new will eventually happen. Life is far too short to work someplace terrible.

  2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    OP4 – the writing is on the wall unfortunately. I would work on following the folks who have already left, this much turn over just isn’t a good sign.

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      This. If you worked directly with any of those managers that jumped ship, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask they keep you in mind for any openings at their new company. If you keep being shuffled around like that you’ll burn out. Plus it’s harder to get good achievements to put on your resume when you don’t have enough time to really dig in to any one thing. I’m not saying this to discourage you; but to encourage you to use your network to try to find something better. Good luck!

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Especially if they landed better jobs at more prestigious companies. Those are great connections to reach out to

  3. Mockingjay*

    #1: Phil ordered us to research ways to “get around” paying them for their mandatory 2 weeks off for quarantine.

    I had to pause reading , I was so incensed. OP 1, if there’s a way to anonymously report Phil for that to the applicable agency, do so.

    Four people in your office have already had COVID. Get out now. As for avoiding another Phil, Alison has plenty of recent posts advising to ask how New Company is handling COVID.

      1. BubbleTea*

        If you leave, there’s the risk of another Phil. If you stay, there’s the guarantee of this one.

      1. DefinitelyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified*

        Thirding. Just this sentence really made me angry. This cavalier attitude to a serious disease is just mind-boggling and it NEEDS. TO. STOP.

      2. Amaranth*

        Phil would probably put the blame on one of the people who quit, which should offer OP some protection.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Phil is just using the pandemic to give in to all his worst impulses- and the worst impulses of a bad boss can be really bad. Unfortunately he’s just one in a line of lots of bad bosses we’ve heard about here (with the caveat that the good ones exist – they just aren’t getting the publicity/air time the putrid ones are getting).

      Stay safe OP 1, Phil sounds like a superspreader in training.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      OP 1, please do report Phil, and I’ll go to the nearest church and blow out a candle in his name.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If I were OP, I’d have blurted out “havr them work from home during quarantine”… because my auto-editor would break.

    4. HB*

      Okay. Here’s the thing that’s dumb:


      So by researching ways to “get around” paying the employee he’s basically saying “We’d rather you suffer than us go through the slight inconvenience of reporting this to our Payroll company and adjusting our 941s.”

    1. Bunny Girl*

      Unfortunately I think so many people are just “over it” that they are not doing anything anymore to follow health measures and/or they are tired of certain people complaining about health measures so they just bend.

      One of the reasons I quit my old job, even though I took a paycut, was because customers were complaining about the restrictions we had in place, and our practice leaders (yes this was a doctors office!!) were tired of listening to them so even though our numbers were going up instead of down, they just kept loosening restrictions. It was scary.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Had to explain to my HR bod that yes, we’re all tired of restrictions and masks and lockdowns, nobody likes them, but the alternative is far worse.

        (She was trying to pull me into a discussion of ‘let’s just eliminate safety measures for the mental health of others’. She knows that a) I’ve lost people to Covid and b) I’m a former virologist ffs)

  4. Anon 2.0*

    Reach out to those who left for more prestigious companies and network with them to find a new position. They could be your best resources for a new job.

  5. MH*

    #1 – if you can and feel comfortable, maybe call your state department of labor or labor board to see if there are COVID-19 mandates your employer is in violation of?

    1. Disco Janet*

      Yes! Please OP 1, report this immoral pos now. I mean, continue looking for other work, but they must be violating so mandates right now. This is so, so infuriating and I really feel for you and your coworkers.

  6. animaniactoo*

    LW1 – after reading through your letter, all I could think is “Phil. Phil is why a liability shield was the holdup over the latest stimulus deal.’ I am so sorry and I truly hope you find something else soon. GL to you!

  7. Self Employed Employee*

    LW3, there is something so calming about your update. It is just how the world should be. I am happy for you.

  8. Firecat*

    #1 I was working for a Phil who also recently got in trouble by their management for not following the companies Covid measures. Last I knew my team had about 60% of staff with Covid or recovered from Covid.

    There are better bosses out there! Please look and keep applying. Just ask about Covid measures in your interviews. Even post vaccine if you are still looking ask about Covid measures because it tells you a lot about how a company views it’s employees.

  9. aett*

    re: #1: My wife’s boss was mostly the same as Phil, except he never did any prevention at first and was a full-on Covid-denier. He also managed to wait until July before making everyone come back into the office, and proceeded to make fun of my wife for wearing her mask when interacting with people. Fortunately, my wife got a new job in October, and she gets to work from home 3 days a week and everyone in the office is great about distancing/masks/washing/etc.

  10. ..Kat..*

    I have a question about what #3 said. One of the interviewers for their new job asked “about a sacrifice that LW made for something important.” Is this a common interview question?

      1. oof*

        Thank goodness! I was wondering about that myself. That question really jumped out at me, and to be honest, I have no idea how I would even begin to answer that!

        1. tra la la*

          “Welp, right now I’m sacrificing this interview in order to keep looking for a job someplace where people don’t ask me questions like this” is what would run through my head if I were asked this in an interview. Not sure what I’d say out loud though.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Me: *lifts up walking stick* not whacking people on the ankles with this for asking ridiculous questions.

      (Wouldn’t actually say that. Would be extremely tempted)

  11. Sea Witch*

    Is it wrong that I really want Phil to catch the virus and get very sick? Not ventilator level sick, just “exhausted for several months” sick.

    1. Ashloo*

      It may be wrong, but I’ve been right there with you for months. This could be my husband’s boss who sucked as a person before covid. He’s also the owner so if he got sick, that would be pretty bad for husband’s job.

  12. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

    Good grief, LW1. Is Phil trying to get your team’s headcount down in the most permanent manner possible? Get out, get out, get out, oh sweet blessed Arceus get out.

  13. Former Employee*

    This is way past the time of this update.

    I had to wonder how Phil thought the work was getting done if everyone who was at home was slacking off.

    Did he think the elves were coming in at night and catching everyone up?

Comments are closed.