updates: my boss jokes about me having “work suitors” 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 company expects people to keep working long after they quit (#2 at the link)

First of all, I would like to thank you for answering my question, your excellent advice, and to all the readers who commented. I wish I could have interacted with the commenters, but my question was published on the busiest day of the month at my work, which also happened to be the same day my movers came. I was so burned out and desperate when I wrote in that I was planning to leave my job and lose my health insurance in the middle of a pandemic with nothing else lined up.

I actually have an unexpected, but happy ending to giving my notice. My manager was very sad I was leaving, but he understood, and we started my off boarding process. I had worked very closely with the Seattle office, a different office that my home office, so I sent an email to the partners in Seattle to let them know I was leaving. Within 5 minutes my phone is ringing and it is the head partner from Seattle. She asked why I was leaving, told me she was honestly impressed that I had lasted as long as I had in my position, and praised my work. She even expressed interest at hiring me in the future. I really enjoyed my time working with the Seattle office, but let her know that the Cat Wrangling duties (which I was not made aware of when I was hired, and are not technically part of my job) were too stressful, and the head cat had been treating me very poorly. She then asked the dreaded question, “what would it take to get you to stay?”

My wonderful manager, HR, and the Seattle partners moved heaven and earth to keep me. They adjusted my schedule to .75 FTE, I get to keep my health insurance, I get to keep my Dog Counting duties and do the work for the Seattle office that I love, and I no longer have to do the Cat Wrangling duties that caused me so much stress, or interact with the head cat. My cross country move in the middle of a pandemic went extremely well, I have been very careful and stayed COVID-free, and I get to work remotely permanently. So after writing in about how to end it once and for all with my job, believe it or not, I am still there! But I am happy, and my stress levels are definitely lower. I would not have been able to handle the Murphy’s Year of 2020 without the changes at my work.

Oh, and another happy ending! The employee that had quit and was still being asked to do work several months later has been officially released, and is on a “important questions only” basis now.

2. What’s reasonable for managers to expect of parents working from home?

Oy vey, this question seems so long ago! Everything is more than fine with this employee. There was another (childless) employee who sniped a bit about parents getting extra privileges, esp. after we adopted COVID guidelines that gave PTO (not accrued vac time) to those who lost child care options. That’s a dynamic I’ve seen in every workplace I’ve ever been in, with the single/childless people feeling they were always asked to work overtime, come in to cover for a parent, etc. But other than that, everything worked out beautifully.

So problem solved for now?

3. My boss jokes about me having work “suitors”

The day I went into work, I asked if I could speak to my boss. She mentioned she got a new position and she would be leaving our branch to work as the Head of HR for the company. I mentioned that I was very happy for her, but I wanted to still bring up the “boyfriend” comments. She told me that as the head of HR, she didn’t want to bring any “negativity” for the new person replacing her, and she said I should look into other options. A week later, I interviewed someone who would become my replacement and I was “let go due to budget constraints.”

It was… frustrating but I’m glad it happened. It gave me the flexibility to find a new, better job working in education, where my students are the only ones I really interact with day-to-day, and everyone is very respectful.

4. When’s the right time to ask about a permanent work-from-home schedule? (#5 at the link)

While the job I was originally writing about didn’t work out, I have just accepted another position where having the opportunity to work from home would be even more important to me because of the commute. I ended up not bringing up the possibility until we were in the negotiation stage (as opposed to asking if it was possible during the initial interviews), when it became abundantly clear that they really wanted me.

I start at the end of the month and will likely spend at least the first three months fully-remote, but when I eventually have to go to the office, it will only be 3 days a week. In addition, I’m very happy to report that the job will be a 25% salary increase, with a new title, and I’ll be reporting directly to the executive director– something I am very excited about. Negotiating was tough, but having read Ask A Manager for the past three-ish years, I felt like I knew what I needed to do. And it worked out!

{ 125 comments… read them below }

  1. RedinSC*

    Oh, Dang! LW 3, I’m sorry. SHe’s just terrible and now as head of HR she’s taking that to the rest of the organization! I’m glad you’re out of there and best of luck.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yet there’s people who think women can’t be sexist! Unless OP was willing to be chucked under the chin and called cupcake, for God knows what power tripping reason, she needs “other options” away from this boss…. indeed she does. Since the boss is now the head of HR, may the scales fall from the eyes of others before she does too much damage. At any rate, she’s too cartoonish a sexist, in too prominent a position to go unnoticed for long.

  2. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

    OP3, my head just about exploded reading your update. I am so glad you came out of this with a better job, but the idea that this woman who was harassing you got promoted to the HEAD OF HR infuriates me. Kudos for turning a negative into a positive, and here’s hoping that karma finds your old boss soon.

    1. Momma Bear*

      #3 is just awful. I’m glad LW is out of there but the boss handled it very badly. And is now head of HR? ugh.

  3. Des*

    >s the head of HR, she didn’t want to bring any “negativity” for the new person replacing her


      1. AKchic*

        She was essentially fired for not wanting to be sexually harassed by her boss-turned-head of HR.

        If ever there was a need for an employment lawyer…

        1. lazuli*

          SERIOUSLY. I keep staring at the letter.

          Your boss, who got promoted to the head of HR, fired you for bringing up sexual harassment complaints.

          I just… I can’t.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          It would be so great if we could name names. I would be happy to put this company on my list of companies not to do business with.

          OP, this was a very disgusting situation. I am so glad you are out of there.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I imagine that with a new supervisor, if OP decided to report the previous issue, there is now a third party involved and the old boss MIGHT actually get caught up in an investigation; although as head of HR, probably not. But if OP no longer works there before a new supervisor is installed, then there’s no possibility…ta da! The old boss certainly never filed any paperwork on the complaint against herself and she didn’t want OP to keep bringing it up.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      OP should consult with an employment attorney to find out (I would say “yes,” but again – not a lawyer).

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      Yeah, me too, but I think OP3 got fired for bringing up the harassment to her boss, who was promoted to head of HR.

    2. Koalafied*

      I’m having trouble parsing it too.. Other options for what? I reread the original letter and I’m thinking there must have been more from OP in the comments, but I’m on my phone and it’s a pain to try to find one specific person’s comments just scrolling on a tiny phone screen.

  4. Love That Journey For Me*

    Oh my gosh, OP3 your manager sounds awful! And now she’s the head of HR?? Wow. I’m so sorry this happened to you!

  5. NewYork*

    Giving PTO to some people and not others is not fair. It is like saying, we will pay parents more. The non parents are likely furious and may say, if they pretend to pay us, we will pretend to work.

    1. 10Isee*

      Do you feel the same way about people who contract Covid and are given two extra weeks of paid time off? Now more than ever, insisting that everything be fair is just not reasonable.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          yes anyone can get covid, But the Parents have an added problem. The parents didn’t ASK to have their kids home all day. It’s not a vacation day. What are they supposed to do for childcare? Daycares are closed, schools are online. Are they just supposed to all quit?

          1. Okayyy*

            The people without kids didn’t ask you to have kids though, either. Having a child was your choice, and certainly your responsibility to deal with as things come along.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No one predicted what would happen in 2020. As a society it’s in our interest to help people in this situation — otherwise there are going to be a ton of people (mostly women) who can’t stay in the workforce.

              I don’t want that to be up for debate here; it’s contrary to everything I and this site stand for to make an argument that would mean hundreds of thousands of women dropping out of work.

              1. nodramalama*

                Ok but childfree people are not work automatons who can just take on endless overtime because people are struggling with childcare?!

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Of course! Companies that are lightening the workload on parents need to adjust workloads altogether, not just shift them to people who don’t have room on their plates to take on extra. I have your back 100% on that argument — but it’s not okay to blame parents for the situation they’re in. It’s on companies. Parents didn’t sign up for the current situation any more than anyone else did. (I say all this as someone who’s child-free, btw.)

          2. Non parent*

            But that’s the chance you take when you become a parent! You might have to, you know, make sacrifices or raise your child rather than rely on schools to babysit for you. There are plenty of child free people who may have added problems of caring for a relative or family member, etc. Just because someone is a parent doesn’t mean they should get special treatment over non parents.

            1. Green great dragon*

              And the answer to that is that those who can’t work as normal because their elderly relatives caring arrangements have broken down should also get extra PTO, not take it away from parents. People who do sports are more likely to need lengthy sick leave for injuries – all sorts of activities might mean someone needs time off.

              And people shouldn’t have kids unless they’ve made plans for their care in the event of a worldwide pandemic that closes schools? Really?

              1. PT*

                That’s really where I fall. If you assume any responsibility, it’s generally your job to have a plan and a backup plan to make sure your responsibilities are covered. But you can’t ask people to make plans for every increasingly-unlikely-possible scenario, because that quickly gets ridiculous and expensive.

              2. Non parent*

                That’s not what I said at all. But, if you choose to bring a child into the world, you should be prepared to raise them through tough times as well as good. Of course people didn’t plan for a pandemic, but they should have a plan of how to care for their children, even if that means – gasp – having to actually raise them themselves.

                1. pope suburban*

                  Mandatory schooling (in combination with day care) is a responsible childcare plan, and also one that doesn’t exist anymore. Many, maybe even most, people do not have the luxury of going down to one income, and then we can talk about how it’s overwhelmingly mothers who are expected to sacrifice their careers (and thus some degree of independence, which is a whole new set of issues), and why that’s bad for the workforce. I would love to be treated on more equal footing, no argument there, but acting like most people think of their children as Tamagotchis is…ungenerous. Let’s not do that here.

                2. Maltypass*

                  Non parent, that’s just flat in bad faith, and you should seriously think about what you just said. If a company is willing to help parents out, they’re not doing it at you, for real.

                3. Jackalope*

                  I would also add that having your kids go to school and then caring for them before and after is still raising them. Sure, there will always be some parents who don’t care about their kids, and that’s lousy. But the “gasp – having to actually raise them themselves” is pretty dismissive of parents following the structure of society as it’s been for the lifetime of everyone now alive (school during the day once kids get to a certain age). Insisting that people have a plan set up for a situation when schools and daycares are closed, it’s not safe to send them to stay with grandparents, and we aren’t supposed to have contact with anyone outside of our household, while the parents are also supposed to continue working full-time, is not realistic.

            2. mayfly*

              An unprecedented global pandemic is not “the chance you take when you become a parent”.
              I don’t think there’s ever been a time when the public school system has been closed, along with most childcare options, *and* it was too dangerous to rely on elderly relatives for backup care. And, BTW, schools do provide childcare for kids, on top of providing an education.
              PTO for people who are newly tasked with actively caring for dependents (whether child or adult) is more akin to FMLA or STD, which is not special treatment.

            3. Dahlia*

              No one planned for a pandemic when they had a baby!! That’s wholy unreasonable to expect people to plan natural disasters!

          3. MissM*

            But those who don’t have children may also have family members or friends without family that they’re helping take care of. It seems like the kindest thing would be extend everyone a little grace.

    2. just a small town girl*

      Yeah honestly that kinda….rubbed me a bit wrong but I can’t really put my finger on what the best thing to do would be. Childfree people (of which I am one) will always feel like society caters towards those who procreate, and it does. Employers should be aware of that and offer flexibility for unexpected stuff, which includes child-related things.

      1. Vichyssuave*

        As a childfree jewish person, this time of year makes me extra humbuggy. I’ll gladly work Christmas for everyone, but that favor never seems to be returned or even remembered since it’s “something you don’t care about anyway”.


        1. Snarkastic*

          Well, that sucks! I would think working a major holiday for others would be appreciated, not disregarded because it’s not YOUR holiday. If you weren’t working, they would be and should appreciate that. Make them work the High Holidays and act like it’s expected, because it doesn’t affect them anyway. Harrumph!

        2. Anon for Today*

          I’d repeat that saying back to them when you need coverage for the high holidays. Wonder if they would get how ghastly that is.

      2. Koalafied*

        It sounds to me kinda like this is just a weird logistical way of giving parents flexibility, since she specifies that it’s not banked vacation – makes me think this is an office where leaving for an hour to go to an appointment requires you to use an hour of PTO, so the company is now telling parents they still have to use PTO to cover the hours they miss during the workday, but they’re giving them extra PTO to cover it.

        If the employees are on an annual salary then it seems it would make a lot more sense just to be more flexible and stop requiring people to take PTO for an hour of missed work, and like they’re doing it this way in order to continue clinging to that rigid system for fear that if they give flexibility now it will hurt morale to take it away later.

        And whether they’re salaried or not, it seems like it would be a lot more just to extend either the flexibility or the on-demand extra PTO or whatever the solution is, to anyone who needs it, and not get into the business of prying into and judging the worthiness of the reason they need it.

      3. Maltypass*

        To be fair I’m also childfree and we’ve had plenty of letters showing companys being awful to parents. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for parents right now

      4. Mockingjay*

        These are extraordinary times. Companies that provide extra grace to retain employees – in this case parents needing child care, could also be elder/family care – should be applauded.

        The notion of “fair” is not tit-for-tat. “She got extra PTO and I didn’t!” What the coworkers received was assistance to cope with a difficult circumstance so they could keep working. Someday you might need help which takes a different form – an altered work schedule, a transfer, FMLA.

        For nonparents or persons of other faiths who are stuck with holiday coverage, bad management allows that to happen. I’d push back on that.

      5. BRR*

        Same with me. I wouldn’t say everything worked out beautifully and am pretty put off by the attitude around the whole subject. But I still have really no idea what a better solution would be. Companies 100% need to be as flexible as possible with their employees right now, but this far into things and with months to go I don’t think anyone should dismiss the irritation of one large group of employees (those without care taking responsibilities) because another large group of employees is working less hours or has lower metrics etc. It’s been in my mind for months and I’ve yet to come up with a better, realistic solution (my unrealistic one is to just allow every to work less).

    3. ItIsWhatItIs*

      Right? Like, yes parents need extra support but to say “Here’s PTO while your co-workers pick up the slack with presumably no compensation for it” kinda sucks. Give the people without kids the same PTO post pandemic. Or an extra week of vacation. Or a bonus. Or something. And don’t give it to the people who got the PTO. Yes, taking care of your kids isn’t a reward but people without kids get the short straw all the time, as proven by the letter writers who talk about not getting choice days/etc vacation because they don’t have kids.

      1. pope suburban*

        This. It’s not picking up slack occasionally that bothers me, it’s not getting the same treatment in return when I am ill or when I have appointments that have to happen during the standard work week. My boss is good about this, but the agency overall is…less good. I’ve been pulling a lot of extra weight for a long time and I don’t expect any official acknowledgement or reward for it. I’m not even in the category of employees who typically receive a reward at the holiday party, so even if people are still getting that this year, I’m not going to be included. I am very tired and it’s just discouraging to see that written off as petty or spoiled or irrational. It’s really just about treating people how you’d like to be treated, and boy howdy, has that ever been a one-way thing in my experience.

        1. gah*

          Yup – I want parents to get a fair shake, just not on child-free laborers backs. If children are the “public good ” economists claim, then the public or the private company should help shoulder the burden, not individual child free workers.

          1. pope suburban*

            Exactly. Also, the phrase “life happens” applies to all of us. At some point, we’ll all be ill or need to go to a parent-teacher conference or have an emergency at home that means we need to stay there/leave early or have a relative become sick/injured or…anything that might disrupt your standard workday! Building a working culture that sees employees as people first, and develops compassionate policies that allow people to have a healthy work/life balance is good for everyone, full stop. And, as Alison has told us time and again, if you get an employee who abuses that or who is not acting like an adult about it, well, you manage for that! Too many companies/managers fall into the “but what if someone takes advantage” trap, like there aren’t reviews and PIPs they could use to address the problem employee without treating everyone else like naughty children. Just…we’re all on this rock together, we’re all going to have some deviations and slow times and times when we can’t work, and that’s okay. I’m so ready for a sea change; treating everyone like robots hasn’t gone great and I think we’re all really over it.

    4. Momma Bear*

      We were given a blanket extra week of PTO because some of us can WFH, but have kids to wrangle so it’s not always feasible, some can’t WFH at all, and everyone can use a break. This allowed everyone to use that time as they need, regardless of parent status.

      1. ItIsWhatItIs*

        Everyone getting the extra PTO seems like the best move because this pandemic is slowly breaking everyone down and some people have to caretake for adult family members.

    5. Vichyssuave*

      As a childless person, I am willing to give a ton of latitude when it comes to COVID. This is an unprecedented situation and no one could have planned for it. And I would not trade all the PTO in the world for having to deal with the childcare and homeschooling issues my friends and peers are dealing with right now.

      It is however frustrating that it seems tossed in with the legitimate gripe many childless people had about the workplace in the before times.

      1. ItIsWhatItIs*

        I think it ends up being another symptom of not valuing childless/free people’s time the same way we value it for people with kids which is why it gets thrown in with the rest of the issues.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Honestly, we could chalk all of it up to the US labor market’s expectation that a worker is supposed to work beyond the capacity of the average human being. Crappy PTO, worker-funded healthcare, worker-funded retirement, and pitting all of us against each other because we’re sick/have kids/have caregiving duties/whatever and can’t meet these inhuman expectations. Especially in 2020, where we are in many cases expected to sacrifice our lives and personal safety for company profits.

    6. Lady Heather*

      One on hand it’s comparable to employer-subsidized child care, but on the other hand it’s not because this likely cut both ways – the parents got the PTO and the not-parents got extra work. Even if the employer did the decent thing and either shelved the parents’ projects or had them covered by temps, that probably wasn’t such a smooth and frictionless transition that it didn’t cause the not-parents extra work or headache.

      At least, when my church person was talking about the workers of the last hour, he justified that as “it was alright because he didn’t give the first workers less by giving the last workers more” and not by “it was alright because the Bible says mysterious things and making some people work harder to compensate for the other people getting more benefits was fair in a mysterious, godly way”.

      1. Former Fed*

        Its not unfair – just not something some people need right now, but others do. Almost everyone (like 99% of us) will need some kind of accommodation for someone they are taking care of in their lives – whether kids, a spouse, or elderly parent. And I think readers of this blog should recognize that there is always someone that complains about someone else’s very reasonable accommodation. And more PTO doesn’t actually mean more work for other people. A good manager will still expect each person to get their own work done. Someone getting more flexibility than you, when you don’t need it and didn’t ask for it, isn’t a punishment for you. Its a sign that when you do need it (and you will) your company will provide it. That is a good thing.

        1. hayling*

          Agreed! I am child free, but I had to take care of my dad in August and September after he had back surgery. My boss was extremely understanding and gave me a lot of flexibility, which I really appreciate. I hope nobody felt like I was cheating them out of their PTO/flex time because I was using mine then?

        2. Red Boxes and Arrows*

          “And more PTO doesn’t actually mean more work for other people.”

          What?? Yes it does.

          This year we had one person go on maternity leave, another take FMLA leave, and a third take two weeks off for surgery [in addition to his regularly-scheduled PTO]. The extra work burden was so great that we had to hire a couple of temp consultants to help out.

          Just yesterday we had one team member tell us that his vacation starts today and so he had to offload his portion of our project onto other team members so we can get everything wrapped up before the end of the year. We have deadlines. Our very good managers can’t tell people they can’t take their PTO because they didn’t finish their portion of a time-sensitive project. (I mean, they *could* but it would be crappy).

          I imagine the parents’ additional PTO is a similar burden to the one my team member caused because they are likely using it without a lot of notice.

          And, yes, a whole category of people getting more than just flexibility in their start/end times and working location but actual *additional whole paid days off* is a problem.

          1. MK*

            Whether it does or doesn’t depends on the work the person taking time off does. It’s not a given that it will create more work for their coworkers, just a possibility.

            1. Lurker*

              That doesn’t make sense. If someone can take time off without it creating work for others, then maybe that job/position is redundant. If a person is doing work and they stop doing their work, then either someone else has to pick up the slack, or their work doesn’t need to get done (see previous sentence).

        3. Anon for this, colleagues read here*

          The problem is that workplaces way too often don’t operate like that. If it’s extra PTO for me because my husband has been incapacitated by anxiety or because I landed in the hospital and am now working slowly, well, BooYah! But too often that DOESN’T happen. And every more often: it’s not even considered until someone is desperate, rather than putting it into the policy from the start.

        4. Black Horse Dancing*

          Often when non-parents ask for flexibility, it’s denied. This is BS. Either all the employees should get extra PTO or none.

    7. Moxie*

      I’m also pretty dismayed by the update. As a child free person, I’ve often had to pick up the slack for people with children. I don’t mind doing so, but there needs to be a reward/compensation for that. I don’t think it’s reasonable for a person to say, “I can work fewer hours and have to call out a lot more often, but I should be paid identically to someone without those constraints, and if not, that’s discrimination against people with children.” A lot of my colleagues with children have lamented that they are promoted less frequently than people without children. I think it’s important to see it from the perspective of the people putting the extra time/work in. A former manager of mine once straight up told me, “You don’t have an excuse for not working late, you don’t have kids!” And then proceeded to commit me to do something I wanted to turn down. Six years later and I’m still angry.

    8. Exhausted Employment Lawyer*

      I agree. And I think the same argument applies to paid parental leave (maternity leave for those who give birth can be treated differently, due to the physical impact of that event – it falls more into a medical leave category). Everyone would love a paid hiatus from work for several weeks. That is not said, in ANY way, as a criticism of giving paid leave for having/adopting/fostering a child, nor is it intended to suggest that new parents are popping bonbons on a beach somewhere. But – unlike paid sick leave or health insurance – where we make a societal decision to provide a safety net to people who fall ill, even if those paying into it never need it, the decision to financially prioritize those who have children over those who do not is not something that will be – or should be – the norm.

      Childfree employees should be given substantially similar perks/benefits as parents. Paid sabbatical in lieu of parental leave, and comparable PTO even if the time off is necessarily used by parents for childcare issues.

      Parents doing less work, being given more leeway, or childfree employees having to always work holidays/pick up the slack are managerial and organizational problems, not financial policy ones. And they shouldn’t be tolerated either!

    9. I'm just here for the cats*

      Is the PTO just for parents or is it just a general COVID leave. For example, my workplace gave us all 80 hours of covid leave. We can use it if we get sick ourselves, We have to quarantine and cant work from home, have to take care of a family member who contracts covid, or for childcare or eldercare and cannot work because their care facility (day care, school adult day programs, etc) closed due to covid.

      It sounds like people are looking at it as the parents get extra PTO why can’t I. But really it’s not PTO.

      1. Mirve*

        The update said it was for those “who lost child care options”, so does not sound like it is general, but rather quite specific.

      2. MissM*

        That’s the most equitable solution, so good on your employer! Even though I don’t technically have children, there’s kids in my pod as well as my mother I have to be available for. Because when you try to lawyer it (only these people count as family or children), you’re going to end up disadvantage for someone because family is messy and complicated and not the nuclear ideal.

    10. A Genuine Scientician*

      “That’s a dynamic I’ve seen in every workplace I’ve ever been in, with the single/childless people feeling they were always asked to work overtime, come in to cover for a parent, etc.”

      Have you considered the possibility that the reason it seems like the single/childless people always feel like this is that….many, many organizaions *do* consistently ask the single/childless people to work overtime, cover for a parent, etc?

      I agree that we need to be understanding and more flexible given the current pandemic; childcare is just not possible in the way it used to be. But it’s going to land *very* differently if the employer handles this by either cutting back on the total workload, or offering incentives for coverage vs. making the single/childless people work more hours and/or worse hours for the same pay.

      1. BRR*

        I did not like how that part was treated as if it’s a common attitude and a myth that never actually occurs. At least acknowledge that this is a unique set of circumstances.

  6. Random Commenter*

    LW#2 I’m happy for you, but I think the company has still skewed your expectations.

    “Oh, and another happy ending! The employee that had quit and was still being asked to do work several months later has been officially released, and is on a “important questions only” basis now.”

    An employee who has quit does not have to be “released”. They don’t have any obligations to the company, and several months later is past the point they should even be answering important questions.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Um. Yes. Agreed. This person no longer owes the company anything, not even important questions. They need to stop answering altogether. Company needs to either have a contract and pay them for their expertise or stop asking questions.

      But the rest of it sounds positive for LW#1, so that is good!

    2. Annie Moose*

      Yes!! I came to the comments to say this very thing. That’s not a win! Several months after an employee has left, there is no reason why contacting them should even be on the table!

      1. Yay Time*

        The problem is when you have to cling to a reference like its the thing holding your career together. That’s why this happens.

    3. Software Engineer*

      I thought this too. There is no “oh but now we only contact you for important stuff.” The person is gone. Figure it out. If the company didn’t get everything they needed during the persons notice period, oh well! It’s not perfect to muddle through but life rarely is and you just have to get by. When people aren’t employed anymore you have to just leave them alone

  7. Tired*

    So…people with kids get free PTO (great…everyone could use some help right now) and people without kids get extra work piled on them, no extra PTO, and then accused of sniping & being petty when they note that it’s unfair & frustrating? Wow.

    If parents aren’t working as much then you either cut expectations of what the business unit gets done (what my organization did) or you bring on more people. You can’t punish people for not being able to or choosing not to have kids. I hope all your childfree employees find much better companies to work for soon.

    1. mf*

      Yeah, I don’t love this update. On one hand, I have a LOT of sympathy for parents right now. On the other hand, they are not the only ones dealing with extra stress right now. Lots of childless/childfree parents are dealing with extenuating circumstances and could probably use the extra PTO right now.

      1. Vichyssuave*

        And not even extenuating. A lot of childless people are also single people. And living alone is all great and well and good when you have social outlets. Quarantine is hitting everyone hard for different reasons but remember to make sure to check on on those you know who live alone, childless or not. One of my dear friends has not physically touched another human being in months for instance.

    2. Fiddle Faddle*

      Recently I read a couple articles online about a federal agency (I think) that put the folks with children on 3/4 time, continued to pay them their full salaries, and expected the remaining employees to put in extra time to handle the extra work that had just landed on them (with NO increase in pay). Basically the parents got paid for work being performed by others. This generated much comment.

      1. Tired*

        I’m federal.

        Yes, people with caregiving responsibilities can request paid administrative leave each week. That is all caregivers, not just parents. But in my agency that work isn’t being given to other people (except some juggling where people’s normal jobs aren’t necessary right now. So for example our front desk folks who normally work with the public are doing other jobs because our building is closed to the public.) We’ve just rejuggled priorities and some stuff just isn’t getting done. And EVERYONE has flexibility…we can all shift our hours around, we can take mental health days, anyone can say at 2pm on a random day that they are running to get their curbside order. And heck, we have a couple people who are going absolutely stir crazy and WANT to work extra hours…so they waived to OT/comp time limits so those people can pick up some slack.

        The point is not that parents shouldn’t get flexibility or have reduced workload expectations…the point is those should be available to EVERYONE.

    3. nodramalama*

      I agree! It’s great that parents are getting additional PTO but if its forcing your child-free employees into overtime then of course they’re unhappy! that’s not ‘sniping’. It seems to be a very common occurance where childfree people are work are assumed to have free time and their time off isn’t as important because they dont have kids and this seems to be an exacerbation of that.

    4. Black Horse Dancing*

      Agreed. I hope the childfree/child less get great new jobs and leave this company in the lurch. I’d appreciate OP naming the company so I can choose to not support it.

    5. Hiding From My Boss*

      I’m with you. The tone of the post sounded dismissive, using words like “sniping.” This is a legitimate concern, it’s been expressed for a long time, and it still isn’t resolved in a lot of workplaces.

      In our many conference calls these days, managers often ask how everyone is doing. Very quickly it segues onto the stresses the parents are experiencing, the childcare and home schooling challenges, lack of social or recreational activities for little Justin and Jennifer, etc etc etc. There isn’t much interest in what nonparents are going through. I guess we’re having a ball, especially those who also live alone and are experiencing social isolation for the duration.

    6. J.B.*

      I feel like the way the pandemic has been handled in the US exacerbates all of our existing fault lines. Putting the burden on individual employees to figure it out happens because companies are figuring stuff out ad hoc… In my view the best way to handle it would be to spread the burden across all of society and have a real plan. Which wouldn’t be perfect but still better than the chaos now.

  8. More on that later*

    Hang on. Was letter writer #3 basically fired for reporting harassing comments? I get that she’s at another job now and it’s likely water under the bridge at this point, but that still really irks me. I’m sure that employer could cite “budget constraints” or anything they want to keep themselves out of hot legal water, but it’s still a pretty crappy way to handle things. OP, I’m just very happy you’ve moved on to a better situation!

  9. Bob*

    OP3: I wonder if you have an unfair dismissal suit possible here.
    You obviously don’t want the job back and it may sound greedy of me but i do wonder if a lawyer writing them a letter might have gotten you some justice.

  10. AKchic*

    Oh no. No LW3. No. You did not get any satisfaction there. The company is a complete beehive of scum and villainy for allowing a manager who, as far as I can see, sexually harassed you to become head of HR and then fire you for having the good sense to say “yo, don’t do that”.

    You may not think it worthwhile to fight the (former) boss, but I doubt you were an isolated incident, and I hope someone else does fight back. I hope they win big.

    1. Lucious*

      It’s far from happy, but LW3 called it right- it was probably the best outcome.

      Companies promote people who fit a certain culture. That org culture is not always a healthy one. If a sexist boss is considered “higher management material” (for an HR role at that) , odds are leadership above them thinks the same way.

      So if they stayed, OP would be working at a company with a sexist HR leader , and their replacement probably would become just as toxic as the last boss because again….bad culture. So exiting was the only possible alternative here, and at least this way LW3 can get unemployment & reset for a hopefully much less toxic working experience.

    1. Morticia*

      I know it’s too late to get her into the Worst Boss of the Year contest (and really, she wouldn’t have won,), but maybe we can get her an Honourable Mention?

  11. Professional Straphanger*

    With respect to #2 – yeah, I’m childfree. And I get that nobody could ever have predicted this and yeah, parents need accommodation now. But there’s this unspoken assumption in the workplace and society in general: those without kids pick up the slack, and when they are parents someone without kids will pick up the slack for them. It ignores the growing number of us who have opted out of that equation and are getting tired of being the last bastion.

    Generally when you step up and take on extra duties for whatever reason there is a reward at the end: a promotion, a raise, extra vacation days. But the whole “we’ve never had this happen before!” is going to be the reason those of us without kids get shafted again when it comes time to recognize who did the work, because the same excuse is going to be trotted out: “You can’t blame parents for this and it’s not fair that you’re rewarding people without kids because parents didn’t have the option to step up!” So management will cave and do some cheap feel-good thing for those of us who did the work of two people, and hold off on promotions/rewards until the parents have been back at work long enough for everything to be “fair” again.

    And I’m not even mad at parents anymore. I’ve been in the workplace long enough that I know exactly what to expect from them, which is laid out so beautifully at the end of the LW’s update: “the single/childless people feeling they were always asked to work overtime, come in to cover for a parent, etc. But other than that, everything worked out beautifully.” So glad we could once again subsidize someone else’s decision to have kids, lady!

    1. J.B.*

      Um, you do still sound like you are angry at parents more so than at your employer. Is it possible that the overall expectations are too high?

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes, sometimes in a dire emergency (which this pandemic is) it’s ok to treat people according to their needs, not 100% the same across the board. (And yes, obviously, non-parents needing mental health time and a reasonable workload is a need too.)

        But the fact that every time anyone needs any accommodation due to having kids and can’t be a good workerbot, the non parents tear them down for being so selfish/careless/foolish/whatever as to bring a child into the world and insist that because they did that, they should receive absolutely no support from anyone whatsoever is… Shortsighted from a societal standpoint and playing right into the hands of the wealthy power holders who could provide a workable society for everyone but instead let people go after each other. If bosses are putting an unreasonable burden on people without children to help people with children not entirely drop out of the workforce, Bring it up with the boss, and don’t insult and degrade those who dare to have a baby.

        I don’t have kids either by the way, I’m just not a jerk about it. (And this isn’t a specific response to this exact comment only, just all of the anti-parent comments that come up here and in the New York Times and wherever else anyone writes about parents needing help.)

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          And no, snarking and insulting and refusing to support help for people who have kids is not an appropriate response to the fact that childless/child free adults get hassled by their older relatives about when they’re going to have a baby. Be better than that.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            Why? What’s in it for the childfree worker when their extra work is neither recognized or rewarded AND many parent co-workers expect this flexibility yet don’t extend the same. There is no need to be better when it is never extended to you.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Snarking and insulting people with kids isn’t okay here, period, and I am now closing this entire post because it’s become a pain in the ass to moderate.

  12. WFH with Cat*

    LW #1, I’m glad things worked out for you, but I urge you to rethink the idea that a company “releasing” a former employee months after they quit is in any way remotely normal. It is completely messed up. And any organization that pressures people to keep working after they have quit a job — presumably for free and with no benefits! — is, well, horrible. Please give this some thought as you move forward in your career so that you can adjust your thinking as-needed (including identifying and vanquishing any more not-at-all-normal norms) and leave this toxic mess truly behind you.

    LW #2 – No, sorry, problem is not neatly solved. It is patently unfair to provide more PTO to employees with children than to employees who don’t have children for the simple fact that *everyone* has a personal life and obligations beyond work. Yes, the loss of day care/schooling has created very visible burdens for people with children. But pandemic-related changes of all sorts have added to everyone’s financial, emotional, physical, mental, and time burdens. Not all of those stressors and challenges are as visible as lost childcare — but not visible does not mean less important. It is not right to assume that people without children don’t need additional support and resources in these terrible times. Also, please, reconsider how you hear, consider, and respond to concerns of *all* of your employees. Describing legitimate workplace complaints as “sniping” and declaring that “other than that, everything worked out beautifully./So problem solved for now?” indicate a dismissive and devaluing attitude toward people who don’t have children, at least in this situation. The fact that you’ve seen “the same dynamic” play out in other workplaces is not evidence that giving more resources to employees with children is fair and appropriate. It’s evidence that doing so can create real workplace difficulties, including tension and rifts between groups of employees, and between employees and management.

    LW #3 – I’m extremely glad to hear that you’ve moved on to a better role in a workplace where you are treated with respect. And I hope karma catches up with your old company’s new head of HR.

    LW #4 – Very glad to hear about your new position. It was a teensy bit sad to hear that you won’t have the 100% remote job you’d envisioned, but it sounds like you negotiated well, and I hope you will be very happy with your new arrangement and increased income!

    1. Danielle*

      I can’t tell you much I appreciated your views on LW #2. I can’t have children. I would have liked to, but it’s not a life choice open to me. Thank you for showing that I do have value, other than my ability to provide coverage for parents.

  13. Black Horse Dancing*

    LW#2: This update is infuriating. So your company happily screws over their child free/child less employees. They should give extre PTO to everyone, period. If I was one of those people expected to work for less compensation (which this is), I would drag my heels. Why should I work harder than others for no recognition or compensation?

    1. Anon in Midwest*

      100% agree… I bought a house this year and I could’ve used PTO to arrange contractors, go fix things up myself, and to take time for the move itself. Childfree doesn’t mean no responsibilities during work hours. It’s bs that we’re treated as second class citizens who can do double the work as our parent coworkers. I’ve covered for multiple maternity leaves without help, and it’s hell. Capitalism means there’s always more work and fewer hands to do it anyway… And the most of it falls on the child free people.

    2. Maybe not*

      There is no indication from LW 2 that employees who aren’t experiencing the loss of childcare are doing more work, just that they are griping about a benefit being granted to colleagues in need.

      Based on the information provided, this is a great update. This should be happening all over the place.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        No, it shouldn’t. Either ALL get extra PTO or no one does. Parents are not some special class. We all have obligations and needs and interests. Everyone has someone who depends on them, even if that someone is themselves.

        1. Maybe not*

          I only get bereavement leave if someone in my family dies. Isn’t it awful that I don’t get that PTO unless I need it! If anyone gets it, I should too!!! Seems like a reasonable approach.

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            They are basically paying parents more for less work (the parents get extra PTO). Why? If a company offers extra PTO, offer to all. It’s not like parents are the only ones suffering.

    3. Bostonian*

      They might. It could be blanket care for people who need it for COVID-related reasons, as others have suggested. However, the letter was specifically asking about an employee with childcare issues, so I can see why OP would just pinpoint that aspect of it.

  14. Yvette*

    Here is what I don’t understand. If HR person/boss was leaving, why didn’t LW just keep quiet? Just to perhaps save someone else some aggravation? Granted boss was a nightmare , but she was no longer LW’s problem. These days you really need to look out for your own best interests first. It worked out well in that LW found another job but it could have gone the other way.

  15. WorkerB*

    Re: #2
    I went through an ugly situation with an employer earlier in the year regarding my request for a modified schedule. For whatever reason, they insisted that I had to work the same schedule as everyone else despite having small children at home who needed their parents to usher them through distance learning and the unforgiving demands of a public school system that played dumb when you tried to explain that it’s kinda hard to sit through Zoom meetings and put out fires at work when your kids have assignments due by 2 pm. Oh, and one child really can’t manage things on his own because, well, he can’t read yet.

    After weeks of going back and forth and trying to explain that I could accomplish more if they’d simply let me start my day earlier or work after hours, they finally agreed to help me out. Still, it left an awful taste in my mouth. The culture was already negative at this place and the experience just further demonstrated how petty and malicious management could be. Alas, I’m no longer there.

    For those who think it’s unfair for parents to get concessions, try this out: lock yourself in a room with your desk, laptop, cellphone and a few kids who can’t find their iPad passwords, who are struggling to draw with their index fingers and getting frustrated because, you know, it’s kinda hard to draw a tiger with your index finger on an iPad, who start fighting with each other because “I want him to stop looking at me!”… who can’t find the toilet paper, who want you to take them outside because they’d like to ride their bikes while you work (and you WANT them to be normal children and ride their bikes outside) and who won’t stop asking you for food 24/7 although you just fed them.

    Yes, it’s a picnic. Us parents feel so blessed. Exactly what we planned for our lives.

    1. just me*

      I have absolutely no doubt that in these current times, life is a waking nightmare for many parents. But that doesn’t make the arrangement in #2 fair. I don’t have kids, and while I’m happy to pitch in for coworkers with kids, and they certainly have my sympathy, if my job made a policy like the one in letter 2 I’d start looking for a new one.

    2. The Other Victoria*

      Most of the commenters are sympathetic to what parents are going through, but the solution should not be “Parents get PTO, everyone else gets extra work that they’re very likely not getting paid for and can’t be recognized with promotion because that would be unfair to parents, and when nonparents are upset about this, we’ll call it sniping and portray them as whiny children.” There are solutions that can accommodate the unique challenges of parenting in the pandemic without going to that extreme, other commenters have mentioned offering a comparable amount of PTO to be used once the crisis has passed, bonuses, overtime pay, letting the extra responsibilities factor into individuals’ promotions rather than halting promotions, deprioritizing projects so that the amount of work being done is reflective of the number of people at work rather than the size of the office when people aren’t out, etc.

    3. Doc in a Box*

      Lots of us who are childfree are struggling too. I had to start paying a lawn service for the first time ever, because I live alone and having to cover extra work for colleagues who can’t manage their kids means that I have no more bandwidth for outdoor maintenance tasks. My workload’s gone up about 15% alongside an 8% paycut.

      I have also not had a face-to-face conversation with another person since March and am trying to manage my own elderly parent’s mental illness from a distance (they live in another state; I can’t visit them because my work as a physician makes me a potential vector). Am I allowed to join your pity party?

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