how do I talk to my husband about his poor work ethic and bad attitude?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

My question is regarding my husband’s transition from a manufacturing job to a more corporate environment.

My husband (“Jim”) worked on the line in a factory setting for many years. Just over two years ago, he accepted a new job related to his previous field, still mostly manual labor but with a wider variety of tasks, less repetitive work, and opportunities to improve his skills and work his way up in the company. He took a slight pay cut when accepting the role as he still had to complete some certifications to become fully qualified for the position. The company stipulated that they would reimburse him for his course costs provided that the courses were passed within two years of his hire date.

When hired, he was assigned to a two-person team alongside “Bob,” who has been with the company for 20 years and is fully certified. My husband had a difficult time adjusting to the differing expectations between himself and Bob. His main complaints are that Bob gets easier assignments, has more flexibility in his work hours, and has much more vacation time than him. I believe that his resentment over this is causing him to display a very poor work ethic.

For example, Jim has been calling in sick between two and four times a month since he started. While the medical issues he’s experiencing are genuine, he is not pursuing medical treatment aggressively enough to warrant this amount of time off. (We live in Canada and his salary package includes additional medical benefits, so cost is not a concern here.) I notice that Jim’s sick days tend to coincide with Bob’s vacations (i.e. Bob takes a week off, and Jim calls in sick on Monday and Tuesday after the vacation). In addition, I know for a fact that Jim regularly falsifies his timesheets and arrives at work up to two hours past his start time, or leaves early in order to beat traffic, as Bob often does. He has also not completed or even registered for the certification courses that he needs to do.

He recently had his two-year performance review and it did not go well. His bonus is dependent on the results of the review, and this year he’s receiving one-third of the amount he received last year. He is livid about it and said his managers are being petty and discriminatory. I looked over the review rubric and all of their concerns are about absenteeism and lack of drive. He’s lost the opportunity to be paid back by the company for his certification courses, though they still want him to complete them and have reiterated he’ll still receive a raise when he’s certified.

I have always worked in a white-collar environment, and so I tried to explain gently where I think they’re coming from (unplanned sick days cause a lot of disruptions for managers and teams, bonuses aren’t guaranteed, they’re an incentive to perform well, etc.) but he refuses to listen to me. He says he works harder than Bob does, that he’s being discriminated against for having a health problem, and that no one reminded him to register for the certification courses so he shouldn’t be penalized. He no longer wants to get certified because of the reimbursement issue and has appealed to his manager to increase his bonus amount unsuccessfully.

I have really no idea what to do about Jim now and am increasingly worried that he’s putting our family income at risk with his poor attitude and inability to see the forest for the trees. I know you don’t give marital advice, but is this a typical adjustment problem for many blue collar workers, in your experience? Is there any diplomatic wording that would help him understand why things aren’t going the way he would like?

Readers, what’s your advice?

Read an update to this letter here

{ 405 comments… read them below }

  1. Foreign Octopus*

    Having gone from blue-collar to white-collar work, the transition is a little odd and I imagine that’s amplified by the fact that Jim’s spent most of his life working the line but it shouldn’t have taken two years to transition and get to grips with the expectations of working in white collar. Honestly, you’re between a rock and a hard place because you’re his wife; all of these concerns should be coming from his manager (and maybe they are). I think the best thing you can do is drop the gentleness from your voice and have a serious discussion with him about how worried you are about what happens to the family income if he gets fired. If your salary isn’t enough to support the family without him, tell him that.

    It might help shift his thinking and, if it doesn’t, maybe this job isn’t for him and he needs to return to what he was doing before. There’s no shame in something not working out, particularly if the alternative is to continue living with a chip on the shoulder.

    Good luck.

    1. Myrin*

      Agreed on all counts (as someone who is the only person in her entire family who has ever worked in an office), especially since his new job is “more corporate” but still “related to his previous field, still mostly manual labor but with a wider variety of tasks, less repetitive work, and opportunities to improve his skills”, so it doesn’t even sound like he’s had to do a full 180 in a completely unknown environment.

      OP, I would be interested in learning what Jim’s work ethic was like when he was still in his factory job. I find it hard to believe that Bob’s existence and everything that brings with it is literally the only thing causing his performance problems, so is it at all possible that this has little to do with an adjustment to his new role and that it is just more visible to you now?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I’m wondering if he’s mad because he’s having a harder time getting away with stuff now that he’s had to start over.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          Behind the anger is probably some FEAR. I think he may be resorting to cheating out of insecurity and fear. Maybe a “Life Coach” or “Career Coach” could help him in a therapy way.

          It’s easy to judge but behind the bravado he may feel he got in over his head. He needs to step up and deal with this.

          It’s hard to be seeing so clearly what’s going on, as the spouse. And he might or might not tell the truth if he did speak to a professional.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I think this is really worth digging into. In a lot of cases, men don’t really feel like they have the option to express negative emotions apart from anger. So I’m wondering how much of Jim’s righteous indignation here is actually “I had all these expectations about how my job was going to go and then it didn’t go that way and I’m really disappointed and sad” or “I know I screwed up here and I feel ashamed of myself for letting it get this far” or “these conversations with my boss make me afraid that I’m going to lose my job and I don’t know what to do.” There are a lot of negative social consequences for men who feel and express things like disappointment or helplessness, because those things supposedly make a person weak. But it’s okay for him to be disappointed that this job doesn’t make him feel like he though it would.

            This is a big conversation, OP, and it’s both about Jim’s job and not about Jim’s job all at the same time. I hope the two of you are able to figure this out.

            1. Data Bear*

              Good insight!

              If this is the case, OP’s most effective route may be expressing unconditional spousal support to get Jim to open up and allow himself to be vulnerable enough to share his feelings and problems. If it’s an emotional intimacy issue, it may be important to defuse conflict and highlight that marriage is a team effort and you’re on the same side.

            2. Alison*

              Totally agree with Librarian’s analysis, I’ve seen this first hand. Is there a pattern of Jim acting this way around other situation where they’ve struggled? That might be telling that he doesn’t know how to handle the emotions outside of anger. That said, I also know some people very well (family members) who have some…narcissistic tendencies and never take responsibility for their actions/failures and just deflect and blame other people around them, compare themselves unfairly and act like they deserve things that are unearned (Bob has more vacation time because he’s been here longer. I just started but I deserve the same amount!). It can be difficult to tell that kind of behavior from the “I’m struggling and don’t know how to express or accept it” behavior if you aren’t familiar with it. I do think that the narcissistic tendencies come out in other aspects of their lives besides work – in the way they talk about themselves and how they talk about and treat others. It should be really telling when you actually try to talk to them about it and how they react. Good luck!

            3. Mangofan*

              This is a beautiful point – thank you for raising it, and thanks to the other commenters on this sub-thread for offering additional perspectives!

        2. LeahS*

          That is a good question! After having worked in the office of manufacturing plant, I am not sure that is the case. Manufacturing jobs are typically the type where you can’t be one minute late and the policies are super strict. It is not easy to get away with things in that environment in my experience (When I was hourly in a manufacturing office environment I was not given any leeway). He may be thinking that an office environment is more relaxed and he can get away with things though.

          1. Jay*

            I also worked in the office of a production/manufacturing facility – I was in charge of payroll as well as various other things and they were VERY strict about time worked, sick/vacation days, etc etc in addition to having understandably high expectations for work load and ethics. It was a 24/7 facility, and while I wouldn’t say it was impossible to slack off, it was very difficult especially on 1st and 2nd shifts, which is usually when the production manager was there. 3rd shit was probably a little more lax, but if anything that was supposed to be done overnight wasn’t… well that didn’t happen regularly that’s for sure.

            I would definitely say that they both worked harder and had less time/allowance for slacking than I did, but of course everywhere is different.

          2. Yorick*

            In his previous jobs, he knew what he could get away with and how. Now he thinks he can get away with certain things (being late, not completing certification courses) and is upset that it’s not working.

          3. Mr. Shark*

            He is also looking at what Bob is doing and thinking he can get away with the same thing. But there are different levels of responsibility and flexibility based on the level you are at within the compnay, and what type of work you are doing.
            He has to take in what the requirements of his job are and meet that expectation.
            I work with manufacturing and agree that the shop floor is very strict on hours, when you have to be there and when you can leave. Office support of manufacturing shop floor allows a little more flexibility, but largely you still have to be available for shop floor support and be there at the same time as the shop floor.
            So he may have thought he could get more flexibility than the job really allows.
            Regardless, falsifying time sheets is not allowable in any job, white or blue collar.

          4. Dust Bunny*

            We used to have problems with people clocking their friends in when the friends hadn’t arrived yet, etc., and for awhile an employee was in charge of adding up hours and would cover for friends who hadn’t been on time.

          5. Not So NewReader*

            My experience is along the line of what you say here, LeahS. And the actual problem I saw was that “white collar folks” were perceived as not working a full work day for various reasons. One example could be that in a manufacturing setting people often times are not allowed to chat with each other because of safety concerns and the potential of being distracted. So working in an office and seeing cohorts chat away and chat away could be very anger inducing- especially if the former boss was abusive in the way they delivered the “no chatting” message.
            Anger with that former boss/ former work environment can masquerade as anger with current cohorts.

            In fairness I do think some elitism goes on- as in- “Those office people do not know what hard work is.” So hubby could be having some of this also.

          6. Sweet Christmas*

            Yeah, I was wondering about this myself. Most of my family are blue-collar workers (and both of my parents were growing up), and blue-collar jobs in general tend to be more exacting when it comes to being on time and following rules. And in some jobs, they show up on time because they want their colleagues to do the same – because they can’t leave until their replacement shows up.

          7. Emma*

            I wonder if this is part of what he’s struggling with. He’s used to an environment where everyone has to be on time, focused, working hard* or otherwise they’ll get in the shit. Then he sees, in his perception, Bob slacking off all the time and facing no consequences. That might feel really really unfair.

            When you’re working closely with one person and don’t have a lot of interaction with others, and you see that one person getting away with murder… it can be really hard to maintain your integrity and avoid the temptation to follow suit. Sitting in the office until 17:00 when the only other person there left an hour early to watch the football, or whatever, is hard and it can leave you feeling like there’s no point in following the rules because nobody cares. Then you get a performance review and find out that somebody *does* care after all, bit you’re already in bad habits.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        This. Having worked in factories myself prior to my white collar work, and having parents who worked in factories as well, the concept of the newbie having to do the grunt work to prove himself in a role should not be alien to Jim.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Yes, I feel like the sentiments expressed here don’t really have anything to do with collar-hue transition. My dad was a blue collar worker, and whenever he asks me about my job (not exactly white collar, I work in a public school), he always asks me when I get there, because he knows I cut it close (because I can’t clock in early), and then goes off on an advice tangent about how I should always be 15 minutes early, etc. All good advice, though I ignore it, that he learned as a laborer who was promoted to supervision very young.

          Particularly if OP’s husband worked in a factory, he should know the value of timely clockkeeping, shift coverage, seniority/hierarchy/reporting structure, and maybe even certifications, depending on the equipment used. It could be that he’s OVER-applying what he’s always imagined office work to be like, but it’s definitely not a lag in collar-shift. Sounds mostly like he needs a come-to-Jesus attitude adjustment toward this job, his role in it, the expectations, and his role as it relates to Bob.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            And like, of course Bob has more vacation time… he’s been in the job way longer! It sounds like Jim may be somewhat immature in general, but he’s really scapegoating Bob here instead of dealing with his own problems.

        2. norma rae*

          I was thinking that too! And I’m not sure if he worked in a union factory, but especially if he did, he should be used to people with more seniority having more vacation/first pick at days off, etc.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            I agree. I think his expectations would be that he would have all this freedom as more of an office worker, and that just because Bob gets to do these things, though Bob is a different level, different job, different requirements, that he should automatically get all of those benefits as well. It doesn’t work like that at all, as Princess mentions. There are heirarchies of jobs and work responsibilities that may mean he has to be 100% on time and be able to cover 100% rather than flexibility of leaving a little early, coming in a little late and working late.

        3. cabbagepants*

          Perhaps the difference is that Jim no longer seems himself as a newbie and is resistant to having to start over from the beginning. i.e. a problem of self-image/chip on his shoulder vs being wholly ignorant to the culture.

          1. Chinook*

            This may be a part of it and the only issue that the OP, as a wife, can really deal with. I am working with injured blue-collar types who are training for computer/office work and the one thing I find myself having to remind them is that they are now apprentices in their new field, not journeyman like they were at their last job, which means grunt work as well as having to ask questions and accept that they won’t be as competent at the task at hand as they are used to being. I also often remind them to “keep your eyes on your own work” and not judge their assignments by what others are doing.

            For some, it is a hard mental transition, which may be the case of OP’s husband. But, I do wonder if he may be one of the few workers who are used to toeing the line of “do as little as possible without getting fired” who now lacks the knowledge of where the line is. And, as much as this will affect the OP financially (and my heart breaks for her as she watches Jim self sabotage himself and take her down with him), it is not her job to change her husband’s work ethic. That is Jim’s manager’s job and, frankly, he seems to have been slacking as much as Jim if it was allowed to keep happening over a 2 year period.

        4. Secret Identity*

          I’m not sure I agree with that. I came from a blue collar, factory type background and it’s been my experience that everyone was basically the same depending on what job you’re doing. For example, where I worked, everyone in each department and on each shift started at the same wage and received raises at the same rates. Everyone was given the same amount of PTO. There was no negotiating salary or vacation time. No one had flexibility around coming in later or leaving early. The hours were the hours and the pay was the pay. The only people who made more money than others were the ones who were on production and could meet or exceed the production. But, again, the jobs were exactly the same, so if I couldn’t meet the production and didn’t earn as much as Suzie, I knew it was not because Suzie was getting special treatment.
          Going in to an environment where Bob has some flexibility about when he comes in or leaves and he’s paid more plus he has more vacation time, but he’s doing basically the same job as you might be quite jarring when you’re used to something so different. You expect that Bob is doing the same job, he needs to be treated exactly the same as me – same hours, same vacation, same pay, etc. Yes, Jim should be able to make that adjustment – I’m just saying it’s not always easy peasy to do that.

          1. doreen*

            I come from a blue-collar background and what I saw was almost exactly the opposite of what you report. Joe and Tom did exactly the same job – but if Joe was there two years and Tom was there five , Tom got paid a bit more and got more vacation days. But there wasn’t any bargaining about vacation time or salary – it was all set in stone based on seniority. So while Tom got more vacation and pay than Joe, Joe got exactly the same as Karen who started the same day as him. And at some point, Joe and Tom and Karen would all earn the same pay and vacation- because there was a point (usually somewhere between 5 and 10 years) where a person reached the top salary and maximum vacation.

            It wouldn’t have been at all difficult for my relatives to understand Bob getting paid more or earning more vacation – they would have probably had difficulty with the idea of anyone having any flexibility in their schedule, though.

            1. Zennish*

              Ditto. Most of my family worked in blue collar mechanical and factory jobs. Almost everything (pay, sick time, vacation time, etc.) was a direct function of seniority.

              I suspect either A) Jim is incredibly entitled, and doesn’t understand why the new guy isn’t getting the same respect, benefits and treatment as the more proven people. Maybe he was one of the “top dogs” at his old job, and resents the change. Or, B) Jim absolutely hates and feels overwhelmed by the new job and is subconsciously self-sabotaging, and generally acting out.

      3. WellRed*

        Yeah, there’s no way he hasn’t been this much of an ass (sorry, but that’s what I’m seeing here) before. Time for a hard conversation, possibly with a therapist.

        1. daytripper75*

          I agree. My first thought was, “Girl, leave.” This is likely his personality and I bet the marriage is not a pleasant one.

          1. cabbagepants*

            The bit about “no one reminded me to take this course so it’s not my fault” is what jumped out at me. I find it hard to believe that he doesn’t also bring thing sort of cr*p to his marriage.

        2. Just @ me next time*

          I don’t think that’s a fair conclusion. It’s important to consider how the type and scope of his work has changed. It could be that the tasks he did in his former job were things his brain was totally happy doing for a full workday. And now the new tasks he has to work on are using different parts of his brain and feel stressful or confusing enough that he’s searching for ways to opt out of them (like being late or calling in sick).

          Another possibility is that some other factor, like his health, is having an impact on his ability to remain focused and productive. LW mentions that their husband is having medical issues. Most medical issues have the potential to disrupt a person’s work habits.

          I would suggest the LW start by reaching out to their husband from a place of compassion to ask what’s going on. Say something like, “I’ve noticed you’re often late for work or calling in sick. Why do you think that is? What can I do to support you?” LW can only really manage this in terms of how it affects their relationship as partners (financial contributions to the household and husband’s behaviour outside of work). It’s not up to LW to evaluate and manage their spouse’s work performance.

          1. Charlief*

            This is a stretch but may be worth looking into – is there an educational barrier that he’s hidden? I know some people who don’t have enough literacy (they can read enough to get by – signs / menus/ simple instructions etc- but freeze and need more support if expected to, for example complete a course with small essays or whatever). It’s mortifying and also if you are a smart person otherwise you become very good at workarounds and hiding it.

      4. Classic Rando*

        Yeah, a lot of what op describes sounds like the excuses my ex always had. Nothing was ever his fault, his managers were out to get him, etc. Ignoring the fact that his attendance was terrible, or that he got caught talking s*it about the manager, or, or, or…
        My ex’s many, many excuses were the biggest reason I left. I told him multiple times that I couldn’t keep being the only one with ft employment, the only breadwinner (at like $21k/ year!) In the end he wouldn’t change, squandered a good union opportunity, bounced between low-paying pt jobs, and always had more excuses.
        OP, stop being gentle, tell him straight up how this is affecting you, what your worries are, etc. I hope he listens and improves.

      5. Lil Fidget*

        There is often an expectation in white collar work that you will get delayed rewards; I’m not sure if this is as pervasive in blue collar work, where I think they are more clear that people work for money, and there’s sometimes unions etc. involved. For example, in every office job I’ve had, they expect you to do the work of the next position for some time (six months, a year) *before* they give you the raise and promotion; so you are in effect doing more valuable work without the pay at first. I don’t think factory work expects you to be line supervisor without the title and pay. Likewise bonuses and other incentive structures. Still, the husband shouldn’t need to take a year to adjust to it.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          You’re right about the delayed rewards piece, and I suspect it goes deeper than simply what happens at work. The educational requirements of a lot of white-collar jobs require being in school for longer, which in some respects is a way of selecting for people who have low time preference. Once you’re working, it’s pretty common to do some formal or informal professional development, on your or the company’s time and/or dime, without an assurance that it will directly translate into a promotion or raise.

          So much of the culture of white-collar work is dependent on certain attitudes around time preference and investment that I’m not sure that someone who isn’t comfortable with delayed or insecure rewards would thrive there.

          1. pancakes*

            I think this is generally true, but “we need you to complete these certifications within two years” is pretty clear-cut, as are the usual consequences for falsifying timesheets.

        2. Works in IT*

          My blue collar retail job did this too. They didn’t actually make the promotion with pay increase and title change official until the busy season ended and my hours were cut.

          Expectation that you will do the job you want to be promoted to is not unique to white collar jobs.

      6. NinaBee*

        Sounds like he’s struggling with the hierarchy/power dynamics between him and Bob (especially if they’re of similar age?). If he feels he’s ‘beneath’ Bob in terms of job status and having to come into this new job at a more entry/lower level, he might be having issues with pride and his sense of self as a man. He’s almost copying Bob’s behaviour with time off and leaving early/coming in late as a way to try and equalise that disparity between them. Maybe if his wife or managers could talk to him from that perspective and help him with his self esteem it may help him to listen.

    2. LCH*

      my first thought was also maybe this is just a poor fit. he’s been there two years and (sort of) given it a shot. he might just need to get a job where he better understands the expectations.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I wonder if it’s an option for Jim to do the work he used to do. It sounds like he was successful at it. He chose to leave it for this current job so he must have had some reason to want a change. But he has a proven track record with his previous work and it pays as well as the current job.

        Unfortunately it’s his partner asking for advice and I’m not sure what she can do. But if Jim was asking, I’d tell him to consider going back to to the work that went well for many years.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is where I land. “Honey, you sound really unhappy at this job. Life is too short to be this unhappy. Let’s talk about you finding a different place to work and work that is more comfortable for you.”

    3. Artemesia*

      It is hard to have a good marriage if you have to be your husband’s Mommy and nothing turns a man into a whiny baby faster than a nagging wife, so you are in a very difficult position. You have probably already talked to him enough about this that he tunes you out. If it were me I would give it one last shot — pick a time and place where you can sit down and actually have a conversation without interruption and where you can both focus and tell him that it is the last time you are going to have the conversation. And focus on no more than 3 points in your message — maybe 1. your fear for the family if they have to rely on your job alone. 2. everyone has problems making a transition to work situations with different norms. 3. what he needs to do to succeed is in his performance review and everyone has to go above and beyond to succeed in a new job situation.

      And I would be looking at your financial situation and working on my own plan B for when he loses this job. What could you do to downsize to cheaper quarters, cut back on expenses etc so you have a plan if he crashes and burns.

      Your bigger issue is living with someone like this in a marriage — it is hard to have a marriage when you can’t respect your partner. You might look into therapy to help you sort out dealing with this very difficult situation. This is really tough.

      1. Lunar Caustic*

        “…nothing turns a man into a whiny baby faster than a nagging wife…”

        Ahem. Men who behave like this are not being “turned into” anything. They are fully formed human beings who are deliberately choosing to devalue and ignore advice that they don’t like. They have all the agency in the world and have weaponized misogyny to try to fob off responsibility for their own problems. Make sure you’re not doing their dirty work for them.

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            This. Just this. “Bob” may only learn his lesson when he loses his job. But I too am worried about that marriage: a man who blames everyone but himself for his own failures, takes unnecessary sick days because he doesn’t take care of himself and thinks he’s entitled to falsify his time card/sheet/record (which can get him instantly fired in many, many workplaces) does NOT sound like the model of mature manhood to me. Bob has his share of problems at work, but the LW has THEIR share of his problems, too!

            1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

              Sorry, I mixed up “Bob” and “Jim”! Bob is doing fine; JIM is the one who needs to grow up and buckle down! (Sorry, Bob!)

            2. TardyTardis*

              There was an SF book called KOMARR by Bujold where the husband was one of those people who blamed everyone but himself for what went wrong. It did not turn out well for him.

        1. DerJungerLudendorff*

          Agreed. Those men decide to act like babies. Thats not the fault of the poor woman who married them.

        2. EmmaPoet*

          Also, nagging is one of those words that often gets thrown around when women do things like say, “Will you please do this chore you said you were going to do six hours ago?” Or, “No, you can’t ‘wait till the game is over’ to watch the kids, because I have to go to work.”

          1. AskJeeves*

            Yes. Expressing concern to your spouse because their sustained poor behavior is going to get them fired and cause your family to be financially unstable is not “nagging.”

      2. Jenni*

        I think this is important- is the behavior in this job something you’re seeing at home as well? It’s hard to imagine he slacks at work but is fully invested and doing his fair share at home.

      3. Amaranth*

        It sounds like Jim is overwhelmed and instead of buckling down for training and admitting he needs help, he’s heavily into avoidance. If he avoids work and Bob then he also avoids or puts off feedback on how well/poorly work was completed while Bob was gone. And looking/feeling inadequate around Bob. Its not a very effective technique, obviously. I’m kind of surprised he’s sustained the new position for two years and they’re keeping him on board despite his not doing the certifications. That argues he does have valuable skills worth their time, or they are really reluctant about firings.

        That said, there isn’t anything LW can really do except sit him down and ask if he wants to change jobs back to something that will make him happy, since this obviously isn’t it. Or, he can go to his boss and discuss how to improve, and maybe they’d still pay for all or part of the training if he promises to complete it in x months (if thats even possible). It might be worth getting him evaluated medically — perhaps his existing medical issues or the meds have caused depression or other problems.

      4. cabbagepants*

        Honestly, I’d stick to #1 only. You can’t care about your husband’s career success *for* him; he has to bring that caring himself. Currently he’s not doing that, so, since you are still his wife, focus on the impact to your life together of his career choices that he has willingly made.

    4. Lily*

      In your shoes, I’d be more than a bit miffed that he took away money of your household that you probably were counting upon (not doing the courses on time and thus needing to pay for it with his/your own money instead of getting reimbursed) and I’d like to have some really good explanation for this from a domestic partner.

  2. RagingADHD*

    If I knew my husband was falsifying his timesheets, I wouldn’t be talking to him about his work ethic or job expectations.

    I’d be talking to him about his personal integrity and/or mental health, because I didn’t marry a liar, and I presume you didn’t either.

    There is some larger issue going on here than difficulty adjusting to white-collar norms. Falsifying timesheets and not showing up to work on time are not blue-collar norms.

    1. FormerTVGirl*

      I think this is really key. Especially a couple years in, this doesn’t sound like a “blue collar-to-white collar” adjustment, this sounds like a mental health concern. I’m not a mental health professional, but if you have any in your network/social circle, I might reach out to ask for advice about how to broach this with your husband.

      1. Snark*

        Time theft and absenteeism can be indications of mental health issues, but they can also indicate that someone’s lazy, dishonest, and will do whatever they can get away with.

        1. Amaranth*

          It can also be a sign of extreme anxiety – if he feels overwhelmed then he could be avoiding work, Bob, etc. I’m assuming this is new behavior, of course.

    2. Susan Calvin*

      Yes, that’s what I thought – the white collar adjustment is a red herring. Absenteeism, timesheet fudging and staying up to date on certifications are, if anything, *more* of an issue in the trades than in many office jobs!

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I haven’t worked a factory jobs, but the service jobs where you clock in and out were all WAY more strict about my timesheet. Several times at one job the software was glitching so I couldn’t electronically clock in, and I still would get written up, then have to write a whole explanation of how I actually wasn’t late, and then the write-up would be removed….all of that and I was physically present when I was supposed to be!

        If I were the OP, I would be starting with the timesheet issue and trying to understand how my husband was arriving at the conclusion that this is a good idea.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My take was that he thinks that now he’s in an office he can at last get away with this stuff.

        1. Sara M*

          Yeah, I think he’s mad to discover the white collar job isn’t the cushy do-nothing role he dreamed of.

          1. Mami21*

            Agreed, especially when he compares his role as the new, unproven hire, to Bob’s, the guy who’s already paid his dues and enjoys trust from management and increased flexibility in his schedule as a result.

      3. GreenDoor*

        Came here to say the same. In most white collar jobs there is way more leeway for these kinds of things because we don’t punch a clock and workplace safety isn’t as much of an issue (think driving a forklift vs. sitting in a chair all day).

        But white collor blue collar, man….I review misconduct files in my job and many firings around my white collar place boil doing to excessive absenteeism, no-call, no-show, abuse of time, and falsifying credentials. He’s in serious danger of losing his job. I think you need to approach this with a “You admitted to X, I see and hear you doing Y…..and this is how it could affect our family, marriage, finances etc.

        And have a Plan B ready if he loses his job and you become the sole bread winner!

      4. emmelemm*

        That was my thought too. He should be really used to time-keeping if he did shift work. I guess maybe he thinks that since he *can* falsify the timesheets (he must not literally have to punch a clock) that this is OK somehow in office work?

    3. The OP (The Wife)*

      I’m the OP here, and I agree that falsifying timesheets is not a blue-collar norm. Since I’ve been working from home the last year and he’s still been going into work as an ‘essential’ employee, I’ve been noticing the discrepancy in his working hours, which I’ve asked him about. The job has 2 shifts, one starting at 7AM, the other at 9AM. When Bob ‘starts’ at 9AM, he doesn’t come in until 12 and still leaves at 4:30 or 5. My husband thinks that if Bob is doing that, then he should be allowed to as well, so he leaves the house at 9, arriving at work at 10 or 10:30 those weeks. Since both of them do it, he insists that this is the company norm, but I don’t know if his managers know they both do this.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        For all anyone knows, Bob is working off site or doing something else during that time. I once dealt with a young person who routinely came in late and left early, and when it was pointed out as a problem, she pointed at a senior person (Fergus) who (she perceived) came in late and left early. The missing pieces that she didn’t have:
        –Fergus spent his morning in meetings, so although he wasn’t in the office until noon, his work day usually started much earlier.
        –When Fergus left early (4:30) it was usually because he had more meetings or other duties offsite OR he was signing on in the evening and doing more work.
        –With Fergus’ seniority and proven track record, he was entitled to do whatever he d— well pleased because he’d earned that right and his occasional light hours were balanced out by years of hard work and sacrifice.
        Suffice it to say, young person ended up getting fired.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Our controller/accountant leaves everyday at 2:30 to pick her daughter up from school (in normal, non-pandemic times). One of our coworkers complained about it, but he didn’t realize she took her laptop home with her and would still work 40 hours a week. It was an arrangement that worked well for everyone, she still did all the work that was required for her position, and no one managing her felt she had to adhere to a strict 9-5 schedule. The complaining coworker had a schedule that was reliant on him being on site to oversee work done during set hours. He couldn’t seem to compute that her work didn’t require the same strict schedule. Some people just like to complain…or milk the system…

        2. A Simple Narwhal*

          Yup my former boss used to leave by 4pm every day, if that’s all you saw you might be annoyed. But in actuality she was getting in by 7 every day and was probably working more hours than most people – she had a long commute and couldn’t drive well at night so it was easier/safer for her to shift her hours. But either way if all you thought was “Charlene leaves by 4pm everyday” you’d be missing a big chunk of the picture.

          1. Rebecca*

            I work in a school, and class hours are rigid but all the non-teaching stuff gets done on my own time/schedule (usually on weekends and holidays). I have a giant commute and am out the door with the children at the end of the day, which is highly visible.

            Not visible is that I have a key to my school and arrive in the dark wee hours, usually a full hour before the gates open and an hour and a half before even the director shows up, and do at least as much prep/work before school as most people do after classes, and more than a lot of them. I also carry a bag of work and my laptop home at the end of most days.

            We can’t all only go by what we see our co-workers doing, and anybody who says, “But Bob gets to….” just sounds like one of my nine year olds complaining when another kid gets help on his homework. It’s childish and blinkered.

          2. Bluesboy*

            I used to work in a company where you could arrive any time between 8 and 10am, and leave any time between 6 and 8pm, as long as you worked a basic minimum of hours and got your work done.

            Some people decided to start at 8 and leave at 6. The people who were staying in the office until 8 saw the early starters leaving before them and complained. The work ethic of the early birds was criticised.

            End result: The early birds realised that to be seen as hard workers, they had to stay until 8pm anyway. So what was the point in getting in early?

            Within six months, every single employee except the receptionist was working from 10am-8pm. It completely defeated the point of having flexible timetables.

        3. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          This, firsty. Especially considering that OP’s husband hasn’t gotten his certification and Bob has, there’s probably stuff that Jim can’t do and falls to Bob.

          But even if that’s not the case, assuming norms from a single other employee is not going to fly a lot of the time. It’s entirely possible that BOB is a terrible employee on the verge of being fired, if only they could hire someone reliable and certified to replace him. By aping him, Jim may just be becoming Terrible Teapot Manager #2. Especially if Bob were to leave or be fired, Jim would no longer even have the argument that “Bob does it all the time,” and would just be standing on his own, a terrible employee.

          I would especially take a bad performance review pointing to these issues as hard, incontrovertible evidence that it is not the expected norm. Management have literally told him so, now. He needs to stop propping himself up in jealous opposition to Bob and build his own role and reputation at this company if he wants to keep his position.

          1. Tara*

            Yeah, I’m really feeling for Bob in this. He probably got told he was getting a practical, hard worker who would be certified soon so could help with X, Y and Z, and instead he’s been dealing with OP’s husband’s attitude, apparent lack of comprehension of workplace norms AND is probably having to do roles which the certification should have meant he was sharing.

        4. A*

          Yes, there are so many unknown factors that could be coming into play. If my in-office schedule was compared to my peers it would look unfair because I often come in late / leave early – BUT it’s because I’m in a global position and have to take meetings/calls across all time zones so if I’m on calls from 4-7am & 8-10pm, I reclaim time when/where I can. My employer is aligned on my approach but we don’t necessarily advertise it because it’s really not relevant to others.

      2. Nea*

        I work in a white-collar field where falsifying timesheets is an immediate perp-walk-to-the-door firing offense; if your husband is caught he’s out, no matter what Bob is doing. For all your husband knows, Bob will be right behind him.

        1. TimeTravlR*

          Yep! He needs to worry about himself and not Bob. If Bob is fudging time, he will get found out. As will OP’s husband.

          1. Momma Bear*

            If he’s used to working a very structured everyone on the same page job I could almost see how he’d emulate another employee because that’s what used to be.

            Problem is, that’s not the way it is anymore.

            Problem is, it’s been 2 years and that’s plenty of time to adjust to new company norms.

            He needs to stop worrying so much about Bob and worry about himself.

        2. Artemesia*

          I watched a very valued long term admin nearly get fired over this and she was doing some time shifting for her staff — they were not cheating in the sense of not doing the time, but she was reporting comp time as if the person worked the normal hours. ONLY because she was long term and valued and the boss went hard to bat for her, did she escape being fired. You can do lots of lazy entitled incompetent things and never get fired — but clear bright line identifiable violations like making long distance calls on the company line (back when that was an issue) or falsifying a time sheet will get you out the door. Since the OP’s husband is already getting bad reviews, this would be an easy way to get rid of him. I really feel for her being put in the position of having to nag and mother a grown man — it is no win for her.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Same with my job. I actually know that one former employee clocked in from her phone while she was still on the bus. Someone caught it and she was gone within a week. And, yes, we were all warned in very specific terms never to do this. I won’t even do it if I’m still in my office and the power goes out or something–I’ll just tell HR that I couldn’t use my computer and they need to fix my time for me.

      3. NoLongerAManager*

        It seems there could be a disconnect between “Bob” being a 20-year veteran of the company and a well known entity with benefits and scheduling adjustments that were hard won and to be enjoyed in the twilight of a long career, and “Jim” who may have felt his years are unrecognised (maybe a lack of negotiation).

        However, if “Jim” wants what “Bob” has, he needs his certifications, he needs a self-correct, and he needs to ask himself if he would accept the behaviour of a new employee working with him behaving in such a manner.

        While, yes, there may be an element of mental health issues coming to the fore, I’m ashamed to say I’ve been where “Jim” has, and it took me leaving that industry before I realised what had been happening. To this day, any time I’ve been offered any type of management position, I’ve turned it down due to my experiences in said previous industry.

      4. hbc*

        I’ve got plenty of blue collar workers who would falsify time sheets if they could get away with it. Sounds like he might need a position where there’s more oversight–that doesn’t necessarily mean he has to go back to blue collar, but there are lots of roles and companies where they notice if you’re not in by 9 and remind you regularly about completion of training.

      5. Kramerica Industries*

        I’m curious as to why your husband still thinks that this is the company norm if his review indicated that his managers weren’t okay with his absences. And if he thinks that Bob is slacking, why does he want to follow the example of a bad employee? By the sounds of it, your husband is really fixated on “fairness” here. But for all he knows, Bob has been reprimanded for his lateness or has special arrangements for different hours.

        If your husband feels that he has to pick up for Bob’s slack, that’s a different discussion that he could bring up to his manager as long as there’s a real issue on your husband’s workload being too heavy and not just the perception of working harder.

      6. HR Exec Popping In*

        The company will see lying as lying – someone else lies also so I thought it was ok is not a defense.

      7. Jake*

        Equal isn’t fair in his new role. Bob with 20 years of experience may be given a lot more flexibility than the uncertified new guy.

        In the white collar world he now lives in, he needs to understand that employees are going to have different rules and expectations.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          What was that statement Alison made last week to a LW…being fair doesn’t always mean treating people exactly the same…or something like that?!

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          And why is Jim’s attitude, “Bob (assumption!) takes advantage of his time card and that bothers me. So I’m going to… do the same shady thing as he does?” This is some elementary-school level maturity here. He should ask his boss about Bob’s schedule if it bothers him, not stoop to his level.

      8. Allypopx*

        There could be a ton of valid reasons Bob is allowed to do this, even if that reason is just seniority. At the end of the day, it’s none of your husband’s business and he needs to keep his eyes on his own paper.

      9. Anon for Today*

        ” My husband thinks that if Bob is doing that, then he should be allowed to as well”

        Not that this is your fault, but this is little kid logic. Imagine what you would say if your kid explained he was ditching school because all his friends were doing it. I would have great difficulty respecting a man who abrogated responsibility for his own actions to others.

        When he gets caught (and he will), I can guarantee telling his manager that he thought it was OK because Bob does it will not get him the results he thinks it will. If I were in your position I would have a very frank discussion with him about how his current behavior at work could jeopardize your family’s financial health and your emotional well being.

        1. ThePear8*

          This sort of reminds me of that old viral letter about the interns who petitioned for a better dress code, and how they noticed one employee wore sneakers that didn’t fit the code and included that in their argument, only to be told later when they were fired that she was a former soldier who had special arrangements and was given an exception to accommodate her health. The aspect of their argument that was “But this employee does it” fell flat because they didn’t have the full context.

        2. Batgirl*

          This is the kind of thing my 12 year old students say:
          “If Gary isn’t doing it, why should I?”
          “Gary is about to fail, and be removed by the head of year and his parents will be called”.
          “OK I’ll do that too”.
          They aren’t used to experiencing consequences though. They just focus on making the next half hour easier. I’d take a dim view of that in a husband. Possibly give him an early taste of the foreseeable consequences.

      10. Catwoman*

        I think it might help to frame it this way to your husband, “If Bob didn’t exist, how would you do your job? What time would you show up for work?”
        Looking to other coworkers to discern norms can be helpful in many cases, but it seems like your husband doesn’t quite realize that it’s hurting him here instead of helping.

      11. Not So NewReader*

        You can point out to your husband that WHEN the company decides to press criminal level charges against him for wage theft, his rebuttal that “Bob does it, too!” will not hold up in criminal court.
        If Bob went out an injured people would that make it okay for the hubby to do that also?

        But you know, it’s more immediate and more reality based to talk about, “And how do you feel about yourself, knowing that you can and do get paid for time that you did not work? Do you have trouble getting to sleep at night?”
        I am almost wondering if he is having trouble sleeping and that is helping to increase his sick days.

    4. MistOrMister*

      Yes, that jumped out at me too. It seems to me that the transition has not been what Jim expected and perhaps he and OP are placing all the blame on the difference in work forces. But the issues OP mentions don’t seem like ones that have to do with the kind of job one has. Between retail and office jobs, I have never worked anywhere that time sheet fraud was not a huge problem.

      It really seems like Jim is inordinately hung up on all tye extra perceived benefits Bob has, and has subsequently decided he is not going to make a good faith effort to do the job anymore. The fact that he’s mad that someone with a significant amount of seniority gets a lot of vacation time does not make sense to me. And to then call out sick in retaliation for Bob using his earned vacation time…..well I just don’t get it.

      The fact that Jim complained that he wasn’t reminded that he needed to complete his certification for tuition reimbursement is odd to me and makes me wonder what more could be going on. It seems clear that tuition reimbursement and further certification were mentioned at the hiring process. Thise are big things that one doesn’t generally just forget.

    5. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

      This. The biggest “fight” my husband and I ever got into is when he didn’t complete his certifications to keep his current contract because he just ignored them, and then he didn’t tell me. I was scared he was going to lose his job and jeopardize the life we’d built in a very real way. When he heard/understood that, he took it way more seriously and it hasn’t happened again.
      TL;DR: Approach this from the perspective of this OUR life, what’s happening here?

      1. motherofdragons*

        Co-signing this approach. Any attempts on your part to explain where his management is coming from will be seen as you picking sides, OP, even though you’re not wrong and your intentions are good. Focusing on the very real impact that his firing might have on your family’s life is very much in your purview.

        A possibly helpful post at Captain Awkward, not directly applicable but might have some good strategies/scripts:

    6. boop the first*

      I appreciate this take a lot more than the “blue collar people have no work ethic” take, thanks. :)

    7. high school teacher*

      My eyebrows shot up when I read about the falsifying time sheets. If my husband was doing that I would be livid honestly, because that is putting the entire family income into risk (and I work full time too but we budget based on both our incomes). Very hard to defend falsifying time sheets.

      This affects his whole family.

    8. Beth*

      I’d be talking to a divorce lawyer. I was married to a liar and slacker, and I wouldn’t wish that hell on anyone.

  3. A Canadian*

    What would you do if your husband got fired tomorrow? How would you set up your assets to survive until he or you got another job? Whatever answer you have, prepare for it now, since that part is within your control. Convincing him to listen or change, unfortunately, is not. I hope he does come around though, or cut his losses and return to what he was doing before, if he was happier there. Good luck.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I would say the same. You should plan for him to be fired since well, he’s deserving of it with his shady behavior and I presume at some point someone will find out.

      My last ex was a retail worker who of course hated his jobs, and let’s just say his performance would go down, he’d suddenly be late a lot, blah blah blah…didn’t hold down a job for longer than 6-9 months. I’m relieved we’re no longer together with that terrible of a work ethic.

    2. Campfire Raccoon*

      Agreed. This is already end-game. Falsifying time sheets is a big deal in all types of jobs, and I’d be astounded if management hasn’t already discussed it.

    3. Accounting Otaku*

      Honestly, this might be the best bombshell to get through to him. Don’t even hide what you are doing. If/when he asks about it, tell him that since he has shown no motivation to improve his performance, you have to take the logical step of preparing for his inevitable firing.

    4. Littorally*

      Yeah, this. You should be in financial crisis mode starting today. Every day your husband comes home with a job is an unlooked-for blessing. Duck and cover, OP. Save every penny. Plan like he’s already been fired and will be job hunting for a long time, because his reference from this job is going to suuuuuuuck.

    5. Artemesia*

      This. She should be figuring out how to support the family on her income because the odds of that happening are extremely high.

    6. Abogado Avocado*

      OP: I’m sorry you’re going through these difficulties with your husband. Your views of the situation seem objective to me.

      The questions by A Canadian are all good question to ask your husband, but if they don’t cause him to change his approach to his job, you will need other strategies. I would recommend figuring out how to get him to an occupational therapist, who can gently advise him that his notions about his job are unrealistic and who can assist him in determining whether another type of work would be better for him. If your husband is unwilling to listen to your concerns that he may be risking his job and/or see an occupational therapist, then I recommend marriage counseling because you truly will be at an impass and professional guidance can help you navigate it. (And please note: marriage counselors can be helpful in a variety of situations facing couples. Your marriage need not be at risk to solicit their help and advice, which is why I propose it.)

    7. OrigCassandra*

      Yes. I was married to someone feckless, selfish, and irresponsible for 20 years. Nothing I said or did changed it; on the rare occasion I managed to goose him into doing something, I became the cartoon “nagging wife” villain and there was no other change on his part. I earnestly hope your spouse is better than my ex, OP, but please, please protect yourself and any dependents you have.

    8. Smithy*

      I think that part of this conversation that may help is whether finding another job now might be a way to start with a clean slate. Whether the OP’s husband has mental health issues at play or not, sometimes the perception of “I’m a problem and they’ll always see me as a problem” can serve as a huge mental block to seeing a reason to change.

    9. EmmaPoet*

      Yeah, it’s scary to think about, especially right now, but the OP needs to consider the fact that he’s setting himself up for a firing, and plan accordingly. If he does get fired, then he may not get unemployment (someone Canadian can speak better than I can on this, my quickie google says that firing for misconduct MAY mean no unemployment bennies.)

  4. ahhh*

    I’m in no way defending your husband’s actions…. do you think his “faults” could be from burn out or depression? Could Covid’s “new normal” be affecting him in ways he is not aware of? Just curious

    1. Dust Bunny*

      He’s been dragging his feet for two years, though. If this were new, he probably would have at least started a lot of the certification classes, etc., before COVID.

      1. Ms. Yvonne*

        Ya, but my husband dragged his feet for a lot longer than that – now he’s on depression meds and it’s a world of diff. Even I, who has had mental health issues for 35 years, sometimes don’t see depression until I am well into it. Sad but true, but sometimes 2 yr is pretty much nothing as far as depression is concerned. Re above it’s a good question about how his mood was before the move.

        1. Kiko*

          I had dragged my feet for close to 3 to 4 years when I was depressed. Seeing a therapist definitely helped, but it took me close to 2 years to admit that I needed professional help. More often than not, people sink into depression slowly and it’s hard to acknowledge that you’re there when you don’t know the signs.

      2. Luke G*

        He may have had issues at the job for 2 years, but they were less severe in his first year (based on the fact that his bonus was so much lower in his second year, he must have gotten at least a decent one his first year). In a vacuum you’d assume he’d get better at the job, or at least better at covering up his deficiencies. If he’s in a job that’s a bad fit and he’s not motivated to do well in, and then COVID lands on top of it, that could be a tipping point.

        Fair point about the certification classes- but then again, we don’t know if he was eligible to take them immediately upon hire.

    2. NYReader*

      Its your husband, if you can’t tell him everything you wrote and have a genuine discussion about it then you have a lot more to worry about.
      Things I am curious about:
      Is he regularly obstinate and whiney or is this new behavior and only related to his job?
      How much did he actually understand the position when he accepted it?
      Why did he actually make the change?
      Whatever the health concerns are (which writer absolutely doesn’t have to disclose) are they something that can actually be treated? For clarity – something like migraines – you can go to a million doctors and get 100 MRI’s but its really just a cycle of trying one medication after another for mitigation.
      Its a tough spot, I feel for the writer.

      1. The OP (The Wife)*

        To answer your questions…
        Is he regularly obstinate and whiney? – He didn’t used to be, but he is increasingly over the last year, both in relation to work and in relation to household stuff.
        How much did he understand about the position? – It’s pretty much what he expected in terms of the duties, but he really resents that he needs to do the manual work while Bob gets to do the more administrative/logistical tasks. I think it makes him feel ‘less than’.
        Why did he make the change? – He had workplace injuries caused by the repetitive work at his last job that were going to force him into LTD if he didn’t make a change.
        Health concerns – It’s a chronic problem that is exacerbated by stress. He is now in treatment with a specialist after an incident last month when he had to go to the ER and wound up being referred to a specialist. He’s on a new medication that is helping the problem and has a treatment plan. His attendance has improved since starting the new meds, which I’m very happy about.

        1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

          It really sounds like covid has had a serious affect on his mental and physical health and is exacerbating tensions he was already feeling. I’m in the US so I don’t know about what options there are in CA, but could he do some sort of short term leave of absence to focus on his health? I think during that time it would be good for him (with some help from you) to figure out what he wants out of his work and what are the barriers to getting it. It might be that this position in this company isn’t the right one for him.

        2. biobotb*

          This makes me wonder if some of his behavior is an emotional reaction to feeling like he’s starting at the bottom, even though he’s midway through his overall career. Maybe he didn’t really think about what it might feel like to be in a junior, less experienced position after perhaps spending many years being one of the more experienced team members. It kind of seems like he wants those years of experience at his other job to count toward some kind of seniority in expectations and workload at his new job, and is frustrated they don’t.

          1. A*

            I wonder as well. This is sounding very much like how I responded when I first became disillusioned with the reality of what it means to work your way up (initially or again). OP’s husband has restarted his career, and is understandably frustrated with all that entails – but expecting to have the same ‘perks’ as someone who has spent the last 20 years working their way up is incredibly unrealistic.

            Unfortunately life isn’t ‘fair’, and it’s a tough pill to swallow – but continuing to fight against that reality is a one way ticket to a miserable and unsatisfactory life.

        3. Sam.*

          OP, are the certifications related to the office-type work Bob is doing and Jim wants? In other words, is Bob doing that work instead of Jim because he has the qualifications Jim has chosen not to pursue?

        4. Luke G*

          Anything that got worse “over the last year” rings the “COVID-Fatigue” bell for me. I can understand how he got into this mindset- on the one hand, I know a lot of blue-collar workers look down on white-collar workers as being soft or coddled. Then suddenly he gets hurt and cant keep up with his job, so he has to take on one of those soft coddled jobs. But then he gets there and he’s not seen as an equal, he keeps getting given the most menial and manual tasks.

          I’m NOT saying this is accurate, but it’s a recipe for his self-perception to be that he’s not strong enough for the job he had and not smart enough for the job he’s got. That’s a recipe for major mental strain, even before you add in a chronic health problem. His poor work behavior still has to be fixed (hopefully before he’s fired), of course- but the solution might be in finding a way for him to re-frame how he sees himself and what his job is.

        5. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          This seems like all super important clarifications! Other people have made really good points about the frustration of needing to work his way up again, and having been forced out of his last job. But I’m noticing the last point–if improvement of his health condition has improved his attendance/work behavior, is it possible that the health issues (possibly in addition to COVID mental health issues) really were impacting his work? Pain, med side effects, etc, can really do a number on someone’s mood and focus

        6. Not So NewReader*

          Just my opinion and my perspective.
          My husband was on a couple meds and they added another med. INSIDE of a week, my husband became a shell of the person I used to know. I will go to my grave saying it was the med.
          Granted, in this case the problem with the med developed really fast. But it might be worth your while to google some of the meds he is on and find out of there are side effects such as apathy/lethargy/or similar.
          I could not reason with my husband, I could not get him to understand that he had changed and a slew of other problems. And worse he got super stubborn. Everything became an exhausting discussion.

          For some reason I was able to get him to drop back on the med. And as he stepped back from the med, I got my husband back. Which is really fortunate because I was ready to pack my bags as people are advising you here. I married a human being, not an obstinate brick wall.

          At one point I had a cohort who ran into problems with her husband because of a med. She had googled so she was well versed on the specifics. She often referenced the Mayo clinic when telling me about all this. However, she landed on, “Either the med goes OR I go! You get to pick which one!” Wisely he picked her and let go of the med.

          If his new behaviors do not fit with what you have seen right along then looking at his meds might be a good route to go.

    3. The OP (The Wife)*

      I really agree with you that this could be a mental health issue. I’ve suggested that he gets counselling or talk to his doctor about his moods, because he really wasn’t like this at his last job. The factory environment wore on his body and he had a series of workplace injuries and had to go on modified duties towards the end, but he showed up every day and the expectations were very rigid and the same for all employees. At the new place there is a lot more personal accountability and self-direction needed, which I think he’s struggling with. I’m going to broach the subject of his mental health again tonight.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        I said above that as a manual laborer, he should be used to the idea that the newbie does the grunt work until they prove themselves, but perhaps he’s not experienced that. I agree with irene adler below, that perhaps he’s hating the feeling of being the newbie and having to prove himself even though he’s felt like he already did, and that’s probably triggered (or was not helped by previous underlying) mental health issues.

      2. Eat My Squirrel*

        There’s a possibility the mood change is a side effect of his medication. My husband went through multiple different seizure medications before we got one that A: worked, and B: didn’t make him feel like killing people or crying all the time.

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        I think a really key aspect of this is that he didn’t just accept a new position because of potential for growth… he was forced out of his old position for health reasons and felt like he HAD to take this. That changes the whole picture for me. It sounds like now he’s feeling very unappreciated, hard-used, and like his years of hard work (that actually damaged his health!) are being ignored while Bob has had a cushy job the whole time and gets treated way better.

        His feelings aren’t healthy, productive, or necessarily in line with an objective outside analysis of the situation. But they’re very understandable.

      4. Octopus*

        Even if it is a mental health issue (and I will leave aside whether it’s stigmatizing those with mental health issues when the commentariat jumps on that as a potential explanation for any and all bad behavior by others), what matters is what is in your control and what isn’t. You can’t make your husband treat a mental health condition, you can’t make him improve his attendance, etc. You’re in a frustrating situation, but I think you need to focus on protecting yourself financially and knowing your own values (e.g., do you want to be with someone who’d rather falsify their timesheet regularly than seek treatment for a health issue). If you haven’t laid out to him clearly once before all the ways this impacting you (financial risks, stress, etc.), you should do that. If he still doesn’t take the steps to change HIS career (which is not your responsibility to manage), I think all you can do is brace yourself to prepare for the inevitable consequences.

        1. cabbagepants*

          +100 to this

          OP, put on your own oxygen mask first. That means a financial plan for when Jim gets fired for cause.

          Jim is an adult with the same information as you have regarding his job expectations, performance issues, and feedback. *You can’t fix him if he doesn’t want it.*

      5. Erin*

        Agree with checking on the mental health aspect. I have ADHD and I suspect my spouse does too. He does well now because he’s in the military, a very structured, regimented position where something’s always happening. I have worried about when he leaves the military and loses the structure…I wonder if your husband is experiencing something similar.

        1. Minimal Pear*

          Yes! I also have ADHD and this letter feels very familiar, because I can get like this when I’m stressed and in an environment without a ton of structure. (Usually not to this degree, though.)

      6. PollyQ*

        Yes, unreasonable anger can be a symptom of depression, and chronic pain can be a trigger. I hope you’ll be able to convince him to seek more help.

      7. Jaydee*

        I used to represent people in Social Security Disability cases (US). Clients I worked with who had a lengthy work history that was derailed by an illness or injury often really struggled to cope with their inability to do the work they used to do. And I noticed this was worse for men, although it definitely affected women too.

        Our society is so ableist, ties people’s value and worth to their earnings and productivity, and has such a limited definition of what it means to be a “real man” that losing physical abilities, losing a job that may have provided him with a sense of identity and purpose, losing income, losing status as a “provider” or “breadwinner” for his family…those are all very real losses and there’s a grieving process there, even if you get another job or have other ways to fill your time and provide financially for yourself.

        I think talking to a therapist or counselor or some type of peer support group could be really good for him to process these things. But there’s always the concern that he’ll take that suggestion as “here’s another thing that’s wrong with me” and shut it down. I wonder if his doctor could recommend someone from the standpoint of “hey, workplace injuries and chronic health problems like this can be stressful and challenging for people to cope with and it helps to talk to it out with someone who has been there or who has experience working with others who have been there.”

    4. irene adler*

      Maybe that plus he’s not getting the recognition of his years working ‘on the line’. Yes, he’s in a new position, but if he continues to be treated like a rookie, after a while that can really suck the motivation to want to perform well.

      Co-worker Bob gets recognition for his 20 year’s work, is husband getting some sort of recognition for his years of work (albeit in a different position)?

      1. Artemesia*

        But the husband can’t do what Bob does BECAUSE he has failed to get his certifications and oddly expects someone to Mommy him to do that — they told him he had two years but somehow someone was supposed to ‘remind him’.

        1. irene adler*

          WOW! Guess I worded this wrong.
          My thought was that husband’s years of work were not being acknowledged. Not suggesting that they should be considered on a par with Bob’s work in any way. He is a rookie in this job- no question about it.

          But he’s also not fresh out of school. He’s someone who has worked in a prior job for years and might want some props for that. Not suggesting they wave the certification requirement or allow him to continue to phony up the time card or make any other concession. Instead, maybe not treat him so much as a rookie and more like someone bringing in his experiences who is learning this position.

          1. doreen*

            I’m not sure what you mean by “husband’s years of work were not being acknowledged”. He doesn’t have years of experience doing this job or working for this employer. How would they acknowledge his years of experience doing something else?

            1. Bluesboy*

              I don’t think the point is necessarily that the employer SHOULD value those years of work, as much as that Jim might feel that he is devalued because those years of work are not recognised – whether rightly or wrongly.

              I made a career change a few years ago: I changed from being a specialist in one sector, where I was 99% of the time the most informed person in the room on my subject matter, to a job where 99% of the time everyone else in the room understood more than me.

              That’s fine. I was new, and I didn’t expect them to acknowledge my years of work doing something else. But it was psychologically quite difficult to deal with the change from being the office guru to being the office beginner. That could be how Jim feels.

    5. Momma Bear*

      I was thinking similarly – many men manifest depression as not just lack of drive but anger. He might also have undiagnosed ADHD or something that would impact his ability to manage his time and remember things like the classes. You say he’s making less and is working with someone with more experience and tenure. Is he used to being the family breadwinner? Is he used to being Big Man On Campus? Losing those statuses may also impact his mental health.

      Other than that, I would think seriously about a contingency plan for your family. It’s likely he will be fired if his performance doesn’t improve. This is not about Bob but about Jim himself. If he is unable to look at what his boss says HE needs to be doing and do it, then he will no longer have that job.

      I think you need to have a direct conversation with him about his health and the job and the impact on the family. And make your plans accordingly.

      1. Properlike*

        The part where OP describes his former job as regimented and the new one as more “self-directed” raised this very red flag for me, too. He may have no real idea of how to BE self-directed, and along with the psychological blows of what he perceives as a “demottion”, lack of respect, health issues, etc. is quite overwhelmed.

        But OP has to protect herself first. It’s been two years and the flags could not be any more red.

        1. lobsterp0t*

          Yeah – same flags.

          The good thing is you can learn how to be self directed. The bag thing is you have to learn how to be self directed.

      2. Batgirl*

        It’s possible to have ADHD traits without being ADHD too: lots of people need physical movement and rigid structures to feel motivated. It may simply be the job isn’t a good match. If he’s seriously unhappy it may make more sense to raise some ideas that would help with his bosses. Skipping out on work and blaming Bob is not the answer.

  5. Carly*

    I’m not sure what to make of the sick day portion of this letter. What does it mean that the medical issues are genuine but he’s “not pursuing medical treatment aggressively enough to warrant this amount of time off”? I might be with him on that one.
    But yeah generally, this is a sticky situation for you and I’m not sure you can fix it for him!

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, it could be he genuinely needs the time off – but I wonder whether it’s happening when Bob gets back from vacation because he is stressed/overworked while Bob is off, or whether it’s intentional to “punish” Bob for being gone.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I think she means that he’s acting as though it’s for doctor’s visits or recovery from medical procedures but it’s not.

    3. Elementary Fan*

      Yeah, that jumped out at me. He might be in more pain than he’s letting on if it’s still a physical job, but that’s just speculation.

      As his wife, OP, I’d back off on giving work advice about his review and sick time, and look at the big picture. Is this a job he wants to keep? Does he want a less physically demanding job? Take medical leave? Go back to his previous role? He needs to take ownership of his career path and decide if he wants to pursue these certifications, and if not, what is he willing to do? And that impacts you since it sounds like you share income. Be willing to listen and come up with a plan that works. And if he stays in this job, then just acknowledge that he thinks it’s unfair. You don’t have to agree, just acknowledge his feelings.

    4. Ali G*

      I think that condition is a known quantity, but he either isn’t managing it, when using time off for appointments could actually fix it or at least help him feel better, or he’s just blatantly using his condition as an excuse.
      I have a chronic pain condition that is exacerbated by driving. Since I don’t drive to work and back any more I basically stopped taking my meds. But, when I have to start up again, I couldn’t use my pain as an excuse to skip work if I don’t start taking my meds again (or if I am, figuring out with my docs why my pain is worse now).

    5. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

      Physically disabled person here (who does not speak for all!): I interpreted this as “he has the resources and recourse to manage or mitigate the issues, but is not doing so, which is causing him to be more absent than if he were receiving regular treatment.” For example, if I was not regularly seeing my physicians, taking my meds as needed, and doing the at-home exercises that keep me mobile, I would be out several times a month. That said, I also suffer from occasional depression, and there used to be days where motivating myself to keep going felt impossible. So I do think there’s more layers here than just “this is a problem of his own making” regardless of the root cause.

      1. LQ*

        This highlights something that I think is across this whole post which is that, at least as OP has described it, the husband is not taking responsibility for himself and that’s part of the frustration. The health is definately a part of that, so is the certification, and even the time theft. It’s all an expectation that someone else will handle it or will tell you exactly what to do and you’ll only do it if it’s right there for you and you’re forced to take the action. That was very much how the health stuff read to me as just another way in which there’s a lack of personal responsibility happening.

    6. Hamish*

      It read to me like he’s not managing it well. Either he would need less time off if he were managing it well (ex. my partner has gout and KNOWS that it gets set off when he drinks alcohol, I’m pretty annoyed when he’s out of commission for days because he decided to have a glass of wine, despite the fact that I know the pain is real and excruciating)… or the treatment might make it more painful before it gets better, like maybe some kinds of physical therapy? But if he’s not actually pursuing that treatment…

    7. The OP (The Wife)*

      In the last month he has started taking the medical issues more seriously after a scary flare up that landed him in the hospital. He is now under the care of a specialist and his symptoms have improved with a new medication. I think that while this is a genuine medical issue, he was choosing to use it to take time off of work rather than actually go to the doctor and try to get it addressed. Part of that was because his family doctor blew him off when the symptoms first started a few years ago, and I think that made him feel like he just had to live with it.

      1. Maggie*

        OP, obviously the situation is complicated, so I’d encourage you to read my story, and consider if it’s a possible corollary to yours. (If it is not, no problem!)

        My husband is 45. He’s worked manual labor jobs since he was 20. He has multiple repetitive stress injuries that are extremely painful from years of doing 25 years of repetitive labor. He is very good at what he does, and yet at the same time, it is slowly killing him. He is in a lot of pain. When he goes to doctors, they suggest things like steroid shots. My husband has done that once or twice, but then he feels like 25-year-old-him, overdoes it at work, and then makes the illness/injury worse. So, over time, he’s decided not to listen to the doctors because he knows himself better. This REALLY frustrated me at first before I understood it. Now I get it and support his choice. It’s not him “mismanaging” his health. He knows when he needs to take a day off, and that’s better than him throwing his back out or something similar.

        When we were in the peak of all of this, I looked at my own beloved husband as lazy. I nagged him and went about everything in the wrong way. It didn’t help his career or our marriage. Then one day, in the throws of frustration, he was saying something wasn’t possible and I spit out, “Why not?” and this bucket of fears poured out. I asked him, well, what would happen if you had a magic wand and impossible things were possible? And suddenly we were having a real conversation. Only after that did we make any progress.

        If this sounds like it might apply to your situation, you might try having a ‘magic wand’ conversation with your husband. Yes, his bosses don’t want him to take so many sick days. If he had a magic wand, how many sick days would he take? 3, 4 a month? An entire week, 2 weeks off just to physically rest? Don’t worry about if it’s not possible. Just ask, what would he really want if he had a magic wand?

        In the end, my husband and I have decided, for now, he’d rather stick with what he knows best and work fewer hours and make less money. We’ve made it work. Maybe your husband is lazy. But maybe he’s also terrified that he’s locked into your and his work’s expectations, and he can’t meet them, and his doctors and his job and maybe even his own wife just aren’t listening. Stand in his corner and hand him a magic wand and see what he says. You are not alone, but I think this there’s a chance this is 100% about his health and Bob is a nice way to deflect from addressing his health. Good luck!

        1. Autistic AF*

          There’s a great article on Medium (and a corresponding book) called Laziness Does Not Exist – it’s an excellent perspective shifter.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I have thought for a long time now that “laziness” is a crutch for not having to look closer at a situation and figure out what is actually going on.
            Very few people are actually lazy all the time. We can have a lazy day here and there- actually that is kind of healthy to do that. However, on-going laziness to me is probably the result of unaddressed underlying problems.

      2. Tinker*

        So, hmm.

        This particular thing here I think is what is tipping me over the edge with this guy, where the initial story is someone who’s doing Bad Worker things that reflect a Bad Attitude and a Poor Work Ethic and then all these details trickle out where… wait… yeah, this is sort of still a bad attitude thing but a logical narrative is starting to form where you see how he got there.

        In this case — okay, he was choosing to use the condition to take time off of work rather than actually go to the doctor… and partly this was connected to his doctor blowing him off? I think his doctor blowing him off might be connected to him not going to the doctor! And, okay, that sounds snarky and sort of is, but I can see where on the ground it can look a lot more like “well, look, you can’t just fold up and walk away, you have to pursue the issue”.

        But depending on what it is, how exactly the doctor treated him, and what his family / work community history has been about medical issues, he might start from something like feeling like he shouldn’t complain or will be framed as a malingerer or a drug-seeker if he acts in a way that directly confronts the condition, whereas calling out of work he’s just viewed as lazy or irresponsible — things he may be more comfortable with, among the available options.

        And then also, elsewhere, it turns out that this work change is not something he wanted, but because of injuries (separate from this, it seems?) that make him unable or about to be unable to do the previous job, so he’s transitioning into this administrative position as an alternative to being disabled from his previous manual labor job, and now he’s resentful about having to do the manual labor? Are these injuries of his that were going to make him disabled in his previous job completely irrelevant in the manual labor aspect of this job?

        And on a more emotional level, even if it isn’t strictly fair, I would be kind of ticked to hear a bunch of “you’re the new guy you need to do the grunt work to prove yourself, you can’t be so entitled as to not do the grunt work” when my body was permanently wrecked from a career of doing grunt work.

        It’s awkward because it doesn’t seem like he’s being treated unfairly, and his reaction seems to be in a lot of ways counterproductively passive and passive-aggressive, but also it seems like the overall picture seems to be of a person who is being nibbled to death by ducks in the form of a bunch of stressors that don’t directly prevent him from acting more proactively, but indirectly introduce friction at every step of the process.

        I don’t necessarily have a neat solution to this, but what I’ve found in somewhat similar circumstances is that it really does matter to focus on cutting down that friction — get the medical condition treated, make sure the injuries are being accommodated in a sustainable way, do work in therapy to deal with the life change, look to see if there are other problems lurking — a lot of the folks I’ve encountered with this type of problem have ADHD, and it’s also kinda suspicious how part of the problem is around transitioning from concrete physical work to abstract intellectual work — it’s terribly tedious and discouraging in the moment but it gets to looking better in the rear view mirror.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is a great post, Tinker with lots of good stuff to really think about.

          It could be, OP, that you are looking at a problem with many angles. I tend to think that one of the angles here is that your husband’s workplace actually does suck. Getting out of this place, combined with other at home self-care actions might put your husband on a better path.

          One thing that strikes me is why doesn’t your husband know where Bob is? Why has Bob not bother to say when he will be in or make mention in passing of what he is doing outside of the office that pertains to work and so on. My boss and I tend to work at different times. BUT when I am at work, she calls and lets me know where she is (dropping kids off) and when she will be in (45 minutes from now) and she asks how my morning is going so far (anything special I need to know right now?). It’s a way of connecting with me and MY work. Yeah, I need that deliberate attempt to connect. I can’t go for weeks not know what my closest cohort is doing or thinking. (A lot of that is the nature of our work. She’d be at a loss with out me but different reasons.)
          It could be that Bob is a poor connector and has no plan on learning to connect with your husband. Perhaps moving away from Bob and all that Bob symbolizes to him would give your husband a new lease on his work-life.
          Bob seems to create/attract a lot of anger in your husband. Taking a straight read and not trying to analyze deeply, it could be that Bob is actually an AH and your husband needs to get away from him.

          Ya know, never underestimate the power of a taking a straight read. “Hon, this Bob person sounds like a real AH. What do you think of finding a new job where you are no longer near Bob?”
          The answer might tell you a lot of good information about what your husband sees and thinks.

    8. Cj*

      We had a person be let go because they were in only about 5 days in 4 weeks because of migraines. When she was in, you could tell she was miserable. However, she did not go to a neurologist to seek treatment (I personally would have been worried about a brain tumor even though I get migraines frequently.) Mgt knew this, and she did not apply for FMLA, so she was let go.

      1. RosyGlasses*

        They definitely opened themselves up for unlawful termination – migraines are actually covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act and if they have more than 5 employees they are required to go through the interactive process to find accommodations. In addition, you don’t have to apply for FMLA for it to kick in – the onus is on the business to certify it once they are aware. However, it sounds like even that might have broken down if she wasn’t willing to get treatment / medical documentation.

    9. Beatrice*

      I assumed it meant he had opportunities to better manage his medical condition that he wasn’t fully exploring or using, and he is just dealing with a medical condition that is worse for him than it needs to be. (My own husband has a medical condition that is much improved by the use of a device that he owns and simply prefers not to use. He chooses to deal with the fallout rather than use it. We have discussed it and he can’t explain it and I have decided to just let it go because it doesn’t affect me much.)

    10. I'm just here for the cats*

      I’m curious how his wife knows all this info about his work? Like how does she know Bob is out on the days her husband takes off? She isn’t the one working with these people, there may be stuff causing his behavior that is not just I him

    11. Anon4this1*

      Could be there are things he could do to help his health situation and just won’t. That was my first thought when I read that because that’s exactly how my spouse is. They have a real, legitimate, painful chronic medical condition but won’t do what they can to help it. Whatever the doctor suggests they won’t try because they “already know it won’t work”. I know the pain is real and debilitating and want to have compassion but some days I’m just mad and don’t care. (Yes, I do love my spouse and have no desire to end my marriage – which sometimes makes things more difficult.)

      OP, encourage your husband to try to get Social Security Disability so he’ll have some income at least and resign yourself to being the sole breadwinner for the rest of your marriage. I could’ve written your letter for the most part and that is what it eventually came down to. Only you can decide if that’s a marriage you want to stay in. I chose to but many others wouldn’t.

  6. Ana Gram*

    Ooh I feel this! I went from blue collar to white collar and it. is. a. change. Blue collar really emphasizes “fairness” and what that means is that everyone gets the same thing and is treated the same. In my white collar role, fairness has a totally different concept. I get what I need to do my job and am treated differently from my colleagues but it’s still fair. If that makes sense. It’s pretty infuriating if you still cling to the blue collar idea of fairness and I was much happier when I recalibrated my idea of fairness. Maybe that will help him?

    1. Colette*

      I think this is a good point. If he’s hung up on everyone getting the same thing, that is going to hurt him.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      . . . I’m not seeing how the two would be much different in this instance. Bob has more seniority, more skills, the required certification, apparently a better attitude, and isn’t fudging his timesheets–it seems pretty fair by any measures that he would get paid more.

        1. MistOrMister*

          It’s not clear to me from the letter is Bob is falsifying his time sheet. It might be that he is allowed to leave early. And maybe he comes in earlier or works through lunch. OP didn’t give me the impression that they think Bob is doing anything questionable.

          1. Susan Calvin*

            Yeah, given what we know about Bob’s level of seniority, I could easily see him also getting the tasks that can be done remotely, if there are any, or being the one who gets to take the emergency phone with him on weekends, or something else that Jim might not be perceiving as “real work”… which isn’t even getting into scenarios where he might be legitimately working less, because that’s what he agreed with his boss for some reason or another.

          2. Self Employed*

            I don’t know if it’s applicable in Bob’s job description, but it’s even possible he would be visiting customers, suppliers, other jobsites and take all his stuff with him so he can go home directly from the meeting.

        2. Rachel in NYC*

          Bob might be lying on his time sheet but it’s just as likely that Jim perceives that Bob is lying on his time sheet but is actually doing work someplace else. (Or that alternatively, after all these years, Bob has learned how to do his job in the shortened period of time and has permission to do so.)

      1. Ana Gram*

        Oh I agree with you. But when I worked my blue collar job, everyone with the same job title (I’m assuming this is the case with Bob and the husband?) was essentially treated the same. Seniority wasn’t a factor. The Llama Technicians all did the same job duties and got the same benefits. There was no opportunity for anything else. Now, I work with people who have the same job title and we’re treated as individuals. It’s nice but was a bit off initially and kind of annoyed me. Why should Mel get to come in early and leave early if our hours are 8:30-5? I don’t want Mel’s schedule but why aren’t we all treated the same? That kind of thing. It’s a mental shift. AAM was instrumental in that shift for me!

        1. doreen*

          I grew up in a blue-collar family – and their jobs were very different from what you described. I’m not saying that they were treated as individuals- they really weren’t. Everyone with the same amount of seniority was treated the same , and when vacation time and pay maxed out after X years, then everyone with more than X years was treated the same. But a Teapot Painter with 2 years experience was paid more and got more vacation time than the one who was hired last month.

      2. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

        In blue collar work, it’s usually more same work same treatment- maybe not in pay, but in time worked.

    3. MK*

      I haven’t myself worked a blue-collar job, though most of my family’s older generation did, and I suppose this might vary by country/field etc.. But as far as I can tell, equal treatment doesn’t go so far as to expect to be treated the exact same as a more senior employee who has qualifications you don’t.

      1. Ruby*

        In my experience, seniority is a MUCH bigger deal on the blue collar side of my company than on the office work side.

    4. The OP (The Wife)*

      Yes! This is exactly his issue. He’s used to very structured work – everyone starts at the exact same time, the starting wage is x, you get such and such benefits after x years of service, it was very predictable and documented how you work your way up. At the new job he had to negotiate his salary for the first time, he has specific objectives that are unique to him, raises and bonuses are based on subjective criteria rather than set in stone. I think it’s been a huge change for him.

      1. BRR*

        The more comments I read the more I think the first step is he should look for a new job; easier said than done but not only is there a risk with him losing this job, he should hopefully be able to find a job where he’s happier. I’m wondering if he would be better suited to a job on a larger team. Something where he isn’t comparing himself to only one person.

        And thank you for taking the time to read and reply through the comments! It’s provided some valuable information and I wish you the best of luck!

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        That kind of change can be hard, but after more than a year he really should have just accepted it. If he’s choosing to maintain his attitudes that fit better with his blue-collar job, at some point it’s more like willful ignorance.

      3. Allypopx*

        If he’s going to be in more white collar roles for the rest of his career….I hate to say he just has to “get over it”, but it’s a different world with a lot less structure. And the kind of flexibility he’s coveting needs to be earned, which is why not everyone is treated the same way. Roles, managers, and the urgency of work that has to get done all plays into it as well. Typically it’s fair but not equal, and that’s something he really needs to come to terms with. As an unknown quantity, or someone who can’t meet the basic expectations being put upon him, he’s going to have a lot more restriction – and that’s only going to continue if he keeps this attitude.

  7. MissGirl*

    Right. I would think coming from a blue collar world would make you more regimented because of the focus on clocking in and out at a certain time. This is not an adjustment problem. This is an attitude and entitlement problem. He’s on a fast pass to get fired.

    1. Temperance*

      Honestly, I think he’s picked up the pieces of blue collar work (everyone treated the same, for example) and hasn’t realized that skills and intelligence and drive will set you apart in a white collar career.

        1. Temperance*

          I’m specifically talking about this job, and didn’t even come close to saying that blue collar jobs never reward those things.

          Overwhelmingly, it’s a huge cultural difference.

    2. MissGirl*

      Sorry, this came out more harsh than intended. It was a response to another comment so it doesn’t sound great on its own. Some people don’t deal well with ambiguity and need a rigid schedule.

  8. Anonnon*

    I don’t think this is something that can be attributed to his work history in blue collar jobs. I know that my friends who have previously worked blue collar jobs, like on a factory line, are now some of the most dedicated and hardworking white collar workers because they understand how things like delays and absences can really affect the team who have to make up the slack.

    1. Jonquil S*

      Yeah, this is weird to me. Admittedly, I’ve never worked in a blue-collar job, but the people I know who do would never roll in two hours late, leave early to beat traffic, falsify a time-sheet…just overall not do the work and expect it to be fine!

      I have a lot of empathy for struggling with chronic pain and chronic illness. I lost two jobs because I couldn’t show up, being sick too often. And, absolutely, I can see being tempted to lie or falsify hours if you can’t work, physically, yet can’t transition elsewhere and feel really trapped.

      But, that’s not a blue-collar thing exclusively. Anyone with chronic illness or chronic pain has to figure out a solution.

      Maybe seek out a job with built-in accommodations and a flexible schedule (in my case, an entirely WFH job); maybe figure out how to afford FMLA or live on your partner’s income while you focus on getting medical help. Or, maybe being honest about any accommodations that can enable you to actually do the job duties!

      There are no ideal solutions, but there are solutions out there. Just, the blue-collar thing might be a red herring when the pain might be the real problem.

  9. Spotted Kitty*

    In my first office job, I ended up getting fired for falsifying time sheets because I didn’t understand that I couldn’t just make my own hours (I was salaried). So I’d put down that I worked eight hours (so I’d get paid my full salary), but I’d only actually work six hours because all my work was done in that time frame. Looking back I realize how S T U P I D of an assumption that was, but no one in my family had ever had an office job or been salaried, so I just made assumptions based on what I thought being salaried meant.

    That being said, if your husband has been told that’s wrong to falsify time sheets, then he needs to get his act together and fix it before he also gets fired.

    1. Washi*

      To be fair to you, I’ve had salaried jobs where I was told to put 8 hours no matter what I worked, less or more! Yes, you should have double-checked, but I’m not even sure what you mean by “so I’d get paid my full salary” because if you’re salaried, then wouldn’t they have been paying your full salary regardless?

      I’m kinda surprised you got fired rather than warned if this was a genuine mistake and wasn’t costing the company money.

      1. Guacamole Bob*


        I’ve had exempt salaried jobs like this, too. Putting down the 8 hours is saying “I did not use any PTO for that day”, not “I timed my work and this is exactly how long I spent on work, including the email I responded to in the evening or the errands I ran that had me back a few minutes late from lunch.

        1. londonedit*

          Yes…where I live we don’t have exempt/non-exempt, but in every salaried job I’ve had, the idea is that you’re paid a regular salary for a regular week’s work (37.5 hours, in my case) rather than for the specific hours you put in. However, while there is some flexibility – no one cares if I work 15 minutes’ overtime on Tuesday or start half an hour late on Thursday morning – I do still have to at least work my contracted hours, or at least close enough that no one would object. I couldn’t arbitrarily decide to leave work two hours early whenever I fancied it because I’d finished everything for the day (I mean, my role is such that my tasks are always ongoing, there is no ‘finishing everything for the day’, but still).

          1. Spotted Kitty*

            Yes, this. I didn’t realize I was meant to be there for certain hours on Sundays (the weekend day I had to work), even if there was no work to be done. I was the only employee in on Sunday and basically once everything was done, I thought it was fine to leave, but I’d still indicate that I worked 8 hours so they didn’t dock me PTO or sick time.

            1. Hemingway*

              But if it was ok to leave, then why would you need to record 8 hrs? Why would you be required to lie for your job?

              1. madge*

                I’m not who you asked but in my office (academia), it’s simple bureacracy. We are all required to enter timesheets that show eight hours/workday regardless of whether we’re salaried or hourly, unless we actually did use PTO. The hours we turn in may or may not be the hours we worked.

                1. Eliza*

                  Yeah, sometimes you’re “lying” to a computer program because the program wasn’t written to understand the concept of salaried positions and it’s easier to make people work around it than to fix it.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                One place I worked there were two reasons why this happened. One was for sick/PTO accruals and the other was for health insurance. The health insurance company wanted to know that each employee was actually putting in FT hours to get the health insurance benefit.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yep – not only do our salaried time cards default to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, but they all specifically say 8-4:30 for every weekday, both for me (7-3:30) and my co-lead (10-6:30). Yesterday I worked 7-4:30 because of a training that ran a little long, and my boss will actually let me knock off an hour early today to make up for it if I want to, but my time card will still say 8-4:30 for both days because that’s my org’s default for salaried folks. The only way the time card gets changed is if there’s PTO involved, and if I take a half day of PTO, the new system actually asks me whether I’m taking the first half or the second half and sets my schedule for that day to either 8-12 or 12:30-4:30, even though if I do a morning half-day it’s actually 6:30-10:30a. :P

        1. Bluesboy*

          8-4.30…I work in a bank where that’s our timetable. The problem is that my job is directly connected to the stock market, which means being in the office when the markets are open (9-5.50). So like you, I literally have to lie on my time sheet every single day…it’s so silly!

      3. Lacey*

        I work an hourly job where they tell us to put down 8 regardless of hours worked! They want us to be available to work 40 hours, but if no work comes in they’ll often let us go early.

      4. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “To be fair to you, I’ve had salaried jobs where I was told to put 8 hours no matter what I worked, less or more!”

        Same thing where I work. Though in our case the claim was we had to be accurate about the time within those 8 as a percentage, so we’d know how to allocate in our internal budget.

        So if I worked 2.5 hours on one thing and 7.5 on another, it should be 2 and 6 on the time sheet.

    2. Mary Mahan*

      Me too! Same story! It was so humiliating to be fired. I was supposed to be at work until a certain time, so even if I left early, I put down that time. Didn’t realize. So dumb! Eighteen years old and knew everything.

      1. Spotted Kitty*

        Yes, I was 21, but had been more or less interning at that company since I was 16. When I finally got hired as a real, salaried employee, I thought I knew how everything worked without having to ask.

        1. Myrin*

          In that case it seems particularly harsh to immediately fire you instead correcting your misconception and giving a stern warning, though!

          1. Spotted Kitty*

            Management… wasn’t great when I worked as a full-time employee. There had been a change-up right before I was hired and it felt like the new folks didn’t really know what they were doing. I would have appreciated a warning, but it probably worked out for the best. I learned I wasn’t great for that career field anyway.

            1. Mary Mahan*

              I will say – I never did anything remotely like that again! Got into management, had a relatively successful career and pushed past that idiotic mistake. But still, cringe worthy! Was so glad to see someone else did it too. Sorry you did it and had trouble, of course, but relieved to know I wasn’t the only one.

    3. Cat Tree*

      That’s interesting. In most of my salaried jobs I haven’t even had a time sheet. There’s a place to track vacation and sick days, but otherwise it doesn’t seem useful to track time. The only exception was at a defense contractor where I worked on multiple projects and my time had to be charged to those specific projects.

      In any case, your boss really should have explained to you how to manage the time sheets when you first started. Then they wouldn’t have needed to fire you.

  10. Gwen Soul*

    Why did he take this job? Does he have the same goals as he did then? It may be worth moving back to the line

    1. Self Employed*

      Apparently he had cumulative stress injuries and needed to stop doing his old job. I don’t know if he’s physically up to doing any blue collar jobs or if maybe different tasks would still be OK.

  11. Not A Manager*

    I think you should plan as if he is not going to continue in this job. He can’t be very happy if he’s constantly feeling misused and misunderstood, and obviously his managers aren’t happy either. You can’t really control his actions or his attitude, all you can control is your own response.

    I think you should respond to this just as if he had some other barrier to good performance that wasn’t in his control – let’s say, for example, that he took a job that required some kind of mental or physical skill that he in fact doesn’t have and can’t acquire. You wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to make him smarter or stronger. You’d plan in your own mind that he might transition back to his old line of work, or that he’d need to find a new gig, or that your family would need to make adjustments to a loss of income.

    You can loop him into this in a non-coercive way. The reality is that if he keeps behaving this way, he’s not going to have this job much longer. So, work with him to plan what you’ll do when he loses the job. This might be a wake-up call to him and he might change his behavior. That would be great, but I don’t think it should be your main objective. Your main objective should be the safety and security of your family under the current circumstances.

    1. BRR*

      This is great advice and also where I basically stand. The situation is he doesn’t like his job and his employer isn’t pleased with him (with some serious issues summed up in that sentence). He should look for a new job that’s a better fit because a) hopefully he’ll be happier in a different position and b) his job has to be in some jeopardy.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I so agree.

      OP, put yourself on the side of trying to draw out the best in your spouse. What does he need to do so that his best will shine? It sounds like new docs, new workplace and there may be other things.

  12. Astrid*

    Having worked in white-collar, and blue-collar work, I don’t know if that’s the problem here, but I won’t pretend there aren’t cultural differences. I’m surprised that Jim would expect someone to “remind” him to get certifications. If someone had told me that success, and more importantly, a higher income was based on getting company paid training and certs, I would have signed up ASAP!

    So obviously there is more going on here, but I’m not in any position to try and help with that.

  13. Web Crawler*

    I have a slightly different situation with my partner. But maybe some of these things will apply:

    1. I encouraged my partner to find somebody she trusts to talk to about work- an informal mentor who can give her perspective. It can’t be me for a lot of reasons- I’m too close to the situation, she doesn’t trust my advice bc my career is different, and me giving advice feels like more pressure and she gets defensive.

    2. There was a backup plan for if my partner loses her job. (And that did end up happening.) But before it happened, it brought the situation down from “panic!” to “bad, but not world-ending”

    3. Any chance he’d listen if you linked him to Ask A Manager? Probably not this post at first, if you think he’d shut down instead of listening, but another post that explains how pay structures and sick day expectations and other business things usually work.

    1. Artemesia*

      Really good advice. A wife cannot be her husband’s job coach especially in this situation where he is defensive and resistant without it destroying their relationship and not doing much good anyway. A third party who could do job counseling would be very helpful.

      And the back plan really is important. He is likely to lose this job. If he does it may not be the end of the world but having a plan B is helpful. When I lost my job in a merger and was in a panic, my husband and I sat down and figured how we would manage financially and just seeing that we could manage if we took certain steps really. helped manage the anxiety until I found something. It helped that we lived without significant debt and below our income but just strategizing about our situation helped. My daughter and SIL have both faced job loss and done the same — once they work out ‘THE PLAN’ it makes it easier to let go of the panic and do what needs done to move ahead.

  14. Llellayena*

    “Explaining gently” is no longer an option, this guy needs some tough love. “You are sabotaging yourself in this position and are at risk of getting yourself fired. Of course Bob has his choice of assignments, more vacation and a more flexible schedule, he’s had 20 years to prove himself to the company. You haven’t. They told you when you started the position that they would only reimburse the certification courses within the first 2 years. They assumed you were responsible enough to track that time and follow up with getting the certification. Falsifying your time sheets to cover showing up late is fraud and that alone could get you fired. And a bonus is never guaranteed, they could have decided that the company can’t afford bonuses for anyone this year and not given them out at all. When you admit that your performance is sub-par because you’re annoyed, how are you surprised that you’re not getting the full bonus?”

    Not all of these things need to be said at once, but this is not time for sympathy or empathy. Tell him that if he gets fired because of his poor attitude and lateness/absenteeism, the family budget is cut and the things he likes won’t be available anymore (fancy meals, covid-safe vacations, hobbies that require money…)

    1. SunnySideUp*

      Right. Time for tough love. As his spouse, you have agency to lay out what will happen if he continues down this road.

    2. JJ*

      Yeah, I literally said WOOF aloud when she got to the list of why Jim thinks none of this is his fault (health issue, there was no work mommy to remind him to do the course, etc). Your husband is taking no responsibility for the results of his actions. I’d imagine he does this at home as well, no? Honestly, I would love to hear Captain Awkward’s take on this, I have never known what to do with the people for whom nothing is ever their fault. Maybe give her archives a peruse as well.

        1. LTL*

          Captain Awkward may come down harder than the OP wants to. Not to say that tough love might not help the situation but even tough love can be rooted in empathy, and Captain Awkward’s approach is normally more about self care than caring for the other person. Which is absolutely warranted in a lot of circumstances. But I don’t get the vibe that this is one of them.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Yes. Sometimes the truth hurts.

      Jim is sabotaging himself and setting a scenario to get himself fired. Worse, he seems oddly fixated on Bob and what Bob is doing as a way of justifying his own poor performance.

      If Jim is that unhappy with his lot at this company, he should find another job. Because I honestly can’t see this one ending well given what the LW has described. And I guarantee the managers do see this and will certainly be watching Jim much more closely.

      I’m truly sorry OP. You sound like a good person, but you cannot “fix” your partner’s poor work ethic.

    4. Salyan*

      Also, depending on his role, Bob could be doing work from home before coming into the office. My experience with higher-level employees that split work between home and the office is that they end up working more hours, not less.

  15. anonymous because reasons*

    I can SO relate to this question – my husband comes from a blue-collar family of origin, his parents never graduated from high school, and he has a similarly chip-on-the-shoulder attitude about pretty much everything in the professional job he has. I ache to see him continually self-sabotage, because I know he’s capable, intelligent and in general a good person, but no matter how I approach the subject or how gently I comment about the things he gets irate about from the business’s perspective, he simply will not see any other interpretation than his own skewed one.

    I do understand and recognize that the beliefs and values we absorb from our family of origin are powerful influences over our choices. I also understand and recognize that it is possible to pull those skewed beliefs out for examination, and to demolish them if they represent a barrier to success. And I understand that not everyone is willing to take that level of personal responsibility for their future.

    OP, while I think your husband might benefit from counseling and an honest self-examination of his motives and beliefs, although if he is anything like the guy I’m married to, he’ll shoot that down the minute you suggest it. If he is not willing to look within himself to find new approaches, then in all honesty I think the best thing you can do is to ensure that you maintain a solid nest-egg of at least six months’ worth of expenses at all times. Limit discretionary spending as much as possible, and throw all that you can into a savings account so that when the inevitable happens, as I think you know it will, your family can get by until he finds another position.

    As a side note, this is also a good reminder to all of us to be mindful of the messages we give our offspring, both verbal and nonverbal. Those offhand hints and comments we toss around may not stay in our own memories, but they’ll build the worldview that our kids have, and they can greatly help OR enormously hinder our kids’ success as they become adults. Words matter – listen to your words, and choose them wisely.

    1. PT*

      This is sort of what I was thinking. My family has Union roots, and some of those translated to terrible workplace advice about “standing up for your RIGHTS” that just do not apply at all in the slightest to office or professional workplaces. It was very tedious getting all of these “stand up for your RIGHTS” lectures through the recession when I was just trying to not look a gift horse in the mouth because even though my job was objectively crappy, many of my friends had jobs that were way crappier! I’m not going to be reporting my employer to the state Department of Labor or OSHA for every tiny infraction, I am going to pick my battles because I want to keep my job.

    2. Ana Gram*

      Yes! The chip on your shoulder mentality is real. When I was a blue collar worker, the line workers assumed the worst of management and it was an adversarial relationship at best.

    3. pleaset cheap rolls*

      I think a lot of this is related to masculinity and not the blue collar part. Especially this part “chip-on-the-shoulder attitude about pretty much everything”

    4. Temperance*

      I have a similar background to your husband, but I threw myself in to assimilating because I really wanted to. My experience is probably colored by the fact that I grew up in poverty and didn’t want to bounce from factory job to factory job as the work went overseas like I saw.

      It can be hard if he’s close with his parents and views them as an authority of sorts, because you know that they’re wrong and have no business talking about certain topics (like the white collar workplace). My parents and in-laws genuinely can’t understand that we don’t take our “paid breaks” or clock in/out, or the fact that we aren’t paid on an hourly basis.

      I know that if I have a kid, I’ll probably do whatever I can to immerse them in a white collar world and community and will probably go in the opposite direction of your in-laws.

    5. RoseDark*

      I started seriously dating a guy about two months ago and he’s already commented that if he learns one thing from me it’ll be “words have power”. I sometimes mean it in a mystical/magickal way, but just as often in a psychological way. Don’t say “I’m an idiot”; say “I did a silly thing.” I also don’t say “I’m depressed” but rather “I have depression”. The way you frame things is important.

      It’s a really good lesson on how to care for people. Including yourself.

  16. Lizzo*

    Oh, OP, I feel for you. I agree with Foreign Octopus’s comments about having a serious conversation that is focused on the financial consequences for your entire family if he loses this job.

    I think there’s something going on here with Jim that isn’t specifically about the job, but has been triggered by the job…something psychological. Old traumas, perhaps? The result sounds like a combination of shame/disengagement/bruised ego. A good therapist can help sort through these things. Maybe someone who also has experience with career coaching?

    That said, after many years of marriage, I’ve learned that you can’t force your spouse to change–they have to want to (and they have to think that it’s their idea). I hope Jim is open to the idea of seeking out third party assistance.

    Re: things you can control, is there any sort of Plan B scenario you can consider if Jim does lose his job? Are you able to increase your income? Adjust expenses so that you can put more money away in savings?

    Good luck. Sending hugs and lots of hope.

  17. A Poster Has No Name*

    So, Jim does realize that people who have been with a company for 20 years do often have more vacation time, as well as capital built up for things like workplace flexibility, when a new person does not have such leeway?

    Was he happy at his previous position? He’s going to get fired from this job if he continues as he is, and it sounds like he’s unhappy there anyway, so his best bet now is to look for something that suits him better before the company makes the decision for him.

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*


      The blue collar world to which I’m associated (white collar professional side of the biz) HAS no vacation time to speak of, you can take off as much time as you can afford, and the pay is such that yeah, you could take two weeks of unpaid time and be just fine.

      Honestly, if he’s having this much difficulty (and giving this much resistance to) with the blue to white collar transition, he may be happier back in his previous position.

      1. Ana Gram*

        Yeah, my experience in the blue collar world (18 years) is that there is no “capital”. The idea just doesn’t exist so it’s hard to understand the disparity in treatment in the white collar world. But he’s had two years to get over it, as well. I think it’s time to head back to the blue collar life.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          +1. It’s the difference in how “capital” works, as well as what earned autonomy looks like that plays a huge role in the difference between a lot of white collar environments and the types of blue collar environments that OP’s husband is used to.

      2. Eliza*

        Unfortunately, the OP mentions above that the husband had to leave his previous job because he was no longer physically capable of continuing to do it without damaging his health. It sounds like if he had a choice in the matter, he’d still be doing it, and that’s likely to be a big part of the problem.

  18. Essess*

    I would start preparing to have no income coming in from him. Falsifying time sheets, and poor performance reviews will end up with him fired. And it will be harder for him to find a new job when he’s fired for dishonesty. You need to start protecting yourself and let him know that you are upset that you have to do this because of his unreliability. Also be prepared that the company may pursue legal action to recoup the money they paid him for the falsified hours.

  19. HR Exec Popping In*

    I feel for the letter writer. While I understand that this directly affects her life and the financial stability of the entire family, he owns his own performance issues. If the company figures out he is falsifying time cards, he will be fired. But it actually sounds like he might already be heading that way for performance and absenteeism. Two to four days off sick each month would be very excessive for most companies.

    My advice is to prepare for him to potentially lose his job. It might also be worth having a discussion about him going back to a manufacturing job. He might need that level of structure with clear-cut rules and little emphasis on self discipline and initiative.

  20. Dust Bunny*

    I’m with everyone who wonders why he took this job in the first place, and why he’s stayed so long now that he has it.

    I started out in food service and as a veterinary assistant, both of which are low-rung, no-benefits, hourly jobs, and now work in a library. It just wasn’t that hard to transition. It certainly wasn’t two years’ worth of hard to transition. Whatever is going on now is on his plate: If the place is unfair, he needs to start job hunting, but if it’s not he either needs to start job hunting, anyway, for something the doesn’t hate or he needs to decide that he wants this job and act accordingly.

    Has he always been the kind of person who doesn’t take responsibility for his own stuff, or is this new with the job?

    1. Rainy*

      It sounds like the RSIs from his years on the line have caught up with him and he’s not capable of doing the work he used to, and this probably seemed like a really natural progression to everyone involved, including him.

      There’s a long thread above about how maybe he has depression, and perhaps he does, but it really sounds like he expected people to kiss his ass in his new role and when it didn’t happen he decided to pout instead of getting over himself.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Jim took the job because it was a mix of old and new responsibilities. Having done OldJob for so long, he may have focused more on the old, rather than the new when considering it. “Sure I can do it; been doing it forever!” Also, Old Job was probably rigid, meaning that worker actions and responsibilities were very defined. That environment is predictable and can be very comforting. (I’d love my own chaotic project to be more predictable!) But New Job entails much more than he was prepared for, especially self-governance of actions and tasks. New Job is a mismatch for Jim.

  21. June First*

    I’d also start the conversation with your husband by asking, “Are you looking for my suggestions or just venting?”.
    That can save yourself a lot of frustration, too.

    1. Rose*

      I don’t think she really cares though. That’s fine for a friend problem that doesn’t affect you, but this is jeopardizing her family’s income.

      1. Lacey*

        Yeah, it would be one thing if the job was going fine, but he was annoyed with a coworker. Then you can ask if he wants suggestions or wants to vent, but this effects both of them.

        1. June First*

          Ah, I read it as, “He needs to do x, y, z. Why can’t I get him to see that?!” If he’s just complaining and not willing to change, then OP would be wasting energy looking at his performance reviews, time sheets, etc.

  22. Mockingjay*

    He has also not completed or even registered for the certification courses that he needs to do.

    I think this might be the biggest issue. A lot of people in hands-on positions – my own husband included – are not naturally inclined to studious pursuits. It’s a huge change to suddenly sit still and do classwork, and many people really don’t like it or want to do it, which is why they chose jobs where coursework isn’t required or is minimal.

    Compounding things is that blue collar jobs can be very structured: do this thing, then the next, following this exact process. If you’ve spent 20 years being directed to do things, and the next day you have to do the opposite, that’s a huge mind switch.

    I truly think this job is a complete mismatch for him. Sometimes you take a new position and you plain don’t like it. I think that’s the case for Jim.

    1. Littorally*

      Agreed. Getting certifications while you’re working can be really difficult. (I’ve done it three times now, can attest, it sucks.) That said, you gotta! If his job, long-term, is dependent on him getting these certs, then they need to be priority number one. I’m surprised he’s been allowed to go this long without getting certified, since it sounds like it means he’s only doing part of the job he was hired for. Combine that with his other issues and he seems like a no-brainer to fire. At my job (admittedly, very white collar), when you’re hired into a role that requires certification, you are given a timeline to have successfully completed certification, and if you haven’t gotten it by that date, you no longer have that job. That they’ve let him go two years with the only consequence being he no longer gets reimbursement for certification, it sounds like they are being very lenient with him.

    2. juliebulie*

      And his excuse is that “nobody reminded him.” Ye gods. If you have to be reminded to do something that will lead to career growth and better pay (and will cost you nothing if you do it promptly), then you’re showing that you are just not into it.

      Jim needs a new job.

    3. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      It doesn’t help now, but it seems like he’s better suited to a job that is less self-directed and has more daily oversight.
      Your husband needs to ignore discrepancies between him and Bob. Yes, some of it sounds unfair. He’s on track to get fired, as you realize, so the question is would he rather be right or employed?
      Also, if he’s regularly cutting hours, it seems like he has time in the day to set aside and work on his certifications.

    4. biobotb*

      Yeah, I wonder if he’s struggling with going from knowing exactly what the job’s expectations are to feeling like they’re amorphous and arbitrary. Feeling uncertain and off balance because you haven’t figured out how a job works and what your superiors expect can be difficult to deal with, especially if you used to feel very confident in the job requirements and your ability to meet them. Maybe this is projecting too much, but I wonder if he’s feeling any shame or embarrassment about struggling in a somewhat junior position, after feeling confident and skilled in a different position.

  23. Random Autistic Person*

    Is it possible that his health issues are having a bigger impact on him than he’s letting on (or realizing)? Some people don’t show much in the way of outward signs when they’re feeling unwell, and trying to function while chronically ill can lead to fatigue, which could partially explain his behavior. Either way, the time theft absolutely has to stop. If anyone finds out he’s been lying on his time sheets, given the quality of his work otherwise, he probably will be fired.

  24. Lego Leia*

    I agree with all of the other commenters that said this: you are addressing the wrong issue. Your husband is lying to work place, being absent, blaming others for his mistakes, and not following through on certifications. And still thinks that he deserves a giant bonus for … reasons? I think that you have done what you can to show him the error of his ways, and he just won’t see it. I wonder if this shows that he either having a mental health issue (anxiety, burn out, depression, for example) OR really just hates the new job. Doing what ever he can to avoid being at work is a sign that something isn’t right.

  25. Temperance*

    I grew up in a blue collar culture, and exclusively work in white collar industry. It’s definitely a huge transition and a whole different world, but it’s not insurmountable.

    I think you need to lay it all out for him, bluntly. He was told what he needs to do to be better, and he’s choosing not to do it. It honestly may be that he’s not capable of a job that has any autonomy beyond working a line. He doesn’t seem to want to take any initiative to put himself in a better position.

    He needs to specifically be told that Bob is irrelevant here. Bob is clearly a better employee, which is why Bob is treated differently.

  26. Dana Lynne*

    I have some not dissimilar experiences with family members.
    I agree that it doesn’t seem as much about the transition itself as the issues with time sheets, etc. I agree with the commenter who said that trade jobs are all about time sheets, work flow, etc.
    I also think the comment about “fairness” as a concept is very perceptive.
    I don’t think there’s much a spouse can do here, honestly, but I can suggest two things from personal experience.
    When he vents about this, maybe steer the conversation to what he can control and what he can’t. It looks like he is resentful and using passive aggressive tactics because he can’t control the situation and that is making him mad. Passive aggressive tactics like the falsifying time sheets and calling in out of a sense of revenge over Bob’s vacation never end well and only backfire on the person doing them.
    Kind of a script of, Yes, to you this may be unfair. This is how Bob is. This is how the company is. You can’t change that single handedly. So what do you want to do so that you don’t hate your job?
    Also I have a suspicion that this kind of passive aggressive behavior is what happens when a “tough guy” is in over their head for whatever reason and can’t admit it. The fact that he never pursued the certifications is a huge red flag for me. He was veering away from the certifications because perhaps he was secretly afraid he couldn’t hack them. Now he’s blaming others for his misery. Very typical thing to do when you are afraid.

    I agree that there’s something else going on here. Put the onus back on him to figure out how to not be miserable at work. After he vents, focus on the fact that he can’t change Bob or company policy. So what his plan? What is going to do about it? What other job does he want? Because it’s very likely he will get fired soon.
    You have all my sympathies. Your ability to do anything about this is quite limited. But there’s definitely something going on under the surface with him here.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      You’re right about the certifications being the bigger “red flag.” Because that says he’s given up and stopped even trying (yet somehow still feels he is owed a bonus for not doing what he was supposed to do?).

        1. Dana Lynne*

          Doesn’t have to be literacy. Could be any number of things that make him secretly afraid he couldn’t pass the certification tests.

          For my relative it was ADHD and lack of experience with computers, and a low overall tolerance for frustration.

  27. Ama*

    It seems pretty clear that Jim is very unhappy, OP might want to consider a larger conversation with Jim about why he’s unhappy and what he thinks he needs to be less miserable — is it talking to his bosses about his workload when Bob is out of the office? Is he frustrated because it has been harder to adapt to the new job then he thought? Or does he really not like the work and wants to go back to a factory job but is scared to admit it because he thinks that’s “failure”?

    You can try to get him to change the behaviors that might get him fired (i.e. falsifying the timesheets) but if Jim’s underlying unhappiness isn’t addressed, I don’t think things are going to get better.

    I say this as someone who got so miserable at my last job my now-husband had to give me a wakeup talk about how the job was clearly making me miserable and actually pretty unpleasant to be around, so I needed to think about what would pull me out of that funk. (For me it was getting a new job.)

    1. Eleanor Konik*

      This. Thiiiis. This. These are classic “I am out of my depth and lashing out to hide it” behaviors. Not to be too infantalizing but it’s the same thing you see in students who act out behaviorally to get out of classwork they’re too proud to ask for help on.

      “I got fired because they’re unfair!” is easier on the pride than “I got fired because I tried hard on it and failed to succeed” and so they don’t try.

  28. Ms. Yvonne*

    Is it an option for him to ask for the old job back, that he performed well enough at that they’d keep him (or has he perhaps burned that bridge because of his performance in the past 2 y)?

  29. CatCat*

    Would be be interested in going back to a manufacturing job?

    The reality is that he isn’t going to get what he wants from this job. He doesn’t want to listen to why that is and is setting himself up to be fired (I’m shocked it hasn’t happened already with the falsifying timesheets). So, can you suggest a vision for the future that isn’t this job. “You’ve been really unhappy at work. Do you think you might be happier going back to something like OldJob?”

  30. Keymaster of Gozer*

    This is a very complex and hard to decide issue.

    First off: have you ever had experience in your relationship of having a really difficult conversation? Like the ‘you need to stop doing X or we’ll lose the mortgage’ or ‘if you keep doing Y I’ll have to rethink this marriage’ levels: I.e. REALLY serious talks?

    If not, frankly I’d suggest counselling or therapy – couples stuff to learn how to discuss these types of things.

    Because constantly messing up at work, to the point where you’re getting less money and the boss is starting to tell you off for it is a serious matter.

    If you do have experience discussing hard truths: chose whatever setting works best for you guys for a serious talk, outright put it up front that this isn’t a casual chat/whinge/general moan about the world, and then say that simply put there is nothing he can do about this perceived ‘unfairness’ except work harder and realise the job could literally be on the line here.

    “I don’t want to hear about your work complaints if you’re not going to do anything to resolve them. I’ll gladly help in supporting you improve at work any way I can but this complaining about things you’ve done/not done isn’t helping.

    I want you to succeed and be happy there. I can’t help you out of this depressing situation unless you want help though. Do you want to discuss how to actually make things better?”

    Then if they say yes, they really do, you go into how they’re going to have to essentially be a solid reliable performer for a while, listen to their manager and coworkers on what is considered acceptable behaviour and look into methods of dealing with their anger over perceived ‘unfairness’ that don’t affect others.

    If they say no though, that they actually want to just continue the way things are and torpedo their job….then my sincerest sympathies mate – because that’s a serious issue that needs professional help.

    (Note: I’m not diagnosing anyone with any kind of mental stuff here, but when I’ve been sunk into a real morass of ‘nothing matters’ and performing badly due to my severe depression it’s been my husband saying ‘I don’t want to hear your complaints anymore if you’re not going to do anything about it’ that gave me a big incentive to really try and act better)

    1. BRR*

      “have you ever had experience in your relationship of having a really difficult conversation? ” this is such a key point. That’s where the LW’s actions are going to need to come from.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Husband unit and I have worked out that for really serious conversations it helps to have the phones off, the cat banished from the room and a promise of a cup of tea and an extended Diablo session on the computer after we’re finished. The reward part of it is key for me in particular (I truly hate disagreements with my husband)

    2. I Want to Break Free*

      I did something like this when my spouse was complaining about work about 10 years ago. He was SOOOOOO unhappy and could not see a way out, with it constantly infecting his time outside of work. I told him that if he doesn’t want to do anything about it, I don’t want to hear about it, and he should look for a new job. It took a while, but he found a new opportunity. I was supportive through that change, and pushed him to remember, when he was hemming and hawing about taking a new position, how unhappy he currently was.

      The result was very positive and provided him with a template for future moves.

  31. Valkyrie*

    I worked in outdoor ed and recreation for years, then I transitioned into working as an Admin in a Law Firm. It was not easy (it still isn’t, I want to be outside, not at a desk!), but this sounds like more than transition trouble. This does not sound typical. Your husband sounds entitled and out of touch, and falsifying time sheets is a serious issue, and quite frankly he’s mega lucky he hasn’t been caught and fired.

    This sounds like a good opportunity to have a serious discussion, maybe even a fight. He has a choice to make, and it impacts you very seriously. Not only is he jeopardizing your financial future, but this must also SUCK to live with. Complaining, venting, etc can be fine, but it sounds like he’s about to cross a line he can’t come back from.

    I’d find a time when you’re both relatively relaxed, well rested, aren’t hungry and have had a bit of a break from work and have a conversation. I think it’s important to realize that while *we* are all seeing one thing from your letter, he is clearly living a different experience. Find some common ground, find a common goal, and find steps to get there.

    It it also fair for you to say “it is important to me that you contribute to our family both financially and emotionally, I will support you, but you can’t be playing fast and loose with your income, this impacts us both. You seem deeply unhappy with your current job situation, would it help to start looking for something else? I want you to be happy and I want us to be stable. Either way, it is very important to me that you recognize the issue I’m seeing and work to address it. This pattern isn’t sustainable for me”

    I had a similar conversation with my (now) husband almost a decade ago. He heard me and it worked, but I was at the end of my rope and he knew that. Good luck OP!

    1. Who’s that squirrel*

      All of this! My husband is having his own bad attitude transitional issues around work and I’ve demanded that we go to couples therapy. What’s really happening in my case is that my husband is depressed and scared, and those are things I can’t fix. OP, you should insist on some form of counseling, because you can’t fix it for him. He has to decide that he wants to change and do better. And yeah, I would say this rises to the level of a fight. Don’t let him off the hook, he’s putting your family’s future at risk and he doesn’t just get to pout and shut down. He needs to grow up and fix his attitude, either at this job or moving to a new one.

  32. Van Wilder*

    Gretchen Rubin’s “The Four Tendencies” might give you some hints as to how to talk to your husband, based on his tendency. Sounds like either a questioner, rebel, or obliger in severe obliger burnout.

    Other than that, I’m not sure there’s much you can do. I don’t think people generally want unsolicited advice from their spouses, unfortunately. It might be more effective coming from a third party that he respects.

  33. hello*

    Time to get a job, OP. Or if you already have a job, time to cut the family expenses so that you all can live on your salary. Plenty of families out there live on one income, you can too, and you’d better be prepared to. Because this guy is heading towards getting fired and your good advice isn’t necessarily going to stop him.

    1. Lacey*

      Some families do live off one income, but for a lot of them that would involve selling their house and severe lifestyle changes. I’m not sure that’s something she can unilaterally change without her husband’s buy-in.

      1. Lizzo*

        She may not have a choice, ultimately, if husband loses his job.

        Husband needs to buy into maintaining their current financial stability/lifestyle by resolving whatever problems (of his own making) are going on at work so that he is not at risk of getting fired. If he doesn’t take responsibility…well, there are going to be consequences. LW has every right to make financial choices that minimize those consequences for the rest of the family.

  34. HotSauce*

    I went through a similar situation a few years ago. I worked in a blue collar environment for 15 years before transitioning to the admin area. I had a difficult time fitting in at the beginning, everything is so different. In the factory setting you’re given a set of specific tasks to complete within a certain time frame, while in the admin area you still have tasks, but you’re expected to prioritize them on your own. It also takes a lot more self motivation to work in a white collar environment because unless you have a micromanager above you, you’re expected to maintain your workload without being fed each task with a specific timeline. It does your husband no good to compare his work to others because unlike piece work, admin does not run that way. I think he needs to take a hard look at whether or not this work is right for him. There’s no shame in recognizing that they don’t fit in that environment, and it’s definitely better to recognize that and make a change on your own than to be let go because you are unable to function that way. If he does want to make it work I would have him sit down and make a timeline for himself to complete all the certification that the company has set for him and work on achieving those goals. I would also absolutely talk to him about the time clock falsification, I don’t know about his workplace’s policies, but in mine it is a fireable offense. Again, it doesn’t matter what his coworker does, his employer isn’t going to give a hoot about what others are doing any more than any parent cares about who started it when kids are fighting. If this were my employee I would be having serious doubts about him at this point and probably be putting a PIP together.

  35. Ups and downs*

    My husband has a mental health disorder. He changed from a stressful blue collar job to one not quite blue collar job that was less stressful but a change. We thought it would help his mental health instead he couldnt adjust. He had similar issues as you describe. Within a year he was in therapy and he went back to his other job because his mental health took such a nose dive. What spurred him going back was a heartfelt but stern conversation with both me and s therapist. He has since moved on to a different industry and is doing much better taking to heart the lessons of his first attempt at a differebt position. The change was drastic and while it did take a while to get used to 2 years is more than enough time. It sounds like tbere is more going on, and i suggest an open and frank conversation and honestly possibly therapy. It helped my husband. It may be this job is what he thought it was but feels likehe cant leave and now feels stuck and cornered.

    Good luck OP

  36. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    I think the blue-collar to white-collar transition is a smokescreen (and people who have worked blue-collar jobs are perfectly capable of picking up on white-collar norms, this kind of thinking has always rubbed me the wrong way in a way I don’t quite know how to express).

    Was it possible that these issues have always existed, and you’re only seeing them now?

    1. AKchic*

      People give a lot more leeway to “blue collar” workers than they do to “white collar” ones. They expect that “rough around the edges” personality, which most people euphemize for “raging hosebeast, but tolerable if you ignore the worst parts and realize he’ll buy beer at happy hour”. The whole “white collar” types have an easier time hiding their worst behaviors in public and smaller groups.

      1. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

        Yeah, but in a different way, also the opposite. “Blue collar” workers have less autonomy, can be punished for taking initiative or chatting with a college or going to the bathroom outside of a scheduled break. Being treated like a cog can make a very us-vs-them mentality with management that’s hard to shake.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Being forced to have non-stop movement for 8 consecutive hours can make other people seem Privileged. There are two endurance tests, physical endurance and mental endurance. In order to do factory work one must be able to pass both tests. It’s not optional. And the test takes place each day. The only thing that I can think of that is more demanding is farm work which requires work days that do not end and us demanding of so many skills sets that it’s almost unimaginable.

    2. HotSauce*

      Eh, I think some people just aren’t suited for the corporate world. I spent 15 years in a factory before I transitioned to white collar. I still struggle sometimes. It really stinks when someone is behaving badly not to be able to just yell at them to cut that sh*t out. I think the opposite is the same. I worked with some people who moved from white collar to blue during the 2008 recession and it was painful to watch them get steamrolled because instead of just telling people off they tried to be diplomatic. It may not be right, but it is what it is. It’s all about being able to adapt yourself to the situation, some people are better at it than others.

    3. NYWeasel*

      I don’t think it’s a smokescreen per se. A lot of manufacturing jobs are structured in a way where individuals are discouraged from showing initiative/leadership, and with the constant unending stream of work, goofing off whenever you get an opportunity can be raised to an art form. I have stories from my teens where we would drag out tasks for hours to get around having to do more work—and we learned that from the folks who’d been there for years! I still struggle at times with focusing on work without a clear deadline (oh hai AAM!) and I only spent maybe 5 years or so doing that type of work. If I’d done it for 20+ years it would be much harder to shed the habits. (And I get that falsifying timesheets is a fireable offense, but I also know plenty of ppl who wouldn’t have thought twice about doing it if they felt like no one would catch them)

      In terms of the OP’s question, if this was an employee I was managing, I would probably have a discussion about whether the employee felt like the job was a good fit for them or not. I suspect that a lot of the foot dragging, etc, is a (subconscious?) ploy to take the decision to leave this job he’s had for decades out of his hands. If he was energized by the job, he’d want to be learning the new skills and would want to demonstrate that he’s doing better than Bob. With his current drift, when he gets let go he can instead talk about how they treated him poorly and nothing was his fault. Maybe try to figure out what he would actually be excited about?

    4. boop the first*

      It rubs me the wrong way, too, because it’s fairly classist at the root of it. We’re all too dirty, rude, and uneducated to transition, but this is the first time I’d heard that we’re simultaneously too accustomed to fairness (whoa, where can I sign up?) but also can’t honestly manage timesheets (even though they’re literally time locked to favour the employer).

      I know it’s not what people mean to say, and yet…

      1. Artemesia*

        The thing about stereotypes is that they contain kernels of truth, sometimes very large kernels. These are realities being discussed. Some people have trouble transitioning from classroom to job because different things are required of them. Some people have trouble transitioning from blue color work to white color because of the very different norms. The ‘chip on the shoulder’ us vs them mentality common in blue color settings (and often reflecting the very real lack of power and autonomy a worker has in those settings) is in fact a real barrier to success in positions that require initiative and autonomy. Pretending such patterns are somehow not to be discussed doesn’t make them any less true.

        1. HotSauce*

          The reverse can be true as well. I had several people in my area treat me as though I was exceptionally stupid when I moved from blue to white within my company. The truth was that I couldn’t afford college right out of high school and put myself through college while working 12-hour night shifts. I graduated With Honors. I work very hard to shed the stigma of working on the factory side, but sometimes my language or approach can still be a bit abrupt after having to operate in that manner for so long, it’s not a switch you can just flip. I tried not to have a chip on my shoulder, but at the same time, it’s hard not to get one when people already have preconceived notions about you. I’ve climbed up to middle management now, so I think I’ve come a long way, but I still get angry when I hear my coworkers dismiss the production departments as low brow.

          1. Quinoa*

            Yeah, I worked with a small team of white-collar workers who kept dismissing the production/maintenance team’s concerns and implied they were lazy when they refused to work on the weekends. I spoke up a few times in their defense, and my team members looked at me like I was an alien–they just couldn’t comprehend the perspective of an hourly worker, and they didn’t know why I had any respect for them.

            It would’ve been one thing if my team members at least knew what they were doing, but they were famously disorganized and incompetent (my name was also dragged through the mud because of this) and did shady things that amounted to falsifying data because they messed up and couldn’t own up to it (this part management hasn’t found out yet). Yet they still think they’re inherently smarter than people who just do what they’re told and make no decisions. There’s no self-awareness here.

  37. No Winning Move*

    LW, I don’t think this is a common blue –> white collar issue. I’m getting a real “it’s everyone else’s fault but my own” vibe from Jim, and I wonder if it’s just been an underlying but easier-to-ignore mentality for a long time and is surfacing more as a result of the job change and duties. If it’s entitlement, generally it’s a mentality built from resentment and frustration that may not even be related to work, but it’s obviously affecting his work and he doesn’t seem to care about consequences; someone who doesn’t care about consequences is unpredictable. (Not trying to imply that Jim would be threatening or violent, just that there may be “hot button” areas or topics that could trigger something you weren’t expecting.) If he’s not receptive to firm feedback from you on how this is affecting not just his life and your life, but your married life together, I’d highly recommend considering couples’ counseling if you can; a good counselor/therapist can really make a difference.

  38. Oxford Comma*

    Someone on this site recommended this book Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams and I found it illuminating.

    It is different working in both environments and there is a mindshift you have to adjust to.

    1. HotSauce*

      Thanks for this recommendation! I still sometimes struggle after transitioning more than six years ago.

  39. AKchic*

    My husband went from retail/cashiering work to an office sales job once. It was… not pleasant. He wanted the pay. He wanted the “prestige” of having a desk job and getting out of “retail h3ll” and minimum wage drudgery and being able to make nearly the same wage I did (because that was a huge issue for his mother and father… gods I wish he’d go to therapy for their constant BS).

    The problem? The job wasn’t the right fit. They weren’t training him. They expected him to instinctively know all of the office equipment because he *did* go to school to get an IT degree 6 years earlier (where they don’t actually train you to run fax machines or copiers or anything like that, and he’d never actually touched one working as a cashier or selling video games and electronics). He had some phone etiquette, but not *office* phone etiquette. He was still socialized for retail, not a professional office. His depression? Oh, it got worse. He was calling out 2-3 days a week. I was getting furious because I knew that he hadn’t even gotten through his 90 day probation and he was going to be fired (he didn’t even last the 90 day probation).
    Even now, many years later, I have to let my husband screw up at work on his own. I can warn once when I see a problem, but otherwise, his career is his own, and if he wants to be stuck as a bog-standard retail worker, that is on him. All I can do is continue MY career and protect MY assets to ensure that his poor decisions don’t affect me or the household. You can push for him to get a mental health evaluation until you’re blue in the face but he’s not going to go until he’s ready.

    At this point, my recommendation is this: Stop worrying about his career and start worrying about the fall-out should his career fail. I know that’s personal advice, and I’m sorry, but it’s really all I have.

    1. biobotb*

      One of the things that can make office environments challenging is that a lot of the expectations are unspoken, and you’re expected to suss them out without explicit instructions. If you’re coming from an environment with more explicit expectations, or are just a very literal person who thinks if someone expects something from you, that they’d tell you, it can be a steep learning curve.

      1. Ana Gram*

        This is a great point. I’m the first person in my family to get a white collar job (after many years of blue collar work) and to go to college. My parents couldn’t give me advice if they wanted to and most adults I knew worked a trade with a high school education. Working in an office has a ton of unspoken rules and I figured out pretty quickly that I was going to crash and burn if I didn’t take the time to find mentors and ask questions. It’s a different playing field and I didn’t know the rules.

    2. Lizzo*

      “Stop worrying about his career and start worrying about the fall-out should his career fail. I know that’s personal advice, and I’m sorry, but it’s really all I have.”

      I attempted to say this elsewhere, but this is much more succinct, and it’s 100% accurate.

  40. staceyizme*

    You should stop trying to manage this for your spouse and assume that he will deal with it. While it’s very likely that he’ll continue in his negative behaviors at work, it’s not really something that you can offset with “coaching” as a spouse. Somebody who is so myopic in their perspective isn’t going to respond to your input, in all likelihood. You might consider the possibility that he is depressed. He might be better off looking for a different job. While the one that he has seems ideal, he’s stuck in a negative rut there and lacks the awareness and the wherewithal to get himself out of it. A fresh start might be preferable to continued bad reviews and the eventual loss of his position. Meanwhile, you might want to make some things clear to him. What would be your “line in the sand” for how badly you’ll tolerate him mismanaging his career in the name of “fairness” before the cost to your own focus and equilibrium are unsustainable?

  41. Zephy*

    LW, I’m going to add a voice to the chorus here urging you to make sure you’ve got somewhere to land when your husband loses this job. It would be nice if he’d get his s*** together and at least try to make a graceful exit, if he can’t get his head on straight and actually do this job, but that’s not guaranteed and there’s not a lot that you personally can do to help it. I assume you want to stay married to him, so make your plan, start figuring out your budget going forward as if he’s already lost this income and see what you’re going to need to do to keep afloat. He’s gonna have feelings about it either way, whether you lay it all out for him up front, or just quietly don your own lifejacket while you wait for this situation to play out however it’s going to; those aren’t your responsibility to manage, and you’d be perfectly within your rights to choose not to start a fight about this if you think that’s what will happen if you tell him “we’re going to lose the house when you get fired from this job.”

    It’s also definitely worth considering if this behavior is new for him or if you’ve seen him to be disinclined toward personal responsibility in the past as well. You may look back over your marriage and realize he’s always been like this and it’s just not impacted you to this extent until now. Or you may realize that this isn’t the man you married, which is also an opening for a conversation exploring what’s going on with him, because clearly something is wrong.

  42. HR Ninja*

    This might have been brought up before, but if he does transition back into a blue collar role, I would suggest with a different company. Going back to the factory floor in the same company may appear/feel like a demotion. Not that should be a thing but quite often it is.

    In the meantime, if his company has some sort of EAP benefit, I would have him utilize it to try and get through to the basis of his roadblocks.

  43. Trek*

    I was in manufacturing although never on the floor but in the office. As much as you try to fight against it there is almost a class system between the floor/union workers and those not on the floor and not union although I realize this may not be the case in all companies. Very much an us against them mentality i.e. we (union) do all the work they (management) take the credit and get more money etc.
    I think your husband is holding onto his blue collar identify because they do physical labor so therefore must work harder than those crunching numbers. Does he think that if he goes white collar with his career he is betraying the workers or his friends on the line? Does he still think it’s us against them and he’s intentionally trying to sabotage this job so that he can go back to what he’s used to and complain about management?

    The only option I can see is he needs someone who has made the transition before to sit down with him and discuss it and call BS on what your husband is doing and tell him that his success is up to him no one else. They made the transition and they can guide him but your husband must be cooperative or it won’t work.

    Ask your husband what’s his plan is for work if he is fired from this position? Can he go back to his prior job or will he have burned bridges? Will he have to switch industries? How easy will that be for him and what will the pay look like? Does he want to start over at the bottom? How will you and your family meet your financial goals? Don’t play what if ask very specific questions. Then ask what if you tried for 90 days to be at work on time and work a full shift and didn’t call out once? What if he looked for ways to make himself more valuable at work by learning something new? What if he tried to see Bob as an ally and if Bob can leave early and have more time off how does your husband get to be Bob someday? Hard work, proven track record, and loyalty come to mind.

    Good Luck OP

    1. Artemesia*

      My father was an engineer — a rocket scientist actually who worked on the moon shot. My uncles were mostly all blue color laborers without in some cases even high school educations. They constantly badmouthed my father who just sat at a desk doing nothing while they had to work hard for a lot less money; there was a lot of macho posturing around their superiority and his ‘easy life’. When you see others get ahead in ‘easy jobs’ while you are scrabbling to make a buck with physical labor, it helps shore up your ego to denigrate those people. Losing that is hard when you become ‘those people.’

  44. Quickbeam*

    Not sure if this helps but here goes: I am a nurse manager for office based nurses who do case management. They all gravitate to this from many years in a hospital setting where they are used to time and a half, double time and getting paid for every second. Transition to salaried office work seems like heaven to them, until they need to step up, work extra hours and not see a double time pay check.

    A huge percentage fail and find many grievances about office work. It’s s big learning curve going from an hourly skilled job to a salaried, “all the work that’s required” environment. I think the divide between hourly work and salaried positions can be very hard for a lot of people.

    OP’s husband might be happier in his old job. He sounds way too focused on an hourly sense of fairness that does not really carry over to a more open ended job.

  45. KIPW*

    Some thoughts that crossed my mind reading the OP provided information (just thoughts *not* judgements based on years of working with managers and employees resolving performance/attitude concerns):
    1)Is it possible that your husband is feeling real concern is about his capability in being able to complete the certifications required and that is why he hasn’t started them? What might help him feel more confident?
    2)Is it possible that ‘Bob’ has treated your husband in a less than helpful manner that has eroded his confidence?
    3)Is it possible that your (understandable) reaction to his defensive behaviours has obscured what might be his unspoken issue here?
    4) It helps if we can suspend our own reactions long enough to truly, empathetically and compassionately understand what is really going on in the situation. Which is a tough thing to do especially when questions of integrity (falsifying time sheets) are part of the equation. It is possible that he accepted a role that turned out to be too different from what he imagined and he has created some inner thought process to avoid admitting that-or that he is having a confidence issue that may be solvable. Either way I hope for all your sakes that a positive resolution arises soon.

  46. hbc*

    Honestly, when I’ve had employees get to the point where everything they can possibly get out of a situation is a context-free entitlement (bonus, short work day, suspiciously-timed sick leave, etc.) and everything they have to do is an imposition (training, remembering training, supposedly harder projects), there’s no coming back. It is a losing battle to convince them that this job and this company isn’t massively screwing him over. I bet if they said, “Okay, we’ll give you the raise now and put an extension on training reimbursement,” he would still be pissed because they should have done it in the first place and the training dates are inconvenient.

    I would point out that he seems miserable and ask him what would need to change for him to be happy. I’m guessing it’s something like more money, reimbursement for training, no Bob, and maybe some change in what he works on. Then suggest he look for a job that has those things, because he’s probably not getting them there, and 2 years is too long to be miserable. Personally, I would also say that it’s okay with me if he returned to blue collar work, because the kinds of things that are infuriating to him are found in any office.

  47. Former Retail Manager*

    I haven’t had a chance to read all of the comments above, so apologies if this is repetitive. This post is amazingly timely. My husband is in a similar boat, although he hasn’t transitioned yet. He’s looking to transition to an office environment from having worked retail, service or manual labor type jobs where there is a lot of leeway with regard to behavior, personality, etc. and if you produce results you are generally “left alone.” Office environments don’t always work that way.

    Without getting into all of my own stuff, I will say that I had a very frank, and perhaps brutal, discussion with my husband about what the environment would be like, why I feel he would not be a good fit, behaviors that I’ve seen him exhibit in his current job that will be extremely problematic in an office environment, and told him that frankly, he needs to accept that office work is likely not a good fit for him. I even went so far as to tell him that, as someone who has managed, he comes across as a problem employee and not someone I would want to manage. I have tried to steer him toward jobs where I feel that he is both a better fit and where I believe he would be more fulfilled by the work. Things were icy for a couple of days, but he seems to have given it some thought, and come to the realization that his current position isn’t so bad, and that he really needs to do some self-reflection to determine what type of work would fit best with his personality.

    So, in short, my advice is that he’s an adult, and you need to give it to him straight. He can’t continue as he has been and change is imperative.

    Also, the falsifying time sheets is a major issue. There’s being unhappy at work, feeling cheated, etc. and then there’s essentially theft. He’ll be lucky if he isn’t caught. I’d suggest he try to preserve the reference and get out ASAP.

  48. Funfetti*

    I’m been through this/going through this with my husband.

    A year ago the straw broke the camel’s back with my husband’s alcoholism. He was a mess – a total a*hole – and basically I told him to shape up or ship out. To his credit, he dove head first into AA and has been sober for a little over a year. Totally changed – not explosive, thoughtful, self aware. I am so proud of him.

    However, through AA – therapy and the like, I really noticed destructive work patterns. He was calling out work all the time pre-AA – some legit as he gets intense migraines where he takes meds that don’t allow him to drive – and other times, really not. He was definitely in the wrong job regardless, but his attitude towards work was appalling. Especially since I was working hard AND going to grad school yet somehow managed to adult just fine.

    We decided he should quit is job so he can focus on his sobriety. We were in the fortunate position that we can do this. And again he went to AA every day, started working meetings and has build an incredible community for himself. BUT WORK is still an ongoing problem. He got a small part time research job and he even that he’d blow off. I pointed it out to him is combative approach to work and he was taken aback realizing he was just always confrontational with whomever is his “boss”. Some of it stems from his previous work history (high pressure/high demanding environment) and other is his anxiety – or as he puts it his “alcoholic brain” that warps what is said to him. So if he receives any criticism, it spirals him. With AA he has really tackled this BUT its not resolved yet.

    Right now his temporary work is over and now he needs to figure out his actual career job. I’ve been generous in not totally harping on him due to his sobriety, but to all the great commentators before me – the gloves need to come off again. Truth be told – I like being the breadwinner but I certainly don’t make *that* much. He needs to find something he will commit to – it doesn’t need to be high paying – but he needs a job. The end.

    I have made a commitment to myself to actually address it again this weekend with him. I am going to stick myself into it more because we have found out he actually does listen to me when its about work (about 75% of the time). And with where he is in his sobriety, we have established the necessary trust again for the difficult conversations.

    So OP – it’s tough and not that I intend to diagnose your husband here, but I’m reading the same red flags as my husband had. You deserve more. Your husband deserves more. He is doing a disservice to both of you with his actions. I hope you have an honest discussion and that he finds the willpower to be accountable for change in either his work behavior or a new job. Good luck!

    1. triplehiccup*

      Congratulations to you and your husband on all the progress you’ve both made to a happier life together. Very impressive to come back from that and keep pushing.

  49. lazuli*

    OP, from your updates, it sounds like your husband was, to some extent, forced out of the blue-collar job due to his health. That’s really different than choosing to leave it voluntarily, and may have brought up a lot of issues of identity and meaning, especially if he was invested in the general toxic narratives we have that “masculinity” means being physically strong or in the ableist narratives we have that productivity equals worth. I know that for my own father, who worked in white collar jobs but grew up in a blue collar family, having big health issues caused him to flip into a definite “The world owes me!” nasty state for at least a couple years; my mother getting cancer and his having to care for her was the only thing that flipped him out of it (and is obviously not a recommended course of action!).

    So as others have said, I think it may be worthwhile having a conversation about his (un)happiness and maybe his sense of worth. If he is buying into those narratives about masculinity, that might make it trickier to have that conversation with you, so maybe also reassurances from you that you don’t see him as a failure would help (though I would absolutely couple that with boundaries about the financial/career risks he’s taking).

    I’m sorry. This must be hard on you, too.

    1. Zephy*

      OP, from your updates, it sounds like your husband was, to some extent, forced out of the blue-collar job due to his health. That’s really different than choosing to leave it voluntarily, and may have brought up a lot of issues of identity and meaning, especially if he was invested in the general toxic narratives we have that “masculinity” means being physically strong or in the ableist narratives we have that productivity equals worth.

      This jumped out at me, too, and I think may be a major contributor to what’s happening right now, if not the major contributor. I don’t know how much time, energy, inclination OP has to educate herself and then her husband to lead them both out of the cave of toxic masculinity, but it’s probably work that is worth undertaking if at all possible.

  50. Archangels girl*

    I had a white collar trained husband with a university degree, from blue collar family that got fired over and over and over again for this very attitude. It was always about what everyone else was doing, and what was fair, and never about what he was doing. His professional jobs were very unstructured, as professional jobs are, and he was unable to apply the structure to get everything done in a day. FWIW, I suspect he has ADHD, which means not that he WOULDN’T structure his day to keep these jobs, but that he COULDN’T. This is important.

    He finally found success doing a job that used his technical skills, but was much more repetitive and structured. He came in at 9:00. There were a pile of estimates to do. He worked through the pile. He left at noon for lunch. In the afternoon, he switched to the pile of estimates that had been accepted and processed those. Clocked out at 5:00. Came in the next day and repeated.

    Was this job as fun and challenging and meaningful as all the other jobs he had blown through? No. Did he lament that sometimes? Yes. Was having something he could cope with ultimately the most important to our family and his well-being? Yes. Did he make as much money? No, but he made some money, and steady money all the time, was better than fabulous money for a year and then unemployment for a year.

    Everything is a trade-off. Sounds like you and your husband have to find yours.

    1. Quickbeam*

      I support this. It has been a lifeline for my husband on the spectrum. He landed in a job where he’s massively overqualified but paid well and left alone. The higher social demand of other gigs was horrible for him. I’
      m so proud, he retuires this year with a full pension. It was not easy but he really bloomed in his most recent transfer.

    2. Lizzo*

      +100 to the comments re: different brain types and the (in)ability to build and manage structure, and how that ultimately has an impact on workplace success.

  51. Some internet rando*

    This is not about the transition from blue collar work to white collar work.

    Your husband sounds preoccupied with Bob and the perception of “fairness.” And he might be *right* that Bob is getting away with some shady stuff (coming in 2 hours late is probably wrong for both them them). BUT this preoccupation is also keeping your husband stuck and he is not realizing that some of this stuff (like getting certified) has nothing to do with Bob.

    Your husband sounds like he has an external locus of control (he believes that the things that happen to him are out of his control — like bad luck, bad bosses, bad co-workers — and even his own actions (like not getting certified) are someone else’s responsibility). Its a self-fulfilling cycle because since he is not taking any responsibility he is making poor decisions that will result in further repercussions (e.g., bad review, not getting the pay raise, he might get fired). And then it will seem like things are even more out of his control. He is not recognizing his role in this.

    Could he be depressed? Sure. People with depression often have an external locus of control. But he would have to be willing to actively engage in counseling in order for it to be helpful.

    A couple of suggestions for you in talking with him — one is focusing on his values. What is important to him? This situation may be bad (Bob may suck) but what kind of person does your husband want to be in light of this situation? Just because Bob lies, does your husband want to be a liar? Your husband clearly values fairness, but what else? You? Your family? Financial stability? Honesty? Hard work? Its worth thinking about how this job has hurt him and how he may feel about how this has hurt his own integrity.

    The other thing is simple problem solving…. your husband is focused on other people, what he is not getting, how unfair everything is. Basically everything that is out of his control. I would pivot to problem solving because it focuses back on what is in your husband’s control. Does he want to stay in this job (if so, what realistically needs to happen to avoid getting fired)? Does he want his old job back? Does he want to look for another job? Can he move to a new role where he is not paired with Bob? Is it worth it to get the certificates for the bonus or is it not worth the money – in other words he makes an active choice rather than just waiting to see what happens because doing nothing is clearly going to result in no bonus? Does he want to just do the bare minimum and then tolerate the poor reviews and lack of bonus every year? That is an option (I would hate that option but some people are ok with doing the minimum). But if he goes that route he cant complain because its a choice he is making with a predictable outcome.

    He needs to start *making choices* about what he wants to do instead of focusing on things that are out of his control. And you can help him be realistic about this… for instance coming in late and not getting the certificates is not going to lead to a bonus. If he doesnt do anything different (which is a choice) he can expect the same outcome.

    He sounds stuck and frustrated. I will be honest – I initially had a very negative reaction to him… he sounds entitled and whiney. Like a little kid – I deserve a bonus just for showing up! Ugh. BUT its possible that there are other legitimate issues that are making him feel powerless…. which is a terrible feeling. And things may be unfair. At the same time, even if if seems like other people arent working hard, sinking to the same level (e.g., calling off a lot, coming in late, not getting the certificates) is not working… and things are getting worse.

    If some of this behavior is also happening outside of work, you may have to take a closer look at your husband. Again it could be a change in his behavior due to medical issues or depression. OR it could be an unfortunate case of ““When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Hopefully he is not showing you who he really is.

    Good luck.

  52. meyer lemon*

    This must be difficult to watch from the outside! How open is Jim with you about his struggles normally? If possible, I think it would be ideal if you could try to have an open, nonjudgmental conversation with him where you try to hear him out and find out what is bothering him, because it sounds like something is.

    Is he insecure about his job performance in a new field? Maybe he’s concerned about being able to measure up to Bob and so he’s self-sabotaging because it’s easier than trying his best and failing. Maybe this kind of work environment is really not a great for for him in general, or his health issues are eating at him more than you realize. Once Jim is able to open up about what is driving his actions, the path forward may become clearer.

  53. Anonymity*

    Time card fraud, excessive absenteeism, bad attitude. I hope these are not his traits in his personal life. As far as work, he needs to get a new job. He’s has way too much entertainment and resentment. And I doubt he’s long for this job anyway. This would be way too much for me, so I wish you luck.

  54. Renee Remains the Same*

    The OP (The Wife) – I read some of your responses and it seems like your husband was forced to make a change that he might not have wanted to make. He’s not able to blame himself (nor should he, as his body was clearly telling him a change was needed) or anyone else. But, if he was angry or frustrated or depressed that his way of life was changing and he little control over it (because he was no longer the young guy he once was), I’m not surprised that he needed something or someone to direct his anger at. Bob, as innocuous as he may be, represents where he might have wished to be if he had made different choices given that he wasn’t able to continue on the path that he was on.

    It’s undeserved, to be sure. And clearly not appropriate, but not surprising that he’s focused his energy on Bob, who probably does have some perks working for 20 years in the same position (which he rightly deserves). I’m not sure how receptive your husband might be to you pointing out that he’s sabotaging himself because he’s angry (even though he should not be). That Bob is only an excuse to avoid focusing on the fact there is no one to blame for the situation. Not Bob, not the managers, and not husband, himself.

    1. Some internet rando*

      Self-sabotage is something worth discussing with him. Makes me think of that old saying:

      Your husband’s resentment (and anger) is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

      Bob is not going to lose his job. Your husband will.

  55. Qwerty*

    OP, is there any chance that anger/frustration with your husband’s old job and with his injuries is getting directed at the new job? If he has built up resentment, that might be making him more sensitive to his current working situation and explain why he is perceiving unfairness so easily. I have noticed that sometimes our negative feelings don’t catch up with us until we’ve left the original bad situation and had time to process/absorb/obsess over the memories.

    It sounds like he isn’t used to the lack of structure – would he be open to admitting this to a mentor or manager and asking for help? Maybe ask for someone to help him come up with a reasonable timeline – with specific steps – for getting his certifications. If he has regular one-on-one meetings with his manager, they can add that as an agenda item (if they aren’t having those meetings it is another good thing to ask for, especially if you feel you need more oversight. It makes a huge difference if a problem employee can identify the source of their issues and explain how they plan to address them.

  56. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    A few things that jumped out to me:

    1st, for all of the roasting of Jim, Bob sounds like no prize as well. While it’s possible there are pieces to the puzzle that we’re not privy to, it’s also possible (and reads to me like) Bob is taking advantage of the situation just as much as Jim is, if not more, and I’m guessing Jim’s thought that “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” and feels like he’s following Bob’s leave.

    2nd, with the mention that Jim took this promotion/demotion/change to avoid LTD, it definitely sounds like he’s discovered that the grass is no greener there. Blowing off the certification, in addition to everything else, suggests he’s not mentally invested in this job.

    3rd, I think Jim has lost touch with the reality of the situation. I’d be concerned that he’s losing touch with reality outside of his career as well.

    4th, every employee I’ve known to act even remotely like this has had a guardian angel protecting them. Jim may not know about his if he does. When that angel runs out of capital (or just cuts their losses), the end will be swift and ugly for Jim.

    For all the above–my post and the posts above me–I only see one resolution and it’s the one he’s fast-tracking: Jim needs to leave this job. If the RSI means he can no longer perform the type of work he was once capable of, LTD may be his only recourse.

    I don’t mean to be cruel, but Jim doesn’t sound like Management material. Is there another role Jim can fill to put his knowledge from years of manufacturing to use supporting younger workers in the role he once thrived (or at least survived) in?

    1. Artemesia*

      We don’t know this about Bob. Maybe. But maybe Bob is doing other things out of view of Jim. Maybe he does some things off site; maybe he has negotiated different hours due to some issue he has; maybe he does some projects WFH. We don’t know — we just have Jim’s view of Bob whom he is using as his excuse to not man up and do his own work diligently and well.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        You could be right, but making excuses for Bob and putting him on a pedestal looks like part of the problem to me. Bob isn’t modelling what anyone wants from Jim in the job, and as the senior employee, that’s doing nothing to improve any part of the situation.

        TLDR: Bob’s a cad, Jim. Do you want to be a cad, too, or are you better than that?

        1. pancakes*

          Eh? These aren’t exactly excuses, nor caddish behavior. It isn’t caddish, for example, to work from home in the mornings and arrive at the office later. Or to modify one’s schedule to care for an ill spouse or parent or whatnot. Or to have some other sort of modified schedule. What Bob does with his time isn’t really the issue here.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            OP has responded that Bob and Jim don’t work remotely.

            The letter itself says Bob keeps more desirable tasks for himself and Jim gets the less desirable tasks.

            Perhaps we have different standards for caddishness.

            1. SwitchingGenres*

              Bob has been there 20 years and has his certifications. OP’s husband has no seniority, no certification, and apparently a very bad attitude about the job. No wonder Bob gets the better work. Husband may not even be able to do the better work if it requires certification.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                That sounds really odd. In my line of work, you get paid more and pursue education and certification so that you can tackle harder problems, and solving harder problems is why someone would get paid more, more vacation, etc. The easy stuff gets left for junior employees because that’s all they’re capable of, and they get less vacation and pay because they’re bringing less value–a Sr. Developer who hoards easy work and delegates hard work is a huge red flag.

                I guess Jim’s line of work is truly alien to me.

  57. Former Retail Lifer*

    The job itself just seems like a bad fit. He doesn’t like the tasks assigned to him and he doesn’t have the self-motivation to remember to take care of things without a reminder. He took a shot at something new and it didn’t work out. While I’ve never committed timesheet fraud, lots of his other actions are similar to mine when I was unhappy with my position in the past. I’d encourage him to start looking for a new job. If he’s this unhappy and unmotivated, I don’t think anything could save this job for him.

  58. Forty Years In the Hole*

    Most of my adult working life was in the military, so I can’t speak to civilian blue-collar to white-collar transition. However after about 10 yrs in as a (very) junior rank, working in the “field” I was accepted into officer training and boy, talk about a transition! Suddenly (well, after applicable training and certification), soldiers I’d worked with and for – now were subordinate in rank, and even directly reported to me – now generally in an office/HQ setting.
    Guys I’d hung with, run with etc now treated me as “one of them.” Because I was. And I had to learn to disengage and not be a buddy and learn to command/manage. There definitely was a period of adjustment but we were mature enough to respect each other’s rank, experience and the chain of command. Not everyone is cut out for senior leadership and additional responsibilities; some were content to revert back to ranks. Some left service altogether for a new career path.

    Also – and I struggled with this as a junior officer – in retrospect there was definitely some imposter syndrome – or at least a feeling of sometimes being in over my head/not being taken seriously. Even with my experience and skills, I still sometimes questioned my abilities, my “right” to be promoted or assigned a complex task. I wonder if this is at play here: as a fight or flight response Jim is so dug into his beliefs that he’s doubled down instead.

    OP: your family’s well-being is at stake if you can’t/he won’t get to the source of this. My best to you.

  59. Robin Ellacott*

    Doe he hate Bob? Or does he just dislike Bob’s supposed privileges?

    Because if he is otherwise ok with Bob, maybe Jim could talk to Bob and say he’s having a hard time understanding the way the job works because it’s arranged very differently from his last position. He could ask Bob what has worked well for him given that he has been there so long.

    If Bob could tell him what his experience was like (“I started doing x, then once I was certified I had more leeway and could do y as well, then after 3 years I got more vacation…”) maybe that would really help Jim understand the norms and not feel shortchanged.

    1. Robin Ellacott*

      Also, OP, I had an ex who had mental health struggles he did not address, was perennially under- or unemployed, and complained a lot and did the external locus of control thing. It was insanely frustrating to be in the passenger seat for all that, I didn’t realize how much so until afterwards, and I’m sorry. I hope you have people to talk to as well!

  60. Kiki*

    You mention that you’ve tried to explain things gently thus-far. I’m not an expert and different approaches work differently for everyone, but it might be helpful to give Jim a more blunt reality check. Something along the lines of: “This was your review, not Bob’s. It does not matter what Bob is doing. They are telling you what *you* need to be doing and honestly be thankful they are telling you and not just letting you go.”

    I was in a slightly different situation with my partner where he would get really worked up about things that are no-big-deal and common-place in office jobs (he had previously mostly worked service jobs). I had to get pretty blunt with him before he really understood, “Oh, I’m approaching this wrong/ being unreasonable in this new context.”

    I would second the recommendations of a lot of commenters who recommended setting him up with a therapist or counselor. It seems like something bigger is at play with Jim than just adjusting to office norms. And especially now, I think we could all use a mental health check. Good luck, LW

  61. twocents*

    My attitude these days is: I don’t care what you’re doing as long as whatever you’re doing doesn’t cause more work for me. Eating a bagel when the new manager doesn’t like food at desks? Don’t care. Coming in at a weird time? Don’t care. Wearing a sleeveless shirt that’s just slightly too narrow for the dress code? Don’t care.

    Jim needs to let the manager take care of managing and worry about his own damn self. “I didn’t complete my certifications because I was too busy aggressively monitoring what Bob does all day” is just going to get Jim fired or demoted. Tbh, his company has been very patient to allow this to drag on for so long.

  62. The OP (The Wife)*

    Really appreciate everyone’s comments here and wanted to provide an update. In the last month things have gotten a bit better. His health problems are very real, but he was not seeking medical help until recently due to his doctor not taking him seriously and subsequently thinking that it must not be that big of a deal. He had a flare up last month that landed him in the hospital and he’s now under the care of a specialist who has provided a diagnosis and treatment plan. So far it is working. Jim’s symptoms are better, and his mood is better as a result. He hasn’t called in sick since the hospital stay (though he has had to miss work for appointments, but those dates were scheduled in advance and his employer is being very understanding and supportive).

    Bob and Jim are both stating that they work their full 8 hours per day, but Bob is only in the building for a maximum of 5 hours per day. Jim is usually there for 6-7 hours a day. Neither of them work from home in any capacity. My understanding is that management thinks both of them are working their scheduled hours. Their managers work in a different building entirely and most of their communications are over email/phone. This is even more true since COVID and management hasn’t been on site in nearly 12 months.

    I do think that it’s time for me to have a heart to heart with Jim about whether he’s happy in this role and whether it’s a good idea to start looking for something else that might have a different culture or different team structure, or something. Maybe a career counsellor, maybe talking to a fully certified person in his field who is closer in age to him. I’ll bring up counselling too because I think there has to be some mental health stuff incorporated here. Hopefully I’ll have a good update sometime soon.

    1. dedicated1776*

      Hey OP. Glad to hear some things are improving and he’s getting the medical treatment he needs. Wife to wife, I just want to say you’re not wrong to question him about his work issues (especially the timesheets). In fact, I’d say it’s your job. You can have a difficult conversation lovingly and with respect, but you’re not a friend he can brush off. You made vows to each other. He has to honor them as much as you do. I am wishing you both the best. You can get through this together!

    2. twocents*

      I think Jim could mention Bob’s late arrivals ONCE to management, but he really has no way to know what agreements or accommodations may have been made with Bob. And even if Bob’s working hours are a total surprise to management, Jim needs to realize that he probably won’t get more than a “hmm, ok” from the manager. The whole thing with Bob is a total irrelevancy though; whether or not Jim gets to stay employed is based on what Jim is doing, not Bob.

      1. Ups and downs*

        I would wait until Jim has proven that he is turning things around. Otherwise management may not take it seriously.

    3. SeluciaMD*

      OP, I’m so glad your husband now has a real treatment plan and that it’s working and helping. Living with a chronic condition and/or pain (particularly when the medical establishment is treating you like you are a hypochondriac – been there, done that) can be overwhelming and really put you in a tailspin. It’s encouraging that with this new treatment plan, he’s doing better overall and his attitude has improved.

      I agree with many others here that giving him the opportunity to maybe think about whether or not this job is the right fit for him and potentially exploring either new jobs in this lane or maybe going back to the work he was successful in before this change is a really good one. I wonder if he’s feeling like he can’t (or “shouldn’t”) feel that way and that by admitting this isn’t working out the way he envisioned or he’s not as happy doing this work (or whatever) – particularly given that he took a pay cut to do it – he’s going to let you and himself down. I hope that he can be receptive to your suggestions to think about these things and maybe see a counselor or career counselor to help him work through the problem.

      Wishing you both the best of luck – I hope 2021 ends up being a happier, healthier, less stressful year than you’ve experienced of late!

    4. Momma Bear*

      You said, “Closer in age”, which makes me wonder if there’s a big age gap between you and if impending life changes like retirement are on his mind. Retirement is not always easy, especially for a guy used to working. A friend said to be sure my spouse picked up a hobby or he’d drive me crazy. How true that was! So if that is on the horizon, add a retirement planning specialist to the list of people he should meet with.

    5. Cat Tree*

      I think a career counselor or mentor are both great choices. And if his health allows I hope he will consider returning to a blue collar job, since he was so successful with that before. There might be some blue collar jobs out there that are less physically demanding.

    6. Boof*

      Glad things are looking up. Obviously you cannot control your husband and ideally your husband would write in and could consider the advice directly; that being said for you, it’s probably best to figure out when to be supportive and when to draw limits.
      It sounds like your husband is going through a lot; physical changes, a bit change in job and working environment, probably a major drag from chronic pain or something from his health condition, probably some amount of stress or depression from what’s been going on in the world too (I know I felt like a frog in boiling water for the first few months of march trying to practice extreme isolation until I couldn’t take it anymore and had to figure out the safest way to get out at least a tolerable amount – or really negotiate my with my husband between absolute minimal risk vs risk/benefit ratio to extreme isolation for all family members including youngish and very social children)
      If you can have one piece of advice for your husband that hopefully he will listen to, it’s not to compare himself to bob. He has no idea what is going on with bob and maybe bob will be fired at some point for his activities. He should take pride in his own work and ethic and background being punctual and by the book (not sure if that’s the right way to phrase it but maybe stress that his current job really isn’t so different than his manufacturing job; maybe he’d be willing to write down his own rulebook for himself and make sure it’s in line with his company’s work rubric)
      Good luck, glad he’s feeling a little better! As far as mental health; it’s a good thought, but ultimately he’s going to have to take the reins on this, no way will it be good for you to try to be therapist + wife. It will fail badly. So you can suggest he see someone, maybe even give him a number, after that, leave it alone. It’s up to him. Only help if he asks for help in finding someone, and make it clear ultimately he’s responsible for his appts/meds/etc (maybe that won’t be a problem but basically you are not responsible for his therapy or management of any mental health conditions, you can be supportive but not ultimately responsible at all)

  63. The Crown*

    I’m concerned there is so many more issues with Jim than just this job. How is he at home? With you and any existing children? His attitude stinks and although people are sometimes different at work and in personal life, they tend to be BETTER at work than in their personal life.

  64. Jaybeetee*

    Based on the letter and OP’s comments:

    – This sounds like a transition Jim *had* to make (or stop working entirely, or switch industries), not a change he *wanted* to make.

    – His attendance has improved since starting a new treatment plan for his health issues, suggesting that even if he was malingering a bit, his health had indeed been part of the problem.

    – It sounds like he’s generally frustrated with being “bottom of the ladder” after many years of work. Starting over in middle age can be daunting.

    – The fixation on “Bob” sounds like a trap I’ve fallen into at times, where I’m stressed/unhappy about a bunch of different things, and funnel it all into ONE issue I can’t stop thinking about, as if fixing X will make everything else okay. (Spoiler: Even if X is something that *can* be fixed, that actually doesn’t fix everything else.)

    – I also wonder if Jim is worried about his ability to handle some tasks and the certs, and that’s why he’s pushing those off.

    LW, you can’t, and shouldn’t be, your husband’s career coach or therapist. If I were in your shoes, I’d talk to Jim focusing on your marriage, family, and home, and what happens if this job just doesn’t work out. The idea isn’t to apply a ton of pressure or make him feel like he HAS to make this job work or the sky will fall. But to nudge him past the “unfairness” angle of this into “Okay, but what can we *do*?”

    Can Jim make this job work? Yes/No/How? If he can’t make it work (which includes not being a miserable ass 24/7), what can you guys do instead? What happens if he keeps going the way he’s going? What happens if he retires?

    Probably the best way to approach all this is to bump him out of his brooding and talking instead about how to move forward.

    1. Boof*

      Yes this is solid; yes talk to hubs, and the focus on will this work yes/no and what does it mean for the family and how do we deal is the main concern of the OP, not trying to manage hubs and their work ethic directly.

    2. Quinalla*

      Agreed, I too would recommend not trying to be his work coach. It would be one thing if he was asking for advice, but I think the best approach is your family needs income. If this job isn’t working, what options are there? Or can the job be made to work? Is there more support he needs? Put all opti0ns on the table, even ones that are really out there, might help him start really thinking about it. The conversation goal is to get him past his anger/fear/anxiety/whatever and into planning/doing mode. He’s stuck in a self-defeating spiral right now that likely will lead to him being fired, he needs to get snapped out of that.

      I too think the fixation on Bob is a trap he’s fallen into to not deal with whatever this is actually about.

  65. Joanna*

    OP, I’m wondering if your husband has been able to process going from being able bodied to being disabled? It’s a big change to his lifestyle, and it can often be accompanied by anger and grief. It sounds like his primary care doctor’s response was pretty much just to suck it up, which cannot have helped him adjust to his new abilities. Additionally, if he had to take the job because of this change in his abilities, he may always resent the job because it’s a symbol of what he has lost.

    I mention this just as another possible look into the emotions that may be driving the problem. I do agree with everyone else, you should probably taking the financial steps necessary to protect your family in case he is fired. Or, on the flip side, you should be taking the financial steps necessary to allow your husband to look for a different job and possibly even encourage him to do that.

  66. Nanani*

    It’s not your job, or your responsibility, or even within your power, to fix your husband’s work attitude.
    He is not acting up in school; you cannot talk to the teacher for him.
    What you can do is talk to him about plans for the future if the job goes away – whether he gets fired or leaves it out of dissatisfaction.

  67. JSPA*

    Anyone can have a chip on their shoulder, issues with depression, low-level ODD, or a sense of having made a shift in life late enough that they’re angry at feeling perpetually behind their peers. A more dramatic the cultural shift can surely uncover those sorts of issues, but even if that’s the precipitating event, I’d hesitate to point at it as “the cause.”

    I have seen that in the subset of blue collar jobs where you clock in, do what you normally do, get told if there’s anything new, and then get reminded if that thing hasn’t happened in good time, people who are bad as self-organizing can do excellently…only to fail when they are promoted to a position where they have to self-organize and self-police.

    And if you’re used to the seniority rules being written in stone (as they often are, especially in unionized positions, but also as a holdover from union practices, even in companies that do not have a unionized workforce) the idea that “seniority = flexibility” and that you will be graded on intangibles like “initiative” and “attitude,” may take a while to get used to. But, two years is quite a while.

    And frankly, people who are rigid in the, “I learned the One Right Way, and they’re doing it wrong” way? They can also have problems going from any job to any other job, if the rules or the culture change. This doesn’t mean they are bad or broken, but it does really limit what jobs they’ll find comfortable.

    Nobody but OP’s husband, his doctor or maybe OP should be weighing in on what issues husband has. But seems like there are one or more issues that (pick as applicable) prevent him from understanding that there’s not only one way that workplaces operate; interfere with him from getting himself organized; cause him to feel put upon by “the man” or otherwise cheated; make him resistant to seeing that the words on paper actually ARE being applied to both him and to his coworker; deal with the fact that he doesn’t like having open-ended responsibilities; and broadly, deal with his negative feelings in some other way than projecting the problem onto other people.

    By two years out, he’s been flailing and failing and getting resentful for long enough, by now, that some sort of greater reckoning is in order.

    Better for him to take the lead on that (whether it’s new meds, new job-by-choice, new understanding of what sorts of support he needs to ask for, to thrive, or a massive attitude shift) than to be booted out in a few months (or put on a PIP, if he’s not already there and not telling you) when they don’t feel so bad about firing someone during a pandemic.

    But for better or worse, OP, this probably isn’t a case where you finding the magic words will fix things. You are already being clear. He’s being resistant. This isn’t something you can fix. Get your own finances as much in order as they can be. With luck, he’ll decide that he’s tired of being miserable all the time, and will be willing to look into other options.

    But you can’t make that happen for him. Well, you actually can do the classic, “I’ve run out of ways to help. I’ve also maxed out my ability to listen to you tell me about _________ while refusing to consider feedback. So I made an appointment for you with ______________. They specialize in __________. If you don’t want the appointment, please cancel by [date], so we don’t get charged for it.” It’s a bit of a power move, but so long as you butt out of the process once somebody else is handling the topic (and as soon as you stop being the dumping spot for all his negativity!) it’s not the worst thing to do.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      people who are bad as self-organizing can do excellently

      Boom, you nailed what’s at the heart of the collar-hue difference that people are trying to suss out here. Someone who has trouble creating structure and accountability for themselves may really thrive when they’re given as much structure and as little autonomy as possible. No one’s saying that all blue-collar workers are lazy or undisciplined, or that blue-collar jobs don’t reward conscientious people. It’s just that, as you said, there’s a subset of jobs that have a built-in advantage of keeping people who don’t self-police well from imploding, but that the same time they aren’t necessarily set up to reward developing self-policing skills either.

      The moment you get into a job (including some other blue-collar jobs) where the level of structure and lack of autonomy is scaled back a bit…that’s when you start seeing issues.

      1. Lizzo*

        And it’s worth noting that the requirement of structure for someone to thrive at a job is not in any way related to their intelligence or character.

  68. GigglyPuff*

    Your husband needs a come to jesus talk before this all crashes and burns. I do think there might be opportunity to turn it around since issues were brought up at the performance review but he wasn’t put on a PIP (hopefully).

    First he needs to stop with the timesheet lying. As others have pointed out there could be sooo many reasons for Bob to have the schedule he does, maybe he works at home in the morning, has care responsibilities for another person and has gotten permission to work a modified schedule, maybe he’s just been there so long with a good track record he’s built the trust needed where he’s left to manage his own schedule. In an office job, things like trust and more responsibilities, and unofficial benefits are earned through time and good work ethic (usually, totally disregarding toxic places).

    Office work is hard to adjust to. I worked a BoH job in college and grad school, where you had set times to clock in and out, set duties you had to get done. It worked for me with my ADHD. When I started working in my chosen field, it was a huge shift. All of my projects are long term, I was suddenly trusted to manage my own time. It’s like that feeling in college where you realize you don’t have to ask to go the bathroom like you’ve been trained to do your whole life in school. It’s a really awkward thing to get used to and push through.

    When I started my job about a year in something shifted, I started doing horribly, coming in later, getting less done, etc. It took me two years of doing less than stellar work (and unfortunately an absentee manager who was part of the problem), before I realized I was depressed and part of it was my job. I got lucky I had a new coworker who was really experienced and helped me talk through stuff and pinpoint what the issues were. I also got medical help. It took another year or two before I felt normal again and actually cared about my work again. It’s hard and you backslide especially when you have a chronic health condition (not the depression) that impacts your entire life. But you have to want it even if it’s for a small reason.

    I typed out more talking about using the possible loss of health insurance to motivate him, but then realized you said you were in Canada, never mind!

    Anyway I hope he gets help, as others have said you probably need to start taking action to prepare for the worst, but I wouldn’t give up just yet. Even have him start looking for another job, he doesn’t have to take them. But what helped me stay was going through other job interviews. I’d never worked full time somewhere else than where I do now, I didn’t know any other office environments. Looking around at other places made me realize I have good benefits, flexibility, and decent work. Maybe your husband needs to see that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side to make him appreciate his job.

  69. Like Sharknado, but with turtles*

    OP, your husband needs to go back to his “factory setting” – he hates his job. All the things that have changed for him are things he does not value and he took a pay cut! He does not want the greater pay that would come from completing certifications, he does not want to become fully qualified for the position. It sounds as if any instance where he has to be self-directed or show self-motivated in regards to workload, time, skills building — he does not want to do those things. He may not be cut out for a job where he has to be autonomous, he may just be better suited to taking direction and working a job/area that has clear boundaries, rules and supervised work.

  70. Jennifer*

    I’m not sure how this is a blue collar vs. white collar issue? I realize there is a huge difference between those types of jobs but don’t most employers need you to show up on a regular basis? Is it possible his last job was just more lenient in general about things like that and he is needing to adjust a bit more?

    In any event, I would sit down with him with a calendar open and maybe a bullet journal and just make a plan for how and when you will tackle his medical issue, since that seems to drive his absenteeism. Set a date and time for him to call the doctor and make an appointment. Update the calendar as new appointments are scheduled. Make it clear to him that his income is needed to maintain your household and taking care of this medical issue needs to be high priority so he keeps his job.

    I had to have a similar conversation with my husband. Chronic illness can cause depression, which makes people not want to take the steps they need to get help. My therapist suggested sitting down and making a plan together instead of just saying “you need to do this!” and it worked for me. I wish you the best.

  71. Anna*

    I’ve gone the other way due to the pandemic (white collar to blue collar). The main thing I’ve noticed (and have found quite refreshing) is that, there’s no office politics or game playing, and the hierarchy is clear and unambiguous. I imagine it’s a tricky thing to navigate if you’ve never done it before. Plus my role is clear (I pick and pack orders and then drive them) and there’s no real sense of “maybe if I do more, I will get rewarded for it”. Obviously I do my job to the best of my ability, but I also just do the job that I’m paid for. If a driver’s not happy about something, they’ll be blunt about it but it also gets solved pretty fast because they they’ve been clear on the problem and not pussyfooting around an issue (and there’s no lingering bad feeling). While I hope to go back to my original career eventually, I’ve enjoyed the difference but I can see how it would be really difficult to fit into a corporate environment if you aren’t used to it. I think he should consider whether the job, or the environment is the problem (and there might be nothing abnormal about the environment) but people fit into different settings and it sounds like this isn’t what he wants. The absenteeism and lateness would definitely not cut it in most blue collar workplaces though.

  72. Boof*

    OP – I already wrote in reply to one of your comments and I’m glad to hear your hubs is doing a little better. Ultimately it will be up to your husband to manage himself. Perhaps you can have a one time talk, or schedule a regular check/in (maybe once a month) to discuss mutual goals and concerns. Try to keep it a balance of what’s working well and what isn’t working constructed around how to improve. But that’ll only work if there’s actual buy in from your husband; sounds like he might be going through a rough patch though and maybe now that his health is a bit better he’ll feel more motivated to get on track again.
    The other point that may be worth bringing up to him, if you haven’t already; does he really want to be Bob? Maybe bob isn’t a good worker. Maybe Bob is on thin ice too. It certainly sounds like Bob isn’t a role model. He shouldn’t be trying to do as little as Bob, he should be trying to be the most successful Jim!

  73. Quinoa*

    Before we rush to tell OP to send her husband back to a blue-collar job, are we sure this isn’t a simple case of not fitting in?

    It doesn’t matter if it’s been 2 years, you often can’t undo people’s first impression of you. If you’ve been pegged as “the manual laborer” because of how you started out (and let’s be honest, sometimes through your speech and other mannerisms), most likely you’ll be stuck with duties that people assume to be within your capabilities.

    If I were OP’s husband and have reached that point of resentment, I would just try to find a new company and de-emphasize my manual labor role. The new job should pay more or less the same as the current job, so there should be significant loss of income for the family, but in this case with an opportunity for career growth.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      still mostly manual labor but with a wider variety of tasks, less repetitive work, and opportunities to improve his skills

      It sounds like he’s still mostly doing manual labor and is still in reality a blue collar worker. He’s not working in an office. Frankly it sounds to me as if he’d do a lot better in an environment with close supervision. There’s shouldn’t be shame in it. He took a pay cut for this new job and it sure doesn’t sound like he’s going to get a raise so his income was higher on the factor line.

  74. Nona*

    OP – I’m sorry you’re going through this, it must be frustrating to watch from the sidelines. This screams anxiety and a tendency to procrastinate / avoid things that make him nervous (ask me how I know…). Particularly given the above discussion about how his previous position was very regulated in terms of hours (and I’m guess how he spent his time at work), it could be quite overwhelming to suddenly have a lot more freedom (or apparent freedom) over his work hours and priorities. Add in that he’s coming into this mid-career, and probably feels pressure to not struggle.

    If he’s willing, there are some very good books that can take you through self-guided treatment for anxiety-related procrastination. For me, these have been life-changing (and likely career changing).

    1. Sitting Pretty Tightly Wound*

      Nona, can you mention a couple of the most helpful titles? Overwhelm is an anxiety go-to for me; since I won’t read All The Books, I’d love to know where (in your experience) you recommend one starts.

      1. Nona*

        I’ve found The Worry Cure by Leahy to be super useful. It was recommended to me by a therapist I was seeing a while back, and I return to it every few years. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook has also been strongly recommended to me, and I finally read it recently. For me, bits of it were interesting / useful, but it didn’t quite resonate, perhaps because much of it is focused more on specific phobias, which is less of an issue for me. I might check out Overwhelm too, thanks.

  75. cwhf*

    OP, I really feel for you. Definitely have a serious talk with your husband about the falsification of time sheets and his appalling performance review as well as the serious impact of him losing his job on your family. Bob is irrelevant. He needs to take responsibility for what HE is doing (and not doing), and frankly grow up and stop blaming others. He needs to do this job as asked or he will be fired full stop. I agree it is probably time to consider another job for him, something he can do with his current abilities that fits him better, while also focusing on improving his mental health. This discussion may or may not be successful. I hope it is. I was glad to hear he is working with the doctor and his spirits are improving. Hopefully it will continue and get him to performing the way he needs to keep this job.

    Outside of that, control what you can control. Assume he will be fired, and if he is his reference from this job will be poor/nonexistent so a new job paying close to where he is now is likely going to be hard to find. Start saving, planning, and doing everything you can to prepare for this inevitability. If it doesn’t happen and he gets straightened out, awesome. If it does, you’ll be ready. Good luck.

  76. Person from the Resume*

    Frankly I think that a job that’s mostly manual labor still sounds more like blue collar than white collar (which implies white dress shirts and ties worn in an office environment) so that’s a red herring. IMO Jim’s problem is that he’s no longer closely supervised and his new job requires him to be somewhat self-directed and he is not suited for this work. When he worked on a factory line, he couldn’t come in late or leave early. His manager would notice and his coworkers would notice. As for the vacation days, anyone off would probably be backfilled because you need all positions on the factory line filled so someone would be called in to fill in for all vacation and sick days. When he worked on the line, they would tell him schedule him for training and remind him about it the day before.

    It really sounds like:
    (1) Jim is just the kind of guy who will commit timesheet fraud when he can get away with it by not being closely supervised/when not likely to be caught in the moment. This new job lacks the close supervision so he’s getting away with what everything he thinks he can. (He’s not really getting away with it, but he’s not being caught in the moment so in his mind that’s getting away with it.)

    (2) Jim is not adjusting the idea that a guy with 20 years experience and success in a job earns more leeway and vacation days than him. He stuck on the idea is that fair is equal instead of striving to be trustworthy enough to get the leeway in the future. If he were union in the past he should at least understand that seniority earns perks, but maybe he wasn’t before. Or maybe since he works side-by-side with Bob, he’s not viewing him as someone with seniority. But making up vacation days, by taking sick days whenever Bob returns from a vacation is obvious to you so it’s probably obvious to his bosses so he’s not getting away with it either.

    (3) Jim excuse that they didn’t remind him that the 2 years for the training reimbursement was coming up is extremely telling. “I forgot this very important training I was told I needed” really demonstrates that Jim needs closer supervision; he’s not prepared to self-direct his work and training. They gave him two years, but probably wanted him to get certified as quickly as possible. The refund was the carrot. Jim wasted that opportunity and now they still want him certified and the stick is coming. They’ll possible fire him if he’s not certified.

    I don’t know that the LW can do much. I do think she can say that she’s very worried that he will be fired and thereby impact the family income, but I don’t know that there’s anyway to convince him that he needs to fix all the problems he’s having at work. The timecard fraud is a personal integrity issue. I think the solution is for Jim to go back to job where his bosses watch him closely and don’t give him a lot of freedom.

  77. employment lawyah*

    Not much you can do but perhaps therapy, or involving some trusted third party who might get through to him. You can’t force someone to change, so you should prepare for an upcoming firing.

    You might want to consider a voluntary downgrade back to the line, if he was happier there.

  78. CeeBee*

    If you don’t have children with him, be prepared to leave. I’d bet a bunch of other stuff in your lives isn’t his fault, and that you have had to prompt him a lot. He’ll turn on you when he feels you aren’t on “his” side of this – and of course, you aren’t, because you are writing in.

  79. Bob*

    Righteous malicious compliance with a side of entitlement.
    “Lie to yourself if you must, but don’t lie to me”

    He thinks he can push his way into getting what he thinks his coworker is getting. While he might be correct about his coworker (are we sure he is not exaggerating) he is not going to worm his way into the same thing by acting indignant and entitled.
    Sometimes people only learn by hitting rock bottom, and often it has to be repeated several or even many times before they will admit their errors.

    If he is on this train of stupidity and dug in as he seems to be you can’t convince him to get off it any more then you can convince someone to quit smoking before they are ready to quit. Intrinsic motivation is almost impossible to induce in someone determined to make a pathetic point and live the maladaptive life they are determined to live.
    Even if he thinks he can worm his way into what he thinks this coworker has it obviously is not working and he will pay the price. Perhaps more so than he already is. I don’t know why they have a blind spot for that coworker (if accurate) but its obvious history is not going to repeat itself here.

    You have to protect yourself,. assume the worst will happen and squirrel away savings and make sure you are either employed or employable. Depending on how far he will take this, will be blow up at them in the future and get himself fired?
    You might even have to consider separation if he goes so deep into this quest he gets terminated and starts turning on you for not being on his “side”.
    Consider telling him this is coming, even record such conversations of legal in your location (overkill, maybe not, denial is a hell of a drug).
    Marital counselling may seem abstract here but its worth making an impression on him what the costs could be of his determination at self destructing in the name of righteousness.

    Hope for the best but since that seems to be failing here prepare for the worst starting today.

  80. Salsa Verde*

    I have a friend who sounds quite a bit like Jim, and when she tells me all the things that are going wrong in her life and all the things people are doing to her, I ask her, “What are *you* going to do about that? How are *you* going to change the situation?” and often, her answer is that she’s tried X or Y, but (insert other reason that hasn’t worked) and then I’ll ask her, “Is that the best you can do? Is that what the best version of you can do?” Sometimes people just need to hear things in different ways, and I just try to point out to her that she can only control her own behavior, so if she wants to be happy, she needs to do that.

    I understand that he feels treated unfairly, but as someone else said, does he want to be right or does he want to be employed? This sounds like a really tough situation for both of you, I hope things work out in a positive way.

  81. Former Employee*

    “For example, Jim has been calling in sick between two and four times a month since he started. While the medical issues he’s experiencing are genuine, he is not pursuing medical treatment aggressively enough to warrant this amount of time off. ”

    Is it possible that Jim has overestimated his health problem? Is the reason he hasn’t been aggressively pursuing medical treatment because he believes he will find out he has something seriously wrong and actually doesn’t want to know?

    It seems as if Jim is off track in his thinking, whether it is strictly job related (not seeing that Bob, being a long time employee might have perks not given to a newcomer), or career related (not acknowledging it was a mistake to make the change), or health related (believing he is seriously ill if he’s not).

    I would recommend that he see someone who specializes in career counseling, but who is also a therapist, not just a career coach/life coach. I suspect that there is something wrong, but that the only way to get Jim so see a professional would be if he was convinced that he was going for career assistance as opposed to a mental health issue, which may be the real problem.

  82. ArtsyGirl*

    This reminds me a lot of my sister’s ex. He came from a solidly blue collar family but his dad insisted that all his children would have white collar jobs and college educations. His dad had spoken so often and so long about white collar jobs, the ex decided to pursue a career that would require a Masters degree at the very least. Unfortunately he was unable to pass even the most remedial college course on the subject. He failed the 100 level intro course at least 3 times. My sister tried to talk to him about it, pointing out that he hated school, had to be coerced to even show up for class let alone spend anytime doing the work, and that he was actually most happy when he was working with his hands. He refused to listen to reason and claimed my sister was not supportive, hence why he is her ex. I think we other valorize office work as easier, more cerebral, and more respected but there are many people who are not cut out for it (just like there are many people who would hate to work a manufacturing job). Like other posters have said, the OP needs to sit down with Jim and have a serious conversation about if he actually wants to stay in his job and if not how best to transition back to his old position.

  83. Carol*

    Your husband has lost perspective and it’s likely he won’t ever regain it at this particular position. As a couple of other people mentioned, it would be a good idea to make some backup plans as if he is likely to lose this job soon.

    You can’t force someone to be accountable to their actions, but it might be a good idea to talk with him and frame his actions as something that could impact you. He doesn’t have to agree that what’s happening in this workplace is “fair” but he has to accept that this is the workplace he’s in and he has to decide what he’s going to do about it. If his choice is to keep pouting and burying his head in the sand, you can tell him that’s going to also impact you negatively, eventually.

    Basically, even if his workplace was unfair and toxic (doesn’t sound like it), he has to accept it at this point or look for another job. Currently he wants it his way only, and he’s clearly not going to get it.

  84. TTWMA*

    I have been this person going from manual labour to adjacent supervisory work. The job isn’t the problem, not after two years. This man won’t change, and there’s no magic sentence that will suddenly tear down years of, frankly, entitled delusion.

    I’m more interested in how YOU are – this sounds exhausting! Why are you writing to AAM on his behalf? I don’t think his mental state and anger at how put-upon he thinks he is will improve if he loses his job – are you willing to deal with that? How will it be for you when you’re the sole breadwinner and it ruins his whole identity?

    I would be very clear in my understanding of my options if I were you. You might deserve better. I hope I’m very badly wrong in my read of this.

  85. Scarlett10is*

    Does your husband have a friend or work colleague whose opinion he respects that he could confide in? A mentor or peer? Maybe you could give a friendly suggestion to that person to check on Jim, or encourage Jim to see what that person thinks. It’s SO FRUSTRATING and NOT FAIR that the spouse has the highest stakes in the struggling partner’s success, and can often be the last person the struggling spouse wants to hear from. If Jim has any stubborn streak at all (which I sense from what you’ve described), he may just dig his heels in harder when he hears your concerns.

    So glad to hear he is on a road to better health! It’s impossible to be one’s best professional self when your container isn’t at its best :)

  86. Ellie*

    I wonder if this has got nothing to do with Bob, and he’s just really unhappy in his new job?

    I’m being reminded of a family friend who was a telephone repairer, then realized that he could earn much better money if he went back and did some training, and moved into one of the office jobs. Within a fortnight he was miserable, and was complaining to me, a software engineer, that ‘they expect me to sit in a chair for 8 hours a day!’. What I saw as a perk, was driving him bananas, and he really missed going into people’s homes and chatting with them as he worked (which would have driven me bananas… not having to talk much is one of the reasons I chose my job).

    I’m wondering if the reason he hasn’t got his certification yet, is because he really doesn’t want to? I don’t know what that would do to your family finances, but I think you need to have a big picture conversation about whether he even wants to do well in his new role, or if he’d rather just go back to his old one.

    1. Ellie*

      I should also mention that my husband started out in blue collar work, which he did part time while he was getting his degree. Once he got his first office job, he never looked back. So you absolutely can go from blue collar to white collar, and be successful at it. But the thing is, he never enjoyed the blue collar work. He did it well, because he’s physically strong and has a good work ethic, but he didn’t like the rigidity, was bored most of the time, and figured he’d have a broken back in ten years if he tried to keep it up.

      His reasons for moving were more than just what the job paid. You do need to think about what you’re suited for, and what you enjoy doing. I’m a much better worker when I’m enjoying what I do.

  87. Wordybird*

    I’m curious as to why he thinks he & Bob should be equals and/or that things need to be “fair.”

    If he has always been like this, including in your marriage and at his old job, I’d say Jim is a narcissist. Every narcissist I know, including the one I was married to, love for things to be “fair”… which really means the narcissist has to have the same privileges and benefits as someone else, for simply existing, but if someone else doesn’t have the same as they do, that’s because the other person isn’t worth it, doesn’t work hard enough, etc. etc. If this is the case, there is absolutely nothing you can say or do to change him, and you will have to decide if he is worth staying with and, most likely, having to financially support in the near future. What would happen if he lost his job? Would he be able to find something else? Would he want to find something else? What is the worst case scenario here, and how will you overcome it?

    If this is a recent development, I’d say it sounds like more of a mental health issue. He obviously knows you’re not supposed to be late/skip, falsify reports, etc. and is choosing to do so, anyways. What does he get out of doing these things? Why is he relishing being a martyr/victim? What has changed in his life in the last two years?

  88. Sweet Witch*

    Does your husband understand that someone with twenty years of history has undoubtedly earned all the extra benefits your husband complains about??

  89. Kansas City Girl*

    My husband has also struggled significantly in some jobs and apparently refused responsibility for the outcome. My only advice is to have a firm tone conversation about the impact to the table finances if he loses this job with the instruction to figure it out or find something new.
    Fwiw, it turns out my husband has undiagnosed ADD and once he got treatment, his unstable career leveled out and he’s doing so much better.

  90. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    “He has also not completed or even registered for the certification courses that he needs to do.”

    To me this is a huge red flag that this is not a new problem, not a problem with adjusting the shift from factory to office, not a “Bob is doing it” issue.

    Not registering for the courses AT ALL is very different from not completing them, and suggests to me that Jim may have started his new job and almost immediately felt overwhelmed, and has been trying to hide it from himself and everyone else for the past 2 years. It reminds me of how I dealt with anxiety-inducing situations in my long-ago past.

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