trainer says I need to shadow her for a year, charged vacation days during a natural disaster, and more

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

1. My trainer says I need to shadow her for a year before I can do my job

I was lucky enough to recently land a new job in an organization I’ve long wanted to work for. While a lot of the position is new to me, I have related experience that I think helped me land the job. The job is split between two departments, but with similar duties.

It’s been seven weeks now on the job. Training went really well with the first department, and I’m now doing that work independently. I know I don’t know everything, but I’m 90% comfortable in the position and I know who I can ask if I have questions. But I’m having troubles with June, the woman training me in the other department. I’m supposed to take over the position from her, while she remains in the department.

It feels more like a job shadowing than a training. June will have me watch her do certain tasks and has told me a lot of general information; she says it will take a year of this before I can take over the job. I still don’t have access to many things (budget, network drives, etc.) that I will need. She insists that I cannot go to meetings without her. She is still the email contact person for everything, so I am not even in the loop on most things happening.

I am going crazy! I feel like I am an intern, rather than a woman with over a decade of professional experience who is successfully doing the job in another department. I have tried a few times to tell her that I’d like to work independently and I’d like to move towards taking over the position, but she shuts that down and insists it will take a full year of training before I am ready. The weird thing is that she asked for a new hire because she didn’t have time to do this job. I think she doesn’t want to put the initial work in to adequately train someone and figures it is just easier to have me watch her. But I don’t want to move this slowly, and I don’t think my boss will have a high opinion of me this way either.

How do I approach this with her? I’ve thought about going behind her back to start getting the access I need, but I don’t like being underhanded. Or is this the sort of thing I should raise with my boss who just seems to care that the work is being done and doesn’t care if it’s me or June doing it? June is nice and I don’t want to burn a bridge with someone I will continue to work with; I like this job and this organization very much, but I can’t be her shadow for a year.

Some people get very, very possessive of their jobs and have a hard time relinquishing the work to someone else, even if they asked for the help.

You should talk to your boss about it! It might seem like she doesn’t care as long as the work gets done, but it’s very unlikely that she intended to hire someone who wouldn’t take over the job for a year. And if she’s a decent boss, she’ll care about it because of the impact on your morale as well.

I’d say this: “I’m done with training for Department A, and I’m doing that work independently now, which is going great. But with the B work, June has told me I’ll need to simply watch her do the work for a full year before I do the job myself. That wasn’t my understanding when I was hired, and shadowing her for a year doesn’t sound like what you had in mind when we talked earlier. Is there a way for me to move more fully into the role more quickly?”

If she seems shocked (which she should) and says she’ll talk to June (which she should), at that point you could say, “I want to make sure that raising this with you doesn’t damage my relationship with June — is there a way to navigate this that won’t cause tension with her?”

Another option if you’re worried about June’s reaction would be to skip the above and instead ask for a meeting with your boss to talk about how things are going, then let her uncover this herself during that conversation so it’s not like you went straight to her to report it … but going straight to her is also fine. This is the kind of thing managers want to know!

You also could talk with June about it first, although it sounds like you’ve tried and she’s been unreceptive. If you want, you could say, “I want to give you a heads-up that I’m going to talk to Valentina about the transition timeline since I think her intention was that I’d take on more of this work more quickly” … but you don’t need to do that, and frankly there’s a chance that a heads-up would just let her lay some kind of groundwork for arguing that this is needed.

Read an update to this letter

2. Being charged vacation days during a natural disaster

I work for a mid-sized company at their office in Texas. We have been working remotely for most of the last 12 months. Last week, many of us were stuck in freezing homes with no electricity, no heat, no cellular data, and eventually no water. Today, HR advised us to use our vacation time for any days we were unable to work.

Honestly, I’m appalled. I was already planning on mentioning how disappointed I was in the response when we stayed open. Even when I did have power, I had neighbors in homes that had been unheated for more than two days and the entire state was under advisement to conserve energy. None of us should have been working those days, using power instead of conserving it.

Is there a way to approach HR about this? Should I look for a new job? This has totally reframed how I think of my work and the workplace culture.

It’s actually not terribly uncommon for companies to have people use vacation days when weather keeps them from coming to work.

But this wasn’t just bad weather. This was a massive crisis that caused widespread suffering. And this is not how you treat employees during a crisis. It’s the opposite of how an employer signals that it cares about its employees.

I wouldn’t look for a new job over it unless it’s part of a pattern of callous behavior. But I’d try pushing back with a group of coworkers to see if you can get it changed, pointing out that docking people’s already limited time off for days spent dealing with a crisis that affected so many people sends a terrible message about the company’s support for employees.

3. My boss over-praises me to higher-ups

Why does my supervisor keep over-praising me to the bigwigs? This has happened on at least two occasions. The first time was during my annual review. He praised my efforts, and, while I don’t mind him letting our bosses know how much I do, he definitely over-sells it (especially when raises and bonuses are on the line). He actually does this to his own detriment because he literally tells them that I do everything multiple times.

The first time, our big boss looked at him and said, “Well what do YOU actually do?” and I had to swoop in and give a mini speech about how we’re a team, and I couldn’t do my job without him, he’s the best supervisor I’ve ever had, yadda, yadda.

The second time was more recent. We were meeting with a different big boss, mostly to analyze how my supervisor and I have been operating our department during COVID. Throughout the meeting, he kept praising me and everything I do. I was baffled because it had nothing to do with the meeting, and I actually started feeling a little uncomfortable. The other big boss literally said, “You’re digging yourself into a hole” to him. I swooped in again and said we’re a team, I couldn’t do anything without him or his guidance, and so on.

I’m so confused as to why he does this. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m asking him to up sell me to the bosses for whatever reason. I do do a lot of work and I appreciate the recognition, but I don’t want him to throw himself under the bus for my sake.

It’s hard to say for sure! He could be worried about protecting you/his team from potential cuts (and he could have reason to be worrying about that, or he might have just decided it on his own). He could know in a general sense that managers should advocate for their people and make sure their work is visible to higher-ups and is trying to implement that without enough skill. He could just be bad at reading a room/judging what and how much is appropriate and when.

I wouldn’t worry about his bosses think that you’ve requested this; if it reflects weirdly on anyone, it’ll reflect on him, not you (because if you’d requested it, presumably he’d run that through his own filter of what’s appropriate).

4. Letting staff know they can still take mental health days during Covid

I manage a team of workers. Our organization has taken strong measures as it relates to COVID-19, which means anyone who experiences any of the various symptoms must be out of the office for a minimum of five days after they stop having symptoms and in some cases need a negative test result. We work in an industry where taking a significant amount of time off (especially unexpected time off) means a lot of catch-up when you get back in the office, so I am not worried about my staff abusing the “free vacation” or anything like that. My question is actually about the exact opposite: I know that many of us have taken a sick day in our careers when we weren’t physically sick but just needed a mental health day for whatever reason, and generally in those cases people fabricate symptoms (or just say “sick”). I am wondering how I can let my staff know that if they just need a day to reset, I’m okay with that and they don’t have to be worried that by telling me they have a headache/upset stomach/etc. they’ll be home for a week.

They’ll probably figure out wording to use that won’t trigger a one-week quarantine (“under the weather, nothing resembling Covid” would do the trick), but if you want to spell it out you could say, “I know sometimes we all just need a day off here and there to preserve our mental health. Please don’t feel you need to get into specifics in order to avoid an unnecessary quarantine — it’s fine to simply say you’re under the weather but it’s nothing on the Covid symptom list, and that’s enough for me.” You could add, “Please do make sure that it’s definitely not anything on the list though — our individual judgment about what it is or isn’t should not override the guidance from the CDC.”

5. How do I get a former client to stop contacting me for more help?

A few years ago, I did some logo work for a friend of a professional contact. Every few months since then, this guy has asked for tweaks to the design. Sometimes I charge him and sometimes, if the tweak is small, I do it quickly and send it along. However, it has been about three years since I did this work for him, and I’ve moved on from doing graphic design work and no longer have access to Photoshop or design software and have no desire to continue to do design work. I sent him all the files I had, including the Photoshop files, so he can have them and potentially hire someone else. I explained that I no longer have Photoshop.

But he continues to reach out to me. Today he said he can pay for a monthly PhotoShop subscription for me to work. I’m not sure if he means instead of paying me, as he didn’t say anything about payment for me. I’m tired of this client and want him to move on, so I can move on with my profession and my actual 9-5 career.

On a different note, but still related, he gave his sister my information to help her with a logo. She insulted my work and refused to pay for it, which soured me on the two of them a little bit, even though that was the sister, not him. It reaffirmed my decision that not working with them anymore was the right decision. However, how do I respond to his message that he wants some more color changes and is willing to pay for Photoshop? I don’t want to be rude, but also want to tell him I’m done working for him and he needs to find someone else. Help!

It’s not rude to explain you’re not longer doing that kind of work! Just like it’s not rude to explain you’re unavailable, booked up, retired, on a year-long vacation, going on the lam, or anything else that makes you not available for someone’s project. I mean, if you tried to send work to your old accountant and she told you she was actually working as a dentist now, would you think it was rude that she wouldn’t do your taxes anyway? You would not.

You can keep it very simple: “I’m not doing design work at all anymore, but there are lots of great designers out there who should be able to handle it. Sorry I can’t help, and good luck with it!” (Normally I’d suggest referring him to someone specific, but I don’t think you should do that to your contacts in this case.)

If he pushes after that: “I’m really not doing this work at all anymore. I’m focused on other commitments.”

And if he pushes after that (which would make him basically as rude as his sister), feel free to simply ignore him. You’re not tethered to this person for life just because he’s obnoxiously pushy!

{ 334 comments… read them below }

  1. Crivens!*

    Disasters and pandemics really do have a way of showing how many companies think of their employees as machinery or utilities, not human beings.

    1. CalgonTakeMeAway*

      Preach! I was just told today by my boss they don’t understand why I’d be overwhelmed. During a pandemic. When we’ve been short staffed in for months. And my department does the proverbial heavy lifting in getting product to customers. So yeah, really feeling this today.

      1. HailRobonia*

        Are you my coworker? My team is understaffed and meanwhile our directors (of which we have too many) are acting like all we need to do is have a positive attitude and keep working and everything will be sunshine and roses.

    2. Disappointed*

      I really love the small business I work for, but I’m very frustrated that we’re not being paid for the time we weren’t able to work last week because we were closed for weather. It’s hard to explain why without getting into the specifics, but we’re not even losing revenue for the week we were closed. I’ve generally always felt that my employer takes good care of us, but this honestly has me rethinking how long I want to stay here. Losing a week of pay will be a big deal for me.

      1. Ashley*

        I’m so sorry. I feel like this is especially tone deaf given how many people need to replace a refrigerator and freezer full of food, higher electric bills, and many just trying to get drinking water still and that doesn’t get into property damage itself. I hope they come around or at least the fed’s come through quickly with the next stimulus check to take the edge off.

      2. RussianInTexas*

        My company promised to pay us for the lost days this time. They did not pay for Harvey, nor they offered work from home back then, even though we were as capable as now. They just didn’t like people doing it.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      This is my thesis that companies divide their employees into two groups: human beings and meat puppets. Typically the higher up a person is in the organization, the more likely they are to be regarded as a human being. Hence the general principle that the more a person is paid, the less they have their time supervised. When something comes up that the employee has to deal with, the company understands that life happens to human beings. But this doesn’t apply to meat puppets. They just aren’t functioning properly.

      Typically, though not always, bosses understand employees whom they know personally to be human beings. Meat puppets are faceless drains on the payroll budget. This is why I learned to avoid working for large corporations.

      1. Snow Globe*

        My experience is often the opposite – large corporations that I have worked for have all been pretty good about having programs that support all employees, and even provide extra assistance for employees making lower salaries. When I’ve worked for smaller companies, budgets are tighter and the bosses just don’t really think about the longer term impact of treating employees poorly. YMMV

        1. Cat Tree*

          Yeah, I’ve worked at companies ranging from 12 employees to hundreds of thousands globally. I’ll take a large company every time. Big places have checks and balances to limit the power that one individual can wield. They have ethics hotlines and actual HR departments. They have systems in place to deal with almost every situation. They have entire departments dedicated to researching market rates for salaries, and standardizing those across departments. They have training programs for managers. They have clear developmental paths if that’s your thing, and plans in place for transitions when someone leaves. They have actual processes to fire low performers, which is something I’ve never seen at a smaller company. The only place I’ve ever had routine meetings and feedback from my boss is at really large companies. Also, the benefits are better with everything from extra company holidays to extended paid parental leave. I’ll never go back to a small company unless I’m unemployed and desperate.

          1. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

            Same. Your family company is great, for your family. I want to be a cog in a wheel in a machine that is big enough to share the risk and reward.

        2. RussianInTexas*

          Yeah, my former job, big corporation (10k employees), was really good about this stuff, and the benefits overall were miles and miles better than the current (50 people) small family owned company.

      2. Colette*

        I would disagree with that. I don’t think it’s accurate at all, and I think you have cause and effect mixed up. People who are higher up in an organization are paid to work independently and make decisions; people lower in the company are not. (Some of them still do, of course! And some people who are paid for it do it poorly.) But that’s not about whether they are human or not.

        IME, working for a small company is personal, but not in a good way. The owner is dedicated to the business, and wants everyone else to be as well – even though he’s getting the benefit from their work. The guy I worked for was baffled that people were upset that their paychecks bounced.

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          the clue is in two key phrases ”we’re like a family here” (or variation thereof) and ”well, if you’re just in it for money, then…” type of sneering at the very notion that people work *for money*, rather than for the sheer privilege of being part of (insert company name here) vision and goals.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I referenced this in another comment, but my new (~2 mos) company did talk a lot about being a family in interviews — and that was from individual workers, NOT the HR rep or higher up managers. But it genuinely seems to be meant in the best way possible here; it’s a family-owned company and there’s every indication that they pay people well, have good benefits, respect time off and care about their workers. It definitely got me asking more questions about company culture when I heard it, though…

      3. Bagpuss*

        I agree with Colette, more senior people are expected to be more independent and work without supervision, it’s part of the job description. It’s not that those in less senior positions are ‘meat puppets’, it’s that they are not being expected, or required, to take the same level of responsibility for managing their own projects.

        I think when it comes to large and small companies, there are a lot of variables – larger organisations usually have larger budgets, and economies of scale, so can often provide more benefits and support(all other things aside, in a larger org, it’s more likely to be possible to absorb the extra work if one person, or a small number of people, need extra time off ) That said, smaller organisations do have more flexibility as they will often have less rigid processes and/or the people with the power to change / grant exemptions to the policies will be closer and able to move more quickly. The downside of course being that there’s probably noone to appeal to if the decision goes against you

      4. Mockingjay*

        I don’t think it’s that cut and dried; many companies’ revenue (large and small), has been considerably reduced during the pandemic. They just don’t have the margin to absorb another cost right now. And there’s behind the scenes juggling: company has a contingency fund. Do they use it for weather-related closure or do they apply it to the rising health insurance cost? There’s always a tradeoff.

      5. Koons*

        People in charge at my family-owned company refer to our skilled laborers as “warm bodies”… The entire business model is a services company offering highly skilled labor (most of these people have masters degrees), and those workers make up 75% of the company. This thought process is reflected at every level of management. They also love to throw around “we’re a family,” where the boss will tell us what dire situation the money is in, so that we are motivated to “work harder.” I’ve had bad experiences at both large and small companies, but this one has convinced me to never work for a small (or family owned) company again. I’ve learned that I’d rather have a bad job at a large company than a small one. At least there are better benefits, more vacation days, 401k, etc.

        1. Observer*

          “Warm bodies”?! That is just gross.

          And if you are talking highly skilled folks, it’s ALSO extremely stupid. It must be damaging to the business.

      6. Temperance*

        Honestly, I’ve always had better leave and more fair policies at large corporations than my husband has at the small places where he had worked.

      7. Massive Dynamic*

        I’ve been a meat puppet before – this is spot-on. How dare I have a relative die during busy season…

      8. Koalafied*

        I think you see that divide not in large corporations between the senior and junior staff, but in corporations that employ both white collar and blue/pink collar workers (which are often large corporations, but not all large corporations employ blue/pink collar workers). The blue/pink collar workers – the on-site workers at the retail locations, the warehouse workers, the factory workers, etc. – very often have a completely different experience than the white collar workers in the corporate office doing the marketing and budgeting and strategic planning. Contrary to being based on how highly paid they are, even the fairly entry/junior-level white collar workers will usually enjoy more favorable treatment than other workers who out-earn them but are supervising a construction site or managing a retail location instead of working in an office.

        1. Mockingdragon*

          John Oliver just did a piece on the meatpacking industry that touched on this. Including a news piece about a company’s executive offices offering mid-day exercise breaks, when the people on the line weren’t allowed *bathroom* breaks.

      9. Roci*

        I think this is how some people see the entire world. People I know count and get the benefit of the doubt, people I don’t know are faceless meat puppets. It’s like when a child puts their toys down and walks away, they don’t exist when I’m not there watching them.

    4. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

      We paid the entire company for a week when we were totally shut down by Super Storm Sandy (*totally*, no power for a week, no revenue) and it never occurred to us to do otherwise.

      1. NYWeasel*

        In 2011, we were slammed by an October snowstorm. The trees hadn’t shed their leaves, so the combination of ice and snow devastated our area—so many trees and wires were down, it looked like a tornado had gone through. In the midst of this mess, my husband asked his employer in NY for an extension on the open enrollment, and they literally told him “you logged into the system one day and read emails, so you weren’t actually impacted, and therefore no extension. We eventually resolved the issue through a different loophole but it was a real mess on top of dealing with no power, no water, and winter for 11 days.

        The next year Sandy hit, and his employer was like “everyone gets an extension!” Yeah, we’re still salty about the difference when the HR people had to deal with the disruptions themselves.

        1. Software Engineer*

          We called that storm “snowaween”, and people built snowmen with jack-o-lantern heads. It was weird trick-or-treating in snow boots!

          1. Cat Tree*

            I remember a snow storm on St. Patrick’s day around 2006ish. And I only remember the date because I was wearing a green shirt while walking through snow of a very weird texture.

      2. Tasha*

        My company became much more open to remote work after Sandy and the closure for weeks of our New York office, where the decision makers worked.

    5. Liane*

      Just yesterday, I read an article about how many companies (even at least one municipality) were pulling this jerk move and wondered what Alison would have to say.

    6. Me*

      Yep! I was surprised that my employer offered up free paid leave last week to folks that were unable to work during the storm event/aftermath. I didn’t have power for a week.

    7. ThatGirl*

      Reading some of these comments, it’s funny – my new company is pretty big (around 3500 employees worldwide, 2/3rds of that in the US) and yet one thing I kept hearing during interviews is “we’re like a family!” … and I pressed a bit, because I feel like that IS a red flag a lot of the time. But it seems like what it genuinely means here is “we care about people and want to treat them well”. Sometimes it gets a little horn-tooting (“look at how much we did for our hourly plant workers in the early days of the pandemic”) but at least there are genuinely good things to talk about.

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Mine is similar. I hadn’t heard it before working here, and you don’t even hear it that much around the office, but at least our (Texas-based) US team is very much a “we take care of each other” kind of office.

        For example: last week a global company email went out that said:
        “Our Texas team has a huge crisis right now, please do not expect them to be in touch at all this week. Our business continuity plan is X, please contact Y in the New York office with questions.

        Texas team, please do not think about work. Please be with your family, stay safe, let us know if you need us, and check in daily if you have power so we know that you are safe. Work will be here when the power and water are back.”

        And they backed it up. I personally got told to log off the computer and take a nap by my grandboss, and we were told that even if we had power and even if we had water and even if we wanted to work, we were under orders to take Friday off and rest. And for the team members who had pipes burst in their homes, management quietly reached out to offer to pay for hotels until their homes are livable again. All this is happening during our most stressful time of year, in the worst year in our company’s history. For all the talk about how companies that treat you like family can be dysfunctional, when they’re not advertising it but just acting that way, it can be really, really refreshing.

          1. Alexander Graham Yell*

            I honestly expected it to just be lip service, but my “Deadlines are called deadlines because if you miss them you’re dead to me”-style boss in NY told me that I was under orders to get rest and not log back on until I’d had a good meal and a full nights sleep, even if that took the rest of the week to accomplish – with a MAJOR deadline hanging over our heads. And then checked in on me to make sure those had happened when I logged on the next day (they had not and I was told to log off). While no company will ever get more loyalty from me than I’d give myself, they definitely earned more loyalty than I’ve ever given any other company.

    8. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      I work remotely for a company based in CA, but with offices in TX. I live in Oregon. Due to an ice storm, I didn’t have power last week from Sunday through Thursday evening. Oregon had power out for more than 170,000 people at the time, so much smaller than the impact in Texas, but also not an isolated issue that was my problem to fix. I ended up taking a vacation day on Monday, but then realized that I was not going to be able to waste a whole week of vacation if the power didn’t return quickly. I ended up working from my car to charge my laptop with my phone as my internet hotspot for Tuesday and most of Wednesday before I finally broke down and paid for a hotel that had power for Wednesday night. It was really miserable. I know that my coworkers in Texas had it worse, but I really wonder if my company made them use vacation time too.

      1. Miss Curmudgeonly*

        Hey, fellow Oregonian here! Also heavily impacted by the ice storm – pretty sure my entire town of around 10,000 lost power the night of the storm. I too had no power Fri-Tues., and then from Tues-Sat. had partial power (it turned out my grounding wire snapped from a tree limb). No cell service either and no way to get in touch with work at all (the entire company I work for is remote, even pre-pandemic).

        I wound up going to our local Les Schwab on Monday after they got power just to send a message to work. Such a mess, am still cleaning up debris. This was the ONE time I was glad that we have “unlimited” PTO – I didn’t technically put in for time off, justified it in my mind by saying well, we have unlimited time off so this shouldn’t matter. (I did send a pic to my team on slack of the massive oak tree limb down and other tree damage so they could see I wasn’t exaggerating.)

        I hope you’re all okay now!

  2. HereKittyKitty*

    OP2 I worried about this for my mother who physically could not get to work because of the roads, and also was living in a hotel because their house lost electricity as well. Luckily, her job gave all her vacation days she lost, back, and paid her for the hours she was scheduled to work. This is to show you that another company is doing the right thing, so maybe pushing back will help your company do the right thing as well.

  3. Elizabeth West*

    #1–Nah, talk to your manager. I seriously doubt they meant for June to train you for a year. My boss at the lab job I had told me it would take six months to get all the details down (and she was right), but I actually learned the job by doing it, not by watching someone else do it. A year is excessive.

    #2–During the 2007 ice storm, Exjob shut down for one day. The storm started on Friday and they were closed Monday. They paid everybody for that day. I did take PTO for the day after, since I was in a motel in another city and didn’t know if the office was open. It was, but BossWife, who was supposed to be answering the phone, was not and I just had to keep calling until someone picked up.

    Point being, if the company can manage it, it would be good for them to cover those days, or at least be willing to add some PTO to the bucket. It wasn’t a vacation; it was a disaster.

    1. allathian*

      I learn by reading and by doing. Watching someone else do the job would be useless for me and I’d be bored out of my skull as well. For a year? I’d nope right out of there.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Agreed! Might be worth mentioning to your boss that you learn best by actually doing the tasks and asking for guidance as needed, so just watching someone do things (for 52 SOLID WEEKS!) is not going to be an effective way for you to learn.

        (You’re not saying June is a dreadful trainer, hah hah no, just that her method isn’t working fo you personally. It wouldn’t work for anyone, but you don’t need to bring that up.)

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yes, please focus your talk with boss about the fact that you learn best by doing and having resources to check in with. And you can use the other department and how things are going there in support.

          It sounds a bit like June wants to have her cake and eat it too. It may be that it takes longer in this department, but a whole year of just shadowing seems extreme.

    2. Not Australian*

      And, additional to that last point, I would imagine that the people affected are going to need *every minute* of any available holiday time when it becomes available, simply to recover and put this all behind them. Nobody’s mental or physical health is *ever* improved by denying them time off work.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      LW#1, should have talked to her boss about the problem before writing AAM. I know the LW projects “my boss only cares that someone does the work,” but he probably doesn’t want to have an employee not do any work for a year. He hired her for her to do work for the office. He also probably doesn’t want his new hire unhappy enough to consider moving on.

      That’s the first move and until we know how he responds and how trainer June responds, it doesn’t even get tricky because maybe he’ll tell June to start having the LW do the tasks and June will listen. It’s only after that point do things get tricky if there’s no change.

      1. OP #1*

        I think you’re right that approaching my boss would have been a logical first step, if I had a relationship already with my boss. It’s an interesting position, because my boss is actually at a different location and while my job is important, it’s only a very small part of my boss’s overall work. So I’ve only met him once for the interview and once briefly after. I don’t want my first interactions with him to be complaining about something, which is why I hesitated…. There is an upcoming meeting about department goals which I thought would be a great time to talk about training and progress, but June is insisting on coming to the meeting, so I would have to set a separate time just to talk about this issue. I don’t want to come across as difficult.

        1. Another Librarian*

          “Difficult” would be finding out the employee you hired has been blocked from doing the work you hired them for … for 52 weeks!! You’ll look proactive and sensible by brining this to him early. Talk to him!

        2. Generic Name*

          June is being difficult. You just want to do the job you’ve been hired for. It’s totally okay to set up a one on one meeting with your boss (and I wouldn’t mention the meeting to June because she’ll likely want to come to the meeting too).

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Okay, echo my other statement. June wants to have her cake and eat it too. Please schedule a short one on one with the boss and don’t let June know about it. This is something he needs to know about – and without her interference.

            1. IV*

              Agreed. Don’t let June know. Also, I wouldn’t ask the boss for a meeting to see how things are going.

              Why? Because if someone asked me for a meeting to see how they’re doing, I’d go to June first to find out (cause how would I know otherwise?) and June is likely to say “slowly and going to take a year” which makes OP look bad rather than June. Just schedule a meeting with boss and then lay it out.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Yeah, it’s not you, OP; it’s June. She is supposed to train you to do the work. They hired you to do the work. They did not hire you to watch June while she does the work. If this manager is at all a decent manager, he will want to know about this.

            I agree; one-on-one with the boss, don’t tell June.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          I don’t necessarily see raising this year-long shadowing thing as complaining – you just need some clarification about their expectations for when you’ll move into the role full time because your experience on Team June is so different than Team Not-June. (I’d guess it was not your boss’s intent to pay you to watch someone do a job for a year.) And, if you can do this in advance of the department meeting, maybe your boss could announce that you’re taking over X, Y, Z functions on Team June so that June can move on to A, B, C goals to make sure that it’s clear.

          We use shadowing in a number of my roles, but not for a YEAR. I need people up and functional much more quickly than that – we start with a few shadows and then move to having the trainee do the work with the trainer shadowing and then move to working independently with review and then take the training wheels off and leave it to the new hire to ask questions as they encounter novel situations. It works well.

          1. Pipe Organ Guy*

            That’s kinda how I teach new parish administrators how to do a worship service booklet, except that I really minimize their shadowing me. It’s torture for me, but I have them actually do the work, step by step. There’s the word processing software (WordPerfect in our case, but just as true for Word); a very specific format for the document; text the priest supplies; text from other sources (internet sites or a PDF document library for our denomination); lots of graphics (hymns and service music, for which we include the music as well as the text); and some announcements. It’s torture for me to keep my paws out of it, but in my experience, there’s no substitute for actually doing. It won’t be perfect right off the bat, but I can gradually back away and trust that while I’m gone on vacation, the work will get done.

        4. Reba*

          Hi Op, I hear your concerns and uncertainty here, but I think you need to push harder to speak with your boss! Set up that separate time, or tell trainer lady, “thanks but these is for me to speak one on one about the future of *my* role” and be firm! It is not tattling or complaining or “difficult” to bring up valid concerns! Concerns that your boss will likely share when they learn about them! This is a serious issue.
          If it helps you can frame it as “setting expectations together” rather than “I am unhappy with the trainer’s control issues” :)

          Let us know how it goes.

        5. Observer*

          So email your boss directly and tell him that you would like some time to talk without June present. And that you imagine that June may have feedback that she might want to share without you present.

          But also, unless the meeting is REALLY soon, I would set up a conversation as soon as possible. You are note being “difficult” – you are simply trying to do your job. And the fact is that on part of your job, you’re managing fine, so what’s going on here?

        6. Confused*

          OP this sounds EXACTLY like what happened to me at my old job. Literally the EXACT same thing. Told I would be doing X job only to show up and there was someone doing it who told me I would need to train with them for a year before they’d let me do it. I’m honestly wondering IF this was my old job because they have had a really hard time filling my position because of this. I left after six months of being gaslit and purposely being kept in the dark to make it harder for me to do my job independently.

          I’m still not sure that this isn’t my old job, but they will never change. That person has enough pull with the right people to impede you from doing your job for as long as they want. It doesn’t matter if you see people starting after you with your same title doing the work you were promised, when you bring that up, you will just be gaslit again when they only say “you’re too new” as a reason why they won’t give you any work. Just leave. It’s not worth it.

        7. Betty*

          OP #1, is there any way you *could* still bring it up in the meeting with both of them? Like “I wanted to discuss with both of you if there’s anything I can be doing to move from shadowing to taking on some responsibilities before next January?” or “I wondered if we could lay out some concrete steps I need to take before I can be given access to the network drive and budget files?” or “I wanted to hear from you both if you have seen any issues with my not being able to access the LlamaLine email entity?” If there is a real reason June is doing this, it would establish that your boss is onboard– and if your boss isn’t, then you’re both in the room for the conversation (and can say down the line to June, “Hmm, I think that Boss had actually said we should be doing X”)?

          1. EPLawyer*

            This is what I would do. And use this wording. So then Boss can have June explain her reasoning. Boss will either go along with it (which is valuable information for you) or tell June to knock it off.

        8. Anon for This*

          June might, possibly, have something of a point that you need to shadow her for an extended period of time, but a year does seem extreme.

          At my workplace, shadowing me for two weeks is sufficient to learn 90% of what I do, but the other 10% consists of handling one off, unusual requests, and how I untangle them, and that…. isn’t something that can be learned by just shadowing me for just a couple weeks, you have to actually watch me and see how I handle them over time.

          We onboarded a new hire for our department, and after a couple weeks of watching me our manager asked new hire are you ready to do this, and new hire said “yes” so manager plopped new hire into the deep end of the swimming pool…. and now ALL the complicated things are being passed to me. Which works, for now, but increases the time I have to spend on each individual task, and I am job hunting now, and they’re going to be thoroughly in trouble when I leave because I’m the only person they have who is familiar with figuring this stuff out.

          1. OP #1*

            So I see where June is coming from with her year long time line – this is the sort of job where certain things only happen twice a year, or only in August, and so she can’t walk me through everything right now. But, like in your example, I could do 90% of it and then I would happily come to her when that other 10% arose to ask questions and get further training. June would rather me see 100% of the job before I’m allowed to do anything.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              That’s complete crap, and not how training is supposed to work. She’s not training, she’s controlling. She can walk you through the things that come up later when they come up.
              Talk to your boss before she does.

            2. meyer lemon*

              It sounds like June is just being possessive about the job for whatever reason. My guess is that she would like to think that she alone possesses the right combination of skills to do the work correctly, and is puffing herself up by over-selling how challenging it is. She may also enjoy being overworked, if it makes her feel important, and doesn’t want to give that up.

              Regardless, she’s blocking you from doing your job and potentially putting you in a difficult position with your boss, so I would either talk to your boss about it or be more assertive about taking over 90 percent of the job now, if you think that might get some traction. There’s no way your boss wants to pay you to sit there quietly doing nothing but observing for a year while June overextends herself.

            3. sacados*

              I see other people have given good advice, but another option could also be to try talking with your trainer in the other Department/part of your work? The one who passed things on more normally. Since you say you don’t have much of an independent relationship with your boss, the other Department person might be able to give some guidance about how best to approach your boss, if there’s anything you should be careful about re: messaging, etc. Since that person presumably knows the company culture a bit better!

              But also agree that especially since your boss is mostly in another location, this is something you need to bring to their attention!
              June should be leaving some kind of manual or documentation for the things that only happen in August or whatever (what if she gets hit by the proverbial bus, or has a family emergency and moves away next month?!) and then she’ll be available as needed for questions the first time it actually comes around!

            4. English, not American*

              We’ve had a new starter join in December and I have to hand over a lot of stuff like this. So far I’ve taught her how to do the bit that’s relevant now, and she’s been handling that bit entirely for the past month with only the odd question for me (usually stuff you just need to pick up by having been around a while).
              I still have a ton of processes to hand over, but my god the freedom of her handling the stuff she is handling so far, it’s so sweet. I can’t imagine doing it June’s way. Even if my coworker does do unimportant things in ways that irk me, or make mistakes as she’s learning (which she solves herself after I tell her how), it’s her process now. And I love not having to care.

          2. Guacamole Bob*

            I think a lot of jobs are like this – there’s an initial training period, and then more ad hoc training as things come up. So when an usual case comes in, you pull in the person who’s been there for six months and show them how to do it, or forward the email as an example for their awareness, or set up additional training and handoff when it’s time to start planning the annual event or close the annual books for the first time or whatever.

            Sounds like your company isn’t handling it particularly well, but the situation where you can’t teach 100% of the job in the initial training is pretty common in my experience.

            1. Anon for This*

              The fact that they aren’t handling it well is one of the reasons I am job hunting. They’ve essentially turned new hire into a level 1 Llama Groomer, and me into a level 2 Llama Groomer, without the pay bump or title increase I would have if those were actual official established titles. And loaded new hire up with so many other projects that when I tried to reach out to them and say here’s a complicated thing, let’s show you how to do it, they say they don’t have time.

              And as I type this, we are incredibly overworked and they just told me they finished all the easy parts of the first step in a task that needs to be done by day’s end, and have left me all the hard parts. The “hard parts” aren’t even that hard. And step 2 can’t be started until step 1 is done.

              1. Anon for This*

                Just realized I hit submit before finishing my thought:

                Keep in mind that although June’s being pretty unreasonable, I could definitely see someone who is in my situation now overreacting the next time they’re told to train a new hire.

          3. Cj*

            When you get the complicated stuff, why aren’t you having the other employee see how you handle it so they know for the future?

        9. Mockingjay*

          You’re not being difficult, you are giving your boss a status report.

          Tell him what you’ve learned/accomplished so far and what you are currently working on. Then lead into the issue with June. “I understood from our interview/onboarding convo that I would be working on X, which June is transitioning off. However, June wants me to shadow her in that role for a year. With my background in X, I really think I can pick up this task far quicker. Can we change things around so that I work on X now and June or someone else checks after me during the learning curve – say a couple months?”

          Be matter of fact about this, maybe even a little perplexed that (with your qualifications) you’re expected to train for a year.

          One more note: after you get things straightened out with June, ask to set up a regular meeting or report with Boss. Keeping in touch with management is sensible when you are in separate locations.

          1. OP #1*

            This is really great advice on phrasing; thanks! Matter of fact and slightly perplexed sounds like a good tone to strike.

            1. Archaeopteryx*

              And remember that, in June’s fiction, it’s supposedly all aboveboard that you’re really supposed to not take over her job for a full year, so if you are in a meeting with both her and your boss, you can just openly discuss the fact that she told you that without acting like you’re spilling a secret. After all, she wouldn’t have told you that if it wasn’t true, riiight? You’re just trusting her. So why wouldn’t you be able to openly discuss what she told you with the boss?

        10. PT*

          I had a boss like this. By the time I got hired she was famous for pulling stunts like this, hiring people and then completely obstructing them from doing their jobs. She had been there a year and the turnover was monumental. Someone advised me to write it up and submit a complaint to the company’s ethics portal because that was the only way they’d be able to take any action against her. Just complaining to my boss wasn’t enough, in the way they had HR set up.

          She ended up fired, but I chose to leave shortly after because the situation was unsalvagable. There was a backlog of over a year’s worth of work and my department only had 25% of its positions staffed.

          1. Observer*

            She ended up fired, but I chose to leave shortly after because the situation was unsalvagable.

            I can imagine!

            I mean, in what universe does it make sense that you have to “ write it up and submit a complaint to the company’s ethics portal because that was the only way they’d be able to take any action against her“? I mean, it’s good that they take ethics seriously. But the idea that NOTHING else can be reined in, no matter what, it nuts.

        11. clogerati*

          Hey OP, I have a job with a similar structure as yours (2 offices, I work for both, my actual boss is hardly around and has a lot on her plate). Every time I’ve had an issue like this where I didn’t want to bother her she would find out about it and be like “oh my god, please tell me next time!” I totally get where you’re coming from, and I still find myself not always going to her when I should but you definitely should and I think Allison’s script is great.

    4. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

      “but I actually learned the job by doing it, not by watching someone else do it. A year is excessive.”
      We hired a new person in my group. I’m training her. We are on a cyclic monthly production schedule.
      I told her it will take a year until she experiences everything and can honestly judge whether she “gets it” or not. But that doesn’t me she has a year to sit like an anthropologist and study the group.
      She had a month of practice work. A month of sharing a each project with a coworker. And by month three she had her own assignments and new project that our boss was just able to launch because we had someone to do it.
      Does she have questions for me? Definitely. She will still have questions in a year. I had a question for a coworker about a process this week. I had two questions to my boss. My boss had three questions about processes for me.
      This woman needs a cease and desist.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I can see the year comment making sense in the context that some things only come up once or twice in a year. But sitting and watching for a year is a no go.
        Viking Dog Funeral’s description is excellent. Good luck OP – please update!

    5. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Re. #1 – there is a huge difference between “expect it to take a year to be operating at full capacity so make sure to ask lots of questions along the way” and “you will not be performing this job at all for a year”

  4. lyonite*

    Somewhat relevant to question 4, how are people dealing with seasonal allergies as they relate to covid symptoms? My job requires a certain amount of on-site work, and as things are starting to bloom in my area, I’m not sure how to handle it. If history is any guide, I’m going to be sneezing/coughing/sniffling for the next month or so, and it doesn’t seem to make sense to say I can’t work for the entire time. I’ve been very careful, and I was able to get my first vaccine dose today, but I worry about what people are going to think if they hear me in the office doing battle with my sinuses.

    1. Jackalope*

      That’s one of my concerns too. We’re at home at the moment and no indications that we will be going back to the office soon, but when we do…. I have some sort of chronic issue (probably allergies) that causes me to have regular COVID-like symptoms all the time. I think I’ve had two weeks worth of days (non-consecutive) since the start of the pandemic in which I’ve had no symptoms. Plus with having symptoms like headaches on the list, which are a thing I can get from the fluorescent lights, I don’t know how I can go back into the office at all.

      1. Snuffleupagus*

        I was pulled back last year and was told at that time to “just know” what’s COVID and what’s not. When I asked for elaboration, I was told to only call in if it’s “new or worsening and unusual to my medical history.” Yeah, my employer has not been lauded for their handling.

          1. Snuffleupagus*

            Yes, and it’s the metric I’d use to decide whether or not to go to the doctor after a week or so, but when “usual to my medical history” replicates early contagious COVID, many of my coworkers are high risk, and there’s no need for me being on site anyway (cloud-based database work), it’s frustrating.

          2. jp in the heartland*

            Yup–I had my standard migraine, indoor winter allergy congestion in January, and continued working because I hadn’t been expose as far as I knew, did not have a fever and none of it was out of my ordinary. Ended up with Covid, along with several coworkers. Fortunately, nobody else who got it was really sick, but I was down for over 2 weeks, and am still not up to 100%. I don’t know what the answer is–if I stayed home every time I felt like I did, I maybe would make it into work 1 day a week. I miss the before-times:(

        1. Sometimes Charlotte*

          Last spring I had to take my daughter for an x-ray. The hospital had a table set up in the vestibule with a medical assistant assessing people when they came in. When they asked about symptoms, I told them that I have asthma and allergies, so those symptoms are basically my daily life. They nodded and asked if I had anything new or unusual. And this was a hospital.

          Really… people who live with chronic conditions come to know what is normal for them and years of living through patterns of symptoms tell them when a flare up is impending. I realize we are being asked to trust people when it comes to their symptoms, but honesty and trust are key components to those screenings anyway. We’re trusting people not to lie about potential exposures or travel etc to avoid quarantine. Trusting people when they tell you this cough is exactly the same one they’ve had for 30 years isn’t that different.

          1. Observer*

            I realize we are being asked to trust people when it comes to their symptoms, but honesty and trust are key components to those screenings anyway.

            We don’t have a choice, do we? The only way it would be conceivably possible to never have to trust people (judgement, self-knowledge and behavior) would be if we had unlimited access to highly accurate to genuinely rapid response tests (like results in minutes.) Otherwise, these is simply no other way to operate.

          2. Snuffleupagus*

            The distinction to me is that in your case, those are medical professionals deciding one medical need outweighs another medical risk.

            I am non-medical, being ordered by other non-medicals, to unnecessarily show up and cough on my high-risk coworkers. I see a lot of people worried about others getting them sick, I was already worried about my medically fragile department getting something like the flu from me pre-pandemic. When the system is already in place to prevent the risk at all, I see no need for non-medical professionals to determine my coworkers need to bear that risk.

    2. Kara S*

      I get chronic headaches + have minor allergies so I am definitely familiar with that situation. Last year there was literally not a month where I didn’t have symptoms. There were a few things I did:

      1) With some symptoms, I trusted my judgement. I know what a migraine headache feels like and what triggers them for me. When I had a sore throat out of nowhere, that was of a red flag that required me getting tested and not going in.
      2) I was upfront with my boss that I chronically have minor symptoms of COVID and explained what they were. This allowed me to have way more pushback to work in office as little as possible (last summer I was working in the office half the time, once cases went up I went to home full time). I would always mention when symptoms appeared as well.
      3) Followed guidelines to stay away from people + wear masks all the time. That seems obvious but it meant that I was less likely to get COVID and less likely to pass it on plus it made me feel more reassured when my usual symptoms popped up. I use hand sanitizer constantly when I leave my house and disinfect everything in my house whenever I come home.
      4) Work was the only thing I was doing other than being at home and grocery shopping. If I did get severe symptoms or if I ever tested positive, I could be more confident they had come from work which meant that I likely wouldn’t be the only one with symptoms and I wasn’t going to be a single person exposing my entire office.

      If everyone else in the office was symptom-less, my symptoms matched with something that would trigger them, and they were extremely minor, I would go in. I did get a lot of COVID tests last summer (5 in total?) whenever I was uncertain and they were thankfully always negative. However, I do not live in the USA so the tests were free and at the time, my area had very few COVID cases so the risks were lower.

      If you are in the USA, I would say talk to your boss first. See what they feel and if any of your in person work can be reassigned to someone else. You might be covered under the ADA or something similar if you truly are unable to avoid this work but also can’t go in if you have symptoms.

      Good luck and congrats on vaccinne #1!

        1. anonarama*

          It is just wild to me how many people universally recommend lavender as though it is not something people can be allergic to. One of the worst things about working from work was telling people I’m allergic to lavender so please don’t throw lavender essential oils all over things only to have them respond with “OH it helps with allergies!” Its totally specific to lavender and so weird.

          1. Not Australian*

            Umm, yes. Not an allergy in my case but a sensitivity; specifically lavender is one of the things that gives me migraine *immediately*. (Another is star anise.) A friend once doused my pillow in lavender scent to give me a good night’s sleep – she thought. Cue twelve hours of intense pain and vomiting and a rather strained friendship…

          2. D3*

            Or “But THIS brand is so pure!”
            I don’t care what your MLM says, lavender is lavender and it’s going to hurt people no matter how “pure” you claim it is…
            It’s always the MLM shills who think that their product is so much better it’s exempt from reality.

            1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

              This always makes me laugh. While there are definitely exceptions, I worked for a place that packaged essential oils for different brands. The majority of them come from the some place, out of the same giant drums. The only thing different was the labels. I loved to go online and see all the varying prices for the same product.

        2. I'm A Little Teapot*

          Um, not necessarily. I have allergies, but I also have all sorts of more generic sinus problems. Adding lavender into the mix would probably make things worse.

        3. Ann O'Nim*

          For some people, this would make things worse. I have a *lot* of allergies. (If the allergy test they gave me was a school exam, I’d have an easy A.) I don’t know if I’m allergic to lavender specifically, but I’m fairly sure that any strong scent right next to my nose would be irritating.

        4. Temperance*

          I don’t know a single person with allergies who would be better off inhaling lavender essential oil all day long while dealing with symptoms.

        5. Heather*

          How would that help? Allergens are usually particulates you breathe in, right? So unless the lavender oil can somehow filter out the allergen particles…I don’t see how it can help anything.

        6. Ari*

          I find the smell of lavender often triggers an asthma attack (or just plain stinks), so I wouldn’t follow this. I’m even not sure what scents on masks are supposed to help with, but it seems like a bad idea for those of us with allergies and asthma.

          1. jojo*

            Lavender has anti bacterial effects. Many oils do. That parsley garnish on your plate is meant to kill mouth germs so your breath does not smell as bad.

        7. Llama face!*

          No no! Don’t put liquids or oils on your mask! That damages the barrier effect of the mask. It’s the same reason why you replace a mask once it is damp from your breath. You are basically pre-dampening your mask. :(

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        It helps mine! Any time I get an air quality or pollen alert I wear my moisture wicking buff as a mask while I run outside. Kills my pace but it’s better than sneezing all day or being stuck inside the house.

      2. Ari*

        It definitely helped me last summer when we had really high pollen counts in the Northeast. It took me nearly the entire summer to realize why I hadn’t been getting migraines or passing out from the pollen like I normally do. Once I realized it, I decided the mask is probably going to stay even after the pandemic ends, so that I can survive pollen season.

    3. Sylvan*

      In the spring and fall, I just told people I had allergies. Joked about it a bit (not a great time to start sniffling, right??), said I was checking my temperature, and said I’d stay home if my symptoms ever met our requirements to stay home. It’s helpful to show that you’re being responsible and that you’re not concerned — you’re dealing with the same thing that happens every year.

    4. Rara Avis*

      I dealt with seasonal allergies all last spring, but I’m used to the symptoms, they get worse when I go outside, and I was very sure they weren’t COVID. The worst part was that putting on my mask seemed to trigger nose itches, so I did a lot of sneezing in the grocery store, which was gross for me and I’m sure worrisome for fellow shoppers.

    5. Hawkes*

      I’m worried about the opposite – people mistaking COVID for allergies. Our (not US) public health agency did antibody testing last year to compare people’s suspicion of having had COVID (during the time testing wasn’t very available) to their having had COVID and it turned out that a lot of people who thought they’d had bad allergies this year actually had had COVID. (About an equal amount of people who thought they had had mild COVID didn’t and likely had a bad cold or a flu.)

      1. Hawkes*

        And there’s the risk of someone with asymptomatic COVID who, through hayfever-induced sneezing, spreads their viral particles farther than a non-sneezing person.

        Is there a way to prevent hayfever, like by wearing a (very good) mask outside, or by taking medication?

        1. AcademiaNut*

          There is definitely medication for hayfever, but it often doesn’t completely negate the symptoms, rather it just gets them down to a level where you can function effectively. I’m on two medications during pollen season – a daily nasal spray plus antihistimines – and I will still get itchy eyes and the occasional sneezing outburst.

          I find wearing a mask helps in high allergen situations – in allergy season I’ll wear a surgical mask while housecleaning – but again, not completely solving the problem.

          1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            And mileage with medications definitely varies by person. I can’t take enough medication to completely eliminate symptoms without being knocked out by the “may cause sleepiness” side effect. I take what I can in order to limit the symptoms and hope for the best. (Truly, the medication that works the best on my symptoms also makes my body take a two hour long nap 4 hours after I take it. Yet taking it at dinnertime I can’t wake up in time for work the next morning.)

            I did note last summer that masks absolutely help. It was a high pollen count summer where I live (for the bothersome ones to me) and my symptoms were definitely less ridiculous than usual.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes definitely. I can’t take anti histamines to minimise all the effects of hayfever without falling victim to side effects (especially stomach upset and dry mouth). Quite honestly the mild hayfever I have is usually is less uncomfortable than the effect of the medication.

              So I take it on the really bad days and just deal with things the rest of the time.

              I did find that wearing a mask helped last summer and I always wear one when I go outside now.

            2. cncx*

              yeah that’s my issue, when i have seasonal allergies only first generation antihistamines help (hello benadryl) so at least one day per allergy season i have to take a benadryl nap day off of work and that week my mornings are a little sluggish and i’ve appreciated being able to ease in to home office on those days.

        2. Roci*

          Where I live, pollen is a really big issue in spring, and they have always recommended masks and even special “pollen glasses” that are like halfway to goggles to prevent it getting in your eyes. Medication is also common.

      2. Angry*

        I currently have a coworker out who insisted for a week she had allergies. She spent at least 4 days in the office covid positive, not wearing a mask. Most of us are still waiting on our test results.

      3. MGW*

        My friend was having what she thought was just her normal allergy sinus business. She went to get tested because she and her fiancé were planning on doing a very private elopement each with one friend coming in to be part of the ceremony (in nature, away from other people) and everyone got tested first.
        Turns out she tested positive for Covid, missed about 3 weeks of work, and didn’t end up getting married. They still aren’t sure if she was asymptomatic + allergies or if those were Covid symptoms.

      4. KayDeeAye*

        I had COVID late last year, and my symptoms were identical to those I have when I’m about 1.25 minutes away from an asthma attack. And I do mean identical. It wasn’t until I started coughing, plus I realized I’d been feeling like I was 1.25 minutes away from an asthma attack for more than a week (very atypical for me in the winter), that I suddenly thought, “Could this be COVID?” And it was!

        I know. I feel badly about waiting two weeks before getting tested, but it really seemed perfectly sensible at the time since my symptoms were not at all typical of COVID. Fortunately I always wear a mask when I’m out and about, and also fortunately, I get out and about very little, and it appears that I didn’t infect anybody else (not that I know of, anyway). It’s a very insidious and sneaky disease.

        Anyway, I was wondering how in the world I was going to cope with allergy season – don’t want to push the luck of everyone I know a second time! Fortunately, allergy season doesn’t start for me until late April or early May, and I am scheduled to get vaccinated in just a couple of weeks (yay!), so I hope I don’t have to have the “Are these allergies or the early stages of COVID?” conversation with myself or my employer.

      5. Filosofickle*

        My partner had a mild case of Covid last month. I tested negative, but had persistent allergy symptoms that coincided with his second/third weeks. I’m allergic to everything and I have allergy stuff all the time. None of my symptoms were alarming or extraordinary. But considering his diagnosis and how consistent my symptoms were for a longer period of time than usual, there’s a good chance I had it too. I’m hoping to get an antibody test at some point – not sure how one gets that.

    6. AlsoSick*

      Would it be possible/affordable/so on to get a test at the beginning to be sure? Then you can tell folks that you got tested to be sure, but it’s just allergies (or at least not COVID).

    7. Emma*

      This is a good year to load up on antihistamines – prescription ones, even, if the over the counter stuff won’t cut it.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I just wish antihistamines didn’t turn me into a zombie. Thankfully I’m home for the duration.

    8. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yeah, I actually had my dr. switch my blood pressure medicine because the one I was on can cause a chronic cough (and I’m a person who coughs more than the average person anyway and have been that way for years). It’s helped, but I definitely worry about what others think of my cough when I do have to get out for necessities (groceries, etc). I’ve not been tested, but I also have paid special attention to my cough and it hasn’t changed in frequency or become a productive cough. Thankfully, I work from home regardless of the pandemic, so at least I’m not having to explain it to people in an office.

      1. D3*

        Pretty sure I just started the same med. When the doctor told me about that side effect, I said “this isn’t a great time to have that side effect!” and he didn’t know what I meant…

      2. Artemesia*

        I had that chronic cough for 7 years on the blood pressure med with doctors telling me ‘oh it would be a different cough if caused by that.’ It finally got so bad I had a workup and the initial test suggest lung cancer and I was panicked. The CT scan cleared me of that (when you are old, you often have a bit of scar tissue here and there in lungs) and so we stopped the blood pressure med and it was less than a week and the cough was totally gone. There are related blood pressure drugs that do a similar job without the cough.

      3. jojo*

        Lisinipril. I took it for about 5 years before I developed the cough. The doctor gave me two rounds of antibiotics. My coworker told me about the cough thing. So I went cold turkey. Cough went away. I went to the doctor and got a different blood pressure medication. Hell was mad I went cold turkey. But I solved the problem. And I have allergies so covid symptoms all the time

    9. Bagpuss*

      Could you talk to your place of work about providing for lateral flow tests? (the ones that give you a result in 10-15 minutes? )

      I’m in the UK so pricing and ease of access may be different, but we bought a load to enable people to test before returning to work (here, you can get a free lab test via the NHS , but (other than for certain key workers etc) only if you have symptoms)

      They cost about £15 each, and i think less if you are buying in bulk. Perhaps you could speak to your employer and suggest regular tests, which might reassure and co-workers and also reduce the risk of mistaking covid symptoms for allergies and inadvertently spread it.

      I have asthma and allergies so I tend to do a lot of coughing and sneezing year round, I have found that as I know my triggers for both (e.g. if I start coughing or sneezing when I go outside into colder air / air with more pollen) it’s probably allergies or asthma, but I did also buy a box of lateral flow tests just so I can feel more confident that it is just allergies. (I’m not an employee, so asking my employer to provide them isn’t an option)

      My understanding is that they are not as accurate as a lab test but are pretty accurate if you are actively infections (which presumably if you were coughing and sneezing due to Covid, you would be!)

    10. Data Nerd*

      Congrats on the vaccine! I have year-round and seasonal allergies, mild asthma, and I catch every cold that comes around, so I haven’t had a day without coughing in over 35 years. The upside is I know what my symptoms are, and so does everyone in my office, and I’m careful. I’ve tested multiple times, I quarantine when there’s even a hint that the symptoms are abnormal and therefore might be COVID, and if I’m having a worse-than-normal allergy day, I stay home.
      For you-is there a rapid test facility in your area? At least in my area of New York there are free test centers, so if that’s an option for you, maybe you want to look into testing once a week during allergy season or something like that?

    11. Ana Gram*

      I’ve been taking Zyrtec everyday for a year. I also started getting allergy shots last January so the symptoms are somewhat lessened but, frankly, I don’t want to scare my coworkers. It’s not a great solution but there it is.

      1. Blackcat*

        I take Zyrtec daily because I am allergic to my own cat. If it works well for you, it’s a pretty benign drug. My doc had zero problems with me taking it throughout my pregnancy, too.

        1. anon today*

          Just in case, here’s something I found out the hard way: If you take prozac and zyrtec, the combination can cause drowsiness.

          I was tired all. the. time. for almost a year before I stumbled on this possible interaction. I was in a new job for the first time in a long time, and I thought my constant tiredness was from stress.

          I switched to a different allergy medication & problem solved. What a relief!

          1. GothicBee*

            Also, Zyrtec on its own can actually cause drowsiness for some people. I found that out when I’d been taking it for like a month (with no other meds) and I was at the point where I was genuinely afraid I’d fall asleep while driving.

            1. armchairexpert*

              This is Zyrtec for me as well. My understanding is that there are three main groups of anti-histamine (i.e., three different active ingredients). For me, one (Zyrtec) makes me too drosy to function. One doesn’t make me drowsy but also doesn’t touch my symptoms. The third works. This is just to say: I used to think they were all variations on a theme. They are not! It’s worth trying options.

            2. anonarama*

              Same. Zyrtec was great for my allergies but that was mainly because I was sleeping 18 hours a day on it so never managed to get exposed to the outdoors and my allergy triggers.

    12. Natalie*

      I work for a healthcare provider and have to go in to the office a couple of times a week. Our guidelines are to report *new* symptoms, ongoing chronic things like allergies would not be considered a reason to quarantine. (I’ll also note that congestion, sneezing, productive cough, and sniffling are uncommon covid symptoms.)

      The marginal benefit of symptom screening is pretty minimal. If you and your coworkers are being consistent with your distancing and masking and are wearing your masks properly – over nose and mouth and closely fitting around the sides – the chance of transmission is incredibly low. If the current setup isn’t allowing for/enforcing that, or something about the nature of your work makes that harder, personally I would focus my energy on remedying those issues.

    13. Super Anon For This One*

      I am on a medication that causes dry cough, I have always (even as a child) coughed as if I might be dying, AND I have severe “seasonal” allergies – in that there are approximately 2 weeks a year it’s cold enough I don’t sniffle from {waves hands towards the outside world}.

      If I know I am going out into the world, I take OTC medicine to reduce symptoms, and keep a stock of cough drops with me. If I cough more than once in front of someone, I explain “I’m on medicine that causes a dry cough, please excuse me”, if I sniff or sneeze or something else, I explain “allergies” and thankfully, I’m in the Midwest so most people totally understand allergies.

      But mostly: I try to manage the symptoms if I am going out into the world, so that I don’t frighten people.

    14. Caroline Bowman*

      I have been dealing with this – different continent, but same problem and I really, really suffer with allergies and yes, they do often mimic Covid symptoms such that it’s not easy to tell them apart.

      For me, the main thing is A/ no temperature and B/ that my allergy meds work quite effectively and C/ there’s no ”progression”. I know Covid affects different people differently, but in a general sense, once you start feeling coldy / sinus symptoms, they generally tend to progress a bit, temp tends to rise even just a bit for a while and then you feel a bit rubbish (or it gets bad, in which case obviously you’d know). So the key thing is to stay properly on top of your allergies. Get a really solid nasal puffer, stay on your meds, don’t skip a day and pay close attention to anything that feels weird *to you*. For some, a sinus headache is par for the course, for others it’s rare and weird and noteworthy. For me, a very slightly scratchy throat is common, it comes and goes and isn’t bad, but it’s just slightly noticeable. For another person, it would be random and alarming.

      Congrats and am super-jealous re your having got the vaccine. Desperate to get mine and will have to wait a while yet!

    15. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      We do daily screenings, and specifically say the symptoms should be “new or worsening,” and that if it is part of a pre-existing condition, HR just needs a doctor’s note to that effect. At first it was a little wobbly (back in June when we were starting to reopen), but we have a pretty good system now. Basically trying to trust employees to know their bodies while still STRONGLY encouraging them to be extra cautious. And it’s working! Our office-based spread has been practically nil. (We HAVE had to quarantine for workplace exposure, but by and large it’s because of the CDC recommended 48 hour lookback (i.e., someone was in the office on Thursday, but started having symptoms Friday evening) and by and large our office based staff haven’t gotten sick from workplace exposure because people are masking and social distancing appropriately.)

      1. Zzzzzzz*

        On other point on seasonal allergies- if you’re suffering, it’s likely a lot of other people are or they have family members who are. High pollen is bad news. I’m in Texas with “cedar fever”- it’s in January and it is MISERABLE. But easily 60% of people have it so everyone is understanding. Even at other times of the year, if you’re sneezing other people are too. (Some people have allergies much worse, but when your symptoms are terrible, others are probably affected, even mildly.)

    16. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I was pregnant last spring when the health screenings first came into effect, and in addition to the general pregnancy aches/shortness of breath/headaches I also had pregnancy rhinitis which meant I was sniffling virtually the entire 9 months. I just answered “nothing out of the ordinary” when asked about my symptoms and never had a problem with the nurse accepting that. It’s probably worth checking with the COVID coordinator at your workplace though to make sure there isn’t anything in particular they want you to do when you know you experience seasonal allergies.

  5. New Jack Karyn*

    #5: “Nope, can’t take that on right now. I committed multiple copyright violations and am currently on the lam. Best to your sis.”

  6. BonzaSonza*

    OP #4 – my boss unofficially calls them “blanket days”, as in, “I just don’t want to get out of my warm blankets today”.

    My work can be stressful and there are times when we put long hours when deadlines are due. Afterwards, we’re told that we’ve earned a blanket day or two, and to text him when e want to cash out in.

    Sometimes I don’t even use them, but knowing that I have one up my sleeve for later is rewarding in its own right

    1. BonzaSonza*

      Forgot to add – this doesn’t come out of my annual or stick leave balance, so it really is an extra day off and not my boss encouraging me to use my existing allowance

      1. Orange You Glad*

        My boss does this, except if you don’t take him up on it immediately, he forgets and then causes major issues when you try to cash in that time. One time he went behind my back and changed my timesheet to bill for PTO after going on and on about how much I’ve earned an extra day off.

    2. Rara Avis*

      I’ve been really desperate for a sick day on and off over the past year, (especially since no one in my house seems to be able to sleep well since COVID) but haven’t taken one. In the before times, I did so occasionally, and it was no big deal — work never questioned what kind of not feeling well was keeping you out. Now it’s so much harder — you’re expected to be really sick to justify not working at home, and if you choose to work in person, taking a day would trigger all sorts of questions about symptoms.

      1. English, not American*

        A mild migraine can be a good excuse. Having to sit in a dark room and not look at anything backlit makes computer-based jobs impossible, but it’s not the kind of “death’s door” ill that you couldn’t recover from in a day and alone shouldn’t be enough to trigger covid concerns. I genuinely get one maybe once a year if that, so it’s also not the kind of thing you need a storied history of medication and doctor visits to justify.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Headache is a COVID symptom, though – and we actually have had documented cases where the only symptom initially was a headache. So unless the person has medical documentation that they are prone to migranes, this would probably trigger a quarantine.

          1. English, not American*

            A headache isn’t the same as a migraine. Though it seems you’re right that headaches are now being considered more than an “uncommon” symptom. That’s what I get for taking a break from the news I guess.

            1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

              Oh, for SURE. There’s even a chart with the “COVID” headache vs. a typical migrane!

        2. Green Tea for Me*

          I confessed I’ve used the migraine excuse a couple times in the past year. Although I have a history of migraines and have previously explained that when I call off with a migraine it’s less about the actual headache and more about the fact that I have black spots in 25% of my field of vision (so I can’t drive and my job can’t be done from home), have aphasia (so I wouldn’t make sense to anyone I tried to talk to even if I did come in), and am likely to vomit on someone if I move too quickly. I’d worry that someone without a history of migraines calling in with one would still be questioned about possible Covid exposure, because headaches are definitely a symptom.

          I honestly think this is the first time in my life I’ve been grateful to get migraines, because I don’t have to come up with a ‘I’m sick but not covid sick’ lie. I just send a text saying I have a migraine and there’s no further questions.

      2. doreen*

        I don’t understand why you’ve been desperate for a sick day as opposed to desperate for a day off . I can understand preferring to use a sick day rather than a vacation day if I didn’t sleep well or for some other reason woke up one particular day and didn’t feel well enough to work, , and I can see desperately needing a day off in a situation where I’m not actually sick and planning a vacation day in advance will solve things but I feel like I’m missing something in your situation.

        1. pbnj*

          Sometimes when I call out sick I still get phone calls and emails from people who know I’m out, that I ignore to the best of my ability and just say that I didn’t see it since I was trying to sleep it off. Some people unfortunately think that you should WFH unless you are seriously sick and can’t at all.

          I also think the general preference is to use sick days for burnout or when you need a mental health day. In the past year, I’ve been hesitant to do so since I know I don’t want to have people think I got covid and have to answer questions about symptoms. I don’t know what Avis’s company’s policy is on sick leave and vacation leave, but some companies are strict on using unplanned vacation time or are so stingy or restrictive that sick leave is easier to use.

      3. Marillenbaum*

        This is what stomach bugs are great for. No one wants to know, because the assumption is that it’s something gross.

      1. BonzaSonza*

        He’s great. I tell him that often.

        I’ve been reading ask a manager for ten years (how has it been that long???) and every letter reinforces what a great work environment I’m currently in.

        I credit this blog for empowering me to advocate for myself and advance my career. Alison is the bee’s knees.

    3. NYWeasel*

      I’m wondering in relation to OP4, whether the issue is that employees have to log their symptoms when they submit the day off?

      I think the recommendation made here to say “migraine” is likely the best code to use for any official documentation. Otherwise, whenever I want to extend my employees a little extra flexibility than the system allows, I simply talk directly to them rather than putting anything in writing, and make it clear that it’s not official policy. (I’m not doing this all the time, but say, telling them they could head out early on Xmas eve without penalizing them for leaving)

  7. Pio*

    #1 also make sure to tell them that you need hands on training. So you do it, she watches and steps you through. Just listening to someone without any practice is hard and very ineffective for many people. Muscle memory is a thing, you want to built that. Also make sure you get the time to take notes if there aren’t writing instructions that sufficiently detailed so you can do it on your own which, yes, is going to slow her down, a lot.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes, typically training involves having someone talk you through things a few times, then being extra hands-on with troubleshooting and guiding as you start working. Just watching someone work is a very inefficient way of learning for most things.

      (Unfortunately, otherwise I’d be an amazing piano player and speak fluent Spanish.)

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      Definitely. I mean, if OP’s going to shadow her trainer for a year and that department is half of her duties, the company is essentially wasting a half of her annual salary because of the trainer’s incompetence. In most places, that’s a pretty significant expense!

      1. Bagpuss*

        More, since presumably the trainer is also working at less than optimum rates if they are expalining things to her.

      2. Paulina*

        I find it unlikely that this was the plan when she was hired, specifically because of that expense. Since it’s a hybrid position, the primary justification may be the other department, with June’s department added in, but management wouldn’t’ve allocated any of a position to June based on a “she’ll watch me work for a year” plan. And job shadowing would normally only be an initial stage of training, since it’s not effective teaching. There must have been a different plan, and hopefully the OP’s boss can get it back on track.

      3. Artemesia*

        The idea of taking someone’s job while they are still working in the department is something that very very often doesn’t work out well. The only hope for this particular situation is to sit down with the boss — the possessive co-worker will never get out of the way.

    3. BookishMiss*

      Yep, as a technical trainer, the “let me do it” part of “tell me, show me, let me” is really where the most learning and retention takes place. True for kids, but especially true for adult learners in a job environment.

      So definitely stress that you need the hands on practice to really learn the work.

      1. JustaTech*

        Seconding this.
        I’m being asked to train someone in a lengthy and complicated process and I said “I can train you in about 3 weeks, if we get the material, but you won’t be comfortable flying solo until you’ve done it at least a dozen times.”
        That’s got nothing to do with the trainee, and everything to do with it being long and complicated and needing to develop muscle memory.

        But just watching? Yeah, once, but after that we need to start *doing*.

    4. Bostonian*

      Plus op is not even getting cc’d on relevant emails and therefore not getting all the info to learn the job. It’s not even effective/helpful job shadowing!

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        and being out of those loops is going keep them from picking up on office dynamics that are integral to being an effective employee.

    5. OP #1*

      You’re so right! If I felt like I was actually learning a lot and being trained effectively, I might be more acceptable of the time line. But it feels like a waste of my time,. I need to start doing things, to find my own groove, in order to learn best.

      1. Smithy*

        In the spirit of first June before going to your boss – you might ask one or two times if it would be possible to try entering a specific task yourself. If you’ve already done that and that’s where the messaging about shadowing her for a year, then don’t bother. But then at least it puts you in a situation of explaining to your boss that you’ve asked for more hands on training as it is how you feel you learn most effectively, and June has declined.

  8. Dan*


    Honestly, just let your praise talk highly of you to the higher-ups. At my org, promotions and raises are competitive, and when it’s that time of year, I’ll take all the pull I can get. The reality is, that feedback will be stronger at raise time if it’s consistently delivered throughout the year.

    I’ve been at my current org for a few years now, and worked for two different departments. My first department, my reviews and raises were “meh”. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t *bad*, but they weren’t great either. Salary growth in that department was like I donno, $15k or or so over 3 years. I switched departments, and over roughly the same period of time, I got a promotion and significant salary growth — about $40k. I thought the boss who got me promoted (which I deserved, no question) was IMHO overly effusive in his reviews about me, to the point where I thought it was somewhat awkward. But you know what? He got me a promotion and $40k in raises, so if being overly effusive is what it takes, then so be it. He certainly knows how to play the game…

    I’ll take that over more tempered feedback, no promotion, and crappy raises any day!

    1. Smithy*

      This points out something that I think is really critical when looking at behavior that may seem odd/unnatural – that the LW’s boss may know something about how this company runs. It may be as simple as promotions/raises are tied to more memorable praise, or there may be more complex office politics and this is how the OP’s boss chooses to approach it.

      If the OP doesn’t feel comfortable being more direct in asking the boss why so much praise, I do think it could be really insightful to ask questions around what it’s like for the boss to report into grandboss/senior management. Questions around how company decisions/strategy is made, etc. Not necessarily to look for dysfunction, but try to see if this is just a quirk of the OP’s boss or tied to a more savvy professional strategy.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      I was surprised Alison didn’t say OP could talk to her boss about this! It sounds like they have a good relationship so I think I’d name it explicitly and make sure to note the pattern in case they haven’t picked up on it. It sounds like they really like OP and would probably be grateful for the feedback. They are presumably trying to do a good thing and it’s bouncing back in a negative way. “You are so kind to praise me to the higher-ups, but I think we’re overdoing it at this point and it’s coming across a little oddly. What would really help me is positive performance reviews, rather than bringing it up in meetings where I’m not even involved. What do you think?”

      1. Smithy*

        If the OP has been at this org longer than the boss, and is aware that positive performance reviews are in fact the more positive approach, then that’s fine. But if the OP otherwise trusts this boss and the boss has been there longer….it might be worth to take a few steps back.

        How does the company reward performance? How is this team/department viewed in the larger organization? How is the boss’ relationship with the grand boss?

        It may be that the boss is just entirely miscalculating these individual moments and is coming across as a weirdo. But before I’d focus specifically on those moments, I’d recommend trying to learn more about larger dynamics at the office. It’s certainly not making the OP look bad in the interim, but may be coming from a far more calculated and deliberate place.

  9. ENFP in Texas*

    I’m probably going to get flak for this, but what the heck.

    I must be weird in that it didn’t even occur to me NOT to take PTO for the three days I couldn’t work from home because I had no power. It was time off that I want to get paid for. No, it’s not time that I *wanted* to take off, but days that I’m sick or have doctor appointments or emergencies where my water heater breaks and I need to get someone in to stop the flooding in my garage aren’t time that I *want* to take off, either.

    Yes, it was a statewide emergency that impacted a lot (but not all) of us in Texas. And it really, really, really sucked. But I don’t feel like my company should basically “give me a bonus” for it (which is what being paid for those days but not using PTO for them boils down to).

    1. CatCat*

      To me, there is just something different about natural disasters (and quite frankly severe weather conditions that aren’t quite a disaster, but still dangerous and authorities advise people not to go out in them) where it seems heartless to take something away from employees they had hoped to use otherwise and could incentive risky behavior during the disaster or weather closure (like attempting to go to the office rather than risk vacation days when advised to stay off roads, shelter at home, or evacuate).

      1. lifelongtexan*

        Agreed. Plus people were told by the government to stay home and then told to conserve resources. And gas was also hard to find since gas stations had unreliable power and due to demand, so you should minimize driving.

        I worked from home as much as I could, but honestly my work quality was not great b/c I was so worried about people and so stressed out that I just did some mindless tasks like clearing out emails. I was also afraid to get too involved in something b/c who knows when the power would go out again.

    2. Emma*

      I guess in the US this may not apply, but – that’s the whole point, right? PTO is for days you want to take off. Sick leave, family leave, emergency leave etc is for days when you have no choice.

      Companies provide annual leave because it’s important for people to have work/life balance and to be able to take time off work to relax, unwind, and do stuff that’s important to them personally. Forcing them to use it in a situation like this is harmful to employees’ wellbeing, morale and focus, and that in turn harms the business, just as much as it would harm the business to make people use their PTO if they’ve been in a car crash.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I think ENFP in Texas is coming at it from the perspective of PTO being in one bucket instead of separate sick time vs. vacation (a system that sucks for many reasons, this being one of them).

      2. Lady Meyneth*

        Yes, this is the big problem with having vacation and emergency leave come from the same allotment of time off. You end up having no real vacation, or often working while sick, because you need to preserve those days off.

        I have about 22 vacation days, but sick and emergency leave is unlimited. I may be asked for a doctor’s note for sick days (I never was, but one colleague has since he seems to get colds/terrible headaches/food poisoning a LOT), but I’ll still have all my vacation time to actually rest and enjoy myself, without worrying what I’ll do when I get a migraine.

    3. Forrest*

      It was a random event with huge adverse effects. It’s always bizarre to me when people believe the costs of a random event like illness, bad weather, disasters etc should be borne by individuals rather than larger organisations. It just makes sense to me that wherever possible, the costs of random bad things should be spread, and that means transferred to communities of people, whether that means institutions, organisations or governments, rather than individuals.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Honestly, I find it odd that either entity must bear the burden in tot. I’d think charging employees 4 hours of PTO for the lost day instead of 8, and letting those low on balances to temporarily go negative, would be fair.

        Fair, of course, being a popular four-letter word, and I’m used to being out of sync with the world.

        1. Forrest*

          I don’t think splitting a burden equally between two or more entities with very different levels of resources and power is fairness, tbh. It might look superficially fair, but justice requires looking at the differences between entities rather than treating them as equal when they’re not.

        2. cabbagepants*

          I like the analogy to sick leave or bereavement leave.
          It’s no one’s “fault” when a close family member dies, but the employee still needs the time off. Having dedicated bereavement leave allows both parties to be prepared for tragic but predicable events. There should be a policy in place for natural disasters as well.

          1. GothicBee*

            This is a really good point. Having some kind of natural disaster leave policy become the standard would be really useful. Especially since these things only seem to be getting more common.

            1. Forrest*

              It also creates political pressure to NOT have “natural” disasters. If you displace the costs of natural disasters into individuals, they’ve much less power to enact changes which will mitigate or prevent natural disasters than if the costs are being borne by larger organisations.

              (Scare quotes on “natural” because whilst floods, earthquakes, extreme temperatures, hurricanes etc might be natural-ish, some of the devastating effects are the result of political decisions.)

          2. Roci*

            This is what my company (not US) has. There is a separate section for site closures, disasters/anything dramatically disrupting traffic and transportation, and so on. Your analogy is spot on, it’s no one’s fault but the employee can’t work and shouldn’t be penalized for “acts of God”.

      2. Cj*

        Just because you are a business doesn’t mean you have extra cash lying around. If your business is not generating any revenue during this time, they may not be able to pay people and then have to pay them again later when they take PTO. Especially if that later PTO means that the company is again not generating revenue because the person is gone, like a professional with billable hours.

    4. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yeah, that was my thought when I read this one too. This is part of what PTO is for… yes, it’s also for vacations, personal days, etc, but it’s also for if you’re sick, or for whatever reason can’t work. For additional context – my company only has, I think 2 FT employees in Texas and the other ~30 are spread out throughout the country, so while my team and my manager were very aware of my situation and checking in when they could, many of my other coworkers weren’t really even aware (I’m sure they were generally aware that Texas was in disarray from the news, but sometimes people forget where others live).

      Luckily, I didn’t have to take too much because (unluckily) my hours have been cut, and I was able to make-up some of it towards the end of the week after we got power back at my house.

      1. Forrest*

        If PTO is a benefit that gets paid out when you leave, then PTO is “owned” by the individual. Requiring people to take PTO for adverse weather effects is shifting the costs of an utterly random event onto the individual worker instead of the company bearing it.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Yes, but isn’t it an utterly random event if I catch pneumonia, and need to take sick days to recover? Or if I have a fluke lightning storm that fries the internet (which I need in order to work). We have a fairly generous PTO policy, and I am not upset that I had to use some of my hours to cover this. While what happened here was not my fault, it also wouldn’t be my fault if I got sick, and it’s not the company’s fault either.

          1. Forrest*

            I don’t think it’s about fault, but just about which entity is most able to plan for and bear the costs of random adverse events. I’m in favour of the employer taking on more of the risk in all scenarios, because they have more power, more resources, and more ability to foresee and absorb the impact of unforeseen events.

            I think the same relationship exists between smaller employers and organisations and bigger entities like government and corporations, fwiw– the risks should be spread as widely as possible, and that means that the entity with the most power and the biggest resources should take on more of it, eg. government funding available to support smaller employers deal with natural disasters, parental leave, extended sickness etc.

          2. JustaTech*

            To me the difference is: could *someone* be working my job during this time? Yes, I may be out with pneumonia, but it would be physically possible for someone else to do my work in that time.

            If the power is off for, say, my manufacturing plant, even though I am there I can’t work because the plant can’t work. If there’s no electricity or internet or heat or water, then it doesn’t matter if I am there or not, I can’t work.

            That’s why it feels unfair to dock someone’s PTO, when they couldn’t have worked if they wanted to.

            1. turquoisecow*

              Yes this makes sense. At my old job, if there was a snowstorm, the office was usually open and if you didn’t come in you had to use PTO.

              However, after Hurricane Sandy, the office had no power for a day, and many roads were blocked with downed trees. Even if everyone had made it into the office, nobody would have been able to do any work. So we were all paid even though we did no work.

            2. Elsajeni*

              Yeah, to me that fact that most workplaces either were or, frankly, should have been closed is a big factor here. I’m in Houston, and I’d say the work impacts were very similar to post-Harvey — parts of the campus where I work were entirely shut down, without power or reliable water service. Other parts were technically able to function, but it was questionable whether employees could get there safely, or would be able to work even if they could (like, have they had a shower? a decent night’s sleep?). In a situation like that, it seems ridiculous to make people take vacation time for not showing up to their non-functioning job that no one else is showing up to either, you know?

    5. PspspspspspsKitty*

      I understand if the choice between PTO and not getting paid, PTO make sense. My company has paid personal days we can take for emergencies instead of our actual PTO days (vacation). In fact, they have a great assistance program to help with these emergencies, free counseling, grants for money needs, ect ect. I think more companies should do this.

    6. Eurostar*

      Giving you time off because of a statewide emergency that’s threatening lives isn’t a bonus. It’s just basic humanity.

      I seriously cannot fathom this mindset. Maybe it’s an American thing and I’m just not culturally equipped to comprehend the thinking? But it makes me so sad to see people value their lives and labour so little.

      1. Lance*

        This, ‘it’s not a bonus’, basically covers it. The examples given (getting sick, water heater breaking, etc.) are things that affect just the individual, so PTO makes sense. But a crisis like this affects most, if not all, of the company; it’s a matter of morale, and treating employees like human beings and not worker bees, that’s why the company should cover it without deducting PTO for something affecting this many people.

        1. lifelongtexan*

          Seriously. I don’t think anybody felt like this was a vacation. I’m so exhausted this week from being stressed out last week.

          1. ENFP in Texas*

            Should the folks who had no power because of Harvey have used their PTO? What about those of us who lose power for days because of thunderstorms or tornadoes?

            Where is the the line drawn? What makes something “a natural disaster where you have to take PTO” versus “a natural disaster where you don’t have to take PTO”?

            1. Forrest*

              What’s the argument in favour of anyone being required to take PTO if they can’t work because of a natural disaster? Why is that something the individual should carry the cost of, rather than employers having insurance against?

            2. cryptid*

              I think the problem is that you’re looking for a line between natural disasters to say “at this point, the employee is responsible for not working and should be penalized by having to use PTO” when there isn’t a line, and no, they shouldn’t. No one should have to use it if they lose power or water because of hurricanes or big storms, either!

            3. Spencer Hastings*

              My employer’s policy is actually that if the office closes altogether, people don’t have to use PTO, if I remember correctly. (It hasn’t happened while I’ve been here, so I’m not totally sure.) That is, if the weather is OK enough for the office to be open at all, but *you* just can’t get in, you WFH or use PTO; if not, not. We just have one location, though; we’re not some big multi-state organization.

      2. doreen*

        I think there might be a bit of “it’s an American thing” on both sides. Please understand, I am not against employers giving people time off in emergencies without deducting it from vacation or PTO. but I work for a large, unionized* employer and every time they do this they get “punished”. Say for example, the office is closed on Tuesday for a heavy snow- people who were off Tuesday for whatever reason want “their free day off”. That might make sense if someone took Tuesday off to do something they now can’t do because of weather – but not so much for people who are off Tuesday because they worked Sunday , or people who were on 2 weeks vacation including Tuesday. Or people who work in County Y which didn’t get much snow want a day off since County A got it. Or my own personal favorite, people who knew they would not have to use leave time for quarantine- who proceeded to travel out of state on vacation because they knew they would get 2 extra paid weeks off. Once my employer started charging leave time for the quarantine , people either stopped traveling to areas requiring a quarantine or at least stopped flying ( the Dept of Health couldn’t stop nearly every car, but they got most off the arriving flights)

        * And the “unionized” might be important because I think in a non-union environment the possibility of some sort of consequences might reign in this behavior.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          If you were already on a pre-arranged vacation when a natural disaster hits, well, ‘thems the breaks!’ It’s not like that can be foreseeable.

          Likewise, if the disaster impacts only Texas, but a company operates in multiple states not impacted, only the employees in the affected state get the time off. Is that fair? Not exactly. But all places will have some type of natural disaster probably eventually. In my state, the Eastern half is subject to hurricanes and has closed on occasion. The Western half doesn’t get impacted by hurricanes, but may get snow emergencies. It’s up to the government to decide if only half the state is under emergency orders, which determines who gets the time off paid or not.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Someone is always going to complain they “lost” their vacation day. but them’s the breaks. You scheduled your day off and then a tornado destroyed the office building — those few individual who were scheduled off lost a vacation day. But everyone ELSE who was not scheduled off shouldn’t lose a vacation day too. THEY weren’t involuntarily not working.

          A natural disaster affects EVERYONE. So the majority affected shouldn’t suffer because a few people don’t their scheduled day off.

        3. RecoveringSWO*

          Sounds like this might be something to bring up at a union meeting, especially during election season…

          1. doreen*

            I’m not sure what good that would do – the unions can’t stop employees from complaining that others got a “free day off ” and my employer will never agree in a contract to give those days off to people who were unaffected. They will sooner not close at all for weather, as they are not contractually obligated to – which is what I fear the complaints will eventually lead to

        4. Roci*

          I dunno, I think the employer should refund the PTO day if the office was closed and no work could be done. I like the argument that “people couldn’t even work if they wanted to” because there was no power to the office and it was closed. So if the office is closed due to inclement weather or natural disaster, it doesn’t make sense to charge them PTO, any more than to charge them for not working a Saturday when the office is closed.

    7. BonzaSonza*

      I disagree.

      Employee leave entitlements are a safety net for staff: annual leave is for when you make plans to not work, sick leave is when you can’t work!

      If you’re able and willing to work but the business isn’t open for a day, that’s the company’s problem, not their employees’ problem.

      But then, I’m Australian, so my perspective on leave entitlements is quite different to what I see here. I’m *required* to take a minimum two week block of leave each year as I work in the financial services industry and it’s an anti-corruption safety measure (and they encourage longer breaks for staff well-being).

      1. Batty Twerp*

        I think the “ready, willing and able” part is key. If the employee is prepared to fulfill their working obligations, they shouldn’t be penalised if the company is unprepared to meet theirs.

        Several years ago our company got the opportunity to field test their Disaster Management and Recovery Plan. We were unable to work (i.e. no power, no servers, that kind of thing) for only half a day before the backups were fully implemented. The company reserved the right to make it a half day unpaid, since no one (apart from the Tech team) was able to do ANY work for the company, but they chose not to. The tech team were gifted a half day back in lieu as a thanks for keeping the down time to a minimum.
        Prior to that (same company, different management team, different DMRP), everything went down for 3 days. We were given the choice to take it as paid or unpaid leave. We had a lot of staff turnover that year.

      2. Paulina*

        Yes, you shouldn’t have to use PTO if the business is closed, unless that’s part of the normal arrangement. WFH makes that a bit strange, especially if you’re currently WFH due to the pandemic. There’s been a tendency for many employers to then put the responsibility of having a usable workplace onto the employee, since they’re working at home. (My university seemed to think that all faculty had extensive home offices. No we don’t.) But if the conditions are hostile enough that the normal place of business is closed, people are advised to stay off the roads, many don’t have power, etc., then it’s really not the employees’ fault that they don’t have a usable work environment.

        We had a bit of a debate locally (in my province in Canada) about school and snow days. With high schools especially all set up to allow intermittent virtual learning, should there still be snow days? Why not just have virtual learning? Decision was that yes there would still be snow days, because the snow disrupted a lot more than just the school buses.

    8. Guacamole Bob*

      In my mind, my PTO is for days when the office is open and I’d be expected to report to work, so it’s my choice or due to my own personal circumstances not to come in (or work remotely). In my current job, when my office is closed due to weather or any other unforeseen circumstance, I generally expect that we’ll be told to use “administrative leave” or some similar code on our timesheets that day.

      So if the storm caused my office to close for 3 days but I was out an extra day to deal with stuff at home before I came back, I’d use PTO for only that final day.

    9. MissDisplaced*

      To me, the difference is when a statewide emergency or disaster has been declared.

      Because then the situation is beyond people’s control, it’s highly dangerous to be out and about, and it’s impacting thousands and thousands of people. Companies should close if they’re not necessary to the emergency response, and not force people to take PTO. (This does exclude emergency services provider employees however.)

      That’s very different from me deciding I don’t want to drive to work when it snows, or the power went out only in my neighborhood and there are other options.

    10. pretzelgirl*

      I sort of agree with you ENFP. But I think this has to be company dependent. For example my company offers a ton of PTO. Most people cannot even use the amount they allot us in a year. I currently I have so much sick time its unreal. So I could see our company doing this. But I could also see how it would be unfair if a company offered little to no vacation time. A friend of mine, only gets one week a year off. This would basically be her entire vacation for a year. Def not fair.

      1. Ashley*

        I think this is a major factor. If your company sucks and you get 10 days each year for all buckets I would be annoyed about having to use 3 in February because I literally could not work due to major factors outside of my control like being told not to use electricity even if you do have it. If you get 4 weeks each year taking 3 days is less of a big deal.

    11. twocents*

      If the company lost power, would you still agree that the employees be required to sit in the office in the dark or use PTO to go home?

      And if the answer is “no” then why does your answer change just because “the office” is now in people’s actual homes?

      1. Lynn Whitehat (Texas)*


        I also live in Texas. Charging people PTO would incentivize exactly the wrong behavior, everything we were not supposed to be doing. Let’s say your house loses power in this winter storm, but you don’t want to “waste” PTO. Whole neighborhoods pretty much lost power together, so the odds of a neighbor having power when you don’t are low. So you’d have to drive on icy roads to… sit in a friend’s house? (Remember there’s still a pandemic.) Sit outside a business that has wi-fi in your car, and use that? (All the businesses were closed, so you can’t go inside.) Also none of the gas stations were working, so think carefully about how much gas you’re using.

        Such a person would be making an already-dangerous situation worse for yourself and others. And frankly probably not doing much work, or very good work. Because otherwise their employer would charge their PTO.

    12. CheeryO*

      I’ve always taken PTO for things like power outages and blizzards. State government here – we have to track our time, and there’s no code for “didn’t have to work because a sucky thing happened.” I could probably get away with charging sick time, and occasionally the state does create a time code that can be charged to, but only in very extreme situations, and it usually takes months of union negotiations before it’s official.

      I know private companies are different, but I always feel the need to comment from a government perspective. The upside is that we get five weeks of vacation/personal time per year, so it’s really not that big of a deal.

      1. an infinite number of monkeys*

        My state government employer (Texas) issued a special code for all employees to charge their time to during the event, so it doesn’t come out of our sick or vacation leave.

      2. Mike S.*

        I also work for the state. The plan before the disaster was PTO if needed, for people working from home. After the storm, they gave a couple of other options for people to choose from. I’m not sure what the options are for people who normally go in and couldn’t. (The people who stayed got a nice bonus, in addition to being on the clock for 3 days straight. We have parts that don’t close.)

      3. CatCat*

        This must vary state-by-state. I am also state government and time off (not from the employee’s PTO) is generally given to those impacted by natural disasters when the disaster causes the workplace to close, makes it such that the employee cannot travel to the workplace because of road closures and the employee cannot remote work, or the employee or their immediate family are in peril like when they need to evacuate their home. It’s not unlimited, but the last disaster I recall, it was up to 5 days.

      4. JimmyJab*

        I work for state government and we get snow days occasionally with their own time code and not taken out of our PTO.

    13. TexasNoPTO*

      I get five days of PTO. I had a laptop to work from home but the VPN would never connect, because they were rushing to get me this laptop before the storm and something wasn’t installed right. I would have been livid if almost my entire PTO balance had been used by this situation. I ended up coming into the office Friday when it was getting better but some roads were still icy. Luckily my company has a heart.

      1. TexasNoPTO*

        I will also add that my company has had a record breaking sales year. The pandemic actually increased revenue for us. So this is literally the least they can do for people.

    14. Donkey Hotey*

      Right there with you, friend.
      Washington state had a surprise snowstorm on a Friday – not as devastating as the Texas storm, but more snow than I’ve seen here in 20 years. Monday rolled around and I took the day as PTO because I wanted to get paid for it and because there was no way I could make it out of my subdivision. Was it how I wanted to use one of my very few paid days off? No. Do I want to get paid? Yes.

    15. Kerry*

      The entire employment system in the US is so broken/messed up that we’ve all been gaslit into believing this is all normal. Our commitment to work and making money above all else is really something to behold. It should be people over profits, always. Making sure people are safe before, during, and after a natural disaster (and that means making sure they aren’t coming up short financially) isn’t a bonus. It should be the bare minimum of basic humanity. Just because things like this are widespread and common practice doesn’t make them okay.

    16. RussianInTexas*

      I wouldn’t be upset if my company did not give us ONLY 5 paid vacation days, ONLY 4 sick days, and ONLY 5 paid holidays – we do not get Memorial Day or Black Friday off.
      You read it right. We get 9 days of PTO per year.
      My old company, very large corp, did not only covered the days people missed during Hurricane Ike, but they also provided hot breakfasts, and gave every employee in the affected area $250 gift card.

    17. Correction*

      Just coming to make a correction. It impacted all 254 counties of our state. It has totally changed the current legislative session’s direction (my boss is on the House State Affairs Committee). To say it affected a lot (but not all) of Texas is a falsehood.

  10. PspspspspspsKitty*

    LW 1 – Do you have a meeting with your boss to see how you are progressing? If not, maybe set one up to talk about June. You can bring up the training for a year and ask for clarification.

  11. Digital Rabbithole*

    OP3 – I’d just like to offer a different perspective. When I was looking to leave a previous employer, I made sure to start slowly, gently delegating more responsibilities to the junior team members. By the time I was ready to leave/gave notice, they were well prepared and the hand-over went smoothly. This could be his clunky/unsubtle way to do something similar.

    I also find it interesting you see the need to swoop in to save your supervisor. He should be fine/capable to manage it on his own, right?

    1. Mary*

      That’s what I was thinking too – if he dug himself a hole, it’s his responsibility to get himself out!

    2. Cj*

      I’m wondering if the boss doesn’t do it specifically to get the OP to praise him to the higher ups in return. Like the “I couldn’t do it without boss” comment.

  12. agnes*

    #2 Unless the organization is actually not able to generate revenue during a natural disaster–like a Starbucks that can’t sell coffee– company revenues have been determined in the budget cycle and employee salaries are budgeted for during the year. It doesn’t “cost” the employer to pay people during a natural disaster, because that money is already budgeted and the organization has already confirmed where the money is coming from.

    For example, if you are a consulting firm, you have contracts with your clients. You know how much revenue you are bringing in. You have a deliverable at the end, but you don’t lose money if your employees don’t work on it for a few days. It might mean that employees have to play catch up when they are back in the office, but most people I know would be happy to do that to assure continued pay during a crisis.

    These kinds of businesses can afford to pay their employees without making them use leave.

  13. Bob*

    I’m retired, on a year long vacation, booked up, on the lam (best that i don’t tell you why, being a co-conspirator is not in your best interest) and studying to be a dentist for when i make it to a non extradition country.

  14. twocents*

    #2: I live in an area that was affected by the derecho last summer. I was without internet and power for three days, and I know some of my coworkers were without even longer. And my employer went: well, if the power and internet went out in the office, we’d send everyone home with pay; why would work from home be any different?

    Just food for thought on how this could have been handled.

    1. Chilipepper*

      I live in hurricane territory. My workplace has specific policies in place for how to manage this. During the pre and post storm closings, they honor all schedules AND they cancel any time off that was requested in advance so you don’t lose PTO. Any time the state or county calls an emergency, these measures go into effect.

    2. PT*

      That’s generally how where I worked has worked. If work is closed- for weather, because they’re redoing the plumbing system and they can’t do that with anyone in the building- you don’t get paid.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        You’re actually disagreeing with twocents. They said that their employer would “send everyone home with pay”, while you are saying that your employer would NOT do that.

  15. Person from the Resume*


    No, thank you.

    No, I no longer doing graphic design.

    No, I’m no longer available for freelancing.



    Sorry, can’t.

    Sounds like you’re a person who hates to say “no” and feels like if someone asks you’re obligated to say “yes.” That’s not the case.

    Some people like you and me might only ask for something/help if it’s reasonable and we **really** need it. We as the asker do that work upfront and make sure we don’t ask for too much. As such we might assume others do the same so if they ask they must need the help and to say no is unkind. OTOH this client seems to fall into the ask for everything / can’t hurt to ask even if it’s unreasonable camp. With people like that they often don’t mind hearing “no” because they didn’t struggle through deciding if the request was appropriate and necessary. They put the penis on you to make that call.

    Tell him “no” and he’ll probably go away. If not tell him “no” a few times and then stop responding. You didn’t enter a lifelong contract to work for this guy anytime he needs graphic work. Your contract with him is over.

    1. Cat Tree*

      This is even a case where semi-ghosting could be warranted. For small fixes, it seems like OP is just jumping on it right away to get it done. And I totally get that! I’d rather just get it done so I don’t have to spend any mental energy remembering that I need to get back to it. But this client knows he’ll get a fast, correct result so he keeps doing it. If OP makes it less rewarding for him, he’ll eventually stop asking. I would start by waiting one day longer to respond, then 2-3 days followed the explanation that I was busy with something else. If he’s still asking then a direct “no” is necessary.

      Of course, a direct “no” is a perfectly valid starting point for OP too. But, some people find that extremely difficult to do so I recommended a softer option.

      1. Reba*

        I think the OP is already past the point of reasonable deflection–the client has shown they will try to work around reasons given. (No photoshop? that’s no obstacle, I’ll buy it!) She no longer does design work, so she doesn’t need to preserve this client relationship!
        She can just say, “no, best wishes” and stop responding.

        1. Cat Tree*

          I didn’t suggest deflection though. I suggested delaying the response so the former client doesn’t feel an immediate reward for asking. It’s about behavioral extinction.

  16. BlueBelle*

    I am in Texas too, and I am appalled at the number of my friends who have said that even though their offices were closed without electricity, internet, or even phone services they were told to use their PTO. It is awful. I was without power from 1 am Monday until 5 pm Thursday, then it was rolling on and off for another 24 hours. It was below freezing in my house for 3 days. I was only able to text my manager 2 times during that entire time because cell service was out. I was not only stressed about staying warm and keeping my family and animals alive, but I was also stressed out because I was taking an unplanned week off during one of my busiest times of the year and I couldn’t see my work calendar or contact anyone about why I wasn’t in meetings- not all of our employees are in Texas or even in the US.
    Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry. My inbox was filled with well wishes and people being concerned about my safety. There was no mention from anyone in the company that anyone should take PTO.
    If there was, I would gather people together and fight back. There is no way anyone could have gone anywhere and even if they got there the businesses didn’t have power! It is bull, and it makes me really angry for all the people who have been faced with this from such awful companies.

    1. Pascall*

      Same. I work for a school district now and there wasn’t even a question about whether or not this time was going to be taken from our days off. The district closed entirely, nobody was working due to power outages, no students were in school or expected to do any virtual learning. We’re all getting paid for that time because we were concerned about just staying alive.

      It baffles me that some people in other areas think that having to use PTO is fair.

  17. Cold*

    Re #2, my office is remote during COVID and my supervisor told us to download files from the network drive ahead of time so that we’d be able to work if the power went out during a snowstorm. (This was after she tried to tell us to just drive to a nearby relative who hadn’t lost power — hello, plague!) Luckily I haven’t lost power yet, but I’ll be pretty miffed if I really do get charged PTO for not working in an unheated apartment!

    1. Ashley*

      That is an impressive level of being out of touch! Laptop batteries aren’t unlimited and even without COVID if I am crashing at someones house because I lost power that usually isn’t conducive to actually being able to get any work done.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      Also assumes you have a nearby relative to be able to crash with. Not everyone has that option.

  18. EPLawyer*

    #1 – Jane could be worried if you are working independently, you could push her out of her job. Or she could be thinking well it took me a year to be comfortable with this job so that’s how long it takes to learn it. But WHY she is doing it doesn’t really matter. It needs to change.

    You need to loop your boss in ASAP. Your boss needs to know you are not being allowed to do the job you were hired to do. Your boss needs to make sure you have the access you need. Jane should not be in charge of who has access anyway. Nor should you when you do the job. That’s the boss’ job to decide who qualifies for access and to make sure it happens.

    1. RC Rascal*

      I’m wondering if there is another reason Jane won’t hand over her duties

      Maybe she isn’t following company procedures.

      Maybe she’s hiding some sort of issue people don’t know about & need to know about.

      Maybe she’s misappropriating funds.

      Something isn’t right here.

      1. Broadbean*

        I don’t think it has to be sinister. I used to work with a June. I was her grandboss and every time I spoke to her (no joke, every time) she would find a way to mention how overworked she was. So I told her I would be happy to look at restructuring the team (there were other reasons to do this as well) and could she give me a list of the work she could delegate if she had an additional member of support staff. What I got was a list of “these are all the things about my job that I like and I don’t want to give up”. This was, you guessed it, a full list of all the things covered by her job!

        Of course, this didn’t stop her from continuing to complain about overwork, although every time she did I would say brightly, you know the offer of an additional member of staff still stands, if we can come up with a decent job description for the role, so you don’t have to suffer in silence! Which I imagine made the conversations frustrating for both of us…

    2. Orange You Glad*

      This is what I was thinking. It’s possible that Jane doesn’t want to give up her responsibilities and this change was forced on her for other reasons.

      We had an issue with someone at a clerical level that seemed to equate her own self-worth with the tasks she did for the company and acted like the whole place would fall apart if she took a sick day. It was a long and painful process to get her to train a back up on her tasks and rotate duties. Even today, she delegates things sparingly.

  19. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    My first thought on #1 was, does OP’s company have performance reviews? How’s that going to go? “I spent the last 12 months watching Jane work, because she wouldn’t give me the access to do anything else.” That’s not going to end well. Agree with everyone who said that OP’s boss needs to know now.

  20. Not So Super-visor*

    LW#3 — I’ve had a similar experience lately but with my VP. I had to fill in for my director for 3 months due to medical issue, and now on every call that I’m on, VP introduces me as “Jane who did just good job filling in for Lucinda while she was out and…” I honestly feel like he’s talking about me more like I was a golden retriever than a valued employee — “Good girl!” (not actually said, just how I feel when he goes into one of these speeches)

  21. Lacey*

    OP#1 I feel like June could be one of my former coworkers.

    I worked at a place that had rapid growth and I think those of us who worked there before the growth all had a pretty good grasp on our June’s systems because we all worked in a tiny office together and had to kinda pitch it at different moments.

    But, once we expanded and June was working insane overtime, the people we hired to help her could not do the work to June’s standards. Part of it was that her system was too complicated and attempts to help her simplify it just led to her crying and management dropping the subject (our June is also a major shareholder). Part of it is that she was waaaay too possessive of the job that was way too huge to do.

    My job, which is the next step after hers, had expanded to have 3 people handling the work, but it was still just one person doing her job and she would keep chasing people off and acting like a martyr.

    I can 100% see her deciding that her job is so complex that someone needs to shadow her for a year before even touching it and I can also see management buying it – but that place is not super functional, so hopefully you’re not actually working at my old employer.

    1. Forrest*

      This reminds me of my first job where I started working with someone who’d been working very independently for years, and had a (physical) filing system that went:

      North of England event: it’s under N for North
      Southwest event: it’s under E because it’s always held in Exeter
      East Midlands event: it’s under D because it always used to be held in Derby although now it rotates around Derby, Leicester and Nottingham and this year it’s Leicester.
      East of England event: it’s under K because it’s always held in the Kings Hotel in Peterborough

      *throws up hands in fury and frustration*

      1. Firecat*

        What are you talking about? That’s a perfect filing system…if you want to mak sure you are the only person who can retrieve files…

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Imagine thinking your whole job security depends on being the only person knowing where the physical files are. How do the Junes of this world ever have functional careers? how do they change jobs? You cannot put “knew the physical location of the files” on your resume, can you? What do they do when the filing system is automated?

          1. Coldbrewinacup*

            They have functional careers because they cry, throw tantrums, or bully people when they are challenged. Coworkers are scared of them and management doesn’t want to bother. The whole office suffers until they leave.

      2. Asenath*

        I once had a job and discovered that I was apparently responsible for arranging a lot of the documentation for a very complicated event – working with our own staff, an external part of our employer, an international organization that had to approve our arrangements or no certification at the end, and the federal government who had to license some things. Oh, and liaise with someone in another organization who had dealt with the international group before but apparently not our bit. So, this was not the first time this event had been held, so of course, the records and paperwork were in our files, right? No such luck. I found out that in previous years, whichever member of the clerical staff was handy had been assigned bits of the job. So, they filed documentation of their bits in their own personal ways – or didn’t save anything because “it wasn’t really my job anyway, I just did X part”. The secretary who handled the financial records actually had the most documentation, but a LOT was missing. I kept all my records, but I bet after I left, in spite of my attempts at good documentation, my successors are wandering around wondering where to start this. I noticed when I was off for short periods whoever was covering me generally didn’t bother reading the instructions I left, and I don’t suppose this has changed. Honestly, records are all important! (And not crazily erratic ones).

      3. Delta Delta*

        I also worked with someone who did something like this. She’d often ask people to help find a file or bring a file to her and nobody could ever find it. Then she’d get mad that someone couldn’t find it and would whine, “but this filing system makes sense to meeeeee.”

        meanwhile the rest of us got by with the alphabet. turns out everyone knows that one. well, except for one assistant we had who we later learned never learned the alphabet. But that’s a different tale all together.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Wait no. You don’t get to put that penultimate sentence in there and … stop. I want to know how on EARTH someone does not know the alphabet.

          1. PT*

            We had a man in his 50s at work who, after weeks of fighting over why he was not completing the safety checklists or the guest logs, we discovered was unable to read. It happens. It’s because our schools are garbage and just pass kids rather than get them assessed for learning differences and provided with remedial tutors and therapies.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Question time; in cases like this, would it be appropriate of the company to offer to pay for remedial education, or is that an overstep?

      4. meyer lemon*

        At that point, the file labels might as well be little doodles representing the filer’s abstract interpretation of each event. “There was that year they served bad oysters–I’m going to file this under three frowns and a poorly rendered seagull.”

      5. EvilQueenRegina*

        Sounds like my ex coworker who maintained a list of registered contractors and filed them under the expiry date for their insurance (like anyone else was ever going to know how to find them under that system). When she was off one time someone decided to go in and change the system to alphabetical order. Everyone else approved of the change; she wasn’t happy when she came back but was overruled about changing it back.

    2. SnappinTerrapin*

      “This job is more than one person can do” didn’t mean June wanted help.

      It meant she wanted a raise.

  22. Choggy*

    OP 5 You sound like a really thoughtful and considerate person, you’ve provided your former client with the necessary files to take to someone else to continue the work for them but they have ignored your subtle redirection. So now you have to be firmer in your resolve to move away from this type of work (and this type of client!). Are you concerned this client will somehow affect your current work and that is why you are handling them with kid gloves? Sounds like they have taken advantage and that has extended to their sister (she insulted, and did not pay for, your work, WTH?), so the sooner you are rid of them, the better.

  23. Twisted Lion*

    OP1 I worked with someone who was territorial like that. The only way it changed was when my boss got involved. And she retired. After we discovered she hadnt been doing a lot of things for the past 6 months that I could have been doing the whole time. Still playing catchup on things. Good luck. I hope your boss puts a stop to it.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, we had someone who was very territorial and contently complaining about how much work they had. They had a fairly specialized role within our smallish organization so it was difficult to judge how reasonable that complaint was, (we used to have 2 people, but there wasn’t enough work for two as the role had become less time consuming due to changes in our business and improvements in software and some processes, then when the other person retired, we outsourced some of the work , and redistributed some of the less specialized tasks, to ensure that the job wasn’t too much for one person, however, when they claimed that it was, we took them at their word and took on another person to work with them (and with a view to succession planning)

      They were *very* reluctant to train the person we hired in response to them telling us there was too much work for one person..

      Happily, big chunks of the role related to fairly standardized processes so we were able to send the new person on external courses to get up to speed with the basic principles and the specialized software, then we split the responsibility so that certain tasks went direct to new person. Who quickly flagged up they were not very busy and would welcome more to do….

      Territorial person continued to claim to be under too much pressure and ‘snowed under’ despite having had their workload almost halved.

      They retired shortly afterwards. Their replacement now does all of their original workload and has taken back most of the stuff we outsourced or redistributed, and has happily cooperated to cross-train others so we have cover when they are away.

      1. Artemesia*

        In my experience the person whining and sighing and hoarding is almost always not nearly as busy with actual work as they want to portray and of course hiring someone to help uncovers this. In this case, the business would probably be better off with out June.

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

      “After we discovered she hadn’t been doing a lot of things for the past 6 months that I could have been doing the whole time.”

      This is honestly my first thought whenever someone hoards work like this and refuses to give others access to “their” files or systems. They are hiding their shenanigans — it could be benign shenanigans, like they are behind in their work and too embarrassed to want anyone to know, or malfeasance like they approving their own personal expenses on a company credit card.

  24. voyager1*

    LW1: Talk to your boss to see if 1 year is really enough time to learn the job. This line really jumped out at me:

    “I think she doesn’t want to put the initial work in to adequately train someone and figures it is just easier to have me watch her. But I don’t want to move this slowly, and I don’t think my boss will have a high opinion of me this way either.”

    Talk to your boss your assuming a lot here.

  25. Retail Not Retail*

    Op2 – we used PTO if the weather is bad but not bad enough for work to say stay home. I took one of those days after the ice. I came in the next 2 days and we worked half days, but they’re not touching PTO for those hours. And last week after the snow, we were told to stay home for 3 days. That didn’t come out of PTO.

    I think that’s a fair balance although some people do live in unincorporated parts of the county and it just was not safe or feasible. And! Our site’s neighborhood got snow before everyone else!

  26. Observer*

    #1 – If you want an intermediate step, talking to her before you go to your boss, but not telling her “I’m going to Boss” you talk to her about specifics. Like “could we make sure that I am on all of the emails on the issues that I’m supposed to take over” and “In order for me to follow what you are doing with the process x, I need access the the budgets.”

    I doubt you will get anywhere, but I could be wrong. And when you do talk to your boss, the fact that you’ve tried to get some intermediate movement should help her to realize what’s going on here.

    1. Artemesia*

      Yes, do this. Ask for the access and ask to actually DO the tasks for the practice — no one learns by watching. And then when you talk to the boss you can be very frank about what is going on and be able to tell him you have asked for these steps and she has refused. Ideally, she would be removed from any oversight of your work.

  27. Firecat*

    #3 Am I the only one sideying the higher ups here? I can’t imagine responding to a managers praise for their employer with – so what do you actually do? Or You’re digging yourself I to a hole.

    That’s pretty gross and a great way to ensure your managers take credit for others work/puff themselves up to look important.

    1. twocents*

      I took it as: the boss is SO over the top and gives LW credit for SO much stuff, even work they weren’t involved in, that it comes across like the boss isn’t doing any work at all.

      And having known bosses who pile all their work onto group leads… It doesn’t strike me as completely unreasonable for the big bosses up question if that’s happening here.

      1. Firecat*

        But in front of his direct report in response said manager praising that staff?

        There are so many better ways to handle that.

        “Jane sounds great. Now tell me about the TPS reports…”Followed by a one on one with your direct report to probe on specifics of the delegations.

    2. Chilipepper*

      That’s the part that makes me think the OP is being accurate that the boss is very much over doing it with the praise. I know we believe the OP at this site but it could be possible to think the OP is just not comfortable with praise. But at least twice, the OP has overheard the higher ups make these comments to the boss. Higher ups saying things like that twice suggests the boss really is overdoing it.

      But I agree with Alison’s advice that this is not something the OP has to worry about, it just makes the boss look … odd.

  28. Oh No She Di'int*

    OP4: In addition to Alison’s advice, you may find that your wording has to be a bit stronger around not disclosing the reasons for taking a day off.

    In my office, we have unlimited (untracked) sick time that can be used for mental health and is encouraged for mental health. However, in order to remove any possible stigma around it, we are explicitly told NOT to disclose the reasons for taking the day off, even if it’s just to get a filling at the dentist. It’s beyond “don’t feel you have to disclose…” It’s actually “Please do not disclose…” You’re supposed to just say that you’re taking the time for health reasons, period. This is done so that (a) peer pressure doesn’t build up around stating why you’re out and (b) nobody thinks “oh it must be something embarrassing” if someone doesn’t state a reason, because nobody ever states a reason.

    Something to consider, YMMV.

    1. birb*

      This is a really good point — we recently started doing a similar thing at my job and while the transition was oddly stressful (our office culture around “unscheduled time off” of any kind is really judgey, tbh, so it felt more comfortable to explain yourself because if you didn’t explain yourself, somebody above you would act like you were faking it) it’s a lot nicer now that we’re a little more used to the idea, you just see the note “so and so is out today” and move on with your life. Sometimes it’s a little softer (like, sometimes I’ll include a brief note about when I expect to be back, because I lived alone for a long time and I know that my direct boss and coworkers worried about me a little bit more since I didn’t have a partner or roommate to check on me, especially during COVID) but the overall vibe is nice once you get used to it, haha.

    2. SimplyTheBest*

      I think that’s good advice in normal times, but I don’t know that that is going to achieve what op is hoping to achieve right now. I know at my office if I used the phrases that Alison suggested (“under the weather”, etc) or just point blank refused to say what I needed the sick time for, I would be required to quarantine for two weeks. My workplace is not taking chances and so many small “under the weather” symptoms (headache, mild cold symptoms, nausea) are covid symptoms.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I don’t kow the OP doesn’t just let folks say “I need a reset.” She acknowledges that’s why they need a day off so USE THAT LANGUAGE. it avoids the whole “do they have covid or not.” If taking a mental health day is a legit reason to take off then you can just say it. Instead of making it a “sick” day.

        1. meyer lemon*

          Yeah, maybe the OP could let people know that just needing a day to rest up is a valid reason for a sick day, and that kind of language is preferred rather than invented symptoms. They could also call it a “preventive health day.”

        2. OP #4*

          I’m definitely okay with people using that language! Maybe it didn’t come across, but that’s mostly what I an trying to convey to them. I know that there are stigmas associated with mental health and that for lots of people it can be easier to pretend to have physical symptoms than to say that. And yes, because of COVID unfortunately we can’t just accept “I’m sick” anymore like we would have previously. I like the idea of suggesting people be direct about it though.

  29. birb*

    LW #1, this is great advice! I had a similar type of situation a while back–I was supposed to take over an ongoing task from a coworker, as per all of our bosses, and even though she was super busy and stressed-out and that was the entire reason I was helping, it was very difficult for her to make that transition and she and I butted heads constantly. I finally talked to my boss (he’s not her boss, but he gives good advice!) and he mentioned that she had been working on that particular item for something like a decade and it had always been her thing, and that he thought she might be afraid that as a sort of young upstart (I’m not young, but I had recently been transferred to her dept) I wouldn’t respect her work, or I would screw it up by changing everything to try and make it “better.” I hadn’t thought of it that way at all, just that I was taking over a task that was time-consuming and frustrating so she could do other things! Once that was pointed out to me, I would invite her to my meetings about it etc. and take her feedback seriously as a way of showing that I did in fact really respect her work and I valued her input on any changes I did make to the process and she ended up not only being one of my biggest supporters but also did in fact give me a ton of really good advice on the process that hadn’t been documented because she’d been doing it so long that she didn’t think about it anymore!

  30. Semi Woke Business Owner*

    LW2, I own my own small business, and in the past, if we had to close the office for bad weather, I did not pay staff. They could use vacation or even sick leave if they wanted. But mostly as a result of following AAM and taking to heart how being underprivileged or less privileged can make life a lot harder, I now pay staff for hours missed when the office is closed for weather. This past week it was 20 hours each for 4 staff. HOWEVER, I am sure there are some small businesses that operate on a thin margin and simply cannot afford to pay staff when there is no income and would then close. (Of course if that happened, the employees could get unemployment while looking for a more stable job!)

  31. Spotted Kitty*

    The company I worked at during Hurricane Sandy gave us the Monday and Tuesday off (the storm hit Sunday), but by Wednesday they wanted us back in. The trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan were flooded, so my ex-husband drove me in on Wednesday. Then the city said no cars could cross the bridges unless they were carpooling, so I took the one “bridge bus” offering transportation between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Anyone who didn’t come in the rest of that week were charged PTO days. Lots of folks had no power, many were dealing with flooding. It really rubbed me the wrong way.

  32. Zach*

    I agree that you should try to push back as a group first, but I’m gonna have to disagree with the other point- if pushing back doesn’t work, I’d absolutely look for a new job. If they are trying to screw you during a potentially life-and-death crisis that affected a huge portion of the state, what else are they gonna screw you on? What else are they screwing you on right now?

  33. Paris Geller*

    #2- I’m a city employee as a librarian in Texas, and we were paid for the days last week when we were closed. This has historically not been the case–when I first started my job, we had a big storm that made us close for two days (we’re in hurricane area, and while this was not *technically* a hurricane, it meant we couldn’t open), we all had to choose leave without pay or use our PTO. Now, we have a new city manager and an almost all-new city council, and the difference has been night and day. I feel so much more invested in the organization. For us, this IS a sign of a larger cultural shift–people are staying longer, we got more significant raises (still underpaid compared to other cities of similar size in Texas, but we’re making strides).

    I mention all this for two reasons: one, things like this really DO have a large impact on morale. It was such a relief last week to not have to worry about requesting PTO or making up hours when we were all at home trying to stay alive and conserve resources. Two, I feel like if my municipal organization that definitely has to be careful based on what taxpayers believe can do it, a corporation definitely can.

  34. Quickbeam*

    #5: I had a similar situation where my very unique role was eliminated from a government agency. The director kept calling me for “tips” as I had been the only licensed professional in that position for the agency. This went on for years. I finally said that I could not assist any more and that this was my “final communications on the matter”. Follow up e-mails were ignored. He finally took a different job and the requests stopped.

    It’s easy to get roped into “one more thing” and I am now embarrassed at how long I kept propping this agency up.

  35. RussianInTexas*

    OP#2: I am in the same area with the same issues.
    Yeah, theoretically my company promised to pay us for the lost days this time, will see if they keep the promise. They did not pay for the days we lost for the Hurricane Harvey, nor they offered work from home back then. And that sucked particularly, because we all had power, just could not get to work, so we were all capable to work from home (our setup haven’t changed since then, and yet we’ve been working from home since last March), but the company simply did not like it.
    The company got blasted on Glassdoor by a former employee for Harvey, possibly why they changed their tune now.

  36. Quill*

    #5 three years? He still wants an update after THREE YEARS? wow. I’m afraid that you might not get rid of him without actually being rude, in terms of telling him to never darken your door again.

    1. Artemesia*

      you don’t have to be rude — you just politely tell him you don’t do it anymore and then never answer or pick up his calls again.

  37. Girasol*

    LW1: There’s a possibility that she’s not so much territorial as that she found the task very hard to master and believes the LW will too. I had to shadow someone once to learn their process so I could document it for others to do. She insisted that there was no process, that it was something intuitive. She would glance at a screen of several dozen obscure codes and say, “See, on this case you press three…” and then on the next inscrutable page of gobbledygook “and then four…and now two, and then one and you’re done. But on this next case it’s a two, and then three, and two here.” What do the codes mean? “I don’t know.” How was she deciding? “Oh, I just look at them. Just watch and you’ll get used to it.” Finally I started to watch where her gaze was going on the screen full of data to figure out which code she was looking at to make her decision. On the first screen, it was the last box, labelled “PQ.” If it held an A, she pressed one; if B, three, and anything else two. If one had been pressed, then on the next screen she looked at the third box; if it was 12 press one, else two. It was a complicated process (five pages of flow chart!) that she knew subconsciously. She had figured it out by trial and error and gut feel. (A year to learn it that way would not have been unreasonable.) It makes me wonder if June might be well meaning but unable to analyze the process and describe it to the LW.

    1. Observer*

      It makes me wonder if June might be well meaning but unable to analyze the process and describe it to the LW.

      Maybe. But the problem is that June is also keeping the OP from actually seeing everything – they aren’t even on all of the relevant emails!

    2. Generic Name*

      That is just bonkers. I was wondering something similar, like maybe June just has no idea how to train someone.

  38. PoisonIvy*

    #5. I hereby give you permission to channel your inner Phoebe: “I wish I could…but I don’t want to!”

  39. Jack Russell Terrier*

    Re: Freelance Graphic Designer. As a freelancer, good boundaries and good contracts really are your friend. When I did freelance graphic design, my contract had a free consult, then I’d come back with at least two design ideas / quick mock ups / vision board. Upon agreement with the approach, 1/3 of the free was due. I would then do a substantive, polished draft and the second 1/3 of the fee was due. There were two edit rounds written into the contract and then final 1/3 of the fee due upon completion.

    Did I sometimes do more, of course. Did I have to say ‘if you want me to redo the design again, I’ll have to charge an extra fee because we’d already agreed on an approach’ – sure. Did I get stiffed – yes, but almost always not the full amount. That’s what the staggered fee is for.

  40. Wishing for Summer*

    RE #2. I’m a director of a small nonprofit in Texas and we were in the frozen area. I have heard what LW #2 shared from so many friends and neighbors who had workplaces telling them to use vacation or PTO to cover the lost work because of the power outages. It’s appalling.

    Everyone on my staff got their time covered on their timesheets, no matter how much or how little ‘work’ was done from home. I told everyone to care for themselves and their families and homes first, only then to worry about work. It’s the only right thing to do. I didn’t have water for a week because of broken pipes and I gave myself the same grace of time to seek out drinking water/supplies – even after my power was back on. Pay is in the budget and there are other metrics than immediate productivity. Decency seems like a bare minimum. And yet, it’s hard for a lot of organizations.

  41. doreen*

    I’m not sure what good that would do – the unions can’t stop employees from complaining that others got a “free day off ” and my employer will never agree in a contract to give those days off to people who were unaffected. They will sooner not close at all for weather, as they are not contractually obligated to – which is what I fear the complaints will eventually lead to

  42. QuinleyThorne*

    LW 2: My husband’s company was going to do the exact same thing…until Monday, when his supervisor (department head and on the executive committee) relayed the news to him:

    Husband: Fine, but just know if they do that, I’m going to [local news station] to tell them that [First Name Last Name CEO of Company] retreated to a private ranch out of state while expecting his employees to work when they had no power, no water, and damn near froze to death.
    Boss: …I’ll uh. Have them reconsider.
    Husband: You do that.

    1. QuinleyThorne*

      I should stress that 1) Husband works in IT so the culture’s uh. different, 2) has a great relationship with his boss and other employees, 3) is objectively one of the most exemplary and competent employees his company, and 4) has a looooooot of political capital saved up precisely for he had Had Enough. So I can’t really suggest with confidence that you put your company on blast, unless you’ve got a lot of capital built up where you can get away with saying it, and even more if you decide to anonymously tip the news off.

  43. wee beastie*

    You can totally do this. Just a brief note. You don’t have to explain or defend. “Thanks for your interest, I am not in this business/doing this kind of work/am obligated to a new company full time in a different industry and am not taking freelance work. I wish you the best with your endeavors.”
    I was freelance for a few years and went back in house. I regularly get email requests and just politely decline. If someone emailed me more than once, I would simply block them as spam. Some of these people have been referred to me by prized contacts, but it’s still ok. No one begrudges a polite no. If they did, we would all think they were the rude/weird one. Best wishes detaching this tick!

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