my dad wants to call my boss, are out-of-office auto-replies unprofessional, and more

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

1. I don’t want my dad to call my boss

I am fresh out of college, with a secondary education degree. Currently, I am working as a full-time substitute teacher through a temp company at the high school where I student taught. I have a good relationship with the principal, staff, students, and admin, and I have heard through the grapevine that they appreciate me and what I do. It’s very emotionally and professionally rewarding. Still, I am actively searching for a full-time teaching position.

The problem lies with my family. I love working at this school, and have been very vocal about it. But, there are no full-time teaching positions within the district and in my field of expertise. Nevertheless, my father has pushed me multiple times to still ask for a job, or at least ask for my temp job again for the fall semester as a plan B. My principal is obviously very busy, and I can’t pin him down for a meeting. Last night, my father jokingly (I think, I hope) said, “Well, maybe I’ll have to call him myself.” I panicked, because of the many columns I’ve read on your blog about parents intervening for their children and how this looks on both the child and the parent. I jokingly begged that he not call my boss, but I am still genuinely nervous.

How do I shut down my father’s suggestion that he call my boss, if he suggests it again? If he does it anyway, how should I respond? I am trying very hard not to burn any bridges here, or embarrass my father or myself in the process.

Given what you know of your dad, how likely is it that this was a joke versus something he’d seriously consider doing? If there’s any chance he’d really do it, I think you’ve got to talk to him now (don’t wait for him to bring it up again) and let him know it would reflect terribly on you, possibly ruin your chances of a full-time offer at this school, and be a violation of trust between you that would be hard to repair.

Don’t use words like “embarrassing” when describing what it would be like (even though it would be!); there’s too much risk he’ll associate that with teenager complaints about their parents embarrassing them and discount it. Instead use words like “unprofessional” and “undermining to my reputation as a competent professional.” Feel free to tell him you’ve heard horror stories about parents who do things like this, and that parental interference is roundly condemned by employers, not just by their kids.

Hopefully that will be enough to ensure he doesn’t do it. If he does it anyway, the framing you want at work is, “I’m so sorry, I’ve told him that is not okay to do. I’m mortified that he contacted you, and he does not speak for me.”

2. My boss says out-of-office auto-replies are unprofessional

Last Christmas, I wrote an out-of-office reply when I took a few days off to visit my parents. The same day, my boss called me angrily and demanded that I removed the out-of-office reply immediately.

I have now booked a 10-day vacation, following my doctor’s advice. After working 80-hour weeks for five years in a row, I’m close to a burnout and I suffer from insomnia, which my boss knows. My doctor advises me to close myself off from work during my vacation. My boss, however, continues to forbid out-of-office replies: “It’s unprofessional. It would give our clients and business partners the impression that we are not fully committed to the company.”

Hence, my boss wants me to check my email inbox once a day and forward all emails to him that cannot wait until my return. This instruction goes against my doctor’s advice. Do you agree with my boss that it’s unprofessional to write an out-of-office reply?

What on earth?! No, out-of-office replies aren’t unprofessional; they’re an incredibly common, utterly routine part of business life. Your boss thinks that letting clients become aware that you are taking a day off indicates that you’re not “fully committed to the company”? It’s suddenly very clear how you ended up working 80-hour weeks for the last five years! You’re working for someone who’s quite sick.

Tell your boss you won’t be available to check email while you’re off on the advice of your doctor, but if he wants to have your email forward to himself or someone else while you’re out, that’s fine with you.

3. Cyber attack has furloughed my entire company

My company recently had a major security breach. We are in a sensitive industry, so our entire network and ancillary software was shut down immediately, locking all employees out of the system until it’s safe to resume. There are teams working around the clock to restore our systems to normalcy and safety, and I am so grateful to those teams.

But we’ve been “off” for over a week and will be “off” for at least the rest of this week, and so far our company’s only direction is to use PTO until things are running again. We haven’t been given a timeline, which I can understand, but even with a healthy bank of PTO saved I’m getting nervous. And I’m *fortunate* — I’m in management and salaried, so I accrue PTO faster and use it more slowly than my hourly colleagues. My employees all ran out of PTO already, through no fault of their own. So far, my leadership has held that employees who are out of PTO will be taking unpaid time off until this is resolved at some undefined point in the future. My manager and I are trying to find any work that can possibly be done with our limited access so the hourly staff will have a chance to “make up” hours, but even with those efforts they’re only getting 10-15 hours per week, and those one-off projects will dry up soon. I’m expecting this will last at least three weeks, if not longer.

My employees are stressed out and have confided that they are looking for other work (part-time and not) and asking if they can/should apply for unemployment (I said yes unofficially; officially, my company is discouraging this). I have colleagues who are pulling emergency funds out of their 401ks. A huge swath of my department is in dire straits and no one in our leadership seems to notice or care at all. We all have to be available in case the system recovers or we have a one-off project, but otherwise we’re on our own.

My understanding is that this is legal. But it sucks … right? I was pretty happy here before this, but now I’m angry enough to want to jump ship. This is a big hit to our company, but we already have salaries allocated for everyone who was working, and I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t have a budget to address situations like this since our industry is one of the biggest targets for cyber attacks.

I guess I just want a gut check, and maybe some advice or wisdom to give my team. I feel so helpless and outraged. This is the first time I’ve had more than two consecutive days off in years (and my PTO is rapidly disappearing, so it will be the last time I have a “vacation” for a while), but I’m spending all “my” time eaten up by anxiety and anger.

Yeah, it sucks but it’s legal. (For the exempt people, they need you pay you your full salary if you do any work in that week, but they can make you use your PTO on it. For the non-exempt people, they’re only required to pay for the actual hours worked, even when the employees would be working if they could.)

Some businesses genuinely can’t afford to pay people when work isn’t happening, but that doesn’t necessarily sound like the case here — and it sounds like they didn’t even make a gesture in that direction (like trying to pay for part of the time or at least for the first few days of it). And if this is part of the cost of doing business in your industry, then your employer needs to treat it like part of their business costs.

You’re doing the right thing by encouraging people to apply for unemployment; they should be fully eligible, and it’s particularly crappy that your company is discouraging that. You can also support them in looking for other work (even after this is over, if they decide they’re not going to stick around), offer to be a reference, etc. And while you probably can’t unionize because you’re in management, your employees can — and you might point out to management above you that the way they’re handling this is exactly the sort of thing that makes people think about it.

4. Do I need a different cover letter for each type of job I’m applying for?

I loved the cover letter that you shared earlier this week! I work in office administration and am applying for new jobs, but I am not applying for one type of job. I’m applying for other office roles, HR roles, event planner roles, etc. Because they are different types of jobs, and sometimes very different fields, do I need one cover letter for each job “type” I’m applying for? Should I be writing a custom cover letter for every job or just one “catch-all” cover letter?

I really want to stand out as a candidate and know a great cover letter can help but also can’t spend inordinate amounts of time applying for new roles! What are your thoughts?

Ideally you wouldn’t send identical letters to multiple jobs — you should do some amount of customizing — but you can have “base” cover letters that you modify a bit for each position. And yes, you’d want to have separate base letters for each type of job you’re applying for, since you’ll want to emphasize different things for different types of roles. Once you have those base letters, though, it should save you a lot of time!

5. Can my company let some people be remote but not others, when they’re doing the same job?

My company is currently fully remote and has been for over a year now. When asked if permanent WFH will be an option, leadership says that they cannot provide an answer. There is some speculation that the offices will be opening back up, but I’m wondering if they can legally force us to come back to the office if the following are true:
• The jobs that they are recruiting for are being advertised as remote only.
• Many of our roles have been outsourced to outside the country, so those people will not have the option of coming into an office. They do they same tasks that we do and work the same hours, and it is highly unlikely that they will be let go just because the office opens back up.

Can they advertise a role as fully remote and then turn around and take that back? Can they have different requirements for employees based on their location if the job is still the same? If two people are doing the same job, it seems a little unfair to require one of them to be in an office and not the other.

I’m wondering what my options are if it comes to that. If this does occur, is there a tactful way I can push back?

Yes, they can legally require you to come back to the office even if they’re hiring other remote-only employees, and even if those remote-only people will be doing the same work you do. They can let some people be remote and not others, and that can be based on pretty much anything they want or on nothing at all (as long as it’s not based on something illegal, like race, gender, religion, or another protected class). Even more frustratingly, they can advertise a role as remote and then change their minds (assuming you don’t have a contract to the contrary, which most U.S. workers don’t).

You and your coworkers can try pushing back as a group, but if your company is committed to bringing at least some people back (and many companies are), they may not budge. If you personally are highly valued by your manager, you might have some leverage if they don’t want to lose you. But ultimately, they can indeed require that some people return.

{ 369 comments… read them below }

    1. Reluctant Manager*

      On almost any email program, LW can create a rule or set up an automatic forward. Of the boss weren’t nuts, maybe LW could set him up as a delegate. No way in hell should LW be doing email triage on vacation.

      Look for a new job. Your boss sucks.

      1. Bobby5000*

        You’ve got a nasty and bad boss, and the steps with such a person are, 1) look for a new job, 2) SET, DO NOT REQUEST limits. A family member worked at a well-known place and was supposed to get 2 days a week off but was working 10 days in a row, continuing a pattern. He was scheduled to go to a family function but they said he was needed to work. Upset he threatened to quit. No, you are not going to quit without another job and forfeit unemployment, you simply call and explain you will not be in Tuesday, that’s it. Surprisingly it went easier than he thought, they found someone else for that day, he enjoyed the function and left for another job several months later on his own terms.

        The only other alternative with a bad boss is 3), Leave and only come back on your own terms. One friend in a high executive position again had an unreasonable, overly demanding boss. He left, took 8-10 clients with him, and they found they desperately needed him. He agreed to come back at near double his salary, very liberal days off not bothered and vacation along with other perks, and made, very, very clear that if there was any deviation he would leave for good, and worked another decade on his own terms and generous salary.

        Again, all these are premised upon the boss being the bad guy, there are no shortage of average employees too who overstate their importance.

    2. Madeleine (OP #2)*

      My boss is an extreme workaholic and never writes an out-of-office reply. In the past 2 years he has taken only 3 vacation days. During his mini break, he continued sending emails as if he were in the office. My boss is a very kind man, but he works like a machine. It seems he never needs sleep nor time off. Perhaps I must add that I work in finance (similar to Wall Street and Silicon Valley). Working 9-to-5 is frowned upon. It’s expected that you’re available for clients and working on deals after office hours.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        Given the fact that your doctor has had to get involved with you taking a holiday (I’m so sorry, work shouldn’t be this stressful for people), the importance of you not thinking about work at all has intensified. You say he’s a kind man and I’ll take your word for it, so is it possible to schedule a meeting with him and discuss this. Say that “my doctor has said that I need this time to recharge my batteries* and that means I won’t be able to check my email. Due to this, what’s the best way to proceed? Would you like the emails forwarded to you, or should you assign someone else?”

        *I don’t love this phrase because it sounds like nowhere close to what you actually need but, given that you’re in an industry similar to finance and tech, I was hesitant to use stronger vocabulary.

        If push comes to shove, would you be willing to get HR involved to make sure that you can take the time off uninterrupted? If so, maybe that’s the way to go because surely your doctor could write a note or something that would qualify your for the medical leave Americans get that’s protected by law (I forget the name: I want to say FEMA but I also think that’s an environmental thing).

        1. VivaVaruna*

          FMLA, the Family and Medical Leave Act. FEMA is a government agency that responds to natural disasters.

        2. Doc in a Box*

          FMLA is a good thought, but it’s unpaid leave. If the LW has sick leave or other PTO, that’s better. Especially sick leave, because it emphasizes that you are doing this on your doctor’s recommendation.

          1. Someone On-Line*

            You can take PTO and FMLA simultaneously. That way you get paid and you have some legal protections.

          2. TootsNYC*

            Companies can require you to use the PTO to cover the FMLA weeks, at least until it runs out. Some do.

          3. Midwest Manager*

            FMLA only protects the employee’s job while they are away from work due to a medical reason for themselves or a family member (specifically defined). It guarantees the position or one similar will be available upon the employee’s return – or up to a maximum of 12 weeks (480 work hours).

            Individual employers have policies on whether employees can/should/must use sick/vacation/PTO time during the protected leave. Thus, the time can be paid or unpaid depending on the employer. Either way, the employment status is protected.

            1. Pickled Limes*

              I don’t know if this is a general FMLA thing or simply how my job handles it, but when an employee here is on FMLA, not only is their job protected, but their supervisor and coworkers are not allowed to call them for work related reasons and they are not allowed to access work related tools like email. If OP’s boss is really insisting that they work while they’re out of office, FMLA might be what it takes to get them the uninterrupted time off they need.

              1. ThatOnePlease*

                That’s probably a bit stricter than what the law requires, but it’s a good policy. Legally, your job can contact you for basic occasional questions, but too much can become “FMLA interference.”

              2. TheAG*

                It’s not a “rule” where I work, just recognized as a decent human being thing to do. I’m not sure even FMLA would prevent this nightmare from happening.

      2. Bitcoin*

        Based on what you describe, he’s not a kind man. He knows that you need the leave for medical reasons, but he won’t let you have a proper relaxation. That’s not being kind, that’s being a jerk.
        Does his boss requires the same thing from him ? Is there a company policy regarding OOO reply that you could refer to ?

        1. Pickled Limes*

          This does feel like “nice is different than good” territory. The boss may be good tempered and may not be shouting in people’s faces, but kindness involves considering the needs of the people you’re involved with, and this boss doesn’t seem to be doing that.

      3. DiscoCat*

        Calling you in the evening to berate you for having an OOO message is *not* kind. He might not be actively evil, byt he’s overly demanding, abuses your time and energy, doesn’t care about the repercussions for you. That is unkind, unprofessional and out of touch.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Agreed. It’s a point in the ‘not really that nice a chap’ column.

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oh sincere sympathies, I’ve worked in IT environments where the staff are expected to have the same uptime as the servers – 24/7/365.25 and the managers are the same.

        You’re being very wise in taking the time off. Trust me, I’ve had a few mental health breakdowns and those really can wreck a job far more than just saying ‘no’ and switching the data function of your phone off for a week or so.

        (Or claim you’re going to an area with poor reception. Like a steel lined building, behind hills, somewhere that only has 1970s style baud modems…etc)

      5. Chilipepper Attitude*

        As others have pointed out, he is not a kind man. Also, even in a very demanding industry, he is not managing the demands well.

        Others suggested you ask him, I’m not checking mail so do you prefer I do x or y with my mail. I would not ask him he has already proven himself to be a workaholic who is out of touch with professional norms. Just forward all mail to him and later ask forgiveness – I thought you said to forward the important mail to you, its ALL important so I sent it to you.

        I hope you get the rest you need! And I hope you find a new job with a boss who has better professional norms.

        I’m curious, what do your coworkers do, do they never take holidays, never use OOO messages, and otherwise act like your boss? Maybe follow their lead?

        1. JayNay*

          part of me would love to know what would happen if OP just set her email to forward to boss, then proceed to be unreachable for her vacation as planned. this might not be real-life applicable, but one can dream….
          on a serious level, OP, please don’t let your boss guilt-trip you into making your vacation not a vacation. Hold firm on this – checking your email daily on vacation is NOT giving you the time off you need. And please consider if you can find a job that doesn’t require 80 hour weeks from you for 5 years straight. That is not sustainable for most humans.

        2. EPLawyer*

          I second the look for a new job. NOT while you are on medical leave. But when you get back. Because your boss does not get that people cannot work 80 hour work weeks forever. That’s not committment to the company, that’s obsession.

          I can bet dollars to donuts when you get back, even if you never touch a lick of work while on leave, your boss will say “now that you are all refreshed from your time off, here’s a ton of work.” You will be right back to the 80 hour work weeks that led to the burn out in the first place.

          Your boss sucks and is not going to change.

          1. Empress Matilda*

            Your boss sucks and is not going to change.

            Repeated for emphasis. I’m so sorry, OP – I know you like him, but he is definitely not treating you kindly in this situation. Please do whatever you need to relax on your medical leave, and then make plans to get out of this job as soon as you can afterwards. Good luck, we’ll be cheering for you!

        3. Slow Gin Lizz*

          “And I hope you find a new job with a boss who has better professional norms.” <<This!

          This is one of those situations Alison has talked about in the past where your ideas of what is normal get warped because your boss's idea of normal is not normal. OP, I agree with what others are saying here and hope you are able to look for and find a new job after your vacation, because your boss and his expectations are *not normal.* A normal boss (every good boss I've ever had!) would say, "Enjoy your vacation! See you when you get back!" and not expect you to be checking your email while away. And would absolutely expect you to have an OOO message. And if your email were so vital it needed answering while you were away, boss or someone else who was not on vacation would answer your email for you.

          Good luck OP!

      6. Spicy Tuna*

        You must work for my former boss! We worked together for 9 years and in that time, he took one week off when his boss died

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Your boss took off a week for his BOSS? That’s a FAAAAAAAmily all right.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          You’d think he’d have worked harder when his boss died to pick up the slack….

      7. Burying the lede*

        This changes everything. Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and other finance jobs are known for their long hours. Your boss isn’t an outlier.

      8. MassMatt*

        Well, there’s being available for clients and expectations for after-hours work and then there’s 80 hour weeks for years. I’ve worked in finance and this was not normal!

        I’m not surprised you are burning out, I’m surprised you are not already a burned-out husk!

        I will take you at your word that extended hours are an expectation, but I think this boss and workplace, or perhaps your own self-imposed demands, are warping the expectations to the extent it is endangering your health.

        I hope you love your job and/or are extremely highly compensated (as in, earning the equivalent of TWO large paychecks, since you are in effect working TWO full-time jobs!).

        That your boss thinks an out-of-office message shows lack of “commitment to the company” is nuts, and that you are second-guessing whether it is nuts
        makes me concerned that your sense of normalcy has been warped by this “kind” manager and workplace.

        I recommend using this time off to consider whether continuing to work at this job is tenable. Good luck!

        1. Kal*

          Yeah, if they’re working 80 hours a week (plus availability outside of those hours, it sounds), OP would have to have a pretty high salary for their hourly rate to calculate out to actually being that high. Subtract medical costs from that salary as well, since it sounds like OP is otherwise healthy except for whatever health issues are caused by this job, and extrapolate those costs out for a while since the health effects of this level of stress and overwork often stick around for years after you finally slow down (and some can end up permanent!). At the end of those calculations, I doubt you’d find many people who will think the final number is actually worth it.

          On another note – as the sort of average joe who hasn’t ever worked in an industry like finance, I personally really don’t want people working those sorts of hours. The first reason is humanitarian – no one should ever be pressured into over-working themselves to the point of causing this sort of stress and medical concern. But the second reason is entirely practical – as someone with my money largely in banks and investments, I really, really don’t want the people who are the helm of our economy overworked to the point of being so burnt out that they are liable to make poor decisions, as overworked people do (which won’t always be caught if the entire structure is made of overworked people), and in doing so could potentially harm people.

      9. AnonInCanada*

        I definitely feel for you. Your boss is not kind. Your boss must understand that you’re on doctor’s orders to completely take a break from all work, including any work-related email, text, phone call or message. If he’s so concerned that an email may go unanswered for a few days while you’re on medical leave, then forward all your emails to him and let him handle it.

        Just because he’s got one foot in the grave from over-working himself doesn’t mean you have to go follow him there.

      10. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Hi Madeleine. Your boss may be “nice” but he is not “kind”. I know the finance world well and this is beyond the already extreme expectations of that industry. He is overworking you and doesn’t care. He berated you for something that finance people do all the time. You are seeing a doctor because he is causing your health to suffer. Maybe he says nice things and maybe he remembers people’s birthdays, but he is not kind. He is toxic.

        Consider that you may need not just a vacation, but also a new job.

      11. automaticdoor*

        My husband works in public accounting for a big 4 firm and has for over 10 years. They are also notorious for being addicted to work and expecting superhuman production out of their employees. However, recently he has been actively encouraged to take time off by his partners this year because he is burning out and having some health issues as a result. And yes, he did just take off seven business days and only checked his email on two of those [beginning and end]! Which is a huge step for him.

        I work in consulting for a small firm. My boss has very similar working habits to yours. He never puts up an OOO and checks his email constantly when he’s out [which is rare]. However, he encouraged me to go on that vacation with my husband and scolded me a bit for checking my own email while I was gone! (Small firm, so I am in one of those “the company would shut down if I were hit by a bus” roles.)

        In other words, you aren’t working for someone who is that kind. Kindness requires empathy. Even if he works superhuman amounts, he should understand that not everyone else can do that.

      12. Molly Coddler*

        OP, i used to work for a woman who came back to work the SAME DAY she had one of her babies – she still had the hospital bracelet on. this woman worked through 104 degree temperature once too. some people have no realistic concept of work/life balance and they just won’t get it. she “allowed” me to use vacay time but would be mad and call me a bunch of times for ridiculous things such as to ask me to come in to send a fedex package. i knew to expect her being mad and pouty. it wasn’t comfortable, and it was anxiety-inducing, but i became ok with it enough to look for another job with a workflow and work expectations that are easier for me to live with long term and be happy. i have no advice except leave, but that’s always easier said than done. good luck!

        1. Massive Dynamic*

          GAAAAAAAAA same day??!! You bleed SO MUCH that first day good lord.

          I do love that Alison pegged the OP’s manager as “sick.” This way of life is absolutely not sustainable for individuals with a healthy life mindset.

      13. Ex-finance*

        I started my career in Wall Street and I actually do remember that no one ever wrote out-of-office replies. I don’t think it was really even for clients’ sake – there was just an expectation that you always, always checked your work email relatively promptly even if you were on vacation, so there was no need for out-of-office replies. 80-hour weeks were also the norm.

        That being said, that kind of attachment to work is generally unhealthy and unsustainable. After I quit my job and stopped working 24/7 and stressing about getting a work email whenever I was not working, I felt so much healthier physically and mentally. I would encourage you to look for another job with better work-life balance where you still enjoy what you’re doing. I switched to a career I enjoy more in tech, with normal hours, and have never looked back.

      14. Pikachu*

        Bosses who expect you to put the company’s interests ahead of your own medical problems are not kind people. Don’t this job destroy you, and don’t destroy yourself for a boss or a company who will replace you the next day and do it all over again to someone else.

      15. Sally Reed's Monologue*

        I also work in finance in client services and I’m in the Silicon Valley area or thereabouts.

        Your boss may be kind in other situations, but he is not treating you kindly in this very important area. And working in finance with a client facing job isn’t an excuse. My company actively encourages everyone to take time off and set out of office replies. We do our best to make sure there’s coverage but even at that, things happen.

        I have a vacation coming up in early June, and due to the nature of it, I’ll not only be out of the office, but I’ll have no access to email/phone for most of it. I planned it back in January 2020 and finalized it in December 2020 with my boss and my team. I’m one of 3 admins, so we needed to make sure there was coverage. Well, in February one of the other admins announced she was going on extended leave in June. And in April, our other admin turned in her two weeks. My boss has been super supportive and has told me not to worry about my vacation. We’ll figure it out. And we are figuring it out.

        But that’s how this should work. Industry doesn’t matter. Clients understand that you need time off too. And your company shouldn’t be structured in such a way that if one or two people are out, the whole communication system collapses.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Just because your boss is unable to let go doesn’t mean he is reasonable in imposing that on others.

      I think it’s reasonable for you to push back a bit and point out that it is very, very normal to have OOO messages – presumably you get them from clients and others in your industry on a regular basis.

      But I would approach him on the basis “It won’t be possible for time to check or forward e-mails while I am on leave, so I can either set an OOO message, with details of your name and mail to ensure clients know that there is cover while I am unavailable, or if you prefer, I can set up redirect on my e-mail so the mails are automatically forwarded to you, which will mean clients won’t know that I’m out until you respond to them, but will also means that you’ll get other , non-relevant e-mails as well.

      (If you have an assistant, a third option would be to redirect your mail to them, and ask them to filter and forward to you boss anything from a client or requiring attention, assuming that you don’t normally get confidential stuff which they are not supposed to have access to)

      1. UrbanGardener*

        Excellent point – if the boss wants to live that way it’s on him, but you can’t expect the same from your staff. Our boss obsessively checks her work email all day, all evening, and all weekend at home. And once she told me on a Monday to cancel a thing I had planned, explaining she didn’t want to bother me by emailing me to cancel it over the weekend. And I sat there blinking at her for a few minutes until I realized she genuinely thought the rest of us checked our email all weekend too.

        1. Madeleine (OP #2)*

          When I read your last sentence, I thought: ‘Are there really people who DON’T check their work email during the weekend?’ And then I realized how serious my work addiction is, and I felt ashamed. I become anxious and restless if I don’t check my work email every single day. I feel bored, lonely and/ or sad when I don’t work. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t do drugs. Work is my escape from emotions I don’t want to feel.

          1. Loosey Goosey*

            I feel for you, OP. It’s huge (and impressive!) to recognize this about yourself. I hope you can take the steps to get professional support – you deserve a full, healthy, happy life, of which a demanding career may be a big part, but it doesn’t have to be the totality.

          2. RainyDay*

            I have been here, specifically when I was going through an extremely difficult time – work was the only place where I felt in control. Things were falling apart at home (*I* was falling apart) and work made me feel useful and competent. Do not feel ashamed.

            But also, now that you know this – see if you can take steps (even baby steps!) to address why that is. I assure you there are happier days on the other side.

          3. Pickled Limes*

            I am one of those people who doesn’t check email over the weekend. I check one last time before I leave at the end of the work day, and then I check again first thing the next day when I arrive at the office. If I’m not in the building, I’m not available to work. I know that’s not true of every job out there, but I wanted you to be aware that jobs like this do exist.

            It’s good that you’ve realized that work is becoming a coping mechanism for you. Now that you know that, it’s worth looking into some counseling to talk about more healthy approaches.

            1. UrbanGardener*

              I only check on Sundays if I’ve taken a few days off at the end of the previous week to see what I’m going into on Monday, or pre-covid if I wasn’t going to be at my desk first thing because I was at a site visit or something. Otherwise, nope! The first thing I did when they made me download the email app for my phone was have a colleague show me how to disable notifications for meetings and work emails.

          4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            I get it. I also see work emails over the weekend (they are on my phone). What I have trained myself to do is NOT RESPOND. 95% of my weekend work emails do not require any work until Monday, so why ruin my day off?

            One other thing I have found is that many people use Saturday or Sunday to clear out their non-priority emails from the week. If that person did not rush to send you a message, you don’t need to rush to reply.

          5. AnonInCanada*

            I’m happy you’re realizing the way you’re over-exerting yourself is not healthy. Please take the time to completely disconnect yourself. Have your email auto-forward to your boss’s if he’s so adamant that it looks “unprofessional” to have an OOO auto-reply. And seriously consider looking for somewhere where you can work to live, not live to work!

            You don’t set yourself on fire to keep other people warm, as they say.

          6. UrbanGardener*

            Look at it this way…..what did people do pre-cell phone? Somehow we all survived and work still got done. didn’t it? I’m glad you recognize you’re using it as a coping mechanism and hope you will seek the help you need to overcome this.

    4. yup*

      Beyond the craziness of the 80 hour weeks, what does the boss prefer a client receive:

      A. No response for a week with no explanation
      B. No substantive response but an explanation that the OP is away

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Or, the boss wants C: Continue to send and reply to emails as if you’re NOT on vacation

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          ^This. Boss seems to prefer a “vacation”, where you’re out of office but still expected to complete work.

    5. Momma Bear*

      I actually appreciate the auto response b/c it lets me know that I didn’t send something into a black hole and if the person included alternate info (like contact so and so if it’s urgent) then that actually helps me along. Taking time off is not unprofessional or not showing dedication. I would think it more weird if people never took a vacation. The boss is a workaholic. OP doesn’t have to be.

      Also, depending on the type of leave, logging in may cause problems with using it. Like if you’re on disability, you should NOT be checking email.

      1. OyHiOh*

        Same. In an admin position, I appreciate OOF messages so much – if it’s someone I need to correspond with regularly, I make a note on my desk calendar so I can easily see (and make note to follow up after that date). But I’m in a very different world from high stakes finance!

  1. Bob*

    LW1: How about a white lie that you did talk to the principal and his reply was he is going to do his best on your behalf becasue your a good employee.
    Then handle this the appropriate way.

    LW2: You need to find another job. Obviously things are rough right now but you need to start looking soon after your vacation is over.

    1. PollyQ*

      LW1 — I say no to a white lie. Now’s as good a time as any for LW to let her father know that she’s an adult, and she’ll be handling her career as she sees fit.

      1. Chc34*

        This is all well and good in theory, but some parents are just flat-out going to ignore their children on this, and only LW 1 will know if their father is one of those parents. I heartily endorse white lies if they’re needed in situations like this.

        1. Nuts*

          Most people fall into place when you put your foot down. It is time for her to learn to be assertive, she will need it in her career!

        2. Observer*

          I disagree. There are better ways to handle this that a white lie.

          Information diet? Absolutely! Lies? Bad idea, and tends to perpetuate the problem.

      2. Lily*

        I’d advise against it for another reason: then the parent may think “oh, I can booster her chances if I also call”.

        1. Lily*

          The dad needs to know that it would be actively unhelpful (and also not even have plausible deniability for it to be helpful, for the really problematic parents out there)

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I agree that it’s better not to lie, but if OP says she’s spoken to the principal, it should let the father know that she’s handling the situation. The reason she shouldn’t lie is because if she does manage to speak to the principal later, she might accidentally reveal that she hadn’t previously.

    2. Well...*

      Yes, lie to the dad and say you did what he asked. Then stop talking to him about your job search as much as possible. He’s shown he can’t handle the information. If he can’t respect your boundaries, don’t give him the option.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      LW1: If I thought there was any chance my father was joking, think I’d try something like, “Haha, Dad, that’s hilarious. I know you wouldn’t really do that, but just to be clear: please don’t ever do that. It would be seen as unprofessional and would actually hurt my career.”

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        And, I didn’t click on it, but Alison did link to other horror stories, that’s very likely a great link to show the father.

    4. CowWhisperer*

      I’d spell out to the dad what getting a teaching job requires.

      First, it’s a government job. There are all sorts of rules about budgets and job postings that are not required in a business. Jobs must be posted for a certain amount of time for internal applicants prior to external applicants. Because she’s already in the system, she’ll hear about those postings even if she can’t apply until the posting becomes external. There’s nothing that people inside the system can do to hasten the process – and a call from an outsider is just weird.

      Second, the school already knows you exist. If you are doing well and seem happy, staff will pass that information on to the administration. (We gossip. ) Believe me, if they have a position open that you qualify for they’ll be looking for your resume to move it into the “interview” pile unless they have an absurdly high number of qualified outside applicants. A bird in the hand and all that…..

      Third, yearly hiring is very seasonal. Some positions will be posted as soon as March – but teachers have until June 30th (in my state) to decide if they are going to retire or leave before the next contract year. Because of that, the process of getting a job posted usually doesn’t start until after July 4th. Once postings start appearing, there’s this rolling process where experienced teachers shift around inside districts and apply to districts that they would prefer to work at. Those shifts cause new positions to open and get posted. The more inexperienced of a teacher you are, the later in the process you tend to snag a job – but this continues up to and into the school year in districts that have low socioeconomic status or are very rural since the district is seen as less desirable.

      It’s really different than getting a job in a business or industry – and maybe explaining that to your dad in detail will do the trick.

      1. OhNo*

        This might work for the LW’s relationship with their father, but I just want to throw in my two cents as someone who has tried this with an interfering parent in the past: It didn’t work. Not only did it not work, it made the interference worse because my father then thought his calls would help me skip steps, or that “community support” would encourage changes to budget, etc. that were outside of my and my direct supervisor’s control.

        So, consider carefully what your father is like before you go this route, LW. If he seems to genuinely want to support you through the process, this might be a good call and could help him understand what you’re dealing with! If he’s just in it to be interfering… maybe skip this plan.

        1. Lego Leia*

          If Dad is like OhNo’s dad, I also think that it worth looping the principal in that Dad might call, and OP is against it.

        2. CowWhisperer*

          I’m with OhNo and Lego Leia on this one. If the dad is simply misinformed, some information might do the trick. If the bigger problem is that the dad wants to throw himself in the middle of this, plan to have a slightly awkward talk with the principal. The good news: principals have dealt with overly interfering parents before; it literally comes with the job.

          As someone who has been hired as a teacher and been involved in hiring teachers – there are no skipped steps. The fact that the LW works as a temp in the district will help get her resume pulled out of the pile this year (or future years if a position gets opened) – but there’s no magic step to making a position appear or getting hired from the pool of interviewed applicants.

      2. TootsNYC*

        The other thing that too much explanation can do is that it can make the person feel that they have a right to this information, that their approval of acquiescence is required.

      3. Pickled Limes*

        This is definitely a conversation I’d consider having if I were this LW. In a private sector business if you have a promising candidate and enough money in the budget, you can hire whoever you want. But school hiring is so different. They’re not going to hire a new 9th grade biology teacher just because they happen to know this person and appreciate their work ethic. If there aren’t enough 9th graders at the school who need to take biology, then that’s that and there’s not really anything you can do about it. No amount of gumption can get a (probably already underfunded) school to hire a teacher for a class they don’t need, and trying to push the issue would make the person seem incredibly out of touch.

      4. Nanani*

        It might, though be prepared that Dad will think he knows better anyway, or that his way would be better and surely the principal will agree, or that LW is wrong because his friend’s cousin totally got a teaching job by gumption (it does happen, administrators will circumvent hiring rules sometimes) or any of a million other things.

        My point is, there’s probably no magic bullet. LW should make it clear to dad that they don’t want this to happen but be prepared to use Alison’s framing with the administration if he does it anyway.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Please, no lies, white or otherwise. That’s what teenagers do when they don’t want to deal with A Situation That Escalated. OP hasn’t described that kind of situation yet and she doesn’t come across as a teenager.

      OP 1, I agree with everyone who said treat your father’s comment as a joke and also a teaching moment: ‘Ha, good one, dad, but I know you’d never do that to me. Can you imagine what would happen to my reputation at work if my daddy called my boss as if I’m still a little girl? I know you don’t want to interfere with my plans.’ Or words to that effect.

      1. Well...*

        I agree that this hasn’t necessarily escalated far enough to force a lie (yet) but what happens if these strategies don’t work, and this man does indeed escalate? Lying to keep the peace is a good strategy of dealing with difficult people/abusers in ones personal life. It’s not just for teenagers. If you threaten a person’s well-being, employment, safety unless they say what you want them to say, you create a situation where people lying to you is their only safe option.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          ‘What if?’ should be expected and planned for, of course. If this were a case of domestic violence, I advocate lying about, say, going to the store when you’re going to a shelter or the police. That’s not a white lie, that’s a survival tactic.

          But let’s not conflate an ‘uncomfortable situation’ with ‘serious threat.’

          The situation the OP describes isn’t even remotely in the realm of threatening. Her father joked about calling her boss, nothing more. If he did call, or if he made comments that caused her to think he wasn’t joking, I still wouldn’t lie to him. In my experience, white lies have a way of coming out, backfiring, and/or just being ineffective.

          I’m generalizing behaviors to make a point, of course, but adult behavior owns the message and situation; instead of white-lies, information flow simply stops. Teenage behavior deflects and misinforms to avoid confrontations. The OP seems to be the former, not the latter.

          1. OhNo*

            I think you’re oversimplifying here. We don’t know much about the LW’s relationship with their father, and I don’t want to speculate, but there are certain relationship dynamics (that don’t necessarily fall into the “serious threat” or “domestic violence” categories) where white lies to keep the peace are a perfectly valid route to take. Yes, even as an adult.

            Our only option here is to present the pros and cons of different options and assume the LW knows what will work best in their specific situation. It’s perfectly valid to point out the downsides of using white lies, but decrying the option as something only teenagers and people in domestic violence/abuse situations should use seems like it’s going a bit far.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              ‘I think you’re oversimplifying here.’

              Perhaps, and I think you’re reading way too much into the situation. The OP didn’t say she had profound concerns with her father’s behavior. In fact, her panic comes, in large part, from reading this blog: ‘I panicked, because of the many columns I’ve read on your blog about parents intervening for their children and how this looks on both the child and the parent. I jokingly begged that he not call my boss, but I am still genuinely nervous.’

              She didn’t say her father has been or is a controlling bulldozer of a parent, nor that she’s told white lies to him out of fear of his reaction to her independence. He made a joking comment – granted, a paternal and unwelcome one – and the OP panicked because of this blog.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Lies are perfectly acceptable when you’re trying to mitigate professional damage that might result when an unreasonable person interferes with your job. It’s not a “teenager” thing to do. A parent calling an adult child’s boss is definitely not very mature and respectful either.

        Personally, the next time Dad “jokes” about calling my boss and having a chat about my professional opportunities, I’d “joke” back that I should call Dad’s boss and have a chat about Dad’s professional opportunities. Maybe then he’d get it.

        1. Colette*

          If you lie, you’re doing so because you don’t have better tools to use – and the OP does. She can tell her dad directly that she’s got it under control and that she will be very angry with him if he calls her work. There is no need to lie. She does not owe him more details.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          The idea of turning the situation around and asking the parent how it would be perceived if their spouse or child called THEIR boss or grandboss to advocate for their career is a good one – the average person would freeze in horror at the idea, and it might just penetrate their thick skull that their own attempt to “advocate” would be perceived as inappropriate.

          Of course, that assumes that the parent isn’t working on an antiquated understanding that they have “influence” and “standing” to make requests on behalf of their children. If that kind of thing is in play, then the OP should likely emphasize that using family connections to try to influence job prospects is very much NOT acceptable in their industry, and even say that their organization’s management has a particular revulsion about the idea. (Given the need to limit the activities of parents interfering on behalf of students, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the school management was sensitive to this kind of thing. That, or so fed up with students’ parents interfering that they won’t tolerate it from anyone else, lol.)

        3. Observer*

          Lies are perfectly acceptable when you’re trying to mitigate professional damage that might result when an unreasonable person interferes with your job. It’s not a “teenager” thing to do. A parent calling an adult child’s boss is definitely not very mature and respectful either.

          The issue is not the ethics of the situation, but the pragmatics. Dad is presenting a real problem. But what the OP needs to do is to find a way to keep Dad for poking his nose where it doesn’t belong. Because if Dad is really likely to try calling OP’s boss, he has an issue with boundaries / has not figured out that his child is a functioning adult.

          Among other things, lying is a reaction that says “teen” to a parent who ALREADY doesn’t respect his child’s adulthood. That’s not really a great outcome.

          1. Well...*

            I don’t see why these comments are focused on earning dad’s respect. He clearly has terrible judgement. If he thinks he needs to intervene in his adult daughter’s job search, no amount of her performing adulthood will persuade him. I’d argue it will just reinforce his behavior, because it gets a reaction. Better to disengage from his controlling behavior.

  2. nnn*

    For #1, I wonder if the framing “How would you feel if a temp employee’s parent interrupted your workday with a phone call trying to convince you to hire them? How would that affect your chances of hiring them?”

    (I say “I wonder if” because I’m not actually sure if this would help or not – for all I know, helicopter parents are sitting there going “Why yes, bypassing my actual employees and talking to their parents is clearly the optimal way to go about business.”)

    1. pancakes*

      It doesn’t matter how he would feel about it – it would be harmful to his daughter’s career. Asking someone who has poor judgment for their thoughts isn’t in itself going to improve their judgement.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I would be entirely upfront and use the words suggested – that it is unprofessional and would be a detriment to OP actually getting the job later. OP needs to get the job on her own, or not. This is not a HS homework assignment. I would tell my father it’s not funny, don’t joke like that and DO NOT call anyone looking for a job for me.

        1. pancakes*

          I agree, that’s the best approach. Some people seem to be approaching this as if it will be helpful to soften that message or be indirect about it, and I don’t think that’s necessary or likely to work well.

    2. Idril Celebrindal*

      Based on my experience with this type of person, in the moment Dad would be like, “why, yes, I would definitely be in favor of my employee’s parent doing that, it would be totally the right call!” And then if it happened, he would be furious at that parent and their “unprofessional employee who allowed the parent to do that.” And he would 100% never see the contradiction even if you shoved his face in it.

  3. LDF*

    #3 – this feels like a “name and shame” situation to me. I think many journalists would be interested in hearing about this.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Yes, especially if it’s a big, well-known company.

      My company got swept up in cyber attack a few years ago that affected several companies. This is a big company with deep pockets, and we all continued to get paid the entire time without eating into vacation. There was still some work to be done, although not enough to keep everyone busy. But we at least had a chance to clean out and organize some neglected storage areas.

      1. JustaTech*

        I work for a not-huge company with not-super-deep pockets, and both times we got ransomware’d (fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me) everyone kept getting paid (and kept coming in to work) even though it took a very, very long time to get all the files we need to work restored.

        Now, we had some work we could do without the networked files, but not nearly our usual work load.

    2. Anon for this*

      I would love to hear about it for a different reason. If they’re not paying employees, it’s possible this is because one of the things that was compromised was their payroll system, and they actually physically can’t, and if so, that is something that really needs to be not covered up. Embarrassing, yes, but the more “oh, bad things happened to average people because of a data breach” stories make it into the news, the more it will erode the common misconception that cyber attacks are rare.

      1. Cj*

        Then they couldn’t pay them for PTO either, and the OP didn’t say that. OP also said they are trying to find work employees can still do, so they are being paid for that. If they payroll system is shut down, the will eventually get paid – OP says they are not.

      2. Rock Prof*

        They were using PTO, though, so pay was still going through, at least for a little bit.

      3. pancakes*

        What would be keeping them from communicating that to employees, in that scenario? Embarrassment is a terrible reason to keep vital information from employees

        I’m not sure why it would matter much whether the general public believes cyber attacks are rare, either. Insurers sell cyber attack insurance / cyber liability insurance, and a business that is vulnerable to this type of attack and chooses to go without it is taking on a lot of risk, regardless whether its employees or anyone else is aware of that.

      4. WellRed*

        If that were the case why discourage filing for unemployment? This is not a company that cares about employees.

        1. Observer*

          They are discouraging the employees from applying for UI because that increases their costs down the road. Slightly, but still real. Which stinks – this should NOT be the responsibility of the employees!

      1. Anon for this one*

        I’m aware of a major insurance company that had a similar catastrophic IT failure that took them down for at least 2 weeks in the last month or so. It’s not necessarily oil and gas.

        1. LCH*

          i also know of a software provider that had this happen pretty recently, but they were only down a few days. so it could be any place!

          1. Anononon*

            There is a major health provider in my region experiencing this right now – at this point their systems have been down 11 or 12 days and from what I understand leadership is providing very little information to employees or patients.

      2. katz*

        Cyberattacks happen all. the. time.* I get a report that shows 2-3 major ones in the US every week. Also, we have no idea when this email was sent to Alison.

        *Seriously, make sure your systems are secured and up to date. No company is too small to be attacked. /PSA

        1. Anon for this*

          And make sure your employees are trained on phishing emails. I’m also in the energy industry, and my company does regular phishing emails + training that people complain about all the time. On Monday, every leader in our company was like “THIS IS WHY WE DO THOSE PHISHING EMAILS AND TRAININGS ALL THE TIME.”

          1. ???*

            My husband is also in the energy sector and they constantly are being trained on phishing emails, so much everyone is too afraid to open any thing from the head office since they’re the only ones who email the phishing emails.

          2. Regular Human Accountant*

            My company’s IT department sent out an email last week with a link to a phishing training video, and I laughed out loud when multiple people replied-all, “This looks suspicious.” IT had to send a new email saying thank you for being careful but it IS legitimate!

            1. BadWolf*

              We were sent a “do this training” email that was in an odd font, had some grammar oopsies. Had some “Do this now!!” Included “This is not SPAM” It was a model phishing clicky-on-the-bad-linky email.

              It was legit, managers had to tell us, yes, you really do have to do the training and click on the link.

              1. Anon for this (the phishing one)*

                This is exactly why grammar and formatting are important. I’m the SME for a system at my company that sends emails to outside folks on behalf of the company and I’ve advocated so hard for revising the OOTB messages that came with the system because they sound so spammy (like they were originally written in another language, translated to a second language, and then Google translated to English). It drives me nuts.

            2. The Other Dawn*

              Same thing at my company when they send out the emails for phishing training. It LOOKS like phishing so most people delete it or using the Phish Alert button to report it. One would think after this happening several years in a row the IT department would just add it to the training website where all the other compliance training courses reside. Seems like much less effort than having to send out multiple emails telling employees it’s legitimate, plus they’d be able to track progress better.

        2. Autumnheart*

          For that matter, hackers will often target smaller companies who are known vendors of larger ones. The Target data breach happened because a vendor, who was using a free antivirus program instead of upgrading to the more robust paid version, clicked on a phish, which captured that company’s login credentials for Target’s vendor system and was able to successfully attack and infiltrate Target’s POS system.

          Ironically, Target was using FireEye at the time (which is like millions of dollars to buy and implement) and when FireEye started sending emails warning about a breach, the Target employees on the security team thought it was an error and *turned off the emails*. So they didn’t catch the hacker for weeks. Oy.

          It only takes a couple seemingly minor screw-ups to let hackers in and cause billions of dollars of damage. And don’t feel bad if you make a mistake—everyone does. Hackers have gotten very sophisticated at social engineering (e.g. sending an email that sounds like it’s legitimately from a trusted source), and at my employer (also a national retailer), everyone takes the phish training because EVERYONE is vulnerable. Hackers target the C suite even more than the rank-and-file, and humans are only human. You’re not a monster if you make a mistake and click on something you shouldn’t have, but then *report it* right away.

          1. A Poster Has No Name*

            Not to mention, employees can be a weak point and can be bribed to provide information that enables the attackers.

            If, yanno, the company sucks and maybe underpays their employees or in other ways communicates they don’t consider their employees to be worth much. Like, for example, not paying them when the company shuts down their ability to work.

          2. acmx*

            FireEye’s response to a hack was to *email*? That’s such a ridiculous response. Why wouldn’t they actually call someone?

            1. Observer*

              No, it was not the company that emailed.

              The software has automated emails that go out at a certain level of suspicious behavior. But the wrst pair of problems was not that the emails got turned off.

              What happened is that the India first line support team got the emails and took then seriously. So they sent them up the line. The US based second line team ignored them. And the India team was so hung up on protocol that no one was willing to “jump” rank and call up (or even email) someone at a higher level.

              That wasn’t the only mess-up. The vendor that got hacked? HVAC systems. The obvious question is why in heavens name the HVAC system was not segregated from the business systems? And apparently the HVAC system people also had a ridiculous level of access rights (although it could be that ultimately the attack used an escalation-of-privilege attack.)

              FireEye the company had no involvement in that incident.

              1. Autumnheart*

                Exactly. It would be like if someone’s Exchange server got hacked. Microsoft wouldn’t have been involved–they sold the product, but they’re not responsible for maintaining the implementation.

      3. Le Sigh*

        The OP doesn’t owe us that level of information and this very website/Alison specifically asks us not to do that. People aren’t going to write in if they risk getting inadvertently doxxed and in trouble with their employer. And as several people have pointed out, this happens all the time, so we can’t automatically assume it is the pipeline.

        1. Observer*

          I was going to make a snarky comment about where the OP works. But I was going to be labeling my comment as snark. I see from this discussion that it was good that I didn’t do that.

    3. JohannaCabal*

      Talking to the media sounds nice, especially to someone severely affected by the situation but it can certainly come back to bite whoever does it. Most companies prohibit staff from talking about company matters to the press without permission.

      Even if it’s anonymous, I can see the company launching a massive investigation to find out who spoke out. Co-workers can be pressured to ‘fess up. And even if media coverage results in PTO being given back, the company can do some furtive revenge layoffs in the future as “punishment.”

      1. OhNo*

        That is true, there are consequences to consider. But if some of the employees already have one foot out the door, and the LW is already having to unofficially balk at the company line to not request unemployment…

        Well, personally, I wouldn’t try too hard to dissuade them from going to the media at the exit interview, is all I’m saying.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        There was a major attack on a major organization in my area two weeks ago that sounds almost exactly like what’s in the letter – and I know that it sounds the same because the employees have been talking to the media. Which is not to say I think this letter is from them, but…the whole “take it to the media” advice isn’t the brilliant fix a lot of people seem to think it is. Everyone knows that’s what they’re doing with a huge proportion of the employees, they know the employees have been told to take PTO, have had hours slashed, have been asked not to talk to the media or say things on social media. Whether there’s public outrage or not, it has changed nothing.

        1. JohannaCabal*

          This. Plus, the other thing to consider is that with lots of people laid off, a news story about employees having to use PTO but still have jobs, can actually have a negative impact. During one of the government shutdowns a while back, one of our local news stations covered a family affected by the shutdown and included a video clip of the husband complaining that his wife wouldn’t let him buy his usual craft beer for game night.

          Let’s just say the comments on the news story were brutal to the family (honestly, there were a lot of government employees affected severely by the shutdown, including many of the commenters here, and why the reporter chose that family I’ll never know).

          1. pancakes*

            I think you’re answering your own question about why the reporter chose to feature that clip – it drew a lot of engagement from commenters.

            1. JohannaCabal*

              I guess that’s true but it felt irresponsible, particularly just the clip. If you read the whole story on the news site, the family did have problems other than lack of high-priced beer during the shutdown (behind on mortgage, etc.). But if you just saw the clip, it sounded like the husband was spoiled.

              Probably a good thing I ultimately didn’t go into journalism!

              1. pancakes*

                It is irresponsible, yeah. Beyond the harmful effects of caricaturing that family, that type of reporting makes it more difficult for people to have informed and thoughtful views on the topic, not easier. It’s really pernicious.

    4. David*

      The thing that immediately popped out to me was “We all have to be available in case the system recovers or we have a one-off project, but otherwise we’re on our own.”

      That screams of a legal requirement for stand-by pay, especially if they’re “not permitting” their employees to seek unemployment or find alternate employment.

      1. TootsNYC*

        (they can’t “not permit” people to seek unemployment; you can just go file on your own without getting “permission” or approval from the company. Just throwing that out there in case someone needs to hear it)

    5. Mockingjay*

      I work in an industry that requires Disaster Recovery plans. While the ostensible scenario is “Act of God” – hurricane or flood knocks everything and everyone out of commission – the idea is that there are plans to restore services and pay people in case of an emergency. (My company leveraged and updated theirs to deal with COVID.)

      OP 3’s company needs to do a disaster plan. Even a draft plan can show management which holes will need to be plugged so they can prioritize and keep paying employees. If they don’t (which unfortunately seems likely), OP 3 would have an excellent interview question: “Considering our industry is vulnerable to cyber attacks, can you tell me a little about how you might handle a shutdown from an employee perspective?” OP could even reframe it as “how did you handle COVID” if it’s too sensitive of a subject.

      1. JustaTech*

        Seriously! When my spouse worked at a *startup* they had a whole disaster plan for earthquake, fires (small and large), flooding, all the natural disasters, as well as a rule that no more than X% of the developers or Y% of the board could be on any given aircraft (in case of air disaster).

        How a substantial-sized company in (what sounds like) a regulated industry missed this I don’t understand.

      2. Here I am*

        Seriously, isn’t there a whole class of insurance for exactly this scenario? I’m a lowly stay at home mom and even I know about it. Geez.

    6. YourBusinessSucks*

      I’m surprised that the company doesn’t have insurance for this type of thing. If in a sensitive industry, you’d think they should have some plans in place for not only business resumption but keeping employees. If everyone jumps ship, it looks so much worse in the aftermath this clients/stakeholders. It would be unconscionable for them to accept insurance money and still penalize employees, even if they use the money to offset business losses. The employees are always your most valuable assets. I’d love to see this make its way to the news.

  4. Anonariffic*

    LW1- especially considering that you work in a school environment, point out to your father that having him call on your behalf could very easily change the perception of you from “competent professional and adult peer” to “child whose parent is complaining because their little darling didn’t get into the gifted and talented program.” You need your principal to think of you as staff, not as a student.

    1. cat lady*

      exactly what i was thinking! a parent call would push the OP into a “student” box in the principal’s mind, not a “teacher” box, likely exacerbated because a recent grad is not that far apart from the students in age.

  5. Cranky lady*

    #3 – This stinks. Hacks happen but I wonder if your company did their best preventing a hack or if they just shifted the risk to employees. But the thing that stuck out at me was people taking money from retirement accounts. Please discourage staff from taking 401k loans or withdrawals (unless they are over 59 1/2). The risks and penalties are huge (e.g., loan must be paid back immediately upon separation or it converts to a withdrawal). Sometimes that’s the best of terrible options but it should be a last resort and people don’t always realize that.

    1. Not Australian*

      And sometimes the last resort is the only option available if people want to continue eating and paying their rent.

      1. Cj*

        They should be applying for unemployment. With the additional $300/week still in effect for a few more months, hopefully that would help them get through until they can get back to work.

        Company sucks for not paying them, and is compounding this by discouraging the employees for filing for unemployment.

    2. Claire*

      I definitely would not want unsolicited financial advice from my boss. Especially when my company was the one causing my financial crisis.

      1. ap*

        Amen to this x1000. If someone actually told their boss “I have withdraw retirement funds to cover my basics” the last thing I’d want to hear right now from the person a few paygrades up from me is, “Are you sure? Think of the penalties!”

      2. Alice*

        I definitely would not want unsolicited financial advice from anyone earning significantly more than me. Not being snarky here, most of it is bad advice because people assume that what’s best for them is what’s best for everyone, even if they have ten times as much money as someone else, and money… does not work that way.

    3. TWW*

      If I had to withdraw enough from my 401(k) to cover a month’s rent, I would maybe end up paying about $200 in penalties and taxes, which is a lot, but not “huge.”

      My other option would be to explain to my landlord that I can’t pay the rent that month.

      I’m honestly not sure which of those I would rank as the “last resort.”

    4. CoveredInBees*

      There have been some changes made to these penalties during the pandemic for people to cover basic needs. I don’t know the specifics, but it might very well count here too, despite the need stemming from the hack and not the pandemic.

    5. Anon for this*

      Yeah, I came here to speculate on whether the company has done everything it can to prevent a cyber attack. Often security is the last thing people spend money on because “oh that’s only in the movies”.

      In regards to Allison’s questioning whether the company has the money to pay the employees, depending on what was breached and what they had to shut down, they might not be capable of accessing their accounts TO pay their employees.

      1. Observer*

        depending on what was breached and what they had to shut down, they might not be capable of accessing their accounts TO pay their employees.

        Nonsense. Payroll is one of the first things you get up and running, and there are ways to deal with access issues. Furthermore, they ARE paying the people who are working, so obviously they do have the access.

    6. Le Sigh*

      It would be tone deaf for OP to tell people how or where to get their funds when people are scrambling to cover their rent and food costs *because* the company put them in this position. Especially if OP’s bosses are discouraging them from applying for unemployment — when we’re talking about food and housing security, people have to make the best of bad choices sometimes. And I realize OP is doing what they can, but they’re still a manager and I don’t think it’ll come across well.

    7. Observer*

      Please discourage staff from taking 401k loans or withdrawals (unless they are over 59 1/2). The risks and penalties are huge (e.g., loan must be paid back immediately upon separation or it converts to a withdrawal). Sometimes that’s the best of terrible options but it should be a last resort and people don’t always realize that./i

      I know you mean well, but this is a TERRIBLE piece of advice. The only advice that the OP should be giving people is “Please absolutely file for unemployment.”

      And most people are not as ignorant as you think. If they are taking the money out there is a reason and they should not be stuck having to defend their decision to their employer (or worry about how their employer – who is the one at fault here! is thinking about their financial choices.)

  6. LilacLily*

    Stories like LW#3’s always baffle me, especially for how common they seem to be. The company is *actively punishing* their own employees for something that is 100% not their fault, meaning that by the time the company is finally back to BAU they’ll either have lost most of these people for other jobs or they’ll have made them so unmotivated and distrusting of the company that they will jump ship at the next opportunity, fearing a repeat of this exact scenario.

    Retaining good employees has been proven time and time again to be so much cheaper on the medium-long run than having to constantly rehire them, not to mention that the bad Glassdoor reviews this will certainly create will block them from hiring good employees, but it’s almost like they don’t care about the people who essentially keep their business running and I don’t, for the life of me, understand *why*.

    1. Raine*

      IT companies sometimes get stuck in this notion they can hire any old monkey to do the job and any said monkey would be thrilled to work there. They often promote people to be managers without teaching them proper management. Not defending the practice, mid, but I’ve heard that notion way too often, like it’s still the 1990s and working for an IT firm was the cool thing to do.

      That said, any company punishing its employees like this needs a clue bat, stat.

      1. drpuma*

        YUP. I work in big tech and this drives me bananas. A bunch of our developers are contractors, which is not unusual for our industry, but the effort we put in to interviewing even contractors and how long we keep them on staff for (we do convert folks to FTE after a time, but there is no standard at our org) puts the lie to the idea that you can just swap a blanket skillset in and out. Obviously not if we’re that painstaking about who we bring on in the first place. I think it’s insulting when upper management tries to pretend easily interchangeable code monkeys are still a thing.

    2. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Yeah. Honestly even if it was an employee’s fault (that one llama groomer who is notoriously lax about cyber security, or a teapot spout designer who panic-clicked a link they shouldn’t have, or any other examples) then you deal with that specific employee appropriately (more training on recognising threats, dismissal if they don’t take it seriously,…). You don’t take it out on all of the employees! Frankly I would love it if this company fixes their systems only to turn around and find that a good chunk of their employees left for greener pastures.

      1. JustaTech*

        I’d put high odds on the people most likely to click on a phishing scam are senior, because they’re the ones who don’t have time to take the phishing training, or the time to read their email carefully.

        Thought I guess this explains why we had 3 “test” phishing emails last week.

    3. Forrest*

      Yes I was just reading this in increasing horror. But it seems like a great idea of why you can’t rely on companies recognising their own self-interest to do right by employees— this is why we need labour law!

      1. mreasy*

        Agreed, the fact that what the company is doing is entirely legal is unconscionable. People’s lives are at stake and leaving that up to the whims of business owners is…well, the reason that fewer than 100 people in the US have 4x the money of the bottom 50%.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      The company is *actively punishing* their own employees for something that is 100% not their fault,

      It isn’t really the company’s fault either though in any meaningful sense. I’m sure they would rather be open and making money than shut down…

      I wonder if it’s an option to “bank” hours so that staff could be paid for some of the hours where they aren’t actually able to work, but then work it back later? Maybe that would fall foul of the “unpaid overtime” though? (It’s an option in the UK but don’t know about elsewhere)

      I get the feeling that the longer this situation drags on, there’s a diminishing chance of successfully coming back from it as a company, let alone the hit to morale and so on. Presumably their customers are also unable to do business with the company all this time and may be looking for alternatives already (e.g. if your bank got hacked and 2qs shut down for 3 weeks….most of their customers would be looking to move to a new bank asap.)

      1. Deet*

        I see what you mean about fault on a technical level, but honestly it would absolutely be the company’s fault if it was not for seen or budgeted for.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        I agree it’s not really the company’s fault that the hack’s happening but the LW said that this is an industry prone to cyberattacks so they should’ve had a contingency plan in place that didn’t shift the cost of it to hourly employees.

        (And with the banking hours thing, I don’t think that’s the case in America because it feels like unpaid overtime. I didn’t realise it was a thing in the UK though.)

        You’re right that the longer the situation continues, the worse it’s going to be for them. This would be such an easy fix to just pay their employees. They’ll recoup the money eventually and they’ll have looked good to their workforce. Instead, they’ve got this.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          With the banked hours I think you’d have to sign something to agree, if there wasn’t already provision for it in your contract.

          There was something similar at an old company of mine – not a company wide shutdown, but there was no work for a particular department when they normally had a steady workload, due to failure of something “upstream” (e.g. if their job was to put letters into envelopes but there were no letters being sent due to the print process being out of commission for a month). As I recall HR had to arrange something specific but it was a popular option rather than be unpaid or have to take PTO.

          I think if they knew it was going to be for a week (or whatever) they might have just written off a week’s pay for those people. I kind of get the feeling the company thinks it’s going to run and run… I expect it went down something like this: First couple of days – we need to restore these backups (or whatever) let’s have people take it as PTO for a couple of days. Next week or so…becomes clear that it is a more “involved” operation with no known end date.

        2. XF1013*

          Yes! 100% agreed about a contingency plan. Cyber insurance exists for this scenario.

      3. LDN Layabout*

        It isn’t really the company’s fault either though in any meaningful sense. I’m sure they would rather be open and making money than shut down…

        It is the company’s fault, setting aside that they were hacked from outside. They are responsible for their own cybersecurity and it clearly fell down.

        The place where I previously worked got caught up in the whole ransomware attack debacle a while back. It not only hit our company but sister companies etc. and it took weeks for it to be fully dealt with. Everyone was kept on throughout and paid their usual salaries. That’s what a decent company does.

        1. Mongrel*

          Like (seemingly) everything else in IT the hard work is invisible.
          When it’s working smoothly there’s a perception that there’s a lot of money being spent for nothing, it’s all working fine now.
          Then when it all goes wrong there are cries of “Why didn’t you tell us sooner!!” while the IT team looks at the stacks of un-actioned maintenance, upgrade and training projects that were rejected as being over budget.

          1. LDN Layabout*

            An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is applicable in so many situations.

            I know a fair few people in the water/engineering industry and you can see the eye twitch whenever flooding prevention is mentioned because it’s something that appears expensive…until the lack of it is exposed and people learn what expensive really means.

          2. Super Anon For This One*

            Then when it all goes wrong there are cries of “Why didn’t you tell us sooner!!” while the IT team looks at the stacks of un-actioned maintenance, upgrade and training projects that were rejected as being over budget.

            OH MAN does this hit me in the feels.

            We beg for every penny and work late nights and weekends to avoid business-hour service interruptions. Upgrades and updates that cost money are pushed until support is either about to end on the product, or until support HAS ended, the product has failed, and we are under the gun to fix it.

            When everything is working, IT is overpaid and just playing around with computers. When something inevitably fails, we are overpaid and don’t do anything. When in reality I’m three weekends deep on overdue network hardware maintenance I just got the financial approval for.

            Cybersecurity attacks are very, very hard to avoid because the biggest security hole a company has is the people that work for it. One wrong link clicked, one infected thumb drive plugged in, and the walls come down. The attack vectors change by the second – think of it like CoVID actually – by the time everyone realized there was a new virus, it was loose on the world. Cybersecurity threats are like that every second of the day.

            Even well-funded IT departments can be overwhelmed quickly by an attack that didn’t exist long enough for their up-to-date monitoring equipment to know it existed and be able to stop it.

            An IT department that isn’t well-funded? We are all just hanging in as best we can.

            1. JustaTech*

              After the second time my company got ransome-ware’d and it took forever to restore from backup (the less important things, the essential business stayed up) there were many demands that IT get better resources and a better backup system.
              “This isn’t IT’s fault, this is *your* fault for not letting them get a modern backup system!”

              1. Mongrel*

                Anti-Phishing techniques are trainable as well though, we’re doing some now at work due to a contract.
                As with any work related training it should be refreshed regularly and words should be had with people who fail it.
                Unfortunately the culture in most place is that the “computers are hard” people will be shielded by bosses who agree with them

          3. Elenna*

            Ah yes the old joke. Things are going fine: “You don’t even do anything! What do we pay you for?” Things break: “Everything is broken! What do we pay you for???”

          4. DashDash*

            I am *very* grateful that my company dedicates time to IT updates in each all-staff meeting, and specifically asks that I explain what invisible things I’ve been working on to help combat the perception. One of our server hosts was down, and no one noticed because we have good redundancy in place; so leadership makes sure that other staff are reminded “your work was uninterrupted all month because we responded to X, Y, and Z.” It goes a long way for staff trust in their IT as well.

        2. AnonInCanada*

          No company is absolutely 100% immune from cybersecurity breaches. It takes just one software flaw, or one employee who clicked on a well-crafted phished email attachment/link, to expose a company’s entire IT infrastructure. Having said that, the OP’s company should have some form of contingency plan, especially seeing as, in OP’s words, they’re prone to these kinds of attacks all the time. The burden shouldn’t be on the employees to live without income. And the company definitely shouldn’t be discouraging these furloughed employees from collecting unemployment.

      4. Forrest*

        “Fault” isn’t a very useful way to frame this, I don’t think. What’s more useful is risk and power, and who has the power to be able to carry (and spread) more risk. Clearly, the company does, passing all that risk onto workers is really reprehensible.

        1. Long Time Reader*

          This is a great way to frame it- responsibility without sliding into victim-blaming.

        2. Shirley Keeldar*

          Yes, exactly, excellent point. And pushing the risk and the pain not just onto workers, but onto hourly workers (who tend to be lower paid anyway) is doubly rotten.

      5. (No Longer) Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        A company in a sensitive field should have plans prepared for this exact scenario.

    5. WS*

      Yeah, a company local to me suffered a ransomware attack locking all their systems and went down for three weeks (and was significantly affected for at least another four months after that). They paid all their employees at their regular rate, no overtime or shift loading, while they were stuck waiting to open up again. One guy who usually worked nights complained because his pay had decreased due to his usual loading for night work, but apart from that everyone seemed happy with it and were ready to dash back in to work ASAP.

  7. Not A Manager*

    LW1, I wonder if you are talking about your job search in too much detail with your family? You say that you are “very vocal” about how much you love working at this school, and that your father has pushed you “multiple times” to ask for a permanent job there.

    It might be time to gently disengage from this level of sharing. It’s fine to keep your family in the loop generally about your work, and it’s fine to keep them in the loop about your job search. But my experience as a parent to adult children is that the more detail they share with me, and the more often they share it, and the more intensely they seem to feel about it – the more I feel invited/required to participate. Be more vague! Be more bland! If your dad wants you to talk to your principal, make non-committal cooing noises. Don’t let him pin you down on a bunch of details.

    1. NerdyKris*

      I think someone should be capable of being invested in a family member’s life and understand a typical boundary like “Don’t call my employer for me”. LW doesn’t need to make non committal noises, they just need to point out how damaging that would be to their reputation.

      1. Cat Tree*

        This is true in theory, but many parents struggle with the transition to treating their children like competent adults. OP might need to put Dad on a low information diet for a while.

        Unfortunately some parents never manage this transition fully. I’m 35 and about to have my first kid, and my mom still acts amazed when I mention in passing that I did laundry or cooked food. She seems to truly believe that I’ve lived on my own for the past 15 years without ever doing those basic things. So I’m very careful about what I tell her to avoid getting unsolicited advice.

        1. Julia*

          Exactly. Whenever there’s an AAM question about controlling/snowplow/helicopter parents, you can tell which commenters have normal parents. They advise things like just talking to your parents to tell them to back off. They don’t really get it.

          One of the problems with having overly involved parents is you don’t learn how to solve problems on your own, so sometimes you DO need their help. And when sometimes you need it and sometimes you need them to back off, it’s hard to just tell them unambiguously to back off. Not to mention the fact that they won’t respect that message. We are fundamentally shaped by our parents. It’s much harder than it seems from the outside, when your parents haven’t given you the tools to break from them.

      2. agnes*

        well, yes, someone should be capable, but it doesn’t mean they are capable. I think we all edit what we share with people based on what we know about their personalities or responses.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        It’s not just parents who struggle with these boundaries. A friend’s father died unexpectedly a few years ago; he didn’t leave a large estate but my friend and her siblings had to deal with probate, etc., She made a passing comment to her husband about how long the probate process was taking, just a sigh put into words. I was there and thought she was just having a bad moment. Her husband thought otherwise.

        Without her knowledge, her husband called the attorney handling the father’s probate matter, demanding to know what was happening and why, asking for reports and to be involved in ‘all decisions,’ and insisting on a timeline the family could count on. My friend was horrified, especially when the attorney threatened to turn the matter over to another law firm if her husband called his firm again. IIRC, he said ‘We’re not an Information Booth’ or something like that.

        I’m sure the husband was trying to ease his wife’s frustration, but wow.

      4. Joielle*

        Ha, yeah, if only it worked like that. My mom gets no information about anything important going on in my life because her lifelong untreated anxiety leads her to serious boundary crossing (and SO MUCH unsolicited advice). I wish it were as simple as saying “don’t do that”!

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yes, I think it’s time for the OP to put her dad on what Captain Awkward calls a “low information diet.” Tell him stories about cute things the kids do or say, but nothing about the job search other than she’s “working on it.”

    3. TootsNYC*

      as the parent of adult children at what should be the beginning of their working life, I find that there is a significant amount of anxiety for me.
      I have roughly 20 years of conditioning to buck. I have been responsible for every aspect of my kids’ life. And now I’m not. It can be really hard to buck that internal pressure.

      Some parents are better at it than others. I’m pretty good at it (I like to think), but it’s still SO HARD.
      So yes, tell them less about the mechanics of it. It’s a bummer, and it’s hard–especially if you’re living with them.

      It’s part of the transition for both parties. And OP will have to adapt her approach to fit her dad.

  8. Gem*

    LW #4 – This is my cover letter strategy: I have a base template I use, but then I have a separate document with different pieces/paragraph/sentences that I can pick from to add to the cover letter. Depending on the job, I search through my “tool kit” to tailor the cover letter for the job.

    Of course there’s still a lot of customization and smoothing that goes on after in the editing phase, but it helps me start from somewhere. And then I’m not agonizing about how to word things over and over and I’m not starting from scratch each time.

    1. Veronica*

      I like this idea. I think it helps to know what pieces you need to modify and what can stay.

    2. Wafer*

      I do this as well and it has really helped shorten my application turnaround time from half a day to 30 minutes or less. I have a basic intro section that is just about the same for every letter and then I swap in and out portions that speak to different skill sets depending on the job. I’ve been actively job searching for the last year, targeting 2 or 3 different job titles with some overlap in skill set. This strategy definitely helps short-circuit my bad habit of micromanaging my own writing and overall has helped me get more applications out the door.

    3. Ama*

      Yes, this is how I do it. I have some set language around accomplishments, and then I pick and choose the accomplishments that fit best with the skills that are emphasized in the job description and flesh them out a little if necessary.

      For example, I recently applied to a job that really stressed the position would be responsible for training staff on the programs I would manage, so I included my text on working with other departments at my current job and added some additional details about how I educate new staff. Another job was more interested in the development of metrics, so I pulled my text that talked about the metrics I had developed and added a more concrete example.

    4. Artemesia*

      Of course you want different cover letters for different jobs — but also be super careful when using your templates for similar jobs to make sure they are well edited to omit the names of the last place you applied, or the job description for that other job.

      I have seen letters that misspelled the name of the company applied to (repeatedly — not a typo) as well as which mention a job or company to which they are not actually applying – presumably another opening they are applying to.

    5. IvyV*

      I do this with resumes too. I have a ridiculous giant master resume with everything I’ve ever done (in accomplishment / results form, taking AskAManager’s excellent advice) and then I cull/edit for each position to focus on the most relevant stuff. I did this back when I had a lot less experience too, it was more about focusing on the stuff that matched the job description – critical when you are hunting for different job types.

  9. Heffalump*

    LW2: Your boss’s reaction is a perfect example of why you’re burned out. Talk about proving a point neatly.

  10. John Smith*

    #2, wt actual f? That’s sounds like something my boss would say we’re it not policy to use auto replies when on leave. I think his reasoning says it all. You have to work an 80 hour week to show commitment? Does he think that clients being ignored for nearly two weeks shows commitment to the company? Even if he was right, who on earth are these clients to think as such? Some weird cult groups?

    Like Alison said, your boss is sick (I’d say deranged/tyrannical) and you do not deserve to be treated like that. Go forth and job seek asap.

    Would he be giving you a reference? Leaving the company might also set him off as that’s not exactly showing commitment according to his weird logic. If not, I think my resignation letter (not that he deserves one) might be sent directly to him at speed. And attached to a brick.

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      He’s not expecting the clients to be ignored for two weeks, he’s expecting OP to check and forward emails while they’re on holiday. Even worse!

      1. John Smith*

        I misread that part. Thanks for the correction.

        I’d still throw a brick at him though. Just a bigger one.

    2. Madeleine (OP #2)*

      I must say that no one forces me to work 80 hours a week. I work in finance (similar to Wall Street and Silicon Valley), and I feel pressure to be available for clients and deals all the time. The work culture is like “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        Serious question and I’m not asking to be funny or make a point, I’m asking only because I can’t imagine working 80-hour weeks and being happy with it, but…do you enjoy the work that you do? Is this something you want to be in for the rest of your career?

        1. Madeleine (OP #2)*

          This is my dream job! I absolutely love my work. The problem is that I am a workaholic who works for an even more extreme workaholic. When it comes to work achievements, my boss and I bring out the best in each other. When it comes to work-life balance, he does not bring out the best in me. Besides work, I don’t have much of a social life (COVID-19 is not helping either). I feel like I am stuck in a vicious circle: My career is the only thing that makes me feel good about myself, but it has cost me my social life. What if I work less and will no longer be successful? I would have neither a career nor a social life.

          1. Observer*

            Well, from what you say, you are about to lose both. Because you’re destroying your health, which is going to destroy your ability to be a workaholic. And in not setting some limits you are setting up a vicious circle where taking even this baby step looks like it could have a negative effect on your relationship with your boss.

            You REALLY need to find a way to pull back before things explode.

          2. Scarlet2*

            Actually, I would say you might bring out the worst in each other. He projects his anxiety on you, which feeds your insecurities, etc. Since your doctor actually ordered you to take a vacation because you’re on the brink of a burnout, I think the stakes are even higher than your career or your social life. It’s your mental and physical health that’s on the line. Don’t take it for granted.

            It’s generally dangerous to have your whole identity wrapped up in one single thing, be it a relationship, a job, etc. If you get sick, your “kind” boss will drop you like a hot potato. Don’t destroy your own health and sanity, no job is worth it.

      2. Allonge*

        Gently though: the pressure you feel to be available? Part of that is on your boss, another part the whole work culture. When someone says you are forced to work 80 hour weeks, they don’t mean that there are armed guards enfocing that, they mean exactly this, that you feel the only alternative is to get out.

      3. WS*

        I mean, they could get two of you and you each work 40-hour weeks. Presumably you’re well-paid for the 80-hour weeks, but then you’re also buying into the culture that this is necessary. Some people do work that much and love it, but I can see how it attracts people who don’t know how to switch off and think nobody else should either.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I don’t think that’s how it works. I mean, I’m not in the industry, but I don’t think the problem is that there’s 80 hours worth of work that needs to be distributed differently. I think the problem is that one person’s work might happen at any time – a deal might start brewing at 5 pm, a client might need advice at 8 pm, strings might need to be pulled on a Saturday, etc.

            1. Colette*

              In industries where relationships matter (like having people give you their money to invest), a shift system isn’t great. (However, choosing specific hours – i.e. “I work 8 – 5 on Monday and Wednesday, noon – 9 on Tuesday and Thursday, and Saturdays from 9 – 4 – should be possible.)

        2. Frauke*

          Actually, you can probably get the same work done in less than 80 man-hours if done by more than one person. Efficiency and quality of work go down *drastically* when doing more than 40-50 h/week long term. That same work done in 80h by one burnt-out person could probably be done in 50-60h well-rested.

          Yes, yes, I know every workaholic thinks they are the exception and they can do high quality work every waking second. They cannot.

      4. Doc in a Box*

        You know, medicine is sort of like this too. (That’s why your doctor really gets it.) Residency is 80-hour weeks — before about 2003, it was uncapped — and a lot of people internalize this pressure to be always-on because of that. If you don’t do a residency, you can’t sit for the board exams, and if you can’t sit for the boards, you can’t practice in the US, so you really are forced to work those hours, at least for your 3-7 years of indentured servitude.

        After that, though, doctors have a lot of flexibility and can by-and-large set our own boundaries. It sounds like you have neither the autonomy nor the capital to push back against your boss’ inappropriate attitudes, so I’d strongly suggest spending some of your vacation scoping out other jobs. They do exist, even in finance!

        1. Forrest*

          The European Working Time Directive started to be applied to junior doctors in the UK in 2004-2009, and everyone said there was no POSSIBLE way to run a hospital with doctors limited to an average of 48 hour workings weeks over six months, or for doctors to complete their training. But there was actually quite a strong public will for doctors not to be treating patients on their 26th consecutive hour of work and compliance is pretty good now. I have still heard surgeons complain about how they can’t fit all their training into seven years if they don’t work 70 hour weeks, but eh, surgeons gonna surgeon.

          1. Sigrid*

            Here in the States, residents are capped at 80 hours a week, with a minimum of 4 days off a month, and surgeons STILL say there is no possible way that you can learn to be a surgeon with those unreasonable constraints. Surgeons gonna surgeon.

          2. Frauke*

            The way hospital shifts work has always baffled me. I mean, I’ve worked late into the night in my life and I know the dazed state one gets toward the end and I’ve seen the bafflingly stupid errors I made when I check my work the next morning. I my case, nbd, it’s just spreadsheets or whatever. But do I want someone holding my life in their hands in that state? NO, no I do not!!

      5. Baffled Teacher*

        I think it might be time for you to get out of this particular kitchen! I hope your vacation is great.

      6. EngineerMom*

        Madeline! My husband is a consultant and it’s the same. Right now it’s so awful because all the work they are selling is to private equity which might be the biggest group of assholes on the planet. Think the culture of a frat house but populated by rich kids. There are some pluses (we have paid off our house) and some minuses (my husband being in the bring of a heart attack at all times) and fielding questions like “I know you are on vacation next week so let me know what time works best for meetings with client” and the shaming if you answer “I’m not available for meetings, I’m on vacation”

        They do force you. Because if you push back they make your professional life hell and that’s a big part of our lives. Look for a new job these fields will not change.

        My husband is currently interviewing for a job back in industry which would be a 40% pay cut. But if he works 40 hours a week instead of 90 it’s a raise! Good luck.

      7. L.H. Puttgrass*

        It sounds sort of like you signed up for that work life, which includes 80-hour weeks and vacations that are never really truly vacations. Being available to answer e-mails is probably the least that’s expected while on vacation—I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d also be expected to do work if something “important” enough came up.

        Your job is killing you. Personally, I’d suggest finding work that doesn’t pressure you to work so hard that you’re suffering insomnia (with 80-hour weeks? It’s not like you have that much time to sleep in the first place!). Embrace the burnout and your life will be so much better.

      8. Franz Kafkaesque*

        I know it is tough, and I’ve struggled enough in the health insurance industry working 60 hour weeks. I can’t even imagine working 80s. After lots of research, interviews at other companies in the industry, and talking to many colleagues at other companies in the industry, I’ve kind of started to come to terms with the fact that it’s just the way this industry is. Some people are fine working those insane hours for a shot at the big rewards. And that’s fine for them. But, it’s not fine for me, and in order to get the halfway reasonable work/life balance I am seeking, I’m most likely going to have to leave the industry and take a pay cut. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but at the ripe old age of 45, I’ve come to realize that destroying my health for a company now, destroys my entire livelihood 10-20 years from now. That said, I am thankful for the experience I’ve gotten working in this industry and it is really the cornerstone for the next phase of my career. Best of luck to you, OP.

      9. Archaeopteryx*

        Definitely don’t agree to check your email while you’re on PTO. This will not recharge you in anyway and you’ll be left just as drained with less PTO available. It’s not a reasonable expectation.

      10. JillianNicola*

        Obviously there’s a big spectrum within the industry, but I work in finance as well, and my firm is not like this. We are told we must set an out of office reply if we are indeed out of office, with alternative contacts, so that clients know we’re not just ignoring them. I’m an admin to a financial advisor and I’m not salaried, so I’m obviously encouraged to work a normal 40 hour week with appropriate breaks, to leave work at work (kinda have to, what with confidentiality and all) and our PTO doesn’t roll over so we’re encouraged to use it. BUT, for the advisors who can work 24/7 if they want – some advisors here are definitely workaholics and actively pursuing deals at all hours, but others (like the one I work for, thankfully) are committed to work/life balance. The difference being, it’s up to each advisor how they want to conduct their business, rather than a directive from above. Granted, it’s a smallish firm in the Midwest, but unless you actually work for Wall Street I would really hope there’s somewhere with a similarly sane culture where you are.
        If you’re happy with that kind of break-neck pace, than go in peace, but considering your doctor is ordering you to take a break I can’t imagine this is the case. I think it would be worth it to pursue other opportunities in your field.

  11. WoodswomanWrites*

    #2 makes me so mad at the letter writer’s manager. It’s horrible to make OP work 80-hour weeks which is compromising their health. And then to insist they check their email on their medically prescribed vacation is hideous when a simple autoreply about whom to contact in their absence is commonplace and professional.

    OP, I hope you will stick with the order from your doctor, who cares a lot more about you than your horrible boss does. Best wishes to you for some real down time and improved health.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      If LW is salaried, and required to check email during their absence, there’s an argument that they shouldn’t need to use up any PTO during that time, surely?

      1. Forrest*

        But there’s not a lot of point saving up that PTO if the boss is never going to let them take it anyway.

        Honestly, an 80-hour week? And not even enough autonomy to be able to decide yourself whether to switch your phone off and set an OOO? What are you getting out of this job, LW?

      2. AW*

        I agree with you, but exempt employees can have their PTO docked if they don’t work a full week.

    2. Madeleine (OP #2)*

      Thank you for your kind comment. I have read it several times in the past couple of days, because it makes me feel better. Now that I’m on vacation, I’m taking the time to think about what I can do myself to achieve a better work-life balance. It’s clear I cannot go on like this and need to overcome my workaholism.

  12. TWW*

    #2 When I’m out of the office I auto forward my email and voicemail to the coworker who’s covering for me.

    There are rare instances where I receive a private email from my boss or HR that my coworker shouldn’t see. If I cared, I could set up a filtering rule to not forward those.

  13. Kristina*

    No solutions for LW1, only sympathy. I’ve been a professional high school teacher for more than a dozen years. At various points, I’ve been so frustrated with admin I’ve wanted to change jobs, but frequently there aren’t any. My husband, who is a contractor and is always hustling for his next job and is great at finding business, always wants me to just pick up the phone, directly call and proposition whoever is at the top, and make a pitch. No matter how many times I tell him, um, NO, this is just not how education hiring works, he continues to suggest it. God love him, but districts don’t just hire if there’s money in the budget and a position isn’t posted. It’s government, they’re are hoops to jump through, and burning a bridge at a place you want to apply to when there aren’t many districts is a terrible idea. You’re in the right. Hold your ground and remind your dad different industries function differently. Good luck.

    1. Flower necklace*

      Have you tried getting additional certifications? My department was dying for teachers last year. We had three openings, and they were so hard to fill. In my state (VA), all you need to do is pass the Praxis to add another certification to your license. It’s very easy and makes you more competitive.

      1. CowWhisperer*

        That’s very dependent by state. I work in Michigan and certifications require a certain number of college credit hours in the subject prior to taking the state (non-Praxis) certification exams. This is mostly because you can pass a cert exam in teaching by cramming – but that doesn’t really show that the teacher has the depth of knowledge available to do a good job at teaching a subject.

        1. JohannaCabal*

          Anecdotally, a lot of teachers are leaving the field for many reasons (districts reopened too soon in order to appease parents, helicopter parents intruding in virtual lessons, massive numbers of students treating virtual work like it’s optional, hybrid has been a bust, technology issues, students taking masks off in class with no consequences, etc.) If states get desperate for teachers, they may need to suspend requirements for certifications.

    2. Alexis Rosay*

      Umm yeah, I used to work in a school and my mom was always pushing me to ask my principal for raises…she thought she was teaching me to advocate for myself. I had to break it to her that there’s thing thing called a salary schedule…

      Many schools are not just government, they’re government + unions, and a lot of people don’t understand what that means.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        And school hiring is even weird compared to “normal” government hiring, often. My sibling is a teacher and I’m a government employee but we found out very quickly how little of the advice that would work for one of us would work for the other.
        My agency can set its hiring needs on its own. The schools have to leave much of that to the district. Especially ELL, which is kind of a dance between the two.

  14. L*

    LW3 – Wow, that’s really awful. My workplace, which has shown itself during COVID to be pretty heavily focused on profits over employees, had a cyber attack recently. While the systems were shut down, we were either given paid days off (not out of our own leave) or told to come in as usual (and paid) despite having nothing to do. The system outage was quite a bit shorter than your experience so I don’t know how it would’ve gone if it had dragged on, but the fact your company didn’t even make an effort at the beginning of the situation to give employees some security really sucks! I’d take this as information about the priorities of TPTB at your employer.

  15. tra la la*

    OP #2, if this is a medically prescribed vacation, is there a way you could work with your doctor/HR (I’d start with the doctor) to arrange for FMLA? At my workplace when I went on medical leave/FMLA for surgery, I had to use my PTO, but there were strict rules about me not working while I was on FMLA.

    1. Anon for this one*

      I think the “medically prescribed” bit does muddy things actually.

      I can quite see why the doctor could have signed her off for 2 weeks on the grounds of being medically unfit to work due to stress and burnout!

      But that isn’t quite the same as “prescribing a vacation”… which isn’t really a ‘thing’ that I know of. I can’t imagine a situation where a doctor would say or write that it’s medically necessary to take a 10-day vacation, as in, physically ‘going away’ somewhere.

      Is it a vacation or is it medical leave, I think there would be better results from differentiating these.

      For mental health it’s essential to get a break now and then, of course. But I think the difficult bit is in identifying any one vacation as “medically necessary”, unless you are actually unfit to work.

      1. Madeleine (OP #2)*

        Besides the insomnia (waking up at 03:00, not being able to fall back asleep until 05:30), a blood test revealed a severe vitamin D deficiency. This is why my doctor said: ‘If I were you, I would go on vacation to a sunny destination and allow myself to rest. You have worked too hard for too long.’ I had 30 paid vacation days left, so I decided to take 10 paid vacation days. My boss immediately approved my vacation. The problem is his anxiety and perfectionism when it comes to our clients. The mere thought that a client could think we don’t work hard or aren’t committed to serving them to the best of our abilities, makes him extremely anxious.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          Wow! I think your boss needs to go to a sunny place and chill out! His anxiety shouldn’t be affecting the tam like that.

        2. Jenni*

          I think the answer may be to imply that you won’t have internet/phone access, that you’ll be somewhere isolated and someone else will need to deal with clients/work issues since you won’t have access. It’s truthy.

        3. JustaTech*

          Ah ha, there’s your phrasing. “Boss, while I am on vacation I won’t be able to serve our clients properly because I will be resting. Therefore it is in their best interests that their emails be forwarded to you with a note that I am on leave, so that they are confident in our prompt communication.”

          That way you are making all of it about your clients (rather than your much needed rest), which might be easier for him to swallow.

            1. nonegiven*

              Last thing before you leave, write an email that says, “Since my doctor ordered that I not check email or answer my phone and you told me not to set an OOO, I am forwarding all my email to you. See you in 2 weeks.”

  16. Akcipitrokulo*

    For OP1 -Alison, is it a good idea to pre-warm work if there is a fair possibity your parent will do this?

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I would say to not borrow trouble. Talk to Dad first, treat it as a joke, “Haha, of course you wouldn’t do that, that would be ridiculous.” If he indicates he might anyway, then lay it down: “No, that would undermine me and make me look unprofessional.”

      Only consider preemptively going to the principal if Dad seems like he might AFTER those two steps.

  17. Allonge*

    OP2, I am so sorry, this sounds like a terrible work situation.

    In any normal office-type workplace (or anywhre with email being used frequently), setting up an OOO is part of professional behavior. At my current place, it’s something that is discussed in onboarding, there are instructions for every department on what contact to put in there and if you don’t set it up for anything longer than a day’s absence, your manager or colleagues will remind you to do it next time.

    Your boss is way out of line with a lot of things. I hope you can get out of there soon, and I wish you a speedy recovery!

    1. violet04*

      Yes, setting up an OOO response is absolutely professional. I put alternate contacts in my OOO message so people know who to contact for questions while I’m out. It’s better than sending an email and getting no response whatsoever. We also mark our Outlook calendars accordingly for scheduling meetings.

  18. Language Lover*

    LW #1

    How much does your dad understand about hiring in schools? I think it might be time to sit down and walk through it with him.

    Does he understand that jobs normally can’t just be created for people administrators like? There are metrics including funding and student enrollment. If your school is unionized, they also just can’t fire someone to make room for you. (And if they could, it’d be a red flag.)

    Or does he know that there is also a hiring process that needs to be followed? And that teaching in a good school district is often the goal for many teachers who will take jobs in districts that are farther away or pay less to get experience? The hope is to use that experience to land those coveted “good school district” jobs. So even if a position opened up, you’d probably have tough competition. You might be a better position to come back to this school if a teaching job in your area opens up after you’ve worked elsewhere for a few years.

    Having a teacher’s parent call the school would put you on the level of the students whose parents call them all the time to complain. Aligning you with that group of people, even subconsciously, would likely undermine their perception of you and whether you’re mature enough to manage a classroom—even if you’ve already demonstrated that you can. Hopefully, you can convince him not to do it.

    Otherwise, does your principle have an administrative assistant who picks up the phone most of the time? Maybe give him or her a head’s up not to pass the phone call through.

  19. Alice*

    LW3 – I’m sorry, that sucks so much! I wonder if it might be worthwhile to expend some capital and have a conversation with the higher ups about the situation? You said that leadership doesn’t seem to notice that their employees are in dire straits, and maybe they don’t — people who never had to live paycheck to paycheck don’t always think about other people’s situations.

    Not that it’s any excuse for what they’re doing. But it might be worthwhile to bring it up, tell them that this is putting a huge financial strain on people and you’re afraid that they’re looking for other jobs. If it has no effect, then at least you’ll know they don’t care and you can decide if you want to jump ship or not.

    But I think you should look for another job, at least as a backup plan, especially since you are currently out of work anyway.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I was going to say this. This situation is worth expending capital on. You have got to make it clear to the higher ups (who I am betting aren’t missing a paycheck) that they will not have any workers when this is over if they keep on like this. You can’t tell people — hey no pay for an indefinite period of time, but hang around we might need you at any time. If they at least say “it will be two weeks before we can bring you back” people can plan. But no money and no return date? Recipe for disaster. If your business is in the manufacturing sector, there are jobs going begging. At good pay too. People will bail for those jobs which will give them a definite payday.

  20. Redmer*

    I’m astounded by OP#2’s boss’s reaction, especially with a medically ordered holiday. I hope the ten days work out! Although I have no personal experience, I saw this tweet being shared:

    >European out-of-offices: “I’m away camping for the summer. Email again in September”
    >American out-of-offices: “I have left the office for two hours to undergo kidney surgery but you can reach me on my cell anytime”

  21. Viki*

    LW 5

    My team is currently all remote, the plan is some people back to the office by end of Q1 2022.

    The people who have proven to a) be responsive, b) hit their metrics, c) reliable about working core hours and d) kept quality up (different then metrics ie metrics is how many chocolate bars they can wrap in a day with set targets) get to keep WFH/remote privileges.

    Management has to be in office 3 days a week. Those who failed to hit every of the criteria listed above, will be back in office when we open. Even if the job can be done remotely, it doesn’t mean everyone who does it remotely, right now, out of necessity, gets to keep this when their work quality drops below expected standards.

    My company has been very upfront about this plan, and with about another year for mandated WFH, it gives people easy bench marks to know and meet to be able to keep WFH

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      It does not sound like the OPs office is using any logical metrics tho. It sounds more like we just want ppl in the office now.

      I know how frustrating that is. I work for a city department that has 800 people. Large sections were allowed to WFH and are still at home. Other sections, whose work could also be done from home, have been at the office for a year. Even worse, some sections allowed those with school/childcare issues to WFH while in other sections, those employees were let go. They basically fired the best employee I have ever seen due to childcare issues (but got her to quit so no unemployment). I’m still salty about that.

      1. WellRed*

        People should still file for unemployment. Especially for this reason for this year, she probably would have qualified. At least, make the employer do the work of contesting like the asses they are.

      2. Cj*

        I don’t know if this varies by state or was part of the CARES Act, but if you quit your job in my state due to lack of child care, your are eligible for unemployment.

    2. Alice*

      I’m curious, are the same metrics going to be applied to people working from the office? The assumption that working from home results in lower quality is, in my experience, entirely unfounded when you apply the same metrics to work done in the office and work done remotely. Of course if your company does apply the same standards to all workers regardless of their location, and if not hitting their metrics results in some corrective action for office workers as well, then this plan seems logical. It doesn’t sound as if that’s what OP’s company is planning though, it sounds as if they just want workers in the office regardless of their productivity.

    3. WellRed*

      But of course your company is also factoring in the unique circumstances of the last year and how that might require some flexibility and grace, right?

    4. Momma Bear*

      Similarly our company has made it clear that part of it depends on whether someone can be productive at home or not. If the manager doesn’t think you can do well out of the office, you don’t get the WFH option.

    5. OP 5*

      I think that’s a great idea to bring up those metrics. I have a few co-workers who moved to a different state because they were led to believe we would continue to WFH permanently; leadership talked a lot about how pleasantly surprised they were about productivity and even ended the lease on some of their offices. The workers that moved out of state but are still in the country are now frantic that they are going to lose their jobs if they can’t come into the office. It seems like the reason for opening the office back up is because some people higher up enjoy the face-to-face interaction, but obviously not everyone shares that preference so it’s an unfortunate reason to end the WFH when everything else is going so smoothly.

      1. Elspeth*

        I have a former colleague, now friend, who works for a big four consultancy. They are being inundated with firms asking about moving jobs overseas – afterall, if they can be done in their entirety from home, can it be the home of a cheaper person/location. I worry we’re about to see a mass off-shoring of roles.

  22. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. My Out of Office message simply states I am unable to read the email until I return to work, and if urgent assistance is required to please contact either a named person or a general group email.

  23. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

    Upon reading the start of letter #2, did anyone else immediately get the voice of George Michael in their head, singing, “Laaaast Christmas, I wrote a reply…”

    Seriously OP #2, it sounds like you need to run from that job for the sake of your physical and mental health if at all possible, and I’m sorry. As a previous commenter said, your boss is only proving the point of why your stress is on overdrive.

      1. notadoctor*

        OMG, me too. It doesn’t help that I’ve been rewatching Arrested Development.

  24. Bookworm*

    #5: No thoughts, just sympathy. I’m someone who would love to WFH forever (and am thinking of making changes because of this) but that doesn’t sound very fair at all. Good luck!

  25. Richard Hershberger*

    LW2: I have a hobbyist interest in linguistics, extending to popular notions about usage. In the usage biz it is entirely normal to find people with strongly held opinions, ranging from insisting on one of several correct options to insisting on something that is objectively wrong, or even downright insane. My usual advice is if this comes from some someone in a position of authority over you such as a boss or professor, go along to get along, with a discreet roll of the eyes. The situation here is similar. The boss has an insane belief about out-of-office messages. Fine. Don’t use them. The real question is if he will push this to effectively denying the right to a vacation. That merits more than a roll of the eyes.

    1. Antony J Crowley*

      But by saying OP2 has to log on and forward the emails every day that’s basically what her boss IS saying.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        That’s my point. The bit about the out-of-office message is weird, but not really important.

        1. pancakes*

          It is important, because not using one is going to give clients and anyone else who emails the letter writer the impression they’ve dropped the ball rather than convey that they’re out of the office. That’s precisely why out of office replies are widely used. Simply declining to use one doesn’t resolve any issues here, and if anything will make the situation worse – the boss’s expectations continue to be unreasonable, anyone trying to get in touch with the letter writer will be confused or disappointed, and the vacation won’t feel like a proper vacation knowing all of that.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      That is exactly what he’s doing. He’s not saying “go on vacation without an out of office message, and I don’t care if your clients spend 2 weeks wondering where you are.” He’s saying “continue to check your email even while you’re on vacation.”

    3. EPLawyer*

      But her doctor has told her NO WORK at all. If she even reads the emails, she will get sucked in and start working. Oh I can just answer this right quick, oh and this one too, and htis one. And the next thing you know its 2 hours later and she is exhausted.

      OP2 is BURNED OUT. She needs to disconnect completely for her own health. her own health comes before appeasing an insane boss.

  26. I should really pick a name*

    “This is the first time I’ve had more than two consecutive days off in years”

    That’s not a good sign.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah #3 should read #2. This is where you are headed #3 even when the company is back up and running.

  27. Richard Hershberger*

    LW3: The company discouraging furloughed employees from applying for unemployment is the biggest red flag here. Unemployment benefits are entirely appropriate in this situation, and can be a life-saver (sometimes literally). The company here is not merely dealing poorly with a difficult situation. It is actively working to harm its employees. This would totally be enough to make me start polishing my resume.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I know Alison said that nothing was illegal but couldn’t that be considered illegal? I mean, if the employees are furloughed and not able to work they should qualify for unemployement until they can get back to work full time. It says so on the department of labors website.

      If a company is actively telling their employees not to apply for unemployemtn that seems really sketchy.

  28. Texan In Exile*

    I am – don’t do this – the only person on my team who knows how to use a certain software. That knowledge is essential for meeting one of our monthly deadlines.

    (Again – do not be this person.)

    I told my boss that I will be on vacation in August during the deadline and that if I have take my computer and work while I’m gone, I am not going to take those days as vacation. (Even if I work for an hour, I am not taking that day as vacation.)


    1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      I’d argue the real lesson should be taken on the Employer’s side here – never allow yourself to have only one person who can do a task (especially if it’s mission critical).

      There are some exceptions for things that require uncommon and hard to get licenses, like maybe you only have one person in the building who deal with the industrial boiler, but even then you should have a backup plan to contract with someone, in case you ever need it.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Sometimes, it’s impossible to avoid that situation because the boss has different ideas about what “mission critical” means or allows some people to refuse to do work that’s “too hard.”

      I documented the hell out of my weird legacy system and trained the rest of the department and I still got called while on vacation because or “Your training wasn’t that good” or “I haven’t looked at any of the documentation because I’m too busy” or “It’s not really my job” or, my personal favorite, “It’s just easier to have you deal with it.”

      My coworkers did the same thing after the new system was in place, saying “We never had to deal with the old thing, why should I learn this new thing?” Somehow, the boss thought this was all acceptable and got highly upset with me when I suggested that everyone else be required to do the entire job…until he had to explain to his boss why I needed to carry 25 days of vacation over to the next year.

      1. EPLawyer*

        What if you were unconscious in the hospital? What would they do then?

        Companies are foolish if they rely on one employee for anything. That employee could leave at any time.

        Just because you are the only one who can do something doesn’t mean giving up your vacations. It means, you treat it as not available and let the company figure it out. They will if it is really that critical. Otherwise, if the company would really fall apart because one person isn’t available (who is not the owner), the company shouldn’t be in business

    3. Just Another Zebra*

      If you’re going on vacation in ~3 months, that’s plenty of time to train someone on the basics of this software to cover for you. Because you can be hit by a bus, or fall ill, or have a family emergency. You can, also, quit suddenly with no notice. It seems to make sense to have someone else know how to run this program.

  29. MissDisplaced*

    OOO Your bass has a very unreasonable attitude about out of office emails. They are very professional if written correctly.
    For example, the OOO notice could tell people to contact your boss directly at You could also set Outlook to automatically forward your email to your boss while you’re out. Outlook has many options!

    But whatever you decide upon, don’t let boss bully you into checking your emails daily, because that is working when you’re not supposed to be working.

  30. L*

    Why is the company in LW3 suggesting employees not file for unemployment? They can be paid for the time they weren’t working. They have essentially been temporarily laid off, no?

    1. HannahMiss*

      They probably don’t want a massive increase in unemployment claims since that will likely increase the company’s future tax burden. Their employees are almost certainly eligible. This company is screwing their employees from both directions – we won’t pay you, and we don’t want the state to pay you since they’re going to come collecting money from us later.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        They probably don’t want a massive increase in unemployment claims since that will likely increase the company’s future tax burden. Their employees are almost certainly eligible.

        To me, the red flag is more that the company’s future is so in doubt that UI may make the difference between surviving and going under, but either way the flag is red and waving. Flee.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Yep. I got furloughed at ExToxicJob and for weeks we heard nothing about return to work – no communications whatsoever. So I started the unemployment process. I called the local unemployment office, explained the circumstances, and they were extremely helpful – “yes you are eligible, fill out these forms online, here’s the link.” (Marvelous staff. Like the DMV, Social Services gets a terrible rap, but I’ve had pleasant experiences frequently with all sorts of helpful government staff in many agencies. You people rock.)

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I have been on unemployment twice in my life, in two different states. In both cases the people were helpful and the process surprisingly painless.

  31. Anonymous Hippo*

    Wow, #3 company handled that bad. We just had the same thing happen at my company, cyber attack at one of our providers lost us everything and nobody could use any of the systems for an entire week, and we are at 2+ weeks and not everyone is online yet. We just paid everyone like normal, even though a lot of people were told to just stay home since their jobs were 100% online (hourly and exempt both). I can’t imagine how distressing it would be to deal with something like this and then have no pay dropped down on top.

  32. Madame X*

    I still don’t understand the logic of making salaried employees use their PTO for a situation like LW3. It’s like their salary fluctuates based on the amount of hours worked and in this case, they can not work because of a system failure.

    1. Malarkey01*

      Although their salary doesn’t fluctuate removing the liability of PTO hours is a benefit for the company. I think being salaried gives a lot of people the impression that you don’t have strict work hours. Yes they can’t adjust my salary if I leave work 5 hours early today, but I can totally have a disciplinary action and conversation about leaving the office without leave. My PTO is the amount of hours my employer will allow me to be absent from the office. So instead of paying for 52 weeks of work, they are agreeing to pay for 48 weeks (in the grand scheme of things). Reducing employee PTO for this means they will get more hours worked from folks down the road.

      In some states it’s also a cost paid out to employees when they separate.

  33. Dr. Doll*

    I was going to ask this on the Friday open thread because I’ve been wondering, but since it’s come up here: what on earth do bankers and financiers DO that requires 80+ hours per week? Like what actual tasks? (And how well are said tasks possibly done, with that level of abuse of one’s mental faculties?)

    1. Heidi*

      I’m actually not sure I really have a good picture in my mind of what bankers and financiers physically do period. If I’m watching someone doing banking, what am I going to see? I once asked a physicist what a theoretical physicist actually does at work – there’s a lot of communicating with students, reading, writing, and just thinking apparently.

    2. twocents*

      Really depends on the very specific role at the bank, and the size of the bank overall. I could see long work weeks in basically two scenarios: vastly understaffed departments or in a role with a TON of oversight. Like someone who manages a thousand employees.

      Some departments also have a department culture of being super committed to the work. (If you’re into video games, then kind of like crunch culture.) But for the most part, I agree with you; it’s a bank. No one is going to die if the work waits until tomorrow. And if the department is understaffed so your very important, impactful work (say, processing requests for loan modifications before a house goes into foreclosure) doesn’t get done… That’s not really the responsibility for an individual peon to solve.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Finance and investment banking aren’t what most of us think of as ‘banking’. They aren’t processing deposits and checks or writing home mortgages.

        They are working on IPOs and private bond placements, negotiating mergers, creating and trading esoteric derivatives, continually adjusting and re-running computer models of future risks, returns, etc.

        1. twocents*

          Hence why I spoke to the “banking” part of the question and not the “financier” part of the question. I don’t think you speak for everyone when you say that people don’t think of banks when talking about banking. And the big banks are HUGE, with departments that do everything you mentioned AND departments that do things like I mentioned.

          1. pancakes*

            Eh? The question wasn’t whether it’s common for people who know little to nothing about finance or investment banking to guess about what people who work in the industry do, or assume their work resembles the work of people who work at the local bank; the question was what do they do all day.

            In addition to the activities Alton Brown’s Evil Twin listed, I will add that some of them are producing analyst reports about market trends, publicly traded companies, etc.

          2. LimeJello*

            When people in finance refer to “banking”, they’re referring to commercial banking, not retail banking. The term might be ambiguous to a lay person, but it does have a specific meaning to people in the industry. People who work in banks (versus investment bankers) are typically not working crazy hours.

        2. Malarkey01*

          And research TONS AND TONS of research. Then writing up your research and findings, editing, finding more.

          There is a ton of reading, report generation, meetings to discuss approaches, and then more reading, analysis and report writing. A lot of this down on very short schedules. There’s a reason a lot of people burn out fairly young in finance.

    3. Madeleine (OP #2)*

      In the case of a venture capital investor: fundraising, deal sourcing, due diligence (analyzing the startup’s technology, market analysis, business valuation, asking for references, legal contracts, negotiating the term sheet etc.), portfolio management (financial analysis, supporting the startup’s team with business development, marketing, HR and follow-on round fundraising). All tasks require lots of emails, meetings, phone calls, networking events (usually taking place after office hours, until 23:00) and business travel. If a potential investor in the venture capital fund (e.g. a wealthy family) calls, you pick up. It doesn’t matter which day of the week it is or what time. It has happened to me that I got a phone call on Christmas Eve. I seriously wondered why this person was working instead of spending time with his wife and young children.

  34. Philly Redhead*

    To OP#1: It sounds like you’re also following this advice from him “Nevertheless, my father has pushed me multiple times to still ask for a job, or at least ask for my temp job again for the fall semester as a plan B.”

    I wouldn’t do this either. You already know that there aren’t any open spots.

  35. SomebodyElse*

    OP #2: Now is a good time to suggest vacation spots with no cell/wifi coverage. It’s getting harder to find them, but it is worth it. I was able to establish this years ago and now everyone I work with knows that I have 1 trip per year where I am physically out of range.

    I’ll be happy to offer suggestions if you need them! Hmmm… now there’s an idea for enterprising travel agent… specialize in connection free vacations.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Or “I’ll be overseas and I won’t be using my data plan. I’ll try to jump on every once in a while when I have access to hotel wifi, but they’re notoriously spotty.”

      1. SomebodyElse*

        You have to be careful with this one… especially with a company phone.

        “I’ll be overseas and I won’t be using my data plan. I’ll try to jump on every once in a while when I have access to hotel wifi, but they’re notoriously spotty.”
        “No problem, I’ve signed you up for the temporary international plan! You’re all set”

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes don’t feel like you have to go anywhere in order for your PTO to be taken seriously. You should be able to relax for a week at home, even just with wine and good books, and have that respected as your time to recharge. You should not be expected to take PTO and them only where you actually have to be dipping into your email. You need to be able to disconnect.

          Part of me assumes that the reason the bosses like this don’t want people to be able to go multiple days at a time without dipping into work ever so slightly is that they know that once people actually do get a real mental break and a sense of perspective, a lot of them will go, “Wait, what the heck am I doing? I’ve got to get out of this job!” Keeping people on the hamster wheel keeps them from having those realizations.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            You should be able to relax for a week at home, even just with wine and good books, and have that respected as your time to recharge.

            Yes, of course you should, but anyone who reads this column knows things that should happen often don’t.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          Even if the person doesn’t have a company phone already… I’m sure one would be procured for this purpose.

        3. Red 5*

          I definitely had a boss offer to pay for my roaming once. I just conveniently also didn’t know how to turn that feature back on, I had locked it out to save me money you know?

          But it’s really hard to navigate that kind of thing. I prefer to just not lie myself, but I also am finally at a good job where saying “I don’t want to do work stuff this weekend so I won’t” is acceptable.

      2. Antilles*

        I would stop after that first sentence. Don’t even open the door to trying to jump on when you can or being able to get limited access through the hotel wi-fi or anything else.
        With a boss like OP#2’s who apparently expects everybody to revolve their lives around work, you can’t leave that sort of opening because he will absolutely try to push on it. Better to just slam that door firmly shut.

  36. dianna*

    LW#1, I am mid-thirties and my mother wanted me to go to the HOS re: COVID practices my mother disagreed with. When I told her an emphatic NO, my mother said “Well then I’ll just talk to my friend on the board.” I followed up with similar language to Allison… but I also took advantage of an opportunity at work a few weeks later to imply I didn’t have a great relationship with my family (even though I do). I wanted to have that groundwork laid at my *place of employment* if my mother decided to butt in.

  37. agnes*

    It’s hard for a lot of parents to understand that the job market has changed A LOT. How you get a job, they types of jobs there are, the level of competition–it’s all different than when I was starting out.

    And I also think a lot of parents have concerns they won’t share about having to continue to support adult children. If you as an adult child are still asking for or accepting money from your parents, then don’t be surprised if they are up in your business about work and jobs. Cut that tie and it will definitely give you a stronger standing to set a boundary.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Also, teaching is so much different than other jobs. They can’t just MAKE UP a role. There has to be 1. a need = more kids or someone leaving and 2. money available to pay the person.

      Granted some places may make roles up for someone in specific situations but not in a school setting. They can’t.

    2. Nanani*

      OK boomer.
      It’s just so easy to cut ties with your supportive family in the middle of a global pandemic when you are just starting your career.
      Not to mention there’s zero mention that LW1 is dependent on their parents to begin with.

  38. Case of the Mondays*

    For LW2, I think it would be helpful if people specified if they are in a similar industry or not. I’m in law and while my firm is reasonable, I know most other firms do expect people to check their work email at least once/day even on vacation. We then triage and if something is particularly urgent, we may need to spend an hour addressing it. Everything else gets forwarded to someone else to handle or waits until we get back. It wouldn’t work to have the emails auto forwarded to someone else because that person wouldn’t know what type of case it was and who to forward it to.

    The two times I truly was going to be without internet, I had to make a list of all my cases, the possible issues that could come up, who would handle each one in my absence, and leave it with a point person that was listed as the contact on my out of office. Honestly, that was way more stressful than just taking 15 mins a day to forward things to people with instructions.

    On the customer service side, there is a big difference getting a quick reply that says “I’m on vacation. Would you like one of my colleagues to handle this now or would you like to wait until I return on Monday.” In law though, this is a KIND policy. At many bigger firms, you are supposed to meet the clients needs yourself. So you basically do extra work before and after vacation and do about an hour of work/day while on vacation for anything urgent that comes up. It sucks but it is the industry.

    I am not telling OP2 to ruin her health. Medical leave is something very different. But how she approaches this is not going to be the same in law or finance as it would be in a more normal industry. The advice everyone gives has to recognize that. I echo others that this should be framed as medical leave and not vacation.

    1. Red 5*

      I think maybe there’s a middle ground, when somebody is on vacation, no matter what industry they are in, they should have an expectation that should they like to completely unplug that they would have a structure in place to do so. If they’d like to check their mail and forward things, fine, but if they don’t want to, X procedure kicks in. Which seems to be what you’re describing with making the list of contact information. Honestly any time I take vacation it ends up being similar because I have to spend a ton of time lining up my backups and either doing things early or preparing to do them quickly when I get back, so I don’t take a ton of vacation.

      But I especially think that no matter the industry, medical leave automatically kicks it over into “you better figure something out because this person is not in the office and they are not available, full stop.” More companies just need to have something in place for this. All of us are just one bit of bad luck away from being unable to work at a moment’s notice.

    2. automaticdoor*

      100% agree. As I said above, my husband is in big 4 public accounting. I’m a lobbyist for a tiny consulting firm. Both of us generally find it easier to check our email for 10 minutes a vacation day than deal with the pileup of 500+, 600+ emails, or more in our main inboxes (plus more in other folders!) when we come back. HOWEVER, as I also said above, he was also encouraged to not check his mail when he was out recently because he was burning out and having health problems as a result. Maybe LW2 should frame it as “if I don’t get this time away now, I won’t be available to clients in the long run at all because I will end up with more serious concerns health-wise”? That was what worked well for husband. It shouldn’t come down to that, but in a lot of these kinds of jobs, it does.

  39. twocents*

    #5 made me think of a question I’ve been ruminating on for a while. I’ve noticed that, culturally, us Americans seem to jump from “you are doing this thing I don’t like” to “so it must be illegal.” See also comment sections on recent posts like the dog off leash at private events or the secret email address.

    Is that a cultural thing in other countries too?

    1. OP 5*

      I work in an industry where we have to research certain laws in different states and municipalities (you would be surprised!) and I realize now looking back at the letter that it was the wrong word to use. I was not completely focused when writing the letter and that is my fault.

      1. OP 5*

        The laws I’m familiar with do not involve employment or the like, so I have a huge gap of knowledge when it comes to things like this.

      2. twocents*

        You’re fine! I didn’t mean to come across like I was picking on you, I’ve just noticed that a lot of Americans at least seem to jump straight to thinking something must be illegal, and it’s made me wonder if it’s an American thing or just a human thing.

  40. inoffensive nickname*

    LW2 – It’s wonderful to get away to somewhere there’s no internet or cell service, and if you plan it right, it’s Covid-friendly. My husband has a hard time unplugging, but we’ve found that the woods are a great excuse for poor cell service. If you like to camp, there’s no better way to unplug. You probably don’t want to take a cell phone on a canoe, so that’s also a good idea. I’ve heard that plugging in on a cruise is very expensive, so you wouldn’t want to do that either. Or, it would be a darn shame if your phone broke, just as you were leaving…or you even forgot it at home and didn’t want to miss your flight. Although so many states are “employment at will” when you’ve stated an accommodation that you need (that’s super simple) for a temporary medical condition, so unless they are absolutely stupid, they would not fire you for unplugging during your vacation. Is it possible to get your doctor to write you a note that you need to unplug, and then go to HR with it?

    That’s one boundary I’ve always been clear about. While my job does call for me to be available sometimes after hours, my vacation time is 100% mine. (Although I messed up a few times when I was first promoted, and I had to put out proverbial fires from the middle of the woods on a camping trip once or twice, so I was grateful that my cell service was mysteriously strong for those particular days.)

  41. Erin*

    Wow. I set up OOTO if I’m out even part of the day because I don’t want people who email me to feel like I’m leaving them hanging. I’m of the mindset that OOTO is widely known as a professional courtesy to allow email senders to contact a designated person with whatever they need. I’ve never worked in an environment that did not use it like this, so, I think your boss is out of touch here. I also know that most email senders are totally cool with emailing about XYZ issue to someone else, as long as they know who that person is.

    For the disaster person: I feel like one of the insurances the company holds would kick in to get folks paid? Pretty unbelievable that everyone has to burn their much needed & deserved PTO at a time when they don’t want to, and when they likely want to start planning some summer getaways now that Covid restrictions are loosening up. And yikes – the employees with very little PTO/already have it committed to time off in 2021/withdrawing their 401k money? That just makes management look irresponsible and uncaring. I’m so sorry you & your employees are in this situation.

    You are being really human by encouraging your team to apply for unemployment. Please discourage people from 401k loans. As a manager, another step I would push for after this is over is to re-instate any PTO that my team used as a result of this emergency.

  42. notadoctor*

    “Even more frustratingly, they can advertise a role as remote and then change their minds (assuming you don’t have a contract to the contrary, which most U.S. workers don’t).”

    This more or less seems to be happening to me, which is indeed frustrating. At least it would be hybrid and not full-time, though I’m still pushing back hard on it. Full-time WFH has been an absolute blessing for me.

  43. SMH*

    OP#1 I would love for grown adults whose parents call their boss to return the favor and call their parents boss and demand information or make a ridiculous request. Hinting at ‘cognitive decline’ on the part of the parent may drive the point home as well. While I understand parents contacting their adult children’s boss is more undermining it’s ultimately a level of disrespect that parents do not understand.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      LOL! “I know, now that Dad is older, that he’s afraid of asking for a raise, but he’s been such an excellent teapot painter for so many years…”

  44. mf*

    #2: You need a new job (and a new boss). In the meantime, if you’re using Outlook, you can give your boss proxy access to your email so he can read/write/send emails from your inbox. This is a common thing for executives to do with their EAs so their assistants can help with email management. See link below for instructions.

  45. Oskurrrr*

    Today’s column was a bit frustrating to read. Here’s today’s reminder that the employer is legally allowed to suuuuuuck.

  46. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP#2, I will jump on the bandwagon of “this job is not sustainable, and you should look for a new one.” I will also add that IMSNHO, an out of office message is VERY professional. When I contact someone and get an out of office message, it sets my expectations for when I can expect a reply, and (in many cases) gives me an option for someone else to contact if I have an urgent concern.

  47. disconnect*

    LW1, time to have the Come To Jebus talk. “Dad, I need you to hear me. I’m an adult with full agency over my life and career, I’ve finished my education, I’m working on getting a job, you’ve done your job, and now it’s time for you to let go of the wheel. I need you to stop pressuring me to ask people for jobs, I need you to stop trying to solve my problems, I need you to back off, and I need you to promise me you won’t ever call anyone on my behalf unless I ask you first. You need to have faith that I know what the hell I’m doing. Can I count on you to start doing these things?” If he says he was just joking about calling your boss, “It didn’t sound like a joke, and when I add it to the constant pressure from you to find a job, it’s really adding to my stress. I mean, do you really think I don’t know I need to get a full time job?? And do you believe I’m not doing everything I can, and everything I think I need to be doing, and nothing that I believe will be actively detrimental to my job search? Come on, Dad! This is not how you treat an adult!”

    It sounds like maybe he does have your best interests at heart, in which case it’s worth having the uncomfortable talk. But keep in mind that any awkwardness here is generated by his inappropriate behavior, and you have every right to tell him how you need him to act.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I think this works as long as LW has full agency and is not currently dependent on their parents financially or live with them.

      There’s a old but very true saying… “Remember the golden rule, he with the gold gets to rule”

      Also, this part is leaning into teenage/parent territory: “It didn’t sound like a joke, and when I add it to the constant pressure from you to find a job, it’s really adding to my stress. I mean, do you really think I don’t know I need to get a full time job?? And do you believe I’m not doing everything I can, and everything I think I need to be doing, and nothing that I believe will be actively detrimental to my job search? Come on, Dad! This is not how you treat an adult!”

      1. Tinker*

        The thing about the “golden rule” is popular, granted, but I think it’s worth pushing back against the idea that you cannot have boundaries with people who you have some degree of financial dependence on. Should a person whose income is the primary support for their household be able to belittle a partner and interfere with their employment if that partner does not earn enough money to sustain a similar lifestyle on their own?

  48. Chickiepunk*

    #3 This is just plain wrong. Dollars to donuts that company has an insurance policy to cover losses from such an event.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      That’s a good point. I work at a tiny, tiny nonprofit and even we have cyberattack insurance.

    2. Red 5*

      Is that optional coverage? Because I can think of quite a few places I’ve worked that would not cover it if it cost them a penny extra.

      I don’t work in those places anymore for a reason.

    3. Observer*

      Actually, they may NOT have the insurance to cover it. A lot of companies don’t. There may also be a deductible or some costs are not covered, etc. They may even just be worried that their costs will go up. I mean they are even trying to keep people from applying for unemployment!

  49. El l*

    Re Out of Office:
    So your boss is a fanatic, and I seriously urge you to find another job. Because this job is killing you. Literally.

    I was going to say when I read the headline that I find out of office replies deeply annoying – if I expect an instant response, I call. But somehow, that just doesn’t cut it here.

    1. Red 5*


      As I mentioned in another comment, because of what I do I end up seeing hundreds of out of office emails at a time most weeks, and I hate how absolutely ridiculous our work culture has become that people will set them up if they’re going to the bathroom (I literally saw one that said they were on their lunch break once). But I don’t get mad at the person doing it, I get mad at the corporate cultures that create this kind of thing. Being out for a week or more, I do actually think they are useful and helpful because sometimes I might actually need an answer more quickly than that and it’s nice to have an alternate email to send questions to.

      I also appreciate them in the cases of a person leaving a company when they say “this person is no longer with XX, please send your question to YY who is taking over their accounts.” That’s come in handy more than once.

      But I really don’t need it if you’re just in a meeting.

  50. J!*

    If I found out that a company I was doing business with forbid its employees from taking PTO and forced them to check their email every day while on vacation, it would be the last time I did business with them.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      But other people will say “Of course I expect my llama wrangler to be on call at all times! I spend a lot of money here!”

  51. Rebecca1*

    LW1: Your dad shouldn’t call the principal, but he can totally call your great-great-grand bosses: if you and he are in the same state, he can call his state legislator and/ or state senator to advocate for funding to hire more teachers in your area. If not, he can call his Congress member and Senator to advocate for more teacher-hiring funds at the federal level.

    (I’m in the education field too. I advise people to do that for all sorts of complaints that ultimately result from state and/ or federal policy. Don’t know how many of them follow through, but at least they quit bothering me about things I have no power to change.)

  52. TootsNYC*

    for #1:
    If you genuinely think your dad might do this, and you think he might not listen to you, consider whether there is a mentor-type person in your field, or even someone in his peer group, that you could ask to speak to him.

  53. Allison*

    #2 is baffling to me, if anything it feels unprofessional NOT to put up an OOO message when you’re taking planned time away from work for longer than a day or two. It helps assure people you’re not ignoring them, lets people know when they can expect a response, clarifies whether this is a completely unplugged vacation or whether you’ll be checking in periodically, and ideally lets people know who’s covering for you (if applicable) and where people can direct urgent inquiries (again, if applicable).

    I’ll certainly admit that an out of office message can feel unprofessional if it’s too casual or discloses too many personal details, but my guess is LW’s boss is worried that any OOO message is unprofessional because it indicates that people occasionally abandon their posts to attend to personal matters, and that’s somehow bad optics, when in reality it’s totally normal, and no reasonable person is going to clutch their pearls at the idea of someone at the company taking vacation or sick leave.

    1. Red 5*

      I have definitely read some of the unprofessional ones, but those are the ones that just feel off because as you said they’re too detailed, or you actually start to get some resentment from the way they’re written or something (though I give people a pass when it was coming from government workers during the shutdown, there was some amusing shade going on in those). But 99% of the time it’s just “I am out of the office until X date and will respond when I return. If you need something before then please contact so-and-so at this email address. Thank you.”

      The mere existence of an OOO is just…so normal that I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the boss’ problem except that he seems like the “you are always at work because I say you are” type.

  54. B Wayne*

    An easy one today!

    LW#1: Apply for jobs a good distance away! Get some space between you and the family for your personal growth.
    LW#2: Your boss sounds like a nut and your job sounds like He//! New Job!
    LW#3: Start looking! About anything sounds better than this place.
    LW#4: Good luck! I hope something great just happens.
    LW#5: Start looking, WFH is out there I am sure.

  55. JSPA*

    OP#1, especially given Covid, but really, anytime, there’s a non-zero chance of jobs opening between now and fall.

    I don’t think it’s out of line to let them know that you’d be thrilled to step in, if they have a sudden need, and you’re still available.

    You can reference being already trained on their specific Covid guidelines / policies / practices; it’s legitimately better for them to bring in someone who’s a known quantity. (That’s all presuming you have not already had this conversation, and they don’t already know you’d be delighted to stay with them.)

    “I’d love if you called me in” is different from, “now make a job for me.” Your dad likely doesn’t really want to make a call. Quite possibly he mostly wants you to make your (conditional) interest clear, rather than assuming that it’s automatically clear to any employer that their temp must want to stay (which–he’s right–it’s not!).

    “I told them I’d be very interested in any job that opens up, and they’ve promised to think of me if that happens” is something that you can do, and that you can tell him. No professional boundaries will be broken or even bent, in doing so.

  56. Red 5*

    Part of my job is to send mass email communications, sometimes to thousands of people at a time.

    I get literally hundreds of out of office replies almost every day. They’re utterly mundane and LW, your boss is really out of touch and is coming off incredibly strange. Couple that with your description of why you need this break and I hope that once you’re rested and feeling better you’re also looking for a new job. This man is unreasonable.

    I do also have a problem with the out of office replies that boil down to “I’m in a long meeting this morning and not checking my email for two hours but I’ll see this when I’m done” because honestly, that also speaks to an incredibly toxic work culture. Taking a day off shouldn’t necessitate an auto reply, but taking a few hours CERTAINLY shouldn’t. But mostly they’re from people who are taking a few days to even a few months sabbatical. And they come from people at some very high levels of some very important places, so this idea of it sending a bad signal is just born of nothing I can fathom.

    My favorite, by the way, is the one that only read “As of XX date I have retired and I will not be checking this email address EVER AGAIN!”

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I agree with you for the Out of office message for just a few hours. But I do think it depends on the company but in some instances, even a day off would need an OOO message. For example, I work between 2 departments and I bounce between those departments daily. I’m mostly by myself in Dept. A and my teammates hardly see me (most are still virtual or work in other areas of campus than me). If they needed something urgent and didn’t know I was out, they may waste time wondering why I’m not able to help them.

      Similarly, in the other department, I work in we have personal counselors. We have a private email system that students can email their counselors. It would not be good if a student was in crisis or very upset and email their counselor for help and didn’t get a response.

      So it is our policy if you are going to be out for a day, or part of the day that you have an OOO message.

  57. Van Wilder*

    #4 – How crappy of your company! I know this isn’t professional, but I think I would be inventing pointless busy work to keep people working.
    Dwight: Go put those files in random order. Then come back here for your next assignment, concerning their order.

    1. Red 5*

      My company actually recently had several systems go down because of a major hack that affected a ton of different places, and honestly a lot of us were like “oh thank goodness, time to actually do all those random projects we couldn’t get to because urgent stuff kept making us push it off.”

      But to be fair, I have another friend who’s company was caught up in a ransomeware attack a couple years ago and they did come to a standstill until it was fixed because their job is largely impossible without their computers. If it had gone on more than a couple of days they would have run out of even the stupidest busy work. But at my office, we could be without power for a week and I’d still be working through one project or another. So I guess it depends on the place.

      I’m a bit concerned about what it means for the company structure itself that any hack took them out of commission this long though. I am far from a cybersecurity expert, but it seems excessive and like they had absolutely no precautions in place. That would worry me if I was an employee there.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Yes – I was just thinking, has it occurred to anyone in management that it’s not a great idea to have *all* the work on *one* system?

    2. Not Where You Think*

      I mean…I had to send home hourly workers this year a few times and every time I handed them a book of laws and said “go read the book”. It’s technically work. Luckily I only had one person complain and they complained to someone who was able to say “OMG they are paying you to go home, don’t complain”. If they’d raised it up to someone at the senior level we would have had to withhold pay because of where I work. Senior folks knew but looked the other way but they were technically required to say that if you cannot do work at home that you do not get paid. I worry that this OPs company (or worse their boss) is sort of like this but without the savvy to get it.

  58. Instructional Designer*

    LW1: not that I think your dad should call your boss but if you haven’t yet asked if there are full time positions opening soon or if they have any thoughts about whether you’ll be able to continue on next semester, he’s right that you should do that. Of course that should be done by you and not him. It’s better to not ask at all than to have your dad ask. But I don’t quite understand why this isn’t a question you’ve asked. They may even think you’re not interested since you haven’t asked.

  59. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    I’m going to go on the other side of the fence and agree that OOO messages are abused or used inappropriately.

    Context and timing all play a factor into whether or not an auto-reply should be used. If they’re not used judiciously, they loose meaning and just irritate people.

    When not to use:

    1. Context: You are the customer service contact point. In this case, either your account needs to be delegated so that someone is responding in your absence, or a group account needs to be set up for these messages to land in. Customers do not want to email in for service only to receive a message that there’s a minimum 2 weeks before you’re back in office. The larger your company, the more important this becomes.
    2. Timing: You’re going to be out for an hour or two, up to even 2-3 days. If you’re going to be out for a few hours for meeting or appointment, no one needs to know that. Just respond when you’re back. If your contacts aren’t usually uber time sensitive, this can apply for up to 2-3 days. OOO may not really serve a useful purpose in this case and will clutter inboxes.

    You should also consider security issues related to OOO messages. Using these messages to direct traffic to alternate contacts or including your contact info increases the likelihood that information is crawled and compromised. I recommend setting up responses only for those people in your contacts, that way you’re not inadvertently sending the info for Barb in accounting to a dark web crawler who then adds her to their next phishing campaign.

    I love that Alison uses her autoresponder to manage expectations for submissions. Totally appropriate way to use them. However, I’ve seen people justify not answering emails because of these. An autoresponder of “I only check messages on the 4th Tuesday of each quarter” is going to turn away business or infuriate stakeholders.

    The best way I’ve seen this handled is by including the OOO message as part of your signature leading up to your time off. For people that you’re regularly in contact with, this works to be far more useful and less jarring than OOO messages, and let’s them better plan when to connect with you. Just a simple list after your contact info of date times that you’ll be out of office. I think this works best when general inquires are diverted to shared accounts for first come first serve service.

  60. Observer*

    #3- You’ve learned something very valuable about your employer. They are sleazy as all get out and will shift every single cost they can to workers, without any regard to the welfare of the employees. The idea that they are discouraging employees from applying for unemployment benefits is TERRIBLE.

  61. IvyV*

    “Tell your boss you won’t be available to check email while you’re off on the advice of your doctor, but if he wants to have your email forward to himself or someone else while you’re out, that’s fine with you.”

    And don’t forget to use a private email for the job seeking I desperately hope that you are doing.

  62. Nuts*

    ‘ I jokingly begged that he not call my boss, but I am still genuinely nervous.’

    That is your problem right there. Using a joking voice will get you nowhere, it will probably make things worse. Tell your dad that you are an adult and you don’t interfere with his career, and he doesn’t get to with yours. Don’t wash down your tone. Use a firm clear voice (practise a lot in front of a mirror) and be assertive. Then his response will tell you everything.

  63. LQ*

    For #3 I do want to say in some states it is illegal for employers to tell their employees to not file for unemployment benefits.

  64. Observer*

    #2 – I didn’t finish reading all the comments, so I may be repeating something that someone already said. But here is the thing, you should tell your boss that requiring you to check your email could present both a legal and PR problem.

    Legal – if you are non-exempt you MUST log that time and be paid for it. If you are exempt, you must be paid for the entire day if you spend even 5 minutes working, possibly even the whole week. That’s the law, not your personal quirk.

    From the PR point of view, this kind of triage means that 1. the people who don’t get a response will think they are being ignored, which is MUCH worse that being told “I’m out of the office, here is who you can contact but if you want to wait I’ll get back to you on X date.” 2. People who get a response from the boss are going to want to know where the OP is anyway. The boss hemming and hawing is going to make them wonder what’s going on.

  65. Thursday Next*

    I’m grateful for this thread because it reminded me to go look at the PTO balances for my employees. A couple of them have over 100 hours so I encouraged them to get time on the schedule. We get 6 weeks a year and can only carry over 40. I work in the tech industry – it’s less about the industry and more about our culture that encourages people to use their time.

  66. FD*

    OP #2, I feel you. Here’s some things that I’ve found useful as someone who also has strong workaholic tendencies.

    1) You probably aren’t actually working at your full capacity. When you never have any downtime, you become less efficient, less focused, and just generally less good at your job. You and your boss have created this narrative that taking time off makes you lazy, but it’s actually the opposite. Work is a marathon, not a sprint, and taking time off is important.

    2) Your job is never going to love you back. If you died tomorrow, your boss would probably be sad, but he’d hire someone new. Your clients would move on. And some day, you *will* stop working. Even if it’s just getting too old to keep at it, you’ll stop working. You don’t want to be one of those people who have the money to retire but can’t give up working because…they don’t have anything else. Who are the people you want at your funeral? Are you spending enough time with them? What are the things you want to learn or do before you die?

    3) Your boss is probably wrong about your clients thinking less of you if you take time off. People tend to respect boundaries if they’re clear and kind–and the people who aren’t are assholes. I bet you’d find more people would respect your decision than you think if you set a boundary.

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