my boss thinks perks should be earned, working at a bathhouse, and more

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

1. My boss thinks perks should be earned, but I can’t work well without them

My manager feels that employees should demonstrate excellence before being rewarded with things like flexible schedules or being able to work on side projects. I know from experience that I will never be able to demonstrate excellence without some degree of flexibility and variety in my work situation. Right now I’m doing okay, but I’m unhappy, and my productivity is variable because I’m not getting the things that energize me.

My manager is talking about putting me on a PIP, which is guaranteed to make me perform worse because I’ll be so stressed and anxious and will lose the few perks I do have because she thinks they “distract” me. How can I explain that her approach is totally backwards from the one that I know will help me be the focused, productive worker she wants, without sounding like I want freebies that everyone else has to earn? I suspect I have ADHD but it’s not diagnosed, so I can’t ask for medical accommodations.

Ooooh, I don’t know that you can. It’s very normal for managers not to want people working on side projects if they’re not performing their main duties well enough, and that’s pretty reasonable.

Flexible schedules are different, but a lot of managers see them as a perk that you earn by being reliable and on the ball, and they worry about giving flexible hours to someone who doesn’t seem to be putting in the work. But plenty of people do perform better if they can work the hours when their brains are most “on” or if they don’t have to worry about racing to make the daycare pickup deadline or so forth. However, this is a pretty common mindset for managers to have, and if you’re already in PIP territory, you might not be well positioned to argue for an exception. That said, you can certainly try something like, “I think I’d be more able to meet the metrics you’ve laid out if (insert the kind of schedule you want). Would you be open to trying that for a few weeks to see if it does make a difference, and the reevaluating at the end of the month?” That might be easier for her to agree to since it’s framed as a time-limited experiment rather than something open-ended.

Also, see about getting the ADHD formally diagnosed; that could make it a lot easier to get the kind of changes you want. Without that, you risk this all coming across as “I’m not performing well and I want you to give me even more leeway to maybe not perform well,” and that’s going to make a lot of managers skeptical.

2. Is my job at a bathhouse turning off interviewers?

Like a lot of people in hospitality, I lost my position of five years when lockdown started and due to work politics didn’t go back. Thankfully I’ve been in a position to somewhat weather the storm and have decided to pursue a career in admin or tech.

I’ve gotten quite a few first interviews but rarely a second round. I’m starting to get worried that it may be due to the nature of my previous job, which involved working reception for a venue that helped facilitate intimate relations between customers (a bathhouse). I suspect people look at my resume and see standard roles and responsibilities for a hospitality job but then google the business name and are turned off (no pun intended).

I have considered using an alias, but eventually when it comes time for references the truth would come out. Also, omitting it would create a five-year gap on my resume. Thankfully I’ve never had to go into detail during interviews, and simply talk about the booking/cafe aspect of the business. How would you recommend dealing with it on a resume and during interviews?

Any chance the bathhouse has an alternate business name somewhere (like a different name they’re incorporated under, which is pretty common with adult businesses that need something that won’t leave a trail on credit card receipts)? If so, try using that. Or is there a way to make the name vaguer without lying — like using its initials?

Otherwise, it’s true that this may limit your options with some interviewers, but there will be others who see it as a business like any other (especially if you make a point of being extra polished and professional) and who will realize that you’ve built plenty of transferable skills in an environment that might have really broadened your diplomacy, problem-solving, and other traits that are highly useful in a ton of jobs.

But also, don’t assume this is what’s happening. Make sure you’re examining your interview skills too (getting a lot of first interviews but few second rounds could mean you need stronger first interviews), and also factor in that you’re trying to change fields, which nearly always gives a job search an extra layer of challenge,

3. Using volunteer labor at a vineyard

My aunt and her husband started a vineyard a few years ago. I found out through my grandmother that they are hoping that when I come see her, it will be around grape picking time so I can help. I can’t get down there until after harvest time and I plan to be busy for every July, August, and September from now to eternity. Last year they were able to rally enough friends and coworkers to help, and they’ve stated that they want volunteer workers only so they can avoid workers comp insurance and OSHA requirements. As my dad said, “This doesn’t pass the sniff test” so my question is, is this legal?

Is it a hobby or a business? If it’s a hobby, sure, they can do it that way (at the expense of everyone starting to avoid them after a while, probably). But if it’s a business, they’re required by law to pay at least minimum wage for labor.

However, agriculture does have some exceptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (which is the law that includes minimum wage and overtime): Any employer in agriculture that doesn’t use more than 500 “person days” of agricultural labor in any quarter of the preceding calendar year is exempt from paying minimum wage for the current calendar year. (Weirdly, a “person day” isn’t eight hours of work, but any day during which an employee performs agricultural work for at least one hour. Also, the law actually calls these “man days.”) Immediate family members of the employer are also exempt from the minimum wage requirements.

Most likely, your aunt and uncle are counting on their friends and family not reporting them (or they think of this as a hobby even though it earns money for them, which is very common with certain types of small businesses.)

4. A delay in my job offer is shrinking how much notice I’ll be able to give

I recently have been in the interview process for a new job and was told over the phone that the company would love me to join the team and to expect paperwork and pay negotiation info emailed to me in the next 24 hours. I then didn’t hear anything from them for another two days, and emailed the point of contact I’ve had throughout the process to ask if they needed any additional information from me to facilitate the process. They said that some folks were out of office during those two days, and to stay tuned for the paperwork. It’s been another three business days and I have yet to hear anything else. I am coming up on the day that I would need to give notice at my current job if I am going to start on the day that we agreed upon in the initial phone conversation.

I’m growing concerned since it’s been a full week since they gave me a verbal offer (not including pay) and have not followed up with me with any paperwork, pay, or benefit details. Am I right to be concerned or am I just being anxious? Is there any way to gently nudge them to get the ball rolling without coming off as pushy? I don’t want to give my notice without the new position being finalized, but I’m starting to run out of time if they don’t get back to me soon.

Don’t worry about the timing of your notice and your start date; the new employer will almost certainly agree to push back the expected start date because of the delay. Any reasonable employer knows you won’t give notice until you’ve received their formal offer, negotiated it, and accepted it. If they felt real urgency about the start date they’d mentioned, they’d be acting with more urgency here (if they could; if they can’t, they’d just accept that they’ll end up with a later start date). In other words, you don’t need to worry about the timing at all. If you accept the offer, at that point you’ll explain you need to give your employer a full notice period and will propose a new first day, they will almost certainly agree, and that will be that. Desired start dates change all the time and are rarely written in stone.

5. Missing overtime pay

I have an awesome boss! She is a gem and I am so thankful to have her as my boss. However, I am an hourly employee, and she is not. The last few weeks, I’ve noticed she keeps me longer and longer each day, and now I’ve noticed my checks are not reflecting the sometimes hours of overtime I have worked. I really try to set boundaries with work but I’m not sure how to tell her I need to leave for the day, especially since she calls me at random and often keeps me on these calls for sometimes upwards of 1.5 hours. I don’t mind working overtime but not every day, especially when she knows what time I sign in and log out for the day. I’m not sure if I should address the missing overtime pay and I’m really not sure how to set boundaries with my boss to let her know that my day is over and I need to log off.

Yes, you absolutely need to address the overtime pay. Your employer is legally required to pay you for that time, and there could be legal consequences for them down the road if they don’t take care of this now. Your boss probably just isn’t thinking about it, since she’s not used to tracking her own hours.

How are your hours getting logged right now? If you’re accurately recording the time you work and not getting paid for it, raise it that way — “I’ve been logging more hours on my timesheets than I’m getting paid for. It looks like I’m always getting paid for a 40-hour week, but because I’m non-exempt, I’m supposed to be paid overtime for anything over 40. How should I get that fixed?”

You can also have a conversation about what to do going forward: “Because I’m non-exempt, I need to log and be paid for any overtime hours I work. Do you want me to start flagging it for you when I’m approaching overtime pay, so you can decide whether to authorize it or have me leave for the day?” (Also, make sure you know your state’s overtime laws. Federally, anything over 40 hours a week is overtime, but some states have additional restrictions — like in California, anything over eight hours in a single day is paid as overtime.)

Then when your boss is keeping past your ending time, say this: “I’m about to go into overtime — should we finish this tomorrow or would you rather continue right now and I’ll log the time?”

{ 486 comments… read them below }

  1. Eye roll*

    LW#3 – aside from the other issues, your aunt and uncle suck. They expect their friends and family to work for free, so that they won’t be liable or have to pay worker’s comp when someone gets hurt trying to make money for them. Also, they don’t want to worry about having a safe work environment for their friends and family, which they’re trying to avoid OSHA-wise by not paying them. I wonder what they plan to do when a friend hurts themselves on their property, while “working” for them.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Clearly, the one-hundred-and-eleventh rule of acquisition says, “Treat people in your debt like family… exploit them.”

        1. turquoises*

          Excellent…. three comments deep and we’ve already hit the Rules of Acquisition. That’s a wrap folks, we can all go home now :D

    1. PollyQ*

      What they’re failing to understand is that Worker’s Comp protects them as well. Part of the deal with it is that injured employees can’t sue. Without it, anyone who gets hurt could go ahead and sue, with the risk of much higher payout, plus the expense of defending against the suit..

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This. Their scheme is not protecting them from liability. Quite the opposite.

      2. SuperDiva*

        Yes, this is a really terrible practice that vastly increases their potential liability.

      3. yarnlife*

        I suspect they’re relying on the “but we’re friends/family! You don’t sue friends/family, that would be so mean!”

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Which, interestingly, the decision to sue may not even be up to the person. Insurance companies are increasingly interested in getting other insurance companies to pay for a claim, so there have been a number of stories in recent years where someone who was injured on a family member’s property have been required by their health insurer to sue that family member in order to get their homeowner’s insurance to pay the claim. I could totally see a situation where a family member or friend is injured in the vineyard and their health insurance requires them to sue the business owner to recoup the cost of the claim, which could end up being far more expensive than just paying the worker and ensuring proper insurance coverage for the job.

          1. Not bonded*

            This is also happening in other types of insurance. My brother and his family paid a neighbor kid to take care of their pets while they were gone. The first neighbor kid eventually passed it down to their younger sibling. The first time that the second child took care of the animals, there was a fire that burned half of the house.

            Under questioning by the parents, the second child admitted to leaving the light bulb for the reptile off to the side rather than back on the tank. The fire department determined that was the source of the fire.

            The insurance company went after the other family, since it was paid work and the twelve year old child was not bonded. Not sure of the end result, since it is probably under NDAs, but it made me much, much less likely to cat or dog sit, even for just food, since that could be seen as compensation.

        2. Self Employed*

          …and they sound like the people I know from entrepreneurship classes who think having an LLC is the best way to protect against liability. It isn’t; it just means you can’t lose your home etc. in a judgment. Besides the business assets still being vulnerable, ***you have to pay lawyers if you defend a lawsuit***.

          Insurance — including Worker’s Comp — is what protects you from lawsuits.

          I’m sure they’re not going to have ANY functional business insurance.

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

        right. Instead of going through worker’s comp, the injured person now files a claim on their property owner’s insurance or could potentially go after their personal assets instead of business assets.

        I went to a dinner party held in the olive grove for an olive oil company here in So Cal and they talked about how they started their business — buying the property, cleaning it up, setting up their equipment, getting their school-aged kids and their kids’ friends to spend the summer planting 1,000+ olive trees…wait what?! All I could think of at that point was child labor. I mean, I remember helping my parents do some gardening and planting trees when I was a kid, and it builds character and all that, but…holy hell people, don’t tell the “lovely” story of have child labor on your farm!

        1. JustaTech*

          The laws about child labor in agriculture are different than in other industries and frankly they’re wild. Like, full day field labor at 12, and no limits if it’s your family’s farm. And often the community is glad the kids get to work, so they can afford school clothes. It’s sad and messed up and often dangerous.

          I mean, I helped my parents plant our mini vineyard, but in an age-appropriate way, and it never made any money.

    2. WS*

      This is really, really common on farms – I live in a rural area and you see this a lot. There have been giant family rifts over just such injuries or deaths. Warn everyone in your family that you can, and then your aunt and uncle can decide if they want to pay workers or keep their business to a size they can manage without.

      1. Rara Avis*

        one of the last few remnants of the family farm belonging to my father in law and his brothers was 3 acres of grapes. There was only one year when they still owned it and we were in the area, but 3 generations came out to harvest over a couple of days, and it was a wonderful family experience. No one was compelled, but most came willingly to carry on the tradition, even though no one in the younger two generations was farming as a career. I guess such a small vineyard might count as a hobby, though.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yeah, I’ve totally had family experiences like that and loved it. Which makes me really scratch my head at the aunt and uncle. I can understand seeing it as a business and working accordingly. I can understand seeing it as a family thing and having people volunteer to help (usually with the understanding that you get a benefit from that too, so say in this example everyone gets a few gallons of grape juice to take home or something). I’ve never seen anyone decide to use their families to avoid OSHA issues. Seriously? Why treat family that way? (Rhetorical question….) That is completely contrary to the spirit of all family volunteer farm work I’ve seen. (Note: this is not me disbelieving the OP, just shocked.)

        2. WS*

          Yes, but there’s a big difference there – everyone knew what they were getting into and it wasn’t done to be cheap or to avoid insurance. I’m thinking of a family I know who came to holiday with rural cousins and ended up with a dead 12-year-old who was allowed by the farming aunt and uncle to ride a quad bike. The farming kids did that frequently (though it’s still dangerous!) but the city kid had no experience and didn’t know the dangers.

          1. ROUS*

            I grew up very rural so this story hits home to me. I never considered ATVs super dangerous until a neighbor had city cousins visit and an 8 year old died in this exact way. Farm labor is in general dangerous, and I’ve done the “family pitches in” parts. The difference between my family and OP’s was that we generally also shared in the outcomes too, unless it was a very poor year, in which case everyone was just trying to make sure the business could scape by. But those years were because of weather, and they weren’t often.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              I can think of at least three teenagers and grown-ups in my extended circle of acquaintances who were experienced ATV riders who were killed in rollovers. Even if you know what you’re doing on them, they’re not very stable.

                1. Self Employed*

                  And city kids are less likely to know what ground is flat enough to be safe. (I am a city grownup and I would have no clue. All I’m familiar with is riding a 3-speed bicycle on streets and having crashes on gravel or wet surfaces.)

          2. CeeKee*

            Also in the situation described above, it’s a family farm in which everyone can be assumed to have some kind of stake (even if just an emotional stake). In the case of Q3, it’s a brand-new hobby that this writer’s aunt and uncle just started.

            1. Run mad; don't faint*

              Exactly. There’s no buy in, nothing to bring the family, friends or coworkers out there repeatedly. Not only is what they’re doing not passing the sniff test, but they may not be able to get enough volunteers out to help them after a year or two.

            2. Momma Bear*

              Right. It is a very different situation from “we live on a farm and the kids need to help feed the cows”. I’m not putting myself in danger for free for someone else’s hobby, family or not. They need help and can’t find it? Hire someone or find a new hobby.

            3. GS*

              Yes, I thought this exact situation was what woofing was for (matching up people who want a certain kind of volunteer experience with farmers) not what family was for.

        3. Panny Fack*

          The idea of “tradition” was clouding everyone’s judgment. I create art – if I can get people to transport my pieces, man tables at craft fairs, deal with invoicing and accounting, etc. for enough years, it will become tradition. Then they’ll have to help me after that – they’ll want to of their own free will to honor the tradition!

          1. FrivYeti*

            On a certain level, there is an idea that with family and close friends, favours can be paid with favours; I man your table at a craft fair, you’ll poster the lines at the fringe festival for my show next month, you do my taxes, I help you with free babysitting, but no one is tracking exactly what is being exchanged for what. Especially with big family things, you can easily have a situation where there are a bunch of these traditions in which everyone is lending a hand to everyone else.

            I don’t get suspicious until one person is benefiting a lot more than they’re giving out, and not because they’re not capable for whatever reason. This feels like the latter; the aunt and uncle are trying to avoid paying workers, they’ve got a really long period that they’re working to rally people during, and there’s no indication that they’re jumping out in March to help OP with her taxes or whatever in return.

            1. Anon Supervisor*

              This is why my dad doesn’t fix family cars much anymore. He never gets any quid pro quo for his efforts.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Yeah, this really nails it. I live in farm country. You help your neighbor or family member then later they come over and help you with something. Someone’s barn burns down, half the community turns out because next time it could be their own barn.

              The key is in the reciprocity. It’s an investment of sorts because reality is that anything can happen to anyone at any time. Here with the harvest, that reciprocity is clearly missing. What’s left is that it appears they are going to have this crop on the backs of free family labor. Not Cool.

              Farm work is very physical and very demanding. There is also huge amounts of “stuff” you have to know- plant disease, bugs, dangerous plants, machinery operation and repair, processing, proper storage, the list is endless. And the amount of law you need to know is breath-taking. I can only conclude that the growers in this situation are relatively new/inexperienced and perhaps naïve.

              The family can and should just say, “no, sorry.” I get that their blunt explanation as to why they want volunteer help is over the top. I think that just opens the door for everyone to freely say, “I’m busy. I hope you find someone.”

          2. Self Employed*

            I have had SOOOOO many people tell me to just get my friends to work my craft table booths. I have few friends who would not run away from that kind of work, and they’re not sufficiently interested in any skills I have to share to think it’s worthwhile.

        4. meyer lemon*

          I’ve also volunteered as a grape picker and loved it, but man is it hard work. Unless there is a strong family/cultural tradition in place, I can’t imagine the aunt and uncle are going to be able to rely on free labour for this indefinitely. I had a sore back after the first couple of days and I was in my early twenties at the time.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Harvesting crops is very hard work. I won’t do it. I know I am not built up to handle it- it’s heavy work and the heat is brutal. You don’t go from working inside at a desk job, let’s say, to spending days harvesting without encountering a few physical difficulties perhaps a health issue or two…

            I wouldn’t “let” my family help if it were me, as I would be afraid I’d end up calling an ambulance. (But then again, I don’t have a farm because I know I don’t have the physical endurance myself.)

      2. Bilateralrope*

        Warn family that OSHA rules are written in blood. Especially the expensive to follow ones.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          This is so important. I really think people forget that every OSHA rule exists because of a tragedy, often multiple tragedies.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes my great uncle was health and safety officer at his company and made everyone follow procedures. The reason he was really serious about it was that he lost 2 fingers as a young man in an industrial accident. He did not want anyone else suffering the same.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I can tell horror stories of people crushed under tractors, falling into manure pits and so on. And these were experienced workers. People die just in the course of doing their regular work.

        2. Just Another Zebra*

          I work with techs (plumbers, specifically) and remind them of this when they tell me I’m “prissy” about OSHA rules. My husband’s aunt owns a dog farm and pulls the family volunteer card to avoid paying for work. Until their eight-year-old niece got bit by a dog, and her parents reported it. This kind of thing nearly always comes back around.

            1. Just Another Zebra*

              No, it’s a farm for boarding dogs while their owners are on vacation. Like a daycare for dogs.

              If it was a puppy mill, I would have said as much.

    3. Panny Fack*

      This is making me think, on a smaller scale, of how people expect their friends and family to help them move rather than hiring proper movers. Why do I have to be your free labor and transportation? Somehow even though most people wouldn’t ask you to do other types of work for them for free (or even “pizza and beer”), they think it’s okay for you to sacrifice a weekend day or two and be their mover. Normalize not helping people move!

      1. AnotherSarah*

        There was a super interesting Captain Awkward question/answer about this maybe a month ago. CA’s answer was basically, when you’re in your 20s, you can expect your friends to help you move, but not afterwards.

      2. PizzaRat*

        Those of us who rent don’t typically get to decide when it’s time to move. The building is sold, or month-to-month leases don’t renew, or the landlord jacks the rent by 50%, and ready or not, it’s time to move. By the time you’ve scraped together first and last month’s rent, security, and fees, you probably don’t have an extra couple of thousand for professional movers. Remember where most Americans can’t come up with $400 in an emergency?

        It’s I guess a social class thing. In some circles, friends and family help each other out in this way. I guess in others, it’s different. But don’t assume that every relationship is based on people trying to screw over their loved ones for free labor to save money they have to spare. That might just be the people you run with.

        1. PT*

          Yes, not everyone can afford to hire service people every time they need labor. So they trade off chores with their extended network. You help someone move, they’ll help you paint your house, both of you will go help your third friend fix their busted car, that third friend will grab your kids from school when you get called into work at the last minute “show up or you’re fired.”

          It does mean that some people get bound into staying in unhealthy social networks because they are reliant on the non-financial support it provides, which is why affluent people will say “Grandma daycare is too expensive in invisible costs,” but you have to leverage what resources are available to you. For some people that’s their social resources, for other it’s their financial ones.

        2. Rainy*

          Professional movers for an in-town move are about $350-400, just fyi. I spent ages thinking that movers were too expensive for “people like me” because no one I knew ever got movers. Turns out they’re not that expensive, especially compared to PT and massage therapy for a back injury. You’d need to buy boxes or rent reusable crates either way, and once you’ve packed everything up, the movers just put it in a truck and take it to your new place. I’ve never had an in-town move take more than a few hours, and I own a lot of books.

          1. Peachtree*

            Right, but $400 is expensive to a lot of people … when I rented, that would have been half my monthly rent, on top of fees paid to estate agents, waiting for deposits to be returned, putting a new deposit down. It might be reasonable now that I’m 31 and financially comfortable but when my parents were subsiding my rent because my full-time job didn’t pay well enough for me to live in the city? Not a chance.

      3. Rainy*

        The last time I helped someone move, she was older than I am, a coworker, and I hurt my back so badly that it was four months before I could stand up from a sitting position without assistance. I don’t do it anymore, and I don’t ask it of others.

    4. Liane*

      “I wonder what they plan to do when a friend hurts themselves on their property, while ‘working’ for them.”
      For starters, Aunt & Uncle WILL learn* the Hard Way whether or not their homeowners’ insurance is large enough to cover the costs and IF this situation is even covered. I’m not in the insurance industry, but my layperson guess is the answer to both is no, unless they have a very large umbrella policy. And it will happen, because the injured party’s health insurance – I hope they have it! – will go after payment from Aunt & Uncle’s insurance (subrogation).
      Also, in the USA at least, these situations can result in an injured person being forced to sue by their insurance in order to get treatment covered. (Remember the viral “mean, evil, etc.” aunt who sued her adorable nephew for breaking her arm? This was why.)

      *planned to or not, like it or not

      1. SherBear*

        For not being in the insurance industry you broke it down perfectly! I don’t work in Personal Lines but their Homeowners policy would absolutely not cover them on this one.

      2. Mannequin*

        When I kept my friend’s cat from escaping and it but me, leading to an infection that required surgery & prolonged treatment, I got a call from our health insurance about it. They wanted to know if I planned to sue my friend or go after “her homeowners policy”. I laughed and told them hell no- she had been unemployed for nearly a year, was undergoing treatment for stage IV cancer, and getting evicted from her rental/her car repossessed after months of non-payment (the landlord kindly let her stay until her surgery date.) They didn’t push it and paid for my treatment.

    5. Run mad; don't faint*

      I also don’t think their plan is sustainable in the long run. They’re counting on people being willing to drop everything annually for what is proclaimed to be a hobby, and that will probably get old after the first year or two. It’s a bad plan on so many levels.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right on. That is why it is okay to say no now, why prolong this learning experience for the aunt and uncle? Let them see up front that they need to move to Plan B.

    6. High Score!*

      If they are just doing it as a hobby and plan on sharing the wine, maybe it’s the helpers they are sharing with? Maybe they consider it a fun family activity? Are they trying to invite to share in their harvest? Or asking you to do their work for free? Either way, it’s a lot of work, especially if it’s not your hobby. But if they want to spend time with you and share their harvest, it might be a memorable experience if you are open to it. If it’s a business, always be busy during harvest.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        There are groups of people who love to help with annual grape harvests. I know one big winery in California that has a waiting list. A friend has a hobby vineyard and annually we gather to pick grapes. But, as noted insurance is key. In both these instances the owner has large insurance policies and no “volunteer” is operating heavy equipment.

        As someone who has picked grapes as a job. It is hot, sticky, back breaking work. There needs to be less expectation from LW3’s relatives and more planning.

      2. quill*

        Yeah, any time I or any member of my immediate family has dropped things to help someone harvest MUCH SMALLER AMOUNTS of food, it’s been on the understanding that Oh No, the Zucchini is trying to engulf us, haul as much away as you can stand.

        And that was just like, neighbors. I can’t imagine traveling to harvest on an industrial scale because someone was like “we don’t want to deal with having employees.”

        Also, all I risked helping people haul zucchini out of their backyards was scrapes and bug bites… and becoming sick of squash.

        1. Le Sigh*

          ” Oh No, the Zucchini is trying to engulf us, haul as much away as you can stand” — I would watch this 60s-era B horror movie.

          1. quill*

            … hey have you ever watched Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?

            And if you do, can you keep an eye out for the brain cells I lost when I watched it?

              1. quill*

                I’m pretty sure they were storing anxiety and math coursework, so I guess I don’t need them anymore…

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I have volunteer butternut squash come up in my compost. Some years it does very well and I can end up with about 100 squash averaging 10 pounds each. My friend came to help with the agreement that he could have all the squash he could hack. The vines and leaves are prickly. The vines are strewn this way and that way so they are a trip-and-fall hazard, too. I can only put 5 squash in a box because that is all I can lift. Then there are the bugs and ankle breaking woodchuck holes. Wait- we haven’t even moved the squash into the house or his car yet……
          As the years go on, my friend is less and less enthused about picking squash. I understand why. And this is just dealing with approximately 1000 pounds of squash which is a very modest amount of work. I know of someone who has a small veggie farm. They GIVE AWAY two TON of veggies every year, I cannot imagine what their total production looks like if they are comfortable giving away 2 tons of veggies. I can’t imagine the workload at all.

        3. TardyTardis*

          Citrus (oranges and lemons and grapefruits) are the zucchini in Southern California, and mangoes are the same on Oahu. There are mango orchards just standing around doing nothing there.

    7. CeeKee*

      I know, that’s the part that really sends me. “You must understand, we NEED your help, otherwise we might be required to make this a safe workplace. If you provide us free labor, then we can just go ahead and keep it dangerous for you!”

      1. Anon Supervisor*

        “So you’re saying I take on almost all the personal risk and get none of the reward?!? Where do I sign up?”

    8. Beth*

      YES. “Let’s bully everyone into giving us free labour so we don’t have to comply with basic safety standards” is a true dick decision.

    9. Observer*

      They expect their friends and family to work for free, so that they won’t be liable or have to pay worker’s comp when someone gets hurt trying to make money for them. Also, they don’t want to worry about having a safe work environment for their friends and family, which they’re trying to avoid OSHA-wise by not paying them. I wonder what they plan to do when a friend hurts themselves on their property, while “working” for them.

      This could easily be true. On the other hand, they may be of the mindset that all of these regulations are all just fluff and OF COURSE everything is just fine. No need for those guys from OSHA to come and “nit pick” the life out of everyone!

      Have ever seen the memes about things like car safety, helmts and other basic safety items. You know “We all grew up without those (sissy) items and LOOK, we’re all just fine.” My response is always “Yes, WE are fine, but the kids who didn’t survive, you couldn’t call them fine, could you?” I don’t always SAY that, but I always think it.

      People are very, very strange when it comes to safety regulations.

      1. meyer lemon*

        Or you get people who did grow up with the safety precautions and because they were kept safe, they don’t have any experience with or fear of what happens when you take them away. Human psychology is a fascinating thing.

        1. Observer*

          This is also true.

          See evry anti-vaxxer in the universe. “Well what did out grandparents do?!” They don’t like it when you tell them “Buried their kids”

      2. pepper*

        Don’t I hear you. I HATE those memes, and since I am intemperate, I have told a poster or two about the first funeral I remember, for an 8 year old who died without one of those now-ubiquitous safety measures.

    10. Nanani*

      This is the core of it.
      Even if it’s legal under this or that technicality or exemption – it’s shitty.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The first thing I thought of was a parallel, “I am going to buy this huge house that I can’t possibly maintain on my own and I am going to have my family come and do the maintenance for me.”

        The next thing I moved to was thinking of demanding aging parents that insist that their adult children, mow and shovel, etc., for them because, “I raised you. You owe me.” No, that is not how that works. I am sitting here as a childless person knowing full well that no kids are coming to help me and I had best build a plan. The aunt and uncle need to build a Real Plan.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        In my family we used to do Sunday Dinner, Bring Your Work Clothes. So like, when my grandparents redid their roof, Grandma cooked up a feast and everyone came to help. When my cousin needed something done, we did the same thing. I want to build a playhouse for the kids and have a similar plan.

        But… It’s once in awhile, it is always reciprocated, and we darn sure don’t say “It’s so we don’t have to worry about pesky safety measures!”

        I had friends who used to invite me over to hang out… but when I walked in the door asked me to do dishes, sweep the living room, and wipe down counters. Because I believed if I hung out with someone I should do a chore. They were pissed when I quit coming over because I didn’t like being a free maid. I think your aunt and uncle will see something similar very soon.

    11. Amorette Allison*

      There is a small vineyard/winery in my town. (REALLY SMALL. Only employees are the parents, their eldest son and one intern every summer.) Everybody in town is invited to harvest grapes, cherries, help put up bird netting, and many folks do because it is fun and communal and they are lovely, lovely people. Now the entire area is agricultural. The vineyard is surrounded by commercial corn fields so we are used to helping out farmers and ranchers. Maybe because they feed us and give us free wine or just because it is entirely voluntary, nobody thinks anything about it. My SIL goes several times as year, as have her daughters, my nieces, and they love it. We know what we are getting into when we volunteer but we still volunteer. For the love of the people and the wine. All five acres of it. (Yup. FIVE acres of grapes. Like I said, SMALL vineyard. They only produce a few hundred to a few thousand bottles a year and label every bottle themselves on a little hand-operated labelling machine in the basement. REALLY SMALL.)

  2. staceyizme*

    LW1- if you’re not doing well and you’re struggling to such an extent that you’re facing a PIP, you need to seriously focus on locating a work context that matches your need for variety and any other quirks which need to be managed. Now, while you still have a job, is the time to look for other employment opportunities.

    You can try to turn things around with your current employer insofar as can be managed, but a diligent search for a better professional “fit” should be the next/ immediate order of business.

    1. Emily*

      staceyizme: I came here to say the exact same thing. OP#1, it does not sound like where you work now is a good fit for you, and I do think the best thing to do is to try to find a job that is a better fit. It sounds like what your current job’s criteria is for what constitutes good job perfomance is not something you are able/willing to do and I really don’t think that’s tenable long term. I also think Alison’s advice about getting formally diagnosed with ADHD is a good one.

      1. Perfectly Particular*

        The diagnosis is so important here! If you are in a situation where your job is on the line due to your ADHD symptoms, you need, at a minimum, some accommodations, and possibly therapy and/or a low dose med. Since you have made it to adulthood without a diagnosis or treatment, you are likely a high performer, and this job situation must be hitting you so hard – I’m really sorry you’re in this position.

        Talk to your doctor – they will ask you a lot of questions, and if it is suspected to be ADHD, they will likely offer you a tiny dose of medication to see how it does. If it doesn’t appear to be ADHD, or you’re not comfortable with meds, a psychologist specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you identify some strategies to support your own success that may be different from what has worked for you until now. Good luck!

        1. ecnaseener*

          You may need to talk to your dr to get a referral for insurance purposes, but I strongly recommend having the actual diagnostic appointment with someone who specializes in adult ADHD. (The diagnostic criteria are written with children in mind and unfortunately not everyone who’s technically qualified to perform a diagnosis actually knows how to interpret the criteria for adults, especially adults who don’t fit the stereotypes.)

        2. Harper the Other One*

          I have a friend who recently realized that many of her struggles matched adult ADHD symptoms. Because she is already under a psychiatrist’s care for another mental health condition, her doctor was willing to give her a low dose stimulant medication on a trial basis without going through a full diagnostic assessment. (She was already doing a variety of therapies to help with executive function.)

          She messaged me the first day she took it. “It’s 2:00 and I was able to concentrate all morning. I took my breaks at the times I am supposed to because I didn’t lose track of the time. Could it really have been this easy for me all along?”

          Diagnosis and treatment can be borderline magical.

          1. Properlike*

            Can be magical, but not always in the expected ways. Medication doesn’t fix every aspect of ADD. I sometimes still have trouble concentrating or task switching. It did feel like the clock slowed down and I was able to accomplish more (for a while), and it helped with the emotional/anxiety aspect of my ADD, but OP will need to learn new habits. Getting the diagnosis is fantastic, but even with treatment, your current job may not be the one that works for you in general, ADD or not.

        3. LW1*

          I have tried stimulants and they don’t work for me. I really envy people who can use them.

          My focus problems have gotten much worse in the past year and it’s so hard to know whether it’s a weird form of long covid, a general reaction to pandemic trauma, a sleep disorder (my sleep is also bad and inconsistent)… I have talked with my therapist about it but to no clear conclusion or diagnosis. And everyone is a bundle of trauma right now so I can’t really call in traumatized to work, especially at a place with a real culture of stiff upper lip.

          Thank you for understanding that this is especially hard because I’m used to, frankly, being a superstar. This is a relatively new job and sometimes I think my boss thinks I lied to her about my level of performance elsewhere. But I swear I used to be good at things, and here I feel like I’m being told, “if you run ten miles you can drink all the water you want” when the reason I was a great runner elsewhere is that they understood runners need to stay hydrated and get water before they run.

          Sorry if I’m rambling, I only slept five hours and my focus is shot! As usual! Thanks for the advice and support.

          1. MK*

            Unfortunately, OP, it’s not a given that flexible hours help a worker focus, so your hydration analogy doesn’t apply. I understand that this is what you know to be true about yourself, but it’s not a universal fact, and if you are not performing well your credibility to convince your boss of this is questionable. Also, if you were hired to work a certain schedule, it’s not unreasonable on the employer’s part to expect you to perform adequately while working that schedule.

          2. Llama Llama*

            LW 1 I think it just sounds like you need to find a job somewhere else that will allow you the level of flexibility you need. This job just doesn’t sound like it’s a culture fit you need in order to excel.

          3. Michele*

            LW1 – a word of hope for you! I went through this type of thing before and changing jobs was the answer. I had always been a superstar but when I got to my last job, I couldn’t focus or perform to what my bosses were expecting. I stuck it out for a long time, far too long, and suffered for it.
            This sounds like you’re not able to give what your manager wants – it may or may not be because of the perks. I suspect it could also be a lack of clarity around what is expected, or lack of clarity on how to operationalize the tasks that you need to do.
            I do think you’ll have to acknowledge your role in this – have you thought of solutions beyond the perks you stated? In my new job, I have worked really hard to identify the areas where I don’t feel like I’m performing my best, and then focus on breaking it down to try to see if it’s really the work I can’t do, or if I simply need help talking through how to start, or how to get over one particular sticking point in the process. By working to identify those things, I’ve been able to then ask for help, or even just ask someone to be a sounding board, as I think through the steps needed to get into a good flow.
            I’ve been a better employee because of this and actually love my job and am doing great.
            I believe you’ll find success, but be open to coming at the problem a bit differently.

            1. .LC.*

              Yes, there are a ton of options in terms of meds and there are some great non-stimulant ones out there that might be worth chatting about with your doctor.

              And I wholeheartedly agree on seeking a diagnosis if possible. Even without meds or treatment, it’ll give you space to ask for some reasonable accommodations at work. Whether you stick with this job or find something else, even if it ends up being a fantastic job, being able to ask for what you need under the ADA is invaluable.

              That said, I completely understand if you aren’t able to get a diagnosis. It can be really challenging and time consuming and expensive. (Why oh why is the process of getting ADHD treatment so very non-ADHD friendly!?!) Aside from logistical and financial concerns (which aren’t nothing, even on a great insurance plan), it’s also tough to find someone who can actually recognize (and hopefully help with?) it in an adult, doubly so if you’re a successful adult, and at least quadruply so if you’re a woman.

              Good luck OP! You are so very far from alone, lots of us ND folks are cheering you on!

          4. Ali*

            A new job might make it easier for awhile but ultimately you’ll need to figure out what’s going on. Also, your manager sucks.

            I am not a doctor, but you sound a lot like me six months ago. I am a high performer also, and when the pandemic lockdown started the wheels just kind of fell off my brain and I couldn’t focus. It sucks! I tried to make it work but with sleep issues (also can be a symptom of adhd) and no structure I fell apart. Basically, therapy, medication, and (very recently) ADHD focus strategies have given me a lot of my concentration back. I’m on Wellbutrin, which isn’t a stimulant, if that helps.

            I recommend taking an online ADHD assessment and to look at the stories of adults being diagnosed with Inattentive ADHD to see if they align with your experience. Even if you are experiencing symptoms and don’t have a diagnosis, you can try to use ADHD coping strategies for time management and see if they help. https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/symptoms-of-inattentive-adhd/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cx13a2-unjE

            Regardless of the cause, I hope you are able to figure out a solution and get back your spark.

          5. EventPlannerGal*

            Add me to the “you need to look for a new job” chorus – this one just sounds like a really bad fit on a lot of levels.

            I will say that although I really do see how frustrating this is for you, having been in a similar situation myself, I do think that your specific asks are not the easiest sell. It sounds like distraction has already been raised as an issue re: the side projects, and if a manager has a struggling employee who seems to have issues with distraction/focus, it is really really counterintuitive to give them less structure, less supervision and more tasks to juggle – they likely think that you’re not just asking for things you’re not entitled to, but things that will make the problem worse. From their perspective it probably sounds like you’re saying “but I swear I run faster when you tie my shoelaces together! It worked last time!” Obviously you know that that’s not accurate, but I don’t know if that’s going to be easy to communicate at this point.

            I don’t know if seeking an ADHD diagnosis so you can request these as accommodations will help in this particular instance because the job and the manager just don’t sound like a good match for you, but I think it’s something you should look into if only for your own peace of mind – it’s awful to feel like you’re struggling without being able to pin down a reason. FWIW I think that given the last year and a half it’s not at all unusual to be having a hard time with things like focus and sleep, so please try not to be too hard on yourself for that.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Forgot to mention, but further to my last para – fatigue and “brain fog”, eg difficulties with concentration, memory and general cognitive function, are two of the most common reported effects of long Covid. It is not at all surprising that you might be having a hard time in these areas right now and it doesn’t mean that you’re failing, just that you might find it hard to perform at your usual standard at this job at this time.

          6. Anonymous 2*

            Haven’t read all of the comments, but you said long Covid. This sounds exactly like what a friend of mine is struggling with from long Covid.

          7. Tinker*

            Oooof. I’ve been in a situation very similar to yours, and particularly “I swear I used to be good at things”…. ohhhhh, that is a very mood indeed.

            Here are some opinions that may be useful for you:

            First of all, despite that I didn’t exactly follow this advice — my partner is leaning over my shoulder and giving me a very exasperated eyeball about this and the fact that I am typing this comment instead of e.g. my resignation — frankly, you are almost certainly better off putting your efforts into finding another job somewhere else where they want the things you are good at and will be thrilled to have you do them, rather than your current place if it is primed to see that as “rewarding” you with a “perk” that you didn’t “earn”. They might need your talents as well, but the reality is that they may not be in a position to benefit from them. In that case, that is their loss.

            Second thing is, being stuck in what you describe as “if you run ten miles you can drink all the water you want” and vainly trying to make a case for the provision of unearned water will damage you, particularly if you internalize that you ought to be able to power your way though anything without help (real common damage for ADHD folks already). You mention pandemic trauma, and I’d suggest you consider whether your job is also traumatizing you and if that trauma actually has a direct impact on your performance.

            For instance, to name something I only recently realized because of how subtle and intertwined with real concerns it is, I got to where I was focused on the point that when a manager came by asking the status of the project I would need to have a sufficiently strong case to overcome a standard presumption that whatever I was doing was wrong in a way that was my fault. This wasn’t exactly unsupported by the facts, but the way I was thinking about it was a manifestation of hypervigilance — a trauma symptom — and one that made even trivial tasks very difficult because my attention was constantly split between “doing the task” and “anticipating how I’ll be blamed in the future for failing to do the task”.

            Results, of course, are predictable — if you’re only paying half attention at best to a task because you’re constantly scanning for threats, the task will be done with substantially less than half effectiveness. If that resonates with you, that’s something that is worth your time to fix both because it will help keep your head above water in your current job and will also impact your success in your next job.

            I think that, overall, the pattern you report and your view of it — that you were a superstar elsewhere and you still have that capacity given suitable supports, particularly — is likely to be true, because it’s consistent with a number of facts about how humans tend to work generally and also with common patterns among folks with ADHD and similar conditions. Don’t be discouraged. Get out, move on, and make it clear that if you did the job well before and you’re doing the job well after, the common element to the problem you’re currently having isn’t you.

          8. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            I hope this isn’t out of line, LW, but have you been screened for depression? Your description sounds a lot like me in the last year, and my antidepressant worked really well on my focus problems. I hadn’t realized how much my trouble focusing was related to the general depression until it was gone.

          9. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

            That’s awesome that you already are working with a therapist and recognize those things about yourself. Have you looked into the anxiety/attention feedback loop from hell? I have both (I was diagnosed with ADD as an adult), and the twin beasts sure do feed one another. Perhaps tackling the stress piece would help the attention piece? Just a thought. :)

            Also — might be worth, if you’re able, seeing a mental health professional for meds (unless your PCP has a lot of experience?). The dosages can be tricky and it’s helpful to have a psychiatric nurse practitioner, for example, who specializes in just that. Good luck!

          10. 1000*

            LW1, having been in your shoes (having been a superstar, then coming across a boss much like your current one, and then receiving a diagnosis of ADHD at age 30), I can certainly relate.

            If your boss is anything like the ex-boss I mentioned above, the two of you are likely not a good fit. I’m conscious of the fact I could be projecting here, but reading between the lines based on my own experience, you are not being given the tools needed in order to succeed, and likely purely because the manager has a different way of working herself, she takes something close to a one-size-fits-all approach.

            I also get the impression that the way the job was sold to you, and what the job actually is, might be two different things. There may also be a lack of communication from your boss about expectations, and she appears to have a blunt-force approach if she’s already talking about a PIP when you’re still relatively new in your job.

            I would advise you to get a formal ADHD diagnosis and treatment, and start job hunting. I stayed far too long in the job with my own bad boss, and not only did I suffer for it, I also still carry the scars.

          11. MCMonkeyBean*

            That’s a great analogy.

            It’s worth asking about some sort of trial period but on the whole it seems unlikely you’re going to overhaul your boss’s mindset while she’s on the verge of putting you on the PIP.

            The fact that you have performed well elsewhere I think is evidence that this is just not the right job for you, or at least not the right boss. If you do decide to look for another then at least you have this experience to help you know what you need to ask about in interviews and you can try looking for a place that puts an emphasis on flexibility (I do think that more places understand the importance of flexibility now after working through the pandemic so maybe slight silver lining?)

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree with both getting diagnosed to make it easier to ask for accommodations in the future and also starting to look for a new job now. Getting an ADHD diagnosis as an adult can be tough and if OP is a woman, even tougher. I finally got diagnosed in early 2020 but it was a long process that took me many months.

    2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Definitely start looking for a new job. It sounds like this job and manager are not a good fit for you. Sometimes the wrong situation and/or manager can make you feel like an awful employee, like it’s your fault. But it’s just the wrong fit. I think your best bet is to find another company where you can thrive. I know people who were put in a PIP in one job but then were very successful, got promoted, etc in their next job. You deserve that too!

      1. John Smith*

        Agree here. You’ve said that you work well with these benefits and you’re being denied them, resulting in poor performance.

        Personally, I think your manager sucks. Why would anyone remove something that makes you do your job well? I hate this one size fits all approach. Also, I don’t see flexible working, side projects etc as reward – they should be benefits available to everyone where the role allows it – they’ve been shown to improve morale, efficiency and loyalty.

        Go and find an employer that appreciates their staff and doesn’t treat them like templates.

        1. Rollerskate Kate*

          That’s a bit strong! We don’t know if this actually is a role that really allows for people to work on side projects – some just don’t.

        2. LDN Layabout*

          No decent manager is going to give side projects to an employee whose main task performance is so poor that they’re looking at a PIP.

          1. AnonFed*

            Yes, I can see the argument for flexible schedules early on. But not side projects when you’re failing your core job.

            1. misspiggy*

              That’s I think what people are saying – OP needs a job with multiple projects/workflows at the core of the job. I’m the same and thankfully realised in time to seek such work from the beginning of my career.

              1. AnonFed*

                Although as someone with ADD myself (diagnosed when I was a teen though and I have had great success with the strategies I was taught) I will say, sometimes your side project can become a way to bounce around between things and doing nothing.

                1. ecnaseener (ADHD)*

                  Definitely! And that’s why we do well at jobs where the core duties include multiple types of work. This LW’s job is apparently not that

                2. ecnaseener (ADHD)*

                  Oh I might have misread your comment – I thought you were saying having multiple projects lets you bounce around between them *instead of* doing nothing. Never mind.

                3. hbc*

                  For me, I end up accomplishing more when I have multiple tasks, but it’s not usually the thing that actually needs to get done. There’s a real chance that LW would overall perform better and do well on some really cool projects, but, say, the customer invoices would still not be going out on time.

              2. Observer*

                That’s I think what people are saying – OP needs a job with multiple projects/workflows at the core of the job.

                Yes. But it’s not fair to dump on the boss. It may not be the OP’s fault, but their performance is still a problem and the Boss’ response is not unreasonable at all.

                I hope the OP can find some strategies that help them here, and also a job that’s a better fit.

            2. John Smith*

              But the reason why their failing the core job is because they’re not allowed the benefits that make them good at it!

              1. LDN Layabout*

                Which is what the LW believes but if they’ve never demonstrated to their manager that they are able to do their core job how is their manager meant to give them other tasks on top of that?

              2. Colette*

                The manager doesn’t know that – and neither does the OP. She believes it will help, and maybe it will, but she hasn’t tried it.

              3. Dust Bunny*

                Sometimes that’s just not how jobs work, though. Mine mostly depends on people being left alone to concentrate on longer-term projects with occasional short-term (as in a few minutes or hours, usually) interruptions. Bouncing among multiple projects is just not how our work functions (and can’t be how the work functions; it’s not that we’re not allowed to do that, it’s that it’s not how the work rolls in).

                The LW needs to get a formal diagnosis and appropriate treatment, and then consider looking for a different kind of job if that’s not enough to make up the difference. Without the diagnosis and treatment there’s no guarantee that s/he’ll be successful in subsequent jobs, either.

              4. SheLooksFamiliar*

                The manager is not obligated to give this ‘benefit’ to the OP simply because she believes it will help her perform her basic job functions – especially when she isn’t even doing her basic job well. He’s there to make sure work gets done with reasonable support and accommodations, not ‘perks.’

                I agree with everyone else who said this role simply isn’t a fit for the OP. Her manager’s style isn’t wrong, but it might not be the best for the OP.

              5. Momma Bear*

                I think that what OP should do is take the PIP situation seriously. If OP wants side projects, they need to be competent in what they are currently assigned. This may not be the job for them, but I think it’s unprofessional to say “I want a perk but don’t want to do anything to earn it” given the situation. Kind of like the people who want food but not go back to the office to get it. Sometimes, yes, you earn a reward by doing what you don’t like. If OP asks for anything, it should be different hours but steady hours. No “I’ll come in between 8 and 10 and mosey out between 4 and 6….” It should be “I would like to shift my hours to 9-6 because I work better a little later in the day. I have no standing meetings earlier than 9 AM.” See if the boss agrees. And then be super reliable. If OP has ADHD then they may actually benefit from a clearly-defined PIP.

              6. Gumby*

                To a lot of managers that will sound like “the reason I am failing Algebra is because you won’t let me do Calculus.”

                Side projects, in particular, are extra work on top of already expected work. If you are not succeeding at doing, say, 20 work-units per week (whatever your work-unit is: reports, hand-made widgets, etc.), why would a manager assign you your normal 20 plus 5 for side project A and 5 for side project B? You can’t handle 20 and there is no reason to think you could handle 30! Yes, for some people it does work that way. But that is counter-intuitive and it is entirely reasonable for a manager to think, “right now you are only doing 15 work-units of the important stuff I need done the most. If I allow you to work on A and B you will only do 10 of the important work-units because you will be spending time on A and B instead.” Frankly, even if an employee in that situation does start doing 20 work-units – if it is 5 from A and 5 from B and 10 from the base job, the manager is in worse shape if the base job is the most important part.

                1. Tinker*

                  It’s funny that you say this, because my reaction if someone literally told me “the reason I am failing Algebra is because you won’t let me do Calculus” is “huh, that’s interesting and you may have a point, let’s get out some Calculus and see what happens”. Because even if they aren’t right about the particular location of their problem it’s not as if letting the riffraff touch Calculus will contaminate it, and maybe one or both of us will learn something from the experiment.

                  I’ve known a number of people who were categorized as globally and intrinsically “bad at math” in school and shamed about it intensely enough that trauma is now an additional obstacle, but if they e.g. used a computer to do the arithmetic that they struggle with on a mechanical level because they’re dyslexic they could absolutely excel at the conceptual manipulations of “higher level math classes” and perform well on tasks that depended on those higher level math skills — if they were given the opportunity, which they weren’t.

                  But at least they didn’t get any math perks they didn’t earn, I guess.

                2. Gumby*

                  In this case the manager *needs* the algebra done since it is the core of the job and the calculus is an optional extra.

                  I don’t actually disagree about people thinking they are “bad with math” when they have sometimes merely “had a not great math teacher or two” or the other options you mentioned. Though I do think the algebra/calculus comparison holds since those are so closely intertwined. Geometry/algebra or geometry/calculus are less so and it is quite common for a student to excel in one more than the other. I haven’t seen a good calculus student who doesn’t have a solid grounding in algebra and doubt it is possible actually at least as long as you are talking about doing the calculus problems and not just understanding the concepts.

          2. Allonge*

            Yes, side projects can be rewarding and helpful for all kinds of situations, but they are for the benefit of the employer primarily. If someone is on a PIP for their normal tasks, very few managers will add an extra item to the pile – they would have to supervise that, too. OP1, I am afraid this job is just not a good fit for you.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              I agree with this. Most perks need to be earned. They’re not just handed out, especially when you’re not performing well. This doesn’t mean the manager sucks. I wouldn’t award perks to a poor performer, either. People who perform well are the ones who get perks. If OP needs certain things to succeed, then she needs to find a different job.

              1. ferrina*

                I think it depends on the perk. I gave schedule flexibility to all employees regardless of performance, because that is a core reason why people come to our company. People see it less as a “perk” and more of compensation (same as their PTO). It’s a serious work/life balance issue.
                Side projects and certain types of professional education were a perk. When you are hired, we are clear that your job is to X. If you want to do something that is not X as part of your work, it needs to be with your manager’s blessing, and as manager, I decided that on a case-by-case basis.

              2. Tinker*

                Okay, let’s say that OP does like you say — they need certain things to succeed, therefore they need to find a different job, they do, and let’s say that at this job they have those things that they need and they are therefore successful.

                If that happens, and I actually do think it’s probable given that OP has elsewhere stated that they are an experienced worker with an established track record of success, then what has happened is that OP’s company had a need for work to be done and they had an employee in hand who could do the work given adequate supports. If they had provided these supports, they would then have been like OP’s previous and in this hypothetical also subsequent employers — receiving the benefit of OP successfully doing a thing they needed done. They chose otherwise, and the result of that is that they have to pay for filling that role again while the OP does the work they needed done for someone else.

                Is this a desirable outcome? I’d say it clearly isn’t, but I suppose at some places it’s more important to gatekeep access to “perks” than it is to get work done.

            2. WiJ*

              I wish LW had described what they meant by “perks”, especially if they include more varied/interesting work.

              I once had a junior engineer who, when asked to do relatively simple work, consistent with his experience (not a lot), the work product was pretty bad – technical errors, looked bad, little attention to detail. When I asked him to make some changes to improve the work before it came to me for review, he would say, “But WiJ, it’s so boring!”. He said he wanted more complicated/interesting work, but 1) the more simple stuff needed to get done, and the more junior staff would be the clear choice to do it and 2) I wasn’t going to trust him with something more challenging when he couldn’t demonstrate mastery of the simple.

              1. Clisby*

                I wish the LW had described what she meant by flexible hours, because there are wildly different definitions of that.

        3. AnonFed*

          I work for a government agency and the policy from above is no flexible schedules until an employee has demonstrated a certain degree of independence.

          The reason for this that it is also required mentor or supervisor to generally be more closely supervising a new employee and available for questions and review during those hours. The mentor usually is on this task for 3-5 people. So it’s a question of supervision and availability.

        4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I don’t think this perspective is likely to be helpful to OP — while I don’t think she should feel chastised or ashamed, being aware of the systemic nature of work is vital to thinking about what roles are right for her in the future.

          We don’t know what the nature of this work is, but there are a lot of roles where struggling with your main tasks will mean more work for others. The manager has a responsibility to focus on that impact, and if OP demonises her and loses sight of that, it will make it much harder to communicate effectively.

          Ideally, OP would speak up much earlier (before she’s being put on a PIP) about what she needs to support her in her work.

        5. Red Swedish Fish*

          Did you read #1 or skim it. It doesn’t sound like the manager has a one size fits all approach, or that they suck. It sounds like the other employees that are getting their work done are given flexible hours and side projects. The manager would be terrible if they gave employees going on PIP side projects and flexible hours (with the assumption that flexible hours mean working when most people are not). Going on PIP is a big deal and usually doesn’t happen with one mess up.

        6. twocents*

          I don’t think the manager is a terrible person that treats people like cookie cutters just because she sees an employee struggling so severely that their job is at risk, and the manager wants to help them succeed. LW hasn’t told their manager they need accommodations, and it’s not inherently awful to require an employee to adhere to a schedule when said employee requires a lot of supervision.

        7. Colette*

          Here’s the thing. The OP has a main task, which she is not succeeding at. She says her productivity is variable, which I read as “sometimes she gets the work done in a timely manner and sometimes she doesn’t” and says her work is OK.

          So right now she’s not doing great work, and sometimes the work is later than it should be. That means her manager can’t give her work and expect it to be done well and on time.

          Why would her manager then give her more work (i.e. side projects)? The OP believes it would make her more productive, but from the manager’s POV, it’s just making the situation riskier – there’s more work that may not be done.

          1. Allie*

            I’ve supervised people and if someone was failing at their core job and told me what they needed was special side projects, I’d have some serious doubts about their prospects. I’ve supervised successful PIPs and that’s not how it goes.

            1. Humble Schoolmarm*

              I’ve had similar experiences as a teacher. I’ve had about a dozen parents in the course of my career tell me their child isn’t keeping up with their assignments because the child is bored. I believe that can be a problem for some students, just like I believe OP that this work environment isn’t working for them, but every time the issue has come up my response has been “Not a problem! Fergus needs to show me that he can identify two types of seaweed on Ramen Island, so to get the credit he just needs to let me know how he wants to demonstrate that in a way that’s more his level.” No one has ever taken me up on that offer so I don’t entirely blame the manager for their skepticism either.

          2. Sparrow*

            Yeah, it sounds like OP believes these things are helpful to her based on previous experiences, not this job. So it’s not like the boss has seen these things work for OP and then took them away; rather, she’s only seen OP struggle to perform at a consistently high level. I think if OP spoke up much earlier and asked for a limited time trial with more flexible scheduling, a boss might’ve been more open to it, but I expect most managers would be skeptical about giving less oversight and more independence to someone they already see as a lower performer.

        8. LQ*

          I mean – it depends what the OP means by side project but if they actually mean side project then I don’t think the manager sucks for wanting the OP to work at work and not spend their time on a personally profitable project that the company isn’t paying for at work. That’s really reasonable. And if the OP never performed well (since the perks are additive it doesn’t sound like they were there and then taken away) what the boss has seen was never good performance. I know some people here think that poor performance is impossible for staff and guaranteed for managers but some people aren’t good at some jobs and from the manager’s perspective here you have someone who is not performing and is now asking to do less work?

          That’s someone who needs a PIP and to be helped to find another job that’s a better fit because they are not a good fit here.

          Which is fine! Not everyone is a good fit at every job. OP definitely needs to find another job. I would focus on the flexibility of schedule if that’s what flexibility here means. I think “I want to work on a side project at work” is a wildly harder sell. But kind of resolves itself if you have sufficient flexibility.

          1. socks*

            Pretty sure “side project” here means “additional work projects outside of my core task(s) so I’m not doing the same thing day in and day out,” not “thing I’m doing on my own for funsies”

            1. Clisby*

              That was how I interpreted it also. I can see how being able to take a break from Main Thing I’m Supposed to be Doing to put in some time on Lesser Thing That Needs to be Done but not This Minute could make your day more interesting, but I don’t see many bosses doing that until an employee shows they’re going to keep on top of Main Thing.

              1. socks*

                Oh yeah, I think it makes sense that the boss doesn’t want to assign more tasks! A job with more variety built into the core duties would probably be a better fit for LW, rather trying to retrofit this job to fit LW’s working style. I just wanted to clarify because LQ seemed to be misunderstanding the LW.

        9. James*

          Let’s look at this from the manager’s perspective.

          I have a team member that’s under-performing and not accomplishing the thing they were hired to do. To the point where I’m drafting a PIP for them. When we discuss it they tell me “You’re not giving me enough flexibility or enough work.”

          My first thought isn’t “Obviously they’ve thought this through and came up with a good course of action that will help them succeed.” My first thought–and I’d be willing to wager yours too, if you were put in this situation in real life–is that they’re trying to get as much out of me as they can while giving as little back as possible.

          This isn’t treating everyone as templates. It’s being realistic. There are simply far more people looking to get away with crap than there are truly good team members that just have a few hurdles to overcome.

          As for the solution? We can discuss flexibility. I said my FIRST thought–not my final conclusion. If it turns out the team member needs flexibility because they’re going through a bad divorce or their kid was just diagnosed with a serious illness or they’re helping take care of their parent with dementia, or some other legitimate reason, that’s reasonable. I’ve seen all of those affect workers and understand that distress is a major cause for workplace errors. If you come in with a self-diagnosis for something that’s almost certainly over-diagnosed to begin with (there always seems to be some new popular mental thing these days) I’m not going to be convinced. At minimum I’m going to ask to see some evidence.

          As for side projects….You’re gonna have to convince me. The claim is, essentially, that being busy is eustress. I’ve seen people like that–I’m a bit like that myself for certain kinds of stress–but to say the least, if you’re not performing your core tasks I’m going to be HIGHLY skeptical.

          And think of what my boss is going to say. Or my other team members. If I can demonstrate that I’m doing what I can to help a team member, that’s one thing; if I get conned and reward the lower-performers, that’s a whole other thing. It’ll kill everyone else’s moral and demonstrate that I’m incompetent as a manager. Not great. And unfortunately in a team sometimes the good of the many outweighs the good of the few. As a manager my first loyalty is to the company–I’m leading a team to accomplish a goal, not a parental figure looking to lovingly nurture the people reporting to me (in my case most are older than me so that view would be absurd regardless). Yeah, I’ll go to bat for my team, but I’m also going to do things my team doesn’t like because that’s what needs done to do the job. It’s a balancing act.

          1. Allie*

            When someone is failing out you also monitor them quite closely because you want to figure out what’s going wrong. Are they actually putting the time in? You can’t do that with someone working flexible hours.

          2. Admin Here*

            For the most part, I agree with your comment, but I do take exception to this part: “If you come in with a self-diagnosis for something that’s almost certainly over-diagnosed to begin with (there always seems to be some new popular mental thing these days)”

            ADD and ADHD are chronically under-diagnosed in everyone except white men, which is why many adult women are realizing that they have it. It’s also extremely difficult for adults to obtain an official diagnosis. And furthermore “new popular mental health thing” sounds incredibly dismissive. Often, people believe that they’re lazy or stupid or just wrong in some way, until they start to hear about other people with their symptoms who obtained diagnoses and got help and got better. And then they seek out diagnoses and treatment. That doesn’t mean that it’s “popular” – it means awareness is a big part of getting help.

            1. James*

              I’ll certainly agree that it’s under-diagnosed in large segments of the population. I never meant to state otherwise. The issue is how to address it AS A MANAGER. I’ve got to be able to sell whatever plan we decide on to my manager. If there’s a medical diagnosis that’s one thing; if it’s a poor performer saying “I think I have ADHD so need this perk to perform well”, that looks an awful lot like I’m letting the team member get away with something.

              Maybe a solution is to have the company help pay for an evaluation. Fundamentally the issue with this self diagnosis isn’t the “diagnosis” part, but the “self” part. The LW isn’t, as far as I can tell, a psychologist, and psychologists don’t diagnose themselves; it violates professional ethics (my brother-in-law is one, and has ADHD, so this topic has come up).

              I didn’t mean to sound dismissive. Mostly I’m just tired of non-professional diagnoses. I’m a nerd with bad eyes that grew up in a football town, and every new popular mental issue was used to dismiss my personality as not being real. When ADHD was the popular one everyone dismissed me as having that, when in reality I was just bored out of my mind waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. When TBBT was popular a lot of people–my wife included–insisted I had Asperger’s because I kinda-sorta reminded them of Sheldon Cooper in some ways. Back in the 80s everyone was convinced I was going to be a drug addict because I prefer to read rather than get smacked in the face with a ball and mocked relentlessly at recess. I’m seeing the same thing happen with my nieces, nephews, and children: any deviation from the norm is considered a disorder, and that diagnosis isn’t being used to help the kid, but to dismiss the individuality within the kid. It’s used to dismiss the differences in personality as not real; these deviations are just an illness that these oh-so-kind-hearted people are helping us overcome. Believe me, the worst behaviors are found in those who think they’re helping.

              This sort of thing is annoying personally, but also is detrimental to those who legitimately have the mental condition (I hesitate to call them disorders). You have to fight to prove you have the condition, first off. Second, people THINK they understand it, when in reality they’ve just developed coping mechanisms for dealing with individual quirks of others. It sets up preconceptions that are difficult to change, and disastrous to those who legitimately have these conditions. “I’ve tried everything to help them” comes up a lot when in fact they never actually tried what works. I’ve seen several relationships end this way, to say nothing of people getting fired or unable to hold down jobs. Yes, the mental condition played a role, but the flawed preconceptions exacerbated it tremendously.

              So long story short, I’m not a fan of self-diagnosis when it comes to mental health. This is a situation where personally I believe you really do need a professional to evaluate the condition. And like I said, maybe part of the solution here is to have the company assist. More and more companies are looking at the mental health of their employees, as they’ve realized that literally driving your people insane isn’t a sustainable business model.

            2. Mannequin*

              My symptoms are severe, obvious, lifelong, and I’m a textbook example of inattentive ADHD in women…and I still wasn’t diagnosed until I was FORTY EIGHT. I didn’t even have a clue. And as I helped raise a niece with autism & ADHD, I already knew more than the average person!
              In retrospect I’m sure most, if not all, of my close female friends have ADHD as well, and only one actually has a diagnosis.

        10. Jennifer Strange*

          Why would anyone remove something that makes you do your job well?

          Because the LW hasn’t demonstrated that those perks make them do the job well, and the boss cannot simply take them at their word.

        11. Observer*

          Why would anyone remove something that makes you do your job well?

          Well, the manager doesn’t believe that these make the OP do their job well. Let’s face it – the OP is NOT doing their job well right now. So the OP needs to convince Manager that giving them something that others only get when they are doing well is going to be a bit of a lift.

      2. Flower necklace*

        This was the case with my first job after college. It was a short stint – just a few months. When I left, I was specifically told, “You shouldn’t do X in your next job.”

        I gave it another try. At my next job, I excelled at X. Granted, there was a learning curve, but a supportive environment and a caring supervisor made all the difference.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I think that this is super important about fault finding.

        Things can truly not be our fault but we still have the responsibility to fix our setting. Perhaps it’s easier to see with an act of nature. An earthquake, tornado or flood is not our fault. But we still have to clean up our homes, gather our things and so on. The responsibility falls to us individuals.

        The way I like to think about this is that we have to take care of ourselves. In the natural disaster example, we can either try to rebuild or we can consider moving away. Forcing ourselves to stay in a spot that is not working out, is us being harsh to our own selves. Ugh. Maybe I could make that a little clearer: If I tell me that I HAVE to stay at a job for [reasons] and force myself to stay there, then I am being cruel to my own self. This is the opposite of taking care of my own self. In order to take care of me, I need to change what I am doing such as find a different job. Perhaps there are little things I can do to help myself at the current job, but this varies with people and settings. In the big picture, I have to have a serious conversation with myself to figure out how to get to place where I CAN succeed. I know first hand this can be a very lengthy discussion with ourselves.

    3. Well...*

      Also, a job search is a side project, and one in which you have flexible hours (in theory). Having the job search going on the side might help LW burn off some of their energy so they can stay focused while working on the central tasks of their current job.

    4. BRR*

      As someone with adhd who has had job performance issues, I agree the lw should take this opportunity to find a job that’s a better fit. I would be very cautious about trying to bring up how these other things actually help, not distract. Lw, unfortunately you’re in a very weak negotiating position right now.

    5. Cj*

      LW1 said that their boss doesn’t believe in giving her employees perks until they achieve “excellence” in their work. Since LW is in danger of being put on a PIP, they are probably not even meeting the minimum requirements of the job, let alone excellence.

      1. 1000*

        I get the impression that LW1’s boss is denying pretty basic “perks” which are actually things that would help LW1 be a productive employee.

    6. Hi there*

      I have ADHD (diagnosed in adulthood). OP, I agree with staceyizme that this job isn’t a good fit for you, probably because there isn’t enough variety.

      You should see about getting a formal diagnosis, but even if you did/do get a formal diagnosis, I don’t think “side projects” would be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. For a number of reasons, I don’t think that issue is worth pursuing. I think what you need to focus on is what your desire for side projects and flexibility **indicate** about your work style and desired work environment. Then look for jobs that have those elements. As I said above, I think you have a need/desire for variety. That’s not unusual for ADHD folks.

      In the short term, you should look at the many threads on AAM or Reddit about tools for managing ADHD in the workplace — pomodoros, reminders, calendaring, etc. etc. etc. Those might help you if you get put on a PIP.

      Good luck, and please update us!

    7. LW1*

      Thank you. This is definitely on my list of things to do. I need to stick it out through Q4 (the business is seasonal and it’s very hard to job hunt this time of year) but I’m going to job shop as soon as I can. There are places in my industry where flexible schedules are the norm. Part of the problem, though, is that I was assured this was one of them… oh well!

      1. Worldwalker*

        I would start the job search ASAP; it sounds like you may not get the option to remain through the end of the year.

      2. NYC Taxi*

        If you’re placed on a PIP it’s unlikely they’re going to keep you through end of year. Start your job search now.

      3. Le Sigh*

        LW1, as someone who relates to a lot of this, if you can’t job hunt ASAP, I would prioritize a few things 1) figure out what you can do to right the ship as much as possible in your current job — and make sure your manager knows you truly hear what she’s saying 2) find a way to get formally evaluated — if you do have ADHD (or even something else with similar symptoms) this will likely follow you to other jobs, even ones better suited to your style, and 3) use this time to get your resume, references, and other job hunting needs in order. At the very least, if you’re let go, you’ll be ready to roll; if you’re not, you’re ready to hit the ground running later in the year.

      4. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It also depends on your definition of flexible.

        One of my colleagues just got in trouble because she was logging in at 2am when she couldn’t sleep. We don’t have set work hours and we can flex in terms of working 9 hour days to take a half day on Friday or whatever.

        1. Simply the best*

          So true. I’ve worked at places where flexible meant do whatever you want as long as you get your work done. And I’ve worked at places where flexible means we all still work 8 hours a day 5 days a week it’s just some of us work 6:00 to 2:00 and some of us work 11:00 to 7:00.

        2. Clisby*

          True. I worked for years at place where the official flexible hours were: come in between 7 and 9 a.m., take a lunch break of anywhere between 30 minutes and 90 minutes, and work 8 consecutive hours besides your lunch break. (Meaning, your earliest schedule would be to come in at 7 and leave at 3:30; the latest would be come in at 9 and leave at 6:30. It was not “Oh, just work whenever you feel like it.”) I later worked part-time remote for this company, where the flexible time was closer to “work whenever you feel like it,” but I had had years with that employer before that happened.

      5. Mid*

        It doesn’t sound like your company lied about flexible schedules—they have them! You just need to not be on a PIP to have one.

        I also have ADHD (got diagnosed at 22) and I found working with an ADHD coach was incredibly helpful. He helped me figure out how to adapt to a work environment post-graduation. I did great at school because I could bounce between tasks, work at odd hours, etc. Transitioning to an office job was rough for a while, and I still struggle sometimes. Even though my job has lots of concurrent tasks, I still get bored with the work, and have had to find ways to cope with that. Getting diagnosed will help a lot, and give you access to resources that can really help.

        Third-ing what others are saying, job hunt now. Prioritize that and getting a diagnosis (while you have insurance!)

        1. GothicBee*

          To be fair, LW isn’t on a PIP yet, and it sounds like the LW was told the company has flexible schedules, but then when they started the job they were told they couldn’t have a flexible schedule until they achieve excellence, whatever that means exactly. If the company didn’t make it clear that those perks required you to meet specific metrics before they became available, then I’d argue they did lie by omission.

          If this was a situation where the LW started the job, had a flexible schedule, but then that was taken away due to poor job performance, I’d feel differently. But it doesn’t seem like the LW ever had access to that perk.

      6. Joielle*

        Even at a company where flexible schedules are the norm, that doesn’t mean everyone gets a flexible schedule regardless of job performance. I think almost every company would require regular hours at that point so you could be more closely supervised. That’s a very common first step in trying to rectify performance problems.

        It sounds like an ADHD evaluation will be really important for you, so you can request flexibility as a formal accommodation.

      7. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Are you able to share what type of work this is? When I think of “seasonal work” I think of work that needs coverage, so flexibility in hours is limited. Are you customer-facing? Doing shifts?

      8. Observer*

        There are places in my industry where flexible schedules are the norm. Part of the problem, though, is that I was assured this was one of them… oh well!

        And maybe they once you’ve shown that you can actually do your job well and without constant supervision. But you have NOT shown that. It’s not unreasonable for your boss to be skeptical.

        I would suggest, when screening new jobs, to find out what they mean by “flexible schedule” and if they start with flexible schedules that you only lose if you mess up, or you start without the flexibility and then “graduate” at some point after you’ve come through probation? Because that would still mean that it’s the norm, even though you don’t start with it.

        1. 1000*

          If that’s the case, it should have been stated upfront. And there should be metrics in place as to what is required to access the flexibility “perk”.

          I think LW1 was either lied to, or that they have ended up with a manager who is determined to be old school for whatever reason.

          1. Observer*

            Please. This is the kind of thing that’s normal enough that it doesn’t need to be spelled out.

            The fact that the OP didn’t even realize that this could be a possibility, and that they still don’t get where their boss is coming from on this doesn’t change that.

            I do hope that one of the takeaways they get from this whole conversation is actually the fact that it’s not uncommon even in companies where flexibility is the norm, that norm applies to people who have shown that they can do the work without lots of supervision. They either need to ask about this piece up front and avoid places that do that, or they need to figure out a way to get through that initial phase.

    8. EngineerMom*

      Came here to say the same thing, too.

      I worked at a company for 2 years that had the same culture restrictions on flexible work – you had to “earn” the right to have a flexible schedule by first proving you could thrive within a very structured work environment (even salaried employees had to clock in and out, coming on/off work, coming on/off breaks, etc. – it was really weird). Which is completely counter-intuitive, if the flexible schedule is what actually helps you thrive!

      I now work for a company that just accepts flexible work hours, and people working from home. As long as you are meeting your performance goals, and are available for emergency situations as necessary, they *literally do NOT care what hours you keep*. My husband was working an average 35-hour week for the first 2 years he was here, coming in late and leaving early to accommodate our childcare situation, working from home as needed to accommodate our kids getting sick (see my situation above, which did not allow for me to care for sick kiddos, as I only had 5 sick days per year). He wasn’t spending hours and hours on the weekends trying to catch up – he just figured out how to be efficient with the time he did have at work. His first performance review, at the 1-year anniversary, he got GLOWING reports from his boss – he was achieving far more than they expected for someone only here a year, and this is a company known for having pretty high expectations of its employees.

      His schedule didn’t matter – he got the work done, and that was all they cared about.

      My dad worked at a completely different company that was the same way – as long as performance goals were being met, you could work 6am-2pm, or 4 10-hour days a week, or whatever you needed to do to accommodate the rest of your life. He didn’t have to “prove” that he was capable of working in a narrow, restrictive time period – he just had to prove he could get the work done on a reasonable schedule.

      These are all US companies, by the way – companies that originated in the US, and are still based here. And consistently get voted “best place to work” (gee, I wonder why!)

  3. MassMatt*

    #3 I’d be eternally unavailable for spending my vacation time doing farm labor also. I wouldn’t make excuses either, I’d just say NO, but I’m blunt like that. If this is a business, then they need to pay people. A business that relies on browbeating friends and relatives (and avoiding worker safety rules, etc) for free labor is not a viable business. If it’s a hobby, well then they should *love*all that work, or they need to find a new hobby. Your hobby is not MY hobby.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yes! This is worse than an MLM because the friends and family could get physically hurt and they get no benefit whatsoever for taking the risk.

      1. JayNay*

        yes, I was just gonna say that! I’m not sure if vineyard work is physically dangerous, but what will Aunt and Uncle do if one of their friends slips and breaks a limp or otherwise gets hurt? I get wanting to rely on family and friends to get a business off the ground, but doing that continuously and without actually asking the people if they even WANT to help you is not the way to go.

      2. Save the Hellbender*

        Haha, yes, unless you factor in the debt people persuade their “besties” and family members to take on in MLMs

    2. SarahKay*

      OP’s Dad wasn’t wrong when he said it didn’t pass the sniff test. I mean, even if you’d been working in the fart-infused meetings from earlier this week, it would still smell worse than that.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Same. And that’s from somebody who regularly volunteers to help friends with dirty physical labor tasks. Sorry, if you’re doing this for money I want a cut.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        It’s not clear to me if this is even a call for volunteers. The wording of the OP allows for its being an invitation to come visit, and oh, while you are here…

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I had an uncle who did that but a) we all knew ahead of time that if you crashed at his place you worked in his shop and b) yes, he was a jerk.

    4. RussianInTeaxs*

      This.
      I grew up in The Old Country (lol), and we had a dacha, like many many urban residents of the former Soviet Union. Back then (1980s/90s) the dacha was a necessity, since you grew fruits and vegetables that would keep you through the winter, due to the total deficit in stores. And we had a potato lot (a lot of people had), which was taken care in the manner of Medieval peasants – shovels, buckets, hands. Everyone in the family pitched in for the entire summer/growth season – you would get kids as young as 5 pulling out weeds, picking out potatoes, etc. I HATED it. Hated. I have not touched any gardening since then.
      Freshmen college students would be sent to farms every fall to help with the harvest too.
      What I am saying is, I’ve done my “helping dues”, I will never have vacation available for any farm work, ever. I don’t care how close you are to me, as a friend or a family member.

    5. Dagny*

      Exactly this. You need your vacation to decompress, not to do work for other people.

      I’ve had to set some stern boundaries with extended family regarding my vacation. I get very little PTO, have a killer commute, and have a lot of other responsibilities. Bored family members assume that I’m just as bored as they are and can spend my scant time off on drama fests. No. “If you cannot act like an adult, I cannot go on vacation with you. This is the longest vacation I take all year and I’m tired of coming home more stressed out than I left because you want to play games.”

    6. OP #3*

      I directly said that to my grandmother, if your business relies on volunteers it’s probably not a good business. Volunteers who would have to pay for their plane ticket and an Airbnb (or drive two hours each way) I should add . . .

      1. Jules of the River*

        They’re not even offering room and board? Ha, nope! I’d honestly say something like “sure, I can put in three months in the summer. In exchange I’d really love to have a live-in nanny/driver/housekeeper/handyperson/insert role of your choice. Would October-December work for you?”

      2. Not a Girl Scout*

        Reminds me of a friend of a friend who has run a Girl Scout camp for years based on novel series (lets not contemplate the intellectual property infringement). When she first started, she recruited counselors from the local college who were happy to participate in something fun. Over the years, the college students have graduated and have become less and less enthused with spending their vacations on this person’s dream. There is no pay (not even for the person running the camp) and she expects the volunteer counselors to pay for their travel expenses (one of them internationally!!!). Further, she wants to run the camp without the Girl Scouts (and their insurance) and make it her occupation. Which only works out if she is the only paid person, so she is getting more and more irate at people having lives and refusing to volunteer for her camp. Did I mention that she bought remote property based on this dream? That has rattlesnakes?

        Some people are so focused on their dream that they think that you should sacrifice your dreams (or vacations) for their dreams…because it is so important to them…and they are central…and you are selfish is you don’t want to enable them to fulfill their dream. There is not talking to those so self-absorbed! Good for you for having scheduling conflicts for the presumptive free labor.

    7. OP #3*

      I don’t bother arguing (hence the being busy part) because they think I’m a naive little lamb for not being a republican. Proudly the black sheep!

      1. HotSauce*

        Well, then they can follow their own motto & pull themselves up by their bootstraps & do the work themselves! Bonus points if you DO actually take them up on their offer to visit & make a big show of sunning yourself on the patio while they toil away in the fields.

  4. Viki*

    Re: Perks/Flexible schedule.
    When my company/I am hiring, we have a sheet by department about flexible schedules and other perks. Some are rules, others are guidelines and it’s up to each department director and then the senior manager to decide how the guidelines for things (ie special projects) are implemented towards new hires.

    The general metric is 3 months of going beyond what is expected after on-boarding/first few projects and then at manager discretion joining special projects, with the caveat that if primary position suffers, you’re off the special projects until you’ve proven yourself/ability to do your primary position above expectations.

    For flexible schedule, that is 3 months of keeping the department open hours (ie 9-5) and then barring performance you can move to flexible starts, with the idea that it’s not an everyday thing but every Wednesday you start at 10, sure fine. Just not every day, and if you fail to hit metrics, you lose it. Same with WFH.

    All of this to say, these are things to be earned. I’m not throwing Susy barely hitting metrics on the cool new cross team project when she hasn’t proven to me that she can do her primary position. As a manager, approving outside of pandemic, flexible schedules for someone who is average at best, would mean I would have to explain to my manager, (SM of my team) and my director why this person is worth giving these perks too.

    Hiring in the pandemic, these guidelines/rules were relaxed but explained to everyone, and in their offer letter that once our area hits an 80% vaccination rate, we would be expected back in the office and WFH/flexible schedule metrics and special projects would be back to the usual standards.

    All this to say, you want special treatment, you need to earn it-and you need to prove it’s going to not hurt your primary position.

    1. Rollerskate Kate*

      Huh. Where I work everyone has a flexible schedule from the start. It works much better.

      1. JayNay*

        yes I too find it odd that “flexible hours” is something to be earned and not something that’s good for the business and therefore should be a given. How flexible you can be depends on business needs, of course, but I think the pandemic has thoroughly proven that many things that were considered impossible are actually very doable.
        Also, coming in at 10 instead of 9 one day a week would hardly be considered “flexible hours” where I’m at lol. That’s just part of normal life things that happen sometimes.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        That’s not always how jobs can work, though. We have sorta-flexible hours but they’re dependent on people’s schedules accommodating each other. My supervisor is in 9:00-6:00 but she can do that because I’m here 7:30-4:30 to avoid the worst of traffic. We don’t need everyone here all the way through normal business hours but we do need *somebody* here all the way through normal business hours.

        We used to have more flexibility in some departments but it ended when it became clear too many people weren’t getting enough work done. It’s really normal not to offer it to employees who seem to need more supervision.

        1. GothicBee*

          Not every job can offer a flexible schedule, but if the job allows for a flexible schedule, there shouldn’t be any reason to hold it back until someone has met a specific performance metric. It makes sense to remove the perk if someone has demonstrated they will abuse it, but if you don’t trust your employee to do their work to start with, why did you hire them?

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Well, they were trustworthy until they were allowed to work from home and sort of slipped. And most of them are no longer employed here. WFH during COVID with a slightly different pool of employees worked just fine. But we still need to cover a specific set of hours so flexibility will always be limited.

      3. GothicBee*

        Yeah, not that I have a ton of experience, but I’ve had a couple jobs with differing levels of flexible schedules and none of them required a waiting period, just that you follow the rules laid out. I’d expect to be told beforehand if a job required a waiting period for those types of things, and if I wasn’t I’d definitely be annoyed.

    2. Jackalope*

      My perspective is very different because my employer offers flexible schedules to all employees (with the exception of brand new employees that are still in training and have to attend training at the same time as other newbies), and it’s so helpful. We have a specific flex window that we can use every day if we want – basically we show up within that window (say, 7-9), and then stay for 8 1/2 hours and leave (3:30-5:30). I know that such a big window wouldn’t work for every job but it’s one of the best benefits of this position.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I think it also depends on the what the LW and her manager consider flexible hours. Your office has core hours of 9-3.30, which I wouldn’t consider a ‘big’ window (I’ve seen 10-3 as core a lot in my previous industry).

        If OP’s manager is asking for 9-5 and dinging OP if they’re 15 minutes late and making up the time? Too draconian/not a good fit. If OP needs flexibility where they work less hours some days or days where they split the workday and work in the evenings? I sympathise with their manager because someone whose work warrants a PIP likely needs more supervision.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Yeah if someone is heading into PIP territory, they need more supervision/coaching to get through the PIP. the idea of a PIP is to IMPROVE, not just get through it to get them out the door. So someone saying they need flexible hours is ot going to make getting through their PIP very likely.

          I think OP needs that diagnosis. But they also need to sit down and really think about how they do their job. Are they really “okay?” People who are doing okay might not get perks, but they usually don’t get a PIP. And what happens if the OP is not ADHD but just bored at work because the job is not very exciting? Welcome to the working world.

        2. Washi*

          Yeah, people mean so many different things like “flexible schedule” and I think that’s partly why people are split on this issue. IMO even someone with performance issues (in a non-coverage based jobs) shouldn’t be reprimanded for being 5 minutes late if it really doesn’t matter when the work gets done. But I can see that if someone is struggling to do their work, having their work hours be totally unpredictable and often unsupervised would be an issue. My husband actually had this issue where one of the perks of his job is making your own hours, and a teammate who needed a lot of assistance started working 10pm – 4 am when no one else was around. Sure, maybe that’s when his brain worked best, but without manager/peer oversight, his work was subpar and that level of flexibility just didn’t make sense for the situation.

    3. MK*

      I think flexible hours being a perk depends on whether the nature of the work makes it a risk for the employer to provide it. If it doesn’t actually matter which hours one works, insisting that any deviation (from what is basically an arbitrary schedule) must be earned is not reasonable. If flexibility requires the worker to be extra in the ball to make it work and/or there is some inconvenience for the company, it’s reasonable to only grant it when the worker has demonstrated they are worth the trouble and dependable.

      1. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

        I’ve been the manager in a situation very similar to what the LW describes here. I am fully supportive of giving people flexibility, but a few things make this particular situation hard:
        – If you’re on a PIP, I’m probably monitoring your work pretty closely and giving you lots of feedback. So if you decide you need to work different hours, will I be able to oversee the work appropriately without pulling myself out of higher priority things? (This is less of an issue if you want 10-6 instead of 9-5, but could be a huge issue if you want 2-10 pm, or Sunday-Thursday instead of Monday-Friday. In my context projects often have 1-2 hours turnarounds so we have to talk same-day when something’s off-the-rails.)
        – If you want flexibility structured like “I’ll put in 8 hours a day but at times that may change each day,” and we’re in “I’m giving you lots of feedback” mode, that’s an issue if we’re not SUPER clear on when I can reach you. Theoretically blocking out your calendar should solve this, but many folks struggle to consistently do that.
        – I would try a time-bound experiment as Alison suggests, tied to performance metrics. I tried this with the person I was managing through this situation and it turned out they just…stopped working. Their theory that it would help them focus turned out to be wrong, they struggled even more, and their productivity plummeted. But it was easier to get their buy-in to go back to more structure since they knew it would happen if the flexibility didn’t work.
        – Special side-projects – 100% off the table until the core job is at “exceeding expectations” benchmarks. Too much work to manage, and in my company special projects often have “stay in your lane” issues. Worth the investment/risk for a superstar, but I can’t justify it for a low performer when the impacts of it going badly are huge and I’d have to manage it closely.

        Adding to the “when do folks get perks” debate — we require folks to work “core hours” (11-4 pm) during their first 3 months on the job. It takes time to understand the team-wide and company-wide impacts of being offline in the middle of the day. Once they’re fully onboarded I trust my team’s judgement on whether they can be more flexible as long as their performance is good, but folks simply don’t have enough context for the performance implications to decide on Day 1, or even Month 1.

        And one possible suggestion – if you can’t get the hours flexibility you want, or the project diversity you want, could moving physical locations throughout the day help you feel like you’re getting variety? Being in the same room all day every day saps my focus, so I work from different rooms throughout the day/go to a coffee shop for two hours, etc.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          So if you decide you need to work different hours, will I be able to oversee the work appropriately without pulling myself out of higher priority things? (This is less of an issue if you want 10-6 instead of 9-5, but could be a huge issue if you want 2-10 pm, or Sunday-Thursday instead of Monday-Friday. In my context projects often have 1-2 hours turnarounds so we have to talk same-day when something’s off-the-rails.)
          I tried this with the person I was managing through this situation and it turned out they just…stopped working. Their theory that it would help them focus turned out to be wrong, they struggled even more, and their productivity plummeted. But it was easier to get their buy-in to go back to more structure since they knew it would happen if the flexibility didn’t work.

          Yea. I once had a coworker who avoided as much work as possible during traditional business hours (8a-5p). When he volunteered for our late shift for a quarter (2:30-11p for 13 weeks), he would barely work 2:30p-5:30p and goofed off from 5:30p-11p. Every night I worked late, I overheard YouTube, him reading forum posts out load (and not work-related stuff), and general goofing off. Some nights, his newlywed wife would drop him off, then then return to bring him dinner and just hang out with him in the programming area for the rest of his shift.

          His one saving grace is that he could maintain 100% accuracy at 10% productivity.

    4. nelly*

      I think this is a bit too black-and-white. My companies have always been very flexible and even “newbies” get the same flexibility regarding hours and such. (Special projects aside). My understanding is that the point is to have “the right person at the right sport” and make sure that the business and the work is running as smooth as possible. Giving competent people the right tools and flexibility is the way to achieve that.

      Now, I do think that LWs situation is a bit different at this point, and their opinions with the boss are too different to start the conversation LW ishoping.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I thought you’d been watching as much Olympic team gymnastics as I’ve been.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      My specific department doesn’t allow flexible schedules (IT Support) but I buzzed a quick question on our managerial forum about other departments and basically got the same thing – you don’t get it straight away, there has to be some good performance behind it. But one manager pointed out that we do also allow it from the start in places if there is a reason brought up at interview/offer stage.

      I started work here during the pandemic so can’t tell if it has ever been different.

    6. AnonFed*

      I mentioned this above but we don’t allow flexible schedules during the initial training/supervision period because we also require a mentor or supervisor’s hours to generally line up with the mentee and usually they have multiple mentees.

      1. Allonge*

        I think that’s very reasonable – for us you get flexitime from the beginning but you do have to make if to various trainings or meetings and not all of these will be in core hours. So it amounts to pretty much the same thing in the end, a very reduced flexibility in the first months.

    7. iceberry*

      I think we need to cut the narrative of “special treatment” and realize that there is a benefit to the employer and employee to provide employees with the tools to support their optimal performance. Not everyone thrives in a factory model.

      1. Colette*

        Sometimes the required tools are having the rest of the team around to ask questions, attending meetings where work is done, and other things that don’t work when someone works different hours. Maybe a fully trained person in the role can work different hours; that doesn’t mean someone new who is not meeting the work output or quality can do so.

        1. iceberry*

          And sometimes it doesn’t! LW is asking for “some degree of flexibility” so does that mean working 8-4, while others work 10-6, still a lot of overlap. Are they someone who needs more breaks and therefore requires a longer day? They don’t seem to be asking to work during off hours. Being overly rigid doesn’t guarantee results. There are limits to everything, but we would all gain a lot by making some adjustments to support employees to perform at their best.

          1. James*

            “There are limits to everything, but we would all gain a lot by making some adjustments to support employees to perform at their best.”

            I generally agree with this. However, again, look at this from a managerial standpoint. My team member is asking me to bend the rules when they’re not achieving, to the point where I’m drafting a PIP. What reason do I have to believe that team member will actually succeed with a more flexible schedule? If a reason can be provided, sure, it’s worth considering–stuff happens, and only a moron thinks non-work life won’t interfere with work. But if the only reason is “I think I’d like it better”, the answer is no. That’s not because I’m a jerk, but because I don’t trust your judgment. That’s why better performers get more flexibility–they’ve earned a level of trust and independence due to repeated demonstration that they make the right choices.

            To be clear, I’m not the manager in question, I’m just roleplaying a bit here. It’s easy to forget that the situation in question has an information asymmetry–the manager and the employee know different things, and each can only operate based on what information they currently have. And remember, the obstacle is the way. Another way to frame my previous paragraph is: The LW needs to provide some objective reason as to why what they propose will work. They need to fix that information asymmetry.

            The LW also needs to understand that if the manager does stick their neck out and grant these requests “good enough” won’t work. They will need to show clear, significant improvement–or be fired. They’re asking the manager to take a risk, and if there’s backlash it’s going to fall on them. They’ll have NO political capital for a while. This situation isn’t insurmountable–I was on a PIP and proposed methods for improving my performance, and am now a fairly valuable asset to my team–but it’s tapdancing in a minefield during a hailstorm.

          2. Colette*

            I’m going to assume the OP’s manager knows her business and its needs better than you or I do – and probably better than the OP as well.

            The OP, by her own account, is not suceeding in this job. She thinks she would do better with flexible hours – which might mean taking longer breaks and working longer, but it might mean “I want to work from 2 – 10” or “I want to work from 7 – 3 on Monday, 10 – 4 on Tuesday, 8 – 6 on Wednesday …”

            Maybe she’s right! But what she’s asking for is out of the norm in her current job, and she doesn’t have the job performance and track record that makes it reasonable to ask for.

    8. ROUS*

      I can understand how being a public institution constrains things for your office, but in mine none of those things are considered “special perks” —they’re all part of the job. Of course people come in at different times on different days (although if you were starting at like noon, it would have to go on the calendar) and cross training on interdepartmental projects is for everyone so no one is bored at work. I would probably fail to thrive if these were considered “perks to earn”

  5. WS*

    LW #1 this is not the right environment for you. I agree Alison’s time-limited experiment is worth trying, but it sounds like you’ve already been seen as a problem at that workplace and their patience with you is going to be low. Do you know what kinds of flexibility you need? Because you can jobsearch on that basis. Getting an ADHD diagnosis is also a good idea – my partner did this in her late 40s and things have been much more straightforward since.

  6. GammaGirl1908*

    Bluntly, LW5, getting more assertive about your overtime is likely to put a screeching halt to those long calls. Use these scripts consistently but with a smile for about 2 weeks (one paycheck) and it probably will cease to be a problem after that.

    Agree with Alison that your boss has never really given it a thought because she’s never been hourly AND you haven’t forced the issue verbally or financially. This would totally be me; I’ve never had a job with overtime, and it would never even cross my mind that someone else does unless they commented that their pay situation needed to be considered. You haven’t let her know that the situation even exists, and she thinks what she’s doing is fine because there’s been no issue so far. But a couple of reminders OR a big budget bite will drive it home very quickly.

    After that, if your boss is really dense, well, at least you’ll be getting paid extra for it.

    1. Rollerskate Kate*

      #5 LW are you logging your hours somehow or otherwise informing anyone at all? You don’t say, which might mean you’re expecting the money to appear after your manager sees you working overtime. Maybe step one is to find out how overtime is usually processed at your company.

      1. somanyquestions*

        She says “she knows what time I sign in and log out for the day”, so her boss is ignoring her time recording.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Unless the LW is logging out at 5:00 and the boss is calling at 5:01 and keeping her on the line for hours, and the LW doesn’t go back to adjust the record? I don’t think that’s clear.

        2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

          But is that signing in and logging out of her computer, or actually recording somewhere? Does the OP record her own timesheets, or is she expected her boss to adjust them because “she knows what time I signed out”.
          I agree that a clarifying conversation with the boss is in order, and definitely push back on the 1 1/2 hour end of day calls!

          1. GothicBee*

            Yeah, this makes a big difference. I’m hourly and we use software to clock in and out. So for my boss to avoid paying overtime, they’d have to go in and manually readjust my time, which would be a big deal. But if LW is just recording their timesheets and boss is logging it as 40 hours, it’s more likely an oversight. Either way it’s a major problem, but hopefully it’s not intentional on the boss’s part.

            And if the phone calls keep happening, make sure to bring it up in the moment because I’ve found that a lot of times salaried/non-exempt employees just forget that hourly employees have to keep a strict clock out schedule to avoid overtime.

          2. Jack Straw*

            This was my thought as well. As an individual contributor who is hourly after 25 years of nonexempt work–I use the terms “clock in” and “clock out” when speaking about my timesheet. Phrases like “sign in” or “log off” are what I use when talking about Teams or my computer.

            I get the strong sense hat hours aren’t actually being turned in and approved by anyone.

        3. Simply the best*

          In my experience people really think that their bosses are aware of their schedule much more than they actually are. So what does this mean, her boss is aware of it? Does she have access to her timesheets? Is an email sent to her boss when OP logs out? What is most likely is that the boss has access to it somehow but isn’t actively looking at it every morning and evening.

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      I’d also like OP to clarify that these are work calls and not social calls with the boss. Putting aside whether you can actually socialize with the boss without coercion, I did work one place where salaried and hourly people would chit chat about life for a half an hour or so after closing time. The boss tried to encourage this to happen off site but whether you want to chat for a half hour or go to a bar/coffee shop to do the same is a different story. Since people continued doing it, he changed the rule that you just can’t socialize at work stations after hours. So if a salaried and hourly person wanted to discuss their weekend, they needed to take it to the break room to reduce the chance of an hourly person saying they were “working.”

      If these are indeed social calls and not work calls, you can just tell her you don’t have time to talk because your work day has ended and you have to move on to other commitments.

      That said, I’ve been guilty of not realizing it’s 4:55 when I call an hourly co-worker. I very much appreciate when they let me know and I have told them to!

    3. BadWolf*

      The default at my work is salaried/exempt with a flexible schedule and people work evenings and weekends as necessary. So if you are hourly or part time or can’t work other times, you have to be assertive about it. Not that people are pushing you to do differently, most people aren’t thinking about it and need to be reminded. Even the boss.

      I know that it’s really easy for us to forget that our interns our hourly workers. Not that we’re trying to get them to work 60 hours, but generally we’re pretty loosey goosey on our personal hours day to day so it’s easy to forget to make sure your intern is within their 40 hours and doesn’t feel like they have to work longer because we’re pushing it this week but will be more relaxed a couple weeks from now.

      1. BadWolf*

        I don’t know if this helpful for the OP — but one phrase we use a lot at work is “hard stop” to indicate we need to leave unless something is really on fire (in my case, is a customer losing money?). Like it’s the planned end of the day for me and someone’s like, “Hey BadWolf, can you review this customer thing?” and I say, “I have a hard stop in 20 minutes so I can start it, but will have to finish tomorrow — unless it’s a production down situation.” and they normally say, “Oh no, tomorrow would be great.” This assume your coworkers aren’t jerks, of course.

        For OP, I’m thinking something like, “Oh boss, I just noticed its 4:55 — I have to leave at my normal 5:00 time unless you need me for overtime today.” Ideally Boss will wrap it up and say goodbye (if Boss is generally chatty maybe flag at 4:50) or confirm that they need to finish the convo for overtime.

      2. Ama*

        For a while I managed one of only two employees at my current workplace who was non-exempt. Because I was a non-exempt employee myself at a previous job (and also a regular AaM reader) I made sure I kept a close eye out that she was reporting any overtime and that I protected her 40 hour schedule as much as possible. You wouldn’t believe how many times I had to remind my own boss — who was the person who insisted we make that role non-exempt– that no, we couldn’t schedule a lunch meeting for our team unless I could let my report take off another hour somewhere in that week or we paid her overtime.

        I also had to have a serious talk with the employee herself once, because she didn’t understand that most of the coworkers she was friends with were exempt and so when they talked about working on projects at home after office hours it wasn’t as big a deal as it was when she did it (tbh, I thought it was bad that exempt employees were working after hours, too, but since it wouldn’t cause any payroll violations I left that to their own managers to handle).

        People who have never really dealt with being non-exempt can have a really hard time understanding how much more aware of your working hours you have to be when you are eligible for overtime.

        1. Ralkana*

          We have a sales rep who LOVES to talk. He’s exempt and he’ll stop me or another of the non-exempt employees on our way in or on the way to lunch and just chat. We constantly have to remind him that he’s keeping us from clocking in, or eating up our break time.

    4. Anhaga*

      I recently had a conversation with a co-worker about this kind of problem. We’re all non-exempt, specifically because my boss wants to make sure that no one is falling into the “work all the time” trap. We’ve all be told that over and over, and the boss means it, which is pretty great. The co-worker, however, was falling back into patterns they’d had when they were salaried, responding to Slack messages from the boss after hours and over the weekend, even when the boss explicitly started the message with “this is for tomorrow morning” or “for Monday morning.” When this came up with the co-worker, I encouraged them to take the boss at his word and to let things wait until the next workday. Sometimes the boss forgets boundaries, and sometimes we just let our sense of obligation break those boundaries–you have to get a handle on both of those ends to make sure that work stays confined to work hours.

  7. Jurassic park employee*

    As someone with diagnosed adhd I really do empathize with you LW1
    However, you need to sit with your manager and develop some tools to help keep you on track.
    One of the recommended work accommodations from my doctor is literally an increase in progress checkins with my boss and creating hard deadlines for smaller amounts of work to help keep me motivated and on task. I know this might be hard because folks with adhd tend to struggle with authority, but it’s better to have those structures to help you thrive and sometimes be a little annoyed than to get fired.

    Many of the accommodations you will likely be reccomended for task accomplishment (beyond some flexibility and a quiet place to work) focus on increasing your accountability.

    Diagnosis can be a long road, and is oftentimes expensive, so you definitely need to come up with a plan in the meantime.

    Also on a personal note, I would strongly urge you to seek out a psychiatric team that does a full physical and mental evaluation to get you a full diagnosis of your struggles. Lots of issues present really similarly to adhd and there are lots of comorbidities with adhd, so you want to make sure you’re being provided all the tools you need.

    1. ecnaseener*

      That’s a good point: we ADHDers often need a lot of external accountability, and it’s not always feasible to both have flexibility and accountability. Or if it is feasible, the manager will see it as contradictory.

      It’s tough, because flexibility *can* really be exactly what we need to build our own structures that play to our strengths. But it’s very hard to just do that without an externally-imposed structure to start with.

      1. LC*

        Yeah, no one has work has ever really understood what I mean by “structured freedom.”

        Yes, I 100% need structure. Yes, I need the freedom to get there in my own way. Yes, I will basically shut down if I’m micromanaged or forced to do things in some exact way (especially if that way is stupid and doesn’t make any sense). Yes, I absolutely need external accountability.

        No, these are not contradictions. I’m just not terribly good at explaining them.

        1. Caboose*

          I’ve described it as being like oobleck (cornstarch slurry), before. I find that metaphors are frequently the best (and often only) way to get people to understand what’s going on with me.

          I’m mostly a liquid. I need a structure around me, because otherwise, I’m going to slop all over the floor and just be a useless blob of blech. (Which is what happened during lockdown.)

          But it needs to be passive structure that doesn’t actively *do* anything to try to move me, because as soon as you do that, I am going to cease to be a liquid and that’s not helpful to anyone, least of all the person who wanted a nice liquid so they could thicken their damn gravy!

          1. LC*

            Ooooh I like that metaphor!

            If nothing else, it gives me a clear way of framing it in my mind, which is usually at least half the battle of making it clear to someone else. Thank you for sharing!

    2. Allypopx*

      Yes, diagnosis can be VERY difficult – this isn’t like going to the doctor for a blood test. It’s a misunderstood disorder, especially if you’re an adult and especially especially if you’re a woman. I’ve given up, for the time being, after getting a *really* bad specialist and just not having the cognitive function to keep going through the long process of several hour evaluations my doctor wanted following that.

      There’s also a lot of stigma and while they may be legally required to give you accomodations it may not help this particular managers view on you, particularly if they’re already this rigid.

      That’s not to discourage – get the help and support you need! Just be prepared for it not to be super straightforward and to still need to do a lot of advocating for yourself.

    3. Littorally*

      Agreed. The horrible paradox of ADHD is that most people tend to have both a) a tremendous need for external structure and b) an instinct to kick hard against external structure. It blows.

      1. Allypopx*

        So much this. I consistently feel like a screaming toddler being asked to eat broccoli. (The screaming is *mostly* in my head…)

    4. Caboose*

      The thing about issues presenting similarly is SO important here. LW1 said that she has long covid AND struggles to get enough sleep– both of these things can easily mimic ADHD. When I went in to get evaluated, they specifically asked about how I slept (and also how long I’d had symptoms), because chronic sleep deprivation can look an awful lot like ADHD.

  8. raincoaster*

    A friend of mine was in a similar position to LW #2. He’d worked at a porn video and sex toy shop for a couple of years, rising to manager and doing a fine job. Well, the bylaws changed, the company closed, and he was interviewing all over. He was in an interview with a bank for a teller position when someone noticed it was not just “adult novelties” but an actual sex shop, and asked what he was thinking and what POSSIBLE transferrable skills there could be between a sex shop and the very stuffy bank. Without blinking or hesitating a second he replied, “Customer confidentiality” and he went on from there. He came prepared for that question, and he did get the job. And if you sit yourself down and break the job down into actual job functions, I bet you can find a lot of transferable skills too.

    1. John Smith*

      That’s a great response. Also following on from Alison about alternative company names, I can guarantee that there will probably be a holding company or other connecting organisation, whether it be for confidentiality or tax efficiency. I used to audit adult sector establishments in a previous role and invariably they all had a separate company whose name would be used for billing purposes. I also found the staff were extremely adept at customer service, discretion, diplomacy and, ahem, a strong stomach for some of the sights they see (forever burned into my mortal soul and which made me look for another field).

      1. Ex-Bathouse worker*

        I’m LW #2 and yeah it’s a industry where people who go into it with expections of sexiness are quickly disabused of that notion (quite a few people quit day one once they discover how much fecal matter needs to be cleaned). The business does indeed have an alternative name, though I was worried that if that they couldn’t Google it it would sound fake (especially as it partially shares its name with another business).

        1. Smithy*

          I would give the alternative name a try, and it’s helpful to remember that a lot of employers are either not easily google-able or really quite small.

          I used to work for a local nonprofit outside the US, and when I returned to the US – the Google factor was a worry. The name of the organization (which translated to something like Hotline or Outlet) was not only almost shared identically with another nonprofit, but also a number of different businesses. The way I approached this on my resume was to put the name of the organization and a brief description of duties. Essentially, remove the need to Google the organization for someone first reading the email.

          I get that you’re looking to remove the details of the bathhouse – but might there be a relevant hospitality euphemism that would work? Something that allows for someone to believe it’s akin to a Soho House experience?

        2. Teapot Repair Technician*

          I’ve worked for several un-Google-able employers, and it’s never prevented me from obtaining subsequent employment. I think most people in business are aware that some companies do not have a public-facing presence.

          That said, I wouldn’t recommend being coy about your job in an interview. There may be some potential employers who disqualify you for having worked at a bathhouse, but I think it’s more likely an interviewer will find you unforthcoming if you only talk about the “booking/cafe aspect of the business” without saying what the business is.

          At least among the commenters here, it seems many are unaware that “bathhouse” implies sex, and many who are aware are un-scandalized. I expect you’ll find a similar rate non-pearl-clutching among hiring managers.

        3. Canadian Yankee*

          I was recently trying to hire someone for a tech job and saw a resume with experience at a kind of generic-looking company name I’d never heard of. After a few google expeditions, I eventually discovered that it’s a company that does the back-end (no pun intended) infrastructure for several of the largest and well-known pornographic websites on the internet.

          I really wanted to interview the guy! Not because I was titillated or anything, but because we’re a company that delivers video content over the web and if there’s any industry that knows how to deliver vast volumes of video at scale, that would be it! Sadly, he was hired by someone else before we even got back to him.

        4. Wisteria*

          quite a few people quit day one once they discover how much fecal matter needs to be cleaned

          I guess we found where the LW from yesterday works.

    2. Malika*

      A friend of mine who worked in an ‘ adult novelties’ store used the company name of a connected organization on his cv. The manager of the sex shop would refer to that company name if called for a reference. No one ever put two and two together and as it receded to the back of the CV after two jobs it was never mentioned again. There are a ton of transferable skills from working in that sector and once you get past the initial hobble it just becomes a hilarious anecdote.

    3. Observer*

      That’s I think what people are saying – OP needs a job with multiple projects/workflows at the core of the job.

      That’s a brilliant response.

      1. Observer*

        Ouch! I somehow pasted the wrong line in there.

        I was responding to this:

        he replied, “Customer confidentiality” and he went on from there

  9. RagingADHD*

    Look, I see this a surprising amount.

    If your check is short, that is a serious situation that needs to be addressed immediately! Don’t shillyshally around.

    You aren’t working there out of the goodness of your heart, and they aren’t doing you a favor by paying you. It is a business transaction, and it needs to be done right, for both parties’ sake.

    It’s not personal. It’s not rude to ask after your own money. There is an important mistake in your paycheck, and it needs to get sorted out. You don’t have to pitch a fit about it, just follow up.

    If payroll is handled by someone else, you don’t even need to talk to your boss (or not at first). Go to the payroll person and talk to them.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      LW5 doesn’t even say she’s logging her OT anywhere. It kind of reads like she doesn’t log hours (just works fixed ones) and hasn’t even reported to the time system that she worked OT. She sounds like perhaps she expecting her boss to notice her OT and record it for her.

      That’s a different situation than reporting the OT and being shorted in the paycheck.

      But either way the LW has got to speak up about it.

      1. Koalafied*

        Very possible. My company is 90% salaried exempt but we do have a handful of non-exempt hourly workers – mostly temps, fellows, and interns, but all full-time workers. We do have a timesheet software system but it only requires us to record time off and overtime. No actual start/stop times of day are required, just the number of hours. Any standard workday in which neither PTO nor overtime is entered is imputed by the software as a standard 8-hours-worked day, and a timesheet is auto-generated every 2 weeks, signed off by the employee, and sent to the employee’s supervisor to approve. For those of us who are exempt it’s just this minor bureaucratic annoyance that takes about 30 seconds every other Friday, and I could definitely see a less detail oriented or attentive manager, especially if they manage both exempt and non-exempt positions, who is just used to thinking of timesheets as the, “yes, 2 weeks have indeed passed since the last time I signed this form, so it’s time to sign it again,” task it feels like for us exempt workers and just isn’t in the habit of needing to verify anything but whether or not PTO was claimed. And if overtime *isn’t* claimed on the form there’s nothing to jog their memory that they are technically signing off on a number of overall hours to be paid and not just the number of hours that comes out of the PTO bucket.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          Thanks! That’s a good explanation how a system can allow for OT tracking while defaulting to an automatic 8 hour day without intervention.

  10. July*

    Given that the delays are on their end, I assume the potential employer will understand if you move the start period of the job. Heck even if the delay is on your end but with a justifiable reason, it would totally be fine to start at a later period.

    Unless the job absolutely needs someone to be there at that date, someone will have to cover the job while things aren’t finalized yet.

    1. SarahKay*

      And let’s face it, if they delay getting you the information you need and then object to you moving out the start date because of that then that’s a pretty big red flag that you might want to consider.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I’m guessing it’s more like:
      “When would you be able to start?”
      OP4: *names date two weeks or so away
      “Great!”

      It’s not a hard date. They’re just getting a sense of your notice period. (Of course companies always want you to start immediately, but it’s rarely the case that you can do so and they know that.)

  11. MeowMixers*

    LW 1 – I have dealt with similar issues, minus the PIP. I’m am about to be assessed for ADHD because I moved to a position that isn’t ADHD friendly. I used to work high-demand and fast pace physical jobs which is something that has kept me stimulated so I never noticed the issue until I moved to a more relaxed environment. Get assessed if you are able. There are online programs that can do this if you can’t get out yet.

    As for your boss, come up with ways on how these perks will help you. In one job, I asked for more shift flexibility and project work and emphasize how I would help the business. It’s important to realize that you can’t ask for more if you are currently not completing your normal job duties. The exception is the timing of when tasks are completed. I don’t know any manager that will allow a poor performer to come and go whenever they want. Reflect to see if it’s your job itself that is the issue.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      The one thing I could see arguing for is a shift in hours to regular hours, but earlier or later than normal (7-3 rather than 9-5, for example, for a morning person). But being given more advanced projects, or less supervision, when you aren’t doing the core tasks well is going to be a really, really hard sell.

      There’s an interesting discussion on a previous thread about consequences for poor performance (link below), from the manager’s perspective. Things like reducing flex time, taking someone off more advanced projects, and closer supervision are mentioned as logical consequences (not punishments)for someone whose performance needs improvement.

    1. AnotherLadyGrey*

      OMG. Alison we are going to need you to answer THAT question, please! I know WTF Wednesday isn’t real but if it were that would be the question to start with!

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Everyone keeps TELLING me that WTF Wednesday isn’t real, but man. I keep seeing lots of evidence to point otherwise!

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Well, that’s one way to test a keyboard against liquid immersion I guess.

    3. JelloStapler*

      I read it too fast and thought that it was saying that the boss thought bathroom breaks should be earned as a perk.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Well, you did interview someone working at a brothel (fascinating, by the way) and have had several columns about sex workers who wanted to change fields and needed to figure out how to list or gain relevant skills and experience for the new job.

      This is the only blog in the world that offers these subjects matter-of-fact advice without harping on social mores. Thank you.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Agreed. This blog is a great place for advocating for normalizing things that should be normalized. (That’s a train wreck of a sentence, but I’m on my third Monday this week.)

    5. Phony Genius*

      And this whole time, I’ve been reading it like the bathhouse is an old-fashioned legitimate Turkish-style bathhouse where a bunch of old men just sit in a hot tub or steam room for a little while and nothing illicit happens.

    6. Worldwalker*

      There was a bit of dust on my glasses and I initially didn’t see the comma. I did a triple-take.

    7. Llama face!*

      That’s how I read it at first and I was thinking, “Ooh boy, this one’s gonna be a doozy!”. :D

    8. Morticia*

      In the URL, there isn’t even a comma to be removed. I really wish we could like comments.

  12. insertusername*

    I know there are some vineyards and distilleries that “allow” the public to come “help” with bottling on a Saturday and in return each “volunteer” gets to bring home a bottle of wine or whiskey or whatever they were helping to bottle! They essentially get free labor and believe it or not, some locals actually find this fun. I don’t know how long until the novelty wears off, but I have seen postings like this on social media.

    1. MK*

      Eh, I doubt these people’s labor is worth even the bottle they take home. Done properly, these events have to be supervised by experienced workers and are basically PR stunts to draw custom to the business, not get free labor.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes my parents went to a grape pressing in Portugal. I’m sure the amount of benefit they provided to the actual vineyard was minimal (and they were heavily supervised). It was a sales tool and revenue stream for the vineyard as much as anything. A lot of fun though!

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Where I live, a lot of the vineyards can’t use their own grapes. The growing season isn’t kind to them and the taste won’t be up to par. But they grow their own grapes in the vineyard because it looks lovely and they can host events like these (without plans to use the ones that are pressed). It’s definitely not about free labor in that case.

      2. LDN Layabout*

        Yup, some people come out for the free bottle and pick up another six and some other goodies from the shop. If they have a fun day, they do it again. The goodwill and other sales can easily outweigh the people who only come for freebies.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        It sounds like great fun, but I agree that it’s more a PR stunt than a viable business model, between organizing it, supervising unskilled workers, making sure they don’t mess up the product too badly, and the extra insurance that’s probably required.

        I work in a city office all week, and I’d be quite happy to pay for some agricultural entertainment like this and a bottle of a decent drink to take home.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I recently read about a dude ranch where customers pay to work on a cattle drive. Though it’s of course a lot shorter than the historical ones, and they apparently get gourmet meals, not beans out of the chuck wagon.

          I wonder if there would be takers for “The Office Experience”?

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I wonder if there would be takers for “The Office Experience”?

            It’s right next to the “In front of the Firing Squad Experience.” At least they use rubber bullets now.

          2. Mental Lentil*

            The Office Experience:

            * The dregs of coffee because the last person didn’t make a full pot
            * Unjamming the copier!
            * The client who only calls when you’re in the bathroom or at lunch

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      As others have pointed out, these are usually draws so that people will buy from the gift-shop while they are there.

      I’ve also attended local farms that allow you to ‘help’ with the planting or animal feeding….it’s not like you’re doing an eight-hour shift of hard labour; it’s maybe an hour or so and they have a staff member supervising the whole things.

    3. SoloKid*

      As others say, it’s likely a draw to the bigger farm store/gift shop. There are also local farms that I just like giving business to, so it’s “free labor” but I will pay for their corn maze and other fair events year round.

      Getting asked outright by a family member to “come help us avoid paying others” doesn’t have the same impact.

    4. Mockingjay*

      I’ve picked for friends in Germany. Properly done, it’s a lot of fun combined with a very physical day. They had a hobby vineyard. While they hired local labor for weekly picking, on the weekends they would invite friends and family out for the day. They showed us all how and what to pick and monitored us until we got the hang of it. (The kids picked for about 10 minutes, then ran off to play.)

      They served an enormous outdoor lunch, then we picked ’til evening, after which we were served another delicious meal. We went home with bottles from last year’s harvest.

      Even for hobbyists, it’s an intense activity that requires paid help because you have to pick the moment the grapes are ready. Can’t wait for the weekend or rely on family members to use vacation days. OP3 is wise to avoid this.

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      This is not all that different from you-pick fruit farms. People line up to do this, then pay for their fruit. In fact I have done this, taking the kids to pick apples. It is fun, for a couple of hours once a year, though we end up buying far more apples than we would otherwise.

      1. Worldwalker*

        But when you pick fruit at one of those places, you’re picking it for *yourself*. You don’t pick a few bushels for the fruit stand, too.

        I sometimes go to one around here for strawberries. Not because my back likes crouching down to pick strawberries, but because I like having a basket full of fully ripe, non-bruised, non-rotten strawberries, which I’m not going to get in the grocery store, and probably not even at the farmers’ market.

        1. James*

          We go because I enjoy farm work and the kids love it. Like you say, you can get better produce than you do anywhere else–because YOU pick which ones to pick.

          I’d probably go if I had to contribute X% to the fruit stand, too. Partially it’s because the experience is more valuable to me than the fruit (my kids eat most of that anyway), and partially because I find the idea of the most technologically advanced culture in history returning to truly Medieval practices. Then again, I’m weird and like the Middle Ages; I’d probably arrange for a group of us to go in garb and make a day of it (we used to do that sheering sheep). I wouldn’t expect anyone without this strange overlap in interests to view it the same way.

    6. Khatul Madame*

      Someone I know went to Italy where the deal was getting free accommodation at the farm in exchange for working in the vineyards. This was before COVID, of course.

    7. meyer lemon*

      Small vineyards (and small farms generally) have to come up with creative ways to bring in customers and attract tourists to support their core business. The one I used to volunteer with would sometimes let people stomp grapes for fun, and also offered tours, would allow people to “adopt” a patch of vines and hosted big communal dinners to raise funds.

  13. Rollerskate Kate*

    #1 Hey so I think you’re in the wrong job. You need a job where variety is part of your core role and not an extra.

    I wondered if you definitely need a diagnosis to be legally entitled to accommodations in the US – in the UK you don’t (what matters is your symptoms / how you’re affected) and would be entitled now. I think you could bring up your ADHD symptoms now, but not in the way you perhaps ideally want – you can’t use them to leverage something your boss sees as an earned perk, as that’s not realistic.

    What you can and should do is explain that you have some medical difficulties that are contributing to your performance and that you’re pursuing a diagnosis, and ask your boss for support that would help keep you on track with your main work. I don’t mean ask to work on side projects but rather things others have mentioned like more check-ins.

    And I would job hunt, stat. There are plenty of jobs that offer what you need as standard.

    1. Allie*

      I’ve supervised someone on ADA accommodations and the thing is, raising “I have undiagnosed ADHD” when you’re going on a PIP just isn’t going to work. If you need accommodations you need to ask for them as soon as you need them, not once things have already gone wrong.

      1. Forrest*

        Yes, although there’s also a part where it can’t *hurt*, if you do it right. “It’s not my fault, I have undiagnosed ADHD!” probably isn’t going to be very helpful to the manager. “I recognise that I’m not succeeding at this job, and I think this is the reason why. I am pursuing diagnosis and if it’s possible I think XYZ would make a difference” is something that some managers who want to support that employee and turn it around might respond positively to.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I guess technically under the ADA you’re protected if you’re *perceived to have* a disability, not just if you’re diagnosed. I don’t think there’s anything about protections while you’re seeking a diagnosis?

    3. LQ*

      I think your first sentence is so important! There are a lot of jobs where there is a wild amount of variety from day 1 as a part of the work. (And part of this is perception. Someone who worked in a call center told me her favorite part of the job was that it was extremely varied every day. To me she just answered the phone all day. To her she got to solve 60 problems a day, lighting fast from one topic to the next, great!)

  14. Tiger Snake*

    Man days! Boy, that brings me back.

    The reason its like that, Alison, is based in the history of how farms and agriculture work. Mandays were how you estimated the amount of effort maintaining one hectare for a season would take. And when you’re calculating on a season (and when you’re going back to history that was when we still used horses for plowing), you measure by the day. Calculating hours alone was risky farmwork is dependant on sunlight, the time of year and the weather. So days it is.

    Most farms used to be (and in a lot of places, still are) a family farm. Everyone helped out.

    Mandays were a calculation of the amount of labour each member of the family would be expected to put in for different types of agriculture activity per hectare. It was how you planned out how long things would take so that you could get everything done.

    Now, you don’t have your kids do the all same work as the menfolk (do not let them around the pesticides! They’ll poison themselves), just parts of it. And women had to divide their time between the fields and the household. So you calculated effort in mandays – the time a man would take to do those tasks. The wife and kids get a percentage of manday per day, rather than a full day. I don’t remember the exact calculations; it varied based on the type of work.

    Anyhow. Now you know how many mandays of effort your season requires, and how many mandays per task your family will do of it.
    What’s left over is how you work out how many day laborours you need to hire that season.

    I remember it got really important when divorce became a thing, so that people could properly calculate how much of the income was the woman’s doing. And of course the government cares a lot about your labour to income ratio.

    Now let’s say you hired a laborour for a day, but then it starts pelting down and you have to stop sowing the seeds. You hired the labour for the whole day; not just the amount of time he could actually work. That’s why its mandays and not 8-hour days.
    There’s an idea that you work early one day, and will be let off early another because of weather – or if you’re done early, you just get the extra time off. Its meant to even out.

    But yeah: that’s why they’re called mandays! Random fact for everybody.

    1. Tiger Snake*

      (I should add that it does get more complicated. There were efforts to standardise the concept, which then lets you calculate by year by calculating the standard man day against the units of production. Standard Man Days is actually talking about the full number of hours in a year, taking expected holidays, illness and overtime into account. More accurate, more complicated – but the name got retained from what I described above. And we’re still talking days rather than hours because the tasks are divided into the SMDs rather than hours, to account for weather and the like)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m guessing “and the like” includes longer daylight work periods in the summer, too.
        I went to college with a strong Ag program, and the little I got to hear/read from friends has me fascinated with agricultural economics–so a big thanks for the history!

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      That’s very interesting! Honestly, I was imagining unscrupulous employers thinking, “Hmm, if we employ only women, our mandays will be zero and we won’t have to pay anyone minimum wage!” which honestly isn’t a million miles away from twentieth century office practice.

      I have helped (well, “helped”) on a family farm and this dynamic doesn’t surprise me much. However, as a general rule, if your business can’t afford to pay people properly, you don’t have a viable business model. Discussion of the difference between hobby and business is very relevant.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      This is so interesting – thank you for taking the time to explain all this! I knew the term but had no idea of the backstory.

    4. whistle*

      Very cool, Tiger Snake. Thank you.

      My grandpa was a farmer (born 1923). Several years ago there was an elementary school test from his era circulating around the internet, and the math on it was HARD. Not like calculus or anything, just complicated words problems with lots of measurement conversions, etc. He said the test was similar to ones he had to take at that age and that it was “easy”.

    5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Something else that should be remembered, when discussing the reasonableness of agricultural laws, is how unrewarding but necessary farming is. I’m no expert, but I’ve been around farming enough to know it’s kind of a lousy business.

      Anybody else watch the video on youtube by the young man whose family farm had a million dollars of profit one year-but one and a quarter million in expenses? “Farming is the only business that buys at retail, sells at wholesale, and pays shipping both ways.” Or heard the old joke about the farmer who won the lottery and, when asked what he was going to do with the money, said he figured he’d keep on farming until the money ran out? I do know my great uncle farmed the family farm his whole life-AND worked 40 hours a week in a factory in town to make ends meet. Farming is hard work, high risk since crops fail and prices are volatile, while not being very financially rewarding.

      Add to that, farming is absolutely necessary for society to go on functioning. You know how a lot of people say that if a business can’t follow labor laws, they can’t afford to be in business? No big deal if a bunch of dysfunctional small teapot manufacturers, burger joints and sex toy shops go out of business. If labor law changes put a significant fraction of family farms out of business, we have a Problem. Because everybody’s got to eat.

      Not so easy to say, “just raise your prices” either. Because first of all individual farmers have very little control over sale price, since that is set by big businesses and market forces way outside their level. But also because if food prices go up, it disproportionately effects the poor. How many people couldn’t afford to eat if food prices doubled?

      I have no idea how much of this applies to #3’s family. But it’s important to remember when passing judgment on farming in general and all the funny labor exceptions and weird grandfathered-in laws.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Food crops, though, are a necessity. Wine is a luxury. If people can’t afford bread, we’re in major trouble. If people can’t afford wine, not so much.

      2. IEanon*

        You’ve got a good point about the thin profit margins, but it always bears repeating when talking about agriculture that many of the labor carve-outs were written in explicitly to protect Southern farmers who relied on paying slave wages to Black workers. The only reason that the FLSA passed was because Southern Democrats required exemptions be included that benefited plantation owners who’d been forced to free their slaves post Civil War and the rest of the party capitulated.

        Now agricultural work is done primarily by undocumented or immigrant workers, and those exemptions continue to contribute to racial inequities.

        1. Observer*

          These carve outs don’t have anything to do with that, though.

          The issue of undocumented labor is a serious issue. But again, the carve outs are not the reason that’s happening.

          1. IEanon*

            Minimum wage and overtime compensation exemptions for agriculture are absolutely related to racial politics of the 1930s. You can draw a direct line from those carveouts given in return for support from southern Democrats all the way through additional exemptions extended to in-home caregivers, a role that is also often filled by Black or immigrant workers.

          2. Observer*

            I’m not saying that racial politics didn’t play a role at all in the passing of FSLA. But the primary issues that were payoff, for lack of a better word, for support from the South were around domestic labor (which was primarily black).

            Farming was much more complex. I’m sure that the fact that farm labor in the South was primarily Black at the time helped make the rules more palatable to Southern states, but that’s far from the whole story.

      3. Observer*

        I have no idea how much of this applies to #3’s family.

        About none of it applies, here I think. We’re not talking food crops here at the most basic. Also, you don’t take up a “hobby” with the expectation that other people who you have never included in your decision making will just be your free labor.

        1. Tiger Snake*

          This becomes a very slippery slope though. Wine and grapes are a type of food – and sure when you reach the supermarket you might be able to classify them as luxury, but out on the land I don’t agree. There’s reasons our taxes are already built like that.

          Even on a vineyard, not all the grapes will end up as wine. Eating grapes, raisins, general grape juice all come from the same place. I don’t see how you can divide your labour to ‘luxury’ agriculture vs ‘non-luxury agriculture’; farms aren’t divided like that. We do not want to treat agriculture as being a variety of different groups rather than a singular industry, because that’s dangerous territory that leads to monoculture and prevents farms from expanding and trying to invest in new ideas.

          If we decide that barley is a luxury because most flour is wheat flour and not barley flour, or because some of the barley gets used to make alcohol once its sold, farmers’ will only be able to grow wheat. They won’t keep barley seeds, won’t rotate it into their crops – and then one bad wheat blight and the whole nation starves because there’s no alternative crops being farmed. It also means that they can’t try farming new crops, because those would also be luxury. Plenty of vinyards switched over to olives or added olives, because olive oil sells well. But if we treat different kinds of crops differently, then most farmers aren’t going to be able to afford the risk. So instead those crops can only be imported from countries where labour laws are not done fairly.

          The supermarket will do well regardless. The farmer will suffer. There are sometimes a few crops that are treated differently, but that’s based on the final product the farm sells, not the farm activities (tobacco comes to mind – and yes, in some places there are taxes on the wine when its sold by the farm).

          1. Observer*

            Grapes are not a basic staple crop by any reasonable definition. Even (perhaps especially) if you factor in raising and fresh grapes.

            I also don’t agree that treating different crops and / or farm types differently is a direct line to nono-culture. In fact, most farms don’t do crop rotation anyway, for a whole host of reasons. On the other hand having different classes of farms and / or crops can easily be structured to encourage things like crop rotation, variety of crops and sustainable practices.

            But none of that is relevant here- we are NOT talking about public policy, but how individuals should reasonably look at a given situation. And there is absolutely no reason why a person should think about their time and effort on a hobbyist vineyard vs a food producing serious farm.

  15. Tau*

    Hey LW4! Alison’s advice is great – I just wanted to add that on my job searches, I usually talk about proposed start dates as inherently relative. “I have a notice period of X, so I could start on Y date assuming an offer by the end of the week”/”X after being given an offer”/etc. That makes it very explicit that delay on their side will introduce the according delay on mine. (Especially important if it’s later in the month – it’s fairly common for notice periods over here to be X months to the end of the month, so if I resign on the 2nd I need to work a full month longer for the old company than if I’d resigned on the 30th.) Obviously too late to do this now, but maybe something to keep in mind for next time!

  16. Sometimes supervisor*

    LW#1 – I wonder if this perspective would help. My manager tends to be of the view that you can have flexibility and work on side projects until you prove you can’t do your job if you have them. Common problem we used to have (before covid all but got rid of client meetings and made WFH commonplace!) was people ‘taking the morning/afternoon off’ if they had a client meeting. I mean, fine, if the meeting finished at 4:50pm and you were due to clock off at 5pm. But I’ve lost track of the number of times people (usually new-ish grads) have pushed back on doing ANY work in the morning if they were due to travel to a meeting at, say 10:45 – despite the fact their day was due to start at 9am. These people would be told to come into the office rather than being allowed to WFH before going to their meeting because we’d want to make sure they were actually doing their job – I’m sure they saw it as being punished or needing to ‘earn’ the perk, but we saw it as needing a manager/somebody more senior to teach workplace norms. And, although I’ve never had this one before, I could totally see a situation where somebody was told they had to work 9-5 instead of 7-3 because the manager was worried about their performance and thought the best way to rectify this would be more supervision, achieved by them matching hours (I think at this point it would be the last ditch effort before the person was let go).

    On the flip side, I was once a team lead where the actual manager (Fergus) was really flexible with side projects and would allow people to carry on with them regardless of how the team were doing. I think he wanted to be seen as the ‘everybody’s friend’ kind of manager. Most people were sensible with this, but we did have one or two people who really let it interfere with their work – and then pipe up with ‘But Fergus said it was fine if I worked on my llama grooming business so I don’t see why I should drop that to put my teapots away properly and, if you make me, I’ll run crying to Fergus!’. Fergus would then, of course, ask me why I was letting my team get away with not putting their teapots away properly. It was irritating!

  17. darcy*

    LW1, bear in mind that getting an ADHD diagnosis should help get accommodations in theory but doesn’t always in practice. I have formal diagnoses of ADHD and autism and still often struggle with getting very small accommodations. In my experience people/employers are often more willing to accommodate something presented as a personal quirk than when they know I need it due to ADHD. There’s still a lot of stigma and ignorance about ADHD, especially because useful accommodations such as more flexible working hours are often seen as just trying to “get something extra”. A formal diagnosis may help but you may still need to really push to get the accommodations you need, which can be risky. There may be an advocacy group near you that can help with getting accommodations – ones that are lead by people with ADHD (as opposed to ones “for” people with ADHD run by people who don’t have it) are generally better in my experience. If there is one they may be able to advise you on what sort of accommodations people have successfully got before (with knowledge of local labour law) and/or help mediate meetings with your employer if needed.

    1. darcy*

      Thanks to so many commenters for providing a great example of how much people love to avoid giving ADHD accommodations because they think it’s just “fun extras” :)

  18. Rainy Day*

    Oh wow, LW #1. Minus the stuff about perks having to be earned, I could have written this letter to the extent where I’m not sure I didn’t write it in my sleep!

    The big difference for me is that my boss and I have a major personality mismatch as well as the job no longer being a good fit for me. We used to be friendly when we reported to the same manager, now we barely speak outside of work-related things. I was my previous manager’s rockstar, and now with a new boss and different responsibilities, I’m facing a PIP. Definitely a bad fit. I may not have to “earn perks”, but my boss told me I’m overpaid for my position, that my peer earns less than me (breach of confidentiality, anyone?) and that she can only give me negative feedback because I haven’t earned anything positive. In Alison’s words, the situation sucks and isn’t going to change.
    It sounds like you’re in a bad fit job as well, but hopefully you like and get along with your manager well enough that at least they aren’t making your life miserable!

    I’m job hunting as hard as I can at the moment because this level of stress and misery is not good for me. I need a job with as much variety as possible, and it sounds like you do too.
    I’m in the UK, so the end of the PIP shouldn’t mean I’ll be automatically fired but I’m still actively seeking to get out. If the job is making your health suffer, as it is mine, then it’s time to look elsewhere.
    I’ve also started the process to get assessed for ADHD as well, but it’ll be a long wait for me. If you suspect you have it, I really would recommend seeking diaognosis- I’m absolutely certain I have it, and I imagine it’ll be a game-changer for me to know for sure.
    Good luck! There’s a role out there somewhere that will suit us better- we just have to find it.

    1. Forrest*

      Oh gosh this sounds MISERABLE and confidence-sapping, Rainy Day! Good luck getting something that suits you better and recovering your mojo.

      (How are you finding the process for seeking an adult ADHD diagnosis? I have been wondering whether to at least go for an initial screen for a couple of years– I know a couple of people who’ve gone private and a couple who’ve managed to go through their GP, but doing anything non-urgent through the NHS at the moment sounds impossible, and I still feel vaguely like I might get laughed out of the room…)

      1. Rainy Day*

        It is miserable! I’m having therapy just to try and get through this, because I was initially convinced it was completely my fault. Maybe I could work harder or better, but being treated differently to my peer and made to feel belittled or intimidated definitely isn’t!
        The ADHD diaognosis is slow-going. I had an appointment with my GP in March, I was referred in April and all I’ve heard since is that my local adult ADHD service has my referral and they’ll assess me in due course. It’s a long wait, and unfortunately I can’t afford to go private at the moment. My employer has said they can do something with occupational health if I end up waiting more than 6 months, but when I plan to move on, I can’t rely on that as a fall-back, haha.

    2. LW1*

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this too. My manager is also very negative! I’ve specifically said, in my job interview and since, that I thrive with positive feedback, but she doesn’t seem able to give it except in a very limited way (“This is a nice try, but wrong”). She’s said her ideal is to not have to manage people much, but then she micromanages while she’s on vacation. It’s definitely a mismatch.

      Best of luck with your job hunt and ADHD assessment.

      1. Zoey*

        I’m not sure I understand your point about your boss’s management style. She prefers to be a hands-off manager, but she’s much more hands-on with you than she would like because you’re not fulfilling the expected job requirements (hence the upcoming PIP), which means you need to be more closely supervised.

        It seems like you think there’s a contradiction there, but there’s really not. She’s adjusting her management style based on your job performance. That’s how it should work, at least in the short term.

        1. LW1*

          Ah, no, she’s like this with everyone. Every person on my team has stories of being “under the microscope” and frustrated by her micromanaging. Multiple people have advised me that all I can do is suffer through it, but I’m not good at suffering through things, so… just keeping my head down until I can get out.

      2. RagingADHD*

        I mean, if you are doing something wrong, how would you expect your manager to give you that information? “This was a nice try” is pretty positive if you are actually doing it wrong.

        You do need to know when you make mistakes so you can correct them.

        1. LW1*

          Of course I do. But there’s no positive feedback at all when I do things right, which I do think is kind of an important thing.

          1. Staff Are Valuable*

            You really shouldn’t expect positive feedback for doing the job you are paid to do. The positive feedback is continuing to get paid.

            Jobs aren’t like college where you get positive feedback in terms of grades, jobs are pass/fail. Now if you do particularly excellent work, you might get praise, but that’s few and far between. My boss is a good manager, but I only get praise when I do something really extraordinary, like find a typo that 5 other people missed that would have been very embarrassing for us. That earned me a “good catch!” I think that’s happened 10 times over the years. But like I said, I get paid.

            1. LW1*

              This is such a weird comment from someone named “Staff Are Valuable.” If your staff are valuable, why wouldn’t you tell them that and help them feel valued?

              Also, I’ve been in the workforce for 30 years and have had a whole range of managers, including many who often gave compliments. “Jobs are pass/fail” is certainly not true of all jobs.

              1. Staff Are Valuable*

                We get paid quite a lot. That’s how we know we’re valuable.

                It sounds like you have a tremendous mismatch in styles at your job and you’re better off finding a new one ASAP. Even if you get off the PIP successfully, your manager isn’t the sort to compliment you for doing your job, so you need to find another one who is.

              2. Forrest*

                Yeah, I’m with you! Absolutely the case that some employees don’t particularly care a lot positive feedback and assume they’re fine unless they’re told something is wrong. But wanting to get positive feedback on work done well is ALSO completely normal and not a sign of immaturity or something!

              3. EventPlannerGal*

                Sorry, this is a total tangent, but have you always been able to find jobs with flexitime? I was under the impression that that’s something that used to be a lot less common, certainly 30 years ago – if you think back to earlier in your career were there any methods you used to deal with more inflexible schedules that might be helpful now?

              4. LC*

                There’s a difference between seeing your employees as valuable and valuing your employees, so I think their name is actually pretty fitting.

                I’d prefer being valued over valuable any day.

              5. MCMonkeyBean*

                I’m not sure why so many people are harping on your desire for positive feedback, so I just wanted to jump in and say that I think that’s a very reasonable thing to want! There are plenty of people who don’t need it and plenty of people who can’t give it, but doing better with positive feedback is super normal and I feel like is something we even talk about a lot here so I’m confused by this pushback you are getting.

            2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              Do you not get performance reviews? “Getting praise” at a job isn’t about warm fuzzies. Feedback, positive or negative, is about reinforcing *how* you do your job. It’s a big part of how managers help their staff figure out how to prioritize their efforts.

              But it sounds like you reduce everything to getting paid, which ignores the big picture. You get paid as long as you’re doing at least satisfactory work, but your manager/clients/maybe colleagues benefit from you performing at your best.

            3. LC*

              I’m kind of baffled by this comment. I don’t think anyone is saying that they should regularly receive a company-wide email and a banner on their desk and a song of praise from the roof for doing their job, but feedback is absolutely essential to being a good employee.

              I can’t fathom working at a place where the only feedback I receive is either silence or something between “this isn’t great” and “you’re fired” (which is what I assume you mean about continuing to get paid, I really hope you don’t mean that they would just not pay you for work you had done as a punishment or something).

              It doesn’t need to be extravagant. But hearing “I liked the way you worded that, I think they’ll understand it a lot better now” would let me know that when I was deciding between two perfectly acceptable ways of saying something, I chose the better one. Now I can use that knowledge going forward and apply it to future situations.

              It’s not an extraordinary ask that it’s acknowledged when you’re on the right track. Or that you did something kind of neat. Or had an approach that hadn’t been discussed yet. Or that you handled a difficult client conversation or presentation to the C-suite well.

              It doesn’t need to be constant (that actually would be kind of odd) but people need feedback.

            4. Observer*

              My boss is a good manager, but I only get praise when I do something really extraordinary, like find a typo that 5 other people missed that would have been very embarrassing for us. That earned me a “good catch!” I think that’s happened 10 times over the years.

              No, your boss is NOT a good manager. It should not take some enormous accomplishment to get a positive response as mild as “good catch”.

              Talk about warped norms!

          2. RagingADHD*

            Psychologically speaking, constant praise for doing the bare minimum will inevitably erode performance. Rewards (including praise) are the most effective (and the most rewarding) when they are intermittent, not constant and predictable.

            If you just want a warm, generally affirming relationship with your manager, that’s an issue of personality style. And it certainly sounds like you and this manager aren’t vibing on the same wavelength. But expecting praise every time you do anything right is just not reasonable, because you should be doing things right MOST of the time.

            1. Observer*

              It doesn’t sound like the OP is asking for constant praise every time they manage to tie their shoes on their own.

      3. Rainy Day*

        It’s a cold comfort to hear it isn’t just me!
        My manager actually said to me “I’m not going to pat you on the head just for turning up.” I don’t want “patting on the head for turning up”, I want to know if I have gotten things how she wants them when I do manage that. I’m glad to get critique, it’s how we learn, but I’m really not sure my work is so bad that it warrants nothing but constant negative comment.

        In any case, this is also a mismatch. Best of luck to you on your future as well! We’ll get there.

  19. Tim*

    LW #2

    Something that can be an issue with adult-rated industries / businesses is that there is an unfortunate perception that the people working at the business who *claim* to be working at reception / admin are ‘actually’ working providing the adult services in question.

    I work in the law, and I once had a barrister crassly joke that he’d acted for five people who worked at a brothel ‘and every one of them was the receptionist’.

    I don’t know the answer, other than to be *really* specific about your duties / skills, to confirm that yes, this was your actual job, and not a euphemism for something else.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The general approach with a bathhouse is that the clients play with each other, not the staff. Though to be fair, the person conducting the interview might not realize that.

      1. Nanani*

        They also might be homophobic – at least in my part of the world “bathhouse” is heavily associated with non-straight clientele in a way that other adult venues aren’t. Even if LW2 isn’t in that group, homophobia paints with a broad brush.

        There is a real argument to be made in favour of treating upturned noses at the bathhouse job as a red flag for LW to self-select out.

    2. Junior Assistant Peon*

      My advice would be to try to gloss over the adult nature of the business and try to lead the interviewer to believe that you worked at a spa-type place. There’s a bathhouse in my area that’s 100% non-sexual in nature – a Russian sauna that’s a popular gathering spot for the local immigrant community. Let the interviewer think you worked someplace like that.

      1. Firecat*

        Yeah – I had no idea that any bath houses here in the US were sex related. It would have never crossed my mind. I figured it was spa/wellness related.

  20. Medusa*

    Does the “person hours” law in #3 confuse anyone else? My instinct would be that they’re required to pay *more* than minimum wage if there are so few hours available. Less work AND less pay?

    1. WS*

      Farm work is usually covered by a lot of grandfathered-in and very unusual laws, and often exempts family members, people who have any ownership in the property whatsoever, and even children under the usual working age. It can also involve piecework payments (so you’re paid by the quantity picked) rather than hourly payments, unusual immigration rules and a whole lot of other things you rarely see in other industries. Many farms operate throughout the year but have harvest periods with vastly increased demands for labour – like 11 months can be handled by 1-2 people, the other month needs 300 people, that level of change – and that’s been the case for hundreds of years and reflected in law.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        US farm work laws were designed to disadvantage people of color, who are usually the people who end working in the fields. There is a lot of interesting history here which is never taught in American schools, alas. But as someone who picked cucumbers a five-gallon bucket at a time when still in single digits, I wish it really were emphasized more. Most people have no idea what working conditions in the field are like, and then oh, no! we’re in a crisis!™ because the lettuce is contaminated with Listeria.

        1. Observer*

          The history of farm laws is way more complex than that. It does no one any good (including the people who suffer the most from the issues that exist!) to insist that none of these laws have any reasonable rationale and they are there only to oppress certain people with no other benefit.

          Don’t get me wrong – there really ARE significant problems and anyone who doesn’t recognize that really needs a reality check. I really do get that.

    2. doreen*

      I think the idea (whether I agree with it or not ) is that farms that use fewer than 500 person days in any quarter are on some level not really a business hiring employees and are more like me hiring multiple independent people to take care of my yard in the summer including harvesting my tomato patch.

  21. Birch*

    It sounds like OP #1 is mixing up the ideas of perks, rewards and accommodations. If they need some help to do their job and can otherwise do it to satisfaction, that’s an accommodation. You don’t have to earn accommodations. But doing more personally interesting projects just because you prefer them is not an accommodation, that’s a reward (maybe reward isn’t the right term, but it’s based on performance) for doing good work, which OP is not doing. IMO a perk would be something extra offered, like flexible working hours or parking stipend, not something tied to the actual performance of the job or one’s ability to do it. If OP isn’t successful at the job with accommodations (not perks), then this just isn’t the job for them.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I agree. I also think that maybe theres more to these Perks they talk about besides flexible schedule and side project. A side project is a perk or a reward, which op has not earned if they are on a PIP. But a flexible schedule could be seen as an accomodation. Such as I really struggle to concentrate between 7 and 9 am. Could I switch my hours to start later? This wouldn’t work in all jobs but it could be an option.
      However if there are other perks that the boss wants to take away, such as being able to wear headphones or moving the op to a noiser environment ut closer to the bosses office, that I don’t see as perks and if the op can clearly and in a non demanding way explain this to the boss they may have a better way of getting what they want.

      1. Allypopx*

        It also really depends on the job and how the request is presented. “I work better with a little flexibility in my schedule due to my ADHD can we work out some flex hours” is different than “I’m a high performer and want to leave early on Friday if my work is done”. The former is also only a reasonable accommodation if the OP isn’t required to be covering phones or something else where butt in seat time is a part of their job.

        I think a side project could be presented as “I have a hard time with long periods of focus and being able to switch to something else from time to time would be helpful” but I don’t think that would be a formal accommodation as much as…an arrangement? They could still request to see if it helps but I don’t think they could cite ADA on it, basically.

        But overall I agree this seems like a bad fit overall.

  22. J.B.*

    Op1 I’m really sorry you are struggling. I want to ask one of my colleagues if he has been assessed for ADHD, but don’t because this is a colleague. I think you can get diagnosed – more flexible hours might be a reasonable accommodation. More variety likely won’t because the job is the job and up to your manager.

    If possible I would look for executive function coaches to help build your skills.

  23. Triplestep*

    LW #4 an important detail might be easily missed at the end of your letter, but since you do not have any salary or benefit details – even a salary agreed to verbally – you do not really have a job offer. It would suck of them to ghost you know (even more than the very common ghosting after the interview stage) but it’s not unheard of. I don’t think the potential start date is the problem and honestly I might even do what Alison always suggests: put it out of your mind and assume you didn’t get it until you hear otherwise.

    1. Frank Doyle*

      I thought this as well. You should continue your job search, LW#4, until you have an offer in writing (including compensation!)

  24. I should really pick a name*

    I’d be interested to read an interview with the bathhouse employee. Could be interesting to compare to the interview with the brothel employee that Alison did.

    1. Liane*

      I was surprised the interview didn’t come up in the suggested posts list. It’s been a while, but I think they did talk about how they handled interviewing for other industries, so today’s OP might want to check it out.

  25. Scatterling*

    Re LW #1: I’m surprised so many people assume the manager is at fault here. If the LW does have ADHD, they need a diagnosis and appropriate accommodations. But it seems a little disingenuous to claim that the manager nixing side projects and a flexible schedule is “backwards” when you’re not performing your core duties competently.

    1. Gilmore67*

      Exactly. It seems the OP wants the perks without doing whatever they are suppose to do to get it.

      Get the initial issue fixed first. Prove you can do the work like every else is ( with your accommodations if needed). Then you can get the perks.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      This, exactly. The LW needs the diagnosis both as documentation to support accommodations at this job, and because without it the issue may follow her to subsequent jobs. And because life is generally better when you address things like this.

    3. RussianInTeaxs*

      Yes, this. If the employee not doing their core job, why would employee get more projects?

    4. Allypopx*

      The boss definitely isn’t at fault – especially if the issue of ADHD hasn’t even been raised, the boss is completely reasonable. And as someone said elsewhere once you’re on a PIP is not the time to raise accommodations for the first time. But it’s an unfortunate situation all around and sounds more like a bad match than anything.

    5. Allie*

      Agreed. There’s no evidence the boss is doing anything wrong here. It’s extremely normal to not allow side projects and to require closer supervision (and so no flexible schedules) until an employee has established they can do the job basics.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Really? I’ve seen quite a few folks comment that the manager is gatekeeping and using psychological manipulation on the OP.

        1. Julie*

          And calling the manager a jerk. I’m guessing that those commenters don’t have much experience in management.

  26. Chairman of the Bored*

    I don’t think it’s that perks have to be “earned” as much as that more latitude is justifiably given to the people who have demonstrated that they can reliably get good results.

    I don’t pay much attention to the schedule that my best team member keeps, because I know from her track record that if left to her own devices she’ll get her assignments done to a high standard.

    Somebody who is new or struggling doesn’t have that same track record, so will reasonably get less discretion around their schedule and specific tasks until they establish one.

    A person who is about to go on a PIP asking for *less* supervision will likely come across as unrealistic.

  27. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    #1. You’re about to be put on a PIP, this means you are not meeting the basic criteria of your job. You shouldn’t get extra leeway because your not even doing what they hired you to do. Side projects? If you can’t do what they hired you to do this would derail you even more so your boss is doing you a favor by this. If you want to do the side project perhaps find a job in that area. I would say that perhaps this is not the job for you if you cannot find ways to motivate yourself to do it. As for ADHD, are you having the same problems in other areas of your life? Did you have trouble in school? If so by all means get tested but note that this isn’t a crutch to explain why you can’t do things it explains why you may have trouble focusing. If you intend to try to stay at your job come up with a plan for how you can meet the minimum criteria for your role and action steps for how you can meet them. Think SMART goals.

  28. Farm kid*

    LW3:
    I grew up in a farm family, where everyone helped with unloading hay, harvesting, etc. Neighbors regularly came over to help with shearing or other annual chores. You would help them in turn. This would be well into the 1990s, not terribly long ago. It was a very standard expectation in rural America.

    This is not the same as your aunt and uncle “hoping you’ll visit” in time for the grape harvest at the vineyard they recently purchased. They need to hire crews to do the work and pay them a fair wage.

  29. Grapes on the Vine*

    For LW #3: I am in the unique position to understand this well. My uncle started making his own wine 25 years ago. He’s a hobbyist and he does ask family and friends to help at the harvest and bottling. He also does not sell the wine at all. State limitations prevent him from doing so because “cottage food” isn’t recognized there and everything requires a restaurant/health license.

    Anyway, the wine is all given away to everyone who helps out. Not a single bottle is sold, and at the “bottling party” my uncle has a huge catered meal. I don’t feel taken advantage of when I go to help because I know: 1. I’m getting wine (and it’s gooood) and 2. I’m getting a meal and 3. No one is making any money on this. It is truly a hobby.

    I would feel less comfortable with it if my uncle was selling the wine or running a vineyard or engaging in some endeavor that would be lining his pockets.

    Is your family making money on this or is it really a hobby?

    1. AliciaB*

      My parents have a hobby vineyard and they handle it the same way! Friends and family come and we pick the grapes in the morning and destem them, then break for lunch, and bottle last year’s wine in the afternoon. Everyone goes home with a bottle of wine and drinks as much as they want throughout the day. It’s basically a big party and everyone has a great time (I don’t think they’d come back every year if they didn’t have fun).

      As far as liability goes, I think any accidents would be covered by homeowners insurance, but I would guess there would be an exception to your coverage if it was a business.

  30. I'm just here for the cats*

    Is it just me or does it seem like there is more to #1. I get the feeling that there are more perks she is afraid of loosing besides the flexibility. Like does she need to work in a space more quiet and the boss is going to move her closer to her office to keep an eye on her.

    OP if I were you I would talk with your boss. Explain your struggles. Say something like ” I believe I may have ADHD and am working on getting a formal diagnosis. This may take a while but I think x y z would be helpful for me to be productive. Is this something we can work on together.

    1. quill*

      Other things that might help / could be part of actually using the PIP to work on making the office more habitable.

      – Discussion of headphones / having your back to a wall / otherwise less distracting work atmosphere than is currently available. (Open offices, people walking behind you all the time, hearing other people work… all are distracting even if you’re Neurotypical Nancy)
      – Needing to get your priorities written down / kept very clear, or otherwise have an easily referenceable structured to do list that is not (initially!) created by you, and your distraction brain going “I’ll know what 2pm beverage fitting snrkl 360” means and will totally check this list before I have to be in that meeting. (Spoiler: it will not. Full sentences of instructions for the win!)
      – Removing or setting aside Constant Interruption Duties so that they aren’t eating 20 minutes of your time for what your boss thinks should be a 5 minute question. (AKA “boss, I’m going to put aside all emails about LLama Case File updates for the end of the day, because when they come up in the middle of a grooming it’s taking up a lot of my time and focus, and they’re never more urgent than the Llama grooming. Please don’t expect updates to the case files when you need me to focus on getting freshly washed Llamas out the door, I intend to get them all done during X block on my schedule.)

  31. RussianInTeaxs*

    My manager feels that employees should demonstrate excellence before being rewarded with things like flexible schedules or being able to work on side projects.
    Duh? Especially for the side projects. You can’t expect to get more responsibilities if you cannot perform your main responsibilities.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Yeah. In the end, you’re getting paid to do a job and if you can’t do it, the company has no reason to continue employing you. As a manager, I’d be vary if an underperforming employee wanted to focus LESS on his core duties.

    2. Alexis Rosay*

      #2 — do a mock interview with a friend and try to get their honest feedback. Some people are not good at interviewing.

      My partner got most of his jobs through temping and then being recognized as a good worker, because he apparently just doesn’t interview well. If you can’t fix your interview problem, maybe look for temp positions to build your network of people who know your work and trust you.

    3. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I’m willing to argue that flexibility wouldn’t hurt to try for a few weeks, depending on the specifics (ie starting early or late, taking longer breaks and staying late) because it’s unlikely to make things harder for coworkers (if people are already able to flex, they must be procedures in place to support that). On the other hand, if the side project doesn’t help as anticipated, even less core work is being accomplished. I can see a manager not wanting to take that risk.

      1. RagingADHD*

        It’s also not entirely clear whether the LW is newer to the job and wants to be granted flexibility that their more senior colleagues have, or whether they used to have flexibility and it has been taken away for poor performance.

        Because if it’s the latter, then obviously it wasn’t actually helping their productivity. Or it wasn’t helping enough to make the perform adequately.

      2. quill*

        Yeah, if the flexibility is framed as shifting core hours in a very predictable way, I can imagine it would be an easier sell.

        For example “I’d like to start and stay later for a few weeks and see if it helps me be more productive, here’s my proposal for times,” might work better in the context of working through a PIP, demonstrating that you are trying SOMETHING.

        That said, if the hours are 1) moving you out of your manager’s in-person supervision in ways they’re not comfortable with, or 2) contributing to a perception of you as potentially “lazy” (more likely if you request to start later, especially if it’s significantly after an ‘average’ start time for your peers, without additional context like ‘skipping rush hour’) then it might not be granted.

    4. meyer lemon*

      I don’t think it’s really standard to allow flexible schedules only after “demonstrating excellence.” In that case, I think it makes more sense to allow the flexibility as a default.

      The side project part is more reasonable, but I still think the “demonstrating excellence” seems like too rigid an approach. A lot of people do work better under more flexible and variable conditions, and I don’t really think any strict and across-the-board management strategy is going to be as effective as one that recognizes that different employees will work better under different conditions.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Exactly–it’s true that someone who has demonstrated a history of reliability may be granted more flexibility than others but it’s also super normal for many companies to advertise flexibility in order to attract employees and in those cases you would expect it to just be a baseline and not something you have to earn. It’s an extremely normal thing to want/need from a job.

  32. BlueBelle*

    “My manager feels that employees should demonstrate excellence before being rewarded with things like flexible schedules or being able to work on side projects”
    that is how perks, rewards, and stretch projects work. Once you have mastered your position and have been consistently able to perform your job, then rewards happen. If someone isn’t able to complete their job, there is no way I am assigning them extra work or a specialized high visibility project.
    I am not sure why this is so opposite of so many of the comments.
    *I believe most positions should have flexibility around start and end times unless someone is taking advantage of that**

    1. twocents*

      Agree. I also think that there are different levels of flexibility. I mean some people are bringing up that they should be able to work any hours — literally any — and as many hours or a few hours as they want… I don’t know of any business that agrees to that for new people, much less would give that perk to someone clearly struggling to even remain employed.

  33. Overeducated*

    LW4 – I had an employer who kept pressuring me to agree to a start date because they wouldn’t issue the written (formal, required) offer without it, and they wanted me to set one two weeks from the conversation, but couldn’t guarantee how quickly they’d get me the written offer. And the boss was really anxious to get me started because HR had delayed three other offers…by four months…so he was really short staffed. I said no way, make the start date a month away and we’ll revise it if HR is quick.

    He was annoyed but got over it. Meanwhile, I got there and found out the two other coworkers I was supposed to start with had literally moved to our city a month in advance of getting a paycheck due to the HR delays. AAAAAAAH!

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Make the start date two weeks after receipt of a formal offer. I have a formal book proposal out right now. Part of these proposals are a projected delivery date for the manuscript. “One year from signing of the contract” is a perfectly acceptable proposal.

  34. Firecat*

    When I hear bathhouse I think Onsen or wellness facility and don’t lump it in with “adult” industries at all.

    I’m an American and have never heard of sex worker based bathhouses in the US TBH. Do most people really think it’s porn work vs a Spa or Sauna facility?

    1. Phony Genius*

      Same here. I tried to make a similar comment above, which may have gone to moderation. I’m in NYC, and we have Turkish-style bathhouses that are totally above-board. That was what I was picturing while reading this, and it confused me.

      1. Pennilyn Lot*

        NYC is full of gay bathhuoses! Infamously so. Go look up the Everard Baths. It’s totally fine for all of you to not have heard of bathhouses but I promise you that they are secret or even particularly niche! This is pretty mainstream gay culture and worth learning about.

        1. I also cannot believe that I’m having to explain bath houses*

          Yeah, I think this is important. I’m sure no one is meaning to be rude here, but the insistence on “well I’ve never heard of it!” when talking about a pretty well known part of queer culture is at best tone deaf. It’s fine not to have heard of these spaces, but they’re an important element of queer culture And worth learning more about if you had never heard of them before.

    2. doreen*

      I suspect that has a lot to do with where you have lived – I live in NYC and it has never occurred to me that there were “bathhouses” that were not an adult industry I mean sure, I’ve heard of spa and sauna facilities and even places with a business name of “XXX Baths” – but when I’ve heard the actual word “bathhouse” , it has always referred to a place for anonymous hookups.

    3. Pennilyn Lot*

      I think you’re just not aware of these scenes, or perhaps you’ve not lived in a larger city. They’re reasonably well-known and most people are going to think of actual bathhouses when they hear the term, not wellness facilities or spas like you’re talking about. The US certainly has many bathhouses and always has. Look up ‘gay bathhouse’ on Wiki.

    4. I'm just here for the cats*

      American here (Minnesota/Wisconsin/Iowa) and I thought the same thing. I thought Bathhouse was just another term for a spa type of thing. Like the places you go and sit in pools from natural springs. I didn’t know Bathhouse=sex work.
      I wonder if this is a regional thing too. Like in really large cities on the coasts or something.

      1. I never thought I'd be explaining bathouses on Ask A Manager*

        Not strictly speaking sex work (though I wouldn’t be surprised if sex workers use them). They’re just places for men to have sex.
        They exist all over the world, not just in North America, and the term bathhouse is pretty common.

        1. Firecat*

          Bathhouse in Japan is not synonymous with a place men have sex by the way, so by no means a universal term across cultures. Bathouses/Onsen are really just a place to go have a bath with friends or family. Usually the difference between bathouse vs onsen is the type of water used. Natural hot springs are onsen but tap water would just be a bathhouse.

          This was my first introduction to bathouses, so is probably why it’s #1 in my mind. My experience seeing them in America is mostly through cinema as a Mob spa, so again not sex based.

          It’s good to know they have that connotation though! One of my business plans was to open a Japanese style onsen and wellness spa so it seems the term bathouse can be misunderstood and sh poo uld be avoided. Also explains some of the weird looks I got about using bathpuses in Japan which I always assumed was Americans being squeamish about communal bathing.

          1. Nanani*

            There are absolutely brothel bathhouses in Japan – they’re usually called “soap” parlours or something like that, but walking past one you could easily think it’s the same thing as a public bath (I think you mean public bath by bathhouse here?).
            It’s not the same.

            1. Firecat*

              Sure there are brothel bathouses in Japan. Just like their are brothel hotels, cafes, maid services, you name it. My point was when you talk about a bathouse, or sento, it doesn’t have that immediate connotation.

          2. I never thought I'd be explaining bathouses on Ask A Manager*

            I’m aware it’s not universal, but just pointing out that the term is fairly widely used, and not confined to regions in the US.
            (I’ve been to an Onsen, it was wonderful). One way to avoid ambiguity is that a Sentou/Sentoo is another name for a Onsen that doesn’t have a hot spring.

      2. peasblossom*

        More than regional (or in addition to regional) it is very much a subculture thing. Queer bathhouses have a long history and are definitely a known entity outside of queer communities as well. I would be very surprised to see a spa identify itself as a bathhouse without it also trying to flag sex work or hookup culture, and while I suppose it’s possible that the OP could encounter a hiring committee where no one knew about bathhouses’ context, I think it’d be unlikely that that’s widely the case.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          I’m surprised there’s still such a thing in 2021. I knew that these kinds of places existed in the old days when most gay men were highly closeted, but assumed they must have gone away now that you can just go on an online dating site and meet people of any orientation you want.

          1. Ex-Bathouse worker*

            It’s an evergreen business; while there are closeted guys who go, there will always be demand for people who want anonymous hookups and don’t want the seediness of a beat.

          2. peasblossom*

            I think this assumes certain things about what folks get out of a bathhouse that aren’t necessarily true. While obviously hookups happen and in some places that’s the main focus, in others bathhouses are more communal queer spaces. My favorite one has a great pool, sauna, and a fancy restaurant! Also, not just for gay men :-)

            and, of course, ex-bathouse worker is right, some people just prefer not meeting online!

          3. Pennilyn Lot*

            I mean, if that was the case, why would we still have gay bars, right? The existence of apps has not gotten rid of a LGBTQ+ culture that has established itself over many decades.

    5. RagingADHD*

      It’s not porn work or sex work.

      It’s like a “no-tell motel.” Its a hospitality business, but the actual purpose/business model/clientele is entirely based on clandestine hook ups. They started being a thing back when being gay was actually illegal in a lot of places in the US. Today, there’s not necessarily anything illegal going on (though there might be).

    6. Middle School Teacher*

      I think you need to do some research into gay history in Canada and the US. Not all bathhouses are sexy or sex-based but for a long time, that’s where people in the community would meet and connect.

  35. BlueBelle*

    My aunt and uncle had a retirement hobby farm in Southern BC. A huge group of us would gather down there for cherry picking season, but it was all voluntary and a huge blast. We picked cherries until it was too hot, then we ate, drank, played games and had a great time. Yes, picking cherries was hard work, but the rewards of being all together for a week or two with people was great. Plus, free cherries!

    1. James*

      My grandfather had a farm like that. I’d spend a good chunk of the summer there as a kid, helping with whatever needed done. Fixing equipment, caring for and butchering the animals, dealing with the garden (“garden” doesn’t quite provide an accurate sense of scale–it was the better part of an acre), helping with the fields. That lasted through college, and only ended because I moved out of state. Nothing tastes better than fresh produce–you can pick it the day it’s perfect, and eat it a few hours later! After college I used to help some friends sheer sheep, because I’d never done it and it’s a lot of fun.

      That said, Grandpa’s farm was a hobby farm. It paid for itself, most of the time. And we only did a portion of it–we rented the large fields out to another family for a portion of the profits or produce, depending on the crop (very common where I grew up). And…well, I needed to do a lot of growing up as a kid, and hard manual labor was a good way to do it. The lessons I learned served me well in life so far. If nothing else, I have the ability to tell folks on a jobsite “If you do that you will be injured. Here’s the scar to prove it”!

      If my grandfather had said “I need help because I don’t want to follow federal labor laws” not only would I have said no, but my family would have told him no, and exactly what he can do with himself!

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, that’s just it. Helping family because you can and want to is fine. However, if family wants you to help because if they hire someone, they have to take steps to make sure they won’t get hurt (and protect them if they do) and they don’t have to do that for you, that’s not OK.

  36. Lucious*

    On LW1: there are two general ways to look at this.

    If the expectation was set from the beginning that flexible benefits and side projects were contingent on meeting certain metrics, then the manager is completely proper in both refusing to grant them & placing the LW on a PIP. An earned perk is just that.

    On the other hand, if flexible benefits and side projects are considered part of the role but the manager is gatekeeping them in a narcissistic attempt to motivate the LW through psychological manipulation, then the manager is out of line.

    In the former case, the solution is the LW should improve their performance. In the second, it’s time to find a different role under a more reasonable manager.

    1. Allypopx*

      “if flexible benefits and side projects are considered part of the role but the manager is gatekeeping them in a narcissistic attempt to motivate the LW through psychological manipulation”

      uhhhhhhhhh…I mean I guess if by “psychological manipulation” you mean “incentivizing OP to focus on their core job”..sure?

      The OP says outright that these are perks given to people the manager seems as performing well, and the OP is not. That’s pretty straightforward.

    2. RagingADHD*

      If flexible benefits and side projects are considered part of the role, and LW1 is not doing the role adequately, then

      1) It’s completely appropriate and not at all manipulative for the manager to simplify the core functions of the role and remove perks; and

      2) It would appear that LW1 is incorrect in their belief that these perks help them be productive – since they WEREN”T being productive when they had them.

  37. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW 4, you are very rarely bound to a discussed date (the “real” start date is in the offer letter). In the future if you want to give yourself some protection, go with, “I can start three weeks from offer” or whatever you like. A lot of times it just comes up so hiring managers can work out things like vacations or projects or people

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Aaaargh! … people who are not as eager to move as they are.

      Employers will often say they’re moving fast, they want to wrap things up quickly, and something always gets in the way. Don’t sweat it. The delay is on them

  38. Allypopx*

    LW4 – like everyone has said, it’s not on you. But I also just want to empathize. There’s a lot of anxiety around this kind of transition and it’s normal to overthink these kind of interactions! But it really won’t be a big deal.

  39. Observer*

    #1- Alison gave you good advice. Three things I’d add:

    Focus on the schedule but in addition to making the suggestion time limited with metrics for success, also make it a bit structured. So you’re going to be working 10:00-7:00 on Tuesdays, and possibly on Mondays, for instance rather than suggesting that you get to come and go whenever.

    You also need to get much better at evaluating your own performance. You say that “Right now I’m doing okay” but that’s clearly not the case. If you were doing OK, your boss would not be talking about putting you on a PIP. You are not going to have much success in convincing your boss to make any changes as long as you consider poor performance to actually be “OK”.

    Start looking for ways to manage your suspected ADHD. There is a lot of information out there and you don’t need a diagnosis to see what works for you. This benefits you in several ways. For one thing, if you can tell your manager that you are taking specific steps to remedy the problems she’s seeing, she’s likely to be more open to your requests. But also, managing your ADHD (or whatever it is) is going to help you be better at this job, and any other job you will have down the road, even one that gives more of what you need. And to be honest, it may also be the only way you keep from getting fired. Because a PIP generally only ends in one of two ways – You improve your performance or you get fired. And that is going to be true whether or not your boss gives you the flexibility you are asking for.

    If your boss won’t meet you halfway, you may ultimately decide that you need to find a different environment. And that’s sensible. But you want to leave on your schedule and on your terms, rather than being fired.

    1. Allypopx*

      This is great advice. OP I think you’re putting a LOT of the responsibility on your boss right now for not giving you what you want, but even if you have a disorder or a disability you have to take charge of your own situation. That might mean knowing what accommodations you need and what to ask for (early on, not once it becomes a problem). It might mean doing independent work to manage your symptoms, with or without a diagnosis. It might mean seeking out employment more in line with your skills and needs.

      But your boss isn’t a mind reader, and does have a right to look for certain performance from employees. And you need to look at your situation more objectively and figure out what your next steps are, not just assume you’re doomed because you and your boss aren’t aligned.

    2. Actual Vampire*

      I second the part about evaluating her own performance. What stuck out to me from the letter is that LW doesn’t seem to have any ideas of how to improve other than getting a flexible schedule and side projects. I get the sense that she might not really understand what the specific issues with her work are, which will make it hard to improve regardless of accommodations/perks. And this also might make it hard for her to create a convincing proposal for a flexible schedule or side project that helps maximize her strengths and minimize her weaknesses.

  40. Observer*

    #3 – I haven’t read the comments yet, so someone has probably already mentioned this. But if I were really interested in this for some reason, the other thing I would look at is if they can avoid all of the other regulations (other than minimum wage) such as OSHA.

    But, tbh, I would just do as you plan to “be busy for every July, August, and September from now to eternity

    Are your aunt and uncle generally unreasonable people who expect others to provide them with whatever they want? Or is this the one (major) blind spot?

  41. ElleKay*

    #2- I agree with Alison that there may be something else going on here. I don’t routinely google people’s former employers so I wouldn’t assume that’s the case here. If your abilities line up with my job needs well enough (and your cover letter is good!) there’s a chance I might look it up but it’s still not all the time and I’d still want to talk to you.
    Since you’re getting first interviews I suspect you’re loosing out in comparison to other candidates and brushing up on your interview skills (and how to present your experience) is the key

    1. not a doctor*

      Yeah, agreed. Unless they specifically asked questions about your former job, I’m skeptical that you got all the way to interview #1 *and* were successful enough to be considered for #2 until they Googled your resume.

  42. #Null*

    My father owns & my brother operates a seasonal agricultural business. I feel differently about working for them because they’re more closely related, but if they asked me to help out for free, I’d do it. They’d house me & feed me and honestly, it’d feel like a vacation to not have to run a household for however long I could work for them. Would it be work? Absolutely. It’d be long hours, possibly interrupted sleep, dealing with stinky men who haven’t seen their families for weeks, in a loud environment and possibly expenditures on my part to run errands for the business. But I also view it as “my” business in the sense that I grew up with this. I don’t benefit from the business now, but it’s my family.

    But OP #3, do not feel obligated whatsoever to work for you aunt & uncle for free, if you are not inclined. If you’re not interested, just say “no thanks, I’d rather visit when you’re not busy harvesting.”

  43. Angela*

    Whenever I hear a reference to a business with an alternative name for customer privacy, I LOL at this story that happened to me years ago: I used to be a legal secretary at a big law firm. One day I was filling out expense reports for a firm partner. The firm required the reports to be very detailed with a lot of information, it was a pain to complete them. I was processing a receipt from a dinner this guy had had in Decatur, Illinois, but the weird thing was the receipt didn’t have the name of the restaurant, just “Decatur, Illinois,” and an address. I googled it and it turned out the business at the given address was Hooters. I felt weird writing “Hooters” on the expense report, so I asked a more senior secretary what I should do. She got SUPER protective of the lawyer, who she had worked for for a long time, told me to just say the restaurant he went to was Olive Garden, and then told me defensively that he only went there because Hooters was the only restaurant in (checks receipt) Decatur. I kind of rolled my eyes, I’m so sure that’s true, but said OK and went back to my desk. Flash forward 20 minutes, when I pull out another receipt for the same lawyer. Apparently Hooters is *also* the only restaurant in Davenport, Iowa. Did you guys know the Midwest was such a culinary wasteland?

    1. quill*

      Lol, having driven through both of them, the idea that those are, (or ever were) the only sit-down restaurant in what are comparatively large midwestern towns (for Cornfields, IL and Cornfields, Iowa respectively) is hilarious.

      Hooters doesn’t move in until there’s an applebees or Olive Garden long-established in a town, because they just have a smaller prospective customer base than “everyone, their children, and their grandma after church.”

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        But…according to the ads they used to show during NASCAR, Hooters is a great place for dads to take their kids! Fun for the whole family! (I have no idea if they still show these ads during NASCAR, as I no longer live in a household where watching NASCAR, or for that matter television in general, is a regular thing.)

    2. SoloKid*

      I would’ve written Hooters all over those reports. Powerful men get too much leeway in society about their comings and goings.

  44. not a doctor*

    LW#1, a lot has already been said here about the need for a formal diagnosis and the fact that your manager’s requirements seem fairly reasonable for someone on a PIP (both of which I agree with). But since 1) a formal diagnosis can take a lot of time and expense, and 2) a PIP is all about showing concrete and specific Improvements:

    What steps are you taking to manage your ADHD symptoms *now*?

    Because make no mistake, accommodations can and probably will help, and medication also might, but a large part of ADHD treatment focuses on helping you manage your symptoms. It’s not like you won’t ever have to do things you have trouble focusing on, so how can you set yourself up to be consistent with them right now? It’s not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis by any means, but there are certain tools, systems, practices, etc. that tend to work for a lot of people with it. I’ve seen visuals, timers/alarms, journals/schedules, a organization systems (like color-coding or folders), to name a few.

    I have a diagnosed condition that shares some symptoms with ADHD, which I still experience despite being in treatment, and I use tools like Asana and various calendars to stay on top of things — because that’s still my responsibility.

    1. Allypopx*

      Yes! Other ideas might be researching the Pomodoro method, having things redundantly in multiple places (REDUNDANTLY being important – like I write stuff down AND put it in a calendar AND stick post its on my computer), noise cancelling headphones, fidget items to help you concentrate (i wear a spinner ring on my thumb), and upping your caffeine intake if any of those make sense for you.

    2. LayDHD*

      Absolutely. And, IME, getting diagnosed itself can take a long time, then another long time to find a treating psychiatrist who a) treats ADHD and b) is taking new patients, then some time tinkering with meds until you find the best fit. And LW#1 really doesn’t have that much time to waste.

    3. MissCoco*

      Agreed!
      I also wanted to mention something that has been the experience of my partner with ADHD — he still needs ALL the systems he was using before he was medicated!
      He finds it much easier to USE his systems, but they are still important for him to get done what he wants to get done.

      I have other executive function stuff, and I’ve found the same thing. Meds make me feel better, and help ease my symptoms, but I still need to use a lot of planning tools to actually meet my own goals

  45. RagingADHD*

    LW1: If you think ADHD is your problem, go to the doctor and find out. They will be able to help you with meds and/or coaching/advice, to help you manage your own productivity. Generally speaking, work accommodations for ADHD are going to involve LESS flexibility, not more — because external structure helps. A well- planned PIP that involves extra check-ins, shorter deadlines, and very specific deliverables/objectives would most likely be very helpful for an ADHD brain.

    Straight talk: It’s not your boss’ job to make your work more fun or flexible. If you just don’t like the main focus of your job and would rather do side projects, then it’s probably not a good fit, regardless of your ND/NT status.

    1. LW1*

      Yes, the more I think about it, the more I think a major issue here is that my primary job just isn’t a lot of fun for me and that’s part of why I’m so restless. I’m sure that saying this is setting me up for a million comments telling me that work isn’t supposed to be fun, but enjoyment is a very high priority for me and I’ve done well at jobs I’ve enjoyed. So while I’m preparing to job-hunt, I’m going to think hard about what type of work and workplace would be more enjoyable.

      1. Long Furby*

        My understanding as a loved one of someone with ADD (and not a professional in any way) is that one of the major issues adults deal with is the inability to choose what they hyperfocus on – I can choose to focus hard on boring work if I know the payoff is worth it, whereas my loved one with ADD struggles to focus on even hobbies they want to do if their ADD wants to focus on something else.

        Diagnosis and treatment can help!

      2. Colette*

        I think that’s a good idea – but I also think it’s important to remember that every job is likely to come with stuff you don’t find fun, so I think you also have to work on how to deal with that so that it’s not such a struggle. (That probably involves getting tested for ADHD to see if that is an issue for you, and then pursuing treatment if it is.)

      3. Observer*

        The issue for you right now is that whether work is “supposed” to be fun or not. But that it is not Boss’ responsibility to make you job fun or to give you the work you enjoy rather than the work that needs to get done, and that you were hired for.

        You are smart to consider what kind of work and workplace would work better for you. In the meantime, figure out how to improve your performance without depending on getting your boss to change her mind.

      4. Jennifer Strange*

        I don’t think work “isn’t supposed to be fun”, but I also don’t think it’s the fault of your job that you don’t find your primary work fun. I think it’s a good idea to think more about what kind of work you do find to be fun as you job search.

      5. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        As someone with ADHD, you might want to reframe needing fun and enjoyment as a need for stimulation and novelty. Even jobs where you’re doing things that you might find boring may have a natural workflow that give your brain the stimulation it needs. For example, a business analyst job where you get to spend most of your time on incidental requests might keep you engaged than one organized around working on longer-term projects. Both jobs will have boring data and documentation drudgery, but projects with shorter timelines will give you a more steady stream of built-in rewards.

        1. Metadata minion*

          Agree! I tempted for a while for an agency that had a program where if you had a certain level of general office skills, when they didn’t have a long term position for you they’d send you out on one- or two-day gigs either as emergency coverage or as the company’s donation to nonprofits. So I basically got to swoop in and copy things or organize files or whatnot and then swoop out again like the world’s dorkiest superhero. If I were doing any one of those jobs long-term it would have been mind-numbing, but constantly learning different systems and having different tasks made it interesting and weirdly fun. At one job they actually sent me home early with full pay because they ran out of things for me to organize. If it actually paid enough to live on instead of being a stopgap thing while they try to find you a temp-to-perm gig, I would seriously enjoy doing that long term.

      6. RagingADHD*

        Liking your job, or otherwise deriving satisfaction from it, is extremely important to most people. Some people can get satisfaction from all kinds of tasks that others find boring or infuriating. Others derive satisfaction from their environment or co-workers, even if the tasks themselves aren’t pleasant. And still others get satisfaction from abstract principles, like sacrificing for a higher cause, or being well-rewarded financially.

        Knowing what makes a job a good fit for you is a vital part of finding the right fit. As is understanding the distinction between the manager’s responsibilities and your own.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Also: check out the Job Accomodation Network’s page on ADHD. There are a number of different ideas for accommodating specific difficulties (like distractability or time management). Some of them are things your employer/manager can do. Others are things you can do for yourself.

          As a side note, one of the suggested accommodations is “Minimizing marginal functions to allow focus on essential job duties.”

      7. Metadata minion*

        I think that’s a great idea! I would also recommend seeing if there’s any way you can make the tedious bits that you’ll have in any job fun/interesting/new. There is absolutely no shame in setting yourself up a star chart for Filling Out the Stupid Forms or finding one of the gamification apps out there that will award you digital pets or level up your avatar for doing chores.

  46. Leah K.*

    I am side-eyeing LW1’s comments about side projects and “variety in work”. Presumably, they are side projects because they are not part of your core job requirements. You were hired to perform those core tasks, and until you’ve proven that you can reliably manage your time and effort to get those tasks done, it is reasonable for your boss not to give you additional assignments. I understand that your brain may function better when you have a chance to switch tasks and refocus periodically. But unless your current job literally consists of a single task, you should be able to switch things around without having a “side project”. Maybe my own experience is coloring my perception, but most of the side project on my team are high visibility and high importance. So, I would never assign one to a person who does not have a proven track record of delivering high quality results in a timely manner. It’s not a matter of punishing somebody by withholding a “perk”. It’s a practical business decision.

  47. Jen W*

    Re: #4 delay in offer–this happened to me where I got a verbal offer, even negotiated salary verbally, and they ended up ghosting me entirely (yes, as though we’d met on tinder) so definitely wait to give notice! They’ll understand the calendar pushing back. After 2 weeks of me emailing every 3-4 days and them saying “just a few days more” I sent a final “please let me know if anything has changed on your end” and never heard ANYTHING back. I learned through a friend at that firm that they’d lost a big contract and no longer needed to hire… still eternally grateful I never gave notice at my job or I would have been SOL!

  48. Koala dreams*

    #1: It’s very confusing to read the comments on this question today, after reading the thread on remote work just a day ago. There are many jobs where flexibility and multi-tasking are core parts of the job, not “perks”. Smaller organizations often have more overlap between roles. Company culture can also make a big difference. Focus on looking for one of those jobs, and see this job as a learning experience.

    It’s still worthwhile to have a conversation with your manager, perhaps you can work something out, perhaps not, but at least you know you did your best.

  49. Can't be anon anymore*

    LW2: I think a lot of this will depend also on the industry you’re planning to jump into and the region where you live. I used to work at a beauty school in Portland, Oregon and frequently would interview prospective students who were strippers or talked about “making the transition from illegal marijuana sales to legal marijuana sales.” None of those things were a turnoff when considering if someone could study and eventually work in the beauty industry in famously weird Portland. If you’re looking for work in a small town or in a fairly conservative industry (finance, government, corporate law) you may need to follow her advice. In major west-coast cities and in more, uh, free form industries it may not be an issue at all.

  50. Anonymous Hippo*

    #4 – I generally specify when they ask “when you can start” as 3 weeks from when we have a signed offer letter. So going into it’s clear that the start date is based on when we finalize things. But I think that’s also a given for the most part.

  51. feral fairy*

    For LW1: There’s a couple of lines in the letter that give me pause as someone with ADHD & anxiety issues. “I know from experience that I will never be able to demonstrate excellence without some degree of flexibility and variety in my work situation”
    “My manager is talking about putting me on a PIP, which is guaranteed to make me perform worse because I’ll be so stressed and anxious”.

    It seems like you have resigned yourself to a bad outcome if you don’t get the “perks” that you want. If you believe that you cannot possibly be productive or successful without your employer giving you perks that don’t seem like they are guaranteed for your position, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I understand that it’s frustrating when you feel like you’re not being given the tools you need to succeed- that was my experience growing up with ADHD. That being said, you aren’t doing yourself (or your employer) any favors by writing off the possibility that you can perform well in your circumstances. You are about to be put on a PIP and you do not have very much leverage. It seems like you’ve already spoken to your boss about flexibility and the other perks and she is on a different page than you are. At this point, I think your only option (other than looking for other jobs which is absolutely something you should do) is to accept the conditions your manager has set for you with an open mind instead of deciding pre-emptively that you are going to fail.

    I’m also thinking there are probably other bigger-picture reasons that your manager isn’t giving you the perks that you want. If they have been tied to performance in the past and your other colleagues have had to perform at a certain level to get and maintain flexibility in their schedules, it will seem like a double standard for her to grant you the same perks when you haven’t performed up to par.

  52. CorporateRecruiterinVA*

    Oh man the first issue happened to me as well. I had a grand boss who was very opposed to WFH and flexible schedules because she felt it stood in the way of performance and collaboration. I was struggling with a long commute that had been more recently complicated by coming back from maternity leave and tacking on a new daycare drop off in the mornings. I was missing more bedtimes than not and always missed dinner with my family. It was tough and I wasn’t able to get flex in my schedule that I needed to keep my head clear and perform better…unless I performed better. It was such a vicious circle. My boss advocated for me as much as she could. I ended up muscling through it and spent a few weeks really killing it through my obstacles so I could get what I needed. I am not proud of that sometimes but I actually loved the org and the team and it felt worth it to give a bit more in the short term so I could get what I needed.

    I ended up getting some WFH privileges about 6 months after that. Several months after that, my team was moved and my grandboss went to another position in the larger org. My new grandboss ended up being really great where flex is concerned. She embraced what I needed in WFH and I was a hybrid employee even before COVID. My performance was also better than ever. I am actually still with them but I would entertain leaving if I ended up back in that previous situation again.

    It’s a tough spot to be in but it’s worth thinking about what you need to do to get your performance in a place where they are more confident about it and if you think that will be worth it in the long term. The answer might be yes.

  53. theletter*

    LW1, In addition to the great advice above, the fact that you’re looking for side projects to keep you energized should be a big red flag. In my career I’ve seen one person eschew the totally reachable, very career-raising tasks for self-directed side projects that, I’m sorry, offered no value to our team. They eventually backed away from all advanced tasks, and were eventually laid off.

    I’ve seen another person insist that they understood the work, then consistently prove that they did not understand the work, while constantly asking for more advanced work. That person eventually learned how to do the basic work and started to thrive, but by then their accumulated reviews were very low and they were laid off.

    I think from these two examples we can see how insisting on side projects when core work is not getting completed reflects poorly on you. I’d suggest taking a long look at those side projects – could you do that type of work as a career? Then you should pursue that. If not, consider finding a setting that will allow you 20% self-directed side project time, and then use that to motivate you to get your work done.

  54. GNG*

    Yes I agree, I have also seen employees in similar situations, and unfortunately things didn’t turn out well for them.

    LW1, I am sorry you’re going through a difficult time. Brain fog related to long covid is a real thing.
    On the other hand, from your original letter and your comments upthread that you seem to be very focused on getting your boss to give you the “perks.” But given your Boss’ concerns about your performance, insisting on the “perks” is extra counterproductive. Your Boss is already losing trust in your ability/willingness to do the job you’re hired for. Insisting on side projects and flexibility further shows you don’t have a good handle on how to prioritize and manage your workload.

    Imagine you’re renovating your bathroom and hired a contractor to lay tiles in the shower. You have a set timeline, budget, & goals for this project. But now the contractor says to you that in order to lay the tiles, he needs to come over to your house whenever he feels is the best time for him, and also, he must do this side project of painting little flowers on your bathroom walls, which you didn’t ask for and don’t need. You have some concerns about meeting your goals and you spoke with him, but he insist he needs to work this way. Deep down you don’t think it’s a great idea, but you let him do it like this for a couple weeks. But when you take a closer look on his work, some of the tiles are wonky, and his progress is very slow. The flowers look nice but you don’t care about the flowers. You need the tiles done. Your project timeline is ticking by and you know there will be serious negative consequences if the project is not done right and/or not done on time. You talk to him again and ask him to focus on the tiles, but he says you don’t know what you’re talking about. You have it all backwards, because clearly, working whenever he feels is the right time and painting flowers are pre-requisites for him doing his job.

    How would that make you feel?
    Would you feel you’re getting what you paid for?
    Would you feel the contractor cares about meet your needs and goals?
    For your next project, will you hire this contractor again?

    Of course this is not a perfect analogy to your situation, and of course I don’t know how you would feel. But I know many people would let this contractor go. They would find someone else who is willing and able to do the job efficiently. They might try at first to accommodate but eventually every boss reaches their limit at some point.

    Give your boss gave you a heads up about a PIP, I would recommend refocusing on 1). Find ways to do your core work in ways your boss can accept, and 2). look for another job. I know you mentioned you want to last through Q4 but honestly that might not be an option for you if you’re let go before then.

  55. Sally*

    OP1, your manager sounds like an inflexible nightmare to work for: they sound like the type of person for whom being able to have a proper lunch break or leave the office on time in a “perk”. Even if not, they do sound like a “my way or the highway” manager, where they expect everyone to perform at peak by doing things a certain way, because that’s the way that suits them. Never mind that it costs productivity and that you’re asking square pegs to fit into round holes. It’s infuriating and they are terrible managers.

    I’ve had the same experience and I am very sorry you are going through it. Definitely get the ADHD formally diagnosed and some formal treatment put in place. I’d also look for another job, away from this manager.

  56. Retired(but not really)*

    One thing that worked for me was to set mini goals with a reward at completion- enter this stack of invoices into the computer and when I’m done I can go get a drink from the machine. Next day – see if I can do x# more of these in less time than it took me yesterday. Or whatever fits your job. Because this sort of thing did increase my productivity, I was then looking for what I could do once my main tasks were completed. Due to the nature of my job there were weeks that it was all I could do to get thru recording everything. But then there were weeks where I really didn’t have enough to do, so I ended up doing other things that I eventually moved to doing almost exclusively and someone else was hired to do the things I was tired of doing after so long. And yes, variety definitely can be very motivating. Even when it’s a job that others might think is less than ideal – data entry or inventory or printing labels or cleaning the kitchen can still become more challenging if you redefine your focus.
    I don’t know what challenges you can come up with for yourself, but give it a try and see if that will help.

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