how can I tell our boss we’ll all quit if we can’t work from home?

A reader writes:

We are a small office, just 10 people, and our boss is discussing when we’ll go back to the office and what that looks like for flexibility. He was against work from home before the pandemic, but we went fully remote during the pandemic and ended up having the best year we’ve ever had, financially and productivity-wise, so we proved that we can be fully remote and it works well. Even the boss likes working from home, but our founder doesn’t, and boss doesn’t like to ruffle feathers so he won’t say no to founder. It turns out he’s looking at having us in the office three to four days a week, which is completely unnecessary. We are more productive at home, and going into the office will cost all of us hundreds a month in extra expenses. I surveyed the four core employees (me the three department heads who are in charge of all of the work we do). We are all in agreement that two days a week in the office is the most we can stomach, and anything beyond that means we will look for other jobs if they offer us flexibility.

How do I bring this up to our boss in a constructive way when it’s going to sound like “do this or we all quit”? I don’t want to say that the four of us leaving at the same time will destroy the organization but it is possible, and even if not the organization would have a few very rough years rebuilding, so the four of us staying is pretty important. He’s usually a very reasonable boss, but also gets some ideas that you just can’t move him from no matter what we say, and I think this one is somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. (Yes, we all recognize how dysfunctional the organization becomes when our founder sticks his nose into things, but unfortunately we are stuck with that issue long-term). If it matters, several of us are planning families or have just started families, and the flexibility offered by a mostly remote situation will make all the difference in our work/life balance and whether or not we can stay here long-term, so it’s important to get this right.

I know we’d have more power presenting this to him as a team, but the others probably won’t agree to that, so I’d have to speak for them, which is frustrating but the way it is.

It can be risky to speak for a group when the rest of the group isn’t willing to do it with you. What your coworkers are saying is that they’re willing to let you take all the risk while they take little/none — and sometimes if there’s blowback, the rest of the group will suddenly water down their stances and imply you overstated how they feel. That doesn’t mean that will definitely happen, of course — but it can, and it’s worth exploring exactly why they’re not willing to lend their voices more directly if they really mean what they’re telling you.

You could also point out that each of you individually has pretty limited influence on how this plays out, but if you band together as a group, you have a good shot at getting the plan changed. If this is important enough to people to quit over, is it really not important enough for them to speak up about?

And who knows, maybe the answer to that is no. Maybe they have other reasons they’re fed up or don’t expect their voices to matter, or maybe they’re not that invested in fixing this, or maybe they’re deeply uncomfortable with advocating for themselves, to the point that they’d rather change jobs than make waves, or maybe they wouldn’t really quit over this if push comes to shove. Regardless, you need to know more about what’s going on before you speak on behalf of a group that won’t speak for themselves.

If they won’t agree to push back as a group … do they specifically want you speaking on their behalf? If so, in theory you could say, “Jane, Cecil, and Felix gave me permission to relay that this is important enough that we’d all consider leaving over it” (but make sure they all sign off on that wording first and that they’ll stand by it if asked about it). Or you could say something less concrete, like, “My sense is that people are ready to leave over this” … but whether your boss takes that seriously will depend on how much credibility you have with him/how much he trusts your judgment/how open he is to hearing things he doesn’t want to hear.

{ 370 comments… read them below }

  1. Red Swedish Fish*

    If your co-workers wont go with you to say this to the boss, then they will not back you up (especially if they have only agreed as keyboard warriors). Don’t go this alone, unless you are willing to quit (likely alone). Just for an FYI most people when it comes down to it will not quit their job, even if they say they will.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I don’t like this setup, either. I also think you should speak up only if willing to go it alone, and make a stand only if you’re willing to resign/be fired on your own. The others may join you, but there’s going to be a lot of pressure on them to sit it out and you’ll be hung out to dry.

    2. Jurassic Park Ranger*

      Also! OP is clearly very passionate about this stance, it’s worth taking a moment to evaluate if their co-workers do truly feel strongly about it or if they are just being friendly and supportive to OP. Maybe they do like the idea of only 2 days a week but really don’t have a big problem with going into the office 3-4 days a week.

      1. OP*

        That was definitely NOT the case. One coworker was ready to quit if they were required to go back at all, another said that even 2 days in the office per week was unnecessary, and the other was fine with a day or so per week, because their job actually has meetings with others so they’d likely have to go in anyways. 3-4 days a week was definitely a dealbreaker, even 2 days a week would have been for most of us.

          1. OP*

            We were 100% in the office before, but being completely remote for the last 18 months has shown without a doubt that we are more productive and bring in more money when remote, so none of us can stomach the thought of going back to an office every day when it costs us (the employees) money, costs the organization huge amounts in unnecessary rent, only to produce less work and bring in less money.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              W T F is wrong with managers who can’t see this.

              I get it if the positive “returns” on WFH are unclear, but when it’s clear its’ working better, bringing in more money, how can a leaders go against that. Open your eyes!

              If I was the OP i’d try to get the manager to make the case to the founder. Not “ruffling feathers” but showing how to have postive impact (more money): We’ve had higher income at lower costs, and we know WFH is attractive to talent. Here is some evidence backing up how WFH is a positive change for our organization. Yes, I was worried about negative impact on collaboration but that has not happened. [Or but that has been more than offset by our increased output and sales].”

              Make the founder articulate why they don’t like it. If they’re wise, when they try to make the argument they’ll realize they are wrong.

            2. Mockingjay*

              It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about negotiating a compromise between your needs and the business’s needs.

              Make a business case with the metrics you just mentioned. Include options – say 2 or 3 days/week in the office. What outcome could all/most of you live with? What about a trial period? Yes, you’ve already proven that WFH is successful, but it was likely viewed by upper management as temporary and they haven’t thought long-term. What if the office lease was renewed because the plan was to have everyone back?

              Allow your boss and the founder time to weigh in, counter offer, etc. When you say “the founder is sticking his nose in,” that’s not a very receptive frame of mind to negotiate with. He might have other reasons to want you back in the office – expanded business coming up, more availability to clients. (And yes, as the founder he gets to have personal preference.)

              Try to meet in the middle.

            3. Still breathing*

              I’d be careful bringing rent savings into it; that probably depends on where your offices are. Sometimes rent is a sunk cost just to show that the business is successful. Many companies won’t pay a 10% commission to a self-employed suburban salesperson, but they’ll pay a 30% commission to the company with the trendy name and desirable address. It doesn’t make sense for the buyer but that’s how they do it anyway sometimes.
              I am in a similar “boat” but the government I work for doesn’t want the city I work in to take too much of a financial hit. We are all going to part time work but only reducing our footprint about 15%.

              1. Bagpuss*

                Yes – I don’t know what ‘s usual in the USA but where I am (UK) commercial leases don’t typically have break clauses more less than every 5 years, so normally a business is going to be locked in to the rent payments until the next break clause regardless of how many people are actually in the building. If you know for certain that your employer is saving rent AND that that’s something that can continue (as opposed to being a temporary covid-related thing) then you could mention it, but I’d focus more on the benefits to the business of having you working remotely – higher billing/returns, better feedback from customers etc.

            4. EventPlannerGal*

              Not to be flippant but like, it’s not your rent, dude. It’s the company’s rent. If after hearing all the arguments the company owner still wants to pay rent on a building to work in, which is a pretty normal thing to do that most companies have been doing for a while, he can. I get that it’s annoying to see something that you feel like is a waste, but it’s not your money. After reading all your comments below, I do feel like either you are rather overinvested in a lot of stuff about this company and therefore are taking things like the rent more personally than you should, or you don’t care that much but are using them as an excuse to justify your personal desire to WFH forever.

              1. The Rural Juror*

                There are lots of factors to consider that employees may not know. In our office building, we regularly sign 5-year leases. We may be able to downsize to a smaller suite within the same building, but we’ve spent a lot of money over the years outfitting THIS suite for our needs. It’s not just about the rent, it’s about utilizing the space we’ve built and maintaining our rate which is currently far below the market! We currently have 3 offices that are unoccupied, so several employees have made comments about it, but they don’t realize we’d pay more for a smaller suite. Even if we continue to have a hybrid WFH model, we’re not letting go of this space.

              2. You should stop*

                This. Commercial leases in my area often run for 7, 10, or 15 years. The company is probably locked in for an extended period of time. They can’t just stop paying rent under the terms of the lease because you prefer working from home.

        1. Artemesia*

          ‘ready to quit’ is just words — if they won’t go in with you to protest then they are not going to have your back and quit either. Been there. Big talk seldom becomes action. Especially if they have not already lined up other jobs.

          1. biobotb*

            Yeah, if they’re not ready to raise this with the boss, collectively or individually, then I don’t see how they’re really ready to quit over this.

            1. My name here*

              Exactly this. I just quit my job of over 10 years because I wanted to be 100% remote. I brought it up to my supervisor and while she was supportive I knew her bosses were not. I knew I wasn’t change the culture and others had already quit over it so if I were you, and I was, I’d make the case once and then find another job. If your coworkers won’t stand with you you have to go it alone.

            2. SimplytheBest*

              I don’t think this is actually true. Plenty of people are perfectly willing to quit and not at all willing to have an awkward conversation with their boss threatening to quit. They will absolutely quit over this issue, they just won’t give their boss a head of time.

              1. Catherine*

                Ditto. I’m extremely ready to leave my job but I’m not going to have a conversation about that. I’m going to line up new employment and THEN leave, so I don’t risk joining the massive wave of layoffs.

                1. nelly*

                  This might be, what the others are ACTUALLY saying; “If they announce that we are returning back to office, no possibility for WFH, I will start looking other jobs. I will give my two weeks notice, once I get a good offer.” And NOT “I will quit on the spot, if they tell me no.”

                  Very different things.

                  I’m sorry OP, but it seems like you’re alone in this one, when it comes to passion and urgency. It they don’t want to speak for themselves, it sounds like they want to find out how it goes and then make up their mind and how they will act.

                1. twocents*

                  Exactly. A lot of people have soft skills that are hard to convey that you’re clearly the best. A co-worker of mine with years of experience in a niche, but valuable area was able to find a new job in less than a week. Most people are looking at months of searching.

        2. High Score!*

          The thing is, spreading up for others who will not speak up for themselves never works out. If they won’t speak up with you then later when they are questioned under pressure, they will quickly claim you overstated their position.
          If they won’t join you then you are only speaking for yourself.

        3. MassMatt*

          Well, that sounds as though they will all quit/put in their notice if required to go back 3-4 days per week. But you say none of them are willing to say so, which makes me doubt this is a hill they truly want to die on.

          I don’t see a good way to move forward. Maybe you could just say to your manager you strongly recommend less required time in the office but the owner can require whatever he wants, whether it’s dumb or not. I’d start looking in case it comes down to trying to give an ultimatum, if you threaten to quit you want to be sure you are prepared to do so.

        4. EventPlannerGal*

          So.. out of 10, that’s you and one other person ready to quit over a partial return, one person who thinks it’s unneccessary, one person who is fine with it and six… misc? I’m sorry, but this is not a lot to go on and a far cry from “we’ll all quit over this”. I think that unless these people are literally walking into the founder’s office with you (well, I guess that’s unlikely if you won’t go in… goining the group Zoom?) with their resignation letters in hand, you should not assume that they care about this as much as you do.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            It sound like you might be rounding up to “people are unhappy” to “everyone will quit”.

            Quitting without anything lined up if you don’t get what you want, and quietly starting to look for a job that suits you better are very, very different things. One leaves you ineligible for UI, and without an income while you look for a new job. The other gives you an income while you look, and generally has you leaving with a better relationship with your soon to be ex employee.

            I strongly suspect that you really are the only one who is interested in making threats of leaving to the boss. The others will go along with the return to the office, and maybe look for new jobs at the same time. If you claim that the others are ready to walk with you, you’ll end up standing alone, with your boss and your coworkers angry at you. Or your boss will take you at your word, and accept your resignation, which is always a risk with open threats to quit.

          2. miro*

            Yeah, this stuck out to me too.

            OP, whether you personally agree with this or not (and I can imagine you might be sitting by your laptop thinking “you all don’t understand, I *know* how angry everyone is”) I hope you’ll read EventPlannerGal’s comment just to put into perspective how relatively little commitment there appears to be from your office overall. In the letter, you mentioned the “four core employees” and then in the comments you’ve talked about yourself and another senior person being the two spokespeople of the group. It seems like from your view–which may well be 100% correct–the most important/most influential people in the office are on board, and that’s what matters. And maybe that is what matters! BUT, from where I sit, it looks like the group of true believers/100% WFH ride-or-dies has shrunk each time you describe it, and it makes me, and it seems some other commentators, question how widespread this view really is.

            The thing is, OP, even if you do turn out to be the only person who really wants fully-remote work this bad. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re wrong, but it might mean that you’re the wrong person for this workplace at this time. It sounds like you’re already job searching, and that’s a good move. I hope things work out for you, in whatever form that ends up taking!

      2. Dominique*

        I was thinking the same thing. I’ve been in situations before where colleagues have tried to force me to join them in being outraged or upset about something which didn’t bother me. They gave me the ‘but if we call raise it/put in a complaint it’ll work…’ which may have been true but I wasn’t willing to risk rep/career for something I didn’t actually care about…

    3. Teapot Repair Technician*

      Just for an FYI most people when it comes down to it will not quit their job, even if they say they will.

      This rings true. The other three employees say they will “look for other jobs” but are probably not prepared to walk out without something else lined up. The result will be, at best, the four key employees will resign one at a time, which might not have the impact OP is expecting.

      1. Tuesday*

        Yes – it sounds like people have only said they’l “look for other jobs if they offer (them) flexibility.” But that’s different from quitting. A lot depends on the availability of other jobs with more flexible arrangements.

    4. Jessica*

      “most people when it comes down to it will not quit their job, even if they say they will.” I disagree. Certainly I don’t think they’ll Take A Stand and dramatically walk out, but it seems very likely that they’ll all start looking for new jobs, and that this workplace could lose its whole middle management pretty quickly.
      If I were the boss and OP came to me and didn’t say “I am representing Chuck, Yolanda, and Sajjid as well as myself” but just said “I feel strongly about this and I think others do too,” I would read between the lines and think to myself “Hey, I bet OP is the only one here with the gumption to bring it up, but everybody else is also probably about to quit if I continue to be unreasonable, so I should appreciate this timely wakeup call.”

    5. TootsNYC*

      I agree with both of these points.

      And, people aren’t going to quit without another job lined up. And it may take awhile for them to find a job that gives them so much remote work.

      The letter writer can say: “What I’m hearing from other people is that working from home has become really important to them. I fear that you will lose staff–if not all at once, then pretty quickly. Maybe quickly enough to be disruptive, or maybe not.
      “Plus you run the risk of returning to previous productivity levels, which isn’t good for the business either. You might check with people about this. A less extreme schedule–maybe 2 days a week–might not have as big an effect.

    6. Splendid Colors*

      I can tell you this has happened to me regarding tenant organizing in my building at two buildings. They want me to be the spokesperson but if anyone asks them individually, they have NO IDEA why I think they would to to [tenant rights organization] over it if nothing changes.

      I fell for it twice, and I won’t be a fool again.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        Yup, I’ve had that happen to me. Usually in school, other students would want me to go and tell the teacher something, but they would never back me up or say something themselves. I’m happy to go to the powers that be myself–but only representing myself.

    7. You should stop*

      Yeah. OP says that a lot of her coworkers have small children, so they have families to support. I’m skeptical that anyone would walk out over this.

      FWIW, when my office opened back up FT in March (way before most offices in our field opened), a lot of people said they were going to get another job and quit. Not ONE person in our 75-person office has done so.

    8. L'etrangere*

      I can’t agree with this enough. As the person who has on multiple occasions been exploited by others who saw my willlingness to speak up (yes, my bad), I can tell you that it hardly ever turns out well for the squeaky wheel. Most likely you’ll be eased out of your job while they go on in exactly the circumstances they said they wouldn’t endure. Please OP, reconsider. The only way you might accept this delegate role would be if you had in hand a written statement signed by all parties, and you were merely presenting it orally. But even then it’d single you out as the troublemaker, marking you as a likely management target in the future.

  2. Uncle Bob*

    I’ve found that people are pretty quick to privately say “I’ll quit over this” but when the reality of quitting hits I’m not sure very many will back you up. I’d perhaps raise it as a major concern but not a “we’re all going to quit” because I don’t think you can truly back that up.

    1. Anon for this*

      Even more broadly, “I’ll quit over this” doesn’t necessarily mean “I’m in a position to quit with nothing else lined up”. My workplace made several incredibly questionable decisions a few months ago, that I am absolutely going to be quitting over. However, I’m waiting a bit longer before leaving because I’m looking for the right job to move to, and I don’t want to be unemployed while job hunting. It’s a hill that’s worth dying on, but I’m not in a place, financially, to die on it.

      1. NotJane*

        Yes! I had this thought, too, but you put it much more succinctly. Like, they’re all going to quit without having jobs lined up? I mean, it’s nice if you can afford it, but I’d wager that the vast majority of people do not have that luxury. Especially people who are planning/starting families.

      2. Esmeralda*

        Also, people may be willing to quit now, but when the time comes, perhaps they don’t have another job lined up. Or their personal circumstances have changed and they can’t (for instance, my spouse may have to go on unpaid leave — I;m sure not quitting my job if that’s not sorted because someone has to be making $ in my house if we want to keep the house)

      3. Smithy*

        Absolutely this. I was once at a happy hour with a large group where the call to action was “this place is terrible, we all need to leave”. All of us did leave, eventually, but for the bulk of the group it took about two years for everyone to go. And then it was years after that for the final person to leave.

        Of the 4….one person could leave, and while one sees that as a case of “see – we’re all leaving unless you change” another person goes to their boss and says “I’ll stay, but here’s the raise I want”.

        1. Sparrow*

          Yeah, I had that experience as well. Everyone was in agreement that it wasn’t going to get better and we should bail, but no one was really in a position to quit without another job lined up. The majority of us did end up leaving, but most of the resignations were spread out over about a year. Somewhere in there the big boss did realize he had a legitimate problem on his hands, but it took about six people leaving (and thus several months) for that to sink in.

      4. SimplytheBest*

        Also, as I’ve said above, “I’ll quit over this” doesn’t mean “I’m willing to confront my boss and threaten to quit.” It doesn’t even mean “I’m willing to have a conversation with my boss where I let them know this is an important issue.” It often means, “I’m willing to privately stew over this and let my boss make a decision I don’t like and when they do, I will leave without telling them what started my job search.”

      5. Luke G*

        Exactly. To paraphrase a beloved former boss: “He’ll quit if you do this. He wont storm out today, he’ll smile and nod and then you’ll somehow surprised when he puts in his notice in 3 months.”

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I bet none of you are willing to quit without another job lined up so the reality is you’re all willing to job hunt over this AND some people are bad at job hunting or tired at the end of the day and will not end up quitting over this, at least not anytime soon.

      The LW’s coworkers are certainly hedging their bets by not willing to speak up and say that they are willing to quit over returning to the office.

      1. sunny-dee*

        And also, there’s no guarantee that they can find a comparable job that is also 100% remote. They may be upset about the change, but if the majority of jobs will expect in-person work or going remote means a significant cut to pay or benefits, then it’s not worth leaving, even if they don’t like the change.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          This is what a lot of my friends seem to be finding. They want to work remote, but it’s not going to be quite as easy as they think just yet. They aren’t finding much at their level that is 100% remote. Doesn’t mean they won’t and that those jobs aren’t out there but they definitely aren’t a dime a dozen.

    3. kiki*

      Right! Additionally, people may quit because of the issue and are being genuine when they say that but they don’t mean they’ll literally walk out immediately.
      A prior employer of mine instated some pretty dismal policies and 90% employees did start looking for new work when the policies were instated, but the time it took folks to line up a new job and leave took 1 month to a year, depending on their experience, position, and all sorts of other factors. How vocal folks were about their distaste for the new policies also tended to line-up with how easily folks could leave, even though most everyone agreed they hated the new policies. But for folks who knew it would take them 6 months to a year to make their exit, they weren’t about to jeopardize their relationships with management– instead, they quietly planned their exits.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        Exactly! This is what 90% of the people mean when they say they will quit over a work issue. And unless it happens all at once, it frequently will look like regular attrition.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s like spelling out your resignation in cod– “Mark said ‘Ya know what, no more! I quit!’ and then his whole team said ‘Us too!’ and then there was no one to write the Breezle Report” makes a satisfying story, in practice “mad enough to quit over this” often looks like turnover suddenly increased, and management professes to be puzzled and see no connection to that thing that changed just before retention tanked.

          1. Anon for this*

            Yup. What I say when I leave, if anyone asks why I’m leaving, will depend on several factors. If coworker leaves before me, then I will gladly say “I’m leaving because you essentially smacked coworker in the face with a rotten trout, and I don’t want to work somewhere this is considered an acceptable thing to do”. Personal loyalty to coworker is part of why I’m willing to slow my job search (that and my PTO won’t be paid out when I leave so before I start searching in earnest I want to use up what I have).

            If coworker’s still here when I leave, I will happily temporize. I’m not going to do anything that might get coworker pushed out any sooner than they want to leave.

            1. Make Mine a Double*

              I am currently looking for a job as part of the “everyone will leave if x happens” horde. I fantasize about my exit interview and this is the line I needed: “I’m leaving because you essentially smacked a coworker in the face with a rotten trout, and I don’t want to work somewhere this is considered an acceptable thing to do.” Someday. Hopefully soon.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      “I’ll quit over this” seems simple but can mean so many things, anything from a knee jerk grumble that gets walked back on further reflection to an immediate dramatic flounce to the exit, perhaps flipping a table or two on the way. In between, there are stops at “this will definitely make me leave, but only once I’ve lined up something suitable,” and “this WOULD make me leave IF anything better looking came along.”

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      This. If they’re not willing to say something or sign their names to it, then you will be standing by yourself on this one

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Thirding this: Do NOT speak for everyone, because they will leave you out there on that plank while they plan their own exit strategies.

  3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    Are your coworkers willing to sign their name to something so they can’t backtrack and leave you holding the bag if it blows up in your face? Also are you already interviewing and have something lined up so that you can hold firm to leaving if they refuse to concede to what you are asking?

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes at least get it in writing; if you’re still 100% remote now, maybe you can each write a short statement and sign it. That way it’s not you as the “ringleader” having gathered assent of questionable enthusiasm from the others. If all four write a 2 – 5 sentence statement and send it in together, you all look equal.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        Have THEM write the letter as a team collaboration. You sign the letter, and agree to be the figurehead, but only after they have put their own necks on the railroad tracks.
        Backtracking is not as easy as it was before email and recording devices, but it’s still human nature to desert a ship when there’s icy salt water swirling around your feet

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        How many people here would cooperate if their coworker proposed doing this on everyone’s behalf?

        It’s extremely unlikely I would–it would need a really strong team with deep levels of trust, and probably all in the same boat as to how ready we were to quit with nothing lined up because we had cushions.

  4. Lady Blerd*

    OP, I wouldn’t risk speaking for the group if they won’t do it. Even if they sign off on it you run the risk of some of them folding when asked by the higher up if it’s true you are speaking for them. Therefore you better do it only for yourself and as AAM always says, only if you are truly ready to walk if you don’t get your way. Good luck.

  5. Artemesia*

    oh please never be the sacrificial goat pushed out ahead of the flock — this never goes well. It is a great way to ruin your reputation and cost you a job. Never speak for people afraid to speak up for themselves.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’ve read that penguins will shove other penguins off cliffs as a way to check for seals in the water. Whether deliberately or incidentally when it’s crowded on the cliff edge but the water looks kind of seal-y.

      “Huh. Definitely seals. Guess we’ll wait up here for a while.”

  6. Lacey*

    People say all kinds of stuff they won’t back up in real life.

    I’ve only had one experience of this where everyone was all in. We had meetings outside of work to decide what our biggest concerns were, what we wanted to say, and how we wanted it to be resolved. Every other time, people were speaking out of frustration and weren’t actually planning on taking action.

    1. Anon for this*

      It’s one thing to plan on taking action. It’s another thing to say “if you don’t let me work remotely I will quit”, to someone who has already indicated that they don’t care how much productivity has increased working remotely. Sure, it’s possible they might stop and realize that if they don’t allow remote work, their high performing team will quit. But if they care more about appearances than performance, everyone who said they would quit is going to be abruptly without a job. If they’re all financially stable enough to handle that, they should go for it, but if they’re not, they shouldn’t be accused of backing down in real life because their life doesn’t allow them to immediately act on their desires.

      1. L'etrangere*

        Be realistic, no 10-person company is going to fire 40% of their essential staff in one fell swoop, not unless they’re all caught red-handed with their hands in the till.. But for sure they can all get on the shit list and get eased out as fast as possible, in which case it becomes a race between the guilty complainers finding another job for themselves and management finding a replacement for them. Not healthy in either case.

  7. Some dude*

    My work recently did this. We talked about it and agreed that we wanted to work two days a week, and proposed that to our boss, not so much as a united front but as a reinforcing front. “I’d like to work two days a week in the office.” “Me too, because xyz” “me too, because the in person time is valuable but spending three hours a day commuting is a waste of time”

    It worked. our boss wanted us in 3 days a week, but we got 2.

    1. Llama Llama*

      I would highly recommend taking this approach. The threat of “we will all quit” might not go the way you think it will depending on your bosses attitude and how much they are stuck on what they want. Better to come to the boss as a group and say, we really would like to do this because x,y,z and if they won’t listen well….their loss I guess.

  8. Andy*

    > We are all in agreement that two days a week in the office is the most we can stomach, and anything beyond that means we will look for other jobs if they offer us flexibility.

    I think that people are significantly more likely to say it to you, significantly less likely to say it to boss. And whether they are actually willing to leave and would actually look for new job is unrelated to either.

  9. Lucious*

    This is just my thought- but forcing people to act against their wishes rarely works out. Especially if it’s through coercion.

    The most effective solution here is for OP to find a remote position elsewhere and hand in their two week notice at the current job. It’s not their responsibility to argue for their coworkers , especially if said coworkers are unwilling to advocate for themselves.

    1. Sambal*

      Yeah, the strongest argument you and your coworkers can make is handing in your notices after finding a position with a company you see eye-to-eye with. Why not just let your employer learn the lesson the hard way?

      This seems like a huge waste of energy on OP’s part.

  10. cmcinnyc*

    Oh no no no no no. Your coworkers will not quit over this, will do nothing about this, but will be perfectly happy for you to fix this for them at all risk to you and none to themselves. The rubber has already hit the road, and they have backed out. Please see that.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Just because people make noises that they will quit if they don’t get X, doesn’t actually meant that they will quit once they realize how actually quitting with no job lined up may affect their lives.

    2. Nettie*

      They also might not feel very strongly about this, even if they agree with OP that they’d rather work 0x a day. OP hasn’t come off as very reasonable in these comments and I’m not sure we should trust their coworkers actually want to convey the “we’ll quit over this” message.

    3. SimplytheBest*

      Quitting doesn’t have to mean burning the place down on the way out. For most people “I’ll quit over this” means “I’m going to start a job search.”

  11. AVP*

    Hello from someone who has sort of been here! It really really depends on the particular situation, where you’re located, etc etc, but the rules and conventions around benefits and starting a family are so weird and contentious in the US that I would not expect people to follow you and quit in the middle of, say, a pregnancy or having just had a child. I would be very cautious here and ask your coworkers to sign on to a letter or be there at the meeting with you, because I don’t trust how serious they are.

    1. Rainy day*

      And know that even pre-pandemic, remote workers had to sign that they would have childcare. It is impossible to work full-time and care for a small child simultaneously. It was allowed during crazy Covid times because there weren’t alternatives, but that will change.

      1. Double A*

        I doubt people are wanting WFH because they think they can watch their kids at the same time, but rather because of the flexibility that WFH allows for you to take care of family related stuff. And also if you’re working a full time job and the second shift at home, the time saved on a commute is gold.

        1. quill*

          A three hour roundtrip commute was mentioned, so I’m assuming it’s a case of being absolutely unable to do an 11 hour workday and the work of living + childcare rather than saving on daycare because you’re working from home.

  12. eons*

    If the other members of your team aren’t willing to talk to the boss/founder about it along with you, then it can’t be that important to them.

  13. OP*

    It’s been a few weeks since I sent in this question, so I already have an update of sorts:

    1 of the other employees from the group discussed it with him too, so it ended up being 2 of the 4 of us that were willing to speak up, the 2 of us are the “senior statesmen” of the group, meaning we’ve been there the longest and often do speak for the group. People often come to 1 or both of us to air their grievances, so it’s not unusual to have the 2 of us speaking for everyone else. My boss hates this (we’ll get back to this in a minute), but that’s how it usually pans out.

    So, we both had conversations with him about his original plan, which was 3-4 days a week back in the office, starting in January, which then turned into 2 days a week in the office, starting this September. The other spokesperson of the group felt she had to compromise somewhere, so she said 2 days at most would be acceptable, so that’s how he got to 2 days a week, but then she told me “I’m sorry I ever made it sound like that was acceptable, it’s really not, I just thought I had to say something”. Yes, this was a mess.

    So, I sent a note to the boss saying that we all agree that even 2 days in the office per week was not acceptable, there is no reason we need to be in the office at all, and that he needs to really push back on founder because that was causing a lot of resentment. I also told him that under no circumstances could this start in September, the pandemic is still ongoing and the vaccines are too new to know their full capability yet.

    He responded back and shot the messenger, taking offense at the ways he’s being perceived by the staff. I told him that he’s constantly complaining that people don’t come directly to him with issues, and this is why, because he doesn’t listen, he instantly goes into defense mode, and it’s unfair to the 2 of us that do bring messages to him that we always get “shot” for it, and people aren’t going to come to him when he fights back. That seemed to REALLY make him think because it shut him up, he hasn’t brought it up since then, and I honestly believe the message finally sunk in.

    So, nothing has really been permanently solved yet, but he was going to announce the return to office plans about a month ago, and he hasn’t yet, so the pushback obviously helped. Now that Delta is running rampant everywhere, I think that absolutely hammered home how early it was to even try to go back to the office, and was a good “told you so” for our argument, which will hopefully cause him to pause to and think more thoroughly in the future when trying to hastily make plans. The battle isn’t over, but we won this round at least, so we’ll see what the final plan ends up being, but I think he has enough cover now due to the Delta resurgence to tell the founder that we aren’t going back until it’s perfectly safe, and individually we each have enough power to refuse to do the same without him getting upset at us.

    1. MK*

      I was getting ready to write a long comment about this, but on second thought I think your workplace culture and relationship with your boss and coworkers is too outside my norms. I can only say that thee seems to be a lit of dysfunction here and it isn’t all coming from your founder.

      1. ThatPersonCommenting*

        “I can only say that thee seems to be a lit of dysfunction here and it isn’t all coming from your founder.”
        There is a lot to unpack here.

        1. mediamaven*

          I can say as an employer I would be very uncomfortable with an employee acting like their job was to go to war with me. No thank you.

        1. Anon at the Moment*

          Agreed! I was following this post to see how the OP and their colleagues brought this to their leadership. Unfortunately I’m in an org where some negotiation is possible but we certainly aren’t in a position where if the boss says “ these are the staffing guidelines,” that we could respond, “yeah actually? Those aren’t the guidelines. THESE are the guidelines you’ll have to accept.”

          Good luck OP. Unless you are some kind of Unicorn Employee you won’t have power like this in many places. I hope you can find a solution at this workplace.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      You delayed things. Founder doesn’t like remote work, even when they have hard evidence that it’s advantageous. Boss isn’t willing to go against the founder. Ultimately, you likely have 2 options: go back to the office or find a new job. In your place, I’d be job searching (in fact, I did).

      1. OP*

        That’s pretty defeatist, and doesn’t reflect the reality. It may in some places, but certainly not across the board, and for our organization we are generally able to effect change, it was just harder in this situation. I wouldn’t have written in if I knew that change was not possible.

        1. Allypopx*

          Two days down from four is effecting change. But “anything but zero days is unacceptable” … is not likely to be a winnable battle

          1. twocents*

            Yes, OP already got the compromise (and a huge one at that!)

            And is now trying to renegotiate that compromise in a way that seems to be attacking the boss’s character. What a hugely dysfunctional office.

        2. PeteyKat*

          Your Boss compromised as requested but you changed your mind. So basically, it’s your way or the highway. No compromise.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, this. This is the job now, which means accepting the job as it is now or leaving. As to what Allypopx says, getting to WFH three days vs. one day IS a win and it IS affecting change. It may not be the change you want, but it’s change and it’s better than being in the office 100%.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is a good update!

      Keep advocating for yourselves, but as Alison and others said, don’t put yourself in the line of fire for everyone. If they aren’t willing to take the risk themselves, they don’t deserve the rewards.

      1. OP*

        BYW, I love your screenname, and cheered last week when Hulu told me that the new season was finally on the platform!

    4. sunny-dee*

      You seem to have a very contentious relationship with your boss and obvious disrespect for your founder. That seems like it could be a problem.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Yeah this all feels way too personal and heated for my comfort level. OP keeps saying that their work environment isn’t toxic, but it sure seems like there are a lot of power struggles going on.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Yeah, I was really taken aback when OP described the founder as “stick[ing] his nose into things”…he’s the founder! Everything the company is doing is his business, and he can choose to get involved in whatever aspect of the business he wants. It sounds from the outside that this is a culture without a clear sense of direction which leaves room for a lot of power struggles.

        I wish OP the best of luck in getting the schedule they want, but I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that the employees can strongarm the founder into getting their way.

        1. OP*

          The founder has NO role in the organization, he retired a few years ago and has no management responsibilities anymore, our current boss just continues to go to him and ask his opinion on things, and sometimes founder just pre-emptively tells boss what he should do. This is the biggest dysfunction of the office, a founder who is gone but not gone, and a boss who not only won’t tell him no, but still tells him yes quite a bit.

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            Ah, that sounds really frustrating! It sounds like you’ve (justifiably) reached BEC stage with this whole setup, so I think your efforts would be better spent looking for your next great step than trying to get your boss(es) to do what you want when they’re clearly telling you they won’t. Good luck!

          2. CmdrShepard*

            It sounds like this is a for profit business? Is the found financially out of the organization, or did they retire, hired your boss to run/manage the office but the founder still retains 100% or majority 51% ownership stake in the business? If so it is still their business, even if they are retired and not actively managing it.

          3. Andy*

            Good luck! Imo, ask a manager comments section tend to be biased toward “defer to manager” and “disagreeing with management or wanting changes is suspect and wrong” attitudes.

            If you are able to negotiate and if your boss is willing to listen to what you say in disagreements, then that says something good about your organization.

            1. Allonge*

              That has not been my experience re: Ask a manager. Taking into consideration that all other things being equal, a manager has more power than those reporting to them is not the same as ‘disagreeing with manager is wrong’.

              1. UKDancer*

                Yes. I think the comment section is very clear that disagreeing with management and wanting changes may have consequences and that it’s important to use your negotiating capital carefully. I think most commenters are also aware that the degree to which you can disagree or challenge may depend on your sector, your country and other factors such as the nature of the industry.

              2. Andy*

                The strain of comment section I comment on is not the one that says ‘disagreeing is a risk’. It is the one that seems to get offended when employees are not purely deferential. The one that consistently sends the message “it is wrong” rather then “there is risk in it”.

                Comment section is systematically on “you can negotiate” side when it comes to salaries and few things like that. When you openly disagree with process, rules, approaches, consequences, it gives more of “how dare unprofessional disrespectful you” feedback.

          4. Clisby*

            OK, now the situation makes more sense to me. At first I was thinking, “Why the heck do you think you don’t have to pay attention to what the founder wants?:”

          5. Ash*

            If he’s the founder but he retired – that could mean different things. Does he still own the company? Then it makes sense that he has the final say on how it is run, regardless of his day-to-day involvement. Did he sell the company to someone else, so he truly has no connection to it? Then he shouldn’t have any say and the boss shouldn’t be deferring to him. The final say would be whoever the current owner is (whether that’s the boss or someone higher up.)

    5. Mstr*

      I don’t read this as you succeeding except for the part where he is considering 2 days. Gently, you might not be winning long-term here even if Delta causes delays. It sounds like he simply chose not to engage with you further, which could mean anything including that he’s going to focus on hiring your replacement vs continuing to debate with you.

      1. Anya Last Nerve*

        Agree. Many people would love a job that involved 2-3 days in the office (including me!) so boss may be looking for a replacement who is more than happy to come to the office and OP may be forced into a job search.

      2. OP*

        That’s definitely not the case, but you wouldn’t have the inside knowledge to know that, so I understand how you came to your conclusion. Fortunately the boss can be stubborn, but he is 0% devious.

        1. LTL*

          I’m not saying you’re wrong, you know the situation best. But I’ll say that quietly looking to replace an employee doesn’t make someone devious. It’s part of running a business.

          1. hbc*

            Yeah, if someone tells me that they’re unwilling to work under X condition, and I plan on instating or continuing X condition, it’s just smart to look for a replacement. I consider it respectful to take them at their word. (And I don’t think this is the OP, but the bonus is that it’s sent a couple of game-players packing when they tried to leverage a (fake) job offer into a change I wasn’t willing to make.)

        2. Slant-Six Mind*

          The boss can be stubborn? Do you even hear yourself? Because it sounds like you are stranded on a plateau of moral certitude, where you view your belief as objective truth: that your fixed judgment that there is no benefit to in-office work is wholly correct and absent of doubt.

          1. OP*

            Well, we have the data to back us up, and the boss himself even admits that we don’t need to go back in the office, he just won’t tell the founder no, so your conclusion couldn’t be further from the truth. The founder also has no role in the organization anymore, he’s “retired”, he just keeps butting in when he wants to.

            1. NYC Taxi*

              It’s very possible your boss is agreeing with you about going back into the office because he’s tired of the constant arguing about it, but really thinks you should be in the office and is putting the blame on the founder to keep the heat off himself.

            2. Anononon*

              If your boss is still complying with the founder’s requests, then he certainly does still have a role in the organization. “Role” doesn’t need to be black or white/explicit position.

            3. Disco Janet*

              Is this how you speak to people at work? Your tone in pretty much every comment you disagree with, even a little bit, is very adversarial and jumping to extremes.

              1. HQetc*

                Hm, that’s not how I’ve interpreted the OP’s comments at all. I agree their tone is not super sugar-coated in this specific comment, but the comment the OP is replying to here is also fairly rude in tone, so I don’t know that the OP has to be nice-nice in their response.
                I’ve read most of their responses more as trying to correct misreadings of the context by commenters, or trying to express how the OP’s context is different from whatever background lead the commenter to their reading of the situation. I think it can be hard as on OP to correct or push back without it reading as “I’m not interested in your advice,” but I do appreciate it when they comment, since I like knowing how the actual situation is playing out (even though I understand that the point of advice columns is about getting an external view and offering advice that will be applicable to folks beyond the OP).

            4. Anon at the Moment*

              At least where I work (a very large org in the U.S.) you can have all the data in the world and leadership is still going to make their decision based on whatever criteria the C suite thinks is important. It may be based on public ally available data, it may be based on data the rank and file employ don’t have.

              Just a caution to not assume that you and your coworkers have the same info as your boss or even your founder.

            5. Hannah*

              There’s basically no such thing as one sided objective data in a situation like this. The past 1.5 years are a once in a lifetime occurrence in which we are all doing our best. Taking the position that your interpretation of data (data which you intend to support your desired outcome) is the only option and no one else’s opinion could possibly have merit is not a good workplace strategy.

              1. KRSone*

                This. I’m super curious what data you have that only seems to support remote work? Correlation does not equal causation (“we had our best year of profit this year so obviously remote work is profitable”?)

              2. RabbitRabbit*

                My concern is that the real decision-makers will see the “works at home = better results” data and spin it as “slacking in the office, could do just as well or even better there in a ‘professional’ work environment.” Data may say something, but what it MEANS can be up to more-than-loose interpretation at times.

                1. Andy*

                  I dont know, that seems to he assuming sociopathy or intentional misframing where OP writes about strong disagreements. As in, in no point OP says his boss is the kind of manager who will be manipulative like that. And yes, it is quite clear manipulation tactic which works on people unused to negotiation.

                  To simplify it, none of people people involved is a jerk and there is no assume to turn boss into one.

                2. RabbitRabbit*

                  (May be some nesting issues here…) Considering there is a certain level of nebulous ‘influence’ from this Founder, I’m not sure we can predict what will happen even if the data says something that looks positive to the OP. There is a Boss but it seems highly likely there are additional factors at play.

        3. generic_username*

          It’s not really devious to start looking for a replacement for someone who says they’ll quit when you don’t cave to their demands. You’ve essentially put in notice….

        4. L'etrangere*

          A boss that’s 0% devious is well worth taking the trouble to argue with, I’m with the OP here :-)..

      3. PT*

        Since OP mentions families as an issue, I’d mention Delta and school/childcare shutdowns/quarantines as an impediment. Ex: “Well, we are likely looking at another semester of disruptions due to positive cases in our employees’ families, quarantines from exposures, and school and daycare shutdowns. How will we plan office coverage when we have people shifting in and out of quarantine at the last minute?”

      4. Cat Tree*

        My general stance is that when people are at the point of threatening to quit, they should just…quit. and the seems like the case here. Whether this is a true “win” or just a delay, why stay to find out? It sounds like this place has a lot of problems.

    6. Anya Last Nerve*

      Wow so you negotiated in bad faith to get to 2 days a week and then went back and said never mind we want to come in zero days a week? I’m confused how you don’t see how bad that is. Also I see a lot of people saying they are going to try and find full time remote jobs, but they aren’t exactly growing on trees. Before you push this hard, you might want to actually see what your options are. How many jobs out there will give you similar pay and benefits and also let you work full time remote? And what will your competition be like to get those jobs?

      1. OP*

        It was a miscommunication from another employee, I wasn’t moving the goalposts on him. If anything, it helped my cause because it showed just how much people won’t tell him their true desires to his face, so he needs to listen to those of us who are speaking for others, because we hear things he doesn’t/won’t hear. That’s obviously not great, but I’ve been in massively toxic workplaces before and I can assure you that this is not one of them. We are sometimes in disarray, but we aren’t toxic.

        1. Mstr*

          ??? I guess he needs to ask the people who are … lying to his face … if you indeed speak for them. How else would he know what’s really going on?

          1. I'm just here for the cats*

            I don’t think that anyone is lying to the boss’s face. Its more like they don’t feel comfortable coming to him because of the way he acts. Sounds like he gets defensive and doesn’t listen. So if I was an employee and the boss starts to get defensive I could see saying Maybe 2 days would be ok, when really I didn’t want that.

            1. Mstr*

              But if my employee says, Bob thinks x,y,z but Bob has been telling me something else entirely — I’m just going to keep believing Bob, the actual words he says to me, vs believing someone else giving me secondhand information. If I feel the need, I’ll ask Bob what’s going on. Never am I going to say, well, Bob is a liar & OP is telling me the truth … of course she knows more about what he wants to tell me than he himself does … I should definitely honor this request that he hasn’t even officially made.

              1. doreen*

                Yeah – and that’s leaving out the situation (which I’ve seen) where Bob admits telling Molly he wants x,y,z- but later claims he did so only because he feared the consequences of openly disagreeing with Molly. And I’m very much feeling that might be the case with the OP – maybe the other employees don’t feel as strongly as she does about working remotely but they are afraid to say so to her face.

            2. Clisby*

              Or it could be that they agree they’d rather be 100% remote, but do not feel all that strongly about being told to come into the office 2 days a week.

        2. Persephone Mongoose*

          OP, respectfully, I think you may be too close to the situation to really see things as they are, at least in the way you’re describing them to us. None of the details you’ve been giving us have been terribly reassuring that this isn’t actually a dysfunctional workplace. A boss who only hears what they want to hear is not a good boss at all, but it also sounds like the communication around this issue in general has not been great.

          Not every dysfunctional workplace is toxic, but there are certainly some flags here.

          1. OP*

            I fully admit we are dysfunctional, we are, especially because all organizations are, especially ones this small. So, we are definitely dysfunctional, I’d just never describe us as toxic, and I’m pretty quick to through the T word around.

            1. can-relate*

              “Dysfunctional” and “toxic” are two different things. A workplace can be one, or both. Very few of them, sadly, are both functional and non-toxic.

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, with the caveat that a workplace can be dysfunctional without being toxic, but I don’t think it’s possible for a workplace to be toxic without being dysfunctional as well. Pretty much by definition, it’s dysfunctional if it doesn’t nip any hint of toxicity in the bud…

        3. hbc*

          So, I’ve had the staff where there is the designated “here’s what people are telling me that they won’t tell you” reps and the people who tell something different to whoever is asking the question. This does not end well, even if you get what you want in the moment.

          I mean, you’re out there telling your boss that he can’t trust his employees to tell him the truth. Either they’re lying to his face about their opinions, or you’re lying to him about what they really feel. He doesn’t know who or what to believe. And I bet he is beyond frustrated that he came up with a compromise that increases your non-pandemic WFH from 0% to 60% (probably using a lot of capital with the founder), got positive feedback, and then got told “Nevermind, we all really think that sucks.”

          The workplace may not be toxic, but it’s not going in a healthy direction.

        4. miro*

          But the thing is, if you (and the other employee who gave him conflicting info) are indeed perceived as speaking for the group, then it does look (from the boss’ perspective) like the group you represent is moving the goalposts and negotiating in bad faith
          Alternatively, if he sees you two as loud individuals rather than representatives of the whole group, then it’s not a flip-flop, it’s just two conflicting opinions among possibly many other opinions (some of which might be fine with even more in-office work).

          In general, you can’t pick and choose when you can be seen as credibly representing the group (vs it just being an individual misunderstanding/miscommunication that can be waved away). Giving conflicting info about what the group wants/agrees to is going to hurt your cause, not help it.

        5. Deanna Troi*

          But you even moved the goalposts from your original letter to Alison, where you said you would start looking if you had to go in more than 2 days a week. Now you’re saying even 2 days is unacceptable.

          Look, I get it – I’m starting to sniff around other jobs, too, where I can work remotely all or most of the time. But I also believe that once you’re at the point where you’re threatening to quit, you should just find another job. I’ve seen too many times that people got what they wanted through threats and coercion, and their relationship with the company was ruined, so they had to leave eventually anyway.

    7. NYC Taxi*

      I wouldn’t read too much into your boss’s delay in announcing new work arrangements. The covid situation is fluid, and the poor relationships you seem to have with your boss and the founder would make me, as a boss, start looking to replace you.

      1. mediamaven*

        Yes – we’re changed out return to office plan multiple times based on changing recommendations. It’s not malicious. It’s just what it is.

          1. My name here*

            And I dont know who wins here. This place sounds super dysfunctional and as a manager I would have an issue with the way the employees, and op in particular, are handling this and communicating with me.

        1. NYC Taxi*

          I’m on our company-wide return to work communications team and we’ve pushed the return forward so many time–july, then after Labor Day, then October, now ??– that at this point we aren’t even talking about the when right now, but starting to message around how things are going to look when you go back.

    8. NotJane*

      “The battle isn’t over, but we won this round at least.”

      I’m not sure if seeing it as a “battle”, or taking an immediately adversarial position, is in your best interests. I’m guessing this might be another “battle” in an ongoing “war” between employees and the founder, and while “your side” might have some real power, you don’t have the *ultimate* power.

      The way I see it, the original plan was 3-4 days a week in office, and you got the other side to agree to, at most, 2 days in office. I’d take that as a win. Obviously, the pandemic/Delta is an evolving situation, so if September feels like too soon, you could renegotiate a start date for being back at the office.

      But it does sound like the org met you roughly half way, and instead of acknowledging that that, your response was, essentially, “Not good enough.” That’s… not likely to be a winning strategy, especially when you’re dealing with a founder who was never a fan of WFH to begin with.

      Also, as an aside, you mentioned “flexibility” several times in your post, but in what ways are you being flexible to the needs (or even wants/preferences) of your employer?

      1. OP*

        To be maximum productive we require ZERO days in the office, it literally costs us money and productivity to go into the office even 1 day a week, so our employer doesn’t NEED 2 days in the office per week, that’s what they want, and they don’t have any data to back up that “need/want”. Our plan is what is needed, boss’ plan is what he wants, so that’s not being inflexible. If someone wants to kill me but they instead decide to just cut off a leg instead, I’m not being inflexible by insisting that they just don’t harm me at all.

        1. Mstr*

          It costs who money? You? It’s definitely a norm to be responsible for your own transportation/work apparel/etc & if the company chooses to lose “productivity” …. they are simply prioritizing different metrics than you as is their right. It’s an inconvenience, not a maiming. I’m concerned that you don’t understand professional norms & are just spilling the office gossip to your boss rather than encouraging change.

        2. Allypopx*

          That’s a REALLY extreme analogy. I’m inclined to agree you’re a little too close/wrapped up in this to see the situation clearly. It’s clear this is very emotionally charged for you, which I understand, but you aren’t in any kind of negotiation mindset. You may need to be willing to give a little, or start looking elsewhere.

        3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Woah. This is…an extreme reaction to what should be a fairly emotionless conversation about workplace function. I too have had intense, angry responses to mundane office changes (in my case it’s been work reassignments and, once, the thermostat) and I’ve noticed these reactions always come about when I feel powerless and striving for control over my work. I might gently suggest that you take this opportunity to look at what else is out there for you – maybe this is a sign that it’s time to move on from this workplace whether they end up allowing fully remote work or not.

          1. Allypopx*

            In all fairness, I’ve seen thermostat arguments come close to drawing blood even in otherwise relatively functional offices.

            But yes – we grasp for control where we can.

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

              People were literally sitting in an 80 degree office with sweat running down their faces because the most hated person in the office wanted it cooler, and the most aggressive person wanted her to suffer. Thermostat wars make otherwise reasonable people NUTS.

              1. NotJane*

                80 degrees?! I’d have an intense, angry response to that, too, because being trapped in an uncomfortably warm, stuffy environment makes me really cranky and irritable.

                1. Jay*

                  For real! I also tend to get ill if I have to sit in a stuffy environment for too long, so you can bet I’d have an intense response for all parties involved. (I’m so glad my current office has a locked thermostat system that only certain people can adjust.)

              2. Luke G*

                At 80 degrees the thermostat war has now gone from “let’s discuss the thermostat” to “$10 says you can’t physically prevent me from turning that thermostat down” :D

        4. mediamaven*

          Listen – your definition of productive may not be the whole story. I don’t know what business you are in but I want my team, when it’s safe, to return to the office two days a week for a number of reasons. 1. our output is simply of lower quality than it was before. 2. I’ve had to terminate several people for an inability to work remote, for lying about what they are doing, for working on my clock for other companies etc.. which has been extremely costly. 3. I believe that managers should value some one on one in person time with their direct reports and vice versa. 4. Junior level people are missing out on a lot of learning and soft skills 5. Some of our clients do not want a firm that is fully remote 6. We have other business reasons (merger and acquisition potential) that requires us to have physical space and presence. The common sentiment on posts like these is that the employees know best and the bosses are dinosaurs who don’t know how to run their own businesses. You don’t always have all the information to make a judgement call about what the business needs. Your concern is what you need/want, but that’s only part of the story.

          1. Jurassic Park Employee*

            I fully agree with this. I started a new job a few months before the pandemic that was mostly WFH and I was really frustrated because not only did not being in the office slow my onboarding, but I missed out on a lot of learning opportunities. Not being around the senior team to just watch and learn and ask questions and participate in things as they arose really made it more of a challenge to understand the greater scope of what the company did (which is why I wanted the job in the first place).
            Not to mention it’s easy to be “out of sight, out of mind” as someone who is WFH when it comes to those learning opportunities.

            1. mediamaven*

              Absolutely – it does result in out of sight out of mind. And when people say well that’s just an indicator of poor management -well yes! Because it’s a lot harder to manage a team remotely! And it takes a lot more time! I’m glad you value some time with colleagues to cultivate your career – you’ll be glad down the road!

            2. Allypopx*

              I just started a job last month that’s still 90% remote and it’s the most difficult onboarding I’ve ever had. We’re slowly returning to the office and junior staff are completely unsure how to act, how to dress, if they’re allowed to eat lunch at the same time as senior staff – these norms and things that are so obvious in a new job after a day or two but with this weird time they just haven’t learned. I wasn;t here before but I’m hearing that meetings are less effective, productivity is lower…it just is really hard for some people.

              There are other people who aren’t thrilled we’re coming back and we’re working on a hybrid compromise, but needs are definitely mixed.

            3. Clisby*

              I think this is all valid. I worked 17-18 years 100% remotely, but before that I had worked almost 9 years in the office, so had a solid knowledge of the company culture, systems I was responsible for, and personally knew a whole slew of people I could call on for help if necessary. I cannot even imagine having to navigate all that remotely as a new employee.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            Agree with all of this. And it’s a personal issue as well! The headline of this post is that “we’ll all quit” but it seems like 24/7-WFH-no-questions-no-exceptions is a burning issue for OP specifically and one other “spokesman” and then of some level of importance to a couple of other employees, but not enough for them to actually say anything about it. This does not sound like something there is a solid consensus on at all.

            One thing that this site has made super clear to me is the variety of responses people have to WFH. For me, personally, going back into the office has been absolutely vital for my mental well-being because I live in a crappy flat and simply cannot live my entire life in my living room. I’m willing to bet that at least a few of OPs colleagues do not share their passion from WFH and would be fine or even happy with a partial return; and it’s kind of a lot to instigate this whole situation (which I’m sure cannot be fun to work alongside) without full buy-in. The fact that only one other person has even partially backed OP to the founder says to me that they don’t have that.

            1. Allypopx*

              Same, I couldn’t keep WFH I was dying. I started commuting back to my old office even when everyone else was fully remote. My current office is all over the map with our preferences. Some voices were certainly louder…but once we actually collected feedback the loud voices were not universal. They were just loud.

              1. Jay*

                “…the loud voices were not universal. They were just loud.”

                This seems to be true in basically any situation.

            2. NotJane*

              “One thing that this site has made super clear to me is the variety of responses people have to WFH.”

              Yes, this is so important. I no longer work in an office, but I know I’d really struggle if I had to WFH. I also can’t work out at home, and would probably similarly struggle with going to school at home/online. I need that separate, designated environment for certain things. And seeing/interacting with other people, even if it’s chit-chatting while we’re eating lunch in the break room.

              And I think this is something OP hasn’t considered – maybe the current employees all do have a very strong preference for WFH, but not all future employees, or potential future hires, will share that preference. So by adopting a 100% WFH model now, the company could be limiting the future applicant pool, should the norm return to being in office and/or hybrid.

              1. Public Sector Manager*

                So true. Out of my 20 person team, about 25% want to be 100% WFH. I have about 10% who want to be in the office 40 hours a week. The remaining 65% want a hybrid model–they want to WFH early in the morning, be in the office between 9 am and 2 pm, and then be able to work from home for the rest of the day.

                And there are a variety of reasons people want to be in the office (whether full-time or hybrid): spouse is also remote working from the house; lack of a home office set-up; subpar equipment or Internet at home; logistics in arranging for office supplies; the camaraderie of engaging with coworkers face-to-face; and face time with their managers, just to name a few.

                The people who want 100% WFH are very vocal about it. But not everyone agrees that 100% WFH is what’s best for them.

          3. Smithy*

            A lot of these items are good – and another thing I’d add is that I do think that some of the entities that have seen high results are due to some of the realities of COVID helping their industries or sectors. In my field, just about everyone I know surpassed their goals. Not to say people weren’t working hard, but ultimately our sector received elevated attention during COVID that we can’t always rely on. As such, things like perfect work products and a deep bench of well coached junior staff weren’t as critical.

            I am sure that many teams are able to be far more productive with more remote work than was made available before – but this concept that an entire employer than had been 100% in the office can transition to 100% remote based off the results of 12-18 months I think is a touch naive. The tech companies that have made those commitments to staff have also been playing around with a lot of different work models well before COVID. COVID may have shown proof of concept, but it’s not the same.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Yeah, I do think that first para is an important factor that is kind of hard to officially quantify. Similar-but-opposite: my industry has been basically floored by covid, and as such a lot of people have been very understanding about things we can or can’t do, acommodating of miscommunications/slowness etc etc. It’s nice but it’s not going to last. There are things that we do which WFH makes legitimately much slower and harder to accomplish, and people are not going to be accepting “oh sorry we’re WFH” as an excuse for much longer. We needed to get back to the office before people got their standards back, lol.

              1. Smithy*

                Ultimately, I think we’re going through a period that will certainly result in some significant labor changes – but likely not quite as sweeping and maybe even accompanied by a worker-driven “I actually want to work for a more old school business-formal employer to learn xyz practices”. Just thinking of post-war periods after both World Wars where certain labor changes lasted, some reverted to the prior status, but also some groups of people having that strong desire to recapture a more nostalgic experience.

                Individually, if you find that you can work very well 100% remote and that’s what you want – certainly there’s an increased market to seek out those jobs. But I’d just be mindful on making any broader statements around achievement and how that can translate longer term.

                1. New Here*

                  yes, there’s an increased market but it also includes more applicants like OP. I wonder if it will start getting harder to land a remote job just due to competition. While employers requiring in-office time may experience a short-term drop in competitiveness, I also suspect some WFH companies will revert back to office requirements as they see non-productivity metrucs drop. As another commenter said above, work quality can be lower and new hires are really struggling in remote environments. Companies may adapt by improving WFH…or they just revert to what they know – in office collaboration.

          4. SnowyRose*

            I’d echo what you’ve said and I’d add company culture to the list, too. When I started, my association had gone through some very rapid growth and employees were spread out between three different locations. All were within a 10-minute easy walk from each other, so still fairly close geographically, but three different very different cultures still formed and it wasn’t good. It took us a long time to break down those silos and right things. Over the past year, we’ve seen those silos start to reform and it’s detrimental long term.

          5. can-relate*

            With respect, mediamaven, most workplaces (and studies done about workplaces) do not reflect your experience. I suspect that points 5 and 6 are your main point of concern, and they have nothing to do with anything other than pre-COVID business norms.

            Regarding your second and fourth points, people have been managing and onboarding people remotely for decades. Half-decent managers are quite capable of these things, let alone decent or good managers. If any of your work is computer-based, there should not be difficulties unless you are not providing employees with the appropriate technology to perform their work (which is particularly relevant to your first and second points). Point 4 has also been proven to be nonsense in many studies, including recent ones.

            As to Point 3, that is merely your personal preference, not a business argument.

            1. mediamaven*

              Without knowing the intricacies of my business, your interpretation of my business is irrelevant. Is my business able to function with WFH? Maybe. Does it thrive? No. You sound like the OP who has decided you are the expert and the people actually running the business are not.

          6. Kitty*

            This is a great summary of some of the many reasons why managers might want some in office hours. Personally I think there are very few cases where remote work is better than in office work, from the organization’s perspective.

          7. Chiara*

            Yes! This is so spot on. These conversations are happening across every business right now. I understand when teams say they have been productive during COVID but do they have a full understanding of what has been missed? And sometimes productive = “our businesses didn’t collapse” but that’s not to say being fully remote is the best decision permanently. Do the teams know the future business objectives and how that might frame the set up for WFH v the office? Can they appreciate that not everyone wants the same thing and it is virtually impossible for businesses and business owners to take into account all the intricacies of their employee’s lives when making decisions about the WFH situation? It eventually comes down to a business decision v a personal decision. If you don’t like the decision the business is taking, then make your move but don’t go to “battle”.

        5. LTL*

          Sometimes bosses are wrong and you still need to accept that their decision as final because that’s how business works.

        6. Rainy day*

          Thing is, founder and boss actually DO get to decide how work is done. It sounds like you went in and presented it not as, hey can we work together on this, but as, you have to do what I say because people talk to me. That’s…not great. 2 days a week sounds like a good compromise to me! You weren’t hired as a remote worker. They don’t have to make the job remote just because you want it.

        7. NotJane*

          “If someone wants to kill me but they instead decide to just cut off a leg instead, I’m not being inflexible by insisting that they just don’t harm me at all.”

          Come on OP, stop with the histrionics. Working in office full time is not the equivalent of being murdered, and having to work in office two days a week is not the equivalent of having a limb severed. And I doubt framing this situation in such catastrophic terms is helpful for you. Going into the office 2x/week might not be your ideal or preference, but it’s not the end of the world.

          “So our employer doesn’t NEED 2 days in the office per week, that’s what they want.”

          Yes, exactly, that’s my point. It’s not really up to you and your coworkers to decide what the company “needs”. Maybe those in charge don’t need y’all to be maximally productive 5 days a week. Maybe they’re willing to sacrifice some productivity in order to get people back into the office. Who knows?

          Ultimately, whatever the founder wants, the founder is gonna get, because at the end of the day, right or wrong, it’s the founder’s decision to make. And then you get to decide if you want to go along with that decision or find another employer that’s more aligned with your needs and values.

          However, it does sound like they’ve given your thoughts and opinions consideration, which I think deserves some credit. The founder originally wanted 3-4 days a week in office, but has now agreed on 1-2, which sounds reasonably flexible to me. Your definition of “flexible” seems to be “bend to our will, or else”, which not only sounds rather inflexible, but kinda like mutiny, which I doubt is going to endear the the founder to your cause or make them want to return to the negotiating table.

          1. Jessa*

            Yeah, I think OP is grossly underestimating what the founder and the boss wants, which is to see people in the office they pay for. OP needs to remember that absolutely every employee is replaceable, and watch where they step. I think delta has bought them some time in which they really need to decide if they are willing to quit over this. The decision may be made for them.

          2. allathian*

            Oh wow. It feels like you’re reading my mind, because you wrote exactly what I was thinking.

            Something else to consider while we’re at it, a part of the productivity increase the OP’s seeing and attributing to WFH could very well be due to the way Covid has impacted their industry in general.

            I love WFH, and no doubt the impact on the productivity some teams with experienced individual contributors is low to negligible, if not positive. It didn’t find the transition difficult because I knew all the members of my team so well. But it’s much harder to onboard new employees and to make them feel like they’re truly a part of the team if you’re 100% WFH. It can be done successfully, as shown by some companies that were originally set up to be fully WFH, but it absolutely requires commitment from leadership to make it work.

            Before the pandemic I WFH between 1 and 4 days a month. Sometimes I’d go two months going to the office every day, and then I’d take 4 days WFH, usually when my son was too sick to go to school or a convalescent. This was no problem for me, because there’s never been a requirement of no kids at home while you’re WFH.

            So, with a team of established employees I can understand that it feels like going to the office is unnecessary. But that could change if they recruit new employees.

        8. Georgina Fredrika*

          OP, sounds like you’re at a tiny company so any “data” you have on this is going to be limited. You might not also have all the data. Maybe they’ve realized that productivity might drop a bit in-office but retention is higher, or whatever.
          Your metaphors about death/leg cutting are… dramatic to say the least, given what the topic is

        9. Deanna Troi*

          Wow, I feel like you are looking at this from an extremely narrow perspective and if your attitude that you’re obviously right and your boss is an idiot are coming across to your boss, I fear you’re burning your bridges right now.

          There are many, many reasons to want people in the office that have very little to do with immediate productivity. One of the most important ones in my industry is unofficial mentoring and learning soft skills. A big part of the reason I excel at my job is because I spent the early part of my career watching more senior people, chatting with them in the hallway, being able to swing by their offices to ask a quick question or run something past them. My office has hired 8 new people during the pandemic, and only ONE of them has reached out to me for advice. When we’re in the office, the new people are regularly asking questions of all of us senior staff. The absence of this is very noticeable to me and must be detrimental to their careers. Do you really not have any junior people and/or do you honestly believe you’ll never have unexperienced staff who would benefit from those types of interactions? There are numerous other examples, but this makes my point.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, no doubt it’s easier for junior employees to take the initiative in an office environment. That said, employers who are committed to WFH can and do set up systems to make this easier. In at least one case I know of, new employees are assigned a mentor they’re expected to contact even when they’d feel uncomfortable contacting someone out of the blue, and successful mentoring is included as a part of senior employees’ performance evaluation. But systems like this definitely require buy-in from management.

        10. Luke G*

          We’ve seen letters here from the people who are stuck in the office supporting the people working at home, frustrated that the WFH people get to delight in “increased productivity” while they’re bogged down doing extra work to make it possible. My lab team can’t be 100% remote but we went as close as possible during the earlier part of the lockdown- we managed to knock our objectives out of the park, but making it work required me (the manager) to tackle an immense amount of extra logistical work as well as regularly working 12-14 hour days and going into the lab after hours to do mandatory in-person work so nobody else had to go in and do it.

          In my case I didn’t mind- I was able to throw myself into the work and avoid going stir crazy. I’d suggest that you may not actually have the full picture of what’s going on at your company- you can see some metrics and they’ve improved, and that’s great! But what were the costs? What did your manager have to do to make it come together? Did other things get sacrificed? Was the workload way lower over the last year and now it’s trending upward?

          You’ve planted your feet so firmly on your preferred way of looking at things, that you’re comparing “being asked to work in the office sometimes” to having your leg cut off. As a manager who welcomes input and disagreement and negotiation from my staff, if I found out someone on my team was equating schedule negotations to violent maiming, I’d be actively angry at them.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      The part where the spokesperson agreed to something on behalf of everybody, then decided it was actually unacceptable, is a microcosm of where this approach will lead.

      1. Luke G*

        The employees were either negotiating in bad faith or just in a totally chaotic manner, but I blame the boss a little for that part too. If a spokesperson brings an issue to me on behalf of the group, I’m going to absolutely carry that issue back to the full group for discussion before I make firm decisions based on it.

    10. Teapot Repair Technician*

      Your boss now thinks the only person who considers 2 days a week a deal-breaker is you. He probably has also noticed that you consider it a victory to “shut him up” and deliver him a “told you so”, and that you regard your relationship with him as a “battle.”

      If I were your boss, I would invite you to resign (as you said you would) and hope the remaining 3 employees become less adversarial and more willing to compromise.

      1. Jay*

        OP’s boss may indeed decide getting rid of the “troublemaker”* in the group will help things smooth out/quiet down and help the rest of the team return to working well together.

        *I’m not saying OP is specifically, just that the boss may see it that way. If OP appears to be the one stirring the pot when everyone else might not be exuberant but aren’t ready to line up with pitchforks, then that may be how it comes across to the boss. (But the OP’s comments sound pretty combative, so I’d wonder how it’s all coming across in the actual conversations.)

      2. can-relate*

        If I were your boss, I would invite you to resign (as you said you would) and hope the remaining 3 employees become less adversarial and more willing to compromise.

        OP also sounds like at least somewhat of a lynchpin employee who would be expensive, and possibly basically impossible, to replace. Bosses who cut off their noses to spite their faces are extremely frustrating, and quite stupid.

        1. tra la la*

          I would be inviting this OP to resign as well. The only person saying that OP is a lynchpin is OP; we already know that the boss is upset with OP, and OP isn’t doing anything to mitigate that (not to mention framing the whole thing as a battle, which isn’t a great approach to working with a boss). No one is irreplaceable.

    11. EventPlannerGal*

      I’m sorry, OP, but I don’t think this is being handled well at all by anyone, including you. There is a lot of vindictiveness and us v them in this letter/update that sounds really intense to work with, and I don’t think you’re negotiating in good faith. I hope that you can step back a little bit from this situation in the space that you now have and consider if this is really how you want to go about your work life.

      I also can’t help but notice how fast this story goes from “we all want this” to “I asked three other people and we want this” to “me and one other person speak for everyone and we want this” to “well the other person compromised but I still want this and everyone else definitely does too”. When you’re talking about a massive, permanent change to the nature of the entire workplace it isn’t enough to have a couple of self-described “senior statesmen” (are you sure this is how everyone sees you, given that apparently none of them seem to have backed you fully?) speaking on everyone’s behalf, let alone doing all this back and forth. This all just seems to have gone from 60 to 0 and back to 60 again without me being entirely clear on how your other coworkers feel about it.

      1. Allypopx*

        Yeah and if I was junior staff an OP was this severe about this in person…I’d probably tell them what they want to hear. Even if I was not as passionate about the topic.

        1. Luke G*

          That’s a good point. When you find that the people above you, below you, and parallel to you are all just saying what you want to hear and then backing out on it later… (cue Whoopi Goldberg from Ghost) “You in danger, girl.”

      2. Mf*

        “ There is a lot of vindictiveness and us v them in this letter/update that sounds really intense to work with, and I don’t think you’re negotiating in good faith. I hope that you can step back a little bit from this situation in the space that you now have and consider if this is really how you want to go about your work life.”

        There’s a difference between being *right* and being *persuasive*. If the OP’s conversations with their boss is anything like their comments on this post, then they’re not doing themself or their team any favors by being so combative.

        1. UKDancer*

          This is an argument I’ve had with one of my former team on many occasions. They were often right but they were not often persuasive and the approach they took was seldom yielding the desired outcome. The way they were going about expressing their rightness was alienating everyone else. If they wanted to succeed they needed to learn to pick their battles a bit better.

    12. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      So, we both had conversations with him about his original plan, which was 3-4 days a week back in the office, starting in January, which then turned into 2 days a week in the office, starting this September. The other spokesperson of the group felt she had to compromise somewhere, so she said 2 days at most would be acceptable, so that’s how he got to 2 days a week, but then she told me “I’m sorry I ever made it sound like that was acceptable, it’s really not, I just thought I had to say something”. Yes, this was a mess.

      This really guts the spokesperson model. If you want to bargain collectively now, I think everyone has to be in the room at the same time; why would Boss or Founder agree to anything that’s presented by a spokesperson now?

      Personally, I’d take the 2 days and run with it. Those for whom 2 days is too many (which might actually include me, to be fair) have the recourse of interviewing out or trying to secure the last 2 days from home by themselves.

    13. Green Beans*

      Okay, I am both what my former boss kindly called “an instigator” and someone who is actually responsible for messaging institute-wide concerns/trends back to leadership. This was…not the way to do it.

      First of all, when you’re passing back messaging like this, you should be facilitating, not fighting, and it helps a lot to take a more neutral stance. “Given the feedback I’ve received, if you do X, Y will be a likely outcome,” “X is going to be a hard sell because of A, B, and C issues.”

      Second, you cannot use hearsay and vague feedback to pushback. “People have talked to me,” is okay for an informal, head’s-up conversation (“I don’t think that will go over well, Boss – can we try a survey to see what people are thinking?”), but not okay for asking for action. You need evidence, and people willing to speak up. If people are not willing to speak up, they’re not invested in fighting this battle. There is a huge, huge difference between being upset and wanting to complain about something, and being willing to actively fight for change.

      Third, you’re not being the messenger – you’re leading the fight. Messengers provide information and accept the outcomes. That’s not what you’re doing. Also, messengers get “shot” – it’s part of the role. Yes, you should deflect, yes it’s unfair, but it’s also just something that happens to some extent, even with the best of intentions.

      Fourth, this is not the way to win this fight. Your boss wants to hear from people, so suggest an avenue where he can hear from his employees – *all* his employees, not just 4, now 2, now 1 – like an anonymous survey (In an ideal world, how many days would you prefer to work from home a week? What challenges are there to returning to the office? What benefits do you see for WFH/onsite work?)

      Next, I would strongly suggest going to him and asking if you can treat delta delay as a way to formally implement and analyze WFH. Have everyone get official working plans together, according to guidelines he’s okayed, set up specific review points and timelines for review, and use that data to identify pros/cons of WFH. If you also do a survey, your boss will have the data he needs to understand employee wishes, potential issues, and big-picture needs of the org and design a functional, flexible WFH policy. Then employees can decide if it’s something they want and stay, or if they’d rather start looking elsewhere.

      Also, why are you trying to set entire policies based only on what the 4 department heads want? What about the 6 other employees, who are much less likely to have nice WFH setups? It sounds like neither you nor your boss are particularly adept at asking lower-level employees what they want, which does sound like a huge cultural issue.

      1. Velma*

        I’m also confused by the LW’s use of “shoot the messenger,” and I’m glad you brought it up. That saying doesn’t really apply when the person crafting the message and the person delivering it are one and the same.

      2. Taco Cat*

        The last one is a good point. Sure, seniority is a thing, but the other employees may not be able to WFH well. I’ve seen discussions in comments here before where people say their bosses/managers have home offices and fancy setups while they only have their dining room they share with roommates or their tiny bedroom. Good leaders care about all their employees, not necessarily just the squeaky wheels.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        From their description, OP sounds less like a messenger and more like a ringleader. And not a very successful one at that.

        Also, THANK you for the last paragraph, I think a lot of extremely pro-work-from-home people on here have some pretty big blinders on about how it privileges those with large living spaces with good internet connections, those with the means to live alone or with enough space to avoid disruption from other members of the household, who aren’t juggling childcare/elder care, etc etc. The idea that because a couple of department heads love it then it’s good for everyone is extremely misguided.

      4. Luke G*

        Coming from a fellow instigator (although I prefer “problem identifier”) you’ve got it on the head here. If you’re speaking for everyone, be a diplomat. Conversely if you’ve got the clout and can throw your weight around, it’s usually a good idea to NOT make a group project of it. When you invite all the junior staff in to watch you square off with the manager, you just put the manager in a position where being flexible looks like weakness.

    14. KA*

      OP, you’ll want to keep an eye out on the job boards. If I were your boss I’d be working with the founder to look for new hires now. If I were an employer, I wouldn’t care much for employees trying to take control of my company from me. Unless you have an incredibly rare skill set, it’s important to remember everyone is replaceable. I do hope it doesn’t go that way for your sake though.

  14. I'm A Little Teapot*

    OP, start job hunting. If you don’t end up going back to the office, you can stop. If your boss does pull you back in, you’ll have a head start. If you get an offer, you don’t have to accept it.

    Why risk your reputation over this? Cut to the chase. Find a new job.

  15. Jennifer*

    Definitely don’t let them all set you up to be the fall guy so they can back out if the conversation goes sideways.

    This is a difficult situation if you don’t already have a job lined up or enough money saved to support yourself during an extended period of unemployment. I think most managers would want to know if their entire staff is going to start looking for other jobs if they have to come into the office to see if some sort of understanding can be made, but I don’t know of a perfect way to phrase it where it wouldn’t be putting your job in jeopardy.

    I say wait until you or someone else has another offer and let them know you would like to stay if you can work from home. If they see people actually start to resign because they can’t work from home, it may prompt them to make working from home permanent.

  16. Green great dragon*

    LW, your co-workers (and you, I think) aren’t saying they’ll quit over this, they’re saying they’ll start jobsearching over it. And it’s pretty reasonable that they won’t be up for telling their employer they’re jobsearching until they have an offer in hand.

    So yes, as Alison says it’s reasonable to pass on your sense that this could cause people to leave, and hope your boss/the founder believes you.

    What will be interesting is what the first couple of exit interviews will say, and whether anything will change at that point.

    1. OP*

      This is exactly correct, and how I worded it was “If you go through with this plan then the 4 of us have said we would accept job offers if they were relatively equal to what we have no, but offered more flexibility.” It was never that we’d leave en masse, it’s that the action would cause us to start job searching and eventually leave over it.

      1. NotJane*

        But why would you want to let your employer know that? Because if none of you leave, then your boss would probably assume that either, a) you haven’t received an offer that is “relatively equal to what we have now, but offers more flexibility”, or, b) that you were just bluffing.

        Neither of which leaves you in a good position should you need to advocate for yourself/your team in the future.

        1. Mstr*

          An employer will also think that these people have identified themselves as not being committed to the job & likely to leave … will not rely on, develop or promote them but may look to replace them for more enthusiastic workers or just in case so the staff change is on the company’s terms.

        2. Luke G*

          Even if you assume a good-faith, forgiving employer who doesn’t hold it against you… if my employees said that and then didn’t leave, I would assume that meant my company was equal-or-better to the competition. If anyone had a better offer you’d have taken it, so clearly the way I run things isn’t out of line.

      2. allathian*

        Why would you want your employer to know that you’re thinking about leaving? It’s just a matter of doing business, every employer should always be prepared for their employees to leave at any time. Many aren’t, but that’s not the point. It’s not reasonable to say to your employer that “unless you agree with my terms, I’m going to look for a new job.” Especially not in the US, where you can be fired for pretty much any reason. Many employers would conclude that it’s not worth arguing with you and fire you.

        The most important lesson for any employee to learn is that nobody is irreplaceable. If you annoy them enough, they’ll fire you, even if they have to employ 5 other people to replace you.

      3. Colonel_Gateway*

        You told your boss that your coworkers might leave their jobs? It’s one thing to say that about your own situation (still, ill-advised), but speak for yourself! You have no idea what you could be doing to someone else with this conversation.

  17. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    Don’t ever threaten to quit unless you’re serious about leaving. Start job hunting now and at least have some feelers out there, because when it comes down to it, he may call your bluff. And then you really don’t want to still be working there.

  18. fluffy*

    Would it be possible to build solidarity by circulating an anonymous survey (with e.g. SurveyMonkey or Google Forms or the like) and promising to keep the individual responses confidential? Format it as a morale/employee satisfaction survey, make it a business case for management rather than an ultimatum.

    1. A Person*

      10 people. Including the boss, but probably not including the founder. It’s really hard to be anonymous when there’s only 9 survey responses, and that’s assuming everyone responds.

  19. OP*

    OP here again:

    Please don’t get caught up on the “speaking for the group” part of this, that wasn’t the point of the letter, and it hasn’t been an issue. I was writing in to get an idea of how to word this to the boss so it wasn’t seen as an ultimatum in the bad way, I wanted to give him the news that there are severe continuity issues at play if he goes forward with this plan. I am accustomed to speaking for the group, so that wasn’t the issue.

    1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      It seems like you’re looking for some magic words that will finally convince your boss and founder that they are wrong, or that you all are so valuable/irreplaceable, they’ll change their minds. As someone who has been “the mouthpiece” on issues like this at work, trust me: you can/will be replaced if/when your boss/founder get sick of you breathing down their neck on this. They want what they want, and you’re not going to be able to convince them otherwise. Instead, they’ll come to see you as a “troublemaker,” and will look to let you go – to get you off their backs, and to make an example of you to the others.

      Don’t think it won’t happen to you. Even if you’re morally right on this, it doesn’t matter to them or they would have agreed with you already. To keep hounding them about it will only hurt you, and your teammates will gladly let you take the fall for them. I was morally right when I was the spokesperson for a night crew who had major safety concerns about closing at night at a university where staff had been mugged multiple times, and when I was pushing another university to address racist staff who were bullying/targeting people. In both situations, I ended up being punished, then fired.

      If you don’t want to work in-person, then polish your resume and apply for remote-only jobs. Your boss/founder aren’t going to submit on this, and no eloquent statements or grand staff gestures are going to change their minds if they haven’t budged by now.

      Look out for yourself, my friend!

      1. mediamaven*

        The worst thing you can be in the office is the trouble maker who tries create turmoil where not everyone wants it. We had one of those. Her work was fantastic but her constant complaining and attitude was enough that everyone was happy to see her go.

        1. can-relate*

          The worst thing you can be in the office is the trouble maker who tries create turmoil where not everyone wants it. We had one of those. Her work was fantastic but her constant complaining and attitude was enough that everyone was happy to see her go.

          Based on your comments above, I’d be very intrigued to hear her side of the story.

          1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

            LOL, that’s pretty much how everyone treated me – office troublemaker “creating turmoil where not everyone wanted it,” and I’m sure they were all happy to see the back of me. But UM – I didn’t create the turmoil, I was *reporting* serious issues and asking for appropriate solutions and the serious attention they needed to be resolved.

            But yeah, it was much easier to blame me for “creating turmoil” instead of actually, you know, protecting staff from being mugged at night, or firing repeat offender racists. Just because someone is drawing attention to problems doesn’t make THAT PERSON the problem.

    2. KayDeeAye*

      Well, but it is part of the issue. I (and lots of other commenters) are concerned about you speaking for the team on an issue this divisive because the others have made it clear (or so your initial letter said) that they weren’t willing to tell him this face to face. You can tell him “Everyone is very upset,” you can tell him “Some people might quit,” you can tell him “and that is good information for him to have. But – at least in my opinion – you can’t tell him “People are willing to quit over this” because that has to come directly from the people involved. Because the fact is, you don’t know that people will quit, at least not right away. They may want to, but they might change their minds or they might not be able to find another job that will let them work entirely remotely.

      1. LizABit*

        OP, do the other 3 employees want you essentially throwing them under the bus this way? In my experience, once management is notified that employees are ready to leave, they’re usually shown the door sooner than they may have planned or any opportunities they may have been offered suddenly dissipate.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Yeah, I’m… a little concerned about this. Even if I expressed something like “ugh, if we go back fulltime, I’m going to start job-searching”, that doesn’t mean it’s fair game for someone to go tell my boss that and use it as a bargaining chip if I’m not okay with it! Suppose I did intend to leave, but was planning to stick it out until I found another job–but because you snitched, now I’m pushed out before I can find something else?

          You really, really, really cannot use stuff like this as your personal bargaining chip without the other person’s permission…

      2. Allypopx*

        This may very well be something people want, even strongly want, but aren’t willing to throw their jobs away over. That in fact sounds likely to me.

    3. Iris Eyes*

      Maybe ask what it is that the founder needs to hear/see before they will accept a primarily remote workforce? It seems like head boss is caught between an unstoppable force and an immovable object.

      I do think leaving the door open for people who do want/need to go back to the office is a good idea, not everyone has the constitution or space to work from home well. Sounds like you may risk founder playing favorites with in office workers though.

    4. Another health care worker*

      There already has been a significant glitch in the system of you speaking for the group, though–when you told Boss that 2 days/week is ok, but then found out one of your coworkers is not ok with that. And the coworker is saying this to you, not to Boss.

      I agree that the lack of reply to your latest message on this is not a good sign. It’s not necessarily that your boss is looking for your replacement. But he and the founder may be discussing how to handle this conflict, and it doesn’t sound like they’re going to simply back down.

        1. Jay*

          I think that kind of goes to the same point though. OP is saying “100% WFH or else!” and other people are saying, “Eh, I guess 2 days in office is okay.”

          There’s already a lack of a united front, and the higher-ups are seeing that.

    5. EventPlannerGal*

      But the problem is that you have already demonstrated to him that you don’t speak for the group. By your account you have consulted three other people, one of whom directly walked back the ask to the founder’s face. I and others are picking up on that because it means that you don’t have a great deal of credibility to work with here. And if it turns out that the others actually would quite like a partial return, or don’t care that much, or will go along with whoever shouts loudest, then you will lose even more credibility. That’s why Alison’s advice about either getting the group to actually voice their opinions or consider why it is that they won’t is so important.

    6. tra la la*

      OK, but I work with someone who would describe themselves as “accustomed to speaking for the group” but doesn’t seem to understand that they don’t, really, speak for the group because they also assume that anyone who disagrees with them isn’t worth considering. And it sounds like you may not in fact be speaking for the group if they’re not willing to come forward.

      So yes, the “speaking for the group” part is important, because a) if you are threatening your boss with “people will quit,” you may be hurting people who aren’t planning on quitting immediately, and b) if those people indicate to the boss that they aren’t planning to quit (which they may feel they have to do in order to keep their jobs if you are using them as a club without their active buy-in), you are going to be the one who pays.

    7. LilyP*

      I don’t think you can ethically share others job-searching plans (real or hypothetical) with your boss, period. There’s too much personal risk to them of being pushed out before they’re ready. It’s up to them to disclose that, if they ever feel comfortable with it (and it seems like they’re pretty clearly not comfortable with it now).

      Instead, I’d focus on:
      1) making a neutral productivity-based business case for full-time WFH independent of anyone’s feelings about it
      2) if you feel comfortable sharing *your* job-search status with your boss, let him know that any amount of in-office work is no longer the right fit for you and you’ll start looking elsewhere if required to go back to the office. Don’t bring your co-workers into this, even by implication.
      3) continue to speak up (and encourage others to speak up) about the general sentiment about WFH, or about trends around remote work in your industry, without attaching any specific ultimatums.
      4) without attaching it to this issue explicitly, make sure there are reasonable continuity plans and documentation in place for every role in the company. The world is a chaotic place, people change jobs on a regular basis, it’s good to be prepared for a worst-case scenario no matter what. Doing this isn’t “admitting defeat” it’s just being prepared.

      Lastly, I do think you need to take a deep breath and let go of some of your personal investment in this. I know how frustrating it can feel to see the avalanche coming in slow-motion and not be able to stop it, and as a senior leader it’s reasonable that you feel responsible for raising concerns like this and figuring out how to preempt them. But at the end of the day this is your boss’s call, and if he looks at all the info and makes a bad choice, that’s his choice to make, and he’s the one who’s ultimately responsible for any consequences if people end up leaving over it.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        This. Being explicit that staff WILL be aware of amenable WFH options elsewhere and bringing up the need for documentation and continuity planning is a lot—a reasonable employer would make changes that will strengthen operations and retention, whether or not each individual decides to stay.

    8. Luke G*

      You may be accustomed to speaking for the group, but is it usually issues of this scale? I’m wondering if you’re assuming things scale up when they really don’t. It’s one thing to hear people griping about the ancient break room fridge and carry that to management so they can buy a new one. It’s a whole different animal to hear people (either idly or seriously) talking about quitting and carrying that to management with an eye towards completely reworking the structure of your job. Doing the former regularly does NOT mean you can do the latter casually.

  20. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    This is a bit of a side tangent, but what happens when the group agrees to go to their manager about a problem, and the manager refuses to meet with the entire group and will only meet with one or two people? This happened back at ToxicJob: We were being asked to circumnavigate a regulatory matter in the name of expediency (not a big matter, but we knew if we got caught we’d be the ones hung out to dry). We asked to meet with our manager, and she said, “No, I’ll only meet with one of you.” We had to bargain her up to two, on the principle that she couldn’t fire BOTH of us. It was a very strange situation knowing your manager won’t meet with her direct reports.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      If it’s a regulatory matter, I’d want to document all communications on the matter with the manager. That means I’d prefer to send an email informing her of the regulatory problem instead of a meeting where you have to rely on what people remember. The primary goal here should be CYA, not attempting to get her to change her mind.

      1. Cat Tree*

        For a regulatory matter, I would go even farther and advise the person to report it to the regulatory body if they felt they could do it without retaliation.

    2. Another health care worker*

      I would have kept evidence in writing that she refused to meet with everyone who was concerned or would be affected.

    3. Luke G*

      It would depend on context- if you think the manager is trying to pretend only one person has the issue so she can then isolate/blame/fire that person, then the suggestions above are spot-on. It could be that the manager wants to keep a controversial discussion smaller so it doesn’t devolve into cross-talk and argument, which is more reasonable. In that case I would thoroughly document everyone who had issues, and then thoroughly document the meeting as well (including confirming everyone with issues and that the two of you are representatives of that larger group).

  21. MechE*

    “If it matters, several of us are planning families or have just started families, and the flexibility offered by a mostly remote situation will make all the difference in our work/life balance and whether or not we can stay here long-term, so it’s important to get this right.”

    FWIW, I wouldn’t use this in your discussions with Boss or Founder. It makes it sound like some folks want WFH, at least in part, so that they can do childcare while working. I realize that COVID made childcare while working unavoidable, but I expect (and hope) that’ll go away.

    I realize that there are family benefits beyond care while working. Time not spent commuting is more time spent with family. More productivity=fewer working hours(hopefully). I’m merely pointing out that it could be a bad look messaging-wise to bring up family rather than how it benefits the company.

    1. OP*

      Unfortunately I couldn’t put the full context into the letter, but this part was important because we are specifically trying to make the office more family friendly, and lack of flexibility would have killed that goal entirely, so to my boss it would have been important to mention, though I understand how that was lost based on the letter I wrote.

      1. miro*

        I think if flexibility is your concern, then that’s something to address separately from your desire to only WFH. Yes, flexibility can involve WFH, but it’s not necessarily the same as being 100% remote. Framing flexibility as synonymous with 100% WFH is unlikely to ring true for your boss (or many people, for that matter) and so bringing that up alongside/as part of your push for all-WFH might weaken your argument.

        1. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

          Agreed. Pre-pandemic, my office was in-office but very flexible on scheduling. Need to come in late due to driving your kid somewhere? No problem. Need to leave early to pick up your kid? Sure thing. Need to WFH because of sick kiddo? Right on. Just cover your meetings and get your work done. And that’s flexibility without full WFH.

          1. Clisby*

            Yes, if WFH means you’re right there, at home, from 8-5, there’s very little flexibility there, except that you might be able to fit in a load of laundry and opening the door to let the plumber in. Flexibility has more to do with being able to work variable hours as long as you get the work done.

        2. Agent Diane*

          Agree here. Flexibility might mean different employees work at the office on different days, based on work needs and care responsibilities. That’s a flexible hybrid approach that sounds like it would satisfy the majority of the ten employees. It also means people can flex so they get some of the soft support that comes with co-working even if those days are less financially productive. Many, many AAM stories have shown work is about more than hard numbers.

          That hybrid working won’t satisfy you, OP, is on you. You can make a case that you be exempt from coming in. You can go in and angrily glower at everyone for those two days. Or you can find a new job. If I were advising a friend on this, I’d ask why they don’t just do that last one as they sound like they cannot get back to a functional relationship with their boss.

    2. nope*

      This jumped out at me too. Childcare, while working, is not usually practical. I do not think this argument helps anyone.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I’m a new parent to a relatively easy baby, and there’s no way I could be an effective parent and an effective employee full-time at the same time. When I return to work it will be a hybrid model, but she will be at daycare even on WFH days. It’s for her benefit as much as mine at my employer’s. She can’t really be stowed on a shelf during the times that it’s inconvenient to interact with her. And even if I had a freelance type of schedule where the work can get done any time of day, I have no desire to work for hours every night after she goes to bed just to stay caught up.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah, “we want WFH because babies!” is not a good argument unless, for example, your office is located somewhere that means everyone has a long commute, and it’s a given that WFH saves you 2-3 hours of commuting time per day (since that would improve your work/life balance even when daycare is factored in).

      1. OP*

        That’s exactly the situation: we can cut out commutes, which gives us all more flexibility to get the kid to daycare in the morning and after work without rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off, and with no commute we can be home with the family at a reasonable time, not just in the nick of time to feed everyone and head off to bed. This is also an area where childcare is $2,000-3,000 a month, so adding a few hours a day to childcare bills is a very expensive thing to do.

        1. KRSone*

          You are really grasping for straws here by posing theoreticals. To assume what future parents might or might not want is odd. And you are conflating a request for full remote work with a request for flexible hours. Signed, a parent who has flexible hours but who would hate to be fully WFH.

          1. Anon at the Moment*

            Agreed. There is a difference between flex time and WFH. You and your colleagues seem to be assuming WFH=flexible scheduling. That might not be the case, ESPECIALLY in the case of a boss/founder who is already hesitant about WFH.

            Imagine what will happen IF he agrees to your fulltime WFH request and that discovers it also means employees working outside business hours or “taking 30min here or there” to do childcare issues

        2. Lurker*

          Ok, but you originally took the job knowing that was your commute so complaining about it now seems a bit odd. Also using having children as a reason you should get to WFH is a great way to isolate co-workers who don’t have children and will have to inevitably pick up the slack for you when you don’t get your work done because you’re babysitting instead of working.

  22. Bilateralrope*

    >Yes, we all recognize how dysfunctional the organization becomes when our founder sticks his nose into things, but unfortunately we are stuck with that issue long-term

    Then you should be job hunting to get yourself into a functional organization regardless of how this WFH resolves.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Depends on how often this happens.

      Once or twice a year? I might let it go.

      But all the time? A whole other matter.

  23. Emily*

    A few years ago, there was a lot of discussion about relocating the team that I was on in a way that would have added an hour a day to some of our commutes, and wasn’t more convenient for anyone. Maybe y’all’s situation is more dysfunctional, but no one had to say “I literally would quit” for them to get the message, it was enough that they were hearing from multiple people things like, “this would have me spending a lot more time commuting” and “it would be really tough for me to make this work in the long term” or “I don’t see the logistics of this working for me.” People know what that means. It’s a slightly different situation because you all were in person previously, but I think it’s still possible to have that kind of conversation instead. It’s less confrontational.

  24. introverted af*

    There’s a big difference between talking to a coworker, even a team leader, about your frustrations and intent to start job searching. It’s another thing to say that to your supervisor who could fire you and remove the time you were planning to have to find the right job, not just any job.

  25. Esmeralda*

    BTDT, in grad school (dept cut grad student instructor stipends in half after the term started) — everyone was furious, only one other person besides me was willing to say anything to the dept head. They were afraid to lose whatever crappy $ the dept would give us. And did not want to get a rep as “troublemakers”.

    Yes, that one other person and I went to the dept head and laid it out, without mentioning that anyone else supported our position. Not sure why, maybe they were ashamed? but we got our stipend back. (We were prepared to go to the newspapers, which relished such stories about Big Name University Which Presented Itself As Highly Ethical and Supportive, so maybe that helped too).

    This is why it’s hard to unionize. I’m still annoyed at my fellow students for their passiveness, but I totally understand it.

    1. Disposable Employee*

      My father had a situation at his college where the college cancelled a required course, and denied a refund for the tuition. Dad was appointed the spokesperson, due to being the only person willing to say anything. The only result was that he told us many a time that “yeah, people are behind you…way, way behind you”. Well, the other results is that my dad graduated a semester late and he told the dean to consider that his lifetime contribution to the college.

      My experience in these situations is if people won’t walk besides you, they won’t back you.

      And being the truth-teller is never an easy nor a safe position. OP, job search, partially to make sure that you can find a remote position in your industry. No matter how much you might believe in the organization’s mission, it is not focused on what is best for you. And even if remote work is best for the organization, that is not what the PTB want. Replying them into silence isn’t winning a battle, it is losing the war of your boss’s regard for you.

      And I would know about stupid returns to the office, since mine is graciously allowing us to apply to work from home for less than 32 hours…per month. Wheeeee, how magnificent…

    2. quill*

      Props on unionizing because I hear a lot about similar issues from my brother, a TA at Known for Being Progressive but Still Definitely Motivated to Cut Corners Financially university.

  26. LadyK*

    Don’t put faith in others backing you up. I am saying from first hand experience.
    My company allowed managers to make the call for their own teams. While most departments went fully remote or hybrid (three days wfh two in office) my grand boss said we get 1 day a week and only two days of the week to choose from (on a rotation monthly so half the department is in each wfh day). She also said if there are meetings scheduled for that day or a holiday we lose it…
    Of course meetings are already being scheduled for those days.
    The grand kicker is my immediate boss is full time remote and lives in another state. I’d see him maybe once a month in passing. So I’m essentially commuting 2hrs a day to sit in an office alone, pretty solitary because my grand boss is one word: micromanager.
    I say don’t approach this yourself because my sub team tried to get us at least two wfh days a week and asked others in the department. All were so happy we were advocating for them until they were approached directly and answered the opposite. It made the four of us out of 30 look like trouble makers.
    It’s like this…sometimes things like this show you the type of company you really work for. If they could give two bleeps and are not even willing to hear you out…
    That tells you all you need to know.
    Let your co workers walk and if you aren’t happy, consider looking elsewhere yourself. It sucks especially if you’ve been with your company a long time but there are a lot of good opportunities out there and your happiness, sanity and health is more important than an institution and I’m saying this having been with my company 20yrs and plan to leave. Good luck to you and your team!

  27. Jane Austin's Tea Cozy*

    As someone who’s at a “founder gets involved and everything collapses” company, let me assure you that it does not get better. Part of the disfunction is that everyone drops everything for the founder, there’s no healthy discussion or way to politely push back, and no one recognizes the toxicity, choosing instead to ignore it until it goes away–assuming it does. In my case, the founder eventually became a permanent part of the day to day, and the company grew enough that we now have contracts with most of the major players in our very small, niche industry, which dramatically reduces my ability to get the heck out of dodge. Maybe a bit beside the point, but OP–the wfh issue is large, but the problems with your workplace seem to go well beyond that.

  28. BlueBelle*

    I have worked for my company for 7 years, 4 of those have been WFH. We have no WFH policy, it was decided it was up to us. My entire staff is in another country, 90% of the people who I come in contact with are remote employees. When I told my boss I was moving out of state she was fine with it, then a week later she came to me and said that she has decided my position is a local position. I flat out told her that means I will be job hunting, but until there is an official policy she has no grounds to let me go. She agreed. I move in a month and there is still no official WFH policy and our offices are still closed for COVID. I am in the middle of interviews for a job I think I will get an offer from.
    There is zero reason my job needs to be in the office. For 4 years we were told to update and change everything to cut down on travel. By the time covid hit we had transformed all our programs to be completely remote, saving the company a ton of money and employees a lot of travel time.
    I am high enough and have been around long enough that I can say these things to my boss and I will be very clear in my exit interview this is what prompted my job hunting.

  29. Carol the happy elf*

    I worked for a very small company; we could get together and basically steer the owner toward the light.

    Problem was that you have to have a bit of Machiavelli in your genetics, and that takes energy. Bandwidth. Ongoing drudgery.

    And some owners are in LUUUV with the idea that they are an “Entrepreneur”, which is Klingonese for “Couldn’t swim, so had to be the captain”. These guys don’t want to walk around on an empty ship with nobody to boss in person.

    If that’s who the founder is, there’s not much hope for stability over the long term. Stability is a human requirement for emotional health.

    1. can-relate*

      Absolutely brilliant, spot-on comment.

      Especially this part: And some owners are in LUUUV with the idea that they are an “Entrepreneur”, which is Klingonese for “Couldn’t swim, so had to be the captain”. These guys don’t want to walk around on an empty ship with nobody to boss in person.

    2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      That sounds more Vorta than Klingon. Sneaky little buggers. Must be all the Founder talk getting to me.

    3. mediamaven*

      As a female business owner who built my business because I produced stellar work that a lot of people wanted – I resent your description of entrepreneurs. Sounds like sour grapes and a wildly distorted view of what business ownership is.

  30. Chc34*

    Maybe I’m just jaded, but what I feel like I’ve learned over the course of my career is that it’s not worth it to fight this hard against people who very clearly do not want to give you what it is you’re asking for. I’m not saying this is true for everyone, but for me, personally, I’ve found that when I get to that point, it’s better to put that energy into a job search instead.

    1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      Boy, did I have to learn this lesson the hard way. A couple of times! ::facepalm:: But honestly, it’s a relief to not have to take up the sword. If something’s broken and management makes clear they’re not interested in fixing it, either I learn to live with it, or it’s time to job search; if coworkers complain to me about stuff, I suggest they take their complaints to the source themselves. No amount of eloquent statements or evidence-gathering or whatever is going to make people help you if they just DON’T WANT TO.

    2. J.B.*

      I left work for a truly horrible boss for whom others had said “I’d be homeless” before working for him. The ones who proclaimed the loudest are still there. Other qualified people have quietly moved on. I’d recommend moving on.

    3. Green Beans*

      Yup. I don’t feel the need to work in an environment where I have to fight for fair pay, adequate resources, or leadership that at least acknowledges issues.

    4. Uranus Wars*

      I don’t think this is jaded and I do think OP needs to start job searching.

      Because in her update it does sound like boss/founder were willing to negotiate but not give her what she wants (but perhaps not all want) and she is fighting very hard for an outcome that sounds like it is just not going to happen.

  31. doreen*

    I am confused about the “founder” . Is he the owner of the business or is he the person who founded the business but someone else now owns it ( say a family business that was given or sold to a child of the founder) or did he found a non-profit and now has no day-to-day role in the organization or did he found a non-profit and is now the executive director? Because if the founder is in fact your boss’s boss , your boss is never going to say “no” to the founder.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yes, just what i was thinking.

      The word “founder” gets thrown around a lot but can mean a lot of different things. And for whatever reason, it seems to carry more emotional weight than a plain job description or statement of ownership.

  32. Phony Genius*

    As a member of a group who was spoken for without my knowledge or permission, and had to face the consequences of words that were put in my mouth, don’t do that. Even if I agree 100% with the message, I do not want somebody to speak for me unless I know about it first. I think most people would agree with that.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, agreed. This horse has already left the barn, but I don’t think it’s any good to tell employers that you find their working conditions or proposals unacceptable, particularly not in the US where people can be fired for pretty much any reason. I’m in Finland, and here we have collective agreements and employment contracts, and an employer can’t unilaterally change employment contracts. Even when employers are laid off for financial reasons, this is done in cooperation with employee ombudsmen, who help negotiate things like severance. The Covid pandemic was an emergency and employees were sent home without resorting to this process, but now that the urgency has passed and we’re learning to live with Covid in the longer term, this process has been started. No doubt I’ll get a new employment contract to sign in due course.

      OP, you can’t be more invested in the company than the owner/founder. If everyone leaves for better opportunities where they can WFH full time, that’s the company’s loss. It’s really not up to you to try and prevent an exodus. If they lose half the employees and everybody says in their exit interview that they never want to darken the door of an office again and their new employer is open to 100% WFH, it’s possible that they’ll be open to changing. Possible, but unlikely, because I expect that many employees in knowledge-based jobs will be looking for employers who’re either hybrid, or mainly in-office but with the flexibility to WFH rather than take PTO when you’re home with a sick kid or waiting for the plumber, etc.

      Employers can offer plenty of flexibility without allowing employees to be fully remote.

  33. ecnaseener*

    Just adding to the general clamor: “I’ll start job-hunting if this happens” is not the same thing as “I’ll quit on the spot if this happens.” Job-hunting takes time.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Yup. Especially if you’re looking for a full remote position. I’m not saying the OP is wrong to want that, just that it might take a while since it narrows their pool of jobs.

  34. Mainah*

    Speaking on behalf of timid co-workers had never ended well for me. Make a solid case for what you want for yourself and back it with data. They’re all free to do the same.

    If they do there’s a pattern. If they don’t you’re not the rabble rouser.

  35. foolofgrace*

    I’d be afraid that if you give an ultimatum, the powers that be will say “Sorry, we’ll miss you” and start looking for a replacement for you and whoever else is in on it. I’d be afraid to say anything out of fear of losing my job.

  36. Delta Delta*

    I mean, start job searching now so you can leave this hive of weirdness. There’s unlikely to be anything you can say that will magically cause the boss/manager/founder/whatever he is to say, “ah! yes! you were right and I was wrong! you should all work at home forever!” It’s just not in the cards with this guy. So rather than attempt this fight, go somewhere that offers the work experience you seek. It’s very possible that once you leave it’ll be like a cork opening the floodgates, and others will also leave (been there, done that, saw an entire staff turn over in 2 years after I left somewhere). Or it won’t. In any case, you are in charge of you, not your coworkers and if you or they want a different work environment, it’s up to you (or they) to go to that place.

  37. Hiring Mgr*

    One of the bigger issues here I think is that it’s not even the boss you have to convince, it’s HIS boss, the founder (and I assume CEO or similar?) So it sounds like you’re spending a ton of time, energy, capital, etc but even then it’s out of your hands…

    That said it’s worth a try if it’s that important, but I wouldn’t expect much.. Probably better just to concentrate on a job search unless they change course. Depending on your field, remote work might be an easy option these days.

  38. Texan In Exile*

    If it helps, you can tell him that other companies are already see this happen. The CEO of the company where I work has been adamant – and has been quoted in national publications – that he wants 100% in the office, 100% of the time, even though 2020 was the best year the company has ever had – with almost everyone remote.

    Two people I work with, including a woman on my time, have just announced they are leaving for a (reputable) competitor that is offering 100% remote. When Resigning Woman told us this morning that she was leaving, another man on my team (of six) said, “A recruiter from that company tried to talk to me a few weeks ago!”

    Honestly – if I were trying to recruit people? I’d be looking at the inflexible companies and launching raids for their good people.

    1. Green Beans*

      To be fair, 2020 was the best year we ever had – because we were all working insane hours to get by and every time someone brings up the “incredible successes” of the past year and “applying that drive and intensity elsewhere” I have to restrain myself from screaming and throwing things.

      1. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

        This. And, it could be the company’s field was well-served by the pandemic. Many ecommerce/website divisions of companies had their best year ever in 2020 because stores were empty. Add to that if they sold something that was unusually desirable during the pandemic – like food, office supplies, etc. for being home more or equipment for solo activities (like running shoes). Of course they will see 2020 as their best year ever, and 2021 will be a let-down (but not necessarily a disappointment).

  39. Raida*

    I would say that the ‘most we can stomach’ is where you want to target.
    Get real, tangible reasons why that’s important.
    Get the days of the week that would overlap best for everyone to be in the office at once.

    And be prepared to negotiate to three days a week in the office, or alternating two and three.

    ALSO you mentioned “and going into the office will cost all of us hundreds a month in extra expenses”, I think that you actually need to add up your WFH costs. Is the business providing you all with monitors, desks, mice, keyboards, ergononic supports, paying for all the internet and electricity during work hours when before nobody was home and none was used? If not, then the business is renting, for free, your homes as work spaces and you, the owners, are picking up their running costs too.
    Does that sound like a good deal?

    No – and because of that you can add it to negotiations, in which staff in writing agree to cover specified costs, saving the business the associated running costs in the office when there’s no electricity used, for example.

    So, the staff want to work 2 days in the office, will negotiate up to alternating three, maybe always three, business does not incur WFH running costs, see if this is palatable to your co-workers.
    If they start to shy away from it, yo’ll know they don’t actually want to proceed with their rhetoric.

  40. I heart Paul Buchman*

    OP, Are you someone who tends to see issues as black and white? You are coming across very rigidly. You are also stating your case very strongly and with 100% confidence that your view is the only possibly correct answer. It is very difficult to negotiate effectively from this position (impossible).

    When faced with an immovable and forceful person many people react by agreeing with them. This is often they only way to end the conversation. Some people when they feel strongly hear agreement even when it isn’t offered.

    I think it is time for an honest self assessment. Have you considered all of the options (try acting as devils advocate and write down the opposing argument from the other point of view)? Are you negotiating to prosecute a different fight (the founders place in the business)? Are you fighting for a business need or for your own personal preference?

    Is there a chance that this is an anxiety driven reaction? Are you willing to die on this Hill?

    Good luck.

  41. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Hi OP. I’m widely regarded at this point in my career as being a professional shite stirrer when the situation demands (leading IT, being a fire breathing feminist, POC, LGBTQ, childfree, fat disabled woman etc) and while I think your passion for going for what you believe in (and your coworkers believe in) is really familiar I’d suggest that maybe a carrot and stick approach might work better in this case.

    Basically, there’s times where I’ve wanted (oh so much) to say ‘if you don’t stop X from happening then we’ll all leave’ but known from having that done to *me* it immediately gets me on the defensive.

    Whereas opening a dialogue like ‘okay, is there a reasonable accommodation we can work jointly toward?’ has had a much better success rate. It’s easier to gradually push for more once you’ve got the first steps toward what you want in place and accepted. Also, showing that both sides *can* have an input into this can increase your capital as a reasonable and principaled member of staff – which is very handy if you need to spend political capital later.

    (Example: when getting accommodations for my disabilities I don’t start on the ‘I need XYZ and I’ll leave if I don’t get it’ but rather have a dialog about what I want and what the company can actually do. I’m still prepared to go ‘this won’t work’ if they are complete wankers about it but it doesn’t start them off on the defensive AND it’s less stress on me to not be the aggressor.)

    1. J.B.*

      I am good at stirring for different reasons. Our HR pulled some stuff and my joining in my concerns with another not so young employee got them to change course. Largely because they thought the one person speaking up before me was just complaining. And while I was very direct I pointed out specific business concerns.

          1. ???????*

            I’m Irish (from Belfast) and I’ve never heard anyone use shite in that context? I would say for example that someone was a gobshite, or something is shite, but I wouldn’t say shite stirrer. I’d say shit stirrer, because…there’s no such thing as a shite stirrer.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Republic of Ireland, near Cork. Or it could be my relatives just being weird which, given how I ended up, is pretty likely!

  42. Red red rose*

    So I had this done to me, kind of. I’m the manager, but I don’t make the last call on whether we go remote, that decision is made several levels above me. My recommendation would probably have some sway though. Our business very clearly needs to be in-person at least part of the time. We already had a very flexible policy in place (2 days off per week). My report, however, didn’t want to relocate to our area at all (despite having accepted the job on condition of relocation). My report did something pretty similar to the OP, declaring that “everybody” (2 other colleagues out of maybe 8) would quit if they aren’t allowed to be remote since they were just as productive remote as in-person. But the report was wrong on many counts – they had started the job during the pandemic and didn’t know what was really ‘productive’. They were doing well on the tasks I had assigned them, but I had changed them from the original role to fit the temporary remote working condition. Also, it turned out the others didn’t particularly want to be remote, they just wanted to be flexible (something that was already on offer). It was clear my report had just worked themselves up so much that the others just went along with them. In the end, I told my report that if they were really ready to quit if remote work was denied, I’d try to get an exception for them (but implying that if remote work was denied at the top, I would expect them to quit)… And at that point, miraculously, they backed down.
    While my report is generally quite a good worker (and I thought we had a great relationship previously), this whole interaction over this came across as naive, combative and a touch arrogant (because they were assuming they knew more about the business productivity and their performance level than management, even though they were the most junior member on the team). While I try not to make it show, I do think I am now more watchful about this employee’s other unprofessional behaviors (and would be less disappointed than before if they did actually quit).

  43. Dorothea Vincy*

    OP, you can be more persuasive if you have actual data on how you became more productive over the last year. If it’s just based on feeling that you were, then it’s not going to be very persuasive. I’ve dealt with enough people who felt as if they were productive with WFH when they were actually missing deadlines, missing Zoom meetings, snarling at people through email, and so on to know that “feeling” that way is not a good indicator. (One person was actually open on the topic that WFH meant she was taking naps in the middle of the day and that’s why she felt happier and more productive, even though she missed several vital deadlines).

    OTOH, if you do have numbers to show increased deliverables, customer satisfaction, etc., that will make the argument far stronger than going in and demanding that everything be the way you want it or claiming that you want to have a baby someday, so you need to be WFH permanently. Whether numbers and statistics should be as persuasive as they are is another debate, but they work more often than strong words.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Yep. Op needs a spreadsheet*

      *I tend to think all problems need a spreadsheet

  44. COMtnMan*

    Anybody else asking for OP’s resignation when this ultimatum is given?

    As for the question in the letter, I think you need to be explicit. You want something, then state what you want. Anything else is poor communication and may not be interpreted the way you want it to be.

  45. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

    OP, first unrelated to the main content of your letter, can you explain the make-up of the company a little? By my count from your letter, there is the founder, and a manager, and you and three other department heads. Out of 10-11 total? (Not sure if the founder is one of the ten.) Is there anyone doing the work the department heads are assigning? I was close to a company that had I think 6-8 people including two owners. The owners worked ~70 hour weeks each, and then just 4-5 employees working usually 40, sometimes less if they were a student. No departments, no department heads, no manager over the department heads. (In theory each owner led a separate function, or department, but there was a ton of overlap.) It seems overly bureaucratic to have 6 people in management type positions when there’s only 10-11 people total. I’m sure it’s justified in some fields, but without knowing the field, it just seems like “here’s a title for you, and a title for you!”

    As to the WFH part, I didn’t see a lot in the way of specifics of WHY you need 100% WFH (and really, I want to stress every word – why, need (not want, but require), 100%). Commuting, sure, but there is also a psychological benefit to commuting, as I’ve brought up in the comments of other posts. Even if that “commute” is entering a dedicated workspace in your home, it helps you separate “work” from “home” and their individual stressors.

    Being in person builds social relationships more than Zoom can (so far). I have a coworker who started during the pandemic. We talk all day, every day because we do the same job. We finally met in person last week and bonded as friendly coworkers/friends much more in those 2-3 hours than we did in the previous 12 months (which had SO MANY calls and video calls). And that’s just getting to know people, never mind the impromptu conversations where your manager is talking to your coworker and because you are RIGHT THERE, you are brought in to the same conversation, to your benefit. A lot of the pro-WFH argument seems to miss or discount all of that, arguably to their loss.

    Childcare, I get it, but employers can have reason to wonder “how much are you working, and how much are we paying you to care for your children?” I agree with Alison’s frequent recommendation to hold employees to productivity metrics to know they are getting the work done, but it’s human to at least wonder if you’re paying your employee to not work.

    You said your company had the best and most productive year ever. Do you have data on that? Can you prove that, including *why* it happened? I was more productive at home because in the office I often have a literal line standing at my desk waiting to ask me questions. Of course I’m more productive not being interrupted that much, but it’s at the possible cost of other people not being as productive because I’m harder to reach. I mentioned in the comments elsewhere in this post that some businesses benefited from the pandemic because they sold home or solo activity products, which were perfect for what we went through the last 18 months. So of course they/their website had the best year ever in 2020. And their business will likely decline in 2021 and 2022 as we go back as close as we can to “normal.” Can you guarantee productivity, and really profits, will continue to be “best ever” in the next year or two with 100% WFH? Of course you can’t guarantee it, no one can guarantee future performance of a company, but the way you presented it in the letter it sounded like you thought you could.

    By the way, how many new employees did your company bring in while 100% WFH? My coworker who started during the pandemic? I trained her since we do the same job, and it would have been so much easier in person. On-boarding in general is much easier when you have options, like in person meet-and-greet. And she let me know how much she wanted at least something in person so she could just meet her coworkers once. It’s sometimes easy to forget that part if you already knew your coworkers before WFH.

    Why not at least try the hybrid model, the same 2 days in a week that has been suggested? If you try it for six months and it doesn’t work for you, THEN you can look for another job. And you will know you have at least tried it and it didn’t work for reasons A, B, and C. But then you have data, proof.

  46. Business Owner, Collaborative and Positive Mindset*

    What kind of a company is this (for profit or non-profit) (LLC or Corp or ?) Who owns the company? Does the OP and rest of employees own part of it?
    If the founder owns the company, it will end up being what he/she wants. Because that’s what you get when you are an owner. You are coming across as strident, unwilling to compromise and only interested in your interpretation of events and your projection of what the other employees claim to want. If a solution agreeable to all is the goal, then the owner of the business and the stakeholders such as employees, investors, etc would sit down TOGETHER and come up with a mutually agreeable solution. 100% WFH is obviously not agreeable to the owner(s). You are not irreplaceable. If you were working for me, the aggravation of dealing with your increasing and changing demands would negate any positive impact you have had on results and profitability. As soon as delta variant/COVID was under control, you’d be gone. I’d rather train a new employee with a more collaborative mindset than deal with your demands. (You have shown you are unreasonable and only interested in what’s good for you personally. ) So you have several months to decide how you want to play this, since no one is going back to the office until then anyway.

  47. nnn*

    Depending on personalities, a possible way to speak up if an ultimatum would be inappropriate and your co-workers don’t want to come forward as a group might be “Look, the sense I’m getting is that if we lose work from home, everyone is going to start job-hunting. People are reluctant to speak up directly because of the politics of the situation, but if retention and corporate memory are important, we need to keep work from home.”

    It’s not an ultimatum, it’s presented as though you’re on your boss’s side and you’re sharing some useful strategic information.

    The downside is if retention and corporate memory aren’t important, you’re out of luck.

  48. Kapers*

    If someone who reports to me told me what I “need to” do or everyone will quit, I would consider them disgruntled and take their feedback with a grain of salt.

    I would be more receptive to a respectful conversation like “have you considered [1-2 alternate approaches?] This solution would have the benefit of [specific benefits to the business and to me, not to your commute or childcare expenses.]”

    1. Kapers*

      Also, most importantly you gotta do the homework. What do other companies in your industry do? Are they likely to become more attractive employers to talent because of that? That’s a way to broach the topic without threatening on other people’s behalf to quit. When someone indicates they want to quit most managers think “go right ahead.”

  49. tra la la*

    OP, in your update you say:

    I told him thathe’s constantly complaining that people don’t come directly to him with issues, and this is why, because he doesn’t listen, he instantly goes into defense mode, and it’s unfair to the 2 of us that do bring messages to him that we always get “shot” for it, and people aren’t going to come to him when he fights back.

    I think you need to step away from this, at least temporarily. If the boss is “constantly complaining that people don’t come directly to him with issues,” consider that you (and whoever else is acting as spokesperson) are in fact interfering with people going to him directly — especially if what you’re relaying back to the people you see yourselves as speaking for is that the boss “fought back.” Has he “fought back” when staff have communicated with him?

    If your boss wants the staff to come directly to him, you and your manager colleagues maybe need to step back from playing spokesperson. It sounds like you might be keeping them from talking directly to him because you are invested in playing spokesperson. And in part he may be shooting the messenger because he doesn’t want/i> a messenger, he wants to hear from the staff directly. And if this go-between setup has kept staff members from building a rapport with your boss, then yeah, they may not want to come forward with their concerns.

    1. Mf*

      Yeah, this part of the OP’s response had me with my jaw on the ground. When you’re asking your boss for major change in your work setup, that is NOT a good time to badly criticize his management style.

      1. tra la la*

        Well, and I was wondering if OP isn’t also interfering with what he wants. If he’s upset that staff aren’t coming to him directly with concerns, and is only getting things relayed through “spokespeople,” then it seems kind of reasonable that he might be unhappy if OP comes to him as spokesperson again, while also seemingly negotiating in bad faith…?

  50. Rosacolleti*

    As a business owner, can I just flag another opinion? There is a big difference between a business keeping the home fires burning for a period of time as we did during WFH, and keeping a business growing and producing the levels of innovation that are needed for longterm survival.

    It might be that this business owner found what we have found – we can be quite productive at home, but we aren’t going to move ahead as a business, particularly with the natural attrition of staff. New staff working from home will never bond and therefore champion a company culture of innovation anywhere near as well as if they’d got to know people the way you do in a workplace.

    We also found that partial WFH and in the office didn’t solve the problems as there are just too many combinations of people in project teams and the days when everyone is in, is again focussed on the day to day rather than future innovations.

    I understand the perspective of employees, I really do. But equally, they are going to want businesses to still be employing people in a few years time and I fear that by simply treading water, a lot of businesses won’t survive longterm.

    1. Phoebe*

      Thank you for saying this! I think this is it’s important for people advocating for WFH to understand this and realize that there are benefits to working in a centralized location that can’t be replicated.

    2. mediamaven*

      As a business owner THIS is exactly it. Survival isn’t the primary long term objective. It’s growing and thriving and being profitable and innovative and competitive.

  51. Deanna Troi*

    Yes. I agree that the OP is definitely giving off a vibe that if someone doesn’t agree with them then they aren’t worth considering.

    And the spokesperson set up HAS been an issue. One spokesperson agreed to one thing but then you, as a different spokesperson, tried to rescind it. As others have mentioned, how does your boss know who speaks for the majority of the group? For that matter, how do YOU know that you speak for the majority of the group? Your dismissal of the opinions of the six more junior staff members is just as bad as your boss’ dismissal of your opinion.

    I also wonder if you have as much as much capital as you think you do. I’ve seen several very senior people let go who were very indignant and so so so sure of themselves, just like you.

  52. Edwina*

    OP, this is something many of us have learned the hard way over our careers, and it can be summed up like this:

    When someone says “go ahead and do that…. I’LL BACK YOU UP”

    It means they won’t.

    If they truly back you up, they’d be right there with you, or out ahead of you.

    I’m sorry.

  53. can-relate*

    OP, the founder sounds like an inflexible, self-important nightmare, and your manager sounds both aggressive and spinless.

    I love WFH and will never, ever work in an office ever again. I do not need to be in an office to do my job. Especially not in the middle of a deadly global pandemic.

    But definitely get at least one other person to front up in person with you to make the case.

    Focus on the business and profit outcomes of WFH, as well as pandemic issues, including child care, illness, death, etc.

  54. Liv*

    Okay you say the 4 heads of department are willing to quit over this (whether the other 3 actually would be who knows), but presumably there are more people who work at this company, within your departments, than you 4? Do you know the general feeling of the rest of the rest of the employees? Maybe 3-4 days in the office is ideal to them. Maybe you’d have way more people quit if you went more remote, which ultimately would have a bigger impact on the business than losing you (and potentially the other 3 people, but I’m doubting they’d actually quit)

    If you’re department head, do you know what your employees want? Have you bothered to speak to them?

  55. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    If a coworker confronted management on an issue that I may have agreed with conversationally, but had not given that coworker permission to speak of on my behalf, I would be STEAMED. In a small organization like this one, even if you don’t use names, but refer to the core positions or whatever, you are putting targets on those other workers backs that could cost them their jobs if your upper management/founder decided to get nasty about it. Been there, on an issue with much smaller stakes, but it really pissed me off that a coworker assumed she had the right to speak on my behalf.

    1. RemotelyCommenting*

      Yeah, I would be looking for a new job in OP’s scenario–not to secure remote work, but to get away from coworkers causing trouble for my professional reputation. Stuff like that can follow you and burn your references.

  56. GL*

    From a UK, unionised workplace perspective:

    – this sounds like a job for collective bargaining and having a union support your negotiation. This could be an alteration to your terms of contract (obv pandemic has already altered them, but this could be seen as a formalisation of a temporary arrangement).
    – there’s a long way in negotiation between ‘we accept this without reservations’ and ‘we are all going to quit’! It sounds like actually the op feels strongly about this, and is bringing in others to emphasise the strength of feeling
    -what is the outcome you want? To win? Or to have working conditions that accommodate employer and employee priorities? Or something else? Because your position – no office working – isn’t acceptable to the other party. If you were unionised and had support, you might strike. But you may still not achieve the outcome you want. Personally I’d be looking at what compromises my fellow workers would find acceptable, if I were speaking on their behalf. If you are just speaking on your behalf I think that reduces your bargaining power and the likely outcome is that you quit. Is that your desired outcome?

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      As I understand it, there’s a total of 10 people: founder, boss, four department heads, 5 non-management employees. Leaving their awkward management/non-management ratio aside, I’ve never seen a union in a workplace that small.

      1. GL*

        In the UK there are national unions, such as Unite, that you can be a member of even in a small workplace. I agree that it’s not common, but the situation described would be relevant to union representation. I have specific experience of small unionised workplace but in a very specific context (Equity – UK performers and creative practitioners union). My understanding is also that unions operate differently in the US so my point may not be relevant to the OP.

  57. Monica*

    My spouse had an employee demand a raise or he was quitting. My spouse asked when his last day would be. The employee was great, but ultimatums rarely work. You can raise the issue and give pros working from home. If they don’t want to go 100% start looking for a new place that will.

  58. Essess*

    When you are using threats as part of your negotiating tactic with the boss — “ready to quit if we don’t get what we want” then you must NOT use other people’s names without their explicit permission. During your “poll”, they might be blowing off steam, or they might not want retaliation while they do job searching, or they might just be agreeing to avoid arguing with you if you are passionate about not going back. You have no right to jeopardize your coworkers’ jobs, reputation, and relationship with the boss unless they have specifically told you that you can speak for them. At one oldJob, I had to do a lot of feather-smoothing and reputation-fixing when a coworker tried to include me in one of their vendettas that I actually had NO part of but they claimed that I agreed with them.

    One coworker went to the boss and was almost yelling about how “everyone” had been complaining about a new policy. She was asked how many people had complained. She started backing down and said that “many” people complained. When pinned down for the number of people that had actually spoken to the coworker about the policy, it finally came out that absolutely no one had actually spoken to her. She was the only one that didn’t like it.

    Boss’s don’t like one person making a complaint for a group because there’s no way to validate if it’s truly the concern of multiple people. It needs to be backed up by real numbers of people impacted or number of people against a policy, not just vague “everyone”.

  59. RemotelyCommenting*

    Yeah, when my boss said no to remote work, I said “makes sense” and got another job.

    The boss’s job is to figure out what makes sense for their business. You do not have all the information they do. You are not in control of whether they make the most optimal decision or not. You do not know if what is optimal for you is aligned with what is optimal for them.

    I simply started interviewing (much easier when you are remote!) and got a job that fit my requirements. No bad feelings between ex-boss and me, no office politics of trying to unite the other remote people against management. And my new job is a way more functional environment, to boot.

    You are CEO of “Me, INC.” You can fire the customer (your current workplace) as long as you can line up another job or are financially independent. I’d recommend stopping ceding your power to your workplace and go after the work environment you want without trying to control other people.

    1. RemotelyCommenting*

      For the record, my ex-boss’s no to remote work DID make perfect sense. We worked with large specialized equipment that could not just be moved to people’s homes. Even if my role could be done remotely, they would lose out on synergy between people who had to be in the office and people like me. Saying no to remote work is not always about malevolence on the part of employers.

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      This is such an insightful way to put it! Sometimes we tend to frame arrangements like WFH in terms of wrong or right (OP used the analogy that requiring a return to the office was akin to committing murder). This really shouldn’t be a thread about the pros and cons of WFH. OP can either accommodate the request or start job hunting. It really helps to reframe one’s stance: I am the one with agency and I can pick the better option instead of fantasising about what others could do.
      This way of thinking is really useful. Even if you end up staying in a suboptimal situation, you know you picked it because it has some pros too.

  60. SawbonzMD*

    My dad is recently retired from an executive position at a government agency. The reason he retired is because the agency issued a mandate that working from home is over and everyone has to return to the office. Four or five people who worked downline from him did the same thing.

    I think working from home is becoming a hill to die on for many employees.

  61. Strong Independent Acid Snake*

    OP, I think you are moving way too fast here- going from 5 days a week in the office to 100% WFH is a HUGE change- and even little changes can take time to implement. IMO you should have taken the 2 days a week WFH offer and (which was already a huge concession on their part) and then if that had been successful for say a year, ask about trialing 100% WFH.

    By being flaky and changing your mind on the 2 days a week offer you have shown you are not negotiating in good faith and are not willing to meet them half way. If I was your boss/founder I wouldn’t want to re-negotiate with you or your coworkers- I would be concerned that the goal posts would move again.

  62. marybeans*

    I remember the time I was tasked to be the head of the company’s wellness committee. The committee had a ton of suggestions for things that we should do, so I invited our boss to the meeting to discuss the topics at hand. And when I brought up each point, everyone on the committee laughed at what I was saying as if this was the first time they’d ever heard these ideas. They were *their* ideas! I never had another committee meeting after that. Thanks for throwing me under the bus, guys– the memory is still fresh as a daisy all these years later.

  63. Union Steward*

    OP 1:

    Negotiation is easier with a Union, and you have protections against retaliation when you have had a NLRB certified election.

    10 people is not too small to form a collective bargaining unit.

    Contact your State AFL-CIO office and tell them you are interested in organizing your workplace. They have lots of experience and practical help they can offer you.

  64. Marouflage*

    Hello OP:

    I am the founder/owner/manager of a small 10 person company, so I read this with interest.

    During the pandemic shutdowns, we moved certain roles to an entirely WFH basis. Others did as much as they could from home, with other critical functions in house, working rotating shifts for safety (it’s not a laboratory, but something similar, where certain tasks can’t be done WFH).

    We’re an unusually tight-knit team, and held together surprisingly well during WFH. We also had a great year, financially. It definitely made me realize that WFH could work for certain people, in certain roles, with certain parameters in place to remotely check that projects are on-track. That was a good thing to learn, and I’ve adapted accordingly.

    Yet we moved back into our improved, more Covid-safe offices just as soon as we could. Now I’m mandating a mix of in office/WFH days, just like your boss.

    Perhaps you could try, for a moment, to sincerely put yourself in your bosses shoes? I wouldn’t assume that they don’t care. I actually care very deeply about my employees well-being. As incredible as this may seem to those of you in toxic workplaces (and I’ve definitely been in a few myself) our team members often spontaneously comment on how much they enjoy working together, and working with me. The team genuinely likes each other. They are all smart, rational, highly competent people whom I genuinely like and admire. We work out problems pretty easily and actually sort of marvel about how functional it all is. We straight up missed being together, during the pandemic.

    Yet I have to make decisions based on what’s best for the business, including my own role, rather than by the preferences of a single employee, or even all the employees. Because sometimes I know things they don’t yet, or have to think long term in ways they don’t. I try to share that reasoning whenever possible, but sometimes I can’t for privacy reasons, or because I want to take preventive steps to avoid something without causing unnecessary alarm. You might not have the whole picture.

    Here’s what I noticed during the WFH period:

    Some employees, though they did not share this with their team members, became so isolated and lonely during WFH it had serious negative mental health effects. I was on the phone a LOT offering support, spent a lot of time devising ways to support and cheer the team.

    On paper, our performance and income went up. Yet that was mostly due to higher demand created by the pandemic. There were constant errors, large and small, and slip-ups in performance, despite us having very clear procedural manuals and tons of mutual good will. As I make it a practice to correct behavior privately and praise publicly (learned here, thank you Alison!) , I do not think staff realized the extent of my efforts to patch up other’s mistakes.

    Team cohesion suffered. Communication suffered. It was MUCH harder to do my job, during WFH. I know I felt much less close to what employees were doing, lost an intuitive sense of client projects (despite our good tracking systems) and spent godawful amounts of time on Slack, Zoom, and the like just to answer questions and keep dibs. This prevented me from doing much of the longer-term strategic work that is also part of my job. I was just keeping the ship afloat, and thank God we could.

    So now I’m being flexible and adaptable in offering a mix of work from home. That in itself is a huge concession and change.

    Many of my team members are pals, and sometimes hang-out outside the office. This makes me happy. Yet if one of them came to me, and said all the things you’ve recounted, with the attitude you are demonstrating, here’s how my boss ears might hear that:
    “Hey Boss/Founder,
    I know that originally our jobs were in the office. But during the pandemic we all realized we really like the freedom of WFH. I like feeling more like my own boss, without the trouble of actually starting a business. So, I don’t really care if the founder started this business, dedicated decades of their lives to it, and knows more about it than I ever could. I’ve worked here a few years, and I’m gonna call the shots from now on. This “back in the office a few days a week” idea of yours? It’s a no-go. I don’t even have to know why you wanna do that, because I have proof that you are just wrong, wrong, wrong. Hey, and tell that founder to stop “sticking their nose in” too. What a pain. Sure, he/she might be doing that just because they love their old business so much, and care about it’s ongoing success so much, that they are happy to work for free, even in retirement, to guide it when they see it going off the rails a bit. And sure, maybe it’s natural for you to give a damn what they think, since you’ve worked with them for ages and know how hard it is to run the entire business, instead of my small role.
    But hey, anyhoo, here’s the deal: Zero days a week in office, forever and ever. I’ve been organizing a team rebellion behind your back, and I’m threatening a mass walk-out and destruction of the business you’ve worked to hard to keep running during these awful 18 months. I don’t care that you’ve kept all of us employed while thousands of others suffered job losses, or maybe even took out potential risky PPP loans to make sure we didn’t suffer. Because you ain’t the boss of me.”

    Anyway, if I heard that, or thought I was hearing that, from an employee. they would rapidly find that last sentence becoming true.

    I want reasonable employees willing to see all sides of an issue, and I’m willing to make reasonable accommodations. This action of yours would read, to me, like pot-stirring and an attempt to whip up ill-will for one’s personal benefit, company health be damned.

    I agree with others who suggest you line up other work before delivering any ultimatums.

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