some of my team did horribly working from home, regaining privacy at work, and more

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

1. Being fair about remote work when some of my staff did horribly working from home

I oversee a medium-sized department who are all required to be on-site (the decision was made above me). When the pandemic was at its worst, we had the vast majority of staff working from home. I am being pushed very hard to allow hybrid working, and while I am open to it, there are circumstances that prohibit it from happening until later this year (yes, really).

During the time that the majority of people worked from home, some of the (non-exempt) staff really excelled at it, while others were frankly awful. Literally, the staff who were excellent outperformed the worst by a factor of ten to one. Unfortunately, the lower performers didn’t always recognize that they were not being productive.

The culture in my organization is very much one of equity, and I am trying to balance that with the knowledge that some staff just did not excel at working from home. If Andrew and Beth worked effectively from home, but Charles and Deanna did not, how can I be fair?

By providing clear metrics people for people to meet. Those metrics don’t need to be strictly quantitative if the work doesn’t lend itself to that; they can be things like reliably meeting deadlines, responsiveness, follow-through, and quality of work. Be really clear about what you need to see from each person in order for them to continue working from home — clear enough that you’ll both know if they’re meeting those marks or not. If they are, you can fairly conclude that working from home is a good fit for them and if they’re not, you’ll have something objective to point to. (Ideally each person already has clear goals that their performance is measured against, so this shouldn’t need to be created from scratch … although if you don’t already have those, you need them!)

One caveat: Some people’s work has suffered during the pandemic because of conditions caused by the pandemic itself, like not having child care because schools and daycares were closed, the strain on many people’s mental health, etc. It’s possible that some of your staffers who did badly working from home might not be inherently bad at working remotely; it could be about conditions that won’t be replicated down the road. Given that, you might plan to assess those metrics looking forward rather than retroactively. (That’s not a hard-and-fast rule; there might be cases where it’s clear that someone wasn’t hitting any reasonable mark regardless of what else was going on. But make sure you’re accounting for it.)

2. How can I regain my medical privacy at work?

About nine months ago, I joined a new team at work. A few months later, I had a seizure during a team lunch. Apparently I had a dosage issue with my medicine (I have epilepsy) and so my private medical issue became very, very public. The aftermath of this has led to numerous doctor’s appointments, being temporarily unable to drive for a substantial period of time, and just a whole lot of other junk. My coworkers now know WAY TOO MUCH about my private life and (even though it’s well-meaning) I feel like they know about every appointment, or when my ride is coming to get me, etc. etc. It’s like Pandora’s box has opened.

I recently got news that I have a totally unrelated medical issue that requires surgery and will require missing a few days of work. I need to ask for it off, but I would like to be as non-descript as possible (“I need to take X days off for medical procedure”) but I don’t know how to do that without seeming to take a 180 turn from what has been the norm for the past few months (coworkers asking me about appointments, rides, offering to pick me up, walk with me, if I feel okay, etc). I just want to reclaim some semblance of privacy but I don’t know how to do that without making things weird or inviting comments/talk. Part of me wants to just own it but I also don’t want to invite comments (even if well-meaning) from people or field any questions about what’s going on. Any advice?

When you tell your boss you’ll need X days for a medical procedure, add “It’s nothing to worry about, just something I need to have taken care of.” If she seems like she wants details, it’s fine to say, “I don’t want to get into the details at work, but it’s nothing to worry about.”

Your coworkers don’t even need to know the time off is for something medical! You could just say you’ll be out for a few days. If anyone asks what you’re doing with the time, you can be vague — “oh, nothing fun, just something I need to take care of” or so forth. But if you do share that’s it’s medical, you can still set boundaries: “I appreciate the concern, but it’s nothing to worry about.”

It does sound like you might need to explicitly walk back the boundaries now that they’ve been loosened. One option is to say to people, when they ask questions you don’t want them asking (not just about this upcoming procedure but about all of it), “I appreciate the concern, but I’m trying to regain some medical privacy at work. Thanks for understanding!” You might be feeling that because they’ve been so involved and maybe even helpful at times (with rides, etc.), it’s harder to draw those boundaries more narrowly now … but you still get to! You don’t have to forfeit all future privacy; you’re allowed to decide that you appreciated their help earlier but don’t need it now … or if you didn’t really want their help earlier but weren’t sure how to fend it off, you’re allowed to decide you’re going to have different boundaries now. This is your medical stuff, and you get to reset the boundaries to ones that are more comfortable for you at any time. People’s concern doesn’t supplant your right to make those choices.

3. Did I hurt my reputation by applying for a job I might not be qualified for?

Could I have hurt my reputation by applying for an internal job change I may not be qualified for? For context, I’m currently in a entry-level-ish role in my company. While it’s my first job out of college, a number of coworkers in the same role are older and much more experienced.

The other day, I applied for a more senior role in the company. I wouldn’t be managing anyone, but it’s more responsibility and all of the people on this team have at least five or six years of out-of-school experience (the job description asked for two to three). I have exactly two years of experience, all with this company.

My thoughts while applying were “the worst they can say is no,” but now I’m worried. What if the senior management team thinks I’m woefully underqualified and should have known better? Can applying when you’re not qualified hurt your reputation?

They asked for two to three years of experience and you meet that bar! They’re not going to think you’re woefully underqualified if you meet qualifications they explicitly listed. That doesn’t mean they’ll select you, of course, but you didn’t do anything outrageous by applying for a job that, at least on paper, matches your experience level.

I don’t subscribe to “the worst they can say is no” as an across-the-board policy (not just with job applications in particular, but at work in general). It is possible to ask for something so wildly out of touch that it calls your judgment into question. For example, if someone entry-level applies for a job running a whole department or asks for a 30% raise the week after a serious performance conversation, that’s going to look painfully naive (in the first case) or problematically out of touch with reality (in the second).

But applying to a job that asks for two to three years of experience when you have two isn’t that! What they listed in the ad tells you what they think a reasonable baseline is, and you’re at it.

4. People keep telling me to “take some time” after my layoff

I was just laid off, and people keep telling me that they hope I can “take some time” before deciding on what’s next. I think this is great advice, but I’m not quite sure what it means. I am so grateful to have a little severance that keeps this from being an emergency immediately, but my inclination is to start networking, updating my resume, and applying to jobs. “Taking time” sounds great, but I have kids and medical bills and [insert all the life stuff that we all have to varying degrees]. What kind of “taking time” is helpful and what isn’t?

It’s really more about what’s practical and possible. Taking some time off before starting an active job search can help you recharge and reflect on what you want to do next, but for many people it’s just not an option financially. It comes down to how much of a safety net you have and what you’d do if your search took longer than planned. If you only have, say, six months of living expenses on hand, it’s not practical to take more than a few weeks off (at most) before you launch a search. On the other hand, if you have much more robust savings or a partner who earns enough to cover you both, your situation could be very different. In that case, what would be helpful depends on what you think would be helpful. Some people grow antsy at the thought of spending any significant amount of time without a job or a job search, whereas others desperately need it.

“I hope you can take some time (before you plunge into a job search)” is one of those things people say because it feels supportive, but whether or not it will make sense really varies by person.

5. Can I use a cover story about why I’m leaving my job?

I’m leaving my job and moving cities for a new position, but I don’t really want to tell my current job the full details. Part of why I’m moving is to be closer to family, but mostly because I hate my current job and this new position has a great boss, higher salary, and more upwards mobility. Can I just make up a white lie about moving to help take care of my grandparents? It has some grains of truth in it — I’ll be likely helping them out once a week or so.

Why not just  say you’re moving to be closer to family, without attaching the lie? My concern about the grandparents story is that when this employer is contacted for references in the future, they’re likely to be asked why you left and ideally your stories should line up. It’s not the biggest deal in this case if they don’t (it’s not like they’ll be saying they fired you while you’re saying you quit or another discrepancy that would be more serious than this one), but it feels like unnecessary subterfuge.

{ 287 comments… read them below }

  1. lasslisa*

    I think the “I hope you can take some time” reminds me of the question I always got last time I changed jobs, “Are you going to take some time off before you start the new job?”

    It felt to me like it was mainly about the person asking having kind of a daydream of being able to take some time off without responsibilities, and thinking how nice that would be and wishing it for me. Like when someone is telling you about a vacation and you’re like, “oh man, a weeklong retreat with no wifi, that sounds amazing” and maybe they actually were bored out of their minds but it sounds nice *to you*.

    1. Wendy*

      It also feels like The Right Thing To Say At The Time – latching onto a positive aspect of what’s otherwise a negative thing happening to you. Kind of like when you get dumped and your friends are like “oh, now you don’t have to deal with [X annoying thing you complained about your partner doing] anymore!”

    2. GNG*

      I feel like it’s something people say to convey their good wishes, and not meant to be taken too literally.

      From my own experience, I noticed most people would phrase it as “*I hope* you can take time off” and not as “you *need* to take time off” so I don’t think they were pressuring OP to relax & forgo paying their bills.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes! LW, take this as a general ‘wishing you well, this sounds stressful so I hope you can carve some time out to un-stress’ and not as instructions.

        How un-stressing looks is totally up to you: your personality and your circumstances. Take a day to clean your desk; have a week of not intensely job searching but sorting through your thoughts – or, if it feels better, jump into the job search immediately and plan to take a few days once you have an offer so you have a break there if that is feasible at the time.

    3. Ashley*

      “It felt to me like it was mainly about the person asking having kind of a daydream of being able to take some time off without responsibilities, and thinking how nice that would be and wishing it for me. ”

      This is 100% the perspective I come from when I’m talking to people who are leaving jobs. In my industry, it is common for people to be asked to leave the day they give notice, and they are simply paid out their notice period. Except I work for seemingly the only company around that *doesn’t* follow this rule! So whenever I hear of a colleague at another company who is leaving for another opportunity, I usually ask them if they have any time off so that I know whether to be envious or not LOL The thought of having 2 weeks of bonus paid time off is my absolute dream.

    4. LKW*

      Agreed. When I was laid off my severance package was super generous and included a year of health insurance at the company rate. All I had to do was pay what would have normally been paid by the company – a whopping $40 a month for full coverage (I know!). So that allowed me so much flexibility in finding a new job.

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely. I have a friend who took voluntary redundancy a few years ago after having worked for the same company for nearly 20 years – their redundancy package was a full year’s salary, and they used that money to relocate to a cheaper city and take a few months off while deciding what their next move would be. In contrast when I was made redundant I’d only been at the company six months (no, they weren’t the most stable place to work, why do you ask?!) and rights to redundancy pay don’t kick in here until after two years’ service. I could have got absolutely nothing, but the boss was at least sheepish enough to give me a month’s salary. It wasn’t exactly enough to ‘take some time’ on, though – I had to start freelancing straight away to at least bring in a bit of money while I desperately tried to find another job.

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I give the advice “I hope you can take some time” in earnest. Possibly the worst mistake I have made in my career so far was accepting a new job less than 72 hours after leaving the old job when I wasn’t in a financial position where that was a must. That job ended up being a disaster, and looking back there were red flags and warning signs, but I was too numb from what had just happened to pick up on the bigger ones.

      After I left that job, I did take the time away. It wasn’t wholly voluntary, but after several weeks, I wasn’t starting already burnt out. I had reflected on why those two jobs didn’t pan out in the long run. I also reflected on what I could have done better and what I could have recognized was coming down the pike before it did. I made some deliberate changes in my thinking, and some bad habits withered from disuse.


    6. awesome3*

      100%. “Are you going to take some time off before your new job?” is a question people ask because they want to imagine you (and themselves by proxy) able to spend 2 weeks on the beach with a good book and no responsibilities, not because they know your finances and other practical things.

    7. Kyrielle*

      When I left my last job, people asked if I was going to take some time off, and I told them I’d managed to put a five-day weekend in there between jobs. (Which I then got to spend taking care of my kid, who came down with strep the first day of it! I had a better long weekend than he did, though, I’d rather not have strep.)

      But in truth, I was super glad to not take longer because it meant no gap in health coverage, without having to deal with COBRA or getting onto and off of my husband’s insurance.

    8. JustaTech*

      I mean, it is nice to have the time to detach from your old job/responsibilities and get some extra sleep before your next job. My husband went straight from one job to the next with just a weekend off and said it was a mistake, because he spent a lot of his first week just getting his head out of his old job.
      The next time he changed jobs he did take a few weeks and we did go on vacation (because we had the money/insurance to do so) and it really helped him start fresh.

      But even then I think most people are talking about a week, rather than months.

      1. what am I, a farmer?*

        Yeah, I always ask “are you going to be able to take some time between?” to people who are changing jobs voluntarily because it can be a nice time to truly decompress, and because every time I’ve gone into a new company without any time off I’ve regretted it — new jobs are intense and it’s usually hard to get away in your first 6-8 months. (I also encourage anyone coming to work for me to take time between if they can and not feel pressured to start 2 weeks and 1 day after they give their notice.)

        But if the person says “No, not this time!” or “They needed me to start right away” or “Doesn’t work for me financially!” or “Actually I like being busy” or whatever I don’t argue with them about how they should be taking time off! Time to decompress is just a general thing I wish for people, like good health and happiness.

  2. Cmdrshpard*

    OP 2 are your vacation days and sick days different, or are you trying to use FMLA?
    Do you even need to say you need to be out 3 days for a minor medical procedure?
    If it does not make a difference, can you just say you will be out for 3 days? If asked why just say you need a few days at home to take care of stuff around the house?

    I have single PTO bucket so the reason for my request does not really matter. For 1 or 2 days i usually just ask for the time off but don’t usually say why. i might say what it is for in casual conversation with coworkers/boss but i don’t always.

    1. Amaranth*

      I wonder if LW2 should be proactive when putting in the leave request for the surgery and explicitly tell their boss they know that a lot of coworkers have been trying to be helpfully aware of their medical needs, but they hope they’ll help LW to regain some privacy. LW will probably get questions when they come back too, so should decide if they just want to say they took a few personal days.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      A lot of the time you could probably get away with not saying anything for just a few days of PTO. But I would think it’s usually a good idea to mention it’s a medical thing without going into detail 1) so that your boss understands that you aren’t so much *asking* for that time off as telling him you *have* to take that time off 2) hopefully not necessary but I feel like it would be good for them to know just in case something goes wrong and you end up having to take more time than planned.

  3. Wendy*

    OP2, in some ways you might have an EASIER time walking things back (when talking to reasonable coworkers, anyway). Most people would understand “it wasn’t my choice to have everyone know about my seizures and now some people have become way too comfortable feeling they have the right to every medical detail of my life, so I really want to pull back with that.” Doesn’t even have to be someone specific – I’m sure coworkers will fill in the blank with their own assumption of which Nosy Nancy is getting up in your business :-P

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I like part of this– “it wasn’t my choice to have everyone know about my seizures, and I want to reclaim some privacy.” that’s about you and what you need.
      But “some people are way too comfortable” sounds like a dig at co-workers who haven’t been asked to step back. OP could use this as a way to start.

      1. Koalafied*

        Agree with this. If a coworker said that to me I wouldn’t likely fill in the blanks with another co-worker – more likely I’d be worried that I was the “some people” and this was a not so subtle expression of annoyance with me. Especially with a relatively new coworker who I didn’t have much of a track record with before the medical stuff kicked off.

        (Honestly I can’t think of anyone in my 25-person department who I’d describe as nosy or a busybody, at least not in a way they manifest at work. We don’t really have a black sheep or universally disliked person, either. So there’s no obvious person for someone to assume any complaints must be about.)

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Yea, I think something like “Everyone’s been very caring since my seizure, but I’m trying to share fewer medical details at work going forward.” Even if you don’t feel that first part fully, it would ruffle feathers less than implying that people have been too nosy.

    2. cabbagepants*

      Yes I would think that many co-workers would be very happy to step back the medical talk.

      LW#2 in addition to asserting the new boundary, can I recommend a subject change after you are asked medical questions? People get in the habit of chatting about X with person Y and you can help replace “X=medical things” with “X=knitting tiny hats for your dog” or whatever you want!

      1. CM*

        Yes to both of these! I bet some of the coworkers feel like they need to check in with you on medical stuff to show you they care about you as a person, but they’d prefer not to talk about it either. And cabbagepants’ suggestion about immediately changing the subject is a great, subtle way to communicate that you’re not interesting in talking about medical stuff, in addition to establishing a new subject they can talk about with you. (Tangent, I had the weirdest dynamic with a coworker who would ask every time they saw me about my bread-baking hobby, but then would seem extremely bored when I said anything about it. Eventually I figured out that was basically the only thing they knew about me and were asking to be polite, so I started using the immediate subject change trick and it worked.)

    3. Reba*

      You don’t even need to say “some people,” you can keep it as I/me — “I realized I’ve been sharing more than I’m really comfortable with” etc.

      And Op3, it *will* feel like a 180 in some ways. That’s ok. That’s what you want! A very reasonable and understandable 180.

      Will there be some people who feel affronted by it? Quite possibly. You can’t control others’ reactions, you can’t magically ensure that this is not awkward at all and that every coworker is cool. (I hope they are, though!)
      You can just try to keep it friendly and light but firm–don’t get into any apologies or discussing exactly what is in or out of bounds. You may have to just repeat many times “I don’t want to talk about it at work. Thanks for understanding!” + Subject change.

      Good luck!

  4. ENFP in Texas*

    #5 – “I’m moving closer to my family” is a complete explanation in itself, you don’t need to embellish it.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, absolutely. It’s not like anyone, at least not in a reasonably functional organization, is going to check that.

      Besides, as long as you don’t badmouth your current employer, it’s perfectly fine to say that you got an offer with a higher salary/better benefits/new challenges, or whatever. People change jobs all the time.

      1. GNG*

        Totally agree. I sincerely hope OP’s employer isn’t so unreasonable and dysfunctional that they would push OP for details they don’t need to know, or try to make OP feel bad for leaving!

        But if unfortunately that’s really the case, then it’s even more important for OP to set boundaries. They should not feel like they need to disclose more than they’re willing, or resort to making up a lie.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Yes. OP5, I am not sure why you think your choices are the WHOLE TRUTH or … a little white lie. The reasons you gave in the letter for leaving: closer to family, better pay, more upward mobility are all prefectly valid reasons to leave a job. You are NOT required to tell an employer you are leaving because they suck.

        Pick one of the valid reasons and just say that.

          1. cabbagepants*

            “Impossible to turn down” was a surprisingly functional euphemism when I left my dysfunctional former job in the middle of their latest crisis.

          2. Delta Delta*

            I was thinking along these lines like, “I was offered a great opportunity closer to my family.” Both things are true without saying why.

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        I once answered that question with “my previous company moved offices into central London and the commute doesn’t work for me.” Perfectly true.

        Although I generally got as far as the words “central London” and interviewer would be nodding and had mentally ticked that one off.

        I *didn’t* add “and also they had to move because of a dispute with the landlord, they sometimes forgot to pay me, failed to give space for expressing milk, shamed me for expressing… oh, and I had two bosses that, depending on what hat one was wearing, reported to each other and didn’t like each other.”


        Go with commute issues.

        1. quill*

          “Left for another opportunity that fell through,” is how I explain my departure from one terrible job: the opportunity to not be yelled at daily for other people’s screwups is what I left for, the thing that fell through was finding other employment within a month or so.

      4. ophelia*

        Exactly. Something like, “I’d been wanting to move closer to my family, and got an offer that was too good to pass up” is all fundamentally true, and doesn’t reflect one way or another on your previous employer.

    2. AliceBD*

      It’s a complete explanation and one that people accept fully! They might make conversation about which family members are in the new place but IME they don’t bring up the job you’re leaving at all or think that you disliked any parts of the job. The story IME just becomes moving for family which is enough of a reason on its own.

    3. Snow Globe*

      When companies ask why you left your last job, they just want to check the box to confirm you weren’t fired. They really don’t care about the details if you left voluntarily. Vague is fine.

      1. cabbagepants*

        It depends. My former company really dug into me for why I was leaving. The good angel on my shoulder says it’s because they wanted to do better and fix the issues. The bad angel on my other shoulder says it’s because they wanted to browbeat and gaslight me about how none of those were actual issues and I was just a bad, selfish person for leaving.

        I found it was useful to have a primary reason I shared with everyone (amazing opportunity I just couldn’t turn down) and then a secondary reason I could give to the reason-diggers (moving closer to family) so they could feel like they turned up new information and stop digging.

        1. Hanani*

          That is such a clever strategy for so many parts of life! Sometimes much easier to let the reason-diggers feel like they’ve succeeded.

        2. mousekatool*

          I’m in a very similar situation right now! I turned in my notice because I’m moving to be closer to family. The real reason is I’m burned out, stressed, and so anxious I could hardly function. I gave my reasoning as being closer to family, but with people I’m close with (and also HR) I made sure to share that a large part of the reason I felt the need to move back was BECAUSE of the job stress being too much.

        3. Office Lobster DJ*

          Oh that’s good! Cheers to you for staying a step ahead of the gossip mill. I am filing that away for future use.

    4. Grey Coder*

      Yep, I’d be surprised if you got pushback from anyone for wanting to be closer to family. If you feel that’s too abrupt as a sentence, you can add “my grandparents aren’t getting any younger, I’m concerned about their health” etc without declaring that you will be spending X hours a week as a caregiver. But you aren’t under oath, you don’t have to tell the whole truth about hating your current job.

    5. theletter*

      + 1

      #5, you’d be surprised as to how little people need to know if you just make a statement, and then just smile contentedly and wait for the next thing. The conversation is more likely to move toward landmarks of your home state than anything else.

    6. Brent*

      Yes, I’ve used this line after I quit my first job less than a year in. (It was a stressful,dysfunctional workplace with unpaid overtime every single day). Aside from just wanting to leave the job, I actually also wanted to pursue graduate studies in my hometown but I didn’t mention that in my interview at my next job in case the interviewers wouldn’t want to hire someone pursuing night classes in a different field from the job. I just said I wanted to move close to family.

    7. Empress Matilda*

      Definitely. And in the future, if you’re leaving a job but not making a geographic move, you say it’s because you’re “looking for a new challenge.” This works both for the employer you’re leaving, and the one that you’re going to.

      These vague-but-true statements are all over the place in the business world. They’re so common that nobody will think twice about them. You can have an answer prepared with more details about this “new challenge” in case somebody asks, but 99% of the time nobody does.

      Good luck with the new job!

  5. Xenia*

    I have to say that the post immediately below this one disprove’s OP #3’s point—there are much, much worse things than getting told no for an interview. Like accidentally throwing condoms at your interviewer.

    1. ecnaseener*

      LOL, the worst *they can say* is no. The worst that can *happen* is they say yes and you throw condoms at them ;D

  6. Viki*

    #1 my team also has suffered from some people excelling at WFH, and other people are only not on a PIP because of COVID.

    My company set up a clear metric, you need to have a 3 on your 2020 year end, 3 in your 2019 year end and 3 on your 2021 year end to be eligible for full remote/hybrid.

    Doing it by year end scores (out of 4, so meeting expectations) gives managers leverage for their team to whatever metric makes sense and has the company back bone, and also takes into what kind of employee they were before this all happened. But also gives me the option to go “Dan was great in 2019, but didn’t hit deadlines and went no contact with his team mates in 2020; in 2021, he got better with communicating but still he’s not meeting deadlines-He has to go into the office and let’s see if he meets deadlines there/improvement.”

    Our office plan has been pushed back from Sept to Oct to most likely Q1 2022, so people have a while to get 2021 up to snuff. And we can finally implement some PIP

    1. JustSomeone*

      This seems misguided to a degree that feels almost comical. So someone who has demonstrated that they are a strong performer in a WFH system (evidenced by the 3+ score in 2020 and 2021) but who wasn’t great when they were physically in the office (<3 in 2019) is…required to physically work in the office? That’s the solution? For…Reasons?

      It would make infinitely more sense to me to only look at 2021. 2019 is the distant past thanks to the pandemic. 2020 was a year of flying by the seat of our collective pants and making things up as we went along. 2021 is when many of us found a groove with the new normal. It seems deeply unfairly punitive to dig back into a past that no longer applies in order to arrange folks’ futures.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think you’re misreading it (or I am) — the example is talking about someone who was great in the office but hasn’t been doing well since WFH.

        1. GNG*

          The way I’m reading it:
          Viki’s example is: Dan did well working in the office but not WFH so he needs to work in the office. This makes sense to me.
          JustSomeone is pointing out there’s a flaw in this system with an opposite example: if Amanda got a 2 working in the office in 2019, and got a 3 working from home in 2020 and 2021, according to the rules, Amanda will need to work in the office, even though she did better working from home.

          1. TechWorker*

            That seems to assume performance is directly tied to being wfh or not wfh & other factors don’t come into play – perhaps Amanda just improved over time, but their manager wants to make sure that improvement is permanent before agreeing to a flexible schedule. Doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me, if you view it more as ‘are they consistently a good performer’

            1. ecnaseener*

              But if Amanda *is* genuinely a better worker at home, under this system she’ll never get a chance to prove it. She’ll be brought back into the office to see if her improvement is permanent, and in fact her performance will go down.

              You’re right that Amanda might have *just happened* to improve irrespective of remote work, but I would argue you can always bring her back into the office if her performance dips while remote. (You’re bringing up a general problem with inextricably linking overall performance with work environment…really if feasible they need to get down to the bottom of whether remote work helps/hinders a person’s performance, and not just whether their performance happens to be changing.)

    2. cabbagepants*

      Where I work, getting a 3 (or a 4 or a 5) on your annual review is very subjective and comes down to your boss’s opinion. It’s important to keep the evaluation as objective as possible if you want it to feel like a fair way to distribute WFH privileges.

      1. Anon.*

        This! We don’t have this system in my job, but I have heard so much about it, and nothing I’ve heard is good. People feel that it is random, there are almost never specific measurable outcomes being considered, and companies require a kind of curve and use the system to squeeze people unreasonably. In one friend’s office, every single person always gets a 3 in most areas and one 4 and no one knows why; in another, the manager feels bad because he has to give lower scores than he thinks are warranted due to upper management, etc. I’m sure this is not the case everywhere, but it’s certainly not rare.

        1. MassMatt*

          If the scores seem random or forced (maybe because they are) and are not backed up with any metrics or feedback, then your company stinks at reviewing employee performance. This is a basic process of managing employees, not some closely guarded nuclear secrets.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Where I work, getting a 3 (or a 4 or a 5) on your annual review is very subjective and comes down to your boss’s opinion.

        Toss out the 1’s, because 1 gets you fired on the spot. Toss out the 5’s, because even the CEO doesn’t get a 5 (cf Baseball HoF voting). That really just leaves 2, 3, and 4. If you give someone a 2, they’ll get spooked and interview out. A 4 will expect a raise above and beyond the annual COLA. That leaves… the all-purpose 3.

        1. A Feast of Fools*

          Yeah, in my company we joke that only the CEO gets a 5.

          A 2 means you’re already or imminently on a PIP.

          A 4 means we’ve already talked to you about a promotion and we’re just moving some chess pieces around to make it happen.

          A 3 means, “Congratulations, you get to keep your job and maybe some day be promoted or change departments!”

      3. L.H. Puttgrass*

        I was going to post something similar. An annual performance review isn’t a metric, IMO—there’s too much room for manager subjectivity and executive meddling of the “no one is allowed to get the top rating” variety. And because they only happen once a year, they’re not great at letting people know how they’re doing on an ongoing basis. Whether projects are completed on time, whether the person is regularly available by phone and e-mail, the quantity (and, in some cases, quality) of work are all measurable metrics. An employee should be able to know the status of most of these metrics without being told. Annual reviews? Not so much.

      4. PT*

        A 3 is generally the basic “you did the minimum to get to keep your job” though. 1 and 2 are underperforming. A 3 is not too much to ask of anyone.

      5. turquoisecow*

        I still remember the first performance review I did with my first office job. My boss gave me the speech about how no one gets a 5 unless they’re a god single handedly running the company. So I just pretended 5 didn’t exist. I’d only been at the company for six months and didn’t consider myself an expert, figuring 4s weren’t possible, so I gave myself 2s and 3s.

        My boss took one look at it and told me to redo it because I was being mean to myself. Even after I redid it he was frustrated because he wanted to grade me higher but my comments were full of things like “I haven’t mastered this,” or “this process is a bit mystifying to me,” and he thought I was doing great at it.

        If the option to work from home is at play I could see some people artificially grading people higher or lower because of that. Boss is opposed to work from home in general so he scores even his best employees lower than he might otherwise. Are raised in jeopardy now? Or boss is a big fan of work from home so she artificially inflates scores of people who don’t really deserve them, leading them to mistakenly think they’re better than they are.

    3. turquoisecow*

      This doesn’t seem like it’s a frequent enough metric to me (aside from the issues with subjectivity others point out). If someone didn’t do fabulous working from home in the first half of the year but then had some other issue that means their performance went down in the later half, the boss is likely to remember the worse performance in the later half, even if that had nothing to do with WFH.

      If you are going to do this sort of thing I’d recommend doing it more frequently, like once a quarter or once a month. It’s not fair to deprive someone of an opportunity for an entire year. And there should be an opportunity for coaching. Bob didn’t do wonderfully with WFH on January so he and the boss sit down and come up with some strategies so he does better the next month. Or maybe Sue does well in January but less well in February and by March the stress has gotten to her and she really ought to be back in the office at least some of the time for the structure.

    4. Hmmm*

      Why are you so keen to implement PIPs, rather than helping these employees perform better without the death knell of a PIP over their head?

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        To me a PIP is the next logical step after working with people to improve their performance. The way the place I work at does it is:
        1) warning (like don’t do that again, and here’s why)
        2) retraining on the process that is causing hiccups for you
        3) informal PIP where manager is working with you but nothing is in writing yet
        4) Formal PIP with HR involved

        They do treat PIP’s as survivable, but if you hit that form one – yeah you’ve got a long slog ahead of yourself.

  7. Kara*

    #1 Did anyone tell the people who were underperforming from home? Only it sounds like they didn’t and that it would be a surprise to hear that now. I think step 1 is you have to actually give these people some feedback.

    1. Alice*

      Yeah, if some people were very much under performing and they thought they were doing fine, why was this not brought up during reviews? This is not about working from home, I think OP1 needs to look at the bigger picture here.

    2. Tali*

      I agree. Newly remote teams may struggle with communication and clear expectations from the manager, as well as giving each member a sense of where the others are and how they’re doing. Many managers also lowered expectations due to the pandemic, as OP mentions–was this communicated to the team? You may find that Andrew is doing great by your metrics because you lowered your expectations, but he feels he’s dropped a lot since 2019; Deanna talks a lot with Andrew and feels she is doing great compared to him, but she has misunderstood your expectations for her and is doing poorly by your metrics.

      Unless it’s very egregious, I would encourage OP to assess only going forward for their team. I would feel very confused if I had no idea I underperformed in 2020 and am ineligible for WFH in 2021 when things are improving in some parts of the world.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Well, 10 to 1 IS pretty egregious. Even if you assume that the great workers do twice as much as the average ones, that’s still 80% of the work that some people aren’t doing.

        1. Emmie*

          It might not be as egregious as you think. Some employees have a hard time stopping work when remote. Work can be a welcome distraction, or creep into your personal life. Are your 10s putting in the same hours as they did when in the office? Or are they working more? Will your employees tell you this?

          Likewise, the 1s may have the childcare, and school issues AAM spoke of. They may also struggle adapting to the remote work environment set up in that particular company. Are there clear metrics? How does the manager ensure team connection? How are managers creating a sense of community and building connections with people? Are managers adapting their management style to the individual remotely? (Examples: more accountability check ins with lower performers, but more freedom with high performers.) Do your managers know who has childcare responsibilities? Has your company offered alternative work schedules for those impacted by school closures?

          Managers knew who their high performers were before the pandemic. They knew who needed additional accountability. Are they managing to the person now? Are they monitoring for any changes for remote work environments?

          I have worked remotely for nearly ten years. I have managed people remotely for a big portion of that time. In my experience, companies went remotely without setting up some of the systems needed for a strong remote work environment, and employees had unprecedented personal and family challenges this year. I recommend re-evaluating systems and evaluate metrics going forward when schools are open regularly.

    3. ecnaseener*

      I’d be curious to hear from OP1 on this — reading it I figured they probably *did* talk to these people and were just trying to keep the letter focused on the essential details.

      1. Nellie*

        OP1 here

        Yes, everyone was spoken to and told their performance level in relation to their teammates. What I left out of my original question is that it wasn’t just one person who was performing 10 times better than the least productive employee, it was several. It’s a large(ish) team of 20-25. I would fully expect there to be a spectrum of performance. Not everybody can be a superstar, after all.

        We did lower productivity requirements during the initial lockdown (March – August of 2020), but told people they would need to pick it up after that. None of the staff had young children at home except two (one of them was a higher performer, one was among the lowest).

        What I also left out of the letter is that there are many components of the job that can only be done on site. During the last half of 2020 and the first half of 2021, we had a rotation where staff had to come to our work site periodically. Part of what we struggled with was that staff absolutely refused to come to our work site when it wasn’t “their” turn, even to cover (non-COVID) illness or other emergencies. They were told that part of the condition of working from home was to come to our work site in that situation.

        Also at least one employee sent a Slack message to me (by mistake) saying they were going to take a nap during the workday. It was not their lunchtime, and they had an appointment they would be skipping by taking that nap.

        To make a long story short, there was plenty of communication. And I understand the appeal of working from home (I really do!). I want to get back there, but in a fair and equitable way.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Thank you! I suspected as much, it’s an unavoidable downside of this format that any detail you leave out will inevitably be a Crucial Detail to some commenters

        2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          Hi OP1. I suggest you don’t apply equity the way you are doing here. You should be equitable for things an employee cannot control. From what you are saying, at least some of the low performers CAN control their performance, but choose not to do so. That’s not an equity situation. It’s consequences for subpar performance, and in some cases, for outright rejection of job duties.

        3. Rach*

          Was there extenuating circumstances with the napping employee or are they doing it all the time? I’m wfh pending covid results (I’m not sick but was exposed at work). I woke up with an awful headache (I’m prone to them), worked for a few hours, took a 30 min nap and then was able to complete the rest of my day without a headache. If I had been on-site, I would have been miserable all day with a headache. I guess my point is, a nap in and of itself during the work day isn’t necessarily a mark against wfh.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            I mean, it’s one example. I’m sure that if the OP had accidentally been sent a “so sorry, my head is absolutely killing me, need to lie down for a bit but I’ll be back online in 30” message she probably would know the difference between that and a random midafternoon nap. You can nitpick any example to death to justify eternal WFH but can we trust that the OP knows what an underperforming employee looks like?

          2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            And, since it sounds like OP1 directly manages this team, this is the type of thing I would expect an employee would want to intentionally loop OP1 in on, e.g.,

            “Hello OP1, I have a terrible headache and I need to lie down for a bit. I think I’ll be back on in 30 minutes, but that means I’m going to miss That Scheduled Appointment.”

            The fact that the employee seemed to be hiding it makes me skeptical that it isn’t a sign of poor responsibility.

        4. Artemesia*

          Equitable is rewarding high performers not treating everyone the same. If they have been given the feed back then they need to be told that since they were not able to be productive at home, they will need to work from the office till productivity is high and that you are open to trying WFH again when they are consistently high performers.

          1. Artemesia*

            Specifically noting here that the low producers were according to the OP not people with kid demands — and at some point even that needs to be only part of the assessment. The people I know with kids at home are struggling, but they are also moving much of their work at home to the evening. Tough but coming close to getting the job done.

    4. Red Swedish Fish*

      Alot of people are going to hear this for the first time when discussing staying WFH. Whenever a manager decides its time for other people to be back at 100% there is going to be people who disagree and call them out with the Delta hitting and Lambda on the way its going to be a cycle of this. For our team when we announced in July that everyone could determine if they wanted to be WFH permanently as long as they met the WFH qualifiers one of them is around underperforming, if there was something pre pandemic you were doing that you are not doing post pandemic your are underperforming.

    5. MassMatt*

      I was going to say this. I was struck by this sentence: “Unfortunately, the lower performers didn’t always recognize that they were not being productive.” Why on earth not?

      You have employees producing only a quarter of what others produced, and they… think they’re doing OK? What kind of feedback were you giving them? Did you conduct any reviews? Ask poor performers what is wrong, and strong performers what’s in their secret sauce so their success can spread? Or did you just do a weekly Zoom with a generic “keep up the good work!”?

      Yes WFH during the pandemic has been a challenge for everyone, but some people/jobs are not suited for it, and clearly some managers are not suited for managing people that WFH. You need to be much clearer with your staff about expectations and performance, yesterday.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Because sometimes people don’t hear what they don’t want to hear. There are multiple posts on AAM, and we’ve all known That One Person, who could not accept that they weren’t cutting it.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I had three in a team of 20 that didn’t believe the metrics they were being shown (metrics at my job are very black and white). It is amazing how strong the disbelief of evidence can be in some people.

          2. twocents*

            Not necessarily. You can find multiple AAM posts where someone doesn’t believe their job is at risk even while on a PIP. Some of them have even come in from the employee themselves as if the PIP is an uninteresting aside, rather than a prominent warning that they are at risk of being fired.

          3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            Not necessarily, in my limited experience.

            I had ThatOneColleague who got the same feedback on a set of issues they needed to work on for at least half a year from multiple people. ThatOneColleague apparently decided everyone else was wrong.

            Ironically, that feedback was about being too defensive to feedback.

        1. MassMatt*

          You are using exceptions to extrapolate a false general rule. Feedback and reviews are basic management tools because they work in the majority of cases. Otherwise managers might as well throw up their hands and despair ever knowing who is a good or poor employee, or why, or what to do about it.

          You know this; your own comment says “sometimes” and “that one person”. The LW is indicating that multiple people on her team do not know that they are/were performing poorly. That suggests that expectations were not set and feedback not given about whether they were meeting them. That is a big problem the LW should address.

          The common denominator of the majority of examples of people that remained willfully obtuse a and refused to take negative feedback is that they were fired. Sometimes bad bosses or dysfunctional organizations let them hang around longer than they should, but in most cases people that don’t listen to their bosses don’t last long.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – performance metrics are really clearly defined at my job – they were lowered a bit (80% instead of the in office 100%) for the initial everybody go work from home because of Covid. But in the end because of other factors (like a different department with a higher priority to VPN access) we all got brought back into the office in a staggered wave.

        The least successful trio of at home workers just didn’t want to hear that they were not successfully meeting minimum standards despite very black and white evidence showing they weren’t successful.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          For the record both of my comments in this thread involve the same three people (who were also the same three people in the office that would loudly complain to the whole office – at a volume where you were going to hear whether or not you wanted to – about every single performance discussion they were in). Amazing how the disbelief crew overlapped with the complaint crew.

      3. mediamaven*

        I had an employee who was doing very lackluster work and wanted to stay remote and was really shocked to hear she was not meeting expectations. It happens.

    6. Kelly*

      At least from my experience both during and before the pandemic, getting any type of feedback that isn’t neutral or positive really comes a shock to people. The culture in my workplace, public university, really avoids giving necessary critical feedback for people who are underperforming. It’s part of the reason that our performance review structure only allows supervisors two options, meeting or not meeting expectations. It’s really that vague. Most people do care about their jobs, so they get the meets expectations. However, that’s not great for morale, especially for those that do make efforts to go above and beyond. There’s no consistent structure in place for raises based on performance reviews. The only reward is having more work dumped on you because you have a work ethic.

      The ones that just do the bare minimum are part of the reason that partial WFH arrangements were not being offered to most staff. One of them is a colleague who took his sweet time doing several remote work projects. It seriously took him over 6 months to do an inventory and assessment of less than 400 items in a subcollection. I would have expected that there wouldn’t have been that many mistakes and errors given the amount of time he took, but I found a lot. He also didn’t check the physical items or do enough research, which he could have done while working on site. I get that he has partial custody of his kids and feels the need to be a heliocopter parent, but other colleagues who have kids were able to do their regular and extra work just fine. The results shouldn’t have been a surprise because other project work he has done tend to require someone to come in and clean up after him.

      The other reason why partial WFH isn’t being widely offered is because of state politics. Our governor forced most state workers back into their offices full time in July. At the time the policy was drafted in the spring, things were looking better on the covid front due to rising vaccination numbers and lower cases. By the time people were coming back, Delta was emerging. Some speculation is that the policy was a way to boost confidence for other private sector employers to have their employees return to the office. We’re now at over 2,000 cases a day statewide and hospital capacity is under stress. Also, both universities and k to 12 schools haven’t even started yet. Most K to 12 schools statewide are not making masks mandatory, which is risky because younger kids can’t get vaccinated yet.

      The university was exempted from that rule because of reduced student presence during the summer. People started coming back this month and it’s not going well. People started coming back either for the first time since March 2020 or most on a full time basis shortly after campus put the mask mandate back in place. There isn’t enough on site only work for many people to keep them busy for 40 hours a week. There’s not much optimism about how long campus will be fully in person, both work and instruction. It’s telling that most people returning to being full time on campus haven’t bought back personal items and work equipment like monitors because we are probably going to be returning to hybrid work and instruction by October 1.

  8. KR*

    Hi taking time OP – I have been “taking some time” and for me that meant taking a little bit after 4 years of intense, stressful work to be on unemployment, let my partner support me when that ran out, and not job search or worry about working. I’m also in school part time so the time is allowing me to focus on school completely. I’m going to the beach! I sleep in! I spend time with my pets! But it isn’t feasible or enjoyable for everyone, but it’s been nice to take a break from working for the past 11 years without a significant vacation and just breathe. I think that’s what some people mean, and it’s a way for them to hope your period of not working is enjoyable and not stressful.

    1. Jackalope*

      I finished a really stressful job that I’d worked at for half a decade, and where I was incredibly burned out at the end. I stopped working for them late December (my choice, not them being jerks) which was a time of year when no one was hiring in my area anyway. So I took two or three weeks to go visit my parents; we hadn’t had a long visit in a few years and I knew that once I started working it would potentially be much harder to visit.

      My recommendation would be something like that. Take a week or two and spend time with your kids, especially since summer is drawing to a close. (Even if they’re back in school already, not working probably means you have more time free when they’re free.) Go for a few long walks or read a book or binge watch something or whatever relaxes you. Obviously this may not be an option for you, but if you can have a little bit of time like that, diving into job hunting full speed is a lot easier afterward, or at least that’s been my experience.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Extreme case, but I took some time after leaving an incredibly toxic job and it lasted over a year. I’d grossly underestimated how long it was going to take to get my brain back to a decent working state – I was a mess.

      I will say that if I’d actually acknowledged how bad things were I’d probably have done ok with a month.

      1. quill*

        After my worst job it took me an entire other job to get my brain back together. Then I moved specialties and am now out of the lab for good.

  9. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

    #3 – I am grateful to Alison for pointing out “The worst they can say is no” isn’t appropriate for all situations. Most of the time at work, I can’t just abruptly tell some one “No” without some discussion and explanation, even when the request is ridiculous or impossible. It costs me time and effort to craft a tactful response and discuss it with them. It’s exhausting.

    I have an outward facing role where I liaison with outside institutions. One of my least favorite things at work is when my coworkers want me to go ask my liaisons to do things for us that’s totally out of touch. These coworkers really cheerfully believe “The worst they can say is no!” Well I have to break the news that their assumption is false. Asking for these things really make us look naive, tone deaf, and inconsiderate.

    There’s always a cost for asking, for both parties. The asker need to have good judgment to gauge whether the final gain from the ask will outweigh the cost.

    1. hbc*

      Yeah, I find the people who say this really mean, “*I* don’t think this is outrageous and there’s no fallout that I can see.”

      Try asking them to borrow their car for a week or to do a 10 hour project as a favor, and they won’t react with a calm, “Sorry, that won’t work for me.” Or just ask them if you can set up a meeting for them to make that request themselves, and watch them get all indignant about how that’s such a terrible thing to ask of them.

    2. LKW*

      Right – there is an implied, unspoken, second part of the response which is “No, and now I think you are lacking awareness, ridiculous, delusional, lacking judgement, naive… etc.” which has a longer life span than a simple “No,”

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Perfectly stated. In this case, the hiring manager could likely read the OP’s application and understand why they applied so there shouldn’t be any lingering doubts about the OP’s character. I worked for a company where the CEO was retiring and I heard about every internal candidate that applied and some of those were off the mark so much that I wondered what the candidates were thinking. Those thoughts are still lingering.
        I’d be more concerned with the OP’s current manager. When I worked at large organizations, the candidate’s manager was automatically notified if they applied for a transfer.

    3. Elenna*

      This. During my last job search one interviewer told me they probably wouldn’t be able to get back to me for at least three weeks because it was a busy time of year. I mentioned this to my dad and he was like “you should offer to work for them for free for those three weeks, it’ll show interest and the worst they can do is say no!” Um, actually Dad, the worst they can do is cross me off the hiring list for obviously not understanding business norms at all…

      (He’s a teacher, so I suspect he was imagining a situation like teaching where I could go in as a substitute teacher and be better than nothing at all, as opposed to the typical office job where a new employee is actually creating more work for everyone for a while. Still a ridiculous suggestion though.)

      1. Kelly L.*


        I had an ex who wanted me to ask off during the busiest week of my work year to go on a trip with him. “The worst that can happen is they say no!” No, the worst that could happen is that I look like a person who would ask off for a vacation during the busiest part of the year.

    4. A Person*

      “The worst they can say is no” is perfectly appropriate when you’re asking for a price discount or an upgrade at the car rental counter. This is totally different from how a lot of folks use it though.

  10. John Smith*

    #2, I wouldn’t worry. Like Alison says, you met the criteria and that’s the main thing. That you’ve applied internally also shows loyalty. There may be other aspects in play which might mean you’re not successful (fingers crossed you are) that are beyond your control, such as more suitably qualified / experienced / related-to-the-boss / brown nosed applicants.

    If you were out of line in applying (from your employers point of view), I’d hope that some feedback would be provided to you.

    Just a by the way question – did you apply because you wanted the position or because you don’t want your current position? In my organisation, it’s the latter that is the main reason (well, poor management really).

    1. Snow Globe*

      I will also add that applying for a promotion that is a (slight) stretch can be good for your career, even if you don’t get the job. It signals to management that you are interested in taking on more responsibility, and that can lead to you being top of mind when other opportunities come along. So even if the job posting had said 3-5 years experience and you applied with a little over two, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for your career.

  11. Panny-d anxiety*

    #1 This is why I’ll never be a manager. I could never ignore a global pandemic in my assessment of the productivity of my workers.
    It’s not just a matter of who had kids running around at home. It’s been causing a huge amount of anxiety for people, as well as other mental health problems.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In fairness to the OP, I don’t think they’re saying they’ll ignore the impact of the pandemic. But if they have people who have been having serious performance problems working from home and now they’re bringing people back, it’s not unreasonable to want those people to try working from the office to see if that solves the problems (particularly if the issues were around things like responsiveness). At some point employers do need a certain level of performance from people; that can be true while still adjusting for the pandemic’s impact as well.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Also, it’s worth considering the well-being of the organization and it’s capacity to pay staff. Manager have to do that. They must. Not ignoring reality, not pushing for 100% all the time or even 80% in a pandemic.

        But if some people are ten times as productive as others, that has to be considered. As the pandemic eases (hasn’t happened yet) some of them have to find ways to raise their game. And frankly, it’s possible (possible – not certain) they could find ways to be more productive. Certainly childcare remains a problem, but are their other things they could improve, perhaps learning from the people who excelled, in terms of how to organize work, how to communicate, how to use tech. We’re a year and an half into this, and while a lot is beyond everyone’s control, so things can be done better. We’ve learned. Or at least some of us have.

        1. hola my peeps*

          I agree with this so much. There is a pandemic, everyone is stressed, and some people have some situations at home that make it harder. That doesn’t mean that they get to do 10% of their job while everyone else picks up the slack.

          I don’t want to be *that person* but I know that in my org there are people who have used the pandemic to their advantage and others who have worked their butts off to keep things going. The people who can’t, won’t or don’t work at home, for whatever reason, need to go back to the office.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Same here. We have one person we’re having issues with right now and it’s becoming clear that she’s someone who should be in the office where she can be supervised more closely. We’ve given some leeway where we can (she’s exempt), but overall she’s performing far below other team members with the same responsibilities and has disappeared at times without notice.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          I think the question for a manager is, if you talk frankly with someone about their productivity and they say “I’ve had my kids at home for the last 18 months but schools reopen next week, so I’ll be able to be much more productive at home going forward and I have a strong preference for WFH”, do you give them a chance to make that work, or do you pull them back into the office on the basis of their low productivity during WFH so far?

          I don’t think there’s an easy answer there, and it probably depends on a lot of details of the individual circumstances.

          1. quill*

            The manager’s still going to have to gamble how long those schools will be open for (many that started earlier in august are already quarantined / back to remote) on top of everything else. It’s going to have to be individualized solutions for individual workers, I think.

        3. pleaset good rolls*

          Adding in response to this: “It’s been causing a huge amount of anxiety for people, as well as other mental health problems.”

          You know what else cause a huge amount of anxiety? Companies or organizations folding because they can’t make money. Yes yes in certain industries there are overpaid execs and owners and with less of that the organization can survive. But a lot of nonprofits and smaller businesses are crunched themselves, and if a whole bunch of employees are only producing 20% or 10% for more than a year, there’s going to be a crisis.

          I don’t know what’s acceptable – it is 50% or 80%? Maybe in that range. And certainly in the first few months even 30% might be OK – it was a huge shock and there are still all kinds of childcare issues (believe me – know).

          But this has been going on for more than a year and 10% or even 20% for that *entire time period* is not not good.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, this. I work for a smallish-to-midsized nonprofit (dependent on the healthcare industry, no less) and we could not do this. Nobody here is overpaid. We don’t have an overstuffed executive layer. I’ve been here over 15 years and they have always bent over backwards to avoid cutting staff when times are bad. While we’re not in dire straits, we do not have a big pool of backup resources to dip into if people aren’t doing their jobs.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            All of this! And hell, what about the anxiety and stress of picking up other people’s work that isn’t being done, while also working through the exact same global pandemic as everyone else? That’s a real thing too. Like, maybe the person who’s making 10 widgets for every 1 of Underperforming Employee’s would much rather both of them were making 5.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              Or 8 and 6. In my case, both as an “8” as a worker (and, I would hope if I was a manager in this crisis), that could be good enough and close enough. But not 10 and 1. No way.

          3. mediamaven*

            Seriously thank you. As a small business, I can’t just fund an endless spiral of inability to produce. We need to be ok in order to adequately support all the employees. Unfortunately when you have underperformers top staff gets demoralized and then they quit. And then all you have is the people who can’t keep up. We can’t run a successful business that way.

      2. My2cents*

        I feel like the most important part of your advice was for LW to consider their future performance rather than during the disruption of the pandemic.

        I would just add they not try to guess whether there were factors that caused then to be distracted. Even if they were to ask directly, I think some people would be reluctant and might even say they’re fine when they’re not.

        The best thing a manager can do is focus on the future, once things normalize, and communicate clearly and often what work expectations are.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I think it can be reasonable though for a manager to ask employees if there are things they (the employee) think may help improve WFH productivity though to make it better/more manageable for all who want to/are given the ability to be hybrid or WFH.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I think this a pretty bad-faith reading of what the OP is saying, honestly. I don’t think OP is trying to ignore the pandemic at all, but is just acknowledging the reality that in a business you do need a certain amount of work to get done and for some of their employees that has not been happening under WFH. Bringing them back in isn’t a punishment, it’s an attempt to solve a problem.

    3. BRR*

      I think there’s a middle ground between ignoring there’s a pandemic and not having any expectations for employees. I would argue that good managers can get results while considering context and that’s why the lw wrote in.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, this. Some leeway should be given for the pandemic, but it doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any expectations at all and that people aren’t accountable for their overall performance.

    4. LQ*

      At some point work either needs to get done, or the work you’re doing doesn’t matter and the company has decided to just pay people out of the goodness of their hearts, or people will get laid off.

      I’m not sure how there is the broad narrative that the work that people do doesn’t matter to such an extent that it not being done is totally meaningless. I feel like at this point I only read this site to help remember that other jobs while they may let me be lazy and do whatever I want, also don’t matter and that I’m choosing a job that’s hard but that matters that it gets done.

      If for the last year and a half it was totally ok that you did 1/10th your work, then there’s a strong likelihood that your work doesn’t matter at all. Or someone else picked up all your slack. And I know that everyone here is going to say that all employers should have infinite staff so that no one ever has to do anything that’s hard or anything they don’t like, but today I’m glad it mattered that I am going to do work.

      1. Anonymity1*

        I’m not sure if this helps, but in my workplace, we have consciously chose what we can and need to take on right now. The main part of our work changed a lot when we went remote. Some people were already hybrid, so it was not as big of ask from them, but for everyone else, the shift required a ton of time and thought. It impacted our clients too, a s over-all was a complicated and time consuming situation. Therefore, we pushed back major changes and initiatives that were planned, and our manager had us focus on the core of our work as much as possible.

    5. Colette*

      No one is saying that they should ignore the pandemic. But by the same token, the pandemic isn’t a free pass to not work and get paid for it.

      I recently hired a company to do some work outside. It was estimated at 4 days of work. Due to the pandemic, it took a little longer to get some supplies, and there was another delay due to me being unavailable, so it was 6 days of work. But if they’d said “there’s a pandemic, so it will take 40 days”, I would have been very, very unhappy.

      1. Rach*

        What if supplies unexpectedly took 30 days to arrive (some supplies are taking months, and there are global shortages in my industry)? I mean, there are many things out of people’s control right now and we are not out of this pandemic yet.

        1. Colette*

          Then they should have either planned in advance (e.g. ordered the supplies 30 days before starting the work) or let me know before they started.

        2. pleaset cheap rolls*

          I don’t think Collette is saying she won’t accept a 40 day delay (if there are not alternatives). She’s saying she’s not going to pay for 40 days of work. Not paying 10 times the cost.

    6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think it’s also important to look at where physically they are as well. Some of my coworkers did poorly during work from home in the earlier phases of the pandemic because of infrastructure needs they couldn’t change. By this I mean things like really fast Internet, an actual desk to spread out work notes, a private space where you aren’t constantly interrupted. It’s okay to consider those things as well as the impacts of no childcare, pandemic stress, burnout, etc.

      1. pleaset good rolls*

        Exactly. The first few months were really a shock for many people, including me. I didn’t have webcam for example. Small thing, but when we realized this situation could last a long time things had to change.

        10% or 20% productivity for a couple months? I get it. Even near-zero productivity for that time – it was a shocking emergency situation. But 10 or 20% for 16 or 18 months? No no no. And frankly, with new surges, productivity could drop super-low from time to time – but that is during exceptional circumstances. Not all the time.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        That seems like more reason to bring them back to the office where they have a designated workspace.

        (Saying that as someone who did OK working from home but does not have a good workspace there and is definitely more productive in the office.)

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          That was something that my manager did use in determining order for pulling us back in, the people least set up or performing the worst in a work from home environment were part of wave one.

    7. Parakeet*

      It’s funny how for people who already had PTSD, depression or bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, BPD, etc, the expectation is always that we have to deal with it somehow and be adequately productive anyway or go on disability leave (or SSDI), but when something makes the rest of the population anxious too, a whole lot of people are suddenly all about adjusting expectations and putting work in perspective.

      I’m not saying we should therefore set everyone at the lowest common denominator in how we treat workers – I am a socialist – but it sure has been something to watch people do a complete, and yet temporary and conditional on the pandemic, attitude shift, on this, as soon as it was seen as a “normal people” concern.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        It’s normal for societies to calibrate to the general population, so . . . yes, once something becomes the New Normal, expectations will adjust. I don’t know why that would seem odd/cynically “funny”–it is now a “normal people” concern.

      2. quill*

        I feel like most of the fixes that would actually give improvements for OP’s staff are, unsurprisingly, societal solutions. Like having a national mask mandate until X months after the vaccines are approved for children / cases are sustained below a certain threshhold. Like national attention to childcare, infrastructure, and medical care equity.

        You know, socialist stuff like the government realizing it’s purpose is to ensure it’s people’s survival and actually spending any time or money to make that happen.

  12. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP2: I had an epileptic seizure at work too – actually my first (now formally diagnosed as an epileptic and on meds) and it’s by far the most embarrassing moment of my life. Losing control of one’s bowels in the office is, err, something I don’t wanna repeat.

    You’re not wrong about people treating you differently after! People insisted on accompanying me to the toilets in case I had another seizure etc and it really annoyed me.

    Also got a whole slew of other medical issues (regular commentators can probably guess my whole list by now) and taking time off after that for, I think it was an endometriosis operation, had a few people convinced I was off to get my brain operated on. Dunno how different things are here in the (UK) but I did ok by telling people I was off for a routine operation and that there’s no problem with me coming back to work after.

  13. Mizzle*

    OP2: I wonder how many people are asking mostly because it has become a habit / the acceptable thing to do? If your coworkers don’t know how you feel about this, they might think it would seem cold to stop asking you how your appointment went.

    Personally, I’d be happy to either not discuss it at all, or let you bring it up, or whatever, especially if you’d make it known that that was exactly what you wanted!

    I imagine that concern for you and your well-being is more important to them then their curiosity about your doctor’s appointments.

    1. WellRed*

      Agreed here. I’d be so happy to move on and not worry I seemed uncaring if I don’t ask. Our workplace has tipped too far in this direction for minor illnesses with multiple people inquiring over multiple days how say, someone is feeling if they mention a minor symptom. (This is Slack enabled).

  14. MeowMixers*

    LW 4 – I have had similar comments throughout my life. Usually, my reply is “Oh I am, my mom is visiting this weekend and we are going to *insert activity*” Is it what they meant? Based on the looks I get, no. I think most people are trying to show some concern when they say to take time. Moreso, I think people say that because they themselves need the time if they were in that circumstance. I personally decide things very fast. Some don’t and truly need a break to think.

    Good luck with your job search!

  15. Venus*

    Many people apply for stretch jobs a cycle or two before they will be well qualified. So if a company hires yearly for a junior manager position then employees might apply a year or two before they feel ready so that they get interview experience.

    It sounds like you are well qualified, but even if the post requested 3-4 years it would still be reasonable to apply, and if anyone asked you could explain that you want to learn more about the internal hiring process and this position specifically, in order to strengthen your application the next year.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I disagree with your second paragraph, *if* the purpose is to learn about the process. The better way to learn is to ask about the process with your manager or maybe more senior staff you have a professional mentor relationship with, so you can co-create a professional development plan.

      Going into the system without that context will be a little odd (not damagingly so), but it would also be much less productive than directly framing it as a learning opportunity with your manager.

    2. Gloucesterina*

      Giving this reasoning for why you applied for a job could be very detrimental to the hiring committee’s perception of the applicant’s professional judgment in the fields & work cultures I’m familiar with. Is this practice something that’s very field- or org-dependent?

  16. duck10*


    I’ve always been suspicious of the over the top evangelism of WFH that has popped up during the pandemic. Those who believe in WFH really over sell how well people are doing. It’s fine if it works for you, but don’t pretend it will work for everyone.

    It ties into the bigger trope that all employees do a good job and everyone means so well. In my experience employees are people and people are a mixed bag. Some people are brilliant and some people if you don’t watch them will take any chance to slack off. Some WFH evangelists can never seem to accept that given the chance to slack off at home or take advantage of the pandemic some people will do that.

    Nothing wrong with having adjustment issues or kids or caring. Employers should be flexible with that stuff of course. But no doubt some have spun the pandemic to their advantage. Don’t be so naive.

    1. KHB*

      I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. The prevailing narrative of “WFH is the way of the future and everyone loves it!” ignores all the problems that companies had with WFH arrangements before, that never really went away.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Right – I posted up above that some of my teammates did really poorly during beginning of pandemic WFH because of infrastructure challenges they couldn’t just wave a wand at and make disappear (like the one who lived in a studio apartment in a converted 100 year old home – she was singing the hosannas about the joys of coming into the office that had everything she needed to be successful at her job).
        Plus, well some of us like the dividing line of an office to separate work life from home life.

      2. duck10*

        Nothing changed in the workforce with the pandemic or the shift to WFH. Same same. There’s always going to be people in the workforce who slack off given half a chance whether they WFH or work in the office or whatever. I found the whole pandemic WFH are angels thing really weird. I know with my reports if I don’t watch some of them they will whip out their phone and watch TV. I bet they’d watch Netflix if they were at home and could get away with it.

        Most people are great! Most people work well. But wow did the pro-WFH crowd really push the line that everyone is the best. People are people! There’s always been people in the workforce who need oversight and prodding.

        1. usually anon*

          I ‘watch netflix’ at home, while I’m working. Sometimes I am doing rote data entry and some entertainment helps me not focus on the drudgery. Some of my colleagues watched netflix in the office, also while doing rote work.
          What sucks is being treated like a slacker because a manager is too lazy to manage people as individuals.

    2. TryingHard*

      We had a strict policy that WFH was a privilege and if a manager didn’t feel it was working the staffer was required to come back in. We took tons of precautions for people who came in regarding Covid.
      Management saw it wasn’t fair to the others that couldn’t WFH to cover for those that wouldn’t WFH and expected a free ride.

    3. Quinalla*

      Yes, the over-the-top WFH is the best for all people and all companies is annoying to me too and I am one who really enjoys and is productive WFH. There are several people on my team that love WFH as much as me, several others who were so happy to be back in the office once that was allowed again (strictly volunteer only and with masking, etc. thank goodness) and more that will likely be happiest with a hybrid model or extremely flexible model. My husband is one who a hybrid model is perfect for, he likes being in the office some, home some – works well for his temperament – and he also worked to set up routines to help his home/work/home transitions – another real problem for a lot of folks.

      But yeah, we were very lucky that tech-wise we were well prepared and only really had hiccups the first 2 weeks, after that everyone who needed more tech at home had it and various things on the IT side had been further upgraded (we already allowed limited remote work for all and had a few fully remote employees). But we worked hard to keep our culture strong, communication steady but not too intrusive, etc. It was a big adjustment and now that some people are in the office, we are already thinking about the next big adjustment to a hybrid environment. Right now, folks in the office still log onto all meetings on Teams, but that will change eventually and we want to be well prepared for that.

  17. agnes*

    #5 you do not need to give so much detail about your departure, and please please do not share your laundry list of all the things you hate about your current job as your reasons for leaving. That kind of stuff has a way of following you and causing problems down the road. Your employer and your colleagues do not need to know anything other than when you are leaving. If you feel compelled to say a little more, try one of these:
    “it is a good opportunity for me”
    “I want to be closer to my family.”
    ” I want to try something different”
    “It’s a better fit with my skill set.”
    “They made me an offer I could not refuse (smile)”

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Yup. Lying, even small lies, are bad because you have to remember the lie.

      OP5 you don’t have to give “full details” or any details. Be vague.

      1. Khatul Madame*

        Totally agree with rolls’ stance on lies. Lying means undertaking the future work of keeping your story straight, and/or accepting the risk that you will be found out and known as an untruthful person.
        Omissions are considered more morally acceptable in our society, and in this situation a portion of the truth is absolutely appropriate. Who can argue with wanting, nay – NEEDING to move closer to family?

    2. Generic Name*

      Agreed. It’s super normal to move “back home” to be closer to family. It’s also super normal to leave even a good job for a better job with more money. Both at once is a no-brainer. Honestly, most people don’t REALLY care about the particulars of a persons reason for leaving a job. It’s usually just small talk.

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      It’s also super normal to make a move for more money, so you wouldn’t be lying if you said “I found an opportunity to advance myself” and just let people assume you are after that filthy lucre. I did that last time I quit a job, even though the truth was closer to “You people are a bunch of idiots who couldn’t find your … teapots … with a map.”

  18. FashionablyEvil*

    If you’re not comfortable being super direct, you could also go with the breezy, “Oh, it’s so boring—have you seen the new episode of Ted Lasso?” or “I’m trying to keep my focus on work at work. Have you had a chance go to review the new llama grooming report? Great numbers on the output even with the pandemic!” Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Might take longer than a more direct approach, but could also feel more comfortable/less confrontational.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I like this approach as well – because it does feel way less confrontational. And it may not take as much time as you think if it starts getting around through the grapevine that you aren’t answering medical questions anymore.

  19. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I hope your co-workers will understand your boundaries. One thing I would like to point out is that lots of people don’t drive, not just because of medical issues. People may ask if you have a ride etc because they are being nice and they don’t want to leave you stranded.

  20. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    This is the best time to say “I’m moving closer to my family”. No one would dare question that.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Let me introduce you to the reason I left my former-job. This was a human, I think, who couldn’t grasp why on earth I wouldn’t want to live in a city five hours’ drive from my immediate family from Sunday night-Friday afternoon….I could just drive home after work on Friday and leave to come back Sunday night! (His solution to my “no I don’t want to relocate for a promotion that I don’t really want anyways”. He was completely offended that I refused his solution and was in charge of my travel schedule, so not good. Therefore. I’m no longer there.)

      If there are any questions as to why, well, at least you know that its just the icing on the “this was the correct decision” cake?

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I’m sorry that happened. I agree, though, that type of a response would be a good confirmation leaving is the smart choice!

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I am convinced some people think they are managing a staff full of Cmdr Data’s instead of people. Most people thankfully realize they don’t have the Android staff.

  21. KHB*

    Q1: I’m curious how you evaluate people on a metric of “responsiveness,” especially when they’re responsible for responding to many different people.

    This is one of the biggest problems my team is having in working remotely. We work mostly independently, which is great, but every so often a quick question comes up that we need to check with someone else. In the before times, these things took 30 seconds: If you need to know from Jane whether to file the TPS reports in the green folder or the yellow folder, you walk across the hall to Jane’s office and ask her. Now, you send Jane the question via email or Teams (we don’t have a culture of making unscheduled phone calls), and it may be hours before you get an answer. It’s slowing a lot of things down.

    Most of these interactions are between peers, though, and the boss doesn’t see them. Also, not all internal emails are time-sensitive, and many require more than a 30-second response, so an across-the-board target like “Respond to all internal emails within X minutes” wouldn’t make sense. For remote teams who have implemented something like this and made it work, what do the details look like in practice?

    1. Amey*

      Are people clearly setting their availability on Teams? That’s how we handle it. If you’re set to available, the expectation is that you’ll respond immediately. If you’re away or do not disturb, or even busy, expect a longer delay.

      In the office, presumably there are times where you wouldn’t be able to walk across the office and ask Jane the question because she wouldn’t be there – she might be in a meeting or on lunch or a bathroom break, or she might be on the phone and not able to answer at that moment. This isn’t actually that different, it’s just clearer in person that you’re not being ignored or your question hasn’t gone into a black hole. Expecting people to set their status accurately (and then holding them accountable for that) does help I think, as long as it’s expected and supported that people will sometimes be away etc.

      1. ecnaseener*

        When the phone rings, do you set yourself to busy while you’re talking? (Just curious – I don’t even set myself to busy when I’m taking a bathroom break or anything, I just let my calendar do it when I’m in a scheduled meeting.)

        1. RecoveringSWO*

          If you use VOIP for phone connection and Teams it automatically sets your status as busy when in a call.

      2. SarahKay*

        As someone with two monitors, Teams isn’t very good at making itself noticed (I miss Skype, now decommissioned by our IT, which *was* good at it) if I’m deep in a spreadsheet. Typically in these cases I’m working on the monitor that doesn’t have the Windows taskbar, because I want all the screen ‘real-estate’ I can get for my spreadsheet, so it can be a good 15-30 minutes before I surface from my work and notice that the Teams icon is showing that someone IM’d me.
        Teams is certainly less noticeable than someone saying my name out loud in an office.

      3. Rach*

        Unless I’m in a meeting, my TEAMS is going to show I am available. Because I am. But I’m also dealing with multiple and changing factory priorities and I will answer questions in order of those priorities. If it is urgent, as in you need an answer in 30 seconds, a call is really the most appropriate way to get that answer. An IM in TEAMS also gets my attention and I answer as soon as I possibly can. Just because I’m available doesn’t mean I have to drop whatever I’m doing because my coworkers IM’d me.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Absolutely. It’s just a different vibe than in person…if you drop by someone’s office with a question and they say “can you come back in 5?” then you have a response. But no ones going to willingly type into Teams “I will answer you in 5” (let alone mark it unread)

    2. hbc*

      First of all, I think you need a good enough Teams setup that messaging Jane your question has about the same turnaround as walking to her office. Usually that means more of a notification when someone messages her directly than when someone posts to the company-wide channel.

      Then you need to be able to escalate if Jane doesn’t respond, which might take a change in company culture. Unscheduled calls are no more of an interruption than walking into someone’s office, and is basically the WFH equivalent. But our default is usually to message multiple people who will either have the answer themselves or know why Jane’s not available. I end up on a lot of these, and the majority of the time, it’s not a big deal (Jane was busy with something else), but it’s helped identify problem people/situations once or twice.

      1. KHB*

        That’s a big part of it, I think – we just need to learn how to use Teams more effectively, and we haven’t really bothered to do that.

        But another part is that “Jane took three hours to answer my question about the TPS reports” is such a small thing, in isolation, that to “escalate” it feels like “tattling.” But if Jane is taking three hours to answer everyone’s questions about the TPS reports, that’s a problem, and the pattern doesn’t become evident until the individual people speak up.

        1. Julia*

          It’s the kind of pattern to raise in the aggregate in a meeting with your manager, using the same language you’ve used to write these comments. Lay out the whole issue and see what she says.

        2. Allonge*

          The thing is, this one really needs to be clear to everyone. If the team needs close-to-immediate response to emails or chat, that is fine, and as long as it’s spelled out to all, it can be a reasonable metric.

          But how many times have we heard ‘I am soooo much more efficient from home because no interruptions’ – that only really works if people (can) ignore their email / chat / whatever messages. A person walking into my office is no more interruptive than a chat or a call – it’s that the latter two are easier to set to something you can ignore. Managers and teams do need to be clear how long this is ok.

          Which is a long way of saying: I would escalate, but on a systems level (unless there are clear rules about this already, in whihc case Jane is breaking those). Let’s have a shared, preferably written doc on what the expectations are. If a 3-hour turnaround is too much, this is an absolute necessity. Because I am, if anything, overly responsive, and in most cases three hours is a perfectly reasonable turnaround for emails around here.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      When we were remote the expectation was that if you were available in teams you would at least acknowledge receipt of the question/request within ten minutes. Answering could take longer if needed, but this way you knew that your request had been received, and could go on with other things without knowing whether or not Jane saw your question.

    4. Klio*

      If you want equivalent response times, take equivalent measures.
      Email and Teams aren’t equivalent to walking to someone’s office demanding their immediate attention. Using the phone to call them is.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This. Phone calls not being part of the “culture” is just another way of saying that we have this problem with a really obvious solution that we don’t do because reasons.

        1. WellRed*

          Re the whole “we don’t do phone calls” culture. Presumably your culture is a work culture, phone calls are a sometimes necessary work task. Otherwise, do you have a “we have a bottleneck/inefficient” culture?

        2. Rach*

          Yes in my work culture we have the following forms of communication in order of increasing urgency: email, IM, text, phone call. If I need to get a hold of on-call after hours I will email them the issue, text, wait 10 mins and then call if they haven’t replied (if it is an emergency I skip texting). I don’t understand expecting people to drop everything for an IM that is easy to miss in the first place.

    5. WellRed*

      We use Slack rather than teams for this sort of thing. I personally don’t keep logged into teams all day ( or slack) but that’s quicker.

  22. Richard Hershberger*

    LW1: To expand on Alison’s answer, equity is important, but it means the same expectations for everyone, not the same rules. “Jane doesn’t work well from home, so no one can work from home” would not be equity, but mindless legalism. Couch the discussion as expectations rather than specific rules.

    1. BRR*

      ^This. My employer allowed 0 work from home before the pandemic because not everyone’s job allowed for it so they needed to be “equitable” (also senior leadership is incredibly old fashioned). We’re now all returning to the office on the same schedule because it needs to be “equitable.” I would argue that tying my work and my job to other people is actually the opposite of equitable.

          1. EmKay*

            Then it must be a “if we say it’s equitable loud enough then it must be” type of thing, I’m guessing…

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Do you make the same salary as the CEO? If not, you might point out that this is not equitable.

  23. Bookworm*

    #1: It might be a good time to reassess and set metrics as Alison says. If the lower productive workers didn’t recognize it, could it be that they just don’t know? It’s not just the pandemic and the stresses itself–remote work also risks the loss of communication (which can be mitigated) so I wonder how much of it is that these employees don’t realize that there are standards that they aren’t meeting because it’s not communicated with them.

    But not much to add to what response said. Some people may be having a hard time because they share a space with 3 roommates or have children/other dependents who rely on them, that trying to operate in a pandemic has been extremely difficult (combine that stress with current events), etc.

    Thank you for asking and for assessing fairness. Let’s just say some orgs really don’t care and did it show.

  24. Red Swedish Fish*

    #4 I was laid off in the first round of my companies lay offs 4 years ago. I got a great severance package, and advice from everyone to take some time off for myself to go on a vacation, do something I have always wanted to do. I took one day to cry and pity myself on being let go and the next day I got up at my start time and started the job search. I would have never been able to relax on a vacation knowing I did not have a job to pay off the vacation.

    I ended up getting a new job and having 6 weeks of severance pay overlap with my new job, we used that money to fund our Disney vacation the next year.

  25. ecnaseener*

    OP4, if you decide not to take any time off before job-hunting and people are concerned / confused about that, I would go with a cheerful “You know me, I’ll feel much better having something lined up!”

  26. hbc*

    OP2: I would just be careful not to assign too many things to the Medical Privacy bucket. People knowing when your ride is coming to get you isn’t medical information, and we generally know when our coworkers are coming and going anyway.

    Don’t get me wrong–I’d hate this situation and feel like everyone was hovering over me. But I think “Thanks, I’ve got rides covered for the foreseeable future, but I promise I’ll ask if something falls through” will get a lot further than any overt boundary-setting. I’d go even blander and more boring when people ask about actual medical stuff. What’s your appointment for? “Just routine, let me know if anything comes up while I’m out.” How aaaaaare you? “Fine, how are you?” Have you had any new seizures? “I’m fine. How’s [show/family member/work thing]?”

  27. Colette*

    #4 – I’ve been laid off 3 times, and I would caution you about taking time off from a job search. I know people who “took the summer off” and then really, really struggled getting started again – to the point where I don’t know if they ever got a new job.

    Having said that, I think there are some things you can do:
    – dedicate a portion of each workday to job-hunting activities – update your resume, apply for jobs, network, etc. But not 8 hours a day! I liked to spend mornings doing job stuff, then having the afternoon for exercise, personal projects or whatever I felt like doing. (During one of my layoffs, I created an “anti-procrastination” project where I had to spend 15 minutes a day doing something I was procrastinating on; during another, I built furniture.) Obviously, there were times when I had to do job stuff in the afternoons, but having the structure with built-in leisure time worked for me.
    – when you have a job offer you’re going to take, set your start date 2-3 weeks in the future, if you can (and if you can afford it). That’s your time off.

    1. WellRed*

      During my last job search I definitely did these things: search schedule, gym, afternoon coffee out of the house.

  28. LQ*

    I hate this double narrative of WFH is for everyone, no one should ever ever ever have to go into an office again, everyone should work where ever they want laws be damned because everyone was so much more productive while working from home.

    But also the pandemic was hard and you need to be nice to people who can’t get all their work done at home because the pandemic was hard. Was the pandemic hard? Of course! Did a lot of people have to actually get the work done anyway? Yes! Everyone here still wanted to get paid on time I’ll bet.

    1. Hmmm*

      Plenty of managers completely dropped the ball when it came to actually managing during the pandemic, leaving many workers adrift regarding things like workflows, priorities, contact and everything else.

      1. mousekatool*

        This 100% true. There was a point in the pandemic when I didn’t hear from my boss (who I typically talked to most days) for almost five weeks. As a high-risk person in a small office, I was one of two working from home past June 2020 and they just kind of forgot about me. I did reach out, but it was strange because I really felt forgotten entirely.

    2. Kia Kara*

      Two things can both be true, you know. WFH isn’t for everyone, and no one here is really arguing it is, but it is much more doable for many companies and employees than some people had been willing to acknowledge previously. WFF DURING A FREAKING PANDEMIC is difficult and challenging because PANDEMIC! Threat of death, illness, loss of support structures, massive changes in lifestyle, constant stress, mental health problems, social difficulties – all these and more added enormous challenge.

      WFH in normal times =/= WFH in 2021.

    3. Spearmint*

      I think you’re taking these narratives too literally. The pandemic has revealed that, for some individuals and some types of roles, WFH really is as or more productive than in person work. The reason people emphasize it so strongly is that many managers of such employees are still irrationally resistant to remote work. I don’t think anyone literally thinks everyone and every role is suited to remote work.

      The pandemic also was a huge burden on some people (mostly distinct from the former group) and required us all to rethink how we do work on the fly. Of course many otherwise good employees would struggle. We’re in an ongoing global natural disaster. No one thinks people shouldn’t be held to any standards, but holding people to somewhat lower (but still far from zero) standards for 2020 only seems fair. Do they eventually have to figure it out? Yes. But almost no one thinks these lower standards should persist indefinitely, or they they should be near zero.

    4. Tinker*

      I hadn’t seen those statements put together like that before, but now that you have it seems like it reveals that the common element is a breakdown of trust with management — folks don’t trust that decisions are made primarily on the basis of functional needs rather than a desire for power and control, and also folks don’t trust that performance expectations are set with an eye to what is reasonably achievable and sensible under the circumstances.

      To me the basis for that lack of trust seems partly just factual and also partly relatable even if I don’t know for sure how accurate it is, especially during this time where I have been seeing an unpleasantly surprising return to the “WFH is a privilege, WFH is a perk, privilege not a right, privilege is not a right” narrative.

  29. Lucious*

    On #1 : in this situation where some people are not quantitatively good WFH but managing those specific employees is not possible , insisting on 100% on site attendance makes sense.

    It is not the ideal solution- I view that as managing each employee on their merits- but, it is realistic to acknowledge that isn’t possible at all organizations and teams. Especially if there’s a heavy managerial expectation of “all for one and one for all” treatment.

  30. Hmmm*

    LW1, why don’t you wipe the slate clean and ask your team if, how and when they’d like to work from home, and what you can do in terms of support, guidance and expectations that can help them succeed in working from home?

    It could be something as simple as new IT equipment or a new desk chair, or helping them get their home internet improved, or it could be that expectations or to-do lists or whatever else need to be laid out clearly. As Alison points out, working from home during a global pandemic is very different to working from home under more normal circumstances.

    1. Allonge*

      Why not? Because the role of the manager is not just to ensure individual success and happiness of their staff but to make sure to deliver results towards the mission and goals of the company?

      1. Tinker*

        I’d suggest that successfully doing one’s job IS contributing to the mission and goals of the company, at least assuming the presence of competent management.

          1. Tinker*

            Okay, and one potential response to a person only doing 10% of their job is to look for and eliminate obstacles to them doing the rest of it, for instance by asking them if they are missing anything they need to do their job effectively and then endeavoring to provide it.

            It seems like you’re objecting to that idea, though, and I’m not sure what you’re proposing as an alternative. Want to elaborate, perhaps?

            1. SimplytheBest*

              Okay, but for some people, the obstacle is working from home. There seems to be some bending over backwards throughout this comment section to list all of the possible reasons why people can’t be at 100% while working from home and why that should just be an acceptable loss. Some people are struggling with child care and poor wifi and not enough managerial support through this pandemic, sure. But some people just aren’t good at motivating themselves to work at home. It’s okay to acknowledge that.

              1. Tinker*

                I’m not sure what comment you were trying to reply to, but I will point out that whoever it was that wrote the comment that made a definite statement on the “pro” side of the work from home debate isn’t responsible for what other people who are not them say about that, and it doesn’t make much sense to take your objections up with them rather than the people who are actually expressing the opinion you object to.

                If you were trying to respond to my comment, I especially don’t have anything particular to say about the fact that other people have opinions you don’t agree with on a different subject from the one I was talking about.

      2. usually anon*

        Hilariously, my workplace has lost a lot of people because management didn’t think employee satisfaction was important to their bottom line. Now we are reopening with a skeleton crew of burned out veterans and burned out newbs, expected to happily serve burned out students and faculty as the pandemic/political unrest/global climate catastrophes rage on.

        1. Rach*

          Funnily enough, my workplace is bleeding people and is finally trying to take employee satisfaction seriously and they wonder why we still don’t trust them.

        2. Allonge*

          That sounds horrible.

          Employee satisfaction is really important. But actually delivering is also important – employees of a company that goes under are not going to be really satisfied.

          Also: what does it do to employee satisfaction if managers ignore past performance? Clean slate for a year when some of the team delivered 10% of what others did sounds like it could create a lot of resentment.

          1. Tinker*

            Here’s the thing, though:
            — Employees who have quit do not deliver results.
            — Employees who are burned out deliver less effective results than when they are not burned out.
            — Employees who cannot deliver results because something is preventing them from doing so are, by definition, not delivering results.

            As to your question, another way to phrase that is “what does it do to employee satisfaction if managers prioritize solving problems over blaming people” and the answer to that one is “it is probably one of the most effective interventions to increase it, and one that also has been repeatedly shown to have spectacular effects on performance”.

            It’s definitely counterintuitive for folks who come from a discipline-and-punish model either as managers or as ICs, so it’s also not untrue that some people will be resentful. If employee satisfaction is not important compared to delivering results, that isn’t actually a problem — but, additionally, they may not stay resentful once they see that a solution-focused orientation benefits them as well.

            1. Allonge*

              I am not talking about punishment though. LW writes about a situation where some team members were severely underperforming WFH in the last year+ and others did not. I think it’s not realistic that this should just be wiped out with a ‘pandemic, whatcanyado’.

              The company did not fire these people, so there is that. The question now is how to decide if they can continue to work from home (I assume in a situation where working from the office is reasonably safe).

              How do you expect a manager not to take into consideration what has been going on for this? How do you not keep a much closer eye on the underperformers and their metrics? This is not punishment, this is a consequence of not delivering. And, while this is outside of the OP’s question, it should be considered when it’s time to talk about promotions and raises.

              1. Tinker*

                The point isn’t whether you should use the word “punish” or “consequence” when you label an employee as being an “underperformer” and “taking that into account when it’s time to talk about promotions and raises”, the point is that it might be a good idea to make sure that all your “underperformers” aren’t also “the folks who couldn’t get a corporate laptop for months because the IT department ran out” or similar rather than skipping straight to applying “consequences of not delivering” to people who were not set up to deliver in the first place.

                1. Allonge*

                  If that is all we are talking about, then I agree. A company would have to be pretty toxic not to take that into consideration, and should provide good equipment to everyone.

                  There are plenty of other reasons for underperforming, though. Not all underperformance is due to bad management. And I have also seen ‘oh, my computer never works’ used as a really convenient excuse.

  31. Lacey*

    Taking some time after being laid off looks different for different people. I have a friend who’s husband makes enough that she took a couple years. Some of that was time to recharge, some of it was getting certifications so she could pursue a different direction.

    When I was fired I took a week to mope. I played video games and ate comfort food. When the week was over, I sprang into action and found a job in several months (thanks in part to AAM).

  32. Sam I Am*

    This is a good point.
    A friend is down with COVID and she lives alone. I and another friend have taken the reins on contacting her for updates, chatting so she doesn’t feel isolated, and dropping supplies at her door. Just this morning I was thinking of how and when to pull back on asking her medical questions twice a day. Her health is improving and at some point it will just be invasive to ask questions like this every morning.
    I’ll just be direct- maybe a script like “I know you’re on the mend so I’m going to drop all the questions about specific symptoms and metrics every day, but if you would like to talk about them you can just mention them to me,” and go from there.
    I’m also open to suggestions, if y’all have any. I’m most concerned that she’s safe but of course she generally can handle that all by herself, and I don’t want her to feel trapped into telling me her health status all the time once she’s out of danger.

    1. Colette*

      Why do you need to know the symptoms/metrics at all? Just stop asking – you can express concern with “how are you doing”, which she can answer with “fine” or “my oxygen level has been low, I’m worried about it” or whatever she wants you to know.

      1. Tara*

        Yeah, if I was feeling unwell and friends were bringing groceries or just stopping by for chats, I wouldn’t expect a side of diagnostics with that.

      2. Esmeralda*

        Because it is/was helpful to the coworker w covid. “What’s your temperature today?” “Down to 99!” (No worries) “Still just under 101” (are you stocked up on Tylenol? Do you need us to drive you to your doc?) “Ummmm, I don’t think I took it today, I can’t remember” (get in and check because it may be scary high)

        1. Colette*

          But that assumes that she can’t manage her own health, and that’s … not great, unless she truly can’t and asked you to manage it for her.

      3. Sam I Am*

        Great question! Because she said at the beginning when her fever spiked that she thought she wasn’t thinking clearly, and asked for help keeping track of metrics.
        So I’m thinking a direct question of whether she still wants that or not may be in order. I just don’t want to make her feel like it’s a burden for me, it isn’t. However if she’s ready to stop with those sorts of questions I don’t want her to feel boxed into it.

        1. Colette*

          Makes sense! I’d suggest saying something like “now that you’re improving, do you still want me to track your metrics? Or are you OK with doing that now?”

        2. londonedit*

          Really important, too – I’ve read several news pieces about the fact that often when people have Covid they can seem to be perfectly fine when in fact their oxygen levels are dangerously low. So I think it’s great that you’re checking in on your friend so that you can be alert to any out-of-character or slow responses.

          1. Sam I Am*

            The oxygen was the scariest number for a few days, close to dropping to the number her primary care-er insisted meant an ambulance to the hospital.

  33. Macaroni Penguin*

    4. People are basically saying that they hope you can take some time off before job searching. Layoffs can be tough, and others want you to be okay. Maybe this time is a brief pause to process your emotions. It could also be a quasi fantasy projected by the speaker that they wish they could take a long break. They might also be trying to say they hope you have a lot of resources to take a break before job searching. For past layoffs, I’ve always taken a weekend off to process emotions. Feelings were just too raw to concentrate on making a cover letter. But then I had to start job searching immediately because life expenses.

  34. Pocket Mouse*

    #3 – Did the people on the team have 5-6 years when they started in their current positions, or did they have experience more comparable to yours to start out with? Remember that your 2 years with your current employer might be ‘worth’ 3 or more years elsewhere, especially for this purpose. Good luck!

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Also, even if the others on the team have more experience they may not want to move on. Maybe they really like their job, or they are not in a position to take on more responsibility. I worked with someone who had been in the same position for like 15 years. She had no interest in moving on. We had reviews that had a section for goals and career trajectory things. (The team was often seen as a way ‘in’ to the company to get to another positon) This person just put my goal is to not leave X position.

      So just because someone has more experience or may be more qualified doesn’t mean they want to move on.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Ha, “my goal is to not leave X position.”

        If I was in their shoes, I would be tempted to *jokingly* write something about my goal was to become so skilled and valuable in my role that the company would have a hard time getting rid of me because I would be hard to replace.

        …and then the company would revamp the software/processes and I would become redundant.

  35. Healthcare Worker*

    OP #2, I would start to gradually pull back on how much medical info you share. Start telling people how glad you are your condition is under control, and you appreciated their support when you needed it. If your coworkers see you as not worried they will hopefully take your health off their radar.

  36. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I wonder if there might be a solution where the people who do best in the office are allowed to be there more frequently and the people who do best at home could be home exclusively/more frequently? It may do weird things to the cohesiveness of the team, depending on the team structure, but it may also be a solution that works for multiple people in different ways.

  37. NewYork*

    LW1 – I do not think any organization (other than maybe the government) can ignore performance issues. Otherwise, over time, they will be left with mostly non performers. I think the biggest issue impacting performance has been schools, and they may have closing/hybrid in the fall.

  38. emmaline*

    “Only six months” of salary? Yes, of course the amount you have saved affects how you approach finding a new job, but this language seems out of touch. The median American savings account balance is $5,300 (the mean is skewed by the wealthy). While standard financial advise is to have six months in savings, clearly most of us don’t.

    1. Colette*

      The amount of money you have access to affects how long you can afford to be out of work. If you have a month of expenses saved, you can’t take as much time off as someone who has money to cover a decade of expenses. Six months of expenses doesn’t give you much time to job hunt, because it takes many people months to find a new job. (For me, it’s typically 6 – 7 months.)

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      The OP said they have a little severance and job hunting isn’t an emergency situation, so the tone of the advice is perfectly appropriate. “Only” is a judgement on how long job hunting takes, not how much savings one should have.

    3. Jonquil*

      Haha yeah, I was like “only six months of living expenses saved”, that’s my best case scenario!

  39. drpuma*

    For me, I’ve always meant (and practiced) “taking some time” after a layoff to mean giving myself a break from stress or pressure.

    It’s very, very unusual for anyone’s job environment prior to a layoff not to be super stressful! And for exactly the reasons you mention, applying for a new job is also very stressful. “Taking some time” means not putting pressure on yourself to apply to 10 jobs first thing in the morning your first day after you stop working. I’ve “taken time” by doing things like visiting family who live by the beach or spending a week sleeping in and reading a library book in the park every afternoon. Life is stressful. It’s okay to pause and catch your breath.

  40. Unnecessary Subterfuge*

    I’m just here to claim the username.
    No disrespect to OP, it just struck a funny chord in my own office dealings.

  41. Anna*

    I just got laid off, I have 6 months of expenses saved + 1 month of severance, but no partner or other financial source. I definitely was of the mindset that I could “take some time”, at least 2-3 weeks before I went all in. I’ve updated my resume, and am likely to start some consulting work. My field is definitely hiring and the process probably takes 4-6 weeks from application to hired.

    But now I’m starting to rethink things

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      You shouldn’t assume your first or third interview will automatically end in a job – even in the “job seekers market” we’re currently in I have plenty of qualified friends who have been searching for months.

      BUT, you know your particular industry and these things do vary, so grain of salt.

      1. Anna*

        I do have 4 interviews scheduled so I’m not assuming I’ll get the first job I apply to – I just haven’t been setting a side a part of each day to apply like other commenters have mentioned.

        1. Hillary*

          It all depends on what you do and where you live. When I’m job hunting it’s a couple hours a week – if I’m lucky there’s a job I’m both interested in and reasonably qualified for posted once a week. It’s normally closer to one per month.

  42. CS*

    I work in career services at a community college, and as part of our mission we will provide services to anyone who asks for them, student or no. We see a lot of folks who have been laid off. It’s common for them to be so upset about the experience that they can’t work on their resume, plan their job search, or practice interviewing without becoming extremely emotional. Some emotions/anxiety is normal and perfectly fine, but often there’s so much going on with their mental health that they can’t get through the appointment and complete what they hoped to that day. For example, they can’t describe their work and accomplishments in their last job because it devolves into a rant, or they start to cry when asked what they’re looking for out of their next job. We see people who are getting interviews just fine, but aren’t able to stay composed during the interview (shutting down, ranting about last job, etc.).
    Emotions are not a switch that you can turn on and off. You might be able to put them on a dimmer, but you carry those with you all the time, including when you’re working on job search tasks, networking, interviewing, etc. Even if you can’t afford to wait long before applying, “taking some time” might look like reaching out to trusted mentors to talk it out, family members, and considering therapy if it’s available to you. I’m sure some folks do just fine– I only see the people who need extra help– but if you’re feeling very angry, betrayed, anxious, etc., job searching will have to include working through that a bit.

    1. Skippy*

      Thank you for saying this. I wish more people would focus on the mental health impact of a layoff.

    2. Julie*

      This is so true. I know my Covid layoff ended this way, where I could not think of that job without hostility because of how they made their layoff decisions. I needed some time to grieve, process and recover. Frankly I was already suffering from severe burnout from the job and had let my mental health decline and had let my job become my identity. My recovery included processing my actual goals for a new job. Thankfully I had a severance and the extra Covid unemployment to buffer this. And it was key, my new job requires me to partner with a different team at my former employer and I needed to be in a place where I could discuss that in an interview. My confidence was specifically cited as a reason I was hired, which is a reflection of how far I had come, considering I wasn’t crying in bed every day by this point. In the middle once I got out of bed, I started building a new routine, reflecting on my actual goals, and doing one nice thing for myself each day (tie dying, reading, walking the dogs to the park, therapy, etc.) so I could continue healing. Once I had the offer, then I was able to take time to take a full break to start fresh. I still resent my old employer but I can work with the team there effectively. And I’m still recovering more than a year later, I just have a job that allows me to have more free time so I can recover on my own timeline.

  43. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    #1: love Alison’s answer, but especially this:

    “Some people’s work has suffered during the pandemic because of conditions caused by the pandemic itself, like not having child care because schools and daycares were closed, the strain on many people’s mental health, etc.”

    This is something that I think some companies have ignored. They look at numbers and just assume that office work is more efficient (and sometimes it is!) without considering the fact that this past year was bananas. I mean, I KNOW my company’s productivity went down a couple of years ago when everyone knew that layoffs were eminent for months with no idea what was going to happen — and we were all in the office every day. Psychological stress will cause a lack of productivity even in the best workers — and that’s not even taking into account the practical hurdles like childcare that Alison mentioned. Evaluating moving forward makes the most sense to me personally because this past year has thrown a lot of people for a loop and everyone has had different stressors going on

    1. quill*

      Knowing which metrics it makes sense to even evaluate should also come into the picture.

      “Jane took 5x as long to complete llama inspection licensing this year” really shouldn’t count against Jane if the reason is that she had to get a certificate printed from a government office that was open one day a week and then wait on the certificate to be delivered in the mail, but if the licensing is automatically emailed upon passing the course…

  44. MicroManagered*

    OP3 Don’t let the fact that your peers have 5-6 years of experience deter you from applying for promotions. A lot of the time, people who’ve been in entry-level positions for a long time haven’t been promoted because they aren’t interested or aren’t capable of taking on those positions. It doesn’t mean *you* shouldn’t go after promotions.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Also, it wasn’t clear if they had 5-6 years of experience NOW or if they had that experience when they started on the team. It could be either, but it seems reasonable that at least some of that experience was from after joining this team…maybe they even started in a similar place as OP3.

  45. BitterFruit*

    #3 – Even if people start gossipping about you because you applied for a job they think you’re not qualified for, does it really matter? To me, it says more about them than about you, and worst-case scenario, you can always leave the company.

    When I started out, I was constantly told that people in the industry know each other so you best be kind to everyone, always do your best, etc. because words get around and you don’t want to be frozen out by the whole industry because you’ve developed a bad reputation. But the fact is most industries aren’t that small and people in leadership won’t be in their position long enough for anyone to fear being 100% unemployable. Not to mention everyone is allowed to make mistakes, and if someone advanced enough to be a hiring manager is holding something you did when you had only 2 years of work experience against you… you’re not the one with a problem.

    Plus, after going through several managers and teams with a wide range of characters, I’ve also come to the conclusion that people have certain ideas of what desirable employees are, and they’re not necessarily objective or free of values you downright disagree with. I think it’s absolutely fine if you’re known as a “difficult” person by someone whose ethical/moral standards you have questions about, even if that person has a lot of influence and a job title that everyone else is impressed with. I know personal integrity isn’t something that’s easily recognized and may not always be rewarded, but if you can sleep without pills at night that’s good enough for me.

  46. IWishIHadAFancyUserName*

    Re #5, if “this new position has a great boss, higher salary, and more upwards mobility”, why can’t you just tell your current employers that you were offered a terrific new opportunity, and that you’re leaving to take advantage of that? People do that all the time — that is a completely normal and acceptable reason for leaving a current position for a new one. Or am I missing something?

  47. Skippy*

    Certainly it depends on your situation, but I’ve been laid off twice in my career, and my advice is that if you can afford it definitely take some time off, even if it’s just a week or two. I’ve found it so helpful to take the time to step back and strategize before diving into a job search, and to take the time to get unemployment sorted, figure out health insurance, look at household budgets, etc. It’s also a good opportunity to take the time to meet up with friends and colleagues for coffee and a catch up, both for your mental health and for networking purposes.

    I would say that this is especially true if your former workplace was incredibly toxic, as my last workplace was: after months of being beaten down by an abusive boss, I definitely needed some time to heal and get some confidence back before I started putting myself out there.

  48. Olive*

    LW4 – Each time I’ve been between jobs, I have intended to take some time off, even take a little vacation if I have the funds.

    Hahaha, nope. I’m just not capable of being laid back and enjoying myself when I have that need for a new job looming.

  49. LW5*

    Hey everyone, LW5 here. Thanks for y’alls comments and insights. I wanted to give some more backstory that felt like too much detail for my initial email to Alison, along with an update:

    During WFH over 2020, I did spend a lot of it in Other City with my family, and for part of *that* time, I asked for specific permission to “be there” instead of in Home City to help with my aging grandparents – I lived in another house right next door, so they would call me often to help with their TV, internet, and the like, as well as running errands for them because neither can drive reliably anymore – my grandfather has almost completely lost his mobility, and my grandmother is starting to develop increasingly significant dementia.

    Fast forward to now, and through some connections which I am very fortunate to have, I was able to secure this new position. However, my current position also just informed me, 4 days before I intended to give notice, that we would be taking on the administrative duties of Office 2 in Another City in our state (note, despite my workload essentially increasing by 60%, I would not be receiving a raise). The scheduling worked out a little unfortunately – I wanted to give 2 weeks exactly so that I could do my due diligence, juggle new job start and an adequate break in between to pack and move, AND leave at a time where I would be able to maintain my health insurance from old job as long as possible – I’d met both of my deductibles and still have a few medical procedures coming up – so I didn’t want to give 3 or 4 weeks notice, because of concerns they would instead ask me to leave sooner and I would be cut off.

    Also (and this is something I knew already, but reading everyone’s comments really brought it into a stark light), I am oftentimes exhaustingly anxious about what people think of me, even when I don’t like them, and will sometimes take steps to try and exert some manner of control over their opinions (don’t worry, I’m in therapy, and logically know this is impossible, but the anxious lizard brain is VERY loud). Additionally, my performance at this job has been less than what I had hoped, with some rough spots due to anxiety, but also because of a major personality mismatch with my supervisor, Janet. She’s made me cry at least twice, and her micromanaging has been truly something to behold (I have to CC her on every. single. email. I send or receive, and I get chastised if I don’t). Some of this is due to a language/culture difference (she is an expat, and I speak her original language, but she speaks English better). Some of the various bits of gaslighting include: she told me a year after an “incident” that I purposefully ruined an event and made it so we can’t do the event anymore, though I distinctly remember her giving me the instructions she later chastised me for; she told me I can’t take off the same days as her but when our boss at the time insisted I take them off, she accused me of going behind her back; she, my boss, and I all discussed and agreed that we can’t take off simultaneously and then a year later she tried to encourage me to take off at the same time because “we agreed that it was okay to take off at the same time”… Suffice to say, I was pretty worn down, knew she saw me as unreliable and flighty, and just…. dreaded seeing her face or hearing her comments about me accepting another job. I was afraid to face her judgment yet again about how unreliable I was, leaving right when we were taking on a whole new workload, and the idea of giving the new job reason and having her think (or say) something about how I’m going to be terrible at the new job as well, was incredibly overwhelming (did I mention I’m in therapy?? haha). Instead, it felt like if she thought I was leaving for a benign reason that was unrelated to job performance etc, I would be able to leave more quietly and eventually fade away to an annoying blip in her memory.

    I ended up telling my boss, Jack, the grandparent fib. He was admittedly pretty put out – tried to get me to change my final day, scolded me that I should have told him as soon as he had mentioned taking on Other Office’s workload, asked why my parents couldn’t be the caretakers (I tag team with them for my grandparents) and was generally crabby and very Disappointed With a Capital D about it. So I worry still that just saying “I was moving for family reasons” would not have been sufficient, and like some comment writers mentioned, the grandparent fib felt sort of like the “extra” reason for the “reason-diggers” to act as defense against his attempt to change my schedule. I had a LOT of guilt over the course of the afternoon and evening, despite my family and friends all reassuring me that I hadn’t done anything wrong. But the next day, after talking to HR about the process, he seemed a lot more level and accepting: he is also an expat from same country as Janet, and their work conventions are very different from ours, so I think in communicating with HR, it’s possible he complained about the timeline, and they assured him that 2 weeks is the standard, and perhaps gently reminded him that we’re voluntarily employed and an employee can leave at any time for any reason (and maybe, just maybe, to be grateful that I didn’t give LESS notice). He also told Janet privately that I was leaving, so I didn’t have to tell her myself, and she hasn’t said anything to me about it. Part of me suspects she’s just glad to be rid of me.

    To address concerns about future jobs following up, I wouldn’t list either Jack or Janet as references, and my company is large enough that I can give a general corporate number to confirm dates of employment, title, and salary if another position asks for it. Not to mention, I’m sincerely hoping that New Job will be It For Me – I’m really optimistic about the work environment/culture, coworkers, and how I will be treated as an employee, as well as future opportunities within. And since I don’t expect to ever contact anyone from this job again or anyone within a degree of separation from it, I’m not worried about having to “maintain” my fib… especially when my family is (perhaps morbidly) expecting my grandparents to pass within the next few years, after having lived very fortunate lives – ages 90 and 86, married over 65 years, etc. So if it DID come up, I don’t mind and don’t think I would have any trouble. I tend to keep my work/professional life and my personal life VERY separate (queer, ‘off-beat’/niche hobbies, somewhat ‘radical’ political leanings), and if it does become necessary, I can always just say the family situation changed Yet Again, and since I was in Other City already, I applied for New Job.

    I agree with everyone, though, and appreciate the reminder – I don’t actually owe people at this job details about my future… but it’s hard to remember when staring down the stormy face of your Very Stoic and Uptight Boss. Thank you again everyone, and Alison for your reply!

    1. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

      Dear LW5, I’m sorry that Jack and Janet made things so challenging for you! I sincerely hope that New Job will bring a bright new chapter to your life as a fresh start.

      May I also please make a gentle suggestion here: Please know you also don’t owe any of us on this comment section any details about your jobs. Your comment contains a lot of details that taken collectively, your coworkers can now use this to identify you. You never know if any of them, or Jack & Janet, will see this blog. I am worried for you that if any of them has a suspicion, now they will know even more details you don’t want them to know and can use it against you.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        You may not mean to, but that’s just needlessly feeding the OP’s anxiety. There is no chance they even know this blog exists. And if they did, there is nothing to “use against” the OP. They already have a new job. The old job can’t hurt them in any way.

        OP, the thing about boundaries is you get to set them wherever you want. It doesn’t matter what boss wants or even likes.

        The impulse to lie to try to head off imagined problems is one of the big negatives of anxiety. But you’re fortune-telling – you don’t know what will happen, you can’t control the other person or their reaction – and liars often get caught. Then there’s an even bigger negative outcome because you lied over something pretty pointless. The only thing you can control is yourself. Too late now, obviously, but you should have decided on an honest script and stuck with it, and maintained your integrity. Good luck talking back to the brain weasels next time.

        1. LW5*

          You’re right, particularly about my boundaries – I can be pretty sensitive to the idea of disappointing people. I think after the years of working here and being sort of beaten down by everything mentioned above, I didn’t have the emotional energy to hold the line as well as I would’ve liked. I am at least proud of myself for my overall comportment during my notice meeting, following Alison’s general advice she’s given elsewhere about how to give notice – I was able to at least keep my voice and expression neutral and not feel tempted to give ground on the terms I gave even despite Jack pushing for it. Thank you!

        2. Countess of Upstairs Downstairs*

          Thank you Hen in a Windstorm for your perspective. I see it a bit differently.

          It is certainly my hope that Jack, Janet and other coworkers would never see this blog. However this blog does have a certain level of popularity. J&J may not actively follow the blog, but many people share links to these posts on various social media platforms. And the posts stay on this blog for years. The risk is definitely non-zero, and increases as the years progress. I suppose neither you or I know exactly how high the risk is, but I don’t think I need to go on about how there is no expectation that personal details posted on the internet absolutely won’t be seen by the very people you want to avoid.

          I’m hearing you say I shouldn’t have posted my comment, because you believe it would add to OP’s anxiety. That’s certainly one way to see it. You are not wrong at all. It was in my sphere of consideration before I posted my comment. However I chose to give a heads up about oversharing on the internet – OP did originally write in to seek advice about how much personal info they should share with others. Mine is an additional perspective for OP to consider, and I trust as an adult, they can take the information and do what they thinks is best for them.

          For example, concretely, if OP read my comment and do feel anxious, the can take actionable steps to change their course. They haven’t been rendered absolutely powerless. They can reach out to Alison and request for their post to be deleted. If Alison agrees, they don’t have to stay anxious about it being out there. Or, if they feel comfortable with their info being on here, they can leave it as is.

          You and I can disagree, and on the internet, it’s just different perspectives. In any case, I am happy for OP’s new opportunity.

          1. LW5*

            Thank you both! You’re right, and in fact, I would even say that “don’t tell OP something that could make them anxious” is doing exactly what I was doing in my fib – trying to control someone else’s feelings. It’s not your job to protect me, but rather, you can give me information that I can then use to make my own adult decisions, haha.

            We love mature disagreements on the internet – AAM seems to be the only place that is an exception to the “don’t read the comments” adage.

            As for me, I might eventually send Alison a request to edit some of the details of my comment… but for now, it feels relevant, and as I mentioned, I don’t think J&J will see it (based on some more identifying information that I won’t be sharing here!!)

        3. naptime*

          ?? I don’t know why you would conclude there is no chance they would know the website exists. In my field (publishing) this blog is well known although that may be specific to our industry. But based on numbers AAM shared in the past it’s a high traffic site.

          1. LW5*

            naptime – you’re right that most people should be more cognizant of personal details, and I appreciated Countess’ reminder. However, knowing J&J as I do, I am fairly confident they don’t know AAM exists – for one, they don’t act like people who have read Alison’s advice on being a manager (of course, bad managers reach out to Alison all the time and get told what-for…), and reading the blog is something that would be extremely out of character for either of them, especially Jack.

      2. LW5*

        You’re absolutely correct – I am pretty darn confident that J&J won’t be reading this blog ever, but I appreciate the reminder about personal details! Thank you!

  50. bopper*

    Don’t make up a story…

    I had an office mate who told us she would be leaving.
    Where are you going we asked?
    She said her parents or parents in laws were pressuring her to stay home with her kids.
    Who cares what they think we said? or Have you considered Part time?
    She waited until late Friday before a holiday weekend to submit her resignation when the boss wasn’t there.
    Two weeks later she was spotted at another nearby Telecommunications company.
    Why lie?

    1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

      I mean, y’all kind of sucked for pressing her like that tbh. And, who knows, maybe the intent was to stay home and a friend called with an offer she couldn’t refuse. I agree that making something up isn’t a good plan generally speaking, but y’all weren’t in the right in the situation you just outlined.

      1. SimplytheBest*

        I’m sorry, if your office mate told you their family was pressuring them into outdated, sexist gender roles, you would just…smile benignly and say “that’s nice”?

  51. K in Boston*

    OP5 – I definitely agree with Allison for your specific question, but more broadly, I get wanting to use a cover story for leaving a job. Not that this is anything at all related to why you left, but for me, I was at a job where it was mutually-ish agreed that I would resign with my last day in one month, so I wasn’t *technically* fired, but I was on the path to be if I didn’t make a plan with them to get out of there. I had seen before what happened in that company when people left without really specific reasons and were still around for weeks after breaking the news, and it would result in a lot of badgering and speculation (of which I own that I contributed to myself — “Why? Just because? What are you going to do next? You don’t have a job lined up already? Nothing else?”), so I was nervous about not having a solid reason that I felt comfortable sharing with people and wouldn’t turn the numerous conversations in my last month there into awkwardness. I ended up going with “taking care of my grandmother” as the reason for why I was leaving when people asked, which wasn’t the truth (she wasn’t doing well, and it was an added bonus that leaving that job would give me more time to visit her, but I certainly wasn’t assuming any formal caretaking responsibilities). I spoke to my therapist about the guilt I felt about lying, and she said it made sense to have a low-work-stakes reason that would shut down further questioning. That’s the kind of quick line people can understand and doesn’t typically prompt more questions.

    1. LW5*

      Oh wow! Definitely gratifying to hear about a somewhat related situation, with even the same reason given for leaving… thank you! I also spoke to my therapist and she said basically the same thing, haha. Maybe we have the same one! XD

      But yeah, I let some of my anxiety get the better of me in the end, as a “defense” against any potential questions or attempts to get me to reconsider or negotiate… bleh.

  52. Gina*


    This isn’t a direct comment to OP. But the company I work for is looking to hire. We placed an add at some local colleges known for having courses of study that are made for our industry and on a popular hiring website. What I’m seeing isn’t new it happened last time we were hiring. But it constantly makes me wonder. If we are hiring for a controller (like we did 2 years ago) why is a person who worked the register at a car wash applying to a multi-million dollar construction company to be the controller? They have no direct experience with contracts, unions, change orders etc.

    This time we need a project manager. And by that we mean someone to manage construction projects. From bidding it, to hiring subcontractors, to purchasing supplies, and even portable toilets. Then to control the workflow and schedule, coordinate trades etc. At times multiple projects at a time. What do we get? A person who worked the front desk at a property management company.

    I understand applying for jobs that you might not have actual direct experience at but what you do is a close fit. These people aren’t even close. Why do people do this? They have to know we aren’t going to call them.

    It won’t hurt their reputation like OP#3 was worried about. Simply because we won’t interview them or even keep their applications but I just wonder why people do things like this.

    1. Filosofickle*

      There are a bunch of reasons, which include just plain being delusional, but people most often “resume bomb” when they are required to apply to x jobs per week — for example, someone on unemployment insurance or in a court mandated program. So they apply to lots of stuff even if it’s irrelevant to satisfy the requirement. And if you actively do not want to get any offers of employment because you’re not allowed to turn down work and work would mean giving up a more valuable benefit like unemployment or alimony, you intentionally apply to jobs you have zero chance of being called in.

      1. Gina*

        Thank you.

        It just always amazed me. You know you don’t have any of the skills we need but you send in a resume anyway? I’ve got 40 other things I’m doing on top of narrowing down candidates for my boss and to have to waste time on these just… Especially since I’m doing some of the work for the jobs we are hiring for and I would really love to get someone in to do them and lighten my work load. I’ve got enough hats on my head as it is and would dearly love to pass a few off.

  53. Peppercat53*

    OP #3- Just to give you a different perspective…In my last job we were actually evaluated/scored on our ambition to move up within the company. This was really screwed up in my department (quality lab/quality department) because there were rarely positions available to move into and so if you didn’t apply or put your hat in the ring you were looked down upon as not being ambitious enough. At the same time everyone knew that if you did apply you often went through the interview process for nothing because upper management had already picked out who they wanted in that role (talk would spread before and during the interviewing process). Sometimes they would even move people from outside our department into roles that they could have filled with people from within our department (this happened with our manager at one point too). It was so bad one of my coworkers was “voluntold” that he was moving into an open position more than once- he wasn’t given a choice and no one else was considered. This and the blatant favoritism were two of the biggest reasons I left that company. That and a continual string of terrible managers with terrible communication skills.

  54. Fiddle_Faddle*

    LW2: A colleague of mine developed a seizure disorder while we were in the middle of a stressful project (actually two colleagues did – it was more of a suicide mission than a project) and actually had the first seizure at work. Anyway, I remember that everyone was very matter-of-fact about it: no unwarranted curiosity or intrusive questions, everyone took their cue from the person dealing with it. It was just one more thing the team had to work around and we did. And I saw no evidence that it harmed the person’s career, although the person involved may have a different perspective.

  55. Sagegreen is my favorite color.*

    For the person with epilepsy. So sorry you had a seizure at work, that was always my fear, but luckily it never came to pass. (I did have auras occasionally but never went into a full blown seizure.) Glad you have your seizures under control (been there) and goodluck with setting the boundaries and your upcoming medical thing!

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