can you give an employee time to find a new job before they’re fired?

A reader writes:

I am going to need to fire someone for low performance even though she’s trying hard. I have already laid out a performance plan and those goals have not been met. It is 100% clear that the employee does not have what it takes for the role.

I would like to give her some time to search for another job while we look for a replacement, but how can I ensure that she will behave in a positive manner during that time, knowing she’s been fired? What steps could I take to prevent her from creating a toxic environment for the rest of the team? If this were to happen, of course we would shorten the transition, but what messaging would help to start it off on the right foot?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should I accept a huge favor from my new staff members?
  • Banning significant others from attending work events
  • Unplanned absences and our review process

{ 193 comments… read them below }

  1. Essess*

    Definitely agree with Alison. Don’t praise a lack of use of their sick leave as part of the performance review process. This is forcing an environment where people feel the need to come in while sick in order to get a better review which harms the rest of the office!

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Could not agree more! So folks should come into work sick (with Covid, perhaps?) so they’ll get a better review? A performance review should be based on how well they are doing their job. If they have unplanned absences NOT due to sick time (every Monday after football), that’s a different story.

      1. Liz*

        Exactly. and should be dealt with at the time, or when it becomes obvious its a pattern. And dealt with ONLY the employee in question.

        My company’s old sick policy was you got so many occurrences, for a total of so many days, in any 12 month rolling period. If you went over, you were on “attendance control” and had to meet with your supervisor. But if you were out, such as I was, for medical procedures, and then hospitalized for complications due to said procedures, and out more than was “allowed”, it was just a formality.

        Esp. when I had doctor’s notes, was on short term disability, etc. and had plenty of documentation to back it up. It was still stupid, IMO, but i think they wanted to treat everyone the same, and those who didn’t have documentation, were further dealt with, and those that did, it was done.

        1. Green great dragon*

          We had something similar, and it didn’t even need documentation. We met, we agreed he’d been unlucky to catch the flu and a stomach bug in the same year, we noted the discussion had been had, and that was it. If he’d, say, been out the same amount of time on 10 separate occasions for a variety of excuses, or consistent over many years, it would have been a different discussion. (I still don’t love it, but can see it being there to nudge managers to have a difficult conversation.)

          1. doreen*

            I can absolutely see it being there to nudge managers- my state agency merged with another , stricter one about 10 years ago. This is how I ended up with an employee who has been on various steps of the attendance control program for the entire seven years I have supervised her ( with the exception of the period where the 12 month look back included the pandemic months when she was not expected to work ). I’m sure her attendance has been poor for entire 20+ years she has worked her, but no one previously paid any attention. She currently has 31 unscheduled absences in a 12 month period. They are almost all single day absences ,few are due to illness and she has told me her doctor will not complete FMA paperwork for her, so I assume she doesn’t have any qualifying conditions. . I don’t know why she is still working ( she is over 70 and can collect her pension in addition to social security) or why she is working at this location that involves a 2 hour each way commute when she could have transferred years ago to an office 15 minutes from home. I do know if her attendance doesn’t improve she will face termination – and that I’ve done everything I can to help her avoid it . But I also know if my predecessors hadn’t ignored the attendance problem for years, neither she nor I would be in this situation now. When someone has spend over 20 years thinking it’s acceptable to call at 10 am and say you won’t be at work because of something you could have pre-planned, it’s hard to change.

    2. Ground Control*

      These kinds of leave policies also set an awful vibe for employees who are caregivers and/or have chronic illnesses. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.

      1. Randi*

        YES. There is already stigma surrounding my chronic condition, please don’t add to it when I’m excelling at my work in spite of my “unplanned absences.” I’m mostly incapacitated during a flare, so either I go home and be miserable in peace or I’m a catatonic warm body in an office chair. Leave policies like this give me so much anxiety about losing my job despite performing on track with or ahead of the “normies.”

      2. TardyTardis*

        One thing I loved about my last year at work was that I could say, “Brenda, emergency George, be back as soon as I can!” (another reason I retired, it wasn’t fair to them) and there was no penalty because I as always good at making up the work.

      3. Cheshire Cat*

        Yes to this! I have a chronic condition that flares up from time to time. My parents are in their 80s and need help a lot and I schedule as much of it for non-work hours as possible, but sometimes I have to run over there at a moment’s notice (They are in a retirement home but don’t need so much help that moving to assisted living is necessary, yet.)

        Plus, I pick up stomach bugs very easily. Even now I’ve come down with one or two this year.

    3. Mental Lentil*

      We need to do away with perfect attendance awards in schools, as well. Does life not happen?

      1. Nanani*

        Extra ridiculous in school because kids do not generally control their attendance. Their caregivers do!

        1. Pennyworth*

          At my kids’ school they abandoned the attendance award due to one family whose only claim to fame was that each child won it every year – because they came in with every imaginable illness just to make sure they would qualify. If they were really ill their mom would come and fetch them on the proviso they had been marked off the attendance role.

      2. TiffIf*

        I got a perfect attendance award in 8th grade. It was a complete surprise (I didn’t realize I had missed no school that entire year). And it was the year after I had been out of school for an extended period with two surgeries and utilizing homebound instruction while recuperating (instructor hired and paid by the school system). As a kid nothing struck me as odd about this. As an adult it just seems so weird that kids were called up in a school assembly and given awards for…not getting sick or having health problems…which is generally not something that can be controlled.

        1. Clisby*

          When one of my kids was in school, parents complained so much about the perfect-attendance award that the school changed it to a no-tardy award. Granted, parents still controlled their kids’ attendance, but at least it wasn’t rewarding kids for coming to school sick.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, the no-tardy award is better, but how useful is it when kids are dependent on their parents for rides to school?

            In my area, kids as young as 7 commute to school on their own, in many cases on public transit, not school buses run by the district, although it’s more common for kids to start doing that in 3rd or 4th grade. But it depends a lot on the maturity of individual children, and obviously this won’t work for some neurodivergent kids (for some it does, though), or if the kid just won’t show up at school unless they’re accompanied to the gate. But it’s one reason why the vast majority of kids here have cellphones from a very young age, because they’re expected to deal with things like missing the bus, or the bus not coming at all, on their own. Most manage it very well, and here kids spending a few hours at home after school from a young age (usually 10, kids younger than that have access to after-school daycare in most school districts) while their parents are at work is the norm and doesn’t count as abandonment, provided the kid is mature enough mentally and socially to handle it. I’m just grateful that it’s safe for kids to travel without adults here, it’s extremely unusual for unpleasant things to happen to unaccompanied kids.

            So here, the no-tardy award actually has some meaning.

        2. BubbleTea*

          My school did 100% attendance awards on the last day of the year. I remember a girl being called up to receive hers… and she wasn’t there that day.

      3. Miss Muffet*

        One would like to think if the pandemic has done ANYTHING, it’s doing away with this kind of thing! I don’t want kids coming to school if they feel symptomatic for some BS award – and I sure don’t want people coming to work like that either! A pattern of last-minute absences will almost always impact the work and that can be addressed on its own.

        1. Kal*

          Growing up, even in years where I was lucky and didn’t miss school from being sick, I still didn’t get the award because of things like having to go to the dentist or the eye doctor or something and those offices were only open during school hours. Like, I guess the fact that my parents took me for regular check-ups as recommended (which meant I missed half a day) means I don’t deserve the award? It was so ridiculously BS and I felt hurt every year.

          Taking care of our health is a good thing! Feeling compelled to go into school/work/etc. while sick is a very, very bad thing for us and everyone around us! We shouldn’t be punishing people for taking care of their bodies that they need to interact with the world and to do the productivity things in the first place!

      4. ceiswyn*

        This is the parallel that occurred to me, as well.

        I was an asthmatic with a malformed middle ear that made me a) slightly deaf and b) prone to ear infections. There was literally nothing I could do to avoid getting ill several times a year. It rankled.

        My secondary school had a prize for diligence, which seemed and still seems to me like a much better idea.

      5. Jay*

        My kid was never going to win that award because they counted religious holidays as absences, and we’re Jewish, so she missed at least two days a year for High Holidays and Passover. Her elementary school gave away a new bicycle each year in a district where a lot of kids couldn’t afford new bikes. We objected every year just like we objected to the Santa-themed assignments, field trips to Christmas movies, and the classroom Christmas tree. Never got anywhere.

        And don’t start with me about Christmas not being a religious holiday. Trust me, I’ve heard the argument. When your five-year-old comes home crying from school because she couldn’t tell the teacher what Santa was going to bring her, you can talk to me.

      6. Nana*

        Almost funny…back when I was in elementary school, and dragons roamed the Earth, non-Christian holy days were counted as ‘unexcused absences,’ so no Jewish kid could ever get a perfect attendance award. [I don’t think we had any Moslem/Hindi kids in that school in Northern NJ.]

    4. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      I’m confused by the question. Doesn’t Jane have zero unexcused hours? Or is it that Jane’s 1 hour was for a reason other than illness?

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I think OP is confused, tbh.
        John was out for 41 hours. OP wants to note the fact he was sick for five days out of the year as a negative, but since he is entitled to five sick days a year, OP cannot. He used his benefits. Additionally, he took one hour off for illness. Since this goes over, OP feels it justifies a black mark under absenteeism.
        John’s review: absent one hour.
        Jane only used one hour of her sick time in an entire year. In her review, “only” absent one hour.
        OP imagines the following:
        John: why am I criticized for taking one hour and Jane is lauded for taking an hour?
        and therefore feels this 40 hours of sick time is unfair for people who don’t get sick, or who like to come to work sick and infect others.

        1. Alianora*

          I was also confused. But I think OP is saying Jane’s 1 hour was for a reason other than illness. That’s the only way this question makes sense to me.

      2. Brandine*

        Jane has zero unexcused hours vs. John’s 1 hour. She…doesn’t get sufficient praise for not using up all her allotted sick leave? I guess?

        1. Rayray*

          But people can’t really help it if three get sick. I’m young-ish and generally in good health, but I’m not a better employee than someone who caught the flu or has regular doctors appointments for their Heath needs.

      3. Joielle*

        Yeah, I’m confused too. I guess I could understand the hypothetical if it was like – Jane has taken 1 sick hour and John has taken 39. Then both have zero unexcused absences under the policy but John has taken a lot more time off. But in the 1 hour vs 41 hours scenario, Jane still comes out ahead because she has zero unexcused hours and John has 1…. right??

        Either way, it’s a silly policy for the reasons Alison outlined. But also, as these examples illustrate, it’s pretty arbitrary to evaluate someone based on the number of “excused” vs “unexcused” hours rather than, you know, focusing on the quality of their work.

        1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          I mean, not A LOT more sense as a policy, but at least the question would be self-consistent.

        2. doreen*

          I think ( but I’m not sure because it makes no sense to me) that John was out for 41 hours that were not preplanned. As the company allows up to 40 hours of unplanned leave per year, John has only exceeded that by 1 hour ( which may or may not be due to illness.) Jane was out for only one unplanned hour all year which was not due to illness ( or else it would have been excused)

          The letter actually isn’t clear about the 40 hours – if the first 40 hours are always excused, then the new sick leave law is irrrelevant . And if it’s a matter of “up to 40 hours may be excused due to illness” , that could have been said more clearly.

          1. Florida Fan 15*

            I agree that the sick leave law is irrelevant. I also don’t know that it matters whether Jane’s one hour was due to sickness or not — the company’s policy relates to unplanned absences, not sick leave per se. I think mixing the sick leave law and the company’s policy is part of what’s causing the confusion.

            Under their policy, they say they’re fine with up to 40 hours of unplanned absences. Could be sickness or something else, could be paid or unpaid. 40 hours unplanned = you’re fine. Over 40 = possible discipline. If they mean what they say, then they shouldn’t make a distinction between an employee who takes 0 hours, 1 hour, 39 hours, or 40 hours. If you say 40 hours is fine, then 40 hours should be fine. Nobody gets dinged and nobody gets kudos. All that would matter is if someone went over 40, and you address that.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          It makes sense to consider attendance as part of someone’s work quality when dealing with a coverage-based job. If it really is a core job function to be there when scheduled, the difference between “excused” vs “unexcused” becomes very meaningful.

          That said, I don’t think LW is looking at this in a productive or healthy way. Someone shouldn’t be coming to work sick… so no one should ever be disciplined for staying home sick. It’s not like your body will just go “oh I’ve been sick 5 days this year, better wait until January to get the flu!”

          The focus should be on whether or not the absences are justified, not on how many of them there are. Is there a suspicious pattern to the absences? Is there something about the employee’s behavior that suggests they’re lying? Do they routinely call out sick for unbelievable reasons (e.g. my coworker who called out sick because she was “vomiting blood” on Tuesday, then showed up Wednesday saying she felt fine) or reasonably preventable scenarios (transportation issues, childcare, hangovers, appointments that should have been scheduled ahead, etc)?

          But generally speaking if someone is professional and honest at work there’s no good reason to nit-pick their sick days. People get sick. It happens. They shouldn’t be penalized for it.

          1. Zephy*

            The focus should be on whether or not the absences are justified, not on how many of them there are. Is there a suspicious pattern to the absences? Is there something about the employee’s behavior that suggests they’re lying? Do they routinely call out sick for unbelievable reasons (e.g. my coworker who called out sick because she was “vomiting blood” on Tuesday, then showed up Wednesday saying she felt fine) or reasonably preventable scenarios (transportation issues, childcare, hangovers, appointments that should have been scheduled ahead, etc)?

            I’m going to disagree with you here. It is exactly 0% my manager’s business *why* I’m calling out. I should not need to “justify” being “sick enough” to use sick time; that’s not up to my manager. The focus should be on the work impact. If I’m calling out often enough or at such times that it is creating a problem, either with my work or with others’ ability to do theirs, then my manager has standing to address that, but she does not have standing to decide if I’m sick enough to call out on short notice. I do not, and should not, need to tell my boss or coworkers that I’m vomiting blood to be “allowed” to take a sick day if I, an adult human person, feel that my adult human body is not up to working that day.

            1. ecnaseener*

              Agreed – and I take issue with the “vomiting blood” example being used as an indication of lying. Maybe it’s an indication that this coworker should’ve taken Wednesday off in case she was contagious, but it doesn’t mean she was lying on Tuesday. I’m no doctor, but it doesn’t seem like vomiting blood should… necessarily last for multiple days?

              Going over allotted sick leave and/or causing coverage problems: okay, that’s a problem to address. (Still approach it with as much grace & understanding as possible.) Just “seeming suspicious”: stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

              1. WS*

                I’ve vomited blood – because I had coughed so much I damaged a blood vessel. Went to the doctor, got it checked out, got a better cough medicine, was fine to work the next day. Some things can look very dramatic and be nothing; some things look like nothing but are terrible. Either way, it’s none of the company’s business in those 40 hours.

                1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

                  Same, but I wasn’t coughing so much as dry-heaving. It rectified itself in six hours but I ended up wasting a full day in the ER – and I was fine the next day, when the need to dry-heave passed.

            2. Stitching Away*


              It’s the employer’s responsibility, if they have coverage based needs, to have a solution in place for unexpected last minute absences. Employees should be evaluated based on if they adhere to this system, not if they need to use it.

    5. Jean*

      The type of companies who use lack of unplanned sick time as a performance metric are the type of companies that value appearances over actual results. And they’re an annoying pain in the ass to work for, so they also tend to have high turnover and trouble attracting quality candidates as word gets around in their industry about what they’re like as an employer. Don’t be that kind of company.

      1. Kal*

        It also sounds like the system in place is leading to toxicity among the workers, if they’re mad that someone who was out sick a couple days isn’t getting punished when they got lucky and didn’t get sick or just came into work sick and feel they deserve praise for that. That does not sound like the kind of environment where anyone who has better options is going to stay for long.

    6. Loulou*

      Agree, and I am also wondering why employees know what other employees have been told in their performance reviews. I’m used to those being private between me and my manager.

    7. Bee Eye Ill*

      I used to work for a guy who bragged that he went through a divorce without having missed a single day of work. It’s probably why he ended up getting divorced. Stuff happens!

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I don’t quite see what’s to brag about there anyway? I did it twice, and all that means is, I didn’t have complicated divorces.

    8. Nanani*

      Alison’s answer was beautiful!

      Praising people for being lucky and abled is, well, ableist. Do you praise people for not having allergies? jfc some companies

    9. Blonde Spiders*

      I think Alison’s advice is spot-on for office work, but this is not how things work in the service industry. I’m not saying I agree with punitive measures for calling out sick, but there has to be a middle ground somewhere.

      My last cooking job before I left that industry was with the largest hospitality firm in the world, that services kitchens in tech industries, hotels and every other large industry you can think of. My last kitchen was on the campus of a well-known software company in WA state. Every absence, tardy, or going home sick would earn you an “occurrence.” Calling in sick for the day: 1 occurrence. Clocking in late or leaving early: 1/2 an occurrence. 7 occurrences would get you written up. One day I came to work ill with stomach flu, and was literally leaving the line to go vomit in the bathroom. The last time, I didn’t make it to the toilet and was sick on the bathroom floor. I told my chef I had to leave so I didn’t barf on customers. Of course, I got the 1/2 occurrence, which was enough to tip me over into write-up territory. Also, I got 5 paid sick days a year. Which of course, I was penalized for using, unless I smartly scheduled my sickness in advance.
      In the service industry (especially food) if you’re not there to work, someone else has to cover your station/tables, and that could mean working an extra shift. Restaurants don’t operate on an extra person to cover absences, so if someone is out, everyone suffers.
      I wish I had a good solution for this. But I’m sure this is part of why people are leaving the service industry in droves. It’s a thankless, backbreaking, exhausting environment.

      1. Annie*

        Honestly, the solution is not to use lean staffing practices in industries (like food service) where they can cause these kinds of issues. There should be enough people scheduled at any given time so that an expected percentage of callouts won’t have this kind of drastic effect. But not a whole lot individual employees can do to change this unfortunately.

        1. GrooveBat*

          This is the correct answer.
          I’d also be monumentally PO’d at anyone who gave me the stomach flu because they came to work sick, write-up or no write-up.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Absolutely – food service of all industries cannot keep encouraging people to come to work sick!!

      2. Your Local Password Resetter*

        The solution is to have an extra person on to cover absences. With the usual “if you can’t afford this you can’t afford to run a business” clause.
        If your business plan relies on nothing ever going wrong, then that business plan sucks.

      3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I don’t think the middle ground should be covered with my vomit.
        The middle ground isn’t getting half a demerit or whatever grade school bs it is because I PUKED ON THE FLOOR of the restaurant.
        I think the food service industry sold its workers a bill of goods.
        “If you aren’t there, we can’t function. It’s all your fault, not ours for not having enough people.”
        I work in an office. In finance. With SEC oversight daily oversight. Unlike the health department that makes a list of what to fix, we get fined. Work not done? Out of compliance and nasty fine. Let these restaurant managers deal with that compared to a crap yelp review.

      4. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        This seems.. even worse? Granted I’ve worked in the service industry, and I understand your point, but it’s also the *worse* place to enforce strict attendance policies like this. Now when you come to work sick, you’re not just risking infection of your coworkers, but the food of literally every customer you touch. Instead of risking your small team of five or ten people getting your stomach bug, you’re risking the entire staff at the largest campus of one of the largest software companies in the world getting your stomach bug.

      5. FrivYeti*

        The problem is that you do have a good solution for this. The solution is to have an extra person on each shift, so that the restaurant can function if someone is out sick, and to increase the price of your food by about $0.50 per item (varying by salary) to cover it.

        I would gladly pay an extra $0.50 to know that my cook isn’t throwing up in the kitchen.

      6. Elizabeth (they/them)*

        Fellow former line cook here and yeah, worked sick regularly because we had no PTO, no health insurance, if you missed a day you might not be able to cover rent. Every winter multiple flus would tear through the staff, probably getting tons of customers sick in the process because people simply couldn’t afford not to work and would chug dayquil and just soldier through. Now I work for a large grocery chain that uses a points system and while we do have PTO/PSL people still work sick because you get automatically fired for too many attendance points. It’s a public health menace but that’s less of a concern to employers than their own profits I guess.

    10. laowai_gaijin*

      Yes! I was glad that Cranky!Allison came out on that last letter. I’m fortunate to generally be in good health and don’t have kids to worry about, but that doesn’t make me an inherently better employee than someone struggling with their own or a loved one’s illness. And for God’s sake, don’t incentivize coming to work while sick!

    11. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Also, it creates a horrible atmosphere if you do have a chronic issue. There’s essentially an objective on your annual review that you have absolutely no hope of ever getting – that of no sick leave – and that’s never a good idea.

      There’s no room for performance improvement when you’re being judged on something you literally can’t control.

    12. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Yeah, I would feel really weird being given “kudos” over not having taken any sick time. I appreciate praise for my work quality, attitude, et cetera. Not so much for my immune system.

      And if I had had a serious illness and got disciplined for that, I would feel *pissed*.

  2. KHB*

    Q3: If the employees are truly afraid to tell their partners not to attend these events (and that’s not just a figure of speech), I’m not sure it’s the right approach to say, “Oh well, your discomfort is just a natural consequence of your having a significant other who acts like a jerk.”

    1. Artemesia*

      This is not the managers problem. Any SO who is disruptive should be banned and excluding them becomes the employees problem. To punish everyone from having an SO at a social event because there are a couple of jerks is one of those ‘why we can’t have nice things’ moments. What is being ‘excluded’ is bad behavior.

    2. Sis Boom Bah*

      I too worry that if the relationships described are abusive, then asking those staff members to sort of fend for themselves in delivering this bad news could get really messy/dangerous really fast. I don’t know what the right solution is, though–I agree that all partners of staff shouldn’t be punished. Sounds like, at the very least, they need a code of conduct for social functions? I don’t know.

      1. KHB*

        If an employer has reason to think that an employee is in an abusive relationship – and that if the abuse might specifically be provoked by the abuser being disinvited from work events – it just seems callous to me not to do something with that information is. Like you, I don’t know what the solution is, and I don’t think that disinviting all significant others forever is the right course of action. But it seems like they should do something.

        1. Artemesia*

          I see no way to ‘handle this’ for the employee and it is ridiculous to suggest the way is to ban everyone the pleasure of socializing with their colleagues and SOs.

        2. Healthcare Worker*

          -Ban badly acting partners from events based on actions the employer themselves have witnessed.
          -Tell their spouses why, tactfully offer them EAP and be sure to name domestic violence if that’s what it is, and offer the support the staff member in whatever way they need.

          We need to stop shying away from calling it what it is and offering to link in to support. This isn’t an employer being nosey, it’s supportive. A good HR team should be able to do this.

          But also a good HR team shouldn’t be considering writing a policy to ban all spouses because of the difficult behaviours of others. Have the difficult conversation!

      2. NerdyKris*

        But it would be a massive overstepping of boundaries for the employer to have a discussion about behavior with someone who isn’t even an employee.
        Context is important. This isn’t a friend who might be able to mediate, this is an employer who has no business getting involved beyond “This person isn’t invited to future events”. I get the urge not to leave victims of abuse out to dry, but there’s limits to what certain people can do.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This. Just imagine the letter to Alison from the employee whose boss pulled them aside to advise them about their abusive relationship.

          1. JBS*

            I had a boss do something similar before. She was drunk at a work event, pulled me aside to tell me that she thinks I could find someone better than my boyfriend at the time. I reported her to HR, married my wonderful boyfriend, and now luckily work for a much better organization and boss.

              1. Freya*

                And in the fanfic, they’re going to go to a conference, and in the hotel, there will be ONLY ONE BED

                1. Gumby*

                  Also, then there will be a blizzard and they will be stuck in their room for at least a week. There will be convenient food delivery but they will be unable to leave their room for any reason at any time. (Maybe the delivery person has snowshoes and they don’t?)

    3. J*

      I think “logical consequence” referred to the logical consequence of being disruptive at an event is to not be invited back.

    4. Find Your Humanity*

      Right? Surely they’re not unaware of their behavior and the impact it’s had. Boss’s role is to say “These two are not welcome.” Employees’ roles are to relay that to their significant others.

    5. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      That’s where HR could be handy. They could provide a 3rd party ban — “Due to the incidents on dates x and y, Individual A is banned from the premises indefinitely/for a period of time from this date to this date. Teapots Inc reserves the right to contact appropriate authorities if Individual A trespasses during this period.”. Just like you’d issue a ban for disruptive customers or whatever.

      And then think about whether any of your partner-invited events are occurring off-site, because that’s another issue.

      Oh, and if this is a DV issue, I hope you’ve got a policy/procedure in place to protect victims and their coworkers.

      1. New Yet Old*

        The company has an obligation to do this, as it can incur liability if the bad acts of these two people while attending a company sponsored event results in harm, especially since it has prior knowledge that these two are disruptive and behave badly.

    6. kiki*

      I think that’s part of what makes dealing with abusive situations so tricky, even as a third party. In a non-abusive relationship, being banned from your partner’s work event for bad behavior would be embarrassing to the significant other and their embarrassing cross to privately bear. In an abusive relationship, often any bad emotion the abuser feels gets blamed on their victims, regardless of whether it’s something the victim can control. When you suspect or know somebody’s relationship is abusive, it feels like you can’t take any action that won’t come back to hurt the victim, even if that action is totally warranted. But not taking any action can also embolden the abuser/make them feel like there will never be any consequences to their actions.

    7. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      OP writes they are asking her/him to ban significant others from events because they are afraid of their partners reactions.
      That puts the manager in their personal lives in a way that is outside his/her purview.
      If they are asking the manager and/or company for help leaving an abusive relationship then there are things OP can do (time off, flexible hours, new phone extension).
      Asking the manager to ban everyone else’s partner from a work party is not.
      Like the letters from the people with OCD-having colleagues who are told what clothing and jewelry to wear and how to line up for the bus, the manager has to make the best decision for the group, not the individual.
      And what if these employees starts seeing someone who isn’t terrible and wants to bring him/her?
      Do they get to go back and say, never mind?
      What if one does and one doesn’t?
      This is not a decision that can be based on one person’s partner.

    8. learnedthehardway*

      I don’t think that the employer can intervene in the employee’s relationship, and I don’t think they should have to change their policies just because of a couple bad apples. On the other hand, it would be a good idea to pair a ban on the two individuals who can’t act civilly with offerings of support or referrals to an EAP, in case the employees need support or feel unsafe.

      Overall, I think it IS in the employees’ best interests for the company to take a stand this way – perhaps the employees will see that their partners’ behaviour isn’t acceptable or normal, in any way.

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        Excellent answer that offers kindness toward the employees with jerk partners while being fair to everyone else and staying out of employees’ personal lives.

      2. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Good answer here.

        The company can’t and shouldn’t manage employees’ relationships for them, nor should well-behaving partners be punished for the sins of a few; and if this is just somebody who doesn’t feel like having an uncomfortable conversation with their partner, well, they need to learn to do that.

        But if somebody is signaling an abuse situation… you want to at least give them an opening to ask for help. The company’s ability to help is limited but not necessarily zero.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        Banning all partners from all work related events because one or two people behaved badly is inappropriate. Allowing people to show up at a work event and make things miserable for everyone else because you think that they might hurt your employee if you set reasonable limits is also not an acceptable solution.

        What they can do – let the employee know that their partner has been barred from company events for bad behaviour, and provide a reference to an EAP and/or information about domestic abuse hotlines/help if they seem afraid of telling their partner.

  3. Find Your Humanity*

    Yikes, that sick time leave question is troubling.

    The reason sick time is specifically provisioned, and a great many conditions are separately covered (think ADA), is that they are unavoidable, natural consequences of being alive that should not be the reason to punish people.

    That time is set aside. Ignore it. You’re saying, “The time you were healthy and able to be at work is our priority, and your attendance has been sterling.” To do otherwise is to say, “It sure sucks that Jane is dealing with cancer, so good job to you, young healthy person, for coming to work with your minor colds and other illnesses that could cause other coworkers to miss their own work!”

    A teensy bit dramatic, maybe, but I hope it makes the point.

    People can’t help being sick. You WANT them to stay home when they are, lest they infect others (and because people who feel sick aren’t doing their best work). Do as Alison says and manage on work production, which is your actual purview as manager, not health.

    1. Julia*

      I totally agree – this is how sick leave should work.

      That said, I can see why it’s difficult to change culture around these things. If you have a work environment where most employees dislike work and treat it like an obligation, and many of them will take any opportunity to “game the system” and get out of work, you start to have a more cynical view toward sick time. Of course healthy workplaces aren’t like this – but for example retail and restaurants are often like this, because the workers there often aren’t pursuing a passion. The solution is to hire people who take work seriously… but there can be significant barriers to replacing your staff. And sometimes your organization doesn’t pay enough to attract those candidates, so even if you did fire everybody and rehire, you’d end up with more of the same.

      To some degree if you treat people with trust they will respond by not abusing that trust. But I just wanted to point out that’s not true in all environments.

      1. Find Your Humanity*

        It’s true, I am mainly speaking to office spaces. Restaurant and retail environments (as well as anything commission-based) are completely different beasts.

        But overall I think it comes down to the regard you show to your employees. Do you consider them as human beings with personal lives, hopes and dreams, and bills to pay? Or do you consider them cogs in your machine which must be fiercely managed so that none of the machinery slips out of line and slows things down?

        You’ll find unlimited sick days at the former, and government-mandated-but-do-I-really-have-to begrudging in the latter. Most offices fit somewhere in between. All the questions of managing for the ones who would take advantage are as you say – that’s a management question, and it ultimately boils down to expected performance management anyway.

        Do not police your employees’ health. If you provide sick time, if you provide PTO, you’re shooting yourself in the foot to go over the requests and the taking in minute detail. (Hope you have sick days if you do that.) You shouldn’t do it for PTO, either, and penalizing people for taking advantage of the things that you give them as incentives or to protect their jobs is precisely the OPPOSITE of intended effect.

    2. PNW Planner*

      While there are some companies who want to punish any sick day, we have to be honest, that some people abuse sick leave. In jobs like retail, transit, restaurants, etc. it is a extra, huge impact. There are people who blow a shift and then claim sick leave so it isn’t an unexcused absence. I like that Alison said “sick leave” needs to be taken out of the equation. Some companies worry that because they are claiming sick leave the chronic absences can’t be address it – but they can. The companies I’m thinking of generally want people to use it when it is legit, but need to be empowered to deal with those that don’t.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I have seen one person ever busted for a bogus sick day. They had asked for it off pretty late – and because of scheduling the boss couldn’t grant it off (because of core responsibilities on shift at least 70% of the staff always had to be in – so the manager would allow 15% off on vacation and no more so there would be cushion for sick time call offs). Well, they called off sick on the day they had asked for – and got spotted at the tailgate party and football game by our manager.
        They ended up with a reprimand on their file and the sick time changed to annual time. The manager also went over the sick vrs annual leave policy with everybody (and never gave any names to anyone).

    1. Sleeve McQueen*

      Am I the only one who wondered if employee with the boyfriend and employee with the girlfriend are having an affair, prompting the dramatics?

  4. irene adler*

    Just wanted to thank LW #1 for the kindness extended here in regards to allowing the employee time to find another job, given this one isn’t working out.

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

      I’m a cynic I guess and think the employer doesn’t want to pay unemployment and they don’t want a gap in the work flow while they search for a new employee. It’s not totally altruistic to keep a definitely-to-be-fired employee around for a little bit.

      1. Anononon*

        I mean, keeping a decent enough employee around is definitely for the benefit of the company, but I don’t see why that’s a bad thing. There are a lot of instances in business where good policies benefit both the employer and employee.

      2. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        I’m a bit confused by this. In many states, a fired employee is not eligible for unemployment. If they don’t want a gap in the workflow, they can work on filling the position quietly (use a recruiter, hold interviews off-site – easy in the age of Zoom) and, before the new hire starts, kick the bad employee to the curb.

        The LW is proposing something different: giving the employee time to find a job while they work on finding her replacement. The tremendous benefit is that she can job-search from a position of being employed, rather than recently fired. She will know that this is not fixable, so the job hunt is urgent (take a reasonable job, don’t wait for the dream job), and will also understand that she should not be looking for the kind of role she’s in now.

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

          Um that’s a bit backward — usually if you quit you don’t get unemployed, but if you’re fired you do…so…who’s eligible for unemployment in those states?

          If someone is fired for some gross misconduct — like embezzlement — they might not be eligible for unemployment, but generally a person is eligible when they are fired.

          1. CSG*

            I think it depends on the state – in my state (OR), you don’t get unemployment if you’re fired for poor performance but if you’re fired for lack of work (laid off), you do qualify for unemployment. Otherwise people might perform horribly in hopes of getting fired and unemployment benefits.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              It’s pretty common to be eligible for unemployment if you’re fired for poor performance, but not eligible if you’re fired for egregious behaviour (harassment, embezzlement, assault, insubordination, job abandonment, etc).

              If you can’t collect unemployment when you quit, and can’t collect unemployment if you’re fired, and you can be fired without warning for almost any reason, UI isn’t really all that useful – you could only collect it if you’re laid off due to your position disappearing.

              I do think the LW is simply trying to be a compassionate employer. Not all employers would fire any employee at a moment’s notice without a shred of bad feeling (as is often claimed in the comments here). The employee is trying hard, but isn’t able to perform at a satisfactory level in this particular job. By transitioning them out, the employee can avoid a drop in income (UI only covers part of the salary) and will have an easier time finding a new job if they’re currently employed while looking. Plus, the other employees can see that their employer behaves with decency and compassion even to poorly performing employees.

        2. STG*

          Yea, if you are fired just because it’s not working out, you should still be eligible for unemployment.

        3. Gray Lady*

          Any employee who is let go from a job can file for unemployment. If the employer wants to fight it, they can inform the unemployment agency that the person was fired for cause, and let the agency make a determination. But that can be more trouble than it is worth, especially if the circumstances are not entirely clear. Employee stealing from you, abusing other co-workers, general egregious behavior: clear cut. Other situations are less clear cut.

      3. Quadra*

        That’s a bit short sighted. My current company takes a similar approach (first time I’ve seen it) and uses it very sparingly to allow struggling coworkers who likely don’t have a long term path anyway to gracefully exit. It’s a very reputationally sensitive industry, where coworkers often become clients, so that’s part of it. Even for higher ups like myself, it creates a positive environment all around, since no one gets blindsided and the up-or-out mentality is calibrated for kindness.

      4. Nodramalama*

        Theres not really anything in the letter than would suggest that’s the main impetus for the LWs actions though.

    2. Artemesia*

      I hve done this for an employee whom I was firing for insubordination but whose entire life I didn’t want to disrupt. We could not transfer internally if on probation or being fired, so I worked out a deal that I could hold the dismissal for a couple of weeks so she could find another position in the organization in exchange for her continuing to do a good job during that period. She found a transfer position and was fine until then. I am glad I handled it that way.

    3. Anon for this*

      My manager at a previous job did this for me. They let me know I would soon be on a PIP, which opened conversation to me transitioning out.
      My manager allowed me to take time off to interview. It took about three months for me to find a new job. In the meantime, I continued to be my normal professional self and otherwise making sure they would regret getting rid of me. So if you can allow an employee to do this, it can work out.

    4. SC in NC*

      I’ve done this a few times with various levels of success. In the good cases, it was with employees who tried very hard but just couldn’t perform. I gave them very long lead times (many months) and worked directly with them on their resumes, finding potential employers, interviewing, etc. In the end, it worked out well for them as well as the company. Their lives were not totally disrupted and it did not cause any drama at work so no hard feelings all around. In the bad case, I had a contract employee who started out as summer help and was convinced we would make him a full-time offer. Realistically, he wasn’t qualified for the role and was a mediocre employee at best. When I told him that I wasn’t going to offer a full-time role, he spent the rest of his time with us disrupting the team and even got his mother involved in it since she was a former employee of the company. Moral of the story, those involved showed their true colors when things did not go their way so take that under consideration.

  5. x*

    People at your company are penalized if they’re sick more than 40 hours out of 2000+ work hours in a year. That’s wild.

    1. CBB*

      It is wild, but not unusual.

      At my last job, at my annual review I was told I needed to “improve attendance” because I had called in sick several times over the previous few months. I had plenty of sick leave available, as clearly indicated on my pay stubs, but I guess using what I had earned was frowned upon at that company.

      It was equivalent to being told to stop cashing so many of my paychecks.

      For some reason they were surprised when I resigned a few months later.

    2. Atalanta0jess*

      Right? And imagine, folks are annoyed that someone who missed 41 hours receives the same praise as someone who missed 1. What a culture!!

    3. Eether, Either*

      One law firm I worked at gave us (legal assistants) unlimited sick time. But–when we called in sick they would call us at home to see what was “really” going on…The labor & employment attorneys at the firm called a halt to those calls. And all of us worked a ridiculous amount of OT, basically doubling our annual salaries.

    4. WulfInTheForest*

      Right? 40 hours is literally 5 work days. I couldn’t imagine only being sick 5 days in a year! What if you got the flu and missed a whole week? What about getting covid and missing two weeks?

      1. Splendid Colors*

        Or just quarantining for COVID after traveling during the annual Christmas shutdown.

  6. Anon and on an on*

    OP 1: yes, you can.
    You don’t have to make a big, public display. You don’t have to get everyone’s buy in. You just have to make the employee feel respected and it will be fine. It happened to me. It sucked, but it was not the big, destructive event you imagine. It was just business. And that made it easier.

    I was in a job that was just a bad fit.
    They tried. They extended my probation three months. I tried. Still not going to happen, but we muddled through for a few more months. We had a meeting, my boss, her boss, and I. They said, no harm, no foul, this isn’t the job for you. I said I’d like to resign. They said, “That’s fine, you can resign. You will be eligible for unemployment and if you find another position in the company that suits your skills better, you are still eligible for rehire. You can work out one month if you’d like. The last day of the month is a Monday. They said, you can make the preceding Friday your last day.”
    I worked the next month like normal. I was treated like normal. To be honest, knowing there was an end to the misery of failing at my job every day let me be more engaged in doing the parts I liked.
    Nothing was said to my direct coworker until the Wednesday of my last week, Friday is my last day. She was bummed for me, but not shocked I was leaving. I made sure to explain that I’d had plenty of time to get ready and everything worked out the best it could for everyone. I meant it.
    The rest of the branch found out on Monday that I was no longer employed there.

  7. Lauren19*

    Re OP1, I’ve done this. Good at being at employee not great at the job they were hired to do. After it was clear the PMP plan wasn’t producing the desired results we talked about what their strengths were, what kind of role I believe they could flourish in, and that this wasn’t that role. Then gave the option of time to stay on a few weeks while they looked for another role, or leave now with severance equal to that time. By giving them agency in the process I found more investment on their side of a desired outcome.

    I was also VERY clear about what kind of reference I could give. I had a lot of positive things to say about this employee, but would honestly share both strengths and weaknesses (which we talked about extensively during the PMP).

    1. New Yet Old*

      If the weaknesses aren’t relevant to the work of the new prospective job, I wouldn’t mention them.

      1. PollyQ*

        How could the person giving the reference know what’s relevant to the new job, though? And in many cases, “strengths & weaknesses” aren’t just how well the employee handled the tasks of the role, they’re what kind of character they brought to the workplace. If the prospective employer doesn’t find some of what the reference says, they can go ahead and ignore it.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Appointments in my area are so difficult to get, I’d have to use a good chunk of those just for routine doctor visits. Heaven forbid I actually get sick.

    2. Me*

      This! The LW def gives the vibe that its some kind of generous benefit.

      40 hours is 1 bad illness.

      The only thing they are doing is making their employees resentful over something they can’t control (getting sick) and encouraging people to come in ill and spreading their cooties everywhere.

      So not only are they doing the bare minimum as required by law (I suspect if there was no law they wouldn’t offer sick leave at all) they’re doing the double whammy of punishing people for using it.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Its amazing that in the middle of a pandemic where people are barred from coming to work for 10 days after they get basically any symptom of the common cold or allergies, because it may also be a symptom of covid, that anyone things 5 sick days a year is something out of the ordinary.
        My workplace does not allow us to test out of quarantine due to concerns about false negatives. This workplace is practically begging people to bring covid to the whole office

    3. Artemesia*

      In my 45 years in the workforce I never took that much as sick leave; as a teacher I would lurch towards vacations and not allow myself to become sick in bed until then. BUT I was lucky — heck my kids even didn’t get sick and require me to take sick leave for them — I was very lucky. I could have had a major illness or need for chronic illness treatment, or been hit by a bus and then really needed the leave. My father had an allergic reaction to penicillin in the 1940s that hospitalized him for 6 weeks and had him out of work for 3 mos and the company carried him that whole time (and he was loyal to them to his dying day). 40 hours is very little — I’ love to see some sort of back up pool — 40 hours for routine stuff but for people with serious illness or injury a company commitment to keep them paid through such events. You don’t want people doing unlimited ‘mental health days’ or time off for colds or whatever, but you really want to protect everyone against a serious run of bad luck.

      1. GrooveBat*

        Isn’t that what short-term disability insurance is for? That’s often a paid benefit at many companies.

      2. Consuming all the tea*

        Accumulating sick leave solves a lot of that. We get 10 days a year that we can use for physical or mental health issues. Most people use it conservatively because we recognise that health can be unpredictable and we want to build a good chunk of time in the bank for surgeries, cancer, accidents etc.

    4. T J Juckson*

      Agree! But it’s a very welcome start.
      I suspect this is New York’s new Paid Safe & Sick Leave, giving almost everyone paid leave (exceptions: businesses/nonprofits earning less than $1m with fewer than 5 employees ). As someone who benefits from this– as in, wasn’t getting any paid time off whatsoever and has lost a huge chunk of income due to pesky things like a norovirus and shingles and now at least gets a few days–I’m happy about this.

    5. BRR*

      Agreed. That’s 5 days a year where someone might wake up with a fever etc out of 260 weekdays (obviously some variability in numbers due to hours in a work day, holidays, etc). So if you need an unexpected sick day more than 2% of work days in a year you get disciplined. Unplanned time off is going to happen and is completely reasonable. Do the people who come up with these plans not experience life like the rest of us?

      If it’s a coverage issue and that’s why other employees are feeling resentful, work on a plan for if someone has an unplanned absence. If other employees are feeling resentful because they don’t take as much unplanned time off; since you’re looking at redoing your policy, update it to a far more humane policy.

      And I would make an educated guess that this type of rigid and antiquated policy encourages people to come in sick, which then gets others sick who might need to take unplanned time off. Thereby increasing unplanned absences.

    6. New Yet Old*

      We get 104 hours annually in the federal service, accrued at 4 hours a pay period over 26 pay periods. There is unlimited accumulation. This is good because there is no disability insurance. If there is disability insurance, smaller sick leave allowances may not be so bad, although disability seldom pays full salary like sick leave does. In any event, 40 hours a year ain’t much.

    7. Autumn*

      One of my former employers managed potential attendance issues moderately well. We accrued a certain number of hours for the hours we worked, everyone got a fair amount of available sick time. Call in once, no big deal, call in the following day, again, no big deal, the third day you would need a doctor’s note. The catch was, if it wasn’t you who was sick, but a family member instead, you were going to have a headache, they didn’t care if it was a sick kid who couldn’t go to daycare, they wouldn’t accept a note from the pediatrician. It was a hospital and they really needed us to show up, I was lucky, I had a husband who worked for his family and could stay home if it came to that. I still, at least twice, called in saying I was sick, not the kid.

      I understand some employers have an awful time with attendance, but if you’re a caregiver you should be able to submit a note from your charge’s doctor on the same terms you would submit a note from your own doctor!

      Covid has changed so much, now the biggest fight is over whether or not you can use sick time if you get quarantined by the county and what to do if you run out. Also the employer I referenced earlier has probably tightened the policy, they’ve been wrecking the joint for a while. (Sad pikachu face)

  8. Betty*

    Re the final letter– beyond the point Alison and others have raised about how ableist this policy is, a scholar I admire (Dr. Sa-Kiera Hudson) made an excellent point on Twitter about how being committed to DEI more broadly means bringing greater flexibility to work interruptions (in the context of academic workplaces/the academy, but I think a worthwhile broader perspective): “The very same life backgrounds and experiences that are involved in diversifying the academy and widening the pipeline are the same backgrounds heavily associated w/ chronic disruptions. To not be accommodating to those needs is anti-inclusion, anti-diversity, and anti-belonging” (

  9. Sara without an H*

    OP#4 was clearly a pre-pandemic letter. I’d be interested in learning if any organizations have rethought their approach to sick leave since the advent of COVID-19. Maybe a topic for the Friday free-for-all?

    1. R2-beep-boo*

      You’d think that, but maybe not.
      We are back to “business as usual” in terms of how certain elements of management view sick leave. I’m currently out with Covid right now, and it was astounding how quickly it went from “I’m positive and will be out until x date” to “yes, but this is taking too long, so how can you do some work now?”
      My kids just brought home “perfect attendance incentive program” stuff from school last week. It’s really something.

      1. Artemesia*

        Just what we need in a pandemic, contagious people coming to school or work. One of the reasons we didn’t take cabs or ubers during the pandemic is I KNOW cabbies will drive while sick as long as they can sit and drive. And there you are in an enclosed space filled with virus. We rarely drive as we live in a big city, but during the past two years I have driven to most destinations I would previously have used public transport or cabs for.

  10. anonymous73*

    #1 it’s kind of you to want to do this, but not everyone will be receptive. Being laid off because of company restructure or position elimination is one thing, but being fired can sting more, especially because it’s based on your performance as opposed to company change. So if you’re doing this, be prepared for it to not be received well. One would assume that they are aware considering they’re on a PIP, but we just read about a whole lot of crazy unreasonable people with supplies so anything is possible.
    #4 40 hours of sick leave per year IS NOT ENOUGH. That’s 5 days. This guarantees that people will come in sick and infect the whole office. I realize this is an old letter, but that’s the bigger issue here. Praising someone for using 1…ONE…sick day in a year is the secondary issue, even though it’s a big one.

    1. Anonomatopoeia*

      I worked in a place where I took 3/4 of a sick day one time in 9 years, and that was because I physically could not stop vomiting at the office. My boss made it very clear that using sick time was unacceptable. He even taunted me about that one 3/4 day. Exposing others in the office to illness was not only common, it was absolutely expected. Of course, this was in the Before Times, so I hope that he is treating current employees differently.

  11. Generic Elf*

    Such a review process disproportionately impacts women, who tend to be saddled with caregiving.

    1. GrooveBat*

      I know this is a pipe dream on my part, but the *only* positive I see in that point is that maybe – MAYBE – such a policy would encourage a more equitable distribution of child care among partners. Mom runs out of sick leave? Okay, Dad, you’re up.

      Not that this is anything other than a crappy policy overall. Every time I get frustrated with my job, I think about how lucky I am that I work for a company that treats us like responsible adults and never quibbles over whether or not someone is truly “sick.”

    2. Underrated Pear*


      This is a horrible policy. It’s ridiculous, it’s ableist, it’s inequitable. At the VERY LEAST, you are encouraging everyone to come in while sick so they don’t get penalized, which… why?? And beyond that, you are widening disparities in the workplace with long-term impacts on people’s careers just because they happened to get unlucky and catch the flu, or their toddler caught RSV from daycare. Man, this letter made me so angry.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        I had a coworker back in the 1990s who got colds all the time, apparently because his compulsive heavy workouts were bad for his immune system. OF COURSE he didn’t want to take any sick days so he always showed up and spread the colds to his admin and all the agents at the adjacent half-wall cubicles.

  12. Loulou*

    I would be really confused and surprised if, as a prospective employee, I saw a contract stipulating that s/os could or could not attend events. It’s just not the kind of thing you expect to see and it would make me wonder if there was more to the story…which there apparently is.

    1. GrooveBat*

      I dunno. I’ve worked for a number of companies in the past that have restricted events like holiday parties, etc. to employees only. Sometimes it’s for team bonding reasons. Sometimes it’s because of finances. Never, to my knowledge, was it written into a contract.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think that’s their point–it’s not unusual at all for a work event to be only for the employees, but it would be very odd to put that into the employment contract.

    2. desdemona*

      My SO’s company has a “no significant others at company events” policy…. even when the event is not in the office! I have ALWAYS wondered what the backstory is.
      And it’s not a blanket ‘no SO’s ever’ policy – I’ve swung by his work to pick him up at the end of the day before, and was allowed in & given a small tour.
      So. Many. Questions. LW3 has given me new theories.

    3. allathian*

      I work for the government. Luckily our taxpayers are reasonable and recognize that government employees and civil servants can have nice things (we even get a bonus, the same amount for every pay grade, across the whole organization, last year it amounted to almost half of my monthly salary, and just about matched that of the lowest pay band, which is pretty unheard of), but one strict rule is that employer hospitality never, ever extends to adults simply because they’re the spouse of an employee. Before the pandemic, we had bring your child to work days, and then kids who attended our meetings were given the same cookie as adults.

      To be fair, though, I’ve never worked for an employer that would invite spouses to company social events. Perhaps it’s just not a thing in our culture. I rather like this, because it eliminates any awkwardness when you’re single and don’t have anyone to bring.

      I rather like this system, I have zero interest in knowing my husband’s coworkers socially (and he feels the same way about mine), so the only time I’ve ever attended an event with him because of his work was when he was invited to our local British Embassy to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday and I went as his +1, but he got the invitation because he had worked closely with a branch of the British civil service on a project.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree–even if they wanted to not have significant others at events that doesn’t seem like something you would put in a contract! Just… don’t invite them to the events!

  13. yala*

    I’m just baffled at the idea of giving anyone “kudos” for not using sick time. What. Even.

    1. RJ*

      My first job out of university we had up to 8 paid sick days, BUT, if you didn’t use the first 5, you got an annual “bonus” worth the amount you did not use up to 5 days (so if you used none, you got 5 days pay, if you used 1, you got 4 days pay, etc. ). The result was a LOT of people coming to work sick and making others sick. On the other side, people who needed to use 5 would naturally go out of their way to use the non-bonus-eligible remaining 3. The whole thing was ridiculous.

  14. not a doctor*

    That sick time one REALLY freaks me out. I hope that LW (and their company) have changed their views since they originally wrote in.

  15. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    If you’re going to take sick time into account at all, judge the employee on how well they prepared their peers and coworkers to succeed in their absence.

    1. Me*

      Not sure this is better. Ensuring coverage and cross-training is the managers job, not the employees.

      If there’s policies and procedures in place that the employee is not following that’s one thing. But this company sounds like the kind that would love to write up John because he called out and even though he was vomiting his guts out, he should have written up a 2 page summary of his accounts so if anyone called about them Jane could handle it in his absence.

      People get sick. Usually minorly. The place should be able to function without them. If it can’t, again, that’s not the employees fault.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Not sure this is better. Ensuring coverage and cross-training is the managers job, not the employees.

        If there’s policies and procedures in place that the employee is not following that’s one thing. But this company sounds like the kind that would love to write up John because he called out and even though he was vomiting his guts out, he should have written up a 2 page summary of his accounts so if anyone called about them Jane could handle it in his absence.

        People get sick. Usually minorly. The place should be able to function without them. If it can’t, again, that’s not the employees fault.

        I’m not sure I agree with this.

        Yes, it’s the manager’s job to organize cross-training and instructions, but it’s the employees job to execute those plans. Every employee can draft instructions or standard works, leave notes, etc. Even with this employer, John missing an extra hour when it’s chaos and catastrophe is a far different business impact than John missing the extra hour and everything runs mostly-smoothly.

        Like you said, the people get sick. Usually minorly. The difference between a mediocre employee and a good employee (in this regard) is the difference between merely accepting that reality and planning for it. It is the employees failing if they’ve done nothing to prepare for the inevitable scenario. It’s the manager’s failing if that’s acceptable.

        1. Me*

          That’s exactly what I said.

          It is the managers job to ensure cross-training and coverage. If they have done so and the employee has not followed them, then sure that should be addressed.

          If the manager has not done so, then it’s not ok to write up an employee for it. It’s essentially wrioting up an employee for a task they were never given.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I think you’re right, Me; we just differ in who is held accountable. I think I’m just used to more empowerment and responsibility–for a good part of the last 10 years, I effectively had no supervisor.

  16. Lily of the Meadow*

    Why in the world are people resentful of paid sick time that is available to all employees? Someone else’s medical concerns are none of mine. Good gad. People need to stop micromanaging what is not theirs to manage in the first place.

  17. my 8th name*

    Op1, presumably you are trying to keep the staff member on staff so they get paid. Is severance an option, instead? That way you are providing a financial cushion but not potentially paying someone to just job search while on the clock?

    Also you fear they may make things toxic, is that based on past experience with this person?

  18. Lady_Lessa*

    An easier way for the company who wants to terminate someone, would be just give them a large severance package and let them go. The package may be enough to carry them through the job hunt, and no has to worry about issues at work.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The manager may also be trying to help the employee avoid an employment gap.

        1. une autre Cassandra*

          And if the underperforming employee is a decent person who just isn’t cut out for this particular role, why not keep a good relationship with them if possible? I was in a similar situation where for whatever reason I just could not get the hang of a job I’d really wanted, and it was heartbreaking, but I continue to remember that organization fondly because of how kindly and professionally they handled my transition out. In my case I brought up the “let’s get me out of here so you can find someone who can actually do the job and I can find something that doesn’t make me miserable” scenario and they went with it, so it wasn’t a firing, but I still deeply appreciate the consideration. Having me there, even though I wasn’t very good, was better than abruptly having no one and it was certainly better for me.

          I hope if the original LW was able to extend this offer that the employee felt less stung than she would have by a straight-up firing.

  19. RosyGlasses*

    I had an employee in that exact situation. As a smaller employer, we needed that role covered, but it was clear the individual was struggling. We structured a paid leave for the last 2-3 weeks that they were with us, and paid for several career counseling sessions to help them explore what they might find meaning doing. It was difficult, but ultimately we came to an agreement together this was the best path forward and hopefully it supported their transition out of the workplace.

  20. Esmeralda*

    Sick leave question: And maybe offer more sick leave. 40 hrs/year = less than one day every two months!!

    1. RosyGlasses*

      It’s along the lines of an HR policy I saw that gave people ONE personal day a year. ONE.

  21. Crazy Cat Lady*

    Do you mean that after everything we have all been through for the past (almost) two years that employers are still trying to come up with ways to punish people for using sick time? I thought that if we have learned nothing else, we learned that if you are sick that you need to stay home. If you are even feeling questionable, you need to stay home! Period. When employers are either incentivizing or punishing people based on attendance, they are not only sending a very bad message, they are potentially prolonging this pandemic that has taken all of us to the brink professionally and personally. Wow.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I think some employers are trying to punish workers for not being robots and having the audacity to gum up the wheels of capitalism by having bodies that get sick or need to be taken care of.

  22. Essess*

    Every company that I’ve worked for has had a policy that the employee is responsible for the behavior of their guests. If their guest is violent or disruptive or abusive to others, the employee is held responsible. So if the employee keeps bringing a disruptive guest, that goes into their performance review and they face the consequences… anywhere from not being allowed to bring guests to events up to possible termination depending on the severity of the behavior. Other employees should not be punished for one employee’s bad behavior. Just like you wouldn’t fire an entire department if you found out only 1 employee was stealing. Only punish the one causing the issue!

  23. NoGreatName*

    I was fired once for no reason other than my boss didn’t like me. HR wouldn’t let her just show me to the door (and also, I had receipts, which I didn’t mention, but based on how it played out, they knew).

    Here’s how it went: I was given 6 weeks’ notice. I was asked for work 4, and then not come in for the last two weeks (separate from any vacation time, this was just “don’t show up”). The duration was set to coincide with a stock vestment, I could take the stock, a fair amount of cash payout, and would qualify for unemployment. I also had to sign something that amounted to an NDA and promise I wouldn’t sue for wrongful termination.

    After 2 weeks I announced to my team I was leaving and served out my “two weeks’ notice”. My boss even threw me the obligatory farewell lunch (she was not thrilled by having to do this, which made it even more entertaining) and as far as any of my former colleagues knew, I chose to leave.

    If you know the employee will do a reasonable job and won’t burn the place to the ground, it’s totally possible to give them some runway and let them leave with their head held high.

  24. MistOrMister*

    I don’t quite understand OP4. Unplanned abscences and sick leave are not always the same thing. Granted, it makes no sense to me whatsoever to praise anyone at all for how much sick time they have or haven’t used. If you offer sick time, it is there for people to use if they want and you should hardly be praising people for not using it! It’s not really a benefit if I get dinged for taking advantage of it.

    That being said, I can use every single one of my alloted sick leave hours and still be a conscientious employee. I can also use less than the alloted hours but call out randomly to go to a concert when Ihad been denied the day off, or because I know I have a big item due that HAS to be submitted that day and I don’t want to do it, or because I’m scheduled to cover someone and don’t want to. To me, those are the kinds of unexcused abscences are the ones that are problematic and that an employer should be reviewing.

    Also, are all the hours being announced to everyone? How is this policy even causing an issue? It seems like you would never even know if someone got praised for their hours unless this is being done in front of a number of people. If so, that is just stupid. We’re not in kindergarten to be given gold stars for attendance.

  25. Elm*

    When I was a kid, I remember my mom came to an elementary awards ceremony. When we left, she said “I wish they’d stop giving perfect attendance awards. Kids shouldn’t have to go to school sick, and everyone deserves a mental health day from time to time.” (This was before mental health days were cool!)

    That kind of behavior starts really, really young, and we need to unlearn it. There’s no way being banned from illness and injury isn’t affecting the Great Resignation.

    1. PollyQ*

      Absolutely. Best case scenario, you’re rewarding children for being lucky enough not to have gotten sick. Worst (and more common) case, you’re rewarding children for coming to school ill and spreading their illness to other students.

      1. Zephy*

        Or penalizing children with home life situations that make getting to school on time difficult.

        1. Here we go again*

          I was a latch key kid, and in 4th grade a bird pooped on me at the bus stop. I went back in to clean up and I missed the bus. Which meant missing school for the day.

    2. Obscure*

      This encourages really problomatic behaviour, the number of people I know who seem proud to never take a day off due to illness which actually means they come in with a cold or flu or worse and infect everyone else in the office. The problem employee should be the one refusing to take off time when ill not the one who does the right thing and stays home when they have a cold.

  26. Leela*

    OP #3 I hope you’d be comfortable with the resentment flowing toward these two employees, and perhaps even you, from the staff members whose +1 do not cause problems and they’d be losing the right to bring them. Honestly this would sour me on attending events, because it would make me feel like you bring down a hammer on everyone rather than being able to address a problem properly, and it would heavily make me question your judgement for non-event work things too. If you have good staff who are getting options come their way, I’d also worry that this could tip the scales if they were on the fence. This seems like a small thing but the message you’d be sending to employees is “we don’t care how we affect you, it’s too hard to do our jobs if it’s uncomfortable so everyone else is just going to lose something”

    1. Leela*

      i feel like i phrased that a little callous-y, what I mean is that it’s coming off like you won’t use nuance to solve problems and instead expect well-behaved employees with no problems attached to just lose out instead, and that’s going to cause a dip in morale. Dips in morale aren’t always well-accounted for and they can really impact your productivity and who is going to stay on your payroll

  27. PollyQ*

    #2 — When people think about the anti-fraternization rules in the military, they usually focus on things like sexual or romantic relationships, but in fact, behavior exactly like what’s described here also falls into category of fraternization. That’s not to say that every non-military organization needs to follow the same rules, but it’s still worth keeping the questions of “how free are they to say no”, “are they doing it to curry favor”, and “is there a possibility that it’ll give the appearance of favoritism in the future” in mind. I like Alison’s advice to politely & warmly to decline their offer.

    1. Pennyworth*

      I think OP#2 should have been more thoughtful when talking about how she was settling in. Actually raising the issue of a large rug she was planning to buy and whether or not to hire a truck was just inviting an offer of assistance. Just don’t go there – arrange your own life and get the rug delivered.

  28. Canadian Valkyrie*

    #1 – so if I got fired from a job, there’s literally no way in hell I’d stay around while they try to find my replacement. The wording makes it sound like it’s some how doing the employee a kindness, but it really sounds like its for them because maybe sub par work is better than no work until they get a replacement. If you’ve fired me, I’d leave. Hell, the one time I was fired at lunch time (they hired me for X and later realized they needed me to be more like Y) and I literally walked out of the bosses office, picked up my purse, and left. My friend still worked there and there were no hard feelings over my doing that; the bosses knew we were friends and told her to make sure I knew that they understood why I wanted to leave asap.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      It’s a kindness to offer them the choice to keep their current paycheck going hopefully until they find a new one. I’m sure there are lots of people who would prefer to just go ahead and end things which is fine, but do you really think it’s that odd that many others would choose to keep getting paid???

  29. Maleficent2024*

    The more and more I read the site, the more I realize how severely dysfunctional my company really is….

    1. Rainy Day*

      Worrying, isn’t it? When you see actions reported as dysfunctional and you recognise them.
      It’s a seeker’s market out there for a lot of fields right now, at least in the UK.

  30. Bowserkitty*

    Ohhhh my goodness I don’t know when the original first letter was posted but this could have been me several years ago -_- I was given a two week notice basically. I was set up to fail in my position and barely given any training. I also could have spoken up and tried harder, but I did not. As expected, nothing could really be done within two weeks and I ended up being unemployed for half a year.

    It was truly an odd final two weeks because everyone knew I was basically being fired and they still had the gall to throw me a goodbye party. Ironically, my boss got appendicitis that last week. I saw it as karma at the time, haha.

  31. greenwalker*

    Alison can you please more specifically address and call out how much viewpoints re the sick leave are out and out ableist? The whole underlying assumption is that people should be punished for illness.

  32. LordyMe*

    Alison gives excellent advice here.

    Something I would add to it would be not to tell anyone else in the office about the fact you are firing this employee. Because that type of poor employee treatment (and others) tends to be what inspires the sort of behaviour LW is wanting to avoid.

  33. PNW Planner*

    I was an employee that was given time to find a job and I very much appreciated it – in my case, the position was being reclassified downward because they felt there wasn’t enough work for the position level I was being paid at. I am glad they trusted that I wouldn’t do anything negative – it was hard to work when I knew I was being eliminated, but it sure took the stress off financially and within a month I had accepted a job offer (thanks in part to all the good advice from this site).

  34. Birch*

    This is probably a tangential conversation but TBH hearing about sick time in hours rather than days really squicks me out.

    1. WS*

      It can be useful if you need to take, say, half a day for medical appointments or a scan or something rather than take up an entire sick day (I’m Australian, so sick leave here is legally mandated and fairly reasonable.) Or if you need to pick up a sick kid, get them to a grandparent’s house, then go back to work. And it’s SUPER useful during COVID times now that telehealth is available – instead of having to take a whole day for a 300km round trip to see a specialist, I can take an hour off for a telehealth call.

  35. Mike*

    My previous company would offer transition out plans to employees, where they could spend up to 50% of their working time job searching, interviewing, etc. over a 30-60 day timeline.

    I put two employees on plans and transitioned them out successfully, one finding a new job in time, and the other not. It worked great because it removed all the nonsense when someone is secretly job searching, and put everything on the table with HR involved.

  36. Meghan*

    Re: subordinates doing favors for managers, etc:

    I find it best with the team I manage to be very vague about my life outside work. Small talk is fine, but the less they know, the easier it is to hold boundaries. Same if they ask how I am: I’m always doing fine, thanks, how are you?? Even if it’s the worst day ever.

  37. Mannequin*

    I find the whole idea of punishing people for “unplanned absence” bizarre. People don’t plan illnesses in advance!

    Even before covid, only allowing FIVE DAYS of sick time a year was ridiculous, but now it’s unconscionable.

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