my employee won’t take time off

A reader writes:

I own a small company, just me and two employees who are salaried. Both of my employees have worked for me for over five years and I give them three weeks PTO each year plus three sick days. We also have paid holidays throughout the year. I am always open to them taking time off for an appointment, errand, or a personal day, and not taking it off their PTO if they make up the time that week (or the next). I don’t require this at all; they are always free to just take the time off, but they often make up the hours and save their PTO for real vacations. I don’t keep track of their daily work hours since they are salaried, as long as they get their assigned work done on schedule.

I have one employee, Emily, who can’t seem to relax and take her time off without working long hours to make it up. Even when she plans week-long vacations, she works long hours to make sure that she does not lose the entire week of PTO. Yesterday she took a sick day, and when I asked her how she was feeling the next day, she said she was better but thought she had gotten sick due to working long hours the last few days because she had requested a day off next week and wanted to make it up. I told her to just take the day off and not worry about making up the hours. She replied that she knew we were busy and she also has a week-long vacation coming up, so she was fine with working extra hours.

How do I get her to relax and take time off without stressing over making it up? Or, do I just let it be and rely on her to manage her own PTO and work hours as she sees fit? I don’t want to micromanage her time but I don’t want to see her get burned out on the job.

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:

  • Our staff chat all day long and it’s messing up their work
  • Can I rescind an agreement to let someone work from a different office?
  • The guy who insists on saying “good morning” individually to everyone

{ 224 comments… read them below }

  1. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Agree with Alison re: LW #1 needing to offer more sick days, but also I wish employers wouldn’t require people to “make up” hours for doctor’s appointments. Staff going to the doctor for routine appointments without being penalized is good for the company long term and it’s am immense gesture of goodwill to allow this kind of flexibility.

    1. AY*

      Especially for salaried workers! It drives me nuts that I’m salaried, but I still have to fill out a time card and account for every hour of a doctor’s appointment or medical test with corresponding flex time.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Yup. My company puts it right in their training materials that “salaried means you’re paid for the job, not for an exact number of hours.” Unfortunately that translates to “you’ll be here a minimum of 40 scheduled hours a week, and if it takes longer it takes longer.” Technically flex time is even against company policy, although luckily a vast majority of managers allow it in spite of said policy.

        1. JelloStapler*

          Yes, it seems like it’s ok to work more but never the same (and adjusting to make sure this is the case)

          1. RJ*

            Yep. Any time I have worked for an employer who nickels-and-dimes employees that way, I have gone out of my way to take every second of every break and lunch I am entitled to, whereas for the ones who don’t care, neither do I.

        2. Anon for this*

          My job tries to make us work crazy hours, so my boss compromised by telling us we have to work 40 hours and if we don’t we have to make it up next week, but if we hit 40 we need to stop and leave.

      2. Texan In Exile*

        Exactly! If you’re not going to pay OT for the nights I spend at airports and the weekends I spend at trade shows, then don’t charge me for seeing a doctor during the only hours my doctor sees patients.

      3. Lacey*

        Yes, that’s absurd. If you have to do it when you’re salaried you’re not really getting the benefit of being a salaried worker!

    2. Bee Eye Ill*

      I would love to agree with you but I’ve seen people abuse the hell out of liberal sick time policies. It’s just 1 or 2 people who ruin it for everyone else. I like where I am now where they just give us a bank of PTO to use for whatever. There is no designated sick time. You need off, you use PTO. Also keeps employers out of our personal business.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        If there are one or two people abusing the system, then that sounds like a management problem, not an issue with the policies themselves.

          1. Jake*

            Either those management people have bosses who should be managing them, or they are owners/CEOs in which case how can they possibly be ruining it for everyone?

        1. COBOL*

          It’s a those one or two people problem, but it’s why there needs to be rules. If I stock the company kitchen with free drinks and snacks, and don’t care if somebody grabs something on their way out the door, there might be somebody who takes it home to give to their kids. They shouldn’t, but I can’t manage them not to.

          Also, not having rules can actually be culturally insensitive.

          1. Binky*

            If business hours / office cover allow, why not offer flexi time, with a maximum and minimum balance. Eg you have to work 148 hours a month, be in work 1000-1630 Mon-Fri, but you can flex your time within the min (eg -4) /max. balance (eg +30).
            If someone repeatedly gets to max balance, they have to take the time off within x days / weeks.

      2. Mr. Obstinate*

        The single pool of PTO is nice *if* you have a generous amount of PTO in total. My old employer had a flat 10 days of PTO per year for everyone (no possibility of increases even after 5+ years of working there) with no separate sick days. That meant people would just not take sick days if at all possible, since they had already scheduled most or all of their PTO as vacation time and didn’t want to cancel.

        A few times I found it difficult just to fit a year’s “oblications” (weddings/funerals and the like) into that PTO.

        1. Bee Eye Ill*

          Yeah that’s not enough at all. It should be at least 3-4 weeks for the first couple years then bump up over time, like a set number of extra hours per pay period or year as you stay longer.

      3. Snow Globe*

        I *hate* the combined PTO. In my experience, no matter how generous the PTO bucket, there will be people who only want to use it for vacation days, and will therefore come in to the office when they are feeling sick. Yes, even in the middle of a pandemic. With separate buckets, no one feels like they are “losing” a vacation day by taking a sick day.

      4. Meep*

        On the flip side, I didn’t go to more than a dentist appointment for three years before COVID. Any time I tried, my manager would inform me I was “too young” to see a doctor and was fine. She rejected and denied all my sick time. The two times I was genuinely sick and had to stay home (flu and stomach bug), she was calling me at all hours of the day. I think I still ended up working a full 8-hours on my deathbed and it was a running joke around the office that if I ended up in the hospital then she would bring me my computer to work.

        In short, she is a nightmarish, evil person.

        It was only after I got a new manager and went to the doctor for the first time did I discover that working under her I had developed high blood pressure and high cholosetrol at just 26-years-old. I also now have cPSTD. I would rather have a handful of people abuse sick days than staff coming in sick and destroying their health.

        That is just me, personally. And what do I know?

        1. Bee Eye Ill*

          That manager belongs in a hole.

          But it does sort of exemplify what I mentioned about privacy. When you request sick time you are letting your manager know you have a doctor visit of some kind and they really don’t need to know that. It’s worse when they offer dumb advice, as I’ve had that happen, too.

    3. Cat Tree*

      My current company doesn’t require me to make up time for appointments, and my boss was really explicit about this. This is the opposite of all other places I have worked. I consider myself a person with disabilities because I have multiple chronic health conditions. They’re all well managed and don’t really affect my life other the handful of pills I take each morning, but it takes a lot of appointments to keep everything in check. This policy of not making up hours is hugely beneficial to me and is one of the reasons I believe my company is sincere about diversity and inclusion. I never had to formally request accommodation; this is just their standard policy. This kind of flexibility, when feasible with the job, should be as standard as the more common accommodations like accessible doors or sharps containers in the bathroom.

      1. Koalafied*

        Yep. At my company we’re all salaried, and we take PTO in half-day increments – which means if you’re out for less than half a day, you don’t have to take PTO at all.

        Could people abuse this system by skipping out 2 hours early every day for vague “appointments” when in reality they’re just knocking off early to play Animal Crossing? Sure. But my company has objective standards for performance, so either they’re “getting away with” producing a full week’s worth of work in less than a full week’s worth of hours, or their manger can have a performance conversation with them.

        There’s no need to try to preemptively anticipate all the ways a hypothetical person could game the system. The only system that can’t be gamed is one that doesn’t function. The way you stop people from gaming the system is by having managers who pay attention and manage employees to performance standards.

    4. David*

      My company offers a bank of 50 hours of PTO a year that we can use for appointments and errands. We can only use up to four hours a week, but it’s amazing how much it improves my quality of life knowing that I have that available.

    5. SD*

      My Dr is routinely 2+ hours behind. Why would my employer pay me for the 1/2 day off when I’m not working and they have provided me with sick & vacation time to use for such purposes?

        1. londonedit*

          Absolutely. I am at the beginning of some long-term medical issues (just been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition) so I’ve had a couple of doctor’s appointments recently and now have an appointment with a specialist coming up. I won’t be required to take any time off or make up the time for those – in the grand scheme of things an hour to see the GP or an afternoon at a hospital appointment is far outweighed by the rest of the work I do, and my boss understands that my health is more important than nitpicking about me taking time off to see the doctor.

  2. anonymous73*

    #1 sounds like a dream manager. And I kind of disagree abut 3 days of sick time being too few if you’re giving 3 weeks of vacation too. Maybe they need to quantify it differently, but 18 days a year, additional paid holidays and a boss who doesn’t micromanage their employee’s time and only cares that the work gets done sounds like a dream to me. Also consider increasing the amount of time given once employee’s have been there a certain period of time – they say they’ve been there 5 years, so maybe add another week.

    Bottom line though, if OP has always treated them well, is clear about their expectations and doesn’t give them any reason to doubt that she’s sincere, there’s not much they can do to “force” someone to stop working so much and making up their time.

    1. Catthullu*

      The problem of doing what you’re describing, which is basically lumping all leave in together, is that people are understandably protective of their vacation time. No one wants to cancel their vacation because say one of their kids was sick and required a parent to stay home a few days. It also incentivizes folks to do things that aren’t great, like coming to work sick rather than staying home if they have to choose between using their PTO or not. As someone who gets sick if the wind blows the wrong direction, I really really really need folks to stay home when they are not well and providing adequate sick leave and not connecting it with vacation time is one easy way to make sure folks do that.

      1. kiki*

        Yes, this. Three weeks of vacation is generous in comparison to standard American allotments, but it’s not really all “vacation time.” Having any sort of personal emergency or non-work obligations, like caregiving, cuts into that time really fast. There’s a mentality around a lot of people I know, especially caregivers, that you should only plan on taking half your PTO and save the rest for emergencies. Being more generous with sick time and other sorts of leave (bereavement, etc.) can make employees feel less like they need to hoard vacation.

      2. Cat Lover*

        See, I hard disagree. One big pot of paid leave is way better IMO. Time off is time off. My company gives a generous amount of PTO though so it’s never really an issue. I would have to be sick for like 3 weeks straight for that time off to affect any vacations. My company has accrued PTO every month, it’s generous so I usually am forced to take a few days off so I don’t hit my cap, lol.

        1. KHB*

          Yeah, my employer merged their sick and vacation pots a few years ago (and they’ve always been pretty generous with both), and I find that I like it this way a lot better – especially during the pandemic, when “real” vacations were off the table, so we were all just trying to squeeze in a few hours of PTO here and there whenever we could. It’s a lot easier to say “I’m taking the afternoon off because it’s a gorgeous day and I want to go for a walk” when it’s the same “kind” of request as “I’m taking the afternoon off because I have a headache” or “I’m taking the afternoon off because I didn’t sleep well last night and can barely keep my eyes open.”

          1. Cat Lover*

            Yeah, Covid was good in the sense that we all basically accrued the full amount of PTO allowed since no one took vacations. So those of us that were with the company during lockdown have been set since lockdown, since it’s basically impossible to catch up on months worth of PTO non-use, lol.

        2. COBOL*

          Do you have kids? I used to prefer combined because I have an idea of how often I’m sick, but now, I’d find myself not taking vacation because I need that peace of mind of having a bank towards the end of the year.

        3. Yorick*

          I have separate sick and vacation time, and I love it. Both are between 2-3 weeks a year (when you’re new). Both roll over from year to year, but vacation is capped at something like 6-7 weeks so you do have to use it at that point to keep accruing more. I’ve been able to take my vacation time off without worrying about saving some in case I get sick, and take sick time when I need to without being sad to lose a vacation day.

          1. Cat Lover*

            That makes sense! I guess I don’t use enough of either, combined with having a lot of PTO in general, that I’m never worried about running out.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          I have one big pot and it’s been great for me–because I am lucky enough to be a person who doesn’t get sick very often.

          Unless the “big pot” you have is much larger than what most people in the US see (certainly would need to be *much* larger than 18 days) then people who have to deal with chronic illness or even just have an unlucky year where they happen to get sick a lot or their kids get sick a lot or any of the many, many things that people have to use sick leave for comes up… they get a lot less vacation than their healthier coworkers.
          And as one of the healthier coworkers I can see clearly how that is not fair to them.

      3. Hex Libris*

        But… if they run out of sick days and need to be out, they have to take unpaid time anyway if they’re protecting their vacation time. If it’s all one pot, and they end up taking unpaid days on vacation instead of when they were sick, doesn’t it sort of come out in the wash?

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          If they run out of sick days, they probably do have to dip into their vacation time rather than taking unpaid time. At least placeas I have worked don’t allow unpaid time. My company starts the lowest tier of new hires off with 17 days of PTO combined per year, which is not terrible by US standards, but dipping below that results in a warning and/or disciplinary action.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        This. We have separate vacation and medical time, both generous. I’m not even sure where our medical time stops accruing–I’ve needed maybe two weeks’ total in 16 years and it’s still rolling in (I’ve donated hours to the office pool). I have hundreds of hours at this point.

        Our vacation stops accruing at 280. I’ll never use that many (and I do go on vacation/staycation!).

        I wonder if this employee’s work isn’t getting covered as well as the LW thinks while she’s gone. I don’t worry too much about leaving because I know whatever I have to do can and will be covered by my coworkers, but that doesn’t always happen.

      5. Koalafied*

        Yes, to me it’s pretty obvious that having separate banks of leave is an equity issue that allows people with disabilities and chronic illness access to the same vacation benefit that generally healthy people get.

        There’s a difference between “giving people time off to reward them for hard work” and “giving people time off because their health demands it.” Time off given as a reward (vacation time) should generally be given based on job factors like performance, seniority, and tenure. Time off given as an act of basic human decency (sick time) should be given based on need.

        If employers are trying to give one bucket of leave, they’re going to assume most people will try to use most of their leave most years, and budget will force them to settle on an amount of leave that works great for people who rarely get sick but leaves people with chronic medical conditions stuck spending all their leave on medical appointments and sick days and never getting to enjoy reward-time like everyone else does. For the sake of decency and compassion, the company can afford to have 1 employee who takes 3 weeks of sick time every year on top of their 3 weeks vacation. But they can’t afford to give 6 weeks of vacation to everyone. So they give 3 weeks to everyone and the person with chronic illness no longer gets to take any real time off work.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I mostly agree with you, except I’d argue vacation time isn’t a reward but a recognition that we are humans who need to do things like lie in the sun, replaster the bathroom, visit our families, and eat ridiculous amounts of tasty food sometimes, in order to live a well balanced and spiritually nourishing life. That is separate from the reality that we live in meat suits with a huge propensity to go wrong in lots of different and difficult ways, but equally important.

    2. Pennilyn Lot*

      Three sick days is definitely not enough. This should be fairly clear in the era of the pandemic tbh! And it’s not like sick days are inherently equivalent to vacation days – sick days are for when you’re sick.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      The amount of vacation time you have shouldn’t be a factor in how much sick time you have.

    4. CBB*

      I get my sick leave and vacation leave combined in one PTO bucket, and it’s 15 days per year. My previous job was 10 vacation days and 5 sick days. So I agree, a total of 18 days is not unusually low.

    5. Atalanta0jess*

      I mean….you only think that’s enough because you’re existing in a crummy system where you don’t have anywhere near enough vacation and sick time.

      1. NewGrad*

        Uk minimum is 28 days… For me this includes bank holidays so I get to pick 20 days. And then sick days are on top of that, I don’t know how many off the top of my head.
        My partner gets 30 plus the bank holidays.
        It seriously blows my mind that people might only get 18 days for holiday AND sick days

        1. TaylorMade*

          Except you forgot to include the Federal Holidays in your calculation for the OP:

          15 Days Vacation
          3 Days Sick
          8-12 Days Federal Holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.)

          SO the total is more like 26-30…

          1. CoveredinBees*

            Bank Holidays are the UK equivalent of US federal holidays, so I’d consider that a wash. Additionally, there are many businesses that run on federal holidays. Even ones that don’t necessarily “need” to.

            1. fhqwhgads*

              I think these conversations can be confusing between UK and US people because, in my experience, UK folks tend to discuss in terms of “days leave” – which includes what we’d call ‘vacation days’ and their bank holidays. Plus it’s mandatory there, where no PTO is mandatory here (unless a specific state requires it). So it’s not only an apples and oranges discussion, it’s a using different terms thing, and a using some of the same terms but they have different meanings thing.
              Like I frequently hear UK peeps mention “28 days leave” but that includes bank holidays. But when US peeps I talk to talk about PTO, they’re usually talking vacation, or vacation and sick. They may or may not have paid Federal holidays too, but you can’t tell if that’s the case or not with someone who is only talking about vacation time, for example.

              1. londonedit*

                I don’t include bank holidays when I’m talking about my annual leave allowance. Bank holidays are extra ones that (just about) everyone takes. The legal minimum is 20 days plus 8 bank holidays, but I’d count that as 20 days’ leave. I’ve never heard anyone including bank holidays in their leave allowance, unless it’s here where people are trying to explain how the legal minimums work. I have 25 days’ leave but the office also closes between Christmas and New Year and I don’t have to take that time out of my holiday allowance, so in effect I have 28 days’ leave, I just can’t choose when to take three of them. And then there are the public holidays on top of that – in England it’s New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, the first and last Mondays of May, the last Monday in August, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

        2. BubbleTea*

          There is also parental leave (different from maternity leave for recovering from having a baby) and leave for caring for dependents, although I believe the US has started requiring this as well.

        3. Mangled metaphor*

          “SSP kicks in on the fourth day in a row that a member of staff is off sick – known as the ‘qualifying day’. You don’t have to pay them anything for the first 3 days of sickness”
          (SSP = statutory sick pay. Payable up to 28 weeks, it’s a “benefit” – in that the company pays it but claims it back from HMRC)

          This is the *very* quick and dirty version!

          1. londonedit*

            The company I work for will also top up SSP to your normal salary for up to 15 weeks once you’ve been there for over two years.

    6. Still Queer, Still Here*

      I really think it depends on how those 3 days are given. I get equal allotments of sick and vacation time, about 3 weeks of each per year, plus several use it or lose it personal days. I feel like that’s pretty generous for the field I’m in. That being said, I don’t get them all at the beginning of the year, they accrue each month. I’m a relatively new employee, so technically I only have about a week of time saved up after being here for several months, and most of that is the personal time that all drops at once.

      If this employee is only accruing 3 sick days per year, that means they’re only getting 2 hours accruing each month! I probably wouldn’t feel safe taking a sick day in that situation until I had at least 10-12 hours accrued, and it really is a small amount of time if you have kids or family members that you need to take unexpected time off to care for, even if it is all dropped at one time. Yeah, they have 3 weeks of vacation, but most of the time vacation can only be used if you plan in advance to take those days. Historically, miniscule sick time allotments like this disproportionately disadvantage women and minorities who often have many more caregiving duties than the rest of the population. PTO policies should exist in such a way that they allow for the variety of personal situations that exist in the world, not just what would work for the person creating them.

    7. Meep*

      Fun fact: The less of a deal you make about your employees taking off vacation time and making them feel beholdento you, the less vacation time they will take. And more hours worked =/= more quality work or even productivity.

      So isn’t it better to give them more sick time so they don’t feel like they have to make it up?

    8. Bri*

      From outside of the US, it’s crazy to think that anyone would think 3 days is enough! We get 18 days pa sick leave (which accrues over years) in addition to 20 days of annual recreation leave (which also accrues), and that is considered relatively normal for a salaried position.

      I can’t imagine how stressful it would be to have 3 days! It works as a good incentive to stay too, since the leave rolls over. So, people who have been working in the organisation for years typically have a large enough bank of sick leave to cover them in the case of a serious and extended illness or injury.

    9. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Where I live we have unlimited sick leave, provided we have a sick note from the doctor any time we need more than three days off. There are remarkably few people who take advantage of this. I remember one intern who decided that, as a Muslim, he didn’t want to come to work on Fridays. There was a sales guy who routinely didn’t show up on Monday after partying all weekend. The intern was terminated because he didn’t do the tasks that could only be done on Fridays, the sales guy was terminated because he didn’t hit his targets. Basically, slackers who routinely abuse the ability to take sick leave, are generally bad workers and it shows up elsewhere.
      My colleague undergoing fertility treatment on the other hand, needed all sorts of half-days or whole days off here and there, but worked hard to make sure to maintain her usual productivity and meet all her deadlines. Either of the systems being debated here would have been pretty hard on her.

      1. Ori*

        Hang on, you are aware that Muslims worship on Fridays right? I had a colleague who left early for that purpose. It’s really not comparable to partying hard.

        1. Jasnah Kholin*

          those are two people who decided unilaterally to not come to work in day they agreed to work on, because of their ideology. instead they took sick leave.

          if you can’t come at some day of the week, you negotiate it before you take the job. you definitely does not take the job and then take sick leave every Friday/Monday/Whateverday.

    10. Overeducated*

      I’ve used 6 sick days (48 hours) in 2021 so far, and this is even in a job with lot of flexibility to take less than full days for appointments or shared caregiving responsibilities. This is more than my average but is literally the best I can do with all the help I can get. I am lucky to accrue 13 days of sick leave a year, which I’ve never had to take all of, but am glad it’s available if I need it. I think 3 days a year is way too little.

    11. Momma Bear*

      I wonder if this employee came from a job where she was micromanaged about her time and is anxious about it now. I would encourage everyone to use leave when sick but agree that if she doesn’t want to use a lot of time, that’s up to her.

      I have combined PTO (no specific sick time) but we are highly encouraged to keep our plague at home when we are sick. I think that having enough in the bank + the corporate culture of “stay home/WFH” helps people to feel free to do so. We have “core hours” and if you aren’t going to be around for them/are out more than 4 hrs for the day for an appointment, you are asked to convert to PTO. I had an old job where you got 2 weeks of leave of any sort and that was it, forever. They never gave you more for tenure. I’ve also had jobs that give you a week in the bank to start, which is IMO awesome because it stinks when you start a new job and then life happens.

    1. Lucious*

      Three days rounds down to zero in my book. I wonder how many sick days the employer in question uses…..

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That’s one bad flu. I probably use more than that in mental health days in a given year.

        1. PT*

          I had a doctor who had a policy that they would not give antibiotics until you were sick for 8-12 weeks.

          I spent a lot of time going to work sick when I had that doctor.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Was that in a misguided attempt to avoid prescribing antibiotics for viruses? Because in a lot of cases, if you’ve had a bacterial infection for 8-12 weeks and still need antibiotics there’s a non-zero chance it could kill you! That’s an awful policy.

            1. CoveredinBees*

              Yeah. That’s horrifying. Things like UTIs could destroy your kidneys in that time.

              I know some doctors are also conservative about prescribing antibiotics because of bacterial resistance, but waiting 8-12 weeks is beyond that.

              1. Kal*

                The way you deal with that is to just, like, take a culture and confirm its bacterial then prescribe the antibiotics? Also helps choose an antibiotic that will be more effective as well. And nevermind that a viral infection could easily last a really long time as well – so still giving out antibiotics for viruses anyway. And if its an infection that would self-resolve without care in the first place, it likely wouldn’t need antibiotics even if it was a bacterial infection. It such a bad policy. It really sounds like a “go bother someone else” policy.

                Socialised health that makes the lab tests easily accessible helps – but leaving an infection completely untreated, giving it a chance to cause significant damage or death to the patient and potentially spread to others sure as heck isn’t cheap.

        2. Anonybonnie*

          My husband’s last job, he had 12 days of PTO. Our daughter was born and he took 5 days to be with me for the induction and to spend some time with her. He took 2 days because he had to get his wisdom teeth out. He took 1 for his grandma’s funeral. Then he (well, we all) caught the flu. He stayed home for four days and then had to drag himself back to work while still a mess.

          Then I had an emergency… but he couldn’t take unpaid time off without jeopardizing his job, and we couldn’t afford to lose his income or his insurance. So he had to drop me and the baby off at the doors of the ER and head to work.

          This is the kind of crap that being stingy with time off leads to.

    3. TB*

      I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I’ve worked a job with no paid holidays and a 10-day PTO bucket that was used for vacation, sick, and personal all lumped together. So like. 18 days PLUS paid holidays is far from the worst time off policy out there.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        So? That was awful, too. That you had it worse doesn’t mean this is acceptable.

        I mean, I had a job where we got five paid days off a year, for anything and everything, but there weren’t enough staff to actually schedule them, so in real life I had zero days off. And if I got sick I had to either get a doctor’s note–no, they did not provide healthcare–or come in sick (a 45-minute drive for me) and get sent home. I am not at all sure they would actually have sent me home and not insisted I was well enough to work.

        So . . . that’s worse, but three sick days is still cr*p.

    4. Pop*

      I just had a baby a few months ago. I’m fortunate in that I have been relatively healthy for my entire life. The amount of doctor’s appointments for a pregnancy, even a low-risk, by-the-book one, would have taken up all of these three days maybe halfway through, and that doesn’t include not feeling well from “morning” sickness, additional appointments in case there are complications, and other doctor’s appointments that need to be taken care of during pregnancy, such as the dentist. Let alone sick time for actual maternity leave and then after kiddo is born when they’re sick.

      1. Katefish*

        Hear, hear! I’m salaried and have the world’s best boss, and I STILL felt like my maternity doctor’s appointments were way over the line (to be clear, my job didn’t say that, but between maternity and a few chronic conditions, I felt like it was a hot mess).

      1. KRM*

        Three days is woefully inadequate if you have any kind of health condition that might have an unexpected flare up. I’m generally healthy but I had the WORST migraine last month that had me taking two days off. So that would leave me one day for any other possible illness for the YEAR–not enough at all!

  3. Lucious*

    In American business culture, misguided executives and the managers they appoint sometimes view PTO – and people who use it- negatively. Part of that dynamic is time off costs are easily documented while production errors due to overworked employees are not. Another part is “commitment” : employees unwilling to sacrifice their sanity or free time to the organization lose tenured employment or advancement opportunities to the coworkers who do.

    It’s created a culture where people sometimes hoard/overwork themselves because that was the basic expectation at their previous employers. That culture is backwards and needs to change. Note that just because an employer advertises “unlimited PTO!” means nothing if the management discourages using any of it.

    Using time off is not a mark of poor character, religious dishonor, or lack of commitment to the organization. Leaders- align your organization to promote using PTO without retaliation or watch your best and brightest hit the road for more productive competitors.

    1. Bee Eye Ill*

      Let’s not forget “attendance awards” for people who never miss a day! Nothing like rewarding people who spread germs when they should be home sick.

      1. CatMintCat*

        I don’t even like when we do that for school children. Nothing like a classroom with a few sick kids who won’t go home and whose parents won’t collect them because of The Award!

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          At primary school we got a boiled sweet if the whole class was present all week.
          The one time our class got sweets, a friend startled me and I swallowed the sweet whole and it hurt like hell lodged in my throat. I had to drink lots of unsweetened tea to try to dissolve it so it would slide down. Then my mother refused to let me have a sweet so I could at least enjoy one.

          (The tale does reveal how uncommon sweets were in those days – the Sixties. No kid would be excited at getting one boiled sweet nowadays.)

    2. Girasol*

      Clearly it’s not the current manager dumping guilt on the employee for taking sick days and scheduling time off, but I would bet that some past manager badgered her badly about daring to take time away. Some managers will approve time off and then guilt trip employees afterward, which is pretty crazy-making. So the current manager may have to be patient in attempts to convince the employee that it’s okay to take time off and there won’t be retribution afterward.

  4. Cold Fish*

    OP1 – You may be able to figure out a better solution by reframing the problem. Rather than coming at this as “just take the day off, you don’t have to worry about making up the time”, but instead more like “am I not providing you with the coverage needed when you take time off?” I get that you are coming at this from a place of concern for employee not burning herself out. But she may think she is helping you out by getting the work done early.

    1. Lab Boss*

      This. There’s always going to be a bit of playing catch-up after taking time off, but if the employee returns from PTO to so much backlogged work that they have to work crazy hours to catch up, then they’re not getting the relaxation and recharging benefit of the PTO. If that’s the case I’d also be trying to get ahead before the break, so I could actually stay relaxed for a while.

      On the flip side, maybe the employer actually does have fair expectations about what does and doesn’t get covered or left waiting for the employee to return, and the employee is just unaware/unwilling/unable to let it go. In that case it’s on the manager to make sure the employee understands that time off doesn’t mean a mountain of work welcoming you back. If the employee insists on overworking themselves even when there’s genuinely proper support for taking real PTO, then it starts to become a performance issue that has to be addressed.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Or the boss could organise for someone else to deal with that person’s workload during their absence so that it doesn’t all pile up?

    2. Pam Adams*

      That was my thought- is it possible to take off and not have the work pile up, undone? Will she return from her vacation to a pile of uncompleted work? Perhaps your staffing needs to increase, so employees (and you) aren’t required to work at 100% capacity at all times.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      This was what I was thinking: The employee either has too much work and gets swamped if she takes time off, or the work that is theoretically being covered while she’s gone is not (because there’s too much for her coworkers, because her coworkers are slacking, because there is insufficient crosstraining, because her coworkers don’t know they’re supposed to be doing it, whatever). Nobody wants to take time off if they’re going to be effectively punished with a horrible.

    4. Amazed*

      Yeah, I was surprised that Alison didn’t bring that up. I know she’s covered it in another letter somewhere, where the reason an employee never took time off was because they were (at least half-rightly) convinced that the business would completely fall apart if they weren’t there, and I wonder if that’s the deal with this employee.

  5. MandyPow*

    An average of 7 days sick per year? I knew the PTO was awful where I worked but things like this make it even more painfully obvious. For reference, during your the first year we accrue 5 days total (roughly one day every three months) – that’s sick/PTO, No vacation, 5 holidays. They just started adding two floating holidays this year. I guess that’s… something?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah that’s lower than anywhere I’ve ever worked honestly – and I’ve worked some stingy places.

    2. cookie monster*

      That’s extremely low. I have 7 days sick leave + 15 days PTO + holidays off, and among my friends either that or unlimited vacation is the norm.

      1. Barbara Eyiuche*

        I worked at several places where I was the only person of my race, or one of only a few, and some people were scared of me. This caused problems. For my next job, I resolved to be as light and good-natured as possible, to head off this racial fear. This included me going to every office to greet people in the morning, and every office to say goodnight when I left. I know people thought this was unusual, and some may have been annoyed, but it worked. That was the job were I had the best relationships with coworkers, and the boss treated me well. For me, it was better to be thought of as slightly goofy than to be viewed as a scary caricature.
        Maybe the man in the OP’s office has had similar problems when he didn’t greet everyone, and is just trying to be perceived as non-threatening.

    3. Rachel Morgan*

      I’m in the library world, and my job gives 12 sick days a year (one a month, accrued monthly), starting 96 hours of vacation time, along with 3 personal time days (for a total starting of 27 PTO days), not counting paid holidays, which can add an extra 8 days. Long term employees can get up to 216 hours of vacation along with everything else. Part time employees get similar amounts comparable to their average hours worked.

      Most libraries are not this giving, and I’m very lucky that my board of directors are.

    4. Annika Hansen*

      That is terrible! I am in the US. Our lowest level employees start out with 2.5 weeks vacation/personal days, 9 paid holidays, and at least 10 sick days. It grows as you stay so I am at 6 weeks vacation/personal days. Our sick times accrues so I have over a year’s worth of sick leave. Our pay isn’t great, but we got vacation and a pension!

      1. MandyPow*

        Yes, it is! I’m also in the US. I almost didn’t take this job because of their PTO/Vacation time. It’s some of the worst I’ve seen and they’re not exactly a “small” business. Just set in their ways. I’m salaried and have a manager who doesn’t care too much about time off, and I use it very sparingly so I manage. But I feel for others not in my same position. And they wonder why they can’t find workers…

    5. Shiba Dad*

      Old job I had started employees with two weeks vacation after one year. No sick days and no paid holidays. You could take the holiday off but you wouldn’t be paid unless you use a vacation day.

      The owner was eventually convinced to add five sick days and paid holidays, but that happened after I was there a few years.

      For perspective, he bought the company in the mid 80s. I started in 1999. We got sick days and paid holidays 2002ish.

  6. Nick Savage*

    Maybe not relevant for this particular person, but sometimes a reason people won’t take vacation is because they’re committing fraud, especially if they’re in finance/accounting. For example, let’s say someone took a payment from a customer and kept it for themselves. Most companies review a listing of what other people owe them, and how long the receivable has been outstanding. Any old payments are followed up with customers. If you steal a payment and someone else follows up with the customer, it’s pretty obvious what happened! So what the defrauder needs to do is apply other customer payments again that old payment, so nothing ever gets too old. There’s other types of fraud as well, such as around payroll (like paying fake employees).

    A lot of financial institutions mandate that everyone needs to take time off, some even mandate at least two weeks at a time. That’s long enough usually that someone will need to cover your job, and it’ll become pretty obvious when someone is in the middle of doing your job and comes across something that doesn’t make sense.

    1. Catcommander*

      Was coming to write exactly this.

      Even if the employee is obviously above-board, explaining all this can be a useful line of argument with folks who play up their dedication to the company as a reason for not using PTO. Reframing a week of vacation as something important to the company can persuade them to take a vacation out of patriotism, as long as it’s clear they’re not being targeted or audited or anything.

      1. Amaranth*

        I’m not sure how LW could frame that – ‘we need everyone to take leave to make sure you’re trustworthy’ sounds like a morale killer.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Maybe not at a company this small but it’s in general one of the rare instances addressing the wider staff is useful. “We’ve been advised this is a best practice in fraud prevention so we’ll be pushing for people to use 80% of their vacation time by December 1 every year” is fine.

        2. Catcommander*

          To a lot of people, yeah, but a rigid rule-follower wouldn’t see it that way – they know they’re beyond reproach.
          I don’t think I’d broadcast it to the whole organization, just as a way to convince the certain kind of person who ends up in this position.

        3. ForeignLawyer*

          This is literally how it’s sold in the financial sector — we even joke about our “fraud-prevention holidays”, aka the mandatory two weeks’ vacation where our access to company systems has to be suspended by law.

          No idea how this would land in OP’s sector, but it’s more likely to work if they make it clear that this applies to all employees and actually make it clear when they’re taking their own fraud-prevention holiday.

    2. Enn Pee*

      I am SO glad you mentioned this.
      At a previous workplace, there was a super-conscientious worker who never took time off.
      It was only when he died that his coworkers found odd payments for invoices that didn’t match what their understanding of the billing was.
      It turned out that Mr. Conscientious had established a company with a similar name to his employer, was billing items that should have gone to the employer and putting them in his company’s account, keeping two sets of books, etc.
      This is something that is taught in Accounting 101 because it is a basic internal control. Anyone with that kind of access needs to be forced to take a minimum of one week’s vacation every so often, and – frankly – not be logging in or checking in.
      PS – when Mr. Conscientious’s coworkers were asked if they suspected anything (the guy was driving a new fancy car, he had bought an expensive house, etc.), they said NO – their coworker had mentioned that his uncle had died, and they just assumed he inherited a minor fortune from the uncle. Make NO assumptions, and make sure people are actually taking time off!

    3. Momma Bear*

      Even if OP doesn’t say exactly this, it does sound like the employee maybe needs help with her tasks or there needs to be better cross training so that someone can backfill as/when necessary and she needs to be able to trust them to do so. Since she is loathe to take both sick leave and vacation time, then it’s about something other than just not wanting to use sick leave.

  7. KHB*

    It’s not clear to me whether she’s working the extra hours because she’s reluctant to dip into her PTO hours, or because she has a certain amount of work that needs to get done whether she takes the PTO or not.

    If it’s the former, is she hoarding PTO hours for something in particular? Do they roll over from year to year, or do unused hours get transferred into a long-term leave bank, and she’s trying to save them up because she’s worried about needing them later?

    If it’s the latter, then you should revisit your workload expectations, and maybe look into arrangements for back-up coverage when your employees go on vacation (can you hire a temp, or take on more of the work yourself?). It’s no use nagging your employees to take more PTO if the workload is such that they can’t actually take their PTO.

      1. Chilly Delta Blues*

        This was my question. I also had to save up a bunch of leave because I wanted to get pregnant someday. It took 3 years to save up enough for all the medical appointments never mind the maternity leave. To my bosses credit all I had to say was that “I was saving it up for something and I felt better having a good paid buffer” and he backed off though.

    1. CBB*

      Yes. Is it your org is understaffed?

      If an employee takes a day off, does the other employee cover for them, or do they come back to a pile of work that didn’t get done in their absence?

    2. BA*

      I had the same question. The way this is written, it seems like the employee is worried about losing the time more than worried about workload. If that’s the case, I think LW needs to clarify what time can be made up and not. If employees can cram in an extra 40 hours in the week or two leading up to vacation just because they don’t want to lose that PTO (or vacation or whatever) time, that’s not good. At that point, why bother offering a bank of time from which to draw?

      If this is the case… LW, I’d strongly encourage you to first confirm that the employee isn’t overwhelmed with the idea of their workload being messed up by them taking time off, and then make sure to set ground rules so employees know that their vacation time isn’t time that can be made up.

      I think it is nice that you offer flexibility with appointments, etc. But you need to be more strict with the vacation time… especially if employees are making themselves sick by trying to work those extra hours so they don’t lose time.

    3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Yep—I don’t use my PTO for appointments because I have both a major surgery and a (hopefully, looking at you, Covid) out of country vacation in 2022. I want to rollover as much as I possibly can.

      Plus, most weeks I end up working well over my 40 hours, so I am “making up the time” in my normal workday. Why would I take PTO for that?

  8. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I avoid PTO. In my case, it comes down to three things:
    1st, it’s usually less of my time to show up and do it right the first time rather than rolling back something wrong and redoing it right. It’s less stressful, too.
    2nd, I can’t trust my coworkers to reach out to me when I’m needed.
    3rd, even if things can wait for my return, it’s rare that they are allowed to wait.

    And I’m a total outlier. So my questions for OP are:
    1st, does your PTO work for your people? Did you consult them, or is it a make-yourself-feel-good paint-by-numbers?
    2nd, do you personalize the system, or is it one-size-fits-none?
    3rd, what is your people taking PTO more important than?

    1. Cold Fish*

      I’ve worked with many people who actively structure their work to make it difficult to cover. I always thought it was a way to ensure job security (in their minds) since no one else could do the work. Maybe you could rework some of your processes so that your desk is easier to cover? Personally, I ascribe to the philosophy (and hope) that I will the lottery tomorrow and be able to quit with no guilt. My work is structured to be extremely easy to cover (not that anyone really does).

      Who’s company out there has ever consulted the little guy on how to structure PTO? And at what company is it personalized? Maybe you can negotiate a little before you take a job, but the PTO structure and polices are what they are. I guess I’m not understanding where you are coming from.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’ve worked with many people who actively structure their work to make it difficult to cover. I always thought it was a way to ensure job security (in their minds) since no one else could do the work. Maybe you could rework some of your processes so that your desk is easier to cover? Personally, I ascribe to the philosophy (and hope) that I will the lottery tomorrow and be able to quit with no guilt. My work is structured to be extremely easy to cover (not that anyone really does).

        I do d**n year everything I can to try to prep my desk to be covered. I’m the only one with documentation, redbooks, histories, etc. 99% of the time, it’s for naught and ignored. I’m also the one soliciting feedback when I return to improve my notes, and usually get crickets. My challenge is that I am an outlier in thought process, and I don’t compose the same way my teammates do. C’est que c’est.

        Who’s company out there has ever consulted the little guy on how to structure PTO? And at what company is it personalized? Maybe you can negotiate a little before you take a job, but the PTO structure and polices are what they are. I guess I’m not understanding where you are coming from.

        As far as I know, no one anywhere. OP isn’t asking how to fix the world economy to encourage global PTO rates; OP is asking about their company and their employees, where I get the impression OP is the final authority. So if OP wants more PTO taken, consult those who would take it about how to make it easier for that individual to take it and try to accommodate those wrinkles, or don’t and stop worrying about whether not PTO is taken.

        Every rational agents will optimize things to the extent they can do so. Maybe that can be leveraged to OP’s desire?

        1. Cold Fish*

          Sorry, I came across harsher than I intended…The ghosts of coworkers past rearing their heads. No offense meant.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            In Programming, there’s a principle that I have no idea the name of that goes something like “Anything you wrote that you haven’t looked at in 6 months may as well have been written by someone else.” I’ve seen other programmers–some really good–hang themselves professionally on that principle trying to engineer job security, so there’s a practical element to it for me. The job I save by prepping for coverage is probably going to be my own, and my job security comes from what I’ll do tomorrow, not what I did yesterday.

            It’s a raw nerve, though, because I’m making no progress on actually improving the quality of PTO. I apologize that you hit it.

      2. Student*

        This kind of issue isn’t about how difficult the work is, or how the worker structures the work.

        It’s about managers who fail to manage the workload, and instead dump all that responsibility onto their employees. It’s the white-collar version of “Sure, you can take a day off… if you can convince someone else to take your shift.” Companies have systematically and en masse pushed workload management off onto their lower-level employees.

        I’ve never had a manager who actually manages workload. You get a list of tasks or projects that will take you at least 40 hours to do yourself each week, often more. If you take leave, then you need to figure out your own plan to cover those 40 hours of tasks each week. Your co-worker already has 40 hours of their own tasks each week. So, if they take any part of your tasks on, it’s going at the bottom of their to-do list. You have no management authority, so if they do those tasks for you poorly, or don’t do them at all, it only reflects badly on you – and everyone figures that out quick. They have little incentive to help you in the first place. If they simply refuse to help you, the worst you can do is refuse to help them next time they want time off.

        There’s no give in the system for someone to take time off. They want you running at full capacity all the time. So if you take time off, you start to fall behind. This is a viable strategy if everyone is behind by roughly the same amount. If you fall behind a lot more than your peers, though, you’re in trouble, and it’s often difficult to tell where you are in the pack.

        1. Ori*

          “It’s the white-collar version of “Sure, you can take a day off… if you can convince someone else to take your shift.”

          YES. Usually employed alongside “It’s your job to get Wakeen to complete his work to high standards and quick deadlines. No, you can’t offer incentives, discipline him or fire him. Hope he feels like doing you a favour!”

      3. Ori*

        And I’ve worked at a lot of places that refused to provide cover or cross training because they wanted to ‘run lean’. They call you when you’re off, engage in weaponised incompetence when you’re not there and leave a pile of work when you get back.

        Then they’re confused by their 18 month staff turnover.

    2. PT*

      I worked somewhere where “empire building” (or “empire destroying”) used to go on while you were out. Someone who wanted to make themselves look good, would come in and start f-ing around with your area while you were gone, because they wanted to assert that they were better at their job than you and should outrank you. Then you would come home to a great big mess, because they have ruined a ton of your work and alienated a bunch of your staff, and in some cases, created a bunch of quasi-false allegations against you that you have to clean up.

      Like, “Since Tangerina couldn’t be bothered to come in this week, I went in to make sure everyone in her area was working. Fergus was just sitting at Tangerina’s desk like he owned the place doing nothing, and since he wasn’t at his own desk and he wasn’t working I sent him home for the day with no pay. Tangerina is so lucky I found him!”

      When really Fergus was sitting at Tangerina’s desk because she asked him to take a phone call from a vendor who always calls her landline at 1 on Mondays, and Fergus was doing nothing because it was 12:57, and this person causing a ruckus caused the call to be missed, and now they missed a deadline with the vendor and there’s a Problem, and Tangerina gets to sort this all out at 9 am when she walks in the door from her vacation.

      1. Jasnah Kholin*

        WOW. that’s sound ridiculous level of disfunctionality. hope i will never encounter that in real live! and i should be more patient with the stupid bierocracy in my work.

    3. Dragon*

      I sympathize, Sola.

      My most extreme experience was when an invoice wasn’t charged to the proper internal firm account, until I returned from vacation and got someone to figure out the actual account name.

      I’m not in accounting. My boss incurred the invoice, and I submitted it to them.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I actually get the other scenario.

        The invoice came in and someone had no idea who to pay, so they just put a signed, blank cheque and a note saying “do the right thing” into an envelope with a quasi-random address and put it into the mail. Then I come back from vacation and get to unravel that, pay the right Accounts Receivable, beg to have the late fees forgiven, and try to explain it all without getting someone who’s perfectly competent at a different job fired because they weren’t allowed to have a 5 minute phone call with me because “the Latinophone is on PTO.”

        1. Jasnah Kholin*

          honestly? maybe they are competent in their work, but the way they deal with the situation is totally ridiculous and i would consider in passive sabotage and totally expect more from my coworkers.

          you SURE this coworker shouldn’t have been fired? because ignoring problem while it grows instead of dealing with it is bad behavior at work (and not only at work).

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    #3, both socially and at work, it is wildly frustrating when someone says “Yes, this is fine” right up until you make solid, expensive, difficult to move plans… and then suddenly they feel they can finally share their grave reservations with you.

    Don’t have moments of weakness. If you do, and you keep silent while people rearrange their life based on what you said was fine and would work… then you do have to honor your word. Let it be a lesson to give your word more carefully in the future.

  10. Sleepless KJ*

    I hate hate hate allowed time off being broken up into sick be vacation days. Make it all PTO and let your adult employees figure out how they best need to use it. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to figure out if you’ve got enough “sick” hours in the pot to actually be sick.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The problem with that approach is that people come to work sick because they don’t want to use up days that could go toward vacation.

      1. introverted af*

        This. My job gives me 12 days of sick time each year AND 18 days of PTO. I want those separate. I want both of those for as I need them.

        1. Cat Lover*

          Oooh, I’m completely opposite. I know how much PTO (one big pot) I have. Way easier to keep track of that than having to keep track off two different pots. My company accrues time instead of getting a flat amount each year, so I always have enough that it doesn’t matter.

        2. BubbleTea*

          I honestly don’t understand why sick time has to be a specified number of days. Maybe it’s because I’ve always worked in the UK public sector, but I don’t believe I’ve ever hit the limits of paid sick time (or ended up on Statutory Sick Pay, which I realise doesn’t even exist in the USA). It’s always been a case of, if there appears to be an issue (repeated time off for stress, always taking a Monday off, so many days off that work is slipping) then you talk to your manager and make a plan to deal with it (look at ways to reduce stress from workload, draw a boundary around last minute extensions of the weekend, discuss reducing hours and correspondingly workload and pay to match what is sustainable). How can there possibly be a one size fits all number of days you are permitted to be sick on?

          1. Becky C*

            I agree. I have multiple medical conditions which result in me having to take more sick leave than average. I can’t imagine having to lose a holiday because my body betrayed me.

      2. Cold Fish*

        Really, I’ve found the people who would do that, still come in sick so they can “build up” or “save” their sick time for later even when it’s two pots instead of one.

        I prefer the one pot myself so I can keep track of it easier and I just don’t get sick all that often.
        When I first started to work at company they had sick (which rolled over and kept accruing) and vacation (which was use it or lose it). When that policy changed a few years ago I had over 6 weeks of sick time piled up and ended up losing more than 2 weeks because they would only roll over so much into the new system. Now that it is one pot, I just take occasional three day weekends throughout the year to stay under the new maximum PTO amount and I don’t have to worry about losing the time off or feel guilty about taking “sick” days when I’m not sick.

    2. Atalanta0jess*

      Aren’t you allowed to use vacation as sick? I’ve always been allowed to use vacation if I was out of sick time, but not visa versa.

    3. Eden*

      I would really dislike a policy like this, to offer another opinion. I think people who get sick more often should be able to take the same amount of vacation days as everyone else.

      1. Tired social worker*

        This is a really good way of putting it, thank you! I was struggling with adequately expressing *why* the one-pot approach bothers me. Everything everyone else has said (about encouraging people to come to work sick, etc) also factors in, but I think your point is the biggest. Most places I’ve heard of (including my employer) that offer one pot of PTO don’t offer very much of it – about as much as the “vacation” pot offered at similarly-sized agencies in my field (social services) that split PTO and sick time. I’m glad to see so many counterexamples in the comments here, but I doubt it will become the norm in my world any time soon. Effectively, that means that condensing time off into one pot reduces the amount of time an employee can take off in general, and specifically the amount of actual vacation time a more prone-to-illness person can count on.

        I guess you could say that’s the case even with separate pots – especially if the “sick” pot is stingy, someone who gets ill more often is going to have to dip into vacation, resulting in the same inequity. But having them separate still feels more like an acknowledgement that everyone *should* be entitled to the same amount of actual vacation, which is at least one step toward actually making that happen. If the US could actually pass legislation mandating a respectable minimum amount of vacation time, maybe I’d be willing to revisit the one pot approach.

  11. Pascall*

    To #4, our Executive Director says good morning to our whole HR department every morning, even if it takes her a few hours to get around to everyone.

    It seemed weird to me at first, but now I appreciate it. She doesn’t stick around waiting for people to say it back though. It’s just a quick “Good morning!” and she moves on, whether we say it back to her or not haha.

    1. Chocoholic*

      The founder of our company used to do this. He was genuinely kind and interested in how everyone was, and always asked about how our families/pets/kids/vacations/weekends were but not in a weird creepy way, just was interested in creating a personal connection with everyone in the office. We have a small office so it was doable and really was kind of nice and sweet. He retired shortly before COVID and at different times over the last almost 2 years since he’s been gone, lots of people in the office have commented at how they miss Larry walking around saying hi to everyone.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      We had a guy at my last company who would go around saying good morning to all and it bugged the heck out of everyone. You could be in a closed door meeting in your office and he would open the door to interrupt and say good morning!! Drove us all bats**t crazy. It was a cultural thing, though. He was not from the US (where our office was), and this was what they did in his home country.

    3. highbury house*

      There’s a guy in my building who is a Tenacious Greeter. Thing is, though: he keeps score. If you do not return his greeting with commensurate warmth, you will be last on the list for assistance that falls into his department. I learned that the hard way, but boy, I am now dedicated to reciprocating!

  12. Falling Diphthong*

    #2, a lot of nightmare management stories–like last week’s a toxic duo and a chat group walk into a bar–start with someone who didn’t want to be “the bad guy” and so let the problems continue. As the good employees flee.

  13. KHB*

    Q3: I agree that it’s important for managers (and everyone else) to keep their promises…but “keeping your promises” doesn’t have to mean being locked into an unworkable arrangement forever. It’s OK to change your mind sometimes, especially if circumstances change or if new information comes to light about how well the thing that you promised is going to actually work in practice.

    If you can articulate a business reason why it’s important to reduce the employee’s time in the remote office from three days a week to two, and especially if you can give her ample notice to make new daycare arrangements, I think it’s OK to tell her you need to alter her schedule.

    1. Amaranth*

      I get a vibe like LW is maybe a bit resentful of all the accommodations they have made for this employee, so maybe they should recheck their motivation here. LW, you approved the relocation and it sounds like it worked out for everyone over a long period of time (or why let it continue?). Is there some critical reason they need to change offices again or be in on that one extra day?

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        They did say it was not great, but without saying why. Maybe they were just frustrated at having to pick up the phone rather than just shouting out their question as the employee passed their office, maybe there was confusion because people assumed she was off sick, maybe she missed a few crucial meetings that OP couldn’t be bothered to fit around her schedule.
        This question has definitely dated though, I’d have thought this would be much less of a problem now that people have got used to zooming and wfh in general.

    2. TiffIf*

      BUT if there is an impact to business then address that FIRST with the employee–“when you are at other location I am regularly seeing the TPS reports going out late” and offer first to get it solved that way before revoking the prior agreement.

      1. KHB*

        Yes. As I replied to your comment below, this is a good first step.

        But if it turns out that they really do need to change the schedule, then it’s OK to change the schedule.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Just maybe give the employee a truly valid reason for doing so, and also give her plenty of warning so she can reorganise her daycare.

        2. Ori*

          Many daycare waiting lists are 5 months – 2 years. She might get priority for an extra day because her kid is already there; she might not. Unless this arrangement is seriously impacting their business he should stick to his word.

    3. Mr. Shark*

      I agree. But I’m not sure it sounds like there’s a real reason for it to be 2 days versus 3 days. What is the real issue here? Is the work not getting done? Will one day make that big of a difference? Are there meetings that would be better handled in person on that one extra day?
      Unless there’s a sound reason to change the promise, then keep it at 3 days.

  14. Chris C.*

    I once had a report who was doing great work, but working hard and I worried about burnout. They needed a break, but were diligently saving their vacation time for a planned vacation at the end of the year. I offered to let them take an unpaid day off, but they felt guilty about doing so, and refused.

    Company rules didn’t let me grant them another vacation day. So instead, I showed up in their office with an official spot bonus cash award, made out to (as accurately as I could compute it, given the unknowns) cover their salary and bonus for one day — and told them to take an unpaid day off. They caved, and took a much-needed break.

  15. TiffIf*

    You say that this is not working great for this employee to be in the other office 3 days a week but you aren’t saying why it is not working.

    Is the employee less responsive when at the other location? Is she responsible for tasks that are only able to be accomplished at your location? Are you getting work late/is work not getting done properly when at the other location?

    You need to articulate what impact is this having on the job and the business. Then address that with the employee.

    “When you are working at Other Location, I am seeing delays on your responses to X, Y, and Z. I need you to be more responsive. Please do A,B, C.”

    Then if problems continue, address it again.
    “We talked previously about problem J when you are working at Other Location and I asked you to do A, B, C. I am still seeing issues though. What is the cause”

    Something like that. If there is no improvement then you can say something like “We may need to reexamine the arrangement for your work at Other Location if these problems continue.”

    1. KHB*

      Yes, this is a good addendum to what I wrote above. Give her a chance to fix the problem first, and if that doesn’t work, talk about changing her schedule.

    1. Tech writer by day*

      I don’t think one has to be a grump to set boundaries. It’s fine to say, please don’t interrupt my work just to say good morning, just as you can politely ask a coworker to use earbuds if their music is disturbing your work.

  16. I should really pick a name*

    Are you sure chatting on skype is the reason that they aren’t getting their work done?
    I think the first step should be to make it clear that the current performance level is working and see if your employees have ways to improve the situation before you start disabling chat features.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s a good point. Did productivity tank when they added the chat feature? Or is this just the One Simple Fix OP hopes is behind all the errors?

  17. Xavier Desmond*

    My opinion is that if someone is literally not taking any PTO at all the employer should insist on it. It’s simply not healthy to have no time off at all as this example proves. (I accept that this attitude is very much a cultural difference between here in the UK and the US).

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree with the premise but not the argument. I wouldn’t want my employer to start dictating what they think is best for my health for the sake of my health alone. Focusing on preventing burnout has a business case but I don’t think “it’s not healthy” would fly for a lot of people.

      1. Xavier Desmond*

        Again, I think this is a cultural difference. Imo employers have a responsibility to think of their employees health and not treat people as robots.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          Yes, but because people do differ individually and are not robots (regardless of broader societal “culture”), there will be differences. I have abundant vacation time available to me, but I currently choose not to use most of it.
          If I was “ordered” to take time away, in my line of work that could only be done by getting me to stop observing and stop thinking … even a sensory deprivation chamber wouldn’t work. I agree that everyone should have the time they need, but everyone’s requirements are different, and those may change over time.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yes, but not make health choices for them. My coffee habit is not healthy. Working from home for me was not healthy. Having the options available is different than being prescriptive with them.

      2. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        My organization has started designating “self care” days, generally the day before or after a company holiday. The idea is that they encourage everyone to take those days off (using their leave) to ensure we are all properly taking care of ourselves. Except they don’t designate self care days around all holidays, so some of us often have outside commitments (volunteer or client meetings) that cannot be rescheduled and therefore end up working at least part of the day that is supposed to be about preventing work burnout. Some of us just don’t like being told when to use our own leave; maybe I like being out of the house on December 23rd so that my husband and kids can do all of their Christmas wrapping without me seeing what the gifts are, or I’m choosing to build in extra days for each of my scheduled vacations to allow me to adjust from travelling.

    2. Cold Fish*

      I think part of the problem is the employee is taking time off but they are making up their hours before they go (working 80 hours in week 1 to take off 40 hours in week 2). Making them take more time off would just exasperate the situation as employee would be working harder than ever to make up for the time you are forcing them to take off.

      I think OP needs to figure out the root cause of why they are trying to make up the hours ahead of time when PTO is available and address that (understaffed, no cross coverage, unrealistic standards, mistaken understanding of how the PTO policy works, etc.)

      1. La Triviata*

        My father was one of those people who took off the minimum of vacation days. He’d been with his company for many, many years, so he got a LOT of vacation time. At one point he had so much banked – I think it was something like six or eight weeks – that they made him take off two weeks at Christmas. If it had been during the summer, he could have been gardening or working on the yard, but in the winter … he was pretty much stuck in the house. He didn’t have hobbies, had read all his books … so he’d putter around the house and water the plants. Every day. They drowned, but at least it gave him SOMETHING to do.

  18. Vanessa*

    I have worked for the same employer since 2006. The salary is not the best in the industry but here is the leave I get.

    When I joined, after 12 months probation, 21 vacation days, 12 sick days and 12 public holidays as designated by HR when the office is closed. I use the sick days for things like doctor appointments, or if I must stay home with my sick child etc..

    After 10 years of service I graduated from 21 to 36 vacation days.

  19. Ori*

    What is her workload like? In my last job, my boss said similar things. But the reality was that I had no one to cover me and the workload wasn’t flexible. So time off = longer hours later, so it felt pointless.

    1. SweetestCin*

      Exactly this, with a side order of constant phone calls on my day off because nobody paid attention to what I did (it was “beneath” them) despite my attempts to make sure others knew how to handle what I did.

      1. Ori*

        Yep. Had that at a different job. I had a peer who would call me every time I was off. I don’t blame him – the issues were often important, and he couldn’t go to our boss, who was checked out and incompetent. But it meant I was basically on call and in a managerial role, without the status or pay. Made me quite ill.

  20. DMLOKC*

    LW #1 – Could she be saving her vacation time to cash out when she leaves the company? That’s what I did.

    1. doreen*

      I’ve taken relatively little vacation over the past two years- it was partly due to COVID but mostly because I can get paid for up to 30 days vacation in a lump sum when I retire and that lump sum is then used to calculate my final salary and thus will increase my pension.

  21. Beth*

    If your staff are hoarding their sick days, you aren’t providing enough sick days. Only three days a YEAR?!? That’s pathetic. No wonder the result is a scarcity mentality.

    Offering three weeks of vacation time doesn’t make up for it — your staff will think of sick time as time lost from vacation.

  22. Deborah*

    For the first writer — USE IT OR LOSE IT policy. I have that and you’d better believe I use every day every year. Or cap vacation time accrued. However, you need more sick days allowed, and you also need to increase cross coverage. If no one CAN take time off because they’ll have literally all that work piled up when they get back (or try to get done ahead of time) then no one wants to take vacations because it’s punitive before and after.

    1. Lab Boss*

      The biggest problem with use it or lose it I’ve seen at my company (who also uses one big pot of PTO for both “vacation” and “sick” time) is that a lot of people avoid using up their time too early in case of an emergency- and then when the end of our fiscal year approaches you’ve got a lot of people trying to use up their time so it’s not lost, and management panicking at everyone wanting to be gone at once. You almost have to tie it to people’s start date or something to avoid that issue.

      1. Cat Lover*

        Do companies not usually tie PTO renewal to start date? My company does monthly accrual with a cap, and rolls over at our yearly anniversary (mine is September for example).

        1. Metadata minion*

          At my workplace they roll over in January for everyone, though you can keep an increasing number of days based on length of employment.

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          Where I work, everyone’s PTO resets on January 1, it’s all use-it-or-lose-it, it’s in one bucket, and any PTO during the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s has to be requested by some time in August. Which can lead to some difficulties…

        3. Lab Boss*

          Ours is a mid-calendar-year date that starts our fiscal year. You’re given an allotment when you start that’s pro-rated to how much time is left in the fiscal year, and then forever after you get a year’s worth of PTO given to you at the start of every fiscal year. There’s a sliding scale that gives you a larger allotment each year (until eventually maxing out at just over 4 weeks), but you always are limited to rolling over no more than 40 hours into the next fiscal year. Anything beyond 40 is lost, no payout, no nothing.

        4. Deborah*

          Mine is linked to start date so everyone is out of sync and using it up all at the end is not a problem. Also, my company (at their own risk) allow you to use it before you accrue it, or, yes, everyone would have to take off the last few days before their year turns over.

          1. Lab Boss*

            We can use it before we accrue it, but there’s also a formula showing how much you have actually accrued. When you leave, they do the math and figure out if you’re ahead or behind on your accruals and either pay out or withhold the extra time.

      2. BubbleTea*

        We were having this issue, so a discussion of annual leave usage was added to the quarterly review with your manager (that sometimes isn’t quite as frequent as quarterly, but was at least more than twice a year), as well as reminders and encouragement to book throughout the year. We are broadly encouraged to spread our leave across the calendar year equally, although the parents of school age children typically go by the school holidays.

    2. 3DogNight*

      This. I’m wondering if the employees can cash out their un-used vacation each year. Maybe Emily has expenses that she’s trying to pay down.
      It could be any number of things, fraud, overly invested in work, overwork, not enough PTO. I think we need more info.

  23. CarCarJabar*

    LW#1- This is a major, major red flag for fraud. Does Emily work in a financial position? If so- you need to make her take a week off, and you or the other employee need to handle Emily’s responsibilities for that week. If I had a dollar for every time we found embezzlement because a long time employee was unexpectedly out for an extended period of time- I wouldn’t need AAM because I’d be on my private island sipping pina coladas.

  24. ElleKay*

    Yes, you should stick to this BUT you can (and should) tell her it will be examined in a year and you can (should) tell her what you’re seeing that isn’t working now that she should try to improve.
    The biggest issue, honestly, is that daycare options are *expensive* and *hard to get*. It’s entirely possible that her current day care won’t let her add another day or change her child’s care schedule because they don’t have space. She made plans and paid for daycare based on what you told her; if you want to change that you’re going to have to give her literal months of notice to do so. (And it still might not be possible)
    Then, you’re also asking her to add another day of daycare. This might not be in her budget. Daycare is so much more expensive than anyone not using daycare thinks it is! Full time, 5-days-a-week daycare is, often literally, the same as the 2nd parent earns by working. For many families it’s a wash and I would worry about the point where she decides it’s not worth it to work, spend all her income on childcare, and quits.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      LW#3 needs to honor what he committed to in his “moment of weakness.” That moment of weakness was his fault/management’s fault and she planned her daycare schedule around it. That said, she isn’t caring for her baby those 3 days when she’s not in the main office. She worked out the baby’s hours in daycare and her family’s pickup routine based on her being close to home 3 days.

      I agree, though, whatever problems come from being not in the main office, not in the same office office as the boss and other coworkers need to be articulated and a you should both look for a workaround. I think it is fair to say that you can rescind the current agreement if a solution cannot be found and the employee is given lots of advance notice so she can adjust things with daycare.

      LW, you need to work on your own management skills. You need to be willing to have hard conversations and say “no” to things that are not good for the business. If you may be having a moment of weakness, you should take time and defer the decision until after your moment of weakness has passed.

      That said, it sure seems like your employee has no interest in 2 hours of commuting 5 days a week. I don’t blame her. Maybe she didn’t realize how difficult it was until she was doing it (before she had the baby even). If you need someone in the main office, you need to be prepared that she may quit over it. Maybe you can work out a graceful exit for her if you can’t come to an agreement.

      Also please explain how 2 days a week at the alternate location is okay, but 3 is not. Is it a preference thing or is the job really impacted. If the job is really impacted by not being in the main office, why allow her to work any days outside of the main office?

    2. Cold Fish*

      I agree that #3 needs to stick with what she agreed to but I don’t think employees living or daycare plans plays any point in the equation. She should still stick to her agreement even if employee was single, no kids, and living 5 min from office. OP agreed to the request and should honor that agreement unless there has been a good faith effort but it is not working. In which case, OP needs to figure out and provide employee a way to correct problem or PLENTY of lead time before agreement ends.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Also, perhaps switch over staffing and have that person reporting to someone at that other office, and have someone else replace her in yours?

  25. Pennilyn Lot*

    Can’t believe we’re 18 months into a global pandemic of an easily transmissible respiratory disease and so many people still think that three days is a decent amount of sick leave. The fact that it isn’t the very worst that the US has to offer does not make it good!

  26. OP 1*

    OP from #1 here which was originally posted years ago. As an update, after reading the comments and response I immediately upped the paid sick leave to 7 days, then unlimited PTO a bit after that. It didn’t make a difference, the employee still preferred to work to make up any PTO time they took off. She eventually did take a full two weeks off without making it up around Christmas.

    In a further update. I, unfortunately, had to let all employees go during the beginning of COVID. That was hard to do. Both employees started up their own freelance businesses and are doing well. I still occasionally send them jobs as a sub-contractor (all rules are followed) and my business has survived but only uses subcontractors now as needed, no employees.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Were you able to find peace with the way your employee who avoided the PTO worked?

      1. OP 1*

        I had a talk with her over it and it basically came down to anxiety. At one time in the past (another job, not this one) her Grandma died and she used up all of her PTO early in the year for it and she had no more days off the rest of the year. So she had a fear of using up her PTO and was afraid to use it. After that, I switched to unlimited PTO for everyone. She still tended to try to “make-up” any short time off requests but did take a couple of weeks vacation around Christmas without trying to make it up.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          If you were able to find peace with it, it sounds like a great update until Covid. Even then, I’m glad to hear your business is surviving the pandemic, and that your former employees are doing well independently.

          Anxiety’s rough, and the past shapes the present in ways that aren’t always obvious. You sound like a conscientious leader who understands those things and works with your people.

        2. KHB*

          Ah, that makes a lot of sense. If unlimited PTO hadn’t been a workable solution, another way to do it might have been to let people borrow against future PTO in extraordinary circumstances (like if they go on vacation in May and then have a family emergency in December).

          I’m glad to hear that everybody landed on their feet even after COVID threw you a curveball.

        3. Jane*

          I was wondering if it were something like this (being afraid to use it). For more than a decade, I worked full time and was the primary caregiver to a disabled parent. I hoarded my PTO for fear that if something happened with my parent, I wouldn’t have the time I needed to take care of them (and a few times over the years, it was good that I did, b/c I did need it). I did the same thing your employee did… worked extra hours to make up for the PTO I took. My parents have passed away now, but the hoarding/fear mentality is so ingrained that I have to force myself to use PTO (my current company has a use it or lose it policy).

  27. Goody*

    If I read correctly, #1’s company has THREE employees. Emily probably feels like she can’t take any time off because there’s nobody to step in and help out in her absence.

  28. QueenoftheWorld*

    My job has one pot of PTO for vacation and sick time and I found I love it. I thought it might be hard to save for sick time but found it was easier than I thought. I try to always keep at least 40 hours in the bank for sick time but that’s not too hard since I don’t take much vacation. I prefer one day here and there to a full week or two. I wish more employers would go to one pot though. I’ve seen people call in sick when they needed to stay home with kids who have a day off or have to use a vacation day when they’re sick. It doesn’t make sense to separate them. You get paid the same rate.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That’s how I prefer the PTO as well, as long as there’s at least a 90 day rollover of some PTO from year to year. If everything expires on an arbitrary date (e.g. Dec 31st), it gets a bit harder to manage.

    2. Mr. Shark*

      My company (salaried employees) pretty much allows unlimited sick leave. That is, if you are sick, take a day off. If you are sick for more than three days in a row then your manager would want to find out what the issue was, if there is a long-term problem, you could use short-term disability or something. But generally for most normal circumstances, they are very flexible. So PTO is separate obviously. Appointments for doctors or other are not even tracked, as long as you’re getting your work done. You can simply say that you have to cut out early or you have an appointment and you’ll be in around X.

  29. Prefer my pets*

    Flashbacks to the worst office I’ve ever worked in…everyone was expected to say good morning individually to every other person there as they came in. God forbid one or both of the guys with hearing issues who refused to wear their hearing aids didn’t hear you greet them…guaranteed you’d be having a chat with your supervisor about the importance of “team player”. I finally decided they couldn’t fire me for that (union & federal permanent) & I didn’t care about the political capital because I was applying for every job out there anyway and would never, ever, EVER work for that agency again. Soooooo much disfunction perfectly symbolized by viewing ritualized, mandatory daily greetings as more important that substance.

  30. TKR*

    I’m curious for #1 if they offer paid parental leave. I stocked up my PTO the year before I wanted to have a child because I didn’t have paid parental leave, and wanted to lessen the impact of the FMLA and STD.

    (I left before I had a child to another company that offered paid parental leave).

  31. Susie*

    I would love to see time off being classified as “PTO” vs. separate buckets for vacation, sick, personal. I currently get 4 weeks of vacation time, 3 days of sick time and 2 personal days. So for vacation, you have to use at least 5 days in a a one week increment and then you can use them as a full day or half day. Personal can be used as a full day or half day and sick can be used as full day, half day or in hourly increments. If I had more freedom to use it in hourly increments, it would make things much easier for me.

    Emily should really use her time and I hope the owner/manager can have a conversation about how it’s important she take time off and rest. We often hear about successful people who work all the time and never take time off and we feel like we must do that to be successful.

  32. Office Rat*

    LW 1: Is the employee that refuses to take time off in charge of financial transactions? That’s always a red flag to financial auditing and possible frauds.

    1. El l*

      Glad someone else mentioned this. As anyone ever covered for Emily or looked over her work?

      There are jobs where never taking a day off is a sign not of high character, but the opposite.

  33. Little Lobster*

    Oh man, the sick days thing. I once worked at a nearly-broke, dysfunctional non-profit that gave us three days of sick leave PER MONTH. If they could manage that, bigger corporate entities can, too! I know LW’s org is really small, but come on. Three days a YEAR is insulting!

  34. raida7*

    I’d say you need to pay more attention to the hours worked then.

    When she books in a day off, sit down and go through the workload and clarify that the schedule is on-track including that time being taken into account.
    That deliberate step will ensure she believes that *everything will be okay*, and you can, once you both agree she’s on track to not have issues with days off, clearly tell her that you will be watching the hours she’s logged in. That you do not want to see her “making up the time” because you are interested in outcomes, not hours, and the outcomes are looking good.

    Hell, you can lock users out of the system after 6pm if you want.

    BUT, and this is the big BUT, if you have that meeting and the result is she cannot work less hours because the tasks will not be completed, then you have a workload issue to face. Be prepared with options for that, like cross-training, additional part time staff, better systems, etc.

    Perhaps your current setup simply doesn’t work well in practise, perhaps it needs to be tweaked to “no more than two additional hours in any one day and no more than three long days in any one week” as a simple and brutal way of managing how much she *can* overwork herself. Or perhaps you should move towards a time tracking system where (for example) fifteen minutes every day would add up to an extra day banked every month and a half. Again, have limitations on how many hours/days can be banked like that and pay attention to those balances. You may well have staff hitting 60+ banked hours way faster than anticipated because they’ve always worked long days! Again, an indicator of workload issues.

  35. What?!*

    OP3, as Alison says, you need to honour your word on this.

    You also need to ask yourself if the only reason why you think your employee working at the other office “worked okay, but not great” is because you subscribe to the school of management where you think it needs to be butts in seats where you can see all your direct reports working. If she still got her work done, on time and to a good standard, that’s the only thing that actually counts.

  36. Maybe I should quit?*

    All this talk of how it’s not enough pto are things that seriously make slow me consider leaving me job like yesterday. After working there for a year I was awarded 5 paid days to be combined sick/vacation, plus unpaid holidays when we’re closed…. I mostly like my job and company a lot but I don’t know if I like it enough to put up with that when there are companies like OP1’s out there, and apparently much better given how many people think that’s not enough….

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      “unpaid holidays when we’re closed”: the entire business closes for, say the week between Christmas and the New Year, and you don’t get paid for that?? or do you mean public holidays?
      If the business is closed on a normal working day, that should be paid for, otherwise you’re basically being punished.

      1. Imaginary Friend*

        When I was working crappy retail jobs a couple of decades ago (copy shops, in my case) this was the norm. We were open almost year-round, just closed for… I think xmas, 4th of July, maybe thanksgiving and New Year Day? And if one of those was a work day, it was an unpaid day off. And while the day off was welcome, the lighter paycheck was not.

  37. Imaginary Friend*

    About that “good morning” guy (and yes, I know this is an old letter):
    > I even have headphones in and he’ll wave his hand in front of me to say “good morning.”
    If he can wave his hand in front of you, he can just wave *at* you and maybe you can wave back while still staring at your screen? Talk to him about how much it interrupts your focus, about how hard it can be for you to get back into the “flow”, about how much you enjoy that he’s a friendly guy who likes to say good morning. Go on and on and ON about how much you wish you didn’t have this PROBLEM with your focus, but it’s just so hard to get back in the flow and (you get the idea). Maybe he’ll engage with the conversation – excellent! Maybe he’ll get thoroughly bored of the topic – also fine! But set out to make an impression on him about how much of a pain point it is (and make it aaaaalllll about you). Or maybe just plan to always be getting coffee when he gets in? That could work too.

  38. Shan*

    Whoever that employee was is quite lucky. My previous employer didn’t believe in PTO, vacation days, sick days, nothing. I ended up with Sepsis two years ago and was told my week in the hospital with me looking pale and gray, running a nonstop fever of 104, not being able to eat, organs shutting down on me was my vacation for the next few years. Complained every single moment and threw it in my face every day after that that I had taken such a long vacation. Mind you this man saw me in the hospital passing out from being so sick.

Comments are closed.