I can’t get the info I need from an employee who’s on leave

A reader writes:

I have an employee, Jane, who’s abruptly taking leave to deal with some health and personal issues. We don’t know when (or if) she’s coming back, so we’re planning on going at least several months without her, and I’m trying to implement stopgap solutions.

We’re small and Jane has a lot of knowledge that nobody else does (like key contact people with suppliers and clients, the location of our keyholders list, the password to our account with the alarm company, etc.). Jane agreed to come in to meet with me to hand off some of that knowledge, but keeps not doing it. I’ll get a text saying, “Sorry — something’s come up, but I’ll come in tomorrow for sure” and then get the same message the next day, and the next. Beyond that, she’s not answering my calls or emails at all. It’s now been almost a week, and I’m starting to despair.

I’ve found some of the info I need by poking around Jane’s office, but some of it I can’t find at all. Do you have any advice for what I can do to try and get Jane to do that information hand-off? Or do I just need to suck it up and assume it won’t happen, and try to work around it as best I can?

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:

  • I want my employee to work on a day I said he could have off
  • Applicants who don’t include cover letters
  • Do we have to pay someone who walks off the job on their first day?

{ 297 comments… read them below }

  1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    Take this as impetus to have everyone on your team document the essential info you’d need from them if they were captured by aliens tomorrow.

    Well played!
    Now which alien?

    1. David A*

      Back when I was a manager I tried hard to ask employees to document like this, but unfortunately it was ten something they’d prioritize less than the regular work (not surprisingly) and also I worries they would think I was asking that because I’d want to replace them, rather than to be resilient against disasters – even if I said the latter was the reason.

      Re #2, was shaking my head the whole time. I agree with the other comments that it’s just not reasonable to expect someone to make a job the priority even to the extent of canceling vacation. It’s a job, not a cult, and people should follow through on their commitments, but also are expected to have a life of their own!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        There also is the issue of the employees’ skill set. Documenting something well requires good writing skills, analysis of what needs to be included, etc. Just tell someone to document all the essential information for their job and you are likely to end up with an incoherent mess.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          It’s definitely a skill! I’m great at documenting things, but I also struggle to recognize anything I’m good at as anything beyond unremarkable and generic, so for the longest time I didn’t understand why it felt like I was the only one on my team doing it. Until I realized it actually was a specialized skill, one that not everyone has.

          Part of me still thinks it’s doesn’t seem too special to just write down the steps you took to do something, include a marked up screengrab for clarity at the appropriate steps, and make sure to include any links/passwords if needed. But that also takes time to do properly, and most days we just don’t have it, especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you. (Also imposter syndrome is a jerk and I know everyone works differently.)

          1. Worker bee*

            Between your comment, A Simple Narwhal, and Richard Hershberger’s, I’m sitting here a bit stunned. Documenting things is, maybe not my favorite thing, but is something I very much enjoy doing and I’d never consider it to be a specialized skill, but maybe it is?

            Even though it’s not part of my job, I ended up spending a couple of days (over maybe two weeks) doing some documentation for my company. There was just no easy way to get the information outside of how I did it and it was something that I used enough that it benefitted me to just do it. I shared this with others in my company and the reactions were amusing. It was about 50/50 with excitement and indifference.

            I’m actually in the process of doing a vendor contact list for one of our buyers. It started out to be for my own benefit, but when she wanted to know why I was asking, she was very excited.

          2. Cassie*

            I’m trying to get better at documenting things. In my current job, I’m basically a one man show so a lot of the knowledge is in my head but I do write things down in case I forget later on. I’ve been asked to help out in other depts from time to time, and it’s such a pain trying to figure out what those other staffers did or did not do, if this file was actually submitted or just created and has been sitting in the folder for years, etc.

            I’m possibly moving to a new position where I’ll have 1 staffer working under me – I want to set it up so that either of us (or our bosses, if needed) can step in and take care of what needs to be done. (The way I think of it is how doctors and nurses can pick up a patient’s chart and (hopefully) understand everything that they need to know about the patient.

            1. Good Vibes Steve*

              In some jobs, documentation is more about saving documents consistently in shared folders that are clearly labelled and/or easy to search.

              I had a situation recently where a team member went on maternity leave early due to high risks for her baby. The last thing I wanted to do was call her up for questions about work that would raise her blood pressure. Thankfully, she was really good at saving things in shared folders, so we could retrace some of the steps for her projects and take them over. She would probably have been faster at a lot of the tasks, but that’s why good leaders also plan for some redundancy in teams, so that when someone has to go, you don’t end up stretched beyond belief.

            2. Rachel in NYC*

              After my office had someone basically hit by a bus, we started trying to update and/or create SOPs that covered everything.

              I’ve done it before when I had single specialized tasks but I admit it’s a LOT when everything you do is specialized.

          3. Been There*

            At my job we seem to end up in teams of people who work very fast and people who are detail-oriented and good at documenting. I think it works well that way :-)
            Documenting is definitely a skill, and one I need to work on.

          4. Overeducated*

            Yes, I came from an environment where the only things you “documented” were formal scientific methods, so the idea that everyday office processes needed SOPs seemed a bit ridiculous and infantilizing to me. Now that I’ve been through a couple of job/staffing transitions I can see the benefit but the idea of documenting day-to-day operations that aren’t technically specialized didn’t occur to me, someone who is literally formally trained in writing about methods.

        2. The OTHER Other*

          Then the manager needs to step in to make sure this gets done. But in the specific case of this letter, it doesn’t seem to be elaborate, it’s just who are the vendors, what is the password, etc. I would be pretty upset both with the employee taking leave and their manager in this case.

          1. Can Can Cannot*

            I worked for an employer that ended up playing hardball about documenting things. Had an employee that was in a car accident, and was out for several weeks. They were fired right after they returned because they hadn’t bothered to create the required documentation, and lied about it. Employer made a point about this to the rest of us, and wouldn’t you know it, there was a lot more process documentation being created soon after.

            1. TeaCoziesRUs*

              In the military we go through an inspection every couple of years that shows we have documented all of the processes associated with our job. It made it easy to make creating binders more of a priority. :)

              1. Amaranth*

                It surprised me how shocked my civilian managers were when I’d ask for the SOPs or sat down and started making up binders.

        3. lolly pop*

          It is taking me a terribly long time to document my work in a meaningful way because the rote stuff needs excruciating technical detail and the non-rote stuff requires years of expertise and good judgement about legal risk.
          Throw in a slight touch of not being thrilled when busybodies want to dissect my workflow because they think there is low-hanging fruit to lop off, and it’s tough for me to prioritize this over my unending ‘someone else’s delay is always my emergency’ workload.
          It seems like a waste of time when some crosstraining with me, which somehow never happens, would be much more logical.

          1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

            Yeah, but if someone cross trains but doesn’t do your job regularly, they’re still going to need a good cheat sheet when they have to fill in.

          2. No Moderation*

            I did a personal ‘if I am hit by a bus folder’ for home, because my husband would never be able to cope and my daughter understandably wanted to have a clue about life insurance and other arrangements should I be bunged up.

      2. turquoisecow*

        I’ve had managers who talked about documentation (and cross-training) but didn’t really do anything to make that happen. It was just expected that I and my coworkers would squeeze in showing other people how to do our jobs amidst our own and their own already busy jobs.

        Can the manager make documentation an actual work task that they then give feedback on? Like, “I’d like you to document X task by our next one on one, or at least have a rough draft of such.” And then either go over it with the employee or have another person with no knowledge of the task read it to make sure it makes sense.

        I was once asked to cover for a person who was quitting before his replacement was hired. His supervisor was also new so couldn’t take over too many tasks. We had a week of training. He did his best to document quickly but his notes all made certain assumptions that I didn’t have (I worked for the same company but not in the same systems as he did) so a new person would have had even more trouble. I struggled for the few weeks I had that job, but I also updated and rewrote his notes so I was able to train the permanent replacement.

      3. Product Person*

        Back when I was a manager I tried hard to ask employees to document like this, but unfortunately it was ten something they’d prioritize less than the regular work

        Easily solvable! I simply made this part of my reports’ job responsibilities. Don’t do it and your performance review will reflect that. Especially for those who wanted to be promoted, it was a no-brainer: no one was allowed to get a promotion until the manager or a peer confirmed that passwords and standard procedures they were in charge of were reasonable documented.

        1. Squirrelly*

          Yup. Please back this up. I am slowly documenting more because I have a boss who made it a priority for me for a week and shifted other work temporarily during a slow period.

          I’ve had three years of folx telling me to document work but not providing the time (when we all acknowledge I am efficient AND overworked), so it never happened.

    2. Construction Safety*

      Which alien?
      Why, the Rraey, of course, b/c the former employee would be the main course in their next meal.

      1. Salad Daisy*

        I believe you mean the Kanamits. From my favorite Twilight Zone episode.

        Back on point, I am surprised there was not a hand-off when the employee went on leave and agree it is a very good idea to implement a procedure for future such events.

        It’s a cookbook!

    3. Asenath*

      I once put in a lot of effort to document my processes (I had some advance notice that I’d be off), and I doubt anyone ever looked at it! I took some consolation in the thought that at least I’d done what I could; not my fault if someone else didn’t use it. And of course no one actually replaced me, as usual, someone was asked to do what couldn’t be left, without of course any decrease in her own work, so all I got was someone else’s view of what tasks were most important, organized in her own way, and lots and lots of stuff that wasn’t done at all. But the world didn’t come to an end, and everyone got through that period.

    4. Mannheim Steamroller*

      The ones who abducted Amelia Earhart and 300 others in 1937 and took them to the Delta Quadrant.

    5. Candi*


      I find the alien scenario much more entertaining then the usual hit by a bus/won the lotto scenario. Although it’s a debate whether they’d have more or less chance of coming back from the aliens than from those. /humor

  2. Aunt Vixen*

    Single points of failure are a bummer. LW: What would you do if Jane had been hit by a bus?

    Do that.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Well, the plan for that is a seance; do those work if the subject is just unavailable and not deceased?

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        See, the trick is to have the government declare the person who is unavailable dead in those circumstances (it’s good for tax purposes), and then you can perform the seance and get the information.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Thank you!!! I had a hunch we were skipping a step; I just couldn’t figure out which one!

    2. Always "anon just for this"*

      When I started my current role, my manager showed me a manual that had been created (for another role) by “Sally” who had previously been in that role. She had called it her “hit by a bus binder” in case she was ever away. She then actually *did* get hit by a bus and was out of work for a long time. She ended up being okay but didn’t return to the role. Even after she’d been gone a while and the binder had been updated, everyone still called it “Sally’s hit by a bus binder.” (The reference seemed in poor taste to me.)

      1. S*

        I create documentation as part of my job, and for this type of thing, I always call it the “win the lottery and disappear to Fiji” solution, because I never want to invoke the bad mojo of anyone getting hit by a bus!

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I’ve always phrased it as “when I win the lottery and move to Scotland, someone will need to know how to do this.”

          1. Cait*

            Yeah that tends to go over better and sounds less like you’re wishing death on someone. I think Alison might have answered her own question from a recent post about “Are employers really eager to hire right now?”. This kind of toxic thinking is why they’re having so much trouble. People aren’t being paid fair wages or offered any benefits and then their bosses starts harping on them WHILE THEY’RE ON LEAVE! “My employee is having a health crisis and won’t return my calls! Why is she being so unprofessional???!!!” Oh, the irony! Or “I approved my employee’s time off and now I want to take it back because I didn’t plan ahead with my staffing needs. How can I screw him over without making myself look bad?”. And employers are wondering why the American work force has had enough and refuse to be subject to this kind of treatment anymore.

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          I applaud that sentiment. It’s a hell of a lot better than the coworker of one LW’s fiance who prayed for his death in an accident.

        3. Fedpants*

          I always say “if I get hit by a bus” and my boss would also say “You mean if you win the lotto, fedpants. Think positive!” And I said that the lotto was a tax on people who don’t understand statistics; but that I’ve been riding a bicycle in washington dc for 12 years and have never had an accident, so…. (It’s funny, because we’re both statisticians.)

        4. Environmental Compliance*

          Yep – we shifted from Bus Accident/Big Boom Binders to Lucky Lottery Binders.

          (I used to work at an ethanol facility, hence the Big Boom. Then we had a tank implode and it felt much, much more morbid. No one was injured, thankfully, apart from needing to wash their pants.)

        5. MsSolo (UK)*

          Ours is “hit by the lottery bus” to encompass both scenarios! We have a lottery syndicate at work, so if we did win that would be a large chunk of the team all leaving at once.

      2. Like a ferret in a bathtub.*

        Our alternative to “in case I get hit by a bus” is “when I get sucked up into a vent”.

        The names people have for In-Case-Of-Disaster policies are fascinating and to my off-kilter humor, really amusing.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        When I was hired at the testing lab, a job where tasks had to be done in very precise ways, the person I replaced wrote up an entire file full of instructions. She was moving out of state and left before they hired someone. I have never been so grateful to a predecessor in my life. She came back to OldCity for a visit and dropped in, so I got to thank her in person.

        As a result, I take copious notes when I’m training and write up procedural documents for all my work tasks. They get updated when something changes. This was a requirement at Exjob, but I was already doing it. Not only does it help me learn faster during training, but in a hypothetical hit-by-a-bus or kidnapped-by-aliens scenario, someone can step in and follow the instructions.

        1. Barefoot Librarian*

          I do the same thing, Elizabeth! I had a whirlwind, impulsive interview process with a software company and left my last job without really intending too (waaaay better pay and an exciting opportunity). When I left I was able to put together a really comprehensive transition folder for the next person in the role because I had already been in the habit of documenting my processes for my own swiss cheese brain.

          1. LittleMarshmallow*

            Oh my goodness yes. I make detailed documents about what I do because my Swiss cheese brain sometimes just can’t remember how to do a task. Especially ones that don’t get done that often! I employ spreadsheets a lot too. I temporarily took over a role because previous person wasn’t doing the job and she hadn’t made any documents that she lied about making… so I had to learn the job on my own and then document how to do it so that it can actually be temporary and I can hopefully go back to doing my regular more fun (but not easier) job!

        2. I Ship It*

          I did this with my own job after being plopped into it right before my predecessor went on an unexpected medical leave during the worst three weeks in supply chain several years ago (iykyk). I had to figure it all out on my own, but I’ll be darned if anyone else has to- I have binders (same info in each in case one goes for a walk) that I update periodically that have literally EVERYTHING anyone needs to know to do my job from the ground up, specifically geared for people who have never done my job before. I’m like to say I will be training my replacement someday but we can’t bank on that, so I go for information out the ears instead.

      4. Formerly Ella Vader*

        I sometimes say “it’s in this file on the cloud storage, in case I get hit by a … pause big lottery win. People seem to appreciate that.

    3. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. All managers need to start 2022 with a resolution to document all essential functions and provide cross-training. If anybody isn’t sure why, do a mental review of the last two years.

      In this case, I wonder if the whole concept of a “hand-off meeting” is part of the problem. In my experience, asking somebody to just dump the contents of their brain isn’t effective — something will inevitably be left out. Would it be easier for Jane to respond to an email with very specific questions, such as “Who is our contact at Jabberwocky & Co.? Where did you file the data for the Rumpelstiltskin project?” If Jane’s leave of absence is health-related, setting up a meeting may be more than she can handle right now, but she might be able to respond to a list of questions, with perhaps a follow-up phone call.

      1. hbc*

        Yeah, I find it really hard to believe that someone needs to know who has keys within a week of someone going out. And most suppliers will be very helpful in telling their customers who to talk to. Text her “What’s the password with the alarm company?” or when a supplier is being difficult, not before.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I totally agree. I don’t really understand why the OP was so intent on getting someone who was clearly going through something major to actually come in for a meeting about this kind of stuff – maybe the thought of getting up and getting dressed and going into work for some unspecified length of time to answer a bunch of questions about keys and contact lists was just super overwhelming for her, mentally or physically.

        I would make a list of questions that OP was absolutely certain they couldn’t find the answers to; then go looking for those answers one more time; and then send it to Jane. That way you have the answers in writing to consult later, too. I say to check again because every time I’ve been called/texted during leave because “nobody else knows how do X”, it has almost invariably been about things that were clearly documented and shown to them. It’s unbelievably annoying.

        1. TexasRose*

          Better yet, send the list of questions to Jane, and ask her where to look to find the answers.

      3. Dancing Otter*

        The hand off meeting isn’t INSTEAD OF documentation. It’s to make sure all the documentation is there, they know it’s there, and they acknowledge that they have it.

        I did a lot of change management/process improvement projects. We won’t talk about how many were attributable to undocumented processes and untrained client personnel.

    4. Meep*

      I work for a small company where when I joined as a contractor, there was a single employee and at times I was the single employee. When he left (due to the stress of being the only employee), the contractor for sales and marketing insisted that we document everything because while he was available to answer questions (for me and me alone), what happened if he or the owner would be hit by a bus tomorrow? Well, I worked my little butt off and spent my first 6 months (again as the only actual employee) documenting everything – sometimes with his help.

      To this day, Ms. Thing (also an employee now) keeps saying we should have everything documented in case I am hit by a bus. It is. I don’t bother hiding it. It is out in the open with everyone who needs access having access. I remind them every couple of months. They will literally starve when I am hit by that metaphorical bus.

      This was confirmed a couple of months back when they had to, to their great embarrassment, admit to a client I was the only one who know how to do a process and was on vacation. Literally, there was a manual at the top of the folder. A toddler could have followed the instructions I left without missing a beat. Everyone acted like I had somehow just slipped it in. /headdesk

      1. Anonymouse*

        Hire more toddlers.

        And 12 year olds make great IT people. They know more instinctively than grizzled veteran 20 something and they work for pizza.

        And the in case of lottery book should be in paper and on-line.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          But if the 12-year old hits the lottery, you’re still in trouble.

    5. worker bee*

      My predecessor did not prepare any meaningful transition documentation because she intended to train me as a volunteer – but that’s not working out as well as hoped. So despite the fact that I *could* email her and ask questions fruitlessly, I’m just reaching out to anyone I need – vendors, colleagues, etc. – and asking for help getting logins restored, account info, workflow info, whatever it may be, and thanking them in advance for being patient with me as I onboard. It’s not ideal but it’s getting done! Sometimes that’s just how it’s got to be.

    6. kittymommy*

      At my last job we had something called the Drop Dead book. Everything was both saved on a USB drive and in hard copy format: procedures, forms, authorizations, passwords, etc. The idea being, of course, is that is every one of us died in some fiery car crash (we were a department of three, so not a huge impossibility)the office could pick up pretty quickly. After the initial investment of time getting it set up it wasn’t that difficult to maintain.

      1. Cranky lady*

        I worked one job where we weren’t allowed to have more than X people on the same plane…just in case.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          That’s commonplace. At one place, approximately 2/3 of the company traveled to one conference; we were advised to NOT book our flights together or in consultation with each other. And at another place – there were three of us – my manager, and my peer, and myself. The three of us were not permitted to travel together.

          Not so uncommon. While I won’t mention company names – in 9/11 – one large retailer lost a number of their buying staff (I think nine) and a fledgling tech firm lost several of its key technical people. And an NHL team lost two of their key scouting staff.

        2. New But Not New*

          Remnant Fellowship (church founded by diet cult leader Gwen Shamblin) learned this lesson the hard way when the entire leadership team, including Gwen herself, was killed when their private plane crashed immediately after takeoff a few months ago. Sometimes, parents won’t even fly together. One never knows.

          It’s up to the organization to plan for continuity of service. Individuals can do what they think will help, but unless the organization has a culture of thinking ahead, it won’t make much of a difference.

    7. I could never get the hang of Thursdays*

      We had a previous office manager who was a terrible terrible person, but the one thing he did do right was insist on every position having a continuity book. They’ve mostly graduated from a binder to online resources, and yes, you do need to periodically review and update them, but they have been a godsend multiple times!

    8. Office Lobster DJ*

      Me to me, early in my career, satisfied and slightly smug: No one here can do what I do!
      Me to me, now, panicked and slightly sweaty: No one here can do what I do!

      1. lolly pop*

        Same, with the added sauce of ‘everyone thinks what I do is both too hard for them to learn and so easy anyone could figure it out’. ‘Helpers’ have done a lot of damage in the past.

      2. Thunderingly*

        Hah! I direct a music group for a church and, due to low numbers lately, have been directing and playing a part at the same time. My daughter got sick right before Christmas and I was a little panicked trying to figure out how they would replace me if I was quarantining on Christmas Eve.

    9. tangerineRose*

      Make a list of what you think you need to know (there may be other stuff that you don’t know you need to know). Can you send the whole list to Jane and ask her to answer it when she can? Even if she sends an e-mail every few days with some answers, that will be progress.

  3. LC*

    Yikes on the second letter. The employee was committed to their job, that’s why they made sure they had the day off! I’m really hoping the letter writer asked this out of frustration out of not finding coverage and not because they actually believe that employees are bound to their jobs above all else.

    1. Beth*

      Yep! If the employer/manager is in trouble because one employee is medically unavailable on the same day that another has pre-approved time off — first, the manager is going to have to cover the gap, and second, the manager needs to hire more staff. And third, the manager is way out of line for getting snippy at their employee for daring to want a break.

      The staff shortage will be even worse if the employee with the pre-approved time off decides that it’s not worth coming back at all.

      1. ItsAllFunAndGamesUntil*

        One sure-fire way to have grumpy employees who start pondering their exit is to screw around with their ability to use their leave as they want to use their leave.

      2. Felix*

        Asking them if they can reschedule their time off is fine, but I think the phrase “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless” is one of the most tone-deaf things I have read on this site. I’m surprised Allison didn’t read him the riot act. People’s health is more important. People’s family is more important. To think that is to basically say your employee belongs to you.
        Maybe he has a job interview and is trying to get away from this narcissist boss.

        1. lolly pop*

          Funding my household’s needs is my first commitment, which usually requires *a* job, not any particular job.

    2. awesome3*

      I always use this wording because “hit by a bus” is too serious to use cavalierly, and any hypotheticals that could be real invite pushback as to how that’s not going to happen for them. Aliens abducting them is a good catch-all.

      1. Mr. Cajun2core*

        I had a boss that used the phrase “Won the lottery.” It is a very pleasant scenario and could happen (though very unlikely).

        1. Metadata minion*

          For a while somehow my team combined “in case they get hit by a bus” and “in case they win the lottery and move to Tahiti” to make “in case so-and-so gets hit by a bus in Tahiti”.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I took a cue from RoboCop and asked “What happens if Joaquin gets hit by 7 busses?” the last time someone tried to sidestep the question that way.

        2. a tester, not a developer*

          My company had a department that did win the lottery. Most of them gave notice at the same time (and reapplied for jobs a few years later when they blew through the money, but that’s a different story).

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I’d love to hear your story, because I have a similar one.

            Back in the 90s a friend of a friend won a sizeable lottery, getting just under $2 million after taxes. Not enough to buy his own private island and Lear jet, but he could have retired early and lived comfortably if he’d hired a financial planner or manager.

            Nope. He quit his job, bought a McMansion and a stable of cars and ATVs, traveled a lot with his bros and an ever-changing conga line of girlfriends, and paid cash for everything. One of his bros finally got through to him about financial planning. He didn’t spend all his winnings but came damn close.

            Last I heard, he’d sold the house and most of his toys, and was working in his old field with a different employer. He was also very bitter about the lottery ruining his life. Naw, dude, it was you.

            1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              VERY few people have the discipline, forethought, and life experience to know what to do with a sudden windfall of money, and the lottery is set up as a system (with stressors to encourage claiming your winnings early and immediately, etc), to discourage taking a slow and measured approach and finding professional assistance. Even the publication of winners names (which you’re typically required to agree to as part of claiming your priz) serves to disincentivize being prudent with your money – family and friends and neighbors and local non-profits are all going to start showing up asking you to do or spend money on X, Y, or Z things, and those expenditures (even if small) can add up quickly. And the emotional guilt that can be heaped on the winners by those around them, for not doing (or not doing enough of) what ‘won’t cost them much, now!’ can poison friendships, family ties, and how you feel about whole communities.

              Emotionally, the reason so many lottery winners end up bitter is because using the money will often destroy a dream they previously held close – sapping of it joy, and making it so that rather than dreaming (where everything works out amazingly), they are now reminescing about a time that is not likely to come again (and which, having happened in the real world and real life, was almost certainly not as perfect and amazing as they thought). In that case, the lottery really has ruined their life – dreams are hard to come by and replace, and most of us have been building ours from childhood. To realize one through sheer luck, and have it turn to dross in your hands, is unfulfilling; you’ve been robbed of the hard work and journey to achieve it, which would have made you appreciative even though it was imperfect.

              Winning really is a trap for most people, which will destroy something near and dear to them. And society overall perfers that it be that way – old money has always perferred that new money destroy itself with inexperience, and most economic actors like the spending sprees that lottery winners will go on, because money velocity matters a lot more to local scale economic health than the accumulation of wealth by a specific individual or entity (which actually can have stagnating effects).

              So, don’t judge the lottery winners you might know too harshly. It is far from all their fault, and the destruction they feel was inflicted on them is often very very real.

              1. Cold Fish*

                I’m willing to be a test subject to anyone who wants to give me $$$ and see how well I handle it.

                Believe me, I’ve thought long and hard about what I’d do if I won the lottery.
                #1 is wait until the money hits my bank account, then quit :)
                I also have trust issues, it would be a tough sell to anyone coming out of the woodwork to try and get money from me. I would probably be a little too generous to friends and family but my biggest problem would probably be figuring out what to do with my life. It would be great for a few months but I would think it would be start to get boring. I’d give it 6-8 months without a job before I start tearing my hair out. Then again, there are a lot of things that I wouldn’t mind playing with if I had the money, like designing and building my dream house….

              2. tangerineRose*

                Frustrating. I rarely play the lottery, but if I did and won, I’d rather not tell anyone except a few close family members.

                1. MBK*

                  Make sure you purchase your winning lottery ticket* in Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, or Texas. Those are the only states that allow lottery winners to remain anonymous.

                  Some states may allow a trust to claim the prize, which would help shield your identity somewhat. You’d have to create the trust before redeeming the ticket, and transfer ownership of the ticket to the trust. Several states, however (e.g., California), don’t allow trusts to claim lottery winnings.

                  * Losing tickets can be bought wherever.

                2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                  The reasons that lottery winners CAN’T remain anonymous in most states —

                  1) if the winner is in some sort of financial bind or situation, he/she can’t hide. Example = ex-wife collecting child support payments and/or alimony ; if she comes into, say, $10 million – the guy making the payments has a right to re-open the situation. Or someone who’s in hock up to his ears, his creditors have a right to know.

                  2) Lottery winners are announced because most states want to give the appearance that the lottery is NOT rigged, that it’s above board.

              3. SheLooksFamiliar*

                Cthulhu’s Librarian, in this case I am definitely judging the guy and it pretty much is all his fault. I think you are assuming a lot and that’s partially my fault, I left out a lot in order to be brief. I’m only speaking about this guy and not the context of lottery winners in general…although I think there’s a lot of overlap between the two.

                The lottery board in my state had consultants to meet with lottery winners as part of the cash transfer – lump sum or single payout, tax burdens, etc. – and to talk about managing their winnings. Among other things, they talked about how to handle family members who expected handouts, myriad charities, ridiculous investment opportunities from friends and relatives, and so on. This guy even mocked the consultants: ‘Can you believe this? They said I shouldn’t make any major decisions with my money until I talk to a financial manager. It’s my money, I’ll do what I f***ing want with it.’ That’s a direct quote.

                The lottery board had also vetted wealth managers for lottery winners’ special needs, but he turned down all their recommendations because he knew what he was doing. No, the lottery board isn’t to blame here. You will probably think his circumstances and upbringing – naivety? – are to blame, but I don’t see it that way.

                The guy’s parents were actually pretty cool about things, saying he should enjoy himself wisely but also save and invest wisely. They were Depression-era parents, and fairly cautious with their money. He ignored them, again saying he knew what he was doing.

                His girlfriend at the time came from a fairly comfortable family – her father was a trader – and also recommended that he talk to a financial manager. At least, she said, he could talk to his bank, maybe invest in CDs or some interest-bearing accounts. Her father was happy to set up some investments to at least preserve his winnings until he could decide what to do. He refused to listen to her, and her father who clearly knew something about money management. Instead, he wrote a check for a huge house in their zip code to, I don’t know, prove he knew what he was doing?

                My friend and connection to this guy told me he recommended a couple of wealth managers, only to be told, ‘Don’t bother me with this stuff.’ Okay, said my friend, but the money will run pretty quick at this rate. ‘You’re just jealous.’ My friend joked that the guy bought a few of his favorite muscle cars just to spite him, and I don’t doubt it.

                Again, I’m not going to cut a lot of slack in this case. Maybe winning the lottery is a trap for people who don’t or won’t listen to good advice.

                1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

                  I tend to think of it as more Dunning-Kruger effect than naivety – never having managed large windfalls of liquid wealth leads people to overestimate their own ability to do so, while simultaneously meaning they lack the skills to assess whether they are doing so well. I see a lot of those qualities present in the experience you’ve shared (and a small cocktail of other influencing factors). That same inability to evaluate their own performance makes it exceptionally hard for them to evaluate the quality of outside advice, and determine if it is good or bad, sound or ill-considered. Combine that with any of a variety of insecurities and personal flaws (for instance, it sounds like the lottery winner you knew had a strong desire to exercise control over their life, but had never really felt they were in true control, and thought the money would let them be), and you can have an extremely potent cocktail for contrariness.

                  I would never say the winner is not culpable for their decisions – they most assuredly hold significant responsibility for the outcomes, especially when they don’t listen to advice as it is offered along the way. The pettiness and nastiness that they can find it easy to inflict on others with their newly-received means is entirely born of who they were before they received it, simply magnified by their (at-the-time current) means and opportunity. No one is obligated to forgive them these things, simply because the winner is now suffering.

                  The point that I had hoped to make was more than when they say it ruined their life, they are often being honest, rather than hyperbolic, which can be extremely hard for most people who haven’t been through it (or seen it play out a lot, as I did in a prior career, albeit with inheritances rather than lottery winnings) to fathom or feel any compassion about. Ultimately, a winner’s decisions, and the circumstances that let them make those, are likely to have done very real and lasting damage to them (emotionally, socially, financially, and physically). For them to blame the once-in-a-lifetime stroke of fortune that enabled them to make those decisions is, while only part of the story, a very real part of it.

            2. Me (I think)*

              Two million dollars is $80K per year basically forever, using the 4% guideline for spending invested money. I can happily live on that, but it’s hardly in the same class as “I’m going to build a rocket and fly into spaaaaaaaace” kind of money. It’s also not “buy a couple of mansions and all the toys” money either, unless one plans to just spend all of it right now and then keep working.

              But yeah, I can see how the expectations of family, friends, and society would screw up any plan to invest the money and spend it wisely.

        3. NeutralJanet*

          The problem with the “won the lottery” phrasing is that if I won enough money that I didn’t need to work anymore, I would quit my job, but I probably wouldn’t immediately walk out with no notice and tell everyone, “See ya never!” so it’s not exactly the same situation—to get the right vibe, you want to come up with a scenario where the person’s absence is sudden and unexpected and they are entirely unreachable afterwards, you know?

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I definitely have periods at my job where if I won enough money to n ever work again I would just send an email like I AM NEVER COMING BACK, GODSPEED DOUCHEBAGS and mail in my laptop.

          2. turquoisecow*

            Yeah and you could be bothered to answer the phone occasionally, even if you did quit. Whereas if you were hit by a bus, even if you survived, you might be unable to even answer questions for awhile.

          3. KateM*

            That’s what I think about the bus vs lottery thing, too.
            Besides I have once answered this question with “if I won a lottery, I’d stay working where I am and stop looking for a place with better salary”.

      2. Chicanery*

        In a previous job, over the course of a single month, we had

        -one employee quit abruptly due to a family crisis
        -one employee suddenly go on leave when her baby came early
        -one employee suddenly removed from access when he became violent after gross negligence was revealed
        -one employee suddenly go on leave due to emergency surgery
        -one employee abruptly quit because she got a sizeable inheritance and no longer needed to work

        At that workplace, sudden employee departures are now referred to as a “November” in honor of that month of chaos. As in, “We’re doing some more cross training this month, just in case we have another November one day”

      3. Forrest*

        On the opposite end of the scale, I used to work for a university with the most heavily used bus route in England running right through it, and we were SPECIFIC about which bus someone might get hit by.

    3. Foxy Hedgehog*

      LW2: ” I think that his job is his first commitment regardless. What are your thoughts on this?”

      Wow. I have thoughts on this, but I would have a hard time expressing them in a way that meets the commenting rules. I guess the kindest way of putting it would be that I try to give the same level of commitment to a relationship that I receive. Am I my employer’s top priority? Of course not. So why would my employer be my top priority?

      1. HotSauce*

        Yes, yes, yes. This mindset is absolutely asinine & employers need to stop doing it. People have lives outside of work and while it’s OK to ask them if they wouldn’t mind coming in, it’s absolutely disgusting to feel that work should always come first. Especially since I highly doubt the LW drops everything in THEIR lives to rush to work. Sorry my child, I know it’s your wedding, but work needs me! Fat chance.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          I once knew a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army that was denied leave to attend his daughter’s wedding because of a field exercise. In front of a room full of soldiers of all ranks, the LTC said “I’m sorry for not being clear, sir, during that time I -will- be absent due to attending my daughter’s wedding. Whether I’m on leave or AWOL is up to you, sir.”

          He got his leave.

      2. Your Local Password Resetter*

        My first thought was “how much are you paying him for that?”
        Because if a manager wants me to be available 24/7/365, I’m not doing that without a large amount of compensation.

      3. ArtsyGirl*

        Loyalty goes both ways – employers have the right to fire any employee for almost any reason (outside of protected classes) so why do they expect employees would be blindly, unquestionably loyal to the company even when it means personal sacrifices?

      4. Bagpuss*

        Yes – I mean, I own my own business and it’s not even *my* first commitment 100% of the time.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        I mean, isn’t the LW’s first commitment the job, too? If the LW “can’t come in” why would they assume the employee can? (Asking rhetorically.)

    4. ArtsyGirl*

      My jaw dropped at that one too. The LW seriously thinks the employee’s first priority should be their job?!!?! The employee followed procedures, got leave approved, and has plans. The OP needs to either cover themselves or figure out something else.

      1. Felix*

        The OP needs to get life outside of work, or a job where he isn’t a boss responsible for others.

      2. tangerineRose*

        “The LW seriously thinks the employee’s first priority should be their job?!!?! ” So much this!

    5. TK*

      I once traded shifts with a co-worker (which was approved by management), worked the shift I had traded for, and then the co-worker had a family emergency and couldn’t work the shift she had traded me for. My manager tried to tell me I had to come in- I refused. I’d made plans and even if I hadn’t, all of my responsibility for that shift was ended the second management approved the switch. My manager was very upset, saying that the co-worker couldn’t have known this emergency was going to come up & since it was originally my shift I needed to work it. She had no grounds to make me come in or punish me, as we’d done everything by the book, so I kept my plans. It absolutely left a sour taste in my mouth.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This happened to me once, too. I got out of it when I pointed out that they’d have to pay me overtime for the full shift. Yes, their cheapness was one of the reasons I left.

  4. Beth*

    LW #4: if “new hires walk out after two hours” is a repeat occurrence, you just might be the problem. What the hell are you putting them through?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I can imagine someone walking out quickly if they are dealing with extreme stench… But that has a hellaciously easy answer. Give them a tour of the barn and conductivity interview downwind.

      1. Usagi*

        Coincidentally I had a similar thought! I was imagining OP works at some sort of sewage-related company. Maybe they work with fatbergs? Or they are manual-portapotty-uncloggers? Either way, I can see someone thinking, “yeah, I can manage with bad smells” but then being met with a stench that transcends human comprehension, and quitting.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I work at a garbage dump down the street (and downwind) from a fish processing plant. Doesn’t get much stinkier than that.

          We’ve only ever had one person walk out on the first day due to smell. So if it’s happening often there’s something off in their hiring/onboarding process, smell or not.

          1. Hattie McDoogal*

            I had a job at a garbage dump a few years ago and people definitely quit on the first day. They were pretty upfront about the stink factor in the hiring process, less so about what an absolute ass ache it was to get there (zero buses, ~10km from the nearest train station, limited parking). So yeah, agreed that it probably says something about their hiring process.

      2. Meep*

        To be fair, if I had met my now former manager two hours in as opposed to two weeks into the job, I would probably have left too… There is something about being dragged into a conference room alone with a crazy lady as she rattles on about how if you cross her she will destroy you that sends up all sorts of red flags. Alas, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with her since this was my first encounter after such and such a time.


        They might have bad working conditions, or a toxic work culture, or poor pay.
        Lots of people are organizing to apply at crappy jobs and then ghost them or quit right away. I think it’s part of “The Great Resignation”.
        So, employers, clean up your act (if needed) because fewer and fewer workers are willing to deal with it.

        1. KateM*

          But the question was from archives, so it could have been before the great resignation started?

    2. Loulou*

      Based on the premise of the question it seems like OP’s company might not be a huge fan of following labor laws. I wonder if that’s coming across in other ways on the first day and that’s why people are getting out.

      1. Eden*

        That definitely struck me as a possibility when their question was “I know the law says X, but can I do Y if X sounds inconvenient”

      2. Your Local Password Resetter*

        They also sound quite petty and punitive. Two hours of salary is very little money, and fighting your departing employees over pocket change is not a good look.

        1. Agile Phalanges*

          To be fair, it’s a huge pain to set them up in all the systems you have, only to pay them for two hours of work. Been there, done that. An employee signed the acknowledgement that it was a physical job, involving lifting X amount of weight repeatedly, orally acknowledged it was fine, then quit a couple hours in because he has a heart condition and couldn’t do it. Awesome. But of course I DID set him up and pay him, because it’s the law. But I can sympathize with someone who doesn’t WANT to.

          1. Agile Phalanges*

            Employees should get paid for their time, but I wish it were legal to just hand them a wad of cash from petty cash and not deal with the paperwork of hiring, paying, terminating, then year-end tax reporting.

    3. Empress Matilda*

      I’m so curious about this one! What is going on there, that so many people are apparently walking out on their first day? I mean, I can imagine a situation where multiple people leave *after* their first day, or during their first week, but how bad does it have to be that people are walking out mid-shift?

      I hope OP was able to step back from the issue of “do we have to pay them” (um, yes), and start looking at some of the reasons why this was going on.

      1. Leilah*

        I definitely see this in agriculture. I love milking cows – but some people think they won’t mind it, but then the moment they get cow poo on their face, they are out of there. This could also apply to jobs that involve human waste – no way I could do that. Some people, especially perhaps young people, may not know exactly what kind of works sounds okay in theory but actually triggers their gag reflex in a way that just isn’t manageable. This is where a more hands-on interview is appropriate.

        Maybe the work is extremely physically demanding – I can see people saying “oh yeah, I can lift 50 lbs no problem!” and then 90 minutes into throwing 50lb bags constantly they realize that they can lift 50lbs a few times a day but not ALL day. That’s the kind of thing that would happen to me. I would think I’m in great shape and a physical job will be awesome (imagine how fit I’ll be!), and after 2 hours I would realize lifting 50lbs constantly is actually WAY further out of my physical grasp than I thought it was.

        1. Malarkey01*

          My guess was slaughterhouse/meat packing. That’s a job where I could see making it through an hour long onboard and then walking onto the floor and turning straight around and walking out.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I’m fascinated by the fact that you are not fazed by cowpats but human waste is off limits to you!
          Wondering if there’s any correlation with the fact that my boss’s reaction to learning of the existence of milk banks that collect donated human milk to give it to premies whose mother’s milk hasn’t yet come in was “some other woman’s milk? That’s disgusting!” yet had no qualms giving his son formula, made from cow’s milk…

        3. Paperdill*

          See it in nursing aaaaaaaall the time. Young people start their careers because they liked watching ER/House/Grey’s Anatomy (showing my age, here), then they realise it’s not all exciting trauma calls – it’s measuring wee, cleaning up poo and being shouted at.

      2. lolly pop*

        I bailed on a cold-calling job for one of those fake yellow pages back in the day. Soul-crushing for min wage, yeah no thanks.

    4. HotSauce*

      Especially since they say “It is happening more often”. If that happened to me even once I’d be making it my #1 priority to find out what the heck was going on, not trying to skirt the law & cheat people out of wages.

      1. FisherCat*

        I worked for an extremely Miranda Priestly-esque boss many moons ago. It was not uncommon for someone to work less than a full day or less than a full week. We worker bees were well aware of the problem but could do nothing about it, as Ms. Priestly owned the business and certainly did not want to hear that people didn’t want to work for her.

        Still gotta follow labor laws though, LW.

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          I knew a professional (think, an associate attorney/accountant type job) who quit a job after half a day. The red flags for the working conditions, the type of work, and the lack of support were so obvious almost as soon as they walked in, that they didn’t see any reason to stick around.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I worked exactly one shift for a wannabe Zuckerberg. I got home, my BF said the guy was crazy to want someone working those hours, I realised he was right and didn’t bother to go back in. I had been so thrilled to be hired, it hadn’t occurred to me that I should think it over for myself before actually getting started on the job.

      2. tamarack & fireweed*

        Yeah, even if it is the nature of the job that is putting new hires off rather than mismanagement at the company, if it happens more than extremely rarely, and noticeably more often, they should be more up-front about the job’s nuisance features (and compensate accordingly!).

    5. Can't Sit Still*

      I worked at a small accounting firm that had this problem, although generally, they would at least announce their resignation. No matter what you are thinking, it was worse.

      The receptionist had a separate subpoena process just for employment-related cases, since they typically had 3 – 5 discrimination (any and all forms of discrimination, often at least one of each!) cases open at any one time. That’s…a lot, in case you were wondering.

      The partners, of course, were convinced that “nobody wants to work anymore” and “people don’t know what hard work is these days.”

    6. Annie E. Mouse*

      My second job was one of these. The first hour involved the owner backtracking on benefits. (It was all BS, but 0 vacation first year and 5 days annually after that sticks out in my memory.) The second hour was listening to him scream at another employee until she cried. If I hadn’t been flat broke with no other offers, I would have walked by 10 am. I harbor no delusions that he would have refused to pay me. As it was, he fought me on my last check when I left for another job a few months later.

      1. Elizabeth West*


        I took a job once as the receptionist in a small accounting firm where they didn’t tell me I’d be doing some of the accountant’s work—a client’s payroll—until the day I started. The next day, the boss’s wife yelled at me for making a mistake on something else, while I was still training, on my second day. Oh, and they also said I’d be doing busy work for their church.

        I went into her husband’s office and quit. They did send me a check, on which Boss’s Wife had written, “Come see us!” No, thank you.

    7. Danish*

      That was my question… LW makes it sound like this is happening both frequently and consistently which sounds like there’s a pretty big issue. Most people have a much higher “new job dysfunction/BS” bar than “the first two hours of the job were so noxious I just walked off” so if this is happening a lot, I think LW’s job has a lot bigger question to ask than “do we have to pay them”

    8. Mayflower*

      That’s a really uncharitable read from a highly privileged position of someone who’s only ever worked “better” white collar jobs. I work in the senior care industry and 1st day walk-offs and no shows for caregiver jobs are extremely common.

      Nobody is putting these employees through anything. If you ask them why, they give the same answer that they give when you ask them how come they refuse to get vaccinated. That answer, and I quote verbatim, is “moo” – no matter how nicely you ask they just make non-commital cow-like noises and you can’t get any deeper than that. Before you ask, it’s not the pay – they walk off jobs that pay $20-$25/hr too, which is decent pay in my location.

      I also own several rentals and every one of my service providers (electrician, plumber, handyman, floor guy, etc) says the same thing – 3 out of 4 guys are walk-offs or no-shows, regardless of pay.

      1. Observer*

        I work in the senior care industry and 1st day walk-offs and no shows for caregiver jobs are extremely common.

        Yes, but that’s because it’s an industry with terrible hiring practices, and terrible worker treatment.

        That answer, and I quote verbatim, is “moo” – no matter how nicely you ask they just make non-commital cow-like noises and you can’t get any deeper than that.

        If you are consistently getting non-aswers, then you know that you’ve made it clear that they cannot tell you the truth. Why should they open themselves up to more of whatever it is that made them leave?

        When a problem is as widespread as you claim, it’s worth looking at what is causing it rather than getting all “kids these days” or “all laborers and bovine lazy-bones” or “People just don’t want to work anymore!”

        1. Jacey*

          I’m not sure this is fair: “If you are consistently getting non-aswers, then you know that you’ve made it clear that they cannot tell you the truth.”

          Lots of people have trouble articulating what problems they’re facing; lots of people believe that it’s unsafe to tell ANY employer about a problem; lots of people just won’t bother to give real answers when they decide they’re done with a situation.

      2. Jacey*

        I mean, that’s certainly one possible explanation of what’s happening: the letter writer is in a field with lots of people who quit early on. But it’s equally possible that there’s something else going on. I suspect people are leaning towards whatever possibility best reflects their own experiences, cuz that’s how humans tend to operate. You have lots of experience with people walking out on you for reasons that aren’t the employer’s fault, and others in this thread have experiences where they or someone they knew realized immediately that the employer was in the wrong and left because of that. I don’t see what makes one more likely than the other.

    9. Papillon Celeste*

      At our company some departments just don’t get their onboarding straightened out. Seeing that chaos and realizing that a simple thing like getting an Emailaccount set up drives people out after a few hours. They know if the start is that bumpy it won’t get better.

    10. Roller*

      I once walked out of a job after 30 minutes, as soon as it became clear it was a call centre role. It had been sold to me as a receptionist position by my temp agency. I’d heard from other temps I’d worked with that once you have call centre experience that it could be hard to get out, it can pigeonhole you for recruiters going. I didn’t want to deal with that and luckily had other options.

      I didn’t bother to claim for my 30 minute office tour.

  5. Eden*

    “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless.”

    I don’t know when #2 was originally posted, but I am glad that more and more workers are comfortable saying “lol nope” to sentiments like that. My job is not the most important thing in my life and I’m happy to announce it to anyone who’s curious.

    1. Plebeian Aristocracy*

      This, completely and totally. I hope the OP was either having a really bad day or rethought their stance in the future. Otherwise…we’ll, we sleep in the bed that we make.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      If work is an employee’s first commitment, tell the injured employee to come in. Their illness doesn’t matter, because you are understaffed that day.

      (Please, please tell me that the op sees what I’m saying here and isn’t thinking, “I tried that, but they got a doctor’s note.”)

      Every time you approve time off, this could happen. My boss gave three out of five people the day after Christmas off. Two who where scheduled retired early in the year so three days before Christmas, there was nobody scheduled! My boss came in, two people each came in for a couple hours. They got comp days, not lectures about their commitment to the job.

      1. Noodle snafu*

        I came here to say this. I’ve been in situations where the boss asked if I could come in on a day off and normally I’d get comp PTO hours, or paid OT for the day, or like a $50 gift card as compensation for giving up a scheduled day off.

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          Also key to Not Tom’s point is the voluntary nature. Most employees are a lot more like to “volunteer” with a bribe, but if I’ve already paid for plane tickets or concert tickets, there’s a reasonable chance that no bribe is enough. You’ll just have to do without me.

          1. Noodle snafu*

            Fully agree. If I already have plans I can’t change, a bribe isn’t getting me to work. But if the reason for the day off is flexible, and the compensation is good enough I’ll volunteer.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Right. Or if I can get an extra day off by working a partial day today, that can be useful, as long as I don’t have firm plans for that day.

      2. Becky*

        Yup a few years ago my team ended up with the same situation where nobody was scheduled the day after Christmas. The boss asked for volunteers and offered extra compensation. My co-worker volunteered as long as she could work from home (this was pre-covid and work from home was an occasional perk, not a regular thing). So she ended up working from home and getting some bonus (I don’t remember what the exact bonus was).

    3. EPLawyer*

      I don’t think even in the Before Times the “Your job is your first committment” would have flown real well.

      Let me be very clear to OP and everyone else who might think this: People’s first committment is NOT to their job. It’s to pretty much everything else in their lives. Jobs are what we do to pay our bills, Period. Even if you LOVE your job and are “passionate” about it, you would not be coming in if not getting paid. So no, someone is NOT going to change their plans just because their job had an emergency.

      1. Eden*

        Oh of course it was true in the Before Times, just fewer people may have been willing to admit it and push back. I notice a lot more open-ness these days.

      2. Salad Daisy*

        Agree agree agree.

        Nobody on their deathbed says “I wish I had spent more time at work”.

        And I love the term Before Times. I actually use it all the time.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I can’t believe people still say this in 2021. Our job is how we make money to support the people and things that *are* our first commitment. Why would a random job, that can terminate me at random at any moment, be my first commitment? This doesn’t even make any logical sense.

      1. Nea*

        It makes sense from the point of view of “how can I get someone else to make me money with their labor” but not from the point of view that people are, y’know, people with lives, needs, and interests outside the office.

      1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

        Lol I work to get Giant Goth Boots. And leggings. I don’t like people enough to want to prioritize them.

    5. jojo*

      Plus, sometimes appointments with specialist are scheduled Six months to a year in advance. Rescheduling could take another year. Be it for the employee, their spouse, parent, or child. Not changing the day off under those circumstances. As the saying goes, an emergency on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

  6. Falling Diphthong*

    #4: “Are you making sure people understand what the job is that they’re signing up for?”

    That’s my guess. The onerous details are revealed only after people have showed up for their first day and turned down any other offers, in hopes they’ll feel trapped and not bolt.

    If this is something that happens routinely–rather than once every few years–there is something wildly off in your hiring practices.

    (And yes, you must pay people for their time. Even if they or you decide that this isn’t working and you’re going to sever the arrangement.)

    1. steveyb*

      I think the “Do is still have to pay em?” tells you a bit about the self awareness here. I think this questioner is going to struggle to assess what is off that driving people away.

  7. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    Is a new hire who walks off the job in the first hour or two (or less) of employment entitled to be paid for that time? It is happening more often.
    I agree with Alison that this is indeed strange, people leaving within the first hour or two (or on the first day) is very unusual and should not be happening much at all, never mind more often.

    You need to figure out why, is their orientation person or manager giving off terrifying vibes or something?

    1. Selina Luna*

      In my entire life, I did this once, and that’s because I didn’t realize that the guy who was stalking me worked there until he showed up shortly into my 1st shift. I left the manager a note about why I quit.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      20 years ago I showed up to my first day of working on a robo-dialer survey line and an hour in, told my supervisor that my house was on fire and I had to leave. And then I just never went back. I was actually quite surprised to get not only a paycheck in the mail, but come January, a W2 for my one hour.

    3. lolly pop*

      If I walked into a new job & found a nest of vax/maskholes with the usually-associated views of women & racial/sexual/religious minorities, I’d be out in a heartbeat.

  8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    #4 “Doesn’t seem worth it to pay them for a couple hours of work.”
    The department of labor “suggests” people get paid for their work.
    Which is why there is a DOL. Because of employers who think that eh, it’s not worth the headache to pay this jerk.
    And to be honest, the employee probably is a a jerk. (unless you subjected him to someone sharing life traumas while teaching how to use a light switch for two hours)
    But ya gotta pay the people.

    1. Beth*

      “It is happening more often.” — it’s not just one new hire. So unless the employer specializes in hiring jerks, I don’t think there’s support for the Jerk Employee theory.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Yeah, there’s something going on at that workplace. Is the floor manager abusive? Is the workplace environment really difficult for some reason (overly hot, overly smelly, etc.)? Do you let customers be complete jerks to your staff?
        Something’s going on there. No attempts to mitigate it, or to let interviewees observe the environment to determine whether they can stand it.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Nesting fail. This was supposed to be under the $50 gift card reply.

          My reply here is,
          This reminds me of the adage “if everyone you meet seems to be a jerk (choose your word) maybe the jerk is you.”
          Multiple people walking out, often enough to where you had to investigate ways not to pay them? Your place sounds bad.

    2. kittymommy*

      That letter is a doozy. And I pretty sure the DOL considers it a bit more than a suggestion.

  9. Don*

    Question four gives me such a dark laugh. I know we all get tunnel vision sometimes but it’s boggling to me that paying someone for an hour of time is even in the top ten things to go through their mind. I would like to believe I would be thinking “What is wrong with our hiring process? What is happening in the onboarding process that this happens? What might this say about the rest of our workers? Are they all jerks? Are they all 2 seconds away from walking off the job too?”

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It does seem like someone in the process found a way to screen for “People who will take my hot garbage” in that these are the people who didn’t walk off the job after an hour.

  10. HolidayAmoeba*

    This is why a single employee should not be the sole possessor of this information without some kind of detailed notes as backup.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      But that shouldn’t be a problem. Work should be their first commitment, so they will never leave /s

  11. Cef*

    Sadly we had a colleague die suddenly and unexpectedly last year. We learnt the hard way about not having one person who is a lynchpin of knowledge. We did the best we could with the info we had and the realisation that none of it was as important as his loss was personally to our team.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      We had two pretty major losses in my oldjob office, plus another major one in the company, all within six months. The way it was phrased at a management retreat was….not awesome (it came across as “you can dedicate yourself to the company to the detriment of life, health, and family, die in an accident not related to work, and its worth a 30 seconds of silence to the company”) while at the same time, the company attempted to start demanding more out of the same positions that the three deceased held, corporate wide.

      Those of us who knew the deceased (knew two of them personally) didn’t take kindly nor believe that those deceased coworkers had NOT been dedicated enough.

      The loss of institutional knowledge was never addressed. The company then didn’t even both to admit that we’d all lost a friend and the loss was personal.

      Companies, don’t act like this.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*


        To be clear, the losses I mentioned were very much in The Before Times. But if that could happen just due to bad luck then, I think every company should have an EAP around/in place.

  12. Essentially Cheesy*

    Yes, LW #1 – that is called an Emergency Action Plan that must be accessible by everyone. It needs to be developed stat, even if it’s from the ground up. It includes the information you’re looking for, but also should include directions for things such as fire/tornado drills (and ammonia drills if you have that in your facility), lists of people who should be in charge and directions about headcounts, calling 911, etc. It is pretty standard part of a business office operations.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I’ve worked on EAPs. They are extremely valuable. Unfortunately, most places seemed to think it was a checkbox and didn’t put much effort into it. The initial draft is a big push, but if you divvy it up and have each department provide a piece, it’s very manageable: Bob writes the IT section, Lucinda does the POC/tree-calling list, etc. After that, it’s just a matter of updating your pertinent section periodically. EAPs don’t have to be pretty, just accurate. Print out the rough pages and stuff them in a binder or send a PDF to everyone.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Print out the rough pages and stuff them in a binder or send a PDF to everyone.

        Hypothetically, how do you coerce everyone into reading said documents? Asking for a friend, I swear…

        1. Ninja*

          As long as they know where to find it, they can refer to it when it becomes necessary, I think no need to coerce.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            In theory, that makes a lot of sense, but in practice the biggest reason I don’t take PTO is that my peers don’t read the documentation while I’m gone. When I return, I have to roll back a lot of weird changes lest they tank my quality score later.

        2. PT*

          I was Branch Safety Officer and my department had actual emergencies that other departments were supposed to respond to. Their departments did not have emergencies and resented that helping us was “interfering with our real work.”

          So I would run drills and then give soft writeups to people who didn’t respond to them. It would go in my legally-admissible-in-court drill documentation who didn’t respond and I’d email their boss.

          That said, I found it was much more effective to be collaborative, ex: we need you to HELP in an emergency and let’s PRACTICE so we all LEARN! Yay LEARNING!, rather than punitive, and punitive was a good last resort.

    2. Ace in the Hole*

      We clearly have different ideas of what constitutes an emergency action plan. In my circles, an emergency action plan is specifically for ensuring safety in an emergency: things like evacuation routes and assembly points, emergency shutoffs, notification or alarm systems, etc. Basically it should have what you need to know in case of a fire/earthquake/industrial accident/flood/etc and a description of systems that are in place to ensure safety in an emergency.

      Some of the information Jane has (alarm info, list of keyholders, etc) would belong in an EAP. Some (client and vendor contacts, etc) would not. It may be business critical, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safety critical.

      Definitely develop an EAP stat if you don’t already have one. And update it stat if you do have one, because it’s clearly missing some important info. But an EAP would not completely solve the problem here.

  13. Dr. Rebecca*

    #1: Yikes. That’s a lot of responsibility on one person’s head.
    #2: Bwahahaha, no.
    #4: I’ve walked off one job on the first day–they hired me to work in a garden center, but started to train me to be up trees with chainsaws. I do not do bait and switch when the bait is customer service, and the switch is dangerous machinery. So, as Alison suggests, check and see that this isn’t a “your company” problem.

  14. awesome3*

    If you’ve already checked the law from the Department of Labor, but now you’re asking Alison, it sounds like you’re looking for permission not to pay people. The laws around paying people have nothing to do with if it was useful work or not. So yes, it’s a big loss of money that this keeps happening, so instead of trying not to pay people, fix whatever is making people quit after 2 hours.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I like the implication that in our new world order, Alison of course can overrule the Department of Labor.

  15. Jack Sprat*

    LW1 – I got some particular vibes off of this one from personal experience. Another possibility to consider, though remote, is that Jane has not kept up her duties or records properly and is afraid to disclose that to you. As someone who’s fouled things up at work in the past and suffered from depression, it can be positively terrifying to think of being caught in a lie about something so fundamental. You put it off as long as you can in hopes it will just go away when it won’t. Respond with kindness, please.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I think it’s pretty safe to assume that (for whatever reason) Jane is not meeting job expectations in terms of keeping things organized. Maintaining contact lists, passwords, and lists of keyholders is an admin or office manager type function. You aren’t supposed to carry that info around in your head, hide it, or have it scattered about in random files/bits of paper. It’s not complex client history or deep background knowledge that’s hard to document. It’s lists you’d use frequently.

      Keeping that sort of information organized and accessible is a core job duty for that sort of role. Either Jane was not instructed properly in her duties, or she has fallen off them for some reason. Or maybe both.

  16. Ebaum*

    The first letter is a good reminder — *especially* during a global pandemic — that offices need to stop taking employees, their accessibility, and their mines of institutional knowledge for granted. It’s time to make sure that an employee’s individual need to take leave isn’t complicated by, and does not complicate, their company’s ability to continue without them. It should be the same if Jane were on vacation. Get what you need before this happens. Even in a small company, there is no longer a valid excuse for bothering someone in this case. What if she’s in crisis? What if she’s in the hospital? It’s your problem, not hers.

    Start treating people like humans by covering your ass with required documentation and cross-over capabilities *before* this happens again — because, look around, it will.

    1. Laney Boggs*

      There was a deeply satisfying thread on r/antiwork about an “invaluable” employee whose manager refused multiple times to cross train anyone, bc “We’d never do anything to lose you!”

      Well, they did something to lose him (cancelled his Use or Lose vacation time that was scheduled for between Christmas &New Year every year). He quit with no notice and the company biffed a huge contract and cost themselves some $30,000 in a day for not having the report done. He posted the texts from his manager where he gave his “I’ll help for $X” in an update.

        1. KateM*

          “Why do you think you deserve this much? […], […], login and save this company.”
          LOL, if someone ever answered their own question…

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          I can top that …. a software consultant who was due to work on a major implementation project was laid off. He asked his boss “OK who’s gonna take over (project X)?”

          Manager = “HUH? What’s that?”

          The client just hired the consultant straight up – and the consultant made a lot more money, the client SAVED a lot of money, and overall – the layoff cost the company well into the six-figure range.

          Exhibit A = Before you start swingin’ the ax, make sure you don’t chop your toes off.

      1. Sarah*

        Yes, I read that while I was sitting the requisite 15 minutes after my COVID booster and it was deeply satisfying!

      2. Salsa Verde*

        This is possibly the most satisfying thing I’ve ever read, anywhere, ever.
        I want to bring this energy into 2022!!

      3. WellRed*

        Holy sht! “You can have today off but be in tomorrow.” “Why won’t your wife answer her phone?@ “stop calling my Dad. I resigned, I didn’t die.” Probably all they needed to do was just … roll over his time off.

  17. Jean*

    Don’t act like someone is doing something wrong by expecting you, the manager, to honor your commitment to them that they could have the day off. It’s crappy management. As the manager, it’s on you to deal with any gaps in coverage.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      I got the impression this was a shift work job and the LW is so upset because they have to go in on their day off. But they should still honor the day off as a gesture of goodwill.

      1. Your Local Password Resetter*

        Which makes it even worse that they’re trying to push that burden off on their employee.

      2. Observer*

        Gesture of goodwill? That’s a very odd way to put it. They should do it, because people should honor their commitments. That is NOT a matter of being “gracious”.

  18. ecnaseener*

    I love that you used “captured by aliens” as the “why to document everything” scenario! I’ve always felt that was better than any of the alternatives I hear people use — “hit by a bus” is common but people find it too morbid, so then you get stuff like “won the lottery” which just makes people think ‘damn, if I won enough money to quit without notice and never work again I wouldn’t mind answering a few questions.’ Alien abduction is funnier than sudden death without losing the ‘sudden’ and ‘unwilling’ concepts :D

    1. Beth*

      I’ve taken to using “eaten by velociraptors” as my go-to disaster scenario, replacing “hit in the head by a meteorite”. In my case, I do have to make it fatal, since I’m usually addressing issues involving beneficiaries. Over-the-top improbability helps.

      Then, too, “if you both get eaten by the same velociraptor” works better for simultaneous decease than “you both get hit on the head by the same meteorite”.

    2. nonegiven*

      Are you kidding? I win enough money to never work again, my phone number is changed that same day. My mailing and physical addresses, the next day.

  19. Meg*

    For #1, my boss and I call this the “City bus test.” If either of us were hit by the city bus, would the department be able to function (somewhat) normally in our absence? In the past the answers been no, but we’re slowly working on changing that.

    1. Name (Required)*

      I used to call it bus-proof too, but switched to “lottery-proof” due to the look on some people’s faces when I called it bus-proof. LOL

      1. DarthVelma*

        I go with “What is a meteor hits my house?” I’m just as dead, but for some reason people I work with seem to find it absurd rather than morbid.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      One of my former bosses used “Beer truck scenario ” and I still try to follow that, at least reasonably. Especially when it comes to explaining some of my formulation choices. It is moderately frustrating to try to understand why certain materials were chosen and not others. I can’t ask because neither chemist is still available.

      1. Wisteria*

        Is that the scenario where they get hit by the beer truck or the scenario where they drink beer at the beer truck until they are too drunk to come in or care? Is there a taco truck scenario? Bc for the right taco truck, work can pound sand.

  20. Bluebelle*

    Making sure to plan for absences is the employer’s job. It is time to make it a priority. Set up a schedule for cross training. If a company is left without knowing how to do something, it really isn’t the responsibility of the employee. Everyone should take a look at their team and figure out who has tasks or knowledge that no one else has and create a plan to deal with an unexpected absence.

    1. Zephy*

      Right. Everyone will eventually leave, one way or another – your business plan cannot be that everyone stays doing what they do forever. You have to anticipate people leaving, and find a way to get their mission-critical knowledge out of their heads and written down somewhere early and often.

  21. Grapthar's Hammer*

    This should be a minor wake up call that if your people were unexpectedly hit by a bus, your company would have some trouble carrying on with the business, and there are risks associated with how you’re managing key info / key responsibilities. There may not be sufficient backup for the role. Normally, ‘on leave’ would also mean ‘unavailable’. In short.. OP may wish to re-evaluate how they’re managing these risks.

  22. Purple cat*

    LW 2. – “ I think that his job is his first commitment regardless.”
    Eww, gross, nope!
    Glad this is an archive letter and I still naively cling to the hope that in 2021 bosses aren’t still so clueless.

  23. I should really pick a name*


    Thought experiment.
    Why should work be their first priority?
    What have you as the employer done to deserve this?

    Another employee unexpectedly couldn’t come in that day. Is there a specific, major impact of having two people off for one day, or do you just feel like you shouldn’t have more than one person out at a time?

  24. Richard Hershberger*

    LW3 seems backwards to me. The point of a good cover letter is for the candidate to draw attention to the resume, rather than having it buried in the pile. But the resume itself has to be good. Drawing attention to a bad resume just gets it in the circular file that much faster. So here we have a hiring manager looking at resumes and seeing some good ones. This would seem to be a win! But instead, the reaction is to complain that there is no cover letter, turning the cover letter into a box that must be checked off.

    Recall a couple decades back when there was a trend of doing stupid gimmicks to draw attention to your resume, then in paper. A classic was to also stuff the envelope with glitter, which would fly everywhere when the envelope was opened. The hiring manager would, the theory went, be delighted by the creativity and impressed by the candidate’s Gumption! This was, of course, a terrible idea on all levels. But imagine a universe where it this was a great idea. Word would get out that glitter really helped your chances of getting hired, so it would become more and more common. Finally matters would progress to the point where glitter was a requirement for your resume to be considered. “I am sorry, but while your qualifications are exactly what we are looking for, you neglected to include glitter with your resume. Let me offer you our best wishes in your future endeavors.”

    1. Loulou*

      That’s not the point of a good cover letter, though! The point of a cover letter should be to connect the experience listed on your resume to the responsibilities and job posting. If a hiring manager has a number of equally good resumes, then the cover letter would likely become even more important in determining who would actually be good in the role.

    2. The Dogman*

      The concept of cover letters needs to be put to bed I think.

      The CV stands or it doesn’t, dressing it up in a load of pretty language in a letter is just a way for lazy hiring HR people to punt on reading the CV’s it seems to me, and the decent HR people have to deal with 1/2 extra pages per application since they will have to read both anyway… with paper ones that is a lot of trees that didn’t need to die either!

      Just CV’s means less work for the hiring people and for the prospective employees.

      1. Your Local Password Resetter*

        Actually, you’d lose a ton of useful information if you scrapped the cover letter.
        Just a list of jobs and major accomplishments doesn’t give you the full picture of what an employee can do or is looking for. And a lot of that list can look different depending on the context from the cover letter.

      2. Loulou*

        This is a pretty extreme take. It’s true that many cover letters are really perfunctory and are indeed just CVs in pretty language — but ideally they wouldn’t be. In my case, I’m well-qualified for my niche job, but it’s not obvious from my resume alone. The cover letter is where I made the pitch for my slightly unusual background actually being a good fit for the job duties. My boss told me she uses the resumes to screen for the mandatory qualifications, then sets them aside and focuses on the cover letters.

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        My organization only asks for cover letters when a position involves a significant amount of writing. Plenty of people have good experience and skills in our field overall but lack the writing skills to succeed in a few specific roles. Cover letters are a great screening tool for that.

        However, when we want a cover letter we say so explicitly in the application packet and job advertisement.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Thing is, despite your condescending attitude towards good writing, there are plenty of jobs out there (including mine) where excellent writing skills are one of the most important criteria.
        Apparently in IT people don’t do cover letters, which is why the IT department is full of people who only know how to communicate with computers, and why when your software crashes you get unhelpful notifications that X is missing when you can see it sitting right where it’s supposed to be.
        A cover letter shows your writing skills, and is an opportunity to explain anything that might seem weird in your CV, as well as explaining why your experience in Y involves the same kind of skills and mindset as when working on Z, when Z is the one thing in the ad where you don’t have any previous experience.

    3. ArtK*

      IIRC the point is that the LW wants writing samples and a cover letter is a good way to get that. A resume won’t tell you if someone can’t express themselves well.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        The CV can show that you’re good at following templates off Internet, and that you know how to set information out clearly. But prose, no, you need a cover letter.

    4. FridayFriyay*

      For me I often see strong resumes from candidates who have what I think are transferable skills but no specific experience doing the type of job I’m hiring for. A cover letter really helps to connect the dots about why they’re interested in this particular position/a career change/how they see their skills applying. In my experience it helps cut down on wasted interview time for candidates who are just throwing spaghetti at the wall with their applications.

    5. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      I think I know what’s going on with this one. The last several jobs I’ve gotten have been recruited (a recruiter saw my resume in a job site, thought I qualified for a specific req, then pre-vetted me and asked me if it was okay to submit). With recruited positions there doesn’t seem to be a cover letter requirement. The hiring manager trusts that the recruiter has already vetted the candidate before resume is submitted. I can’t honestly remember the last time I wrote a cover letter.

      It sounds like the LW is using a recruiter, so most likely the recruiters are just not asking candidates for cover letters. If the LW really wants all candidates to submit one they should either ask the recruiters to do that, or post the jobs publicly rather than using recruiters. Since they’re already in the middle of this search thought, I’d be inclined to just forget it this time. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t get candidates to write one after the fact if you really wanted, but it might seem a bit weird at this point.

  25. Lenora Rose*

    In my office, the then-receptionist was moved to the office supply (and many other things) clerk position literally overnight because the supply clerk was doing emergency service in another extremely understaffed and much more essential department where she had prior experience. So she was around, if in another building, and you could call her for questions but there was almost no training time.

    She left essentially a bible for her job, and, since, though a series of further events, that is now my desk, I can say that how to book is a saving grace. I have had my nitpicks about her instructions, and I did feel I needed to update and revise some parts — but I wouldn’t even know enough to know “Hey, this bit needs updating” if the book wasn’t there in the first place.

    1. Zephy*

      Before I left OldJob, I worked with the team lead in my sister-department to develop a detailed, full-color, step-by-step manual for How To Do OldJob. It had screenshots of every window in the software we used, with what information goes in what fields and where to find it, decision trees and flowcharts out the wazoo, checklists and templates galore. It was a thing of beauty, truly. I was kind of a sub-department of one plus my manager; our operations were related to the sister-department, and overlapped in a lot of ways, but had a few important mechanical differences. So, to torture an AAM metaphor, if the sister-department painted teapots, I specifically painted the light green ones, and had special procedures for mixing the right shade of green paint.

      As far as I’m aware, the minute I left, my manager and the two people they hired to replace me (at full time and for $3 more per hour than they were paying me for part-time work), basically yeeted the OldJob Bible teamlead and I had crafted into the sun and started winging it.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I can see how that could happen… and why it likely cost them a LOT in terms of productivity and time where they had to struggle with stuff they then learned by trial and error.

        My rule is to look at the instructions, first, before I decide my way is better. Have we been deciding how to change things at this desk? Hell, yes (there are definitely time saving processes that could be added, and “Why was she even doing this?” items) but step one was to follow her instructions as close to the letter as possible to see why and what the workflow is supposed to be, and if there was a reason for her policies.

  26. DG*

    #1: Is this something IT could help the LW with, depending on how Jane was keeping these files? I always assume IT has the ability to access my files (or really anything on my company-owned computer) whenever they wanted, and while that sometimes feels like a breach of privacy waiting to happen, this feels like a scenario in which it would be beneficial.

  27. Richard Hershberger*

    “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless.”

    “I understand that you have nonrefundable tickets that you scrimped and saved to be able to afford, but your job is your first commitment regardless.”

    “I understand that you were going to be best man at your brother’s wedding, but your job is your first commitment regardless.”

    “I understand that you were finally able to schedule that surgery that would relieve you from daily agony, but your job is your first commitment regardless.”

    “I understand it is your mother’s funeral, but your job is your first commitment regardless.”

    1. Empress Matilda*

      “I understand that you’re coughing up blood, but…”

      “I understand that you only got two hours sleep because your child is sick, and you feel it’s unsafe for you to drive, but…”

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Stupid reality! Always ruining my perfectly good jokes…

            In seriousness, I’ve been adjacent to the call a few times. I know it’s made.

    2. Lucia Pacciola*

      Am I alone in thinking your job should almost *never* be your first commitment? Obviously putting in the work to ensure you have food and shelter for you and those in your care should be a pretty high priority. But I don’t love my employer. I don’t live for my employer. I have higher commitments than my job. My job is a means to those other ends, not an end in itself. Let alone my consummate end goal.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I was once threatened with a firing because I was going to delay my Monday reports — my daughter had undergone emergency surgery late Sunday night.

      I had kept my management in line and informed all the way – and at 8 am on Monday I was threatened if I didn’t come in. I almost smashed my pager and sent it back, (mrs. anon-2 even brought me a hammer) but I was angry and went in late.

      In hindsight, I should have smashed it up, then called HR, “I don’t give a s**t about the job, just will my daughter’s surgical bills be covered if I do quit right now?” But I didn’t. That actually prompted a couple more “Dinner Table Stories”.

  28. Jamie*

    Re: #3 (no cover letters), I have generally worked in industries and roles where cover letters are not asked for, and I’ve seen explicit job postings saying they will be discarded if provided. I like them when hiring but given that the letter writer says they are new to the company, it might be worth asking the recruiter if they’re common or not for that industry and role. It could simply be that applicants aren’t used to them, and the recruiting apparatus at that company isn’t either.

  29. Caryn Z.*

    OK for the one who wants to cancel an employee’s approved day off. Sorry, no, work should not be everyone’s first priority. Living our lives is our first priority!

  30. Middle Manager*

    If COVID has taught me anything, it’s that, no- in fact my job does not come above all else. I still work incredibly hard, I’ve been called a workaholic, but our time on this earth and the people we love’s time on this earth are limited and I won’t put my job ahead of the people I love. In a true emergency, if my employer asked me to re-arrange time off, I would do my best. But if they came at me with that ask like it was an expectation and I wasn’t a “committed” employee if I couldn’t cater to their changing needs at the last minute, I’d start thinking about how much of an employee’s market it is right now and start sending out resumes.

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      We are going through a serious COVID outbreak and I just realized that if one more person gets sick, we may have to shut down because it’s impossible to work without staff unless the remaining persons are willing to work 12 hours days and live at work.

      1. Middle Manager*

        If it’s a critical service with literal lives on the line(Nursing Home, fire department, etc), then that would to me qualify as the emergency situation. Still, my point stands that the attitude should be asking for the favor not declaring the employee uncommitted if they aren’t immediately jazzed to be giving up a day off planned in advance.

        If not, and the workplace has literally become a COVID hotspot, maybe it’s just prudent to shut down for two weeks? I get that that has real world implications (people’s paychecks, the owner’s ability to continue having a business, etc). But I just do not see it as a long term solution to say that people can’t have personal lives. We’re not in “two weeks to slow the spread” anymore. We’re nearing two years of pandemic. People have to still live their lives and take days off sometimes. I might just be burnt out working in a healthcare related role and having worked 80+ per week in the first months of COVID, but I’m just not giving up my personal life anymore for work and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on that.

  31. My Brain Is Exploding*

    So, if your boss says to you “your job is your first commitment regardless,” what would you say back to them (assuming you would like to keep the job and antagonize boss as little as possible)?

    1. urguncle*

      “Sometimes we all have to change our priorities.”
      “A paycheck is my first priority.”
      “I requested and was granted the time off so that I can focus on my job when I’m scheduled to come in.”
      “That may be true for you, but that is not necessarily true for others.”

      Any boss who is talking to their employees like that in *this* hiring climate needs a reality check.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        How about –

        “It’s not FAIR! You plan your vacations six months out, reserve the time off, and now ….”

      1. My Brain Is Exploding*

        All that comes to mind is snark or inappropriate. :) And I suppose there’s no good way to keep any sort of relationship and try to explain to the boss in this or similar situations that their thinking is skewed. Agree about job searching, though!

    2. Your Local Password Resetter*

      In my brain: “How much are you paying me for that?”

      IRL: “I see.”
      And then start job-searching, because my boss is unreasonable and encroaching on my life.

    3. Purple Cat*

      I would say:
      My job is VERY important to me, and I am a dedicated employee, but it’s not my only commitment. I requested the day off in advance and you approved it. I have plans I cannot break.

  32. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    LW #1: I feel your pain. The last 3 years on the job have been “They’re not coming back until when?!” followed by “How do we do this thing?” followed by a very steep learning curve and documenting where we could.

    I have big plans to cross train as much as possible in 2022. Knowledge in just one person’s head is a recipe for chaos.

  33. Ashkela*

    Honestly, if the only communication LW#1 is having is via text, there’s a chance they’ve had some kind of breakdown and are in psych and it’s their partner messaging, with the hope that this time the person will get out the next day (note I am not just pulling this scenario out of my head, I’ve experienced it in a couple different ways between my own hospitalizations when I was younger and my best friend/her partner dealing with it in the last two years). Mental health stigma, especially regarding hospitalizations, is still huge depending on the work culture and location. I’m not saying it’s cool that they’re doing this, but it could be an alternate explanation.

    LW#3, if folx are quitting THAT fast, it means you’re not preparing them for what the job will look like in the interviews. Now granted it might be just that they don’t get how busy a call center or retail store or whatever is, but something is making them see red flags before even their first break.

  34. LifeBeforeCorona*

    This demonstrates why written notes and records are vital for every position. We are currently dealing with a co-worker who was a knowledge hoarder and never wrote anything down. They quit without notice and finding basic information is almost impossible.

  35. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I’m the office manager, and I’ve always been one of those that creates a manual or document or something on the central server that people can always find the basics. Passwords, phone numbers, who I spoke to about HVAC on what day. Even a dumb old scratch paper that’s locked up at night (critical people have a key). It’s important that these kinds of things can be found. You just never know.

    My boss used to always say, “If you get hit by a bus how will I find anything.” I immediately stopped her and told her henceforth that she was to start that sentence with, “If you win the lottery, how will I ____.” She bristled at that remark.

  36. Michelle Smith*

    “I think that his job is his first commitment regardless.”

    With all due respect to LW, I find that hilarious and out of touch. If you tell me I have the time off to go do something that matters to me personally and you rescind, it is not my problem to fix. It is yours. I will not be at work. It’s your choice whether you’ll have to make do for that one day or for however many additional days it takes you to hire someone else.

    My job is not the most important thing in my life, nor should it be. Family, friends, etc. come first. Heck depending on what the job is and the industry (i.e. how easy it will be for me to just get another job quickly), a lot of other things might come first in this situation too.

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      Right? The LW isn’t even asking an employee who just happens to be off that day, but one who specifically needed that day off for something that, that day, was indeed more important than their job. They should be the last person the employer would try to come in.

  37. PepperVL*

    For #3, if it’s an external recruiter at a staffing firm, there may not be an opportunity for a cover letter. Every time I’ve worked with one, they’ve sent me a job description, and if I was interested, and submitted my resume when I said yes. I’ve never been given the chance to write one with recruiters.

  38. The OG Sleepless*

    I knew a professional (think, an associate attorney/accountant type job) who quit a job after half a day. The red flags for the working conditions, the type of work, and the lack of support were so obvious almost as soon as they walked in, that they didn’t see any reason to stick around.

  39. Lizzo*

    For #3, I’d also like to encourage OP to publicize the salary range as part of the job posting. It’s one of the best practices for equity in hiring.

  40. Blue Eagle*

    #2 – I was once the employee in this situation for a 3-day vacation (plus the 2 weekend days) that I had paid for in full. My boss needed me to work – – – and agreed to reimburse me for the expenses out of pocket so I could rebook the vacation for later in the summer. As that was acceptable to me, I postponed the vacation and worked the days needed. Maybe the boss should offer this as a potential solution (depending on whether or not the activity could be postponed).

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      That might work if it’s just you, visiting family, all in good health. Then again it might not: if you’ve planned a trip with friends, they probably can’t all reschedule. It sounds like it was one specific day the worker asked for, so they probably have some kind of appointment that would be difficult to reschedule. I’m hoping it was a job interview and that the worker aced it and got a great offer straight away.

  41. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – backup. I’ve said this in here many times before – companies often get caught, to use an expression, “with their pants down” when someone leaves, and no one knows the password to a system. ALWAYS set up at least two people with administrative authority on any system.

    #2 – granting time off, and then asking the employee to back away from it. I’ve been a potential victim of this during my career. The worst situation (described in prior threads) was one in which I asked for two weeks off – for a vacation – and bought three plane tickets (Boston-London), booked several nights accommodation, and rented a car. Permission was granted in April, the trip was July. In late June I was asked if I could cancel, because of a ‘crisis” – the “crisis” being that my intended backup never learned the systems I was responsible for – he kept cancelling on me. I replied that it would be VERY costly – the company would have to pick up ALL expenditures plus 30% to cover taxes, and give me an extra week. Their response = “uhh, uhh, golly gee whiz, I dunno..”

    Other situations came up on vacation approvals in my career – I planned trips, shelled out money, and then when the time approached “can you change your vacation plans? My son is getting an award, and we need those three days off”…. NO — I was meeting with eight friends at a resort and have already paid for my room… and we cannot reschedule it.

    I am truly sorry that I can manage to make plans ahead of time and can manage my va-ca time.
    But I shouldn’t be punished for it financially, or otherwise.

    And one of my favorite “dinner table stories” – when I worked in an industrial/operations environment on an overnight shift – and was out on vacation for a week, plus the Labor Day holiday. The normal work sked was Monday night/Tues AM – to Friday night/Saturday Morning. BACKGROUND = The director was out to get me.

    While I was out – the work didn’t get done. The other guys on the shift goofed off. They were given overtime to work Thursday morning until noon, and Friday morning until noon.

    Then they called in sick on Friday night. I was later told that they frantically tried to call me at midnight on Friday – please come in. But I wasn’t there. I was 1500 miles away. This was before cell phones and even answering machines.

    Somehow, that mess was MY problem. The director said “Fire Anon-2”. So after completing work on the Tues/Wed shift ….I get called in. The ops manager and my supervisor were there. “SIT DOWN. Where were you Friday night?”

    I replied (a city 1500 miles away). HOW’S BOUT SATURDAY? I replied (a town 750 miles away).

    All of a sudden, the manager looks angrily at my supervisor. Apparently the supervisor hadn’t said “Anon-2 was on vacation”…. covering for the two non-productive workers. “Just curious”, I asked, “Why are you so interested in where I went on vacation?” (snide look)….

  42. Katherine B Kerr*

    Maybe, in line with the suggestion of asking for one last phone meeting, let her know that if she is unable to meet with you over the phone, you will be using technology to work through your questions? Consider reaching out to your IT and asking for access to her work email as well as her voice mail. You will want to change her voice mail and out-of-office email message to indicate that any questions should come to you if she hasn’t let you know that she has done that already. Can you get access to her laptop/desktop/information on the cloud?
    When I lost a direct report (she managed about 25 people on about 5 different client sites) because of an injury that ended up being fatal, I had IT give me access to a lot. I had to make sure that voice mails were answered, timesheets were signed and emails were addressed. Although I had the general information about the client, the colleague in charge of each project, and the team members on each project, I didn’t have the absolute latest status of each project nor did I have the email addresses for the clients. I was able to construct a list of people to contact about every subject and get the status of almost everything. It gave me a starting point and some specific knowledge of the last interaction.
    Note that there were also personal email that I just skimmed and skipped. I had the hard task of calling some people who left voice mails and letting them know what had happened.

  43. Retired (but not really)*

    The main times I’ve heard of people not staying long when they get to the job is if it turns out to be cold calling or door to door, recruit all your friends and family, or a call center. I could also see it if there’s unacceptable bait & switch (not just there being a bit more involved to the job than expected as that’s a pretty normal situation with starting a new job).
    It sounds like that hiring manager needs to be either more selective in who is hired or explain much better what is actually involved in the job when interviewing candidates or maybe both.

  44. Papillon Celeste*

    Hooo boy #2!
    People work for a living and don’t live to work. No matter how high my passion for my job is, my first priority will always be my health and my life.
    If my job interferes with that, zero tolerance in case of health and a little tolerance when it means to make allowances occasionally as long as it’s properly honoured, then I have no more reason to stay at that job.
    No employer will care for me if my health declines too much to do any more work so that isn’t something I’m willing to commit. And if my job prevents me from having a private life, then the main reason to sustain that life falls flat so I don’t need a job anymore.
    Having a job is a business transaction. Tit for tat. Asking me to put in more than I’ll get out is like asking a grocery store customer for paying double for a faulty product just because the company would like to get the money. It’s just not happening.

  45. RCB*

    My very first professional job I got because the person before me had literally gotten hit by a bus and died. Because of that, I’ve always had the mindset of “Make sure someone knows where all the vital stuff is in case you get hit by a bus”, and though it may annoy my boss that I periodically remind him where my passwords and stuff are, I know he sleeps better at night having it as I handle ALL of the money for the organization, so they’d be screwed if something happened to me and I hadn’t documented stuff.

  46. Pam Poovey*

    LW #2 is gonna show up on the antiwork subreddit any minute now.

    Seriously though? You gave him the day off, whatever coverage is needed is not his responsibility. You can ask, but a) there must be ZERO consequences when he says no and b) he needs to be compensated handsomely (time and a half, extra paid days off, etc.). But really you shouldn’t even do that. It’s his day off.

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