my boss is angry that I couldn’t work while I was sick with Covid

A reader writes:

I am hoping you can help me get some perspective on a recent situation between me and management at my company. I have shared this story with a few different people and everyone has a different opinion.

Here is the background: Three years ago, I was hired at my current company to do office admin/billing stuff. At that time, there were three employees (we are a very small local branch of a large international company). When I came on, they quickly discovered that I was able to handle a higher workload than my predecessor and had me train so that I can do all functions of every job in our office. This was not part of the job I was hired for, but I actually enjoy it as much as, if not more than, the work I was hired to do. So I quickly moved from just handling billing/admin work to all operations, auditing, quoting, and miscellaneous tasks. Long story short, I can (and have) run the office completely on my own. Nobody else in the office, including my manager, can say that.

I loved my job. A year later, Covid hit and upended everything. We downsized from three employees to two, even with a much higher workload than we had previously. For the entire first year of Covid, my boss worked from home 2-3 days per week while his elementary-aged children were stuck doing school from home. To say it was frustrating is an understatement. I was alone most of the time at the office, holding down the fort while everyone else was at home… we are an essential industry, so I had to be there in person. I knew my boss was in a tight spot and even though it was insanely frustrating and he was very difficult to get ahold of, I dealt with it. Then 2021 happened, and that caused even more issues. Our parent office (3-1/2 hours away in another state) lost most of their employees in an important department, so management asked me to travel to that office and help with the workload. Every other week for seven months. In addition to my existing workload. Then I was asked to not only take on their workload, but to train the new employees. So I did. At that time, I was not given a raise or anything in the way of additional compensation for all of the extra work I was doing — just vague promises of a raise to come later on.

They finally got enough staff last July, so I was able to stop assisting with day-to-day operations and focus on my own work, which was months behind. They did eventually give me a promotion, but I was not promoted to the level I was told I would be, so that was additionally frustrating. They framed it as “management can’t promote you too high, too quickly, or there will be nowhere for you to go in a few years.” That doesn’t seem entirely fair to me, but fine. Then they called me a few weeks ago and asked me to travel to them again to train more new hires. I went without question or hesitation. I contracted Covid on that trip and two days after returning home, I was sick. I am vaccinated and still wear a mask around other people just to be safe. I found out I was positive on a Saturday, and immediately texted my boss to let him know. I thought that would be pretty cut and dry.

I got no response from him at all. I texted my other boss in the head office the next day to let them know as well, because I was afraid they might have been exposed, and because I had told them I would assist with one of their employee’s vacations that week. All I got in response from that manager was “wow.”

The next morning, Monday, my boss called me like he usually does, seemingly thinking I was going to be working as usual. I told him no, I had Covid, I couldn’t work. HR called me and I sent them my positive test and again, thought that was the end of it.

Two days later, I got an angry text from my boss, asking if my computer was broken and why I wasn’t working. I was shocked and just told him no, I have Covid. I’m at home, sick. He responded that I was “screwing him over” and he couldn’t believe me. I assumed he was having a rough day and, while I thought it was completely inappropriate, I just chalked it up to him venting. Well, he did the same exact thing the next day — he texted and went off on me for not working, and when I asked why he was acting like this and again stated that I was sick, he called me to personally tell me I was “f^&%ing him over.”

I hung up in tears and called HR. I told them an abbreviated version of what had happened, and she told me that management was “disappointed in me” and that I had “left them hanging” by not working. I was so shocked and hurt by this all that I hardly slept that night, and the next day, I logged on and worked from home. My bosses have never acknowledged any of this or apologized, and I know my boss thinks he did nothing wrong.

I am ready to find a new job over this. I call off once or twice per year. I take so few days off that I have almost a month of PTO banked right now, and we are only three months into 2022. I always make sure that if I take time off, it is scheduled around the needs of the business. Before this, I was very highly regarded. Now, I feel like my worth is solely tied to how much work I can do for them. Nobody ever even asked how I was doing. I feel completely undervalued and taken advantage of. I haven’t even tried to talk about it with my boss because he thinks everything in life goes back to sports, and you just need to “rub some dirt on it” and get back in the game.

When I have shared this story with people, I have gotten reactions ranging from “BURN ALL THE BRIDGES” to “eh, that’s just business. you should try to understand their perspective.” So I hope you and your readers can weigh in on this and tell me if you think I am being unreasonable, or if they did in fact behave as badly as I feel they did. How do I navigate this moving forward?

Run run run.

They have taken advantage of you every step of the way: piling on more and more work, well outside the scope of your job description, and declining to compensate you for it … having you travel 3-1/2 hours away every other week for seven months, again without compensation and when you could have declined,  … not promoting you to the level they promised and giving you a BS reason for it. And now when you get sick — while doing extra work for them, no less — they act as if you’re betraying them by being ill?

The audacity blows my mind.

To be clear, their response to you being sick would have been wildly out of line even if you hadn’t gone above and beyond in all those ways. Their response would have been unacceptable even if you were a mediocre employee, or a bad one. People get sick. It’s a normal part of doing business, and only cartoon-villain-level bosses respond the way yours did.

But in particular, to treat you this way after you’ve bent over backwards time and time again to be helpful and accommodating? It’s honestly one of the most disgusting things I’ve heard of in nearly 15 years of writing this site, and considering that we’ve had letters about bosses demanding their employees’ livers, that’s saying a lot.

I do think there might be something in here about you having been so accommodating in the past, far past what you should have done, that perhaps your employer was trained to think they could expect you to always accommodate them, like some sort of work robot who never gets tired or sick. If we could go back in time, I’d tell you to push back on some of their expectations much sooner. But their reaction now is so beyond the pale (and being defended by their HR person? WTF?) that this isn’t anything you created; it’s 100% on your boss for being a terrible person and spoiled manchild.

I don’t know who in your life is telling you that this is “just business” and you “should try to understand their perspective,” but those are probably not people you should take advice from on anything work-related ever again. Something is very strangely calibrated within them!

Please start an active job search immediately. Now’s a great time to do it. These people don’t deserve your labor. Get out get out get out.

Read an update to this letter

{ 436 comments… read them below }

  1. Hills to Die On*

    Glassdoor this as well when you leave. There are so many jobs out there right now – you don’t have to take this. And I am the first person to tell someone to ‘suck it up’ but this is complete crap.

    1. WomEngineer*

      If this company is really small, it could get back to them. I’d wait until LW has the next job lined up before posting.

    2. Rayray*

      Definitely leave the review on Glassdoor and/or indeed. As someone who has worked at some bad places, I will thoroughly read all of these reviews before even considering applying. This treatment is cruel and vile and the company needs to be called out.

    3. Koalafied*


      “Just business” doesn’t cover managers throwing temper tantrums and being nasty to their staff. Business never requires someone to be yelled at. There’s no profit in yelling at someone. So the abusive attitude is out of line no matter what.

      To boot, sick time is a normal, routine, accepted part of doing business. LW didn’t ask the managers for anything that should have been unexpected, where “business reasons” might explain their “perspective.” If we’re going to grant this kind of nonsense as “just business” then you might as well say they’d be right to be upset that they have to pay minimum wage and follow labor laws. After all, it would be cheaper for them not to, that’s “just business!”

      1. Sloanicota*

        Sadly, I think with WFH it’s become increasingly expected that you will be available to at least answer most emails – if more slowly – and be responsive to phone when sick. Sure you might go dark for some hours when you’re literally sleeping but people still expect about a half day’s worth of work and responsiveness. A colleague of mine was at this level even *in the hospital* although nothing we were doing was critical. They said they were bored and had a lot of downtime, but I recall thinking it didn’t speak well for our society as a whole.

        1. Resident Catholicville, USA*

          A former colleague at my last place of business had this happen to her- she was in the hospital with Covid (apparently a special Covid ward that wasn’t severe enough for ICU, but worse than the normal admission wing) and she was doing work while there, under the guise of “bored” and “downtime.” I draw a hard and fast, “Nope!” to working FROM THE HOSPITAL.

          1. Sloanicota*

            I just read an article lauding somebody at Pixar (I think) who was working from her hospital bed during early labor. I mean, sure you’ve probably got some down time but I still think that’s pretty messed up.

          2. Seriously?*

            There have been teacher stories like this, coded as, isn’t she great for working through her cancer treatments?! Well, if she wants to, but she shouldn’t feel it is necessary to work when she should be building up strength.

          3. Jolene*

            I was sending work emails less than 60 minutes after my son was born – but truly, I was just bored! My son went off to the infant area for observation, and my wife went with him…and I was stuck in bed…and, well, I’ve never liked crosswords.

        2. Mangled metaphor*

          Yeah, working from hospital coz you’re bored really *really* doesn’t indicate a healthy attitude towards the work-life split (I won’t say balance – the point at which you are IN HOSPITAL indicates there should be a definite split between private and professional expectations).
          Does your colleague use their PTO properly, or are they on the beach (remember those times?!) iPhone in hand, checking emails? Bad colleague! No. That’s not doing the company or yourself any favours.

          1. Jora Malli*

            This. It’s true that hospitals are boring, but when I was in the emergency room earlier this year it didn’t even occur to me to check my work email. I was in the hospital! I read a romance novel and scrolled through twitter because healing requires rest, and also I was deeply uncomfortable and probably wouldn’t have been producing good work anyway.

            1. Koalafied*

              Exactly, there are plenty of other ways to entertain yourself in hospital, if only and purely so you don’t set a bad example that “working in hospital is a reasonable thing to expect people to do.”

              Personally if I were about to have a child I’d want to take advantage of what would likely be my last opportunity to have true relaxing downtime for quite a while. But if you want something intellectually stimulating? Read a book, do puzzles, practice a foreign language. Heck, even do work-related stuff if you can do it in a way that’s not visible to others, like watching some on demand webinars or reviewing documents so that you can let them rattle around in your head without directly thinking about them, which is often how people find inspiration for solving unusual problems.

              1. Sasha*

                Depends. I was in hospital for two months when pregnant with my son, and I did some MSc assignments while on bed rest.

                It wasn’t the first thing I did, but there is literally only so much tv you can watch. After 3-4 weeks of lying on a bed, in a ward, I wanted something intellectually stimulating. Well what I really wanted was to go for a walk, but in the absence of that I wanted to do something I could really focus my mind on.

                I don’t think I would have done TPS reports, and I happily took twelve months of maternity leave, but those 8 weeks in hospital were sooo boring – I wouldn’t blame anyone for turning to work.

                1. nonprofit llama groomer*

                  But you had 12 months of maternity leave. A lot of people don’t and the expectation that they work from the hospital bed is horrifying.

                2. allathian*

                  Yeah, it really depends on why you’re in hospital and how sick you actually feel. Individual employees may feel like they’re both able and willing to work from a hospital bed, but that doesn’t mean that expecting people to do so would be okay.

                  That said, I’m glad that I had a long maternity leave that started more than a month before I had my son (week 36, and I went to 41 w+5). For the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, I had to get up every half hour to pee, so I was already pretty sleep deprived when my son was born. But at least I could spend 12 hours in bed every day, even if I only slept in 15-minute increments. I wasn’t fit for work then, and if I hadn’t been able to go on maternity leave, I would’ve taken sick leave instead.

          2. pancakes*

            I don’t think it even matters whether other colleagues do the same — it’s not as if it becomes a healthier relationship to work if they all behave that way. It’s simply not healthy to have no interests or ways to occupy one’s time besides work. It’s wildly insular and restricted, and a person who lives that way is likely to have some sort of crisis when they retire or when illness or injury keep them from working, whichever comes first.

        3. Greg*

          I don’t tend to get sick very often, but my rule on vacation is that I may check email in order to clear out my inbox, but absent a true emergency, I never respond. I never want to condition any of my coworkers to expect a reply from me while I’m away. If I am going to do any work, it will be on my terms, not theirs.

  2. The Original K.*

    The way my petty is set up, I’d be really tempted to quit with no notice once I had a new job. Let them see what “f&@!ing them over” really looks like.

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      Heck yes. And then block the boss’s phone number so he couldn’t call or text to verbally abuse or berate me anymore.

    2. Toodie*

      Except with some companies that means she’d lose all her banked PTO. I would want to take that with me. (I live in a state that has very few protections for employees, so this would be likely where I live.)

      1. The Original K.*

        As someone suggested, if her employer doesn’t pay out unused PTO, she could take it, use that time to search, and then quit when she gets back. Not sure what you mean by take it with you; everywhere I’ve worked they either pay it out or you just lose it when you leave.

          1. allathian*

            We have long notice periods (1-2 months rather than 2 weeks), and a part of that is so that your employer can avoid paying out accrued vacation. People often start their new job while they’re officially on their notice period at the old one. AFAIK my employer only does payouts in very rare circumstances, such as when an employee dies while working for us, and the outstanding salary and vacation payouts are paid to the heirs. I’m not sure what happens if someone dies intestate without any family members close enough to inherit (cousins don’t inherit here unless they’re beneficiaries of a will, even if they’re the closest living family) though.

        1. Amaranth*

          I’m wondering if they’d even sign off on her taking PTO, since they can’t even allow a sick day or three.

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          You assume she’ll be allowed to take PTO and not work during it. I suggest that assumption may be incorrect.

      2. Quiet Liberal*

        Absolutely figure out a way to take that PTO or get paid out 100% for it! Then get out of there. I’m not sure you would even be able to rely on a good reference from them, anyway. Management and HR sound horrible. Not nearly as horrendous, but I’ve been where you are, OP. Always being the reliable employee that the business depends on without getting the recognition and compensation you deserve sucks.

        Get well soon and be sure to update us!

        1. No Longer Looking*

          I don’t know – depending on the opportunities available to OP, it might be worth abandoning the PTO to get away from this. It could even be used as a negotiating tool during salary discussions – if they cannot meet whatever your “X+20%” salary request is that would make you happy to abandon it, perhaps you can still angle for a signing bonus to compensate you for leaving before being able to use up your PTO.

    3. Smithy*

      A) absolutely.

      But B)….anyone who’s is this screwed over by someone taking a week of sick time going into the third year of COVID (aka – is this really a surprise???) is going to be equally screwed over when this person gives two weeks notice.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, as someone else said, they’re mad because she runs the office and they can’t function without her – I’d bet things started falling apart pretty fast without her. That’s their problem though, not hers.

        1. Amaranth*

          I’d definitely recommend that the next time they request training, LW calmly respond that they have too much work pending and can’t spare the time. If there are training documents or they want to film a training video they can send them along for someone else to walk through.

      2. Dixie*

        Agreed. Whatever this person does, I’d financially bank on resigning and being asked to leave the office on the same day. This doesn’t seem like the type of place that would take kindly to a 2-week resignation notice.

        1. Smithy*

          I think that’s smart – but I also think that sometimes being overly prepared for a very antagonistic response can backfire from places that are toxic and terrible. But are also self serving and not ridiculous.

          Certainly, this place may tell the OP to leave the second notice is given and fight paying out PTO. So the OP being prepared to protect themselves and cash out as much as possible is wise.

          However, the OP knows this place strongly relies on their labor and so I can also see a case of their manager/bosses putting their head in the sand and ignore their two weeks notice. Hoping it will go away, reject discussing handover and try to get as much as possible during those two weeks. They might also be moderately or passive aggressively sensible and do proper turnover, if perhaps with an attitude. And I could see both scenarios happen during a two week notice period where the OP shows up, is professional, and ultimately leaves with a good reference.

          I say this from personal experience, where I worked at a place that was crazy toxic and I mentally prepared myself for a very antagonistic notice period. While I understand why I was in that place, it did ultimately sour relationships where that likely didn’t need to happen. And if it was going to happen, then at least I could have held my head high and said it had nothing to do with me. There are plenty of bad places that people should leave and feel no remorse on the way out. But beginning a fight when it may just end up as an awkward handshake doesn’t have to happen.

            1. pandop*

              But this boss is the sort who thinks that using earned PTO is antagonistic, OP’s not even allowed to be sick!

      3. Wombats and Tequila*

        Yep, they’re going to either people rotating out of this position as soon as they find out what they’ve gotten themselves into, or they’ll end up hiring 2 or 3 people at higher wages. Either way they will continue to blame OP for the whole debacle, because they can only bully someone into doing their demands no matter how extreme by being absolutely shameless about it.

        Short version: OP, run and don’t look back. They’ll never get it.

        Worst boss of the year nominee?

    4. Holey Hobby*

      The LW doesn’t even have to be malicious about it. They can give two weeks – but with the best will in the world, this company doesn’t have a PRAYER of hiring someone who can handle all of this for crap pay. Not in two weeks. Not in twenty years. And someone this busy, whose job description is basically “do everything,” has not had a chance to document and won’t get one.

      They can take the high road. These people have decided to put all of their eggs in the basket of a single, traumatized hostage with Stockholm syndrome. The LW can leave now, leave later, leave mad, leave sad, leave pretty, leave ugly, leave nice… the eggs still going to break.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Your last bit loaded Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” into my brain music player.

        Must. Go. Do. Music. Exorcism. Now.

        1. Ifyouchangeyourmind*

          Ha ha! The worst ear worm invasion for me, thus far, was passing by someone on their phone while they were saying, “well, take a chance” and my brain screamed ABBA songs at me for 5 hours.

          1. CarolynM*

            I’ve had ODB’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya stuck in my head for what feels like weeks now. Always the same lines, but for the past week or so now they change now depending on what I am doing.

            Shimmy shimmy ya, shimmy yo, shimmy yay – give me the spreadsheet so the vendors get paid …

    5. TypityTypeType*

      These people sound like they will be nasty about it when LW does give notice, so at the very least it should be clear: “I am giving notice because it is customary and I want to be professional. But if there is even the slightest instance of pushback or abuse, that day will be my last.” And walk out if you need to; you owe these idiots nothing.

      I’m so sorry things happened this way for you, LW. Some companies/bosses value superstars, but others take their best people for granted until they’re gone.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        This! And GTFU to a better job as fast as you can. These are not people to whom you owe any allegiance or loyalty.
        You deserve SO much better. You sound like an amazing and talented person and any company would be happy to have you
        Good luck!!

      2. Jora Malli*

        This is a great script, but I’d add a line to make it more specific.

        “But if there is even the slightest instance of pushback or abuse, like the way I was spoken to when I was out sick with covid, that day will be my last.”

        1. Quiet Liberal*

          I like this script even better! Sadly, probably won’t make a bit of difference since the HR person was just as jerky with their reply that management was disappointed in her. What? For taking sick leave to be sick?

          This – “Some companies/bosses value superstars, but others take their best people for granted until they’re gone.” – is right on!

    6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      The way my petty is set up, I’d be really tempted to quit with no notice once I had a new job. Let them see what “f&@!ing them over” really looks like.

      It’s a fun fantasy, but Retribution References would make that victory Pyrrhic.

      1. Shannon*

        Given how they have treated OP and are continuing to treat them, I have no faith that they would give her good references.

        1. Jora Malli*

          I think OP could give them a six month notice period and they would still respond to reference checks with shouting about being f*cked over and left in the lurch. These are bad people.

          1. Amaranth*

            What would be the proper response when asked about the reason for departure/not listing a reference? “they said that I was too necessary to take sick days when I was positive for covid” ?

        2. Grey*

          Right. They’ll talk about the time OP “screwed them over” and without mentioning the illness.

      2. Aphra*

        There’s that risk, certainly. Early in my career I was in a similar situation to the LW and when I finally quit, I gave one month’s notice, typical in my field in the UK. I stayed on top of my work, tackled a backlog of work my boss was ignoring (thus preventing an intervention by the national governing body) and offered to recruit my replacement. My boss effectively ignored my notice, he really believed that I was bluffing to screw a pay rise out of him. My last day was surreal because he kept passing work to me to complete over the coming days/weeks and each time I pointed out I wouldn’t be there by then, he completely ignored me, didn’t even acknowledge I’d spoken. I spent my last couple of hours there adding notes to each file to that effect (pre computerisation) and switched the light off when I left. My new boss told me later that first boss had given me a horrifically bad verbal reference that was, apparently, cartoon villainish in its awfulness. Luckily, new boss asked for old boss to put it all in writing (lawyers) and old boss refused (lawyers) so new boss realised something was up. He called around and spoke to people I’d have had dealings with if what I claimed on my CV was true, but not if what old boss said was true. Everyone said good things about me and by then I was apparently proving my worth so new boss was happy he hadn’t accepted that reference at face value.

        Interesting karma situation: A few years on I was still with new boss and the organisation was recruiting. New boss called me in to his office and said old boss had applied for the role and what would I feel about interviewing him? I was as professional as I could be until new boss laughed and said that he wouldn’t be offering old boss an interview as his integrity would always be questionable following my bad reference.

        I hope LW gets a new boss who is a decent human being.

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          Is it common in the UK to use a current boss as a reference? In the US it’s practically assumed that a current supervisor would retaliate or give a deliberately bad reference at worst, or make things an uncomfortable situation at best. I don’t think I’ve ever had a company ask for my current supervisor as a reference.

          1. Regular Reader*

            Very common. Some organisations will only give basic information – start date, end date, role etc but most do provide a reference whether by completing a questionnaire or actually writing out a reference about the person. When I wrote a reference I always gave the staff member a copy and also told the enquiring company that I was doing so.

          2. TrixM*

            It’s common in each of the countries I’ve worked – NZ, UK and Australia.
            In fact, while you might ask that they don’t contact your current boss until they’ve made you an offer and you’ve accepted (prior to the paperwork), it’s looked on as a little bit strange if you don’t provide a reference with your current employer at all.
            If you didn’t, and especially if you’d been there any stretch of time, you’d normally want to briefly explain the circumstances. As a real example, due to restructuring, previous boss moved on from the org, your current boss hasn’t been in the position very long and wouldn’t be to give much of an assessment about your performance. And maybe provide a contact a senior colleague there (this is usually fine) or HR.
            They may or may not read between the lines that new boss is the reason you’re moving on too, but there’s generally no actual problem if your other references aren’t too horribly out of date and are positive.

    7. Artemesia*

      A person with your skill OP should be able to put together a resume that showcases your competence and talents and you should be looking for a big raise and promotion. You don’t need to quit before you have that job offer in hand and you don’t need to take a job that doesn’t look perfect — you have a job. But get cracking and when you find the great job, go ahead and give two weeks.

      You know they won’t be able to absorb what you do in two weeks anyway but it feels good to be professional. Leave information but then once you are gone don’t take phone calls or fulfill requests from your old boss. If you do decide to do so — don’t do it for more than 2 weeks. But ideally it is ‘my new job is so demanding, I really have to put my focus there so I won’t be able to continue to be available to your.’ And then don’t pick up or respond.

      You slightly made your bed by putting up with being taken advantage of for years without demanding better compensation and consideration. Bosses take advantage of people who let them take advantage. Now is your moment to stand up. Hope you find something great.

      1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        “once you are gone don’t take phone calls or fulfill requests from your old boss. If you do decide to do so — don’t do it for more than 2 weeks.”

        And even then, only do it if they’re willing to pay a consulting fee. (A big one, at that.) They owe you.

        You’re hearing “lazy” when you should be hearing “thank you.”

        1. JustaTech*

          And in case anyone here isn’t familiar with the range for consulting fees: start at $300/hour. It’s not a crazy high number, but it’s high enough to make sure that they know that you mean business (and to keep them from bothering you frivolously).

      2. WellRed*

        Even before I got to the wowzers! part, I found myself thinking “why did you keep agreeing to everything?” I also wish OP had gone back to HR to say how disappointed THEY were in the COMPANY and lay out all the extras they’ve done and how catching Covid from an EMPLOYEE is not something to be screamed at for. OP: GTFO. They don’t deserve you.

    8. Can't Sit Still*

      I worked at a place so toxic that people would typically quit by calling or emailing HR on the weekend, saying that Friday was their last day and to please mail their check. They were so confused why people would do this! “I guess people just don’t want to work anymore!”

      I gave my notice and regretted it. I should have walked out, especially since they insist now that I never worked there, when it’s very obvious that I did. It’s been over a decade now, and I was thrilled when I could remove them from my active work experience.

      1. AnonyNurse*

        I did this once. I wrote the email on Friday evening, pretty sure I was done and never going back, three days into a new role/assignment. I set it to ‘delay send’ on Gmail, so that it would go out at like 5am Monday. So I could change my mind if I wanted.

        My last day was March 20, 2020. I worked at a hospital. Where a VP told me we didn’t need to worry about tracking Covid exposures/cases amongst staff in a more formal way because ‘it wasn’t going to last that long.”

        She was wrong.

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        We had a couple of civilians do this in the office that was half military, half civilian. Our new CO was such a winner!

    9. Ellie*

      Absolutely OP, and from now on, start taking some of that PTO you’re owed. Don’t ask, just start taking it. You already know they don’t appreciate you. From what you’ve written, they can’t fire you, they’d have no-one to run the office. So line up another job and get out as fast as you can.

    10. MCMonkeyBean*

      Absolutely, if you can afford to then this is one of the most clear-cut quit on the spot situations I’ve ever seen. Atrociously appalling treatment of the person who has held everything together for two years.

  3. Liz T*

    If you have savings, this would be a great argument for quitting ASAP, whether or not you have a job lined up. Connect it directly to how they treated you and take a break while you search.

    Not feasible for most, but something to think about.

            1. RetailEscapee*

              I agree. I would absolutely find a way to use all that PTO as a paid leave to job search and then ghost.
              The lion the witch and the AUDACITY of this… place. And your friends who think this is normal need help too.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Sure but they might fire her for using her PTO!

          More likely they’d just deny the PTO as unapproved and treat it as a call-off occurrence.

  4. Jean*

    Your boss should be disciplined just for the profane outburst alone, to say nothing of the horribly inappropriate handling of your sick time. Find a new job and leave them to stew in their dysfunction.

    1. Allornone*

      Yep. It’s only March and I believe we already have a great nomination for, and perhaps the ultimate winner of, of the worst boss of 2022.

      1. Ata*

        I used ctrl F to find all the worst boss nomination comments (because I knew they would already be here) and ended up finding my exact thoughts – it’s only March!!!! Holy cow!

    2. Cait*

      This is an \antiwork level story if I ever hear one. I hope OP quits and, when they realize what they’ve just done to themselves, they beg and plead for her to stay, offering everything they should’ve given her before but were too greedy to do so. Then I hope she laughs in their face, texts her boss to tell him he’d better get ready to start picking up the slack, and walks away to a far better job as the office falls apart without her.

      1. pancakes*

        That site did not invent caring about and talking about work being exploitative and capitalism being bad. It’s really weird to see people talking about it like it’s a brand and I don’t think it’s helpful. Child labor laws and lots of other hard-won little victories didn’t come out of people upvoting one another online.

        1. margaret*

          As someone who works in a labor union: IMO I’ll take and respect any tool that helps organize people into a labor advocacy role. It is really hard to get people fired up, and people realizing how screwed they are and getting mad at the system helps with it. I know people who were complacent until reading /antiwork, and it mobilized them.

          1. pancakes*

            That’s totally fair and makes a lot of sense. It’s just weird the way it tends to pop up here as a sort of brand, in comments from people who are supportive and people who aren’t.

        2. KristinaL*

          A smart capitalist would have given the LW at least 1 raise during this point and would have said something like “Take it easy so you can come back OK.” The OP sounds like a very valuable employee who will be hard to replace.

    3. Hollywood Handshake*

      This boss is so out of line it’s crazy. Not only are the expectations for the LW completely unreasonable, but they are hypocritical as well. The boss expected LW to adjust when Boss was home with their home schooling kids, but can’t extend any of the same understanding and flexibility when the LW needs it. It’s one thing to have a crazy boss who works 100 hours a week and expects the same from their employees, but this boss seems to have reasonable work expectations for herself while placing an undue burden on LW. I hope you can get out ASAP, LW, and do not let them make you feel one ounce of guilt for doing what you need to be treated reasonably as a human being by an employer.

      1. JustaTech*

        The thing that worries me is that it’s not just the LW’s boss who is completely out of line, it’s HR too.
        If you’re sick, you’re sick.
        Literally the only way I can see HR having an even slightly reasonable interpretation of LW calling in sick is if the LW only said “I tested positive” rather than “I am sick and tested positive”. But even that could have been cleared up with a very simple question from HR “And how are you feeling?”

        But even that is pretty absurd.

        It’s not just the LW’s boss who is the problem – the whole organization is filled with bees.

        1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

          Even if you aren’t feeling sick (and that can be very subjective – I had a ‘mild’ breakthrough case in September and didn’t think I felt noticeably worse than my usual fall sinus infection, but family members noticed I was in way worse condition cognitively,) you still shouldn’t be coming in because it’s a ridiculously contagious AIRBORNE virus! And exertion, including mental exertion, is one of the potential risk factors for Long COVID even in mild breakthrough cases.

          1. COHikerGirl*

            I got COVID in March of 2020 and had a mild case (shortness of breath, fatigue, slight fever, cough). I worked full time the whole time from home (I wanted to, I was bored being in a single room 24/7 for 30 days, and was already working from home as of the week before). It’s over 2 years later and I’m still dealing with long COVID. Brain fog is a major issue still. My neuro said that working while sick and right after (as a just kept working…never took any time off) probably made things worse.

            Anyone who gets COVID, please rest! While sick and for a bit after. Rest your body, rest your brain. This virus is getting milder (and vaccines help), but the underlying mechanisms still exist…it will wear you down more than you think. And recovery, even full recovery, takes longer than with other viruses. Pushing though does nothing good and can harm.

            Use the sick days (if you have them…I know it’s not possible for everyone).

            1. BurnOutCandidate*

              I had it (the first time) a month later, April 2020. I even know where I caught the virus — the Royal Farms up the street from the office, because I went into the office to do one thing that couldn’t be done remotely, only no one above me told me we weren’t doing it on schedule.

              My story is similar. It was a rough four days, it was scary, and then I felt fine. But the fatigue lingered a long, long time, and the brain fog is awful. I have to write everything down, and I don’t know when I am. My work is all mental work, and I’m exhausted.

            2. tangerineRose*

              “Anyone who gets COVID, please rest! While sick and for a bit after. Rest your body, rest your brain.” this!

      2. Anonymous Bosch*

        “For the entire first year of Covid, my boss worked from home 2-3 days per week while his elementary-aged children were stuck doing school from home. To say it was frustrating is an understatement. I was alone most of the time at the office, holding down the fort while everyone else was at home… we are an essential industry, so I had to be there in person. I knew my boss was in a tight spot and even though it was insanely frustrating and he was very difficult to get ahold of, I dealt with it.”

        The boss is male.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’m also very disappointed in HR’s handling of this. The profanity alone would have bought that manager at ticket to meet with our HR, but shaming someone for taking sick time would likely land them a formal write-up as well.

    5. Burger Bob*

      Yep. I’m a bit of a manager, and I can’t imagine speaking to an employee that way. I didn’t even speak that way to an employee who actually did screw us all over when she walked out without a word to anybody in the middle of a busy day and then insulted the other employees there when I called to check on her. This is just not the way to treat people.

  5. BuildMeUp*

    OP, please get out of there.

    And in the meantime, to be honest, you need to try your hardest to stop saying yes to them. You are not going to get anything in return except more work.

    1. The Original K.*

      Right. They’re used to her breaking her back to accommodate them so now that she can’t, they feel like she’s out of line. There’s no benefit to her to go out of her way for them: not a financial benefit, not an “attagirl” benefit, nothing. All it has gotten her is sick.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I am guessing that Boss was so demanding because the place can’t function without OP, but that is very much not her problem to solve.

    3. No Sleep For The Wicked*

      This is what people mean by “no good deed goes unpunished”. If someone is essential to the office functioning, a good boss will make sure they train enough people to build redundancy. A toxic workplace will put more and more pressure on the load-bearing column and get mad when it breaks.
      Being irreplaceable is not something to seek out – it’s a red flag.

      1. Mm*

        This is a great way to put it. I feel this so much in my current job – which I just quit for a new offer!

    4. Public Sector Manager*

      That’s what kills me–the OP literally got sick bailing them out of a jam at their other corporate office–and then they try to make the OP feel like the OP is not a team player or a great employee for being off sick, which was caused by them in the first place.

      Until the OP can get a new job, I agree wholeheartedly on pushing back. Next time they ask the OP to do something, OP needs to say that they have too much on their plate. If they make the OP do it as part of the job, they OP needs to prioritize–“With this travel, I won’t be able to do X, Y, and Z. Which one should I prioritize?”

      That company is banana crackers.

    5. fposte*

      Yes, it sounds like they’ve encouraged a narrative, which the OP has largely bought, that good employees sacrifice, good employees never push back, and good employees are never off work (presumably their reward will be in Heaven rather than on Earth).

      And OP, I hope you become aware of this as BS and a narrative that can really, really hurt you in future as well. It’s good to be fair about dealing with the dirty work sometimes, but the push that silent sacrifice will be rewarded is insidious and destructive. This workplace didn’t invent it and it may have resonated with you because of other experiences that encouraged that approach. But functional relationships at work and elsewhere respond better to “I can’t do that, but I can do this” than they do to saying yes to everything, carrying everybody, and eventually self-destructing.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Apparently in their world, good employees also never get promoted or paid much.

  6. ScruffyInternHerder*


    FTMFA. When you find new employment, give your two week’s notice, expect him to act the fool, expect to have to change your two weeks to immediately if this is how he’s going to treat you, and block his number when you leave.

    Also – whoever is telling you to “understand their perspective” is probably not a great source for advice in the working world at least, possibly the rest of life either.

    1. LimeRoos*

      Yeah…hard side-eye to that person. Their advice should be taken with a large grain of salt.

      1. Lab Boss*

        I’m sometimes guilty of being that person, mostly because it helps to understand why people do bad things and “they did a bad thing because they’re bad and for no other reason” doesn’t really help you strategize for how to react to it.

        In my brain “why did they do this” is just as important as “this was wrong,” and it can be tough to have that taken as “this is wrong but let’s see why they did it” instead of “maybe this isn’t wrong, maybe they’re in the right.”

        1. Rowan*

          I had a partner (now ex) who defaulted to “But look at it from their perspective” whenever I talked about someone upsetting me. It was incredibly hard, because it felt like they were never on my side the way I felt a partner should be. They jumped immediately to questioning my perspective, being the “devil’s advocate” for the other person in the scenario, and asking me on their behalf to be more understanding.

          If you have this tendency, I strongly recommend consciously spending a fair amount of time on the “Wow, that was so inappropriate!” (or whatever adjective fits) side of the conversation before you go to, “And what were they even thinking? What could they have hoped to get out of behaving that way?” part.

        2. LimeRoos*

          Oh it’s totally useful sometimes. It was more just in the context of the question – she’s been working at 150% for all of Covid, and the minute she needed a break because she got Covid, boss turned on her along with HR being crappy. So yeah, most situations can benefit from seeing the other person’s/entities side, but this one is like nah.

          1. Lab Boss*

            To be clear, sometimes it’s “maybe they aren’t entirely in the wrong and I should try to empathize,” and sometimes it’s just “they’re super obviously in the wrong and I need to figure out what they thought they were doing so I can figure out the exact best way to put a stop to this”

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              It’s pretty clear in this case what they’re thinking. They’re thinking that their entire business goes to hell in a handcart the minute LW isn’t there, because they’ve piled absolutely everything it takes to run that place on LW and cannot function without her.

              Which is, well, a good reason to panic! It’s just also their problem, not LW’s. They’ve grown so used to being able to solve all their problems with “Eh, dump it on LW and she’ll pull us out of the fire” that they tried to dump the problem of LW being out with Covid on LW in exactly the same way they’d do for anything else… and it didn’t work, and they freaked out.

              I can understand them perfectly well. It’s just still astronomical jerk behavior, and it’s also still not LW’s problem.

              1. Sibilant Susurrus*

                They put all the eggs in OP’s basket and OP did an excellent job looking after them.
                Then when OP got covid, the eggs hatched and all the little chicks will grow as OP job searches.
                When OP leaves the chickens will come home to roost and sh!t all over the office.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            The advice can be supportive in times where the person in question is usually a polite, level-headed person. Then they do something that doesn’t fit with what we know about them. So yes, look at things from their perspective.

            The difference here is that this polite, level-headed person has EARNED that additional effort on OP’s (or anyone’s) part.

            These people have so. very. much. NOT. earned this consideration. There is a technical term for these people: “users”. They bilk everything they can out of an employee and then spit them out and start the process over again.

            They used you, OP. Not much different that a lousy SO, you owe these people NOTHING. Tell them “BYE!”.

            1. tangerineRose*

              “There is a technical term for these people: “users”. They bilk everything they can out of an employee and then spit them out and start the process over again.” This!

    2. Observer*

      Also – whoever is telling you to “understand their perspective” is probably not a great source for advice in the working world at least, possibly the rest of life either.

      Yes. Unless what they REALLY mean is “know your enemy”.

      1. Double A*

        I always think of Garret’s line from Superstore.

        “But think of it from Corporate’s perspective. They love money and don’t care if we die.”

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Yeah, OP, tell us more about the people who think this was ok or just business.
        What were their thoughts. And are they usually this off about life advice?

        1. tangerineRose*

          This bothers me too. This was *terrible* business. If you have a good employee, you want to treat them at least reasonably well; turnover is expensive.

      3. gmg22*

        Or whoever told LW this may, themselves, be in a toxic job where they’ve been Stockholm syndromed into thinking that things are “normal.” I’ve experienced a response like that from a friend who fell into that category. (Several months after she told me “suck it up, Bizarre Thing you’re weirded out about at work is totally normal,” she got fired for a fairly nebulous reason.)

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Looking for this thread. I assure you that a functional company would have managers cursing out employees. HR would not sweep it under the rug. And I say that with the caveat: there are big money earners who the company tolerates be Ayse THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS are too significant to risk. OP. This is not the case. OP is the golden goose in this place. And the way HR responded makes me think that the manager is taking credit for everything OP does. OP isn’t there, “well, Manager, what’s the plan? Will you do this yourself or show someone else?”
      And manager has no plan, can’t do the work and sure as hell can teach anyone.
      So yeah, OP did leave manager high and dry – cuz the guy does know how to drive a boat.
      New job, OP.
      If you can’t get new friends or fam, just don’t ask for their input about work. They don’t get it.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Oh geez. Don’t type while irate!
          OP, you did NOT leave manager high and dry!

  7. Resident Catholicville, USA*

    Are you in truck brokerage? This sounds like truck brokerage. It’s the kind of job that literally, people can’t stand anymore and go become a nurse practitioner at an urgent care* because truck brokerage is just this wacky on the regular. Start looking around and leave- it’s a wild business (especially now) and you will be well suited to jump to other industries/types of office jobs, simply because you will have the patience of a saint and will perform great.

    *Not my story- a nurse I talked to when I was at one told me that was his story because I mentioned I was in truck brokerage and then he told me about his experience.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      To my ears it sounds like a trade-specific construction firm, smaller, owned by a family. (Trade specific, meaning that they handle one specialty trade, and are not general contractors, not that its a specific sub trade that sounds like this. They all do!!!)

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        LW says “we are a very small local branch of a large international company.” But the rule around here is to not try to figure out what the business is, so we probably oughta drop this.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*


          I suppose its just an example that this type of sh!tty boss behavior exists across industries?

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    This letter is the epitome of the American workplace and why the Great Resignation became a national issue.

    Your job needs you; you do not need your job.

    I suspect your employer either doesn’t know or care about the latter.

    1. Ellen*

      It isn’t isolated to the US unfortunately. I’ve experienced my share of unreasonable bosses and employers in Europe and it’s only increased since the pandemic started. I’ve been expected to work from home while sick multiple times. My sister lives in Australia and has had a similar experience. It’s starting to feel like to whole world is ready for a revolution.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, I mean the British government has basically decided that they can’t be bothered with Covid anymore, so they’re scrapping free lateral flow tests and have already removed the legal requirement for people to isolate if they test positive – you’re still ‘supposed to’ but guess what, now all their mates in big business can force people to come to work with Covid because, well, there’s no LEGAL requirement not to. There was getting to be a huge upswing in ‘Well is it Covid? No? Then you can come to work, can’t you’ attitudes among unscrupulous employers even before the legal requirement to isolate was scrapped. Guess what, case rates are now running at about 1 in 20 people, but Boris couldn’t give a crap.

        It’s true that a lot of people can potentially WFH with Covid – I know plenty of people who have only had very mild symptoms with the versions of Omicron that are currently doing the rounds, so for them it’s just been like working with a bit of a cold. But I also know fully vaccinated people who have had to spend a week in bed. And any reasonable employer should respect their employee’s assessment of whether or not they’re able to work (with any illness, not just Covid) and shouldn’t try to force people to work when they’re not well enough. I can only echo the chorus of ‘RUN for the hills’.

        1. londonedit*

          *should caveat before someone else does that the scrapping of tests is only currently in England, and other of the devolved nations are being slightly more sensible, but still the PM and most of the government couldn’t give a crap about Covid and are frankly bored with most of it.

          1. KayDeeAye*

            I was able to work from home through COVID – I needed to nap a lot (and that remained the case for a LONG time after I was technically cured), but other than that, I didn’t feel too bad. Most of the people I know who have had it had to take several days off, a few had to take weeks and weeks off…and then of course there are the people I know who died. :-(

        2. Mm*

          I’ve also seen colleagues work with Covid (from home) and then take forever to recover from Covid. Maybe it’s just Covid being Covid, but I have to wonder if not being able to rest contributes.

        3. tangerineRose*

          “big business can force people to come to work with Covid because, well, there’s no LEGAL requirement not to.” What are they thinking? Does the business think people are so easy to replace that they can lose them to COVID (and also to bad treatment)?

    2. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      So, I had Covid in 2020 before we could get vaxced. I was “bedridden” sick for about 4 solid days, only connecting to work to let people know I was still really sick or occasionally to send a file. Even the following week, I was working from home, but really tired/discombobulated for a few more days.

      TBH, my boss did get a little antsy, continuing to ask things get done for the next week. But in no way did they ever claim I’d effed them over or that they were disappointed in my performance. Sick is sick!

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

      I know several people whose bosses tried to made them work while sick with covid. The general reaction was “hell no, rest as long as the doctor says, get it in writing, send it to HR and start job searching”.

  9. Mid*

    OP, if you don’t live in a state that requires vacation payout, book all your PTO now. Otherwise, quit and use that month payout to job hunt. Because that’s absolutely banana crackers.

    1. higeredadmin*

      This! What I did, and I had a lovely paid month off. I found my job job within a week of my last day at my old one. It’s a great job market out there. Please don’t listen to this recession era advice you are receiving to just suck it up. Also – think about your boundaries and why they are important. You are a wonderful person all on your own – your job is something you do, but it is not your entire value in the world. You need firm boundaries to ensure that you take good care of yourself.

    2. Eggo*

      Agreed! Take three weeks off (leave a week just in case the search takes longer than expected), come back, and quit. Ideally, come back, give your notice, and be gone two weeks later!

    3. KC*

      Agreed completely on this. OP, you’ve been really dedicated to this job and unfortunately your story is another example of why one should only give to their company what they are willing to give back. Not that them mistreating you and taking advantage of you is your fault AT ALL–but hopefully this is a lesson learned for you in the future that there’s a limit on how much BS you should have to take before it becomes a problem.

      You deserve a month’s vacation AND THEN SOME!

      Please update us when you quit! Best of luck in your search!

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

      If OP does live in a state that doesn’t require vacation payout, wouldn’t any employer just fire them when they said they’d be out for the next month? Look at what happened when they tried to call out sick for a single day.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Maybe the OP needs to take the time off in smaller pieces. 2 or 3 days a week sometimes?

    5. SansaStark*

      This was my first thought, too. Time to use that PTO even if it means that you take off every Tuesday for awhile or whatever instead of a big chunk of time. Brushing off a resume, writing cover letters, etc is exhausting and would be nice to do without the mental stress of working for awhile. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll be mad at you? Well, they are and you’ve already dealt with that so you know what to expect. Ok.

    6. anonymous73*

      Do you honestly think that a boss who goes batshit crazy for OP taking off a few days for COVID is going to let her take a month off for vacation?

      1. Camellia*

        Yep, this was my first thought, too. I hope OP lives in a state where they are required to pay out vacation, otherwise I think OP will lose it all.

        1. Ashley*

          They could at least try and schedule a few long weekends here and there to use some of it and try for some normalcy. They may end what they would normally do in 5 days of work in 4, but it might be worth having a few mini breaks. Plus starting to take time off now will make scheduling interviews that much easier.

          1. FrivYeti*

            I fully expect that if they try to take a single day off they’re going to get violent pushback from their boss, coupled with vague promises of time for vacation at a later date.

          2. anonymous73*

            Taking a few long weekends is quite different from what the original commenter suggested which was to take an entire month off. First off, there aren’t many jobs where you CAN take a full month off unless they allow longer sabbaticals. And in this case, it’s clear that it wouldn’t be allowed. OP needs to look out for herself, and while quitting immediately sounds great in theory, it’s not always feasible and they could end up screwing themselves over in the long run.

  10. Anonymous Hippo*

    I’m a burn it all down sort of response. The very LEAST you should do is immediately start putting all your energy into finding a new job while doing bare minimum at work. Don’t give them another inch. I probably would have quit over the “wow” texts, certainly after my boss angrily chewed me out for being sick, and while I likely wouldn’t have made it to H.R. as I don’t ever expect much from them, that would have done it too. Like Alison says, this is utterly disgusting.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Yes, I’m also Team BURN ALL THE BRIDGES. This isn’t an employer who will give you a thoughtful reference even if you resign “right”.

  11. Jessica*

    OP, I’m really hoping you live in California. Before you give notice (which I agree you should do at your earliest convenience: free yourself from these unreasonable, unprofessional, selfish, exploitative ingrates and go get a way better job among decent people), check the law in whatever state you do live in, and see if your state requires employers to pay out accumulated PTO when employees leave. Good luck! You sound great and deserve way better than this. Once you’re out of there you’ll look back and find it hard to believe you ever tolerated your old job.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Exploitive is a great descriptor for these people/this company.

      Of course the boss is mad at you, OP. He can either have you work or hire, I dunno, FOUR people to replace you. It’s much, much cheaper to just pay you to do everything under the sun for them.

  12. Bagpuss*

    Yeah, your boss’s behaviour is completely out of the ordinary and out or order, and the other demands and failures to follow through on their promises suggest that this is a much wider issue than one person.

    I could understand if they had asked, once, whether or not you would be able to WFH – with the new variants a lot of people aren’t particularly ill with Covid – I know several people who have said that, for them, it was much like a cold and in one case, they only knew they had Covid at all because a family member was ill so they all tested and friend was positive, they were asymptomatic and felt fine, but they should not have asked more than once and to be honest, given your levels of work and commitment I think they could have skipped it altogether.

    On the plus side, it douns like you have a lot of experience an marketable skills so hopefully as soon as you fell well enough to start job-hunting, you should be able to find a new job.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Definitely agree! COVID precautions mean there are definitely people being told they can’t go to work in person who feel absolutely fine, or trivially ill. I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with asking an employee if they’re in that situation so you can strategize for what WFH might look like, as long as you understand they also might be too sick.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Yes, that I could understand. It sounds like LW was pretty clear about saying “I’m sick” and not just “I got a positive COVID test” – or at least, the manager definitely didn’t bother to ask whether LW was sick.

      My guess is the manager is laboring under the delusion that young people / vaxxed people don’t get sick from COVID at all??? And didn’t even bother to ask/confirm whether LW was well enough to work before going on this bizarre tirade????? What a weirdo.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        It read to me like the manager and HR person both doubled down on the tirade AFTER LW told them she was actually sick. So I don’t think they get credit for even the foolishness of assuming that she wasn’t really ill — they just didn’t care.

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      Yeah, I could *maybe* see “Oh no! Are you sick or did you just test positive?” and if the LW said they were feeling fine/mostly fine, “OK, if you’re up to it, anything you can do remotely would be so helpful so we don’t get totally swamped, but please don’t push yourself.” At most.

      I had a boss like this years ago. An incident like this was the straw that broke the camel’s back after years of crummy treatment.

  13. Lab Boss*

    People are incredibly fast to adjust to the status quo. *IMPORTANT CAVEAT THAT THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT AND YOU ARE NOT BEING BLAMED FOR TRYING TO WORK HARD*, but Alison nailed it- you were so good, and so flexible, at so many things, for so long, with so little reward, that the company’s mindset calcified around the idea that “this is just the way things are, LW always is good for whatever we ask.” They could have avoided this. A better manager could have fought to keep your workload manageable or fought to get support hired or fought to get you properly compensated. But they didn’t do that, and now they’ll never be able to see you as anyone but “LW, who we all know can be perfect, and decided to screw us over.”

    I’m a job-stayer, and think sometimes the advice here (from both Alison and the commenters) can be too quick to encourage moving on- but I think you have no choice here. Even if you could make yourself feel OK about this absolutely heinous treatment, I suspect that for the rest of your time there, in management’s minds you’ll be an unreliable flake who doesn’t deserve raises or promotions or opporunities “because of how hard they screwed us over during COVID.” I’m so, so sorry that this is how they rewarded you for trying so hard.

  14. HigherEdAdminista*

    Wow, this is a terrible boss and company. People get sick and need time to recover. That is always a reality of life! I have a friend in the hospital right now who is so concerned about their work that they are trying to email from their hospital bed, even though everyone told them not to.

    There is no perspective by which it is okay to scream at someone actively sick and tell them they are letting you down, but especially after all you did for them there is no excuse.

    Escape as fast as you can!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      All of this. I will never in a million years understand why employers do horrible things like this to their best employees. OP is the type of person an employer should be going out of their way to keep, not verbally abusing for getting sick on a business trip that they asked OP to make.

      I wish OP the absolute best with their job search (and feel like their skill set will help them land a new job in short order), and, because I’m petty on the inside, I hope it takes OP’s current employer months and months to find the 2-3 new hires it’s going to take to replace them.

  15. Trek*

    If you can be paid your vacation per state law and have a bit of savings I would quit and state that based on your boss’ emails and phone calls and HR’s response you no longer feel safe in the office and will not risk your physical safety by being in the same room with him.
    I knew someone who was in a similar situation but sounds like a larger company and when she quit with out notice after being screamed at by two bosses for calling off after having emergency surgery. She copied the VP and President on her email. She ended up with a severance because I think they were afraid of being sued. I doubt you will end up with severance but I do encourage you to quit ASAP but copy others outside of your boss and HR on the email so they are aware of what went down and what led to you quitting.
    Also keep in mind temp positions that may get your foot in the door at larger companies.

    1. calonkat*

      There’s a lot of wisdom here. The OP is probably going to have a TERRIBLE time after this. Anyone who can call a sick person and scream obscenities at them is going to be very comfortable doing the same in person when that person is well.

  16. amcb13*

    I also just got over COVID. Here’s an example of how that SHOULD look: I was out for two and a half weeks, which as a teacher, is a BANANAS long time to be out of school. I wasn’t testing positive at first but I felt like crap. My immediate boss was very responsive and encouraged me to stay home, rest, and get well at every step. HR contacted me once for a doctor’s note and did so in a pleasant, cordial way along the lines of “I know you’ve been sick, I hope you’re feeling better, since you’re not back yet can you please provide a doctor’s note stating your expected return date?” I was working on a time-sensitive project that I knew I would not be able to finish while I was sick so I sent it to a few members of the admin team (my bosses) who immediately took it on and told me not to worry about it. The last few days I was out I Zoomed briefly with my classes and when I let my boss know I was doing that she told me that was fine but that I shouldn’t push if I didn’t feel up to it. I did not Zoom into meetings or do any of my usual extras because I didn’t feel up for them, and no one pressured me to.

    I know that I’m really lucky to have such a supportive workplace/bosses–but I also know that this SHOULD be the norm, even if it isn’t, because the ability to take care of yourself when you’re sick is a basic human necessity!

    1. Holey Hobby*

      I feel like this reflects really well on the kind of people that go into education. Not that it doesn’t have its awful people too. But you don’t see as much of that YOU EXIST TO MAKE MONEY FOR ME!!!! attitude….

      1. amcb13*

        I’ve definitely taught in places where this would have gone differently. It helps that I currently work in a private high school where the kids are more or less given the run of the place and they’re used to working with minimal supervision, so I didn’t need two and a half solid weeks of coverage. If I was still at an understaffed public school I would have felt a lot more pressure to get back in the classroom. But I also just have an exceptionally great boss.

        1. amcb13*

          (Given the run of the place in a good way, I mean. Like they can choose where to spend their free periods, as opposed to being in constant study halls overseen by a teacher. They still go to classes and everything, they’re just remarkable humans who will actually get a reasonable amount of work done even without an adult in the room at all times.)

      2. Working Hypothesis*

        Unfortunately, you get a lot of “But it’s for the CHILDREN!” instead, as the excuse for overworking and underpaying you. Education can be a pretty toxic environment, but like any other industry, it depends on which specific place and people you end up with. When it’s toxic, however, it can be sometimes more dangerous than corporate toxicity, because it’s difficult to believe somebody who is saying “You exist to make money for me!” but all too easy — especially for somebody who went into teaching in the first place because they cared about the kids — to believe “you exist to carry the needs of the kids on your back until it breaks.”

        1. Amcb13*

          Absolutely this. A few years earlier in my career and I would have pushed myself regardless of good bosses because THE CHILDREN!!! Now, I love my kiddos dearly, but I realized that I was so bought into the DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN mindset that I was doing things that the kids did not need and never asked for! I realized that trying to be a role model for them while burning myself out made no sense. Now I try to model good work habits and good person habits by setting boundaries and taking care of myself. But that only works with supportive administrators.

    2. BasketcaseNZ*

      I’m under 14 days since I tested positive.
      Last week I managed an hour and a bit a day of checking emails and keeping up to speed with the latest significant issue and that was IT. Work was ok with that. I was encouraged to not push it.
      This week, I’m aiming for three days work total over five and am still being encouraged not to push myself too hard.
      So thankful for a supportive workplace.

  17. blackcat lady*

    Please, please put all your energy into finding a new job. Make sure the new company values employees. As someone above posted, give two weeks notice and expect your immediate boss to tell you to leave right away. Get that termination in text or email so there is a written record. Then pack up your desk and LEAVE. Do not respond to phone calls begging you to come back, just a misunderstanding work the two weeks. This job is toxic beyond any human endurance. We all know you meant well doing all you did, but this company took advantage of you big time. You owe them nothing.

    And update us on the new job!

  18. Dasein9*

    You’re getting good advice here, LW. I hope you’ve recovered fully, but just to ensure you don’t overdo things, maybe use some of that PTO to do your job search so you don’t have to burn yourself out to get yourself out?

  19. Sangamo Girl*

    OP, I’m so sorry and I hope that you are recuperating with no lasting effects. They are horrible humans. Get an exit strategy now. And as you are doing that, move all of your work documentation off site. Review your state labor agency’s website and understand your rights regarding wages, payment of PTO, etc. Get everything organized because if they find out you are even looking they may try to fire you for cause. You will need all of this information for backup for an unemployment claim.

  20. Bagpuss*

    Given that you are a small local branch of a big company, is there any way of escalating this? I mean, I think you should absolutely be job hunting and leaving the second you get a new job (pausing only to take all your accumulated PTO before you give in your notice) but if you have the time and energy it may also be worth escalating – and looking at any public statements or official policies your company has about Covid or sick leave in general.

    1. Miss Disregard*

      OP – If you are still ill, including fatigue, please take the time you need. I pushed too far too often with a “mild” COVID case and still deal with long covid many months later. Resting is not selfish, even if some employers/bosses make it seem so. There are more reasonable ones. I promise. Recovery is essential for you. Please take care.

    2. RabidChild*

      Agreed. I’d be interested in what your grand boss–if you have a relationship with them and feel you can safely say anything–has to say about this. Or a higher-up in the HR chain. This treatment is just so egregious–surely the entire organization isn’t this nuts?

      I mean, I’ve worked at some truly shitty places that absolutely WERE, but maybe you can at least make your boss’s life a bit more difficult on your way out the door…

    3. Sibilant Susurrus*

      Even approaching whoever is in charge of the office you spent half a year helping out. Maybe they’re more reasonable. Maybe they’ll be a potential good reference for you. (Don’t ask them now, but their response to your current circumstances will probably give you an idea.)

  21. LoV*

    Whenever you find a new job, I would encourage you to leave a Glassdoor review – it’s only fair to warn others what they are walking into.

    1. Rayray*

      It’s also incredibly satisfying to give a good F You to a company that treated you poorly and OP deserves that satisfaction.

  22. I was told there would be llamas*

    I wouldn’t bother giving 2 weeks notice either…just, btw, today’s my last day. They aren’t going to give you a good recommendation anyway so why do them any favors!

    1. Kate in Colorado*

      Same here!! I wouldn’t bother with a two weeks notice at all just a casual, “Oh, btw, I’m resigning effective….*checks watch* immediately.” Then I would give the middle finger and sashay right out the door.

  23. emmarosej*

    OP, take all your energy, and all the extra skills they made you learn at no extra compensation, and take it to an employer who WILL compensate you fairly. There is no better time to do this. And do not lowball your salary request – ask for exactly what you want because right now you will be extremely in demand. You are worth more than you think you are, and what they have made you believe you are. Best of luck, friend!

  24. anonymous73*

    I’m on Team “GTFO now”. They have been taking advantage of you from day 1. You were hired for 1 job, and they decided to have you take on a completely different job. And since you didn’t mention it, I’m assuming you didn’t get an immediate bump in pay for the extra work. Once COVID hit, they continued to take advantage of you. They don’t care about you, they only care about how your absence (regardless of reason) has affected THEM.

    Now I will mention that it sounds like expectations were not agreed upon when you let your boss, boss of other location and HR know that you caught COVID. When I worked in an office, if I wasn’t feeling too sick and was contagious, I let my boss know I would work from home to keep others from getting sick. But if I was too sick to focus, I called out. That being said, it sounds like their expectations are unreasonable and it wouldn’t have mattered. So get out as soon as you can. Don’t let them allow you to feel guilty for screwing them over because they screwed themselves over when they decided to start using you.

  25. Beth*

    Tell your boss that you’re even sicker than before and you’re in bed, no possibility of working. (You don’t have to tell him that you’re sick of his BS.) No negotiating, no working remotely, just sick sick sick.

    Take ALL your accumulated PTO, polish your resume, and get the H out of there. They didn’t deserve you even before this. Take your amazing skills and killer experience and get a new job where you’ll be working for human beings.

    1. SJJ*

      “Sorry – the additional anxiety brought on by the toxic work environment caused by being cursed at and berated by you has caused a relapse and I need two more weeks”.

    2. Too Sick For This*

      I like this advice a lot. Your boss and your HR person are waaaaaaaay out of line.

      I own a business. Here is what an actual small business plan is for Covid – if you get it, you call me and tell me. You take time off. If it ends up being a long time, it is a long time. We will figure it out. Your job will be to rest and get better. Our job in the office will be to keep the office going while we don’t bug you. I can figure that out, that’s my job.

      I worked at a couple of toxic places. Get out now. It never gets better. Ever. It only ever gets worse. Crying is the first real sign of the end. That is your enormous red flag that it is past time to be gone. Use this positive test as an opportunity to put that resume together and use that PTO to good use. No need to rush back to the office. If you are back in the office, you never know when you might suddenly get worse or catch something else that takes out out for a few days.

  26. Slow Gin Lizz*

    LW, I haaaaaaaate your boss and your company (HATE them). I wish you the very very very best in the job search you will undoubtedly be conducting now, and I desperately hope your boss is totally screwed over when you leave. Much love to you and best wishes on your recovery and on the month of PTO you had better get from them when you leave.

    1. Sad Desk Salad*

      Well, that’s not fair! Bees are an important part of the ecosystem, and this manager is just trash.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        Sad Desk Salad: it’s a reference to a comment at Captain Awkward about how abusive situations try and pull you back, only to hit you with more abuse when you’ve started to hope. (It uses the idea of a haunted house, which when you risk stepping inside turns out to be FULL OF BEES, and this being a haunted house they’re probably a venomous invasive murder bee that eats beneficial solitaries, or ghost bees.)

  27. Veryanon*

    What the actual f***. I can’t add anything to what everyone else has said, but I’m so sorry you had to go through this, OP. Like you, I always end up being the “go-to” person wherever I’m working. I knew it had gotten out of hand when I had booked two days off (in advance) to take my oldest child to college (one of the days also happened to be my birthday) and kept getting work calls from my manager even though she of course knew that I was off and why. I am now much better about setting boundaries for my time off. I don’t check email or voice mail after hours unless something truly urgent is going on. I block my calendar before 8:30am and after 5pm so no one can book meetings with me unless I allow them to do that. And I tell everyone, when I am off, I am OFF. No checking emails, voice mails, etc.
    Best of luck to you and I hope you find a much better job ASAP.

    1. Anonymous for this reply*

      I feel you on being the go-to person that can’t even take time off without being pestered, Veryanon! I called my boss at 5 AM the morning my Dad died to say we were going over to the hospital because hospice had called my Mom to say he would die very soon. She said “take all the time you need, I’m so sorry, blah, blah, blah…” She literally texted me five minutes after he died to ask me about something that could wait. She left a voicemail later in the day (while we were at the funeral home making final arrangements) concerned that I hadn’t responded to her text. WTH?

  28. Suzy Q*

    Run! And also? If they did not pay you for all of that travel time, bill them. Travel is part of business, that you accommodated them for, and they need to pay you for this time.

    PS: It sounds like you were a wonderful employee and whatever company you end up working at, they will be lucky to have you, together with your newfound boundaries.

    1. OptimisticPessimist*

      Yes, a wonderful employee! Congrats to future company! We look forward to reading your good news update soon.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Unless LW is in California (or another jurisdiction with similar laws) they’re not legally entitled to get reimbursed for expenses the company never promised to reimburse.

  29. Cake or Death?*

    While this isn’t a personal relationship, I think Dan Savage’s advice applies here:


    They way they are treating you is beyond the pale.

    Find a new job and once you do, give them 2 weeks and do NOTHING above and beyond for them. Don’t let them guilt trip you for one second.

    If you’re feeling saucy, maybe through in a comment like, NOW I’m F***ing you over. Peace out!”

    Just kidding. Don’t do that. LOL

  30. Aunty Fox*

    crikey OP. Yes as everyone has said, please get out. Go somewhere you will be properly compensated for your time and please set boundaries for yourself at work when you move. Going above and beyond should only ever be an occasional ‘all hands on deck’ crisis, it should not become expected, although I totally understand doing a bit more to get involved in a thing that is of particular interest to you.

  31. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, my chest got tight just from reading your post. Your employer is outrageously out of line on this, and I’m sputtering because I don’t have the words to describe how badly they suck. And they do.

    Nothing is a slam-dunk but your bargaining power in the job market has never been better. You WILL have better options than this one, please start looking for a new job ASAP.

    I’m echoing everyone who suggested saving emails, texts, etc., and checking with your state labor department. Better to prepare now, in case your employer decides to suck even more than they already do. Keep us posted, please.

    1. Artemesia*

      Absolutely make secure copies of all those emails — after you leave for the new job consider sending copies to the corporate headquarters and let them know that you left because of this harassment.

    2. Kay*

      I feel you with the tightening of the chest. I kept wondering when the abuse was going to stop and how it was possible to take any more advantage of her than they already were. Something tells me, sadly, they still aren’t finished.

      GET OUT OP!!!!

  32. Peridot*

    OP, you may have mentally adjusted this to just “how things are right now” with covid and supply chain issues, etc. But there are companies out there who have handled everything without exploiting their employees. I know for a fact that if I needed to be out for a week, my manager and coworkers would cover my work when they could and adjust the client’s expectations for whatever they couldn’t deliver. And when I came back to work, they would be glad that I was feeling better, not resentful.

    Two of our three most recent hires have told me that they’re stunned by how great this job is, after coming from jobs where management yelled at them and called them any time day or night to fix something that could have waited.

    This company does not value you, and they do not deserve you.

    1. RetailEscapee*

      Hard agree. We’ve been accommodating peoples family and health issues with no dramatics. That’s how it should be from both an ethical AND legal standpoint!

    2. WS*

      +1, I’m in healthcare and it’s been hideous, but we still managed to deal with a key staff member breaking her ankle in three places and needing 14 weeks out.

  33. ash*

    What a mess, definitely get out.

    Also, maybe watch for red flags early on in your next job? I was already worried at the beginning of the letter when OP’s job duties had expanded outside their normal role & then no one else in the office could do the job. The company is getting a bunch of extra work for free at that point.

    1. Artemesia*

      flattering and not paying is something that happens to lots of competent women. Next time your job expands because they know you can handle it, negotiate a raise and talk about a timeline for promotion.

    2. pancakes*

      First red flag here could have been the boss’s mindset that “everything in life goes back to sports, and you just need to ‘rub some dirt on it’ and get back in the game.” I realize that’s not an uncommon sentiment among meatheads, but it’s nonetheless a pretty powerful indication that you’re dealing with an extremely simple-minded person at best. The letter writer seems to think this mindset is something that can be reset or resolved by a conversation and that’s just not realistic. Smart, caring people don’t think the world is one big sports game, or that exploitative working conditions should be shaken off the way a football player shakes off concussion after concussion. (Yes I am being a bit sarcastic; those aren’t exactly shaken off either!)

      1. penny dreadful analyzer*

        It’s worth noting that this is “rub some dirt on it” mentality is also a terrible approach to athletics and that injured athletes are frequently removed from the field! Lots of sports people take recovering from injuries properly very seriously, especially elite athletes who want to stay that way.

        1. pancakes*

          Right, if you are going to make your living from your body that way it makes sense to take better care of it than that! Rather than run it into the ground. This is more of a weekend warrior mindset than an elite athlete mindset.

  34. Josephine*

    I’m so sorry this happened OP. I hope you get out of there asap and that they have to struggle for a long time.

  35. animaniactoo*

    “I am so sorry that I am not a robot, and my body needed to sleep because I was ill right when you needed me to be working. Please accept my apologies for not being a robot.”

    I mean, I probably would have gotten myself fired the moment the boss started telling me I’d fucked them over.

    Run away as fast as you can, LW. I expect that you’ll find a new work environment very pleasant, and from a distance you can watch them fail to find enough people to replace you… at even 1.5x what they’ve been paying you. Recognize your worth, chalk this up as your learning experience – both in the actual skills you learned, and in how to make sure that your value as a human and not just your output is recognized.

  36. The Crowening*

    Honestly, OP, this is so toxic and abusive and unhealthy that if you CAN leave immediately with nothing else lined up, you should. When the time comes to explain to a hiring manager why that happened or why there is a gap, you can blame a health matter that required your immediate attention but has since been resolved (or anything else that could fit). The sucky thing is, these people are so horrific, they can’t be relied upon for a good reference either way. If you can get by for a while as you look for work, do it. Save yourself. It breaks my heart and makes me so mad when people are abused at work and the employers expect employees to just take it.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      Agree, except OP should not reference a health matter but instead describe in very broad terms why they had to leave, e.g. “After working at a level equivalent to 3 FTEs for the better part of a year, I had to take a few days off due to illness. At that point I was essential to multiple aspects of business operations, but there had been no planning for days I might need to be out, whether for illness or PTO, and my employer had an unfortunate response to the situation. I’m looking to bring my abilities to a company that understands the value of its employees and does X/Y/Z [maybe speak about cross-training, or understanding humans are not robots, or recognizes valuable employees with commensurate raises, whatever you’d like to highlight].”

      1. TrixM*

        I would definitely wouldn’t use that kind of phrasing about the “do you treat employees as human beings” stuff – it could come over as being a little chip-on-the-shoulder-ish.
        Best to ask questions about the size of the team, if there are crunch times when it’s different to take leave, opportunities for training, cross-skilling, etc, and what key qualities are important to the role/team.
        It’s amazing how much arseholes give themselves away if you pay attention. “Ha ha ha, it’s always crunch time here!” “We always want everyone to give 110%.” “We have a tough time finding the right staff”.
        All of that kind of thing without discussing special circumstances as to why the business is always in crunch time or mitigations like generous leave/flex arrangements to offset long work weeks tend to make things crystal clear

      2. The Crowening*

        Yeah, I was only thinking about the vague health matter language because in Year 3 of a pandemic, just about everyone has had some sort of health matter at some point or other and it no longer seems to raise eyebrows.

        I had an interview four years ago and I very politely grilled that hiring panel about how they handle things such as someone on the team being out unexpectedly (everyone else picks up the slack? short-term, or indefinitely?), and an end-of-day fire drill (am I leaving on time to get kids from day-care, or am I stuck cleaning up someone else’s mess?). Both of those things were rampant at the job I was trying to escape from and so I was very polite about my questions but I darned sure asked them. They were very nice so it was easy to ask these questions warmly, and they answered them well and they eventually offered me the job. I was unable to take it because it ended up being a pretty significant pay cut, but I remember that as one of the most pleasant interviews I’ve ever had, and they didn’t seem at all put off by all my questions. (They even commented that I asked them as many questions as they asked me. Haha)

  37. Kate in Colorado*

    The correct reactions were the ones that said, “BURN ALL THE BRIDGES.” Find something new as fast as you can and then immediately walk. Like, immediately. I, personally, wouldn’t even bother giving a 2 week notice, but that’s me.

  38. Alice*

    It sounds like they are going to try and overwork you as soon as you get back to work. I would suggest you take it easy for a while since you’re still recovering. In fact you should take it easy right until you start your new job. This is utter nonsense, this company doesn’t value you and they certainly don’t deserve you.

    1. Peridot*

      Yeah, there’s some evidence that trying to do too much too soon may contribute to Long Covid.

      1. Artemesia*

        Which is the ‘excuse’ for needing to use PTO at least once a week now — and the use the time to job search like crazy.

  39. CCC*

    “I hope you and your readers can weigh in on this and tell me if you think I am being unreasonable, or if they did in fact behave as badly as I feel they did.”

    Um. Yes. Absolutely they did in fact behave as badly as you feel they did. They’ve also taken advantage of you just as much as you suspect they have.

    1. Jackalope*

      I disagree. I think that once the LW leaves and gets into a new, healthier workplace she will find that they were in fact much worse than she thought and took much more advantage than she thought.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. Even Alison says this is one of the worst letters she has seen. OP, the difference between your place and a GOOD work place is larger than the Grand Canyon. You may want to invest in some therapy to help you to adjust to the good workplace. Seriously. I can see this as being something that brings flashbacks for the next ten years once you see how big (HUGE) the difference is.

  40. NYC Taxi*

    “Now, I feel like my worth is solely tied to how much work I can do for them.”

    Well, yes, it’s work and your worth is what you produce. And you went far above and beyond for them, and expected them to appreciate you, and they clearly don’t. The transactional nature of work only works one way unfortunately. I had the same discussion with a friend of mine who worked to 11pm every night and worked weekends for years to keep her boss happy and I told her to put herself first because none of that is going to matter and she shouldn’t give up all her free time. She was stunned after years of extra work when she was let go because “they were changing direction and there was no role for her.”

    Your company sounds awful, your bosses sound awful, and your HR dept is awful. But now you know where you stand. Take all the excellent skills you’ve been building and look for a new job.

    1. Observer*

      The transactional nature of work only works one way unfortunately.

      That’s actually not true in reasonable companies. Because even when it’s just a matter of pure self interest – it’s going to cost this company big when the OP leaves.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      More accurately stated:

      “Now I know that my worth is solely tied to how much free labor they can get out of me. If they actually paid people to do what I do for them. they’d have financial problems.”


      “Now I know what an abusive employer looks like.”

  41. kiki*

    I am in the middle of Work Won’t Love You Back by Sarah Jaffe, which I 100% recommend to everyone.
    Your workplace took advantage of your talent and go the extra mile as the business floundered. Unfortunately, they refuse to reciprocate in your time of need. These people are vampires who have demonstrated that they’re willing to suck everything out of you with little for you to show in return– you need to get out.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      That’s a great book, and I also suggest ‘The Company Doesn’t Love You’ by Charles Jones. His is more of a how-to on navigating career stages and building success, but the title says it all. Companies can and do take advantage of their people, in atrocious ways.

  42. Choggy*

    This type of situation is the exact reason why I have never given more to a company that I *want* to give them, and even then, I reign it in. It’s exceedingly rare that any company will ever put your health above profits. Managers have become so out of touch with reality and having any kind of human or logical reactions to situations they are PAID to manage. Companies rely so heavily on one or two people that, if something happens to them, they are so stuck without any kind of contingency they just lash out at the person who has been holding things together. Please, take all your skills and put them elsewhere, but definitely not some place where you are the sole person doing all the work, and not being recognized or paid for it, you deserve so much better. Your boss sucks.

    1. Generic Name*

      I agree. Start taking at least one afternoon a week off. And when you do, send all your boss’ calls to voicemail. I guarantee that any time you try to take off will be met with multiple calls and messages. Better yet if you can go to a remote area with no cell or internet service.

      1. Artemesia*

        Tell them you are recovering from COVID and need the time to rest — take a day or afternoon off a week and use that time for job searching. And one hopes later use it for interviews.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Jump in on the open work thread, OP, tell us how you are doing. If you need help, I have no doubt that many people will chime in with advice or just to cheer you onward.

  43. BRR*

    I hope you’re feeling better LW! So much has already been said but I want to add there is no perspective for you to have to understand in this situation. There is absolutely no justification for blaming you and cursing at you for being sick (and you got sick from work! Not that that changes how awful these people are, it’s just the cherry on top of the sundae). These are some of the worst people to ever appear in a letter on this site.

    Small tangent. I despise when people are told things like “management can’t promote you too high, too quickly, or there will be nowhere for you to go in a few years” or “we can’t bring you on at the top of the hiring range because then you won’t have any room to grow.” Such BS

    1. BA*

      Re your tangent: YES YES YES!!! I read that and thought, “there’s nowhere for you to go in a few years” other than somewhere that appreciates and recognizes talent…

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      But also … if I’m suited to that position (and you’re darn tootin I’m suited to that salary) then a good employer wants me to be doing it now even if there’s nowhere to go from there.

    3. Antilles*

      It’s especially egregious in this case.
      They did eventually give me a promotion, but I was not promoted to the level I was told I would be, so that was additionally frustrating.
      In other words, they effectively told OP that she’d have to work hard for a few years to be at the level they originally promised she’d be at today.

  44. my 8th name*

    Based on their response, I’m getting the sense that management is in the “Covid is a hoax” crowd. It seems to be unfathomable to them that a person who’s sick with Covid would need time off.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      Probably, and they probably ant all their employees to take the horse meds. *rolls eyes*

    2. Asenath*

      No, I don’t think so. Manager was perfectly happy to stay home with his children and do very little work, apparently without thinking it was for no good reason since he believed COVID is a hoax. That rage means Manager is so used to having LW able to learn and take over all kinds of responsibilities, that he’s in a rage and panicking at the thought that now he’s going to have to do most of it himself, including tasks LW says he can’t do and would have to learn, or have his office’s production drop so low it will look bad to the higher levels of management; the same ones who couldn’t come up with a good raise and promotion to reward her work. Or maybe he did that too, and now realizes he’s cut himself off at the knees by depending so much on someone who is overworked and sick.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think that’s an either/or situation. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that many of the it’s-a-hoax crowd enjoyed working from home for all the same reasons other people do. Insisting on working from the office on account of there not being a “good reason” to do so requires a sort of “teacher, you forgot to assign us homework!” personality.

    3. Observer*

      Based on their response, I’m getting the sense that management is in the “Covid is a hoax” crowd. It seems to be unfathomable to them that a person who’s sick with Covid would need time off.

      No. Because even if the OP just wanted to take a day off and said so, their reaction would have been out of line. More so, the fact that they promised the OP a significant promotion after overworking them and not coming through with some baloney excuse shows that it has nothing to do with whether they believe the OP was sick or not.

    4. Anonymous Hippo*

      While there are no doubt companies like this, this sounds like run of the mill employees are robots and are expected to put work first and any inconvenience the boss experiences due to lack of appropriate staffing is the employees fault.

    5. Pam Poovey*

      OP here – you’re not wrong. Direct boss is vaccinated but has not worn a mask in months and thinks “they should just stop testing for Covid” is the solution. He often repeats right wing talking points but I know he is not a fan of Fox News… the head manager is very much into OAN network and misinformation.

        1. Pam Poovey*

          Thank you! I am blown away by the response to my letter… i have gone back to work (I started wfh the day after the phone call) but have only gone into the office once. I have updated my resume and reached out to the previous department supervisor from our corporate office to be a reference (she left the company as well). I will definitely be taking a lot of this advice.

          I am so grateful to everyone who has commented and shared their own experiences and sent words of encouragement! Neither of my parents ever had “corporate” jobs, so trying to navigate this all on my own has been challenging.

    6. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This is a great point, unfortunately. If someone believes COVID is a hoax (it’s not), it is entirely logically consistent to believe that OP wasn’t actually all that sick.

      But also, your employers are exploitive assholes, so that’s not helping.

  45. Eldritch Office Worker*

    “So I hope you and your readers can weigh in on this and tell me if you think I am being unreasonable, or if they did in fact behave as badly as I feel they did.”

    Can I just take a moment to scream about how much crap we’re conditioned to take and how that’s represented in the fact OP would doubt for even a second how egregious this behavior is

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      (I’m not upset with OP I want to protect OP like a precious flower and I hate everything about this company and also society)

      1. Nameless in Customer Service*

        I am screaming and agreeing. OP, I send you all the strength I can spare.

    2. Artemesia*

      And most people treated like this are women who are flattered into more and more work without more pay. then new guy is hired for more than they are making, does less work and gets promoted.

  46. Amethystmoon*

    Agree totally. Start hunting for a better job. You have the right to be sick once in a while and not get yelled at for it.

  47. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — I hope the commentariat has been able to convince you that you don’t have (and don’t want) a future working for these jerks. Please check out the AAM archives for good advice about resumes, cover letters, how to assess a company’s culture, and job search strategy in general. Start actively looking.

    There’s also some good advice in Alison’s column at:
    People who’ve worked in abusive environments, like the one you’re in now, often develop coping strategies that work against them in more normal office environments. It’s something to think about going forward.

    Meanwhile, go out and get another job! And send us an update when you do.

  48. Generic Name*

    I hope we get an update from the OP saying they got another job for an obscene amount of money more than they are currently making. Like at least a 50% raise. I would bet that OP is underpaid, even without all of the extra duties. Companies that treat employees like trash also pay them trash.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      I suspect that if we do get an update, it will include some mention of how difficult it is to adjust to a more normal work environment after several years in one so toxic.

  49. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Totally unreasonable, and THANK YOU for working from home when sick!

    I’m neurodivergent, and those sensory issues and anxiety make it REALLY difficult for me to mask. As in, panic attacks, nausea, having a lot of difficulty staying calm/polite because I am so dysregulated in a mask. So I save it for my grandmother’s care home, flying, and public transit, where explicitly required. I don’t go out much, but when I do, I don’t mask at stores, etc. The cost to me is just so high, and I am fully vaccinated, boosted, otherwise careful.

    I work from home, though if I worked in an office I would definitely need conscientious workers who stay home when ill. Because I could not mask 8.5 hours a day! So I appreciate standing your ground on safety issues.

  50. A Different Opinion*

    “Everybody has a different opinion?” For serious??

    It better be along the range from “run” to “run run RUN”

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, after OP gets a new job, she might want to avoid having work discussions with anyone who thinks that situation is OK. I say that as someone who changed positions in my company every four years for very similar reasons.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, like the logical different opinions here are “quit immediately even if you have nothing lined up; they suck that much”, “search immediately and quit as soon as possible; they suck that much”, “use as much of that pto at once as they’ll let you, while searching, and then quit as soon as possible; they suck that much” or “badmouth them all over town; they suck that much”.

  51. Magenta Sky*

    I understand their perspective. It is the perspective of crazy, abusive bosses who view their employees as things, not people.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      +1. You can understand that these people are so absolutely batsh*t with their expectations that they are going to crumble to dust without you but you do not need to care or entertain their “business side” of the conversation. This was never sustainable and I hope everyone involved gets exactly what they deserve.

  52. BA*

    LW, your company sucks. And the friends who said you should “understand from their perspective” suck.

    You were an incredibly hard working, accommodating employee. And your company didn’t appreciate it… they took advantage of it. If you’re at all able, turn in your two weeks, take that month of PTO (hopefully) and use that to find a new place of work. It shouldn’t be hard… you’re an incredible worker and most good workplaces will see that right out of the gate.

  53. University Schlep*

    This is one of the few cases where I would have no qualms being “sick” on days I need to interview. And also whenever you can until you get a new job. Because you can bet the farm they will make sure they don’t have to pay any unused PTO.

  54. Doctor is In*

    If I were your doctor I would give you a medical excuse to take off as long as you need to fully recover, including all the time you need for mental health!

  55. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    OP, Please send us an update from your new wonderful job soon!! Anyplace will seem wonderful after this one. Cause I strongly suspect from the way they treated you while sick, it will only get worse when you announce your resignation.

  56. Anonymous Poster*

    You are not being unreasonable. It is time to start a job search. It looks like they’ve given you plenty of fantastic things to put on your resume for a far, far higher paying position! And a place that, when you’re sick, understands that people get sick and that’s just life.

    I mean, c’mon, if you can reschedule most air plane or event tickets no ifs, ands, or buts right now because of COVID, but your employer somehow demands you work while having COVID, that says a lot.

    I know some people have been able to work through COVID. My work is completely remote and I did, but I probably shouldn’t have. I was worthless for a couple days, and I’m fully vaccinated and boostered.

    Sounds like you have a lot more incentive to burn through your PTO too. Maybe double check your employee handbook/local laws, and see if they’re required to pay it out or not. I suspect if they have the option not to, they will 100% not pay it out. You might as well use it, if that’s the case. Or, sadly, be prepared to bicker with them over their obligation to pay it out…

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      OP definitely deserves that payout and should get it by any means possible but I also want to flag that in that position, I might just leave it on the table and go. I wouldn’t want to give this company anything to hold over my head.

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        I dunno, a quick half hour or hour consult with a labor attorney might be worthwhile. If they’re this bananas over taking sick time when sick, what kind of reference are you going to preserve anyway? And I expect if it really came down to them bickering over it, a strongly worded letter from a labor attorney (assuming USA) would probably scare them enough to pay it out as go-away money.

        Or if the state requires the payout, simply contact the appropriate state office. They’d be able to handle it from there while you move on with your life.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Absolutely, like I said pursue it! But assuming US they may not be required to pay it out and I’d just draw the line somewhere on how much I was willing to do before I just moved on with my life.

          1. Anonymous Poster*

            Ah, I understand better now. 100% agree.

            The emotional labor is definitely not worth it for this place.

      2. Observer*

        OP definitely deserves that payout and should get it by any means possible but I also want to flag that in that position, I might just leave it on the table and go. I wouldn’t want to give this company anything to hold over my head.

        I think this is a valid point. However, I do hope that if the OP chooses not to do this, they do so because THEY MADE THE CHOICE, not because they feel guilty.

    2. Anonymous Poster*

      As for the business’s perspective… I mean, I’m generally pretty pro-employer. There is a perspective, but it doesn’t matter here. They’ve dug this hole for themselves, refused to do anything about it, and their managerial reaction is to blame you for catching a highly contagious and potentially very dangerous disease and demand that you work. So that instead of letting you rest and come back to work refreshed, they’re going to get crummy work product out of you for an extended period of time, potentially put your health and your coworkers’ health at risk, and then have even more problems down the line. There’s no short term nor long term gain here except, I guess maybe a manager doesn’t look like they’re quite as bad at their job as they are?

      Don’t feel bad. Go forth and apply wildly.

  57. bopper*

    Another option:

    “Boss, I would like to talk to you about how you treated me when I was sick and about my future here. I have have learned every job there is in the company/office. I can backfill anyone if they are out. During Covid times i did the work of 3 people. I travelled 3.5 hours to the Main office every other week for months. I am so valuable that clearly you think your office will fall apart while I am home sick for a week. Yet “management can’t promote me too high, too quickly, or there will be nowhere for me to go in a few years.” I want you to think about the fact that this is not the only company out there. It is an employee’s market right now. So consider if you would rather promote/compensate me according to the value I provide right now or hire 4+ people to replace me. What would be better for the growth of your company? I like this company and want to give you the chance to do the right thing.”

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      This is so transparent to the commentariat – why can’t managers see it?!!

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        Speaking as a middle manager, they often have little to no control over all those things, and it is one of the many reasons I’m leaving my job. There is very little I can actually control with my employees, and the rest of it involves basically an internal revolution at the company, and most people aren’t willing to have engage in that battle (for whatever reason, fear of losing their own job, personality, etc). So they let the blame run down hill because it’s the only “safe” way to do it. I’m not saying it’s right, but I certainly understand. Upper management is just looking at the big picture, so they don’t care as long as the number turn out ok. It’s one of the many reason I tend to think middle managers need organized because without them taking the fight to upper management, how is anything going to change?

        1. Anonymous Hippo*

          I’ve been fighting the fight myself for 3 years with almost nothing to show for it, and I’m burned out because NOBODY else is trying at all, they just accept whatever decree gets handed down. Corporate can double the work, and half the time frame, and expect to have no additional costs in either labor or systems expenses. But the managers just say “ok” and dump it below.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It is an option for sure. But if I were in OP’s shoes this would just be the wording for my exit interview.

    3. pancakes*

      A nice script, but even if they were to double the letter writer’s salary these are fundamentally untrustworthy and bad people to work for. It’s a small office and the boss and HR are terrible. No one who has to have it explained to them that it’s inappropriate to expect an employee to work through Covid or to lash out at them for being sick is worth giving a second chance to. The letter writer needs to keep looking for another place to work even if these jerks can be momentarily induced to stop being jerks about this particular issue.

      1. TrixM*

        Exactly. Why waste your breath on anyone who’d begrudge any sick leave because of Covid (or anything), esp when the OP doesn’t seem to have a history of calling out excessively (or at all)? Then when you add their utter disregard for the additional work OP has been doing, well, you can try rubbing their noses in it, but they will close their eyes and block their ears and go “lalala!” no matter what
        Best for OP to save their breath for getting well and interviewing with saner organisations/bosses.
        Also, given all the staff turnover and apparent chaos at the larger office, it sounds like their branch might be circling the drain. Good time to get out in general, frankly.

  58. Asenath*

    Their behaviour is appalling. You need to understand their perspective, because it’s a terrible one that is a danger to your well-being, not because it it typical of business. You need to protect yourself. Don’t burn your bridges; but take the sick time you need to recover – and recover entirely, don’t contact them while sick or agree to work from home. If they contact you, respond politely if they want a doctor’s note or something (perhaps you’ll need the full sick leave time you have left to recover from stress if not COVID? I hope you have a good doctor), but feel free to say “This language is inappropriate” and hang up if anyone from the business curses at you again. As soon as you feel well enough (which should be before you feel well enough to return to work) start job hunting. Alison has lots of resources. Keep job hunting even if your sick leave runs out before you return – and when you are offered a great job that uses all the skills you learned from working there, hand in your two week’s notice and go. That will be much more satisfying long-term than what my first impulse would be if I were in your shoes – to quit now, no notice.

  59. Construction Safety*

    If you live on the north side of Atlanta, call me. We’re dysfunctional, but that letter was a whole ‘nother level of BSC.

  60. Homebody*

    OP, I hope things only go up from here for you. I hope your next job has double the salary, you get ALL the benefits, and you get your sweet justice for working so hard at a company that doesn’t appreciate what you did for them.

  61. Ann Perkins Knope*

    I feel Alison might be being unfair to cartoon villains here. Honestly, I would highly recommend you take a job with Mr. Robotnik, or Scar, or Gargamel, or Cruella if it would take you away from these *words fail me, I emit at random high pitched noises, growls, and mumbled swear words*.

    Please get out as soon as possible. I am worried for you and judging by their reaction to you being sick, they will absolutely be destroyed by you quitting, and then all that’s left for you is “living well is the best revenge,” style fabulousness.

  62. Nea*

    OP, they aren’t treating you like a valuable employee. They aren’t treating you like someone who has gone above and beyond.

    They are treating you like an appliance and are angry that you aren’t just humming and doing whatever is asked of you, like a printer or a coffee maker.

    The second you get a better job don’t just burn your bridges here – napalm them and don’t look back.

    1. JustaTech*

      They’re treating the LW like a refrigerator. Expected to work all the time, day a night, no time off and no maintenance, and when there’s even the smallest issue everything is ruined and there is endless screaming and cursing.

      LW, you are brilliant, and your company is awful.

  63. hmbalison*

    OP, sending you good karma for finding a job where you are valued and appreciated.

    Also, I’m nominating your boss for worst boss of 2022. Let’s see if they win!

  64. AB*

    Burn all the bridges. No one would have blamed you if, when the boss said he was disappointed and didn’t seem to understand that you needed to take care of yourself while sick, your response had been “oh that’s too bad, I’ll mail in my laptop.”

  65. COBOL Dinosaur*

    I’m sure my company went above and beyond during the pandemic but I want to throw out an example to demonstrate the complete opposite from this letter.

    My company sent everyone to work at home who could work at home. This meant having them purchase 100s of laptops. We even sent the inbound call center people home to work. (jobs that in many places are seen as very controlling of their employees) If you had a job that you couldn’t work at home then you remained at the office. But if you had a minor child who’s school shut down then they sent you home. Then they paid your full salary for 10 weeks while you were at home and then paid you at 75% after those 10 weeks. If you caught Covid and could not work (or if you have a family member you had to care for with covid) then you got the time paid at 100% and did not have to dip into your sick time bucket for that time.

    If you wanted to remain in the office to work then you could because so many people were at home they were able to socially distance people. A mask mandate was in place until recently.

    We’ve been like this for 2 years. Last year we broke all of the customer service goals they had set. We did better while having the people working at home than we had ever done pre pandemic. When you treat your employees good then they do good work! When we open back up the company will be completely different because lots of people are going to keep working at home either full time or a hybrid schedule.

  66. Emotional Spock*

    Here are my suggestions:
    1. Start job hunting now.
    2. Put in for as much PTO as you think they will give you and you are comfortable with. (You will likely lose some regardless)
    3. Don’t tell any colleagues you are looking.
    4. Give two weeks upon official job offer.
    5. Think about ways to push back if they want a lot of extra work/travel/etc..
    6. Yes, block bosses’ and colleagues’ numbers.
    7. Don’t look back.

    1. Emily*

      5a. If they try to get you to continue working on a part-time or contract basis to get them through the transition, DECLINE. They got themselves into this mess and you owe them nothing.

  67. Matt*

    Look on the bright side, at least this boss isn’t asking for your liver…

    Joking aside, I agree- get out ASAP. Your boss and HR are utter trash and I hope you’re able to move on from this as soon as you can.

    Also, can we just give this boss “Worst boss of 2022” right here and now?

  68. Elizabeth West*

    Gah! This is a horrible company. Run like the wind!
    May all the cockroaches in the immediate area nest in their pillowcases. And I do mean ALL.

  69. Paris Geller*

    This is “burn it all down” territory–get a new job, don’t feel bad for not giving notice (I don’t normally suggest that, but this place will try to guilt you & manipulate you into staying and make any notice period a living hell), and don’t look back.

  70. BBB*

    go on PTO. use every minute of it. take that time to update your resume and actively search. fingers crossed you land a new job in that time and day 1 “back” from your PTO, quit with no notice. maybe just don’t show up and watch your phone blow up with panic as you gleefully cackle.
    they deserve nothing from you.

  71. J*

    I am so sorry you had to deal with this LW. I echo everyone else’s sentiment to look for a new job but I also encourage you to send an email to HR within the larger global company with a clear description of what has happened. That way you have documentation and a paper trail when they inevitably continue to pile onto you and try to punish you for their unrealistic expectations.

    I say this as I had a similar experience where HR on the local level was pretty dunderheaded and the documentation I sent to HR on the regional level proved to be valuable when it came to “the business” claiming they were appalled by this behavior and it was not acceptable.

    You have done so much to accommodate this business. Make sure to set yourself up to protect yourself from their nonsense.

  72. Observer*

    OP, the fact that you are even asking whether they have any point whatsoever is of concern to me. What your boss and HR said is utterly and completely out of line. No shred of acceptability or sympathy here.

    Please start cutting back how much work you do.Work your 40 hours AND THAT’S IT. Start scheduling your time off.

    Document everything so that if you have to quite or they decide to fire you for going back to being a human you will be able to collect unemployment.

    Most importantly, start making an exit plan. If you can save enough money to live on for a few months in case you need to get out because things get impossible, you need to get out because it’s the only way you can job hunt or you get pushed out for having the audacity to expect to be treated like a human being, that would be ideal. Regardless, job hunt as much as you can. You deserve better – EVERY HUMAN deserves better. So don’t feel guilty. Your company does NOT deserve staff who go above and beyond.

    1. Boof*

      Work your 40 hours AND THAT’S IT. Start scheduling your time off.

      Exactly! And possibly start refusing to do things that are “above your pay grade” (at least ones you don’t like to do)

  73. Sparkles McFadden*

    Echoing everyone here saying that you need to get out of there as soon as humanly possible OP.

    Once you do get out and get a new job, re-read your own letter and these responses from time to time, When you are an internally motivated person, you willingly take on challenges, learn as much as you can, and pick up everyone else’s slack. This is not a bad thing, but you need to keep an eye on yourself and remind yourself of your value. If you don’t, this pattern may arise again. Even good bosses get annoyed when their “easy” employee needs time off, or just can’t be the usual, convenient work dumping ground. Don’t ket anyone take you for granted.

    Advocating for yourself is a skill, just like anything else, and you need to develop that skill as you move on. It’s hard at first, but it gets easier as it becomes routine. Keep track of all of the above-and-beyond tasks you’ve completed and extra work you’ve taken on. Seeing it all at in a list a later date helps you realize your accomplishments and helps you push back for appropriate compensation. It also give you a go-to list when your boss wants to add to your work pile so you can pull out the list and say “Which of these things can we get off my plate so I can work on that other thing?” It’s too easy to find yourself thinking “This extra thing is easy enough to do” or “Well, it’s only going to be a for a few weeks.” Don’t fall into that trap again. Look out for yourself.

    Good luck!

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I agree, and would add – don’t ever rely on anyone else to advocate for you. Most people don’t have bosses who advocate for them, so work on developing that skill ASAP.
      I got so much stuff that could have easily been do done by others dumped on me back when I was an admin, but eventually I just developed the skills to steer a lot of the excessive workload in other directions.

  74. EBG*

    Hang on, OP. Lots of people have asymptomatic COVID. Did you tell your office, “I have COVID, I’m quite ill, and I will be unable to work until I am well enough to work from home”? Or did you tell your office, “I have COVID”? Because if you did not explain that you are sick, your office may have thought you were asymptomatic and may have expected you to telework while isolating at home. Recently, my coworker had COVID, and though he was sniffly, he was well enough to telework the entire week. I got COVID a few weeks later, and I was so sick that I couldn’t stand up (but I monitored my oxygen and wasn’t sick enough to be hospitalized)–and my coworkers (supervisors and subordinates) kept checking on me and sending food to my house, as they were worried about me. Six weeks later and I am still not well enough to work a full week. My co-worker and I were both 3x vaccinated and masking at work and are exactly the same age–yet our reactions were widely different.

    I agree with Alison that your workplace sucks, but it’s also not clear if you were clear that you were ill and unable to work. If you didn’t make it clear, then that’s on you.

    1. Asenath*

      Even if LW didn’t make it clear she was off sick – which she says she did – being cursed out over the phone because she didn’t come in was wildly inappropriate. Bad enough it would have had me job-hunting! The appropriate response from management would be something like “I’m sorry to hear you are sick. Do you have any idea when you will be well enough to work from home/return to work?” It would also be appropriate for the boss or HR to go over how long she can stay off without a doctor’s note according to their rules. But the response to “I’m too sick to come in”, stated TWICE, one day after another, isn’t “You’re f^&%ing me over by not reporting for work.”

    2. Kevin Sours*

      No. Just no. I have Covid and I’m not going to be in should communicate that well enough. If it was that important they should have asked.

      And, even if there was a misunderstanding, the belligerent response is well beyond the pale. And there is no excuse for “we are disappointed in you because you didn’t work when sick”.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Absolutely not. OP said they weren’t able to work, for one thing, and for another nothing here would make the employer’s actions acceptable.

      1. BA*

        I considered this for a minute, too, but want to point out this: Telling your workplace that you have COVID should prompt a response from your workplace that includes empathy first and then (only then) questions about what you’re able/willing to handle while you’re out of the office. OUT OF THE OFFICE. Because even though things are evolving with COVID, you’re still supposed to not be in the workplace.

        If the answer is that you’re too sick, then that’s the answer. If the answer is that you’re capable of working, then that’s the answer too. But it does seem that the LW was expected to be in the office, so WFH may not have been an option. Regardless of their specific health situation, the workplace should be asking questions AND should never in a million years respond the way this workplace has.

        The employee shouldn’t have to lead the conversation. They should be able to trust that their employer will cover them while they’re out AND ask what they need and when they expect they might be back.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “Telling your workplace that you have COVID should prompt a response from your workplace that includes empathy first and then (only then) questions about what you’re able/willing to handle while you’re out of the office. OUT OF THE OFFICE.”

          YES, yes, 1,000 times yes to this!

          Their immediate response, right after you said you had COVID, should have been, “Are you okay?”

          NOT: “Wow.” Which is what they said.

          Wow?? Really? And it’s somehow on the OP to have explained further?

    4. Anonymous Hippo*

      Doesn’t matter. Boss could have just said “hey, are you still working from home or are you symptoms severe enough you need rest” or “I know you are sick, but are you symptoms mild enough you could do x, y, z while you are resting” and there wouldn’t be an email here. The boss was an absolute ass, and there is no way to justify the way he behaved.

    5. Observer*

      I agree with Alison that your workplace sucks, but it’s also not clear if you were clear that you were ill and unable to work. If you didn’t make it clear, then that’s on you.

      Baloney. I know that’s rude. But come on, you’re ignoring what the OP actually wrote and trying to excise utterly inexcusable and abusive behavior.

      1. The OP has an excellent track record. Just assuming that someone with that kind of track record just decided to not show it is absurd.
      2. When someone lets you know that they “tested positive” for something, it should be pretty obvious that the person was sick or else they would not have tested.
      3. The OP DID very clearly state the they were sick the first time that the boss contacted them and the boss accused them of lying.
      4. The OP told them a SECOND time and this time the boss cursed them out.
      5. HR told the OP that they “let the company down” even though the OP had by then made it ABUNDANTLY clear that they were sick.

      It amazes me how many people try to bend into a pretzel to excuse ridiculous behavior, including ignoring the facts presented.

    6. Elsajeni*

      I mean… if your coworker who teleworked while out with COVID had stopped logging in after a couple of days, even without saying in advance that he was feeling worse and wouldn’t be in, would someone have sent him a series of angry texts, or called to cuss him out? Would you have considered that reasonable? No, right, because the reasonable response to knowing someone has COVID and not hearing from them is “geez, I hope he’s okay and just feeling a little worse, let’s see if we can get a hold of him and make sure he doesn’t need help”? Like, there is just not a version of this where the boss’s actions, as described, are a reasonable response to a misunderstanding about exactly how sick the OP was feeling.

  75. Lifeandlimb*

    OP, be discreet when you job search. Your current employer sounds highly unreasonable. Document as much of the mistreatment as you can. Be ready for pushback or a tantrum when you give notice. Give your best polite poker face and know that none of their bad attitudes is a reflection of you.

    Pay careful attention to the work culture and work/life balance of your next workplace. Occasionally going above and beyond is fine, but what you have been through is unacceptable.

  76. Waffle Cone*

    Omg. The AUDACITY.
    1. Document and print everything. Back it up AT HOME, on a personal device.
    2. Take your PTO if you’re not guaranteed a payout.
    3. GFTO
    4. Go live your best life.
    I wish you all the best, OP.

  77. ecnaseener*

    In hindsight it’s easy to see that this company was taking advantage of you from the beginning, but I hear you that you loved the job and are grieving it now! You can find another jack-of-all-trades job like this one, it’s not inherently exploitative as long as they’re paying you what your work is worth.

  78. MissKitty7*

    Time to take that PTO and leave them with this:

    It was the F!@$ around of times; it was the find out of times.

    In seriousness, this job is an abusive relationship. You need to find a place where you are appreciated and where their biggest concern about your return to work should be that you are HEALTHY enough to do so and not contagious to others.

  79. Sea Witch*

    I’ve posted a link to this column on the Herman Cain Award subReddit. It goes a long way towards explaining why the infection rates just aren’t coming down.

  80. Lacey*

    Just adding my voice the chorus – Get out!

    This place has treated you horribly from the word “go” and they will never treat you better. At any decent company you would hold a place of reverence and awe. Please get a job at one of them and be treated as you deserve.

  81. WoodswomanWrites*

    OP, you’ve gotten unanimous advice to leave that horrible place as soon as possible. I nonetheless have to chime in myself because I’m so outraged on your behalf.

    I hope that down the road, we’ll receive an update about how you left, the great new job you have, and that you’re doing well.

  82. Satellite*

    Since your office is a small branch of a large international corporation, why not pursue this through higher corporate channels? These idiots have bosses, grand bosses, etc., plus corporate HR, why not take these issues to those higher in authority? I’m sure a large international company would be interested in knowing about this appalling situation, even if only for the reason that punishing an employee who is suffering with Covid could open them up to a huge hit on their public reputation and/or a potential lawsuit. By all means start your job search, but in the meantime maybe consult with an employment attorney and get advice on how to approach the situation on a higher level within the company. Good luck, OP, you’d be an asset to any company and you deserve a much better position, there are millions of employers out there who would appreciate a loyal, hard working and dedicated employee such as yourself. Please update us when you can, we’re all pulling for you and hope you find a fantastic new job as soon as possible.

    1. Abogado Avocado*

      Feel free to spend money on an employment attorney, but unless the treatment of you by these bums is linked to your status as a member of a protected class (race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability), bad treatment by bosses is not something you can sue over. In the United States, bosses are allowed to be assholes, as long as they’re not being assholes based on your membership in a protected class. Same with bosses in other offices of the same firm.

      Your first instincts are correct: get the hell out of there. These people truly are bums. You are not wrong at all about how awful their treatment of you is.

      Once you’ve found a non-toxic job and have been able to recover from COVID and your contact with these jerks, then feel free to post your story on Glassdoor or even write a letter describing your journal to the C-suite or Board of Directors of this international corp. Until then, lay low and plan your escape.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think there has to be a potential payout for the letter writer to make this worth escalating. The way local HR is handling this is very amateur hour, and I would not assume that higher channels are equally messy and equally blasé about it. I don’t think it should be the letter writer’s main focus — I agree that should be on recovering and finding a new job — but I don’t think it would hurt to loop in higher-ups in HR at some point.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          *Way* too much chance for it to go sideways. And the job market is too favorable to be worth taking the risk. Especially with the month’s PTO to potentially lose if it doesn’t get used up first. Remember the upper management are the people who put the locals in charge of things.

          1. pancakes*

            What exactly is the risk if they politely escalate after finding a new job? Local and national HR at the old job team up to try to force them out in retribution for having pushed back on any of this? I don’t think that’s likely, but admittedly I’m not used to working for people who are both unprofessional and crazily vindictive.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              Sure. But once they’ve moved on, it’s not their problem and there isn’t a lot of upside. They can if they want but they really don’t owe these people the effort. They can find out from Glassdoor the same as everybody esle.

              1. pancakes*

                I agree they don’t owe anyone the effort, and a Glassdoor review would be a good idea. I personally would not want to pass up the opportunity to let the national office know what this little office is up to if I thought they’d be receptive to hearing it and cleaning house, but that would require a little research and would be a little risky.

  83. EnergyGarlic*

    Hi OP, there is already so many good kernels of advice here. I hope that you know that you deserve waaay better than what you’re getting at this workplace but also you deserve way better in your relationships than you were getting from those bad advice givers. As someone who has stayed in lots of shitty workplaces longer than I should have, I want to remind you that you deserve to have people who care about you and are rooting for you to do well. I’ve heard that kind of invalidating “advice” in response to me checking on way bad boss behavior. The people who have those kinds of responses did not help me and for whatever reason, didn’t care about me being healthy and safe. It could be worthwhile to think critically about those relationships, especially if one of them is a SO. I hope that you get out of this dumpster fire workplace soon, that you feel better, that you find a healthy reasonable workplace that respects you and your boundaries, and that you have more people in your life who are caring and thoughtful.

  84. Nom*

    I totally agree with Alison’s and commenters’ advice and this was way out of line. The only thing I will say is that, at least from your letter, you may not have been super clear that you would not be working at all (since you mention just telling them you had COVID, not that you would be out). But even then, it should have been solved after you said you were out due to COVID…

  85. Excel-sior*

    There’s nothing i can say about the boss or the company that hasn’t been said already; just terrible and get out of there ASAP.

    One thing I’d like to address is the person who told OP “eh, that’s just business”. Business is business, but there is a good way and a bad way to do business and this was a very bad way to do business.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Alienating a high-value staff member like this is definitely very bad business, considering the number of people they may have to hire to replace OP. Sometimes, employers really can’t see the wood for the trees.

  86. George Pig*

    My first reaction to this letter was this: OP told Boss she tested positive for COVID but didn’t say she was sick. Tons of people get COVID but don’t get too sick to work. So he assumed she could work. Then, she didn’t actually say she was sick, rather than just positive, so he and the company think she’s lying and are pissed off.

    To be clear, their reaction is outsized and quite possibly a misunderstanding, but this may be somewhat less nefarious than it seems. I’d still be job searching if I were OP.

    Also, I’m guessing based on vague facts in the letter. It could be something else, but I don’t think it’s fair to be certain this was not substantially an issue of miscommunication.

    1. late for breakfast*

      she didn’t say she was sick until after he was mad, that is. (Again, maybe. It’s REALLY unclear from the narrative in the letter what she said and when.)

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      No amount of miscommunication between you and your boss justifies your boss calling you when you are not at work and cursing you out, so I don’t think it’s at all relevant if this was an issue of miscommunication or not.

      1. late for breakfast*

        Yes, as I said, the boss’s reaction was outsized no matter what. But if I had an employee who called in and said “I tested positive for COVID” but didn’t say they were sick, I’d wonder about that. I would then ask that question, not get all angry about it. I’m just saying that part of the problem here may be (again *may* be) the way OP communicated it. I’m not blaming OP, but if you are in her position, it is smart to make it clear you are sick and not just positive, and really not smart to NOT do that.

        1. Observer*

          Not possible. If nothing else, you have the OP’s track record AND the fact that they tested at all in a company that doesn’t do routine testing.

          Besides, you keep on ignoring that the OP actually DID tell their boss that they are sick. TWICE.

        2. Scout*

          Outsized? Their reaction was outsized?? Their reaction was abusive and batshit crazy. She told him on Monday, the very first workday, that she couldn’t work.

    3. pancakes*

      No. The appropriate thing for the boss to do if they weren’t clear on whether the letter writer was up to working or not would be to get clarification on that, not give them the silent treatment and then, 2 days later, accuse them of “screwing me over.” I’d like to hear your reasoning for why we should assume the boss is so hopelessly inarticulate as to be unable to communicate their expectations and had to rely on faulty assumptions instead?

    4. George Pig*

      Right. That’s why I said boss’s reaction was not appropriate, regardless. In his shoes, I’d have asked her if she is sick (mostly because I care about people but also because I’d want to get a sense of her availability).

      But if you tell your boss you have COVID you should also tell them you are sick. Otherwise you risk a serious miscommunication.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s clear from the letter that the letter writer did tell the boss they were sick. They have two bosses and told both:

        “I found out I was positive on a Saturday, and immediately texted my boss to let him know. I thought that would be pretty cut and dry.

        I got no response from him at all. I texted my other boss in the head office the next day to let them know as well, because I was afraid they might have been exposed, and because I had told them I would assist with one of their employee’s vacations that week. All I got in response from that manager was ‘wow.’

        The next morning, Monday, my boss called me like he usually does, seemingly thinking I was going to be working as usual. I told him no, I had Covid, I couldn’t work.”

      2. Excel-sior*

        Sick or not, OP still shouldn’t have been going into the office having tested positive for Covid. There is nothing in this that should leave the boss to think OP would be coming in.

    5. Kevin Sours*

      The fact that there response to an employee telling them that she had COVID and then didn’t show up on Monday wasn’t “oh she must be feeling worse than I thought” but “she must be lying about it and goldbricking” is extremely telling. Stop making excuses for their atrocious behavior.

      1. George Pig*

        It’s bizarre that you read me saying I wouldn’t assume she was sick and I would ask as I would assume she is not sick.

        Most people who test positive for COVID these days don’t get sick and wfh if they can. Employers should not assume either way and employees should make it clear if they are sick.

        And, again, OPs manager’s response was unacceptable regardless. (You all conveniently skip over that part of what I said because you are Very Upset I want people with covid to take the common sense step of saying if they have symptoms.)

        1. Kevin Sours*

          You literally said “this may be somewhat less nefarious than it seems”. You also say “she didn’t actually say she was sick, rather than just positive, so he and the company think she’s lying and are pissed off” as if that is somehow *her* problem rather than bad behavior on the part of management and the company. So yes, you are absolutely downplaying the atrocious behavior on the part of the manager and blaming OP for what happened. Stop it.

    6. Observer*

      , but I don’t think it’s fair to be certain this was not substantially an issue of miscommunication.

      Hi, OP’s incompetent HR.

      There is no way that this was a matter of “miscommunication”. You have a person who has a good track record that tells you that they tested positive for something, and you assume that they are fine? When they tell you that they are actually sick – note that the OP actually explicitly says ” I was shocked and just told him no, I have Covid. I’m at home, sick” – you accuse them of lying? When they tell you AGAIN that they are sick, you call them to curse them out? And you call that a mistake based on a “miscommunication” – and BLAME THE OP for it?!

      You are not guessing – you are making stuff up.

      1. George Pig*

        I didn’t accuse anybody of lying and have now repeatedly said (as I said in my first comment) that boss’s response was not ok.

        And I think OP may not have been clear that she was sick.

        1. Speaking for the first time*

          People should not be going to work with Covid, symptoms or not. Public Health advice has been ‘stay home’ for the recommended quarantine period.

        2. Observer*

          Except that the OP writes that they DID tell their boss that they are sick, and that the boss told them that he doesn’t believe that. And the OP writes that the next day they AGAIN told the boss that they are sick that the boss used a ton of ugly language. How do you pretend to think that this was a “miscommunication”? What should the OP have told their boss, if “I’m too sick to work” is “not clear”?

  87. Goldenrod*

    “I hung up in tears and called HR. I told them an abbreviated version of what had happened, and she told me that management was “disappointed in me” and that I had “left them hanging” by not working. I was so shocked and hurt by this all that I hardly slept that night, and the next day, I logged on and worked from home.”

    As someone who experienced the most toxic workplace of my career in HR, I am not surprised by this response. Appalled and disgusted, but not surprised.

    These people are beyond awful. I hope you leave them as fast as you possibly can and move to a workplace where your – obviously considerable! – talents are appreciated, and compensated accordingly.

  88. AnotherLibrarian*

    When people show you who they are, believe them, OP. Your boss is awful. Your HR is bananas. This place does not care about you and they are not reasonable. I would start job hunting ASAP and be prepared to shorten your notice period, because I suspect these folks aren’t going to be easy about it. Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change, as Alison regularly says, so get out, get out, get out. You deserve better.

  89. Alli*

    How is it that we aren’t even a full 3 months completed of 2022 and we already have the worst boss of the year? How is it that we aren’t even a full 3 years in and we already have the worst boss of the decade?

  90. Marthooh*

    Eh, that’s just business. You should try to understand their perspective, which is that you are not a person to be cherished, but a thing to be used until it breaks.

    I hope you find another job where the bosses have a different kind of perspective.

  91. CW*

    Let me get something straight. You willingly took on more work then you were hired to do, traveled to the other office to train for months, came in the office every day despite the pandemic, ran the office by yourself, take very few days off – and when you got sick with COVID they were angry and thought you “betrayed” them? Like Alison said, get out get out get out! And run, don’t walk!

    It’s bad enough to be sick for whatever reason, but you had COVID for goodness sake. I don’t know what your boss was thinking. I am beyond baffled.

    1. Observer*

      It’s bad enough to be sick for whatever reason, but you had COVID for goodness sake.

      I think that the Covid is a bit of a red herring. The OP was too sick to work. Period. It doesn’t matter why. They had zero excuse for the way they treated the OP, even if it were just a bad cold.

  92. Fleur-de-Lis*

    Get out, please! Your health and safety is more important than anything else. I quit my job with just over two weeks’ notice and it was the best decision I ever made. Thankfully, I had one ready to go and my one month of PTO (yes, same boat as you, OP) paid for my gap when I moved house for the new gig.

    You can do this. Get references from the people you’ve trained/lateral folks and from others anywhere else you can find.

  93. Unkempt Flatware*

    To hell with Glassdoor and all that….name and shame these people. Light the match and watch it burn. I shall await the story on TikTok.

  94. Bookworm*

    Leave, OP. This, unfortunately, has been a common theme during pandemic. Some people, institutions, etc. have stepped up, rethought how they work, etc. This wasn’t it.

    Even if say you had a bad cold (like, an actual common cold, not COVID is just a bad cold sort of thing), the way your boss treated you is completely and totally inappropriate. This is a hostile and unsafe workplace for you. HR of course, is being HR and protecting the organization rather than recognizing that you could have DIED from this.

    Obviously you know your work situation best, but this is absolute not okay. And whoever told you this is “just business” is someone to avoid, too. I’m sorry this happened to you, OP. That’s awful and I do hope you find some soon. Please update us if you’re comfortable. This is not a good or safe work situation and I would urge you to get out yesterday. Good luck.

  95. omg*

    OP, you are in an abusive relationship with this company. They just keep piling work on you, don’t compensate you adequately, and then yell at you for being sick and how it affects *them*? GET OUT, OP. GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      Yeah, like zero empathy for a sick employee.
      This is an employer that is all take and no give (except for giving you Covid that is).

  96. Metadata minion*

    Nthign the chorus of “your workplace is terrible; please get out as soon as you can, even kirun-of-the-mill crappy bosses aren’t *this* crappy”.

    And even if I try to look at it from a purely soulless business perspective, a good boss shouldn’t want people working while sick because hardly anyone can do really good work while they’re feeling terrible! And for a lot of things, forcing yourself to push through it will slow down recovery and just extend the length of illness-addled work.

  97. AnonInCanada*

    Can you say Glassdoor? I knew you could! Please OP, listen to what everyone’s saying: find the first opportunity to advance yourself by finding another job and get out of this disrespectful place ASAP. Then Glassdoor them to hell.

  98. Boof*

    To the people who said try to see it from the employer’s perspective, this employer’s perspective is apparently you are a tool to be used as much as possible, with as little reward as possible, and to be abused if not working. Not all employers are like that but this one has clearly and repeatedly show it’s true colors. With an employer like that, an employee should either leave and find one who will treat them with more respect, or be equally mercenary and refuse to do anything above and beyond; remember the worst they can do if you say no is to fire you, thus freeing you to look for a better job! (I mean yes, they could pay you less; then you should do correspondingly less and jobsearch more; or abuse you but feel free to politely laugh in their face and tell them you work for money not disrespect)

  99. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I’ve been a reader here for about 5 years and I have never heard Alison say so clearly to run!
    I hope you are well OP (From COVID and from the abuse from your company)!
    I wish you every success in navigating out of there.

    Please come back and let us know how you are doing.

  100. Kate, short for Bob*

    Everyone has very good points about RUNNING far and fast from these people who will never deserve you

    I’m concerned though that you have other people in your personal life who seem to think that you deserve them..? Sometimes we find ourselves in the orbit of others who are happy for us to undervalue ourselves for their own reasons, and those people shouldn’t be in your head while you’re applying for the kind of rewarding and well paid job you do deserve.

    So, to help you recalibrate your self-image can I suggest you lean on the commentariat here? Use the Friday open thread to tweak your résumé and have a sounding board for where your many skills could be used? As well as all of Alison’s advice on cover letters and interviewing.

    I’d hate to think you got stuck in another sub par job because people around you don’t know any better.

    1. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Agreed — along with dumping your toxic company, you may want to think about doing a light cull of toxic friends and family from your life (or at least putting the toxic ones on what Captain Awkward calls an “information diet”) if they are reinforcing your boss’s attitude that you don’t deserve to take sick time. Yikes, man.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        A light cull is right. Unfortunately, these people have made themselves very easy to spot. They are the ones who have concern about the boss’ perspective. I think they all should go work for your boss. They sound like they all deserve each other.

    2. Dennis Feinstein*

      OP I suspect you have a few people around you who like to play the ole “just being Devil’s advocate here” card…

  101. Erin*

    +1 to leaving. Also, stop scheduling your vacation time around what works for the company. That is part of your compensation, and it is yours to use as you want, guilt-free!

  102. idwtpaun*

    OP, it sounds like you would be an incredibly valuable asset to any business lucky enough to employ you – absolutely go looking for an employer who understands your worth! Not only does this one not, the abusive environment would be unacceptable in any situation, even if you weren’t a good employee. Your boss is never, ever, ever ever entitled to swear at you and vent at you like that, not even if they’re having a rough day. HR defending them just shows the entire company culture has been poisoned. Run and get the job, title and pay you deserve!

  103. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    I am so sorry OP. If this were me, I could not brush this off and forget. Your company sucks, and your manager sucks even more! You were SICK. With Covid. How that is fu&@-ing over you boss, I don’t know, but obviously all your previous hard work and track record mean naught to this organization. You deserve much better.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Like, sorry OP has a human body that does human body things like getting sick sometimes.

  104. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

    I went into the question wondering if there was a chance this could be you trained them to expect more, as Alison suggested, but nope, nope, nope. Personally, here are a few things I would do:

    1. On your last day / in an exit interview, very pointedly tell them that your boss likely felt you were “screwing him over” because your office was down to only two people, so he had to handle everything (and now he gets to learn what it’s like with only one person every day). In this case, feel free to burn the bridge unless it’s reasonable to think you will encounter them again (ie. small industry or town).

    2. Use this as a way to screen future employers. Not in quite so much detail, but when asked why you are leaving, tell the interviewer basically what happened. If they are aghast about what your current employer did, that’s a good sign (though to be fair, 99% will/should be horrified). If they in any way agree with your current employer, screen the new company out. You don’t want to work for anyone who agrees with this behavior.

    3. If it can be done, use as much of that PTO as you can before you leave. Might as well get paid to job search, or relax if you already gave notice. The way your employer has already behaved, I wouldn’t be shocked if they refuse to pay out the PTO unless required by law.

  105. Today...Anon*

    My partner just got 3 different job offers each one outdoing the other and hes changing industries and all of the jobs were entry level. Run to another job.

  106. Crumbledore*

    We’ve seen this kind of situation from the manager’s side sometimes on AAM – “How dare my employee leave me hanging when I depend on them?” and the typical response is “employees get sick, have life events, and don’t stay forever – a good manager builds a backup plan.” It’s not surprising when your boss was willing to just keep loading you up with work as your team and business shrank, that they had no backup plan when you weren’t available. That is 100% on them and not on you, OP. I am also a person who likes learning new things and being relied upon – but without the proper support, that way lies burnout (ask me how I know). When I am tempted to overextend myself (which is often), I try to remember something I heard recently from a therapist – “You and your time are finite resources.” A workplace that doesn’t understand that does not deserve you. Best wishes, OP, on your next chapter.

  107. Squirrel Nutkin*

    GET. OUT.

    OMFG, the nerve of your boss and the company generally. You deserve MUCH better.

    One of my pandemic resolutions is that I need to waste less time on sociopaths, and the pandemic has been very helpful for showing who the sociopaths among us are.

  108. Emily*

    I’m sorry, LW. They treated you very, very badly. I do just want to highlight this sentence from Alison:

    “I do think there might be something in here about you having been so accommodating in the past, far past what you should have done, that perhaps your employer was trained to think they could expect you to always accommodate them…”

    This is not to say you did anything wrong, but it’s something to watch out for in the future. I recently went through this with a colleague — she’d let herself be taken advantage of for years, because she wanted to do a really good job. When she tried to start setting boundaries, people basically ignored her. She finally found a (fantastic!) job somewhere else and they acted like it was a personal betrayal.

    Good luck going forward!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Exactly this, Emily. None of this is on you. If you weren’t working for unreasonable jerks, none of this would have ever been an issue.

      I have also found that it’s better to start things off as I want to continue than to try to assert new boundaries later. I like my colleagues and want to help out. As a general rule, I figure we’re all on the same team and everyone wins when we can come together to help out when needed. But there is a real risk when I take on things that are outside of my role. People may just expect I’ll do that stuff forever, when I saw it as a one-time favour. And I’m sure many of us have stories about people with at least some power who are always asking for emergency help on things that they really could and should have asked for much earlier, all because nobody ever let them deal with the consequences of their own disorganization.

      I’ve been trying to keep myself from just agreeing without question to take on things that are not part of my role. It’s hard, but it’s been important for me in keeping my workload manageable and not setting up expectations that I will jump in and fix stuff for everyone.

  109. *daha**

    Check your employee manual for vacation payout policies. If they don’t pay out 100% when you leave, you’d better start using up your vacation time now. Take real vacations, too – 5 days in a row bracketed by weekends on either end, with your phone and email off the entire time.

  110. Global Cat Herder*

    OP, I’m really worried that they will guilt you into continuing to work for them, either by convincing you not to quit, or convincing you to work longer than two weeks notice, or convincing you to continue to do work for them – for free – for weeks or even months afterwards.

    You are not responsible for anything that happens after you leave.

    You do not owe them anything but your labor in exchange for an agreed pay rate – and they’ve abused that by paying you less than agreed for more work than agreed.
    You do not owe them loyalty.
    You are not leaving them in the lurch – their lack of preparation did that.
    You are not failing them in any way – their abusive treatment failed you.
    You are not responsible for anything that happens after you leave.

    You are going to need to make a clean break. Do not offer to continue to work for them. Do not come back to train your replacement. If asked, you are too busy learning your new job (even if your new job is sitting on the couch reading “The Gift of Fear”).

    Block them as you walk out the door on your last day.
    You are not responsible for anything that happens after you leave.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yes to all of this. They f***ed around. It’s not on you when they find out.

  111. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I’m pretty sure that Alison would ban me from commenting if I said what I actually think about your employer, OP. So I will just say this – the company has treated you horribly. It sounds like you are a skilled, dedicated, conscientious employee and you deserve *so much* better than this. Like one million times better. And your employers deserve [redacted so that I avoid Alison’s banhammer] with fire. You are 100% right and they are 100% wrong.

    Based on what your boss said to you whilst being a yelly jerk-face, they see you as indispensable. Too bad for them that they didn’t treat you as such. Or, failing that, recognize that having someone be indispensable is actually not great for them, since there could easily be much chaos when you leave. Any chaos is on them and I hope you get out of there quickly and don’t give those assholes a second thought when you’re gone.

  112. OhBehave*

    I echo all the sentiments expressed by the commentariat RE your company!

    The only positive here is the experience you’ve gotten; the new skills you’ve gained. Whip that resume into shape and go.
    Do not feel guilty for leaving. Do not accept calls after you’re gone. Do leave a detailed how-to when you go.
    You owe them nothing. Be prepared to tell them why you’re leaving. Write back so we can all celebrate your new job.

  113. irene adler*

    “…you should try to understand their perspective”
    They’re bats.
    ‘Nuff said.
    Get out ASAP.

  114. DuskPunkZebra*

    LW, I called out sick from my WFH job last Friday because I couldn’t sit upright for extended periods and no one batter an eyelash, even though I gave no explanation and it was the day after St. Paddy’s. Calling out sick is normal. Calling out sick with the illness that SHUT DOWN THE WORLD for two years should absolutely have been the “well of course” you expected it to be. GET OUT.

    …I always kind of hope for an update on that liver story.

  115. fhqwhgads*

    You told HR your boss called you while you were ill to tell you he thought you were personally fucking him over by being ill, having caught said illness from doing extra work at the company’s other office, and HR thought that was acceptable on the boss’s end?

    This employer is fucking horrible. All of ’em.

  116. Crackerjack*

    Whoa. The further suggested reading letter about the boss who’s angry that OP missed a meeting for emergency surgery… Whoa. The responses on that compared to this – how ten years change the zeitgeist!

  117. Courageous cat*

    Your boss and all of management sucks and you should def leave ASAP, buuut

    Maybe I’m missing it: when you told them you have Covid, did you specifically say not only that you were staying home, but also unable to work from home? I know in many workplaces (mine included), if you’re sick, the default is to work from home. It’s an opt out, not in. So you’d have to specifically say “I won’t be working” in order for this to not happen. Given how long the quarantine period can be for Covid, I don’t think it’s entirely insane they’d assume you’d be wfh if it wasn’t already explicit discussed.

    And maybe it was, in which case all this is moot.

    1. Scout*

      She said she couldn’t work on Monday, the very first workday.

      Also, I hope you all are not taking sick days to work from home!

  118. Grumpy Old Sailor*

    Re: expectations of working while sick – I was in the Navy for 30+ years, and only ONCE did I ever have a Chief call me at home to suggest that while I was on sick leave I could work on UNCLAS stuff that he would happily email to me. I replied that sick leave means just that – leave to recover from illness but that I was happy to get the cox’n’s opinion (the term ‘cox’n’ designates the most senior enlisted person onboard a Canadian warship) as to the necessity of my working while on the parade state as ‘sick’. For some reason the topic didn’t come up again. I wonder why that might be? :)

  119. Katherine*

    Wow. For me, the most shocking part of this whole letter is that people in your life told you this wasn’t a big deal! WTF?

  120. Elbie*

    I think that this is an easy nominee for worst boss of 2022.

    Run. Run. Run. This is a job seekers’ market.

  121. it's-a-me*

    You know your boss is crazy when this appears on your post:

    our boss will fire us if we don’t sign up to be a liver donor for his brother

  122. TeapotNinja*

    Resign with a cod fish. They deserve that.

    No notice, nothing. Just leave one day without saying a word. Well…leave the cod fish.

    1. Virginia Plain*

      “Kurt Cobain told me fish don’t have any feelings, so this little guy won’t mind you treating him like garbage instead of me”

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I can’t prove that fish have feelings beyond basic fear/pain but I’d be surprised if they didn’t.

  123. Emily Prentiss*

    My first thought (after WTF?!) was “would they have this mindset if LW was on a in ICU/on a ventilator due to COVID?” and “what on earth would happen if LW got hit by a bus one day or dropped dead?” Then I realised that with these kinds of people the answers to those questions would probably be a) yes and b) LW’s boss showing up at their funeral yelling about how LW f*****d them over by dying. So yeah, I’m with the other commenters. Get. Out. Now.

  124. Virginia Plain*

    OP, when you get a fabulous new job and hand in your notice, please come back and describe the tantrum your boss throws so we can all jeer, and wave pompoms for you.

    If bridges are definitely going to be burned I wonder if you could quit in a majestic fashion, perhaps a cake with “good luck surviving without me!” then a lap of honour of the office wearing roller skates and a a unicorn outfit, throwing glitter as you go….
    Or wear on of those big inflatable dinosaur costumes, carry in a small boom box, start Vanilla Ice and sing “alright stop, collaborate and listen…I quit. *mike drop*

  125. Software Engineer*

    Sounds like it’s time to use your month of PTO to get some rest and do some job searching

  126. Jessica Fletcher*

    I hope you find a job quickly and with a huge salary and benefit increase!!!

    This boss sounds like they don’t let people be sick in general. Would they expect you to come in with chickenpox? What if you were in a car accident? Or is it a bizarre political thing about covid specifically? Save yourself, OP!

    Remember Alison’s advice that if you give notice, and they treat you badly, you don’t have to stay. That saved me at my old job, and it was pretty satisfying seeing them realize they had no power anymore!

  127. Lara Cruz*

    This feels like the start of one of those viral text messages where the boss is yelling at the employee and the employee quits and they suddenly switch to begging them to come back.

    OP, you should make that a reality.

  128. ToxicWorkplaceSurvivor*

    If the details on the business size hadn’t been given I’d swear this was my last workplace. I dealt with near exact same situations. Please, OP, if you aren’t already then find a good therapist and/or career coach. Get out of there as soon as you can, take care of yourself. Keep paper trails of everything, screenshots of the text messages etc. PTO is paid out upon exit, double check in your workplace guidelines, so I’d tally that up and see how much you will get. May be a past resort but at least you could leave on your own terms knowing you were set for a block of time.
    I’ve been where you are and I know it can feel helpless, infuriating and exhausting all at once. You are a priority. You are worth more than their egos. If you are unwell still or again, send an email and then power everything else down. Block their cell phones even or turn off notifications from them at the very least. They do not own you. They have the privilege of employing you.

  129. Anonymous Bosch*

    I hope the OP doesn’t lose their PTO. They shouldn’t have to ay a price for getting out of a place that has already used and abused them.

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