I found out my employee is job-hunting

A reader writes:

I ran into a former employee, Cindy, at an association event for my field. Cindy casually mentioned that she is in a job hunting group with Jane, a woman I manage. Apparently it is a very active group — they meet weekly, set goals for numbers of jobs researched and applied to, etc.

Jane is not a perfect fit for her role, though she does some pieces of it extremely well. It would be a loss if she left. I would be happy to give her a good reference, and it would be better for us to know sooner than later if she is going to leave. We aren’t going to push her out any sooner than she’s ready to go. But what if it takes her a long time to find a job?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My employees are coordinating their time off together
  • When someone you recommended sends an angry, unhinged response to a rejection
  • Rejecting good candidates when we’ve just filled the position

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. gmg22*

    I’m side-eyeing Cindy here. I would have thought a job-hunting group like that would have at least semi-official rules about members respecting each other’s privacy with regard to group involvement, and especially not to disclose it to current employers!

    1. Important Moi*

      I’m side-eyeing the manager. This is an old letter (I guess).

      I hope Jane got to leave without a shove out the door.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Absolutely, gah.

      Jane probably knows her role is not a good fit and she’s hedging her bets. Besides, people often look to see what’s out there even when they have no intention of leaving. If you hear something like this, it’s best to pretend you didn’t hear it because you can’t be sure.

      1. Rainy*

        I love it when people are like “We aren’t going to push her out, of course” and then proceed to make it clear they’re going to push her out.

        1. Koalafied*

          “We aren’t going to push her out before she’s ready (unless it takes her a long time).”

    3. CatsOnAKeyboard*

      PlotTwist: Cindy actually wants Jane’s job so she’s hoping that Jane gets pushed out early so she can swoop in and apply.

      1. Talia*

        Even better plot twist, Jane isn’t a member of the group, Cindy is saying she is to get her job.

        1. Lacei*

          …and claiming that people whose job you want are part of the group is an integral part of the group’s job hunting tactic!

    4. allathian*

      Yeah. Sure, this is an old letter, and I’d love an update on how things went, and if Jane ever found out that Cindy told the LW about the group…

      1. Morticia(she/her)*

        I kind of feel like the LW should tell Jane that Cindy did this, while letting her know there would be no repercussions. It would be good for the group to know that Cindy is engaging in this kind of potentially harmful behaviour.

        1. madge*

          Absolutely agree with you. Fortunately, the LW seems like a good and understanding manager but others in the group might not be so lucky.

        2. Smithy*

          Agreed. And if this is a group of people somewhat newer to the workforce, they might not have considered that this was an official rule/guideline to set. That while individuals would be free to discuss their participation with their own manager or networks, that confidentiality of other members was key given the potential for blow back for other members in their own careers.

          Earlier in my career, I’ve had a few jobs – particularly earlier in my career – where discussing next steps/moving on with my manager were discussed quite openly. Particularly in roles where there was clearly no room for advancement. And while it would be great for people to understand that just because their experience is A, it’s not the same for everyone – that’s very often not the case unless there are clear rules. Especially for people who are a little more impulsive/no filter when speaking.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, I hope this story ended with Jane finding a great job and Cindy getting booted from the group. Jeez, louise.

      2. RandomCPA*

        Please tell me, what did your response add to the discourse? I shared my opinion, which telling anyones boss they’re looking is a jerk move, and you essentially insulted me.

        1. Rainy*

          Falling Dipthong was agreeing and adding that OP (the letter writer) should not “join Cindy on Jerk Island” by pushing her out or otherwise retaliating on the basis of this information. They were not insulting you.

        2. Canadian Public Servant*

          Just a heads up, RandomCPA, I am not reading any of this threading in the way you are, and am a bit taken aback by it honestly!

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          As Rainy says, I agreed with you. Sometimes people reply to your comments to say “Yes, this is the correct take on the situation” which was my reasoning in the reply to the first comment you posted.

          Is this because I said “OP”? I use that interchangeably with “LW” and occasionally “Opie.” If I meant you specifically, I would have said “RandomCPA” because you have a username, while the people posing the problems do not and so are “LW” or “OP.”

        4. Essess*

          Wow.. you really read the comments wrong. You just attacked someone who was agreeing with you and was reinforcing your comment.

        5. Isla*

          It added agreement and support to your position while elaborating on it.

          You seem aggressively eager to read insult where none was offered and to attack on the basis of it. That’s … not a good look. Nor is it a habit you should cultivate or an impulse you should indulge. Hopefully it was merely poor comprehension on your part, because the alternatives are quite worrying.

  2. Falling Diphthong*

    #2 is fascinating. If it were always the same day, I’d figure they were off doing brunch/paintball/crime-fighting together. If it were two days in the same week, I’d figure maybe that was a work-flow time that seemed easier to be out. (Or they both caught Bob-in-Receivables’ cold.) But the mix is very hard to explain.

    I can only postulate an elaborate scheme, and OP is unknowingly providing them with a cover job while they seek to abscond with the world’s entire supply of maple syrup.

    1. NerdyPrettyThings*

      I used to have two coworkers (I didn’t manage either of them) who were like this. They were friends and socialized, so they missed the same days sometimes. They also had overlapping responsibilities. If one of them missed work, the other would have to cover for them and would take a day later in the week for “payback.” Very disruptive situation.

    2. kittymommy*

      Please state reason for leave request: Taking down Scandinavian spy ring secretly exporting alpacas to Morocco.

  3. Fae Kamen*

    “But what if it takes her a long time to find a job?” Then you get to keep her for longer. That’s it!

    1. AnonPi*

      Exactly. I mean I’ve been looking for the last few years and nothing has unfortunately panned out. My manager is aware I’m looking to move on/up my career path, so they’re aware I could leave at any time. But really the same goes for any employee, so worrying about when it will happen is pointless. If anything focus on transition planning for when it does happen (document processes, training manuals up to date, etc etc)

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I told a previous manager (during my usual “you are absolutely horrible” review) that I was job hunting. I never got another job, obviously. It didn’t make any difference in that case.

    2. River*

      Yes! If anything having Jane around for longer is a good thing. But I think the OP is more worried about the day that Jane puts in their two weeks which means the OP will be waiting every single day until that time comes. It sounds like OP doesn’t want to stress over Jane for long and I get that. I imagine that managers finding out by indirect means that one of their staff is leaving soon is nothing new in any industry. Either way, Jane will be leaving either soon or sometime in the near future, OP just happened to find out in an interesting way. Why doesn’t OP just ask Jane too? Maybe have a quick private chat and inquire if it’s true that she’s looking for a new gig. Can’t treat someone differently because they’re job hunting but you can at least attempt to resolve any possible issues that Jane is having or needs that she currently has. Maybe Jane will decide to stay. People are free to go as they wish.

  4. Malarkey01*

    For #2 I think the first question to ask is this an actual problem or you just don’t like it. If it’s not actually causing you a business issue, it’s fine that people want to use their PTO together. Depending on your company culture, using sick days when not actually ill may be something to address.
    It seems in some cases they aren’t even off the same days so it really seems like a preference issue, and you should think about why it’s a problem to have one out on a Tuesday and another out on a Friday. With a team of 8 I’d assume you had a fair amount of general overlap if you have generous leave policies (and it sounds like they get at least 4 weeks if 17 days overlapped)

    1. Avril Ludgateau*

      Yeah, I thought it was interesting that the LW didn’t seem to give any real reason why this PTO use is disruptive, only that it is noticeable. And, frankly, some of it is reaching: one took a Tuesday off and the other took a Thursday off the same week? Why would you assume those are connected…?

      Beyond that, it’s possible that their PTO is coordinated not because of each other but because of a mutual third element. If they both have kids who go to the same school, or the same daycare, then their closures will be the same (as an example). If they are both of the same faith, their need for religious holidays would align. Maybe they are taking the same classes and are on the same exam schedule. etc. etc. etc.

      I’m disappointed that the LW wasn’t advised to reflect on just how disruptive the PTO actually is, vs. how much the LW is bothered because of a pattern, in principle.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        Yeah, if the PTO is truly disruptive, then isn’t it the manager’s right to just not approve the PTO? Like “Hey, we already have Bob out that week and we need 7 employees in the office to have full coverage” or “that’s going to be a really tight week due to the upcoming deadline so I can’t approve any more PTO without negatively impacting the rest of the team” (if true).

    2. Nanani*

      Yeaaah I get the vibe that #2 is pattern-hunting and assuming any days off at the same time are the result of plotting, as opposed to say, people who hang out together passing each other the same strain of flu, or it being a literal coincidence.

      I think they should address only the business impact of having multiple people out and leave out any mention of “I know you’re friends” because that doesn’t matter. At all.

    3. Crimson*

      I don’t even understand why OP would assume two different days off in the same week are some secret plan, just because they’re friends. If anything it’s pretty logical people who hang out and talk often would get the same colds. Why would it be somehow fun to take a day off two days after your friend did? What am I missing?

  5. Elizabeth West*

    Re the rejection wording, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, employers, just notify people when they’re not moving forward after an interview. It’s fairly easy to move on if you don’t hear anything after only submitting an application, but if you’ve actually talked to a candidate, they’re going to be more invested in the outcome. It doesn’t matter if you use a form letter. We just want to know one way or the other. And do it in a timely manner also. Several months later is not acceptable.

    Ghosting is rude and you WILL go on someone’s hell-no list. That’s something to keep in mind if you try to recruit them later from another company. You may not remember them, but they’ll surely remember you.

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      I was recently-ish rejected for a position, SIX MONTHS after I’d interviewed – I guess they finally closed the requisition and the system sent out auto-rejects, but you better believe I tell all my other bean counter peeps in (large midwest metro) that Well Known Company, Inc is on my “Pigs Will Fly” list.

    2. amethyst*

      Particularly after being a hiring manager, I don’t know that I’d completely write a company off for not sending me a rejection letter. It’s not ideal, and I always send my candidates responses; but there are also a hundred reasons why a hiring manager may not have gotten around to sending me a letter in a timely manner (or at all), and most of them don’t have anything to do with how good or bad it is to work there.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Ghosting people you’ve actually interviewed, however, would appear to some to show a lack of consideration and/or organization. Potential employees are allowed to think that of a company, and to adjust their future priorities accordingly.

  6. KHB*

    For Q2, I think plan A has to be to find a way to make it work. The employees are already using a combination of sick and vacation days, so if they get the sense that you’re going to start limiting the number of days off they can take at the same time, they’ll likely just start calling in sick more at the last minute, and then you become That Manager who has to question whether his sick employees are really sick.

    The question doesn’t mention any actual business need for coverage – only that having three employees out at the same time is “almost half the team.” Can you really not function with just 5/8 of your team for one day here and there? If not, it may be time to take a look at your workflow procedures and/or consider whether you need to hire more staff.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I agree it’s worth carefully considering whether there’s really a work impact, but I don’t think the bar has to be quite so high as “unable to function.” There’s quite a lot of grey area, where maybe the team CAN cover 2 or 3 people’s work on the same day in a pinch but it’s a very stressful day, and it’s reasonable for the manager to limit that.

      1. KHB*

        Denying PTO requests is a pretty big deal. It’s important to cultivate an environment where employees feel they can use the benefits they’ve earned, so I do think it’s appropriate to have a high bar to telling them they can’t. And that’s especially true in this particular case, where it looks like the manager has already lost her employees’ trust (because they appear to already be lying to her about their reasons for being out).

        Put it this way: If I was one of the other five employees, I’d rather have a very stressful day every now and again than feel like I had to walk on eggshells with my manager about my own PTO plans.

        1. Alexis Rosay*

          This depends greatly on the work and coverage needs. There are absolutely jobs where the workplace truly cannot function without a minimum of X number of people there. There are other jobs where having fewer people simply means that work is more stressful, or work gets postponed.

          There were several cases in my city this year where schools had to close because so many teachers took PTO on the same day that the school simply could not function (this was true PTO, not sick days although that also happened). I’m a former teacher, and I think this would have been an appropriate case to deny PTO requests.

          However, in this case since OP didn’t cite any catastrophic business consequences, I’m guessing this might not be a workplace with strict coverage needs.

      2. soontoberetired*

        As a person on a 5 man team who ended up being alone at the office a lot every summer on Fridays, letting everyone go can at the same time can have an impact. We were supposed to have two people at least on Fridays, but it rarely happened. My boss wouldn’t ever say no to the others, but would to me. So I stopped responding to oncall pages when the oncall person was out – I was told I was supposed to do it for things during the day but the responsibilities of oncall were clear the oncall person still had to cover despite not being in the office. That lead to my boss getting into trouble with her boss for not managing her team.

  7. Dinwar*

    #4: If there are other openings in your company you can offer to direct their resume to those departments. If you know of openings in good companies in your industry you can do that too–sure, the competition may get a good employee, but I’ve learned that my competition is also a resource I can tap if need be, so you want to maintain a good relationship with them. And referrals at least have the appearance of being more likely to get a job, so it shows that you’re a kind group to work with–you’re not just out for your bottom line, you’re looking out for the people in your organization as well.

  8. KHB*

    For Q4, there’s a tendency to want to over-explain in situations like this (and a lot of others too), but it often works just as well to say less rather than more. “Thanks for your interest, but unfortunately we’re not able to move forward with your application.” Done and done.

  9. NeedRain47*

    I’m very curious (nosy) as to what the people who are semi-coordinating their vacation days are actually doing.
    In my early 20s I took a road trip with three coworkers from the call center we all worked at, we didn’t try to hide the fact that we were vacationing together. The manager gave us the side eye but approved it.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      Ooh! I’d go wine tasting. Or to every tiny local harvest/maple syrup/apple/pumpkin patch fair(e) in my area. Or day-trip to a Renn Faire. Or the zoo! So many things that are better during the week with a friend…

    2. KHB*

      Reading between the lines, I wonder if the manager has already let on that she disapproves of their out-of-work plans together, so they feel the need to lie to her about their reasons for being out.

      I’d bet dollars to donuts that the “one takes off on a Tuesday and the other takes off on a Thursday” thing is just a coincidence.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Since some of these are sick days, unless they’re getting sick together or coordinating their appointments it seems fairly obvious they’re already lying about the reason that they’re out.

        1. KHB*

          Yes, I agree that it’s pretty obvious that they’re lying. I’m speculating as to the reason why they’re lying.

        2. Nanani*

          What? No it isn’t obvious at all, and LW2 sounds like they’re writing fanfiction about their staff.
          It’s just as plausible that it’s a coincidence, or that there’s an invisible-to-LW link like catching the same stomach bug that’s going around a couple days after the other.

          There is no reason for lies to be assumed.

        3. Despachito*

          But their manager is not entitled to any reason WHY they are out, so I think it is utterly inappropriate to talk about “lying”.

          She can only consider it in terms of work, i. e. does it cause a work-related problem if two people are taking time off? Otherwise, nunya.

      2. Smithy*

        I wonder if this is a case where the official policy is that PTO is not generally approved for multiple staff members on the same day. Or that at one point they had both requested the same days off, but due to a significant reason (major work event, other PTO from colleagues already scheduled, etc) they were denied but that reason wasn’t adequately explained. So whether the actual policy or their interpretation of the policy is that they can’t take time off together and therefore need work arounds.

        I do think that sometimes you adopt work arounds for badly explained policies that are not intended to function that poorly. Or this is a case of a team where they aim to have only one person out at a time….which for a team of 8 seems ridiculous at best (though given the work, perhaps that is unfair).

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

      I just got back to the office after taking a day off with my coworker/friend to go to the botanic garden plant sale together! Our supervisor knew we were out together. I think the key to it not being disruptive despite being a department of only 3, is that we do this only about once or twice a year (for things that can’t be done on a weekend instead), and make sure our work is at a good pause point and shared on the cloud so he can get to it in an emergency.

    4. Ginger ale for all*

      I was a part of a book club at a university library and we would meet for a 2 hour lunch on the first Wednesday of every month to eat and talk about our book selection. We had 5 library folks and 3 from the Visual Arts department. The library folks were from the same department so the department was stretched for 2 hours but it worked out.

  10. iamapatientgirl*

    For The First Letter – I’m curious if you have the ability resources to change Jane’s job – if she’s doing parts of it really well, is it at all possible to take pieces that she isn’t as successful at off of her plate, and allow her to focus on the pieces she does enjoy/excels at?
    Depending on how good and what components are currently her responsibility, it sounds like there might be opportunity to make work more enjoyable for Jane and that might make her feel more happy in her current role. If you’re able to hire a second person to lift the rest of the tasks, that would also put you in a better position should she decide to leave down the line- then half her current position would be already covered and if she stays you’ve got more support and bandwidth.

    1. BA*

      I was struck with the same thought. It seems like the LW is really stressed about the possibility of Jane leaving, which made me think that it might just take a little adjustment in Jane’s job description to maximize her potential and fulfillment. Plus, as you said, paying Jane appropriately will help her want to stick around.

      ****INCOMING SARCASM**** Although if you maximize Jane’s opportunity and let her grow within her role, she may get recruited when others notice how good she is, so perhaps you want to just let her keep middling in her current role. ;)

  11. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    For Q2, my mind goes to a side business of some kind, like maybe they make and sell cupcakes. They usually don’t need to be there on the same day, as long as there’s coverage, but once in a while they do.

  12. grizzly barrister*

    I’m always interested in these because many writers (like those who submitted Q1 and Q2) seem to write from an emotion-centered perspective rather than a business perspective, and Alison is the one to gently steer them back from “I don’t like this” to “this is how you articulate your business case,” even when there’s a very clear business case already in the story. I think it shows you how much personal feelings are wrapped up in business even though we might think that’s not the case.

    1. anonymous73*

      Well that’s the problem. You can’t let feelings get in the way of making rational decisions. I realize it can be difficult, but not everything at work is personal. And as soon as you start thinking with your heart instead of your head, you’re doing yourself and others a disservice. At work, I’m there to do a job. I need to be respectful and civil to my colleagues and management, and that’s it. It’s not my job to manage other people’s feelings.

      1. grizzly barrister*

        I agree, but it was very rational of them to email for advice rather than just acting out of emotion.

      2. amethyst*

        You know, people often say this, but I find that I am far more successful and influential when I accept some measure of responsibility in managing other people’s feelings.

        1. The one who wears too much black*

          +1 for this comment, emotional responsibility and emotional accountability have carried me pretty far, especially in business settings.

  13. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    Please do not say anything!
    Just because Jane is in a “job search group” with others, does not mean Jane is conducting an active job search herself or that she is ready to leave your organization RIGHT NOW. I’m in something like this via my alumni group, and I’m not looking actively for a new job. Sometimes you just want to help others and be supportive so you stay in it.

    Yes, it’s nice to know as soon as possible an employee is leaving (though to be honest companies rarely give us poor employees that same courtesy!). I get that it’s disruptive. But ALL BUSINESSES need to be prepared for this kind of thing happening at any time. Employees have things happen: they get sick, they get hit by buses or break legs, they get pregnant, they get cancer, and they find other jobs or retire. Some of these things happen in an instant, and that’s just life.

    1. Antilles*

      Another possibility is that Jane is just trying to maintain relationships for the future so if/when she looks in the future (and the statistical likelihood is that this is *not* the last job she’ll ever have), she’s already got some connections and networking available.

    2. Nanani*

      Very good point! Jane could be there to mentor others who want a similar career path, not to get a new job herself.

      Please pretend you have no idea about the job group because you aren’t supposed to know anyway.

  14. anonymous73*

    It doesn’t matter how supportive you come across to Jane, do not mention that you know she is job hunting. It is the manager’s job to make sure your team has everything in place for the sudden departure of an employee, whether it be temporary or permanent. If my manager came to me and said they knew I was job searching, they supported me and would provide a reference if needed, asking for as much of a heads up as I could give, that would guarantee that I would keep my mouth shut, search harder and be paranoid that my job was in jeopardy. I have only worked for one manager in my 25+ year career that I would wholeheartedly trust with knowing I was job searching, and that is an exception to the rule. Pretend you didn’t hear anything, make sure you are prepared for ANY of your employees to leave, and move on.

  15. Name (Optional)*

    Q2: If I were the employee, I would not be happy with my manager suggesting they would now monitor and compare days off, and deny days off if a (specific) coworker also requested it. This seems picky and micromanagy. What if they weren’t friends? You wouldn’t deny another two people off on the same day because they weren’t social at work. Either make a policy stating that no more than X number of people can be out at a time, or leave them alone.

    1. Important Moi*

      Micromanagy was the word I was looking for.

      Of course, I am biased because I’m dealing with a version of this now…wanting to know the contents of personal conversations with co-workers. I think not.

    2. Candy*

      Monitoring and comparing staff days off and denying days off if another coworker also requested it isn’t micromanaging, it’s actual managing. That’s literally the job of the person in charge of creating schedules and/or clocking timesheets.

  16. SickNoMore*

    Q2: pre-Covid, I worked in a situation that could have appeared I was coordinating time off with two other employees who are also personal friends. We three worked in close quarters in an area of the building that had terrible airflow. We all had chronic respiratory health issues. When one of us would catch something and be sick enough to call out, dollars to donuts, the other two would come down with the same thing, also calling out, within two weeks.

    We did this merry-go-round for years, and some people got pissy about it. Then Covid. With WFH and strict social distancing at the office, none of the three of us have had any kind of respiratory illness for 2.5 years. Our building layout changed when we returned to the office, so no one works in the airless corner anymore. And we’ve finally gotten off the illness merry-go-round.

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      Not the point, but I wish it hadn’t taken a global pandemic to give your respiratory systems a break from an infection merry go round! Glad that’s over at least.

  17. Nameless in Customer Service*

    Poor Jane. I hope she was able to find out she couldn’t trust Cindy without having a heartstopping “I HeAr YoU aRe JoB HUNTING” conversation with her supervisor.

  18. Doctor is In*

    I have 4 employees. We can get by with 2 in a pinch but it is very stressful. So I never approve scheduled time off for more than one at a time. Then if someone is sick on the same day, we can manage because we have to.
    If your employees are causing you to be short-handed repeatedly, that is a problem. Can you hire a part time/prn person to fill scheduled time off?

  19. L-squared*

    For #2, I don’t think you need to say anything. The OP doesn’t really mention that it is coverage issues, just that she seems to not like it. But if you can accommodate 2 or 3 people out at a time, what does it matter if they are coordinating time off. If it is a coverage issue, just let people know that going forward, you can only accept whatever number of people requesting a day off. But again, it seems that you just aren’t happy that they have the nerve to want to take similar days off. That doesn’t make you seem like someone I’d want to work with.

    1. Me*

      This. If it’s affecting coverage you get to address that. If it’s not, then it’s exactly none of your business what employees are doing in their off time.

  20. Choggy*

    I think any good manager would have a contingency/succession plan in case someone on their staff leaves, as you can’t always plan for that. This is extremely important for those in essential or critical positions to document their process and if possible, have a backup at the ready to take over during vacations and the the primary leaves the organization. If managers are not doing this now, they are missing an opportunity to prevent scrambling to ensure the tasks are being done by *someone* until the position is filled.

  21. Budgie Buddy*

    For #2 – If the employees are taking the same days off but other times stagger their time off so one will always be in the office even if they are out during the same week…and they also are being secretive about their activities…and now a third person has joined in… it sounds like there’s a nonzero chance of fraud going on?

    Maybe the employees are just immature and have a shared hobby, but haven’t thought through the impact on their team.

    But also maybe they have some kind of side gig where they occasionally need one person to manage the books and make sure no one catches discrepancies. It’s worth checking whether something shady is going on just to rule that out.

    This is why I tend to be upfront to the point of over sharing about my life. I tend to get read as shady when I’m just being clueless and do as much as I can to minimize that impression :P

    1. Dona Florinda*

      I totally thought they were sharing a side gig lol
      I actually had a coworker who would use her sick days to work as freelancer and eventually recruited another person from our team to share some of the (freelance) workload… those were fun days.

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        I think reading this site has warped my sense of what’s “a reach” lol. To be fair maybe Raboot is not a longtime reader and had missed out on some of the weirder stories.

        In short there’s nothing so wildly unethical someone out there won’t do it as long as they don’t think they’ll get caught. :P If you find yourself thinking “Hmm that’s kind of an odd long running pattern with no explanation” it’s worth taking a quick look to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

        1. Raboot*

          I’ve read plenty of this site… Sure it’s possible, anything is possible, but there’s nothing in this letter that makes it more likely than in any other letter.

    2. Me*

      This is a bit much. I don’t tell my employer what I’m doing on my time off because its’ quite literally none of their business.

      There’s no indication of fraud. There’s not even indication they work with financials.

      The issue isn’t their work. The issue is possibly coverage – we don’t know because OP doesnt explicitly say it’s an issue. But that’s the only problem here – are the days off affecting coverage? If yes, then address is. If no, then it’s no ones business but their own.

    3. Nanani*


      LW2 is imaginign links in the pattern because the coworkers in questions are friends, but the reality is that it is pretty plausibly a coincidence.
      There’s no cause to call their maturity into question either. Time off is part of compensation and it isn’t subject to whether the boss approves of your friendships.

    4. AthenaC*

      ” it sounds like there’s a nonzero chance of fraud going on?”

      Yup – anyone who’s a CFE (certified fraud examiner) would have this question.

      1. linger*

        But note, the same question tends to arise more often about workers who NEVER take time off, because that’s how fraud stays hidden.

        1. AthenaC*

          That’s typical if it’s just one person perpetuating the fraud. If there’s collusion, then you’ll have people take time off but leave a collaborator there to watch things.

  22. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Q2 = yeah, seen that. It reminds me of our high school assistant principal, saying “buddies always skip school together”…. and he KNEW, two of us skipped school to attend a World Series game in Boston.

    Where it CAN be troublesome – is when you have a limited number of people, or are temporarily short-staffed due to vacations or some other event — I once worked in an overnight shift – and on Friday night on Labor Day weekend two of my co-workers called in sick — and I was on vacation. THAT caused a problem. Especially when they tried to call my apartment repeatedly, and my landlord told me the phone rang constantly for three hours beginning at midnight. I was 1500 miles away. And this was BEFORE cell phones.

  23. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    And as far as rejecting good candidates after you’ve made an offer to another, and he/she has accepted —

    When you go through a hiring process, and *you’re efficient about it*, you will interview a “short pool” and make your decision. If you continue interviewing AFTER you’ve made your decision, and you’re doing it as a precautionary measure, you just might find someone better suited for the job. It happens. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t give a courteous response.

    If you do sufficient research and screening, you’ll probably have SEVERAL candidates who can perform the job tasks successfully. It’s no big deal to tell someone “you made a great impression – BUT – we went in another direction. Hopefully, things will work out for you as well, and thanks for your time!”

    I’ve already said this in prior sessions – but where managements get into a jam in the hiring cycle, is dragging through the process too *#%^& long. They often are dumbfounded that a candidate may be looking for other opportunities at the same time, and by the time you get back to him or her, it’s too late, they’ve gone elsewhere.

    In fact, the best candidates tend to act quickly and not drag their own feet. As a manager, you shouldn’t, either.

  24. Tech writer by day*

    For #1, I know this is an old letter, but managers today should assume *all* of their employees might well be looking and that the top ones can probably get good offers; think hard about which ones they really don’t want to lose; and take steps to make staying attractive for them, instead of scrambling to make a counteroffer when it’s too late.

  25. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    And as far as receiving an unhinged response from a rejected candidate — those do NOT happen often. However, in a segue from a prior comment, if you dragged your feet for an extensive period on that rejectee, or, gave concrete indications that you were going to hire him, and then didn’t, you might draw such a response.

    For reference = see the movie “The Company Men”. It puts things into a perspective from the applicants’ sides. Things hiring managers don’t think through very well.

  26. Jenga*

    Maybe the employee has a feeling you don’t think she’s the perfect fit for the job. Maybe it’s not a perfect fit for her either and she wants a better fit. She has every right to leave for a better fitting position when/if she finds it. Does recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training new employees suck? Yup, but changeover is inevitable for all work places and it’s part of being a manager.

  27. AthenaC*

    So, any time there’s a question on PTO, there’s always a strain of “You’re entitled to your PTO, full stop!” without any regard to impact on the team. Plus, an environment where that entitled attitude works requires people acting in good faith, BOTH from management and from everyone else.

    So! If there’s a pattern of Jane getting PTO approved for Thursday and then on Thursday morning Jane’s friend Sally calls in sick (or maybe vice versa), and now there’s a pattern emerging of Jane getting PTO approved for Thursday and then on Thursday morning Jane’s friend Sally AND Jane’s friend Tammy call in sick … how is that wrong for management to question this?

    Yes, people point out that OP didn’t specifically mention any particular hardship from this … maybe they didn’t feel like they needed to? Maybe it seemed self-evident that “noticeable coordinated absences” causes a work problem?

    Seriously, do NONE of you have jobs where your absences affect others on your team? Because I know what I have to do when people are out, whether for preplanned PTO or unplanned sick absences. And believe me I would be ROYALLY PISSED if I found out that people were coordinating their absences in a manner that made my work life much more difficult.

    1. Name (Optional)*

      My job isn’t my life. And honestly, I don’t care that it puts others in a potentially slight bind for 8 hours. Because I then cover for them when they are out. It’s just work. It’ll get done. And if it doesn’t…ok. Life will move on.

      1. AthenaC*

        So just to be clear, I’m not in a coverage job. I’m in a salaried, project-based job. There’s a body of work to do, a team to do it, and outside of designated “busy season,” we generally plan a reasonable amount of work for each person to do to keep the job on track. If two or more people coordinate unscheduled absences, it’s not “a potentially slight bind for 8 hours.” It’s “I’m now working 12+ hours over multiple days to make the deadline.” The work can’t just … not get done on an external filing deadline that our clients engaged us to do.

        Hence why I would not be happy if I found out this was happening on my team.

        So you basically answered my question – the rest of the commenters here all seem to work in their own little islands and don’t have any need to consider impact to others. That’s fine – the only thing that’s irritating is when those of us who actually have group impact to consider chime in and get shouted down by everyone else who thinks there’s something “wrong” or “unhealthy” when we consider our project calendars when scheduling our PTO.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      Coverage is not really an issue where I work and it’s a fairly small office. There are many times multiple people are out on the same day.

      If we were all out for weeks at a time it would be an issue, but a few days here and there has zero impact.

      So yeas, there are absolutely jobs where coverage is not an issue. Which is precisely why people are saying if it’s an issue address if not then myob. Because you’ve worked jobs where coverage is an issue you are assuming that’s the status quo. But it’s just not everywhere and so it does matter for this answer.

      1. AthenaC*

        I guess I just don’t understand the idea that there’s absolutely definitely no impact to the group if multiple people coordinate absences as a BASELINE assumption. As I mentioned above, I’m not in a coverage-based job. I’m in a group-project-based job. Work not getting done is NOT an option. So it’s all well and good for some of the commenters here to trounce around with “work isn’t my life!” – in my job work BECOMES my life when multiple people are out for unscheduled absences. And I’m not the only one in that position!

        So there really does need to be good faith all around – OF COURSE people get sick and the rest of us just buckle down and do it, but if people are taking advantage and causing a lot of work for everyone else – yeah, that’s not okay.

  28. nnn*

    For #2, I wonder if it might be that they get the same number of vacation days and distribute their vacation days evenly throughout the year?

    (Which wouldn’t affect your response, of course – the relevant information is how this is affecting operations – but it might be a benign explanation)

  29. Workfromhome*

    #2 I really dont like the answer given to this.
    There are two things mentioned PTO and sick days.
    PTO is paid time off. Its “vacation time”. Time that you are paid for but dont work which is part of your compensation package. As long as the dates you wont work are approved for scheduling purposes (obviously all 8 employees cant be off the same day) then its absolutely none of anyone’s business when they take the days and what they do on those days they are not working. NONE. If two employees want to take Tuesday off and go to the spa together that’s their right. If they want to take Tuesday off and one drives 100 miles south and 1 100 miles north and they are not even in the same state that’s their right. If there is a scheduling issue then say “Sorry Jane I cant approve Tuesday off because Trudy and Judy already asked for the day off first and we would be short staffed”
    Other than that mind your own business. Employees dont need to give a reason to take PTO.
    Sick days? If employees are going against your sick day plicy (you must have a doctor note, legit medical reason etc) then address it.

    The idea that the employer gets to decide anything about PTO (not sick days) based on what you are doing with the PTO and with whom you spend it gives me the creeps.

  30. Name (Optional)*

    My job isn’t my life. And honestly, I don’t care that it puts others in a potentially slight bind for 8 hours. Because I then cover for them when they are out. It’s just work. It’ll get done. And if it doesn’t…ok. Life will move on.

Comments are closed.