my boss talked me out of quitting, addressing hiring managers by their first names, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I tried to resign, my boss cried, and I agreed to stay

I have been planning to go to grad school in a new field, and while working part-time in my old field, I got another part-time job in this new field. Great foot in the door, right? Well, now that I am planning to attend school full-time in the fall, I told my boss from my old part-time job that I would need to leave soon. I have been preparing her for this moment since last December. I would rather work just the one part-time job, in the field I actually want to be in, rather than essentially full-time work plus school.

I recently gave four weeks notice. My boss started crying. She likes me and we work well together. She said she would not be able to find anyone else because “no one wants to work anymore” (that old chestnut), she thinks my job requires specialized knowledge that someone else would not be able to pick up, she thinks she could not trust a new person since she has a lot of expensive merchandise at the store, and she is afraid of theft. It is a very small, specialized business, so yes, it does require knowing about the product and would take some time to learn.

I have been her only employee through the whole pandemic. If I left, she would either have to run the store all by herself or get a new employee. She is looking to retire soon, so she thinks that hiring someone else would also be a waste of time for them, if she is just going to retire in a year anyway and have them be out of a job. I told her this is what temp agencies are for but she says temps are untrustworthy.

She wants me to stay on until December, and I reluctantly agreed. But I really don’t want to, and I would prefer to leave in August. I can’t continue to BE her whole business, while starting a new career and school. The job classifies me as an independent contractor, as well, so I can leave at any time, but I don’t want to burn bridges since I’ve been there for many years (and I do like my boss, in spite of this!). Help?

You get to leave when it makes sense to you, and you absolutely should not stay longer than you want to just because it’s going to be inconvenient for your boss. Dealing with inconvenience is part of running a business; she’ll figure out a way forward (presumably by hiring another employee). Under no circumstances should you stay at a job you want to leave just because it makes her sad or worried that you’re going. You have other things you need to focus on.

Go back to her now and say this: “I thought a lot about our conversation, and unfortunately there’s just no way for me to make it work. I will stay until (original date you gave) but I cannot stay past that.” If she cries or talks about how hard this will be for her, you need to hold firm. You can say, “I’ll be here for the next X weeks to help” and “I’ll do what I can in my remaining X weeks to assist with the transition.”

Go into this conversation assuming she’ll push back and try to talk you out of it so that you’re not unprepared when it happens. In fact, if you want to do it by email, that’s an option — it’s not my first choice, but if you know she’s going to give you a hard sell, it might be a practical one since it could give her time to absorb the news without you being forced to defend the decision on the spot.

Also, about this: “The job classifies me as an independent contractor, as well, so I can leave at any time” — If you’ve been running her store, this was almost certainly an illegal set-up; she should have been paying you as an employee and taking taxes out of your check (and you have ended up paying taxes yourself that she should have paid). Remembering that might help shore up your resolve when you talk to her. (Also, employees can leave at any time too, not just contractors! That’s what at-will employment means, although it’s a professional courtesy to give two weeks notice.)

2. We have to submit detailed “work from home reports” every day

Since the beginning of the pandemic when our office had to shut down, our director has made everyone fill out a “work from home report” outlining what we did every day. The director is very old school and pre-pandemic refused to let anyone work from home because in their mind, butt in seat=working. Even though our office has been back open for about a year, most people work hybrid schedules so the required reports have continued. While at home, it’s not as if employees are MIA. Emails go back and forth, as do phone calls, participation in Zoom meetings, and various other things. Additionally, check-in meetings are held once a week when the various employees are in the office, so it’s not as if nobody knows what we’re doing. I know this is all due to the director’s insecurity because their excuse is, “When you’re at home we can’t see what you’re doing. There’s no oversight.” But in the same breath, they claim it’s not a trust issue.

These reports give me serious anxiety because I’m constantly worried that the boss is going to think I’m not doing enough and is going to force me back into the office full time (I also have ADHD, so it’s even more stressful). I’ve expressed these concerns multiple times, and the excuses are usually, “Everyone has to do it,” “Don’t take it personally,” “I barely read them,” “It’s really for your own benefit so you know what you did when it’s time for the annual review,” “It’s a fantastic management tool,” “When you’re in the office we can walk past your desk and see what you’re working on. When you’re at home we can’t do that,” “It’s not a trust issue,” and on and on. The staff all see right through it, but feel as though there’s no choice. I’ve asked friends who are managers about it and they all think it’s BS. Is this even a legit management technique? I feel gaslit by the contradicting justifications and dismissal of my concerns.

No, it is not. You manage people by looking at their output and holding them accountable to clear goals, not by having them log all their daily activities.

3. How much employee check-in is too much?

I’m in a mid-level supervisory position. We have a team of 12, managed by me and “overseen” by one more plus a building of other departments who sometimes need things from me as well. My problem is that the second I get in the door, I am set upon by people. Sometimes it’s a time-sensitive question, but mostly it’s just “checking in” or “checking out” or letting me know what’s up, or asking a question that could have been handled by our daily emails. Or voicing a problem that is 100 percent not within a boss’s power to fix. The only way I get more than 20 minutes (yes, I measured this because I thought I was exaggerating it in my mind) to focus is to close my office door and window blinds and put up a (lying) conference call sign.

Obviously managing is part of a manager’s job, but my position also has time intensive deadlined production components — managing people isn’t supposed to be the largest percentage of my job, and the steady interruption dramatically extends how long it takes to complete my mandatory daily tasks. Plus, I personally need sustained focus time to be happy and functional, and all this — what feels like hand-holding — is making me resentful. (WFH during COVID was a dream because it dramatically reduced the amount of contact I had with our staff down to actually important interaction.)

Surprisingly to me, it turns out I seem to be a pretty good boss. After I took over this position (in a fairly toxic company culture that’s in repair mode) I had multiple staffers come to me and say things like that working for me has improved their mental health. One person declined a promotion to a new team because they wanted to stay on my team. Our work quality and efficiency have both gone up since I took over and we’ve started getting positive comments from customers since the change.

But is this much want/need for interaction with your supervisor just part of the deal when you’re the boss and I need to consider maybe a role like this is not for me? Or is this excessive and I need to look at setting some more boundaries with my staff?

It’s part of the deal, but you can manage it better with clearer boundaries.

I’d strongly consider instituting “work blocks,” periods of time on your calendar where you focus on your own work and can’t be interrupted for non-emergencies. Put a “work block — interrupt only for emergencies” sign on your door if you need to. You could also consider the reverse — “office hours,” set times when people know you are available for interruptions without an appointment. Whichever you choose (and you could choose both!), talk to your team about why you’re doing it and how it’ll work, and explain the kinds of things that are exceptions so everyone’s on the same page.

Also, it varies based on the type of work a team does, but for a lot of jobs, 12 people is just too many to manage, especially if you have your own, non-management work to complete. So I’m not surprised that you’re feeling stretched too thin.

4. Should I really address the hiring manager by her first name?

I’m applying to a few open positions at the company I work for, and for some of them I know who the hiring manager is and for some I don’t. For the position I applied to yesterday, I knew the hiring manager personally. I can’t find it now, but I found one of your posts where you mentioned how to address it, and you said that there were several different ways that were fine. One of the examples was “Dear Alison.” But it was a one-off comment and I wasn’t sure if that was serious or if you were just making a point that there are many ways to address them. (I know you say the formatting doesn’t really matter, but my job-seeking anxiety is coming out in the form of being worried about this!)

It would be weird to address it to someone I know as Dear Jane Smith, and I thought Dear Ms. Smith sounded too formal. So I went with Dear Jane. I’m going to be sending out more, so I just want to make sure — is this really okay?

It is really okay.

Even if you didn’t know her personally and even if you were applying to jobs outside your company and addressing a total stranger, “Dear FirstName” is commonplace and fine in most fields these days. If you’re in an especially conservative field, that might not apply to you, but otherwise it’s become unremarkable and widely used.

5. Giving notice when I have a vacation coming up

Is it ever okay to give two weeks notice, then go on vacation for a week? My future employer’s onboarding date options are such that I can either start a week before my vacation (and go one week in the hole on vacation time) or start a week after I get back from vacation. I’d like to give my employer two weeks notice, but I’d prefer to do that while still getting paid for that week after I get back from vacation, which would mean my two weeks notice would be Friday before I go away for a week. The alternative is to give notice four weeks before my start date and then have my vacation and the next week be unpaid (although I do get unused vacation paid out so really it’s just one week unpaid). That is obviously least preferable for me. What do you suggest as the best option?

Check your employee handbook; some employers have policies that you can’t use vacation time during your notice period because they want you using that time for transition work (which is the point of having a notice period). This often isn’t enforced in situations like yours where planned time off has been long-standing and/or in a situation where you’re giving extra notice to make up for it, but it’s worth knowing what the policy says before you do anything.

An option you didn’t list: could you give three weeks notice instead of two weeks, so that you could still get your paid vacation week while your employer still gets two weeks with you there (one week before your vacation and one week after)? Whether or not to do that depends on whether they’ll allow it and whether there’s a risk they’ll push you out early (like having you just work one week and then leave), but if they’d handle it well and you’re willing to do it, that could be the best of all the alternatives.

If you can, try to avoid starting at the new job, working a week, and then being away for a week. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it can mean you lose some of the momentum of the first week and in some ways you have to sort of re-start once you’re back.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 304 comments… read them below }

  1. MishenNikara*

    LW1:
    “The job classifies me as an independent contractor”
    “No one wants to work anymore”

    Your boss can just retire early honestly. Focus on your needs, not hers.

    1. MK*

      Also, if she is retiring in a year, now is a good time to start winding down her business. If she is so convinced no one wants to work, she run her store herself in a diminished capacity.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Oh someone doesn’t want to work alright.

        I wonder if this boss would see the irony. Probably not.

    2. Beth*

      Agreed. LW1, your boss isn’t a poor old lady who’s suffering at the whim of your choice here. She’s a business owner who’s profiting off of your willingness to give in to what she wants. Plenty of people are job hunting, she’ll find new employees just fine–IF she’s willing to pay a reasonable, livable wage; provide onboarding and training like new employees always need to get filled in on the niche elements of their role; classify her employees correctly so she’s not taking advantage of them; and stop crying in order to pressure people into giving her what she wants. If she fails to meet that very low bar for decent boss behavior, whatever bind she finds herself in will be of her own making.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        And really, if you’re an owner of a small retail business with only one part time employee, you really have to have a plan for what to do if the employee quits, or is otherwise unable to work. Beyond “guilt tripping them into never leaving” that is. When she says she can’t do without you, what she really means is that her life will be much easier if she can convince you to stay. She can work the business herself. She can wind down and retire early. She can reduce hours. She can hire a temp. She can train a new employee. You’re not the only person in the universe who is capable of working for her and trustworthy, but finding another person means she’s going to have to do some extra work.

        1. Beth*

          Exactly! “LW1 works for me, accepting part-time pay and contractor taxes and doing whatever I tell them to do, until I retire” is the most convenient option for her, but it’s far from the only option she has. And it’s a wildly unreasonable option for LW1; after all, what’s to stop her from crying again in December and pressuring OP to stay on? What’s to stop her a year from now from deciding she actually wants to keep the business going and pressuring OP to keep running it for her?

          1. Mangled metaphor*

            This was exactly what went through my mind!
            LW1, your boss has found the easiest option for her and doesn’t want it to change, because it’ll be harder! But you hold the good cards here. She’s trying to get you to fold pocket Aces while she’s got a 2-7 off-suit (worst possible hand for non Hold Em folks).
            Reaffirm your notice period – you say you want to leave in August, so this is an amazingly generous notice period, longer than four weeks (or is that four prorata weeks?), plus the “notice” you’ve given her since December. You’ve done most of the hard work, not necessarily getting her ducks in a row, but at least corralling them so they can get into a row; it’s not your responsibility, or problem, if she chooses to release an overexcited puppy to scatter the lot after you *leave*.

            1. Persephone Mulberry*

              It’s doesn’t really matter because the answer of “you leave when you want to leave, not when your boss says you can” is unchanged, but I interpreted it as the LW gave four weeks notice from [today], got guilted into staying until December, and worst case would be willing to stay until August (presumably when school starts).

            2. Rose*

              I remind boss that waiting until August to leave is a VERY generous notice period…but if she continues to give you grief about it, you will give 2 weeks (or, if she is really being brutal…effective immediately).

          2. Dona Florinda*

            My thoughts exactly.
            OP, your boss apparently knows about you leaving since December and still needs a whole year of notice? She’ll just keep pushing your ending date ’cause after all, you’ve stayed this far.
            Also, there’s no guarantee that she will actually retire soon, so another reason for her to keep emotionally blackmailing you indefinitely.

            1. Dona Florinda*

              And if boss still doens’t have a plan six months after you told her you are leaving, it’s not the extra four from August to December that will solve the problem.

        2. Defining gravity*

          So maybe this is me being a jerk but, in addition to all the other good points that everyone else has made, I do want to single out this part of the OP’s letter:
          “she thinks my job requires specialized knowledge that someone else would not be able to pick up, she thinks she could not trust a new person since she has a lot of expensive merchandise at the store, and she is afraid of theft. It is a very small, specialized business, so yes, it does require knowing about the product and would take some time to learn”

          Is OP’s boss trying to cure cancer? Or COVID? Because I work in a field with a lot of specialized, on the job training and knowledge, AND it is in healthcare…and I would still roll my eyes big time at any boss who was acting like this. If you’re old enough to be near retirement age AND you’ve been running your own business the whole time, you have no excuse to be crying in public about something as easily fixed as “my employee is leaving.” (And I say this as someone who cries in public all the time).

          Like, this store or whatever isn’t the one and only source of baby formula, ventilators, PPE, grocery staples, etc, so OP’s boss can roll the dramatics back quite a bit. “Oh but the store will go out of business!” Okay? A lot of stores have gone out of business lately. Welcome to America/capitalism, hon. You got to exploit your sole employee for years by mis-classifying her—take the “win” and get out of the race now while you’re still ahead.

          I know I’m being cranky but I’m just really done with people like OP’s boss lately. Stop whining about the problems you yourself created, put on your big girl (non-pajama) clothes and either start putting up “Help Wanted” signs or talking to your accountant and lawyer about retiring ahead of schedule.

          1. bamcheeks*

            and like, if you ARE trying to cure cancer, it’s your ACSHUAL RESPONSIBILITY to build a lot more redundancy into your operational planning than this.

            1. Defining gravity*

              Seriously! Johnson and Johnson aren’t a one-man shop working out of someone’s garage, for goodness’ sake

        3. Elenna*

          This! LW, if you were abducted by aliens or something and she absolutely couldn’t guilt you into staying, she’d figure something out. And whatever that something is, she can do the same if you leave. Sure, it probably wouldn’t be as convenient for her as you staying, but you shouldn’t put your own life on hold so that she isn’t the slightest bit inconvenienced.

      2. Dragon_Dreamer*

        My concern with OP taking a firmer stance about leaving, is that the boss will retaliate. OP, I would just leave in August as planned, without mentioning it again. If she’s shutting the business down, that makes a good excuse for why she’s unreachable as a reference. ( Not that I foresee her giving OP a good one anyway!) And leaving for school is a perfectly honest reason to give new employers about why you left.

        People like your boss get very upset and vindictive if their golden goose escapes. Even when they’ve shot the goose, they’ll get mad if the laying of golden eggs decreases or ceases. You need to (metaphorically) flip her off and go live your life. You are no one’s slave, tied to your work until someone else says so.

        Go and fly free. :)

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I can’t see using her as a reference at all since the OP has lined up a job in the field she will be studying in already. Between that and references from grad school, this part-time retail gig will never have to come up again unless she works for a government that requires a list of all employers EVER.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Well, she shouldn’t just leave in August without telling the boss. That WOULD be wrong. The boss is making plans that she will be there, just … not showing up isn’t a good look for OP’s rep.

          How can she retaliate against OP? OP is leaving this field and going into another one. She won’t even need a reference. Make life harder on OP while she is there. Okay, OP says “you know August is a little too far away, tomorrow is my last day.” Then Owner is STILL stuck with all the things she told OP would happen if she left. Owner isn’t going to retaliate if OP sticks firm to leaving because Owner doesn’t want to do the work.

          1. Rose*

            Exactly. Retaliation should be the least of her concerns. What is the worst thing that could happen? Boss fires OP? Seems unlikely, given she is desperate for her to stay. Make her life miserable? OK, so OP quits before August. OP – you have to do what is best for YOU.

          2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            It would not be wrong. This boss is mistreating her and engaging in outright illegal business practices – OP owes them nothing anymore (hint – anything I owe you gets wiped out when you take advantage of me in an illegal manner), but still tried to do a decent thing by giving them plenty of notice about her plans, to let this person make a transition.

            This person then engaged in text book emotional manipulation to encourage OP to make a decision that was against their own best interests.

            She absolutely should just leave in August without giving this employer notice. She ought to do it today, but it may be worth putting up with it to continue to collect wages until her school starts.

        3. Sara without an H*

          Since OP#1 is changing fields and going to grad school to do so, I really don’t think attempts at “retaliation” by this business owner will be a significant problem. What she’ll probably do (based on past performance) is cry a lot and try to guilt trip OP.

          I do, however, like your last sentence and recommend it to OP.

        4. Observer*

          My concern with OP taking a firmer stance about leaving, is that the boss will retaliate

          And do what? There isn’t really anything she can do. If she’s really retiring, she’s not going to be much of a reference. And even if not, this is not someone who I would depend on for a good reference anyway. There is really nothing else that’s in her power.

        5. That girl*

          THIS Dragon_Dreamer. I agree that OP1 should not go back to the boss giving so much advance notice.

          1. Observer*

            This – what? What kind of retaliation can the boss take?

            On the other hand, leaving without notice is the one thing that’s just not appropriate unless the boss gets abusive.

            1. Dragon_Dreamer*

              I can see the boss doubling down in the abuse she’s already heaping on OP. Mysterious pay issues, hour cuts, etc.

              1. Observer*

                Hour cuts work to the OP’s benefit. And if the boss tries anything else, all the OP needs to do is inform Boss that their last day is today. There simply is nothing here that the OP has to worry about so much that they should pre-emptively do the one thing that’s generally inappropriate.

      3. BethDH*

        This has such toxic personal relationship vibes — “you’re not like other employees! They’re so lazy and you work so hard! If you leave me, you’ll be responsible for what happens to me! But also you deserve whatever bad treatment I give you and I can’t believe you’re so selfish!”
        It’s unhealthy in a personal relationship; unhealthy and also unprofessional in a work relationship.

      4. pancakes*

        Exactly. I think her stance on temps is similarly out of line. The agencies probably carry more insurance than she does, unless the only ones she knows of are really rinky-dink. It’s a choice to pay for services from the rinky-dink end of the market, and it is entirely her choice.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      Yup. LW1, of course your boss is nice to you and is devastated that you’re leaving and begging you not to go. She has you believing that you’re irreplaceable, but has you working under an illegal designation of an independent contractor, skating by without paying taxes or meeting other requirements. (I hope your taxes are filed properly considering all of this.)

      She’s making so much money off of you, by keeping you onboard, and she doesn’t want to do the work herself or risk hiring someone who understands employment law.

      She would prefer that you tank your first semester of graduate school rather than leave her to figure out how to make her business actually work in a legal fashion.

      You need to leave this job, on time or earlier.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I am tring to wrap my head around how a PART TIME employee is irreplaceable. Not a knock on you OP. But like, you aren’t even THERE all the time. So how does she run the business on the days you aren’t there?

        Here’s the main thing OP — this is NOT YOUR STORE. You don’t own it, you don’t have a stake in the outcome. So therefore it is NOT your problem what the actual owner does or does not do after you leave. You cannot be more concerned about whether the business keeps running than the Owner does. And the Owner doesn’t care because she just expects you to do the work instead of doing it herself. If the business fails because a PART TIME employee does the very expected thing of eventually leaving, then the business fails. NOT YOUR CIRCUS, NOT YOUR MONKEES.

      2. pancakes*

        “She would prefer that you tank your first semester of graduate school . . .”

        That too! Its parasitic to treat a person off to grad school this way. She should be ashamed of herself for trying it.

    4. Generic Name*

      And apparently your boss doesn’t want to work either because she’s retiring. Since you are an independent contractor who is the only one running the store, you are making AT LEAST as much as the boss is, right? And she gave you a massive raise to stay, right??. I’m guessing you’re actually making minimum wage or possibly less because of your illegal classification as a contractor. Give your boss 2 weeks notice and quit now rather than in august or December. It’s not that nobody wants to work, it’s that nobody wants to work for shit pay.

    5. Katie*

      The whole thing irks me a lot. Part time, irreplaceable, contractor (who has worked there 2 years+!!), tears, specialized knowledge.
      This lady is completely taking advantage of OP. Professional courtesy be gone, quit the day you are ready to move on.
      If you want to work 40 hours a week, you can get a full time job that come with benefits!

    6. Artemesia*

      This. Always make your employment decisions in your own interest. Work hard. Do well, Assist in transition when you leave BUT make the decision in your own interest. It is not personal, it is business.

      And someone who exploits you as an ‘independent contractor’ when you are not, cheating you out of social security payments, taxes etc is not someone you owe a personal debt to. I hope you can learn from this to stand firm in your own interests throughout your working life. She would fire you in a trice if it were in her interests to do so.

      1. BeckyinDuluth*

        Also probably Workers Compensation, if that ever came up. IANAL, but I don’t think you have to buy workers comp for contractors (part of the deal is they are responsible for their own insurance), but you do if you hire an employee who isn’t related to you.

        This person does not have your interests at heart.

  2. Marnix*

    OP 1– You get to leave on your original date, or anytime you want (especially as an independent contractor).
    Your boss will be fine. Or she won’t — but it’s not something to concern yourself with anymore.
    She’ll either figure it out or retire/close up now.
    Live your life!

  3. Chris*

    It may be too late in this situation, but I could see how it might make sense to negotiate to stay at a job longer. It seems like any counteroffer situation. If your boss can make it worth your while, it may be worth considering. If it’s just a sob story, they’ve essentially offered you nothing but guilt. Consider it for something material, but not out of pressure or pity.

    1. Meow*

      Yeah, like, I can’t speak for the LW, but if I were them, and my boss calmly explained that situation to me, I might be open to picking up some shifts here and there or help train a new person. A pay increase would be even better, but (and maybe I’m just a softie) I think I’d just be sympathetic to the situation if they were someone I liked and got along well with.

      But if someone tried to guilt me like that, I would have no remorse in just putting in my 2 weeks and saying sayonara.

    2. In the same leaky boat as LW1*

      I tried quitting a few months ago and my boss also cried. I’m also the only employee, part-time, and have been for ages. I’m here now because I got more money. WAY MORE MONEY (and other benefits too). LW1, if you’re that invaluable, you should be reaping some reward. Also, if you’re part-time, I hope you are billing for things like emails and phone calls out of hours. If you’re been misclassified as a contractor I’m going to guess the there’s a high likelihood you’ve been working off the clock, too, because your boss probably doesn’t think any of that counts as work, either.

      One cautionary note, I stayed, and am staying, because the money is compelling enough for now. But I regret it. All that advice about not accepting the counter-offer is right.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Awe, Leaky Boat – I hope it gets better for you. I mean, I hope you get out soon!

      2. superduperhoopla*

        I did the same for a few counter-offers but still ended up rage quitting very spectacularly (so so utterly satisfying) and was able to put the woman out of business when her very high end customers (think red carpet gown designers) learned how badly she was cheating them.

  4. MK*

    “When you’re in the office we can walk past your desk and see what you’re working on. When you’re at home we can’t do that,”

    “It’s not a trust issue,”

    OP, you do realize that those two statements aren’t compatible, don’t you? If they trusted you, they wouldn’t need to be able to conduct covert surprise inspections. I don’t know if you will be able to push back on this, sometimes it is what it is and you have to decide if you want to live with it. But get it clear into your head that this isn’t you, it’s them, they don’t trust their employees. And if you feel able to, point out to whoever is feeding you this nonsense that it definitely is a trust issue.

      1. Mark Roth*

        Daily Report MM/DD/YYYY

        9 AM: Began processing daily activities report

        9:01-4:59 PM: Worked

        5 PM: Completed and submitted daily activities report

        1. Jora Malli*

          9:00 – attended zoom meeting on the Fluffernutter account
          9:55 – recorded Fluffernutter meeting in daily activity log
          10:00 – compiled the rice sculpture statistics for the week
          11:10 – recorded activity in daily activity log

          Etc.

        2. button*

          I’d be so tempted to do the exact opposite.
          8:58am sat down at my desk
          8:59am logged into my laptop
          9:00am joined a team call
          9:06am contributed to the team call

          And so on and so forth, probably ending with
          5:00pm contemplated how I’ve spent 3 hours of my work day writing this document

          1. TeapotNinja*

            Malicious compliance is definitely the approach here, if reasoning doesn’t work. Log every minute of work in as much detail as possible. And make sure to include compiling the report as an item as well.

            1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

              Gotta get them that detail

              9:31 am Bathroom break
              9:37 am washed hands
              9:40 am got second cup of coffee
              9:43 am “coworker collaboration” or “networking”
              10:01 am computer crash and restart
              10:12 am computer restart again
              10:15 am took walk around neighborhood to avoid throwing computer at wall

          2. Elenna*

            9:00am created the document for this report.
            9:01am wrote the above line about creating the document for this report.
            9:02 am wrote the above line about writing the line about creating the document for this report.

            (Okay, don’t actually do this, it’s just going to annoy your boss and almost certainly won’t make them rethink anything. But it’s a fun mental image.)

          3. ferrina*

            I have made time sheets with this level of detail. I was working 60-hour weeks and still falling behind and my boss was convinced it was because I “wasn’t managing my time well” (and not that we were desperately understaffed, like I’d been telling her for months. I finally tracked my time to a stupid level of detail for 3 or 4 weeks straight, then asked her where I could do better on my time. She couldn’t respond, but still refused to hire more people. That was my sign to get out of there.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Funnily our company actually did try making people log their time in 30 minute increments to be submitted weekly in 2020. No less than 300 different task codes were present on the system.

        It lasted 2 months. Because even IT (who had to maintain the system) we’re putting more time against entering their numbers than any other singular task.

        Happy to say it only exists now on the backup tapes.

        1. As per Elaine*

          We also logged our daily activities early in 2020 — but it was just a list of things I did that day, and as I recall a lot of the things were “tickets,” unless there was a particularly big ticket that took up a lot of time, and I very quickly decided that my boss didn’t need a “what am I going to do today” email and a “what I did today” email and just sent the second one, and nobody said anything.

          BUT — and this is the big difference here — it was introduced by my boss as “You know Grandboss really believes in butts in seats; I want this data so that I can prove to him/any other upper management that comes sniffing around that you all do in fact do work when you’re home.” That framing of “This is a tool I want so I can go to bat for you” made a big difference to how I felt about it.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Yeah, not so fond memories of a firm that decided to trial WFH back in 2009 and required me to log the time spent on each ticket against the relevant software code and what the work done on it entailed (code patch, database edit, server config, reinstall etc).

            We had over 3,000 different applications running in that company. I was responsible for third line support for 700 of them. Boss said that he needed the data to see if we were as effective working from home.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              When surely he would soon find out if you weren’t being efficient, because if your systems are down nobody can get anything done right?

        2. KimmyBear*

          I went from a company where we logged client billing in 6 minute increments to somewhere that just logged staff time to a department-wide code. When we tried to implement “bill to this list of 10 active projects”, there was a minor revolt. Three years later, we’re still having to remind people about the list of codes.

        3. Coffee Bean*

          That is ridiculous. When the task if entering day into activity logs consumes more time than the actual work being done, it’s a flawed system.

      3. File Herder*

        You jest, but… I actually do this for part of my job, and it is one of the rare situations I can think of where it makes sense. “That person who knows something about computers” is an official job title, although in more official phrasing, with officially allocated time to know more about computers than the rest of the team. We are supposed to keep a detailed log of everything we do in that role, and this explicitly includes time spent on updating the log. The idea is to capture *all* time being spent on doing this stuff including the admin bit. We frequently don’t get a chance to do a proper database entry before the next interruption so just scribble a rough note of time and what on paper before getting back to it later. Which is why after a bad week my log includes a couple of hours on one day of “time spent on updating the database with entries from earlier in the week”. It’s quite an eye-opener to see how much time it takes to log this stuff properly.

        1. KateM*

          I wasn’t jesting in the sense that, yes, maybe it would be eye-opener for the boss who demands it, maybe it would not, but it would make sense to know how much time following this new policy takes, surely?

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’ve seen the time reporting work exactly once, so I agree that it does have its uses. At an OldJob, management hired offshore contractors, but as it often goes, went with the cheapest offer and got what they’d paid for. My supervisor asked the team to log all the work done during the day, especially the time spent reviewing and reworking the offshore consultants’ code. The idea was to prove that they were not producing anything, while also wasting our time. After several months of everyone submitting those time sheets, management terminated the offshore contract. As long as they come from a place of tracking, planning, and improving the work process, and not from a place of mistrust and micromanagement as it is at OP’s company, timesheets for exempt workers for sure have their uses.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Can confirm, we had a micromanaging VP that required time reports (we are exempt – this was also pre-pandemic and we were in the office every day) and had a set of very specific standards surrounding those (no more than 10% of your time logged to admin work, everything else must be logged to a project with a task number, etc) in 15-minute increments. After a lot of complaining and arguing, we were eventually allowed to log 15 minutes to “completing the time sheet”.

        Those time sheets were some of the more creative things I’ve ever produced in my career. We did them for two years, until the VP was laid off, and in that time I became a pro at padding time, logging the same hour to two different things (think all-hands department meeting and also a code review that I would do while calling into the meeting) and all around stretching any in-office activity to 8 hours a day. I had excel sheets that I updated throughout the day with roughly what I was working on, then at the end of the week I’d edit my excel sheet to make it add to 40 hours of pure project work (with 10% admin as allowed). It required some creativity and imagination, and certainly did take 15 minutes a day. It also added no value whatsoever to what we were doing as a business. I hate that stuff.

    1. Mynona*

      My work exactly fits this description and also requires daily WFH reports, non-negotiable. They also did not specify the report content, so I submitted the shortest possible reports: eg “progress on xyz report”. And then reused them as much as possible. Never heard a word about them.

      When I got back into the office, a group of coworkers were complaining about the reports, and how much work they were. Apparently, they had spent lots of time on unnecessarily detailed reports. Don’t be those people. Work tried to make us keep sending them once we were back in the office, because many in upper management took advantage of their senior positions to keep WFH. That didn’t last long.

      1. EPLawyer*

        The boss said they barely read them anyway???!!!!!!!! Which shows they are just busy work.

        LW – don’t make it about how stressful it is. The bosses clearly don’t care if it is stressful. Make it about how its a waste of time and gets in the way of doing your actual job. that you aren’t “working” while compiling the report.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I had a boss who required this for every day we worked from home. I just had a template where I could just plug in new numbers for routine tasks and would add a bullet or 2 for special projects. It was a pain, but overall only ate maybe a minute or 2 of my day

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah. I had to fill in a file with the jobs I’d worked on and send it to the boss every Friday.
        They set up a management tool that tracked it all too, but the boss still wanted me to send in the file because … that’s how it’d always been done.
        I could have stopped because he never bothered to look at the files, even when I wrote something like “I broke my productivity record this week” in the accompanying email. I didn’t stop, because in fact I found it useful to log jobs, as a to-do list, which simply became the “done” list by the end of the week.

        Turned out to be pretty useful when the boss accused me of not being very productive. In fact the project managers weren’t logging my work in the management system. After all, unlike the freelancers, I wouldn’t send in a bill for my work. So then it looked like the PM had generated 100% margin. I showed the boss the work I’d done, and she compared my files to the system, and a couple of project managers mysteriously disappeared.

    2. BubbleTea*

      If they want to just casually know what someone is working on, they could… send a message asking? An email? A phone call if they really must. If making it explicit that they’re checking makes it feel like they don’t trust their employees then… welp. There’s a reason for that feeling.

      1. 2 Cents*

        hahaha, or being able to waste 8 hours of a day and yet get nothing done because, I don’t know, I was too tired, too bored, or too over work that day to care. Yes, I have done this, no regrets, because I am human. Sure, anyone walking by would’ve thought I was “hard at work,” but didn’t know I had the same-looking screens up all day bwahaha

      2. Frustrated worker*

        HAHAHAHA I think I’m gonna download one next time I’m in the office. Also gonna clear the browsing history and cookies, etc.

    3. Workerbee*

      OP stated that the staff all see through it, but wanted to know if this was still considered a legit management technique, which is good info to know when gearing up to push back or find devious loopholes.

    4. Mockingjay*

      I have to fill out a daily telework report. We submit them on Fridays. It’s a CYA mechanism for our company because we bill to a government contract. The report is in table format, so it’s quick to fill out.

      The report is a minor annoyance that I try to make somewhat useful. I’ve turned it into my running task list. I open the report on Monday and leave it up, filling in things as I go. Ongoing stuff or new tasks for the next day – I’ll pop those into the next day’s rows as a reminder. On Fridays, if I have carryovers/long-term tasks, I’ll resave it with the next week’s filename, highlight any carryover tasks, and delete completed items.

      I can say that the reports have proved occasionally useful at a low level; my supervisor and I use them to evaluate the team’s output for the year, to determine if we need to plus up staffing. One year we realized I was doing more meetings than work, so I deleted several meeting invites (“we want you there so you can be aware of X”) to rebalance my load.

      1. Why M&E?*

        I worked at a contracting company contracted to a government agency as well, and had to do the same thing. My boss explained that the reports were how we justified and got to keep our telework. The reports were submitted to my boss, who submitted them to my grandboss and then they just sat unlooked at by clients. But if ever telework issues might come up, the client could look at them.

        I hated it.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I worked for a federal contractor where we had to report time spent on certain things. It was reported to the federal agency & unrelated to WFH but very related to funding & staffing.

          When WFH started, we had to do daily reports. Mine were bulleted lists. Most managers stopped gathering them ages ago.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I did find something similar useful when I was working on different projects funded by different grants since I had to charge hours to a different account code each day it helped me keep track of how much time I really spent on each grant. It also made grant report writing easier because I would just consolidate the daily reports at the end of the month.

    5. OhGee*

      My team was required to do this for about 2 weeks at the beginning of the pandemic and when our grandboss realized we were all…doing the exact same work we did in the office…the detailed tracking ended pretty fast. I think this is a good opportunity for everyone to band together to say “no.”

    6. Eye2count*

      When we first started teleworking they wanted teleworkers to complete daily forms. There was pushback and the management choice is everyone does a daily report or no one does one. We did settle on a weekly report of accomplishments which was culled and went to senior management. It was useful for pulling together accomplishments for periodic performance discussions and end of year reviews. But it was otherwise useless. Seeing someone in the office doesn’t mean they are working. Someone at home, at least in the early days, was so terrified to not work 100% of the time that so much more got accomplished.

    7. Frustrated worker*

      Oh yes. Very much realize the contradiction. If I could have called bs to their face I would have. I certainly was in my head. It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned it to them either. It’s why I say it felt like they were trying to gaslight me. I’ve got one foot out the door, but unfortunately the job search is going SLOWLY. That’s a story for another day, however.

    8. Amethystmoon*

      We have to do a detailed report of how many minutes are spent on literally every project, including how many items we work on. But we have to do this regardless of whether we’re in the office or not. (They finally started letting us come in the office recently as long as we were vaccinated.)

      Of course, it’s a trust issue. Management can’t walk around anymore like they used to be able to do. They just won’t admit it.

  5. Sorry older mom*

    She probably needs to go ahead and retire. You can’t jeopardize your school grades and sanity especially for a job that won’t even be there. This is part of running a business. She isn’t not your responsibility.

  6. Rich*

    LW 1, it’s nice to like your boss, and it’s nice to not want to burn bridges. But your boss is taking advantage of your good will, and using your — and her — emotions against you. You made a very reasonable decisions based on your personal and professional needs. “Guilt trip” is not a reason to stay in a job you don’t want. Worse, your boss is using the feeling she created to make her business problems into your personal problems.

    Your boss is treating you unfairly.

    You can sympathize with her difficult position as her friend without having to solve it as her employee. It’s OK to leave.

    1. Decima Dewey*

      Liking people can have little to do with their worth as bosses or people in general. There are colleagues I like a lot that I hope never to work with. By the same token, I have found ways to work with people I do not like at all.

      1. pancakes*

        That’s true. I think I’d struggle to find something likable about someone who crudely tries to manipulate their employees this way, though. It’s somehow a little extra eyebrow-raising to me that she is treating a good employee this way. It’s against her own interests in a messy way, and towards someone who is going off to pursue higher education. That’s not someone you want to alienate. That’s someone you might want to come back and/or keep them as a contact.

  7. Sarah*

    I worked at a mom & pop store during high school and when I told them I would be leaving at the end of the summer to attend college, they said things like, “Why do you want to go to college? You’re girl, all you will do is get married!” (they were from a different country, but still).

    A job is just a job. You don’t owe them anything except to do your job while you are on the clock.

    1. allathian*

      Ugh, that’s making me itch all over. Being from a different country is no excuse, this attitude exists even in progressive Scandinavia, although most people who think like that don’t say it in mixed company, that is among people who don’t feel the same way, because it’s not a socially acceptable attitude. Especially not now that among college and university students, AFABs are a majority in every field except some STEM fields. I’m from Finland, which is a progressive country, but ironically there’s a strong division into male and female dominated fields, much stronger than in the US, for example. With the corresponding difference in pay, unfortunately.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I have a cousin who moved to Switzerland, which I realize is not Scandinavia, a few years ago and apparently, at least where she lives, the whole school schedule is set up with the assumption that kids will have moms at home to feed them lunch in the middle of the day. (She’s home so it works, but she’s still p*ssed that it’s assumed instead of assuming that at least some families will have two working parents.)

          1. The OTHER Other.*

            Off-topic, but it’s even worse than that sounds. Federal elections are far less important in Switzerland than most countries; most governance is at the local/canton level. Women could not vote in every canton until 1991! If it were a person in the US, it would only be reaching drinking age this year!

            1. not so young anymore*

              1991 was 31 years ago, not 21! I point this out because I was born around 1991, and I have been of drinking age for around 10 years.

            1. gmg22*

              Yep. And at the canton (state) level, suffrage wasn’t fully granted until 1990 — the last holdout had to be sued.

              1. In the provinces*

                This canton was Appenzellinnerrhoden. Voting was done by all the men from the canton meeting in the main square of the town of Appenzell, carrying their swords. Really.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Funny how it was ok for this wife to work, to co own and co run a business, but eff you for expanding your world from their little fiefdom. They expected you to be their “girl” from 16 to 60.

      1. Observer*

        She probably wasn’t the one who started the business – she got married and joined her husband’s business, and that’s what she expected @Sarah to do.

        Not that it was ok, but it’s easy to see a train of thought that, despite its manifest problems, is not necessarily hypocritical.

        1. BubbleTea*

          And the wife won’t have been PAID. She’s just helping the family, she doesn’t need *money*. It is her wifely duty.

          (This is in fact a form of economic abuse – exploiting someone’s economic resources aka their labour, without recompense. It has consequences beyond the household finances, like not having a pension or work history or any freedom to leave.)

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I remember chatting with a storekeeper in my neighborhood in Sarajevo. Sexism was manifested in who worked in the store, but in this case it probably helped the daughters more than hurt them. The boys left school at 14 to work in the store, but the daughters were all going to university because it would be “unseemly” for them to work behind a counter. The daughters ended up being an engineer, a nurse, and a geographer.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Ugh, that reminds me of a woman I worked with between undergrad and grad school. She got a full ride scholarship in Stanford but her parents wouldn’t let her go because it was required that she live on campus for 1 year (they lived in South San Francisco so could commute). Part of the reasoning was, “What do you need a degree for? To hang it in the kitchen?” When she told me that, you could see she was still sad about not being able to go

      1. Empress Ki*

        How sad. Why didn’t she go ? Did she need their money despite the scholarship ?

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Tradition, guilt, and the threat to send her back home for marriage if she defied them. Her mom had a pretty powerful hold over her. She ended up going to community college and getting married. She’s got plans for her daughters to go to Stanford and rarely speaks to her mother now.

      2. pancakes*

        That is horrible. That is worth pursuing emancipation over, for someone under 18.

    4. EngineeringFun*

      I had this happen to me in 1998 in the southern US. He was a doctor who didn’t under stand why I wanted to get an engineering degree since I was such a pretty young girl.

      1. pancakes*

        I’m happy you got away. Particularly having an aptitude for engineering, that really seems like a shame to waste on some ding-dong. I almost got engaged to a guy who turned out to be a bit controlling when I was in my mid 20s, and I left him in a taxi in London. I just got out at a red light and walked back to our hotel and got my things together. I’ve never regretted it!

  8. nnn*

    “no one wants to work anymore”

    ” She is looking to retire soon”

    Sounds like she’s in good company

    1. Elenna*

      Also “no one wants to work anymore” well, who’s the person who doesn’t want the work of recruiting and training a new employee? Or overseeing a temp employee? Feels like some projection to me…

  9. darthita*

    Years ago, I had a new grand-boss come in who decided my whole team should fill out time trackers of everything we did, every day, and submit them weekly. We all worked in the office, but he wasn’t located at the same site. I *think* the idea was that it would give him an idea of how much time we spent on the different parts of the job (meetings vs hands to keys vs carefully baby-sitting our decrepit system to make sure the things we did actually took). We had all been there for years and could give a pretty good accounting of the biggest time sinks, but he wanted data! For reasons!

    In practice, over a YEAR, I submitted 52 basically identical trackers. At the start of a new week, I’d save a copy of the previous week’s file with the new dates and make little tweaks here and there based on what I was actually doing, but the meat and potatoes of it never changed. (And yes, every week there was at least a 15-minute chunk of time dedicated to “updating time-tracking spreadsheet”.)

    “Darthita,” I hear you ask, “whatever became of all these spreadsheets?” Friend, your guess is as good as mine, because once the year was up and we stopped submitting them we heard nary a peep about it ever again.

    All this to say, it depends on how much detail they’re expecting you to include & how varied your work is, LW2, but if you can get away with it, a template with generic “30 minutes going through email, 1 hour on Project X, 1 hour meeting on Project Y” type entries is a life saver.

    1. Jackalope*

      Yeah, my work varies from day to day but over the course of a week I have mostly the same set of job duties. I make sure each day is individually correct of course, but anyone reading over multiple reports would see some obvious themes.

    2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      We had a new VP who made us track our time that way. It drove me nuts because I was too busy working to stop and track my day. At the same time, it was a not-for-profit, and I understood that it was useful to determine where grant money might be needed. But it was definitely a pain.

      1. JR*

        Could that level of detail been required to show existing funders where their funding went? Some funders, especially government, want a lot details and documentation. So if you said in the grant proposal that you were going to spend $15,000 on trainers and $5,000 on outreach, your organization may have needed to track employee time to demonstrate they fulfilled the grant requirements. (Whether funders SHOULD require that level of detail is a different issue, and I say no. But it’s not uncommon.)

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          When I worked for a nonprofit, we had to provide similar reports, but not at the same level of detail. It was more like “we spent X hours on Y activities during this quarter” and then a listing of hours by category. We didn’t have to list it by the minute, that would have been a total nightmare!

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          This is what we have to do when we are working on projects for multiple grants. Each activity has to be assigned to a funding source, including any conference/video call billing, copies, admin support, etc.. We had to be detailed because you didn’t want Grant Y being charged for something that was done for Grant X, but it was a PITA

    3. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      I mean, let’s not discount the need for data to secure additional head count or new/faster IT equipment or pay bumps for the team. I do like my data. But those reasons are included in the request for the time tracking and don’t last for a year.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        This. I once had a team track their activities for 30 days so that we could quantify the workload and potentially redistribute some of the tasks. In that case it was a valuable exercise, because it was temporary and it did in fact give me hard data to convince my boss to reassign some projects to other teams.

        1. KRM*

          And you have a clear reason for doing it (not to mention the hard stop), so employees are way more likely to participate truthfully because it’ll benefit them. Generic “tell us what you did today” paperwork doesn’t benefit anyone, and mostly makes employees scared they’ll be fired for not working enough (hence people who dedicate TIME to making them thorough).

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I once worked somewhere where we did a 60 day tracking to convince the big bosses that we needed a better tracking system for transactions – because the old system was failing – hard. But it was also limited in scope and time, and did result in getting us the updated software systems. Those made life so much easier in that job.

    4. Clorinda*

      THIS is what OP needs to do. Make a general spreadsheet or chart or whatever the format is for what they typically do in a day, spend thirty seconds slightly adjusting it if something took more or less time than usual, and send it in. Streamline the process and just consider it an annoying but necessary task.

    5. ThatGirl*

      I had a Director who made us all do something similar – more or less permanently – and I’m pretty sure the point was to justify our various jobs’ existence, because I got laid off three years in, along with most of the other individual contributors in my department.

    6. Email of the Day*

      LW 2: At my last job, my dept (and only my dept) had to do daily emails of what we did and email them to our whole team. Sometimes it was kind of helpful to see what people were working on, but mostly we knew. Our supervisor would sometimes read them. It was also very clear when she didn’t read them.

      However, I would say it was a (nice? okay? not as horrible as I thought it would be?) way to end the day: to decompress, think about what you have accomplished, and be able to articulate it. (Helpful for my neurodivergency). It was mostly just bullet points without getting too deep into the weeds (-scheduled 3 tours for next week, -checked in with my connection at The Agency–btw, they said we are good to go to the next step, -taught 5 classes today at local school, etc…).

      I titled all of my emails something obnoxious, like a trivia question or a word of the day, rather than the date, so that there would be something interesting to read if they were interested in reading it. It was also a great CYA for when Supervisor would start fussing about things you did or didn’t do, and you go back and point to the Daily.

      All of that is to say yes it was quite tedious and obnoxious at first. No, they really don’t read them unless they are bored and need something to do. But if you like keeping a journal of sorts, consider it professional journal and make it (fun?) for you.

    7. gmg22*

      Oh man, don’t ever work at a nonprofit where your funding is pieced together from a couple dozen sources. Our time tracking system is a full nightmare. Probably 60-70 project or task codes you have to sort through weekly to complete your timecard, and extensive notes are also expected. We have “core” codes for anything that doesn’t fall under a specific grant-funded or contract project — but I spent most of last year being constantly nagged to figure out how to parcel out my time elsewhere to avoid the core codes because we hadn’t allocated them enough money.

  10. allathian*

    It’s interesting to note how the vacation and notice thing varies across cultures. In Europe longer vacations are typical, as are longer notice periods (up to 6 months for executives, a month or two is the norm for SMEs). A part of the reason for longer notice periods is that employees can be forced to take their accrued vacation so that employers can avoid paying for accrued vacation time when someone leaves. In practice this means that when people switch jobs, they’re frequently simultaneously under contract to two employers, and that they can start working for their new employer before the contract with the old one ends. This is common in Finland, at least.

    1. Eyes Kiwami*

      Oh that is very interesting. In my country (not Europe or US) we also have longer notice periods, but I have never heard of anyone being simultaneously contracted to two full-time employers. How does that work in terms of benefits and so on? Are workers technically covered by two policies?

      1. redwitsch*

        I am speking for Czechia, where we have 2 months notice. For health and state part of pension you will pay based on your income, so it does not matter if you have 1 works with income 30 000 CZK or two works with income 10 000 CZK and 20 000 CZK, you are paying same % from them. For other benefits like meal vouchers, company matching private part of pension, or others benefits, you can have them from multiple employers, so yes sometimes it happends, thats person is still emloyed by employer nr.1., but is using rest of his accrued vacation to start working for employer nr. 2.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I’m in the UK, where notice periods tend to be 4 weeks – 3 months, depending n the job and seniority (and ocassionally up to 6 months for some senior roles)

        Here, it is fiarly common for people to take leave during their notice period – for instnace, one of my reports is leaving and they have booked the last week of their notice period as leave, so they will be employed for a week after their last day in the office, and we will pay employer tax, pension contributions etc for that week just as we would for any other holiday period.

        Health insurance linked to a job is not common here (some jobs may offer private health insurance as a perk, and so that would continue to cover you until the end of your employment contract) so the issue of being covered by two policies is much less likely to be a thing.

        It’s not usual for people to start their new job before the old contract is finished, stictly speaking they would likely be in breach of contract if they did but unless there were no compete clauses it’s unlikely that anyone would care much. But it would be more common for people to use the leave as leave, and have a bit of a break between finishing one job and starting the next.

        If someone did start the new job early then it would affect their tax and NI, so the new employer would be aware that that was what they were doing. Taxes are deducted at source from your pay packet and paid by the employer to HMRC – normally ythere is a form (P45) completed by the old employer and given to you when you leave, you give it to the new employer to make sure that eveything is set up correctly via the new employer and you pay the correct tax. If you don’t haveyour P45 (perhaps becuase you haven’t yet formally ended your employment with the old employer) then I think you would be put on an emergency tax code until it was available, so you might end up paying more or less tax than was owed in the first month or so, and it being adjsted once the P45 was available, so the new employer would be aware that you’d been working for them before your contract formally ended.

      3. allathian*

        No, they’re covered by the new employer’s policies where appropriate, i.e. the one they’re actually working for.

        Employers usually pay for some occupational health services (preventative care and to ensure same-day visits to the doctor when they need a doctor’s note for time off).

    2. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Here in Belgium the notice period is even codified in law, exact length depends on how long you’ve worked for the company. Notable exceptions to the legal notice period are A) both parties agree to a shorter notice period or B) resignation/dismissal for urgent reason, where the bond of trust between employer and employee is irreparably broken (think employee who steals getting fired effective immediately or an employer asking their employee to do something dangerous without proper training and/or safety equipment causing the employee to resign effective immediately).

    3. MK*

      I don’t think it’s common for people to be technically employed by two employers. My brother-in-law (UK) just gave notice and has a two-month notice period, and he will be taking his accrued PTO at the end of his notice, so essentially he will work, say, another month and then he will have a month of leave till he starts the new job. The new employer knows this, but doesn’t expect him to start early because he isn’t actually working at his previous employer.

      That’s how it generally works in my country too, it is considered reasonable to take a break between jobs. Sometimes, especially in lower-level jobs, the old employer will waive part or all of the notice period and you can start sooner at the new employer. It’s also not unusual for employers to just pay out the accrued leave, if it’s a small sum.

    4. Marion Ravenwood*

      I’m in the UK and here it’s not unusual for people to either take outstanding leave as part of their notice periods (so their actual last working day is earlier than the day they officially leave) or to get the leave cashed out up to a certain amount – usually a maximum of five days worth – which is added to their final pay cheque. Any leave not taken outside of that is just lost. I think I had something like 13 days when I left my last job, so I took five days’ pay and finished a week and a half early, which gave me a really nice break in the run up to Christmas.

    5. Nikki*

      I think a major reason behind the cultural difference is that we don’t have employment contracts or very much vacation time in the US. Because I don’t have a contract, I’m not legally required to give any notice; giving notice is a courtesy in hopes that the employer will give me a good reference in the future. And there’s less concern about employees banking significant vacation time because we just don’t get as much of it. I use my vacation time to take a week off around Christmas, a few long weekends, and maybe another week in the summer, and that burns all of it up for the year.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        All of this – plus the fact that in most cases, our employers don’t have to accept our notice period, they can walk us out the door the same day with no wrong done.

        I’m not saying its smart or good practice, just that it happens. Sometimes there is no rhyme nor reason to it, either.

  11. On the road again …*

    OP3 I’m probably one of your reports (although my team is only 4 lol) and I was previously in your spot with 7 lower-level reports. My 7 were very needy so they each had 2 timeslots per day when they were to email me with work that needed my approval and/or a description of their world-ending problem (but it had to include a suggested solution). If Mary’s email times were 9 and 2, she was my primary focus from 9 to 9:30 and 2 to 2:30. Ferguson could interrupt but he also knew I’d be looking at his emails at 10.
    My current coworkers work much more independently but the system is similar. I send my docs that need approval at 10 and 2 using scheduled send; my coworkers times are in 5 minute increments after me and boss has her calendar blocked for those reviews for 45 minutes, followed by her detailed research time so if she’s done with us early she can get to that earlier. If I have a difficult situation I send an alert at those times too, like “I received 25 updates on the Teapot Kerfluffle this morning that need to be condensed; I expect to email my draft for the Board at 11:30.” Sometimes the reply will be that it’s needed sooner; sometimes the answer will be that she’d rather not get it until 3. The schedule (and scheduled communication times) helps keep everyone on track and on time.

    1. Medusa*

      This sounds like a good idea, but depending on the number of DRs you have, it seems like it might take over your entire day?

      1. it's just the frame of mind*

        Well, if you have a lot of DRs, that might actually make sense. If the idea is you’re supposed to have a huge number of DRs and also be doing substantive non-management work…then that idea is the problem.

    2. Calm Water*

      I was – and still can be! – the needy report. Generally I just want reassurance I’m moving in the right direction and not wasting anyones time which is something I can often get from co workers rather than the boss. Perhaps OP can think about dividing the team into ‘pods’ where they ask each other questions first before coming to OP? Even as I type I can see a bunch of pitfalls and caveats to this but it sounds like OP has built a good team and can harness that power. Or promote someone to assistant manager.

  12. Four lights*

    OP 1: I’m reading a book on child discipline, and your boss sounds like they are pulling all the tricks kids do after they are told “no”. Badgering, martyrdom, buttering up.

    1. John Smith*

      I’d say it’s like trying to leave your partner and they start blackmailing and guilt tripping (I can’t live without you, if you leave I’ll kill myself, etc etc). I’ve been on the receiving end of that and it’s not nice.

      You are not responsible for your boss, her actions or her business – she is.

      Give your notice*, help as much as you can whilst there, leave and don’t look back.

      *Judging by the way she’s treated you, I’d make that notice about 5 minutes.

      1. Batgirl*

        It’s a similar relationship in that it takes two yesses for it to start, or to continue, and only one no for it to cease. You don’t need your boss’s or your partner’s agreement to part ways, or no one would ever break up, or leave a job. I agree with four lights that it’s a childish response; OP was expecting a grown up’s resignation: “I’m sad, but obviously I wish you well.” Now OP has to be grown up enough for both of them and use firmness: “I’m sorry you’re sad, but I have my own responsibilities to prioritize.”

      2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        I think your framing of it as abusive/manipulative instead of childish is important.

        Children seek to manipulate like this because they are egocentric and struggle to understand what they are doing, and why it is wrong. They do not really understand, until taught, that others have motivations and desires and lives outside of the child’s own experience and existence. Learning to behave in a pro-social manner by respecting that fact is a huge part of growing up, and why the standard parenting advice is not to give in when children start trying to manipulate you (when these behaviors work, it reaffirms the egocentric world view that inspired the behavior).

        Adults who engage in the same behavior are (supposed to be) capable of not being egocentric in their thought process – they have had a life time to learn that other people are people, and are not beholden to their whims. This is why it immediately becomes abusive when they revert to using these tools – they’re engaging in with the intent of making you sacrifice your own autonomy and desires, in a way that is fundamentally anti-social and detrimental to yourself and your own interests.

    2. Betty*

      I actually had exactly the same thought about using toddler discipline tactics– affirm the feeling (“You’re feeling really upset and worried about this”), hold the boundary (“But my last day will be X”), offer a choice something that they can control (“would it be more helpful for me to spend my remaining time working on inventory or on writing up documentation about the differences between llama and alpaca hoof decals?”) [Big Little Feelings and Dr. Becky/Good Inside are great resources for this approach]

      1. pancakes*

        I love the idea of using a resource called something like Big Little Feelings to handle a petulant boss. It sound really on point!

  13. nnn*

    A couple of things that might help a bit for #3:

    1. For things that you’d prefer as emails, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask your employees “Please send X and Y requests by email, because [good reason other than not wanting to talk to them]”. An example of a good reason could be “So I can automatically put it on my to-do list with calendar reminders” or “so all the requests are in one place and searchable”.

    2. If the checking in and letting you know what’s up is unnecessary, you could tell your employees “You are authorized/empowered to handle this sort of thing yourself. You don’t need my permission or approval!” Conversely, if checking-in is necessary, maybe scheduled check-ins would help

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      “You are authorized/empowered to handle this sort of thing yourself. You don’t need my permission or approval!” —and then truly be okay with them doing it.

      If they’re not confident in their ability to handle X, when they bring you the problem, before you jump in and solve it, ask them “What do you think we should do?” If they don’t have an answer, tell them to come back once they do. A wonderful boss early in my career did this to me, and it really helped with my confidence (and has made me the go-to for every other boss I’ve had in the following 25 years).

  14. Allonge*

    LW3 – this may or may not make sense for your team but we start each day with a short standup meeting, where everyone will say what their plans are for the day. This is both to coordinate (which is why we do need this daily, we are a super collaborative team) and to get approval for some quick things, both implicit and explicit.

    Now this may not work for your team for any number of reasons, but may be worth considering. It certainly frees up some time afterwards and most days we are done in 15 minutes for a team of 10.

    1. Federal Employee 648975*

      I was going to suggest the same thing. It worked when I had a similar situation where I had nine direct reports who would all descend upon my office right after I got in. Scheduling a short meeting (goal was 20 minutes) really helped not only with the quick approvals and direction the staff needed, but gave them a specific forum to connect with each other and collaborate, which was something they had trouble doing before (prior to my arrival, the standard procedure was to ask the person in my position to to go talk to other members on the team and basically play a game of telephone).

      I did not make the meetings completely mandatory, but said attendance was required unless you were working on something urgent. If someone didn’t make it, I made a point not to ask why because I didn’t want them to feel like they were in trouble. If someone missed two in a row or a several over a short period of time, it was a signal to me they were working on a lot of high priority items or might be overworked, so then I would ask what was going on and if there was any support they needed.

      I scheduled it for a half hour after our official start of business so I had time to check my email. As much as everyone always says there are too many meetings, I found this a really effective way to make sure everyone was getting what they needed and I wasn’t interrupted a dozen times before 9:00 AM. It also meant fewer disruptions later because the team learned that this meeting was a great time to get any input they knew they needed for the day, so they’d prepare in advance, instead of just ad hoc requests throughout the day.

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        As a non-manager, daily meetings, no matter how short, would be absolute torture for some people. I’m one of them. I’m not in kindergarten, let me do my job!

        1. Allonge*

          We know. OP has a specific problem, and this is one of the possible solutions. Handling everything via chat or email or carrier pidgeon would also be a possible solution, and just as problematic for a lot of people.

        2. Lady_Lessa*

          I think it depends upon the situation. At my previous job, with my first manager, I started checking in with him daily. Basically, I wanted to let him know that I was there, partly due to safety issues since I worked in a locked lab with only a technician. Turned out to be a nice way to keep up with projects and issues.

          Same job, new managers the meeting expanded and turned into a major time waster.

        3. allathian*

          Daily standup meetings are appropriate in situations like the OP’s where people need to collaborate closely. They wouldn’t work at all for my team, because my job requires very little collaboration, and most of what’s required doesn’t have to be synchronous. Some other members of my team collaborate more, but mainly with their internal clients rather than within the team. The other reason why daily standups wouldn’t work is that we have very flexible working hours, with no core hours. The only expectation is to attend the meetings we’ve agreed to attend, but that’s it. I like to start early so that I can finish early, although sometimes I prefer to break the day with a longer lunch hour instead. My coworker who does the same job that I do starts late, takes long breaks because he likes to exercise during the day, and works late. The other team members have their own schedules, which tend to be more standard than either mine or my coworker’s because they attend so many more meetings than we do.

        4. djc*

          Daily stand-up meetings are common in industries like software development. I think in OP’s situation, it sounds like a good solution.

          I also prefer to work independently and don’t need constantly check in with my manager. However having one consolidated time for people to review their issues. Just make sure the meetings stay short.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            This is where I fall. The one place we had them it made sense. Our boss was always on travel or in meetings, so they days she was there she’d be swamped with requests and need for signatures (ah government and your love for the live signature). She se up a 15 minute check in meeting every day she was in the office (usually 3ish days a week) where we told her what we were up to, got things signed, asked about scheduling things she needed to attend, figured out who had the laptops and hotspots, etc.. I found it helpful and the meetings were well run so we sometimes only took 10 minutes.

        5. KRM*

          But this meeting is literally helping people to do their jobs! I have a friend who has this in her job, and it’s very helpful for the team to see how things are going, who might need a quick hand or ran into a roadblock yesterday afternoon, but look someone else here on the team can pull X for them real quick and help out. They benefit from it. If everyone is status quo and it’s all good, they’re done after 5′. If there’s a real problem, they can discuss it for the meeting time. But people are benefiting from the meeting, so it has value.

        6. Loulou*

          It wouldn’t be my choice, but a short, daily, work-related meeting is really not torture. The extremely strong anti-meeting sentiment here is just not helpful to OPs who need solutions to their problems.

          Fwiw, my workplace has extremely poor communication and I wish we met more (and that our meetings were more focused when they happened).

        7. Critical Rolls*

          M. Federal has presented a course of action that is effective for their workplace, and given context for it. We all know many people dislike meetings on principle, but when someone here says, “This worked for us in this context” it’s really unhelpful to just say “Oh, I would hate that!” Sure, then you’d probably be a bad fit for a highly collaborative workplace that actually needs daily meetings. What does that add to the conversation?

        8. Buzzybeeworld*

          If the LW is frequently conveying the same information or answering the same questions to multiple employees throughout the day, having one short daily meeting to align everyone all at once is the best use of everyone’s time.

        9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I am probably on record on this site by now as one of the people that are adamantly against wasteful, unnecessary meetings, and I say this is a really good idea in OP’s case. If OP’s team ambushes OP the moment they walk in the door, that tells me they *need* a daily session like that.

          I’ve worked on agile teams for the last 4-5 years, had daily standups on and off since 2006 and regularly when on agile teams, and this is the one kind of meeting I can fully get behind. They’ve been very efficient and helpful for the team in my experience. As long as they are kept short and sweet, and everybody gets to give their update (with a followup scheduled for later if needed, so that one person doesn’t hijack the whole standup) they are a big big help.

      2. Ray Gillette*

        Sometimes it’s not too many meetings, it’s too many useless meetings. My team has had a daily standup since well before I became the manager. When we transitioned to remote back in 2020 (and thought it was going to be temporary), I introduced what I’d intended to be a temporary afternoon standup to help us stay connected. About a year in, the company made the decision to eliminate the office and go 100% remote, and I asked everyone if they wanted to keep the afternoon standup or cancel it. Everyone said they wanted to keep it.

        1. Person of Interest*

          Yup, we are about 90% remote, and we do a Monday morning standup for 15-20 minutes to see what everyone’s big ticket priorities are for the week and flag anything we need to address in the longer team meeting later in the week or in our individual meetings – it helps to identify/focus priorities and also stay connected.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Another possible solution: OP3, do you have a couple of reliable reports who you could designate as team leads? (or whatever title makes sense). Basically hand off the daily monitoring and coordinating. You’d have to look at their current tasks and maybe offload a bit so they aren’t overwhelmed too. You have a large and successful team; a slight restructure might be needed to keep things flowing smoothly, as well as give promising reports a chance at new tasks/skills.

      1. Sara without an H*

        I was on my way to say the same thing. OP3, see if there’s any way you can restructure your team to create a couple of smaller units with their own team leads. That will take some of the pressure off you and provide some development opportunities.

    3. Anima*

      Yes, my workplace does that, too, and it rarely takes more than 15 min. The meeting is set for 30 min, so enough time to troubleshoot and give tasks to people after the basic who-does-what. The meeting is also set 30 min after the expected start hour, so everyone comes in prepared.
      It’s my first job in a new to me industry, but I suspect more than 15 people per meeting will derail it, so I guess it’s best for smaller teams.

  15. talos*

    Related to #3: a manager I dotted-line report to for the project I work on has:
    – about 20 direct reports spread across, literally, 10-15 different projects (only 4 of the direct reports are on the project this manager manages)
    – another 10-15 dotted-line reports that they work with closely for the project (and we dotted-line reports are under 4 other managers, we work across multiple functional areas, and two of those manager groups are contractors so they have to keep track of contractor policy as well)
    – oversight of a super junior new manager who directly manages 15 more people (but my understanding is that my dotted-line manager winds up doing a lot of the management work for those people)
    – a lot of project management/planning work on this project, which has them both doing independent work and working in various degrees of closeness with like 30 other people, almost all of whom are in some way subordinate to this person and expect some degree of managerial guidance from them

    Notably, I have interacted with my dotted-line manager twice ever because this is not a feasible management workload.

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      Unfortunately eliminating middle management and flattening reporting lines is very popular right now. My very large company you have definitely heard of has been going through the process of firing managers without enough direct reports and making sure everyone is loaded up with management responsibilities. It’s supposedly more efficient but when you are a producing manager with your own work to do, it’s a fast track to burn out.

    2. LW3*

      Don’t get me started on how much I hate “dotted-line reports. ” They tried to foist a few of those on me and I flat out refused. Their direct manager is in multiple hour-long meetings per week and people go to who can meet their needs. 1 . . 2 . . 3 . . NOT IT.

    3. Iroqdemic*

      Oh man, when I left middle management 4 years ago for my current team, I had 19 (!) direct reports. It was exhausting managing that many people.

  16. Gnome*

    #2 When I was helping manage a team during COVID, the manager I was assisting had everyone report up what they did during a week and what they thought they would be working on the next week. This started before I was assigned to assist with managing and I felt it was pretty onerous, but since the team was highly matixed (supporting multiple projects that fall under multiple managers simultaneously), it WAS helpful for tracking when issues cropped up. Like if a person got pulled into project A for almost a whole week and had planned on working half the week on B. Even then, it wasn’t particularly helpful! I got those dropped nas soon as I could in favor of actually talking to the staff about what they were working on.

    1. MK*

      It’s not that work reports are universally an unreasonable requirement. In mine, for example, I work could a specific caseload, so it would be easy to take 5 minutes of every day to write “I worked of cases A, B and C. Case A is in progress status X, case B in Y and case C in Z”. It would be pretty useless to do it daily, but, say monthly reports wouldn’t be unreasonable. But not every job is compatible with that.

  17. Observer*

    #1 – Leave. On your schedule, not hers.

    Alison and the commenters have already covered most of the pertinent points.

    In the US you get to leave whenever you want, even if you were a full time employee.

    Based on the description of your duties, you couldn’t be classified as an independent contractor, which means you can’t trust anything she says about your obligations or rights. Either she has no clue and is making an honest mistake in mis-classifying you or she knows what she’s doing and doesn’t care to make sure that she’s fulfilling her obligations and respecting your rights.

    You don’t have an obligation to put your sanity, health and / or career change in jeopardy to insure that her business will thrive. But her “reasons” for not being “able” to hire someone to replace you make me not even have sympathy for her. “No one wants to work” and “everyone is a thief” don’t really reflect well on her.

    Give your notice at the end of a day – and have something scheduled for right after work. Use Alison’s language and then tell her that you MUST get out because you have an appointment that you need to keep. You don’t have to do have that appointment, but I suspect that it’s going to be easier for you to walk out when she starts the waterworks again, if you have a real excuse ready to go.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Agreed. Saying OP is the only person in the world that is competent and trustworthy is deeply manipulative (and makes me think that the tears are just manipulation as well). I have very little sympathy for people who try to pull that kind of thing.

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        “deeply manipulative”— thank you for using the exactly perfect wording that I couldn’t put my finger on! OP, I know you like her, but the behavior you describe is what abusers use when their partner tries to leave. Get out. You’ll just end up resentful if you stay.

    2. emmelemm*

      People who think everyone is out to steal/is untrustworthy are usually untrustworthy themselves! That’s why they think that way!

  18. Observer*

    #2 YOu say that The staff all see right through it, but feel as though there’s no choice. I’ve asked friends who are managers about it and they all think it’s BS. Is this even a legit management technique? I feel gaslit by the contradicting justifications and dismissal of my concerns.

    Of course they see right through it, but they also really DO NOT have a choice. But the contradictory justifications are all the proof you need that your friends are correct and this is a load of malarkey.

  19. Sleepy cat*

    #3 Are you having regular scheduled check-ins with the people you manage? If not, that might help.

  20. PannaLisenka*

    LW2: Ooooh, I’ve been there pre-plague. My coworker complained to my boss that I wasn’t able to complete all my tasks while WFH due to an illness. Boss asked me to start logging all I have been doing. So I did. Very precisely. Here are some sample entries, with things like „filing a document” or „going through the data” omitted.

    2:30 Reminded Coworker to submit the report we are all waiting for
    2:55 Reminded Coworker where the crucial files are and went through the logging process with her again
    3:15 Forwarded to Coworker an email I sent 30 minutes ago and she refused to look for in her inbox
    3:40 Got into a lengthy discussion with Coworker about how if she is late for a meeting, I will not tell the client to wait for her for 20 minutes
    4:20 Reminded Coworker to finally mark all done tasks in Trello „done”

    1. I Wore Pants Today*

      I did this too when my team lost someone that mgmt refused to replace, and they wondered why my projects were on the back burner. Every little thing was reported, including responding to excessive hand-holding emails from the mgmt team. They stopped bugging me eventually when they figured out they already had the answers – they just were too lazy to look.

    2. Skytext*

      Ooooh, PannaLisenka, what happened when your boss got those reports? I’m dying to know lol.

          1. PannaLisenka*

            That’s not the outcome I expected either, my friend. Not in the slightest.

            Just to make sure it is expressed explicitly – I was NOT informed Coworker will be privy to my logs.

          2. RagingADHD*

            It wasn’t? Why not?

            I mean, the “bullying” aspect is a unique take, but if I submitted snarky reports to my manager I would absolutely expect them to can my ass.

            If the manager / employee relationship is that far gone in the first place, you have to know you’re on the way out. Surely you’d have to realize.

            1. Middle School Teacher*

              I completely agree. There’s a lot of badassery here about malicious compliance but how can anyone be surprised when it comes back to bite them?

              1. pancakes*

                Yeah, I don’t know about firing but I would not expect an approach like this to go over well.

            2. PannaLisenka*

              Thing is it wasn’t supposed to be snarky. This was honest to God reality of my work: being my Coworkers babysitter. I was being open, honest and transparent in order to showcase how much of my time is spent on managing the tasks of someone who is my equal.

              Altough I can certainly accept the feedback that apparently I failed at that, since other commenters agree with you!

              1. RagingADHD*

                I think you could have conveyed the same facts in far more neutral language.

                Follow up on (thing) with Coworker.
                Review logging procedure with Coworker.
                Forward copy of previous email to Coworker, per request.
                Phone call with Coworker re: client meeting.

                And so forth. The details about “coworker refused” and “20 minutes late” etc is just editorial commentary. You could leave all that frustration out and even a barely competent manager could see the pattern just fine.

                1. PannaLisenka*

                  That’s actually very helpful advice. I am on the AS and this would have not occurred to me. Thank you!

        1. Critical Rolls*

          It’s such a cliche (and unhelpful in the moment) to say you’re better off, but wow, you are almost certainly better off. Management that gets told about a problem employee and promptly shoots the messenger deserves the dysfunction they end up with.

        2. Just stoppin' by to chat*

          Wow…that coworker was either related to the manager of knew the dirt or something like that!

    3. grey anatomy*

      If you are going to share a story about behavior that got you fired on a workplace advice blog, you should really be explicit about the outcome. Framing it as a funny story of malicious compliance suggests to other readers that this is an acceptable way to act in a professional environment, which it clearly is not.

      Allison has expressed worry recently that expectations outlined in comments are considerably out of step with the realities of the modern workplace, and I think we should all be mindful of this and try and improve the situation.

    4. SnappinTerrapin*

      I’d like to remind your critics that this started because your coworker was accusing you of being the bottleneck while you were WFH.

      In that context, it is a bit surprising that the boss called you the bully.

      Would it have been better to be more diplomatic in your response? Maybe, but it is likely the boss would have taken coworker’s side anyway. It might not have mattered whether or how you responded.

      1. pancakes*

        Being accused of creating a bottleneck isn’t a good reason to get heavily sarcastic in emails about it. I also don’t think it’s a good idea for people to be thinking “maybe nothing I do matters” when considering how to handle something at work. Even in the situations where it’s true that they’re powerless to change the dynamics, there’s nothing to be gained by treating it as an opportunity to be maximally sarcastic.

    5. DaniCalifornia*

      I like this malicious compliance. I feel like each day on my report my last line would be 4:45 – 5:00pm “Filled out WFH task list”

  21. Beth*

    LW2: The staff is right, both that this is BS and that there is no choice. Your management team doesn’t know how to actually pay attention to productivity and results, so they’re trying to recreate an outdated butts-in-seats management style for a remote work world. They’re telling you it’s not about trust because 1. telling you they don’t trust you would be pretty bad messaging, and 2. they may genuinely not think of it as a question of trust; it’s just the only way they know how to manage, and since they don’t have alternatives they don’t realize how bad it is. It also sounds like the time sheets are already turning into administrative bloat, a task which everyone does because it’s required rather than because anyone actually uses the results; you’re being told the reports aren’t read closely, after all.

    None of this is something you can act on. As staff, you probably don’t have the power to change management’s approach, even if it’s a bad approach. You can either accept that this is how it is and submit the sheets, or find a new job and opt out of the system by quitting. If you decide to stay, it might help to frame it in your mind as a BS thing that you do to meet the policy and that probably no one will read closely.

    1. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      Finding a new job IS a way of acting on it, and this employer would be well-served if the whole staff did that.

    2. BethDH*

      There’s also a newish mindset that data can solve everything if we just get enough of it. It has become possible to track almost everything so people do it without having a clear idea if they’re gathering the right data.
      Managers are just as susceptible to the idea that productivity apps will revolutionize their lives as anyone else.

      1. Frustrated worker*

        I’m very much looking for a new job (as are other staff members), but have been ghosted a few times recently after an initial interview. As for the manager, it’s got zero to do with data. Their mindset/approach is firmly in the 1980s on most things. As for productivity apps? If you asked them what a productivity app was they’d just give you a blank look. They’re a Luddite (which is a subject for an entirely different post).

  22. Storm in a teacup*

    LW3 I agree with everything Alison has said. I found office hours worked well for me. Also I was very open with my team on what I was working on so they all new I had an important, time sensitive report to send in the first couple of days each month they were more mindful about interruptions for only urgent stuff.
    In addition – have you told your team you trust them? This feels a bit performative and if the work culture was toxic before, they may be interrupting you as they need reassurance you know they are working. Are you having regular 1-1 with your team ? Maybe a short, regular 1-1 each team member will make them feel certain things can wait until their time to see you, especially if you steer them towards that. You could also use it as an opportunity to give them feedback on how they’re doing and build their confidence on what they can handle themselves.
    Alternatively are there a mix of more senior and junior people within your team? It might be worth having a discussion with your management about restructuring your team to have a couple of more senior Team Leads who can help support the operational running of the team including first port of call for a number of queries coming to you. If your team has some staff already being paid more – reflect that in the team structure to help support you and to develop them to get more experience in leadership too.

    1. Sara without an H*

      One thing OP3 said struck me: After I took over this position (in a fairly toxic company culture that’s in repair mode)

      I once oversaw a department with a problematic manager who, fortunately for all concerned, left to take another job in the same organization. (Short version: Jane had no prior management experience, the department was too large, she played favorites and took everything personally. I’ve never been happier to have an employee give notice.) After Jane left, I split the department into two work groups (this made sense given the kind of work they did) and appointed group leaders.

      I also assured all the staff that I trusted their expertise (some of them had been there for close to a decade), and that I trusted them to use their best judgement for getting the work done. Sounds good, right? But it took some time for them to believe me and be convinced that I wouldn’t suddenly turn into the Micromanager from Hades.

      I wonder if something similar is in play in OP#3’s situation? If there’s been a history of toxic management, OP3’s staff may be seeking extra reassurance that what they’re doing is what OP3 wants and that they’re not going to get yelled at.

      1. LW3*

        There’s definitely some of that happening. But think people who have been with the company, and been abused by it, for longer than I have been alive.

        We basically have 2 classes of people — staffers who have been abused and seem to want daily reassurance and staffers so young and inexperienced they actually need supervision.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Hi, LW3 — You have my sympathy, it’s a tough situation and will probably take time to resolve. I still think it might be helpful to experiment with some organizational changes. Do you have someone with enough experience that they could be a team leader for the newbies? Have the team leader deal with the day-to-day stuff, while they all get to sit down with you on a regular schedule?

          For the long-term staff who are still recovering from abuse, my only advice is to provide structure and exercise a lot of patience. See if you can back away from providing on-the-fly check-ins for them and instead make yourself available for office hours at set times.

          And please be sure to keep your own manager in the loop. Good luck!

        2. Storm in a teacup*

          Hi LW3!
          It sounds like it’s going to take time to change the culture.
          Maybe building the confidence of the experienced staffers by asking them to support the juniors where you think they can – maybe specific tasks? – could help the newbies get more support and the other staff to feel valued or respected. Of course in a way they’re not taken advantage of but rewarded for taking this on?

        3. Brin*

          Manager here. Schedule a weekly 1-on-1 with each of your reports. Tell them they are welcome to come to you outside these times if necessary, but their 1-on-1 is scheduled, guaranteed time they will have with you to address anything they need. Knowing you have time set aside with your manager can help prevent the panicked feeling of “if I don’t get their input now everyone else will take up their time and I’ll lose my chance.” Also, block a few hours each day where you are busy and are not to be interrupted unless someone is bleeding or on fire, so you can focus on your other work. The first few weeks you may have to kindly, but firmly enforce these boundaries. Explain you need some focus time just like they do. Close your door if you have to.

          The ambushing you right when you come in thing needs to stop. That’s a terrible start to your day. I once had a coworker who got to work hours before anyone else, so he was good and settled by the time I was walking in the door. The literal minute I sat down at my desk he’d be leaning against the frame of my office wanting to talk. I’m not a morning person and felt like he was stealing my prep time for the day. I finally had to tell him that I needed him to give me 30 minutes to get into “social mode”- have my coffee, check my emails, etc. and would come say hello once I was fully awake (and to his credit, he respected that!). Tell your reports you need them to give you a few minutes to settle in before the hectic workday begins.

          Setting three boundaries can feel mean but you’re actually being kind by teaching and reinforcing good working habits, and not condoning behavior that will ultimately cause you to resent your team.

    2. DataQueen*

      Seconding that office hours worked well for me. I was feeling overwhelmed by “quick chats” and wasn’t getting work done, but simultaneously got feedback that my team (~30 people) didn’t find me accessible and “didn’t want to bother me with questions because I was so busy”. So I set up twice weekly office hours, where I sit on Zoom and wait for someone to show up. I was hesitant at first because it felt patronizing – like who am I that I can dictate when you talk to me? But it works so well! Some days, no one shows up, some days I have a line of 5 people waiting for answers or advice. And sometimes, people just come on to chitchat, which is a nice side effect as well. Highly recommend the office hours!!

  23. JB*

    Re: #4:

    Please don’t ever write a letter that greets a person with their first and last name (“Dear Jane Smith”). It’s absolutely the most impersonal, form letter-esque thing you can do. First name only or Mr./Ms. Smith, depending on level of formality, are really your only two options.

    1. talos*

      With the obligatory mention that getting the correct title for gender, marital status, willingness to discuss marital status in professional context, etc. can be difficult.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I have done the dear full-name in the past when it’s across cultural divides and I couldn’t find out the correct form of address (for example, couldn’t find out gender, unclear which name is first or last) even with some googling. In that case, I will copy the person’s sign-off name completely, because that has the least chance of being offensive. “Dear Lesley Smith” is better than “Dear Mr. or Mrs. Smith (don’t know the gender of that first name)”. And yes, I have received correspondence with that exact parenthetical, even though my name isn’t even gender neutral. Don’t do that.

      But in this case, OP knows the person, so the correct formal or personal address should be clear.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I once got “Hello dear!!!” across a cultural divide. Everything about the ensuing email was bizarre (you ask me to take on specific assignments; you don’t assign me to take tests unrelated to my field), except that it appeared to legitimately come from an international company I had worked with before. I forwarded it to a US contact there with a note that I was definitely not clicking on any links, but wanted them to know this was going out to their freelancers under their name.

        1. KRM*

          We used to get bulk buffers from a supplier and the plant is in Lithuania. For a stretch of time I’d get emails that said “Hello dears” and then had all the shipping information for the buffers. I chalked it up to a literal translation issue and had a chuckle every time I saw it.

    3. allathian*

      I’ve always been pretty puzzled by this and I’m hoping that the convention will change as the workforce becomes more diverse. I’m hoping that gendered titles will disappear completely, although I’m not holding my breath on that.

      Never mind that sometimes knowing which is the given/chosen name and which is the family name is difficult, if the names aren’t from your own culture. So using the string of names in the same order as you see them is sometimes the only option.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        oh, yeah, gendered titles are kind of a minefield. I have a PhD now, so “Dr. Noether” is an appropriate gender-neutral way to adress me, but I’m not recommending everyone get one just for that reason, hah.

        The French often use all-caps for family names to differentiate from given names, it’s a really useful practice.

        1. Talvi*

          I had the worst time filling out forms when I was in France — they asked for Nom and Prénom, when I (coming from Canada) expected Nom and Nom de famille!

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        I sometimes have to write emails to distinguished academics and therefore have the occasional dilemma about whether to address someone as “Dear Professor Sir or Dame [Surname]”.
        I usually start out just using the academic title, because Professor Sir or Professor Dame just looks strange in an email.

    4. Toaster Oven*

      Oooh, this must be field-specific — “Dear Jane Smith” is perfectly acceptable for formal correspondence in the context I work in (though “Dear [Title] Smith” would be better) whereas “Dear Jane” makes me cringe.

      1. Heather*

        Just curious, where are you from? I’m in the Midwest in the US and even “Dear Jane” sounds formal to me – I quite often send and receive emails to/from people I’ve never met with openings like “Hi Heather, I was given your name by XYZ and I was hoping you could help me with…”. Anything more formal than that would be taken as really stilted in my industry and area. But of course these things vary a lot!

    5. BubbleTea*

      My team often gets emails addressed to “dear sirs”, sometimes in response to an email sent by an individual from the team. In the sector we work in, it would be a statistically reasonable assumption to guess that we are likely to be female, but regardless, “dear sirs” is just straight up incorrect and a terrible way to reply to an email clearly sent by “BubbleTea Surname”.

  24. Panda Bandit*

    “She is looking to retire soon, so she thinks that hiring someone else would also be a waste of time for them, if she is just going to retire in a year anyway and have them be out of a job.”

    It’s not a waste of time because the new employee would have a job for a year and they can take that experience and those skills into their next job. And it’s not a waste of time for the boss because she’d have an employee for the next year until she retires.

    1. Luna*

      I agree with this. My current job is contracted to last only a year, although the chance of it being extended/renewed for another year is very likely. But that does not mean I am somehow in a bad position. Certainly, it may be ‘only’ a year, but it is also ‘still’ a year of work, income, and experience. And it’s something that can also cover a gap of unemployment, and any question about it in later job interviews can easily and honestly be answered with, “The contract was limited to one year” and, in this small store’s case, can have “due to the owner deciding to retire soon” added to it.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      If boss thinks it’s a waste of time she can retire now and save herself the trouble.

      But she’s not planning to do that, because that’s not really what she wants–she wants leverage to get the LW to stay.

    3. BethDH*

      Besides, if OP leaves in December instead of August (if I’m recalling the months correctly), the boss has to hire someone for 8 months instead of a year. How is that better? It’s total garbage, whether the boss just hasn’t thought it through or is intentionally planning to just stretch OP’s commitment a few months at a time.

    4. Jackalope*

      Plus if it’s a retail situation, which is what I understood, then that’s super common. Many retail jobs last for shorter periods of time and people expect that.

    5. Observer*

      It’s not a waste of time because the new employee would have a job for a year and they can take that experience and those skills into their next job. And it’s not a waste of time for the boss because she’d have an employee for the next year until she retires.
      Reply

      Someone used the phrase “sane world reasoning” to me recently. I think that this phrase applies to your comment. OF COURSE it’s not a “waste of time” to hire someone. But that’s only obvious if you are trying to be reasonable and realistic. But Boss is not trying to be realistic.

      OP, keep this in mind. Just because your boss is insisting on using deeply unreasonable and unrealistic reasoning, it doesn’t mean that you have to buy into it. In a sane world, a year of employment is NOT a waste of time. Especially if the boss is actually a decent person and would be willing to server as a reference after the store closed down.

  25. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW2, because I work for a law firm I record my time incredibly accurately (that is, in six-minute intervals) and have done since before I began WFH. Spouse is a tech consultant and does similar, though I think in quarter-hours. This is chiefly for billing purposes, and nobody actually stands over you with a stopwatch, so it just becomes part of the routine of work along with saving files and yawning through stand-ups.

    I think if you can work out a comfortable way to minimise its impact on you then you will be able to meet the requirement without feeling as oppressed by it. For example, I keep an auto-saving document open all the time and just add to it every time I stop a task. It isn’t clear to me whether you’re being asked to record “09.05-09.35 reviewing Llama Corp contract” or “30 mins drafting footcare guidelines” but either way the time spent recording the details of each task is part of the time on that task just as fetching the file would be or waiting for the printer or even pouring coffee, and only minimal detail is needed.

    The kind of employer who would rather have someone in the office playing Minesweeper than at home preparing TPS reports doesn’t understand what management is. Your friends are right that this is BS in context; unfortunately it’s still going to be a hoop you have to jump through.

    1. len*

      I think this is helpful advice. It’s an annoying requirement but the level of emotional response in the letter (anxiety, gaslit) seems disproportionate and unhelpful for the LW.

    2. Sad Desk Salad*

      When I was in law school, I asked a seasoned attorney what their least-favorite part of being a lawyer was and promptly got “working in six-minute increments.”

      I’m in-house, and I love that I don’t have to bill. The few times I did, I was so paranoid about time recording I almost literally had a stopwatch on my desk (indeed, my phone stopwatch, so strike the “almost”).

      1. pancakes*

        It’s a drag. In my experience the thing to do is make timekeeping a strict daily routine, and do not under any circumstances let entering it into the system pile up. I jot it down on paper at my desk so that by the time I go to enter it at the end of the day, I’m just transferring info from one place to another.

    3. LilyP*

      Yeah, I would not keep pushing back on this. You’re in the right in the abstract, but they’ve told you really clearly that this is not going to change, and continuing to argue about it will likely make people who think this way assume you’re trying to get away with slacking off. Instead, I’d dig into why this is causing you anxiety, especially after people have reassured you that your reports are fine and they don’t have any concerns about your work timing. I think for most people this is annoying/silly but not anxiety-provoking. Could you have a frank conversation with your boss about what her expectations are for “enough time” or “enough progress” when working from home and whether she’s satisfied with your current output/reports? Or ask about under what circumstances she would retract WFH approval, or what kinds of red flags or patterns she would be concerned about?

      Finally, if accurate time tracking is important to your management maybe they’d be willing to reimburse you for a Timeular or a similar gadget? You might find that a system where you quickly log a change whenever you switch tasks is less stressful than having to recreate a lot at the end of the day

  26. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: even if you told your employer here in the UK that you won’t leave you still have the right to change your mind and put in your notice. It’s like leaving a relationship that is no longer working: you don’t have to get the approval of the other person to say ‘no, I’m done, it’s over’

    They may try sobbing again and ‘but you lied!’ but hold fast – you didn’t lie, you were pressured into saying something you didn’t mean under duress.

    If the company goes under when you leave it is absolutely not your fault. It’s the fault of incompetent management who don’t realise a single point of failure is never a good idea.

  27. Luna*

    LW2, my question when told ‘I barely read [the reports]’ would be ‘Then why do we have to do them?’
    If they are not made due to so-called ‘trust issues’ (which it totally isn’t, shifty eyes…), they are not impacting your work evaluation, they are not being read, etc, then they are pointless. Your boss should really think if they should admit about why the reports are done, be it the trust issues/need to micromanage, or just let them be dropped. Because if they are useless and barely read, you could fill them with the lyrics of Elephants On Parade and nobody would notice. It’s a waste of time and, in your case, an unnecessary addition of anxiety.

    LW5, I don’t think it’s too bad to go on vacation for a week during your X-weeks notice. Slightly different circumstance, but when I was let go from my badly-run hotel job, I was told to work the next four days, take one day off due to overtime, and would then have my typical two-days-off, and take a week’s worth of vacation for the second week.
    …incidentally, the week they wanted me to take vacation was a week I had already requested to have vacation, and it had been approved. So, I would presume it would work out, anyway. It wasn’t a large or tiny team working front desk, and we had new people coming in, so I was sure that there was no need for me to worry about coverage the week I was gone. Not that I should have to, as I was not working there anymore and, well, not my monkeys, not my business anymore.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      That was my reaction to the “I barely read them” line, too.

      OP2, some people upthread have mentioned doing the bare minimum for a report (and/or just copying the previous week’s/day’s report). This is the least effort on your part and you can do this until a manager demands more detail, which may be never because the managers aren’t reading the reports.

      Conversely, if you want to ensure your reports are never read, pack as much detail into them as possible. If you don’t have a strict format, I suggest a wall of text (sentences, no paragraph breaks) play-by-play of your day (or the lyrics of Elephants On Parade as Luna mentions). Your manager will see you submitted a report and have no desire to read it.

    2. BethDH*

      I’m going to guess that it gives them ammunition if they want to get rid of someone. Six months from now: “you’re not working enough! You only tracked 6.5 hours on days x, y, z” or “you’re spending too long on projects so you’re not productive enough! You spent 40 hours on the Jones account in May and you should have finished it in 35!”

    3. AnonToday*

      It seems like the higher ups are requiring it, not LW’s direct supervisor. I have a similar situation where I have to write a detailed report even though I only wfh one day a week. My boss is not requiring it, she knows whether I’m finishing things or making normal progress in my work. But the CEO hates wfh and this is reflected in the related policies. (I suspect they didn’t have the guts to take it away due to peoples’ childcare issues.)

      1. Frustrated worker*

        It’s my direct supervisor who is also the executive director. It’s a very tiny nonprofit.

  28. John*

    LW1, when your boss says no one wants to work, she’s saying that she’s had trouble finding employees willing to accept the terms of employment she offers, because she’s taking advantage of you.

    Run.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      This, exactly. People want to work, but they don’t want to work for someone who underpays, cheats, and manipulates.

    2. Antilles*

      Yes, yes, yes. When the boss says “no one wants to work anymore”, what she actually means is that “no one wants to work anymore [b]at the salary I’m offering[/b]”.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        “At the salary or under the conditions I’m offering.”

        I’ve seen a lot of people saying the second half as well, of late.

  29. Madame Arcati*

    LW1 – it’s a part time job in your old field when you are going to grad school in your new field where you have another part time job. And old field job boss might retire soon. Even if you do burn a bridge, why the heck should you care? What can the bridge ever do for you in future? The bridge might not even be there after a year.
    (Also, it’s got a troll living under it – don’t let it eat you for supper).

  30. Timesheet Hell*

    LW2: it could always be worse. My managers trust us so little that we have to report our time 4 different ways each day AND submit a monthly report restating everything in those reports! Every morning we have to send an email the second we log on with what we intend to work on that day. We then have to bill our time on whatever contracts we worked on (this is how my industry works and actually makes sense). Then we have to fill out and sign a form at the end of the day stating what we actually did, which we have to attach to an email explaining what we actually did (in a slightly different format, so we can’t copy paste). Every single day I spend a minimum of 30 minutes filling out timesheets and then 3-5 hours at the end of the month to rewrite everything into the monthly report.
    I try to focus on the fact that, as an hourly employee, this is hurting the company more than me. But man does it drive me insane when I get to the end of a busy day and can’t immediately log off because I have to fill out all my timesheets.

  31. Katie*

    For OP3 are these jobs documented well? If not, have them documented. If they are well documented, a question should always be, have you checked the job aids? Or always check other pieces of support before talking to you.
    Do they all do like work? Have them ask each other before coming to you.
    Stand-ups/short meetings are productive as well if specifically used to discuss issues.

    1. LW3*

      That’s not really how our field works, re: jobs being documented. The basic premise and standards are understood, but the actual product we produce varies wildly from day-to-day and it requires a lot of judgement on everyone’s part to be able to do that.

      I’m tempted to start those stand-up meetings, despite them sometimes clashing with our irregular schedules. Some of it isn’t even the content of the conversations that is the problem — it’s the irregularity of the disruption.

  32. Blackhole*

    LW3 – How responsive are you by email? Are you in the office every day?

    I had a Manager who split time between 2 offices, the main office and the satellite office. She was in our office once/week. When she was in our office, she had a steady stream of people at her door because that was the only way to get any answers or direction from her. She would always say that we could send her emails but she never responded to emails. It was like sending emails to a black hole.

    Maybe look at your email responsiveness in addition to blocking off time.

  33. Falling Diphthong*

    “It’s really for your own benefit so you know what you did when it’s time for the annual review.”

    So if someone were to, say, steal all the time reports and put them in a box and take them out to a back road and burn the–or feed the pages to bears, or dangle the files over a powerful electromagnet while reciting Bond villain lines–this company would then have no idea what anyone did this year? Might not even remember what the company itself did, unless some employee had gotten the company motto as a back tattoo?

    …. It’s Lumon Industries, isn’t it?

    1. Katie*

      I agree in general that people should keep a record of their accomplishments throughout the year, versus trying to sum it up at one time during the year. People forget all the stuff they have done if it’s not kept track of. However keeping a daily record of what you did is not that.

  34. Turingtested*

    LW 1, your boss should have been prepared if for some reason you could no longer work long before you put in your notice. 4 weeks is a lot of time to prepare for your departure.

    I have no doubt that your boss feels overwhelmed at the prospect of you leaving. However, she’s the business owner. You will not reap the benefits of the business staying open or being sold.

    If you’d like to, perhaps you and your boss can come up with a timeline and you could delay your end date by a week or two. (Like, weeks 1-3, interview. Week 4 hire. Week 5 & 6, train.) But you’ll need to stand firm that the end date is the end date.

    There’s very little in this for you and a lot in this for your boss. Did she offer you a significant raise and/or better hours or in any way attempt to sweeten the pot or did she just make an emotional plea?

  35. anonymous73*

    #1 your boss is manipulating you and you need to stop letting her do it. Everything she mentioned to you when she was crying on your shoulder is a HER problem, not a YOU problem. And don’t believe her when she says she’ll be okay with you leaving in December. She’ll probably turn on the waterworks again and convince you to stay even longer – why wouldn’t she? It worked this time. NEVER choose loyalty over what’s best for you. Anyone that would guilt you into staying at a job does not have your best interests in mind. Tell her you’ve thought about it and you’re sticking with your original end date. If she starts in on the guilt again, stop her and say “I’ve made my decision and you need to respect it.”

  36. Hlao-roo*

    OP#5, I once gave 2.5 weeks notice when I was leaving a job. I gave more than 2 weeks because (1) I trusted the company to not push me out early, (2) I wanted to take 1 vacation day during my notice period, and (3) it was logistically best for me to give notice on a Wednesday and work my last day on a Friday.

    This is all to show that IF your company would handle three weeks notice well (not push you out early, let you take your vacation), this could be a good solution for you and not totally unheard of in the professional world.

  37. anonymous73*

    #2 trying to convince you that they trust you, while also saying that you need to report your duties for the day because they can’t “see” you is hypocritical and it’s not going to change. So you can either continue to do what they ask, or look for a new job. Personally I’d start looking for something else because I refuse to be micromanaged like I’m a toddler.
    #3 I agree with Alison…setting boundaries is step number 1. You mention that you work in a toxic culture that’s in repair…could this behavior be a result of the previous toxic manager that you replaced? If that’s the case, keep that in mind when setting your boundaries and expectations.
    #4 I have never, in my 25+ years of working in a professional environment addressed a recruiter, hiring manager, colleague or higher up as anything other than their first name. The only exception is addressing someone as “Dr.”. Maybe there are more formal environments where addressing people as Mr. or Mrs. is the norm, but for the most part, first name is perfectly acceptable. We’re all adults and there’s no need for formalities.

  38. Workerbee*

    OP#1, no wonder your boss is putting on the histrionics; sounds like she’s been taking advantage of you in multiple ways! She’d have to start all over with a new person and without as much certainty she could get away with things. Leave now.

    OP#2, among all those horrible phrases bad managers like to trot out, this one made me laugh in a hollow way: “When you’re in the office we can walk past your desk and see what you’re working on.”

    Back in the dark times, I was on a team pulled in to help another team who had been buried under mounds of unexpected paperwork due to a consolidation of regions. We had a central table in our area, so we stacked the completed files on that as we worked through our allotted piles. (As is typical in every place I’ve worked at yet, the people who have to handle the most physical paperwork have the smallest desk space to handle it on.) And at that time, there was no go-to place to store the files anyway.

    A bigwig walked by, saw the table with the stacks of files, and immediately went haring off to our boss, his own boss, etc., with the cry: “They’ve got tons of undone work! Horrors!! What’s happening?? Something must be done!”

    Didn’t bother to ask us, the people with the table, about it. Our boss came by to tell us about this grievous concern and seemed rather helpless about dealing with it, so I taped a sign to the table that stated in large letters: “THIS IS COMPLETED WORK.” The boss grinned and left it there. No more complaints or qualms came our way.

    The real point of my anecdote is a resounding raspberry at people trying to trot out the quoted excuse above as justification.

    Also, whenever we were made to jot down our daily times and tasks for micromanagement reasons, I always included the time it took me to do so.

    1. anonymous73*

      The whole thing is ridiculous. Whenever a manager says that they can’t see what you’re doing when you’re home, I always ask “are you standing behind every single one of your reports all day every day to make sure they’re doing their work?” Of course the answer is no because unless they only have 1 report and no work of their own, that would be physically impossible. Management should only be worried about productivity, and the minute you start treating them like children who need to be watched like a hawk is the minute you will get the bare minimum out of them.

      1. Frustrated worker*

        Yeah I said that a year ago but I can’t remember what the exact answer was beyond “I’m old just help me out.”

  39. ABCYaBye*

    LW1 – Let me join the growing list of voices telling you it is definitely OK, and advisable, to go back to the owner of the store and reiterate your notice period. You’re not required to stay. And Alison’s reminder that you’re being classified incorrectly (illegally) is definitely something I thought of as soon as I read it. If that doesn’t make you a little bit angry, it should. That’s not to say you should go in fired up, tell her where to go, and burn a bridge, but it is something that should keep simmering in the back of your mind so when she cries or tries other forms of manipulation you aren’t willing to back down. In addition, you need to think about the fact that she could also choose to retire early without much notice to you. You’re leaving to go to grad school and work one part-time job that relates to your field. That’s fantastic. You need to do what’s best for you. The store owner will figure it out. You owe her nothing more than you’ve given.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      “In addition, you need to think about the fact that she could also choose to retire early without much notice to you.”

      This is what came to my mind. If you were not going to grad school there’s no way she would delay retirement because she would feel bad about you losing your job.

    2. Observer*

      In addition, you need to think about the fact that she could also choose to retire early without much notice to you.

      I have no doubt that she would absolutely do that to you. Because, in her mind, it’s the only way to insure that you stick around to help her wind things down. And you OWE HER THAT! (In her mind, not the real world, to be clear.)

  40. Dust Bunny*

    OP4 My whole organization is first-names, all the way up to the executive director. It took me awhile to get used to that but some workplaces just work that way.

    1. londonedit*

      I’ve never worked anywhere where it wouldn’t be first names for everyone – I started working in 2003 and I’ve never encountered a workplace where people would use ‘Mrs Smith’ and ‘Mr Jones’ and so on. Unless it was some sort of education environment, where teachers would probably refer to each other as ‘Ms Williams’ and ‘Mr Allen’ in front of students, it would seem incredibly old-fashioned not to refer to people using their first names, even up to the CEO and other company bigwigs.

      1. Antilles*

        I began working in 2007 and that’s my exact same experience too. Never had anyone use like “Mr. Smith” or “Director Smith” or whatever; it’s always simply the first name of Jim even if they’re way higher in title. Even if it’s someone in the company I haven’t met, the email/cold-call still would still start with first-name only.

        If we’re talking about someone who isn’t in the conversation, we might use his first and last name just so it’s clear who we’re talking about – but even then, it’s still only Jim Smith and not a title of any sort.

        1. londonedit*

          Exactly – the only time I use people’s full name/job title is if I’m explaining to someone external (in my job, usually an author) who they are and what their role is. So I’d say ‘Tamsin Jones is our editorial assistant; she’ll be in touch with you to arrange delivery of your author copies’ or ‘Penelope Smith – she’s our CEO here at Llama Publishing – is particularly keen on this proposal, so we’ll be prioritising it for early publication’. But I wouldn’t use anyone’s full name as an address when I’m emailing them, even if it’s someone I’ve never met. It would look extremely weird (and also who knows whether someone uses Ms/Miss/Mrs etc?)

  41. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: You and your boss may get along well but she’s not a good employer. I agree that it sound like she may well have been employing you under an illegal set-up, and crying is manipulative as heck. People who run businesses need to expect to have to hire new employees sometimes–that’s part of the job. I would guess this is as much about fear of hiring someone who will catch on to her cheating as anything (I’m sure you’re a great employee and it’s worth being upset about losing you, but crying is over-the-top).

    Also: If you want to go to grad school you’re going to need to start practicing your backbone now.

  42. Another Michael*

    OP3 – something that has caused stress for me in the past is feeling like I have to address questions immeadiately. I’ve found a lot of peace in saying “We can talk about that, but I’m not free not right now – can we find some time to talk this afternoon/tomorrow morning/at our one on one?” That small boundary gives you control over your time and can make a big difference. A version of this that’s also helpful if the issue is one that they have the resources to address on their own is “Can you try ::X resource where they can find the answer:: and if that doesn’t work come back to me with this?”

  43. Popinki(she/her)*

    #1, your situation is making me think of something I probably read on this site:

    This person is not really nice.

    She’s shown herself to be a manipulative bee-otch and dishonest (I wonder what other shenanigans she’s pulling besides the “independent contractor” nonsense) and more invested in knocking back and let you do all the work while she plans her retirement. She doesn’t care about your school plans or your career plans. Now she’s faced with having to actually work in her own store (!!!) and OMG train someone who’d be willing to put up with her.

    There are plenty of retirees and stay at home parents looking to pick up some extra money who are perfectly intelligent and reliable if she didn’t want to hire college students or temps. The problem isn’t “no one wants to work anymore.” It’s that SHE doesn’t want to work anymore, and she won’t have you to do it for her now.

  44. MissGirl*

    LW 5: in a similar situation, I gave 4 weeks notice. I worked one week, went on a 2-week vacation, and came back for one week. It actually worked really well because those two weeks gave my company an idea of where holes were in coverage and we focused on training people on those the last week.

    Fun story: my new company forgot I put in my start date as for weeks later. I was literally going to the train to Maccu Piccu when I saw an email asking where I was. I had a good five hours of no Wi-Fi until I could respond. We all had a good laugh my first week.

  45. Ross*

    OP1 – if you are an independent contractor then she is not your boss, she is your client. You set your hours and rates. If that is not her position, she’s been violating the law and owes you a good amount of taxes.

    Go back to her and tell her that your regular hours end on X date. If she wants to bring someone else in, perhaps you’d be willing to put in a few hours here or there for training for 2-3x the hourly rate you are getting now. Or if she needs help with specific wrap up activities.

    Going back to school, your time is at a premium and your rates should reflect that. Remember, you are the boss in this situation – as an independent contractor you are your own employer. Personally, I’d gently remind her of that. Otherwise you’d have a good case to take to the labor department.

    1. Luna*

      I would suggest to not add any kind of “If you think of doing this, I might stay on longer (to help out)” because we all know that she’ll claim to do just that, but won’t do anything, and keep OP working there longer.
      The end of work is on X date.
      Done.
      See where she stands with her own store, that is her responsibility, not OP’s.

      As a comment above says, this is a bridge worth burning because, if the boss retires within a year as she claims to plan, the bridge won’t be there soon, anyway, so it’ll be useless.

  46. MicroManagered*

    OP3 I think whether to address someone by their first name in a cover letter *can* be industry-specific.

    I work with people who will sometimes scold and insist on being addressed as “Doctor LastName” even though my contact with them is not medical or academic in nature.

    1. Wisteria*

      lol, they don’t reverse the PhD if you leave academia, you know. My PhD is a qualification directly related to my employment, and while I don’t insist that anyone use it, you also don’t get to ignore it just bc I joined the private sector. If they are insisting that you call them Dr. in their hobby that has nothing to do with their field of work, that’s a little precious. But expecting you to use the title that they earned in their field while working in their field is completely reasonable.

      1. MicroManagered*

        And if our reason for speaking to one another has anything to do with your PhD, I’m happy to call you Dr. Wisteria. However, if I’m serving you a beer or answering a question about insurance, your PhD doesn’t mean anything to me (if I even know you have one).

  47. That One Person*

    #2 – A spiteful side of me thinks it’d be funny to just fill out the reports for in office too as I sincerely doubt they know how much work you’re doing in house comparatively. They claim they can just look over at what you’re working on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t just a glance to make sure you’re staring at your computer with a pensive stare or actively typing something when for all they know you’re typing a movie review in word. I’d also be tempted to put some silly things in the reports just to see how much attention they’re paying for personal curiosity though I wouldn’t recommend doing this, but for me it’d be a case of “well you want to know what we’re working on and I want to know how much you’re reading.” Hybrid situations are great ways to try and gauge how well the setup works for who and why, but unfortunately looks like your company just doesn’t care because appearances.

  48. Mr. Cajun2core*

    OP#4 I have to disagree with Alison’s advice at the end. I fully agree with her advice if you know the person.

    However, I would say, that if you don’t know them, take into consideration your geographic area, the field, and the qualifications of the person. My wife has her PhD. If she received an application with “Dear Firstname” that would be a major strike. For PhDs and MDs and similar, I would open with “Dear Dr. Lastname”. In the south, unless the person knows that you should know their name, stick with “Dear Hiring Manager”. That avoids mis-gendering”. If you *have* to use a name, I would go with “Dear Firstname Lastname” to avoid mis-gendering. It is not ideal but I would think it is better than mis-gendering. Also, in conservative fields especially for high-ranking officials (C-level) I would also use the previously mentioned suggestions.

  49. Workfromhome*

    LW2 I have told this story before but it applies here. If the boss says “Oh I hardly even read the reports” then test it. In my past job they introduced a CRM software that was “supposed” to be just to track time spent on site with clients on major projects (it was not billable time just to “show clients how much effort we expend”) It rapidly changed to you need to track everything you do in 15 minute increments (even those in the office). It got so bad that one person used to add 30-60 minutes a day with an entry “Time to record all the things I did today in the system”

    So I went to a website with short stories (safe for work nothing outrageous) and copied and pasted passages from a story into the comments of some of my entries. So instead of an entry describing how I set up a system or what the client needs were the entries were paragraphs from random stories about some guy hiking in the woods.

    Weeks came and went and this was never mentioned to me by anyone. I concluded that no one actually read them (or that they liked short stories).

    Id be tempted to write out a “script” for 5 days worth of work. 1 page per day and then just randomly submit them (making sure not to submit the same 2 days in a row) and see if anyone notices.

  50. Meow*

    I can sympathize so hard with LW2. We initially had to submit work from home reports like this too. I also have ADHD, which means I will be twice as efficient as the average person one day but get next to nothing done the next, so it was incredibly stressful to have to account for what I did on a day-to-day basis. I also have a job that is very project oriented compared to my coworkers, which stressed me out further because they would submit reports listing the status of 10 tickets they worked every day, and mine would be like “Did X and Y for Project Z”.

    The good news is, management got sick of them eventually. They didn’t want to spend that much time reading them, and they didn’t want to spend time nagging all the people that forgot (or ‘forgot’) each day.

  51. irene adler*

    #1: OP, given you are as critically essential to the success of the business as you have outlined, owner should be offering to make you a partner of the business. A substantial partner. Yet, all she gives you is an emotional extortion, in the hopes you’ll continue on. Clearly she does not value you as much as she says.

    She will be fine after you go (on your original time line). Your notice period may be rough (more tears!) but you can always cut things short if that is the case.

  52. Jack Bruce*

    In my previous job during the pandemic shut down, we were able to work remotely but only if we did those daily work logs. My supervisor even required daily check ins with me and made things 3x as stressful. No surprise, this is a place that didn’t trust employees and had a butt-in-seat mentality. It made me even more urgent to leave when I did.

  53. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    You get to leave when it makes sense to you, and you absolutely should not stay longer than you want to just because it’s going to be inconvenient for your boss. Dealing with inconvenience is part of running a business; she’ll figure out a way forward (presumably by hiring another employee). Under no circumstances should you stay at a job you want to leave just because it makes her sad or worried that you’re going. You have other things you need to focus on.

    I agree with Alison.

    If you truly cannot say no to December, though, I think a retention bonus would be in order to compensate you for the opportunities you’ll have go forego in 3rd and 4th quarters would be in order, and would advise you to negotiate one and to decline to stay without one.

    1. Observer*

      If you truly cannot say no to December

      Why would that even be possible? There is nothing save the Boss’ manipulation and lies keeping the OP there, and now that they know what the deal is, that’s lost a lot of its power.

      advise you to negotiate one and to decline to stay without one.

      No. The issue here is not money, but the OP’s time and ability to manage their studies. The OP should decline to stay. Period.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Assuming LW’s school is on semesters and there’s no scholarships that would be effected, it’d probably cost the employer a semester’s tuition and room and board to get me to take a semester off for their business and push my graduation back a semester.

        But my hunch is that once LW passes that cost onto her employer, the employer will find a way to get by for that final year while she returns to school.

  54. Ashloo*

    LW5, be sure your company won’t push you out ahead of you vacation. My husband’s been laid off twice the day before scheduled vacation, and no they didn’t legally have to pay out the benefit. A different situation and industry most likely, but we’ve really lost trust in companies (especially small businesses) doing right by their employees.

    1. Wisteria*

      I’m not clear on what you mean by “pay out the benefit.” Do you mean pay for the accrued but not taken vacation time or do you mean pay UI benefits?

      In the US, in general, an employer can end the employment of a non-contract employee at any time, including right before a scheduled vacation, and not be required to pay out the vacation time, depending on state law and company policy. You may or may not be eligible for UI benefits depending on the reason for ending your employment.

      In the specific case where an employer terminates your employment right after you resign in lieu of having you work the notice period, they might still not have to pay out any accrued vacation time, depending on state law and company policy, but you are eligible to collect unemployment benefits.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        They meant “the company did not have to pay for unused vacation time”. So Ashloo and husband planned a vacation and probably spent some money ahead of time, but the day before vacation husband was laid off instead. Yes, he could still go on whatever trip they had planned, but what a hit to their budget!

        I am so glad to live in a state where employers are required to pay out unused vacation time. Even though it doesn’t apply to me since I mostly work as a contract employee!

  55. University Schlep*

    LW#1 – Leave. And if she continues to cry I would consider making my leave date earlier.

    LW#2 – This seems like a case for malicious compliance. Kill them with detail including detailing how many minutes spent writing the report.

    LW#3 – Could this be a hangover from the previous toxic culture your employees operated under? It is possible there was micromanagement and a lack of trust in the previous situation and even though your employees feel that their working situation has improved, they do not know that you trust them to do their job and make some decisions on their own. If this has been the culture for a long time (and then you have been enabling it by answering all their questions) it might be time to be a little more clear about what you expect them to handle on their own and how often and in what situations you expect a check in.

  56. Adultiest Adult*

    LW3, I also manage people who have a high need for hands-on management, and to a greater extent I have recognized that it’s just part of the deal. I make it work in two ways: when I come in first thing in the morning, I check in with my operations staff. They’ll let me know if there are any actual emergencies that need addressing, or will point me toward a staff member having an issue that’s risen to their awareness. I have trained everyone else (jokingly but actually seriously) “Don’t interrupt Adultiest A until she makes her tea.” This keeps anxious people from bombarding me as soon as I get in the door and allows me to collect myself and make a plan for the day.

    I have also conceded that my mid-day hours will probably be full of meetings and staff interruptions, so I deliberately work a slightly later schedule and often have 2 hours at the end of the day, when most of the staff have gone home, to complete my own projects in relative peace. Even doing this once or twice a week can yield benefits, I’ve found. Hope you also find strategies that work for you!

  57. Xaraja*

    When everyone went home for the pandemic, my employer made everyone sign a thing that we’d meet one on one with our boss EVERY DAY and turn in something saying what we’d done every day. I started during the pandemic and worked in the office for a couple of months and then went home, and I already knew my boss wasn’t going to meet with me every day like that. He just isn’t like that and didn’t have that kind of time. So the first day I wrote like a novel about what I’d done that day. He responded the next day, explaining that his other reports just did a bulleted list of the general highlights. So it was like “fixed xyz routine software alerts, worked on ABC programming, various email follow-up”. It kind of was useful because I could look back at trends for certain problems or let him know how much of my time a particular thing was eating up. But I’m not sure he really cared to have the lists. He manages by looking at your output like a good manager should.

  58. blood orange*

    OP 3:
    I definitely echo Alison’s advice. I’d also suggest locking your office door if you’re able. I make that suggestion because I was in a similarly put-upon role and literally had people barging into my office when I had a Do Not Disturb sign on my door and ignored their knocking (while on a phone call that was part of a court proceeding no less).

    Could you also request/advocate for promoting a team lead, senior team member, or supervisor under you who can field some of the questions/interruptions you’re getting? That may be a great opportunity for one of your team members, and it will alleviate your problem.

    It sounds like you’re a great manager, so I hope setting some boundaries and infrastructure will help you stay in such a role!

  59. sofar*

    “If you can, try to avoid starting at the new job, working a week, and then being away for a week. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it can mean you lose some of the momentum of the first week and in some ways you have to sort of re-start once you’re back.”

    I guess it depends on the job, but we recently had a bunch of new hires do just that — start, work a week or two and then go on their honeymoon or prescheduled trip. And … it actually worked out pretty well. We do have “unlimited” vacation, though so nobody was forced to go “in the hole” on vacation time (so different from LW’s situation).

    But it was nice to be able to basically get them through our company’s lengthy and disorganized onboarding period, get them their labyrinthine access to things, do their HR security & harassment training, schedule their “introduction to the team” meetings. And then have them take a vacation BEFORE everyone else had already offloaded big responsibilities onto them. And then, after they got back, they were able to take on their actual work (with less possibility of taking a big trip, as they’d already taken one). And, while they were gone that 1-2 weeks, things ran smoothly because all the veterans hadn’t offloaded stuff onto the new people yet.

    YMMV, obviously, but at my company, nobody can do any real work their first two weeks anyway (because access-granting is such a bear and takes literally 2 weeks). So, they got through all that, took their vacation, and then were able to come back and start their actual jobs.

  60. Don't Be Long Suffering*

    LW1:
    You: I’m quitting.
    Boss: Cries, whines, moans.
    You: BTW, it was illegal to classify me as an independent contractor.
    Boss: Okay, you can go.
    And then report this to your state Labor Relations Board. Please. Your boss is a predator and will hurt someone else if you allow it.

    1. Luna*

      OP: I quit.
      Boss: *whine, cry, moan, sob*
      OP: Don’t care, leaving. *walks out*
      Boss: *yelling and swearing at OP*

      Seems more likely.

  61. SometimesCharlotte*

    LW5: Go on vacation. Come back and give 2 weeks notice to start with the next onboarding date at the new job. I wouldn’t give 4 weeks and risk them wanting you gone in two.

  62. Egmont Apostrophe*

    The one about having to document what you did all day reminds me of when I was working at the big ad agency and the way a client was organized was that they were spending money contributed by dealers around the country. So while people at other clients could code everything on their time sheets to McD01 or GM01, say, we were supposed to divide our time by the 12 regional dealer groups. EVERY day. Like if I was thinking about one ad, I had to allocate some of my time to the Rockies region and some to Florida. We rebelled and quickly convinced them that accounting could damn well divide it up at the end, not each of us, and got to do CLIENT01 for everything LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

    Anyway, I would simply turn in the exact same time sheet every week. You’ll soon find out if anyone is actually looking at them.

  63. El l*

    LW1:
    Her failure to plan is not your emergency. You are not responsible for planning what happens next in the business; she is.

    You have been preparing her for your departure, she knows it’s coming, and yet she is still setting herself up to either (a) retire right now, or (b) have to delay retirement until she has been able to find a partner to take over.

    As Alison said, tell her that you need to change your mind, and are leaving in August. Be prepared for the guilt trip, and I would reconsider how much I like this person. Because she’s effectively asking you to sacrifice your happiness and potentially future so that…she can let things just go on.

    And if worst comes to worst, just remember – you don’t need her for your career.

  64. Aphra*

    LW1 The first thing that crossed my mind was to warn you to make sure your last working day for your guilt-tripping boss is REALLY your last day. Don’t allow your natural inclination to be helpful translate into continuing to work for her. I’m thinking of her calling you to help out with just one thing, just two things, just three things, just coming back to train the new employee, just to support the new employee, just to supervise until boss is confident new employee has the skills to work alone, etc, etc, etc. Very soon you’ll be working virtually the same hours as now because she’ll have guilt-tripped you into it.

    When you leave, stay gone. Block her if you have to, because she’ll have no boundaries if you don’t set them and stay firm.

  65. Dancing Otter*

    To those saying that the boss could hire a temp, don’t you realize that the temp agency would…gasp…charge her enough to cover employment taxes? On top of at least minimum wage and the agency markup? Of course she doesn’t want to do that.
    Sure, work there as long as YOU want to stay, LW. Not a week, not a day, not an hour longer than suits your own needs.
    Then, on your way out, report her to the IRS and file a complaint with your state department of labor.

    1. Observer*

      Sure, work there as long as YOU want to stay, LW. Not a week, not a day, not an hour longer than suits your own needs.

      This. 100%

  66. RagingADHD*

    LW2, as an ADHDer who has logged billable time for nearly my whole working life, the key is time blocking and standardized descriptions.

    Unless your manager is particularly arcane, you don’t need to log individual tasks. You will most likely be working in some kind of batch, right? Either you’re spending a block of time on a single project doing several tasks, or you’re batching similar repetitive tasks that pertain to multiple projects.

    Batching by project:
    9am – 11am: Smendiman account. Em to cl, conf w/team, draft memo re: gelignite initiative.
    11-11:15: misc admin.
    11:15-12:15 break.
    12:15-1:30 pm Lupin account. Review climbing equipment, em recommendations to client.

    Or batching by task:
    1:30-2:30pm: reply to emails, file management, schedule client meetings. Re: Holmes, Fisher, Marple, Raisin, Alleyn.

    If they really want granular task-by task reports, you need some kind of electronic kanban system so you can just check things off as you go. If they don’t provide that, you can set up task checklists for yourself by the day or recurring in Outlook or Google Tasks. Then your checklist is the report.

  67. SpaceySteph*

    LW5, I’d say talk to your hiring manager if you can. I was just in this same situation (you can only start at the beginning of the pay period so start options were every 2 weeks) and that’s what I did. I offered I could either start after my planned vacation or start before and go on vacation right after starting. Turns out their onboarding process is such that she preferred I start sooner and has no issues with my taking the vacation after only 2 weeks in the new position. I would have slightly preferred to use leave that was going to get paid out vs go negative on the new job, but not enough to override my new manager’s preference.

  68. ThursdaysGeek*

    LW2: I can see there are issues with trust and your management, but letting your boss know what you’re working on is not unreasonable.

    We have what is essentially a daily stand-up meeting, except as we are all working in different locations (and time zones), it is in Teams. People put in their entry when they get to it, and if you miss a day, it’s not really a big deal. You give a general list of what you did yesterday and what you think you are going to do today. All of us can see what others are working on (and thus, can say something if they have a question and we have an answer). Plus, there is some general chit-chat, which is nice, as I’ve not met most of my co-workers in person.

    Alison said that a manager should look at your output. That’s true, but a manager should also see if you’re not working on the most important projects and direct you to more high priority ones. A manager should have an idea of what your day to day tasks are. A manager can see that you don’t seem to be making progress on a task and give some guidance. None of that is bad, although a bad manager can make it bad.

    In other words, with a good manager, a daily electronic status report allows them to be helpful to you.

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