my coworkers are sick of me having cancer, replying to late-night messages, and more

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

1. My coworkers are sick of me having cancer

I am living with Stage 4 breast cancer. I’m doing well and working full-time in an outpatient healthcare setting. We have a loose rotating schedule of taking various roles in the office during the week. Some weeks, your role is heavier and you have less schedule flexibility; some weeks you get a lighter role. Also, we are salaried and I have FMLA paperwork filed.

Right now my treatment includes infusions every three weeks (which takes about two hours) and scans every three months (which takes four to six hours). I make every effort to schedule them during the weeks I know I’ll have a lighter workload and I schedule them as far in advance as I can. But invariably, someone winds up scheduling PTO that week or at the last minute my team members change my assignment for that week to a heavier role. And then my treatment appointments become inconvenient. I get heavy sighs; statements like, “We’ll figure it out, I guess” in a clearly annoyed tone; and if I flex my time to make up my hours, sometimes, “I don’t know how you’re going to make up all this missed time” (from coworkers, not my manager).

I get that my coworkers are over me having cancer — trust me, I’m over it, too. Do I need to speak up and be more firm than I can’t cover other people those weeks? Do I accept that they’re going to act like they’re inconvenienced no matter what I do and ignore the snark? I don’t know what else I can do to lessen the impact my appointments have on my teammates. My manager has repeatedly said, do what you need to do. It only seems to be an issue for the people on my team.

Your team members are snarking about your cancer treatment? Of course it can sometimes be inconvenient when someone has ongoing schedule restrictions, but decent people generally understand that being treated for a serious illness is Extremely Important and won’t make you feel like a burden for it — and doubly so when the treatments are on a predictable schedule weeks apart. I’m sorry your coworkers are behaving this way.

Yes, you should indeed stay firm that you cannot cover other people those weeks. Don’t let their (rude) responses affect your resolve to do what you need to take care of yourself. It also sounds like you should alert your manager that you’re fending off these reactions; a good manager would want to know this is happening so they can speak with the people doing it (and also because if there really is a scheduling problem, the manager should be involved in resolving that, rather than other people pushing their frustration on you and you feeling pressure to change your schedule).

2. My reference hit it off with my hiring manager and now has their own interview

I’ve been using A, a former colleague and very close friend, as a reference for many years. I recently got an opportunity to escape an awful company for a potential dream job, so of course I put A down as a reference.

The hiring manager called my other two references, and the calls took 10 minutes each. When the hiring manager called A, they somehow hit it off and ended up chatting for nearly an hour about their families, their professional hopes and dreams, and A’s connections. A now has an informational interview with the same team, though luckily not for my potential position, and doesn’t even really hide how excited they are about it.

I’m not sure how to feel or how to proceed. I’m annoyed that I had to go through a formal process whereas A seems to be sneaking in the back door on a call that was supposed to be about me. I’m also now concerned about what this team is like; this seems like a weird way to find candidates. Finally, I’m not sure if I want to use A as a reference anymore. Are these reasonable thoughts? If not, how should I approach this?

If A had come out of that call with an interview for the job you’re being considered for, that would be an issue! You want to be able to trust that a reference has your best interests in mind and won’t use their access to try to swipe jobs you’re applying for. But this is different — A happened to click with the hiring manager and they ended up talking about a separate job, in addition (presumably) to handling your reference. Assuming that A also gave you a good recommendation during that conversation (and there’s no reason to think they didn’t), no one did anything wrong here.

There’s no rule that references must talk only about you if the conversation naturally goes in other directions. For example, if A and the hiring manager discovered a shared interest in some obscure aspect of your field, there’s no reason they couldn’t talk about that. It’s the same thing here — they talked, they clicked, they discovered a shared interest in talking further. That sometimes happens when two people talk! But you still presumably got a good reference … and if anything, it seems like the hiring manager might put extra weight on A’s endorsement of you as a result of liking them so much.

3. Coworkers who message late at night their time (but during your hours)

I have quite a few coworkers in another time zone, 8-10 hours ahead of me. My boss (same time zone as me) has always advised me to schedule messages to these coworkers to encourage work-life balance. No problem, I agree! But what should I do when they message me on Slack at what I know is 10 pm or later their time? It’s rude not to reply, isn’t it?

I had one coworker specifically ask me not to schedule my messages because she wants to get them right away … but my boss also warned me that she will work herself into the ground and to not encourage her. She’s below him in rank and experience but above me in both. What do you think? Should I play it by ear?

I wouldn’t say it’s rude not to reply when someone messages you at 10 pm their time, when they know it’s working hours for you. But it’s a bit of an overstep if you’re trying to stop them from working late, or maybe just an overthink. During your work hours, go ahead and respond whenever you normally would. It’s up to your colleagues, not you, to decide when they work (and they could be flexing their hours or trying to get caught up so they have room in their week for other things, or who knows what). Plus, your reply doesn’t obligate them to do any further work at that hour if they don’t want to. (I’d give you a different answer if you were their boss, but you’re not.)

All that said, you should defer to your boss if he’s giving you a clear instruction about this. But if he’s just expressing his own preference and then leaving it up to you, just message as you normally would and trust people to manage their own side of things.

4. My manager wants to discuss my personal, non-work goals

I have a new manager, and we have regular one-on-one catch-up meetings. At the first of these meetings, I was told that I should share some goals for us to discuss. Professional ones like “learn ASP” (a coding language) or “get Microsoft certified” … but he also wants me to share non-professional goals. Personal ones. I asked for an example and was told that other staff members have shared things like “go to the gym more” or “take a pottery class.”

I found this bizarre and somewhat intrusive. I don’t have personal or life goals which I want to share with them. If I did, we would be friends and it would come up naturally.

Other people I’ve talked to also find this a little strange. It seems like an attempt to shoehorn a social (para-social?) relationship into a professional one. Is this a management technique they’ve got out of a book, or something they came up with themselves? What do you think?

Nope, it’s not a management technique, nor should it be. It’s invasive and inappropriate; your manager isn’t your life coach or therapist or friend.

Try just offering up work goals and see if your manager pushes for personal goals too. He might not. But if he does, then it’s reasonable to say, “I’d prefer to just focus on work goals in our meetings.”

Alternately, if you feel pressure to go along with it, you can always use really bland goals like “walk more” or “read more” … or you can use self-serving goals like “get better at disconnecting from work” or “carve out time for a real vacation.”

Related: my boss expects me to share my personal health/diet/spirituality/fitness goals every week

5. Should we not tell candidates our policies on advancing?

I’m in HR and helping a team screen candidates. I mentioned to them that we can manage incoming employee expectations and let candidates know they generally won’t be considered for manager positions for three years, which is true for this position. The HM doesn’t want to communicate this because she feels candidates would be turned off, but I feel like this disclaimer keeps us from hiring employees who will end up leaving after a year because they want to move up quickly. Is there something wrong with saying this to candidates?

No, you should say that. Being as up-front as possible is a good thing when you’re hiring, so that you screen out people who will be unhappy in the position (and leave earlier than other people). If you ever find yourself considering not being transparent about an aspect of the job, that’s pretty much always a sign you’re heading in the wrong direction.

{ 430 comments… read them below }

  1. Person from the Resume*

    Alison, I feel like you didn’t answer LW3’s actual question but rather the reverse.

    But what should I do when they message me on Slack at what I know is 10 pm or later their time ? It’s rude not to reply, isn’t it?

    I think it’s rude not to reply if you’re able. They are choosing to message the LW during not work hours for them but presumably it’s convenient enough or they wouldn’t initiate.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’re right — I read it completely backwards! The OP is asking about coworkers who message late at night in their own time zones, but during the workday for the OP. I’ve updated my answer.

    2. Unfettered scientist*

      Yeah I’m also confused about the letter. Is LW writing the email during her own work hours but schedule-sending so it doesn’t appear actually send until the work day starts for the recipient (this is how I read it). I think that’s kind of weird and she should just send it when she writes it, assuming it’s during her work day.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Yes. I think the boss had said “schedule emails to SoAndSo during her workday, because she can’t help herself and will respond even if it’s her off hours”. But SoAndSo seems to be (considerately? overworkingly?) waiting to IM the LW til it’s LW’s work hours, so working after hours anyway.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      I see it as the LW scheduling her communications to arrive during her colleagues’ work day, at her boss’s request, but her colleagues aren’t doing that and are sending stuff while they are working, and she’s wondering whether she has to respond at all hours.

      I work in a project that involves people spaced at roughly six hour intervals around the globe, so that team meetings inevitably involve the middle of the night for someone. We send emails and Slack messages when we’re working, and it’s up to individuals to figure out how to handle responses. Some people work weird hours, others may be travelling, but responding at 10 pm is not expected except in unusual circumstances.

      I generally turn off my work email and Slack in the early evenings, and turn them on when I’m getting ready in the morning (and off on weekends). My supervisor and a few key colleagues have my contact on a messaging app, which can be used to ping me in the occasional situation where responses are required at unusual times.

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Am I understanding you that you think it’s rude not to respond to 10 pm slack messages? I have to disagree there. We don’t use messaging much, but I wouldn’t even know if someone sent me a message at 10 pm because there is no way I’m checking my messages at 10 pm. This is different in certain jobs and industries (Big Law, eg) but the people in those jobs know it and get paid for it. People need downtime.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        If you’re at your desk during your workday and a coworker sends you a slack message, you should respond if you’re not occupied with something else you need to finish. And if you don’t respond right away, you should respond before you leave for the day. Never responding to a message someone sent you is rude … I mean the kind of messages that ask a question and require a response.

  2. JR*

    For #3, I think OP is wondering whether or not to reply when messages come in during her own work hours, but late for the sender (10pm their time, so 12-2pm her time). Personally, I tend to think she should reply when makes sense to her for her time zones and her workflow – assume other people are managing their hours in the ways that make the most sense for them, and she can do the same. (I agree on deferring to any specific instructions from her boss.)

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings**


      I think the only exception would be that if OP is senior to the people messaging her, then by responding they might feel they need to stay online (even if they were just going to be sending a quick message) so I can see why her manager is trying to be thoughtful about it. But if OP is at or around the same level as these colleagues, then there’s less to consider and she should respond as she finds easiest.

      1. sb51*

        I’ve been in that situation: not people in my management chain but people I’m significantly more senior to, where I’ve specifically added some comments on something not being super urgent (if true) so that if they’re working into the night because they want to, fine, but they don’t think I think they should be.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Since the boss has already told the OP to schedule messages for the co-workers’ work times, I think the OP should bring this situation to the boss’s attention and ask how to handle it. If OP responds immediately, the boss could think that OP is not following pretty clear instructions.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Yeah. I understood it as the boss told OP to schedule them during the other person’s work time regardless of what the other person says. I think the relative seniority of the other person is irrelevant — do what the boss says to do!

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I wonder if the boss is struggling to get the other person who is getting online to work in the middle of the night to work what would be closer to a normal number of hours. So if this is the case Workaholic does their normal during the day shift, but then keeps working for whatever reason. And the bosses are telling them to stop or to only work their eight hours, but are also asking the coworkers in this opposite time zone to not send Workaholic any emails during the middle of the night for workaholic to make that working all night stunt boring for them.

          Yes, once had that coworker, there was no business need for what he was doing, and eventually he ended up fired for refusal to follow clear instructions to not work more than his scheduled hours.

      2. The Person from the Resume*

        But while I think you can schedule email, I’m not sure that a slack message can be scheduled.

        Also it doesn’t make sense to have to schedule your messages for their work time. As long as someone if not logged in and not getting push notifications (which is something they control), they won’t even know about it until they login the next day.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I think the problem here is there is a workaholic with enabled notifications on the other end there. It could be the request is part of a multi pronged approach to see if that person can adapt to the stated company culture.

          Signed the person who like OP was asked to schedule emails, but still ended up loosing the coworker because he just wouldn’t follow direction and explicitly stated “Stops.”

        2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          You can schedule Slack messages for later — just to the right of the green send/mail button there’s a down arrow that lets you choose a time.

          We’re being encouraged at my office to do this and I’m trying to remember! I work a few hours behind my team, I so am often responding on Slack at what would be early evening their time — when they could still be working, or not. (Honestly I think a better solution is for people turn off their notifications when they are off the clock so I don’t have to guess what their schedules are but I don’t make the rules.)

    3. ferrina*

      I think it depends on how quick the response is and whether there are follow ups. If it’s something like “Are we all set on Project X?”, saying “Yes” would be just fine. If it’s something longer, I might respond saying I’ll follow up later: “Not yet. We’re reviewing the components, and I should know more by tomorrow (your time). I’ll send you an email”

      1. Mockingjay*

        ferrina, I think your suggestions strike a nice balance: offer a quick acknowledgement, then ‘scheduling’ a detailed response if needed.

  3. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

    I think for #2, unless I’m misunderstanding, the LW is partially asking what to do if they receive a message that is after hours for their co-workers, but during the LW’s working hours – schedule the response or respond anyway, since they’re up & checking messages.

    I kind of have this problem also – a good portion of the teams I work with are also 8-10 hours ahead of me, and have a different working schedule from me as well (Sun-Thurs instead of Mon-Fri). We solve this by being encouraged on all levels of the company to have a good work-life balance and boundaries – I will usually never schedule the message I send, but I also never expect a response until the next working day for them. It kind of sucks on a Thursday since the start of my workday is the start of their weekend, but… usually I don’t have to have a response immediately anyway, and can deal with it on Monday when I get the response they sent on Sunday. With the LW, though, it looks like that isn’t the case at their company. But I wouldn’t know how to handle that either!

    1. Loredena Frisealach*

      I work with people in an variety of timezones If I’m initiating via email, I schedule for my coworkers timezones for those significantly displaced from mine. If I’m replying, I don’t always schedule it. It’s possible LW3s coworkers are doing the same! In which case she’s receiving during her hours, but they sent the night before.

      Teams/Slack doesn’t have that setup, so I send when I have a question, and reply when I see one – and we all just know we won’t get immediate replies. I think that’s how I would suggest LW3 navigate the differences as well.

  4. Dark Macadamia*

    LW3, are you receiving these messages during work (like, it’s noon for you and 10pm for the sender) and scheduling them to arrive during the sender’s work day (late night for you/following morning for them)? That seems… convoluted, and maybe like you’re trying too hard to manage their work/life balance for them. If you’re at work and can respond promptly it really doesn’t matter if your reply arrives at midnight their time! It’s not your fault if they read it right away instead of waiting until their scheduled hours! I don’t like that your boss is telling you not to message a coworker *during your own work day* because of concerns about HER work behavior. That’s something Boss should address directly with your coworker.

    1. JSPA*

      Agreed! But there can be perceived cultural “status rankings” in play, or culturally- specific expectations about who gets to end a conversation or whether work- life balance is a reasonable expectation.

      I’d probably emphasize that your answer is the end of the exchange until it is daytime for them.

      “given how late it is for you–get some sleep? I won’t be doing anything further on this until [some reasonable period of time] at the earliest.”

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        I wouldn’t tell anyone to get some sleep. I might say “Have a good night, and I’ll expect your response tomorrow” or “Good night. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Most of the time, if you fail to respond to a colleague’s message, they go do other work. They don’t think “OP hasn’t gotten back to me in 10 minutes–Oh wow, I should quit work for the evening.”

      And what if they need half of today or tomorrow free and are flexing their hours, as Alison suggests? “Saving” them by not replying, if they really can’t do the next step without you, isn’t helping them to clear the decks so they can spend Friday doing medical tests or taking their kid on a field trip or whatever other life thing.

      1. jsmthi*

        Yes, this! People have many good reasons for working different hours. You don’t know their situation, so for goodness sake don’t deliberately delay responding in a patronising attempt to force their work (and sleep!!) patterns into what you consider standard or correct. Yes, I know, “the boss said”. But bosses, like many others living to culturally normalized schedules are not immune to misinterpreting divergence from this as overwork, as well as disorganisation, etc.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yep, when I correct the State exams, I usually work 1:30pm on and off to about 10pm at night. It was funny for years because I had an advising examiner who was really a morning person. She once asked if 7:30am was too early to contact me. YES! By about 3 hours. Usually, she tried not to contact me before about 9 or 10am and I tried not to contact her after 9 or 10pm. The odd time I did send her a text after 10, I tended not to get an answer until the next morning, which was fine, but at least once, she contacted me about some changes at 6pm and was like “now, I don’t need them until tomorrow” and I said I would be working for another four hours anyhow.

          People work different schedules.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, often times I’ve had coworkers in a drastically different time zone, as in 12 hours off from mine, choose to work during my hours because they needed to work with me. So they essentially did a night shift for a couple weeks to cross train on stuff. I didn’t ask them to do it, they brought it up. It was actually more convenient for them to WFH during my hours than to play telephone for weeks. One of them would have happily just switched to nights, but since part of the reason they worked with us was to follow the sun for coverage, he couldn’t do it full time.

      I actually have a difficult time working with East Coast US folks because I’m very much not a morning person, and many of them start work at 7 am EST, which is 4 am PST.

  5. Bowserkitty*

    OP1 – your coworkers are appalling. Please tell your manager about their comments. I hope they shut it down.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      And maybe point out that when they move the schedule around *knowing* you have medical appointments that schedule will interfere with, and having known that for some time, they’re doing in *on* *purpose*.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah I think OP is being way too conciliatory to these colleagues. They say they “get” this atrocious attitude and accept that “invariably” they are going to try to mess with their treatment schedule. They are taking advantage of OP’s higher professional pride and a much shorter, sharper response is entirely warranted. OP, this is your health! Whatever you can do on top of that is a bonus.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Obviously LW’s colleagues are being utter shyte. Appalling is a mild term here.

        I do note that one of my superpowers is ignoring subtle passive-aggressiveness and snippiness, especially when I know I’m in the right (eight years of all-girls school strengthened my ignoring muscles :| ). It sounds like they have not ramped up to actual aggressiveness; they rearrange the schedule and then sigh and roll their eyes and look annoyed.

        Personally, I don’t care if you look annoyed; I’m going to go on and do whatever it is I need to do anyway. It’s none of their damn beeswax how LW will make up the time. You’ll get the schedule worked out? Great. Yes, I’m leaving now; see you tomorrow. No, I can’t switch days, because I have a prior commitment, which I noted when the schedule was built three months ago; someone else will have to handle it. No, I’m not available then. Yes, Boss and I have worked it out and she is on board.

        Just keep on saying it with a straight face and then go do what you need to do. They know what’s happening and that you’re in the right; it’s not on you if they have an attitude about it. Glances and sighs and lifted eyebrows and annoyed looks and whispers and pursed lips and rolled eyes don’t ACTUALLY stop you from doing what you need to do.

        LW should not have to resort to ignoring their gross passive-aggressive behavior, but caring way less would help a lot. They can sigh all they want.

        1. The Original K.*

          This. I recently dealt with health issues that required a medical leave. When I learned how long I’d need to be out, I was anxious because I knew my coworkers and boss would give me grief because we’re understaffed. Well, the understaffing isn’t my fault or my problem; my health comes first. I was very firm, and will continue to be firm with subsequent appointments. “[declines meeting request] My calendar is up to date. I’m not available at that time.” They can feel how everything they like; I’ll be at the doctor.

          Definitely loop in your boss, OP but try to have a steely resolve about doing what you need to do for your health. Best of luck to you – wishing you strength and healing.

        2. The Real Fran Fine*

          I am you, and you are me. This is exactly how I would handle it. OP’s coworkers are assholes so, therefore, can be ignored here. I’d give no weight to their passive aggressive behavior and would continue my treatments in peace. They’ll get over it and themselves eventually.

        3. Empress Matilda*

          I have the same superpower, and it’s very useful! OP, you can absolutely feel free to ignore them. I hope your recovery is smooth and quick.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This is the point I think the manager most needs to know about – and it may end up getting sent to HR as well (if there is proof the rearranging is deliberate because “they are over” accommodating her FMLA for cancer treatments. Especially since those treatments are so predictable, and OP is already going out of her way to try and minimize the impact on those same coworkers).

        I’m sorry you are seemingly working with Middle Schoolers, OP1.
        Though to be honest, as the parent of a middle schooler – my kiddo and their friends would probably have a lot more sympathy and kindness to offer than those coworkers seemly have to give.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Was going to add that middle schoolers are absolutely more empathetic than this. My own middle schoolers have collected and delivered homework for a friend without prompting from any adult, have called friends who are out for multiple days to make sure they’re okay and see if they want anything “dashed” (Mom assumes DoorDash or something like that) to them.

          These coworkers are a freaking pile.

          1. Observer*

            Was going to add that middle schoolers are absolutely more empathetic than this.

            Yeah – even most toddlers have more empathy. That’s why I said that they have the empathy of a rock.

          2. Irish Teacher*

            Yup, my students, the youngest of whom I think are…older middle school age? would be appalled by that behaviour. Most of them are pretty kind to anybody who is having difficulties.

        2. Observer*

          and it may end up getting sent to HR as well (if there is proof the rearranging is deliberate because “they are over” accommodating her FMLA for cancer treatments. Especially since those treatments are so predictable, and OP is already going out of her way to try and minimize the impact on those same coworkers).

          I don’t think it matters whether it’s deliberate or not. They DO know her schedule and the employer has a legal obligation here. So, they need to stop it even if people are just “not thinking”. Because part of any job that allows you enough discretion to change someone else’s schedule IS “thinking.”

      4. Vicky*

        Agreed. Pre-scheduled appointments trump last-minute changes in general, and especially when it’s for something so serious! I think OP should talk to the manager about this pattern and the manager should be overseeing whoever does the schedule a lot more closely for the next long while.

        1. snarkfox*

          But what if one of the last-minute changes is that someone is sick? Or has to go to the doctor? I don’t think people should have to come to work sick because OP has treatment at that time.

          They’re response to OP is terrible, and I’m not condoning that at all. But I have had medical issues that I had to postpone the doctor’s appointment for because my coworker was out that day with a sick kid, and it really sucks. This is a management/staffing problem. More than one person should be able to miss work at a time without everyone else drowning in work, especially if one employee has to miss once every three weeks.

      5. Chauncy Gardener*

        I got that read as well. Why wouldn’t they be extra careful not to move her duties around when they know she’s got these treatments scheduled? OP sounds extremely considerate and constructive. Her coworkers sound awful.
        OP, please speak with your manager!

      6. WillowSunstar*

        Agreed, this is rather mean of OP’s coworkers. As someone who lost her mother to cancer, it isn’t something to be taken lightly.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, definitely tell the manager, who should shut that crap down. I can understand that the coworkers may find it annoying that the LW is frequently unavailable for coverage, but it’s the ring theory all over again, the LW isn’t the appropriate audience for their whining.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      OP, my heart goes out to you. I think you are an amazing and strong person.

      I also can’t help but think that these coworkers have never been in our medical system to understand this is how our system works.
      My late husband had 67 doctor appointments in 13 weeks. Of course he could not work but neither could I. I was constantly driving to and from appointments. And it took 4 hours to get ready to leave the house for each appointment. This is the system we have. OTOH, at least there we were driving to someone who would listen and try to help.

      I’d suggest to you that their exhaustion is not with you. If they spent a minute thinking about it, their actual problem is having a management that has not stepped up to the plate in terms of making sure that there is coverage for you that does not involve maxing out other people. But this circles around to BOSSES who do not understand how labor intensive health care can be. Care can fill every waking moment. There is no doubt in my mind that what you are talking about here is the tip of the iceberg for what your life looks like now.

      Tell your cohorts they are welcome to go in your place and you will stay and work. [okay maybe not say that….]
      I wish you the best, OP, with everything.

      1. The Original K.*

        In general, I’ve noticed that people who haven’t experienced a thing tend to assume it’s better/easier than it is. People who have no experience with the US social safety net, for example, think it’s much bigger than it is.

      2. Jackalope*

        I’m not actually sure that that’s true. I’m many cases it would be, but here the OP says that she has her appts scheduled for weeks when her schedule will be lighter and then her teammates change it around so that she has a heavier schedule that week and THEN complain that she’s out when her schedule is heavier. It kind of sounds like they are doing that on purpose if it’s happened multiple times. If they keep moving things around so that she has the harder schedule for weeks when she’s got treatment, it sounds like a malicious act on their part. She also states that people will schedule PTO for the time she’s out even though it’s 2 hours every three weeks, and then a longer appt every three months. If she already had to leave on the calendar (and that’s NOT a huge chunk of time to work around), then they need to either suck it up for two hours (maybe a bit longer because of transport to and from) or deny the other person PTO because of lack of coverage. Instead they’re getting snarky at her for having pre scheduled leave? I hope I’m wrong, but it’s something to consider.

        1. My+Useless+2+Cents*

          I have a longer comment below but my questions would be
          1) Why are coworkers rescheduling the workload at all? Where is the manager?
          2) How understaffed is the team that two coworkers can’t be scheduled out of the office at the same time for less than a day? The coworkers have a right to their PTO even though LW has medical treatments she needs to go to.

        2. snarkfox*

          Disagree about the PTO thing. People should be able to take PTO without having to schedule around OP’s treatments. What if they are sick or need to go to the doctor? Or need to go take care of a relative or sick pet? Or even, what if their kid has something special going on at school that day?

          They should be staffed well enough so that people don’t have to work their lives around OP’s schedule…. That’s not OP’s fault, though, and their frustration should absolutely be aimed at management, not OP.

          1. Calamity Janine*

            i hate the framing of this so much, honestly.

            ultimately it’s on management, yes. but “why should they have to go without so lw can attend her scheduled medical treatments”, as a setup, is honestly shitty enough framing it does not bear repeating. there’s a type of ableism that decrees only one sick person is allowed, so everyone must participate in a zero-sum game. only the most worthy get to win the cripple fight!

            except it’s not that, nor is that a fair way to describe the situation. doing so just ends up pitting the two sides against one another. …and ignoring the real source of the problem.

            so i know your secondary point is good, and i agree. however to get there you stop by some ableism specifically designed to enable bad management. please don’t shoot your own argument in the foot that hard. i agree with your main point – it’s just your casual willingness to play straight into bigotry is fingernails on a chalkboard at best. take it from a disabled sadsack – there are already enough cultural expectations of “which cripple shall reign supreme as the only truly valid one”, I really don’t think any more is needed, nor is that helpful to the lw. you can make your very good point without indulging in the bigotry, yeah?

      3. Sloanicota*

        I also think OP needs to talk to her manager about better coverage; is there any chance of having a temp, or cross-training someone from a different department to help out? I’m not at all excusing OP’s coworkers for their poor behavior, but it sounds like OP is going to be permanently on this alternate schedule, and it does seem like this has been somewhat put on her coworkers to solve. That’s fine for a set period like a few months of medical leave but it’s not going to be sustainable indefinitely. Her coworkers will still need some flexibility in their own schedules eventually.

        1. Dust Bunny*


          99% I bet that they don’t actually have enough coverage and her coworkers are burned out from always being down a person when the work is heavier. That’s not the OP’s fault and, yes, her coworkers are being horrible, but management needs to address it *with appropriate staffing*. Right now it doesn’t sound like management is being inconvenienced by it, and they need to be so they have incentive to fix it.

          1. Big Bank*

            I agree it sounds like the coworkers are burning out. And I agree that it’s not Op’s fault or responsibility to fix that. Management seems to be failing to protect all its employees. Op may objectively be having the worst time right now, but that doesn’t mean that her colleagues can’t also be having struggles that are further impacted by the scheduling issue. They aren’t being great about it in front of Op, but I think the comments are being rather hard on them. I think it’s better for Op to internalize their sighs as “this situation sucks” and not “and it’s your fault.” They should really be taking their concerns direct to manager, but maybe they have and been told to suck it up! I think it’s fair for Op to raise it, but more important to let any hurt feelings about their snark go because it’s not really about you. Focus on what you need, and if possible remind your coworkers they should do the same.

        2. Smithy*


          As the child of a parent that had chronic illnesses, while it can cultivate empathy with how much time and effort goes into that care….it can also lead to burnout and increased selfishness if there is becomes a sense that “my needs are never #1”.

          In a workplace setting this in no way excuses or forgives rude behavior – but if these coworkers had gone to their manager and said that a colleague’s FMLA needs had dramatically reduced their ability to have scheduling flexibility to meet their own work/life balance needs, asked for temporary support to help fill gaps – and been denied. Then those colleagues are left with the position of getting over it or finding a new job. And that dynamic really will just sour a workplace culture.

          Maybe these colleagues never asked and that is on them and on management to better troubleshoot. And certainly some people just are weird/rude about illness. But I find it hard to believe there’s none of this also happening.

        3. My+Useless+2+Cents*

          Agreed with the exception of this “That’s fine for a set period like a few months of medical leave”. I’d change that to “That’s fine for a set period like a week or so of medical leave”. It should not be up to the coworkers to reschedule the workload or take on more than their share of the workload for longer than a week or two. Beyond that it becomes a poor management type situation.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Honestly, I think I agree with you! We all want to help out our coworkers and be empathetic as fellow humans to someone who with a health crisis, but I think some of the commentators are being a bit unrealistic about how long they’d be willing to personally accommodate an increased workload / decreased flexibility with presumably no change in compensation.

      4. Observer*

        I also can’t help but think that these coworkers have never been in our medical system to understand this is how our system works.

        You are giving them too much credit. The idea that a whole department has only one person (the OP) with any experience with the healthcare system is not too likely to start with.

        Add that they actually work in a *Healthcare setting* – an outpatient one, where people have to come in and out. How could they NOT understand how this stuff works?

    4. Rebecca*

      Years ago, I was a manager and one of my employees was battling breast cancer. She would leave early on the days that she had chemo and it was not an issue whatsoever. Until one of my new employees asked to leave early the same day that “Jane” was going for her chemo treatment. When I explained why I couldn’t let her leave early as well, she said “That is so unfair!” Yes, cancer is unfair. Not getting to leave early? Not so much. Some people are just so ridiculous.

      1. Anon for this one*

        As someone currently going through chemo, which right now means being off half a day a week for treatment, I will GLADLY trade my situation with a healthy person who does not have half a day off a week. Do they really want to take that trade?

      2. Oofandouch*

        Out of curiosity did you ask why your other employee wanted or needed to leave early? If it was “hey it’s nice out so I’d like to get out of here early” then, yeah I agree with you.

        However she may have had a valid reason for needing to leave early that day herself, like her own medical appointment and I think sometimes managers focus so hard on making accommodation work for one person they forget that other employees may also need something.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Seconding this. Somebody just pointed out above that medical care can be horrible to navigate so if one person’s longstanding appointments make it almost impossible for other people to also schedule appointments, there’s a problem.

        2. Smithy*

          Absolutely – I think it can lead to this really harmful workplace thinking where illness or life needs to be formally announced and justified to count. It needs to be cancer, or someone died, or a fever of 103 AND I just threw up all over the the restroom to count.

          Someone who needs a dental filling – they should find ways to schedule that on their day off or book a full day of PTO in advance as opposed to taking a 4pm appointment at the end of the work day. Regular mental healthcare? Can’t you find a provider who does evenings or weekends? If one colleague’s long-term serious care needs means that the rest of your team is not allowed flexibility – it forces a situation of needing to disclose the reason and disclosing HOW VERY BAD the reason is. And 100% will build resentment of that colleague.

          1. Pool Lounger*

            It can be very difficult to find a mental healthcare provider who does evenings and weekends, especially if you need a psychiatrist or a specialist psychologist (someone who handles personality disorders, bipolar, schizophrenia, etc). Add to that someone who actually takes your insurance… and someone you click with… good luck.

            1. too many health problems*

              Yep, I’m in this boat. There are therapists who do night/weekend appointments… but they don’t take my insurance. I have to leave work early once every two weeks.

        3. too many health problems*

          Agreed! I have a lot of medical appointments, and they’re all for relatively minor conditions. And the conditions are somewhat embarrassing (PCOS, IBS, ADHD, anxiety, and depression) that I really don’t like to announce what’s going on.

          I have to leave work early to go to therapy every other week, and I’m really private about it because, while there shouldn’t be a stigma around therapy, I just don’t want to announce to everyone that’s what I’m doing.

    5. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I think the scheduling practice is whack. The employees en masse have to set the schedule. If someone is scheduled for a heavy week and takes off, other people have to figure out coverage for them. I get why the co-workers are frustrated at the situation but that frustration is being pointed in exactly the wrong direction. The manager needs to step in and create a better policy re the rotations.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, this. People are understandably caught up on the rudeness of the coworkers, but also there’s a systems issue here causing the friction.

    6. Hel*

      I would be *so* tempted to respond with every heavy sigh with “Yeah, sorry my dying of cancer is getting inconvenient for you guys. Next time I’m picking gumballs out of the free illness bowl I’ll do a poll at work to see which one you’d prefer.”

      (OP, very much hoping that your cancer goes into complete remission and you have a long and happy life – far away from your coworkers)

      1. Laney Boggs*

        Yes, that would be about the feel of my response the 2nd or 3rd time I got this response. “If I miss my treatments, i will *die* and then you’ll really have a problem with coverage. [Day] will not work for me.”

      2. Oofandouch*

        I find it fascinating how everyone is differently interpreting the coworkers. I feel like I’d need to see the interaction in person, but I almost feel like OP is projecting a bit and which would make this kind of sarcastic response wildly aggressive.

        To me a “heavy sigh” and “annoyed tone” can 100% be things that aren’t directed *at* OP, but if she’s worrying about and frustrated with the whole situation already it can come feel like it’s directed at her even if it’s not.

        1. Temperance*

          Likely not, actually. It’s an employment law term of art that doesn’t just mean some people are shitty.

          1. Lydia*

            I don’t know, but it feels like it skates the line. Coworkers are being intentionally shitty about an ADA accommodation. That seems like it could easily cross the line of the legal definition.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            A hostile work environment is one in which an employee is being mistreated because of their status as a member of a protected category, like race, gender, or disability. Cancer is a disabling condition under the ADA, so OP is in fact a member of a protected category, and depending on the level of frustration her coworkers have been expressing, this situation may be pretty close to qualifying. Even if it’s not a hostile work environment yet, it’s poised to head in that direction. If I were HR at this place, I’d want to know about that.

    7. Chief+Petty+Officer+Tabby*

      They really are! I might be slightly irritated at having extra work, but it’s not the fault of the sick person who needs to do this, it’s irritating for management to not schedule staff properly to cover their absence!

      They need to account for these things so no one is overwhelmed.

      1. starfox*

        Exactly! I don’t blame them for being frustrated, honestly, but that frustration needs to be aimed at management for not properly staffing the office, not at the person who has to miss work due to sickness!

    8. Slow+Gin+Lizz*

      My first thought when reading the letter was, “I’m so sorry you work for an awful place.” But then the last part about the manager having LW’s back reversed that. LW, you should definitely definitely 100% absolutely tell your manager, she needs to know what is happening, because your coworkers are being absolutely horrid and your manager needs to shut that down immediately. It should not be on you to figure out coverage when you are out for treatment (I dunno, isn’t that a manager’s job?); you should be completely focused on getting better during those times. Best of luck, LW, I hope you update us soon telling us manager got your coworkers to shape up or fired them and best of luck with your health too!

    9. Empress Matilda*

      I mean if your cancer treatments are too inconvenient for your colleagues, perhaps they’d like to trade places? They can have cancer and go to treatment, and you will happily figure out the work schedule. No? I thought not.

      So they can all STFU and behave like adults with a half decent sense of human empathy.

      1. Momma Bear*

        OP has already gotten their FMLA paperwork in order and is doing nothing wrong. I’d take this back to the manager and say, “Straight up, my coworkers are giving me grief for scheduling my treatments. You say do what I need to, but I also need you to back me up. Their comments are impacting not only my health but my job (if that is true, give examples).” Manager needs to manage this.

      2. Big Bank*

        This seems overly hostile. They may be lucky enough to not have cancer, but they may have plenty of other rough stuff going on in their personal lives. This isn’t the pain Olympics. They get to feel frustrated if they are being overworked. They should do better at not letting that bleed out towards the Op, and should be taking it to management. But if the manager has a response like yours, “you don’t have cancer, STFU” then it would only make things worse.

        1. NICS*

          “letting that bleed out” is a very passive way of framing the actions of making sarcastic statements and heavy sighs towards someone dealing with cancer.

          That said, the manager absolutely must do their job and manage this situation. But there’s a difference between feeling justifiably frustrated and taking that frustration out on someone dealing with a life threatening illness.

        2. Calamity Janine*

          if a snappy response to eye-rolling about approved time off for cancer treatment is “too hostile”, then what on earth describes the behavior of the coworkers here?

          sure, it’s not the pain olympics. but it’s also not “the person undergoing cancer treatment needs to do all the work of smiling politely and helping to normalize some truly awful ableism, because when you have cancer you become everyone’s punching bag”. pain doesn’t excuse behaving in an abusive manner and perpetuating systemic bigotry. if you wouldn’t wring your hands about how the person who regularly screams racial slurs is having a rough time too probably so just be more understanding when you get yelled at (otherwise it’s pain olympics, and you’re saying your pain matters more than theirs!), don’t do it here.

          or go ahead and do that honestly so everyone can get a good measure of your moral compass, i suppose.

          it’s not playing pain olympics to refuse to perpetuate bigotry, and to shut down avenues of abuse.

    10. Librarian of SHIELD*

      OP needs to schedule a meeting with both her boss and HR. Both parties need to get involved here. FMLA is federally mandated and if OP’s office is making it difficult for her to get the time off she needs, that’s a big freaking deal and they’re not allowed to do that.

    11. Observer*

      OP1 – your coworkers are appalling. Please tell your manager about their comments. I hope they shut it down.

      This bears repeating. Please know that your coworkers have the empathy of a rock and are obnoxious.

    12. starfox*

      I think her coworkers have every right to be frustrated… but that frustration should be aimed at their manager, not LW!

      It sounds like they’re having a hard time managing the work load to the point where if one other person takes PTO when LW is out, everyone is drowning. They need to be better staffed so that two people being out-of-office doesn’t put everyone underwater.

    13. Sara without an H*

      Hi, OP1 — I’ve been through cancer treatment and your coworkers are disgusting. Full stop.

      Stand firm behind your schedule, especially since you’ve been making an effort to schedule your treatments well in advance. I would definitely talk with the manager about the comments you’ve been receiving from your Supportive Colleagues. If you’re concerned that you’ll sound like a complainer, Alison advises people to frame their remarks as a request for the manager’s advice: “Fergus rolled his eyes when I told him that, unfortunately, I have an infusion scheduled on the day he wants to take time off and wouldn’t be able to cover for him. How would you suggest I handle this kind of thing?” But definitely take it up with your manager — scheduling is their job and they need to know about this.

      You said that your FMLA paperwork was in place. You may also want to follow up with your HR person. I’m not an HR professional, but I understand that any interference with FMLA leave is a Very Bad Thing and something they’ll want to know about.

      Your coworkers need empathy transfusion. Get well and send us an update.

    14. Faith the twilight slayer*

      Agreed. My mother is being treated for cancer and I am her primary caretaker. If someone even implied they had an issue with my schedule, my response would guarantee I would be out of a job.

      Congrats to OP for having the control to not commit a felony, because I’d be sorely tempted.

    15. DJ*

      It is way out of line. I’m sorry you’re having to go through all of this. I’m sure if financially you could do so you’d prefer to work part time. And you’re managing to make up the time and are giving plenty of notice. Their problem for changing your workload when you’ve scheduled time off for scans on lighter scheduling weeks. Honestly they should be asking what can we be doing to make things easier for you.
      Yes raise it with your manager or HR if you have one.

  6. Ginger Pet Lady*

    OP 5:
    Your coworker is right. It *will* turn off candidates. Good ones!
    Which is why you need to rethink the policy, not hide it.

    1. Quoth the Raven*

      Alternatively, the policy might be attractive to other great employees who aren’t interested in moving into a management position soon (or at all, as is my case). I’d appreciate the transparency, too.

      1. Anonym*

        Or people who’ve been burned by inexperienced managers! Not a small cohort, that.

        OP5, as HR you’re the subject matter expert when it comes to best practices on hiring, and you have standing to push your viewpoint with this hiring manager. Perhaps a bit too snarky, but it would be tempting to ask the HM whether they enjoy the hiring process and if they’d like to repeat it yearly for every role they oversee…

      2. Alternative Person*

        The transparency aspect is so important. I’m ready to step up a level. I don’t want to jump with the expectation of getting a promotion quickly then find out I have to put in another three years before I even get in consideration.

      3. Mockingjay*

        And let candidates know what the company offers in lieu of management opportunities: technical training, choice of projects, task lead (direct work not people), etc. Most people want to move up, but not necessarily as a supervisor or manager.

      4. DataSci*

        Yeah. One of the few things I really dislike about the commenters on this site is the common perception that anyone not management is junior. I have 15+ years of experience and am very good at what I do. Which is NOT people management. I’d be terrible at it and hate it! Why do so many people think anyone not interested in moving into management (notice I do not use the word “up” in that phrase) must be less qualified at their actual job?

        Now, if there was no room for moving up within my actual desired career track, that’s one thing. But “We won’t force you into management?” Great!

      5. Lydia*

        It’s the kind of thing that should be shared because if you don’t want to move into management, you won’t care, and if you do, you’ll want to be prepared.

    2. AnneMoliviaColemuff*

      I can definitely think of positions where 3 years learning the product/industry would be required before moving to management. If it’s entry level, I don’t think it’s an outlandish request.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        The agency I work at typically wants three years experience at a minimum to be considered for promotion into management…..because we typically are hiring either college students, folks straight out of college where this is your first job, or career transitioners who have prior experience – but not in this field. And they were open about that in the interview too, by laying out what the career advancement path looked like and typical timelines. Personally I loved it, because it showed me that career growth was possible and exactly what I would need to do to advance my career.

        Now, others want to live up faster – that is your right, and maybe you should look elsewhere. But good on you OP5 for wanting to lay out what the path for career growth looks like with timelines for your organization.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        In my very niche area, I think it takes 2-3 years to get through the majority of the learning curve.

        1. Daisy*

          Ha! Same here. We tell new hires the learning curve can be brutal (I am working hard on making it easier to navigate but there are a million little details to remember – and you have to know you need to look something up) and training takes 6 months to 1 year. I love my job and company, but it isn’t for everyone.

      3. Loulou*

        Agreed, three years is not very much time at all! If you started when you were 22 you could be a manager at 25…that’s very young.

    3. Allonge*

      That’s ok? If someone wants to advance faster, they need to go to a job that lets them do this. It’s prefectly reasonable that not all jobs do.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*


        Torn on whether it needs to be brought up to candidates. They are being hired for position X, and no one on the company’s end is promising or implying promotions. If the candidates don’t ask what promotions look like at the company but just assume they will zoom up through the ranks, I don’t have much sympathy for them. On the other hand, it’s in the company’s interest to weed out those candidates to prevent turnover.

          1. Office Lobster DJ*

            The question I was considering is: does the company need to provide or have some obligation to provide the information? I don’t think it should be hidden, if the topic of advancement or career paths come up. But I would expect the company to be more focused on filling position X to the best of their ability, and if the candidate is interested in leveraging X to move to level Y, they can ask what it looks like.

            1. Zephy*

              I disagree. This is a very old-school paradigm for interviews, that candidates should just know to ask about XYZ – as has been well established all over this website and other similar spaces, this kind of intentional obfuscation/lie-by-omission/”gotcha” for candidates without certain background knowledge about How To Jobs is problematic and exclusionary.

              It’s better for everyone involved if the company is forthcoming and forthright about the structure of their business and how the role they’re hiring for fits into that structure, including the advancement process and what that looks like for someone in the X role.

              1. Office Lobster DJ*

                Your general point is well-take in regards to promoting equity and the problem of “gotcha” techniques in hiring, but I really, really don’t think this is an example of that. In this situation, I see it as the candidate with the hidden expectation, that of being promoted within three years.

            2. I should really pick a name*

              There’s no obligation, but it’s in their own interest.

              If they are losing people when they discover that it will take at least three years to become a manager, it’s in their interest to proactively provide this information so these people self-select out.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      Just because it will turn off some candidates doesn’t mean it’s a bad policy. Perhaps it makes sense for their specific business.

      1. Lydia*

        I’m willing to bet the OP, who is in HR, would know that and their argument is it doesn’t make sense. They also indicate the hiring manager doesn’t think they should tell because it will turn off potential candidates, not because there is an actual business reason for it. I would also argue there isn’t a really good “business reason” not to be transparent about promotions.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      Why should OP’s company rethink the policy? There’s nothing wrong with requiring someone be in the role for three years before being considered for management, and it’s fairly common in my experience. If someone wants to move into management faster, then they’re free to not apply.

      1. Lydia*

        I think they mean rethinking the policy of not sharing the three year requirement, not rethinking the policy of requiring three years.

    6. metadata+minion*

      Three years seems like a very reasonable amount of time to stay in a position before moving to management. Heck, in many fields that’s a reasonable amount of time to expect someone to stay in a position, period. There’s nothing wrong with hiring for people who actually want to do the job rather than just use it as a stepping-stone for a management position. There’s also nothing wrong with someone wanting to move into management very quickly, but then this position is just not a good fit for them.

      1. Antilles*

        True, which leads back into OP’s (correct) judgment about needing to tell people that upfront.
        Because if you don’t mention it ahead of time, you’ll inevitably get people who get caught off-guard six months or 12 months in when they suddenly hear “nope, we don’t even consider it till three years, you got 24 more months before it’s even a discussion” and decide that it’s a bad fit.

      2. Loulou*

        Yes, there are some fields where hopping from company to company every two years and getting promoted to “senior blah blah” very quickly is the norm. I’ve found when folks from those fields comment on these issues they don’t quite understand that other fields might have legitimate reasons for functioning differently (even if some things about their way might truly be better!)

    7. learnedthehardway*

      Totally agree!! The manager is being VERY short-sighted. If you’re not upfront with candidates that the expectation is for them to be in the role for 3 years before they are allowed to advance, the company is going to have VERY UNHAPPY employees, from the outset. I mean, they’re going to find this out pretty quickly after they join the company. And that means you’ll have disaffected employees with one foot halfway out the door for any opportunity that comes along that presents a faster route to promotion. Current productivity will suffer and you’ll still have high turnover.

      Your hiring manager is better off to look for people who really want to learn the function (if it takes 3 years) or who are not looking for fast progression (if the role doesn’t really require that much learning).

      1. DataSci*

        They said nothing about not being allowed to advance! They said not moving to *management* which is not even remotely on the same planet as the same thing.

    8. ferrina*

      My company hasn’t had transparency around this (how long it takes to move up), and we’re getting slammed with people who want promotions but aren’t ready for it. They assume that because they are meeting the bare minimum of job requirements, they are ready to be promoted (even though they wouldn’t perform well at the next level). And that’s not their fault- we’re terrible at communicating expectations around what each role requires. So we have junior staff who think they are ready when they aren’t, then get frustrated and leave.
      We’re now in the position where we need to communicate to staff that have been here for a while how the system should work, and clarifying our own expectations. Some of our expectations are a bit bonkers, so we’re going to need to do a reset on that too. Thankfully the senior leadership really wants to be transparent and is open to change, but we’ll be rewriting the way things have been done for a looooong time.

      Note: this isn’t the only place that transparency is lacking. This place tries and wants to do well, but is so ingrained in their own perspective and “of course everyone knows what I know” that it’s hard. Thankfully they recently hired someone to document all the institutional knowledge but she’s got her work cut out for her!

      1. Venus*

        It is very common to have insufficient transparency around promotion criteria and timelines. I work at a company that does it well, and I know that it makes a big difference to expectations because people know how to do their work in a way that gets them recognized and promoted without getting frustrated.

        To OP:
        I agree with you that this should be made clear to candidates, because you will inevitably lose people who disagree with the promotion criteria and it is better to lose them during the hiring process rather than after you have trained them for a year. If they leave after a year then that is disruptive and expensive.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I think about this a lot. With most organizations being triangle-shaped, most of the junior employees are just not going to be able to move up very far. How do we communicate that fairly and kindly? Plus, a lot of orgs like to bring in leadership from the outside anyway to “bring new ideas” so the top spots might be taken. So yes, decent, good, or even very good employees won’t be promoted; even great ones might not be!

          1. Hlao-roo*

            This may not be possible in all jobs/industries, but I’m in engineering and some companies have a Y-shaped promotion track for engineers. You start at the bottom of the stem and move from engineer 1 to engineer 2 (or whatever name scheme a company decides to use) When you reach the split in the Y, you decide if you want to move up along the management track (limited number of positions because of the triangle-shape of the organization) OR move up along the technical track (engineer 2 -> 3 -> 4, etc.). I really like this split, and when it is well-communicated it is really helpful to see that “promotion” doesn’t just mean managing (more) people, it can also mean a raise and title bump for taking on more complicated individual contributor work.

            If organizations have a promotion path for their individual contributor roles, they should definitely share that with employees (along with what a promotion into management requires).

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

      Yes, as it’s currently operating, there will be few internal candidates advancing to manager level because they leave before 3 years, and then a new person gets hired and the clock resets. Which means, when a manager position becomes open, they’ll need to fill it with an external candidate. Why not just promote people if they’re ready and have the skills rather than a seemingly arbitrary time limit.

      1. Observer*

        Well, the key here is whether or not the time limit is actually arbitrary. It’s highly, highly likely that it’s not arbitrary at all.

        Which is why being up front makes sense – you are more likely to get candidates that stick around long enough to move into management.

    10. sofar*

      Agreed! I talk about my company’s promotion structure (aka utter lack thereof) at the same time I bring up “stuff you should know,” including that we have a busy season of about six weeks pre-holidays where we all work a LOT, and also our company does not give Black Friday as a company holiday and everyone has to work a 2-hour shift on Thanksgiving Day. And if they haven’t specifically asked about promotions, I point out we do not have a clear advancement structure and promotions are given only “when it makes sense for the business,” ie, to backfill someone who has left. I emphasize that I get everyone has different expectations in this regard, and I would feel remiss in not letting candidates know. Even if a candidate lies and says “it’s OK, I’m just excited about this job” and starts gunning for a promotion they won’t get unless someone quits or dies the moment they start, at least I told them and did not mislead them by omission.

      I also frequently bring up with HR that having an advancement structure/track is a good thing, much like any other benefit, and that it would help us attract and keep the best applicants. No progress has been made in this regard.

      But it’s not my job to recruit. It’s my job to find someone who is right for the position we’re hiring for in our company as it exists today. It’s the company’s job to have benefits that are attractive to candidates.

    11. Observer*

      Your coworker is right. It *will* turn off candidates. Good ones!

      Not necessarily. It really depends on the field and company.

    12. Gumby*

      3 years before moving into management doesn’t seem *at all* onerous to me. In many cases I would even see it as too short! How does a company operate if people are only individual contributors for, at most, 3 years???? How many layers of management would you have? Or is turn over so high that it ameliorates the rapid rise into management ranks?

      Granted, I am sure my perspective is highly influenced by my experience. I have almost always worked in smaller companies with relatively flat management structures. In fact, for the vast majority of my career my grandboss has been the CEO of whatever org. There just wasn’t room to make everyone a manager and still get stuff done.

  7. Magenta Sky*

    #4: “My biggest personal goal right now is to keep my work life and my personal life as separate as I can, to ensure a healthy balance between them.”

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      We have the same sort of thing at my work, and I usually just put something like “regularly getting up from my desk and going for short walks” or “take time off for “.
      They’re technically personal/health goals, but not really private, and still kind of related to work in that in order to fulfil them your work will need to give you the time off and not expect you to be glued to your chair all day.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Call me old-fashioned, but whatever happened to taking over the entire Tri-State Area as a personal goal?

    3. honeygrim*

      My early morning snark suggestion is “My goal is to learn how to avoid answering invasive personal questions at work.”

      1. Magenta Sky*

        That’s more blunt, and I do like the idea. But invoking “work/life balance” uses the power of Buzzwords. It also vaguely implies (true or not) that the speaker is prone to overworking, at least a new job, in their zeal, without actually saying so.

        It’s all a bit manipulative, but then, so is asking overly personal questions of one’s employees.

    4. Falling Diphthong*


      I could see “work-life balance is good” and “our employees want to bring their whole selves to work” leading to this sort of management question. My kudos to the person who said their personal goal was to take a pottery class, and I would suggest figuring out an anodyne thing you want to do in the next year (read some books? take some walks?) and tossing that out.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Not playing this game is the only way to stamp out this practice. You are probably right that its some sort of “you bring your whole selves to work” and “we want to help you develop as a person too” mishmash that really should not be in the workplace. Playing along with boring things only lets them think its a good management practice. Instead as one poster upthread put it about the time off for treatments “none of your beeswax.”

        1. ferrina*

          Eh, sometimes it’s worth it to make the game so boring that even the manager doesn’t want to play. Especially if this manager is known to be temperamental/retaliatory.

      2. Generic+Name*

        If taking a pottery class is a work goal, does this mean they can attend the class during work time (without using PTO)? I’d be down with that.

        1. Petty Betty*

          That may be the way to shut it down. Be earnestly aggressive about your personal goals and how the company (and maybe specifically, the manager asking the question) can work to help you achieve that/those goal(s). Giving you PTO to do it, paying for the classes, supplies, storage space, etc.
          I mean, maybe your life’s ambition is playing therapeutic bagpipes to incontinent large animals. How convenient that this company is willing to PAY for you to get lessons, pay for your time off/practice, encourage you to practice at work (your neighbors have been less than kind), buy you your instrument, and give you space to play for the animals! Aren’t they so giving!

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


      Personally, I’d even go so far as to give the manager the benefit of the doubt, and think this is just a weird awkward way to ask about work-life balance. And this is a great way to do a judo answer-and-deflect.

    6. Beth*

      My former bosses not only wanted us to provide personal goals, they tied part of our annual bonuses to the personal goals, and put all kinds of stupid restrictions on what personal goals could be included. (A new and different goal each year, quantifiable, progress tracked all year, had to be considered “big enough”, etc.)

      My last year there, I finally refused to play, forfeiting that part of the bonus.

      I still seethe at the memory.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        That is just awful.

        I’m over 60, my personal goals these days revolve around long term retirement planning. I’m not taking up new hobbies, taking up some exercise fad, or doing some stupid diet thing. If I have personal projects they are multi-year and low pressure.

        Needless to say, these days my “personal goals” would be something like “take a nap at least three time a week.”

  8. Princess Xena*

    OP#1, you will hear this from a whole lot of other people if I know this comments section but I’ll add it here: your coworkers are 100% in the wrong. What would be sensible for them to do would be to more or less permanently have you on the light work shifts, or make darned sure that on weeks you have standing appointments for your LITERAL CANCER TREATMENTS you are on light work. Putting you on a heavy work schedule on those weeks is both stupid and unkind. They’re not even that frequent! I can see some complaining if you were out every third day but once a day a month? They need to shut it.

    One thing you can try: return the awkward to sender. The next time a coworker moans about having to cover some work, feel free to say something along the lines of “I’m so sorry that my CANCER TREATMENT is impacting the scheduling”. Alternatively, go to your manager and tell them what you’ve told us. Your manager is clearly on your side. I’m guessing they’d be a little irritated by what’s going on.

    Best of luck with your treatments!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Actually I bet the manager would be appalled at the snide comments and attitude that OP is being subjected to by their coworkers. Please let your manager know – this is something that belongs on their desk.

      Get to feeling your best soon OP1.

    2. Sean*

      I would be so tempted to say “Well, if you think you’ve got the raw end of the deal here, I’ll gladly swap places with you and be the one blessed with the health and strength to take on the occasional heavier workload.”

      That would shut them up once and for all.

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

        That would be my reaction, but I’m afraid that would nuke the entire relationship. Maaaaaybe say it in a casual tone.

      2. LolaBugg*

        Last year I was dealing with an autoimmune diagnosis and the many subsequent symptoms, treatments, tests, appointments etc that went along with it. My manager was extremely accommodating, for which I’m extremely grateful. A coworker known for being snarky, nosy, and generally unpleasant said something to the effect of, “must be nice to get all this time off”, implying that my medical appointments and high symptom days when I couldn’t get out of bed are some kind of vacation. I looked her deadpan in the eyes and said, “I’ll trade places with you”. She got the message and never said anything else to me. Sometimes you just have to put people in their place.

      3. VI Guy*

        It won’t shut up a lot of people. I get a slightly nicer computer because I can’t see well and I sometimes have people who say that I’m lucky to have it. I explain that it’s because of my eyesight which limits me in many other ways like being unable to drive and I would love to trade with them, and yet they often finish up the conversation by saying that I’m lucky. The people who think that they have the raw end of the deal for having to accommodate an illness are irrational and pointing it out rarely helps.

        1. Sloanicota*

          It’s really unfortunate how many organizations have cultivated a scarcity/hardship mindset in their employees, as if there can only be one person who gets a good computer or a cube by the window (this created havoc at my old org because it was highly, highly coveted and granted by seniority – until someone requested it as an ADHD accommodation) or, in a school setting, a quiet space to take tests, or more time or whatever was necessary. This idea that the average worker is not very valued and should lump it is contributing to this me-me-me greediness when they see someone else “get something.” It sucks!

        2. Slow+Gin+Lizz*

          Right? This is the reason I’m perfectly happy to park in a spot far away from wherever I’m going, because I am able to walk there on my own two feet. I do not resent the parking spaces saved for people with disabilities who need them because I am (I hope) a decent human being.

    3. one L lana*

      Having the nerve to try to guilt someone with Stage 4 cancer about “missed time” (at work!) is so tone-deaf and appalling that I’m speechless.

    4. Goldenrod*

      “One thing you can try: return the awkward to sender. The next time a coworker moans about having to cover some work, feel free to say something along the lines of “I’m so sorry that my CANCER TREATMENT is impacting the scheduling””

      YES. I agree with this advice! I am very sorry you are dealing with this, and I truly detest your co-workers. They massively suck!

    5. eternalfiresong*

      This. 100% This. I am in Stage IV Melanoma and doing the 3 week treatment/frequent scan thing right now. This letter hit me hard. My boss (of a very small team) recently told me that my absences were hard to cover and I needed to do more to manage issues. Being able to turn things around, point out cold hard facts of my diagnosis and how much stress and other issues didn’t help things, was… kinda liberating. Sometimes, I just don’t think people get it. I don’t know if they haven’t researched the facts, or they think that “oh, treatments have gotten better, this will be fine” but LW1, you come first. End stop. If your manager can intercede on your behalf, that would be amazing.

      But don’t downplay things to yourself either. I’m so glad you are doing well!! I don’t know where you are in your journey but regardless of what part, that’s amazing. I’m relatively early and I made the decision to resign at the end of this month to focus on my health and my blood pressure literally dropped by a measurable amount because I was putting too much pressure on managing side effects along side work concerns. There are lots of unknowns with that decision too, but sometimes it’s hard to put ourselves first as we’re so ingrained to think of our jobs and coworkers and the strain we put on them. So just… be kind to yourself and remember that you come before your job and that this too is a journey. And you got this.

  9. voyager1*

    LW1: Your manager should be handling these scheduling issues. Sounds like the staff is just having to wing it and management is not paying attention to workloads. The snark is completely wrong but I would bet it is coming from a place of frustration for your coworkers that they are left having to manage everything with no input from the manager.

    I worked many jobs that had coverage issues, whenever someone was out long periods of time. These kinds of things would happen, especially when the manager was not paying attention to workloads.

    1. WS*

      Healthcare work has been extremely stressful over the last few years and constant coverage problems and shift changes have been frequent – not an excuse for these terrible coworkers, but a pattern of behaviour that they may be already be in and are now carrying way too far. Either way, this is on the manager to, you know, manage. LW1 cannot move these appointments and has done everything possible to make this as low stress as possible for others. It’s not on LW1 to do more.

    2. L-squared*

      Yeah, this is what I was thinking. This really sounds like a management issue. It seems managment is just letting the employees handle things, and sometimes this happens. People aren’t typically going to indefinitely make their own jobs more difficult, even for someone going through what coworker is. Sure, in the beginning people will be willing to. But eventually, they will get burned out of the constant heavy rotation as well. So management needs to step up and make a plan for this and stick to it.

      1. MelMc*

        This is exactly what I was thinking L-squared. The co-workers are being awful, but it’s because management has successfully scapegoated OP#1 for them not doing their job. Management needs to arrange the coverage better and not be “Oh sorry, vacations are hereby canceled until OP#1 gets done with her cancer thing. Nothing I can do about it.”

    3. The Other Dawn*

      My first thought was to wonder if anyone, manager or coworkers, knows the exact dates of the upcoming appointments. I get the impression they don’t, which is why they’re routinely changing things up. If they do know, then the manager needs to step in. If they don’t, then a list of appointments should be provided to the manager and whoever else might need to know.

      Also, these coworkers suck either way.

    4. Just Another Zebra*

      This was my thought, too. Healthcare is so short-staffed right now, and it sounds like management is leaving it up to staff to figure out these schedule snafus. It sounds to me like misplaced frustration. None of this is an excuse – nothing excuses this kind of insensitivity. OP, I think you have full standing to speak up. “I schedule these appointments at times when it will impact business the least, but schedule changes are out of my control. These are not voluntary days off – they are for treatment for a medical condition that believe me, I would rather not be dealing with either.” Do not apologize. Do not offer to cover shifts, or try to change your appointments. It is what it is, and management needs to figure out coverage.

      (I’d also clue your manager in to what’s happening, FWIW. They should make an attempt to shut this kind of behavior down)

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I make every effort to schedule them during the weeks I know I’ll have a lighter workload

        “I schedule these appointments at times when it will impact business the least,”

        This does, however, mean that they’re down a person when there is the most work to be done, which impacts the OP the least but everyone else the most. I suspect the issue here is that everyone else needs more support while the OP is out and management is either clueless or doesn’t care.

    5. DrSalty*

      Yeah the manager needs to be looped in ASAP to deal with scheduling problems. I suspect this is the root of LW’s coworkers’ frustration.

    6. Office Lobster DJ*

      I agree. Maybe I’m an optimist, but I just don’t want to believe an entire office has turned into monsters without some other key piece of the puzzle. Is management pulling their weight here?

      1. Calamity Janine*

        when it comes to hating the disabled, often it lurks just under the surface until it pops out in flagrant bigotry. it’s way more common than one may think. looking at the bloodthirsty endorsements of genocide for disabled folks and how that went mainstream – and stayed mainstream – in response to covid-19 may be a barometer there that will be useful to you. plenty of people I thought were decent – friends, extended family members – went down that rabbit hole and came out the other side to enthusiastically espouse the belief that the world would be better off if I was dead.

        as soon as you stop being a good (quiet, inspirational, not inconveniencing anyone, etc) cripple, you get punished for being a bad one. ask me how i know, lol :(

        sorry, Pollyanna… I really wish your sunny disposition was correct on this one. I would love to live in that world. instead we live in this one, and from down here in the trenches, yeah it gets that bad very quick and surprisingly easily. :( not meaning to scold you, really, just… boy howdy is it ever a bummer, huh

    7. ER*

      Yup, as someone also in healthcare, and direct patient care: it is brutal out there right now. We are constantly understaffed and cannot find anyone to hire. We all are barely hanging on when all of us are in office, and when someone is sick or on vacation it does negatively affect the rest of us. OP’s coworkers’ comments are inappropriate and unthinking, but they are likely coming from a place of complete burnout and overwhelm.

    8. Pisces*

      Agree with everyone above. At PastJob, I covered for a colleague who’d been out six months and counting when I left.

      Because she eventually told me, I knew why she was out. But HR’s official position was to throw up their hands and say they couldn’t discuss reasons for leaves of absence. Which was true, for privacy reasons.

      Still, it felt like the management was basically saying, be quiet and s*** it up. Indefinitely.

    9. Techie*

      I agree with all of this – the coworkers are being rude, but the far bigger problem is with the manager. There is more to managing a situation like this than being verbally supportive to the person who is taking FMLA. I’d strongly suggest raising coverage in general as an issue with your manager. It sounds to me like the approach to date has been very informal, but that’s no longer working. It’s time for the manager to take a much stronger hand.

    10. snarkfox*

      Exactly…. I understand their frustration, although it shouldn’t be aimed at LW. It sounds like only one person can comfortably be out of the office at a time, which just isn’t feasible, especially if someone is (understandably, of course!) having to miss as much work as LW.

      They need to hire more staff to cover.

  10. Not A Manager*

    LW1, your co-workers are asses. That said, would it help to put your (lack of) availability clearly on your shared calendar/schedule in advance, or even recurring? “Not available on Tuesday/Thursday this week,” “only available for 25 hours this week,” “cannot accept [heavier assignment] this week.” It sounds like part of the issue might be that although your appointments are recurring, your co-workers aren’t directly thinking about that when they make these schedule changes.

    If all of this is already crystal clear and they are still scheduling over you, then I would ask your boss to directly tell them to stop doing it.

    If that isn’t possible, be as bland and unhelpful as possible. You’re conscientiously trying to make things easier and to be accommodating, but what if you flipped that? What if they pulled this stunt and you said flatly, “sorry, I’m not available for that assignment this week,” and then just… stopped talking. Let them figure it out.

    1. Orino*

      Yeah, keeping calendars up to date is extremely helpful. Like ultimately it’s not my business whether you are out on a religious holiday, vacation, illness, childcare, book of your favorite series releasing. Put it on your calendar once you know when it happens.

    2. Office Lobster DJ*

      I agree. At one job, my team ran into conflict involving chronic medical absences because we wouldn’t be notified until the day was almost over that oh by the way, co-worker was out. At that point, we had to drop everything to cover their daily tasks, leading to chaos and, yes, frustration.

      So if there is a chance any of the attitude comes from scheduling or staffing constraints, rather than personal frustration with OP’s situation, I’d say management should target those issues as much as possible.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      If that isn’t possible, be as bland and unhelpful as possible. You’re conscientiously trying to make things easier and to be accommodating, but what if you flipped that? What if they pulled this stunt and you said flatly, “sorry, I’m not available for that assignment this week,” and then just… stopped talking. Let them figure it out.

      This is a great idea. If you can, try to be as unemotional as possible and maybe just keep repeating, “Sorry, can’t” ad nauseum until they stop bothering you. And remember that “No” is a full sentence.

  11. Sarah S*

    Employees in a healthcare setting are treating a coworker with cancer like her treatment is a nuisance? That honestly makes me worry about their ability to provide appropriate, dignified care to patients. The letter writer should alert her manager to this harassment first and foremost because she deserves to access her workplace accommodations without retaliation from coworkers. But an added benefit of doing so is the potential to address ableism among the staff that could negatively impact patients.

    1. Temperance*

      I think respecting her treatment needs is important and she should talk to her boss about that, but I don’t see how her colleagues struggling to handle the workload makes them ableist in a way that will impact patients.

      1. Lydia*

        If you are a person taking out your frustrations on the one person who can’t do anything about it and is actually suffering, you are, in fact, an ableist jerk and probably let some of that leak out in your treatment of patients. Or you’re one of those “but this is the good kind of disabled person” jerks, which is also bad.

    2. NICS*

      It’s kind of weird in healthcare, even from before the pandemic. People save up all their compassion for the patients and don’t “waste” it on their colleagues. It’s utterly horrifying that LW #1’s coworkers are being so unsympathetic, but it actually doesn’t say as much about how they care for patients as it would appear. (In my experience, of course.)

      1. Lydia*

        I wouldn’t be so sure they’re saving it for the patients, either. There are plenty of people who have had awful experiences with healthcare workers, frequently more overt than the passive-aggressive BS the OP is experiencing.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, in my experience, the people who aren’t “wasting” it on their coworkers aren’t “wasting” it on patients unless they’re the “good” kind of disabled.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I’ve been struggling with how to word this for a bit because saying only “pretty” children need apply is definitely the wrong word for the situation, but at the same time I can certainly confirm that an ugly sick kid is not going to get sympathy the way a hallmark movie sick kid will.

              1. Calamity Janine*

                “you have to look like the model kids in Hollywood, then we’ll care. too visibly sick, too awkward, too inconvenient to deal with, and too… ugh… not white and upper-middle-class and cishet and otherwise “respectable”? those kids need not apply, thanks. look like jonbenet ramsey in a cute little wheelchair and we might allow it. but you have to come pose for the cameras, and be the inspirational sort of disabled, while we fawn over you.”

                ableism is one hell of a drug. :(

  12. Beebee*

    #4 – I think there’s a balance between being friends (which you don’t seem to want to be, which is fair!) and sharing something about yourself for the sake of it being something your boss is asking for and you presumably want to get along. It’s likely just to get to know you better and make conversation. Those seem like good enough reasons to share something mild about yourself with them.

    Like your manager isn’t asking for a therapy session haha they just want to know you better! You could literally say you want to relax more or spend less time on your phone at home or anything small but conversational. But I would not approach it adversarially, especially considering this is your boss.

    1. Still*

      This is different than the manager doing small talk though. This is coming up in the context of a meeting where work goals are set. Work goals that the manager is probably going to assess and use to measure Letter Writer’s performance. In that context, adding personal goals to the mix is wrong and intrusive, because the manager has no business tracking or assessing LW’s personal goals in any way. What if the LW fails miserably in their personal goals, will the manager think of them as a slacker or unmotivated? Even if that’s not the case, will the LW now feel pressured or guilty for not making enough progress on their personal goals because they are expecting the boss to ask for an update?

      You’re right, the LW shouldn’t be adversarial, but the boss is absolutely out of line.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Yeah, if this is a “getting to know you” thing, it is poorly thought out. You don’t get to know someone by following a script with canned questions, even if they were better questions than this one.

      2. Allonge*

        Yes – maaaaybe I could see a question work if it’s about something in your personal life that is negatively affected by work or (if positive) could be enhanced by work in the context of ‘let’s make this easier from the work side, then’, but… absolutely no need to go there, and certainly not for everyone.

        On the other hand, I would be surprised but would not mind coming up with something like ‘don’t rewatch a movie 15 times before moving on to another’ or ‘read more non-fiction’ where work has little to no influence on the activity or outcome. Ask stupid questions…

      3. Beebee*

        I think that’s overthinking it to be honest! The LW would know their boss best but saying “I might take a pottery class this year” seems fairly dully and low-stakes. Maybe it’s the word “goals” people are bumping on? The examples they mentioned in the letter are the kind of things that come up at work in casual conversations. It doesn’t sound like the boss wants to or measure in great detail what LW is doing.

        And regardless of what boundaries people want to draw, again I don’t think approaching what is likely a friendly request from the boss adversarially is going to go down well. If I asked someone what they’re working on in their personal life and they didn’t want to say anything, even “read more” or “drink more water” (a suggestion down below) I’d personally find it a little weird. There’s a difference between life coaching (def not cool for a boss or anyone at work to do) and wanting to build rapport. Too strong of boundaries between what you won’t tell your boss could risk coming across as not a team-player so I wanted to mention it so LW can make an informed choice from a couple perspectives. They can draw whatever boundaries they want! But refusing to share anything about themselves, even in a polite way, risks coming across as not overly friendly which might not be worth it to LW.

        1. Beebee*

          Er sorry not “team-player”. It risks coming across like you don’t care about getting to know the people you work with and you don’t want them to know you is more how I meant it.

    2. Roland*

      If you are correct, that doesn’t actually change the answer because they are still being really inappropriate.

      All of my managers have asked me things like “how was your weekend” and most have made an effort to remember plans and hobbies and things I bring up – but as a two way street! They’d ask what I’ve been up to and also talk about what they’ve been up to. Not one has ever couched personal stuff in the language of management like OP’s manager is doing.

    3. SarahKay*

      But the boss isn’t asking questions to get to know OP4 better, they’re asking OP to share a personal goal along with their work goals. I’m with OP4; however well-meant it might be, this is way out of line.
      OP4, I would suggest something dull (and unprovable) like drink more water.

    4. MsClaw*

      Yeah, this sounds like it could be an attempt to get to know his workers better (Jane takes pottery classes, Glenn is learning to knit, Wakeen is a scout leader). Or it’s also possible the boss wants to understand longer-term career goals. Jane is doing a part-time MBA; what can I do to make sure she can use that here at the Company instead of losing her to a rival when she graduates, for example.

      1. Beebee*

        Yeah that’s how I read it. I don’t think the boss is planning to hold LW to the goal or track it; if they were that would obviously be weird. It could be looking to help the person grow or motivate them, it could just literally be to make conversation. LW would know best how their boss is and if it’s worth opening up to build the relationship!

  13. KateM*

    LW#2 – if you have been using this reference “for many years”, then won’t it age out soon as a relevant reference anyway?

    1. Mid*

      Not necessarily–they could have worked together for a significant period of time and still maintain a professional relationship (e.g. worked together for 6 years and are on the same board for a local non-profit.) LW said they’re also friends, so they’re maintaining a relationship outside of work. I think someone you worked with 5 years ago and never talk to is different than someone you worked with 5 years ago and regularly interact with. And if you don’t change jobs often, you can end up with references that you haven’t worked with recently because you can’t list your current workplace colleagues or supervisors as references.

  14. LittleMarshmallow*

    LW1: your colleagues suck. I’m baffled that they somehow think that last minute schedule changes are less of a problem than your standing known schedule conflicts. Like come on people, figure it out and don’t act all inconvenienced when someone you know has a conflict can’t cover your last minute unplanned stuff. Definitely let your manager know.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Honestly the last minute nature of all of the schedule gymnastics is what makes me think that they are trying to fly all of this under the manager’s radar. Betting they are telling manager that “oh, it’s just a shift trade, you don’t need to worry about it” or some similar nonsense.

      1. WS*

        Not necessarily – healthcare work has been a scheduling nightmare since 2020 for obvious reasons. The manager may have well put it all on the staff. Either way, it’s time for the manager to step up and take charge of this.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Oh I know that – I’ve worked admin side for a large health system since early 2019….maybe the difference is that at where I work any schedule change has to go through the Dept manager, no exceptions. So I’ve seen some people trying to pull the “oh, no big deal, just a schedule swap” maneuver. Fortunately my manager doesn’t let things just drop.

    2. Mid*

      I honestly think it depends on what the last minute scheduling is. OP says it’s last minute PTO, but that doesn’t mean people are taking a vacation on short notice. The coworkers could also be dealing with medical issues, or childcare, or other emergencies in their lives that they need to deal with. It doesn’t excuse their comments to OP, but it’s indicative of a larger issue if only one person in the workplace is allowed to have life issues at a time. OP deserves flexibility to deal with their life, but so do their coworkers.

    3. snarkfox*

      I mean… yeah, they’re being assholes by directing their frustration at OP, but it sounds like they can’t manage more than one person being out of the office at a time. Someone shouldn’t have to come to work sick because of OP’s cancer treatments… It’s not OP’s fault, though, it’s the manager’s.

  15. MissGirl*

    OP 2: I just went through this exact thing only I’m the reference. Both my coworker and I are job hunting and I agreed to be her peer reference. Turned out the manager and I worked at the same company but different years and spoke about that. I also gave my coworker a great reference as she deserves. I would think us connecting in a professional way may also give greater weight to my reference.

    I actually asked here in the Friday thread about if connecting with the manager about future jobs would be odd and I was told to go for it. I waited until my coworker accepted the offer to make it clear I wasn’t after her spot and reached out to the manager. I simply told him I’d love to be considered if there are other openings. My coworker is also determined to find me a spot.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I think LW2 needs to relax a bit; this is, frankly, how networking happens. The fact that LW linked them but they then found other reasons to bond doesn’t mean that anything wrong or underhanded happened. I get that it feels like the focus of the call should have been on LW, but the two people on the call hitting it off and finding other things to discuss doesn’t mean that you did not get the appropriate amount of focus during the call.

      Old Boss and New Boss likely already had much in common; the conversation about LW was just a shortcut. They share an industry, obviously; it’s very possible they also share an alma mater or a past company or similar. It makes perfect sense that their shared network became a fortuitous topic during the reference check (or they may have looked at each other’s LinkedIn profiles ahead of time), and they bonded. It doesn’t mean that anybody was fishing for inappropriate information.

      I frequently learn that I have some connection with people through some innocuous moment. Not long ago, I was on a telemedicine appointment, and when I sipped my drink, the doctor saw my cup and realized that we shared an alma mater. Something as simple as a cup was a shortcut to realizing a connection. I was sitting on the beach last month and struck up a conversation with the group next to us, and we figured out that one of the gentlemen had worked with my father 40 years ago. (I also once hosted a brunch where two people there figured out they were dating the same guy. It was SUPER awkward, but it’s for the best that it happened.)

      Really, nothing wrong happened here. LW got her moment during their call; it doesn’t mean that something wrong happened that the moment wasn’t entirely about her.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Agreed. OP2 seems annoyed that the reference will not need to go through the same rigorous process to get a job. That’s an uncharitable way to look at this. Here’s a better way to view things: if both OP2 and the reference both get jobs at this company, that is great for both of them. How they got there is not relevant.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          One other thing: networking is a normal way to find candidates, even in unusual situations. I was recruited into a new job while attending a social event. In fact, the higher the position, the more likely this occurs.

        2. paxfelis*

          I know if I were the not-a-reference person, I’d be trying to find out if I was eligible for a referral bonus.

        3. GammaGirl1908*

          This too, big time. Reference is not the first or the last person to learn about an opportunity through a network-based short cut. LW needs to be mad at much of the world if that is her complaint. Word of mouth runs much of the world. There is no point in being miffed because someone else benefited from it, because you likely will benefit from it another time.

          Just because you didn’t do something the hardest possible way, or because you lucked into skipping a few steps, doesn’t mean you cheated.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I would think us connecting in a professional way may also give greater weight to my reference.
      This. Your reference made a good impression; that’s a plus for the employer’s impression of you.

      So long as the role they might get isn’t the one you applied for, it’s a mild positive for your application.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      This is a great way to look at it – and it’s the reasonable way to look at it, as well.

      For the OP – people find out about potential career opportunities in a number of different ways. It’s not reasonable to be miffed that your reference is being interviewed about another opportunity – you should be pleased for them. It’s rare that doing someone a good turn results in such an immediate payoff – not only is your reference doing something for you, but they’re getting some value out of it.

      It’s not the role you’re being considered for – which would be another issue entirely.

  16. Software Engineer*

    For LW3, if there is a specific employee who will work themselves into the ground the boss has better tools to handle that than telling other people on the team to not message them outside their business hours. The boss should be telling THEM to chill and go live their life, and saying “I know ‘you don’t mind’ and you want to work a lot but I mind and it’s not the way we want to work. It’s important for all of us to get rest.”

    You can’t manage peoples schedules and their work life balance for them. The manager has to set the expectation and the culture of not responding to slack and email after hours

    1. Allonge*

      Absolutely. OP, this cannot be on anyone else to manage but the person themselves and their boss. You are working, within working hours, you get a message – you respond. Especially in an org that spans time zones like yours, inevitably there will be some messaging that falls at weird times.

      Uh, and as someone who sometimes sends out questions late or early – not responding ‘for my own good’ is incredibly annoying. By all means, respond at your convenience, I am not expecting you to be up at 10 pm, but please don’t manage my life.

      1. LT*

        Maybe a question popped into the coworkers head at 10 pm, and she wanted to ask before she forgot? Or she wanted to ask so she would have the answer ready and waiting when she logged in the next t morning? This weird micromanaging of when to send messages would drive me nuts.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      I agree. Manager needs to manage the problem at the source. Sounds like to coworker likely to work herself into the ground is sending a message and may be waiting for a response. Holding the response won’t necessarily stop her from working.

      I don’t think anyone should be delaying their messages. Instead everyone should not be working, checking messages, monitoring work slack when they are off work. That way messages come in through their off hours, and they don’t know about it until they log in. Don’t put work email/slack on personal devices. If they are on personal devices turn off notifications when you’re off work.

      There’s potentially way to resolve the problem, but the the boss is going about it the entirely wrong way.

      I once lost a sys admin because he couldn’t maintain worklife balance (and his company was making him get a undergrad degree in order to get a raise even though he was a technical expert). He quit for a similar (but less stressful) job a ski resort. But some people have trouble turning it off, get all their validation from work/working hard, don’t have other things going on in their lives, actually love their jobs, etc.

  17. whingedrinking*

    I don’t recommend actually saying this, but in LW1’s shoes I’d be sorely tempted to reply, “If my medical appointments are so inconvenient for you, imagine the trouble you’d be put to if I, you know, died.”

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      “Oh, I’m sorry. If I’d known my treatments would inconvenience you, I’d never have chosen to get cancer.”

  18. TG*

    LW#1 – stop being so accommodating to these clowns. I can’t believe they’re being whiny when you have cancer! You have a treatment schedule end of story! I wish you zero stress and a full 100% recovery!

    1. JSPA*

      #1: this may be what your manager needs to push for more staffing (despite the almost universal staffing problems in health care). “My team has so little slack that otherwise empathetic people have become desperate enough to guilt one of their own for her recurrent cancer treatment” ought to make them sit up just a bit.

      It’s clearly egregious that the team are saying these things to you! But it’s also unacceptable that people can’t take their well-earned time off without throwing the schedule in disarray. After all, the goal is for these treatments to render you healthy for a long time… which means this (untenable-all-around) situation will (hopefully!) persist, unless they at least bring in a part-timer. If they had an additional someone even one week a month (or 2 days a week, or whatever) your workplace would be better for everyone.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Nailed it.
        “My team has so little slack that otherwise empathetic people have become desperate enough to guilt one of their own for her recurrent cancer treatment”

        There was an opportunity here to rally around OP. Management could have pointed out that the team takes care of each other. “This is the help we’d give to anyone on the team. You give now, but if you need later you get it back.” But instead there is NO cohesion and NO support for OP other than management.

        I guess management flunked the cohesion building section of management 101.

        Hopefully management does not scold them, but rather issues a reminder to lighten up because they too will be taken care of if they need time for health matters. If that attitude does not change then management can have a longer talk with individual offenders.
        And management needs to look at work loads, it might be time to bring in a part timer or a temp if everyone is that maxed out.

        1. Mangled Metaphor*

          “I guess management flunked the cohesion building section of management 101.”

          That’s assuming they were even sent on the course for management 101.
          Far too many managers get their positions without any training or support. Hence this awesome resource website!

        2. Temperance*

          The thing is, you’re assuming that none of OP’s colleagues have issues when it’s incredibly likely that they all have varying personal life things that come up that they can’t prioritize.

          When people say “we would do this for you!”, they likely haven’t considered that people might have needs they are putting on the back burner because they have no other choice if they want to remain employed.

          1. NICS*

            So you’ve pushed back in defense of LW#1’s coworkers a few times in this discussion. What do *you* think LW #1 should do here?

            1. JSPA*

              Discuss with colleagues how the understaffing which pits them against each other is the real enemy.

              these are all, apparently, front line health workers. It’s a good bet that the majority of them have sustained some significant trauma and/or health deficits in the past couple of years.

              (Of all the professions that could reasonably have compassion fatigue on top of everyday fatigue, health workers are way up there.)

              LW presumably does not believe that nobody else should get time off, nor that any one person, no matter how able-bodied, should have to take punishingly heavy shifts for months and years on end. “Come together to demand adequate staffing” is the only way out of this situation.

            2. Temperance*

              I wouldn’t say I’m defending them and their VERY shitty behavior, because I’m DEFINITELY not in favor of treating someone like this, to be clear. I just feel like the bigger picture (and the fact that colleagues aren’t just work robots who have no lives and might not need consideration) needs to be included.

              What I do think OP should do is make sure her medical appointments are on the shared calendar, and that whoever is the team lead or handling the workload assignments is aware of the chemo days/need to be on the lighter tasks at that time, and that she CAN handle a heavier workload on weeks #1 and #2 (for example).

              OP’s boss also needs to be more proactive in managing the shared workload so OP can stay employed and keep her insurance while her colleagues also can take their PTO days and attend to their real-life needs.

  19. Dr. Bloof*

    Uh-oh, if someone knows you might be taking a pottery class, the consequences could LITERALLY be fatal!

    1. Harper the Other One*

      This is a weirdly aggressive response. I’d be curious to know why you feel it’s necessary to respond this way to the idea that not everyone wants to have managers asking about their personal goals in a formalized work framework.

      1. Dr. Bloof*

        This is a weirdly aggressive response. I’d be curious to know why you feel it’s necessary to be so confrontational towards the idea that someone might make a joke or not take this site seriously.

        1. Koalafied*

          Because the joke you’re making is “this question is dumb” and we’re asked not to be unkind to letter writers here, because doing do can discourage other people from writing in if they think someone is going to drag them for asking a dumb question.

          1. Myrin*

            It’s not even (just) “this question is dumb” but rather/additionally “you’re an oversensitive whiner who doesn’t even know what real problems are” which is pretty mean.

            (And FWIW, I’m a very open person who doesn’t find a lot too private to talk about so on a purely personal level, I can never relate to questions like these, either. But I understand that not everyone is like me and I don’t make mean-spirited comments towards OPs who are asking for help and guidance.)

        2. Dr. Rebecca*

          Possibly (not to speak for Harper) because your comment’s (pretty mean) joke is “you’re overreacting, get over it, suck it up and do the thing you don’t want to do so badly you wrote into an advice column about it.”

          Gee. Why didn’t the LW think of that… [/s]

        3. Jennifer Strange*

          What hyperbolic hand-wringing? OP said she thought it was bizarre and intrusive, which it is. Seems like you and Bloof are the only ones engaging in hyperbole here.

    2. Cookie*

      Wow. I wouldn’t want a manager who thought this way.

      What if LW has a different hobby, like taking a burlesque class? What if their personal plan includes intense therapy for PTSD? Do they need to share that too because nobody’s going to DIE if they know? Why is it someone’s boss’s right to know how they spend their non-work time even if nobody will LITERALLY DIE without finding out?

  20. Ellis Bell*

    OP1, a couple of scripts might help re-establish some boundaries that are so horribly blurred, no one can even see the line any more. “Obviously you know I can’t make up time lost to battling cancer. So we should probably stop talking about the impossible.” “Perhaps we should ask boss if this last minute PTO request overrides my cancer treatment”, “Perhaps you should ask boss if my work input is sufficient right now, while I’m battling cancer, seeing as we are just peers.” “Speaking of which, I’m going to need the passive aggressive comments to stop about my cancer treatment. If you’re wanting for me to feel bad about it being inconvenient to you, I have nothing for you.”
    In short, respond as though this is the first week they know about cancer treatment. There is no expiry date on decency, and the way they are going on about the inconvenience of your cancer is indecent. They don’t get to make sympathetic noises for five minutes before making it all about them. Does your boss have your back in all of this?!

    1. Vicky*

      I also agree with explicitly naming the seriousness of what OP is deal with more often if OP is comfortable with that. Stuff like “I’m literally fighting cancer right now, so yes, that’s always going to be my priority. I made sure to schedule in advance and the rest of my schedule needs to work around the appointments that are trying to save my life, not the other way around.” Or if someone says “*sigh* I guess we’ll figure something out” I’d respond with something like “yeah, my cancer treatment appointments are non negotiable so let me know what you decide to do about the schedule!” You should never apologize for having to take care of yourself, OP, and right now the fact that you’re trying to be so accommodating is giving your coworkers the false impression that they have the moral high ground. Stop negotiating with emotional terrorists.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        This reminds me of some Captain Awkward advice about naming people’s bad behaviour clearly, rather than dancing around it or using euphemisms. I’d hope that with reasonable people, it might jolt them back into better behaviour.

        Side note, are these PTO requests getting approved by anyone? Or coordinated by anyone to make sure there’s sufficient coverage? I 100% agree with other commenters that the organization needs to make it so that everyone is able to take the PTO they’re entitled to, but that this cannot be done on OP’s back. The coworkers’ frustration may be totally valid, but they’re taking it out on the wrong person.

        Has anyone (the Manager) done an analysis to show whether there will be enough coverage if staff take all their PTO by the end of the year? Because if there isn’t, that’s a big problem.

    2. legalchef*

      I don’t disagree with your overall point, but her colleagues *should* be able to use their PTO – it’s ultimately not fair for them to not be able to take time off because of her medical treatments – BUT that should be the manager’s job to figure out, not hers.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yes of course; I think the sooner that OP makes it clear it is nothing to do with her, then the problem can be shunted onto the correct desk.

      2. EPLawyer*

        I kinda agree with this. The rest of the coworkers should not have to work extra heavy weeks indefinitely or not be able to take PTO because OP has cancer treatment. But they definitely should NOT be complaining about it to OP. They can be over it, like OP is, but they need to keep it to themselves. or raise it with management, not OP.

        1. Parakeet*

          Yeah the coworkers are failing at “comfort in, dump out.” I don’t think it’s unreasonable that they’re burned out, and unhappy that they indefinitely can’t take the PTO to which they’re entitled. They need to redirect their feelings toward management! And not put them on OP. Management needs to be figuring this out, including possibly hiring a temp (and if they don’t have the budget they can direct their feelings about that to their own management, until someone with the right level and type of authority realizes that this situation is damaging the team’s morale and putting an extra burden on a worker with a life-threatening illness, and needs to be addressed through material means).

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am shaking my head in despair that OP has to say anything at all.

      But I know work places can be toxic freezers. I worked in one place where a subordinate lost her husband. When she came back, I approached her to say some words of some sort. We chatted. She said that I was the only person (in a workplace of 100 people) who offered any condolences.
      Some work places just suck.

    4. Yellow+Flotsam*

      I’d advise against this naming cancer all the time. Might make you feel nice and snarky but it’s unlikely to solve any of the real problems.

      I mean if your colleagues are just horrible people go ahead – because the problems won’t be solved so you might as well get something out of the interactions.

      But if you think your colleagues aren’t horrible, just handling a situation horribly – don’t.

      It’s important to remember that while this will always be front and centre in your mind – for your colleagues it’s not an emergency anymore and has likely shifted into business as usual. Their own priorities will be once more about themselves and their lives – not a colleague’s.

    5. Temperance*

      No “last minute PTO” means that people can’t go to medical or dental appointments or handle family emergencies.

      For example, my spouse has an autoimmune disorder and needs infusions periodically. I’m going to have to take a “last minute PTO” day to manage household stuff and pick up his slack.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        That’s true, but OP can’t fix that for her coworkers. It’s understandable that they’re frustrated and exhausted, but they need to be expressing that frustration to their manager, not their sick coworker.

        1. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Perhaps they have expressed it to the manager and not gotten anywhere?

          I expect the situation will come to a head organically over time. Increasing burnout, people leaving and not being replaced due to “budget” etc and it won’t be too long before others start going off sick and pushing this cycle into a resolution.

        2. Temperance*

          This is also true. I think OP needs to loop her manager in yesterday so they can figure out a fair and equitable system for distributing the workload and so her manager can get the abuse and negativity to stop.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I’m confused. Your spouse needs infusions periodically. Aren’t those scheduled ahead of time? If so, why can’t you schedule your PTO time ahead as well?

        1. Temperance*

          They are actually not. We get two weeks notice if we’re lucky, and we don’t have any input in scheduling.

  21. Storm in a teacup*

    LW1 sorry to hear about your treatments. Having had 2 close family members with the same diagnosis as you, I can appreciate how much those treatments can take it out of you. Your coworkers are being d**ks, even more so considering you work in healthcare!
    You’ve scheduled your treatments in advance to minimise impact on work and your manager has your back. Next time they look to change the schedule last minute hold your ground and do what is best for you. Ignore their sniping and if it impacts how you work together escalate to your manager. I’ve managed someone before where they had cancer (working in outpatient healthcare and so same as your situation). We also had last minute schedule changes. As the manager, if it was going to impact my staff member getting treatment, I oversaw the schedule change to make sure it wasn’t adversely impacting her accommodations. I led by creating an environment that was supportive to the staff member. Also it helped that the rest of my team were decent people who cared about their colleague’s wellbeing and went out of their way to help and support her , which I think is the norm. In fact as a manager in a healthcare environment if I heard about this behaviour I would be concerned about how they were treating patients who needed support and it would definitely raise some amber flags.

    TLDR: speak to the manager about the impact of the last minute schedule changes on your accommodations so they can support. Flag the hostility and snark you experience so she can step in to manage it.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      One thing I’m not clear on is why the last-minute changes are happening. Are a lot of people taking PTO without a lot of notice? (No judgment here – there are many reasons that things may come up abruptly). Are people booking PTO well in advance, but there’s no coordination happening to adjust everyone’s schedules/roles until the last minute?

      Overall, as I’ve said below, it’s pretty clear that this loosey-goosey approach to scheduling isn’t working. There must be a way to organize things that are better for everyone involved.

  22. To learn*

    My current manager likes me to have a personal goal, this is the second time it’s happened to me in my career so I wasn’t shocked. I’ve been studying a language anyway, so I just put in a goal related to that. It’s definitely unrelated to my work, but it also reveals basically nothing about my life and I don’t care who knows about it. Maybe you have something else you’re already doing along those lines.

    1. ...*

      My employer has something called a “Personal Development Plan” and we’re encouraged to put things like this on it, and managers are encouraged to support it how they can at work. For example:

      PDP: I want to learn Spanish
      Manager: Oh, did you know you can apply for funds to take a class ?

      PDP: I want to improve my fitness this year
      Manager: Great, let’s get you signed up for the gym membership reimbursement program we offer

      I don’t mind sharing my goals in this context, but I certainly wouldn’t share (or enjoy being pressed to share) something that couldn’t benefit from the PDP programs in anyway (for example, get into figure drawing or learn how to make croissants or something)

      1. nona*

        We have a Personal Development goals, but those are understood as personally professional (so personal work) goals, as opposed to how we are achieving the overall company goals within our role.

        So.. a personal work goal is to improve network within the company by volunteering for X group or something. Not personal life goals.

        1. ...*

          That’s probably a better way to describe what we have – it’s understood that you wouldn’t put anything on the PDP that wouldn’t tangentially improve your career (we do work in a physical & global field, hence the gym reimbursements, language classes, etc. offered)

  23. Kiwi*

    OP4 – may I suggest my favorite pesonal goal, “pet more dogs”?

    I’d be uncomfortable too – that definitely feels oversteppy, “we’re a family” here to me.

    1. BubbleTea*

      “My main goal for the rest of this year is to catch a squirrel with my bare hands. I will name them Laurette.”

      1. North Wind*

        I know you’re joking, but it made me remember – when I was a little kid I *did* pick up a squirrel, which bit me and I had to get lots of rabies shots :(.

  24. bamcheeks*

    “Share your personal goals as well as your work goals” is so out of touch I can’t even. I can’t get over how loaded with ideology it is– like, we all have these good capitalism-friendly self-improvement goals like, “improve on my PB at the gym” to make our shiny Instagram-friendly lives even shinier. It’s quite clearly not supposed to include things like, “get more involved in my local antifa group” or “finally sort out that ADHD diagnosis” or “leave my abusive partner”. The assumptions it makes about people are just so, so gross.

    1. misspiggy*

      It was A Thing in management training about 10 years ago, I think to encourage managers to understand staff’s personal lives and pressures they might be facing, or untapped skills and knowledge they might have. I don’t think most managers understood why they were supposed to ask about personal goals. Plus it opened up all sorts of negative consequences in the hands of manipulative managers.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I would allow for the possibility that boss thinks it’s stupid too, but it’s on the “ACME Corp cares about your whole self” list of bullet points for yearly reviews so he has to ask. He even gave OP an anodyne example with the pottery class–I suspect he doesn’t want to peer into her soul, just check something off a list.

        1. bamcheeks*

          That’s kind of what I mean by ideological, though– the assumption that staff spend their free time doing respectable and work-appropriate past-times that fit into a nice bland “hobbies” category. No caring, no second jobs, no recovery time due to chronic illness, no campaigning for controversial political causes, no bad habits you are trying to kick. Just shiny Instagram-worthy content. That assumption about your non-work lifestyle is *extremely* political.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            I think it’s like what you might say if someone asks how your weekend was… you don’t really give them the real answer, but you’d say “not bad thanks, how ’bout you?”

            1. one L lana*

              Yeah, I agree that this is very dumb, but there are bland and work-appropriate ways to phrase anything when you put your mind to it. “Get more involved with the community.” “Devote more of my time to working a cause that I care about.” “Set aside some time to deal with an aspect of my physical/mental health that I’ve been neglecting.”

      2. Hlao-roo*

        It was A Thing in management training about 10 years ago, I think to encourage managers to understand staff’s personal lives and pressures they might be facing

        An appropriate use for that would be LW1’s manager ensuring they had the light work duties on their cancer treatment weeks. I agree that unfortunately a lot of managers misunderstand and misuse the idea, like we see in letter 4.

    2. secretstoneraccount*

      Just want to chime in here as a former domestic violence counselor: people with abusive partners are also whole people who have hobbies and goals. So, a person could want to leave their abusive partner and *also* have a personal goal of, I don’t know, wanting to learn to macrame or see Paris or any other mild, not-hugely-personal kind of thing. Thinking of people in abusive relationships as 2-dimentional characters where “I Am Abused” is their only character trait is a bit dehumanizing.

      1. Vinessa*

        This idea, that people in abusive relationships have zero personality traits or life aspects outside of “abused person,” comes up a lot here, and I always find it incredibly disheartening. People seem to think they’re helping by thinking of them that way, and I don’t understand why.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I’m sorry if it came across that way! I’ve known people across a spectrum from where “being in an abusive relationships + caring responsibilities + managing stress and depression” entirely consumed any energy they might have had for any outside activities, to people for whom it was just one facet of their life, and I didn’t mean to imply that domestic abuse or any of the other things I mentioned were necessarily all-consuming. What I meant is I don’t think it is a statistical or a ideological norm to have “personal goals” which reflect that kind of individualist self-improvement narrative, and I resent the idea that it should be.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      loaded with ideology

      I mean, if we’re talking about ideologies, the philosophy of making a commitment to lifelong learning and self-improvement goes back at least as far as the Stoics.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Was Stoicism ever hegemonic, though? Genuine question, I don’t know much about the ancient world at all. But I’ve always assumed it applied to a relatively small number of high-born men, not something that it was pushed on the rest of the population as the correct and normal way to live.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          No, the Stoics did not push Stoicism on the general population, and they did not ask their slaves and servants what their professional and personal goals were.

          we all have these good capitalism-friendly self-improvement goals like, “improve on my PB at the gym” to make our shiny Instagram-friendly lives even shinier

          Do we, though? Do we all tie our self-improvement goals to something extrinsic like social media performativeness?

          1. bamcheeks*

            Ah, that sentence was intended to represent the assumption behind the request, not to be a true statement! No, I don’t think we do all have them, and I resent the assumption that we do. I quite deliberately don’t, because I don’t think defining “self-improvement” as a goal is a healthy or helpful way for me to think.

              1. Glomarization, Esq.*

                That seems like a pessimistic take. A lacuna in your knowledge or skills is not a fault. It’s simply the absence of something — like a state of not yet having learned something. Seen another way, if you find a lacuna in your skills or knowledge of something, then it’s an opportunity to engage in self-improvement.

                I’m not a nuclear physicist. It would take self-improvement for me to get the education to be one. Is it a fault of mine that I’m not (yet) a nuclear physicist? Or I have never baked a souflé before. If I improve my baking skills and learn how to do it, that means I was at fault before, for not knowing?

                I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen someone see fault in not yet having learned something. I can’t say I’m a fan of imputing a negative moral aspect to the before-state of engaging in lifelong learning or physical fitness or whatever.

  25. I'm Done*

    As far as out of regular working hours email, I worked in Asia for several years. Seven months out of the year, I had mandatory meetings once, sometimes twice a week with our headquarters located on the East Coast. These meetings were not scheduled at my convenience. I had to physically come in to work anywhere between 11 pm to 4 am to attend. I would just stay at work and work my eight hours. So yes, people would definitely be getting emails and sometimes phone calls from me during my middle of the night.

  26. Harper the Other One*

    If I were the manager in this situation, I’d be livid.

    Unfortunately, I’m also aware that if OP is in the US and the manager ISN’T livid, changing jobs/health insurance in the midst of treatment likely is not possible.

    So OP, please do tell your manager but if it turns out they don’t respond the way they should, just know that your coworkers are wholly awful. Feel free to use the “return awkward to sender” techniques other commenters have described. And while I know it’s hard, please try to let your coworkers’ jerk behaviour slide off your back – it says nothing about you and a heck of a lot about them.

    1. Vicky*

      > “return awkward to sender”

      Yeah, so many people get away with violating the social contract because the people on the receiving end of their behaviour take responsibility for maintaining both ends of the contract. If someone is being a jerk, it’s ok to not manage their emotions.

  27. Gnome*

    LW1, I’m confused, why are your coworkers switching YOU to a heavier schedule? Are they just trying to (say, swap duties that week) or do they actually have authority to assign your work? To me, that’s seems a likely source of the issue.

    I’ll be honest, the way you describe it, you have 4 whole scans a year and an infusion a little over once a month. That is… nothing. I mean, obviously it’s massive health-wise, but if you think about stuff like weekly therapy, allergy injections, physical therapy, post-accident rehabilitation work, etc…. well, this is just not a huge burden on your coworkers time-wise and I encourage you to re-evaluate how much is reasonable for them to feel that way.

    I get that sometimes coverage is an issue. When somebody is out sick or have their own appointments, it can be challenging. But there are options that don’t involve them emoting all over you. They could take the “light load” for THAT DAY, instead of the whole week. They could swap with somebody else. They could swap with you and keep their emotions in their own head. The company could (maybe) hire a temp.

    I recommend that you start saying “no” where you can and “I see from your expression (eye rolling) that you aren’t happy with that. I’d love to not have these appointments, but they are literally keeping me alive. Let’s go talk to Boss about what makes sense here,” where a firm “no” doesn’t make sense… and then actively go talk to Boss/call them over/whatever makes sense.

    But this is messed up enough, if I were your boss, I’d want to know about it.

  28. DannyG*

    LW#1: also in healthcare, just had to file for intermittent FMLA as my wife just had a cancer diagnosis last week. If you have to, use the FMLA to block off those treatment days period. Perhaps even a recovery day afterwards (e.g. infusion Thursday afternoon, Friday to recover) and let HR deal with their problems. I am thankful for my team being most accommodating, we’re at the start of this journey, but everyone from top down is pitching in.

    1. Esmeralda*

      DannyG, I’m sorry to hear about your wife’s diagnosis. I hope the treatment will help her get better and feel better. Take care of yourself, too.

  29. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings**

    OP 2 –

    I can understand why this feels a little weird to you, but it’s not unheard of. And this rapport is more likely to help you than hurt you, so try to see it as a good thing!

    Good luck with the job search.

  30. L-squared*

    #1. This really sounds like bad management. People can take their PTO if approved. If last minute changes happen due to conflicts, sometimes its unavoidable. Their comments suck, no doubt about that, but if this is healthcare, from what my friends who work there tell me, everyone is overworked and stressed and isn’t always on their best behavior. As much as we may like our coworkers, most people will eventually prioritize themselves and their own well being. Your manager needs to have a plan to deal with this and stick to it, and possibly put in some backups. She needs to be firm that the comments need to stop, but also try to really listen to what all the problems are and come up with solutions. Your treatment is unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean she can’t handle the situation better.

    #2. This sounds like a situation where someone introduces 2 friends at a party, and then is mad that they hit it off and eventually hang out with each other. Once you put 2 people in touch, what happens from there is out of your hands. She isn’t gunning for your job. I’m not sure why you seem to have such a problem with this

    #3. When hiring for a job, being more transparent is never a bad thing. Some people will opt out, and some people will be happy because they have no desire to be in management. But I don’t know why people would want to hire people without giving them all the information possible.

  31. Sotired*

    LW1. Everyone is criticizing the coworkers, which is fair, BUT it also seems to me that the manager is falling down on the job big time. If people cannot take PTO, etc. the manager needs to hire another person.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I’m curious where people are getting the impression that they can’t take their PTO? I read it as people just wanting it at short notice, not that they couldn’t take it at all. Though it doesn’t specify.

      1. Sotired*

        OP says they have a lose scheduling procedure. It is not working for everyone and the manager needs to step up. If I am used to be able to get a day off when my kid needs to do something, and now I can’t the manager needs to figure it out.

      2. L-squared*

        I guess my thought is, it doesn’t matter. If they are taking it on short notice, and it is being granted, that is still a management issue. But it seems taking PTO is causing issues, and if that is the case, then they need to bring in a temp or something. But I’ve seen too many places (I worked at a school who did this) who made the people taking their rightful PTO out to be the enemy and putting staffing issues on them.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      I can’t speak for every workplace, but all the ones I have worked, it is very understood you are asking for PTO and it may not be granted. Our specific policy is that everyone must have the opportunity to take their PTO, not everyone must be granted PTO every time they ask.

      Based on what OP has said about the appointments, they have about 17 2 hour appointments a year and 4 half day appointments a year. Even if OP takes a full day off for those appointments, that leaves her coworkers with 239 days of 260 to take leave (and that’s not even accounting for anything like holidays).

      I just don’t see it as being a management failure the coworkers can’t take leave on 21 days over the course of a year.

      It’s also not just about leave. Their being jerks because the day OP scheduled their appointment turns out to be a heavier workload day.

      1. JumpAround*

        It can be, because maybe one of those 21 days is important to that coworker. We don’t know why they need that later notice PTO (they could also have a medical need, or be caring for someone in their life). It can also be a problem if those 21 days would restrict the person from being able to schedule a full week vacation or even long weekend. For example picture if OP always schedules their appointments on Fridays. This may make sense as it would give them the weekend to recover if they need it. If that blocks out Fridays for the rest of the team I can see how that would be an issue for them, and that side of it is where it can be a management failure.

        I agree that OPs coworkers are being jerks when they’re taking out their frustration at the situation on the OP. But I don’t think that being frustrated in and of itself makes them jerks it just makes them humans.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        This assumes there are no other scheduling conflicts, though, and there may be. Her coworkers might have their own scheduling needs that are in conflict and also no less valid than the OP’s needs.

    3. Phony Genius*

      Here’s what I think is going on. The LW says that they have rotating roles. So when one person has a lighter workload, someone else has a heavier one. During weeks when the LW has treatment, they are scheduled for a light workload. This means the other employees have a heavier one. The employees seem to prefer to take their PTO when they’re scheduled for a heavier workload (wouldn’t you?). If management is allowing this to happen, they need to rethink the PTO system, the workload assignment system, or both.

  32. OutofOffice*

    #4 – I was alarmed when asked to do a personal goal this year, but then discovered my manager meant personal-professional. We had a professional goal, something tied to the work we were doing (something like get trained/certified in X), and then they wanted a personal professional goal (mine ended up being about getting better at networking). I know that the manager in your case specified personal-personal, but maybe you can shift your goal to personal-professional.

    1. Koalafied*

      Yeah, that’s the closest thing we have, and we can them professional development goals so there’s no ambiguity that they’re work-related. They’re just about what you want to be pursuing professionally for your own sake, which is distinct from what the employer needs you to be doing for the employer’s sake (your regular goals). It’s also clear that they’re not performance goals that we’ll be evaluated on – they’re a way of formally getting your career interests on record so if there’s an opportunity for managers to give someone training or resources in a particular area, they know who in their reporting line has interest in that area.

    2. Ari*

      This is how our company operates. Half business goals and half personal development goals, which could be anything from becoming an expert in Excel to improving speaker skills to learning SQL. And all of our goals have to be measurable, with specific action items and a timeframe, because they are part of what supervisors use to determine performance ratings at end of year. I would cringe if I had to come up with something for my personal life and wonder how on earth they plan to measure whether I’ve succeeded or not.

    3. one L lana*

      This seems like it must have been the original intent of the form and got lost in the process somewhere before OP’s manager.

  33. I should really pick a name*


    I wouldn’t say your reference is sneaking in the back door. First off, this seems to have just led to an interview at this point, so the only part of the process they’re skipping is sending in a resume.

    Yes, being your reference provided them with an opportunity that they might not have encountered, but it’s still their skills/personality that has turned the opportunity into something meaningful.

    Would you turn down the opportunity if your positions were reversed?

    1. El+l*

      Agree, and OP2, these thoughts are…not understandable. It’s not cheating for people to get hired via a different way than you – if it were, there’d be no such thing as headhunters or referral bonuses.

      Because here’s another perspective on the situation:

      A and the hiring manager connected. What this means for you is you (1) Have your chances of getting hired for a job you very much want strengthened by a strong association, and (2) Have a possible opportunity to work with your very close friend again.

      Couldn’t have gone better. You got what you wanted. Enjoy.

      1. Lydia*

        And they’re not even hired. They got an interview in a completely normal and usual way. Even if they do get hired, it will be after interviewing and demonstrating an understanding of the job and because they have the skills wanted and needed. There’s no sneak-around happening.

  34. Pepper*

    LW1: I have stage 4 HER2+ breast cancer and our treatment routines sound very similar. I also work F/T and it feels like a separate P/T job to manage all of the appointments.

    The bit that you didn’t mention is that, if an appointment has to be moved because of a scheduling issue at the chemo center or an insurance approval issue (or any number of other issues), it will completely reset the schedule you’ve carefully set up for your treatments and scans. So many things are outside of your control.

    You shouldn’t have to go out of your way to be flexible with your coworkers, but I completely understand why you do. I feel like I have to overcompensate and be superhuman at my job to prove that I’m strong enough to keep working and build up “credit” in my workplace. I haven’t shared my diagnosis with anyone that I work with, except my immediate supervisor. I think they would be shocked to find out that I’ve been working for 2 years with brain tumors from stage 4 cancer. There have to be so many other people working with serious illnesses who feel afraid to come forward because of just the situation you’ve described in your letter. It’s incredibly isolating to live with a chronic illness and people are afraid to share their experiences for fear of appearing to be a burden or being stigmatized. Your letter meant a lot to me to see someone else who can relate to my situation. I’m very sorry you’re dealing with that (but also happy to read that your treatments are working). I just came here to let you know that you aren’t alone.

  35. alienor*

    For #4 it really doesn’t sound as if the manager is pushing for deeply private personal goals. “Go to the gym more” and “take a pottery class” are both pretty anodyne examples. If he was telling you that people wanted to awaken their sexual energy via tantric massage and deal with their trauma around their estranged mothers, I’d be concerned and think it was intrusive, but it seems he’d be perfectly satisfied with “finally read War and Peace” or something similar.

    1. Lydia*

      Personal goals don’t need to be spoken about during a work conversation, though, so even if it’s as innocuous as “read War and Peace finally,” that’s being more involved in your outside-of-work life than they need to be.

  36. ABCYaBye*

    OP1 – Stop being so nice to those assholes. Your manager needs to know what’s happening for a couple of reasons. First, because they absolutely must be involved with the scheduling. Second, because you don’t deserve the treatment these jerks are subjecting you to. If things are too difficult for your the to handle while you’re out for treatment, your manager needs to bring on some additional help too. This isn’t your job to fix. Every ounce of energy you have should be going toward fighting cancer, not dealing with toddlers in your workplace.

    1. ABCYaBye*

      Also, your manager needs to point out a couple of things to the team:
      1. Your schedule for treatment seems relatively regular and predictable. It shouldn’t be that hard to ensure you have a lighter week on those weeks when you’re going in for your infusion.
      2. You also need to be allowed a little more grace following your appointments, too. Having done infusions myself, I know that most days I feel a particular way following it. But there are outliers and you need to ensure you have the ability to rest properly if you feel crummy randomly. That should be something people don’t grumble about. You’re not asking to ditch work to go to a water park because it is sunny… you’re FIGHTING CANCER!
      3. Discussion of “making time up” needs to stop. You’re salaried. You have FMLA. The timing is none of their business. If they have a concern about what needs to be done in your absence, passive aggressive comments aren’t going to fix it.

  37. FalsePositive*

    OP1 — Compassion fatigue is a thing. But if your coworkers are so hard pressed that they can’t provide coverage a couple hours of coverage every couple weeks, than that’s on the business.

    I’m a little confused that coworkers keep changing your schedule to be heavier, thus messing up your attempts to have a lower impact. Did this happen previously to your cancer treatment? Is there a more obvious way to remind people you will not be available for a heavier schedule that week (assuming some jerk isn’t doing it on purpose). I’d like to say that people will remember that you have ongoing treatment, but never assume people will remember anything your schedule. I still remember my (otherwise great) manager coming around and wondering where Fiorina was that afternoon and I reminded them that she works a part time (consistent schedule for > 1 year) and this was not a day she was in.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I think the LW’s thinking on this is a bit backward, though–being down a person when work is lighter isn’t lower-impact. She misses less of her own work, yes, but it means she’s out when work is heaver overall, which is not lower-impact on everyone else.

      1. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I got the impression there’s the same amount of work every week overall, but different “stations” people perform, which rotate. So by scheduling the appointment for times when OP would be performing the lighter “station”, there’s less to be covered in addition to someone’s normal duties.

  38. E*

    Potentially unpopular view but I have a feeling that for LW the coworkers aren’t necessarily upset with her, but with having to do more work constantly. To be clear LW hasn’t done anything wrong & is in a horrible position and deserves compassion. I just think their manager/company is probably getting everyone else to cover extra duties during all this, which really isn’t fair. Sounds like manager needs to step up and cover more or hire someone for coverage or do something. Other people have lives and I think after weeks/months of doing extra work people will eventually get cranky. I do think it’s misdirected but also sounds more like they’re upset by the extra work/ accommodation situation as opposed to LW having cancer.

    1. L-squared*

      Agreed. They probably aren’t mad at her, they are mad at the situation. She is just the personification of the bad work situation they are in.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      True, but it’s not really on LW to figure this out. It’s up to their manager.

      If we make it LW’s burden to figure out the why that places an undue burden on LW. Their manager should manage this situation.

    3. Box of Kittens*

      It also seems to me that maybe people are taking PTO on short notice, which might be exacerbating the problem. If they’re sick that can’t be helped, but maybe OP’s workplace needs more structure in place surrounding when PTO requests must be made in order to avoid situations like this. More structure might also help with the last minute schedule changes OP mentioned. (I have no idea if OP’s industry is something this would be feasible for, but that’s what stood out to me about this letter.)

      1. Captain+dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I suspect PTO requests are last minute because asking for anything further ahead than making the schedule for the next 2 weeks (or whatever) gets a response of “ask closer to the time as we don’t know yet what the situation will be”… then when they go to put it on the schedule? it doesn’t fit because it clashes with the medical appointments.

  39. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #4: “Well, gee, I do have a few personal goals and luckily, I’ve already got strategies for staying on task on those. I’d like to use our meeting time to focus on my professional goals, since we’re on the clock and all. [Insert redirecting question about my professional goal.]”

  40. Nancy*

    LW1: your manager needs to deal with this. People will still want/need to take PTO or reschedule things for their own reasons and the manager needs to have a plan for it. They shouldn’t be making comments to you, that’s terrible. They should be going to the manager to let them know a better system is needed.

    LW2: Nothing wrong with this, people get interviews through nonformal means all the time.

    LW3: Reply to them. They are adults that can manage their own schedules. I sometimes work late at night because I had an appointment in the afternoon or because I simply prefer it.

    LW4: just give a generic answer like everyone else does and move on. Many workers have been overworked and burnt out after the past few years and this is probably their way of encouraging work/life balance. Not worth thinking about.

    LW5: Tell them. 3 years is not an unusual policy.

  41. 3lla*

    As someone who just left/was constructively dismissed from a job because the company couldn’t stop being as shitty as possible about my cancer treatments (including writing me up for calling my time away after a surgery “medically necessary leave”), I just want to say to OP1 that I understand what an unbelievable scam it is that FMLA doesn’t become available until one has held a job for a year. Solidarity.

  42. File Herder*

    LW1: “My team members are changing my assignments”. Your team members are deliberately sabotaging your cancer treatment.
    Other commentators can give you practical advice on what you can do about it in the US, but when you’re trying to do it, remember that your co-workers are deliberately sabotaging your cancer treatment. You do not need to feel guilty about whatever it takes to stop them doing that. It doesn’t matter how stressed and overworked they are, they do not get to deal with their emotions by deliberately sabotaging your cancer treatment.

        1. Wisteria*

          Perhaps it’s that shit happens? Loosely scheduled assignments get changed, other people also have reasons they can’t support a heavy week, and the people/person in charge of shuffling doesn’t remember the time off that LW1 requested weeks-to-months ago?

  43. Sick of Having Cancer*

    LW1 here!! Thank you so much for the support!!

    I agree that this is a situation where our manger is not as involved as she should be. The management style is very hands-off, which is great in some respects. Not so much in this respect!!

    1. CharlieBrown*

      Hi LW1! My sympathies to you and I hope you are doing well.

      Given what you have written here, you may want to call that out with your manager. “I know your style tends to be hands-off, which is normally great and works for us in general, but in this specific instance, I would appreciate it if you could step in and be more direct with my coworkers.”

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Your managers need to both shut this down *and* make sure your coworkers have adequate support when you’re gone.

  44. Yellow+Flotsam*

    LW1 are these schedule changes normal in your workplace? If so, you need to speak with whoever is in charge of rostering and your manager at the same time to get some ground rules set up.

    I can understand where your colleagues are coming from IF they are being expected to fill in the gaps of accommodations provided to you by management. It is all well and good for your boss to say do what you need to do – but if they are not backfilling your role, or removing tasks from the shift, then they’re shifting your work onto your colleagues. That is not fair on them.

    If your role has easy/nice shifts and hard/unpopular shifts it isn’t fair if colleagues are being pushed onto more of the latter as an accommodation to you – even though it is not your fault, colleagues would come to resent you because for them – you are the reason that their job has gotten worse.

    Your colleagues might just be horrible people. But I suspect it is more complicated – and my guess would be that this is a problem with how your workplace is managing your work limitations. Your colleagues need to be able to take their leave – it’s not clear why that would affect your leave – are you taking leave or looking to flex your time and therefore that gets affected by others being on leave? When your assignments change do you know why that is the case? Is there something that can be done here to stop that happening?

    If you’re doing more than expected of your colleagues saying no is fair and reasonable. Also reasonable to push back managing your accommodations onto your manager. But if you are taking patterns of “flexible work” that places an increased burden on your colleagues, or if you are asking for them to cover more than they ask you etc I think it naive to expect them not to get annoyed by that. It’s not that they are annoyed you have cancer (I’m sure they’d rather you were healthy) but that they’re annoyed with the impacts on them because your manager is offering assistance to you without resourcing it.

  45. Luna*

    LW1 – “Trust me, I’m concerned about the missed (life)time I’m getting, too.”
    But I am an overall very snarky person.

    LW4 – Hmm, if the personal goal somehow involved or affected work, like needing perhaps time off or slightly altered schedule to attend that pottery class I want to join, I wouldn’t mind mentioning it. But if it’s something personal (manage to lose weight; travel to a certain location) that doesn’t affect work immediately, I see no reason to tell. It’s personal business.

  46. Hiring Mgr*

    This may be a dumb question but do the colleagues definitely know why LW 1 is out of the office all this time (i.e. do they know she has cancer?) Asking because I can’t imagine they would all be so unfeeling otherwise..

    1. 3lla*

      Cancer survivor here, for me managing other people’s feelings about my cancer was in many moments the worst part of it. People have absolutely wild responses to everything related to cancer, and if OP doesn’t actively want to disclose and deal with whatever absolute nonsense her coworkers will subject them to because of it, that’s not something for us to evaluate. Many people do NOT behave better when they find out the reason for one’s absence is cancer.

      1. Anon for this one*

        Yeah. My manager and one of the teammates I’m closest with know my cancer diagnosis. Nobody else does, and I even have my manager’s OK to keep my camera off on Zoom at all times so people don’t see my bald head and put two and two together. I don’t want to (a) be sidelined, (b) be treated like I’m about to drop dead, or (c) hear how someone’s aunt died of my type of cancer. They don’t need to know the details – they know I have a medical condition requiring regular treatment, and that’s it.

      2. Very Anon*

        I am on the short list of people who know about my boss’ diagnosis and I only got added to that list when her treatment was stepped up to chemotherapy and she could no longer be in the office at all. I cannot imagine what a pain in the butt it would be if every person in this building stopped her constantly to tell her how sorry they were, or ask her how she’s feeling. As it is, she updates us on things, we can ask her questions, and we don’t share with anyone. We don’t even chat amongst those of us who know, because it’s none of our business. Also, what kind of jerk do you have to be to only be considerate of someone if you find out they have cancer? Why not just show compassion in general for people who are clearly dealing with something?

  47. Oofandouch*

    OP 1

    First off let me express my sincere sympathy for what you’re going through. I’ve never been through treatment personally, but I’ve been on the coworker end of the spectrum of someone who needed accommodation for medical needs so please allow me to speak from that perspective a bit.

    I can’t speak for all your coworkers, but I’m going to give at least some of them the benefit of the doubt and say their frustration is not directed at you, but at the situation they’re being put in by management/staffing at your office. I never blamed my coworker who needed to get treatment, but I definitely became frustrated by the schedule and added burden it placed on me personally. I hope I never made my coworker feel like yours have made you feel, but I’m sure at some point that frustration came out, in not the best way, because I’m only human. So as much as I think we’d all like to think we would handle the situation with grace and kindness and compassion at all times, sometimes you can’t curb your initial reaction to finding out that you once again have to try and cover a less favorable task or someone else’s work, when that’s not what you signed up for with your job.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, knowing what you know about your coworkers as people otherwise, and assuming they are otherwise not complete jerks, can you reframe it in your mind as a reaction to being inconvenienced as opposed to a reaction to you inconveniencing them? The fault is not with you, but with the way your scheduling and management is set up! Of course you need to get treatment and no one should be begrudging you that. However to your coworkers, they are in fact being inconvenienced, and they’re allowed to be upset by it, again without taking it out on you.

    1. Just here for the cats*

      I think you are giving OP’s coworkers too much grace. It sounds like the OP tries to make her schedule lighter on the days/ weeks she has treatment but her coworkers rearrange the schedule and make it so she has the harder tasks at that time. That’s not just being annoyed at the situation, that’s deliberately causing her more stress and extra work.

      1. Wisteria*

        Why do you think LW1’s coworkers are deliberately targeting her to give her specifically more work? That’s an adversarial way to choose to interpret the situation. It sounds like their loose scheduling results in a dynamic workload that doesn’t always match the predictions from weeks and months before, and sometimes the PTO for other people, treatments for LW1, and heavy workload duties for LW1 all line up. That’s “shit happens,” not “deliberately causing her more stress and extra work.”

        Nobody can MAKE another person feel anything. Everybody is in charge of their own feelings. Choosing an adversarial interpretation of events isn’t going to help LW1.

        1. Calamity Janine*

          “nobody can make someone feel something” is a cop-out i’ve seen near-exclusively used by bullies so cheap they got kicked out of the dollar store for haggling.

          maybe scroll up to read disabled folks talk about this. you are but a short tap-of-the-up-arrow away from someone with cancer talking about how one of the most exhausting parts was having to manage other people’s feelings. maybe listen.

          maybe some of y’all so eager to die on the hill known as Mount But The Feelings Of The Coworkers Are Surely More Valid, Think Of How These Poor Souls Have Been Driven To Be Bigots because you know it’s wrong. but you don’t want to admit guilt, or, crucially, stop being so nasty.

          i seem to remember quipping there was a veritable bouquet of floral-themed users with wretched and offensive takes the last time i saw your username, Wisteria. good to know you’re staying true to form. (oh, and before you get mad at me – remember that per your ethos, any effect my words have on you is the fault of your own weakness…) (i’m guessing that life rule of yours will spontaneously generate an exception.)

      2. Oofandouch*

        I didn’t necessarily read it the same way. A lot of commenters seem to be reading this as an intentional act of aggression on the part of OPs coworkers, but I can pretty easily see this as a bad scheduling system that’s gotten out of control. I’m sure there are people on OPs team that need that level of flexibility as well for their own appointments or responsibilities, and I’m also sure there are people who don’t want to explain to OP why they need that time or lighter duty/flexible work as well, especially if they know why she needs it. I’m picturing someone being off for vacation, then a coworker who was also scheduled for the lighter duty work with more flexibility, maybe because she had the heavy duty low flexibility work the previous week and they need to have more flexibility for their schedule (and let’s keep in mind that the mix of work is something that they’re expecting as part of their job) maybe for their own appointments or childcare or whatever. Now someone has to take on the heavier duty work and it’s either the other coworker scheduled for light duty or OP. They both need the lighter duty, but the coworker doesn’t feel like she can push for it for themselves because it’s literally life and death in the OPs case, so now they have to try and make compromises in their own life because if the OPs needs

  48. Lizzo*

    LW1, I’m not clear on one thing: “But invariably, someone winds up scheduling PTO that week or at the last minute my team members change my assignment for that week to a heavier role.”

    Who is responsible for the assignments–your team? Because it sounds to me like your team members are proactively making your life more difficult. I’d question the timing of the PTO, too: are people taking time off for reasons that are out of their control, e.g. family vacation that has to happen during a spring break week or other school vacation, or are they deciding to take time off (on short notice) that could be taken any time, i.e. a time that doesn’t blatantly make your life more difficult?

    Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but all the dramatic sighing makes me think not. Please tell your manager. Kind and thoughtful people don’t behave this way.

  49. My+Useless+2+Cents*

    #1 – I had a completely different read than Alison. Your coworkers aren’t upset at you, they are frustrated by lack of proper management. Your manager should be taking an upper hand role in making sure that excess work isn’t dumped on you the weeks you are scheduled for time off and making sure that you are not required or feeling pressured to flex time. Your coworkers are upset at the *situation* not *at* you. If anything, you need to talk to your manager about new ways to handle the last minute workload changes and a change in strategy when a coworker is using PTO while you have scheduled treatments. Because the current system isn’t working. That could mean anything from adjusting project time lines to hiring staff or drafting a coworker from another team to help occasionally. (It should not include coworkers being restricted on when they can take PTO or being burdened with *all* the extra work.) Remind yourself as often as possible *This* is a management problem, not a *You* problem.

        1. Lydia*

          What difference does it make if the reason is LW 1 has to be out? This is an example of when it would be better to choose who you vent to carefully.

          1. My+Useless+2+Cents*

            *At* the OP is very personal and blaming the OP
            *In the presence of* OP is at the situation and the coworkers are allowed to be frustrated; this sounds like a horribly managed situation.

            Whether or not the coworkers are snarking at or in the presence of OP, my post above was more that if OP can reframe their thinking to “management is causing the problem” (which it is) it will result in her taking the comments less personally and (hopefully) reduce her stress around the situation.

          2. Oofandouch*

            It makes a huge difference in my mind. Being snarked at for it is aggressive and unprofessional and generally not ok.

            A coworker expressing frustration or disappointment in your presence after you give them bad news is not the same.

            I said this earlier but there is an extent to which I think the OP may be projecting a bit. The specific examples of a heavy sigh and a frustrated comment on the situation on their own do not stick out to me as against or directed at the OP. However if the OP feels (incredibly unnecessarily) like they are responsible for the frustration of their team members it’s not a far leap to feeling like they’re annoyed at her.

            1. Calamity Janine*

              i really do not get why you’re viewing this as the LW projecting. ableism is real, insidious, and I have absolutely been on the receiving end of such flak. (just don’t have cancer, only other ways my meat sack is FUBAR.)

              a very common aspect of ableism is that support for the sick stops once they begin being “inconvenient”. and another common aspect is that everyone being mad at someone for being sick is actually the sick person’s fault, for not being more agreeable, patient, understanding, kind, ready to absorb abuse without complaint, etc etc. so if the cripple were just a better cripple nobody would be mad,but they are mad, so it’s the sick person failing them all along.

              it’s usually brought up in other systems of bigotry, but have you ever heard the metaphor that bigotry is like stepping on some one else’s toes? so you don’t really want to have to beg and plead politely, or bend over backwards sympathizing with the person on your toes in a spontaneous therapy session, or so on? you want them to stop stomping on your toes? because it hurts? and you deserve unmashed toes?

              lw just wants them to not pulverize her toes into dust.

              the motives and reasons and all possible sympathy (which does not extend to the LW, who you instead have decided must be projecting – oh those hysterical cancer patients, ready to always make up things!)… ultimately they don’t matter. they don’t. not to lw.

              to suggest she put their right to be ableist over her right to, yknow, live? that’s just more ableism. that’s just you tapdancing on some one’s toes until they bleed, and then saying you think they are projecting when, gore from their ex-toes now-just-horribly-sad-meat dribbles from their shoes, they ask you to stop.

              you’ve got the remains of their toenails embedded in the soles of your shoes. just maybe don’t stand on their toes. instead of arguing about how you standing on somebody’s toes is actually their fault because your right to stand on their toes is informed by very good reasons but you think they are projecting when they say they’ve got a right to have toes.

              if you’re interested in equality, don’t cape for bigotry.

              at least check that logic until it turns to other marginalized groups. “listen, if those black folks just stopped projecting about how that kkk rally is really directed at… it’s not AT the black family directly, that burning cross, they’re just frustrated at the situation…!” people tend to more easily clock that.

  50. Banana*

    For #3 – I work with groups 8-13 hrs off my own time zone. Everyone emails whenever they’re able. If something is urgent or requires direct collaboration, someone (they or I or both) will end up messaging or calling about it outside our own normal working hours when the other party is working. I ignore non-urgent messages outside my normal working hours. We’re all adults who manage our own work-life balance and trust others to manage theirs and talk about what is needed when and how to get things done with minimal disruption to personal lives. I think it works well.

    If I’m being asked to manage a coworker’s work life balance for them, I expect that to be an issue their manager is directly working with them to improve, not an ongoing need to do their balancing for them. A boss/employee relationship is entirely different because of the power differential, but peer to peer, that’s not appropriate IMO.

  51. KatEnigma*

    LW1: If your coworkers didn’t change your work load (and why do they have that ability???) or schedule “last minute PTO” for a week where you are already scheduled to be off, this wouldn’t be a problem. Your manager needs to be the one to tell them to knock that off. Whoever got on the schedule first is the normal way to determine who has PTO, unless it’s because THEY or a loved one had something like emergency cancer treatments… My husband’s department was having a problem with too many people off at once for PTO, or too much last minute PTO when someone needed a coworker who decided to take off with no notice, and had to enforce the rules already in place about scheduling PTO as far in advance as possible, unless it was an emergency. People grumbled, but it was a real work problem, so… Please tell your Manager it’s a problem.

  52. KatEnigma*

    LW4: I hate to break it to Alison, and it might not have come from a book, but “personal goals” IS becoming an annoying thing- the current and last job, and the last job was a Fortune 100 top 3 defense contractor…

  53. Rich*

    OP4 — I agree your manager shouldn’t require you to share personal goals. That’s a significant overstep. I’ll add, though, that I’ve worked for managers who are open to including personal goals in development plans, entirely at the employee’s discretion.

    My manager at my last job was genuinely outstanding. A big part of his focus was on understanding and helping his employees reach their goals in order to keep good people in an organization that’s part of a highly competitive field with a lot of opportunity should someone decide to depart. His rationale was that happy people whose professional and personal lives are going in the right direction don’t need to make a change to get their lives going in the right direction.

    He was very clear: “You need to have a plan and be working toward something — we will 100% have professional goals for you. If you want support in anything else, I want to offer that support. I’ve worked with people develop plans and identify resources to help them get degrees in different fields, run marathons, learn instruments…”

    But he was also clear that personal was optional.

    That was important to me because I LOVE separation between work and personal lives. So I politely told him that I wanted exactly no support for or discussion of my personal goals, and we should focus instead on X and Y at work. And that was the end of it. “No problem. The door is always open on the other stuff if you change your mind.” He’d occasionally reiterate a reminder, but never pushed and never treated me differently for the choice.

    Coworkers took him up on it and he was great. I asked to be left alone and he was great.

    So it _can_ work with a manager. It can be OK for them to ask as long as there’s the right understanding and respect of boundaries. But yes, if it’s a requirement from them and you don’t want to participate, phony pablum is the way to go.

      1. Rich*

        I work for a big tech company where I’m a techie who works as part of a sales team. We’re the “nerds who know how to talk to people”, which is its own kind of unusual. My particular specialization in the tech world is pretty famous for how hard it is to find experienced people, so mobility is high.

  54. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW1: First off, fingers crossed that your health improves. We’re all pulling for you.

    It seems like the overarching problem is the loose scheduling and that colleagues are able to change your schedule at the last minute. Sounds like a recipe for chaos. Am I correct in assuming that your manager is a bit hands-off? Like, she expects you all to just figure things out among yourselves? The scheduling problem would be solved if one person (COUGH*the Manager*COUGH) was responsible for putting the schedule together and handling any scheduling-related requests (PTO, needing a lighter week, etc.). That person should also keep fairness in mind when scheduling people to different roles.

    Doesn’t fix that many of your coworkers are acting like huge jerks. But might make things less worse if they can’t complain to you about the schedule.

  55. Goodgrief*

    LW#4 – if, by any chance you work for the City of Portland, Oregon, talk to your HRBP because your manager is definitely interpreting that form wrong. It’s supposed to be personal, as in interpersonal, like communication skills.

  56. KatEnigma*

    LW3: I know from experience when working with different time zones that it’s a real inconvenience to send a question and have to wait until the next day for an answer. It’s well worth my while at 10pm (after the kids are put to bed for the night, especially) to go hop on slack to talk to that coworker when they can actually talk in closer to real time.

    Also, my husband flexes his hours during the day almost every day for the school run and so we can eat dinner as a family at a reasonable time in Central Time while his coworkers are all in Mountain or Pacific and then purposely works 2-3 hours starting at 10pm when I head to bed, when the house is quiet and his ADHD allows for better concentration. He would be really irritated if a manager decided his work-life balance wasn’t good enough and forbade late night working when it’s that late night working that allows for his good work life balance!!!! You might want to mention your manager’s directive to your coworker so s/he can push back if your listening to your manager would make their balance worse!

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I was thinking that LW3’s co-worker could be a night owl. You have some good ideas, and I am glad that it is working for you, him and your family.

  57. miss chevious*

    LW#5 — Absolutely keep telling candidates about your timeline for advancing! I work in a segment of our organization that is pretty flat, without a lot of opportunity for promotion, and promotions generally take a while. I am clear with candidates about that, because I don’t want to hire a gunner who’s going to chafe at the pace of advancement–it’s aggravating for them and for me trying to manage them.

    I do emphasize the other good things about working here, including good pay (no promotion doesn’t mean no raise!), work/life balance, great culture and co-workers, etc. This isn’t a place for someone who wants to be in the C-suite in 5 years, this is a place for someone who wants steady growth and a nice balance. Several of my job candidates in the past (ones that have accepted and ones that have withdrawn) have mentioned that they appreciated knowing that from the outset.

  58. Daisy-dog*

    #5 – The HM is assuming that is a bad feature of the role. It isn’t for everyone. Some people may not want to move into management right now (or ever). I worked somewhere that was up front – I couldn’t apply out of the department until I had been in the role for at least 1 year. But actually it was more complicated than that because there weren’t really that many upward-moving roles available because everyone stayed at this company *forever*. So after 1 year, when I started browsing the job listings, there was nothing for me. I eventually got a lateral transfer after almost 2 years of exceptional work with a great reference from my manager.

  59. Observer*

    #5 – Hiring manager wants to hide information.

    In addition to Alison’s very solid answer I want to say that you need to be looking at this manager’s work more closely. Because what they are proposing is simply dishonest. He wants to deliberately hide material information from candidates in the hope of trapping them into the job. Which leads to 2 problems.

    Firstly, if this guy is going to actively try to hide information, is he going to lie to them? What other material information is he going hide from whom? If a project is off schedule or budget is he going to actively try to keep others from know about that? Is he going to sit on problematic behavior of employees he likes?

    Which spills over to the second question. Is he going to cover up bad behavior because he doesn’t want to deal with the possibility of losing a warm body? Does he manage respectfully and *effectively*? Because people who think that trapping people into working for them are often just really bad managers – and they can also expose you to legal issues. eg by not acting bad behavior that you have a legal responsibility to stop.

  60. Mastadon United*

    Re LW#1: Wow, and these people work in healthcare? You think they would have more sympathy for chronic illness (or illness of any kind)

    1. NICS*

      Healthcare puts unsustainable pressures on its workers, which can’t help but have adverse effects. It burns people out like a furnace.

  61. secretstoneraccount*

    Just to throw this out there: as a reader, I’m finding it a bit tedious how many questions on this site nowadays just boil down to “X happened. Is this the new normal??” E.g., question 4 here. These questions aren’t really seeking advice, it seems, because it doesn’t seem like they genuinely, actually care about changing norms in managements techniques, hiring practices, etc. Instead, it seems like the letter writers just want validation about some thing they didn’t like at work. This seems quite tangential to actionable workplace advice, and frankly just seem designed to provoke outrage in the comment section. (The nadir of this, to me, is the person a few weeks ago who happened to be in a building they don’t normally visit for a training and saw 2 scales on the floor of the breakroom. And then responded to that situation by taking a picture, sending it to this site, it gets published with some commentary of outrage, and then the comment section becomes a froth of even greater outrage.) I’d love to see more questions published that involve someone genuinely seeking advice beyond “is this the new normal??”

    1. Nancy*

      I remember Alison commenting recently that she saw that trend too. But we get, what, ~30 questions a week here? If 1-2 are what you described that leaves a huge number that are genuinely seeking advice.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      It sounds like you might just be irked with the phrase “new normal”. Functionally, these questions aren’t really different than questions asking “is X normal?” The only difference is the former are saying they believe it’s not normal and are seeing it a lot and wondering if they’re out of touch, vs the latter are saying they don’t know what’s normal or not. But advice-wise, both land in the bucket of “are my expectations wrong?”

    3. Starbuck*

      “Instead, it seems like the letter writers just want validation about some thing they didn’t like at work. This seems quite tangential to actionable workplace advice”

      I dunno, I think that’s pretty helpful and actionable. It’s basically asking “am I overreacting to this? Should I react differently?” The soft/social aspects of navigating a workplace are important too. Plus, sometimes if you do actually know what happened wasn’t ok, but also that it wouldn’t be worth it to push back at work, places like this are a good outlet to vent things out and then let it go if that’s what you must do.

    4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Sometimes it’s useful to know where a situation falls on the range from “this happens a lot, try not to stress out” through “yes, that’s a problem, try X Y or Z” and “decide whether you want to stay at this job given Z” to “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change, get out.”

      Reading any given post is optional; reading the comment section, doubly so.

    5. Observer*

      “X happened. Is this the new normal??” E.g., question 4 here. These questions aren’t really seeking advice, it seems, because it doesn’t seem like they genuinely, actually care about changing norms in managements techniques, hiring practices, etc.

      The question is actually practical. If something is the “new normal” then you deal with it one way. If you it is not a normal practice, then you deal with it another way.

  62. Veryanon*

    That first letter…OMG. Yes, definitely let your manager know that you are getting attitude from your co-workers because you have to miss work for *checks notes* LIFE-SAVING MEDICAL TREATMENT.
    OP, your coworkers are terrible people and I’m sorry you have to experience this.

  63. Meep*

    You know I thought I had an insensitive prick of a coworker when she would repeatedly tell me unprovoked that she didn’t care if I got COVID because I was “young and healthy” while actively trying to GIVE ME COVID. But LW #1’s coworkers griping about her inconveniencing them by dying is next-level. Deplorable human beings.

  64. Purple Cat*

    I had to chuckle a little at LW2.
    DH got contacted a year ago as a back-door reference for a former coworker. Long-story short, DH now has that job.
    It’s obviously a personal issue if your reference were to slam you and then position herself as a better alternative – then they’re a terrible reference and a terrible friend. In this case, they gave you a glowing reference, and then are in a position to ALSO get a job at the company. Or maybe you won’t get your job, and they’ll get a different job in the organization. But it doesn’t sound like your reference is being considered for your job at all.

  65. Elizabeth Bennet*

    LW#1: I’m enraged for you. I have choice words for your coworkers. You keep your chin up and try to ignore their snide remarks. Tell you boss what’s going on and perhaps additional help is warranted temporarily until this is all over. Good luck.

  66. Ann O'Nemity*

    Where is the manager in #1? It’s great they told the LW to “do what you have to do,” but where are they in facilitating scheduling? It sounds like they have created (or allowed) a situation where offering LW flexibility is coming at the expense of coworkers for months or years on end. That’s a terribly policy and it’s obviously going to cause friction.

    How many letters have we seen over the years where managers approve a reduced workload or flexible schedule for 1 employee without hiring any additional resources and instead put all the extra work and/or loss in flexibility on the rest of the team? That’s the source of the problem here too.

    1. snarkfox*

      RIGHT. I’m not sticking up for their response at all, but it sounds like they can’t function with more than one person gone at a time. People shouldn’t have to come to work sick because LW has to go to cancer treatments. It’s not LW’s fault, and they are aiming their frustration at the wrong person, but they actually shouldn’t have to drown in a pile of work because two people are out at the same time.

  67. Esmeralda*

    OP 1: Your colleagues are frickin assholes.

    I had similar issues with a colleague when my son was undergoing chemo, scans, labs, blah blah blah — you know the drill.

    She complained to our boss, who said, we will apportion the work as fairly as possible, please remember that Esmeralda has covered your ass (not in those words) plenty of times in the past, and do NOT harass Esmeralda about this –talk to me.

    So she promptly came to me, told me what boss had said, then embarked on a lengthy complaint. Did it several times.

    Finally I looked right at her and as coldly as possible said, I’m so sorry my 7-year old son’s cancer is inconveniencing you. (Hand up to stop the protesting that she didn’t mean that) Please, take your fucking cold complaints to [boss] and do not EVER speak to me again about it.

    Then I told [boss] and stated I would not work on any teams or projects with that witch, I would quit first and then she could have the person who got less done than I did even though I was out on FMLA so much.

    That dreadful woman worked in our office for another five years. I interacted with her with scrupulous but very cold professionalism. I never did another favor for her, ever. And when people asked why “we didn’t seem to get along,” I told them why.

    All this to say: First, spell it out as plainly as possible for your horrible colleagues. Second, take it to your boss, who at a minimum needs to know this is happening, and who may want to address it. And name names when you do this.

    Fuck them and their cold dead hearts.

  68. Hawthorne*

    Very low stakes but to LW4, parasocial relationships refer to relationships people form with people they don’t know (celebrities, YouTubers, musicians, local weathermen) and are one-sided. This would not fall in that category.

  69. Starbuck*

    LW #2, I encourage you to reflect more on why your initial reaction wasn’t more like, “great, win-win!” and happiness for your very close friend helping you and getting a great opportunity out of it in a way that actually didn’t negatively affect you at all, and may even have significantly benefitted you, as Allison points out. I think maybe you have absorbed some bitterness or other mean thought patterns from your awful job.

    Have you had to spend lots of time at your awful workplace being suspicious of other people’s motives and not being able to trust that decisions are made fairly? If so, I think it would serve you well to try and interrupt those thought processes as you leave the bad situation! Wouldn’t it feel better to be able to be happy for your *close friend*? And yourself?

    Good with getting out of there and into a new position!

  70. Quickbeam*

    Re: #1….I also think there is an organizational problem in that they need a float person to be able to take some of the burden. If the coverage burden always falls on the same people over and over again, it isn’t personal but it does get old. It’s a management fail to not look ahead and plan better for the schedule needs. I say this as a nurse who left a job after spending 6 years working a double assignment to cover maternity leaves and other FMLA leaves. It wasn’t the babies or the illnesses, it was being the go to person for extra work.

    1. snarkfox*

      Yep, I work in healthcare and, as someone who doesn’t have kids, found myself frequently bending over backwards to pick up the extra work whenever anyone’s kid is sick. It’s hard not to get resentful, although I never expressed that to my colleagues (and certainly never would have if they had cancer!).

      My boss worked out a system where we get bonuses based on how much work we actually do, which helped a lot because I no longer feel like I’m doing twice the workload for the same paycheck as the people whose work I’m doing.

  71. Suzy*

    LW1, I am in that boat too. Thankfully, my coworkers are all very understanding. I would definitely speak to the boss about how treatment doesn’t get to end for you and what you are doing to alleviate the stress on coworkers. You don’t deserve snark or sighs when you’re going through this!

  72. Hannah L*

    People are, rightfully, pointing out that this is more of a management problem which is 100% correct. But regardless, it’s still not okay to make those comments to OP and act as if it’s her fault specifically. If this is an ongoing issue for them, they also should have spoken to their manager instead of making OP feel guilty for [check’s notes] having cancer.

    OP I’m sorry you’re dealing with this and hope your treatments go well. My mother had both breast and lung cancer and worked through her treatments and I saw how hard that was for her. Wishing you the best.

  73. snarkfox*

    #4, I would be tempted to say, “I wish I had more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade,” but probably not the best response.

  74. Underemployed Erin*

    To LW#3.

    What do you know about this coworker? Is this person a night owl, or are they working from early their time until late their time?

    If it is the former, I would ignore the boss and continue as is.

    If it is the latter, there is a real chance that this person can burn out, and they may be able to set their own boundaries, but they may also have difficulties in setting their own boundaries, and your boss needs you to help them with that.

    Working with a team across time zones is hard. Sometimes, my coworker would send me messages at the start of her work day (2 hours before the start of mine), and I would feel compelled to answer even though I was just getting up and starting my morning routine. She did less of that, and I was grateful. My own need to answer all the messages was stretching out my work day for far too long.

    I could learn strategies like turning off notifications, slowing down notifications, etc. Other people can help me with these strategies by timing their messages.

    1. Lizzo*

      Adding to this: many popular workplace tools (Gmail and Slack in particular) allow you to schedule things to send at more reasonable times for the recipient.


    For LW4, I had the reverse experience as a manager. I was taking over managing a younger team (mid-20’s) and I asked them individually in their first 1:1’s about their goals and the first ones they came up with were non-work goals.

    I’ll admit, I didn’t specify professional goals because I presumed it was implied, but I did a pivot, specified the question, and we listed the professional ones as the official goals, but would discuss the personal goals, and just use them for accountability. While unorthodox, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with discussing personal goals at work between employee and manager, but I could see how it could be perceived as a private matter.

  76. LW3*

    I appreciate the answer and people’s suggestions! I’ll clarify a little since I think some of it didn’t come through from my quick message.

    When I started, my boss recommended I schedule non-urgent Slack messages to offline coworkers in those distant time zones to because of very different work cultures between our countries. I don’t have a problem with this because they’re non-urgent messages, no need to ping them at midnight if it can wait until morning (and yes, a lot of people have Slack on their phones because there ARE time-sensitive emergencies). I’m fine with this. My questions are basically never time-sensitive in my role.

    My main question was what to do when coworkers were messaging me during *their* late hours, sorry for the confusing wording. My instinct was to respond because they’re up and contacting me, but I wasn’t sure if that was off. Sounds like my instincts were correct!

    As for the coworker who told me not to schedule messages so she could answer right away, she is a young but brilliant rockstar who has a lot of responsibilities, but she also sometimes works for multiple days straight or on her vacations. I sent this email after she messaged me on vacation, from a boat, while it was midnight for her. I felt guilty even responding knowing she was messaging me on her vacation, but I helped her right away and encouraged her to sign off when she could. My boss warned me that she has these tendencies and he’s working on it with her. It’s definitely not her just flexing her time or working odd hours, as some people speculated, but it’s way above my pay grade to worry about it more than that. I will keep responding to her when she messages me and leave the rest to him.

    1. Beebee*

      Hey LW, it sounds like you’re on the right track! Something else you could do is say “this is not urgent”, “when you’re back in tomorrow, could you —“, “tomorrow morning when you see this –” on your messages. I try and do that so if someone is off the clock and is the type to want to reply, at least I’ve done my part to communicate that I don’t expect a reply right now.

  77. SoarklingBlue*

    TPS reports are in fact real! They are mainly used in software engineering, as part of quality assurance (as per Wikipedia, at least)

  78. madge*

    LW1, I’m so sorry you’re going through this and dealing with absolute, seemingly unredeemable assholes along the way. No decent person would blame you for snapping back a sarcastic, “so sorry my cancer is inconveniencing you”. They deserve to be shamed.

    Your manager sounds supportive. Any chance they’d round up the offenders for a Come to Jesus meeting?

  79. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#5: I don’t know if there is a compelling reason to volunteer this information to a job candidate unless your promotion policy is an outlier for the industry or role. I will say – make sure that is a bona fide enforced policy before you communicate it. I have worked for a couple of smaller companies that claimed to have a 2 year service requirement for promotion, but didn’t consistently apply the so-called policy to every employee. Certain people got promoted much more quickly than the stated 2 year requirement. It was an embarrassment.

  80. Retired (but not really)*

    Regarding the OP with regularly scheduled appointments for treatments, which I’m sure she is marking on whatever shared calendar is available, there doesn’t seem to be any excuse for anyone to try to reschedule her shifts. Obviously someone in management needs to make sure this doesn’t happen. It is also likely that her coworkers are expressing their frustration about the situation in her presence rather than AT her. However, overhearing it at all is still an additional layer of “guilt” added to her plate.
    One of my friends is currently dealing with a different type of medical issue with a shorter but still somewhat lengthy recuperation period. And she is the part time one usually called in to cover for whoever else might be out at any given time. So it may well be that this is what is also happening at OPs workplace – the usual part time person is also suddenly unavailable to cover for an extended period. Still something management should be addressing, not leaving up to the coworkers to figure out. Best wishes on all levels to OP and to her coworkers as well.
    OP – please get your manager involved in seeking a solution to this issue. Would it be possible to maybe have the coworkers involved in a mutual brainstorming session with management?
    Again good luck!

  81. Lalitah92*

    LW#1: I wish you peace and kindness to soften this rough road. But the problem of your coworkers’ attitudes is your *boss’ problem* not yours. Their attitudes are likely tied to poor decisions on human resource management practices that cause the resentment to build in the team. This is your manager’s problem to solve, not yours. They should be having the conversation about the unwelcome sighs and attitudes but the larger issue is staffing practices.

  82. Calamity Janine*

    bad answer for question number 4:

    “well I’ve been getting into ventriloquism and working on a stand-up routine. I only have a sock puppet right now and I can’t not move my lips, but if you’d like me to pull it out, i can go over my tight five and get your feedback on it…”

    boss will never inquire along this line again

  83. Calamity Janine*

    lw1, i would strongly suggest – should you feel comfortable doing so – explicitly naming the appointments as cancer treatment, and banging that drum whenever there’s an eye roll.

    yes, it may make people feel bad, which they should. they get to feel bad about doing bad.

    speaking of naming the beast, i would encourage you to explicitly name it as ableism and bigotry! because, well… it is. that is what they are doing. they can go feel bad about that. and if they whine, then HR can remind them how bigotry is not tolerated in the workplace.

Comments are closed.