should I let a struggling employee work from home?

A reader writes:

One of my employee is wonderful, but struggles in her role. She also has substantial personal life responsibilities, with an ailing parent who needs substantial care. She’s recently asked me if she can start working from home one day a week to allow her to take care of her father. The problem is that our team is already stretched thin, and on days when people work from home, we tend to get about 75% productivity.

How do I make space for this employee to take care of her life, while also setting reasonable guidelines?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Telling an employee born on Leap Day she can’t have her birthday off
  • Can I ask my employee to save up her questions rather than interrupting me throughout the day
  • Are we all obligated to order from a kosher restaurant because of a kosher employee?

{ 219 comments… read them below }

  1. Ana*

    The republishing of the leap year birthday! I remember that question (and its update). That poor employee. She was right to push back on such a crappy policy.

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      I’m not sure if that letter is the most preposterous one I’ve ever read on AAM, but if it isn’t #1, it’s #2 for sure. Just a jaw-dropper!

      1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        I always thought that the letter was a fake, and was submitted by a long-time AAM reader who wanted to have fun with the rest of us. The absolute refusal to consider any alternative point of view in response to all the irate commenters seemed too out there to be true.

          1. Beth*

            Yep. It isn’t the only time we’ve had a horrible person write a letter, get an answer, and double down on being horrible.

        1. Dawn*

          I think we’ve all met/worked with someone though; the kind of dude who says, with a straight face, “I am a rationalist. This is the rational answer.”

          Or look at Futurama and the bureaucracy planet: “That is technically correct. The best kind of correct.”

        2. Observer*

          The absolute refusal to consider any alternative point of view in response to all the irate commenters seemed too out there to be true.

          That is unfortunately the most believable part of the letter.

        3. Meep*

          Unfortunately, I know someone who is this insane. She didn’t want to give Memorial, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Veterans Day as holidays because her ex-husband went to West Point and “screw the military” (which regardless of how you feel about the US military – blaming one toxic jerk who is only a toxic jerk because you are an abusive POS…). When asked about it she tried to blame it on our boss who was also a professor being in on those days while disappearing herself to take them off. She would also take a whole week off every year for her birthday while simultaneously bothering you about work on yours. Did not matter if it wa a weekend.

          People like this exist.

      2. Not really a Waitress*

        For me “Most preposterous” is a toss up between this one, and the boss who thought her employee was unprofessional for quitting so she could attend her own graduation since the boss would not give her the day off and the process was set up in such a way that the employee could not get anyone to trade with her.

        1. Savy*

          Mine was absolutely by the manager who’s pay kept getting snaffued, and they wanted to ***blame the employee*** for not being more responsible with their money?!!! Oh I loved that one. My head almost exploded.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        The follow-up/update insisting they were right was the icing on the cake. I can see it being fake, but I also think there are people like that LW out there who truly believe that they are 100% right even in the face of overwhelming evidence and opinion to the contrary.

      4. Darsynia*

        My vote for most preposterous will always be: getting penalized at work for having an unopened tampon box in the backseat of your car because someone saw it there.

        The horror!

      5. Artemesia*

        The fact that the OP doubled down makes it epic, but I have always thought it must be fake, because NO ONE could be that dense – could they?

          1. Generic Name*

            I divorced a guy like this. Still dealing with him in the court system. Per the district court, our case is “one of the most complex cases in the county’s history” with literally hundreds of filings. Lucky me.

      6. CeeKee*

        For me, Leap Year Birthday, ties as AAM all-timer with the manager who got herself fired and her whole department broken up through her mean-girl “un-managing” of an employee she didn’t like because she didn’t join the rest of the team for lunches at a brewery. In both cases the thing that made it craziest was the LWs DOUBLING-DOWN in their updates.

        1. KateM*

          She didn’t join the rest of team at brewery because someone had to man the phones (or something like that). But the real problem was that she was working too well and the real team looked bad compared to her.

        2. Gerry Keay*

          Hey, at least that person eventually saw the light and got herself into therapy to deal with their issues! Took a few letters to get there but she did eventually. Hopefully she’s continuing on that path.

        3. Wintermute*

          the mean-girl unmanager was such a trip, because it’s clear she was an unreliable narrator in the extreme– the final details included settling a civil suit and potential criminal charges which indicate that SO MUCH MORE was going on that we were never told about. There’s no possible universe in which just being a bad boss is a felony, as much as we wish it were otherwise, so the writer clearly was constantly minimalizing, and then more and more inferences could be slowly drawn out revealing the whole, horrifying picture.

          It was a wild one.

          1. Former Employee*

            Thanks for the laugh.

            I still wonder exactly what that person did that could result in being charged with a felony.

      7. Koalafied*

        The wildest one in my book was the business owner who wrote in about her loyal, long-tenured second in command, and a new employee she’d brought on board and was having problems with. She wanted advice on the new problem employee, but it seemed obvious to commenters that the long-tenured employee was actually the problem and was poisoning the business owner against the new employee (who actually seemed to be entirely on the level despite some unfair treatment), among other problems. We got an update later that confirmed as much – the new employee had left due her the way she’d been treated, and I believe the long-term employee had either quit or been let go, and did her best job to take the business down on her way out – if I remember right she even went so far as to slander the business owner in their industry or to vendors or something like that.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          That one was wild, but the LW did fairly quickly realize how badly she had screwed up, and her mistake sort of made sense in context. She said she founded a business in part to avoid mean girl dynamics, was lucky and her first (and for a number of years only) employee was competent and reliable and carried the paperwork part of the business. The second employee was toxic and drama-inducing and was able to manipulate the LW into demoting the first employee (and also hiring her friend), and then things quickly fell apart. I think the last update was that she was selling the badly damaged business and getting out of the whole business owning/managing thing.

          The Feb 29 was remarkable both in the doubling down and the sheer illogical pettiness of it.

        2. Very+Social*

          Other way around–the business owner thought the new employee was great and pointing out problems with the long-tenured employee, but it was actually the new employee who was toxic and the loyal employee who was great. That one doesn’t seem wild to me (compared to the others discussed in this thread), but it does have one of the most satisfying updates ever–IIRC it’s the second update, as the first is doubling down.

    2. Lilo*

      As a leapling myself, I’m a bit personally insulted. We have to listen to the same jokes about our birthday over and over already, but banning someone from a day off because of when they were born is just plain nutty.

      1. Diana Trout*

        A day off that EVERYONE ELSE gets!! Not to mention the Gift Card!! That’s what I can’t get past – how is it petty to want the same benefits as everyone else? My guess is that the “leapling” did not choose to be born on 2/29.

        1. Observer*

          My guess is that the “leapling” did not choose to be born on 2/29.

          Well, how can you be SURE?! /sarc

        2. whingedrinking*

          For me the cherry on top was the LW saying the employee “wasn’t missing out” because it was all done “privately”. As if the employee was whining because they weren’t throwing her a birthday party in the office, rather than wanting, you know, the paid time off and monetary gift all her other coworkers were getting.

      2. Random Bystander*

        My father is a leap year boy, but there were two memorable events when we really made something of it.

        Story 1: I was 22, my dad was 44 (11), and my birthday is shortly after his (early March–close enough that we always traded off who got the cake and who got “other dessert of choice” because we just didn’t like that much cake in three days). We went to a dinner theater that announced birthdays/anniversaries at intermission, and we put it in as a bit of a math riddle. (Father and daughter here celebrating birthdays. While she has had twice as many birthdays as he, she is half his age.)

        Story 2: I gave birth to twins on Feb 28. After they were born, we calculated and when they would be turning 19, it would be the 19th leap year birthday for my father, so this one was highly anticipated. We made t-shirts and everything about celebrating the 19th birthdays of all three people.

        Otherwise, he gets annual birthday cards and dessert of choice (which may or may not be cake … we’ve had all kinds of things like pies and raspberry swirl. I carried this on with my children, one of whom would far rather have a cherry pie than a birthday cake.)

        1. MAC*

          This is so fun! My birthday is Feb 28 and my nephew’s is Feb 29. I’ll have to see if I can figure out a math thingie to do one of these times.

          Also, the number of times people have said to me “Oooh, almost a Leap Year baby, huh?” is wild considering I was born in 1969. I usually respond very dryly “Nope, almost a March 1 baby.”

    3. Elizabeth*

      I’ve always wondered if this is the same boss that thought their employee was whining and unprofessional over the repeated pay mess-ups.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        RIGHT?? “Oh, how entitled of my employee to expect to be paid the proper amount on time that allows them to stay housed and fed!”

        Ok, Marie Antoinette.

        1. Observer*

          Actually, Marie Antoinette was apparently a pretty good boss.

          The whole “let them eat cake” is a mis-translation.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Yes, I know, but in modern parlance, it’s used as shorthand for oblivious entitlement. Not very historically accurate or fair to the former queen, but such is language.

            Here’s a joke for you:

            “Where does a mansplainer get his water? From a well, actually.”

      2. Koalafied*

        Haha, that one was great. Like the unseemly thing was the employee pointing out they hadn’t been paid, not the company failing to pay the employee.

    4. Choi*

      I do feel, and I assume the point was made at the time, that if Leap Birthday truly only has a birthday as LW understands it once every 4 years, then /surely/ they are breaking child labour laws? That employee can’t have had more than 5 birthdays!!!

      Of course, that is patently nonsense, as is her application of this policy.

    1. Cmdrshpard*

      You monster, you are just as bad as the OP in that letter, how dare you only observe anniversaries/bdays only once every 4 years. /s

      The proper time to repost it is on the LAST DAY OF FEBRUARY EVERY YEAR!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Maybe proper day is February 15, so everybody whose companies celebrate birthdays are reminded to move calendar notifications from February 29 to February 28.

    1. JustKnope*

      I left a reply with the link, you’ll see it once it’s out of moderation :) Alternately, search “Leap Day” on the site and you’ll find it.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        The great part is Alison’s comment on the update: “I don’t usually add anything of my own on to updates, but I want to state for the record that this is insane.”

  2. fish*

    Re: Kosher employee – I thought it is also notable that it isn’t the kosher-keeping employee demanding everyone order from the kosher restaurant

    1. PollyQ*

      Yes, excellent point. Heaven save us from people who try to “help” without first checking that it’s needed or wanted. I have friends & family who keep kosher to varying degrees, and none of them care what other people are eating.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This. I’m wary of people who define “inclusion” as “everyone gets the same thing” when it should really be “everyone gets what they need.”

      In the situation this letter describes, everyone is getting what they need.

      1. doreen*

        In this situation everyone does get what they need but there are some situations where separate ordering is not appropriate – and I say that because I witnessed arguments on two separate occasions where food was being ordered for a retirement party in honor of someone with a restricted diet ( one kosher and one vegetarian). In both cases, those organizing the party planned to order food that was compatible with the diet – and in both cases I heard people ask “What are the rest of us going to eat?” and suggest that the guest of honor’s kosher/vegetarian food should have been ordered separately.

      2. Rainy*

        My office has gone all-in on being “fair” lately. I am a one-person program within my office. The stuff I do is substantially different to the stuff everyone else does. The rhythms of my work year are also very different to the rhythms of the rest of the office because of this.

        I recently had to fight super hard to not have to do “the same as” everyone else for an office event that was scheduled in conflict with one of my three big items of programming of the year, and to be allowed to take advantage of a super unique opportunity to represent my program at a new statewide venture that has the potential to significantly raise our profile and make some important connections with external partners, and there was a (*&^ing *meeting* held between my manager and my grandboss about whether I would be *allowed* to attend this literal one-time event because it happened to conflict with an (admittedly major) event for the office.

        “Everyone gets the same thing” is one of my pet peeves, because so often it has meant that I am forced to get the thing that doesn’t work for me, or I don’t get the thing I actually need because “we can’t make exceptions”.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          The amount of time and energy I spend explaining to people the difference between equity and equality to avoid situations just like this is insane.

          1. Rainy*

            Oh, to make it better–we’ve been doing a bunch of “DEI work” as an office over the last three years.

            I don’t think it’s helping.

        2. Observer*

          A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

          One a personal level, I don’t think what they are actually after is FAIRNESS but an easy way out of actually managing.

      3. Susan Ivanova*

        There’s a cartoon demonstrating the “everyone gets the same thing” problem: three kids of very different heights standing by a fence. In the “equality” shot, all three kids are standing on boxes, but only the taller kids can see the game on the other side. In the “equity” shot, the short kid has two boxes, the middle kid has one box, and the tallest kid has no box, and all three can see the game. Search for “kids standing on boxes equality”

        1. Wintermute*

          There are a lot of takedowns of why that’s actually a pretty terrible example, though, it’s potentially useful to illustrate the basic example, but also maybe not a great example because it’s not accurate.

    3. EmmaPoet*

      Same. This comes off as what Carolyn Hax so aptly calls helpy. The kosher-keeping employee is clearly able to advocate for themself and has not asked for such a measure (though I don’t think the company would be obligated to do it even if they did), so why even bring it up?

    4. High Score!*

      Could be that the employee who said that everyone should order from there would like to have the kosher restaurant’s food. I see this when everyone at the office gets cheap nasty pizza but the vegan and the person who ordered it get something that looks healthy and delicious. It’s sucks to be stuck with Cheapos Pizza watching Picky Eater get healthy tasty food.

        1. anti social socialite*

          I would add that people who have a vegetarian or vegan diet by choice aren’t picky either, they are simply following their own moral code.

          1. londonedit*

            I don’t eat meat because I don’t like it. In all other respects, I’m far, far less of a ‘picky eater’ than many of my meat-eating friends (who won’t eat certain vegetables, or who don’t like fruit, or who won’t eat tofu or lentils or other things they deem ‘weird vegetarian food’, or who don’t like their food too spicy, etc…). Basically, if it isn’t meat, I’m happy to eat it. Yet I’m the one people assume is ‘picky’ just because I don’t eat meat. It’s usually far easier for me to find something nice to eat in a restaurant than it is for many of my friends with so-called ‘normal’ diets.

        2. Wintermute*

          health-related, no, but otherwise, the reason they’re choosing is not material, it’s still a choice they’re making.

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Yeah, but it also sucks to be the vegetarian that gets forgotten about so you have to eat two fruit kebabs and a muesli slice (granola flapjack in American maybe?) for lunch. It’s nice they get something good! If you think the vegetarian pizza is better, request it.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        Yeah, wow, that is incredibly rude. I am not a picky eater, but I don’t eat pork or meat because of religious restrictions, and if you’re going to tar me with the picky eater brush because I don’t eat what you eat, that says more about you than me.

      3. TD*

        Unless it’s a really good deli with home-cured pastrami, I can guarantee you that the kosher restaurant’s food is not better than whatever restaurant the other employees selected.

        1. Summer*

          You have absolutely no idea if it’s better or not. There are some amazing kosher restaurants out there so to paint them all as terrible is just so narrow minded and ridiculous.

      4. Observer*

        It’s sucks to be stuck with Cheapos Pizza watching Picky Eater get healthy tasty food.

        And it’s even worse to be the person who is so oblivious that the ONLY reason they can POSSIBLY imagine for someone to have health, religious or moral restrictions on their food is because they are picky. Very poor and narrow world view.

        But it’s even worse to be the coworker of a person like that.

        1. TransmascJourno*

          +1000. And if I read the letter correctly, the LW said that the glatt kosher-keeping employee isn’t complaining, and that the restaurant they’re not complaining about isn’t as highly ranked as the place the non-kosher-keeping is ordering from? Definitely a “have your cake and eat it too” sort of vibe.*

          *As someone who keeps kosher, I’ve definitely had experiences in which non-Jews automatically assumed that kashrut = better quality food. Sometimes that might be the case, but sometimes it’s not! It just speaks to the fact that a lot of non-Jews might not or absolutely don’t understand what keeping kosher actually means, and that the price of kosher food doesn’t correlate with quality.

          1. Rainy*

            Some of my friend group about 20 years ago was, for whatever reason, convinced that kashrut and halal foods were both significantly healthier and better quality. As the only person in that group who grew up keeping religious food laws, I found the assumption both laughable and maddening.

    5. Dinwar*

      I call it the Speedy Gonzales rule. When Loony Toons was setting up to make a comeback they were going to exclude Speedy, as they didn’t want to offend Hispanics. Hispanics, however, were offended by him being excluded–he was pretty popular among the community. He was portrayed as a protagonist, without a lot of the typical stereotypes. He was up there with Bugs in terms of wise-cracks and efficacy. They wanted MORE of his cartoons, not less!

      Basically, if someone’s offended on someone else’s behalf, or making demands on behalf of someone else’s community, I take it as a sign to ask someone in the community about it, but won’t act solely on it. I get that a lot of people aren’t comfortable speaking up, but on the flip side there are people who gatekeep in ways that strip disadvantaged communities of their autonomy, which is simply wrong.

      1. EchoGirl*

        A similar thing happened with the new Star Trek series. The producers decided to cast a villain from the original series (being vague on purpose here to avoid spoilers) as white, despite the fact that the original intent was clearly for the character to be South Asian, because they didn’t want to “make the bad guy a POC”. However, South Asian communities were upset because it could have been the role of a lifetime for a South Asian actor, and were upset that no one had asked them before assuming the best course of action was to give it to a white guy.

        1. EchoGirl*

          New Star Trek series=New Star Trek FILM series (i.e. the “Star Trek 2009” trilogy). Just realized I ought to be specific about that.

          1. DataSci*

            Thank you! Khan was the obvious example, but I was trying and failing to think of someone from one of the current series.

        2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          THAT’S why they did that? Sheesh. I remember hating the casting, but in my case it was because I thought they should have cast someone who looked at least a little bit like Ricardo Montalban (the original Khan). I mean, everybody knows what Khan is supposed to look like, and Benedict Cumberbatch (no offense to that talented actor) isn’t even close.

          I had no idea they did it to avoid the villain being a poc. How incredibly silly!

        3. Wintermute*

          it was even worse if you consider the lore. Khan is the product of the Eugenics Wars, a physically and mentally superior human specimen that was engineered for perfection. The unfortunate implication of recasting him to avoid a POC in that role is that what the peak of genetic perfection looks like changes from South Asian to English.

    6. Artemesia*

      This. The busy body employee needs to be shut down firmly. Providing a meal a diabetic can eat, or vegetarians can eat or someone allergic to gluten can eat, doesn’t single them out — it accommodates them. I have never know an Orthodox Jew to insist everyone eat kosher.

    7. Jessica Ganschen*

      Yep, if the person keeping kosher doesn’t feel “singled out”, there’s no reason for anyone else to make a big deal. I’m similar to the other two employees mentioned in that I’m less strict about kashrut, but if my office was ordering from a BBQ place where all of the options were pork, pork, and more pork with extra lard, I really couldn’t care less about being different by ordering from another restaurant with vegetarian/kosher options. I just want the food that works for me, and you can keep the food that works for you!

      1. fish*

        Right. It’s a different situation if the kosher food arrives cold and late, is a slice of bread with a leaf of wilted lettuce, and there’s an “eat the most pork to get an extra day off” contest.

        But if it’s logistically smooth, of equal quality, and not used to bludgeon people about their difference, who cares?

    8. Frally*

      It is very common to order a separate meal for the kosher-keepers rather than order kosher for everyone. So common that it’s pretty much the norm, and no kosher-keeper would think twice about getting a different meal. I can’t think of any Orthodox Jews I know that would expect everyone to eat kosher meals.

  3. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Ahh, the leap day letter. Alison’s correct and unequivocal advice: “You’re unquestionably in the wrong here. Stop doing this and apologize.” Update: “I’m Canadian and also I’m not doing anything illegal, SO THERE” COOL COOL COOL

    1. Phony Genius*

      When I first read that story, it felt like it was happening in a part of the world where one does not question their employer and always says they’re happy with their job when asked. The update revealed that it was indeed outside North America, but that the writer was Canadian. At that point the situation stopped making what little sense it made to me.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Some of my favorite updates are the letter writers who were extremely wrong, but who feel the need to write back to tell us we just didn’t understand them properly or else we’d know they were right the whole time.

      1. Starbuck*

        One of my favorites was the person who got disciplined/fired for stealing a bottle of juice from the breakroom, and then had all these elaborate philosophical justifications for how it Wasn’t Stealing, Actually in the comments.

    3. High Score!*

      I still feel bad for leap day birthday employee. That would sting – happy birthday no day off for you!

      1. KRM*

        And no monetary reward (gift card) that EVERYONE ELSE GETS.
        It still amazes me that the LW was fine with denying the employee time off and money that everyone else got. 100% believe it’s true though because people are really oddly attached to the weirdest ideas.

        Also I loved all the Pirates of Penzance references in the comments.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I felt like a big part of OP’s nonsensical-ness was tied to being high handed. As in “We do this because WE are a wonderful company, not because of what YOU want. If we gift something, it’s generous, if you want something, it’s petty and greedy”. OP must be an absolute joy to work for.

    5. MarsJenkar*

      If the best argument you can make is that your proposal is legal, you’d better be sure that the alternative is *not* legal. Because if the alternative is legal as well, you do not have a strong argument.

  4. JustKnope*

    The part of the Leap Day birthday letter that STILL gets me is that if another employee’s birthday falls on a weekend, they get the next business day off. It’s not like they could ONLY get the date of their birthday off, which at least then wouldn’t single out the Leap Day employee as the only one who gets excluded. It’s just so mind bogglingly rigid. And the update was baffling!

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah like the writer could not actually understand that just because the date did not appear on the calendar, it didn’t mean they didn’t have a birthday. If an exception can be made for a weekend birthday, than an exception can be made for February 29.

      I seriously wonder if the writer every checked with higher ups. Like they might have been appalled to find out how the manager was handling this. Or they might not.

      1. Becky*

        Maybe the letter writer was just a really big fan of Pirates of Penzance.

        For some ridiculous reason, to which, however I’ve no desire to be disloyal
        Some person in authority, I don’t know who
        Very likely the Astronomer Royal
        Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February
        Twenty-eight days as a rule are plenty
        One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine and twenty
        Through some singular coincidence
        I shouldn’t be surprised if it were owing to the agency of an ill-natured fairy
        You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement
        Having been born in leap-year
        On the twenty-ninth of February
        And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you will easily discover
        That though you’ve lived twenty-one years
        Yet, if we go by birthdays
        You’re only five and a little bit over!
        Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!
        Ho! ho! ho! ho!

    2. Ellis Bell*

      It’s the whole “but of course” attitude of the leap-year boss that tickles me. The confidence of her saying “since she only gets a birthday once every four years”… wholly just assuming people will go along with such an unexamined, preposterous attitude. There’s something robotic and numbers obsessed about it. Like she genuinely believes someone should be penalised for not being born on an annually recurring date. Does she think people are being rewarded for their date’s numeric ordinariness, rather than it being a gesture of good will and for the purpose of motivation? I would just love to know what other petty rules lawyering she’s done; it makes “don’t expense the guacamole” pale in comparison.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          The policy for making sure you hire adults is probably by year. I kind of think she actually checked.

      1. The Original K.*

        Me too. Just straight up “you are wrong, you’ve been wrong, and your doubling down on your wrongness is bonkers.” I wonder if Leap Year Birthday still works there?

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, it would be ridiculous enough if they only gave the actual day off, but I could at least SEE what they were thinking – other people don’t get the next day so why should they? – although it would be ridiculous rules-lawyering AND unfair, since weekends don’t take three years out of four, but…there would at least be SOMETHING there, but this…just sounds like a vendetta.

    4. Jessica*

      I actually remember when reading the original post (and more specifically the update) recognizing exactly what kind of IT snafu had led to this situation because I have done it myself on much smaller stakes writing automation scripts: the systems they are using to handle the birthday stuff ) have logic built in to handle “weekends” or “stat holidays” because those are common things that occur every year that everyone involved in working on the systems probably thought of, but does not contain the required logic to handle “Feb 29th doesn’t always exist” – which is dumb because this is something that should be fixed in their systems but until it’s treated as an IT problem that needs to be fixed that won’t happen.

      None of this changes the fact that no employee should be held hostage to IT bugs , and the company should have a way to manually handle someone’s birthday even if the system handles it incorrectly, but it means I can also see why the LW was being so obnoxiously obtuse about it if they are the sort of person (they came across as the sort of person) who knows that the HR/payroll/etc systems handle the birthday stuff and doesn’t think critically about what they should do if the HR/payroll/etc systems are handling the birthday stuff *incorrectly*.

    5. Summer*

      That Leap Day letter was incredibly baffling! And then just to absolutely dig in and double down in the update?? How can a person make it to adulthood and still be that oblivious? Not to mention petty and ridiculous! I’m still angry on behalf of that poor employee!

    6. ADHDer*

      Seriously, I really hope that person left people management and never returned to it. You cannot have people so lacking in basic compassion or flexibility in roles with any sort of power. It creates absurd problems like this.

  5. CLC*

    That birthday one cannot be real! It would still be ridiculous if it were just a cake, but they are giving actual PTO benefits and financial benefits (gift card) to everyone except one person!

    1. Phony Genius*

      Maybe they could give 4 days off and 4 gift cards to that person in leap years. (Sarcasm tag for those who need it.)

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Actually, that’s not a bad idea, given the LW’s “but it is the POLICY” approach.

    1. Kowalski! Options!*

      “One person guessed I was not American. I don’t know why they were jumped all over but they were correct. I am Canadian. I live and work outside of North America.”

      TFW your defensiveness short-circuits what you learned in geography class…

      1. Zan+Shin*

        There is no contradiction in being Canadian but living and working overseas, which the statement re Jehovah’s Witnesses being an illegal cult would100% support.

      2. doreen*

        I don’t think anything was short-circuited – a person can be a Canadian citizen who was born and raised in Canada even if they now live and work in China. ( Although the whole birthday thing was insane. )

      3. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Ha – I only just noticed that!

        Yes, that OP seemed to just categorically not want to understand why their treatment of the employee is unfair, and in an odd way. We’ve had loads of bad american bosses on here before, but this was the one letter where it felt like talking at a brick wall. Defensive in a very stubborn way, I guess.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Perhaps that LW was exiled from Canada for not being nice enough, and that’s how they ended up living and working outside of North America.

  6. Miss Suzie*

    #4 My manager took this route. “Save up all your questions for our weekly one on one meeting.” This worked for a few weeks. Then they cancelled the week’s meeting, then the next one, then the next one. Eventually it did not even show up on my calendar.

    1. irene adler*

      I get that answering questions in the fashion the OP describes can be irritating. And for some, it interrupts concentration. So I have some sympathy for the situation.

      However in your case, Miss Suzie, does not getting your questions answered-ever-adversely affect your work performance (over time)? I would think so.
      Way to manage, manager. Not.

  7. Caramel & Cheddar*

    RE: LW 1, I’d be interesting to know to what degree the struggles in her personal life are having an impact on the struggles in her role, and whether or not working from home might actually help alleviate some of those problems rather than exacerbate them. It can be hard to be at work while a loved one requires care you can’t provide in the moment, and maybe being in a position where she only feels like that four days a week instead of five might help her work in general.

    I’m not caring for an ailing parent, but I see the benefits of this all the time in my own work where being able to take five or ten minutes to complete a personal task during the workday at home has dramatically improved my stress levels in a way that being in the office 100% absolutely exacerbated.

      1. Lilo*

        It’s also possible her productivity will get worse if she’s trying to do care at home while working. It’s a really difficult situation but it’s not wrong to expect performance before working from home. I worked with a guy who really struggled with distraction during the pandemic. We arranged for him to come in and work in a private office and his job performing improved incredibly.

        1. metadata minion*

          It depends so much on what the care entails. If it’s just a matter of making two lunches rather than just one, reminding him to take his medication, and making sure he doesn’t set the house on fire by accident, that’s really not much more time than the employee would be spending on taking care of herself. But if it’s something that requires more active care and constant supervision, I agree that that isn’t going to be compatible with most jobs.

        2. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

          My mom recently had a stroke, and we’ve been having to do various things. She’s pretty self-sufficient (minus things that involve going downstairs or leaving the house), but she hurt herself the other day and had trouble getting around. I worked from her house all last week. All I did was let her dog out for her, get her food if she didn’t feel up to doing it, sit in on part of one of her home healthcare appointments, etc. Other than the 15 minutes I was in with the nurse (which I used my break time for), it didn’t take any significant time away from my job (less than the time needed to use the bathroom/get water at work). If it were something similar, being able to work from her house once a week would definitely be helpful and wouldn’t detract from my actual job.

    1. ferrina*

      Yeah, I wondered about this too. It really cuts back on stress when you don’t need to commute, you can run a load of laundry while you make coffee, etc.

    2. Temperance*

      Honestly, I think it depends. If her dad is mostly able to take care of himself but might need help getting meals, with meds, etc., that’s one thing. But if he needs a caregiver/supervision full-time, she’s going to be way less productive.

    3. Hannah Lee*

      I kind of went through this last year, my siblings and I juggling care of our elderly parent while all working full time (we had some external care-givers helping for times that none of us could cover.) There was a stretch when I worked a full day or a half day every week from Mom’s house. That schedule took some pressure off the other care givers, so it made juggling the rest of the schedule easier, and meant I wasn’t stressing about the transition between my “coverage” shifts and work and wasn’t as preoccupied/distracted when I was at the office (so my performance got better) And that day not going into the office gave me flexibility so that if I needed to do something personal (for mom or me) during business hours, I could. And while mom needed hands on care sometimes, she often was napping or reading etc, and I could just plug away at work stuff without an issue. If there was a day I was particularly busy with Mom stuff (ie she was having a health issue or was out of sorts), I’d make up for it by putting in time that evening, or staying late in the office on one of the other days.
      Overall it made a HUGE positive difference in both my life and my work performance. Sure there are some positions or employees that that won’t be the case, but that flexibility made it possible for me to stay working, and keep somewhat of a handle on my mental health during a difficult time.
      Alison’s advice to the OP is great – situations like this require more active management, especially at the start, to make sure work is getting done as it needs to. But that’s true with any WFH situation.

  8. Person from the Resume*

    She’s recently asked me if she can start working from home one day a week to allow her to take care of her father

    This sets off alarm bells for me. My organization is very clear (has been very clear long before COVID) that you cannot work from home and simultaneously provide childcare, eldercare, etc. We also have a set tour of duty you are scheduled to be working policy which doesn’t support flexing hours in an adhoc way. If you have someone that requires care at home while you are working you need to have someone else providing that care. (Obviously enforcement of the policy was relaxed during COVID.)

    The way this question is worded (from before COVID) it sounds like the employee is trying to care for her dad while working from home at the same time. Depending on the level of care required it doesn’t make sense to explicitly approve her to do both especially sense she’s already struggling when in the office and only trying to do that. I’d start with “Until you improve your output in the office, I can’t approve working from home once a week.” Explain what level she needs to reach, and if she reaches it then allow her to work from home while requiring her to meet the same standard. If she can’t meet the standard at home, bring her back in the office. If she can’t meet the expected standard at all, let her go and kindly with as much warning as resonable.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I am kind of coming down on this side as well, honestly. There’s really no way to provide focused care to anyone who needs more than directions on what to do, when you’re working from home. (ie. directions along the lines of “get yourself a sandwich”, “have you taken your medications”, “remember to do your homework”)

      Having recently worked from my parents’ home while just helping to take care of my mother (I wasn’t even the primary caregiver, and there were personal support workers as well), it was exhausting and I was very unproductive.

      1. Despachito*

        I strongly disagree.

        It definitely does depend on the type of the care needed, but me being WFH enabled me to care for a terminally ill friend for TWO YEARS, along with having two schoolchildren. I do not think my productivity decreased.

        The care basically involved making meals, driving/accompanying her to doctors’ appointments (at the end she was unable to walk) and feeding her cats in her home in 3-4 days’ interval.

        It was definitely doable, but it was thanks to the fact I could organize my days around this, and if need be, working in the evenings.

        I know it is not the same as the OP’s case because I have always been pretty productive, but I am absolutely in the camp “let us try it for a few weeks and see what happens”. If it does not work, it does not, but I’d be livid if someone tried policing my time management saying it is impossible.

    2. Daisy*

      Level of care and type of job have a huge amount to do with it.
      If her elder only needs someone in the house in case of falls and to make meals WFH one day a week could hugely increase the employee’s quality of life. Many jobs do not require minute-by-minute coverage and the decrease in stress could substantially increase productivity as she is not as worried all the time. Like it or not, what happens at home impacts how efficiently people work as the majority don’t completely switch emotions stepping across the threshold (and work impacts home life also).
      Giving her a little grace and allowing WFH once a week could keep a responsible, dedicated employee for the rest of her working career. Refusing could get you “butts in seats” or it could push her to quit for a job that is a better fit for her right now. It certainly won’t make her feel like she should go the extra mile for her job.

    3. doreen*

      I think whether both can be done at the same time really depends on what kind of care is needed – sometimes caring for someone takes up nearly all of your time and sometimes the actual care doesn’t take up much time at all but someone has to be present all day. The last few years of my grandfather’s life, he couldn’t be left alone in the house for any length of time – but it wasn’t because someone had to take care of him every minute or even feed him and help him to the bathroom. It was because he might forget he left a pot on the stove or might have turned the gas stove on but didn’t notice there was no flame or forget he stopped the sink and left the water running or – someone had to be there almost literally to make sure he didn’t burn the house down but if remote work had been a thing back then it definitely would have been possible to do both.

      1. Daisy*

        Yes, this is very much job and individual-dependent.
        Also, these situations may last for a few years but often it will only be a few months. There is often no way of knowing beforehand, and I can see where the business may be reluctant to set precedent, but considering the cost of replacing an employee and how difficult it can be to find a dedicated workforce, it is worth giving that WFH day if you at all can.

      2. Gumby*

        It *might* be possible to do both depending on the job in addition to the level of care/oversight needed.

        It wouldn’t be compatible with every job because the things that could go wrong could develop in as little as a few minutes. How long does it take a stopped up sink to overrun? 5 minutes at the outside? So you’d need to check at least every few minutes and although the vast majority of the time nothing would be wrong and you could go right back to work an interruption every 5 minutes is still incompatible with many jobs. Definitely with any job that requires deep and sustained concentration. Knowing I was responsible for keeping a generalized eye on things would prevent me from being able to dive into that kind of task.

        1. doreen*

          Depends on the house/apartment too – there was no place someone could have worked in that apartment where they wouldn’t hear the water running.

    4. No Name Today*

      Yes, I think OP should look at why employee is asking as much as what employee is asking.
      Speaking from my experience as a full time employee and caregiver to ailing parents, what this person needs is less, not more. Doubling up work and care giving is too much. My parents could afford visiting care, but still, the bulk was on me.
      Can you, OP direct employee to HR and FMLA? I was told, “oh, sure, have your parents’ doctor send a letter stating you are a caregiver.”
      I was able to take off two afternoons a week, or one day and focus on that.
      So when I was at work, I could work. When I was at home, I was at home.
      You could end up helping employee in both areas.

    5. Wisteria*

      To me this says you don’t understand WFH. It’s not just that one’s tuchus is on the couch at home rather than in a desk chair in the office. It’s that work hours can be flexed and work performed asynchronously. No, somebody cannot simultaneously type on a document and provide care. However, one can type on a document, take an hour out to provide a meal, and return to typing on a document. That is how WFH helps people with personal commitments.

      I’d start with “Until you improve your output in the office, I can’t approve working from home once a week.”

      A better starting point would be, “Let’s find out what the roadblocks are to you improving your output and see whether we can remove those blocks while allowing you to work from home.”

      1. Allonge*

        “It’s that work hours can be flexed and work performed asynchronously.”

        In some jobs, yes. In others, not so much, or not in a way that is compatible with caring duties. I usually can throw a pile of clothes in the washing machine even on the busiest of days, but there are also things I cannot stop doing unless there is a literal fire.

        “Let’s find out what the roadblocks are to you improving your output and see whether we can remove those blocks while allowing you to work from home.”

        It’s super nice when an employer can do this. But there is a scale from where this is reasonable and advisable to where this is a major waste of time.

        1. Wisteria*

          Hence the “let’s find out” and the “see whether.” That’s not super nice, that’s basic management whether an employee is onsite or remote.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        That is not true. Everyone in my organization has set working hours whether we work from home or not. If you work from home, you work those specific hours from home.

        WFH is not inherently “flexed and work performed asynchronously.” It’s specifically about where you work, not when, and what it is is exactly described in the name.

        1. allathian*

          Again, it depends on the job. It certainly wouldn’t be possible for all office jobs, but for many it would be.

      3. doreen*

        That depends on the job – for lots of jobs, it doesn’t really matter what hours people work, so yeah, taking an hour break from 3-4 and making it up from 7-8 might be fine. But the customer service staff at my husband’s company worked from home and they had to work business hours because their work depended on phone calls.

      4. Summer*

        That’s really not true though. Some WFH jobs can be flexed that way but a lot of them cannot. I WFH and I work 8-5 just like the rest of my coworkers. We don’t have the option to choose our own hours just because we’re working from home.

      5. Wintermute*

        that isn’t at all true, it depends on the job.

        If the job has task flexibility and is work-product-oriented with intermediate to long-term projects then it has that flexibility. If it’s short-turnaround or responsive in nature it will be that from an office or from home.

        I work from home half the week and was fully remote for two years, I have team mates that are fully remote. We still have a strict 8-hour schedule and a five-minute response time expectation with a 15-minute task completion expectation.

    6. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      If it’s setting off alarm bells for you, I hope some of those bells are a reminder to pay your employees enough to be able to hire caregivers.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Your response is uncalled for. Caregivers are freaking expensive.

        I work for the government. Talk to the taxpayers and congress about how much THEY pay THEIR workers. I’m just a cog.

        But you can also bet taxpayers would be yelling about the lazy government workers if they found out someone was simultaneously caring for their parent while earning their government paycheck. “That’s wasting taxpayers’ dollars!”

        1. Gerry Keay*

          I’m pretty sure “caregivers are freaking expensive” is exactly why people need to be paid enough to hire caregivers, if a workplace is unable to accommodate a flex schedule. You may not specifically have the power to do that but that doesn’t mean that what “Snoozing not schmoozing” said is uncalled for.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            It’s more complicated than that, because caregiving is both expensive and poorly paid. You would need to pay *caregivers* (who work a job that requires in person scheduled work) to hire caregivers themselves, and the math just doesn’t work.

  9. K in Boston*

    The Leap Year one always gets me because it’s such an easy problem to handle that they basically already have a solution for (since employees with birthdays on a holiday or weekend get their perks on the following work day). And a day off isn’t nothing — companies very much build in those PTO hours as benefits for a reason, e.g. if everyone in my office makes $30/hr and typically work 8 hours per shift, you’re essentially giving everyone in the office a free $240 EXCEPT for me. Throw in the cost of the gift card + cake and now you’re just kicking me while I’m down.

    1. Darsynia*

      This is what gets me, it’s absurd that the LW couldn’t understand why the employee kept pushing back on this. It’s a loss in perks and morale, and for what? She can’t choose when she’s born!? It steams me up every time I think about it, even more so because my birthday is March 1 and had I been born a year previously it would have been on a leap day. I always wished it was! I used to joke that once I got on in years I’d pretend it was Feb 29 and I was only a fraction of my real age.

      1. Laney Boggs*

        We all wanted my friend’s now-2-year-old to be born on Feb 29, 2020.

        He made his appearance on the 28th. *eyeroll*

        1. Darsynia*

          Recalcitrant kiddo!

          I have 2 family members with awesome birthdates—09/09/09 and 10/11/12 are SIBLINGS. Not on purpose, either! In contrast, my kids’ simple ‘add 2 of the digits and get the third’ was cool. I told my husband that we had a list of approved birthdates, kid number 3 missed it by 1 day!

      2. K in Boston*

        Right?! When I think about big standout letters from Ask a Manager, there’s usually a certain degree of drama involved that seems so pointed and outrageous, but at the same time so absurdly human — bird phobia, trying to fire a whistleblower, showing up at a cemetery or cancer treatment — but this one always stuns me in how exceedingly dull an issue it ought to be.

      3. Observer*

        This is what gets me, it’s absurd that the LW couldn’t understand why the employee kept pushing back on this. It’s a loss in perks and morale, and for what?

        But, but, but . . .splutter. . . It’s not illegal. How can she be upset that we are doing this if it’s not illegal?! What is the MATTER with all of you strange people who think there can ever be something wrong with something that is not illegal!?

        That seems to be the thinking of that OP. And that’s what takes it from hilariously bad to a bit scary.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      The Leap Year letters are one of only a handful that made me actively angry – also the not giving the employee a couple hours off for their college graduation, the grave note, and the spicy food thief (though that one had an epically satisfying conclusion).

      That LW was both wrong AND unjustifiably confident in their superior logic skills. Ass. I hope the LY birthday employee is on to greener pastures.

  10. tinybutfierce*

    I will truly never be over that Leap Day letter or its update. I hope that employee eventually left and found someone to work for who wasn’t totally off their petty lil’ rocker.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      It’s the kind of thing you might not feel is initially bad enough to leave over, just bad enough to rage over. But a manager who uses exact policy wording instead of their own interpretive or critical thinking skills (or sense of fairness) will make it bad enough eventually.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        TBH, I wouldn’t leave over the birthday (though it’s galling), I’d leave because I wouldn’t want to work for that pompous moron. Never have I seen such rigid adherence to the letter of the policy manual versus very easily doing the right and logical thing.

        1. Darsynia*

          I wish I could combine this boss and the worksite from Reddit that used the holiday calendar in a truly odd manner; basically, the regular calendar for mundane dates needed for all sorts of things was combined with a holiday calendar. So a new employee was told they couldn’t ‘choose’ a holiday date for their birthday because it was blacked out, presumably for disallowing time off requests.

          I assume this is a common mistake, as I’ve seen it multiple places. I would loooove to see this LW’s take on it for popcorn consumption.

  11. Remarkable4real*

    I hope the supv/mgr that sent the leap yr birthday letter was trolling. Like, how dense can someone be? I question his/her managing skills for thinking that way.

  12. starfox*

    I’m really surprised by LW1’s assertion that they only get 75% productivity when people work from home. I get so much more done when I’m working from home. There are no coworker interruptions, the bathroom is much closer than the office trek, and I can set the temperature to be where I’m comfortable.

    I’m not speaking to this specific situation, though, because I’m not sure how well you can work from home while being a caregiver. It depends on what level of care her father needs, I suppose.

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      That’s great for your personal situation, but for every person who’s a fabulous rock star working from home, there’s someone who does some work but also watches Netflix most of the day, someone who does some work but is also riding herd over their kids and consistently distracted, someone who uses a mouse jiggler because they’re too busy doing other stuff around the house, and so on.

      On top of that, amazingly, not every job is well-suited to WFH. There are plenty of jobs in plenty of industries where working at home is OK, but not great, because maybe you need access to a lot of on-site resources, or you need to collaborate with a team closely and it’s awkward or impossible to do online, or you can only do 75% of your job because the other parts of it are reliant on seeing physical papers or receiving physical input of some kind.

      1. Tau*

        I am one of nature’s non-WFH people and in an industry that’s gone super remote with the pandemic. It’s… not a great combination. At this point it sets my teeth on edge whenever people talk about how surely everyone must be so much more productive when they’re at home because focus time no distractions etc. etc. Like, I am super glad for you that your brain works this way. I really wish mine did too because it would make life a lot easier. Alas, it does not – I need the physical separation from home space to be able to properly switch into work mode, and actually focus best if there’s a little office chatter around me (I used to work in coffee shops during university because the library was too quiet).

        Can we just go with people having a variety of working styles and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another?

    2. This Old House*

      The way that line was phrased made me think it wasn’t so much that people working from home were only 75% as productive, but that the team overall was less productive – maybe because in-person duties were spread between fewer people, for example, or because frequent communication/collaboration was less seamless.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I read it differently from everyone, apparently. I thought OP was speaking of this employee specifically.

    3. kiki*

      I think it depends on people’s home situations and the company vibe about WFH. At my current job, I work remotely 100% of the time, so my productivity is ~100%. At my last job, people only worked from home occasionally, usually when they had something going on at home (sick kid, waiting for repair person, etc), so folks generally weren’t 100% productive.

    4. KRM*

      RE: temperature–I’m literally reading papers (and AAM) at home because my lab work was done and it’s SO COLD where my desk is, and I don’t want to sit at work and just read. Plus home has kitties and the kind of tea I prefer!

    5. Prospect Gone Bad*

      OK but coworkers can still interrupt, need to cook instead of buy something quick out, phone and internet become more of a disruption, you get sidetracked by housework becuase you are looking at laundry or plants to water…

    6. I.T. Phone Home*

      The original letter was from 2017, so there could also have been more technological or operational barriers that made people a little less productive. There are a lot of things my company didn’t have a digital procedure for until 2020, so in the before-times if one of those tasks came up on a WFH day it would get punted to the next in-office day. It was never a real hardship and people only worked remotely occasionally back then so it wasn’t worth the effort to redo processes to accommodate it, but it was definitely a little less productive.

      1. Sal*

        Yes, I think a lot of office workers are much better at wfh now than they were 5 years ago for a variety of reasons. I think in this supervisor’s position, I would be more likely to try to figure out a way to make this work in 2022 than I would have been in 2020, if only because we have all had a long involuntary introduction to what wfh looks like and for the most part the sky did not fall.

    7. Wintermute*

      Statistics have shown it really, really varies. On average in my industry productivity goes up a decent margin, in others it drops, in some roles it drops heavily. It depends on role, industry, the company’s IT setup and infrastructure, the quality of management, how you train managers to handle remote workers and a lot of other factors.

      It’s far from a universal good, but at the same time for some companies who have put in the effort it’s been a significant boon.

  13. PotsPansTeapots*

    Just saying I am 99.9% sure the Leap Day writer was from Russia (I think they made it clear they were not from the US, Canada, or UK.) This scenario didn’t happen when I worked in Russia, but we did extravagantly celebrate birthdays at my work place and something about the rules-lawyering around a Leap Day birthday feels right.

    1. Laney Boggs*

      They say in the update that they are Canadian but not in North America.

      Not sure if they’re an expat or just not very good at geography, but their nationality is Canadian.

      1. PotsPansTeapots*

        Yes, you’re right. I still think they were an expat in Russia or perhaps another country that’s had a lot of Russian influence.

    2. Tau*

      Interesting thought! They were definitely not in Germany – we can get extremely rules-lawyer-y but here you provide the cake to others on your birthday, not vice versa.

  14. learnedthehardway*

    Unless the person is a trainee, an employee who asks questions every 5 minutes doesn’t know how to do their job. Do they need remedial training? Or to read the job manual (I’m assuming there is one)? Do they lack confidence to make decisions that are in their purview? Or do you need to look at whether they are in the right role?

    Asking the person to save their questions and present them all at once is a possibility IF the overall work wouldn’t be held up, but it won’t work if Q1 has to be answered before the individual can do any work.

    If you can, I would push back and make the individual find the answers themself (if that is reasonable). Get them out of the habit of having you be their memory bank.

  15. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    The work from home scenario needs more unpacking before the solution can be proposed.

    Is she struggling because she’s trying to care from a distance and is distracted in a way that would be relieved if she was closer? (e.g., she gets interrupted by phone calls from Dad or a care provider, but could do a quick answer “the extra Depends are in the back cupboard” if she was right there. Or because Dad frets that she isn’t there and keeps calling for no reason?)

    Or is she struggling now where she wasn’t before because of the general pressures of being a caregiver? Is the better solution to find supports at home (like a home health aide) or find services like Instacart or housecleaning that would be appropriate? Or does she need a shortened work week/partial FMLA so that she can go to doctor’s appointments? Or does she need a few things taken off her plate at work so she can complete a shorter list well, rather than a longer list poorly?

    1. Florida Fan 15*

      I agree, I felt that OP didn’t flesh out what the employee’s problem was. She says employee struggles in her role, and that when people (plural) work from home they get 75% productivity. This seems to mash two things together that don’t fit. What “people” do as a group isn’t the issue. As the director of my unit, yes, I’m concerned with overall productivity, but when I’m evaluating individual employees I need to look at their personal productivity, not the group’s.

      I’ve had this discussion (read: argument) with a couple of my managers who kept insisting that, because a few people weren’t meeting their targets, everybody should be brought back. Uh, no, we’re not penalizing everyone because John and Jane can’t get their shit together.

  16. to varying degrees*

    The Leap Year one still pisses me off, like “I want to know the name of the company and write them an email to shame them” pissed off. And then the update on top of it…I have no chill with this LW.

  17. Just Courtney*

    Leap day, and its follow up, is EASILY in my top 5 posts ever. Probably even top 3. I would so love a new update from OP. And of course my every dream come true moment is if Leap Birthday discovered the post and shared from their POV.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      It’s even better than “my subordinate was not appropriately grateful for being paid late” because in that case, the absurd behavior was contained in one person.
      Which has always been my question about this one (because I think about it when my bday rolls around every February!) and wonder if OP ever got confirmation about this from the company.
      Part of me thinks there are other groups that let people take a day during that week. Like your bday is Tuesday, take Monday before. Your day is Wednesday, take it on Friday. But Supreme Leader of Llama Groomers controls the information.
      Specifically because OP never said, “I told her to discuss the policy with HR if she had a problem with it.”

  18. Someone Online*

    If you’re only counting birthdays on Leap Years, are we sure this employee is technically, legally able to work or are they still a minor?

    1. Ashley*

      Yes! If I could ask the OP one question, it would be “How old is this employee?” Because either she has a birthday every year or OP is violating child labour laws. Which is it, OP??

      I still rage over this letter, even after all this time!

  19. I'm just here for the cats!*

    YESSS!! The leap year birthday letter! I miss this and I hope the employee got her birthday time off and they gave her extra for any missed years!!!

  20. Emotional support capybara*

    I sometimes wonder if Leap Day Birthday Rules Lawyer, Esq. is still somewhere out there pushing that rock up that hill.

  21. ADHDer*

    OP1, yes, you should let your employee work from home. A lot of supposedly “struggling” employees improve markedly when they are permitted to work from home, which should be something quite obvious to managers, as the person no longer has to deal with the stress of the commute, working in a distracting office environment, being able to work form the comfort of their own space, etc. People do not perform well when they are uncomfortable, feeling stressed, feeling micromanaged, feeling surveilled, etc. I also very much doubt the supposed “75% productivity” from people working from home relates to the people; from experience, I would say it is the systems they are working with.

    OP2, this is extremely petty and counterproductive. You need to provide the employee with the same birthday perks as everyone else, on either February 28 or March 1.
    OP3, ask your employee to put all her questions together in an email that she sends to you at a certain time or times each day. Also, work out a code with her for what is truly urgent and what can wait.

    OP4, just get her something that meets kosher requirements from the other restaurant. The only issue will be if there is nothing on the menu that is kosher. Then, you’ll either need to order her food from somewhere else that meets those requirements.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Kosher isn’t just about the ingredients. It’s also about the storage and preparation. Some people who keep kosher are less strict about it, like OP’s other coworkers who are willing to pick specific items off non-kosher restaurant menus. But other people take a stronger stance and for those people, the need to know that all the food and the utensils used in its preparation are in line with their religious observance is very important. So the employee who only wants food from a kosher restaurant isn’t going to feel safe or respected if they’re told to just find something from a different restaurant.

      I think the OP’s office can keep doing what they’ve been doing as long as their kosher employee is happy with the arrangement.

      1. Wintermute*

        Exactly, and to be honest even if food is “technically” kosher, you can’t trust that without the restaurant being certified because without certification the employees aren’t trained and may violate the strictures without even realizing it, in a way you could never realize. It’s very reasonable for someone to say that without certification they won’t consider it kosher even if it probably is, because you can’t know what happened behind the scenes.

    2. TransmascJourno*

      The employee who has more stringent restrictions regarding kashrut isn’t the employee who is requesting anything more than what they’re already doing—it’s another employee altogether. (FWIW, I assumed that employee wasn’t one of the other two who adhered to kashrut as strictly as the newer employee; however, I’d be incredibly surprised if that was the case, based on my own experience as someone who keeps kosher.)

  22. Marvel*

    I still think about the leap year letter every so often. Some people will pick the most bizarre hills to die on.

  23. Tau*

    The bizarre thing about the kosher complaint is that forcing everyone to always get lunch from the same restaurant, one viewed inferior to other options, seems like the greatest possible way to get others to build up resentment against the employee in question (since now it’s “their fault” nobody else can have the food they like). It’s just… so obviously counterproductive to the goal of not singling them out and integrating them into the team that it really makes me wonder what’s going through the head of the person who suggested it!

  24. MissM*

    LW#1, I’d take Alison’s suggestion to drill down into what is causing the productivity gap. I’m assuming you’re managing some sort of task-based/workflow role that has enabled you to have such concrete numbers?? Talk with some of your longer-term employees and see what they say are barriers to WFH output. Is it an issue of not having a truly good setup at home that’s the issue, and could be solved by sending home an extra monitor (the cost of which could be easily recouped by increased output)? Or is it that people are doing a WFH day when they’ve got a dentist appt or the HVAC guy is coming, so your sample data isn’t truly comparable to the office. Or is it that the information they need from teapot painting is only obtainable by walking over there because that department doesn’t respond to emails?

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