my mysterious boss disappears for hours and can’t be reached

A reader writes:

I work on a small team. The nature of my job means that I often need to check in with other team members about my projects before moving forward. I also regularly need to contact my manager, Dave, to get info/data that only he is authorized to pull. Unfortunately, Dave is frequently difficult to reach and that makes it nearly impossible to finish my tasks.

He will be in the office, then spontaneously disappear somewhere in the building with no explanation. He also leaves the office on errands that he says will only take 20 minutes, but end up taking hours. During these times, he is completely unreachable by any form of communication. It wouldn’t be such a big issue if our work wasn’t dependent on constantly checking with him. He will also leave when we are due to start events that he is hosting, or when we are receiving deliveries that only he is authorized to sign for. He never explains or acknowledges these absences. My team constantly jokes that someone needs to stitch a tracker into his coat.

My near breaking point was last week when Dave asked me to accompany him to a new work site 40 minutes away to help with a project. I agreed, but reminded him that I got off work at 5 and had to go to an appointment immediately afterwards, so I would need to leave in time to get back. He promised that we’d be done with time to spare. He also suggested that we carpool in his car to save gas, which in retrospect I shouldn’t have agreed to.

After we had been working on the project at the new location for a bit, Dave told me that he had to mail something at the post office, and I could stay at the site and work while he ran the errand. He was insistent that it would only be a few minutes, and that we would be back well before my appointment. Feeling like I didn’t really have a choice, I agreed. You can probably imagine what happened.

It was approaching the time we were supposed to leave and drive back, but there was no sign of him. I called him and texted him a few times with no response. I spent a while panicking because I was alone at the site, 40 minutes away from the office, with no car. I was considering requesting a $120 Lyft when he finally arrived, AT THE TIME I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IN MY MEETING. He didn’t mention my calls and texts, or the fact that we were supposed to be in a different city by now. I know I should have brought it up in the moment, but I was so flabbergasted that I just sat there fuming in silence.

How can I bring this up with him?

What is Dave doing during all these disappearances? Is he taking DoorDash jobs on the side? Secretly fighting crime? Does he have a whole other in-person job with its own office that he’s juggling alongside yours? Does he have a disorder where he loses time and doesn’t realize he’s been away for hours? Is he falling through a wormhole?

I need to know. I wish you could do the tracker, or just follow him one day. (Don’t do that, unless you are writing to me from within a movie, in which case it’s the obvious next step.)

As for what you can do — as tempting as it might be to focus on where Dave is going when he disappears, when you talk to him keep the focus on the impact on you and what you need to get your work done. So, some things you could say:

 “I frequently can’t reach you when I need data like X and Y, which means that I can’t move forward on projects and we’re missing deadlines or having to scramble at the last minute. Would you be willing to authorize me or someone else on the team to pull that data so things aren’t held up and I can keep my work moving forward? If I’d been able to pull it myself last week, we would have been able to make the deadline that High-Level Manager was upset we missed.”

 “How do you want us to handle it when a delivery arrives that only you can sign for and we can’t find you? This week I spent close to an hour trying to find someone else who could sign, so I want to have a better system for when you’re not available.”

 “Is there a better way to reach you when you’re out of the office? Often when you’re out on errands, you’re not answering calls or texts, which causes issues like X and Y. What do you want us to do in those situations where it’s important that we reach you?”

Really, it’s ridiculous that Dave hasn’t deputized someone to act in his absence, and that’s probably the suggestion with the potential to pay off the most. You can’t make him be present or accessible, but you and your coworkers could push hard for him to delegate authority to someone else when he’s gone so that work can keep moving forward.

If he resists that, another option is to talk to someone higher-up who might care this is happening if they were aware of it. One way to do that is to simply seek out that person for help when you can’t reach Dave — framing it as “we can’t find Dave, he hasn’t responded to messages for the last three hours, and we urgently need X — can you help?” If you do that a few times, the person is likely to realize something’s off in Dave’s domain.

(And obviously, never get in his car again or next time you may end up stranded somewhere for days. If he asks you to, be straightforward about why you won’t! Dave needs to hear, “I need to have my own car with me because last time we carpooled, you weren’t back by the time I told you I needed to leave and I missed an important appointment.”)

{ 434 comments… read them below }

  1. ChaiLatte*

    Am I the only person whose first thought was drugs? Because my mind definitely went straight to drugs. Stay safe, OP!

      1. SallyForth*

        We had a manager who also taught a remote class. She would close her door for hours “working on the funding report.” Funny that seemed to align with marking season for other lecturers.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        Either that or is looking for another job, and is interviewing at these times, and really doesn’t want anyone to know. Does he dress more nicely on these days?

    1. sub rosa*

      Nope, you are not alone here.

      I *immediately* thought drugs. Not just doing them, but also trying to source them – that’s the sort of thing that used to make the cook “go out back for a smoke” around 2am and not reappear until 3:30, while the dishwasher and the sole waitress scrambled to cover for him.

      1. Gill*

        I used to have a manager that would go MIA for hours and I later found out he was napping. For hours. Everyday.

          1. RLC*

            Same thoughts here on the napping. Had a colleague who would disappear with the shared company truck for hours, leaving the rest of us stranded at a remote job site, etc (land survey work). One day said colleague went on leave and never returned; called us from a distant state and asked us to send his last paycheck to him. The truth of the disappearances came out when a longtime customer asked where colleague was, then mentioned that he hadn’t seen him sleeping (in the clearly marked company truck) under the shade tree at his place in a while!! Supervisor asked customer “why did you not share this before” and customer said “the county workers all sleep in their trucks under my shade tree too so I thought it was normal/OK”

        1. nelliebelle1197*

          My former boss (I have her job now) used to lock her door to “write” and took naps under her desk.

        2. Sarah*

          We had a coworker who unknown to us was working nights as a bouncer in a club. He was found napping several times- once in unused part of the office, 2x in a company vehicle while he was “making site visits”. We always knew he was worthless but didn’t know why. I eventually moved on, and heard from a coworker he was eventually fired years after everyone knowing he was such a problem.

      2. JustaTech*

        I had a coworker (who no one really liked) that we joked was a drug dealer because he was always on his phone and forever disappearing in the middle of the day. You’d finally find him after an hour of looking and he’d claim to have been in the bathroom, except he had those glasses that darken in sunlight and they’d be fully dark.
        Dude, we know you were outside, don’t lie about it!

        (Part of the reason he was always on the phone was that he had a young kid with health problems and his wife wasn’t confident in her ability to communicate with the doctors, so she’d have him on speakerphone for appointments, which I was very sympathetic with, but not the random disappearing on top of that.)

    2. MilitaryProf*

      My mind immediately ran to sexual affairs–disappearing for hours at a time, with no response to any form of contact, plus the OP doesn’t mention any signs of impairment. In particular, I began to wonder if the boss is using some of the hookup apps, and suddenly had an “opportunity” near the remote site. By bringing the OP along, perhaps the boss expects to find a bit of cover in case anyone suspects he’s up to something naughty.

      1. Avid reader*

        Yes, I immediately though of an affair. It’s the only thing that makes sense. That he has gotten away with it for so long without further repercussions is remarkable. Let someone who is in authority know about the impact to the work.

        1. Joanna*

          This was my thought as well. It reminded me of the program manager that was never at his desk, but was seen several times leaving a conference room with a woman that was not his wife. It was just them, no one else. And, they were disheveled.

          When he announced his divorce, not a single person in my office was surprised. I think I even managed to sound sympathetic.

          1. Russell T*

            If he’s using hookup sites, his location would not matter. In fact, it might incline him to disappear more often: fresh prospects in a different town.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Oooh, could be. We had a priest who used to do this. I am a “Minister of the Word,” which is a fancy title for reading the readings occasionally and he was supposed to lead a meeting of us one time and didn’t show up – another priest chaired and was like “I’m just covering because he messaged me to say he’ll be late but he should be along in a few minutes” and he never showed. Turned out he was seeing a woman.

      3. Sabina*

        I had a boss who did something similar. He was having an affair…with a local judge’s wife. My boss was an elected official. We lived in a small town. Needless to say, things did not end well.

          1. Sales Geek*

            Yeah, my first thought was something to do with alcohol. I saw something very similar at a customer’s C-level exec. He’d show up late for work, leave early for “lunch” and not return until mid afternoon. NOTE: he had 400 direct reports when he started and was down to less than 200 when he was finally fired (porn problems).

            So my bet is on alcohol *and* some kind of affair (hookers? a close friend’s spouse?). The fact that Dave seems to disappear during normal working hours leads me to bet on some kind of affair with someone whose spouse is occupied (at work) during the times of day that Dave goes MIA.

            1. I Am Not An Engineer*

              I wish I could adopt the shorthand “(porn problems)” for use when an entirely separate side story need not be detailed because it makes the story too long.

              “So THEN I got a flat tire (porn problems) which obviously made me EVEN LATER …”

              “…and we were all worried because no one’s seen her mother in weeks (porn problems) so the only person we could go to was her sister…”

              1. GammaGirl1908*

                Ha! I was laughing with someone just the other day about how when you’ve known or worked with someone for a while, you quickly develop in-jokes and shorthand that make no sense to others, but that you barely realize are in-jokes. Like when dealing with that one annoying colleague, “…so of course it took an extra half hour, because Paula,” **other co-worker groans knowingly** “…but we got it submitted by 11:50.”

                “(porn problems)” would quickly become a hilarious shorthand if you put it into practice. I support this!

                1. whingedrinking*

                  I once kind of forgot who I was talking to and described a student as a chaotic neutral type. I got some very blank looks from my coworkers.

              2. Kaiko*

                I used to use the phrase “coming up at eleven” with a friend to earmark a tangent that would detail the main story but that was too juicy to leave to one side.

                1. Ace in the Hole*

                  After a particularly drama-filled year of working at the county dump, my family now uses “trash talk” as shorthand for juicy gossip too confidential to share.

            2. TechWorker*

              This is not the point of your comment.. but 400 DIRECT reports? That’s insane! I made it up to 10 (now down a bit again because someone got promoted :p) – and that is plenty. Even if all you do is management there’s no way you have time to know.. anything useful.. about 400 people.

              1. Relentlessly Socratic*

                So much this. If I had 400 direct reports…well I might develop a substance use issue and/or (porn problems).

        1. SallyForth*

          I had a coworker who had similar disappearances. I finally confronted her after she missed the first hour of her shift at a huge event we were running. Turns out she was in the bathroom the whole time with an IBS emergency and didn’t want to tell us because she was new in her job. When it was happening in the office she didn’t want to be stuck in the two stall bathroom so was inventing errands. Then of course the stress of it all made it worse.
          It was all easy to accommodate once we knew what the problem was but I guess her previous experiences made it difficult to disclose.

          1. PsychNurse*

            I was scrolling through to see if anyone else mentioned this! I don’t actually think that’s the problem here– this guy’s disappearances seem really extreme. But when I first read the headline and skimmed it, I definitely thought, “He’s pooping.” Driving off the worksite for privacy and hunkering down in a bathroom somewhere.

          2. Anon+Supervisor*

            Poor thing. I know so many people with IBS, Celiac, etc that I hope she would realize that more and more people are sensitive to it (and eager to commiserate).

          3. Curmudgeon in California*

            As someone with IBS-D I can definitely relate. If I eat the wrong thing I will be in the bathroom for an hour. Stress makes it worse. Being new at a job is major stress, especially if you have to do events, etc.

            Even now, working from home, I have to do a quick “I need to step away for a few” in Zoom meetings. Turns out that one of my major triggers, soybean oil, is in more and more things, plus I’ve become lactose intolerant as well. Add even a little stress and it’s suddenly a shitty day.

      4. LikesToSwear*

        Same. My thoughts immediately went to him having an affair with someone – or several affairs, with several someones.

      5. Faith the twilight slayer*

        Oh! Is this one of those situations where another letter will show up in a week saying they’re an escort taking clients in the middle of the day and are afraid of losing their job? That would be SPECTACULAR.

      6. DJ Abbott*

        Me too. Sort of like the movie sex lies and videotape. If y’all remember, that guy ended up getting fired.
        In real life, ick…

      7. Writer Claire*

        My first thought was hookup apps, too. Though, tbh, my thoughts are colored by recent events. *glances at divorce paperwork*

          1. Writer Claire*

            Thank you. It was pretty shocking (and infuriating) to discover he spent at least $50K on sex workers, but reading Captain Awkward has helped a lot.

    3. The OTHER other*

      Came here to say this, an addiction is a likely explanation, but that doesn’t really change the advice. Is Dave the owner/CEO? It sounds as though he is A manager, not the overall boss, so I would definitely wonder where Dave’s boss is during all this. Important things are not getting done while Dave is off meeting with Jorge Colombo or fighting crime or whatever. Any manager worth the title would want to know about this behavior. Document document document!

      1. KHB*

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought of anxiety. I had a scary period in my own life where I’d think “I just can’t deal right now, so I’m going to step out for a minute to catch my breath,” and I’d end up huddled in a bathroom stall for waaaaay longer than I’d anticipated.

        But whatever it is, it’s not OP’s job to figure out or deal with.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Fair, but if it’s that, it was incredibly stupid of him to suggest the carpool if he knew this is a thing that happens to him. Which makes me think it’s something he’s thinking no one else notices, rather than it being something he hopes no one else will notice.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            It sounds like denial. He’s pretending he’s not doing it and pretending no one notices. And might have a dash of “maybe it won’t happen this time“ that explains the carpool thing.

          2. KHB*

            Of course it’s incredibly stupid of him to be doing any of this – or at least, it would be if he were thinking straight. Someone who’s thinking straight would certainly realize that a pattern of saying you’ll be gone for a few minutes and then disappearing for hours – and often disappearing at critical moments specifically – is not going to go unnoticed. That’s what makes me think he might not be thinking straight.

            But again, it’s not on OP to figure this out, so it doesn’t really matter much for OP’s actual question about what to do next.

    4. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Or gambling. When a casino was built within 5 minutes of our office people started disappearing for hours during the day.

    5. Pookie*

      I totally thought it was drugs or alcohol. I agree with the suggestion to lop in someone higher up when Dave isn’t available to do part of his job. As a manager that would trigger me to start looking into what is going on.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Not the only one! I had a boss like this and the issue was cocaine. What I did was to keep my resume up to date and continue to look for another job. Until I found a new gig, I was a broken record with, “When you do X that causes consequence Y, what do you want me to do?”

    7. The Prettiest Curse*

      In the first permanent job I had after university, I replaced someone who would disappear at random and sometimes didn’t show up for work for days on end due to drug problems. They eventually fired her.

    8. Sylvan*

      Yes. It’s none of my business and I don’t want to armchair diagnose, of course. The behavior is familiar.

    9. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I didn’t until I read the part about his not acknowledging that he blew off OP’s meeting and never said a word about it.
      That is a jerk move, but not typical boss jerk move, it’s almost disassociative “there is a reason I am stepping out of the world and nobody can know”
      So yeah, I think so.

    10. Cat Tree*

      My first thought was more mundane. I think he’s just going off somewhere to kill time on his phone. At the office he found a secret room that is rarely used. When he drives somewhere, he just parks in a random parking lot. He hates working and plays Candy Crush while watching the minutes pass by.

      But everyone else’s suggestions are so much more interesting.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        The way I read this, it was kinda like, “my first thought was more mundane. I think he’s just going off somewhere to kill…” I was thinking that’s…not so mundane.

      2. Sloanicota*

        I will say I know someone who does this, but it’s not Candy Crush he’s looking at on his phone, it’s p*rnhub.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Or Pokemon? There were a couple of police officers who were fired for ignoring a call so they could catch Pokemon (which was all recorded on the dashboard cam). Of course, last I heard the union is appealing.

      4. nelliebelle1197*

        Personally, I think he is an researcher from an alien planet and is stepping away to update his reports and take quick trips home through a special portal.

    11. Duckles*

      Exactly. When I first started the letter I assumed the answer would be “you don’t see everywhere your boss needs to be” but needing to urgently “go to the post office” and then disappearing could only be drugs.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I also thought of location-based hookup apps. He may have genuinely believed they could go to this site and be back on time bc he didn’t have a match, then got a notification of someone from the area and genuinely believed it was going to be a quickie, then it wasn’t, and the result was this. In case that helps OP understand why he seemed sincere and she believed him at the time.

      1. TrixM*

        Same here. I had a boss who would disappear for “long lunches” for hours, and I knew he was meeting his fancy lady at a local motel. I put it together when, after many months of griping about his home life, he suddenly started talking a lot about a female “friend” who wasn’t his wife. Then, out of nowhere, he said on one occasion, “[Motel] is really much nicer than everyone says it is!” That’s when the lightbulb went off.

        Around then, his wife started calling his desk phone at all hours of the day, because he wasn’t answering his mobile. At first, I like, “Oh, I haven’t seen [boss] for a wee while – he might be in a meeting. I’ll let him know you called!” I didn’t really know what he was doing, to be fair.

        This got very old after three such calls, so I said to him, pretty bluntly (we were fairly friendly colleagues), “You need to start answering your mobile if you’re out of the office during the day. If [wife] calls your desk again, I’m going to be honest about when I last saw you, 5 minutes ago or 5 hours ago.”

        Thankfully he got the hint, insomuch that I obviously wasn’t going to cover his butt. However, he continued the affair and consequently blew up his entire life. Said fancy lady turned out to be scammer, and got him to leave his family, quit his very well-paid job and invest in her dodgy business, milked him of all his funds and business contacts, dumped him, cut him out of the business (naturally no contracts had been signed), and moved interstate and onto the next.

        Bad enough going through a divorce with two teenage kids, but he certainly paid well over the odds for his hormone-driven stupidity.

    12. LunaTheOtherOne*

      I had a boss that used to disappear for hours. As the manager of an after-school program that was only open from 3:00 – 6:30! He eventually got fired, heard he was doing coke. Which made sense, since he had really weird, intense energy, and never blinked.

    13. Raven*

      I did as well. Though if it was, presumably OP would have noticed if he was coming back physically impaired. Especially when they carpooled!
      I think it’s likely that he has some personal stuff going on either way and not want or feel the need to mention it at work, which is making the reason seem a lot dodgier than it is.
      (Or maybe he ascribes to that school of thought conflating explaining something with excusing it.)

      1. Goldenrod*

        “Though if it was, presumably OP would have noticed if he was coming back physically impaired.”

        Not necessarily, because hard-core addicts can get really good at hiding it, and by this point in their addiction, they are taking drugs just to “feel normal” and avoid the pain of withdrawal.

        I also agree with the person who commented that Dave was sourcing drugs…This would explain why it’s taking so long (he has to track down his dealer, etc.).

    14. Anat*

      I think he’s addicted to gaming or doing other stuff on his phone. Much easier to lose track of time that way — think you’ll only be out for a few minutes, it ends up being hours — than is he’s having an affair, or working an entirely different job.

    15. Meep*

      I worked with a crazy person who liked the power of being needed but was unreliable in this way. It was extra weird because she treated me like an extra limb. If I was in the office, she was in the office. She would also take vacations around mine to hide the fact she wasn’t doing any work. (My favorite instance was her boss had me write up a budget for interns after assigning it to her six months prior. She had the gall to say she made the intern plan in front of both of us. She was dead serious in thinking she wrote this plan up.)

      While it is possible it is substance abuse, my first thought went to mental health.

      1. Meep*

        *she was technically in the office – by that, I mean she wasn’t anywhere near the office, but because I was, she said she was.

    16. Falling Diphthong*

      Arguing with people on the internet. You’ll just duck out the side door, check if your latest brilliant riposte shut that down… okay, now people are being WRONG on the internet, so you can’t go back in until you have set them all straight.

      1. Greige*

        Dave, if your secret obsession is commenting on Ask A Manager, please consider this letter from your desperate employee as a sign that it’s time to set some healthy boundaries.

    17. CLC*

      It was my first thought too. My second thought is that he’s going medical appointments he doesn’t want anyone to know about, but that really doesn’t make sense in the context of the specific example when he wanted to carpool to the new location.

    18. Goldenrod*

      “Am I the only person whose first thought was drugs?”

      Nope!! My very first thought was: “Dave is a drug addict.”

    19. Artemesia*

      yup — Mine went straight there or something like that. I like the suggestion to go higher up when he isn’t available. Get his manager’s help when something needs to be signed off, or he can’t be found and a mission critical deadline is going to be blown. This happens often enough and the boss will perhaps deal with it — and if he doesn’t, at least he knows the deal. The focus is on ‘I am dedicated to getting this done and I can’t so please help me.’ not ‘Dave is irresponsible.’ The distinction is a subtle one but important.

    20. anonymousity*

      Former drug addict and that’s where my brain went. I used to be this person, though I was fortunately not in a management capacity. Regardless, I hope for LW’s sake this stops.

    21. CeeKee*

      I absolutely assumed drugs and this is why I think OP has to go immediately to a higher-up. Because if it is drugs (or any other kind of addictive situation), Dave is going to be completely focused on covering up what’s going on, not on figuring out adaptations to his absences. I wouldn’t even poke the bear. Something is UP with Dave.

    22. H.Regalis*

      That’s the first thing I thought as well: cocaine, heroin, meth, alcohol, something. For Dave’s sake, I hope it’s not that because addiction sucks.

    23. Overit*

      I had a boss who was JUST like this and who, it turned out, was a drug addict. Highly respected and successful professional with wife and kids. Meth user.

      He fired me when he thought, in his drug fueled paranoia, that I knew he was using. ( I did not. My great boss turning into Mr. Invisible and Impossible put me into survival mode and my head was down doing his work as well as my own. Took me a while post firing to put the picture together.)

    24. AWOL Boss LW*

      LW here! If it’s drugs/booze, he’s hiding it fantastically. He never seems inebriated at all.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          I have IBS. His case would have to be really severe. And he can still email from his phone during episodes.

          Also, he would be aware that his excuses and current way of handling it is not working, and he would profusely apologize to OP for the issue if it were IBS or medical and probably mention a medical issue vaguely. But what gets me is that he did not say anything to OP when he came back late to get her. It is like he does not realize he is doing it or has somehow convinced himself no one else notices it! Major divorce from reality going on here!

          1. Cody Cravensworth*

            I mean, he’s kind of right that no one has noticed, because he personally hasn’t faced any consequences. If people act exactly the same whether Dave is getting one over them or they’re just too polite to say anything, he’s got no incentive to figure out which it is.

      1. NoName*

        I had a co-worker for 4 years who hid his alcoholism incredibly well! Used to nip off during the day for a “Starbucks run”, would come back 2 hours later, complaining about how long the line was. Took a long time to get it all straightened out, but our boss let it slide waaayyyy too long, because when he was in the office, he wrote just brilliant code. Such a shame.

      2. Emily*

        Does he wear glasses? Maybe he’s Superman in disguise and when he goes missing it’s off to save the day.

        Seriously though, this sounds super annoying and I think Alison’s advice is great.

      3. Office Gumby*

        You’d be surprised how well an addict can hide certain aspects of their addiction.

        And yes, I’m certain it’s an addiction of some sort. Maybe not drug, but something.

        Every time Dave’s not available for something you need, you need to go to his manager/boss and say you can’t find Dave, but you need X urgently. Don’t “wait” to “give him the benefit of doubt” because he lost this grace a long time ago. The moment he’s not available because you know he’s disappeared, you go over his head. Eventually someone with enough power to do something about Dave will act.

    25. TheraputicSarcasm*

      Am I the only person whose first thought was superhero on a mission to save the tri-state area?

    26. Kella*

      While I could believe someone could hide being in a substance-based mentally altered state, I less inclined to believe drugs or affair because he’s doing such a bad job of hiding it logistically. He’s saying 20 minutes and then disappearing for hours AND not coming up with any excuses to hide the missing time. He’s really not doing much of anything to conceal what he’s doing other than not saying it outright.

      This is my own personal bias showing but my first thought went to dissociative disorder. I don’t have anywhere near the amount of information necessary to even attempt armchair diagnosising so that’s not what this is. But it is definitely possible for someone to dissociate, lose time, completely ignore all texts and phone calls, have no memory of where they’ve been or even be unaware that they were gone longer than they said they would be.

      However, I also don’t know how much of this can be explained simply by the fact that he’s being allowed to get away with what are clearly blatant and disruptive lies, over and over again. Perhaps he’s learned he doesn’t have to make his excuses accurate and so doesn’t bother.

    27. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I thought, since it’s AAM, second job, but then I thought, no, mistress, then, why not both?

  2. Anon4THis*

    I had a boss like Dave. He was working a second job- running his own consulting company- and would disappear for hours at a time to take meetings or do work for that job. Everyone knew about it, but he was BFFs with the owner of the company we worked for so he got away with it. It was incredibly frustrating to everyone on his team and in less than 6 months everyone either quit or transferred out.

    1. ONFM*

      This was my first instinct as well – the OP’s boss is working second job.

      I work for someone who is currently working another full time job (started his own nonprofit). Because the mission of his new organization is popular, no one in my company is willing to do anything about it. My only advice for OP is to get everything in writing – timestamped emails, follow texts up with an email, follow missed calls with an email, you get the picture. Things will get missed, and you need to make sure you don’t take the fall.

      And start looking for another job yourself.

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Yeah, my money’s on the manager running a business on the side. Or maybe he’s a landlord.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Or driving for Uber or Lyft… who knows, if OP had ordered a Lyft he might have showed up as her driver! (although I assume the driver sees the name of their passenger?)

    3. UKgreen*

      Yep! I worked with a ‘Dave’ who had two full time jobs (this was well before all the working from home stuff – I’m guessing he’s probably fitting three or four in now?)

    4. Eleanor Abernathy*

      At my workplace, this was happening with a department head and it turned out he was working two full time jobs. Don’t know how they finally proved it (he would show up in the morning and late afternoon, but gone in between), but he was fired as soon as they did

    5. redflagday701*

      Yeah, this is my guess, as opposed to drugs, if only because what regular drug user would be spending this much time sourcing their drugs? (And I assume if he were spending this much time drinking, there would be some signs of that by now.)

    6. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Yup, I worked for the guy who was also running a side business. He was either AWOL or holed up in a conference room with his personal laptop (very obvious because it was a Mac Airbook and the company issues Dells). I would go over Dave’s head with this list.

    1. to varying degrees*

      Couldn’t be since they were doing both of them perfectly with no effect to the other job.

      1. High Score!*

        It’s amazing that people who bring children to office always say how quiet they are, people who wear strong perfume can’t smell it, people who microwave fish day it’s a heavenly aroma, people who enjoy chatting all day believe the rest of the office does too, and people who work a second job believe that no one notices.

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

          When is Microwave Fish Day? I want to make sure to WFH that day.

          1. Mockingjay*

            I still remember the day I opened the leftover box for lunch and realized to my horror that I had grabbed the last piece of grilled salmon, not the chicken I had planned.

            Fortunately, the salmon was tasty cold.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              Realised I did this with a shrimp dish, and *I* notice that the smell of cooked fish and seafood is intense (Just because I like it doesn’t mean I don’t notice the sudden olfactory invasion). I microwaved it with the lid on and it wasn’t too bad, but then went outside (on a very windy and not very warm day) to open and eat it.

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

              Salmon, luckily, is generally good cold. And steelhead which is almost salmon. I don’t know if most other kinds of fish are good as leftovers anyways, microwaved or otherwise. Though I did have some fish and chips made with some kind of white fish (don’t remember exactly which) where the fish was pretty meaty, and was excellent both hot and cold.

  3. ScruffyInternHerder*

    Adding for emphasis: never ever carpool with anyone when you have something at a specific time, if there’s a possibility of an emergency of any sort requiring your immediate departure, etc. etc. etc. This applies in all areas of life, as I’ve found out the hard way a couple of times over the years!

    1. londonedit*

      100%. I’m a very punctual person (spend a lot of time on my own in pubs waiting for people because even though I’ve tried to train myself to arrive no earlier than 7:05, I’ll inevitably still get there at 6:58 and everyone else will roll in at 7:15…) and in my world there is very little worse than agreeing to an ‘Oh don’t worry, I’ll give you a lift’ from a person who then faffs about and ends up being late. I’d have been climbing the walls waiting for Dave to get back.

      1. still anon*

        I used to depend on someone for a ride who was always always late. I called her ‘better late than ever’.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Way back in college I had some untreated depression (and a shitty job), and I was driving a carpool. I could never get there on time. The other person, rightfully, got tired of punching in late and found other transport. I’m still embarrassed about it, and it was nearly 40 years ago.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yeah, I once had to pay a very expensive taxi to the train station because the friend who was supposed to take me to the light rail forgot and I missed the connection.

        Taking a taxi all the way across LA county is painfully expensive (though I did make my train).

      3. My Cabbages!*

        I have a friend who had just gotten out of prison (porn problems) and was at a halfway house where he could be signed out for a while but had to be back at a specific time and not a minute later, or he would be in violation of parole and would be sent back to prison.

        He came to dinner and my husband, who was meant to drive him back, decided he had to poop first. He took so long in the bathroom that they had to go 80 mph for the whole 20 mile drive and got there with exactly one minute to spare.

    2. Carpooling overrated*

      Carpooling is overrated anyway. Years back, I worked a teaching job at a school (higher ed) that had regular, faculty-staff-and-students holiday celebrations. My first year there, I carpooled with another teacher, I was ready to leave after about 2 hours –– and she wasn’t ready to leave for another 90 minutes. Also, this was before Uber/Lyft was really a thing, and so I was stuck.

      I always take my own car now.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I used to carpool to rehearsals with someone who loved to talk to the conductor and other players in the orchestra at the end of rehearsals. I’d be all packed with my coat on ready to go and she was still chatting, hadn’t put her instrument away at all. Then when she finally did put everything away she’d decide that she needed to go to the bathroom before we left (and I usually have a LOT of sympathy for that but given that the drive home was only 30 minutes it bugged me that she couldn’t plan ahead a little better). But I couldn’t figure out a way to politely decline carpooling until I moved to a place that was about 15 min away from her instead of 5 which at rush hour would have probably put an extra 30+ min onto the drive, plus my new place was in the opposite direction. Oh, darn, guess we can’t carpool together after all.

        Then I moved to another new place and someone else in the orchestra wanted to carpool because she lived in the next town over. I got really tired of driving with her too (partly because I didn’t much care for her but also because it seemed like she didn’t want to drive on the highway at night so I *always* ended up being the driver). So, darn, came up with the excuse that I had to leave from work instead of my house, which meant, again, that carpooling wasn’t convenient from her. Except that I didn’t have to leave from work ever, I just really couldn’t come up with a better excuse. I need to find a way to say to people, oh, sorry, I really need to be on my own schedule, or something like that.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          “Oh I’m terrible at carpooling, so I just don’t” or “I’d rather save the time than the money” or “I’m usually in too much of a rush in the morning”. Pretend like you would be the bad timekeeper when really you mean you’re bad at tolerating others!

          1. ferrina*

            I like this strategy for dealing with unreasonable people. Oh, I’m the problem, so sorry, isn’t it thoughtful of me not to foist myself on you! (Reasonable people will take the No in a reasonable way)

          2. Artemesia*

            Having a policy is always the best way. ‘Oh I never lend my car, it’s just my policy.’ ‘Oh, carpooling is not for me, never do it.’ ‘I never attend sales parties, just not my thing.’ If you have a bright line it is easier to enforce than if you have ‘reasons’ for this thing now, or this time.

            1. Sleeve+McQueen*

              I can’t carpool because that would cut into my podcast time and you are not more interesting than my carefully curated list of podcasts. Sozz

        2. MidWasabiPeas*

          If you need an excuse, I’d stick to vague…”I’m sorry, but I use the time after rehearsal to run errands since I’m already out and I’ve found that carpooling makes that difficult. Appreciate the thought, though.”

          Although, “Thanks for the offer, but no” is perfectly acceptable.

          The reason can be just b/c you don’t want to. You aren’t required to explain your decision or have a reason that anyone else deems acceptable. “No” is a complete sentence.

          I put the “thanks for the offer” in there to be conventionally polite, but you don’t need to offer an excuse to anyone.

        3. Dinwar*

          I mean, you can just say “No”.

          If you need an excuse you can go with “I usually try to run errands, since I’m on the road already.” No need to give any specifics.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Yeah, not being able to run errands on the way to rehearsal is one of the reasons I don’t like to carpool, but that’s a bit tricky since we only have rehearsals three days a week when we have concert weeks (not very often). “Can’t you run errands on a different day?” is a question I can imagine them asking. Luckily, I’ve been internalizing Captain Awkward’s “No is a full sentence” mantra so I hope to use it (in my brain anyway, not to actual humans who want to carpool) going forward.

        4. what's in a name*

          I will freely admit to using “oh, darn, they changed my work schedule” for a multitude of things I didn’t want to do.

      2. Overit*

        I always decline with the comment, “I have had multiple terrible experiences carpooling so I don’t do it any more.” When someone says, “Oh buy this time will be different!” I smile and say, “Not willing to take the chance but thanks for the offer.”
        Has always worked to shut it down

    3. Sloanicota*

      My boss loves!to!carpool! and also has the self-awareness of a goldfish. She always wants to leave waayyy to early for my role (but perhaps only moderately early for her own role) because ‘she doesn’t like to be stressed’ and also, again due to her role, is generally one of the very last to leave, hanging around chatting or waiting to double-check with facilities staff that they’ve got what they need. After I literally wasted the better part of my own personal weekend on this I’ve decided I need to start having conflicts that mean oh darn I can’t carpool.

    4. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yep… Or agree to carpool, but to take your car. And be really REALLY clear that anyone not ready to leave when you are will be left behind.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Man, I’m wondering if I could honestly leave knowing my boss was stranded to pay that $140 Uber himself. There’s such a thing as winning the battle but losing the war. I guess you could swing back around to pick him up after your appointment … or send another coworker to pick him up, or something …

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          Yeah, I kind of feel like the rule in work-situations that involve traveling should probably be: Don’t rely on other people or allow others to rely on you if your timeline is inflexible.

    5. Cringing 24/7*

      THIS! I also just never want my coworkers to drive me places. I don’t know if they’re good drivers or if they take care of their car so that it runs safely, and I don’t want to find out when I’m feeling unsafe on a highway.

    6. tangerineRose*

      I agree about not carpooling when you have a specific time requiring immediate departure. It was probably hard for the OP to refuse her boss though.

    7. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I have a lot of trouble being on time, at least in the mornings. I do make appointments, hearings, and meetings on time (usually early), but if there isn’t a “this starts at exactly X time” reason, I struggle to get out by the time I need to leave. And for this reason, I would never tell someone to carpool with me, at least with me driving. If they are driving, it will feel more necessary like the meetings or appointment times. Still, I try to avoid such arrangements for the sake of others more than for myself!

    8. iglwif*

      I don’t drive, and people are always offering to drive me places so I “don’t have to walk” or “don’t have to take the bus”. And they mean well! They do! And sometimes it works out! (I regularly get a lift home from rehearsal with one friend and it’s awesome.)

      But I grew up with a parent who was chronically late for everything, which has given me a deep psychological need to be on time for things, and I haaaaaaaaaaate being late for stuff because the person who offered to drive me there is running late. But I can’t complain because after all, they are doing me a favour! Also, I like walking, and I don’t find taking transit a hardship 99% of the time. But car people don’t seem able to understand either of those sentiments, so I end up making a lot of excuses of the “oh I have to do X along the way” or “oh I’ll be coming from Z place instead” variety.

  4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’m wondering if Dave is a micro-manager or control freak when he IS in the office? If he is, then I’m not sure if even reasonable things like Alison has suggested are going to work.

    1. Lydia*

      I was thinking that this sort of thing feels like it’s already gone past the point of having a conversation with the boss. It’s trying to put reasonable expectations on a situation where one person has foregone doing their job entirely. This isn’t a somewhat minor thing or something that only pops up on occasion; it’s consistent and impacting how other people are able to work. To me, it’s egregious enough to move up the ladder to the manager’s boss.

  5. Ann Nonymous*

    OP, Don’t make this your problem. A package arrives that needs Dave’s signature? You try once to find him. Then the delivery person decides what to do (leave w/o delivering it or leaving it w/o a signature). A decision needs to be made my Dave and he’s AWOL? Phone and text him once. Follow up with an email cc’ing a higher up saying you called him at 12:31 and texted him at 12:40; it’s now 12:55 and you’re stuck. Make this Dave’s and his boss’ problem because it is.

    1. EPLawyer*

      this. Make it someone else’s problem. Work not getting done? Someone will act. Deliveries of things needed not being accepted? Someone will act. And you are totally acting within your authority to not be able to do these things.

      My first thought was Secret of My Success where Michael J. Fox’s character was just the mail room guy but he took over the dead guy’s office and just started acting like an exec. he couldn’t be found often because he still had to do his mail room stuff.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Eventually he wound up CEO. Through a lot of wacky hijinks. See the movie. Its kinda funny, although at several of the things in it, Alison would have to have a lie down.

      1. SeluciaMD*

        I love this reference – kudos to you!

        The Secret of My Success is one of my all time favorite 80’s movies and also one of my fave MJF roles. I still love how boss Vera is (though how predatory, not so much….). Her monologue at that final board meeting ousting her creep of a husband as the head of the company? *chef’s kiss*. The sexual politics of the 80’s were just gross though.

        I always think of both the theme song (*80’s guitar riff*…..the secret of my success that I’m livin’! Twenty five hours a daaaaaaaaaayyyy!) and “Walkin’ on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. Just total 80’s awesomeness.

        I agree that it would probably make Alison’s head explode. But hey – that could be a fun column/series! Take classic movies about the workplace (Working Girl, Boilerroom, Office Space, etc.) and she could write a post about what the company, bosses and employees get right and get wrong and her take on the movie as a whole.

    2. Jesshereforthecomments*

      I think this is the perfect next step after doing what Alison suggests. OP needs to address this with Dave first, or it will look bad for her to Dave and potentially Dave’s boss.

      1. Observer*

        But document the fact that you had this conversation. Like with an email that cc’s Dave’s boss (and bcc’s your email)

        1. Jonaessa*

          Why would you bcc your email? I swear I read this before, but I cannot remember. Thanks for the help!

          1. Starbuck*

            So that you have your own private record for later, in case you get fired suddenly and lose access to your work email. The BCC makes it so it’s not obvious you’re doing this (though of course someone with IT access to the back end of the email platform would see it if they went looking, so doing this with proprietary/confidential info could perhaps get you in trouble).

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              BCCing a personal email is very easy to flag with modern email management and infosec compliance tools. This is not the insurance policy it once was. You’re far better off maintaining a flash drive of your supporting documentation, assuming your org still lets you use your USB ports.

              1. Observer*

                I’m not worried that someone in IT will know that they bcc’ed themself. I just don’t think it’s useful for the AWOL manager to have that information up front.

          2. Fluffy Fish*

            -CYA and you usually don’t want to be blatant about it
            -because it’s easier to find/save an email in your inbox than your sent box
            – it shows that the email was likely received ( if you got it, then so did Dave/Daves Boss)

        2. ecnaseener*

          Cc’ing Dave’s boss is likely to come off pretty aggressively, especially if LW’s just had a conversation with Dave where he agreed to make the changes they asked for. They can forward it later if needed. (And if he doesn’t agree to make changes and LW wants his boss to help, I would still say to give Dave a heads-up first so it’s more of a “I’m going to loop in someone who I think might be able to help” thing.)

          1. Observer*

            I don’t think that Dave deserves a heads up. And I also think that unless Dave actually changes his behavior, the OP needs to protect themself. And part of that is NOT giving him a chance to retaliate.

    3. CharlieBrown*

      This was my thought, as well.

      There is absolutely NO WAY that delivery drivers are happy about having to hang out for an hour just to get a signature. You’re only making money when your wheels are rolling.

      I’d give it 15 minutes, and then just let the delivery driver take the package back. When someone says “Where are our samples from Acme Corporation?” the natural response is “We tried for 15 minutes to find Dave, but couldn’t, so they went back with the driver as he’s the only person authorized to sign for them.”

      1. Kay*

        Actually – it is better if after 15 minutes you contact someone higher up.

        If I were someone above Dave and I found out that I could have signed, saving the company time and money, I wouldn’t be thrilled to know someone didn’t 1) come to me 2) let me know Dave is MIA all the time.

        I totally get the response, but going to the higher ups EVERY TIME will do 2 things – get what you need handled in a timely fashion and notify the higher ups there is a problem (so they can hopefully fix it). A boss leaving his employee at a location for hours like he did is not the boss who is going to miraculously turn his behavior around because his employees talk to him – it needs to come from above.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      Yup, this. Use Alison’s scripts first to bring it up with Dave, but from there on out, it’s not your problem to care more about Dave’s job than Dave does. If the higher-ups made the choice that you can’t access what you need when you need it, they also chose the consequences of that.

      Of course, the cynical part of me does want to flag the risk that somehow this all ends with you doing Dave’s job as well as your own, but cross that bridge when you come to it.

      1. Lily*

        “If the higher-ups made the choice that you can’t access what you need when you need it, they also chose the consequences of that.”

        I like this way of looking at it.

    5. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, Dave’s boss isn’t the person who wrote in so I understand why Alison’s advice only briefly touched on that. But I am definitely side-eyeing Dave’s manager in all this.

      1. Lydia*

        A manager can only act on what they know and if they don’t know Dave is MIA for hours at a time, they aren’t going to do anything about it. I’m of the opinion that Dave doesn’t have the right to a courtesy conversation, and that his boss should be looped in ASAP, but to each their own.

        1. SeluciaMD*

          Hard agree on this from me. His behavior is so egregious and has been going on for so long that I think we’re way past “just have a conversation with Dave.” I think she should still have that convo to cover her ….bases…. but it’s definitely time to loop in Dave’s boss every. single. time. she needs something from him and he’s MIA.

        2. Cat Tree*

          I’m having a hard time imagining a scenario where Dave’s boss wouldn’t know unless they are completely useless. Does Dave’s boss never contact him for any reason?

          My grandboss will occasionally send short emails to my boss (and cc me if it’s relevant to my work). This is probably a handful of times a week and generally looking for quick status updates. He doesn’t expect an immediate response, but he would definitely notice if my boss took several hours to respond each time. I assume he also contacts my boss in other ways that I don’t know about because I’m not involved.

          It’s one thing to be hands-off and let your employee have much autonomy over their job. It’s another thing to be so absent to not even realize that your employee is frequently incommunicado for hours at a time.

          1. Lydia*

            If he’s responding to his boss, but not his reports, that would hide a lot from higher ups. OP doesn’t indicate what the management situation is, but whether he’s not getting enough oversight from his boss or he’s being careful to at least respond to his boss and no one else, someone needs to send it up the ladder.

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly. There’s no way Dave hasn’t realized that this is an issue. He’s choosing not to address it, so send pain back to sender. Don’t cover for him. If he’s late to a meeting, state the facts: “I saw him an hour ago and he said he was going to step out for 20 minutes. I texted him 5 minutes ago, but he hasn’t responded. Let’s give him a few more minutes [same amount you would give a normal coworker] then either start without him or reschedule.”

        Also- email him about this. Get his response in writing. When your team isn’t hitting its goals, you want to show that it’s Dave’s issue.

        1. Here for the Insurance*

          Add me to the hallelujah chorus on this.

          Dave isn’t around to sign for the delivery? Stuff doesn’t get delivered. Too bad.

          Dave isn’t around to get you the data you need? Project gets held up. Too bad.

          Dave’s actions = Dave’s consequences, not yours.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      Excellent advice. You go above and beyond to find the boss maybe once if it’s out of character, and you know it’s possible to reach them with a little creative thinking because they’d never entirely unplug. When it’s actually the status quo, and he’s a barrier to success then Dave is either happy to be unreachable or needs to solve his availability issue.

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      Possibly take it even a step further. Don’t merely cc Dave’s boss. Make it Dave’s boss’s problem directly. A decision is needed, Dave is inaccessible, email Dave’s boss direct, explaining the situation and asking for that decision. Repeat as necessary.

    8. JustaTech*

      I had a boss like this (never did figure out what his deal was) and unfortunately *his* boss was a very busy, scary, unreasonable person who wouldn’t have been able to answer any of our questions or deal with anything, so our whole lab just gave up.

      (Thankfully we could sign for our stuff, since it was both very temperature sensitive and wicked expensive.)

    9. GreenDoor*

      Agree that this needs to stop being your problem. I feel like maybe Dave is banking on all of you assuming that he has permission from his superiors to have these kind of hours, and permission to handle personal business on company time. Lots of higher ups have that leeway….but maybe he actually doesn’t – and he’s counting on you assuming that it’s OK and never mentioning it to his bosses. I would! Not with a tattling-on-the-boss tone, but just outlining what the problems for the team have been, the effect it’s happening, how long it’s been going on, and then ask for their guidance. If you can get other team members to join you, that’d be even better.

  6. VRV*

    Oh, my boss is like this! His disappearances are relatively mundane – family stuff that Must Be Dealt With Immediately and he doesn’t work well in his office or at home and will go hide in a random conference room to get work done. It was still annoying even knowing that, so agree with Alison not to focus on that part. I think all of her suggestions are perfect – my group raised this with him and we worked out that text messages were best if we needed to reach him and we’ve been working on delegating/bringing in other team members so it wasn’t all going through him. There are still times where he’s unexpectedly unreachable, but those have been decreasing and he gets that when we reach out to him with questions, he needs to focus.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah my boss slinks off to have Angry Whispered Phone Conversations with her teen in hidden corners, so you are 100% not going to find her during these periods.

    2. Smithy*

      I think that this is a good call-out that while the issues might be substance abuse/affair/second job based – they could also be far more family oriented and mundane. Someone trying to manage a complicated estate of a deceased relative or going through a tricky period with a partner or child.

      Either way, while these are causing issues at work – trying to identify solutions that offer this manager some face saving at first is definitely the best first attempt. Even if he’s in the middle of a wild affair while consulting on the side, he may still be able to identify a solution to fix this work problem.

    3. Tyler Rowe Price*

      Do other people on your team get accommodations for their special circumstances or is it just your boss?

    4. JustaTech*

      I had a boss who disappeared (and had his office several floors away from the lab with everyone else) and I wish we’d put more effort into having a serious and productive conversation with him about “what is your schedule and how can we reach you?”

      Because if he’d said “I’ve got to deal with my ex and the kids” we would have been like “Oh, ok, let us know when you’re done”. Or if he’d told us he was going to be in the no-cell-signal-space *before* he left for three hours, that would have been fine too. Or even knowing when he would have a meeting with our PI, which everyone needed several hours to recover from. (Our PI was/is a well-known jerk who likes to make people cry.)

      But no, there was never any explanation. Though if he said he would be somewhere (for a meeting or lab work) he was. And he did tell us about the days he would be late because of a PT appointment. It was just everything else.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Same here. I KNOW the issue isn’t what Dave gets up to when he’s missing, but rather how to handle work problems when he’s incommunicado.

      And I don’t care. I still wanna know!!!

      1. ABCYaBYE*

        Absolutely! Definitely want to see things rectified for OP, but also definitely NEED to know what is causing Dave’s absences. I have so many guesses and want to know if any of them are correct.

        1. Juicebox Hero*

          I’ve got straws in my eyes :D

          I always have juiceboxes handy because I’m diabetic and sometimes my sugar drops too low. Someday I want to dress one up in a little cape and mask and keep it on my computer desk.

  7. NYC Taxi*

    I would guess he’s working a second job over drugs. Or maybe he has colitis or some other body issue. At my last horrible job our boss would disappear for MONTHS at a time to go to his home country, but wouldn’t tell us. He was unreachable the entire time. He was a micromanager in an industry new to him that he didn’t understand, so it was heaven when he was gone. Then he would shuffle in one day like nothing happened. The Indeed and Glassdoor reviews are hilarious and I tried to figure out which coworkers wrote which review.

    1. Ann Ominous*

      That’s really ballsy! Months in another country?! Amazing. I’m kind of in awe.

      Was it a sole proprietorship or something where he didn’t have bosses above him?

      1. NYC Taxi*

        He had two big bosses above him. I still don’t know how he got away with it. According to his LinkedIn he’s still there. Of course everyone I worked with is long gone, but based on the ongoing reviews on Indeed it’s still business as usual with him.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            If there is a way to give the link, without outing yourself… I’m trying to figure out how months in another country would even work.

    2. Jen*

      Ok but if you have a medical issue that keeps you in the bathroom, text still works. Unless you’re in a SCIF or something…

      1. OyHiOh*

        Depending on OP’s industry, SCIF could be a real possibility. Although, one would think that Dave would say something to the effect of “going to be in SCIF for awhile” and the whole thing would be much less mysterious.

        1. Dinwar*

          This. I don’t work with SCIF, but I do work in areas where communication is bad (far from cell towers, where radio waves are blocked, etc). You’re supposed to let people know you’re out of touch. And if it adversely affects someone else’s schedule you should at least tell them why you were late, even if you have to be vague.

          1. OyHiOh*

            Maybe, but also maybe not. SCIF spaces are associated with a handful of pretty identifiable industries (and close-knit at that). If I’d been the LW, I’d definitely take out details like that, that make my industry easily identifiable.

            1. Lydia*

              The OP doesn’t give any information that indicates there’s a reasonable explanation and they’re just looking for a way to deal with something that can’t be avoided. Dave’s disappearances are a mystery. Nobody knows where he is or what he’s doing and if OP’s job required that, they would know both those things even if the issue of not having a stop gap for those times still existed.

    3. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Funny, my husband had a job with a boss from India who would schedule going back, but then always stay later than he said. Like weeks. One time he had screwed up his visa paperwork and it was months! He wasn’t a great boss either, so my husband was usually okay with it, but sometimes you actually need your boss to do things.

    4. JustaTech*

      Wow. I thought my coworker who would go to another state most weekends and stay through Monday was pushing it (though he always called in for our Monday meetings, so was actually working), but another country, for months, just randomly?

      That’s bananas.

  8. NerdyKris*

    That sounds a lot like he’s going to a bar. “Just one drink” and it’s now hours later. Not drunk, but just not paying attention to the time. But better to focus on how it affects the job than what exactly he’s doing.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      It’s pretty easy to tell if someone has been drinking, though. LW doesn’t mention that in their letter. That would be a much different letter.

    2. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      Back in college, I worked in receiving for a major department store. Our manager would wind up taking 3 hour coffee breaks at the coffee shop/deli in the mall. It got interesting that one time that the store GM came down looking for him…

  9. Ann Ominous*

    This person totally has another job, an affair, is doing drugs, or something else…. and sucks.

    I would do what another commenter mentioned, and let the company suffer the consequences of Dave’s (in)actions rather than absorb those consequences myself. I would also reach out to Dave’s boss for bigger things to say ‘Dave stepped out to the post office 3 hours ago, and I can’t reach him to approve Major Thing in order to get you the data you need by close of business. Do you have another approver who can do this, or do you prefer to extend the deadline?”

    1. Admiral Thrawn Is Always Blue*

      Many years back I worked overnight shift at a very large facility, lots of room to be – private, shall we say. My married supervisor would go off with a coworker (she had a boyfriend) for private time in some random corner or office. This was before everyone had cell phones.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Could be all three: He is in business with his mistress dealing drugs, which they sample during their not-so-quickies.

  10. Juicebox Hero*

    Maybe he’s The Green Hawk, like in the commercials. Has he ever showed up late for a meeting in his “exercise gear” and a mask?

    1. Sloanicota*

      It is amusing me that the plot of a lot of superhero dramas is how flaky and unreliable the superhero appears to their friends/family/coworkers, just like this. Of course in the comic we see the superhero’s perspective on how awesome and heroic they truly are, so the exasperated social network seems wrongheaded.

    2. HelenB*

      What’s funny is that before I even got to Allison’s answer, my thought was “Is he Batman? Because he sounds like Batman”

  11. KHB*

    I think it’s long past time to kick this upstairs. Go to Dave’s manager – or whoever else is holding your team accountable when you drop the ball on your collective projects – and tell them everything you’ve said here. Not in a “let’s get Dave in trouble” kind of way, but more in a “this is what we’ve got going on, I’m at the end of my rope, what do you suggest I do?” Managing Dave is Dave’s manager’s job, not yours.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah but I’d follow Alison’s advice and ask Dave at least once how to handle it *first.* If Dave was a coworker, maybe not, but you want to be careful when you’re putting your boss in the hotseat. Plus, anyone else you bring this to is going to ask if you’ve asked Dave about it first.

      1. KHB*

        Good point about checking in with Dave first to cover your backside – but I’d plan on having to escalate eventually, because I really doubt that working with Dave directly is going to do anything. Either Dave is being deliberately deceptive and willfully inconsiderate, or else he’s in the throes of some sort of mental illness or addiction that means his behavior isn’t totally within his control. Whichever it is, he’s not in a position right now to competently manage himself, let alone a team.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah, the fact that he said NOTHING to OP after making her miss her meetings – despite her texts and calls – gives me no hope that Dave is well intentioned but clueless. If OP escalates this, and she probably will have to, she should beg the senior role to protect her anonymity as the reporter or face retaliation.

        2. ferrina*

          Yep, agree. Talk to Dave to CYA, then give it a month, and if nothing changes, loop in higher powers.

      2. Sara without an H*

        What Sloanicota said. Dave’s Boss will undoubtedly ask whether you’ve talked with Dave about it, so might as well do due diligence and get it out of the way.

        The thing I liked about Alison’s scripts is that she framed them as asking Dave for advice for handling specific situations, rather than questioning his whereabouts. “Who can sign when you’re out and the UPS driver is standing right there?” is more likely to get a responsive answer than, “I can never find you when I need you. Why???”

      3. TrixM*

        Totally, 100% agree with his. Do not drop your boss in the poo with your big boss unless you’ve made “reasonable efforts” to find some accommodation so that business doesn’t keep stalling because of boss’s absences.

        While “no-one likes a snitch” isn’t really an appropriate notion at work, it can definitely be true in a cultural sense (terrible things often happen to whistleblowers, even today). So cover your butt as much as possible first.

        However, you have a good relationship with the big boss’s EA, it might be possible to send up a bit of a smoke signal about boss, especially if a formal delegation is needed if boss agrees to the suggested workarounds. Or, you’re “not sure” what the process should be, therefore discussing with the EA. If things have gone on like that for months, I probably would start dropping a few subtle words in ears, if possible.

        If boss refuses accommodations and doesn’t pick up his game in a reasonable interval after being made aware that his shenanigans aren’t flying under the radar – ideally, he’d simply get the hint and cut it out, the best result – then that’d be a more suitable time to kick it upstairs.

        It’s also a much better way of approaching it than letting something truly hit the fan. It doesn’t really help to annoy clients and the big boss if you decide to let the boss fall flat on his face. It could also mean you’d get dragged into real drama if you/your team is seen to be not doing their jobs (naturally there’s already a cost due to your needing to cover for him right now – that does indeed need to stop).

    2. AWOL Boss LW*

      Unfortunately, the unique dynamic of our office/career makes this a bit difficult. The only person Dave reports to is basically the top of the ladder and doesn’t really deal with the comings and goings of the office. It’s hard to explain without making identifiable to my coworkers because of how specific it is.

      1. MissM*

        I suspect that if they read this letter they’d immediately know someone in your office wrote it, because it’s such strange behavior!!

        1. 1LFTW*

          I mean, before I saw this letter I thought I was the only one, but based on the comments it’s not all that unique.

          In my case I was brand new to the job, and didn’t quite grasp the formal supervisory structure (our org structure is… complicated). We were without a Grandboss at the time, and it was honestly a coin-flip as to whether Boss would be around at any given moment. More than once she left for “just an hour or two, text me if you have questions”, only to be gone for the rest of the day, not responding to calls or texts, as I scrambled to figure out which of the staff members present had the key code.

          After several months they filled the Grandboss position, and it turned out that Grandboss was more available to cover for Boss’s absences (in addition doing her own job, mind you!) than Boss had ever been to just… do her job. Shortly thereafter, Boss left to pursue other opportunities.

  12. Minerva*

    Since OP doesn’t mention Dave seeming inebriated or otherwise impaired when he returns to work, my money is on a side gig rather than drugs (though I guess selling drugs could be the side gig).

    If you all are covering for him you need to stop. I used to have a co-worker who would “need to take a quick phone call” then disappear for hours. He tried to hide it by rotating through co-workers to give him a hand while he was “swamped.” When we stopped covering, mgmt discovered he was running his property management on company time, and he was eventually fired.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, my old boss rented out property on the side and it was a constant distraction for him – calls from tenants, needing to show up in court, dealing with repair people, etc. Wasn’t even a property manager but he would end up disappearing just like this.

  13. AngelS.*

    Yes, loop in higher-ups! Definitely do. Explain to them how you could reach him for signature. It becomes your problem when it affects you. It isn’t fair to you

  14. CharlieBrown*

    It’s just me, but I definitely would follow him. It’s possible the police will take care of this problem for you if he’s up to something illegal.

    1. Observer*

      This is TERRIBLE advice.

      If this is something the police could get involved in, it’s something that Dave (or the people he’s working with) could take some pretty nasty measures to deal with. And that assumes that the OP will actually see or find something that the police would follow up with.

      Unlike in fiction, in real life amateurs following people to find out what they are doing rarely come out with nice, heroic endings.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        Oh, I’m not advising it. (And if you read my comment closely, you’ll see I’m not.) I’m saying I would do it, but I definitely don’t recommend it.

    2. ONFM*


      The best case scenario is that he’s doing something improper yet mundane, but then you’re going to have to explain WHY you decided to surveil someone who doesn’t work for you. Trust me, you’re not going to come out looking great. Medium case – he’s doing something that’s low-level illegal (like buying and using drugs) and you find yourself in a dangerous position OR have to answer questions about why you were doing it, too. Worst case – what if you find out that he’s going to dialysis or something and HR is aware and he’s using FML hours? We’ve read letters on this blog from many workers who have approved absences for legitimate reasons who get trampled on by nosy coworkers. Please do not do this.

      1. Beany*

        I agree that LW shouldn’t follow the boss. But I don’t think your suggested “worst case” can possibly apply in this case. Boss would have mentioned anything legitimate like medical appointments (or the need to be absent without details, at least), and certainly would not have dragged LW away to an offsite location only to go to a third location themselves, if that were true. Whatever this is, it can’t be a legitimate or budgeted use of the boss’s time.

      2. Corgis rock*

        I would think that if these were approved absences there would be some sort of plan in place to cover for him when he’s gone. And approved absence or not it was incredibly inappropriate for him to take responsibility for getting OP to a meeting at a specific time if he knew he had something scheduled that could conflict with his ability to do that.

        1. Observer*

          Approved absences or no, it’s not going to look good for the OP in a lot of cases. And that’s going to be true despite the fact that Dave REALLY messed up with that particular situation.

          The idea of trying to be some sort of amateur sleuth makes sense if the OP is ” writing to me from within a movie”. Otherwise? Not so much.

    3. Dinwar*

      Why? Best-case scenario you satisfy some curiosity. Worst-case scenario you die (I’ve stumbled on a few drug deals that turned violent, it’s NOT fun).

      And ultimately it doesn’t matter. Why this guy is acting this way is a red herring as far as the LW is concerned. The issue the LW needs to focus on is how it’s impacting their work. Following the guy does nothing to alleviate the problems he’s causing, and has a very high potential for causing a lot more problems.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      No joke! I’m furious for the OP! Some appointments come with a fine if you’re a no-show or can’t cancel 24hrs in advance. Not to mention, it may be really difficult to reschedule!

      This was a huge breach of etiquette. I’m so sorry it happened to the OP.

  15. Properlike*

    I get the sense that Dave’s in charge of the entire company, because I can’t believe that “kick it up to his boss” hasn’t already been tried! We’re missing major context here.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      LW describes Dave as “manager”. It could just be that he manages this site and that the higher ups are in a different building or a different city.

      And people can adopt a “this is how we live now” attitude fairly easily when it comes to certain things.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep. There’s the classic ‘I don’t want to get Dave in trouble/get Dave fired’ worry (even though Dave would be getting himself fired, a lot of people worry about reporting behaviour like this because they don’t want to feel like they’re responsible for getting someone sacked), and it can be hard to come up with a script for this sort of thing that sticks to ‘this is the situation and this is the impact’ rather than ‘Dave is a complete nightmare and he’s disappearing all the time’. I can also imagine the OP being worried that if they brought it to a higher-up boss, the reaction would be an angry ‘Well why on earth didn’t anyone say something sooner?’ And associated worries that if the bosses find out about all of the things that have been delayed or missed, it could come back on the team as a whole. Or there could be a general sense that the bigger bosses don’t/won’t care. Or as you say, there’s the whole ‘missing stair’ thing where people just end up going ‘well that’s just what Dave does, so this is how we have to do things’ rather than seeing it as something that can be fixed.

      2. ferrina*

        Yep. I had a Director that was infamous for disappearing for hours or days. She worked hybrid/remote and would say she was “so busy” and anything she didn’t want to do was “not my job- you need to take care of it”. None of the higher ups knew enough about our department to even know what her job was, and they were afraid that if they called her out, they’d be blamed for having an incompetent employee. I took advantage of the situation to become essentially Shadow Director, doing all the stuff she should have been doing, creating processes and documentation to “propose” to her (she took everything with no hesitation- she didn’t know enough to make these herself and was just glad someone was doing her job for her). Sometimes she would be “so busy” for a week, then at the end produce a document that I had made for her! I got some achievements on my resume, then left for a better job.

        As soon as I left, the cracks showed. The team had 80% turnover (previously around 20%), clients left en masse, no goals were hit. Amazingly, the Director stuck around for another year before leaving on her own.

    2. Everything Bagel*

      Yeah, and hasn’t Dave’s manager ever come looking for him? If I was in the letter writer’s position at the job site, I don’t think I could have held back from asking didn’t he see my calls and text messages and telling him I’m late for my appointment now. I also agree with the another commenter that I would be tempted to follow him myself one day.

      1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        “Yeah, and hasn’t Dave’s manager ever come looking for him?”

        Happened to me once. I was working a summer job on the receiving docks of a department store, and my manager tended to take multi-hour coffee breaks (this was well before the cell phone era), and the store GM came down looking for him…

      2. Esmeralda*

        Eh, lots of places Dave’s boss wouldn’t do that. I haven’t seen my grandboss in our office since two years before the pandemic. And that was for a photo op.

        Many years ago we had a dean who would pop up at the various departments and offices, “just taking a stroll, folks!”, usually at 8 am or at 4:45 pm or mid afternoon on a Friday. Never when we were actually busy.

        Dave’s boss could be in another building or city or country. And Dave’s boss might be too busy to spend time looking for Dave in the flesh.

        1. Anonymouse*

          It is not that Dave’s boss could be in another building or city or country.

          Dave could be in another building or city or country.

      3. ferrina*

        Maybe Dave only responds to his boss, and he always has some vague replies.
        My boss assumes that if I don’t answer right away, I’m doing my job. He wouldn’t come looking for me.

        1. Zweisatz*

          Yeah, he doesn’t reply to the team during these windows, but maybe to the boss (or communicates something in advance that seems legit).

          But also sometimes there isn’t that close of an oversight higher up in the company and their only contact point are some regular meetings.

    3. Myrin*

      I mean, it doesn’t sound like anyone has ever even approached Dave himself about this whole thing – I don’t think it’s hard to believe they haven’t talked to his boss about it!

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Right? “Hey, where were you the other day” is an entirely reasonable thing to ask. Just being mad and dealing with it, Dave thinks whatever he’s doing is covert enough that no one noticed because no one seems to ask him.

      2. hbc*

        Yeah, it seems like everyone is treating Dave’s absences as an unchangeable issue that must be worked around, and it’s not even worth mentioning. “I thought you said you’d be able to get me back to HQ by 4:30, was I mistaken or did something come up?” is a perfectly reasonable thing to say to anyone up or down the ladder in this situation.

        I bet it *feels* accusatory because the sum total of Dave’s behavior is outrageous, but it really isn’t a problem to ask about a single incident at the moment it impacts OP.

    4. Clobberin’ Time*

      I mean, the LW also doesn’t say anyone has ever confronted Dave or asked him where he disappeared to, so maybe it’s a company culture issue?

    5. AWOL Boss LW*

      Yeah, this is essentially correct. Copied from another comment:
      “Unfortunately, the unique dynamic of our office/career makes this a bit difficult (to report him to higher ups). The only person Dave reports to is basically the top of the ladder and doesn’t really deal with the comings and goings of the office. It’s hard to explain without making identifiable to my coworkers because of how specific it is.”

      1. ABCYaBYE*

        For that reason, I think talking to Dave first makes sense. Sure, he may change his behavior to better cover his tracks… but it may not matter what he’s doing when he’s AWOL…just that you want to alleviate bottlenecks.

  16. BatManDan*

    I’ll start with the finale – clearly, it’s reasons like this that I am not employed somewhere (self-employed the last 34 years, 48 if you start the clock when I opened my lemonade stand). It would NOT be as problem for me, past the point of this letter, because I would have punched Dave when he made me miss my meeting via offsite carpool. I repeat, I’m not cut out to deal with even a moment of this level of b.s.

    1. Someone Else's Boss*

      Something to keep in mind is that punching a colleague is still illegal, even if you’re self-employed.

      1. t4ci3*

        Punching yourself is perfectly legal, as demonstrated in the famous corporate thriller “Fight Club”

    2. Julie*

      So you’re a violent person who pretends that you have no ability to restrain yourself from violence. That’s not a plucky character trait.

  17. Beth*

    Worked with a guy who would disappear for hours at a time – turns out he was going to the local casino and would gamble for hours. Won and lost insane amounts of money.

    1. Corgis rock*

      I’m thinking gambling too. It’s an addiction that does not leave the addict in an impaired state.

  18. DramaQ*

    My dad had a boss who would do this. Turns out he was locking himself in the office and having some “alone time” if you get my drift. It was discovered when he asked a female employee to get something from his office and she walked in to find an insane amount of used tissues all over and some “stuff” open on his computer desktop. He was fired shortly after.

    Then one time at a previous employer of my husband’s there was a supervisor who was doing VERY illegal stuff on his computer when he disappeared for hours at a time. Like a van showed up with guys in suits to take him and his computer away illegal. They had to have a company wide meeting about it.

    Not saying that is what is happening here but based on those two experiences I would bypass Dave if possible and go directly to his manager or his manager’s manager if that doesn’t work. Someone needs to find out where Dave is going all the time.

    1. Lizzo*

      Agree with this. LW, whatever is going on with Dave is very likely above your pay grade to handle, so best to escalate it right away and let the Big Boss pursue it.

  19. Rae*

    I had a boss (not as bad) like this. The person who sat outside his office put an 8×10 frame on her desk that said “I have not idea where ‘boss’ is”. Inevitably I’d start to ask her, chuckle at the frame and go back to my desk to email him.

    1. Mianaai*

      I’ve also had to do the “I am not [boss]’s secretary and do not know where he is” thing… When I was a postdoc, my advisor was a brilliant person, and very productive, but he kept weird hours sometimes (think 3am-noon), didn’t keep his WFH schedule (or any other part of his calendar tbh) up to date, and had a habit of turning off notifications when doing focused work. Efforts to get him to be more transparent about his schedule and more responsive to messages during standard work hours were always received well in the moment, but he’d forget again after a week or two.

      As I was a postdoc with much a much more fixed schedule and limited WFH ability, I was the go-to person whenever someone couldn’t find him, which I haaated. I ended up putting up the sign, and having a couple of pointed conversations with the worst offenders pointing out that hounding me, the dude’s female postdoc, for his schedule and telling me to pass on their messages to him was, uhh, not a good look.

      1. Nesprin*

        Been there done that, but my postdoc advisor worked exclusively from midnight to 4 am, whether she was in Stockholm, Kyoto or the same time zone as me. But it worked pretty well because her project scientists + admin had the ability/permission to handle all the things that came up urgently (i.e. could sign things, manage order kerfuffles, deal with grant reporting etc).

  20. Umiel12*

    Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought the LW was asking for advice on how to confront him about making making them late for their appointment (in addition to the overall problem.)

    1. Myrin*

      The “this” in “How can I bring this up with him?” can indeed refer to both (the general as well as this specific situation, I mean) but I think Alison’s operating from the standpoint that it’s well past time for someone to name the general pattern and to get some overall clarity. I do wish one of her example scripts would’ve made use of the specific instance OP recounts (mostly because I’m petty as hell and love to give people the “WTF were you thinking?!” talk) but I think especially the last one actually alludes to situations like it, which should theoretically be enough.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, the thing is that the carpool incident was the OP’s near-breaking point in the middle of a general pattern of crap from Dave. If the OP just brings up the site visit, there’s a chance Dave will brush it off as ‘Oh yeah I’m sorry about that, something came up’ and won’t see the bigger picture. If the OP says ‘Look, Dave, it’s often impossible to reach you when we need approval on things, and that means our projects are running late. You also often leave events just as we’re finishing setup, which means that Jane and Wakeen are left to run the whole event by themselves. And then last week, when we drove to the work site in Springfield, I said I had an appointment at 5:15 but you disappeared again and we didn’t leave until I was already late for my meeting’ it names the entire problem and the pattern. So it’s harder for him to try to get away with framing things as isolated incidents.

    2. Roland*

      Maybe, but frankly that’s ot a good use of OP’s time. Say he apologizes, now what? He’s still unreliable and flaky. The work issues need fixing. The appointment thing, it majorly sucked but the solution is to never get a ride from him again. It’s not a situation where his apology would mean anything.

      1. starsaphire*

        Because now she has backing to go to a higher-up and she can say, “Yes, I’ve addressed this with Dave and nothing was resolved” when they ask.

        1. ecnaseener*

          She’d have a stronger case if she’d addressed the overall pattern vs this one incident though.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          You only need to do that with interpersonal issues though. Before going upstairs, you should ask someone to stop wearing perfume that bothers you, or someone who has an annoying whistling habit. These are things you are expected to address yourself. Asking your boss why he’s asleep at the wheel and dodging work is above anyone’s pay grade. All OP can really ask of him is how they could do things differently if he’s going to continue to be hard to reach. She can’t tackle the hard to reach part itself.

      2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        But maybe not. Since no one has confronted him or talked to him about it, he might think whatever it is he’s doing isn’t noticed so he get away with it. Once called out that people do notice he might change. Maybe not but, it’s not a complete waste of time to be. “WTH Dave?”

        1. Roland*

          But why waste your time discussing the car situation when you can just never get in his car again? The more issues you bring up, the less focus each one gets. It’s .ore important to bring up the ones that will continue to be relevant going forward ie the recurring work issues.

          1. Umiel12*

            I think there is value is being able to say (even to your boss) that a specific incident caused you distress in addition to it being part of a larger pattern. I once had a manager who accidently caused me to not get paid that month. I did eventually get my paycheck, but getting it over a week late caused a number of problems for me. In order to be ok with her, I needed to be able to tell her how her carelessness had caused me a lot of stress. I was respectful, but clear about it, and it led into a broader conversation about patterns of behavior of hers. It turned out to be a productive conversation, but it would not have worked as well for me if I had not had the opportunity to tell her, “You did this and it caused me a lot of trouble.”

  21. Poison I.V. drip*

    Dave is totally using hookup apps. The tell is how he can be 40 minutes away from his usual hunting grounds and an opportunity still pops up. I have friends that do this when we’re traveling and the MO is identical.

    1. Spearmint*

      I’m skeptical, simply because it’s very hard for even fairly attractive straight men to get frequent matches on dating and hookup apps. Unless the boss is gay, which changes things.

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        It’s not hard if they’re using sites where the dates are paid for.

        Though, really, Dave’s behavior is consistent with any number of problematic behaviors. We don’t know if he’s using drugs or hiring escorts or freelancing. But the symptoms are still the same: he is unreliable and uncommunicative in a way that is damaging to the company (and not least to the OP). Exactly what flavor of BS he’s indulging in is for the higher ups to untangle.

      2. Poison I.V. drip*

        In the gay or MSM scene hooking up is trivially easy if one is so inclined, attractive or not. Daily? Why not? During working hours? Sure. Which is why I immediately suspected OP’s boss of using hookup apps.

    2. TrixM*

      Ooh yeah, this is more plausible than my “affair” theory.

      Not that ~what he’s doing matters in the greater scheme, but I’d love to see a follow-up if all is revealed one day.

  22. Pumpkin215*

    Oh boy. My husband worked with a “Dave”. This guy was a peer, not a boss but he would disappear for hours, mainly in the bathroom. He was also often late, had red eyes, appeared incoherent. People suspected drug use and HR had a chat with him. This Dave swore up and down it was not drugs, was horrified at the idea and promised to improve.

    He didn’t. A few months later, there were layoffs and Dave was on the list. In his locked desk drawer, they found bottles of rubbing alcohol. Apparently, he was huffing at work. Everyone was shocked. He wasn’t a kid (old enough to know better), had a family, etc. I know addiction strikes all kinds of people but huffing wasn’t even on the radar.

    As for the LW, I’d start looking. This Dave isn’t going to improve and there are a lot of jobs out there.

  23. Elbe*

    He’s not authorizing other people to do these tasks because he doesn’t want to acknowledge how frequently he is away. Either he’s in denial about his own schedule (“I’ll just pop out for a second and no one will notice”) or he knows he’s awful and is trying to maintain plausible deniability in case his manager asks him about it.

    He sounds pretty terrible and I doubt he’s going to change much. I think it’s likely that the LW will have to end up going to someone higher up so that they know what is going on with this guy.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Your first sentence sums it up. I was going to proffer solutions for OP to try, but the sad fact is “Dave sucks and he’s not going to change.”

      OP, mention it once to Dave to have the convo “on record,” then go over his head.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      That doesn’t make sense to me. By not having someone else available to do these things, it makes people go on a wild goose chase looking for him…..which calls attention to the fact that he is not there. If he had a deputy, this wouldn’t even be an issue.

      “Do you know where Dave is? We need him to sign for this delivery.”

      “No idea, but Steve is right over there. He can sign for it.”

      At that point you don’t even have a problem. LW never would have had to write in.

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        You are thinking about this rationally. Dave probably isn’t. What he’s thinking is that he’s getting away with it.

        1. CharlieBrown*

          So you’re saying Dave is not the brightest porch light on the block. If that’s true, this does make sense, then.

          I guess Dave will get hoisted on his own petard, then.

  24. learnedthehardway*

    Haven’t seen it suggested yet, but I would start job hunting. The whole situation sounds infuriating and extremely dysfunctional. I mean, SURELY Dave’s manager should have realized by now how absent and disconnected Dave is, before now. Either that or if Dave owns the business, this is a good way to run it into the ground. Either way, finding another job seems a lot less hassle and a lot more secure in the medium to longer term.

    1. Bubba*

      I’m sure if I think outside the box I can come up with SOME scenario where Dave has a legitimate excuse for his absences but, I if I had to bet money, I would bet Dave is not doing anything responsible during his “time off”. IMO addressing this with Dave is just going to make him aware people are suspicious and make it easier for him to cover up- sure you can “help” me by signing for packages while I’m out! Go to the higher ups, they need to know. You should not come straight out and accuse him of anything because there is still a small chance nothing untoward is going on and maybe Dave’s boss is already aware/he has some accomidation for time away etc…. But I think you should do what Allison suggested and say something like “Gee, I really need this information from Dave, this is the third time this week I have been able to reach him for a couple of hours, it’s really slowing me down can you help?” Even if Dave has some good reason for being gone, Dave’s manager should be made aware that his team is having trouble getting what they need when he is out, so they can help troubleshoot.

      1. Bubba*

        Whoops, did not mean to attach this comment here. But, for what it’s worth I agree with you @learnedthehardway. If this doesn’t stop, and soon, time to start job hunting, it’s a red flag for a disfunctional workplace.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      This seems a bit of an over-reaction. It’s quite possible that this is a satellite office, Dave’s actual higher-ups are in a different building, or a different city, or a different country.

      If LW otherwise likes her job, I think it’s better to figure out the Dave thing rather than figure out an entirely new job.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Sure, but then we’d just get an update that the OP has a new job, and we’d never know if the boss had another job, was doing drugs, or was a secret super hero!

      1. Clobberin' Time*

        Yeah, how dare the OP actually act on sensible advice instead of providing us with infotainment!

    4. TrixM*

      I think reporting it to the higher-ups is a better first step than simply pulling the pin. Sure, if they blow off the LW or the boss is the company owner, then start the job hunt then.

  25. Kim*

    Many years ago at two different companies I worked for there were three people I can remember who did this . All of them were working two full time jobs at the same time ( 9 to 5). Their jobs were fairly close to each other so they would come and go during the day at both locations. Eventually they were discovered and fired. Also in the 1960s , my Dad had a boss who disappeared frequently for long stretches of time. Everyone thought he was drinking. But a few years ago I saw his obituary which ,with no irony, mentioned he ran his own law firm while employed as an executive at (name withheld) corporation .
    Take Alison’s advice.

  26. Justice*

    Seriously, boss or no boss, if someone was my ride home and ditched me for an hour and made me late for an appointment I had told them about I would ask “Where were you?” repeatedly until I got an answer and an apology.
    He owes you both of those things. He’s your boss, not your king.

  27. Purely Allegorical*

    I HIGHLY recommend looping in Dave’s boss when he’s absent and you need something to be approved. I was in this exact situation of a boss just noping out of the office for long, unexplained stretches of time and it was a disaster. Leadership didn’t really know about it because they were on a different floor and nothing ever went to their emails about it. Our Dave was getting a truly exorbitant salary while we were the ones doing his work. I’d estimate he only worked about 5-10 hours per week.

    Once we started escalating things, leadership freaked out a bit. Eventually Dave’s boss sat me down and asked if Dave should be fired. It took a really long time to manage Dave out bc my company just doesn’t really fire people (which is the tip of a whole other iceberg of dysfunction).

    But start making it someone else’s problem. Your Dave is not performing his job and that should start falling on his managers.

    1. Lizzo*

      Yeah, this is the route I’d go immediately for dealing with this. Need something? Can’t reach Dave? Contact his boss: “Hi, I need X, Y, and Z, but I can’t seem to reach Dave. I’ve called him three times and left voicemails. He hasn’t been in the office since [two hours ago]. Can you help me?”

      Upper management is going to get on his case right quick if they’re getting these types of requests for help multiple times a week.

  28. tessa*

    He’s got at least one side gig, no doubt, which explains both his long absences and his implicit refusal to deputize someone else to take his place during those long absences.

    I’d be so tempted to just let the problems cascade (while doing making sure my own tasks are as up-to-date as possible) so that the problem is fixed sustainably.

  29. Lizzo*

    If this is a remotely plausible explanation, it’s another very good reason to never carpool with him again.

    1. Lizzo*

      Oops, nesting fail! This was supposed to be in response to the suggestion that he might be going to the bar to drink during these disappearances.

  30. ABCYaBYE*

    I think you definitely bring it up to Dave for sure, just as Alison suggests. Going above Dave puts you in the crosshairs. Ask just the way Alison frames in her answer, but ask only once. If Dave continues the behavior, or doesn’t acknowledge / answer the questions, the next time it happens, loop in someone else above you. It isn’t clear exactly what the structure is, but if there’s another site elsewhere, start with the manager of that site. Or go directly to Dave’s boss. And approach that the same way you do with Dave. Straightforward, simply asking how to work through the issues that are caused by Dave’s absence. Something as simple as, “What is done at (other site) when manager needs to approve something but isn’t accessible by call or text. Or isn’t available to sign for the packages only they’re authorized to send. We just want to ensure we’re able to meet deadlines and need to know how that’s handled in other offices.”

  31. Irish Teacher*

    I WANT to believe he’s secretly fighting crime or he’s a spy or something.

    But whatever the reason, it is obviously completely unacceptable to cause the LW to be late for her appointment when she was clear that she NEEDED to be there on time. Not that the rest is OK, but…even if there IS a valid reason (which I cannot imagine), he could still have driven separately so the LW wasn’t affected if he were called away.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Okay, but what were the odds that the rest of the office would notice that their mysterious unexplained absences always happened at the same time? Probably one in a million. (Or so the affair partners breathlessly explain to each other in a period of mutual congratulations about their incredible stealthiness.)

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Considering our office had 6 people in it and they had to walk through our shared lobby to come in and out, it was pretty darn obvious.

  32. Sassenach*

    I am really going to need an update on this one. While following him is a bad idea ….gosh I would be so tempted. My thought was a split personality but working a second job or drug use seems the most probable. UPDATE US PLEASE OP!

    1. scribblingTiresias*

      I know a couple of people who have ‘split personalities’ (AKA: dissociative identity disorder) and … it doesn’t really… work like that. Like, at all.

      Like, life is a rich and varied tapestry, and all. But most people with DID either have a web of accommodations set up to let them work despite switching between different personalities, or their other problems (usually the trauma that gave them DID in the first place) mean that they can’t work anyway.

  33. MissGnomer*

    I have been in this situation before, and it was because my manager was an alcoholic. It was the worst experience ever. He would disappear for days or a week at a time. I would tell HR when it was going on, but I couldn’t tell anyone else at work what was going on. I had to send the police to his house for wellness checks and even take him to rehab. I’m still his damn emergency contact at rehab, even though I don’t work for him anymore.

    1. Anat*

      It does sound like addict behavior, but if he were drinking he couldn’t come back in a couple of hours and no one would be able to tell. As I say elsewhere, it looks like a gaming addiction to me, but could be some other behavioral addiction as well.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, because those addictions don’t impair your ability to function the way drugs and alcohol do.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      Just wanted to say, you do not have to be your ex-managers keeper if you don’t want to. Even if he has no one else.

      You can tell rehab to lose your number if that’s what you want to do.

  34. Adrian*

    I wonder what’s in the packages that only Dave’s authorized to sign for. I would think that his not being there to sign, would only attract more unwanted attention.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      If it’s a regulated substance (narcotics, radioactive materials) or legal documents, there may be only one person that can sign for them. It sucks that it’s Dave, but it also makes me wonder what they do when Dave is on vacation.

    2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      At my office, we get lots of parcels containing documentation from lawyers that only very specific people at the company can sign for. We’re not a law-related business, just a manufacturing facility with lots of contracts, occasional lawsuits, and lots of employees, some of whom require legal dealings like garnishments and subpoenas (though those last tend to be hand-delivered, not mailed, of course).

  35. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — The Commentariat will undoubtedly have a lot of fun speculating on what Dave is doing when he disappears. I’ll probably chime in myself, later, but that doesn’t really solve your problem, does it?

    Have you and your team been covering for Dave in any way? If so, you need to stop doing that so that he starts to experience the consequences of his actions.

    You need to follow Alison’s advice and start asking him what to do when he’s unavailable. I liked her scripts, especially the one that included language indicating that your team had missed a deadline and a Higher Up was upset about it. Include that, if you truthfully can.

    You’re the best judge of whether going over Dave’s head would be risky, but if you do, be sure to frame it as a request for advice: “Can you sign for this? Dave isn’t available and he’s the only one who can normally do that, but I hate to tell the delivery person to come back later — we need this stuff if we’re going to make our deadline.”

    Good luck and let us know what happens. Especially if your update includes some especially weird explanation for Dave’s disappearing acts.

    1. Kay*

      You can also use this framing to signal this is an ongoing problem when asking for “advice” from the higher ups. Simply turning the above into “…I hate to tell the delivery person to come back AGAIN” or “Sorry to bother you but can you sign? I’m afraid if we keep making the delivery drivers wait for hours it might start causing problems”, “Thanks for signing, can I come to you next time or is there someone else I should ask?”, etc.

    2. Venus McFlytrap*

      People must be covering for him in various ways, probably without really realizing that that’s what they’re doing, otherwise things would have collapsed by now. So yeah, everybody needs to take a collective step back and just let balls drop while Dave is doing whatever Daves do.

  36. Esmeralda*

    OK, I was a teen in the 1970s so…

    Am I the only person who thought of Cheech and Chong, Dave’s Not Here?

  37. LB*

    Name the issue plainly as suggested in the examples. He probably feels like it’s a lot more subtle and unnoticed than it is; making it clear that everyone sees what he’s doing (but not asking why, just searching for solutions to an openly acknowledged problem) may embarrass him into toning it down.

  38. Lola*

    I had a boss like this. Nice person, but I honestly had no idea what she was doing or where she was most of the time. One time I called her with a work emergency and she was at the grocery store! (but one of my co-workers speculated she had a second job) A few times it bit me in the butt when our director would be asking for things that were mostly my boss’ responsibility, but also partially mine. After several times of me frantically scrambling to get what our director was asking for, I decided it was enough. Next time the director called I said, “you’ll have to ask [my boss]. She didn’t loop me in.” and let her deal with the consequences.

    She didn’t last even a year and I was promoted to her position.

  39. Almost Empty Nester*

    Don’t think I’d talk to Dave, just because I wouldn’t want to enable his absenteeism and make it easier for him to disappear. I agree with the previous commenter that you need to just decide that it’s not your problem and let consequences happen. If his inaction causes projects to be late, the blame lies where it belongs. If he isn’t there to sign for packages, that’s between him and the delivery service. The caveat is that you must be certain that your “house is clean” so that you experience no blowback from it either from Dave or the other stakeholders.

    1. CLC*

      You’re right—he currently thinks he’s getting away with it. If the OP mentions someone to him he might realize he’s not and change his tactics.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      I don’t think it’s really OP’s responsibility to enable or not. Dave can do whatever he wants. It’s his job on the line. It’s the part that affects OP that OP should be concerned about.

  40. CLC*

    Whatever Dave is hiding (and he’s clearly hiding something) he’s terrible at pulling it off! It’s odd that he has the confidence to try to pull something like this off, yet is so utterly incompetent at actually executing on it.

  41. Purple Cat*

    Oh man, I feel for OP.
    Since we’re probably never going to know what Dave is really up to, you have to try to find solutions to the actual problems that are presenting themselves.
    1 – easy one. Never carpool with Dave again and if he asks “why” you remind him exactly what happened this time. Don’t waste your energy hoping to get an apology out of him, you never will.
    2 – Get him to deputize someone else to sign for deliveries. This one seems ridiculous that it’s all on him.
    3 – Get him to commit to a decision tree. When he’s not available, reach out to someone else instead.
    If he refuses on these things, start keeping track of the business impact. Loosely – x hours of wasted time because Dave was MIA and take it to his boss.

  42. Nicole12*

    I had a boss like this once! It was so funny reading this because I could have written this letter. Although there was no leaving me at a different site (!!!), there were many times decisions could not be made and boss was nowhere to be found, or boss would completely drop the ball on tasks they said they would take care of. Turns out there was something going on in their personal life that was taking away time from work (though… not that much time after we all did the math). There was no going over boss’s head because we were a very small office.

    The most frustrating part was not being able to do parts of my job that were critical to being a high performer. It felt demoralizing that I wasn’t able to do parts of my job that I knew needed to get done, and that my boss didn’t seem to care that I had to work extra to make up for it. As I type this I realize how bitter I still am. We had conversations about better work flows and communication but to no avail.

    My solution was to do what other commenters suggested and STOP covering for boss. Important client calls? Boss can’t come to the phone right now. The time-sensitive decision couldn’t be made because boss wouldn’t answer any communication? I had to make a judgment call because you weren’t able to answer. Delivery could not be made? We missed it because you weren’t here.

    Things got worse until I found a new role with a very responsive manager. I am much happier now. A friend who still works there just shared with me how late they’ve been working because tasks never got approved or assigned in a timely manner. It makes me think that it will never change, and never was going to.

    1. noname*

      “Important client calls? Boss can’t come to the phone right now.”

      I would take that a step further and tell the client the truth: “Dave told me that he’d be back at 11am. I know it’s currently 14:00. I have absolutely no idea where he is but I promise to leave a message for him.” I’d then follow that up with an email to Dave, cc-ing his boss, and letting them know exactly what you said to the client on the phone.

  43. Sleepy*

    Dear LW, I really wish you had spoken up. You had made it clear that you needed to be back by a certain time and were on really solid ground to bring up the disappearing act right then and there. I hope you figure it out.

  44. OlympiasEpiriot*

    He doesn’t want to deputize anyone because that’ll be proof (as in how often the deputy is called upon) of how much he is awol.

    1. Meep*

      My thought it was more of a power/control thing. He wants all the power and control and giving someone else that power makes him obsolete.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      I got the impression from the way the letter is phrased there may be legal/regulatory/company structure reasons why he’s the one who can do the thing (sign, decide, whatever) and it’s not really a “deputize” sitch. I hope I’m wrong because that’s such an obvious solution, but it read to me like that’s not really an option.

  45. Michelle Smith*

    Alison’s suggestion about looping in the higher up is brilliant. Definitely do that if Dave doesn’t respond to her other reasonable suggestions of things he can do to stop ruining your workday.

  46. Philip*

    This is 100% something the manager is doing on purpose. The fact that he engineered dependency when the writer had something important happening is a big sign of it. Probably, he just enjoys it, or maybe he gets off on it? It’s a powerplay, the only purpose is to make him feel powerful.

  47. NeedRain47*

    I worked with a guy that did that. He once tried to get me to tell someone he was at lunch when it was 9:30 in the morning. It turned out later that he just wasn’t doing his job, like, at all. IDK if there was anything behind it besides incompetence.

  48. Not really a Waitress*

    I thought you were my former coworker at first. I am still at the same employer but switched teams due to my disappearing boss. WE were told by his boss we were expected to be on site 8 to 5 monday through friday. No work from home (our job is site based). He comes in at 9, leaves at 4, takes an hour for lunch. Works from home on Fridays but never responds to anything. He never told me anything and did not allow me to cover for him on calls so I was completely out of the loop. I ran the depart while he floated in and out. I did escalate it, and he was investigated and was written up because he was taking huge amounts of time off but not using PTO (his boss is in a different time zone). But after a few weeks it went back to the same thing. When he gave me a crappy review I got mad, and was lucky enough to be asked to apply for a role in another department that was a promotion. I got it, and now everyone sees how I covered for him. I’d say he is still here but he has already left for the day.

  49. CoCo*

    Oooo I knew a guy who was like this. He would disappear for hours claiming to be working in another building. He definitely wasn’t. One day he loudly announced that his his father in law was very ill, so this wife and kids were traveling back to their home country to be with family. Adding in that he may have to leave for said country very abruptly, and would likely be unreachable. About a week later he disappeared and a few days later the FBI arrived to confiscate his belongings and computer. Turns out he was involved in some very illicit and illegal content involving minors. He had fled the country in attempt to avoid getting caught/arrested.

  50. Hiring Mgr*

    Dave might just be like the Burgess Meredith character from The Twilight Zone where he just wants to be left alone to read

  51. All Het Up About It*

    Haven’t seen this in the comments, but I would also band together with your colleagues to create a united front in the messaging. OP says that it’s a running joke in the department, but I would be talking to my co-workers and saying that this is not okay and that you are going to start addressing it with Dave. If you ALL do that, it’s going to be one more obvious to him that this is a problem and it’s not going unnoticed and 2) harder for him to retaliate if the opportunity presents itself.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Fully agree with this. Ideally, everyone will shift their approach together to stop covering for Dave so that it’s not just one or two people who might take the brunt of his reaction.

      If you’re able to, I’d also make sure I’m not working overtime just because of Dave being AWOL. If you asked Dave for a critical piece of information at 1 and he doesn’t get back to you until 4:45, I’d be very tempted to still leave at 5 and deal with whatever it is the next day. Why should staff treat these things with so much more urgency than the manager does?

  52. Ann O'Nemity*

    Don’t follow your manager. Don’t gossip about your suspicions. There could be a perfectly rational and innocent explanation. Focus on the business problem this creates and possible solutions.

    *I know everyone is talking about drugs, affairs, second jobs, etc. On the other hand, I’ve had two separate experiences where someone disappeared for large periods of time without explanation. Both turned out to be confidential medical issues and HR was in the loop.

    1. Dinwar*

      “Don’t follow your manager. …. There could be a perfectly rational and innocent explanation.”

      Even if that’s true, though, letting the boss know there’s an issue affecting work would be wise. You don’t need to know what’s going on, necessarily–though a brief explanation of “It’s a confidential medical thing, I’m not at liberty to give details” would help–but letting them know that it’s interfering with work in objective, measurable ways can help them better accommodate Dave if in fact there’s an innocent explanation. They may not be aware of the disruptions it’s causing, or if they are they may not know the extent.

      It may be a bad idea to start from a place of hostility–honestly, being stranded gives them the right to a certain amount–but it’s still good to talk to the higher-ups.

    2. Observer*

      This could be true. I think it’s a lot less likely because of the total lack of communications, lack of backup for legitimate issues, and weird (and obnoxious) behavior like the car pool incident.

      Or he has a legitimate issue, but is also a really bad manager and a jerk.

    3. Juicebox Hero*

      Even if Dave has a perfectly innocent reason for his absences and the company’s permission, the OP and the rest of the team still need to get this taken care of so that they can sign for packages, access the information they need, have a backup to host his meetings, etc. And there’s no excuse for him stranding OP at the remote site and making them late for their appointment.

      That’s why Alison and everyone are telling OP to address this as “what can we do when Dave is out of the office so our work isn’t interrupted” rather than as “how do we get Dave in trouble?”

    4. Raida*

      I concur, don’t do anything silly.
      Gossiping is stupid, so is following him.

      The either need to address the business issues it’s causing with him, or with his manager. That’s it.

  53. Free Meerkats*

    For a few months a couple of decades ago, I was Dave. I was seeing someone who worked swings and the NRE was high. I’d go to lunch, and next thing you know, it was 2 or 3 hours later when I left her apartment. That relationship fizzled a bit later and no one at work knew why I was sometimes gone for longer than I should have been, just that sometimes I was hard to reach. This was before everyone had a cell phone and my work was mostly field work; but I was expected to be available on the radio.

    1. irene adler*

      I think you are onto something. The carpool incident shows that whatever he’s doing causes him to forget his earlier assurances-as he didn’t even issue any apology for the OP’s missed appointment! It must be something of great distraction.

  54. Gnome*

    Does it strike anyone else as weird that he apparently has something else going on, whether it’s another job, a drug habit, an affair, or whatever… Yet really wanted to be OPs ride? That’s a strange combination. If one is going to go do something else during the work day, do they want to draw attention to it? Probably not.

    So, either the boss has something that messes with their judgement going on, is a control freak (other evidence supports this), and/or is entirely shameless.

    If you ever find out what they are actually doing, please write back!

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      I assumed he wanted LW for cover. There are long stretches of time where he’s off alone doing whatever mysterious thing he is doing, but this time when he was off alone doing whatever mysterious thing he is doing, he plausibly could say he was working with LW, so clearly nothing was wrong.

      I would bet he is starting to try to cover his tracks when he can because his house of cards is falling apart.

  55. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    You would have been totally justified in taking that Lyft and trying for reimbursement. Obviously, being justified doesn’t mean you’d actually get the money back.

  56. miss_chaos*

    Had a Dave at my workplace and it ended up being alcoholism. He was going to a local dive bar during the day. If he’s not inebriated, my guess would maybe be gambling – sports betting or poker machines maybe? Easily accessible….

    No advice but would love an update!

  57. Not Jane*

    Not a boss, but I once had a coworker that would disappear all the time. Turns out he was both 1. selling meth and 2. picking up prostitutes in the company truck. We found out when he got arrested and obviously he was fired after that. Oh, and his wife also worked for the company so that was super awkward…

  58. La Triviata*

    Years ago, the big boss had a tendency to disappear, usually when he was most needed. At conferences, when he was needed to network with others, he’d be missing. Once, at a conference we were running, he had the check to pay the caterer for our big event … and he went missing. People had to pool their credit cards to be able to pay the caterer. It reached the point where one of the senior staff threatened to put a radio collar on him so we could find him. He also suggested we have a little shock device on it so when we needed him, he’d KNOW.

  59. Avid reader*

    If it’s not affair, it might be … golf. Had a former boss who would slip out to a course close the office for a few hours. It finally bit him when he was the only management on a Saturday, no one could reach him. When it was sent up the chain, it was discovered that he had been out golfing!

  60. Catabouda*

    When our director kept disappearing / no showing it was due to substance abuse. It got way worse before they finally fired the guy, but he started off “off” almost right away.

  61. noname*

    I would go straight to cc-ing Dave’s boss EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. he’s MIA. Effective immediately. And lay out in the email exactly what happened. For example,
    “Dear Dave (cc to Dave’s boss), this morning at 10am you told me that you would be stepping out for 20 minutes. It’s currently 13:00 and we have not heard or seen from you since 10am. In the interim, I tried sending you 3 Whatsapp messages; I called you twice; and I sent you the below email at 11am asking for the figures. We have not heard back from you and this information is critical for us to complete this project on time. This project is shelved until we hear back from you on next steps since we are not able to move forward without further instruction from you, as per your previous instructions.”

  62. Voting of banana-pants*

    Wait – does LW work for Batman and not know? Because any other reason is surely going to be banana-pants. I mean, we’ve all been reading AAM to see a WTF reason coming down the road.

  63. VictoriaJ*

    I had a manager I wanted to put a tracker on.

    Nothing like this. Just an office set up that made a circle with a front and back corridor between the two main offices (with additional small rooms off the corridors) – so it was like a farce. You’d always be entering from one side as someone left via the other side. And you would try to track the manager in loops as he was always where you were not.

    But I am convinced that the day we put trackers on hard to find managers is the day the tracking system shows them in an empty corridor and it turns out they are in the ceiling.

    It’s not worth the risk. I’d rather be living in a farce than a horror film.

    (Come to think of it this was the same job where I once saw a client who had a letter from Matron about how he had lost his trousers – this was not a health care setting either. I slightly miss working in a farce).

  64. Chickaletta*

    In my experience, people like Dave don’t last long at work so the problem may resolve itself. In the meantime his boss definitely needs to be aware and Alison’s strategy is a good one for it. I wouldn’t just ignore it or give up though because it sounds like it’s impacting YOUR work. CYA is a huge factor here.

  65. Raida*

    Goddamn I would have pulled him up way before this!

    “Richard you had an appointment at 10am and I got a call asking where you were. You didn’t respond to calls or texts, arrived late, and then took an hour after that appointment to get back to the office.
    I don’t know or care where you went or why. But I do care about looking incompetent, I do care about us all being able to do our jobs, I do care about wasting time – over an hour sometimes – looking for you, and I really really care about being left offsite while a meeting is starting.
    So, what are we gonna do here? Do you… want me to record your disappearances so we can calculate the work impacts? Want to delegate authorities and responsibilities to others so we can keep working? Make your calendar visible?”

    and if he riles up at it – “Mate, I want to figure out a solution here. If I was just complaining it’d be complain to your manager to deal you as her direct report. I’m not dobbing you in for disappearing, so how about a little appreciation, and work with me here.” (yes, that is a threat to go to his boss with a list of issues and ‘concerns’ that he’s not doing the job he’s paid for)

    Rough? Sure. But I had a manager/owner with nobody above him that was crap with appointments – he was good by the time I left, and it took several blunt conversations. Including me calling someone looking for him, and while the phone’s ringing handing it to him saying “It’s for you. I’ve just called Mr. Copier.” now he’s got the phone in his hand, the person is answering, too late to avoid the consequences of NOT CALLING THEM BACK but you’re calling them back now, aren’t your Richard? O_O hah.

    We worked together on a setup that kept things organised, with lots of time for work to crop up, limited appointment slots each day, and an agreement if anyone avoided a customer someone would help them get the job done instead of pushing it off again and again.
    Worked out great for all the staff at that small business, and the customers.

    LW you can talk to your boss or you can talk to his boss, but you gotta do something.

  66. Venus McFlytrap*

    If Dave has some kind of addiction, whether it’s to a substance, or sex, or gambling, or if he’s got something cognitive going on (memory issues? attention issues?) you’ll be doing him a kindness by making him explicitly aware that he’s not hiding it as well as he thinks he is and he needs to get help before it’s too late.

  67. Cranjis McBasketball*

    Don’t think anyone’s brought this up yet – but what happened with that after-hours appointment you had to miss? Was there any sort of impact (i.e. a no-show fee at a doctor’s office)? Even making a bad impression on whomever you were supposed to meet? If so, Dave needs to make that right – whether it’s reimbursing that fee or smoothing things over.

  68. The answer is (probably) 42*

    Honestly I’d skip trying to talk to Dave directly and go straight to someone over his head. From what LW described, Dave has an oddly blasé attitude about his frequent absences. It’s like he’s in denial that they’re happening at all, or he thinks no one else notices. My bet is that it won’t be possible to have a constructive conversation with him about this.

  69. Toolate*

    I had a co-worker like this, also a manager but not mine. He was in an IT position and it was a combination of an inability to do basic parts of his job or google how to do them, thus taking 5x longer than normal to do anything, plus a tendency to take any tickets with or in proximity to younger female staff in a different building. I warned in my exit interview that his incompetence at the job would cause problems but I was entirely wrong: he was fired shortly after that for creepily downloading personal pics off another staff members phone!

  70. Roscoe da Cat*

    We had a managing director like this! His own admin had no idea what his schedule was because he refused to tell her.

    I once had to talk to him on a serious issue and starting sending him messages at 8 am and he didn’t get back to me until I was getting ready to leave the office that evening. I was much younger and thought it was irresponsible then.

  71. H3llifIknow*

    I must be a cynical ol’ gal because my first thought was immediately an affair. But, I’d still bring up the incident of missing your appointment. I’d go back and say, “I’ve really been stewing over what happened at the job site the other day” and of course he’ll be all “Huh?” “You assured me you’d be back from “the post office” (yeah use the air quotes!) in time for my appointment and you didn’t return until it was too late and left me stranded; what is GOING on with you and all the mysterious disappearances? It’s become nearly impossible to get anything done.” See what he says and PLEASE let us know because this cat is super curious!

  72. Aggretsuko*

    Oooh, I just thought of another explanation for Dave–he’s got Chrono Displacement Disorder and a la Henry DeTamble*, spontaneously disppears at work and reappears later, possibly naked, and everyone is just too awkward to call him out on it.

    * note: Time Traveler’s Wife if you don’t know to what I refer

    1. Aggretsuko*

      But seriously, does Dave ever return (a) seeming altered/high, (b) freshly showered/new clothes, (c) in NEED of a fresh shower/new clothes? Because if he comes back with any of that, that gives us indications of drugs/affair.

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