our boss gave a lecture about self-care to our very overworked team

A reader writes:

I work on a small, fully remote team that’s currently in a hiring freeze and understaffed. We are all covering multiple people’s jobs and heavily overworked. We are regularly working late and through weekends, and in the past month alone we have had three employees resign with nothing lined up because they couldn’t handle the workload.

Adding to the stress is the fact that the VP in charge of our team, Brandon, is notoriously hard to get hold of. He can take hours to respond to messages and sometimes doesn’t answer at all. Also, he is the only one authorized to sign off on the projects that our team puts out. We are often on very tight deadlines, and if Brandon does not sign off on them before our deadline, we miss the deadline and get in trouble. We regularly are only given 5-6 hours to do these projects, and it’s not uncommon to send Brandon a completed draft and not hear back for 2-3 hours, which has been hugely frustrating for all of us. That said, in the past I have generally just reminded myself that Brandon is quite busy and made sure to get my drafts in hours early, even though it puts a ton of extra strain on me and requires that I work outside of normal hours.

However, yesterday something happened that has really changed my outlook. Brandon told all of us that he’s been sensing that we’re all very stressed, and scheduled a “wellness session” in order to show us how to “build relaxation into our day.” At this session, Brandon talked at length about how important it is for him to take frequent breaks and how much they energize him. He said when he’s having trouble focusing, he’ll often turn of his phone and go out for long walks. He mentioned that sometimes when things get too stressful, he always takes time away from the screen to “decompose.”

I understand that Brandon meant well and was trying to help with this session, but frankly I just found it annoying. My coworkers and I are grinding around the clock, doing multiple people’s work, and cannot possibly be going out for long walks during the work day. And it upsets me to no end that our projects are held up for hours not because Brandon is busy, but because he might be out for walks or “decomposing.”

Do you think I’m right to feel this way, or am I being unreasonable? If the former, is there a way I could bring this frustration up with Brandon that doesn’t make me sound lazy or entitled?

First, I really hope Brandon meant that he’s decompressing, not decomposing. If he’s decomposing, you have bigger problems on your hands.

Possible bodily decay aside, there are two huge issues here: First, that Brandon is out taking walks while the rest of you are slammed with stress and then getting in trouble because of his delays. Second, even if that weren’t happening, it’s incredibly tone-deaf for him to suggest to a team that’s under this much pressure that they “build relaxation” into their days. How exactly does he see that working?

Can you go back and meet with him as a group? Tell him you want to follow up on the ideas he raised in the wellness session, because you agree that combating stress is important and you want to understand exactly what options are available to you to do that. Point out that you’re understaffed, covering multiple people’s jobs, and regularly working late and through weekends. Remind him that in the last month three people have quit because of the workload. And then spell out what that looks like on a typical day — you are on very tight deadlines, given only a few hours to do projects, and get in trouble when things are late. Then say, “Given those realities, can you help us figure out how to apply your advice about taking frequent breaks? Are you able to get us longer deadlines and ensure we’re not penalized if things take more time?”

It’s worth spelling it out for him. Maybe he’s oblivious to what your workdays are like. (Maybe he’s missing a lot when he’s on those walks.) Maybe he’s delusional about what’s happening on his team and needs the pushback. And maybe he actually could make a difference if he advocates for more room in your team’s deadlines.

From there, you could say, “We also need a better way to reconcile your own breaks with our deadlines. When we’re on tight deadlines, not hearing back from you for a few hours can mean we have to work late or that we miss the deadline completely. What can we do so we hear back from you more quickly? If you’re on a break when we urgently need your sign-off, how can we get what we need from you without a delay?”

Blunter version if the relationship allows for it: “It’s great for you that you’re able to take breaks to relax throughout the day. We can’t. We’re constantly slammed with work. If you don’t want that to be the case, can you take action to change it? Meanwhile, though, your breaks to relax are making our already stressful jobs even harder.”

None of this is lazy or entitled (and it pains me that you’re worried about seeming that way!). It’s about naming a work problem and trying to resolve it. (And if there’s a lazy or entitled person in this scenario, it’s … uh … not the people who are cramming to get all the work done while someone else is off relaxing.)

Also, when you’re getting in trouble for missing deadlines, who is that coming from? Assuming it’s not Brandon himself but someone above him, start spelling out to that person exactly what’s happening: “We would have had this in on time but we sent it to Brandon at 2:00 and didn’t hear back until 5:00, right at the deadline. That happens frequently, so is there some other way you want us to handle it when we can’t reach him?” If you’re getting penalized because of his delays, it’s reasonable to explain that’s happening and ask what to do differently. As with the mysteriously disappearing boss last week, making the problem visible to higher-ups might help solve it.

{ 321 comments… read them below }

    1. Lance*

      Honestly, just… this. Dear freaking lord, this guy’s causing severly painful bottlenecks (that the employees are taking hits for and not him, from the sound of things), and just to add a cherry on top, spelled out just the reason why he’s making a bottleneck.

      Whatever the reason for any of this, this guy’s a terrible manager.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        No, the cherry on top is that he made his overworked reports take time from their day to give him the opportunity to explain to them that they are missing deadlines because he is out taking a walk.

          1. SunriseRuby*

            If only he’d fully decompose while on a walk, so that the wind could blow his remains away, and the company would have to hire his replacement.

          2. TheraputicSarcasm*

            And zombie walks take a while since they’re limited to shuffling and lurching. Here’s hoping Brandon finds some braaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnsss.

        1. Ellie*

          Yup. How completely tone deaf is this bloke? I can see a team slammed with work, with a boss who’s equally slammed. But if he’s out taking walks when work is waiting on him, he needs to be fired.

          OP – stop covering for him. Tell everyone that the work was submitted to Brandon hours ago, and to follow up with him. In fact, cc them when you first send him the draft, so they know how long he’s taking, and how quickly they could have had the work if he was doing his job properly. And get together with the rest of your team, and stop working overtime. Let the rest of the company feel your pain. Its not like they’re going to fire you when they’re already down three people.

      2. Alice*

        I would just throw Brandon under the bus and start cc’ing his manager on emails spelling out the issue and cause of any delay (we didn’t hear back on this urgent project for several hours, Brandon was uncontactable between 1-4pm). As the phrase goes- the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Be vocal about both your untenable workload and the reason for missed deadlines. Maybe slip into emails that Brandon mentioned going for long walks during the day and you are urgently trying to contact him – and see if his manager can read between the lines.

        1. Faith the twilight slayer*

          LOL after waiting thirty minutes I would straight up email Brandon, cc his manager, and say, “hey, I know you said you like to take long walks and get away from the desk, but this is due in two hours. Can I get a signature?” Follow up, on the same thread, if you haven’t heard back in another hour, “Still out on that walk?”, and AGAIN 15 minutes before the project is due.

          But I’m at the crossroads of DGAF and The Organization Revolves Around Meeting My Deadlines.

          1. Ellie*

            Nah, the one time you do that, it’ll turn out that Brandon dropped a laptop on his foot and is in the hospital. Sods law and all that.

            If he’s dumb enough to tell his overworked team he likes to take walks during the workday, you won’t have to out him. It’ll come out. Just cc his manager, ‘I need a signature on this Brandon, it is due at 5’, then a reminder at 4pm, then another one at 5pm, then again at 5:30pm, ‘Brenda really needs this, and I can’t knock off until this is done. Can you please sign this ASAP? I’ve worked late every day this week, I need to leave at 6pm today’.

            If anyone gives you a hard time about it, cc them in as well. Spread the pain. Eventually, they’ll learn to just follow up with Brandon.

            1. Miette*

              Honestly, this. Since OP didn’t specify how they get into trouble when deadlines are missed, but I’d cc the stakeholders as well. This shouldn’t be coming down on your team.

            2. JustaTech*

              Yes to Sod’s law.
              I have a coworker who was leading a cross-functional, multi-site meeting for months (often with a vendor on another continent) who was *always* late for the meetings, and as the meeting organizer we couldn’t actually start the meeting until he arrived (yay WebEx).
              I finally got fed up and complained (privately) to my boss’ boss (with my boss’ knowledge) and wouldn’t you know that this was the time when Mr Late was in a fender-bender? So not only do I get to feel like an ass, but nothing was done to resolve the problem.

          1. Anonymouse*

            Draft Brandon’s resignation letter.
            Submit it to him for his signature.
            Bury it in a bunch of other paperwork sent to him.

        2. Bob Wilson, Anchorman*

          Yep, this is the answer (although it might not change anything…)

          I’ve got a Brandon-type manager at the moment, with the added insult-to-injury that he keeps all the interesting work for himself and passes the stuff he doesn’t want to do to the rest of the team. Working under him is absolutely killing my passion and enthusiasm for my work, and he’s a very absent to boot so I’ve started bcc’ing our director into emails where I outline why I haven’t finished things where I’m still waiting for input from Brandonesque. I’m not covering for him any more- he gets paid more than double what anyone else in the team earns, let him earn it!

        3. M*

          You can also do it with a *lot* more plausible deniability than this. It sounds like part of the problem is that you’re also *getting* projects at very short notice (so you can’t just work to get to a point where you’re a few days ahead and Brandon’s absences don’t matter as much). Given that, you’ve got a built-in excuse for a bus-throwing email sequence:

          [new project comes in] “Hi Stakeholder! I’m starting on this and will have it to Brandon for signoff by [time]. Brandon, since this is urgent, cc-ing you in here so you know when to expect it.”

          [project ready for signoff, send as reply to initial message] “Hi Brandon! I’m attaching [project] for signoff. Stakeholder needs it by [time], I’m cc-ing them in here so it can go straight to them!”

          [two hours before deadline] “Hi Brandon. Just following up – Stakeholder needs it by [time], so if there are any edits I need to make, I need to know ASAP. Would it be useful to do a call to go through it?”

          [an hour before deadline] “Hi Stakeholder – I just called Brandon about [project], but he’s not picking up. Just a heads-up that I can’t finalise [project] until Brandon signs off on it, so will keep you in the loop when I hear back from him.”
          [forward to Brandon’s manager, so they have the whole email chain] “Hi Brandon’s Manager – Stakeholder needs this urgent project completed by [time], and I haven’t heard from Brandon since [time]. It’s ready to go with his signoff, do you know whether he’ll be available before [time]?”

          [at deadline] “Hi Stakeholder – I still can’t get a hold of Brandon to sign off on this, and unfortunately can’t stay late today. I’ve kept him cc-ed in here, so hopefully he’s able to sign off on this directly for you. If not, I’ll keep chasing this on my end first thing in the morning.”

          Repeat, on every single project. If all it achieves is that Brandon sends finalised projects along to stakeholders when he approves them right at the deadline, then at least *you* don’t need to stick around for the deadlines any more. After a few of these cycles, you can probably even just ask him if he’d find it less stressful to send finished projects on to stakeholders himself!

          1. AcademiaCat*

            Oooh, yes this. It might not always have to be stakeholder, it could also be Brandon’s boss, or whoever it goes to once Brandon has approved it. Just broadcast where the holdup is. Then sit back and watch the fallout.

      3. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, it’s one thing when your manager is a bottleneck because she is also overworked and stretched too thin. That gets frustrating over time and can be unsustainable, but it’s possible to still have respect and empathy for that kind of manager.

        This guy? Nope.

    2. The Original K.*

      Yeah, this looks like a “this situation sucks and isn’t going to change, time to cut our losses” situation.

      1. ferrina*

        Yup. A boss that is this oblivious isn’t going to suddenly change. Cut back some of your overtime so you can devote that time to job applications (and if things start falling through the cracks, well, that’s what happens when projects are understaffed)

        1. Ellie*

          He might get moved or fired though. I’ve outlasted many incompetent managers.

          I agree though, its time to start looking at options.

    3. C-Dub*

      I agree with you. In fact, I did the same exact thing this past January, when I quit without notice without another job lined up. I will save you the story but escaping from that job was the best decision I made.

      For what it’s worth, Brandon sucks and should not be managing. Period.

      1. London Calling*

        Pre-pandemic and up until early 2021 I had a manager like this. Didn’t read emails, didn’t regard the work of some of the department as a priority so deadlines were missed and work had to be done again, and did I mention the nasty habit he had of telling very senior management that subordinates were at fault for stuff not done because he hadn’t read his emails and passed documentation on?

        I’m sure he really couldn’t understand why by the middle of 2021 two thirds of his department (good, experienced staff, of whom I was one) had left with no jobs to go to. Good decision on my part. I’ve often wondered how he explained that turnover to the CEO.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Seriously. There would have been another resignation if I was one of that team listening to his long walk and chill lecture while frantically finishing a project he’s holding up.

  1. HIlls to Die on*

    Oooh, I dislike Brandon so much. Someone needs to have a very serious sit down with him and please give us an update!

  2. Nea*

    First, I really hope Brandon meant that he’s decompressing, not decomposing.

    Or there’s a surprise crossover of Ask A Manager and Ask a Mortician.

    1. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

      Yes, that was quite a Freudian slip! But it sounds as if he’s a zombie manager anyway, so perhaps it was just a statement of fact…

      It also sounds as if this is an excellent place to leave, because I doubt that this incredibly oblivious, selfish manager would respond appropriately to any of the suggested scenarios outlined by Alison. If he were at all concerned for his staff, he wouldn’t be flaunting his own perks and privilege while blithely ignoring the fact that his own behavior is making his subordinates toil like galley slaves.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I don’t think it was so much a Freudian slip as evidence that Brandon isn’t the smartest zombie in the swarm.

        1. That_guy*

          I thought the name for a group of zombies is always “horde.” Like a murder of crows, and an ostentation of peacocks.

    2. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      Honestly, I’d love to see Alison interview Caitlin about her job! Because not only is Caitlin running a small business that’s intrinsically tied to a very emotional thing (i.e. death), but she also runs a business. I’d love to hear about how she balances her humanity and wanting to provide the very best for the deceased and their families and managing a functional business. Add in the fact that Caitlin has a second job as an influencer/advocate and I’d bet that there’s a lot she could tell us about running multiple businesses. Especially as a female in a male-dominated business that’s had several run-ins with people who would rather she be quiet.

    3. AD*

      Unlike Alison, I actually hope that Brandon is, in fact, decomposing if he is this tactless of a manager!

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      If he is actually decomposing, use him as compost so he can finally do something useful.

      1. JustaTech*

        She’s brilliant! Three books and a really interesting and thoughtful (and sometimes very funny) YouTube.

    5. Phryne*

      English is not my first language and I read the ‘decomposing’ in the letter several times wondering if I was reading what I was reading and if that word has several meanings or if I just never knew the right word at al…
      And then I read Allisons reply and went ‘whew, its not me’. lol

      1. whingedrinking*

        English *is* my first language and I went back and forth on that a couple times. “Is this some kind of buzz term I’ve never heard before? Is it like how sometimes you have to compose yourself before you go back to work, so ‘decomposing’ would be giving yourself time to feel your feelings?”
        Then I realized I was probably giving this guy too much credit and he just used the wrong word.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          And English is my first language and part of my job hinges on reading carefully and I totally read decompressing and was thinking Alison was weird for nitpicking a mistake that she had in fact corrected!

  3. Ozzie*

    A hiring freeze + multiple people leaving… what do they expect to do when everyone has left? Time to go on a long afternoon walk and just.. not come back?

    Jokes aside, I would absolutely put this back on him. First directly, then definitely to the people penalizing you for being late. Tone-deaf managers making grandiose statements about how they combat burnout… augh. Add that to my list of management pet peeves.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the people who left with nothing lined up may have had the right idea, in terms of “Stay and hope management fixes all the problems, or leave so I can have time to job hunt?”

      1. Ozzie*

        Oh yeah, I’m surprised the entire department hasn’t vacated yet by this account. Wouldn’t blame them at all.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        No, you “quiet quit” and spend all day at work job-hunting, then you join Brandon on his walk once the deadline starts looming, as per his own advice. Much less stressful that way. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? get fired and be entitled to unemployment while you jobsearch?

  4. Delta Delta*

    “We haven’t heard back from Brandon. Maybe he was on one of his long walks?” *attaches email*

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Wait, Brandon is a manager? I was thinking that he was the CEO or owner. This is ridiculous that he needs this much emotional handholding. Or rather, that he GETS this much hand holding. Let his is sandcastle melt from under him.

  5. sofar*

    If they’re understaffed, how likely is it that you’d get fired over a missed deadline? I’d be super tempted to take a long walk and then, when a deadline is missed, say you were taking Brandon’s advice.

    Also, what is it with companies offering weird workshops?? It’s another thing you have to make time for. Our company scheduled a “Work-Life Balance” workshop during our busiest week (I work in ecommerce, and it’s scheduled the Friday before Black Friday) when we’re already working around the clock. I’m tempted to attend, camera on, in my pjs with dark eye circles and crazy-raccoon hair.

    1. Nonym*

      It’s so common. IME, the more a company overworks you, the more emails and workshops about mental well being, relaxation, and work-life balance you can expect. It’s not enough that they are understaffed and want to put the pressure on you, squeezing you like a lemon (to be discarded when dry); they also want to pretend they aren’t working you to the bone and the stress you feel is your fault. After all only you took their advice, you could be happy and relaxed despite the unsustainable work conditions they force on you. There is no systemic problem: each individual employee is just failing to exercise proper self-care. Therefore no change is needed on the organization’s part and certainly no change that would involve an expense or a reduction in profit.

      1. ferrina*

        Oof, this sounds like my boss who told me that I was “inefficient and bad at prioritizing” rather than actually fixing my workload (fwiw, I was the single most productive person on the team, handled all the major accounts, and was the person that she would dump all of the problem projects onto).

        My org does do some of that, but they are also trying to improve processes and training so people are actually able to work less. That seems to be the most effective way to promote well-being (which actually seems to make people more willing to do the overtime when it’s actually needed….it’s so surprising when respecting people makes them respect you /s )

      2. Aline*

        I got serious flashbacks to my time in law from this, Nonym. That was exactly the dynamic and until now I didn’t realise much suppressed rage I still had over it

      3. WhenIsRetirement*

        This is my company’s business model (anyone ever hear of the founders mentality or scaling up?) Even the so-called wellness program is staffed by executives who are called upon to give presentations.

      4. anon in affordable housing*

        I am self-employed, but the management of my apartment building does this.

        Fires and floods in the building, tenants operating “trap houses” out of their apartments, constant odor of tobacco/cannabis in a “smoke free” building, two police shootings, about two dozen other tenants passing away (including a tenant unliving himself after a massive rent raise when they found out he lost his job), multiple COVID outbreaks among the staff and tenants, intermittent loss of hot water, unreliable fire alarms, constant stream of intruders trying to gain access to the building so they can steal packages, buy drugs, and use them in the fire stairwells, and what does management do?

        They send us flyers admonishing us to “learn to love ourselves,” “meditate,” and “take time for self care” so we can deal better with stress.

        Because that’s so much easier than actually managing the building properly. Or even wearing masks during a COVID surge.

      5. JustaTech*

        My company did a series of presentations called “Manage me at my best” about addressing exhaustion/ sleep depravation after a staff member at one of our sites died in a car crash driving home after working the night shift. (The presentations were only rolled out to that one site, I happened to find them when looking for something else.) It was full of useless things like “take the bus!” – in a city with terrible mass transit that flat out doesn’t cover our location *or* run at the end of this shift.
        This was also about the same time that site started charging a quarter for the coffee, where previously it had been free (because management thought people were stealing the K-cups).
        I don’t care if people are stealing the K-cups, you ruddy well don’t charge people on the night shift for coffee!

    2. snarkfox*

      Okay so granted, I have never worked “off the clock” in my life and I don’t do unpaid work, so maybe I’m missing something.

      But what happens if everybody works 9 to 5 with an hour for lunch (or whatever the expected hours are) and then… they leave. What doesn’t get done doesn’t get done. In so many of these letters, that seems to be the only solution that will make management “wake up” and either hire new people or lower their expectations of their remaining staff.

      I probably live in a fantasy world, but I mean… if you’re on a hiring freeze, you’re probably not going to get fired!

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yeah Brandon, I took your advice and I’m no longer working crazy or extra hours. If work doesn’t get done, it doesn’t get done. My stress is now your stress, and I feel so much better!

      2. Beth*

        In a lot of situations, I would suggest caution about testing management like that…but in this case? OP and their colleagues are getting in trouble for delays and missed deadlines no matter what they do. And given the level of understaffed-ness, they’re probably not going to be fired no matter what they do. In that situation, they might as well miss deadlines more intentionally and at least get the benefits of work-life balance!

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

          The alternative seems to be to quit with nothing else lined up. At least if they get fired for “only” working 40 hours, they can collect some unemployment while they job search.

        2. Ellie*

          I’d do an extra half-hour a day, just to protect myself from criticism (or work through lunch), and ruthlessly prioritise my tasks. But this is the way… unless OP works in a hospital where people will die, you need to miss a few deadlines in order to wake people up.

          I do wonder though how much extra work would be required if Brandon was pulling his weight. It sounds like time spent chasing him is at least partially responsible for the overtime.

      3. Linda*

        I hope the OP takes inspiration from one of today’s earlier letters and just insists that working more than 40 hours a week makes them uncomfortable and that their previous boss supported them better

      4. Blinkey*

        A lot of times it’s because the consequences of the work not being done are too severe. If I clock out exactly on time, as someone who works largely on long term projects where I can adjust my workflow, then nothing really happens- maybe i’ll have to focus more tomorrow, but the work will get done. For my husband, if he doesn’t finish his work before he leaves, regardless of the amount of time that will take, it means the show he works on doesn’t go on. If the show doesn’t go on, there is no money. If there is no money, there is no job. So he stays late. If his cousin, a doctor, clocks out exactly when he expects regardless of the work that still needs to be done, then people actually do die.

        It’s not that you live in a fantasy world, anymore than I do, it’s that our jobs are ones where the consequences of staying late are less severe than the consequences of not staying late. The math doesn’t work the same way for every person in every position.

        1. MM*

          There is a key difference between quiet quitting and what snarkfox suggested, which is “work to rule.” The difference is that “quiet quitting” is something individuals are reputedly deciding to do independently, albeit no doubt influenced by hearing from others. Work to rule is an organized labor tactic. Snarkfox suggested that EVERYONE start throttling back at the same time, which would require coordination, i.e. work to rule.

          I highly approve of this suggestion! (Assuming the nature of the work is such that it makes sense, i.e. not an emergency room.) But I think it’s important to recognize that one of the reasons QQ is evil genius PR is that–in addition to framing “just doing your job” as a negative (“quitting”)–to the extent that workers reading/hearing about it instead get inspired, they get inspired in individual rather than collective directions.

      5. Angela Zeigler*

        Sometimes you have to let a ship take on water for the Captain to realize there’s a problem.

    3. Sherm*

      I do wonder about these deadlines. Why isn’t Brandon getting in trouble over them? Regardless, these deadlines don’t sound especially critical, so maybe just let them be missed? If someone sends you a peeved email about it, be sure to forward to Brandon and loop him in!

      Because work-life balance is “trending” in society, I think companies and managers are giving the concept lip service without doing anything really meaningful about it. At my company (which sounds a lot like OP’s) we are told “free monthly yoga class!” and “don’t have so many meetings!” But a free monthly yoga class isn’t going to make the bone-crushing workloads go away, and no one is organizing a meeting just for fun.

      1. Beth*

        I’m betting Brandon isn’t telling his higher-ups that the missed deadlines are happening because he’s out on long walks. He sounds like the type to pass the buck on to anyone but himself.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I also doubt overloaded people are going to take an hour off to do yoga.

        I used to offer lunchtime crafting classes and we gave up on that once people were too overloaded to leave work for an hour during lunch.

      3. Me (I think)*

        Brandon blames his slacker employees for the missed deadlines. He’s really good at managing up, is my guess.

        1. Ellie*

          Or he doesn’t have to – if everyone knows the team is overworked, and there’s a hiring freeze, it might be that no-one’s actually asked him. They’ve just assumed the team is overworked and not looked into it.

    4. Bee A. Butterfly*

      I agree with this, and in general following Brandon’s advice on taking time away to manage stress, assuming that the “trouble” they get into does not have Brandon’s name on it, that nobody dies if a deadline is missed, and that Brandon and not upper management is responsible for their performance reviews. It might be best for everyone concerned…including the organization.

      It may even be what Brandon wants. I don’t necessarily believe the scenario I’m about to present, but it’s just barely possible that this is precisely what he wants them to do, in order to help him make the case to management that the hiring freeze needs to stop. It can be hard to convince the C-suite that you need more people if the people you have are getting the work done.

        1. Ellie*

          Also, he would have mentioned it at the wellness meeting – ‘stop working yourselves to death and start leaving at 5, this hiring freeze will never end if you people keep covering’.

    5. Anonymous for this*

      Our university just declared a wellness day, all classes cancelled, with workshops, events, and the like. In response to three recent student deaths.

      Which I am totally in support of. But if you are not a student or a faculty member, you are still working that day. Staff and non-faculty professionals in our division have been told, do not cancel any of your usual services.

      Staff and non-faculty professionals in our division have been taking on additional work as colleagues leave for better jobs, remote work… we could use a wellness day too.

        1. My Cabbages!*

          A whole extra day to grade and plan lectures! Definitely a wellness day for me…especially since I can’t take days off even if I am bursting into exhausted tears after class, because if I don’t teach class the class don’t get taught.

      1. sam_i_am*

        The way universities treat staff (as if we don’t exist most of the time) is frankly awful sometimes! Luckily, my university has been giving staff additional days off, but so many times, students and faculty will get some sort of benefit and staff will be completely ignored.

        1. Gracely*

          Thing is, I understand why students don’t see a difference, but SO MANY faculty are completely oblivious to everything the staff does. Even faculty who try to be cognizant of it can be oblivious, because on campuses where staff are treated like second-class employees, things get siloed. My spouse had no idea that staff didn’t just get the winter break off when campus closed–staff has to use vacation days to cover anything not covered by shifted holidays (like Veteran’s day and Columbus day would be “used” on December 24 and Dec. 31), which can be a whole week’s worth of vacation!

          I worked at one university where at least from an everyday treatment/benefits/days off-level you couldn’t tell the difference between who was faculty and who was staff (though there were definitely differences in pay/work flexibility). One thing that helps is when the university’s HR simply calls everyone employees, regardless of status. They didn’t have a faculty email list, they had an employee email list. It made a HUGE difference in keeping everyone in the loop, and making everyone feel invested in the work. And if they closed campus, no one had to use vacation to cover the closure. It is amazing what small things like that can do for staff morale. That university had its problems, but employee satisfaction wasn’t one of them.

          I cannot say the same for the university I’m currently employed at, alas.

      2. I'm Anon Too*

        And if this is the same place I’m at, you’re encouraged to do your work, but also take time for wellness, and oh yeah, we encourage managers to encourage employees to attend this event. This is one of my WFH days, so that’s definitely not happening. Give me 100% WFH, that’s good for my wellness.

      3. super anon*

        Same same. Faculty hide, staff take the hit points, students are carefully managed to optimize their experience as they are the little cash cows the must keep giving milk.

    6. Artemesia*

      It is classic for management to be out of the loop. When I worked in higher ed, it was not unusual to have complicated reports suddenly imposed just as the semester was wrapping up and faculty had semester projects to grade, finals to give and grade, final grades to calculate and get in — and then that would be the time a sudden request for complex forms or data or even full length reports to be created and submitted or for ridiculous workshops to be scheduled. It is like have professional development workshops the last week of March for Accountants.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      You should spend the entire time on one foot shrieking “AM I DOING RIGHT? HOW ABOUT NOW???”

    8. MentalEngineer*

      It takes less time to organize a union in your workplace than it would take to do all the self-care things your boss wants you to do instead of organizing a union. It’s not *easy* by any means, but it’s a much better use of your time.

  6. Triple Toe*

    Wouldn’t life be great if all bad managers started decomposing?! And my sympathies LW – this stuff is so crazy making!

  7. HannahS*


    Yeah. I relate. I think being straightforward with your boss about what he’s said is valuable; framing it as, ‘Yes, we too would like to engage in wellness but here are some barriers we’re facing in response to that, so how do we solve that?” Sometimes people really are clueless and talking about it can help.

    Other than that…if things change, they’ll be changing slowly. Do with that what you will, but I suggest dusting off your CV.

  8. Do As I Say Not As I Do*

    Stop caring as much. Start taking 2 hours lunch and walks and let everyone know it is for mental as instructed by your VP, and as done by your VP. Let the problem fall on his lap. He is showing you that he does not care about work or the job, and yet all his employees care.
    You could also all collectively (and or anonymously) write a note explaining this to his boss.

    1. King Friday XIII*

      “I missed the deadline because Brandon told me to go for a three hour walk” does have a lovely ring to it, but not as good as “I missed the deadline because Brandon was on a three hour walk.”

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Yup. I’m not a “don’t care about your work” person, but I am definitely a “don’t care about your work more than your boss cares about his” person.

      1. EPLawyer*


        Why on earth are you guys killing yourselfs for a company that is this dysfunctional? Hiring freezes amid multiple resignations? A VICE PRESIDENT no less who is all “oh my children, just go take a walk, I do when I can’t handle the stress of actually WORKING AT MY JOB.”

        Seriously work to Rule. Your boss wants you to exercise self-care, do so. Including not working late nights and weekends. If something doesn’t get done, you put it back on them. There are X hours in the work day, what should I prioritize?

        1. Ann Ominous*

          “Oh my children” indeed. I am still laughing at your comment. You summed his tone dead attitude up perfectly.

          1. Ann Ominous*

            Ha! Tone deaf* not dead*. Though maybe if he is decomposing, ‘tone dead’ is more accurate.

              1. Sharpie*

                Actually, that explains the three hour long walks. He only means to be out for ten minutes but then his a falls off because, y’know, decomposing!! So then he’s got to find someone who can reattach it and next thing you know it’s three hours later…

                1. linger*

                  I’d assumed a … different completion, which would slow Brandon’s walk even more directly, and also explain why he’s half-assing his job…

        2. ferrina*

          I had that boss! Platitudes popped out of him like daisies! It was hilarious when I didn’t need anything from him….though I felt bad for our vendors, since he was in charge of accounts payable.
          Once I had to work with him more closely, I found it was much easier for everyone if I just did his job for him. Things got done on time, and everyone was much happier. Plus it made for some great accomplishments when I left nine months later.

        3. Esmeralda*

          Seriously. Are they really going to fire people over missed deadlines?

          I guess they might. Because there’s no guarantee that they’ll see that “getting rid of the employees who are still here” = projects are even less likely to be completed ontime/at all.

      2. kiki*

        Yes! I think something has gotten tremendously warped in a lot of work cultures where company leadership will cut employees and resources and expect the remaining team to simply increase their output by some absolutely unreasonable percentage indefinitely for no additional pay or benefits. It’s especially galling in cases like this where leadership isn’t picking up any slack.

        1. Miette*

          Exactly, These are not the kinds of organizations that pay any kind of attention to analyzing the time or number of people it takes to do the work. If it was, they’d have replaced some of the missing staff.

          OP, if you are determined to stay and do wind up having this conversation with Brandon, see if another person can at least approve the work besides him. Clear up the bottleneck by severing it… it can decompose nicely and fertilize some flowers on its own time…

  9. Falling Diphthong*

    He always takes time away from the screen to “decompose.”

    This begs to be the first short story in a collection of AAM cozy mysteries.

    (Also, I assumed per 2022 that Brandon was secretly working two jobs. But decomposing is also good.)

    1. Afac*

      His second job is to turn organic matter back to inorganic matter.

      By day, he’s a tone-deaf manager overseeing overworked employees.

      By night: Microbe Man!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The key to these superhero cover stories is that you can’t drag them on through the seasons. On Chuck, for example, they came up with a “Chuck is out on a call that needed Chuck’s expertise” cover for work.

        Otherwise people connect your mysterious absences to the helicopter on the roof.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          People connect the sound of feet walking away and cell phone on his desk…
          Someone SHOULD HAVE connected this!

          PS: loved Chuck

    2. MEH Squared*

      Well it IS NaNoWriMo….

      Alison, kudos to you for the ‘decompose’ line. It made me laugh out loud while I was fuming on behalf of the letter writer. Maybe Brandon will ‘leaf’ after completely decomposing. We can but hope.

  10. Avril Ludgateaux*

    I strive to the level of oblivious, self-assured audacity of the Brandons of the world.

    1. PreggoAmoeba*

      Right! I’m amazed that he had the audacity to tell his underworked direct reports about the long walks he takes to destress when they are clearly understaffed and getting hammered for missing deadlines, BECAUSE OF HIM

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      As do I. I am a middle class white hetero cis male, and still I cannot imaging achieving such a height.

    3. Jackie Jormpjomp*

      At least once a week I apply the adage, “Go forth with the audacity of a mediocre white male.” Try it! It’s incredibly freeing.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        The quote by Shawn from The Good Place echoes through my ears frequently: “I took the form of a 45-year-old white man for a reason. I can only fail up.”

  11. H.Regalis*

    The word misuse is making me laugh. Picturing a zombie in a blue suit taking a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood.

    1. Radski*

      I’m literally giggling in my cube at this comment, and my coworkers think I’m having a mental break over here lol

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      It’s oddly fitting, though. Both Brandon and his “self care” advice have the strong smell of fertilizer about them.

  12. Just Another Zebra*

    OP, I would start CC’ing whoever Brandon’s manager is on everything you send for his sign-off. If not his manager, then whomever it is that is becoming angry when deadlines are missed. Make it visible that the bottleneck is with one person.

    I’d love to suggest speaking with Brandon, either alone or as a group, but I don’t think it will do much good. Someone who knows his team is overworked and understaffed and bleeding people telling them to essentially Hakuna Matata their way through their work is so tone deaf and obtuse.

    And I know how daunting it can feel, but look at brushing up your own resume and making an exit strategy isn’t a bad plan.

    1. jm*

      my thoughts as well. this nonsense screams for documentation. if you’re not already, LW, lay out the evidence that your team is doing their part and that the ball was dropped in brandon’s court.

    2. Sloanicota*

      My guess, it’s the clients who are angry with the missed deadlines, because an internal customer would present a more obvious solution. Ideally, if nothing else, OP can get her team the ability to release product without Brandon’s sign-off after two hours, or include an alternate sign-off person, or whatever, as in the letter last week.

    3. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

      I came here to suggest this as well. We have a similar issue at my work, with someone who’s supposed to be signing off on things being unavailable when teleworking. I have taken to CC’ing her boss on my communications, so that when (not if) deadlines are missed, the boss knows where to register her complaint.

      The work rumor mill avers that said person is now on a PIP and has had her teleworking privileges revoked, but she works in another office from me, so I can’t actually verify the teleworking part.

  13. Don*

    I think you should take his advice at face value and prioritize self-care. Stop working late/extreme hours, stop stressing missing deadlines that are Brandon’s fault, and let the company’s poor hiring choices be their problem, not yours.

    I also think those other three people had the right idea, but why leave with nothing else lined up and no opportunity for unemployment? Quit killing yourself for people who don’t value you. If they respond to your setting some sensible boundaries by firing you then they’re doing you a favor.

    I get this isn’t doable for a lot of people; I know I’ve stayed at miserable jobs because I had no choice and couldn’t risk getting canned. But if you can? This will communicate the situation better than you’re ever going to be able to pound into Brandon’s head with words.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Brandon explicitly said to take breaks and go on walks like he does. You’d just be doing what he said…

    2. Esmeralda*

      Right. Take that evening and weekend time you are currently using to grind yourself down with work, and use some of it to look for a new job.

    3. hbc*

      100% agreed. I’m all for working extra when the situation warrants it, but it’s no longer “extra” when it’s normal. Set a limit of one day a week working late, or one project a month that deserves the overdrive, and then stick to it. If it’s really critical to the company’s survival that this work gets done, I guarantee that there’s somewhere else they could trim to loosen the hiring freeze.

  14. Holly*

    When I’ve had roadblock bosses in the past, if boss Fred needs to sign off something, I email him the final version, saying I look forward to receiving his sign-off before the deadline of *time*.
    And state that if Fred wants any updates to this document, our team needs to know before *time* minus 2hrs/2days as appropriate.
    And cc Fred’s boss.

    Then Fred’s boss knows I comfortably met the deadline, and the ball is in Fred’s court.

    Doesn’t always work, admittedly.
    I also used to loudly say if I won the lottery, I would send all of senior management on a time management course…

    1. Hills to Die on*

      But it does work sometimes? Does Fred ever get mad at you for doing this, or does he ever get in trouble for missing deadlines? I know so many managers who would tell me to stop and that I am not allowed to cc their boss.

      1. Ness*

        Yeah, I’m curious about that too.

        When I first started at my job, the deputy division chief had made a rule that staff members couldn’t email anyone more than one level above them. I once got scolded for directly answering a question the division chief asked me. Apparently, I should have responded only to my supervisor, who would pass the answer on to the deputy, who would pass it on to the division chief.

        The division got a lot more functional after the deputy left and was not replaced.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        In my experience, looping in someone’s boss purely for CYA purposes is seen as an agressive move, but no one could outright complain, because that would make it obvious they have something to hide. In any place I’ve worked, trying to forbid it wouldn’t have flown.

        It works more smoothly if there is some other reason, or at least pretense, for looping in grandboss. That’s only possible if one does have natural regular contact with grandboss anyway, though. For example, my grandboss may bump into me in the hall and ask about [aspect of project], which would give me the standing to write an email like “Hi Boss, here is the finished report to sign, client deadline is xx. @Grandboss, further to our conversation, details are on page 7 of the report.” (I’d phrase it better/more politely IRL probably, but that’s the gist).

        In very hierarchical organisations, where there is little natural contact with jumplevel managers, it all becomes much trickier.

      3. Holly*

        Best case – Fred gets embarrassed, his boss is more aware, and things run a bit smoother.
        Worst case – nothing improves, but I’ve got a CYA papertrail, which is a least therapeutic.

  15. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    Personally, I would start doing exactly what Brandon does. Stressed? Get up and take a nice long walk. Oh, we didn’t meet that deadline? Not my problem. I’m decomposing, like my manager instructed me to.

    LW, you need a perspective shift badly. Some “quiet quitting” (I loathe that term, but love the concept) is in order here. Work your core hours, do what you can, and if someone attempts to blame you for a failure to deliver, throw Brandon under the bus where he belongs. At the end of the day, log out and spend the energy you would have spent working late and worrying on tweaking your resume and browsing job openings online. Best of luck.

    1. Nonym*

      I agree. I’ve heard it called “acting your wage”, which I believe is a better term and emphasize the fairness of the deal. You get what you pay for.

      OP needs to act her wage and her level of responsibility and authority. She is one person, paid for a certain amount of hours. She can’t run herself to the ground working as if she were 2 employees and doing constant uncompensated overtime as a results of choices she has no control over. She can’t care more about deadlines than the people above her, who actually have the power to respect them. She needs to do her hours and do them well and accept to let the project fail if the company choose to pay X people when the work requires 2X or if Brandon is on a walk when his signoff is required (I would however give him a long heads-up of when she expects to require it, so he can plan his walk accordingly).

      I know it’s hard and stressful. I wish OP the best of luck and I hope she can find a better position soon or that things improve.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yes, would be great if you and your whole team would start working reasonable hours and refusing to do a bunch of OT (which I’m assuming you’re not being paid for) because your organization is ridiculous. Things have been mostly working because you and your team have been moving heaven and earth to keep things going. Your conscientiousness has meant that they don’t have to deal with the legit problems.

      Ideally, you and your colleagues will push back together on this so that nobody is taking the brunt of Brandon’s reaction to you no longer working yourselves to death.

    3. FrivYeti*

      The phrase that I’ve seen used instead of “quiet quitting” is “acting your wage”.

      I like it a lot more. It’s nicely evocative of where the problem usually lies.

    4. penny dreadful analyzer*

      If everyone on the team does the quiet quitting together until their demands are met, it becomes a work-to-rule strike!

      (This does not contradict Alison’s advice – you have to make the demands clearly in order for them to be met – but it might be something to think about if talking to Brandon does not yield results immediately. I am aware that organizing any kind of strike is much, much harder than posting about it online, but this situation sounds dire and it is a thing you can do.)

  16. Russian In Texas*

    I had a clueless director like that before! It was a department meeting, at which she announced that raises and bonuses were frozen until further notice (it was a bad year for the industry, but we weren’t high paid peons already), and in the next sentence, she talked about that company should really differentiate itself by providing especially excellent customer service, for example, she always buys Lexus because of their dealer service. She could have easily buy a Mercedes Benz or an Audi, but she picks Lexus.
    This was…not great.

    1. Joanna*

      One time, my grandboss came to our office to give us a presentation. Instead of opening the presentation and leaving it on the title slide until the meeting started, he just displayed his desktop with a picture of his beautiful, and expensive, sailboat waiting for someone to ask about it so he could brag. I have to admit, it was much nicer than my 10 year old Honda. Can’t say I was too upset when he left the company.

      There are so many clueless people out there. Makes me think fondly of the phrase, “Smack him with a clue-by 4.”

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Reminds me of the time when a giant number of people had to sit through a slide show of the second in command’s holiday snaps in Europe, while most of us had to work overloaded throughout the summer. They sent an anonymous (note: actual anonymous or else I would have said nothing) survey afterwards and I wrote down how insensitive that was.

        Dude has since retired and then we had covid, so who knows if that had any effect.

    2. SuperDoctorAstronaut*

      Ooof. I live in the northeast and used to work at a very small company with maybe 30 people in the office. Maybe 10 years ago, after a particularly bad snow storm where a lot of people had just opted to work from home, the CFO sent out an email stating that this was unacceptable. Everyone needed to be in the office. Shoveling out your car in the morning shouldn’t be an excuse to be late, either. In fact, it would just be smarter if everyone parked in their garages at night.
      … I lived in a 500sq ft. third floor walk up with street parking. It did not go over well.

      1. hbc*


        Did he think people had garages that had room for cars but just parked them outside for, like, efficiency of getting out on non-snowy days? And don’t most garages connect to things called driveways that also need to be shoveled or snowblown?

    3. Beach Day*

      I once had a manager disappear on me during a work emergency. The next day, during an all-staff meeting to discuss how to address emergencies like this one when they come up, the manager told us of the deep reflection he had done about our role in the organization while he strolled along a nearby beach… during the prior day’s work emergency. While everyone else was busting their asses! I quit that job not long afterward, but I will never forget watching my coworkers’ jaws hit the floor as he detailed his lovely stroll along the boardwalk…

      1. Properlike*

        I was on a small staff that had already spent 18 hours in the office trying to get a project out the door and was looking at an all-nighter at the office. The president had divvied up the work himself among the teams, assigning a critical fifth of the work to himself before he left for the night to work at home.

        He returned in the morning to tell us that he hadn’t done his part of the project, because he’d been SO tired and decided to sleep instead, but now he felt better.

        He says this to seven people who have not slept in thirty hours, busting their asses to get their work done. And now we have to do the work he didn’t do. It’s a good thing I was too exhausted to strangle him.

  17. Newsletter Subscriber and T-shirt Wearer*

    The most insidious thing about this dynamic is how long it can go on. The subordinates care deeply and know they are in the “right,” which provides fuel to persist. Then comes, “maybe this is the thing that’s going to make Brandon finally see the light!” a few hundred times. Then, sunk cost fallacy starts to slip in.

    And all the while, Brandon just keeps on Brandoning — or maybe, if you’re lucky, moves on to another environment where everyone who will report to him is in that first stage.

  18. Tesuji*

    Continuing my quest to make “quiet hiring” a thing…

    We really need a term for those situations where your company doesn’t want to hire more people, so they just give you a second job on top of your usual one, without bothering to ask or pay you for it.

    1. Pokemon Ranger Northstar*

      At one of my old jobs, we used to call that “enhancement”. “Your position is being enhanced.” My sincerest sympathies to the letter writer, and I hope you find a way out, because I’m sure the tone-deafness doesn’t end with Brandon…

    2. Petty Betty*

      You mean “other duties as assigned”? Because that’s usually what happens in bad work environs. “Other duties as assigned” is a catch-all to mean anything and everything up to and including “your former coworker’s old job duties because we’re too cheap to hire a replacement”.

      1. Zap R.*

        “Other duties as assigned” tends to be code for “things the men in the office don’t feel like doing.”

  19. Weary cigarette drag*

    I’ve worked for this guy. He knows you’re all overworked, he just doesn’t care. It’s not his problem. To his own bosses, he blames the missed deadlines and turnover on all of you. He’s probably also talking out of the other side of his mouth about how much he saves the company in labor costs with his “lean” staffing. He doesn’t really think or believe that long walks and breaks will help any of you. It’s just the thought that flits through his head at the time he says it. After all, he certainly enjoys his breaks.

    The best strategy is to spend every minute you can job searching.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      “He’s probably also talking out of the other side of his mouth about how much he saves the company in labor costs with his “lean” staffing.”

      OMG this! He should be posting openings and interviewing replacements for the 3 people that left, and then overseeing the training for the replacements, not frolicking through the woods, singing in harmony with the woodland critters, or whatever the hell he says he’s doing.

  20. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I was expecting something like “Brandon kept us in a 3-hour meeting on how to avoid work stress, and we then had to work past midnight to make up for that time”, but Brandon exceeded my expectations; despite the fact that he’s actively decomposing. Never assume a zombie cannot make a great VP! hahaha oh Brandon. But seriously speaking, OP, how quickly can you get out of there? Looks like your workplace is not going to get any better, but it might get worse if more people leave (and they will, after this seminar).

  21. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    Zombies are generally held to lack the quickness and flexibility of thought to hold executive positions, and decomposing on the jobsite sounds like a clear cut OSHA violation. Possibly an FDA violation as well, depending on what you produce. I’m just saying…

    On the other hand, it is considerate of your manager to step away from his workstation when he feels the need to decompose – I am sure anyone who shares the space and the cleaners appreciate his conscientiousness.

    I now find myself trying to identify what sort of positions each type of undead could hold regularly, could hold with an appropriate accommodation, and couldn’t hold even with an accommodation, so I have been amused by the imagery. Also, in my head canon, Brandon absolutely goes on his walks in a standard zombie shuffle and lurch, the slow speed of which accounts for how long he can be unreachable by all of you.

    1. Web Crawler*

      I’m gonna nominate vampires for programming jobs, working from home in dark rooms at all hours of the day and night. Werewolves shouldn’t be hard to accomodate as long as they have enough sick leave.

      1. Lyudie*

        There is indeed a Charles Stross book where a scrum team accidentally turn themselves into vampires with Microsoft Excel.

          1. OtterB*

            It’s the Rhesus Chart. It’s several books into The Laundry Files series, which in general has story lines about ways that mathematics can cause occult difficulties, and how a British bureaucracy copes (or doesn’t) with protecting the public while not letting anyone have access to the knowledge to cause more trouble.

      2. Avery*

        Vampires would make good night security guards too, or night shift workers in general.
        Ghosts it depends on the type, but I could see spies or other intelligence work. Hard to get caught snooping where you’re not supposed to be when you might not even be visible to others!
        Brainless zombies, like Brandon seems to be aspiring to… simple manual labor perhaps? Or just compost. Brandon would probably make fine compost after all that decomposing.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          See, I was leaning towards saying ghosts, particularly ones that repeat tasks and experiences endlessly, would fit right in with many call centers… but I can see the spying thing as well.

          1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

            This is much like the ghosts in “Ghosts.” They spend their time snooping around the living and relaying info to the live woman who can see them. Also, they watch a lot of TV.

    2. Dinwar*

      Vampires are supposed to be charismatic in modern lore, so they’d be good for project management–convincing staff to do things, convincing clients to give the company money. The blood-sucking and manipulative aspects fit this well.

      Zombies are the drones of the undead. They’re good for tasks that require repetition and very little thought. Assembly line work would be fantastic for them. (Sean of the Dead’s ending comes to mind!)

      Werewolves could work as guards. When they’re human they’re useful because they can think like a human, when they’re wolf they’re useful for the same reason guard dogs always are. Operations and Maintenance would be another good option–given the people I’ve known in that field no one would tell the difference anyway.

      Liches would be executives: Power-hungry, obsessed with personal advancement, and screw whoever they need to step on to get there. Though there is something to be said about being janitorial staff. People drastically under-estimate how powerful janitorial staff are, at least until they stop working.

      Ghosts would make fantastic auditors. They can go anywhere, observe without being intrusive, cause general fear and panic by their mere presence, and no one can touch them. They’d also do well in safety roles–they’re no more out of touch than any other safety officer!

      1. Meri*

        Of course it depends on the type of zombies – Discworld has a zombie who is the foremost lawyer in the city – after all, he wrote most of the law books!

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        That is EXACTLY how zombies are used in the film White Zombie! Bela Legosi’s perfectly named Murder LeGendre uses a zombie workforce in his sugar mill. On and on they plod, mindlessly grinding the cane, and easily replaced if they fall into the vat.

      3. Rebecca1*

        Whenever someone dies in a work-related incident, their ghost can be in charge of inspection for the resulting regulation.

  22. Mary*

    Your boss is a total idiot. Follow Alison’s advice.

    Submit the material for sign off. When you miss the deadline and “get in trouble”. Just say to your grand boss, I got the project at 9 am with a 5 pm deadline. I submitted the work for review at 1 pm having worked through lunch. Boss did not sign off until after 5 pm, so the deadline was missed. He signed off with no changes. What process can we change to stop the deadline being missed in future because it is not sustainable for me to work through lunch.

    And do this every time it happens, whether you worked outside of normal hours, whether he signed off on it an hour, two hour, 12 hour late.

    And as Alison says keep asking for the work earlier, longer deadlines, more staff, and every time your boss is decomposing point out the delay to your work. You can add if it is true, I texted him every 30 mins to remind him of the deadline, I phoned and emailed and I got no response.

    And each morning you could ask the boss what is a reasonable amount of built relaxation for that particular day. Or let him know that the day before you could not do any built relaxation because of projects x y and z and what does he propose so you can get this time into your day.

    But he is an idiot and the only conclusion is that you get a better job and leave or your grand boss persuades the idiot to go full on relaxation and fire him.

  23. Mitford*

    I feel the same way about Brandon as I do about a guy I used to work with named Todd. He didn’t disappear every day, but when he did it was always at the worst possible time.

    His reason?

    He didn’t like any of the barbers or stylists located in deepest suburbia and would only go to a barber located near a job he used to work at. One day every three weeks (he had a high maintenance cut), he’d say he was going to lunch and take a 45-minute subway ride to his guy, get his hair cut, then grab lunch and take another 45 minute subway ride back to our office. It didn’t matter what deadlines were looming (like have a proposal that had to be delivered by COB that day), nothing got in the way of his hair cut.

    I guess it was his version of self care.

  24. FG*

    Yeah, this is the situation that “quiet quitting” – misnomer that it is – was invented for.

    Also absolutely start cc’ing Brandon’s boss on all emails to the effect that the project is ready for sign off. Adding statements like, “this was an impossible deadline but we busted *ss to make sure it was done on time” wouldn’t be amiss.

  25. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    And everyone sat there quietly fuming. No one said in the moment, “Brandon, when you turn your phone off and go for a walk, do you know what happens to us?”

    It’s called “professionalism” and this particular definition of it needs to go the way of “quiet quitting.”

    1. Goody*

      I’m sure they were all too stunned in the moment to formulate a coherent response. I know I would have been. And I agree with the advice up-thread to band together and tell Brandon just what happens during his afternoon constitutionals.

  26. Ama*

    I understand that this comment could come off as incredibly glib, but what if you just… stopped picking up the slack? Your team is down several people and three more members have just quit without notice. It doesn’t really seem like you have to worry about job security for the time being. What does getting in trouble entail, aside from an unpleasant interaction? Could you just focus on doing your best and let the ball drop with Brandon?

    1. Double A*

      When you are in certain positions, “What are they going to do, fire me?” can be a very liberating mantra. I believe the OP could adopt it, while cutting back to core works hours and also job hunting.

  27. KHB*

    Giving Brandon as much benefit of the doubt as I can muster, I wonder if he’s trying to tell you that it’s OK for you, too, to push back against the ridiculously heavy workload? I mean, it would be better if he’d said “Each of you is only one person, and you can only be expected to do one person’s worth of work. I don’t want any of you to be sacrificing your health or your sanity for this job, and if that means we start missing deadlines, I’ll have your back.” But could that have been what he meant?

  28. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Oof, I was prepared to dislike the boss for doing a nonsense self-care session instead of making organizational changes to make everyone’s work smoother and more manageable. You know, like hiring to replace the 3 people who left because the team was already overworked. But hearing that the meeting involved Brandon telling you that he’s actually making your lives harder. Well. That’s a paddlin’. I am legit not sure if I could have gotten through that meeting without asking him if he was f***ing serious. Personally, this kind of thing would kill my morale and any goodwill I may have had for Brandon.

    OP, this is ridiculous and it is 100% reasonable to bring this up. I’m ticked off on your behalf because this situation is super not OK.

    I’m also very curious about how it is that you are all taking the hit for him not being available. Who is communicating that you’re in trouble/expressing displeasure? Is it the CEO or a Senior VP? Is it a manager between you and Brandon? Regardless, I’d point out that YOU got things submitted in a reasonable time and ask what specific actions you should take in the future if you haven’t heard back from Brandon.

  29. higheredadmin*

    This reminds me of a training for managers at Old Job that was to teach resilience. It was over three days, so a huge time commitment for people who were very overworked. In the introductory session the trainer (who, to her credit, was external) asked the group what we thought could help ourselves and staff manage our stress at work. One of my colleagues raised her hand and said: less work and more employees, instead of three days teaching us how to plough through all of this anxiety and overwork. Hero!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      THIS. Like, how about we change the working conditions so we don’t have to be resilient ALL THE FREAKING TIME?!

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Is your colleague Wonder Woman? She sure deserves to be after displaying a titanium backbone like that!

    3. Overit*

      Reminds me of the REQUIRED group therapy session OldBoss forced the team into due to “team’s low morale and bad attitudes” — all due to Boss 1. Shoving most of her work onto the team so she could have ‘wellness breathers’ that lasted for days and 2. Fired someone in a highly unethical and underhanded way that essentially blackballed her from her profession.
      Boss also insisted she has to sit in on the group therapy session. Also note therapist was a personal friend of Boss.
      Needless to say no one but Suck Up Susie said anything and she just…sucked up. Therapist eventually asked if anyone could say something about what could be done to rectify the situation and a soon to retire coworker said, “Oh I don’t know. Turn back time and not screw over our coworker?”
      Boss immediately gets defensive and starts attacking all of us (except SUS). At which point I said, “Grrrreat therapy session! We should do this weekly!”

  30. Maybe Okay Manager*

    I’m a manager and I’m not perfect, nor is our team, or our company. I always ask myself if people might consider leaving but then I read this site and realize just how much stupid stressful awful stuff people will for some reason put up with. It gives me a better perspective on people’s tolerance levels for bad jobs.

  31. irene adler*

    Next comes the time management lecture. As in “employees wouldn’t be crunched for self-care time if they learned to manage their work time effectively”.

    1. Jane*

      I went to a boss once about a crushing workload that I couldn’t get done even when working every single working hour. She told me I needed to work smarter not harder. Getting laid off due to the pandemic was honestly a relief.

  32. ABCYaBYE*

    I’m curious LW… you’re remote, so I’m assuming the seminar Brandon offered was presented on Teams, Zoom, Google Meet, etc. Was the session recorded? Could you ask him to send you a link of the recording because you wanted to go back and listen again to his suggestions, since you didn’t get a chance to write them all down?

    Then fire an email off to Brandon’s boss and everyone who has ever gotten upset at you and your teammates with said link, letting them know that often Brandon goes AWOL and you’re stuck missing deadlines because he has to sign off on everything.

    He just told everyone that he’s a crappy employee and crappier boss and is the reason you’re facing so many bottlenecks in your jobs. Let everyone above him know that too.

    1. Reality Biting*

      This is cartoonishly silly.

      I do think it makes sense to involve a wider set of stakeholders in the conversation, but this “Saved by the Bell” level plan is just nonsense. Allison’s process as described above is a much more sane version of this. Tricking your manager into a sting like this is not the way to make change happen.

  33. ABCYaBYE*

    LW, please tell me that Brandon’s self care session was recorded. Ask him for the link because you “missed a few points and wanted to make sure you had your notes correct, as you felt the conversation was very helpful.”

    Then send said link to everyone above Brandon. Send it to those who have been upset at you and your team for missing deadlines. Let them know that everything Brandon talks about in his great TEDTalk is a) impossible because you’re understaffed and face deadlines that are impossible to meet while working regular hours and b) his self care routine is the reason so many deadlines are missed. He’s created bottlenecks.

    What a jerk.

  34. Seizing the Means of Production*

    This seems to be a common theme among businesses these days. They recognize that we’re about three steps away from breaking out the guillotines, but rather than doing something about it, they’re just going to mouth platitudes at us to show us they “care”. At my own Fortune 100 company, we’ve had no less than three all-employee meetings where we were lectured to about not burning out and maintaining work/life balance. One of our leaders even heavily implied that we’re all such winners that we just don’t know when to stop working, and it’s a good thing we have management here to remind us that life is important.
    And then they raise our quarterly goals by 50%.

    1. Dinwar*

      I’ve noticed that too. On the one hand it’s great that companies are starting to realize that mental health is important and are taking some steps to help employees. On the other, it seems like the only companies that do this are the ones that are teh cause of the mental health issues.

      I wonder where the money is here. My guess is that the companies get some sort of tax write-off or some grant money or something if they show that they are taking steps to improve employee mental health. These initiatives all have the appearance of the company trying to look like they’re doing something without actually doing it. Which usually means they’re doing it to get money from someone.

      1. Avery*

        My guess is that it’s not quite so direct as that; they think that shareholders and potential customers want to see steps to improve employee mental health, so they do what they can to achieve the appearance of that without having to actually cut into their bottom line.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      In my experience, the only companies that talk about work-life balance are the ones that DON’T have it. And the ones that don’t have work-life balance will take a couple of different approaches (or both), which amount to:
      1. Lip service and propaganda about how important work-life balance is. They may make false claims on their public website (in the career section) about this. They may embed the concept into their corporate values. They may specifically mention it during interviews and in recruiting materials. When you see/hear this – huge red flag that work-life balance is a problem at that employer. Seriously.
      2. Place the responsibility for having work-life balance on the employee. Provide “awareness” and educational presentations to employees about how to cope with burn-out and um, self-care (a word that I hate). But the organization itself continues to have the same unrealistic work expectations and continues to over-work and understaff.

    3. The Original K.*

      There was a whole kerfuffle where I work about offering wellness tips to a particularly burned-out group of workers (it’s bad for all of us but worst for this group) and I said they didn’t want wellness tips, they wanted a reasonable workload and to be able to take a lunch break or a day off once in a while (severe understaffing issues). Everybody knew it. The org just wanted to look like it was doing something. The answer is not “take three deep breaths and then get back to your unreasonable workload;” the answer is tangibly alleviating the unreasonable workload.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      “Why do you guys have the Bastille scene from Tale of Two Cities playing on a loop in here?”

    5. Chirpy*

      We recently had an employee Q&A thing with corporate, and corporate was asked twice if we were getting cost of living raises. Both were answered with a very long winded description of our (not great in reality, but ok for retail) benefits….but as far as I can tell, not a word on pay. The answers were in a read-only spreadsheet that cut off the reply with no way to scroll through the box.

      We’ve also previously been told “knowing you did a good job/that you’re appreciated is a better reward than money” when a large number of people put the worst part of working here was the pay on an employee satisfaction survey. I’d sure like to see corporate try to pay rent with empty “nice” words.

  35. ABCYaBYE*

    LW, ask Brandon if the meeting was recorded. Let him know that you “want to rewatch, as you found it valuable and want to make sure your notes are correct.”

    Then forward that link to Brandon’s boss and anyone else who might have come down hard on you and your team for missing deadlines. Point out directly that you’re understaffed and facing ever-tightening deadlines, and the self care routine by the one person who can sign off on things is causing you to miss deadlines.

    This guy is an idiot.

  36. I'm Done*

    Frankly, I’m really concerned that you think your reaction is unreasonable. It is nowhere near unreasonable. I would have lost it and quit on the spot but not before telling him how I felt about him putting all the extra stress on us while he went for walks to decompress. What a first class jerk. Maybe it’s time to go above his head to let his boss know what’s going on but actually I think you should just look for another job.

    1. automaticdoor*

      RIGHT?! I am so concerned for you, LW, that you believe YOU would sound lazy or entitled here or that YOU are being unreasonable? Brandon is the one who is all of those things here.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        Agreed. LW you’ve been gaslit into thinking your reactions are off. They are not.

        But I think your boss just gave you permission to seek a work/life balance and engage in self-care. That starts with a 40-hour week.

  37. ABCYaBYE*

    LW, ask Brandon if his session was recorded because you “found it valuable and want to ensure your notes were correct and thorough.”

    Then send that link to Brandon’s boss and anyone else who has given your team a hard time for missing deadlines. Point out that Brandon’s absences, which he brags about in the video, are causing you to miss deadlines, plus as you’re losing team members and facing ever tightening deadlines, when the one person who can sign off on projects decides to dip out for lengthy times and cannot be communicated with, you’re working extra hours and doing just the opposite of what he brags about and suggests you do.

  38. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    OP, what happens if you put out a project that Brandon hasn’t signed out? Because maybe you could claim you asked and he didn’t get back in time for the deadline? But a more serious response, what is his purpose in signing off on the project? Is it to have a secondary reviewer? Then can you just have a teammate review instead of him? Or if it’s just to validate that it’s done correctly, can you make an argument that if an employee does x amount of projects with minimal requests for changes or has x amount of years of experience they can just notify Brandon that the project is going live at the deadline time and if they get not response they can just move forward with doing what they need to do? Perhaps that will lower his workload and prevent his total decomposition!

    Also, ‘decompose’ made my day, thanks! :)

  39. Donde esta la biblioteca*

    Ugh, my (large) organization has gone all in on “wellness.” Meanwhile, departments that were understaffed pre-Covid are even more understaffed now. They keep suggesting taking vacation time to decompress, but then I’m even more stressed from the work that piles up. :^(

  40. kiki*

    Brandon is ridiculous, clueless, and bad at his job, but I do wonder if it’s been properly communicated to leadership how many hours folks are working and that it’s driving folks to leave. Are managers pushing back on new assignments or telling leadership certain balls will need to be dropped if they do not hire more people? I’ve seen this happen at a few different companies where the leadership team is very divorced from day-to-day workers. Part of a middle-manager’s job is conveying “we cannot and will not be able to do that.” Obviously senior leadership should know that cutting jobs will lead to folks working know, but I feel like a lot of senior leadership figures that there’s more slack in people’s days than they thought.

  41. Some Dude*

    This is a little off topic, but I dislike the whole self care thing in general. I mean, if a company is saying take time off (that we’ll pay for) and use sick time and don’t work overtime, awesome, but in my nonprofit field especially there is a lot of wellness talk and a lot of it feels like not what I want to do with colleagues. I don’t want to do yoga with y’all, I don’t want to meditate with y’all, I don’t want to talk about my feelings. Let’s just work, treat each other with kindness and respect, not have unreasonable expectations in terms of deadlines or workload, and leave our spiritual/mental wellness practices to our personal lives.


    1. Dinwar*

      To an extent I can see the company wanting to include mental health as something they focus on. Mental issues can cause just as much damage as physical ones–the Trigger States are mental states, after all!–but are much harder to assess much less address, in part because mental health has always carried a stigma. Helping address mental health issues in the same way we address physical issues is a good thing, both for employees and for the company.

      The issue is that most roll out these ideas poorly. They latch on to gimmicks or don’t do the hard work of actually making changes to support mental health. Things like yoga or meditation or the like might help people (there’s some evidence mindfulness can be increase certain disorders), but they’re cheap–you can find all kinds of free aps for them. Things like addressing chronic understaffing and dealing with existing burnout WILL help everyone, but are very expensive. Guess which get opted for…

      1. Chirpy*

        My job will definitely give you a flyer on money management instead of, you know, paying enough to actually live on…which would sure alleviate an awful lot of my stress and anxiety. Can’t save money I’m not paid.

    2. Spruce*

      It’s a general failure to categorize a problem. Mental health issues are complex, and need adaptive responses that are going to be highly individualized. There is no best practice. But they are being treated as simple problems to which we can apply a simple solution (Mental Health Webinar! Free Meditation App! Go For A Walk In The Middle Of The Day Just Like Brandon!) and that takes it straight into making things even worse.

      What companies can do to address the mental health crisis is actually to stay in their lane, and first, do no harm. So look at how deadlines are set, how workload is managed, what processes exist. then look on an individual basis how they are impacting people.

      But instead, we get Brandon and co.

  42. Hi-ho Steverino*

    The next time you’re given one of these drop-dead, work till midnight projects, immediately grab the whole team and leave for two hours to walk and “decompose.” Brandon will surely approve.

    1. Hi-ho Steverino*

      Okay, if anything I say is going to be held in moderation jail for hours, there’s no point in ever commenting here. Bye.

      1. Svennerson*

        If that’s going to be your reaction to a one-person blog trying to moderate hundreds if not thousands of comments daily, then…happy trails!

  43. Grey Panther*

    I absolutely agree that the dime should be dropped, in some way, on Brandon’s long, leisurely strolls that are FUBARing the deadlines.
    Whether it’s done directly (by talking to Brandon and/or his VP about it) or indirectly (ccing the VP when completed projects are submitted to Brandon for approval), it’s gotta happen.
    The effects couldn’t be worse than what’s happening now—could they?

  44. ChemistryChick*

    I’m choking back laughter at my desk about Brandon decomposing. It’s a shame Halloween has passed, otherwise this could be “My boss might be a zombie, how can I avoid being his next victim?”

    In all seriousness, OP please take it to heart that your reaction is not at all unreasonable. You’re being overworked and burned out while your boss is boasting about taking long walks and being unreachable; that’s some grade A bologna right there. I’d be looking to follow the example of the employees who left.

  45. Worker Bee-yotch*

    What does it mean when your team gets “in trouble”? Pay cuts? Fussed at? If you’re just getting fussed at by someone else, ignore it. Nod politely and move on. Unless it’s a life or death job, what does it matter if a deadline is late? The deadline is probably arbitrary anyway, just a date made up by someone else.

    Because it sounds to me like Brandon just invited you all to relax about the deadlines. If he doesn’t care, why should you? Feel free to release your stress and ignore it. Opt out of working late and let him see how what happens. Someone fusses that you don’t have the work complete? Ok. And? Your boss isn’t your mom; you can’t get a whoopin or be sent to bed without dinner.

  46. Yllis*

    I have a boss like this and on behalf of the LW, me and everyone else dealing with this

    Eff you, Brad

  47. Emily*

    I feel like “decomposing” instead of “decompressing” was a Freudian slip on the part of LW. I hope LW and her c0-workers push back as a team in the way Alison suggests. Brandon sounds utterly clueless.

  48. acmx*

    I’m impressed the LW didn’t either just quit or give Brandon the finger when he said he turns off his phone and takes time away from the screen to “decompose”. Or maybe I’m projecting my current work annoyance onto Brandon lol

    I hope the LW finds a new job.

  49. Aimless and Abstract*

    “Possible bodily decay aside,” is one of the things I imagine Alison never really thought she would write.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      This is the same stellar sense of humor that brought us “black magic is one of many occupational hazards”.

  50. Zap R.*

    Shame on you, OP. Your boss is necrotizing at a remarkable rate and you should be more supportive of his imminent ghoulification. /s

  51. HufferWare*

    I’d straight up call him out on it. “Yesterday I couldn’t reach you between noon and 4pm and because of this we missed the deadline for the ABC project. How can we ensure we are meeting our deadlines when you periodically turn off your phone and do not check emails throughout the day?” Don’t mention the walks or the seminar, just see if he connects the dots and how he responds. His answer will tell you how quickly and aggressively you should be job searching (you should be looking for a new job anyway regardless of what he says)

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, this, although I might phrase it a bit differently. I wonder how much the OP and her remaining colleagues have been covering for Brandon? I’m having a hard time figuring out how a VP manages to be incommunicado that much with nobody else in C Suite noticing.

  52. Meep*

    Maybe because I have been in a “chair throw”-y mood all week with my subordinates freaking out about molehills after I repeatedly told them to take their time, but I am impressed no one threw something at him during this session. I would’ve thrown something at him.

  53. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Remember the advice at the beginning of the pandemic to have your kids take notes in meetings and other ways to prioritize your well being…over everyone else’s? Yeah, someone took those articles to heart.

  54. Emotional support capybara (he/him)*

    I suspect everyone on Brandon’s team has, at some point, daydreamed about him decomposing with the help of a safe or perhaps a piano falling on him from ten stories up.

  55. Esmeralda*

    You know, Brandon is not wrong about taking breaks. If he were modeling behavior that he expects from his staff, then good on him. My boss will take a 20 – 30 minute walk with the phone off, take PTO for personal wellness, etc. But he also actively ensures that we can do the same, and protects us from the higher ups.

    What’s wrong with Brandon is that he’s TAKING HOURS LONG WALKS and his self care is actively harming his staff.

    1. 40 Years In the Hole*

      I’d be tempted to take walks with Brandon. In fact, the whole team could walk with Brandon. You know…modelling the boss, after all.

  56. BBB*

    the only reason the company gets away with a hiring freeze and Brandon can take luxurious decomposing walks is because you all are killing yourselves to pick up the slack. the lack of staff, the insane deadlines… these are all Brandon’s fault and within his ability to fix. so stop taking that burden off of his shoulders. you can’t care more about the job then your employer does.
    call it quiet quitting, call it acting your wage it’s really just setting boundaries. so talk to your coworkers, establish boundaries and stick to them and leave the mess for Brandon to deal with.

  57. Michelle Smith*

    I hope you’re able to implement his suggestions and use your self-care time to apply for a new job with a reasonable manager. <3

  58. Colorado*

    Please, please take Alison’s exact advice and confront Brandon on how he can help you all do what he advises. Then escalate every missed deadline to his boss. He’s a tool, a decomposing one too and frankly I would have lost my shit.

  59. Ursula*

    Obviously Brandon is totally failing as your manager here, but I’m surprised I’m not seeing more people comment on the fact that you often have 5-6 hour projects due same day. That’s not sustainable for any team that doesn’t have round the clock coverage. Brandon should be pushing back on those timelines for you.

    1. run mad; don't faint*

      Rather horribly, I was wondering if Brandon isn’t relaying those projects to his reports in a timely fashion, since he’s not answering emails while decomposing. It could be those tight deadlines only exist because he isn’t doing his job.

      1. Just Another Zebra*

        I had a similar thought, actually. I had a coworker who would do something similar – holding tickets on her end until the last minute, therefore making normal tickets emergency issues. I finally emailed her, her supervisor, and my supervisor when I got a particularly egregious ticket (it sat for 9 full days and most of a tenth before coming to me) with a very stern, “You’ve had this for 10 days and now the customer needs parts tomorrow. WTF.” She left very soon after.

  60. C-Dub*

    The first paragraph made me think OP was working at the same company I worked for late last year and earlier this year. High turnover, staff quitting, working late and the weekends mirrors the company I worked for. I didn’t last long (only 5 weeks at that job). But reading on starting with the second paragraph had the differences, like the boss not easily reached and the lecture.

    And Brandon lectured you about self-care? It is like a teacher giving a student 20 pages of homework a night every night all due the next day, and then lecturing about not prioritizing time for yourself. How can you if you have to do all that homework or else get a zero? In terms of the workplace, you are understaffed, the workload and deadlines are unreasonable, and Brandon is taking long walks and not able to be easily reached. I would go crazy. It is like you are backed into a corner with no escape besides quitting.

    Start job searching and get the hell out of there before it takes a toll on your health, both mental and physical.

  61. Todaloo*

    I feel this so hard.

    Right now my grand boss has been bending over backwards to clients and putting us on absurd deadlines (literally moved a massive project forward by at least 3 months without warning, telling another client we’d have something done in 2 days when we weren’t even finished with preliminary data, etc ). Then yesterday I got an email from our corporate office about “finding an extra hour in your day” wherein you cut out “unnecessary time drains” to increase “productivity and profitability”. Combined with other areas in my life that work is also affecting my off-hours, I almost blew my lid.

    1. Ann Ominous*

      It sounds like everything about your current job is an ‘unnecessary time drain’ and you could find an hour to job search. Yeesh. Sorry.

      1. Todaloo*

        I’m job searching and have taken an absurd amount of joy from doing it during our weekly (remote) meeting.

  62. Environmental Compliance*

    I really needed the laugh today I got from “possible bodily decay aside”.

    To be honest, OP – this place sounds full of wasps in a few different ways. The people that left had a good idea.

  63. Ann Ominous*

    I would really like an update from this OP if they are able to implement this approach. Brandon is terrible.

    1. Observer*

      What I would REALLY want to see is an update that they, and everyone in the department found better jobs!

  64. Silverose*

    I….would not have been polite during that meeting. “You mean to tell us you’re out taking walks when we’re waiting for you to sign off on projects, and when the deadline is missed because you didn’t sign off on it in time – because you were on a walk with your phone turned off – we’re the ones who get in trouble‽ We expect you to rectify that situation with your managers to prevent us from getting in trouble in the future when your self-care causes our projects to miss deadlines.”

  65. Tilly*

    When I was in college I ordered branded t-shirts on behalf of a student group. The person I worked with ghosted us for roughly 4 months and it took about 6 months to get the t-shirts.

    In our second and final meeting, she said to me, “You know those times when you just don’t feel like doing your job?”


  66. Fikly*

    You know what happens when a company is understaffed, has a high workload, and a hiring freeze? A firing freeze.

    Work normal hours, go home, take some long walks, job search, and let it all burn. It’s not your problem, and they can’t fire you.

  67. Jay*

    My warped mind immediately went to:

    Brandon is dead. He died in the woods on one of his “long walks” and is now being “Weekend At Berniesed” by a family of squirrels. This is the only explanation. No primate could possibly be that dense.

  68. Fiona the fierce*

    One of the most offensive things from my employer was training in self-care during the pandemic that included, among other things, ergonomics for your desk chair (through a self-paced online training). Meanwhile no adjustments or accommodations for our greatly escelated extremely stressful workload. It was met with utter crickets in the group due to how shockingly tone deaf it was.

    OP’s boss is not going to get leas tone deaf and it isn’t her problem to correct it. Time to move on.

  69. New Senior Mgr*

    I can’t stop laughing at decomposing vs decompressing.

    But seriously OP, there’s a helpful similar post about the EA or admin who’s partner Anna left and they went through numerous replacements to no avail. She was juggling the best she could but seriously approaching burn out.

    1. New Senior Mgr*

      I think it’s “My Office is Falling Apart and it’s all on me” or something like that.

  70. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    Once dealing with Brandon fails, you should go higher, informing them of Brandon’s advice and why it can’t work and how do they plan to fix the problem? When/if that quickly fails take Brandon’s advice. When that fails look for another job. And leave an accurate glassdoor review.

  71. Mad Mac*

    Holy bejeezus, just reading this gave me anxiety. Brandon needs to know his “self care” is what’s contributing to your dangerously compromised well-being.

  72. Curmudgeon in California*

    Brandon is what we call a “single point of failure” in IT. He makes the entire organization under him vulnerable to a Mack Truck situation. Having only one person able to sign off on tight turnaround project is bad. Having that one person given to taking long breaks with the phone off is measurably worse.

    A meaning solution to the problem would be for two different people having the authority to sign off on the projects. Anything else is a bandaid that won’t stick.

    1. inko*

      Oh my god, Brandon. I’m flashing back to my first job where we were wildly understaffed and worked to the point of exhaustion. The boss would occasionally tell us off for being too inefficient to get out of the door on time. Oh, and we had pizza on Fridays, and were just like a family. Ugghhh.

      Brandon needs to get in the sea. More seriously, though, this process is untenable. What happens when Brandon fails to sign off before the deadline and you get in trouble? Does Brandon not get in trouble? Is it possible to raise this with whoever you’re getting in trouble with? It would be great if there was a magic phrase that would get through to Brandon but he sounds…irredeemable.

  73. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    I hope whatever line of work you’re in, it involves saving actual lives, because NOTHING other than that is important enough to cause the kind of deadlines and stress you are working under. Zombie Brandon is a lousy people manager, but he’s got the right idea about walking, er, lurching away.

  74. Luna*

    Time for some group-wide malicious compliance. Go take those breaks and relax, leaving work undone and taking longer. And if any higher up, up to and including Brandon, complain, point out that everything did exactly as Brandon told them to do.

  75. Spruce*

    ” I really hope Brandon meant that he’s decompressing, not decomposing. If he’s decomposing, you have bigger problems on your hands.”

    Disagree. Brandon decomposing would solve A LOT of problems…

    1. Spruce*

      Moving on past the sarcasm, I wonder if you could redefine what “delivery” means here. You have a deadline to deliver by, and your bottleneck. What if the “delivery” was considered to be “it’s in Brandon’s inbox”? Your project arrives, with a ridiculous delivery line, and you tell Brandon “ok, this will be delivered to your inbox by 4pm” and then you wash your hands off it.

      If anyone complains to Brandon that the deadline wasn’t met? Actually, it was. It was delivered to the person who assigned it (Brandon) on time (4pm). If they’re not happy, their complaints should be redirected to Brandon.

      Someone mentioned in another comment that if there’s a hiring freeze and the company is understaffed, they will *not* fire you. Use the power of this knowledge to free yourself from the artificial pressure Brandon is putting on you.

  76. Future silver banker*

    This is so insensitive to say the least. I am not sure you want to salvage this boss. Obviously keep doing what you need to pay the bills but seriously disengage and start looking elsewhere at a pace that works for you.
    Reminds me of when we were working 90 hour weeks during the height of the pandemic with no home office set-up (because hey shoebox flat shares in London) and one partner said in the WLB seminar: “the best thing that happened to me was my wife getting me a personal trainer so I can do my workouts in the morning at home before my invigorating bike rides to overcome the gym closures”. You have a PT at your home gym? and you also go on bike rides after that too? Most consultants didn’t even have a big enough share of the one dining table or solid enough wifi to do all the video calls with their housemates also doing their own calls.

  77. That One Person*

    First off…wrong word choice is hilarious enough without the sprinkling of incompetence to make it even funnier. I would definitely imagine him fast-pace melting on these walks and it takes him so long because he has to rematerialize himself.

    Secondly though I know this is harder because he’s the VP, but there has to be someone else you can CC on the emails for sign offs so someone higher up can keep track of his lack of prioritizing. He’s at least not top dog, and I would hope that whoever keeps getting spammed in this regard would see this and start to wonder, or if you approached them plainly, “Brandon has suggested we take hour long walks like he does…but he’s taking them when we need sign offs on projects so is there someone else you’d like us to go through so they can be signed off before deadline?” Otherwise I’d worry more about a resume/job searching than everything being done on time because this sounds like a sinking ship – and while it’s sinking the VP thinks its funny to go poke holes in the hull.

  78. Hamburke*

    I thought decomposing was a new word for nature baths. You don’t actually bathe/wash/shower outdoors in a nature bath – you just disconnect from technology & work or whatever is stressful and tune into nature. Sounds lovely enough but I need to ramp down stimuli when I’m stressed instead of going cold turkey.

  79. Brian*

    Reminds me when I worked at two different schools and they tried to reduce the amount of time we had to eat lunch and travel between the buildings. We teachers said it was not enough time to pack up, eat, travel across town, and then set up again, and we’d end up missing lunch or eating while we were driving. The principal insisted that with good time management, we could do it.

    The next week she was pulling into the parking lot when I arrived from the other building. I asked if she’d been at a meeting.

    “No. Work was stressful so I decided to drive to (fast food place) and treat myself to a soda.”
    We have a soda machine in the building.

  80. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    I wish one of you had snarkily responded with “oh, that explains the smell” when he said he was decomposing!

    But seriously, you just found out that he has been making your jobs even harder by his chosen method of “decomposing.” That is not cool. He needs to understand that not only is his method not feasible for you but that it is actually also negatively impacting you when he does it! I definitely think this falls into “so, boss, tell me how you see this working out considering X, Y, and Z factors of our real life situation, including the part where we can’t find you when we need you” conversation territory.

  81. Here for the Insurance*

    It’s worth thinking about what “we get in trouble” means. Do people get fired? Demoted? Punished in some way?

    I’ve seen so many instances where “I got in trouble” simply meant “I got fussed at”. Which isn’t fun, sure, but isn’t earth shattering either. Maybe I’m just immune — I had parents who fussed about everything but didn’t actually do much, so I learned to just tune it out Charlie Brown style. So when a boss or coworker does it, it barely even registers for me.

    All that to say, if nothing actually happens other than words, I would have stopped trying so hard a long time ago and let the chips fall. I sure as hell wouldn’t put in extra hours to meet a deadline that Brandon obviously doesn’t give a rat’s backside about.

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