updates: I got Covid at work and my company won’t cover my sick time, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. I got Covid at work and my company won’t cover my sick time (first update here)

I know it’s been a while but man I finally have a good update and figured I would share it if anyone was interested.

I ended up leaving the super villain company, and somehow ended up in an even worse one it was wild! They were kind when I required surgery, but it got to the point that within the 7 months I worked there I missed over a month of work from my inability to stay healthy. The company refused to hire cleaning staff and required staff to do it but also complained about overtime, it was pretty crazy. I finally woke up one day and decided clearly that field was never going to be what I wanted it to be, and I wouldn’t be the person who would change it even if that was devastating — I was in grad school for it, it’s my passion! But I ended up in a totally different field, working from home but still helping people and it’s been such a relief to not have to miss work constantly or be terrified I’ll get sick and be incapacitated again.

I would never have had the courage to explore my options if it wasn’t for your blog and insight, I tell coworkers all the time that we are helping professionals, not martyrs. Oh, totally tried to get on the grassroots movement for a union, but it is clearly not going anywhere, which is frustrating. For the love of god, people, please ask about cancellation policies and how employees are treated when you are choosing a provider for behavioral therapy, the people who work one on one with your kids have a lot of influence on the quality of services and we are treated terribly so frequently that is is almost impossible to provide the services I desperately wanted to provide.

Thanks for all of the advice. My work life is finally in a much better spot years later.

2. New employee refuses to learn technology

I’m not quite sure how to explain what’s happening. Short answer: the employee dodged my attempt at an ultimatum. She has made very gradual, incremental progress on technology but still underperforms in this area. I don’t mean to make excuses, but it’s a complicated situation. While she isn’t performing well in portions of her work (those that require technology and project management), she’s good at another element of it. She’s in a very rural community with a limited labor pool, as we know from previous hiring attempts — and it’s not a matter of how much we pay, just that there aren’t a lot of qualified people to choose from.

We are struggling with whether it’d be better to continue with someone problematic who we know already vs trying to find someone better who may not exist vs modifying this position entirely. A colleague and I are delivering her performance review this week and wondering how to frame up a three-month improvement plan… we shall see. It’s not something our organization has ever had to do before; we have very high performers across the board, so dealing with this person has been especially challenging. If you have any advice for the current situation with her, I’d love to hear it.

3. My trainer says I need to shadow her for a year before I can do my job

I’m still not sure what was up with June. I think she struggled to learn the job and didn’t have much faith in me as a result, but there was also some territorialism at play. I did raise my concerns with my boss, but he was very hands-off about it. I eventually refused to shadow June at all, and I was able to carve out some duties to do myself. June kept doing other parts of the job, and I honestly decided I wasn’t invested enough to fight it. Maybe that wasn’t very mature but I was very frustrated with the whole dynamic.

I decided to give the job a year and then I started looking within the organization for other positions. I wasn’t desperate, so I was able to be very choosy. I got the first thing I applied to – permanently remote, 30% pay raise and much more interesting work that actually utilizes my education. This experience with June led me to ask very explicit questions about training and communication during the interview, and I also asked my boss to set up a standing bi-weekly check-in meeting with me. In retrospect, the problem wasn’t June herself but the fact that I had a boss who I barely knew and who I didn’t feel comfortable contacting.

June is still in her job, and they didn’t bother to find a replacement for me.

4. Should I lie on my resume? (#2 at the link; first update here)

I thought I would drop one last update. I eventually ended up quitting the job I was working at when I last emailed you.

After some soul searching and figure out what I really wanted in life. I decided to pick up a contracting job landscaping just to earn a bit of cash while I decided what my next big move was going to be.

1. I had decided to return to university as a distance mature aged student. So I applied, and got accepted. I will be commencing I Bachelor of Science in the new year. Hooray!!!

2. I went to a recruitment agency and asked for a bit of refinement and polishing on my interview skills. They even gave me a list of commonly asked questions asked at interviews so I could rehearse answers for further job prospects I may look into.

Finally, a bit of interesting news. A few weeks after leaving the previously mentioned job, I received a phone call from my previous employer. They basically said they were losing too many sales a competitor. They offered me my job back and asked what I wanted to return to my previous sales/account manager role. I declined to tell them as I had no interest in returning. Instead, if they were really keen, they could make an offer. I know some people may say this is burning my bridges, but this is a company and industry I definitely will never be returning to.

Thanks again for all the help.

{ 38 comments… read them below }

    1. Olivia*

      I took it as like, the employee is making some improvements, so it’s harder to say, “Look, you haven’t done xyz and as we discussed, that’s a requirement”. But the improvements aren’t enough.

    2. NerdyKris*

      By calling LW’s bluff. Like they go on to say, they can’t really find anyone to replace her so the ultimatum was toothless.

    3. turquoisecow*

      I’m guessing it went down like:

      LW: do this or else

      Problematic Employee: *doesn’t do this*

      LW: *does not enact the “or else” part*

      I’m guess because the “or else” was vague or a threat of job loss, which they’ve otherwise indicated they didn’t want to do because hiring a new person would be difficult.

      Or maybe the employee did the bare minimum and argued that they had confirmed to the given parameters, even though they had not excelled. But either way the “or else” part didn’t happen.

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Sound like OP said, “You need to do X, Y and Z or you’re out,” and the employee is ok at X, sort of doing Y and 80% of the way there on Z. So the ultimatum has been passed if you squint hard enough, but the employee’s performance still isn’t really up to par.

  1. ferrina*

    LW 3, that was a great way to approach it. June was ridiculously territorial and a terrible trainer, and that your boss would allow this boggles the mind. The boss has a vested interest in getting you trained up as quickly as possible!

    It sounds like you were clear headed about the whole thing and strategic about how much energy you wanted to invest in that circus. Love that you got a better job and got to be choosy with it!

  2. Sleepless KJ*

    #2 is this a position that would allow for hiring a full time remote person? That would certainly deepen the talent pool.

    1. Momma Bear*

      This is a good idea. SO many people are looking for remote work right now, and if you stay in the same state, you don’t have to worry about tax issues. You might also consider someone working PT if the role really isn’t FT but might be great for someone in grad school or home with the kids but has enough time when they’re in school to put in solid work. Right now she isn’t doing a great job on these parts of the job so even less than 40 hrs might still be loads better than what the company gets now.

    2. autumnal*

      This was my question. In the initial letter, LW said this was a remote position. That broadens the talent pool quite a bit, even if there is an occasional need for in-office or field work. (As long as the non-remote requirements are well-defined and adhered to as much as possible, of course.)

      And frankly, having been on the “helping” side of this situation one too many times – it’s crappy for your good employees who are already busy with their own work and now have to pick up the slack for someone who refuses to do their job. Be careful how long you keep a bad employee or you’ll find yourself having to fill vacancies when the good ones get fed up and leave.

      1. LLMM*

        It’s possible, and this is total speculation but it happens, that LW’s company didn’t really want to offer remote work in the first place and they’d want to replace her with someone local. If that’s true, it’s unfortunate. The shift to remote work ought to be a godsend and a lifeline for rural businesses. For the ones still insisting on hiring locally, it’s going to mean their hiring pool is limited, not just to their area, but to people in their area who aren’t good enough at their jobs or technologically savvy enough to get higher-paying remote work.

  3. Dr. Rebecca*

    For #2, my advice: fire her. Yes, I know, you’re not confident in replacing her, but your plight brings to mind a conversation I once had with a boss.

    Boss: “They’re our biggest customer!!”
    Me: “People who aren’t paying, aren’t customers.”

    You: “There’s not a big enough talent pool to replace this employee!!”
    Me: “People who aren’t working, aren’t employees.”

    She’s not doing the work you need her to do, even after all this time and effort; fire her.

    1. Poppy*

      I remember having the “best customer” discussion with my previous boss. Client hadn’t paid on his $7k bill (a huge amount for our work) in six months and kept scheduling more work. As someone who only got paid when the client did I started refusing to do his work. This angered my social climbing boss because he thought this barely functional, severe alcoholic was going to help his social status. Instead Client had his business up for sale and was planning to move out of state!

      Don’t keep clients or employees around because of what they MIGHT do for you in the future.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        *nods* Oddly enough my old company is still around; I think the owner made a deal with the devil, because it sure as hell wasn’t his managerial skills…

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      i see the LW’s perspective–the employee IS working, just not at 100%, and going from (say) 50% to 0% is not an improvement.

      1. Observer*

        Sometimes it is an improvement. For one thing, they are paying 100% for 50% work. For another there is a real cost (other than the person’s pay) to allowing someone to get away with stuff like this.

      2. Dr. Rebecca*

        Is it 50% though? Or is it 50%, minus 10% for frustration, minus 10% for time wasted, minus 5% for things the LW doesn’t even realize behind the scenes, minus 20% for whomever needs to pick up the slack… You get the point.

      3. Michelle Smith*

        I don’t. The ultimatum was to get to a certain level and the employee hasn’t done it because they know they can get away with not learning the required skills. LW hasn’t really done anything to call employee’s bluff, proving that employee is right. If I have been scoring 40% on school assignments, my teacher tells me I need to get a 90% or above on the next test to pass the class, and I only earn a 65%, have I improved? Yes. Am I still going to fail the class? Yes!! I’m flabbergasted that the firing hasn’t already happened by now, I really just do not get it. I have no advice for LW than what was already given the first time around.

        1. Yellow aeroplane*

          It may not be that simple though.

          It may be without the bits of work this employee does there are significant consequences. Do they provide bum on seat coverage that allows the doors to be open? Do they take some pressure off key people (even if creating work for OP) that keeps those key people from walking to a competitor? Do they risk alienating key clients of they move the position out of town?

          There are genuinely places where employees have the upper hand. You can bluster all you like about sacking and hiring someone new – but if you need someone and doing have many options – well bluster I’d about all you have.

          I suspect OP would be better off looking to where they could make at least some use of the employee while they pay then and give up on the things they aren’t capable of. Meanwhile they should be actively recruiting – when they find a replacement they can ditch the employee then.

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            This is always my thought when people are like “fire them”. Most people are not totally failing at every part of the job so the value of what they ARE succeeding at really becomes the marker of if “fire them” is actually a workable solution. It really is a net positive/net negative situation.

            In this case, she can’t seem to use Microsoft tech, but is doing a great a very specific skill in a specific industry in a specific location. So I would have a hard time saying “Well, I know we desperately need someone certified as a Level III Llama Geneticist in North Dakota or we will lose a customer who is 20% of our income, and there are only 50 certified Llama Geneticists of any level in the entire state, and, yes, Betty was great at the analysis of llama genetics but she was really bad at Sharepoint and she never figured out how to us Doodle Polls at all. So obviously I had to fire her.”

            For me, this is also where “soft skills” really are also a deciding factor. If, despite the technical shortcomings and the corresponding annoyance of/reliance upon coworkers, the employee is easy to get along with and manage otherwise, I would keep them on. I say this because if it REALLY is that challenging to find someone good in that one aspect of the job, there is a risk that someone else you find that is good at this aspect may be great at saving emails to Sharepoint, but a condescending jerk, due in no small part because they KNOW you have limited options for the role.

  4. Zephy*

    LW2, who does your employee have dirt on that you can’t just cut her loose? She’s already still not doing her job (after almost ten months!), how much would actually change if she just wasn’t there?

  5. Splendid Colors*

    LW #1, I am utterly unsurprised that a behavioral therapy organization would treat an employee like a machine instead of a person because Applied Behavior Analysis doesn’t believe clients are people and most agencies are run by corporate investment groups. If you want to help disabled kids learn skills, I would recommend cross training in occupational therapy and changing fields.

    1. No Real Name Here*

      This, right here. When I got to the end and realized OP was talking about ABA, it was an aha moment. Of course they aren’t treating her well.

    2. OP #1*

      It is absolutely a massive issue in the field, I don’t disagree at all. A lot of us get those rose colored glasses saying we’ll be the person who provides high quality and respectful services, and I am very passionate about not requiring eye contact, not reducing non harmful self stimulatory behavior, and not using my larger size to increase compliance in any way. You’re right, ended up leaving the field because it is impossible to come up against all of the barriers, mad respect for all the OTs and SLPs I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

      1. Professional Child Wrangler*

        I used to be a temporary/back up nanny and worked with a few families who received ABA services, and observed the therapist working. I was so impressed with their patience, expertise, and professionalism, because it’s not a job I could ever do.

        When I googled the pay range I couldn’t believe it. What a crime

        1. OP #1*

          It’s so hard man they truly instill that whole you’re a helper how could you leave the kids mentality in you hard, it took me years and completely failing health to move past it and I still feel a little guilty that I have it up even though life is so much better since I have

          1. LisTF*

            OP I could not empathize more. Private equity has massively changed the field over the past 10yrs and it’s all about profits instead of helping people. I work for managed care now, and if you can find a small clinic (that’s not a mess because it’s held together with duct tape and the good intentions of an incompetent founder) you may still be able to do what you got into the field to do. Otherwise, we are gonna have to wait for the 5 big players (C***, C******, E****, L****, and A**) to crash and burn before quality of care and treating clinicians like humans instead of a variable in an equation designed to maximize profit ever makes a return.

      2. Anon Autistic*

        Many of us Autistic folks believe that ABA is abusive. Gay conversion therapy is directly based on ABA and it is getting an appropriate amount of disdain these days. I would strongly recommend looking up “The Great Big ABA Opposition Resource List” and reading through some of the articles/perspectives there.

  6. ecnaseener*

    “Instead, if they were really keen, they could make an offer.” I don’t understand this part – isn’t that what they just did, asking you to come back? Is there a word missing or something and you meant a better offer?

    If so, that doesn’t sound bridge-burning to me, if you just said “I’m not interested at my previous salary but lmk if you have a better offer.”

    1. fhqwhgads*

      It sounds like what happened was they said “come back, name a number” and OP said “if you want me to come back, you name a number”.

      1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        Yeah, that’s how I read it, too. LW basically saying “if you want me back entice me enough to come back without knowing what would be enough”. Which is an interesting way of handling this because it puts the (former/possibly future) employer in the position of having to figure out actual market rates and finding the fine line between offering enough to get LW back and offering too much to make it a financially viable decision.

  7. RB*

    Re #2: Have you tried a little bit of hands-on help, at least for a few of those tasks? Sometimes that’s a lot more helpful than watching those on-line tutorials and then trying to remember all the steps a few days later when the task comes up again.

    1. Observer*

      I suggest that you go back and read the original letter. This employee got LOTS of hands-on help to start with. She refused to learn.

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