my boss refuses to speak to me during my notice period, who says when I can work from home, and more

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

1. My boss is refusing to talk to me during my notice period

I’ve been at my company now for over five years. It’s a very small company (less than10 employees), and my role is second-in-command to the company’s founder.

Late last year, I accepted a new position at another firm. I told my boss as soon as possible, and she took the news awfully, telling me she was furious and felt betrayed. The conversation went terribly and caused a lot of stress on my part.

I’m currently in the process of working out my (long) notice period, and my boss hasn’t spoken to me since. My colleague – a direct report – has confirmed that my boss is actively choosing not to speak to me.

Since I’m in a managerial position and usually follow her orders (and then delegate these to my direct reports), I’m at a loss for what to do, and feel very much in limbo. I’m left feeling completely shut out and hurt. I’ve put a lot into this company, and other people have left in the past without issue, so it feels unfair that she has singled me out and projected so much anger onto the situation. Is there any way I can try to resolve things before I leave, or shall I just keep my head down?

I’m in a country where my one-month notice period is contractually obligated, so I can’t leave early.

If you weren’t contractually obligated to stay, I’d tell you to leave early, framing it as, “I’d wanted to give you a lot of notice so we could plan a transition. But it doesn’t seem like this is working well so my last day will be ___” (something no more than a week away).

But since that’s not an option … well, you can try to talk to your boss, but this is a person who is actively choosing to freeze you out just because you took another job — in other words, for doing a very normal thing that everyone there is likely to do at some point. If you want, you could attempt a single “I’d like to meet with you soon that we can talk about transition items since time is running out and I know you want this to go as smoothly as possible.” But if that doesn’t work, and I’m betting it won’t, then this is really her bed and you’ve got to let her lie in it. She’s the one who’s going to be harmed by it; it’s soon not going to be your problem.

If you don’t have much to do, document what you can, meet with the people you manage and find out if there’s anything they want training in or a brain dump about before you go … and that’s about all you can do. That’s on her, not you.

2. An employee just died and our CEO’s solution is to set up a GoFundMe

I work for a mostly remote company with employees scattered across the country. A few weeks before Christmas, we had a mandatory in-person meeting. One employee showed up sick and got 14 people sick with a very nasty case of influenza A.

We just got called into a very quick all-hands meeting where it was announced that a young employee on my team passed away very suddenly last night, most likely from complications from that flu. Obviously our whole team is in shock, and a fellow employee raised their hand to ask what our company would be doing to support their family; we were all expecting the answer to be something along the lines of sending flowers and support for the services.

Well, our CEO’s solution was to ask that employee (who was not close to the employee who passed and had really only met him once) to set up a GoFundMe that we could all donate to. He then asked if we could make LinkedIn posts in memoriam.

Am I wrong for feeling like this is not the proper way to handle this at all? The company itself is profitable and pulls in millions of dollars a year, while the vast majority of the employees make anywhere from $50k-90k. While I am in the position that I can donate, I don’t think everyone’s financial situations may allow them to do so. I think a GoFundMe is a strange answer to begin with as well? What are your thoughts?

How terrible. And you are not wrong. If the company would like to send support to the family, it should do so itself, not ask individual employees to fund something. (And I agree a GoFundMe is a strange answer as well, particularly if there’s not been any indication his family wants that kind of help.)

Would you and a group of coworkers be up for prodding the company to handle this differently? Something like “we’d like to see the company itself send support to the family, rather than asking individual employees to fund that” would be reasonable.

3. Baby gift etiquette

Last year, my wife and I welcomed our second child. On my last workday before my wife’s scheduled induction, a coworker I work closely with asked for the link to our baby registry. I shared it with him and then headed off for my parental leave.

Evidently, he shared it with the rest of my team — and they were incredibly generous. A few days after the baby was born, my mother-in-law went to buy us a gift and told us that everything on the registry had been bought. A diaper fund was also started. We were very grateful and sent individual thank-you notes to everyone as well as a treat and more general thank-you note to the office for the team.

The thing is, we’ve now had a … surprise. Our third child is due and will be just 13 months younger than our second. I feel uncomfortable and can’t shake the irrational worry that my team might think this is some sort of cash grab. Do I need to say anything to let them know we don’t expect or demand any gifts? Is there a way to communicate that without sounding ungrateful for their previous generosity?

It is extremely unlikely that your office will think you are having a baby — a massive 18-year financial commitment, minimum — in order to get more gifts from them. That would be fantastically short-term thinking from you and your partner, and I suspect they think better of you than that.

However, if anyone asks you about a registry this time (or otherwise intimates they’re thinking about gifts), you could say, “Thanks for asking, but we have everything we need! And everyone here was so generous last time that we couldn’t possibly accept anything else other than your good wishes.”

4. Who says when I can work from home?

I’m part of a team of about 30 admins who support 200+ offices across six states. Up until four months ago, the job was remote, although some, including me, chose to work in offices near our homes. Then the company called all remote employees back to offices, assigning us individually to specific locations. Since we’ve returned to the offices, there’ve been many changes in duties, expectations, and culture, including who we report to. This is where it gets tricky.

Philippa manages our entire cohort and (theoretically) sets the rules and expectations — one of which is we’re no longer allowed to work from home. However, each of us works in an office with a manager who sets things like daily duties (beyond what we were doing before), desk stations, etc. I happen to have two: Sylvia and Michael, her own manager. Both manage me daily, while Philippa is in another state. In fact, I’ve only met Philippa in person once. Philippa is entirely opposed to anyone working from home, but Sylvia and Michael encourage it in certain situations. For example, if I’m sick enough that I might spread germs, but still well enough to work, they’re fine with me working remotely. It’s the same for inclement weather. Also, I now have over an hour commute on public transportation that can be unreliable. There are also times when my office closes early, and Sylvia and Michael suggest that I just work from home rather than waste two hours of travel for a short day. Thus far, I’ve worked from home on such days, but even though I have permission from Sylvia and Michael, I’ve not told Philippa for fear of making waves. I’ve seen this go badly for others in my cohort, and there are already issues regarding who has final authority in terms of our responsibilities and scheduling.

How might I best navigate this? The last time I worked from home (a short day before a holiday), Philippa called me on Zoom, but luckily she never asked where I was and my background is a picture of my office. My overall sense is that, eventually, our positions will be more office-oriented with less oversight from Philippa and corporate headquarters. We were placed in offices to provide greater support to managers and employees, but because all of this is new, the chain of command is a little fuzzy. But on some level, Phippa is still in charge. On a personal note, Sylvia and Michael are fantastic. They’ve been super understanding about the public transportation issues, and I have been super willing to take on a few extra duties to help the office run smoothly. Philippa, however, has other ideas about what I should be doing and where. I’ve seen the seeds of a power struggle being planted, and I don’t want to water them … but sometimes it really is best to work from home.

If your direct managers are telling you that you can work from home, it’s reasonable to listen them. If it’s ever challenged, you can plausibly say you assumed it was okay because your managers told you it was okay each time. There are a lot of things where individual managers have the authority to deviate from broader policy.

If Philippa were to ever say to you, “I don’t care what Sylvia and Michael tell you; it’s still not okay to ever work from home,” that would change things. At that point, you’d need to take that to Sylvia and Michael and explain you don’t feel comfortable violating Philippa’s direct instruction, unless it’s something they wanted to take up with her themselves. But it doesn’t sound like that’s happened yet, so go on taking direction from the people managing you.

{ 350 comments… read them below }

  1. Voldemort's Cousin*

    I find OP3’s concern absolutely charming. If only having a baby was a lucrative venture! As a soon to be first time mom, I am preparing myself for a seemingly infinite stream of diaper, medicine, schooling, extracurricular, etc. etc. costs. OP3, your coworkers gave you gifts because they were excited for your family’s new addition and they value you as a coworker. They’re likely to see this new (unexpected) arrival through the same generous lens.

    1. Rachel*

      When I read it, I said”Oh, sweetie!” out loud.

      I agree—OP, I think you’ve got some general baby worries that are latching onto this. I don’t think the money angle will occur to your coworkers, who sound like nice people who like you.

    2. turquoisecow*

      Most people I know don’t bother with showers for second babies (unless they’re far enough apart in age that the parents have given away all their baby stuff) and I wouldn’t bother to set up a registry at all. That said, people in your office might decide to send money or diapers anyway, because regardless of how many kids you have there is still some new stuff you need! My husband’s company sent us gift cards for doordash or something like that, and when his coworker had a baby they took up a collection and were as generous in return.

      Even if it’s a third baby, it’s still worth celebrating, and the best way people celebrate is by giving gifts! I definitely wouldn’t think anyone was having a baby just to get gifts; having been through it myself? It’s a lot of extra effort for doordash cards!

      Just accept the generosity of your coworkers. I know it’s hard, but they mean well.

      1. Double A*

        And with a 3rd (surprise!) baby, some of that meal and diaper support might be even more welcome than with #2. Since it’s very unlikely you’d need much new non-disposable stuff for the baby, you can very easily decline to share a registry since you probably won’t need to make one!

      2. OP3*

        Last time, because we had several pregnancy losses between my oldest and my second, we gave away just about everything. We made a registry so that we could buy the things we needed with a completion discount. We’ll be doing one again this time, because we need to replace an expiring infant carseat, get a bigger stroller that will accommodate two small kids, more milk storage bags, etc.

        We also add some little things like infant medicines and lotions, for family. I won’t share it with my coworkers, but my wife’s family lives far away and they like having the chance to send something they know we’ll need since they don’t get much chance to support her in person.

        1. Bébé chat*

          I’m so happy for your family, as I know first hand how devastating it is to have to go through several pregnancy losses. Celebrate your surprise baby as much as you want, and if people want to buy you stuff, let them support you and celebrate with you in this way. No one will think badly of you, and people will be happy to be able to participate.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Congratulations on the new baby and the one already at home.

          For your co-workers, may I suggest a redirect approach. “You guys were so amazingly generous last time, so we really don’t needs anything this time. But I have no objections to a get together and story shower.”

          Story Showers are what my church throws for moms having a second (or third, or fourth) kid. Basically everybody gets together and gives the parent(s) to be a cake, we tell stories about funny things our kids/siblings have done, and maybe some little tricks for coping when you’ve suddenly got two really little ones and want to make sure that the older one doesn’t get ignored.
          It’s geared more towards celebrating the life event, and not at all towards presents.

          1. Citra*

            I dunno. I don’t think, “Oh, we don’t need gifts, throw me a party instead,” is the best thing to do with coworkers. Personal friends or a church group is one thing, but I wouldn’t ask my coworkers to throw me a party. (And “story shower,” which sounds like a really cute idea, isn’t a well-known thing; when I hear “story shower,” I think, “Give us children’s books.”)

            1. Up and Away*

              And no offense to the person who suggested this, but I’d rather poke my eyes out than listen to a bunch of people telling stories about their kids…especially in a work setting!

          2. GymnastB*

            This isn’t great for people who don’t have kids. I have a kid and I hate going to showers where all everyone talks about is raising kids, so I would say…no on this for work absolutely.

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I’m realizing I should stop posting before coffee – I forgot a whole paragraph I thought was there.

            I was going to say it sounds like they really like OP and want to celebrate – but he doesn’t want gifts. Maybe you all can come up with a better way to word it to transmit gifts to OP into cake/snacks and social hour in the break room instead.

        3. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

          Please, please tell your coworkers that they were so generous with the diaper fund that the only logical way to use it all up was to have another baby! (Congrats and best wishes.)

        4. TomatoSoup*

          This makes total sense.
          Also, there seems to always be that one relative who wants to buy a gift (so generous and thoughtful!) and if there is no registry they will pick something that doesn’t really work for you and is unreturnable.

      3. starsaphire*

        Speaking as a many-times-over office “auntie,” here’s what your co-workers expect:

        You to pull out your phone and show them adorable pictures whenever they ask, “How’s the little one?” :)

        That’s all! You thanked them prodigiously; you’re good.

        Congratulations and best wishes on the growing family!

      4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I agree that I would never expect gifts for a 2nd+ baby, but I do plan to set up registries – most stores will give a “registry completion” discount on anything you buy yourself!

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I don’t think anyone would assume that you get pregnant as a gift grab! But not sharing any registry details with your coworkers and if they ask saying thanks but you are all good is all it takes (and they may well still chose to buy some stuff, because often, people like giving gifts, particularly to people whom they like – if they do, your previous approach of sending thank you notes and bringing in some treats and baby pics is perfect)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Particularly baby items, which is a whole category that is often a) very cute; b) not something we have any reason to look at otherwise.

        Sometimes you’re a convenient pathway for people to say “Look at the adorable tiny little hats! With ears!”

        It’s like I don’t buy elaborate miniatures for myself–limited space, no matter how much I love those scenes–but if you told me someone was having a happy life event that called for me browsing the miniature store and picking out something delightful (a 2″ high vanity with mirror and teensy brushes) for $20, I’d seize the excuse.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          So much this. I was recently in a museum gift store and they had the cutest onesies – I looked at them and wished I knew someone who was having a baby. I don’t want a baby – not at all – and I’m not actively yearning for grandbabies yet. I still love buying adorable baby things.

        2. Btdt*

          ‘Sometimes you’re a convenient pathway for people to say “Look at the adorable tiny little hats! With ears!”’

          Ahahaha, too true! :D

          1. SixTigers*

            And not just hats! All babies are wonderful, but little girl babies get the CUTEST little adorable outfits with lace and ruffles and general frou-frou, and it turns out that I am an absolute sucker for adorable little outfits with lace and ruffles and general frou-frou. The things one learns about oneself . . . !

            And when the babies’ moms roll their eyes and take the things back to trade for flannel onesies and whatever, that’s fine. But OMG, those little dresses are to die for!

            1. Anonymous For Now*

              I am totally anti frou frou for grown people, but teeny tiny frou frou items are completely adorable!

              (My anti frou frou is probably due to back when petites seemed to be slightly larger versions of clothing that looked like it was meant for little girls.)

        3. Chinookwind*

          Ditto. I knit and have been known to go into my stash of blankets to give to a new or expecting parent. I figure that every new child deserves their own blankie (and I only give ones that are made form material appropriate for babies and being thrown into a washing machine). I am always looking for an excuse to give one away.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As someone whose (only two) kids are in their late 20s, I chuckled in agreement when I read that part of Alison’s answer: “It is extremely unlikely that your office will think you are having a baby — a massive 18-year financial commitment, minimum — in order to get more gifts from them.”

      It does not even end at 18. Anytime I hear about someone having kids close together like OP, my first thought is “OMG two kids in college at once” (something I narrowly dodged because my first only took 5 semesters to graduate – and it was still rough on me financially). OP, if I were your coworker, I’d totally help out again and not suspect any foul play because that’d be the funniest, most adorable kind of foul play I can think of. Sounds like your coworkers feel the same!

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I don’t think that’s true anymore, I think they changed in a few years ago. Now parents with two kids in college at once get the same amount of aid that they would have if those two kids didn’t overlap.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I was friends with quadruplets. They got financial aid for college, but I think they had to wait to learn to drive because the parents couldn’t afford having four kids 16-18 years old on the insurance.

      2. Clisby*

        I finished college in 3 years in part so my parent wouldn’t have *three* kids in college at the same time. I say “in part” since the other part was I was ready to leave college and get on with my real life.

      3. No cute name yet*

        We thought we had avoided three in college at once when one of the twins took a gap year, but then the older one took five years. Thank goodness for good state schools!

      4. Frieda*

        I went to college with twins who had a brother 18 months older. All three of them were in college at the same time for several years.

        Their dad was not a part of their upbringing and they often expressed admiration for their mother. I didn’t realize until I had kids of my own how impossible three under 18 months would actually be. They were perfectly nice young men, much to her credit.

    5. Momma Bear*

      Surprises happen. I would say that if someone truly wants to give a gift, zero obligation, I have a list but well-wishes are all we really need (if true). IMO let people make the choice themselves. I actually like the way it went where the coworker asked for a registry and people contributed as they wanted to.

      By the way, some of us with surly teenagers miss buying baby stuff. I’d absolutely buy more for a family if I liked the coworker.

    6. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      I find it… alarming that their worry about an unplanned baby is that their coworkers will think it’s a cash grab. How odd.

      1. Dahlia*

        I don’t think it’s odd. People have weird anxiety when they have a new baby, and there’s a lot of talk about second baby showers are tacky, etc.

        1. OP3*

          Thank you for understanding. We’ve made plans for the medical bills and we’re in a good financial place to manage with a little budgeting, so now all that anxiety just took an odd turn I guess.

    7. SpaceySteph*

      My daycare bill for 3 kids last year (which I have at the ready because I just pulled the info for my taxes and was positively gobsmacked) was over $37,000. But I definitely had that third kid so someone would buy us a few trinkets off our registry.

      1. GreenDoor*

        I had two babies less than a year apart. No one at work balked – even though it also meant two maternity leaves a year apart! If it’s not too late, you can try heading it off at the pass when you announce it/talk about it “Yep – one right after the other, but thankfully everyone was so generous with the first one, there’s not a thing we need!” You’ll probably still get gifts here and there….but you can assume those are people who are giving out of happiness for you and not under pressure.

        1. Boof*

          Honestly I doubt anyone else will think about it too hard; but i get that LW seems to be feeling super self conscious and maybe has a hard time accepting gifts? Lw your coworkers want you to enjoy and celebrate as much as you can with all the work and stress of small ones; don’t stress about this!!

    1. Saru is my favorite*

      Sylvia would be a great manager, and Phillipa would be a terrible one. It checks out. Obviously Saru is the best choice, but his name is too obviously alien for this letter.

        1. I Speak for the Trees*

          You nailed it. This was my letter and I figured that “Saru” would be too weird. But, yeah, as much as I love Michelle Yeoh, Philippa G (at least the Terran one) would not be a great manager. Not a bad Emperor, though… ;)

      1. INFJedi*

        and Phillipa would be a terrible one.
        Well, it depends which Phillipa you mean. Captain Phillipa seemed like a very decent manager. Empress Phillipa on the other hand…

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Since I read the multiple question columns at 6am GMT before I’ve had my coffee, my bleary eyes read Phillipa as Phillipe. I was imagining an exceptionally suave Frenchman dedicated to in-office working.
      And I also vote to have Saru as my boss!

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          I had totally forgotten about Phillippe the fruitcake! Clearly his career has advanced significantly just by staying at the same company. ;)

          1. MigraineMonth*

            “Philippe always provided a great deal of stability to his reports, until the unfortunate incident where one of those reports… ate him.”

            1. SixTigers*

              In his defense, the report stated that he had a fresh cup of coffee, it was mid-morning, and he was feeling a bit peckish. He did add that he regretted the incident, but the doughnut shop down the road was closed for inventory, and, well . . .

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      OMG, I was trying to figure out why all those names seemed to fit together well and for some dopey reason it didn’t even occur to me that they were Trek names. Then again, I’ve rarely heard anyone call Tilly by her first name and also I’m only slowly making my way through Disco, so that probably is why.

    4. Lady Blerd*

      It goes to show how long ago the last season of Disco aired because that went over my head. TBF to myself, I rarely see Sylvia calle by her first name.

  2. Certaintroublemaker*

    LW4, on sick/short/bad weather days, try first, “Sylvia and Michael like to run the [location] office their particular way. They specifically requested that I work remotely today.” I mean, it is their office.

    1. Ashley*

      This. “Sylvia and Michael have closed the office, so I am unable to work there today.”

      And when it comes to sick days (when you’re contagious but ok to work), I always frame it as “Would you like me to take a sick day and get no work done, or work remotely and get a full day of work done?”

      I just cannot comprehend the mentality of managers who completely ban working from home when it is technically possible. The absolute best part of working from home is not having to worry about commuting in poor weather and spreading germs. I would have to take SO MANY sick days if I was required to be in the office full time with no exceptions.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Their mentality is that people will be faking sick so they can work from home. They don’t think far enough ahead to realize that if people were faking it, they’d obviously fake an illness severe enough that they weren’t expected to work at all.

        1. Smithy*

          Along the lines of “faking it” – it’s also this idea that people working at home will only be giving partial attention as they’ll be doing other things. And while that is entirely possible – that also happens all the time in 101 different ways in an office when someone just shows up because they have to (and need the paycheck).

          1. Clisby*

            I know! There are a gazillion ways to waste time in the office. Or, not even necessarily *waste* it – just not use it in a way contributing to the employer’s bottom line.

          2. All Het Up About It*

            And related to that how many times have people showed up at the office not feeling well, and done very little work? I get roles where being in office is important/necessary, I get some people really DON’T work or work well from home, but the idea of if people are in the office they are working is just so… BIZARRE for me.

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

                This is a hill I would die on. Not only is making me come to the office when I’m a little sick a disservice to me. But more importantly, making my coworkers come in when they’re sick is not only a disservice to me and the rest of my soon-to-be-formerly-not-sick coworkers! And furthermore, it’s actually short sighted on the company’s part, because even if they think one person WFH is a productivity loss (it’s not), surely they must realize that making that person come in an infect everyone else is a bigger productivity loss.

                In fact, it is now part of my employer screening criteria that they actually encourage and even enforce that sick people stay home (or go home if they fell ill when they were already in the office).

          3. Michelle Smith*

            Yep, EXACTLY!!! This is the one that infuriates me. When I work from home, sometimes yes, I will do my laundry in the middle of the day (I’m in NYC, so I do have to leave my apartment to do that, but thankfully not the building), load/unload the dishwasher, or cook my lunch. When that happens I might respond to your Slack in 10-15 minutes instead of 2. But nothing I do is ever *that* urgent, I get my work done, and I am much more willing to work past 5 pm on the dot since I don’t have a long subway ride after. It’s much less of an imposition to update a spreadsheet at 6 pm (or even 9 pm, if I took a nap or did other things that evening) while I’m in front of the TV in the comfort of my sweatpants than it is for me to do that work from the office. And judging by all the laughing and social chatting I hear in my open plan office when I *am* there, I can safely say there are plenty of distractions in the office too. Just let people work where and how they work best IMO!! (Within reason obviously, like it might be hard to be a nurse or a waiter from your home, I think we know I’m not talking about stuff like that lol).

        2. mlem*

          Nah, not working at all would probably have to pull from a sick/PTO time bank, but WFH is a paid shift. So some managers assume that a perfectly healthy person is pretending to be “lightly sick” so they can stay home and “goof around” while being paid standard rates and saving up their sick/PTO time. (If they cared about the end-of-day output as a measure, they probably wouldn’t be so thoroughly anti-WFH in the first place.)

          1. Employed Minion*

            Mlem, I must counter your last point in parentheses. End-of-day output doesn’t seem to be the concern. In the New Years email from corporate, the company state a hard in-office requirement and stated a ‘reduction in individual productivity’ is acceptable. Obviously, this stance won’t last long

            1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

              In the New Years email from corporate, the company state a hard in-office requirement and stated a ‘reduction in individual productivity’ is acceptable.

              Wow. That’s incredibly stupid, short-sighted, and demoralizing. Their need for control and “butts in seats” is more important than productivity? You have lousy, out of touch upper management, IMO.

              1. Allonge*


                Or maybe the company decided that the, say 5% higher individual productivity is not worth the cost of newcomers not being integrated well in the org or the growing divide between various teams.

                Or they want to reassure the staff who work longer hours from home because no commute / COVID times that it will not be counted against them if tehy can only process 5 widgets per day and not six as in the last years.

                1. SpaceySteph*

                  My experience, as someone on a team for a long time when covid hit and then a newcomer to 2 other teams since, is that a team with a good culture and embrace of the coworking tools can integrate newcomers very effectively without requiring butts in seats… and a team with a crappy culture/inability to adapt to the online environment can’t do that no matter how many in-person events they require.

                2. Allonge*

                  My experence is that you can be integrated into a team and still be waaay too clueless about the entire org, which is to the detriment of productivity.

                  And if a whole team has an “inability to adapt to the online environment”, that is a very good reason to require them to be in the office!

                  But really, I am not saying that the reasons I mentioned are universal, I just wanted to push back against the sentiment that there is no possible logical reason behind telling staff that individual productivity could fall and that would be ok.

                3. Lily Potter*

                  Your first paragraph is the #1 drawback I see for organizations being 100% remote. I don’t care how many people say “I work great from home” and “I’m on Teams calls all day!” When people don’t work regularly together, in person, the organizational culture changes. New people don’t forge the same kinds of relationships from home that they do when someone is working nearby 40 + hours a week.

                  I think of it as the “get off my lawn!” reaction – so many people scream “I work great from home! I just want people to leave me alone so I can do my job and be productive!” Thing is though – you probably didn’t get productive by learning your job from home. You learned in an office with actual humans nearby to help you learn the unwritten rules of the company – who can help you with a tricky software, who you should avoid irritating, even how to charm the IT guy so you get help when your laptop dies. You learned all that before you became WFH and that’s why WFH works for you now. How are new employees supposed to learn such things if experienced people are all MIA and working remotely?

                  I’m 100% WFH and the only reason it works is a) the whole COMPANY is WFH and always has been and b) I worked for my boss at a different company so there was no “getting to know you” online awkwardness. My boss is a familiar call away any time I need help with the “soft” parts of navigating office politics. I can’t fathom being 30 years old and starting a new job where someone handed me a laptop and told me, more or less, to “figure things out”.

        3. turquoisecow*

          Plenty of people think working from home doesn’t involve working, or doesn’t count as much as being in the office, and involves lounging on the couch eating bonbons or something, even if presented with evidence to the contrary. The COO of my company, despite having no complaints about work not getting done while the entire company was remote during Covid, still phrased it as though the company was being SO generous for having ALLOWED work from home during that period.

          1. Loch Lomond*

            It’s leftover puritanism- if it’s too pleasant, it’s not real work, even if you’re twice as productive.

            To paraphrase Mrs Doyle- “Maybe they LIKE the misery!”

            1. Who Am I*

              That is so true! An old boss of mine once took a task away from me because it looked like I enjoyed it so much. Seriously, that’s the reason she gave me. That was over 35 years ago and I still remember that. I didn’t even reply – what can you say to that?

            2. Avery*

              Yep. Sometimes my remote work does involve sitting on a couch, or even in bed, eating sweets! While doing quality work as well! Nothing wrong with that in my book…

            3. Sleeve McQueen*

              haha when I used to work from my parents’ house, my dad would complain that I was just watching TV all day. My job at the time? TV reviewer.

          2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

            Yeah, or they think it’s some sort of bourgeois privilege that we should feel guilty about having when others can’t, even though we worked hard to get the skills for jobs that can be done remotely.

            When I work at home I have a regular desk, with a keyboard tray, big monitor, mouse, docking station, ergonomic chair and foot rest. The only difference from an office is that it is in my home, and has much less noise than an open plan. I even have a small whiteboard. Not only that, but I provided all of the equipment except the laptop itself.

            My team is 100% remote. We chat throughout the day, have regular meetings, etc. The only thing we don’t do is share germs, which my at-risk self greatly appreciates. I don’t waste any more time WFH than I do in an office, and maybe less. I have to actually be strict with myself on logging off, or I can get sucked in and end up working until 9 pm when my regular time to stop is 6 pm.

            Yes, working from home requires self discipline. So does working independently in a remote office, or out in the field. As people get older and more skilled, there is more expectation that they will be able to work independently without micromanagement and minute by minute scheduling like in a fast food restaurant.

        4. Samwise*

          Or they think that the work is somehow better when in person, or that the clients prefer it.

          I work with university undergrads. I am required to be inperson three days a week. Most of my students meetings on those days are on zoom. Students can choose inperson or virtual.

          And yet our dean will not commit to continuing our hybrid model more than one academic year. Thanks, dean. That’s making staff leave, and making it harder to hire too. It’s not like we’re getting more $.

          1. My Cabbages!*

            I will state as an instructor, my experience has been that student learning suffers tremendously from an online class model, so I can see where your dean is coming from.

            1. SixTigers*

              I’ve taken a couple of VTC classes and, despite the instructor’s best efforts, it was not a good learning environment. I’d taken in-person classes with the professor and knew him to be an excellent teacher, but there were constant tech problems — periodically the audio would lag by a half-second, or there would be static or the video would roll, or the instructor would try to switch to a screen that would show him writing out equations or diagrams and would have trouble with it —

              I really felt for him, because he was so good, and the VTC was such a burden, but it was untenable. The technological problems were such that I decided that an online MS was just not going to happen. It hasn’t affected my career; I love my job and didn’t really need the master’s, but not everyone is in that position.

              1. TeaCoziesRUs*

                Same. I took a couple Masters level courses online and didn’t retain much, despite taking just as many pages of hand-written notes as I would in the classroom. The Enneagram community has also transitioned MUCH of its teaching programs online – which is wonderful for getting teachers who don’t care to travel out of retirement and giving us a chance to learn from them firsthand. However, I miss that in-person community building. I’m really glad the online option exists for those who can learn via the Internet (or simply need a degree to check a box). It’s just not for me.

              2. Over Analyst*

                Wow, I had the exact opposite experience. As someone who had accommodations through my school’s disability office I found that I didn’t even need one of my accommodations due to the added features of learning over zoom: the professor’s notes being readily accessible and recordings available if I missed anything. My best semester was the first one that was entirely online due to covid.

        5. goddessoftransitory*

          Right? Why would, if I were faking, offer to work all day??? The entire point of playing hooky is to not work!

      2. Orange You Glad*

        I’ve taken exactly 1 half day as a sick day since March 2020. I used to use up a lot of my (generous) PTO on sick days for mental health. The problem was I needed a mental break from all the people in the office but I could still get my work done. My boss always insisted if you are sick, you aren’t working.

        The next hill I’ll probably end up dying on is time off for bereavement/grief. I had an intern (who already works remote) have a death in her family. She asked to work part-time that week since she had a lot of family events going on, but she found working on her projects the best way to keep her mind off of everything else going on in her life. I thought that was reasonable, my boss insisted no one can work while they are grieving so she lost out on pay that week. I’ve tried to explain that it is not his place to decide how someone else grieves a loss and we should support the employee in any way we can but he’s the type that is convinced everyone is slacking off and trying to steal their wages. Her working on ongoing projects 4hrs per day instead of 8 wasn’t going to have any impact on our regular work.

        1. DJ*

          I’ve probably taken around 2 sick days since March 2020 myself when I used to use most of it. I had a long complicated commute over nearly 90 minutes before COVID so if unwell too much to handle. But now as well as being exposed to less germs so don’t get as sick often I can work if not feeling 100%. I may do short days but better than not working at all or spreading germs.
          Strange attitude re intern and grief. As you say ppl handle difficult events differently and some prefer to keep their mind off things by doing some work. Same for those with serious illnesses i.e. cancer. Working can keep one’s mind off that and provide a sense of normalcy, also “If I can work I’m not that sick so it’s not bad”

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      And there’s no need to bring it up preemptively, forcing a hashing out of just who precisely is the boss of you. The Zoom background being your office is a great idea.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I might be reading too much into it but from the way the letter is written I felt like maybe their real internal struggle was wondering if it was unethical to be working from home when Philippa said not to. And I think the answer to that is a definite “No.” You don’t have to outright lie to her, but there’s no reason to go out of the way to tell her and hopefully there will never be a reason she needs to know!

        1. Smithy*

          Yeah, I do think that this also lives in one of those awkward spaces where you have contraditory directives from different sets of managers, and ultimately want to follow one set of instructions and not the other. Essentially the exact opposite of looking for clarity, but rather picking the guidance from Managers A and not flagging that Managers A and Managers B need to connect and come to a mutual understanding.

          To make it perfectly clear, I 100% support the OP in taking this approach – however having some discomfort on the situation and making choices such as a set Zoom background of the office is still savvy. Philippa has shown herself to be fairly rigid on this point, and this may involve other office politics where it’s not worth the OP’s time or capital to get involved. Rather, some lies of ommission not drawing attention to this set up is likely wise.

          1. MidWasabiPeas*

            I seem to be in the minority here but I don’t agree that using your office as a Zoom background is a good idea-it strikes me as wanting to trick people into believing you’re in the office. If I thought my employee was in the office and found they’d used a Zoom background to make it appear they were, I’d be annoyed.

            I took the gist of this letter to be “I know I really work for Philippa ‘she manages our cohort’ but I want to act like I work for Sylvia and Michael.” I don’t blame the OP (Philippa sounds like a pill ) but don’t put yourself in a bad spot by actively trying to trick her into thinking you’re in the office.

            1. My Cabbages!*

              I had the same gut instinct. I don’t know if I consider it unethical per se, but I think having a different background that you use wherever you Zoom from would somehow feel less deceptive.

              1. I Speak for the Trees*

                Hi! I am the LW. The reason I use a pic of my office is that we are generally not allowed to use backgrounds – especially recognizable ones – but my space is shared and I wanted to avoid having other people in the background of calls against their wills. Also, people store things in my office space, so it looks messy.

            2. Smithy*

              To me this is more like starting to wear more “business formal” clothing to the office on a regular basis when you’re interviewing. You can see this as a trick or an aesthetic choice, but that reality is largely coming from a dynamic being less reasonable or transparent.

              I know some people use a generic office or branded office background Zoom background all the time because their actual office background looks odd or undecorated. So the choice on its own is hardly deceptive. It may be an personal aesthetic choice, an office choice to avoid the appearance of hot desking, but on its own its not deceptive because it’s clear that the OP always does this.

              1. All Het Up About It*

                Several of my Team members use the generic office backgrounds that are so similar to our real offices, that I sometimes forget they are using them. I think if she’s using this background all the time even when Zooming from the office, it’s fine, and that’s the impression I got. And it makes sense to me. Take a pic of your office one day when your desk is cleaned off, the sun is shining and Cliff from IT is not in the background changing out the print cartridge on the copier and just use that always.

              1. SixTigers*

                I don’t get to do anything on Zoom, but if I did, I’d want to have the Coliseum in Rome or the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen as a background. Maybe a nice shot of the local arboretum —

                I mean, bland is fine, but why not have fun with it?

            3. Here for the Insurance*

              “I know I really work for Philippa ‘she manages our cohort’ but I want to act like I work for Sylvia and Michael.”

              But it sounds like in their structure, OP DOES work for Sylvia and Michael (and Philippa). It’s not just wishful thinking, it’s how they’re organized.

              Now, I’d argue that having this many bosses is dumb as hell and the root of the problem, especially when they aren’t on the same page, but it’s not like OP created this situation.

      2. ferrina*

        Totally agree. I think LW has enough plausible deniability (and Sylvia and Michael will back LW) that LW should skate by unnoticed for as long as possible. Proactively bringing it up is more likely to force LW back in the office 100% of the time, which is not what they want.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I agree. If OP really does want to bring it up, they should do it with Sylvia and Michael, not with Philippa, in case Syliva and Michael want to challenge Philippa on her assertion that no one ever works from home. But I suspect that would open up a whole can of worms that really isn’t OP’s responsibility to solve (power struggle between OP’s three bosses) and I wouldn’t suggest doing that. I’d say keep doing what you’re doing, OP, and remind yourself that since Sylvia and Michael are your boots on the ground bosses and know what’s happening in the office every day vs. Philippa being a remote boss, their word should hold more weight than hers. If Philippa brings it up, follow Alison’s advice and tell her Sylvia and Michael said it was ok.

          1. Qwerty*

            I like the idea of talking to Sylvia and Michael about this if the OP hasn’t already (it may have been a discussion the first time or two). Just a heads up – something about appreciating the wfh days, that general rule from Philippa on the admin group is no remote group so OP’s been sticking to just the days that Sylvia/Michale recommend and not advertising the remote work, and that OP just wants to double check that OP is on the same page as Sylvie/Michael.

            It is unlikely that Sylvie/Michael will change their stance on on OP working remotely. But it will allow them to help give her cover if Philippa finds out.

            I’ve been sorta like Sylvie before – locally responsible for a group of people who weren’t allowed to work from home (prepandemic) and I totally bent the rules for stuff like illness and weather. But that line of communication needed to be open so I knew what rules I was bending. If I was Sylvie, I’d happily say “don’t worry about it, I’ll deal with Philippa” – but it would be a tougher situation if an annoyed Philippa called out of the blue and I had no idea that she had forbidden remote work therefore I wasn’t prepared.

        2. Mints*

          I would definitely go with plausible deniability. I understand that some people would be uncomfortable or find it unethical, but I don’t think it actually matters. WFH isn’t something that is actually going to negatively effect your work. OP got some conflicting directions, so it’s fine to go with the one that works better for you. I would be prepared for Philippa to get angry, though. If it becomes a true requirement, I’d be prepared to go into the office and maybe start low key job hunting.

    3. 2023*

      You know, 30 admins for 200+ offices is.. not a lot! At all. As an admin myself, that is rather a terrifying thought.

    4. to varying degrees*

      I would think that on odd day (bad weather, sick, etc.) Sylvia and Michael could make that decision, but for something like the LW just doesn’t want to or the commute is too long, it would be up to Phillipa. It sounds like she is the LW’s actual manager with the two local people just handling things like a shift supervisor would.

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      If you bring it up preemptively with anybody – I would bring it up with Michael and Sylvia – to let them know that Philippa is very anti-telework and wants you to always be physically in the office. This way maybe you can work as a team (with the managers overseeing the day to day) for how they want to handle the blow-up when Philippa finds out they have been having you telework on days when they decided to close the office for various legitimate reasons.

  3. Observer*

    #1- Boss freezing you out for taking another job.

    Try speaking to your boss. In any case, email her. And document everything you possibly can, and let your staff know what you did and where the documents are. And send an email to your boss with that information. BCC yourself on all these emails.

    The reason for this is, in case she decides to make a claim against you, the best thing you can do is to be able to look at what you did. And if she tried to do something more formal, having the evidence is going to be even more important.

    1. MK*

      Also, I would like to point out that , while the OP is contractually obligated to work her notice, the employer can waive their right. In my country we have legally mandated notice/severance, but people come to different arrangements all the time. It
      might be worth asking if the boss would prefer her to leave early; just make sure to document her agreement so that she won’t claim the OP just bailed.

      1. Phryne*

        Almost certainly. My contract states a notice of three months because I work in higher education, and three months means you can be made to finish the quarter and give time to find a replacement for specialised subjects without interruption to classes. (I don’t teach, but there is no difference in contracts between teaching and non-teaching staff). But in 15 years I’ve never heard a case where someone was forced by a lawsuit to finish the full period. Either it is agreed in good conversation to work out the full the period or leave earlier, or, if relations are really strained, someone is put on non-active and payed out the remaining period but not expected to turn up and work.

      2. Phryne*

        Almost certainly. My contract states a notice period of three months (because in education they want to make sure you can be required to finish the term) but in 15 years I’ve never heard of that being enforced in a lawsuit. After all, letting them go early is free and a lawsuit is not, and if relations are so strained that a lawsuit would be a possibility you won’t be able to force people to work at any level of quality anyway.

      3. Bagpuss*

        Yes, where I am (UK) The employer can chose to put the employee on gardening leave (i.e. paying them but telling them to stay home during their notice period) , it’s possible for the parties to agree a shorter notice period if both want to and the emploer can often provide pay in lieu of notice (i.e. a lump sum for what the pay for the notice period would have been, and terminate the contract straight away)

        In this case, it sounds as though it is OPs immediate boss who is being weird, and it may well not be that person who would have the final say on whether to put them on gardening leave or pay them off to leave early.

        However, it’s not OPs problem to solve. She should just get on with her job as far as is possible, and prepare documents for whoever takes over. E-mail boss requesting instructions and if she doesn’t respond then consider contacting whoever her boss is to explain the situation and the fact that it is creating a bottleneck. IF she is skipping you and speaking direct to you report, ask them to forward any mails to you so you can delegate (or not) as appropriate.

        It’s her, not you, so while it is natural to feel hurt that she is unable to behave professionally, it doesn’t reflect on you in any way at all.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yup, I’ve had gardening leave a few times, it’s quite common in senior IT to want to lock us out the system asap.

          I’ve only experienced a boss refusing to even look at me once and that was after I was told my job was going (I didn’t care, I was glad to leave) and he, after I basically said ‘I’m not invisible am I?’ said rather sheepishly that he was avoiding me in case I started crying.

          Male dominated work environments are such fun…

          1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

            he, after I basically said ‘I’m not invisible am I?’ said rather sheepishly that he was avoiding me in case I started crying.

            WTF? Why would you… But you gave notice… What on earth is he expecting?

            Talk about bizarre male expectations!

            1. Boof*

              It sounded like the avoidance situation was a layoff (but one they were happy to see the backside of), not a resignation

              1. Boof*

                As a woman and feminist (pro equality/equity) i also think negative stereotypes about men are counterproductive and hurt the movement for gender equality as a whole
                I get what they were trying to say, the toxic masculinity and/or patriarchal attitude was palpable and redonk tho. Soft skills are important skills!!!

          2. SixTigers*

            I would have laughed so hard, I’d have had to sit down. In which case he would have avoided me from then on because of mortification.

            In case I started crying, indeed! That’s hysterical!

        2. TomatoSoup*

          Gardening leave is such delightful term! I too would probably choose to work on my garden. But, yes, contracted parties are absolutely able to change the terms of the contract by mutual assent.

          1. coffee*

            When I first heard the term, I thought it meant you HAD to work on your garden during it, and asked what happened if you lived in an apartment without a garden…

        3. Glad I Jumped Ship*

          I’m sorry, OP1. I had something similar happen to me – my immediate boss was mostly fine, but the managing partner would skulk into his office and refused to talk to me all 3 weeks of my notice period. Not only did it make it extremely difficult to transition, but it was a lousy way to end things.

          Focus on the things you can control – doing your job and winding down or transitioning as appropriate during your notice period. For things that require her input, I agree with emailing your boss for guidance. It can be harder to avoid efforts to communicate that are in writing and it may be easier for her to communicate with you by email rather than face-to-face. I’m not saying this is appropriate, but if you need the input from your boss, this may be the best way to go.

          But ultimately, this is about your boss acting ridiculous and you needing to do whatever makes the rest of your notice period manageable for you.

    2. nnn*

      What kind of formal claim are you thinking of? That doesn’t sound like something that they need to worry about.

      1. Observer*

        This is not a reasonable boss. So if it turns out that something fell through the cracks, for instance, I would not be surprised if ex-Boss tries to go after the OP because it’s their “fault”. I can’t imagine that being successful, of course but it could be a headache to deal with. If the OP can easily send whoever else is involved at that point an email with the documentation of what actually happened, a reasonable HR / Legal decision maker is going to just walk away at that point.

    3. Mongrel*

      Also, depending on the industry, it may help against the boss poisoning OP1’s reputation.
      If someone in a position of power is being that petulant it’s easy to extrapolate that into blaming OP for any issues with the hand-over

      1. Antilles*

        Would it really help to keep copies of the emails or evidence though?

        The boss isn’t going to be sitting there badmouthing OP to their face where OP can interrupt with a “well actually, you refused to talk to me and I have email proof”. It’s going to be the boss talking behind OP’s back where you can’t directly defend yourself.

        Maybe you might get some offhand comments of how I’ve been hearing that you left ExCo in a bad spot or have a future interviewer ask about how you left your last job. But even then, it’s not having copies of the emails on your phone to show off, it’s going to rely on OP being able to professionally explain that she seemed unhappy that I was leaving but I did everything I could such as X and Y and Z to smooth the transition.

    4. ferrina*

      I was on a similar train of thought. Email the boss your transition plan and say “Let me know if you’d like me to do anything differently!” That way her silence turns in to implicit permission to do what you want.

      This will allow you to train whichever coworkers you think will be the best fit, prepare the tools and documentation that will help them, and overall leave them in a better place (assuming you like them- if you don’t, then you can make your transition plan minimal effort).

      I’ve done this with unresponsive/MIA bosses, and it is really freeing to be able to proceed however you see fit. And all with the innocently wide-eyed deniability of “I sent you my proposal, and you didn’t send me any edits”

      1. Ama*

        I would also recommend, even if OP doesn’t have any coworkers to train, that any instructions or lists of where the files are, etc. that are sent to their boss they also send to at least one trusted coworker — I would not put it past their boss to ignore or delete what they send and then later try to claim OP didn’t leave any instructions behind.

        When I left my last job, my boss was far more professional than OP’s but I knew from working with her that she wasn’t great at keeping track of documents even when I left lists, so I made sure a couple coworkers got copies of everything I made so if she started fretting “I don’t know where Ama put X” at least one of my other coworkers could remind her, “oh I bet it is in that list she left.”

        1. ferrina*

          GREAT ADVICE!

          Don’t leave your boss as the sole person with information- always include at least one other person (even the whole team, if that makes sense)

          1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

            Yes, that way if your boss decides to bail or something your coworkers aren’t dependent on them to be the keeper of all knowledge.

  4. Saru*

    LW4 – I agree that Sylvia and Michael should be your first line of instruction since they’re the ones in the local office and more directly working with you. Evil Emperor Giorgiou ( :D ) is not as aware of local needs.

  5. Observer*

    #2- Sudden death of a colleague. Please, don’t go down the road of “he was killed by the coworker who showed up sick.” You don’t know that, and it’s just going to make a lot of things harder for everyone, with no upside.

    I get it. It’s infuriating. The sick coworker shouldn’t have felt like they had to show up sick. But you really don’t have all the facts and you don’t know what would have happened in any case.

    1. linger*

      More subtly, it can be argued that company policies around sick leave vs working from home may have contributed towards Colleague’s death — and this is partly why there should be a direct response from the company, rather than donations from specific coworkers. Also, at the very least, the company now needs to re-evaluate those policies.

      1. Well...*

        This. We’ve been through a pandemic and learned a ton about public health. Companies can’t pretend to be ignorant about how their policies can risk lives.

        1. TomatoSoup*

          And yet people don’t learn. My friend was compelled to come into work with (mildly) symptomatic COVID. This person is a doctor. In a hospital. Their boss absolutely should have known better but “a schedule is a schedule.” They did, at least, get assigned to treat COVID patients.

          Before people take this as another example of horrible work policy or healthcare in the US, this was in a western European country often lauded for work-life balance. This was a boss on a power trip and the future opportunities of early-career doctors are vulnerable to the whims of their superiors.

          1. Boof*

            As a doc, can attest it is redic hard to take time off when sick; my current work (in usa) is wonderful about shifting things around and cross coverage when needed, and thus far in my state we get reimbursed for video visits same as in person (thank you pandemic) so we can make it happen. Even mentally it’s still hard to ask but i remind myself the ladt thing i want to do is infect patients and colleagues. Wearing masks, washing hands and distancing also are effective once improved enough to tolerate (waterfall face + mask probably not so effective)

      2. misspiggy*

        I’m guessing the company is well aware of this, and doesn’t want to look like it’s taking responsibility in any way, hence the avoidance of any corporate response.

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

          That was my thought too. They don’t want anything that looks like an admission that they are liable in case the family tried to either sue, or make a claim on the company’s insurance (IDK Workman’s Comp).

          Also, I’m not sure what kind of company this is, but in my experience, jobs often come with a company group life insurance for employees that’s about equal to a year’s salary; so that would be the usual “company response.”

          Are there any rules in GoFundMe that prevent third parties from collecting donations on behalf of someone else? I’m not really familiar with the set up. It seems to me that there should be. I’d be livid if someone were to raise money off of my family tragedy, even if they think they are doing me a favor.

      3. Love to WFH*

        The letter writer doesn’t say that the person was symptomatic. They could easily have not known they were coming down with COVID. I know several people who felt fine, did a rapid test, and discovered they were infected.

        Even if the person did know they were sick, they aren’t responsible for putting all the people in one room with no COVID mitigations.

        The company required everyone to travel during a pandemic — after the Thanksgiving super spreader event! The company did not have COVID mitigations in place such as testing, masks, and air purifiers. The company is responsible for getting. a dozen people miserably sick, and one of them dying.

        I’m assuming there were no mitigations because the writer didn’t mention any, and because a horrible manager that would (1) require attendance, (2) react by asking the employees to donate money, is unlikely to have been competent.

        1. K*

          What? The letter is about the flu, not COVID, and specifically states that an employee “showed up sick.”

    2. JM60*

      It’s infuriating that the employer mandated that people show up to a meeting in-person (likely unnecessarily), making a sick employee feel obligated to go. While it’s nearly impossible to definitely prove that the exposure from this meeting killed the employee, there’s a good chance that it was.

      What really gets me is that if an employee dies as a result of most other work-related accidents, their families are compensated for the work-caused death. However, if an employee is dies because an employer’s policies unnecessarily exposed them to a dangerous virus, the employer is almost never held responsible.

      IMO, the employer should owe the family of the employee hundreds of thousands of dollars because they likely bare responsibility for the employee’s death.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I think the reason is that the argument “but he might have fallen from a telegraph pole in his own time, we can’t be sure that his death was a direct result of his job as a telephone engineer” is obviously nonsense but “she was also breathing in proximity to other humans who may or may not be infectious during her non-work hours” is indisputable and it’s almost impossible to prove that an infection came from a specific individual, particularly for something as common as flu.

        1. doreen*

          Sometimes infections are covered under workers comp – flu generally wouldn’t be, but at my job tuberculosis would have been presumed to be work related (and we also had to be tested every year). But that’s because the population we worked with had a relatively high incidence of TB.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I was just thinking about this and wondering whether there is a kind of workers comp that is paid to families posthumously–but that if it does I assume it would be extremely difficult to get for this because you can’t really prove where you got the flu from.

        3. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

          For comparison, my grandfather was in the Vietnam War, was exposed to Agent Orange and similar substances, got Parkinson’s. As I understand it, the US military and/or Veterans Administration does not require you to prove that you could not have gotten Parkinson’s any other way in order to qualify for compensation. The official stance is “No one can prove or disprove how you specifically got your Parkinson’s, but we exposed you to unacceptable risk, we did a bad thing, you’re covered.”

          Seems reasonable to me.

          1. Curious*

            IIRC, that took a lot of fighting. Moreover, and for good reasons, there is often a preference for benefiting veterans. That doesn’t apply to other employees.

          2. TeaCoziesRUs*

            Vet here. In the world of Compensation & Pension (aka the disability rating / monthly payment), not only do you have to have letters from your doc stating that 1. this was diagnosed during your military career or 2. it is “at least as likely as not” a result of your time in service, the VA is STILL just as likely to ignore it and blow it off for your rating as they are to accept it. The “Agent Orange = this range of diagnoses” fight took 30 years. The VA Move more quickly on the PACT Act for Global War on Terror (GWOT) veterans for stuff related to burn pits, because of the groundwork laid by the Vietnam vets. It’s still a PITA to get them to re-evaluate your rating. *facepalm*

        4. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I was denied worker’s comp for a repetitive stress injury because I couldn’t prove that it was the 40 hours per week that I spent at the computer that caused it, rather than the hour after work I spent at my personal computer. *rolls eyes*

          I wanted to fight back on principle, but at least work-provided health insurance covered all the copays and they bought me an ergonomic keyboard.

      2. MistyGreen*

        During the pandemic, my employer required all hands on deck for management and if they fell ill were not allowed to take off (some got partial days or 1-2 days depending but not enough time to not be contagious) Instead, they would try to stay in their offices with doors shut as much as possible. However, we still had to go into those offices fairly regularly throughout our days at work, use the same office equipment and restrooms, they would come into common areas, etc). Typically, they would be in their offices coughing and hacking, fevered and noticeably very sick. I, along with several coworkers, contracted Covid this way. (I was going directly from home to work each day, had grocery’s delivered etc. So, the only people I interacted with were at work) My coworkers all made it through relatively fine, but I was very ill. The covid caused a major lingering issue (paralysis of vocal cords and almost total voice loss) which required medical procedures and many bills as well. I was given the time off without an issue, but I was not even able to get my employer to assist with my short term disability claim. In fact, they fought it. I still have lingering side effects from my covid illness which really have affected my life and long term health. The impact to my income was huge along with my overall finances. While I am sure these folks in OP’s workplace did not get the testing that can trace that the virus was the same strain etc, it is reasonable to assume that if 14 people fell ill after the same meeting with an infected co-worker that is where the illness came from.
        It is entirely possible the company in question allows for sick time but the particular employee was just inconsiderate and didn’t care who they exposed. Or, it could be like my workplace. We are in the throws of cold, flu, covid and RSV season and we again have everyone coming to work sick with fevers getting everyone else sick due to fear of being sent mean texts by upper management about not being dedicated. I feel company’s so have responsibility in cases like this: maybe not legally as the law dictates. However, morally they do. The employer should do something for the employee’s family and should definitely implement and encourage sick leave policies. Treating employees like their health matters is the key indicator of how staff are valued.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          I certainly agree! They keep tossing the responsibility to us and saying we don’t care about our health anyway but what can we do with bad policy and official misinformation ( seriously yes if you’re vaccinated you don’t have to wear a mask but you SHOULD

        2. Just Another Tired US Fed*

          And this is why contact tracing is a basic public health process that has been woefully mismanaged since Covid. No one should be guessing where they got Covid or any other mass breakout of a of a disease.

          People come to work sick because leave policies reward doing so. Folks just don’t think of the risk to others in a shared space, and often do not wear masks or clean surfaces. One must be brutal in protecting their own health especially if vulnerable.

          The company in question is just cheap, I hate GFMs, it’s just begging and there is no way to know the validity of what is being begged for, as anyone can start one and there has been much fraud. I would rather donate to bona fide charities or directly to a grieving family with a financial need.

        3. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          Egad! You need to find a new job for a company that gives a shit about your life and health! You’ve suffered how much for their callousness? Run!

      3. to varying degrees*

        I worked in person during the entire pandemic and before, during and mandatory meetings were never “mandatory” if you were out sick. You just called out sick. I don’t think there’s anything in the letter to indicate one way or the other that the ill employee felt pressured by company policies to come in while ill.

        1. GymnastB*

          There are plenty of people that will just come in sick no matter what. We have some people who PURPOSELY come in when sick because they feel like it’s ridiculous not to and everything is “political.” Everyone can work from home, to it’s really awful. Yes, companies need to step up, but in general, people are awful.

          1. linger*

            But specifically, companies that force workers in for “mandatory in-person meetings” — rather than, say, enforcing a “don’t come in when sick” policy — are more awful. People respond to the corporate environment they get, and the corporate silence here strongly suggests this one (i) fears, and attempts to weasel out of, even the appearance of legal responsibility; and (ii) doesn’t give a flying flu about risks to employee health.

        2. Willow Pillow*

          I’m sure I (and other coworkers) got COVID in similar circumstances as LW2… Except it was at a retirement lunch, not a mandatory meeting. I was wearing a KN95 in indoor public places otherwise. I’m lucky it was mild as I am high-risk.

          I don’t know who got me sick, and I’m certainly not going to retaliate in any form, but whoever got me sick is allowed to work from home, while I’m not. Yes, there are more general issues around workplace flexibility, but someone still endangered my health for a free lunch.

        3. JM60*

          Since the letter said it was a “mandatory in-person meeting”, I concluded that the employee likely felt like they really needed to be there. It’s possible that the company is good at encouraging people to stay home if they feel sick, and that it’s well understood that the “mandatory in-person” is implicitly only if you’re not feeling sick.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh, I’m blaming the employer and their inane mandatory all-hands meeting in the middle of a tripledemic. Hasn’t entered my mind to blame the coworker at all! They either didn’t yet know they were sick, or felt they were required to attend no matter how they felt.

      And now this same employer is throwing another employee under the bus by making them take on a financial responsibility *in their name* (I never ran a gofundme, but imagine there’s some kind of accountability/documenting involved – and does a gofundme organizer need to report the transactions to the IRS? anybody know?) just because they had the audacity to ask if the company will send flowers and condolences!! At least they are being consistent.

      1. High Score!*

        My thoughts exactly. Families of workers who die from viruses caught at work after being forced to go in should have the option of suing the company. It won’t bring the loved one back but perhaps if big corporations knew they’d be held liable then they’d care more about employee health and stop insisting workers work in office if they can do so from home. AND everyone should push law makers to make laws to protect workers.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I don’t think they are blaming the coworker, I think they are pointing out that the company bears some responsibility because the meeting was “mandatory.”

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Sorry I should have scrolled before posting to see this point had been thoroughly covered lol

    5. Lady Catherine du Bourgh*

      I would be pretty furious if my company required me to come in to a meeting in person and that meeting resulted in the death of an employee. And ESPECIALLY if their ‘condolences’ were basically “we’re not doing anything for the family, if you guys want to, you can.”

    6. WillowSunstar*

      Am I the only one who has read past horror stories and am just glad the manager isn’t doing something ridiculous like hounding the relatives asking for files or passwords? Way too many bad managers out there.

  6. Observer*

    #3 – Having a baby.

    Congratulations! But, let me ask you this. Would it ever occur to you that one of your staff, a friend or even an acquaintance would have a baby just for the gifts on the baby’s birth? I hope not! So, I think that just as you are a reasonable person and understand that people don’t operate this way, you can assume that your office is staffed by similarly reasonable people.

      1. Phryne*

        I can think of at least three female co-workers who had an accident/surprise baby a little sooner than planned after the first/second/third one over the years and I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about it at all. Mostly people just accept life happens. (And this is in a country were this means the mom will be absent for 6 months of leave, again, after having just returned back to work…)
        There is just sympathy for the logistics and physical strain this will put on parents.

        1. londonedit*

          Absolutely. Years ago I had a colleague who was pregnant again by the time she came back from her maternity leave (people are usually off for a year here). There was a bit of good-natured ‘blimey, that was quick work!’ and ‘you’ll have your hands full!’ but no one said anything negative and no one thought she’d done it ‘to get another year off’ or ‘to get more gifts’ (baby showers aren’t common here but people do give gifts when the baby is born or when someone goes off on maternity leave). If people thought anything – privately – it was probably that they didn’t envy her having two very young children to look after at the same time!

        2. PhyllisB*

          Yep. After the birth of my second child I had to have a very serious surgery. Our company allowed the option of a six month maternity leave. When I returned, I was pregnant with #3. Took some ribbing for that.

      2. Despachito*

        I think you can easily control that by not giving them the registry contact.

        (And it is sweet of your colleagues to be so generous, and of you to worry not to appear greedy. They apparently like you, and I’d say it’s for a reason).

      3. Caroline*

        We had a surprise 3rd baby, not such a small age gap, but then the opposite issue applied: we had got rid of quite a lot of our baby stuff!

        It’s going to be 10000% fine. Honestly. Third kids are the best :)

      4. doreen*

        Nobody thinks you are having a baby just to get gifts , I promise. I have heard people say negative things but it’s not about having a baby , or even accepting gifts from people. It’s about allowing ( or soliciting ) a full-on baby shower /”sprinkle” and you aren’t doing that.

      5. Sassenach*

        The only way I would think someone got pregnant to gain a benefit is if that benefit included being given 5 years of fully paid parental leave, plus $1 million dollars plus free tuition at any college and a monthly stipend for the first 18 years of the child’s life plus free babysitting whenever the parents needed a break AND a huge break on taxes. Then, maybe I could see someone getting pregnant for the benefits!
        Congratulations on having another child! Your children are very lucky to have you and your spouse for parents.

      6. Ellis Bell*

        I do love that your first worry is that your colleagues are too generous. That has to bode well!

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I think I’d have mostly compassion for someone having two babies close together. That’s a lot of work! And I’d probably be inclined to give time-saving type gifts, like food delivery giftcards etc. to help out a little.

      It would never occur to me to relate it to gifts they expect to receive – that would be a really weird reason to have a kid. Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of people really enjoy buying things for babies (there are so many really adorable things). It will probably feel like a joy, not an obligation. I think you can safely cross this off your list of things to worry about.

      1. bamcheeks*

        people really enjoy buying things for babies

        There are so many gorgeous baby clothes that I never bought for my own kids because I just imagined them immediately stained with reappearing milk / mashed banana / tomato sauce. But if I buy them for other people, I get to pretend that they stay cute and pristine forever!

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I buy mostly second-hand for my daughter, because she’s going to grow out of it in 2 months, just like the previous child who wore it did. But for gifts, I can go to one of those posh baby stores, squee over everything, buy an overpriced ruffle-butt romper made out of organic cotton and fairy dust and feel good about it.

          And toy stores! Toy stores are a type of paradise (if going there not accompanied by a toddler).

          1. bamcheeks*

            Yes, same here!

            We have a few lovely things from the organic-cotton-gorgeous-prints brands, and they look absolutely gorgeous in the catalogue, but the real joy of them is that they are still going strong three and a half children later, slightly stained but made of such good, long-staple cotton that they’re still soft, not bobbly and not going into holes. I always think the catalogue is really missing a trick by not showing that: don’t show me the gorgeous brand new glossy version which will last approximately three wears! Show me the faded washed out version that the youngest one has been desperate to grow into because she loves the spinny skirt so much!

            1. ErinB*

              Isn’t that wild? I always thought those clothes just looked good on Instagram and couldn’t justify buying them myself, but I scored a few on an after-holiday sale. I cannot get over how good they still look after two rough kids’ worth of wear. Sure there is a bit of mango staining around the collar but not a pill or fuzz in sight and they’ve held their shape so well.

            2. Observer*

              You don’t need the really high end gorgeous stuff to get stuff that wears well.

              My brand knowledge is a bit dated, but my kids tell me that Carters (and related brands) still hold up REALLY well, through multiple kids.

          2. Sylvan*


            I don’t have or want kids, but shopping for my cousins’ kids? Love it. Everything is adorable.

          3. SixTigers*

            “But for gifts, I can go to one of those posh baby stores, squee over everything, buy an overpriced ruffle-butt romper”

            I LOVE that description! And I also, for your files, love shopping for those adorable baby clothes — especially the ones with ruffles on the britches. Those are SO cute!!

      2. GymnastB*

        Also, the gifts are generally baby gifts. So its not like you have a baby so you can get a free boppie to have and use yourself.

    2. Epsilon Delta*

      Yeah, I’m trying to get into the headspace of someone who would accuse a parent of having another child as a “gift grab” and… how would that work? “Hahaha, now I have a giant stash of diapers. Now I have *two* changing tables! And all the onesies!” All that stuff is needed for a couple years, tops. It’s not like you’re getting rich off it or adding really nice, permanent things to your home. I don’t think there’s a danger of anyone interpreting a baby as a gift grab unless they are already unreasonable.

      1. Marny*

        I was doing the same thing. “I love having so many diapers– let’s have another baby so we can have even more! It’s the perfect plan!”

        1. MigraineMonth*

          It’s the milk-and-cookies conundrum. If you have cookies, you have to pour yourself some milk. And if you run out of cookies before you finish the milk, you obviously need another cookie.

          1. Dahlia*

            And then the mouse is going to ask for a straw and then a napkin and then to look in the mirror and it’s going to become a whole THING

  7. Waving not Drowning*

    Ohhh, I feel for OP1 – I had a similar situation, except the not talking to me predated my resignation. She also refused to speak at my farewell, a team member did, but she did make a short appearance – she had to, because her bosses boss was there. She actually said goodbye, without giving eye contact, and literally as she walked out the door on my last day, which was the first time she had spoken to me directly in around 5 weeks by that point. I still work at the same organisation, but a completely different area. It took around 18 months after I left for her to acknowledge me if she saw me on campus, or in meetings.

    Is it only verbal talking that the manager won’t do? I was able to communicate via email, even though she’d come into our shared office space through the day (and she’d position herself so that she didn’t look at me if she addressed the room as a whole). It also served as a cover my ass moment, where she threw me under the bus after I left, saying I hadn’t done something – and I could forward the email trail where I had given an update, and I’d been assured that she would assign it to another team member……

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I also had an arsehole colleague who refused to talk to me, but would communicate by email – so if I was OP1, I’d just try to do everything by email. My sympathies, OP1, people who do this type of thing are just so immature. Remember that it’s much more of a reflection on them than it is on you.

    2. Rainbow*

      I had a manager who made it clear he didn’t want to talk to me… that was a horrible experience, but even he wasn’t nearly so petty as the above people. Serious commiserations

    3. Jay (no, the other one)*

      My boss didn’t speak to me at all during my three-month notice period and did not come to the goodbye breakfast my colleagues gave me on my last day. Three years (THREE YEARS) later I had to Email him about something related to my time at that job. I received a reply from someone else saying “Boss says to do this to obtain the info.” He doesn’t have an assistant or a secretary – he forwarded the EMail to someone below him in the hierarchy who has a professional job that does not involve managing his correspondence.

      I almost had to stand back and admire the prolonged pettiness, especially since he forced me out of the job in the first place.

      1. coffee*

        Incredible. Honestly I don’t think I could remember that I wasn’t talking to someone THREE YEARS later.

    4. Vanellope*

      Why is this such a thing?? When I gave notice at my first job, the partner who ran the office did not speak to me for my last two weeks. I was going to be the bigger person on my last day and go say goodbye before I left, but I got to his office and he had left at lunch! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      1. Ama*

        I think it is common because bad managers have a tendency to take things personally that should be entirely professional (with certain types of bad managers it also comes from an insecurity where they sense they aren’t well-liked or respected) so they interpret an employee’s departure as a personal insult and not what it generally is which is a business decision made by the employee to improve their professional situation in some way. (I mean yes, often people are leaving a bad manager because the manager is bad, but there’s room for everyone to maintain that it is just a business decision as long as everyone behaves professionally.)

      2. Baby Yoda*

        Similar. After 28 years with my boss, he would not speak to me the last 2 weeks and even took time off when coworkers had a little party for me.

          1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

            After 18 years, he was so petty as to not talk to you for those two weeks? Ugh.

  8. Massmatt*

    I’m amazed that managers who act personally insulted and throw these kinds of tantrums when an employee (gasp!) moves on have anyone left to manage. Unfortunately there are lots of them out there.

    1. EPLawyer*

      they have the people left who don’t have a lot of options or think this is just the way it is. They do have high turnover because the employees with options get the hell out.

      I love it when they claim an employee is being disloyal for getting another job. Like you wouldn’t fire them in a heartbeat if it personally benefited you.

    2. rayray*

      Agree. Some people take things too seriously and personally. Your job is just a job, it’s a mean to pay the bills and it’s ridiculous to get so personally invested that you would react in such a way to someone quitting.

      Now, in a situation where you get laid off with no warning, THAT I can understand being upset about having your actual livelihood stripped from you, but someone just leaving the company you also happen to work at? Get over it and be happy for them.

    3. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I have a friend who just left they law firm she worked at to start her own firm with another of the attorneys who was also at that firm. They were very respectful on announcing the decision, thanked the partners for all their support and training over the years, did not poach any clients or do anything like that … and the practice manager (not an attorney) just looked them both in the eye and said “f*** you.”

      It’s also not a firm known for its great loyalty to its employees.

      1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

        Most of these comments/stories are surprising…but not this one.

        Law firms are special.

  9. McThrill*

    LW #3, Teams that are spontaneously generous with baby showers to the point of setting up an independent diaper fund don’t generally do that for people they think could be running some sort of baby-related scam. Your team appreciates you.

    1. coffee*

      Agreed. What would the scam be, anyway?

      Step 1: be given diapers
      Step 2: baby uses diaper
      Step 3: ???
      Step 4: profit!

  10. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Phillips is really concerned about job security, I think. What is her job? She manages admins. But they are in different places, under different people.
    She’s really not the best person to do reviews. How much if OP’s work is company specific v location specific work?

    1. WellRed*

      I’m confused by the whole setup. Is it a temp agency? Some sort of franchise? At any rate, OP should definitely be following the local office. If they want to close early, surely phillippa can’t expect them to just stay.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I don’t think there’s anything in the letter about needing to stay after the office closes early — it’s that Sylvia and Michael encourage LW to work from home the entire (shortened) day when they’re planning an early close. Like if they’re closing at noon, I don’t think Sylvia wants LW to keep working in the afternoon, she just wants LW to work onsite in the morning.

      2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        I was thinking it was due to everyone working remotely during COVID they just grouped the admins into one large group that could help any of the sites and had Phillippa, probably one of the senior admins, lead so that they had an experienced person doing the training/helping with delegating work. Now that they are going back to the office, each office got assigned a dedicated admin. I agree that OP, since they are now the dedicated admin for their group, should be following the guidance as given by their group.

      3. doreen*

        I think the set-op might be something like a job I had – let’s pretend it was a school system. And there was a principal who managed everyone at that location day-to-day. But there also was someone who at headquarters who managed all the nurses, and someone else who managed the payroll clerks and so on . Sometimes there was confusion or a dispute about who was responsible for what – did the nurse make time-off requests to the principal or to the person who managed all the nurses and who could arrange coverage? I could totally see the OPs position come about if the payroll manager didn’t allow WFH and the principal was OK with it.

      4. merula*

        My work had a set up like this for awhile. All the llama groomers were managed by location, but the llama farriers we worked with (one or two per location) were managed by the Farrier Manager out of HQ. In practice, the farriers took their day-to-day direction from the groomers, and location-level direction from the local Grooming Manager, and the Farrier Manager was mostly a resource for hoof questions and HR stuff. But I can see a situation where the Farrier Manager was petty and tried to pull stuff like Phillippa.

      5. EvilQueenRegina*

        It might be something like one I’ve worked in where I was an admin for a social care team; on a day to day basis work was allocated to me by “Persephone” the social care manager and her team, but my official line manager was “Fergusia” the admin manager. Technically Fergusia was supposed to do my reviews, but did the mandatory minimum, spent so little time with us that she had no real sense of what we actually did and acted on her own conclusions rather than properly investigating any issues that came up. This did not work.

      6. Mints*

        I worked at a construction company where the direct management was with each branch manager (there were like, 30 branches), but we also had a role-based cohort for Project Managers. There was a PM manager, and we had once a month phone calls with all the PMs to go over PM specific changes or reminders or best practices. The branch manager did my PTO, sick time, and 2 week notice, but he didn’t know my job that well. When I had questions about tricky customers or software updates, I went to the PM manager. It worked well at that company.

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      This was my thought, too. Phillipa is scared for her job, probably rightly, and responding by being controlling –No! I’M the boss, and therefore necessary! Which is likely counterproductive. I hope she’s looking for another job.

  11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (frozen out during notice) Even if the notice period is contractually obligated… contracts can be varied by agreement. Maybe there is scope there to make a variation to that one month period? I know in the UK this is also common (contractual notice) but there are many cases, including the most recent leaver in my team, where this was varied by agreement. Of course if agreement can’t be reached then you are stuck with that one month, but can it be made any worse by asking the question…

    1. Bagpuss*

      OP may not want to leave early if their new job doesn’t start until after the month is up – shorter notice would normally mean no pay in the gap. Of course, if OP is OK with that then I agree, no harm in suggesting it

  12. Mangled Metaphor*

    #2 – just feels like the CEO is using a very strange interpretation and definition of “support”.
    We lost a much favoured coworker after a long illness – our company supported her family with a donation in her name (they had specifically requested no flowers) and several team members were given management permission to attend the funeral. She had actually taken early retirement due to her illness, so was technically a “former” coworker (still much missed).
    We unfortunately also lost another coworker in a non-work related accident. The company is supporting his family by utilising the death in service benefit that is set up for all employees – a kind of insurance policy – his widow will get either a one off payment or a monthly stipend of about 80% of his salary (depends which option he picked with HR, I obviously have no way of knowing). This is in addition to the flowers or donation (I don’t know the details of this either as this one wasn’t in my department and I only know it happened because of the internal announcement).

    Something about how the CEO responded just called to mind the thought that OP was expecting a response like the first scenario and the CEO was thinking closer to the second.
    Or I could be reading it completely off-base. How does the company “celebrate” or otherwise recognise other major life events?

  13. TheProblemWithEyes*

    Does the US not have death in service as standard? In the UK, it’s a pretty normal benefit that if you die while employed, your next of kin gets like 2-4x your annual salary paid to them.

      1. STLBlues*

        It’s still fairly normal to have life insurance benefits at jobs in the US (generally from 1x-2x annual salary, from what I’ve seen) — but your point that far from everyone has it is also valid.

        Like so many other things in the US (health insurance, for instance), there are almost no federal requirements so many many companies will choose not to provide to their employees.

        1. NotRealAnonforThis*

          Possibly derailing (sorry), but wasn’t there a big US based company who was legally zinged in the past decade or so for providing life insurance for employees but designating themselves as the beneficiary without proper paperwork or employee knowledge of the situation?

          I admit I read enough dystopian fiction that I may have meshed things together.

          1. NotRealAnonforThis*

            Actually went looking. My memory was about half correct – involved “dead peasants insurance”, Walmart, and the timeframe of about 2000-2010 when things wound their way through various courts.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I’m not familiar with this case, but my understanding is that it isn’t odd for companies to buy life/disability insurance with themselves as the beneficiaries. The idea is that the sudden loss of this employee will do the company significant financial damage. Of course, this should be done for executive-level and above, and with everyone’s full knowledge and consent.

            1. Curious*

              Maybe I watch too much Law & Order: Criminal Intent, but I’m having visions of a bunch of 2nd tier executives in a fatal accident and it turns out that the company really needed the money…

        2. Miette*

          If such a benefit is in place, I would think the “in service” bit would be highly contested by the company’s insurance provider here. If they had died whilst driving to/from the mandatory meeting, the claim would likely have been paid, but as the result of an illness that may/may not have been contracted at the meeting, well you see where this is going. Insurance companies in the US don’t like to pay out, as a general rule, which is disgusting.

      2. Caroline*

        People have their own life insurance in the UK and other places too – for example, if you have a mortgage, it’s required, and there must be other situations where it’s necessary too, but even so, death-in-service is a fairly common benefit in quite a few places.

    1. Kim*

      It’s the US we’re talking about. I think the family should be glad there’s not a well-established tradition to sue the family for the cost of having to hire and train a new employee.

      1. rayray*

        Yeah. In the US, the job posting will be up before the deceased person’s belongings are cleared out.

      2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        Egads! Don’t give the corporate ghouls any ideas! Some places might actually do that!

    2. Bagpuss*

      In the UK this is very variable.
      I’ve never worked anywhere that that’s been the case.

      It’s very common for pensions to have a dependent’s benefits / death in service benefit and for public sector workers where pensions are more likely to be linked to salary then it may be a multiplier of the salary, but otherwise is down to whether that employer happens to offer insurance or to have insurance for this type of thing.

      I suspect that larger companies are probably more likely to offer this kind of extra benefit but it’s definitly not standard .

      Given that most workplaces now have to offer a workplace pension, it’s true that more people will have some form of death in service benefits but in most cases the amount payable will be linked to the value of their pension pot, not to their salary, and will be paid by the pension company not by or through the employer

      1. Caroline*

        I must have been very fortunate then, because across several different jobs in the UK over the years, neither husband nor I have ever not had death-in-service as one of the benefits, from large corporates, to smaller start-up type operations.

      2. londonedit*

        I don’t think we have death-in-service where I work. I’ll have to check, but I’ve never seen it mentioned! When I signed up for the workplace pension I was asked to name a beneficiary who would get my pension (such as it is…) if I died before retirement, but I don’t believe we have a separate death-in-service payment thing.

        1. Retired To Morning Room To Write My Letters*

          I worked for a terrible, terrible place where they were proud that they offered Death in Service benefit and it’s the only place I’ve ever had it so I just thought it was really WEIRD (I didn’t know it was quite normal), like “Ok so you don’t pay sick pay, I’m having to chase Finance to get my pension payments, you dock my pay if I’m 2 minutes late, you only give us 30 minutes for lunch, and you’re horrible to us, but if I DIE while working for you you’ll give me some money, oh thank you!!”

    3. Madame Arcati*

      That’s part of the pension though so perhaps it’s less that it’s different in the US and more a case of, that’s not evidently part of the pension for that person/in that company.
      I have death in service benefit but I’m a) a civil servant and our pensions are good (although not the gold plated diamond studded gifts from the angels that the tabloids would have you believe) and b) in a career which could in some ways be classed as a bit dangerous. Not so much in my current role but thinking about it I should probably call it a win that in 20-odd years nobody has tried to off me. So the idea that my putative spouse would be able to retain financial security should I meet my maker in the line of duty is logical, but that aspect doesn’t always apply I should think. Although they would still get it if I died after an illness whilst still employed.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        Depends on the company, I’ve had 1-2x salary at some places and one job it was a $50k payout (which is less than 1x my salary).

    4. Cat Tree*

      Some companies have it (mine always have), but I didn’t think that was the intent here of showing support. Whether the employee had private life insurance, life insurance through the company, or both, ir would still be normal socially for a company to send flowers, a card, or maybe even a small amount of money in a gift card but intended more as a sympathy gift. In my current department we usually send a fruit basket when someone loses a close family member.

      1. BethDH*

        Agree! I’ve always had life insurance as a paid company benefit anywhere I’ve had benefits at all, and so has my husband, but it would never occur to me think of that as a company response.

    5. WellRed*

      It’s not standard but it’s fairly common for companies to offer it, at little to no cost to the employee. I get coverage up to a certain dollar amount and can choose additional coverage for a few dollars per pay cycle.

    6. ecnaseener*

      Regardless, I wouldn’t have expected the CEO to answer the employee’s question with “well we’re paying out his pension.” Like why does that mean you can’t also send flowers

    7. doreen*

      Not in the way you are talking about – my husband would have gotten 3X my salary if I died while I was still working, but that’s because I had a pension that I would not receive if I died in service. Under certain circumstances a spouse/children can get monthly Social Security benefits if someone whose job was covered dies – but you wouldn’t get that if you were a 45 year old spouse with no children under 18.

    8. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      At least for me, life insurance was something that I would have to have actually deducted from my pay. I do have accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance that is free of charge from the company, but I believe you need to prove that you died (or were injured) in an accident. AD&D does not cover things like illnesses or heart attacks because they are not ‘accidents’.

    9. fhqwhgads*

      The jobs I’ve had usually automatically purchased some amount of life insurance for FTE, with that premium paid for by the company, and the option to buy more life insurance at group rates. But how much the company paid for ranged from 25k (much less than 1x anyone’s annual pay, but still enough to cover a funeral and some other minor expenses) to 1x annual pay. I’ve never had one cover more than that, though I’m sure it must exist, especially I’d guess in union environments where it may have been collectively bargained for. That said, it’s not uncommon in the US for employers not to buy any on behalf of the employee, and only offer the employee an option to buy it. I’m guessing if the company already covered some as a standard benefit the LW would’ve mentioned that, since it’s pretty relevant. But if it’s a fairly young person, I can see them not feeling like they “need” life ins yet and might have not purchased any themselves, through work or not.

    10. We’re No. 1!*

      I’m in the US and only one job has offered life insurance as a benefit and it only paid out $15k, regardless of your salary.

    11. Ellis Bell*

      My mum got this when my dad died, but I always thought it was because his company was American and offered benefits they didn’t have to legally! I’ve never come across it in my UK roles either public or private sector jobs. I’m in education now, and apparently I would get it if I was in the average career scheme. Alas, my role is too niche apparently.

  14. I'm the Phoebe in any group*

    O1 it sucks that he is being a supreme ass. Just for fun, talk to him in front other and say things that require a response from normal people. If you have clients or customers or collaborators in your office, do it in front of them:
    Good morning, X. Did you have a good weekend?
    X, I’m putting together a list of my projects, do you prefer bullet points or numbers?
    I’ll have the TPS report for you on Monday. But if you prefer Friday, I can do that.
    That smells delicious. What is it?
    Would you like a donate?
    My last day is next Thursday. When would you like to meet?
    (In a meeting if you can) Do you want me to report on all of my projects or just the ones that will need to be handed over for completion after I leave?
    Do you want a poppy seed bagel or sesame?

  15. bamcheeks*

    LW4, figure out your priority. Do you want clarity, or to continue to be able to work from home? If clarity is important to you–some people really haaaate working with unclear expectations and that feeling of wondering if/when you’re going to get Found Out– then I would raise the discrepancy with Michael and Sylvia, and ask them to confirm that you are supposed to follow their local rules and that Philippa is aware of this.

    But I would only do this if I was prepared to handle Michael and Sylvia having a conversation with Philippa, and coming back with their heads cut off–wait, no, the names confused me, I mean, coming back with the answer that working from home is now entirely not allowed.

    If I valued the working at home time and could live with the uncertainty, I would simply carry on assuming that Michael and Sylvia obviously decide the local implementation of the rules, and play very innocent if the discrepancy ever comes up.

    1. Mockingjay*

      This is what I was trying to figure out how to say. Personally I would do my best to fly under the radar and do what @bamcheeks recommends in their last paragraph.

    2. turquoisecow*

      Yes. Without knowing more about the company and reporting structure and personalities involved, I can’t say who gets to make the call. If Michael and Sylvia manage the *location* then I think their instructions on when to leave early or not come in at all are the ones that matter. Obviously if they close the office, OP shouldn’t go in, but OP could insist on going in for a half day instead of accepting the suggestion to stay home early and avoid the commute.

      I don’t know if Phillipa would see it that way, and I suspect OP thinks she wouldn’t. And I don’t know enough about reporting lines and the company’s structure to say. If OP asks for clarification for their own peace of mind, then this might result in Philipa or someone above her either saying that OP reports to Phillipa and should ignore what Michael & Silvia say, or someone bringing the hammer down at the location and saying that M&S are breaking the rules. (I suspect OP thinks this might happen, which is why they haven’t done this but are instead writing in to AAM.)

      Personally, I would leave it alone. If Phillipa finds out OP has been working from home at times, OP can easily point to M&S as the reason (“they said it was okay/they told me to do it”) and claim to have assumed that of course management was all on the same page about this and that Phillipa would of course have agreed with the decision it consulted.

    3. DJ*

      Sometimes it’s best to fly under the radar and keep your arrangements with Michael and Slyvia. Perhaps adopt a generic background, we all tend to do that using one of those supplied by zoom or MS Teams. Or our own often generating comments and compliments.
      But keep data on how your sick leave rate has decreased and productivity increased since March 2020. Going from several PTO’s a year to 1 since March 2020 is a pretty good record in itself.

  16. Irishgal*

    Op1 this happened to me before and it is incredibly unpleasant and feels very unjust. My best advice is leave it be, don’t try to make amends, they are not yours to make. I would however make a detailed handover document, keep everything in writing and make sure to copy multiple people so that when the founder tries to blame you for everything, the other employees can see through them.
    Then move on with the peace and knowledge that you clearly made the right decision to go.

  17. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


    If it’s legal in your country to take vacation time during your contractual notice period, then maybe do that.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      That’s exceedingly common where I live and you have to use the leave or lose it – “I’m leaving, so my last day is technically the 31st but I’ve got five days annual leave to use up so all down the Dog & Trunpet on 24th” – to the extent that if LW had that option/the leave to take shed probably have planned it even if the boss was positively gracious over the whole thing.

  18. Healthcare Manager*


    I had the same thing happen to me during my mandatory 2 week notice period. It was awful. In my case they also kept it a secret that I was leaving and didn’t tell the team so from their perspective I just suddenly left.

    Ensure you continue to put everything in writing that you can for your own record keeping. Aside for my that it’s their problem and you’ve got to let it go. It’ll feel better once you’re away from the job for a while – you’ll probably look back and notice a lot more about that manager that wasn’t good too!

        1. Mockingjay*

          They can give you a bad reference. I too was put on a gag order when leaving ExToxicJob. It was infuriating because it made me look like the bad guy “waiting until the last minute,” when I had a transition plan ready and wanted to do a smooth handover.

          1. StellaBella*

            With something like this tho, on your last day, would it have been possible to send a team email along the lines of, “Today is my last day. When I gave my notice to Fergus 2 weeks ago, I mentioned how much I enjoyed my time here and working with all of you. I hope we can stay connected on Linkedin and here on the server is my handover documentation. My private email is….” ?

    1. EPLawyer*

      “Aside for my that it’s their problem and you’ve got to let it go.”

      Yes, once you no longer work there, what happens is very much NOT YOUR PROBLEM. If your boss wants to behave like a child and not have a smooth transition that is entirely on them. If the place falls apart after you leave because the boss didn’t have a smooth transition again not your problem. You need to focus on doing your job and documenting what you can. Then close the door behind you and breathe a sigh of relief. Then focus on your NEW JOB.

  19. Kiwi*

    OP1 – both my last two bosses froze me out after giving notice (one didn’t even put that I was leaving in with HR, which ended up being a last minute mess). I ended up spending my time consolidating my notes and project files, forwarding bookmarks for industry stuff (lots of regulatory things that I would need for the new job and are easier to bookmark than re-find, nothing proprietary), and offering to help with small deliverables or other miscellaneous tasks for my coworkers. It’s a very awkward position to be in, but it’s also not your fault.

    1. Wishbone Ash*

      Yep, this happened to me too. My old manager barely spoke to me before I gave notice, but during my notice period, we spoke maybe once & that was for the project status update meeting a couple days before I left. I was mainly relieved cause I didn’t want to interact with her at all and pretty much ran my team without her interference. But I’d never had any manager do that to me before.

  20. JSPA*

    LW4, this is classic “don’t ask / don’t tell” territory. Not a good way to handle sexual orientation in the military, but a fine way to handle your current situation.

    And if you ever get called on it, lean hard on “special circumstance” and on it being their call, made for the benefit of the office.

    “they asked me to stay home due to communicable disease exposure. Because we have the Borg report due in 3 days, they gave me the option to work, rather than take a day off, as a special circumstance.”

    1. Emily*

      Yup. Try to avoid this even coming up, because if you do, it could be bad not just for you but for your kind, reasonable managers.

  21. Poppy*

    OP#1: I have worked for two small businesses of similar size for terrible managers who had literal tantrums when I quit. The first I asked the office manager to go with me when I gave notice because he had reacted with violence in the past (throwing my keys into a wall and they fell where I couldn’t find them, and crushing my cell phone buttons with his hand). The second wasn’t violent, but told me I was “stabbing him in the back” for leaving during our quiet season for some reason. The second guy had a history of freezing out employees who left. He ended up making up a story in his head about why I was leaving (wanting to work part time; I guess not working 70 hours a week felt like part time after a few years).

    I literally ignored both of them and just did my job as best I could. They eventually calmed down and I got a semi-apology from the second. I was also required to give a long notice period of a month and the second boss asked me to reduce it thankfully. Unfortunately at the second place many of my coworkers started calling me a traitor behind my back and they would stop whispering when I walked into a room and just STARE at me. I decided to just find this hilarious like they thought I was a character in Game of Thrones who had betrayed the Iron Throne.

    You’ll get through your notice period and can then laugh about how silly your boss is. Until then just keep cruising.

    1. irene adler*

      Wow those are some childish ex-bosses and ex-coworkers. What is wrong with people??
      Good advice though. After this is over, laugh at the antics. Meanwhile, know that it’s them, not you, with the issue.

      I recall a co-worker giving me the silent treatment because I did something -part of my normal job duties-that angered him. Boy did that backfire! Little did he know, my sister gave me the silent treatment all through our teenage years. So it didn’t affect me like he’d hoped. In fact, I enjoyed the quiet. Kinda hoped it would be a permanent thing. But no.

    2. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      Would the second boss have preferred that you quit during the height of the busy season?

      1. Poppy*

        He made up some story about how hard it is to hire during the quiet season. I literally responded, “You hired Sansa and I at this time of year.” He kind of gaped like a fish. He had a bad habit of gaslighting me so it really wasn’t surprising. In my prior field people generally did look for jobs in the quieter seasons because it wasn’t a big deal to get time off compared to the absolutely bonkers busy season (that I worked fully and didn’t receive a dime of commission for based on the awful way he wrote our contracts).

    3. Curious*

      Gotta say, however nasty a whispering campaign might be, it still is better than being sent to Ilyn Payne in HR. Employee protections are fairly thin in Westeros — although not as bad as in Astapor.

  22. Irish Teacher.*

    Number 2 is oddly timely for me as I am reading this on the train, going to the funeral of a coworker who died this week (of cancer, not of anything contracted at work, but she was working up to about 6 weeks ago). Our school is closed today for the funeral. One of my colleagues was going to collect money from staff for a wreath, but the family didn’t want that. It was his decision too. He wasn’t instructed to do so.

  23. English Rose*

    #2 Just slightly giving the CEO the benefit of the doubt, perhaps their response is part of the general awkwardness of people in society today not knowing how to respond to sudden death.

    It is a weirdly off-base response to promote a Go-Fund Me, but maybe they were caught off guard, hadn’t realised the colleague was simply thinking about flowers or a corporate response.

    Of course based on the CEO’s general response to difficult situations, maybe that’s not the case at all.

  24. Jester*

    Oof, I relate to LW #1. My boss and coworker were real babies after I gave notice. We were in the middle of moving to a new location, but I gave a month’s notice to make sure they knew I was sticking around until it was done. When I first talked to my coworker, she told me, and I quote, “I wish I could be happy for you.” I don’t care how you feel in private, but you paste on a fake smile, and with the person leaving good luck. My boss did talk to me, but it was only to snipe and bitch about everything. I stayed to help with the move and I mostly left to watch the old location, so I wasn’t really helping. It was a long 4 weeks and I also considered leaving early. In the end, I stuck it out. Though, my boss did almost leave early on my last day because of a “headache.” There weren’t many good things about that job. The new one is a much, much better fit.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      How hard is it to even just say “I’m happy for you, sad for us”? Plus, being a jerk to someone on their way out only solidifies that their decision to leave was the correct one.

      1. irene adler*

        With their attitude/comments, I’d be inclined to thank them for affirming my decision to leave.

    2. Observer*

      When I first talked to my coworker, she told me, and I quote, “I wish I could be happy for you.”

      Is she incapable of walking while chewing gum?

      We’ve lost a good few staff over the years for positive reasons. (Move to a different city for a major upgrade to spouse’s career, got an advanced degree in a different field and moving into the field, etc.) These were some of our best people. My response? “I’m glad for you and sad for me. I’ll miss you. But I wish you all the success in the world!”

      They knew I meant it. And I’m still in contact with a few of them.

  25. ABCYaBYE*

    OP2 – I’m not going to weigh in on any sort of blame or assigning any responsibility the employer is trying to avoid, and just say this. It is odd that the company isn’t doing something directly like sending flowers. That’s just normal etiquette. When my coworker passed away suddenly last year, there was a GoFundMe set up by a friend of theirs and it was shared so people could contribute if they were able to. But it wasn’t set up internally. That just seems weird and sets up more of an expectation that people from the company contribute.

  26. Hiring Mgr*

    I’ve never experienced a coworker dying suddenly so I may be off base but what is the problem with the company organizing a GoFundMe? It seems like a way for people to help if they want? (i assume the co is also contributing)

    1. Hlao-roo*

      i assume the co is also contributing

      I did not make that assumption, which is part of what is wrong with the GoFundMe.

      If the company had announced the GoFundMe by saying “coworker’s] family is struggling financially during this difficult time, so [company] has set up a GoFundMe and contributed [$amount]. If you [are able to/want to] donate, instructions are [here]” the whole thing would feel better. The important differences in my hypothetical situation and the actual situation are:

      1) It’s not clear that the family wants/needs financial support.
      2) The company did not take the initiative to set up a GoFundMe, but instead told the employee who asked “are we doing anything for [coworker]?” to be in charge of setting up the GoFundMe.
      3) It’s not clear that the company will donate any money to the GoFundMe. If they don’t, the company response is essentially “if you want to support [coworker’s] family, that’s on you, not on us.”

      1. theletter*


        Also, the ceo is applying a ‘have the person who raised the problem work on the solution’ strategy which is completely inappropriate at this time. They were probably expecting someone to pass a card, not to be given a task that’s a total overreach.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      I can see a couple of problems. First, the company has no way of knowing if the deceased employee’s family even wants a fundraiser, those are typically set up by family or close friends who know the family’s wishes.

      And second, I don’t think we can assume the company will contribute. Any time I’ve worked somewhere that the plan for recognition of employee life events was to ask other employees to contribute, there has never been a direct contribution from the company.

      This feels like when retail outlets ask me to round up my purchase amount for them to donate to charity. Yes, the money I designate to them is going to the charity. But the press release is going to say “Store gives X Million dollars to charity,” as if the donation was entirely composed of the store’s money and not a collection of donations made by customers. To me, it feels like OP’s CEO wants to say they did a good thing and get credit for it, but doesn’t want to go quite so far as actually doing the good thing.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      I think one problem in the situation described is the pressure put on a random employee to organise it. I would be most uncomfortable if I asked about plans to commemorate a colleague and was pretty much voluntold to organise the fundraiser.

      Also there is the question of what the family want. Some people would be offended by “your husband/wife/son/daughter/mother/father died, so we collected some money for you”. It is possible some people might take it as implying they wouldn’t be able to afford funeral costs or something or they might just find it inappropriate. I think it would be important to check before planning something like this.

      And it just seems…odd. If somebody asked if we were doing anything to commemorate a colleague who had died, I would expect the answer to be something like “we will be closing the office on the day of the funeral as a mark of respect” or “there will be a collection for a wreath/flowers” or “we will be holding a memorial for them on such a day” or “there is a book of condolence in the main office for staff to leave messages in, and which will be sent to the family,” not “go and collect some money.”

    4. Baby Yoda*

      We lost a young VP a few years back, and the company set up a scholarship fund for her kids. My team decided to send something to the kids on our own because we wanted to, no one asked us to do it. Agree on the GFM only if the company also contributed.

      1. turquoisecow*

        A colleague of mine died a few years ago and the company set up a scholarship fund in his name. I thought that was a nice thing to do, a way to commemorate him.

    5. JLP*

      When a coworker’s spouse died, we collected money and got her a large doordash gift card. This was done an individual level and the company also did their standard sending of flowers thing. The gift card was a way of bringing food without violating quarantine or filling her freezer with stuff she doesn’t need. But that wasn’t company sponsored and it wasn’t the only thing that happened. I do think a gofund me can work if it’s employee led or partially funded by the company. As humans, many of us want to help when stuff happens…we just don’t know how to. A gofundme gives folks an outlet for that effort.

      That all being said, I have the weirdest opinion that flowers for a funeral are dumb. Give the person (gift cards for) food, cleaning services, admin help, etc. I want whatever I do to be useful to the person. Flowers are pretty but such a standard thing that I don’t understand.

      1. Eff Walsingham*

        When my mother died, the company that refused to give me any bereavement leave on the grounds that I’d just returned from a leave I’d taken when she was hospitalized sent me a floral arrangement. Specifically, a basket of various cheap-looking white flowers with greenery. The delivery guy set it down with a sort of… squishy thud. Once I signed for the basket I picked it up, and thought “I bet this is the same weight as a severed human head.” Maybe I’ve seen too much Shakespeare, but it was just so heavy and gooshy! I took many photos of it out of a strange, morbid fascination.

        It was November, not the best time of year for cost-effective flowers, I know. But these were so, so depressing. A grocery gift card would have been a better thought, in the circumstances. I did quit a few months later, largely due to the stress of not being able to take any additional time off. By then I had a facial tic and “walking pneumonia.”

  27. Person from the Resume*

    Ugh, LW3 … best case scenario is the CEO had not considered the question and gave knee jerk, terrible answer.

    Someone needs to pushback to the CEO or senior leadership team.

    If the family wants/needs a Go Fund Me, they should set it up, not the company. This is like using Go Fund Me as a tool to collect donations in the office. But you still need someone to contact the family and get it to them. Did the family already have someone set up a Go Fund Me for them?

    Maybe the family doesn’t want or need a Go Fund Me; no one asked them! I know this is America and we’re a mess, but not every family needs or wants cash upon a death.

    And finally and biggest, the company isn’t doing a darn thing itself if they allow an employee to set up Go Fund Me and collect money from other employees. The company doing something would be using the company’s money. Sending flowers, sending heartfelt cards from employees who knew him, donating to a charity of the family’s choice or funeral/medical expenses, if that’s what the family ask for.

  28. Just wondering*

    Regarding Letter #2 – Is it usual for private employers to make a financial contribution when an employee passes away? I work in the public sector, so the employer can’t spend public money that way. (However, we do have a small employer-provided life insurance policy.)

    Generally the other employees are informed about the funeral or memorial service. (And can take time off to go.)
    If the family approves it is typical to get an address where colleagues can send a sympathy note. In one case we were told that we could make financial contributions.

    Is it usual for private employers to make a financial contribution?
    I’ve heard of sending flowers, but not of making a financial contribution.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      When my boss, the technical director died after a long illness, we sent flowers, went to the visitation, etc. But before that we took up contributions for food delivery cards and management chipped in very nicely

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I feel like management is not the “company,” though.

        Also from a government background, but I would at a minimum expect flowers (as long as the family did not say “no flowers”) or donation to a charity of the family’s/deceased’s choosing (if they announce that in addition to or in lieu of flowers) and a card signed by people who worked with the deceased. And for commercial companies, I’d expect the company to put in a lot of the money (from the company funds) and also collect/allow employees to contribute to it if they want making a bigger bouquet of flowers or larger donation.

        If there’s some sort of payout for dying while employee or if this is a workplace accident/infection, I’d expect that to be handled as a legal issue. What kind of life insurance the employee had. Is the company culpable/negligent in the death? But that’s legal and pure money.

        I view the flowers, donations, cards at the funeral more about expressing grief, condolence, and regard and respect for the deceased.

    2. doreen*

      I think that’s the sort of thing that depends on culture and circumstances. There are really only two circumstances where I’ve seen financial contributions ( like Go Fund Me) and none of them were initiated by the employer. One is when the family needs help paying for the funeral and the other is when the death was as a result of a fire or some other disaster that also destroyed the families home and other possessions. Of course, I have no way of knowing if someone’s employer sent a check to the family.

  29. BBB*

    your boss is petty and small, just let it go. you will inevitably be blamed for every problem and annoyance that happens at your old job until the end of time. but the people who worked with you know you and your work ethic and will see through it. so all it does is make your boss look as petty and small as they really are.
    your boss is the owner so there’s nothing else to be done. if they want to value their (misguided) hurt feelings over the needs of the company, you can’t change that.

  30. Bopper*

    Coworker who died:
    1) I hope the company provides life insurance as a benefit, if not, time to talk about that
    2) The employee died because they attended a mandatory work meeting…the sick person felt they had to come in sick or not and infected everyone
    3)Wow, CEO don’t care about employees…they are basically saying “oh you feel bad for this person’s family..well its on you to do something”

    1. HR Friend*

      The employee didn’t die because they attended a work meeting, they died because they got sick. There’s ZERO way of knowing where they got sick, or why they ultimately died. I’m sure a coworker isn’t fully aware of the details of how this person died.

      The rush to so fervently blame an innocuous meeting or, worse, the CEO for someone’s *death* in this comments section is ludicrous and ghoulish.. and yet entirely expected.

      1. m2*

        If 14 people got sick after a work meeting one can assume they all got sick from that meeting! And yes the flu can take a long time to get over. There should never be a mandatory meeting where someone sick needs to show up in-person.

        My organization has an EXCELLENT sick leave and there are still people who come in sick.

        Orgs need better sick leave policies. If you MUST go out when sick wear a KN95 or N95 mask and shield and stay away from people.

        I feel very sad for that employee and their family. I think it is appropriate to be upset with company policy in this case.

        1. doreen*

          It this circumstance it’s pretty clear that the one employee that showed up sick got the other 14 sick. But you say your organization has excellent sick leave and people still come in sick , my job had excellent sick leave and people still came in sick. It doesn’t really matter what kind of sick leave policy an employer has , some people are still going to come in sick. It cannot always be blamed on the employer. There is nothing in this letter explaining why that person came to the meting sick – maybe they felt they had to or maybe they were the person that got a perfect attendance award for never missing a day in their entire school career.

          1. LabTechNoMore*

            It’s still on the org for not having a culture encouraging employees to take time off when they’re sick and/or management not insisting the sick employee go home when it was clear they were in no condition to be working.

          2. Alice*

            OK, forget about blame per se and think about responsibility and leadership — frame it as “how will we change our organizational culture so that outbreaks of communicable disease don’t happen?”
            Even without the death, it’s not great for the company to have 14 people out sick at the same time!

      2. Alice*

        HR Friend, do you also think that smoking cigarettes in the office is fine and dandy? I mean, we don’t know that any _particular_ case of lung cancer is due to smoking.
        God save me from “innocuous” mandatory meetings with such bad ventilation that FOURTEEN people get the flu.

  31. One KED Is All You Need*

    Oof. I’ve been in OP1’s shoes, and it stinks. In my case, I was a retail store manager and think my boss (also the company owner) knew it was coming so intentionally avoided me in the days leading up to when I was planning to tell her. Skipped an in-person store visit (she lived several states away), wouldn’t take my calls, wouldn’t speak to me if she called the store and I answered — it was horrible. I ended up giving notice over the phone with the 2nd in command (also the owner’s husband) followed up by an email. I gave 4 weeks notice and she kept up the same silent treatment until the week before my last day, and then it was all about how I’d betrayed her and she was close to forgiving me but not yet. Awful. And yet it also validated my decision to leave.

    I spent my notice period doing BAU work while also updating procedure documents and preparing the assistant manager to lead the team and store until or unless they replaced me (they ultimately took my recommendation to promote him). That’s sometimes the best you can do, if leaving early isn’t an option.

  32. MuseumGal*

    OP 2- it might be worth pointing out to the CEO that unsolicited money from people they don’t know might actually be a burden to the family at an already incredibly difficult time. If there’s no financial need there (and it sounds like there’s no particular reason to think that there is?) they may feel awkward about it and there are even professions where it would be considered inappropriate to accept something like this. I’ve heard of cases where a GoFundMe was set up and then was unwanted by the recipients and then it can be quite difficult to offload the money( I think it can be more complicated than just being able to donate it to a charity, but even if they can do that it’s not fair to ask them to do the admin work behind that when they’ve just suddenly lost a young family member). It’s not the thought that counts here- the CEO knows the company screwed up by having sick people come in to work and he’s trying to fix it by having his employees throw money at the problem (and not even setting it up himself!).

  33. The*

    Regarding OP5, can anti-WFH micromanagers all please just leave management positions and never come back? Especially when you don’t even work in the same location as the people you’re pointlessly banning from WFH? Bonus points for when you have no understanding of their jobs, or how to do them.

    1. irene adler*

      Seconding this!
      I just do not get why managers place impediments for workers who have proved they get the work done. Get out of the way and let ’em work!

      I think somebody lost the manual on how to manage. The goal is work product-not seeing how many ways they can bend employees to meet some artificial construct like butts-in-seats. Trust me, as a consumer I want to purchase good products/services- not butts-in-seats. And you can’t tell me there’s a 100% direct correlation between the two.

    2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

      Seriously. Those managers are so stuck in the 1950s mindset of command and control, butts in seats micromanagement that treats adult employees like unruly children that it’s downright disturbing.

      The genie is out of the lamp. We are not going back to the “Of course, everyone must come in to the office, wasting time, money and energy on the commute just to sit in a soul-crushing open plan office and do things like zoom meetings and remote login to servers that they could do just as easily from home.”

      IMO, remote work is actually financially beneficial to many companies – they can grow without having major real estate spend, they don’t need nearly as much computer infrastructure (wiring a building for hundreds of computer workstations is very expensive.), and they don’t have to provide desks, bathrooms, office supplies, cleaning, etc. Yes, some companies get stuck in a sunk costs fallacy – “But we built out this great new open plan so you could collaborate while sitting three feet away from your coworkers! You have to use it, even if you catch a deadly disease because we cheaped out on the HVAC and won’t require masks!!!1!!” But a growing, reasonable company will say “Oh, great, we can add headcount without adding more office space!! Let’s re-arrange our office to be safer for the people who prefer in-office, add more conference rooms and hoteling desks, and have everyone who wants to work remotely! Plus, we can now recruit from all over the country!”

  34. Tesuji*

    LW#2 – That is just a breathtaking combination of overreach and… underreach?

    Some guy at the office the deceased person worked at setting up a GoFundMe for his family is just mindboggling. Whether (and how) to solicit money from the public for the deceased’s family is 100% the decision of the family. My assumption in hearing about such an unasked-for GoFundMe would be that the person setting it up was a scammer and POS.

    For the CEO to order this employee to expose himself like that, both to reputational loss and the obligations of dealing with that mess? Breathtaking in its audacity.

    That’s even beyond the “we, as a company, will do absolutely nothing” issue which… eh, I have no idea what the right answer is there. To me, the default is the “send flowers and condolences” level. I can imagine the company not doing anything meaningful, both because that’s not their policy and because they don’t want it to come off like they’re accepting the judgment that their corporate policies caused the death (which, let’s be clear, they did).

  35. Rage*

    OP2: how awful. And doubly-so because it seems that a mandated work event was the indirect cause of the employee’s death.

    We had a situation about 5-6 years ago at my employer; a long-time and beloved department office admin was shot and killed by her estranged husband (in front of their 16yo daughter). It was horrible. Of course we did flowers and cards and all of the usual, but what our HR Director came up with was brilliant: a fund was set up for employees to donate vacation hours (funded at their regular rate of pay) to deposit into a 529 for each of the children (daughter and son, both teenagers). The organization also put money in. Our HR also worked closely with the children, providing grief & trauma counseling, helping them with the life insurance paperwork, funeral arrangements, etc.

    The employees loved the fund idea – because they weren’t giving out-of-pocket cash and it was going toward the children’s college education. And we had a number of C-Suite execs who had a LOT of rolled over vacation, so the fund was pretty sizeable by the time it was all said and done.

    Your CEO may be tone-deaf or low EQ or maybe even just in shock and unable to think. Maybe reach out to some other executives (like HR) to see if they can come up with alternate suggestions.

    1. NotRealAnonforThis*

      The situation sounds horrible, but the way your company handled the situation is indeed the most brilliant thing I have heard! Absolutely lovely!

      1. Rage*

        My employer before this one was an Employee Assistance Program, so I got to see a LOT of horrible workplace situations – and saw them handled both very poorly and very well. And I was definitely pleased to be able to say that my current org handled that situation VERY WELL. They supported both the family and the employees, and though it was traumatic, they did the best they could for all involved.

    2. RA*

      This letter prompted me to see what my company provides when an employee passes away, and apparently they send a check for 2x the employee’s monthly salary to the family of the employee. It might end up being less money, but I don’t like the idea that coworkers need to donate their own money/PTO when the company could create a budget to provide some funds to families. ( I can’t fault a company for providing help in other ways like grief counseling, etc. though; I think it’s great that your company did this for the children).

      1. Rage*

        The fund was in response to the many staff who asked, “How can I help/what can I do?” It was not announced immediately, maybe about 2-3 weeks after the incident, and there were a number of communications from Leadership such as “Many of you are asking how you can contribute or help; we will have an answer for you soon.” It was not the only monetary assistance provided to the survivors, but it did give a way for employees to show their love for the employee and her family.

        I know many “like a family” operations can be toxic but people in this organization truly care about each other, and this employee was loved and respected by all who knew her. Being given an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way helped a lot of people with their grief.

  36. Blue Cat of Castleton*

    LW#1 – I feel you on this awkward situation! I had a boss who, when I gave notice that I was going to transfer to another department within the company, immediately snapped “Oh, won’t that be nice for you to be able to roll in after 9am every day!” She was so bitter and angry, I was really shocked. We hadn’t had a *great* relationship, but I hadn’t expected such a visceral reaction. I just looked at her in stunned silence for a moment and then said something like, “Ok, I’ll be in my office if you need me.” She didn’t freeze me out completely, but the next several weeks were pretty uncomfortable, and the worst part was that we continued to work at the same company together for years, so I still had to see her around and have fake-nice conversations with her when I couldn’t avoid her altogether.

  37. BellyButton*

    When I was sort-of forced to resign because of changes in WFH policy, I tried multiple times to meet with my manager about a transition plan. I had multiple meetings and workshops set up with executives. She kept avoiding it. On my last day I canceled all the meetings with a note that it was my last day and to reach out to to reschedule. I think there was about 32 that range from the next day to 2 months out. *shrug* I tried. Added kick to them, the only other person who had a similar position to mine gave notice the following Monday.

  38. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    OP5: We have a similar setup with EAs here – they report centrally to administration for assignment rotation, annual reviews, and timesheet purposes, but they are assigned to different staff depending on need, etc. This not uncommonly rotates depending on need/ebb and flow of work/work styles of individual managers/etc.

    We also have an official “no work from home” policy.

    THAT BEING SAID, we also have an unofficial schedule adjust-as-needed, and I have a similar philosophy to Sylvia and Michael, and that’s how my team operates with our EA. Phillippa is being unreasonable.

  39. Workfromhome*

    #1 since you are already on notice and our boss won’t talk to you, I think it gives you license to use this tactic.

    Anything you need from them, any translon plans documents etc you prepare email them and end it with this: “Can you please approve this by X date. If I don’t receive a response by x date I’ll consider that an approval”

    So they can either grow up and talk to you or you have an email trail that supports basically anything you want to do If they don’t like this method or take offense to it what are they going to do fire you?

  40. irene adler*

    I bet it’s just easier for Philippa to mandate no WFH for everyone. Otherwise, she has to rationalize why disparities between sites exists- such as sites A, B and C can do 2 WFH days but sites F, G, H must be onsite every day. And she’d have to field all the complaints this inequity would cause. Headache! So she plays ignorant when the local managers instruct their reports that they may take WFH days (such as what your managers did).

    1. YMMV*

      YMMV, but I think you’re giving Philippa too much credit. It sounds like anti-WFH control issues on her part.

  41. INFJedi*

    Well, it depends which Phillipa you mean. Captain Phillipa seemed like a very decent manager. Empress Phillipa on the other hand…

  42. TomatoSoup*

    Am I the only one who missed the word “notice” for the first letter and was expecting a very different question?

  43. Spicy Tuna*

    #2 – at my last job, a very much beloved co-worker died. He worked in the mailroom so literally everyone in the company knew him and interacted with him. His death was sudden and everyone was upset. The company set up a site for donations to his family and then matched + a little more what the employees donated. This was a great way to allow everyone at the company to do something tangible at whatever level they felt comfortable, and then add to that. His widow and kids got tens of thousands of dollars to assist after his death. I think the company would have donated something independent of our donations, but like I said, it was good way for co-workers to be able to do something.

    As an unrelated side note, a few years later, the other mail room employee also died suddenly. People were wondering if there was some seriously bad mojo going on in the mailroom.

  44. cactus lady*

    In regards to #1, I had the exact same thing happen to me at my last job. Apparently boss stopped speaking to any of his reports who gave notice. When I tried to talk to him, he actively ignored me and nothing changed. It was like I had personally betrayed him. How do you frame that when looking for a new job, and employers want to speak with your previous boss? I’d be uncomfortable with this, because I have no idea what he would say.

  45. Emi (not a bear expert)*

    I agree that OP3’s colleagues are probably more reasonable than this but I’ve seen enough wackos insisting that parents are out here having babies just for a measly old tax credit that I don’t really blame them for feeling skittish. Solidarity, OP, and congratulations! Your coworkers sound really lovely and I’m sure they’re happy for you too :)

  46. All Het Up About It*

    For #1 – You might also consider delegating speaking to your boss for your employees. It’s hella stupid, but if they need answers and they can’t be funneled through you, that’s a possibility. Especially if there’s not anyone in place to replace you right away and they’ll likely be reporting to your boss after you leave anyway. In fact, you could frame some of the delegation that way if you are looking for away to save face for your boss … out of the goodness of your heart.

    “Since Jane will be answering those questions after I’m gone until a new manger is hired, why don’t you touchbase with her on that and then if you have any questions about the details of the process, I’ll tell you what I’ve done on projects like this in the past.”

  47. Sylvia*

    #3 is so sweet and conscientious! There is nothing grabby at all about that situation.

    I had a co-worker who had a baby shower at work for her first baby. At the time, I felt so guilty because I couldn’t afford to give her anything (most of us didn’t make much money and had families to support). I later found out that this was her third baby shower. It seemed grabby, but maybe her work friends had insisted? A week later she was sending out links on Facebook to a GoFundMe to buy her husband a new laptop, with her stated reasoning being because they were having a new baby. (Surprise, nobody donated. I think friends, family, and co-workers had had enough at that point.)

  48. Out & About*

    OP #2: I feel like the coworker was expecting the company to take responsibility for the death.
    The company should have workers compensation and general liability insurance. In both cases the company will avoid admitting fault. It is in the family’s discretion on if they would want to deal with all that legal work to recover payment.

  49. sundae funday*

    Number 1 happened to me, too. I was in grad school and working an assistantship that just wasn’t financially feasible. I found another one. My direct boss was on vacation when I found out I got the other job, so I told her supervisor and was going to wait until my boss was back into the office to tell her in person.

    The supervisor didn’t realize it and said something to my boss about me leaving when they were talking on the phone. My boss was so angry she refused to speak to me for weeks. And then the supervisor sat me down and lectured me that I should’ve informed my boss I was looking elsewhere before I even started applying to other jobs. Which is just… insane advice. Absolutely insane. She told me I was “burning bridges” and I remember thinking, “GOOD. There is nothing in the entire universe that would make me want to come to work here again.”

  50. Dahlia*

    OP3 is a very sweet question <3

    IMO if people REALLY insist, diapers and also books can be a thing that people like to buy that don't look as… I don't want to say "greedy", but just fly a bit better? You're obviously always going to need diapers unless you cloth diapers (can't really reuse disposables) and people really like buying books. I like the whole "buy your favourite book from when you were a kid and write a little note in it" thing.

    Though that's probably more on a personal friend level than a coworker level. Options, though!

  51. Chickaletta*

    #4 – Who’s got seniority, Phillipa or your managers? As an EA, I’m in a similar setup where I report non-officially to the head EA, but officially I report to my managers who are senior executives. My managers are the ones who have the final say over anything, as it would be really weird and concerning for an assistant much lower than them on the seniority ladder to tell them how to manage their employees. In our particular situation, each assistant is encouraged to work out their in-office schedule with their manager. We all have different schedules, some work from home more than others, but we’re all happy with what each of us has so it works fine. Seems to me like Phillipa is just creating problems out of nothing. If your managers have any clout with Phillipa’s manager, they might want to suggest a policy where employees’ schedules are dictated by their managers only.

  52. scurvycapn*

    LW1: You already have a new job lined up and your boss is never going to be a viable reference, so go for the gold.

    Toss a diaper on your boss’s desk. “I thought you might need this soon seeing as you’re being such a gigantic baby.”

  53. Numbat*

    I can’t be the only one who skipped reading a word and thought LW1’s boss didn’t talk to them during their period…

  54. Lily Potter*

    OP4, I hope you’re still reading comments. I held off on replying earlier since I have a very unpopular opinion and I just didn’t have it in me to deal with attacks from other commenters. This site is overwhelmingly pro WFH even when it doesn’t make sense to be that way.

    You wrote into Allison hoping that the response would be be to ignore what Phillipa (YOUR BOSS) wants to you to do with respect to work from home and to take guidance from Michael and/or Sylvia instead. You’re looking for a way to get away with not following your boss’ directives. Other commenters have chimed in about how to hide WFH from Phillipa by looping in Michael and Sylvia to cover for you. Sorry, I can’t get behind any of that. Whether it’s that Phillipa herself doesn’t like WFH or it’s her bosses that have set the directive, it’s crystal clear what’s expected of you. Your job is currently a 100% butt-in-seat job. If I were Phillipa and I found out that you were secretly working from home, I’d a) have zero trust in you going forward and b) would likely be having a disciplinary conversation. If you get sick, you take a PTO day and don’t work. Don’t feel like a long commute one day? You take a PTO day. The only exception I can see to the above is if Michael or Sylvia close the ENTIRE office space down for the day (as places occasionally do for weather or on the Friday before a holiday weekend) in which case you’d have a little bit of a leg to stand on with YOUR BOSS. And make no mistake about it – Phillipa is your boss. Doesn’t matter if you’ve only met her in person once and you see Michael and Sylvia every day.

    I am not saying that WFH doesn’t make more sense in some situations eg well enough to work but sick enough to stay home. However, bosses don’t always do what makes sense and you have to roll with what THEY want. Again, you have a 100% butt in seat job right now. If you want something WFH, you should change jobs. My apologies for being extremely blunt here, but I need to counter-act all of the responses above that essentially advise you on how to get away with deceiving your boss. No good can come from doing that. None.

    1. Expelliarmus*

      Phillipa and Sylvia are both OP’s boss in different respects (Phillipa in terms of the cohort, while Sylvia manages her work and in-office stuff), while Michael is Sylvia’s boss, so it’s not like OP is trying to ignore her only boss. It’s also understandable that she’s not sure who has the most authority over her. OP wrote in asking for advice (ergo, she wants to make sure she’s doing the right thing) and Alison made it clear that OP can proceed the way they currently are unless Phillipa explicitly vetoes it. In some ways, Alison said a lot what you just said without being nearly as scoldy as your comment comes across. While a lot of commenters here may be more pro-WFH than you agree with, there is no reason to scold the OP for her legitimate question.

    2. Alice*

      Lily, what do you you advise OP to say to Michael and Sylvia when they tell OP, “hey, we can hear you coughing and sneezing. We told you that we don’t want you here when you are sick”?

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