my boss wants to be at the hospital for my coworker’s surgery, taking vacation time when your team is understaffed, and more

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

1. My boss wants to be at the hospital for my coworker’s surgery

My work has a habit of not being able to differentiate between work/life balance and sometimes even uses the phrase “we’re like family.” It’s something I’m trying to change, but these thoughts are really ingrained in management.

We have one HR manager (Amanda) and a fairly small administrative group, which I am a part of. Amanda previously had two awful situations in their personal life: (1) Her sister died and she came in to work the same day because the only other person who knew how to run payroll was our boss and there was nervousness he wouldn’t be able to do payroll properly. (2) Her husband had to go in for emergency open-heart surgery and our boss went to the hospital and BROUGHT HER WORK because he thought “she would want something to do.” He sat there with her while she waited. Even thinking about it now makes my blood boil.

Horribly, Amanda just found out she has ovarian cancer and is having surgery next week to remove her reproductive organs and find out what her options are. It’s absolutely shocking and awful, and I feel terrible for her and her husband. The thing is, my boss told me yesterday he plans on being at the hospital during her surgery to be with her husband! They have become close and the husband also works at our company, but I can’t see how this is appropriate. I said so to him and it was received terribly. He said very angrily that I just don’t get it, they’re like family, he’s definitely going to be there, and that is that.

I talked to Amanda after her husband’s surgery and was told how bad it was that our boss was there and brought work for her to do, so I feel like I’m not out of line saying that his going is inappropriate. I don’t know what to do now. He’s an owner, her boss, and apparently feels like he is close enough with them to be at the hospital. What would you suggest? I’m just completely thrown off and upset, but maybe my emotions about her diagnosis are getting in the way?

What, no, this is horrible. You don’t show up for this sort of thing without being (a) extremely close and (b) invited. If your boss hadn’t shown up uninvited with work for Amanda during her husband’s surgery (!), we could maybe give him the benefit of the doubt that Amanda’s husband asked him to come (since they’re friends) … but given his track record of violating boundaries, it’s more likely that he’s just pushing his way into an extremely high-stress personal situation.

Anyway, can you tell Amanda and/or her husband ASAP about what your boss is planning? If they know in advance, they can tell him directly not to come, or ensure he doesn’t know where and when the surgery will be, or even ask the nurses to keep him out.

my manager shows up while I’m having chemotherapy to talk about work

2. My boss is pressuring me to be more “visible”

I am the head writer at a 50-person company. For the last six months, my boss Adam has been encouraging me to be “more of a strategic leader” and more “visible.” What this seems to translate to is talking about and presenting to anyone who will listen about how amazing our writing is and what is happening in the writing industry. Adam would love me to be speaking up about all things writing in company meetings, to clients and in public forums.

I don’t want to!

I am a writer who was promoted to lead the team a few years ago. I have never pretended to want to be a public speaker, a salesman, or a PR. I know how to write well for my job, but I do not have a lot of wider industry knowledge to be able to speak as an expert.

Last year, I was off work for two months due to depression. The stress of a heavy workload was a catalyst for my ill health, and it then took many months to recover and feel like myself again. My boss was extremely understanding and continues to be mindful of my mental health and workload. I am now quieter overall and more keen to stay within my comfort zone. Some years ago in another job, I used to regularly present to 100+ people on a stage — I was good at it, but it was stressful. I would not want to return to public speaking (or increased “visibility”) in good health, let alone on the other side of this.

Now, today, my Big Boss Eve has said there is the opportunity to do a high-profile industry talk and it would be “soooo good” for me. Eve is aware of my mental health episode and has been sympathetic. How do I say no? I just want to play to my recognized strengths as a writer and manager. Help!

A lot of times managers assume you’ll be delighted to take on stuff like this, but will stop pushing it if you explain that you’re not. Not always, of course — sometimes the role really has changed in a way where the new responsibilities are now part of it, but if that’s the case it’s better to bring that into the open you can both figure out what to do about it. (In your case, I’m guessing it’s probably more the former than the latter, but who knows.)

Talk to Adam and say something like this: “You’ve mentioned a few times that you’d like me to talk about our work and present to clients and at meetings. While I’ve done that work in the past, it’s not an area I want to return to, especially given my health situation right now. I want to be up-front about that and find out if it will be a problem for this role.”

Read an update to this letter.

3. Is it okay to take a lot of vacation time when we’re understaffed?

In September 2021, I rejoined a company I previously worked at for nearly 10 years. Part of the negotiated agreement is that I am awarded the same vacation time as those with 10+ years.

During Covid, we were allowed to carry over more time than normal. I didn’t take a lot in 2022, because we were understaffed and very busy. As of 2023, I’m now left with way too much time to easily take, given the staffing and workload levels, and I don’t see either of those changing in the coming months.

I essentially need to take more than a week off every quarter to not lose any of my time, but I hate to leave my team to pick up the slack. And if I manage to do that, I’ll have a fully excessive amount of time to take off in 2024.

My boss and the president (her boss) are hesitating to fully staff the department. We need at least an intern, a digital/graphics specialist, and a generalist to cover excess workload/absences. Should I just schedule my time off as preferred, and leave the coverage to my supervisors, or do I need to take staffing levels into consideration? I don’t really care if my boss is inconvenienced, but the rest of the team are friends.

No, you don’t need to take your company’s staffing decisions into account when deciding whether to use your earned compensation. I get not wanting to inconvenience your coworkers, but your company’s staffing decisions are what’s inconveniencing them, not your own actions (just like you’re not inconveniencing your coworkers by taking your full salary even if it leaves less money for department spending). In fact, not taking your earned vacation time just makes it easier for your company to be in denial about its actual staffing needs.

Take your vacation time.

4. Shouldn’t we get premium pay for weekend work?

I’m in production engineering for a car company. Although we used to have a very complicated system of casual hours plus overtime during the week, overtime on Saturday, and double time on Sunday, that all went away with the recession of 2009. We had to fight our way through seven years of comp time and extended time hell until in 2016 they decided, hey, you guys AREN’T overtime-exempt after all, and now we get time and a half for anything over 40 hours.

With that behind us, I know that they can’t take overtime pay for overtime work away. They can have us only work 40 hours, and only get paid 40 hours, and that’s fine. The sneaky trick I am worrying about them revisiting is the dreaded “Your ‘weekend’ is now Wednesday and Thursday, so see you in here on Saturday and Sunday doing those weekend installs on straight time” dodge that they have done once before for several months.

The issue is this. Overtime pay is paid for hours over 40, but you are expected to be on the clock eight hours a day during the week. Thus, the weekend is always premium time. This jibes with the American concept of the weekend where you go and do things to have fun; your kids have ball games, you are going to a park, your family is hosting a cookout for your cousins, etc. Forcing you in on a weekend merits premium compensation, one way or the other.

So, how about it? Can a non-minimum-wage company force you to trade Saturday and Sunday for two days off during the week, even when weekends are regarded as premium time? Could they if they gave you three days off in the week as compensation?

There’s no legal requirement that weekends be treated differently than weekdays — employers aren’t required to pay you overtime for them (as long as your overall hours for the week don’t go over 40) or give you extra time off to make up for it. The law treats weekend shifts exactly like weekday shifts.

That said, your coworkers can certainly trying advocating for a weekend pay premium (and some companies offer that).

5. Is it awkward to reconnect with a contact right after she posted jobs I’m interested in?

I recently moved back to my hometown and have been working from home. I really liked my job, but our organization seems to be faltering a bit (not getting enough new business, some toxic leadership traits, too many departures). I was thinking about reconnecting with folks from my old network in my hometown who I’ve lost touch with over the past few years to kind of prepare for a future job search. Literally yesterday I thought to myself, “Oh, I should reach out to Elsa?” but I hadn’t sent the email yet. Today Elsa posted two separate jobs that I might really be interested in on LinkedIn. Should I just apply to one of the jobs and say some of what I might have said in my reconnect email in my cover letter? Should I send the reconnect email and hope she has time to chat and when we do see if that leads towards an invite to apply? Should I be more direct in my reconnect email that I also saw she posted some jobs I might be interested in? I was hoping to genuinely reconnect, but now it feels like asking for a job and I hate that.

You’re not asking for a favor — she posted saying she’s looking for people to do X, you do X, and it’s in your both of your interests to see if it would be a good match.

I think you’re feeling like it’s somehow rude to apply before you’ve reconnected separately, but it’s really not — this is how professional networks work! It’s very common to fall out of touch for a while and then get back in touch when it looks like your professional interests align again. These are business relationships; it’s different than in the social realm (where it would indeed be rude to, for example, reconnect with an old acquaintance solely because they have something you want like a lottery windfall or a summer home at the beach).

Go ahead and apply the way you normally would, and then send her an email letting her know that you did (exactly the same way you would with a business acquaintance who you’d be in more frequent contact with).

{ 324 comments… read them below }

  1. Officiallybarren*

    LW#1 As someone who has had this surgery for other (less serious) medical reasons, it is not something you even let many of your friends visit for. As well as the emotions surrounding why you are having the surgery, there is very real hormonal changes that can mess you up.
    In hindsight I wish I hadn’t even had my parents visit as I had to try too hard to host them and put on a brave face. A partner and a couple of my closest friends were ok. For most people there is a very limited number of people you want involved in knowing your gynocological business.

    This is one where a very strong word with the boss about boundaries would be worth any potential fall out.

    1. Flossy*

      Agree with this! I’ve recently been in hospital for an extended period (not for the above reasons, for which I am extremely thankful) and there were days I wanted nobody, days I wanted my mum and nobody else, and… honestly, that was it. Even close friends wanting to see me was hard because I was firmly in the “I love you but please don’t talk to me” zone. So having somebody who wasn’t even close to me personally wanting to see me in hospital… quite frankly, I’d have asked them to be escorted out; boss or not.

      I think this is one time you get to put your foot down and say “sure, you’re close to hubby, but this is about Amanda, dammit”.

      1. many bells down*

        I spent 5 days in after NON emergency open-heart surgery, and frankly I was on so many painkillers I don’t even remember most of it. I was not exactly able to enjoy visits – I was OUT of it.

        Ironically I would have been happy to have my boss visit… but my boss is a minister. Seeing people in the hospital is part of her job.

          1. Marna Nightingale*

            I feel like the other is workplace injuries.

            My nephew runs a construction company and I know that the time someone did get seriously hurt on a job site he was right there in that waiting area sitting with the spouse until she got comfortable news.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        If boss is really there for hubby, then they have waiting areas – boss can be with hubby to support him there. That’s what waiting areas are for.

        1. Observer*

          In many hospitals, there are limits as to who can be in those waiting areas – this is not the outside lobby.

        2. GreenDoor*

          Even to support my husband…just…no. Doctors come out and say things to those waiting. I don’t need my boss knowing anything about what’s up with my uterus. Quite frankly even if it’s “she did great and she’s resting” it’s none of my employer’s business! If boss wants to be supportive, he can send a plant to the house.

    2. Beth*

      Agreed that the boss is way out of line here and that a strong word about boundaries is needed, but I’m not convinced that OP should be the one driving that conversation. OP isn’t Amanda, and Amanda hasn’t asked OP to speak for her. And while the boss’s boundary pushing is so obvious that I know it feels like anyone should be able to say “that’s absurd and terrible, don’t do that”–OP did try that already, and it didn’t deter the boss at all.

      LW1, in your shoes here, I’d give Amanda a heads up that your boss told you he was planning this, you expressed that it sounded like a bad idea, and he was very insistent on doing it anyways. That gives her a heads up that 1) she needs to be very blunt about her boundaries on this, and 2) she might want to take steps to enforce them (such as talking to hospital security in advance), since there’s good reason to think your boss won’t respect them of his own accord. You can’t do those things for her, but you can give her the info she needs to inform her own next steps.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yes, I was thinking the same thing. LW doesn’t really have any power to set boundaries here! Making sure Amanda knows that this is what the boss is planning (and possibly adding a, “if it was me, I’d be making sure the nurses know that he’s not allowed in!” just to reinforce that that would be a TOTALLY NORMAL AND APPROPRIATE THING TO DO!), and then letting it go.

        1. DrMrsC*

          I agree with looping in the nursing staff. With a little bit of a heads up they even be willing to tell a little white lie for Amanda and her husband. They could easily lean in to Infection Control policies and even their facility’s Visitor policy. The tough part will be Amanda’s husband ignoring the phone calls/texts and holding the line when the nurses shoo the boss away and he insists that someone wants him there and demands that they go check.

          1. NotBatman*

            Yes — the best way to protect themselves from retaliation would be to ask the nurses to refuse entry to anyone but family, and then to inform the boss that that’s hospital policy. It’s a normal thing for hospitals to do, so as long as the husband isn’t waiting in a public area then he can be safe from this invasion of privacy.

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            As the relative of a bunch of nurses – the hospitals they all worked at would ignore hubby and listen to the patient (in this case Amanda) only as to who is allowed into her room. And my relatives had no problem saying things like hospital policy is family only, only one visitor at a time, etc to keep out people who didn’t want to hear the word NO.

            1. Clisby*

              That is what I’d expect for who’s allowed to visit her room – the only person with a say should be the actual patient. Similarly, if the issue is whether someone can sit with the patient’s husband *in the waiting room*, the husband is the one whose wishes count. The LW does not count at all.

          3. Mine Own Telemachus*

            Lots of hospitals will put a password check in place for visitors, so that is something the coworker should look into.

        2. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

          I think the OP shoud talk with Amanda or her husband and explain if they don’t want the boss there to ask him not to go and explain that they will have Amanda and Husband’s back if boss makes a fuss.
          Who knows maybe OP is wrong and the husband and boss are close friends. But I think there should be a conversation anyways.

          1. Mangled Metaphor*

            it doesn’t matter if the husband and the boss are friends and how right or wrong OP is about their closeness. they could be drinking buddies or part of a marine fraternity, this is about Amanda.
            if my husband wanted his blood brother there to support him while I was going through surgery, he can do that – off hospital grounds and away the heck from me.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        This is especially important because there is a chance (however small) that Amanda says “oh yes, he and my husband have become very close and so my husband wants him there”, which is ALSO acceptable if they have agreed to it. So the heads up to Amanda is kindness if it’ll be an unwanted visit, and an opportunity for her to say “oh no it’s all planned out” if not. Amanda has to lay out the rules herself, not OP.

      3. Observer*

        Agreed with all of this.

        I would also add that if Amanda has not yet shared where she is having the procedure, she might want to clam up on that.

      4. I'm fabulous!*

        Agreed. Amanda needs to directly set the boundary with her boss. Maybe also to speak with HR about how to handle before, during and after surgery work contact; it will also help to firm boundaries. A post-surgery phone call from her boss is better. Her surgery is a very private manner.

      5. Lenora Rose*

        This this this this this.

        OP can bring Amanda the information that the boss is planning this, and can always add some of the info here if it seems like it would be welcome – especially about alerting the hospital ahead of time if boss is unwanted (including in the waiting room with the husband). But ultimately, it’s Amanda who needs the info and Amanda who has to actually make the moves. OP has done what they can with their attempt to point out the issue; the rest is on Amanda and husband to put their own feet down.

    3. Freya*

      Yep, unless I would show you my underpants areas of my own volition, you’re not welcome in the hospital when the things I’m in there for involve taking off my underpants.

      1. Random Dice*

        He’s so violating the Ring Theory* “comfort in, dump out” premise for those facing a hugely hard time.

        He’s dumping in stress, on those who don’t need it, out of a stubborn determination to take care of his own emotional needs (feeling like he’s a good person, the actual needs and feelings of the people he’s “helping” be damned).

        *Ring Theory: imagine a bullseye, with the impacted person (cancer patient, widow, etc ) at the center and friends/family at varying rings based on level of closeness. The person at the center can dump (kvetch or cry or rage) to anyone, but everyone else can only dump to someone at an outer ring, and send comfort inward. So as a friend, you wouldn’t go to the terminal patient and expect them to help you process your own feelings about their impending death, or to their spouse or parent – you’d go to your own partner, or a therapist.

      2. Mangled Metaphor*

        I shouldn’t have laughed at “underpants area”, but I did, and it’s an important point to note. this isn’t just any surgery, this is intimate surgery. and the boss has no right to any part of that.

    4. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      Also agreed! I had the whole enchilada out (we thought it was out of an abundance of caution at the point I went in; when I woke up I learned they’d found cancer while they were in there) and beforehand one of the relatives I very much wanted to be there for me offered to come and help. The catch: she would have had to bring her husband along, a man known within the family for his skill at saying exactly the wrong thing, and someone who I’d become estranged from some ten years earlier. I was only barely up to facing him when in full possession of myself, so I invited them to absent themselves from the occasion. No regrets.

    5. JSPA*

      He says he wants to be there to hang out with the husband not to see the employee, though.

      Now…he may very well be fooling himself in thinking that the husband is a personal friend! (He clearly misjudged his relationship with his employee in that way, So we know hes unclear on all the concepts involved.)

      But it’s not the letter writer’s to protect her coworker’s husband. Inform, yes; but from there, coworker’s husband needs to weigh in with coworker (and via coworker, with coworker’s medical team) whether it would be as boundary crossing as it sounds…or whether even a bad distraction would be a welcome distraction FOR HIM.

      Assuming she does not want boss invading her personal space, they can work out a plan that works for her, and for husband.

      (When things are stressful, you’re trapped Is waiting and worrying, and there’s nothing you can do to change the outcome, sometimes a counter irritant is oddly welcome.)

      1. Come On*

        Hardly matters what her husband wants. Not sure where you’re going here. He’s not the one having surgery to remove reproductive organs.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Because the Boss is planning on waiting with the Husband to keep him occupied. Nothing in the letter says he plans on barging in on Amanda. Who knows MAYBE the Husband does want him there to keep him company but plans on keeping him away from Amanda.

          This is not OP’s hill to die on. Best she can do is give a heads up to Amanda who can work with her husband to do what they think is best for them. Amanda might have thought it was inappropriate to wait with HER but might know her husband has a different view of things.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            Because the Boss is planning on waiting with the Husband to keep him occupied.

            Oh, is he going to bring him work to do, too?

          2. Julia*

            Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps Amanda and her husband feel they must allow Boss to come because it might make their jobs uncomfortable if they refuse or Boss will treat them differently after they return.

            Or maybe the Boss will bring the husband work because working on the monthly report while your wife is having surgery will keep his mind occupied.

            1. Clisby*

              Maybe Amanda and her husband feel they have to allow boss to come – but that’s still their problem, not the OP’s. OP has no power to do anything here.

            2. Overit*

              Common sense and life experience should indicate that the quality of work one would do while one’s spouse is having surgery is not of the highest caliber. Then again, this boss seems bereft of both qualities.

        2. Rachel Greep*

          My dad had open heart surgery last fall. It took several hours. During that time, my sisters and I were with our mother. My two aunts, my grandmother, and my mother’s two best friends also popped in at various times throughout the day. No one was barging into the ICU post-op to bother my dad. Those people were in the waiting room/cafeteria to support MOM. OP says boss has become close to Amanda’s husband. Maybe husband wants boss there for HIM, not Amanda.

        3. Clisby*

          Nothing in the letter indicates the boss is planning even to see Amanda, who’s having the surgery. The only question is whether Amanda’s husband wants the boss hanging around with him while waiting. It seems unlikely the husband would welcome this, but if he does, why would Amanda care? Boss isn’t going to be bothering her, and she can specify who gets to visit her post surgery.

          I guess things can be different in different hospitals, but I’ve waited while my father had open-heart surgery and while my husband had a kidney removed. Nobody unauthorized by the patient would have been allowed anywhere near them soon after surgery.

          If the issue is whether Amanda would want him visiting her *after* she’s recovering back in a regular room, well, she can decide that by restricting visitors (or not).

          1. Artemesia*

            I know people like this boss who are pushy and dominant and think they have a right to do what they want to do and push in where they want to push. The odds of him not pushing his way in to see Amanda as soon as she is out of recovery are zero — and he may push his way into recovery when the husband is allowed in as well.

            1. JSPA*

              This is fanfic. He didn’t barge in on the husband, when husband was the patient.

              He’s self-absorbed and tone deaf enough to assume that “what he’d want in a waiting room” is what everyone wants.

              That’s bad enough!

              We don’t have to write fiction where we assign him a pattern of barging into recovery rooms, to double down on our disapproval, any more than we have to suggest that he kicks puppies.

              Coworker and coworker’s husband can decide what works for them; they are not incapacitated, and the LW does not hold power of attorney for them, and nobody needs to usurp their right to make the choices that are right for them.

        4. Come On*

          Okay, so I came back to address the incredible amount of himpathy coming back at me — I don’t care if Boss is waiting in the waiting room with Husband, it’s still inappropriate. As someone with ovaries that will need to be removed shortly and as someone with a boss she actually likes, I still wouldn’t want him out waiting in the waiting room while I’m going through such an emotionally-charged medical procedure. It’s weird and an invasion of privacy for him to be around like that. Amanda should be informed and she should get a say on whether he’s around.

            1. Come On*

              I’m not sure what you’re responding to here because I never indicated that the OP should do anything more than tell Amanda what is happening. I merely stated that in these situations, it is the patient’s opinion (and not the patient’s husband) who matters.

              1. JSPA*

                They are independent people, with a right to independent support networks.

                Wife will be under anesthesia; husband (with a heart condition) will be sweating bullets.

                If I were in wife’s shoes, having husband do whatever reduces his stress–so that he won’t, say, have another circulatory event– and so that we could be as healthy as possible for whatever time we have left– would be high priority.

                That might mean blocking boss from the waiting room, it might mean asking cousin to fly in, it might mean having boss drive repeatedly to pick up bubble tea–we (and the LW) don’t know, can’t know, and should not presume to know the coworker’s needs and priorities.

                1. Come On*

                  Yes. Husband certainly has it worse here because “wife will be under anesthesia” and she should definitely be thinking about him during this difficult time…. /S

                  I think that we can believe LW’s read on the situation from this line “I talked to Amanda after her husband’s surgery and was told how bad it was that our boss was there and brought work for her to do, so I feel like I’m not out of line saying that his going is inappropriate.”

                  LW should tell Amanda what Boss has planned so that they can stop it, if they choose. Either way, a Boss showing up to the hospital because “we are family” is inappropriate.

                2. Anon for this*

                  I’ve been under for surgery and in a position of needing my support person to make a call immediately right now while I was under. Obviously I didn’t know about it until afterwards, but the point of having the support person there is to make those calls when needed. That is their job. That is their only job.
                  If their heart condition or relationship with their mother or whatever the eff is wrong with them means they need some accommodation that interferes with their ability to be present, be alert, be calm, and wait until either I’m awake or they are needed to make decisions, then they are the wrong person to be there and should wait at home and I should pick someone else to be my support person.

                3. DisgruntledPelican*

                  @Come On, your responses here are really weird. No one is saying the husband has it worse or should elicit more thought than Amanda. But you’re getting weirdly hostile at the idea of people thinking about him *at all* in this scenario. Plenty of people (I would say most) take their partner’s feelings and worries and wants into account when they’re going through something, even when one person is more affected by the situation than the other.

                4. JSPA*

                  As you get older and sicker, you eventually face up to your spouse (or sibling, or other closest person) also being fragile and mortal. Every major health event becomes a balancing act, so you’re not both down at the same time.

                  This would be just as true if spouse were also female, or if the support person were the coworker’s sister.

                  Making this about male apologist stuff is just bizzarre.

                  So’s suggesting that having boss available to run-go-fetch food or drink would somehow stop the husband from making instantaneous hard medical decisions. (Cancer surgery can get longer and more difficult than foreseen. Trust me on this; I don’t want to get graphic on the how and why.)

                  If you’re not at that stage where it’s work to make sure that your care person doesn’t become the other, more incapacitated patient, mazel tov, I guess? But…have no friends, relatives or neighbours been in that situation?

                  “Designated caregiver ends up sicker than designated patient” is depressingly common.

                  None of the health conditions under discussion are, “ok, that’s sorted, I’m 100% healthy again” territory.

          1. Clown Eradicator*

            Agreed. The dr may come out to talk to the husband, there could be complications and boss makes it more nerve wracking to make the necessary decisions, etc. Doesn’t matter if the husband needs support – – an actual friend of the couple or family member can be there.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Another wrinkle here may be Amanda’s husband’s concern that if he makes it clear that he does NOT want Amanda’s boss to be there “for him” during Amanda’s surgery that setting and enforcing this boundary will result in the boss taking out his anger and indignation on Amanda. The boundary-ignoring boss has no power over Amanda’s husband, but he DOES have power over Amanda herself; he could make her remaining time at their company very unpleasant indeed if he’s offended and indignant at her and her husband’s refusal to let him barge in during her hospitalization. And the boss seems to have no clue whatsoever that (A) no, his subordinates are not family (they’re trading their work for compensation) and that (B) even real family members are expected to recognize and respect the boundaries set by other members. But Amanda’s comfort level comes first here, and if she doesn’t want her boss at the hospital then that trumps everything else.

        So yes, LW1, by all means tell Amanda ASAP about your banancrackers boss’s plan. Hopefully, Amanda and her husband will come to some agreement and, if their choice is to bar your boss from the hospital, then they can alert the medical staff that Bananacrackers Boss is not to get near them.

        Amanda can also refuse to reveal anything about the exact date, time or location of her surgery; she can pass it off with a comment about wanting to stick to work-related topics at work. Since she’ll take time off to recover, perhaps she can arrange to start her medical leave a little early so that your boss won’t be able to identify exactly which date she’s having the surgery. It’s unfortunate that Amanda has to resort to obfuscating the date, time and location of a medical procedure but it’s also unfortunate that your boss is a Grade A certified loon.

    6. KatEnigma*

      I am scheduled for a hysterectomy next month.

      If I didn’t have a 5 yr old to get back and forth to school and a husband that may need to fly out for work the week after, I wouldn’t have my parents coming either. Not because I will “host” them, but because they sometimes annoy the heck out of me.

    7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Talk with the hospital – yesterday. They should have experience with keeping people out who you don’t want there. I’ve seen it done – and had to do it myself after my second birth because of a coworker who just didn’t want to hear the words “no visitors at this time.” The nurses and front desk kept him out of my room and off of the floor entirely.

      1. Exme*

        You aren’t saying OP should talk to the hospital right? OP should not be discussing this with anyone other than Amanda, and definitely not taking it upon herself to call the hospital to discuss who is not allowed to visit her coworker after surgery.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Oh I meant Amanda can/should talk to the hospital. OP can give Amanda the heads up and then Amanda can take it from there.

      2. Observer*

        Talk with the hospital – yesterday.

        For the OP to try do that would be every bit as boundary crossing as what the Boss is planning to do – more so, in fact. And no hospital in the US will ever even entertain that conversation.

        Now *Amanda* can talk to the hospital. But that’s for her and her husband to decide.

    8. Artemesia*

      This. It would be my worst nightmare to have snoopy pushy people crowding in on something so personal. But it is not the LW battle to fight behind letting the co-worker know about it ‘in case you want to call this off at the pass and not be surprised by it.’ If she doesn’t want it, she can insist her husband stop it.

    9. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Since Covid a lot of hospitals still have visiting restrictions, so it may be that anyone but the husband will be barred from entry.
      I’m not really sure that it’s OP’s business, but I’m sure Amanda would appreciate the heads-up, and with her husband she will be able to come up with a way to keep the boss away.
      But what a jerk! If his work is like a family, what on earth is his family like?

      1. Observer*

        I’m not really sure that it’s OP’s business, but I’m sure Amanda would appreciate the heads-up, and with her husband she will be able to come up with a way to keep the boss away.

        Giving them a heads up is the way to go. That leaves the ultimate decision in their hands.

        And you don’t even need covid restrictions – a lot of hospitals have always limited who can wait around, and just about any decent place will work with someone who says “Please keep so and so out” or “Please only allow so and so in”.

    10. Observer*

      This is one where a very strong word with the boss about boundaries would be worth any potential fall out.

      No, it’s not. Primarily because there is nothing that the OP can say that would make a difference. The OP has already brought this up and gotten major pushback. The guy is not reasonable, and nothing the OP is going to say is going to magically change that.

      And while Amanda told *OP* that she was unhappy with Boss’ behavior, it doesn’t sound like she told him. *And* boss can reasonably say that this is different anyway because he’s not bringing work, he’s just “supporting” husband. The only ones who can have a chance of making it clear that he actually is truly unwelcome are Amanda and her husband.

    11. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Really push hard on no visitors except for ones that are on the approved list. My friend was hospitalized for reasons and only wanted her husband and myself as support. To her utter shock and discomfort a co-worker showed up. They weren’t close, the co-worker was the office nosy busybody and somehow managed to get into the locked ward. Clearly to get the scoop on what was wrong with my friend, it was awful. It’s been years but my anger still burns for my friend.

  2. Nurses are amazing*

    LW#1, In an ideal world, your boss would respect boundaries with regard to your coworker, but given his previous behavior and reaction, it doesn’t seem likely. I would suggest that the couple inform him that hospital policy post-Covid strictly prevents more than one person waiting per patient. And then warn the nurses so they know that their patient may need a little extra protection from uninvited visitors.

    1. Genuinely wth*

      The boss already went in as a “visitor” to Amanda’s husvand, I’m not sure he’d buy the idea that the hospital had that strict of a restriction. Not to mention, he sounds like the kind of person who would complain at and agitate the hospital to get his way.

      1. Nurses are amazing*

        You may be right – it doesn’t say when the husband’s surgery was. I was assuming it was pre-Covid for some reason. But hospital staff are absolutely prepared to head off any unauthorized visitors! (And with their stress levels right now, I’m sure there’d be at least one on duty who would love to have permission to deny entry to an entitled person like the boss!)

        1. AnonRN*

          Honestly, not the point of the discussion here but we are so, so tired. Stuff like this stresses us out more; even though we’re prepared to deal with it most of us don’t relish conflict. We just want to take care of our patients, you know?

          Of course we’ll kick him out if she asks us to, but by the time it gets to that point he’s already at the bedside (stressing her out, probably) and then she’ll have to work up the nerve to call us and ask for us to diplomatically remove him etc…

          1. Snow Globe*

            I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this stuff. I think the suggestion here is for the coworker or her husband to speak with the medical facility staff in advance, so that they are prepared to head him off as he enters the facility.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              That is what I did when I had a person I didn’t want getting in to see me. The facility had a front desk everyone had to go thru for the surgery and birthing centers, so they and not the nursing staff were the ones denying entry.

              Oh, and the waiting area was outside that desk as well – not always the case, but possible.

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                Yeah, I was thinking that a lot of hospitals in my area (maybe all of them?) have security and I highly suspect that you can tell them to absolutely NOT let someone in to see a patient if you want to. But I don’t actually know that to be the case, I only suspect it to be true. Also I live in a big east coast city known for it’s many good and large hospitals, so smaller ones probably don’t have as robust security as the big ones here do.

                1. Appletini*

                  It’s pretty common for hospitals to 1) have a security department and 2) to have procedures for keeping people away from patients. It’s not difficult — just talk to one’s nurse about it when they’re doing the admission process.

                  Source of information: I’ve worked in 3 different hospitals of varying sizes, and have had t coordinate this information in two of them.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      Not “a little protection from uninvited visitors” but tell the nurses that Peerson Boss is not allowed in. They’ll handle it.

  3. Brain the Brian*

    I can’t help mentioning that many, many auto workers are unionized, and if LW4 is among them, they might want to work with their union reps to negotiate weekend premiums for their factory. If they’re not unionized, I’m sure that UAW would welcome new members!

    1. Aqua409*

      This was exactly my first thought too. If you are apart of the UAW, I would recommend checking with your union representative and ask them about it. They’re going to be the experts and it’s their responsibility and job to help you out with this.

    2. Sssssssssssssssssssssss*

      If unionized, I’m surprised there isn’t already a premium put into their collective agreement. Hell, we’re office workers and we have premium rates of pay for weekend work, including food allowances, in our agreement.

    3. CheesePlease*

      having worked in a similar field (aerospace) where shop operators were UAW members, but engineers, supervisors etc were all part of management. It would take a LOT of effort to unionize at that level, especially salary employees. I was salaried and we had a casual overtime policy at LW mentioned them having previously. We also had a different PTO policy (unlimited PTO with manager’s approval) while union employees had to accrue it.

      Not impossible, but I do think that many fields (retail, healthcare) schedule weekend shifts as straight time. In a 24/7 facility this was the norm also. It sucks. It’s just the industry though.

      1. CRM*

        I think there are a lot of exceptions to this, though. A good friend of mine works in healthcare and they often get incentive pay to work weekends if the hospital is short-staffed (in addition to being able to take extra time off during the week, so it’s not even overtime pay). Hospital workers that are regularly scheduled to work nights and weekends often make more in their base salary. The hospital recognizes that these shifts aren’t desirable, so they need to attract people that are willing to work outside of normal business hours. Workers in the service/retail industry are also incentivized to work weekends because that is when those businesses get the most customers, which means more tips/commission. When I worked as a bartender, we all competed to get scheduled on Friday and Saturday because those nights brought in the best money.

        I don’t think it is unreasonable for OP to ask for increased weekend pay if they end up being asked to work weekends. Their company may say no, but I wouldn’t argue that it’s the standard.

        1. Wenike*

          IT usually has a shift differential for working second or third shift, but not always for weekends as well. I had a job where my “weekend” was Sunday/Monday. It was great for scheduling appointments or doing any errands at places that are only open business hours but I did get somewhat screwed because that particular company would not pay holiday pay if you weren’t scheduled to work that day and the US several decades ago made most federal holidays be on a Monday. I worked second shift at that job (generally, 3 PM – midnight) and got a shift diff for it but not for working Saturday.

      2. Brain the Brian*

        I wonder if LW4’s company is inappropriately classifying them as “management” or “semi-management” to prevent or discourage people of their job description from joining a union. The LW does say that the company classified them as exempt for several years and then walked that back — but not why. Either way, a non-exempt job is a non-exempt job, and if the company is setting their schedule with no flexibility, that doesn’t sound like a true management role. Even if LW4 is a shift lead overseeing production — and therefore termed an engineer rather than an operator — unless they have hiring / firing and / or shift-setting authority, the ability to classify them as a management position ineligible for union representation is, IMO, limited. (The corollary that jumps to mind in the arts is stage managers: they manage the stage, not the people, and thus they are represented by the AEA union.) And even if LW4 is ineligible for UAW membership, there *are* management / professional unions they and their coworkers could join — and regardless, if their coworkers feel similarly to them, they will have a lot more power speaking up in a group, whether formally unionized under any umbrella or not.

        1. Union Organizer*

          Yes to all of this! Even if LW4 isn’t part of the existing bargaining unit, new groups of workers can vote to be added unless they’re genuinely supervisors. (And the current NLRB is the friendliest it’s been in a long time, so the odds of getting approved to do this are high.) If they are legally supervisors, they can still unionize in most cases. And no matter the legal technicalities, LW4 and their colleagues have power at their workplace just by being the ones who do the work, and they can use that power together whether it ends with a union election and contract or not.

    4. Union Organizer*

      Engineers at industrial companies are typically non-union, and traditionally have been happy to stay that way. But that is starting to change! You can read LW4’s dissatisfaction and distrust of management since the GFC very clearly and they’re not the only one. And there will be organizing opportunities coming: the UAW has new, more activist, leadership going into the next round of contract negotiations. There will be people trying to get solidarity and support from the white-collar employees, and part of that will be serious talks about the office staff’s own jobs and how they feel. And there have already been some results: I don’t have solid numbers, but during the recent John Deere and Case New Holland strikes there were a lot of reports of engineering and low-level management refusing to go out to the plants and scab in production.

      All this to say. LW4, you might never have though about going union. You might be explicitly written out of the UAW unit at your employer. But if management’s been treating you worse and worse for going on 15 years and you and your coworkers are tired of it, there’s no better time to get together and do something than right now.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Yep yep yep. My parents worked as engineers for a very large aerospace company, and although they were happy to stay non-union, that’s in large part because their company provided excellent benefits: both pensions (remember those?) *and* 401k plans, excellent health coverage (including reproductive coverage for couples who needed it, something of which I am a product), partial subsidies for first-time home buyers, great salaries, predictable Monday-Friday work schedules, and on and on. Employees of all levels didn’t feel the need to unionize because the company did right by their employees in the first place — something that’s clearly not happening at LW4’s workplace.

        I’ll also add one more tidbit: people in my hometown are generally leery of unions because the area has a historically strong mafia presence and a resulting corruption problem in decades-past unionization attempts. But — in my view — the best way to prevent corruption where there’s already a union is to join that union yourself and vote for leadership slates whom you don’t think are corrupt. LW4, please speak up in some way — because it really does sound like your company is running roughshod over their engineering staff in ways far beyond simple weekend premium pay.

    5. Norma Rae the MBA*

      yes; many are.
      But as of 2007 when I worked at a union, there were more non-union autoworker employees in the US than there were union auto worker employees.

      The newer places of autoworker manufacturing in the US are in rural areas desperate for jobs with lower barriers to entry, and with poor worker protections, including low minimum wages. South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas come to mind as places with new and newer manufacturing plants in rural areas, and few if any protections for workers organizing.

      Even though the actual number of US autoworkers is higher than it was in the 80s… the number unionized is far less.

  4. Fikly*

    LW4: Check your assumptions. There are plenty of people for whom working on a weekend, and thus getting one or two weekdays off is actually a preference. Just because you regard weekend days as premium days to not be working doesn’t mean everyone does.

    Just as an example, most anyone who works shifts but needs regular doctor appointments of any kind will run into problems working a Monday-Friday schedule.

    I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t be upset about how your company is handling this. But the schedule not working for you doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for everyone.

    1. HBJ*

      Agreed. Although I do think enough people like weekends that they should try to structure their shifts as Tuesday-Saturday and Sunday-Thursday so everyone has a weekend day off.

      1. Random Dice*

        Yeah but come on – the problem isn’t that they’re assuming their individual preference is universal, it’s that the company is deliberately pulling shady stuff and pretending it’s totes normal.

        Weekends ARE culturally expected to be free time. Making people work on the weekend means they’ll miss their kids’ games, and social events, and all kinds of important things.

        If someone chooses weekend work, great – but being assigned it, by a company that’s doing so deliberately to get around paying a fair wage, that’s just adding insult to injury.

        1. cabbagepants*

          I don’t see where the company is “doing so deliberately to get around paying a fair wage,” though.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I can see why there’s been some trust lost in the back and forth over the years, but the actual setup seems…normal. If you need weekend coverage, it’s very normal for someone to have weekdays off or a split weekend of some kind (I know some people hate those but I used to love my split weekends). Premium pay usually comes into pay if a) the weekend shifts are particularly difficult to staff or b) there’s a union agreement. The latter would seem more likely in this kind of job but given the background explained they don’t sound unionized.

        2. Fikly*

          Except that’s not what’s happening at all.

          Working on a weekend is not overtime, there are so very many coverage or shift based jobs where working on a weekend is needed, and you are paid the same hourly wage as working on a weekday. It’s incredibly common.

          This is not a tactic to get around paying a fair wage.

          It is, however, a change in the practice in how the company has been paying, and totally valid to get upset that the compensation and schedule you agreed to when you accepted the job may be changing. But that’s a totally different issue than a company doing something shady. Not that this company isn’t doing shady things, I’m sure they are, but this isn’t one of them.

          Also, part of the problem _is_ that they are assuming their preference is universal, because if they want to argue against this potential change, and they use their preference being universal as an argument, they are undermining their position because it’s fundamentally wrong, and all the company needs to do is latch onto one flawed argument and refuse to hear any others.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            “all the company needs to do is latch onto one flawed argument and refuse to hear any others”

            This is such an important point. In an ideal world you wouldn’t need to be this strategic when negotiating with an employer, but in our real world you have to be very thoughtful about how you approach these issues.

        3. DisgruntledPelican*

          This feels like the “everyone had to work from home during covid” blindness. Weekends are culturally expected free time except for the people coaching those kids’ games or running those establishments for social events. Oh, and also doctors, nurses, EMTs, firefighters, police, social workers, people who work retail, people who work in bars/restaurants, people who work in entertainment, people who work at houses of worship, people who work in transportation, people who work in hospitality, etc, etc, etc.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Lol, yeah. I’m shocked at how many people are forgetting that there are hundreds of thousands of jobs where weekend work is necessary. How do you guys think the world keeps running on Saturdays and Sundays?

          2. Teach*


            I don’t know a lot about auto production, but the fact that OP uses the phrase “those weekend installs” suggests to me that this is a pretty standard part of the job. ‍♀️

        4. Ace in the Hole*

          I don’t see how the company is pulling shady stuff or trying to get around paying a fair wage.

          I’ve spent most of my adult life working at 7-day/week operations. I’ve never worked at a place that pays more for weekend shifts. Working saturdays or sundays is perfectly normal in many occupations, and plenty of people actually prefer having their days off on weekdays. I’ve had either Fri/Sat or Sun/Mon as my assigned “weekend” for over ten years now and I prefer it that way. A good employer will take employee preferences and needs into account when setting up a schedule. But that doesn’t mean being assigned a shift you don’t like as much is abusive or shady.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, this.

      That said, I was very happy to work for time and a half on Saturday and double pay on the few Sundays a year that we were open when I worked retail 30 years ago. Even now that Sunday opening is standard, retail employees are usually competing for the weekend shifts for the higher pay. But if retail employers decided to stop paying more on the weekend, employees would be less likely to volunteer for those shifts…

      1. Bagpuss*

        YEs, and as I read the question, OP is concerned that their employer may stop paying the premium but make the shift in days worked compulsory, not voluntary, which is very different to people volunteering for those shifts, whether they volunteer because the offset schedule suits them or because of the extra pay

      2. retail slave*

        My many years of experience in retail tell me that premium pay for working weekends is not a thing. Maybe it was in the past, or it was at your job specifically, but that’s certainly not the case at most retailers now. This is actually the first I’ve heard or such a concept.

        (I am aware that some places require this by law, but I’m talking about everywhere else)

    3. WS*

      Yes, I work in healthcare and my weekend is Monday-Tuesday which is perfect for me. Co-workers with children really need those weekends off, though.

      1. xl*

        Fellow Mon/Tues person here. It works well for me. I’m not a people person so going places on the “real” weekend isn’t very enjoyable for me.

        I can totally understand why my coworkers with family and kids would want those days off though. I have a lot of lower-seniority coworkers who are forced onto these says off and they miss out on a lot of their kids’ soccer games, piano recitals, etc.

      2. Fikly*

        Except for those coworkers with children who need a weekday off because that’s a reduction in childcare they have to obtain. Check the assumptions, please.

        1. MourningStar*

          Perhaps they know their coworkers very well, and they aren’t making assumptions.

        2. WS*

          I don’t understand “that’s a reduction in childcare they have to obtain”? Childcare is only open in my small town Monday-Friday. There is no weekend childcre.

      3. Clisby*

        Yes, I loved Mon.-Tue. off in my last (night) newspaper job. I was going to school full-time and working full-time and having 2 full weekdays off to devote only to school and the occasional errand/appointment was a lifesaver. If I hadn’t been in school it wouldn’t have mattered as much, since I wouldn’t have gone in to work until 3-4 p.m. – medical appointments were a problem only because they might interfere with school.

    4. Not Australian*

      I was also amused to learn that a weekend is specifically American. Okay, then.

          1. AbruptPenguin*

            This. In Israel, the weekend is Friday-Saturday (to overlap with preparing for and observing Shabbat), and Sunday is a school/workday.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Actually it made sense to me! I thought it was just a “the concept of the Sat-Sun weekend is not universal”, rather than “the concept of the Sat-Sun weekend is exclusively American”.

        1. Phryne*

          True, but the fact that the US was apparently the first country to implement a sat-sun weekend does not negate the fact that wanting to have fun in your weekend is not necessarily an American unicum. ;)

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Did someone say it was? Genuinely asking. I am very confused as to where all this American/non-American stuff is coming from seemingly out of nowhere.

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, I took it as “at least in America, it is customary to do these things at the weekend; I don’t want to make assumptions about the world in general.”

      2. wendelenn*

        Reminds me of the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey. “What is a ‘weekend’?”

    5. JM60*

      I’d like to go see a movie on a weekday afternoon for a discount, pick up groceries on weekday afternoons, etc. Having your “weekend” partly or entirely on weekdays isn’t for everyone, but it can certainly have its benefits.

    6. bamcheeks*

      But even people who actively prefer working the weekend rarely object to getting paid a premium for it.

      I think the problem here is that LW sees the company decisions about the weekend as unilateral, and doesn’t have any power to negotiate. If the company was offering a Thursday-Monday week to those who wanted to opt for it, they’d get happy workers. If they were offering premium payment for those who wanted to opt for it, they’d get happy workers. But enforcing weekend work on people who didn’t sign up for that is not going to make people happy, and is going to lead to some serious difficulties for some.

      LW, this does sound like a situation where a union would be very helpful.

    7. xl*

      I enjoy having my non-standard weekend.

      I work in a facility that is 24/7/365 and we bid for what our “weekend” will be for the next year at the end of the current year. I’m high enough in seniority that I could get the “real” weekend off, but I usually take Monday/Tuesday as my weekend. I like getting off on Sunday and having that as my Friday. Getting things done is a lot easier on weekdays. I also get paid time and a quarter for my hours worked on Sunday.

      Although I have no family, so I certainly recognize why those who do have family would prefer to have the “real” weekend off.

    8. STG*

      Yea, this just seems like a schedule change to me which isn’t that uncommon for hourly shift work. Ultimately, you’ve gotta decide if the new schedule fits within your needs or not.

    9. Varthema*

      Eh, I managed a retail team once. We needed a ton of coverage on the weekend, and although we had a small handful of people who preferred having weekdays off, the vast majority would have preferred to not work both weekend days so frequently, a lot of them would request a Saturday or Sunday or weekend off frequently, and everybody needed a weekend off at least once in a while (think weddings, weekend trips with partners, etc). Almost nobody got a whole Sat-Sun combination off, ever, and I had a two-year run where I only was off on a Saturday three times. It would have been so, so, SO much easier to have premium pay on the weekends to expand the pool of “I’d rather work on the weekend” people.

    10. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I used to work four days a week and it’s true that I liked being able to heap up all my appointments on my weekday off. Still, if I had to work at the weekend to compensate having a day off during the week, I’d expect to be paid more at the weekend. When I worked as a care assistant in a nursing home, we were paid 50% extra on Saturdays and double on Sundays and bank holidays, I don’t think anything less would be fair.
      Because even if you don’t have kids, you’re more likely to see friends at the weekend, weddings and other special events are always scheduled at the weekend and so on. And partners are more likely to be off at the weekend too.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I was a government attorney for many years and we were regularly required to work nights (~5 am to upwards of 2 am) and weekends (Saturday and Sunday, day or night). We were not paid extra. We just got our normal salary.

    11. CRM*

      It is true that some people genuinely prefer a non-traditional weekend, but I think the majority of folks prefer a standard weekend, especially since that is how our society operates (for example, schools and daycare don’t run on weekends, so parents would need to arrange for childcare). Many industries that require weekend work provide incentives to attract workers to sign up for those shifts, such as a higher base salary or additional vacation days. Even in the service industry, a lot of people prefer to work weekends because those days make the most in tips, not because they just prefer working weekends (the service industry also thrives in part-time labor to fully staff weekends with folks that work “regular” jobs during the week).

      So, it’s not unreasonable for OP to ask for more weekend pay. But as Allison points out, it’s not illegal if they say no (just bad practice, especially since turnover is likely to increase if they decide to force employees to work weekends with no incentive)

    12. Echo*

      I agree with you but I think you’ve unintentionally made a good argument for why nonstandard weekends should be opt-IN.

      My partner’s company needs weekend coverage, and after paying out gobs of overtime for a few years switched gears and offered employees the option to switch to a Sun-Thu or Tue-Sat schedule. He works Sun-Thu and LOVES it. His company offered a 25% raise for employees working the alternate schedule, but he would have taken it even without the raise, and told me that his overall pay actually went down because he works less overtime now. He’s thrilled to be back to 40-hour weeks instead of the 50-60 he was working before, and says Sunday is his most productive day because it’s so much quieter. (Not that it matters, but I also love it, because this is an introvert/introvert relationship and I love how we get one weekend day to spend together and one each where we each do our own thing.)

      It wouldn’t work for me. It works great for him. I’d probably quit my job if I had to work Sun-Thu. He sees it as a perk. Make it opt-in and everyone is happier.

    13. Anon for this*

      Sure, I’ve been there, I loved my Tuesday-Saturday week. My boss had a shop full of people who didn’t really have big weekend plans or kids who played sports, and were happy to swap a weekend day they weren’t really using as a weekend day for a weekday when they could get life stuff done while the shops were open.

      OP is in a shop where people want and value having Saturday and Sunday off, for whatever reasons. OP’s boss needs to make it worth people’s while to give up something they want and value for the business’ benefit.

  5. Certaintroublemaker*

    LW2, IF you can come up with a few topic ideas and IF an additional writing task can fit within your energy level, you can offer the idea of posting on your LinkedIn. One 400-600 word piece per month is a fairly common “thought leader” sort of thing to do that your company can promote on their own LinkedIn, and could be an alternative to you speaking they’d be happy with. But if even that sounds like something you’d dread, don’t even offer it.

    1. English Rose*

      Exactly what I came here to suggest. If your company wants visibility, use your writing strengths to be visible. LinkedIn is so much more than a place to visit when you’re looking for a job. Doing this would showcase both your company and your own skills.
      I repeat @Certaintroublemaker’s caveat about making sure this would fit with your energy levels, but if it would it could be just the answer.

  6. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    The boss in letter #1 sounds like a loon. But LW1 already told him what her opinion is, and he didn’t give a flying fig. Talking to him again isn’t going to change that.

    I love LW1’s concern for her coworker, but I think it’s time to talk to Amanda and/or her husband and let them know what Boss Loon is planning, so they can decide how they want to handle it and have a plan in place to keep him away, if necessary.

    It’s great that LW1 supports their right to privacy, but this is ultimately going to be their battle to fight, unfortunately. Especially since Boss Loon has made it clear that he’s not interested in LW1’s opinion.

    1. Mister_L*

      I suspect we’ll get an update that boils down to: “Boss was asked / told not to visit Amanda’s husband in the hospital and he decided to disregard that”.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        My limited experience in that realm says that “that’s not going to go well for boss”, and we can hope.

        When my child was in emergency surgery, the nurse told me that my Mom was waiting for me in XYZ. Odd. My Mom and MIL (at that time) currently have my older child, and they’re apparently together based on texts that they’ve sent me in the past half hour. I relayed that to the nurse, and they didn’t even double check who the heck it was, simply the family was not having visitors at this time.

        My boss did bring me my laptop during the subsequent long stay (I had requested it because I DID need to occupy my mind, and I’d not been there long enough for FMLA to even happen, much less the fact that we needed my paycheck). But he also went “stereotypical sitcom Italian matriarch” and brought food for me and my spouse, gift cards for every single local restaurant (long stay), a couple pre-paid Visa cards (to cover gas for my spouse), and an assurance that whatever work I put in was full time hours, and “here are contact numbers for our corporate insurance representative, my cellphone, and the head of HR. You need anything at all, you call.” and then he was out the door.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            Never did, and it was just a very truly bizarre footnote. It was, after checking with them both, neither my mother nor my mother-in-law. The only thing we could possibly come up with is that there was a mild case of mistaken identity? Like maybe it was B’s grandmother, and not A’s grandmother, but they approached A’s mother, not B’s?

            1. Appletini*

              It probably was mistaken identity, yeah. I admit that in my time as a unit secretary I occasionally told the wrong patient they had a visitor. V v embarassing.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Okay – love that boss was all about brining food and trying to make your life easier (and sounds like also that he listened to what you needed/wanted). Sounds like that was a good boss.

      2. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

        Couldn;t they ask the nurses etc that only certain people be allowed to come visit? I know hospitals do this for people giving birth, I don’t see why they wouldn’t do this for any other situation. Heck the nurses and hospital staff probably have great ways to stop nosy people from coming up.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Agreed. I think all OP can do here at this point is to warn Amanda and her husband about what boss has said so that they can make their decision about how to deal with that – whether they chose to tell Boss not to go, or to speak to the hospital about not letting him in, or whatever.

    3. Porchgal*

      LW1, maybe I misread the email but it sounded like Boss was planning to sit in the waiting room with co-worker’s husband during the surgery, which is harder for the hospital to police.

      To me, the solution is two-fold. 1) Tell coworker, so she can tell boss DO NOT COME, and 2) tell the boss, “I know you think you’re being supportive, so how about this: ASK coworker if she’d like you to come visit. If she says yes, you’re all set. But if she says no, you have to respect that.”

      My mom had ovarian cancer. It’s an awful disease, so my thoughts go out to your coworker. And it’s grossly unfair that she should have to manage her boss’s feelings on top of her own fear and emotions, and tell him not to come. She should not have to spend her emotional energy for that. Which makes what he’s doing even worse. (I’m totally picturing Michael Scott right now!) But I doubt he’d listen to anyone else.

      1. Observer*

        2) tell the boss, “I know you think you’re being supportive, so how about this: ASK coworker if she’d like you to come visit. If she says yes, you’re all set. But if she says no, you have to respect that.”

        No. It would have been a good thing to say in the first place, but at this point, it’s not the OP’s place anymore.

        But, yes to letting Amanda know.

  7. Jasmi*

    LW1, I misread and thought you said that when Amanda’s husband was having emergency surgery your boss went to the hospital and brought her TO work as he thought she’d want something to do! That’s still awful though bringing her work – that would be the last thing on her mind at that time.

  8. Genuinely wth*

    OP One, we have another contender for Worst Boss of 2023! I think this one has confused “we are like family here” to mean “my employees should treat their real family with the same callous disregard as I treat them.”

    Unfortunately I don’t have any real suggestions. Your story made me downright apoplectic and all I have to offer is rage and swears.

    1. BatManDan*

      Stories like LW#1 belong on my ever-growing list of reasons why I will always remain self-employed. Not because I fear ending up in a situation like Amanda (I’m prickly enough that no one would want to hang out with me if they didn’t have to), but simply realizing that I worked with idiots like Amanda’s boss / the owner would make me want to rage quit on the spot.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        This is not actually … common. :P That’s why it’s landed here – it’s so weird that people need advice on how to handle it.

        1. Peanut Hamper*


          But stuff like this happens often enough (and lands here often enough) that I wish Alison could make a category called “stuff bosses should never do” so that any boss that does come here will have an easy reference guide on how not to be the kind of boss that people write into advice columns about.

          1. Workerbee*

            Ah, that is where my jaundiced view says that only the people who already wouldn’t do those things and are worried about being good bosses would check it out, to make sure they aren’t doing whatever it is; the other kind of boss would not only never come to an advice site to better themselves, but would think, like those all-company chastising emails, that it doesn’t apply to them.

    2. Random Dice*

      I’m not sure “We’re family” will ever not be a red flag at the workplace.

  9. AloeVera*

    My husband works as a security officer in a major hospital. Your coworker and/or her husband should talk about the boss issue before her admission and ask for him not to be allowed near her. Hospitals want to protect patients and their privacy, as well as shield their staff from having to deal with potential problems. The staff will be more than happy to accommodate the request and to take the blame (husband can say “Sorry, it’s hospital policy!” to avoid having a conversation about boundaries during such a difficult time).

    1. JSPA*

      It doesn’t even have to be confrontational.

      “Sorry, this patient has a closed visitor list, and you are not on it.”

      1. Mister_L*

        But once Amanda returns the boss might start interrogating her why he wasn’t on the list, since “they’re like family”. Boundary stompers tend to ignore non confrontational methods.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          To which Amanda and her husband should be prepared to laugh and respond “yeah, we didn’t even let blood relatives visit so for sure we weren’t going to let ‘like family’ visit!” as if he was joking.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          I’ve had surgery before (pre-COVID) and was not asked about any guest list or anything like that. I think it would be as simple as saying they didn’t know they had to affirmatively ask to put people on a list to be allowed to visit and leave it at that.

  10. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    LW3, my partner also finds themselves with more leave than they know what to do with, and some coverage problems. While they absolutely could take off a week or two here and there, they’ve sometimes chosen to spread out the impact on their team by taking a few Fridays here, a half-Wednesday there, the occasional Monday. They still get to enjoy their leave and get more mileage out of the weekend, and it doesn’t seem to annoy their teammates.

    On the other hand, sometimes an obnoxiously timed week off can motivate a boss to start fixing a staffing problem before it becomes an emergency.

    1. JayNay*

      LW3 says there are at least 3 more people needed on their team (intern, generalists, specialist), so yeah, one person not taking their earned time off does not seem to make a difference in my book.
      you need to start letting the chips fall, otherwise it will look to the higher ups like you’re managing just fine.
      also i laughed in european when i read about feeling bad for taking 1 week off every quarter. please just do it, and tell all your friends about how wonderful it was to get some space away from work.

    2. HCTZ*

      Agree with above! Have a current coworker who is taking off many Fridays for the foreseeable future so essentially has created their own “4 day workweek.” That’s a nice compromise if you still feel too guilty but like Alison said, you really have no need to. It’s your right/benefit!

    3. LW3*

      That’s a good idea! I wrote in a few weeks ago, and have since put in for 2 weeks Aug/Sept, Thanksgiving week, and the week after Christmas. And then I’m going on family vacation for my parents’ 70th birthday in mid-January.

      I’m just taking it. They’ll figure out what to do without me there.


      1. Observer*

        m just taking it. They’ll figure out what to do without me there.


        I think that they are “hesitant” because they are trying to see if they can get staff to pick up the slack (such as by not actually taking vacation.) I would be far from surprised if part of “figuring out” turns out to be getting over their “hesitation” to staff the necessary positions.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yup – I’ve been there too. But I was taking the leave to job hunt (we all were on that team)so we could get to a place that would staff at levels that let us take leave without worrying about work swamping our coworkers.

        1. LW3*

          I came up with the senior leadership, and the benefits are AMAZING.

          I’m willing to stay on and see how leadership responds to concerns raised by me & others. We have a new president, so interpretations might change.

      3. Michelle Smith*

        I’m really glad to hear this! I know you are friends with your coworkers, but you’re not their manager and staffing is not your responsibility. You seem like a good person who wants to do the right thing by people and I think that’s great. I hope you’re able to enjoy your time off!

      4. anon1*

        You should totally take the PTO you have accrued. However, if you didn’t want or need the time off, does your company have a PTO cash-in policy? If you are bumping up against the PTO cap you could also consider cashing in some of your PTO. Just the request may get your company to realize they need more people when they have to start cutting you extra checks for basically 40 hours of work at at time.

        1. Hiphopanonymous*

          You should totally take the PTO you have accrued. However, if you didn’t want or need the time off, does your company have a PTO cash-in policy? If you are bumping up against the PTO cap you could also consider cashing in some of your PTO. Just the request may get your company to realize they need more people when they have to start cutting you extra checks for basically 40 hours of work at at time.

    4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yeah, I did this when I had about ten days to use up by end May, and my colleague had just gone off on maternity leave, the day her replacement arrived. I took every Friday off, and I really enjoyed having a long weekend. It was easier for the replacement to get through just the one day each week, especially since it was usually a tying up loose ends day, without any new work coming in.

      However the boss showed literally zero appreciation of the fact that I’d organised my time off to inconvenience business as little as possible, which left me feeling very sour.

      Shortly afterwards, we were bought out by another agency and I asked the new boss if I could change my hours, working later Mon-Thur so I could take Friday off all the time. I no longer reported to my former boss, but still he tried to prevent me changing my hours, telling the new boss that Friday was a very important day in the week. The new boss asked me what my take was on that, and I pointed to those ten weeks when I didn’t work on Fridays and asked the old boss whether anything had gone wrong on those ten Fridays.
      I couldn’t help but smirk at him as I took off on Thursdays wishing everyone a wonderful weekend.

  11. Rosie*

    LW#3, speaking as a European, a week off every quarter is a bit stingy. I am very sad you would feel guilty taking it. 5 weeks paid vacation per year pro rata is a reasonable basic standard you should be able to expect (independent of sick leave which should be wholly separate). I recognise the US has different policy in this regard, but if you have a contract with a reasonable amount of leave you should not feel guilty taking it.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      Yes – whilst of course we don’t want to labour the point about comparative amounts of leave either side of the pond (it’s annoying and unhelpful) the reason I would say it was relevant here is that lots of people, like me, take a similar amount of leave without a second thought and wouldn’t dream of not taking it, out of concern that it puts too much pressure on others. Even when there are vacancies and shortages. Not because we are lazy and callous, just because we know that any problem resulting is not ours to fix; agreed leave being taken in a reasonable manner isn’t causing an issue.
      It’s not a you problem it’s a staffing problem – like when Alison explains that if [work system] will collapse if [dreadful coworker] is fired, then it’s not a very good system, and management need to fix it. If there aren’t enough people to get work done you don’t have to shore things up by not taking your legitimate, agreed and well-earned benefit.

    2. Melissa*

      But that’s neither here nor there. She should feel empowered to take all the leave she’s earned, whether it’s “stingy” or generous.

      1. len*

        I assume Rosie thinks it might be helpful to for LW to hear that others have different standards and perspectives. I don’t think there’s anything to take issue with in this comment.

        1. Lyudie*

          It comes up every time any letter about vacation time is posted, and Alison has repeatedly said it’s not helpful. Trust us, Americans are aware that these other standards and perspectives exist.

        2. DataSci*

          We are all well aware that the US has woefully inadequate leave policies in general. It’s neither “helpful” nor informative to have Europeans jump in every time to explain how four weeks – something most of us would be delighted with – is so little.

    3. Phryne*

      I once had a co-worker who had to explain in oktober to a boss that unless she found a way to get some of her accrued vacation days be converted to extra pay, she would not be back before the new year. Suddenly, converting vacationdays to paycheck turned out to be not quite so impossible.

      OP, take your earned vacation days. They are your property, and your employer has to make sure their business can keep running while people take their owned/earned benefits.

      1. LW3*

        Thanks! I wrote in a few weeks ago, and have since put in for 2 weeks Aug/Sept, Thanksgiving week, and the week after Christmas. And then I’m going on family vacation for my parents’ 70th birthday in mid-January.

        I’m just taking it. They’ll figure out what to do without me there.

    4. Nancy*

      None of that matters. People often feel guilty about taking time off when work is understaffed, regardless of how much vacation time they get.

      European policy is irrelevant to Americans.

      LW3: take your time off.

      1. Zarniwoop*

        “European policy is irrelevant to Americans.”
        Legally, yes.
        Morally and as a reality check, we should be paying attention.

        1. OpalescentTreeShark*

          The assumption that 1. Americans don’t already know despite this coming up on every post 2. That they don’t know because they are… unable? to find out and the implicit assumption that 3. It’s only lack of knowledge that has prevented us from changing it (news flash, it’s so many huge governmental things) is pretty cringy though.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            This discussion also comes up every time, so all I will say is this: people often DON’T know how things are handled in other countries. For example, I’ve worked in France and Germany, and the misconceptions in each of those two countries about how the other works… hoooo boy, I could write a book. And those are neighbors, have frequent and easy worker exchange, and have to implement the same EU directives.

            It’s also useful to know that when politicians say the whole system will crumble! Everyone will lose their jobs!!! That is often not borne out by reality. That’s the way to change “huge governmental things”. You have a democracy, no? How do you think we changed things over here? It didn’t fall from the sky either.

            In short: there’s a reason revolutions have historically been contagious. Just sayin’.

        2. Nancy*

          We already know how our country works. I get plenty of vacation time but am well aware that others don’t.

          It still doesn’t answer the questions ask.

      2. Hi, I’m Troy McClure*

        Sometimes I wish every North American worker, who gets lousy vacation and crappy protection, should have to go on exchange in a country with stronger labour laws to see what the possibilities are. After working in Sweden, where unions are strong, vacation is generous and things like family leave are strongly protected, I know I will never be happy working in Canada without significant improvement in our labour policies, and am actively trying to get as many people as possible to see what we could achieve. (The US’s laws are weaker than Canada’s for this stuff, but we both kind of suck next to much of Europe). The exchange workers from the other country could come here, see how crappy it is, and come home more determined to fight for what they have. Like, a lot of us have NO CLUE what beautiful things are de rigueur in some places.

        Obviously, this would never work for a zillion reasons, but it’s a fun fantasy I like to dream about.

        1. Hi, I’m Troy McClure*

          Also, I saw below some commenters get offended by comments like this – I’m sorry. I was just idly dreaming as usual. I thought the perspective from someone who’s worked on “both sides” might be of value (and I’m venting a little about Canada’s rapidly decaying system, too). But I get how that would be annoying. Since leaving Europe, I have NEVER had proper vacation, just shitty contracts and stressful unemployment, and I’m fed up. It blows.

    5. Random Dice*

      “If you have a contract”

      Ha ha ha ha no. We don’t have contracts. That would give workers too much power.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        It’s funny you should say that, because here in Europe we have contracts and they are usually written to favour the boss.
        At one dysfunctional place, I didn’t have a contract. The union guy told me that it was nothing to complain about. By law, if I had three pay slips with the same number of hours and pay, that was my contract, the boss had to continue to pay me that amount and I had to continue to work those hours, but the boss couldn’t force me to perform any duties I didn’t want to do because it wasn’t specified in the contract.

      2. Loulou*

        I do have a contract…can people on this blog please stop forgetting that there are in fact unions in the United States of America??? You can make your point without suggesting your own situation is literally universal.

    6. Andrew*

      “LW#3, speaking as a European, a week off every quarter is a bit stingy.”

      Yes. We. Know. This. Already.

      No matter how many times the US commentariat says “Yes, we know, US vacation policy is poor and we don’t have much or in some cases any paid time off, and it’s not helpful for Europeans [or others] to waltz in and tell us this,” someone ALWAYS feels the need to come in and comment on this.

      We. Know. Reading for the 23785284756th time that our vacation policy is stingy is not helpful.

      1. Hi, I’m Troy McClure*

        To be fair, we also get exhausted with people from the US constantly assuming that what applies to them applies to everyone, or just assuming that everyone else IS in the States. I always have to “American-proof” my comments to cover for what people are just going to take for granted. It goes both ways.

        (And before you say “most websites are based out of the US”, come on, we all know the internet has a global reach.)

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yes we know the internet has global reach but Alison has said over and over that she is American and her advice is from an American perspective – so the advice here is meant to apply to Americans and has a blanket disclaimer that it won’t apply everywhere.

          1. Hi, I'm Troy McClure*

            I’m not talking about Alison’s advice, or really AAM. I get that she is talking from one perspective. I’m just stating a common frustration of being on the Internet in general. A simple “if this applies where you live” from commenters (on any site) would go a long way, or “in my jurisdiction, X applies”. Just try to be mindful that lots of different people are reading this site, it’s not hard.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It would have to be in probably 50% of the questions.

              I think people generally understand that if they’re reading a site written by someone in country X, anything related to the law or the culture is going to be about culture X. If I read a site by a French writer about work culture and practice, I assume parts of it won’t apply to me and don’t expect a disclaimer in everything they write.

      2. Pippa K*

        Sure, but there can be new readers and commenters and people who dip in and out so haven’t seen the same discussions many times. Lots of information gets mentioned repeatedly in this comment section, and it’s probably safe to assume either the commenter or the person to whom they’re commenting hasn’t seen it so often as those who read daily.

      3. Sleepy Snoopy*

        I agree. Yes, LW3 should take their vacation, but Europeans weighing in EVERY TIME about how much better their system is is, quite honestly, annoying. We know how bad we have it here in regards to [insert whatever thing Europeans do better]. We can’t change it overnight.

        I honestly don’t even think American vs. European vacation time is the main point of this question. It is the fact that her job is so understaffed that she feels guilty taking it, not that she doesn’t have enough.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          The fact is I’ve never seen Europeans feeling guilty about taking their leave. They are entitled to it, and they know they need it to recharge their batteries. I have had bosses warning me “you need to take your time off before end May or I’ll be in trouble”, because if ever I had an accident at work and it transpired that I hadn’t had any time off for X amount of time, the boss would be fined for not making sure I didn’t get burnt out.

      4. Sylvan*

        Yeah, it comes across as bragging about privilege. Yes, you have more access to healthcare and education and many of your workplaces are better than many of ours. We know.

    7. Eldritch Office Worker*

      They almost certainly don’t have a contract, and a lot of people are only working on 1-2 weeks of vacation time for an entire year. As OP says, this amount of vacation time is a premium they negotiated.

      We get it, and there are times the international stage is good context, but given how culturally based this question is this really isn’t helpful.

  12. AnonRN*

    LW1: As others have mentioned, there are ways to keep the boss out of the hospital if that’s what your co-worker wants to do.
    1) Limited visitation because of COVID, so sad, only one family member allowed to visit. (many hospitals are relaxing this now, but it has been very common). Also, very limited visiting hours (2 to 4pm or the like). Easy for the Boss to disprove, though, and keeping up complicated lies is not mental energy she or her husband need to be spending right now.
    2) Patient-elected visitor restriction, either phrased as “only the following people may visit” or “the following people may not visit.” My hospital uses an alert in the patient chart for this and security has to check the chart of the patient before allowing a visitor. Every hospital has different security policies, though.
    2.5) Don’t tell him the surgery date, or give him a false date 3 weeks from now and then the surgery can unexpectedly get “moved up” at the last minute.
    3) Patients can elect to have their names restricted from the hospital census, so they show up as “Ms. November” or “Unlisted female 58” or whatever. (Otherwise, the fact that you are in the hospital is not protected/private info, although your diagnosis is.) When Boss shows up, the front desk/switchboard will not know where she is.
    4) Bossy nurses (hi!) will absolutely kick him out to the waiting room for procedures etc, but honestly we do not have time to police whether he comes back so if she does not want him there she needs to make that clear. We’ll kick him out at the end of visiting hours, too, but this would be better to head off before she enters the hospital if she doesn’t actually want him there.

    I know *you’re* upset about the Boss’s intentions, and I agree with you, but your co-worker and her husband need to discuss this and decide on a unified approach that meets *their* needs. If you can let co-worker know that the Boss is planning to visit then you’ve probably done what you can do in this situation without overstepping your own involvement in her treatment.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Thank you for this! I was curious how security works as far as hospital visitations and you’ve answered many of the questions I had. Bottom line: for Amanda and her husband, there are people at the hospital who can take over the responsibility of keeping Boss away from her so that Amanda and her husband don’t have to deal with that on top of everything else they are dealing with. That would require, of course, that Husband really doesn’t want Boss around; here’s hoping Husband feels the same way Amanda does or else it’s gonna be awful waking up to Boss’ face.

      1. AnonRN*

        You’re welcome! Of course every facility is going to be different but if you don’t even know something’s an option then you won’t know to ask about it.

  13. Madame Arcati*

    LW4 I’d also question whether your fear is a realistic one. I used to work a four-week shift cycle whereby one Saturday/Sunday were working days and I got two other days as rest days (effectively one weekend was working but two of the other three were three days long) and this was to provide cover seven days a week because, er, criminals gonna criminal, even on Saturdays. And other jobs have specific needs for cover eg in a pub where Saturday nights and Sunday lunches are your busiest time, or hairdressers who (in my country at least) traditionally have Mondays off as they work Saturdays (so people can get their hair done before going to the pub lol).
    BUT would it serve an auto parts company to be fully staffed all weekend – and more lightly staffed Mon-Fri when suppliers and clients etc are usually working? How would it benefit them? Are they likely to actually do what they describe?
    Even if they said (which could be reasonable) that they needed to spread the work evenly over each of the seven days for consistent workflow or something, that would entail having rest days on different days of the week, some Sat/sun, some not. And then you do what I did and loads of other shift workers do which is when something important comes up on a Saturday or Sunday and it’s one you are scheduled to work, you get a swap. Or you find a job somewhere where they never work Saturday and Sunday.
    Tl;dr = a) would they really make you work every sat/sun b) even if you did have to work some of them, it’s probably not as bad as you think.

    1. doreen*

      Yes, places that operate seven days do not typically force people onto a schedule where they work both Saturday and Sunday forever. Either weekends rotate and a person works both Saturday and Sunday one weekend out of every X weekends or a person may have a set schedule where they work Sat very week and have Sun-Monday off every week.

      About the union though – I’m not going to recommend that the OP look into unionizing because I suspect that the OP either is in a union or is in such a heavily unionized area/industry that working conditions at even non-union employers and non-union positions are influenced by union contracts. This part “overtime on Saturday, and double time on Sunday” specifically makes me believe that. The think with unions though is that a company cannot just unilaterally change things – contracts have to be negotiated and agreed upon . But just like a company cannot unilaterally change conditions , neither can the union. If there was a union in 2009, that overtime was lost as a result of negotiations and the union got something in return( maybe a no-layoff pledge) and if there is a union going forward, there will be some sort of tradeoff for premium pay.

      I would recommend that the OP look into whether the position is really non-exempt – because it’s perfectly legal for an employer to pay overtime to a position that qualifies as exempt and the descriptions I’ve found of “production engineer” suggest they would be overtime exempt (as most engineers are)

      1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

        I’m sorry you are wrong about the Saturday/Sunday thing. There ARE places that you have to work every Saturday and Sunday at least for a few years until you have seniority and can maybe change your schedule. However, those places typically give people increased wages to attract people working on the weekend.

        I have a few examples of this. I worked one place where you got an extra 25 Cents for every weekend day and 25 Cents if you worked past 7 pm onto your base pay. So base pay was $10/hour for new employees. If you worked after 7 ( 2-11 pm) you got 10.25 if you worked a Saturday 10.50 if you worked both weekend days you would have $10.75. This was your entire pay so even for the days that you didn’t work the weekend you still made that $10.75.

        I also know of one place that only increased the wage for the time and days that you worked. so base pay would be $10 from 2-7 and then after 7 if it was a weekday you’d only get 25 Cents more but on Saturday and Sunday you would get the extra .50 cents. I Have no idea how that company ran the books, especially when they were constantly doing mandatory overtime.

    2. Random Dice*

      They already said they pulled this shady move before. The distrust comes from the company having acted in untrustworthy ways.

  14. Erika22*

    #5 – Don’t overthink reaching out to your contact! I just had this happen where I was the contact posting jobs, and an old colleague who I haven’t heard from in a few years reached out about one of the roles. I didn’t find it rude or weird, and I was happy to answer his questions and didn’t really expect any more personal conversation to come of it. It’s literally the purpose of LinkedIn to exist as professional contacts!

    1. Venus*

      Agreed, and it’s easy to add a few lines that address some of this. “I’ve recently moved back to Hometown and was planning to reach out to some former coworkers so it was a nice coincidence that you posted a couple relevant jobs. You’re likely busy with the hiring process but if you want to meet up at any point then I would enjoy reconnecting with you again.” I think the recent return to Hometown is a perfect reason to show that this is all a positive coincidence.

      I would apply to the job with a normal cover letter without reference to Elsa but mentioning recent return to hometown, then email Elsa to say that LW has applied. Or if LW has questions about the process then email Elsa first.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah – you can’t fight Amanda’s battles for her – but you can get out of there before this place warps your sense of what is or isn’t normal in the workplace.

  15. Other Alice*

    #3, take your time off! If your company can’t function unless people don’t take time off, they are understaffed and it’s not on you to fix it.

    I also have a lot of accrued vacation and I’ve been taking most Fridays off. I find it’s less disruptive for my coworkers than having an entire week off, and I’m much more rested after a long weekend. But you should do whatever works best for your situation.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      All of this, AND they might not be “inspired” to fix it someone makes it a real problem for them. You’re doing everyone a service by setting a good example and taking the time you’re owed.

    2. LW3*

      Thanks! I wrote in a few weeks ago, and have since put in for 2 weeks Aug/Sept, Thanksgiving week, and the week after Christmas. And then I’m going on family vacation for my parents’ 70th birthday in mid-January.

      I’m just taking it. They’ll figure out what to do without me there.


    3. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, I think overworked teams in general should be militant about taking their leave. Not only will this benefit you individually, but other members of the team would also probably much rather have a culture of taking their allotted time off, than having one extra pair of hands here and there. There are exceptions of course, but it’s worth thinking about whether you want to create a fashion for not taking leave, or for modelling that it should be taken. It’s also worth trying to not prop up an unworkable system to the point that bosses think everyone is managing. Let it get a little bananas, hopefully enough it becomes their problem. It’s not easy but it’s worth doing where you can.

      1. LW3*

        Yeah, my immediate team members have told me, firmly, that I need to take my time.

        For mental health reasons, at the very least.

        I know I’d tell them the same.

  16. Testerbert*

    LW4: Sounds like some unionisation is needed. The problem here is that the company has unilaterally decided that you must work Saturday/Sunday, and that they unilaterally took away shift premiums.
    There’s nothing wrong with a mid-week ‘weekend’, nor Saturday/Sunday being straight-time, but only when it is part of a properly negotiated arrangement between the workforce and management. Right now, it all reads as the company wanting to have seven-day-a-week operations without any consideration to their workforce.

  17. Beth*

    LW4, if the company does give you two days off mid-week and have you work on weekends, I hope you can at least get every other weekend off. My husband works 7 days on, 7 days off, and gets every other weekend off. This results in OT every shift, so I guess you could call that his weekend premium pay.

  18. Taketombo*

    LW#4. You need a union. Stat. Or you and all of your co-workers need to be ready to quit over this. The company rescinded that benefit 14 years ago… it’s not coming back unless (the collective you) fight for it.

    I know this sounds weird, but the United steelworkers have helped organize union votes for a number of professional chapters over the last decade. For example, the lowest rung of middle-management (project managers with a coordinator and/or resident engineers, lawyers with a few paralegals) at my state agency. They helped organize HCL technologies – contractors to Google – in 2019.

    I just want to do my job. I find it’s easier to do so with my union there to advocate for pay and benefits (and to hold them accountable when they messed up my pay during COVID)

    1. Union Organizer*

      Assuming that joining LW4’s UAW local is impossible because that contract explicitly cuts out LW4’s job, USW would be a good option. A few other unions that work with or are trying to break into white-collar design areas off the top of my head:
      UE (United Electrical – will organize any sector and have white-collar locals), SEIU (Service Employees – will organize any sector and have white-collar locals), OPEIU (Office & Professional Employees), IAMAW (Machinists – got the first US architecture union last year).

      Takeaway for LW4: Even if someone told you that you can’t join UAW or that your office can’t unionize, you should investigate for yourself, because you probably can and definitely should.

  19. I should really pick a name*

    Make sure your co-worker knows what your boss is planning.

    If you’d like, you can suggest that your co-worker tell the hospital that her husband is the only visitor that’s welcome. If your boss doesn’t know what room she’s in, your boss can’t bother her (though she would have to assert the boundary if your boss asked directly)

  20. Llama Llama*

    LW3 – one week a quarter is nothing. I figured out that I have to take one week a month to not lose anything…..

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Same. The use-it-or-lose-it at my job is 300 hours of banked vacation and I accrue most of a day’s worth every two weeks. I hover around 275 right now and will be getting a new batch of additional personal days soon. I take 2-3 days off a month, just randomly. Usually Fridays or Mondays (Mondays are an especial delight, so if you always do Friday, change it up!).

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yep, and if companies want to do a use-it-or-lose-it model, this is what they get and they can’t complain.

          I get it, the accrued time is a liability on the balance sheet and they don’t want huge banks. The trade off is a liability on the operations side. You can’t get out of letting people use their compensation one way or another. Work within the system your company decides on and feel zero guilt – this is part of your compensation.

          1. Riot Grrrl*

            You seem to be implying here that a “use it or lose it” system is somehow antagonistic or is in some way underhanded. Studies are pretty clear that such systems are far more humane toward workers, as they tend to eliminate ambiguity. Unlimited systems or systems in which PTO never expires generally results in employees taking less time off.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              No it’s not antagonistic, but it’s generally not implemented for humanitarian reasons either. I’m not saying it’s the wrong approach, I’m saying companies can’t have it both ways.

            2. LW3*

              My last company instituted unlimited PTO 2 years before COVID, and I took much less time off in that period than I did in the 3 years prior. My understanding is that unlimited PTO means that it can’t be accrued, which meant that I didn’t get a payout when I left.

              As annoyed as I am right now, it’s for the better.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          If you have a bunch to use up, I recommend Wednesdays. You’re always rolling off or on to a day off, so your stress levels stay low.

          1. LW3*

            I have regular meetings on Wed/Thurs that I have to attend. I’ll look at where I’m at in the fall, and arrange for a regular long weekend if I need it.

    1. DataSci*

      Out of curiosity, how do you end up with so much leave banked? I never have more than a few days at the end of the year (having a kid in school too young to entertain himself all day, such that I need to take off an assortment of no-school days every year, probably has something to do with that, though!)

      1. LW3*

        It was a combination of carry over from 2021, unused vacation from 2022, a reduced carryover allowed 2023 vs 2022, which left me with 8 weeks.

        I’m trying to get myself down to 2 weeks, which is the normal carry-over limit.

  21. not a hippo*

    Poor Amanda! I agree with Alison & would definitely talk to hospital staff/security about banning him from visiting.

    I remember when I was in middle school, I was in a really bad car accident. Like permanently life-alteringly bad. I was in the hospital for some time and my Civics teacher came to visit. Bless him but the last person I wanted to see when I was in nothing but a neck brace & hospital gown was one of my teachers. He wouldn’t get the hint to leave until my friend’s mom basically threw him out.

  22. Zarniwoop*

    “My boss and the president (her boss) are hesitating to fully staff the department.”
    Take the leave!
    You shouldn’t care care more about all the work getting done than they do.

    1. Artemesia*

      It would be one thing if a major project that is the lifeblood of the company were on tap and it was an ‘all hands on deck’ moment of limited duration — but never penalize yourself when it is ‘president hesitates to fully staff.’ You owe them zero on this. Take the vacations and maybe this will encourage them to staff up, or if not at least you will have had your vacation.

      1. LW3*

        Coincidentally, a major project/deadline just popped up (a regular occurrence), and I’m clearing my outstanding deadlines tomorrow, and spending Wed-Fri on this new thing.

        The other members of my team will be copied on every communication from tonight – 10am Friday.

    2. LW3*

      That is a very good point!

      I wrote in a few weeks ago, and have since put in for 2 weeks Aug/Sept, Thanksgiving week, and the week after Christmas. And then I’m going on family vacation for my parents’ 70th birthday in mid-January.

      I’m just taking it. They’ll figure out what to do without me there.

  23. Sharkbait*

    LW4: My company trades 7 days a week and there is a mixed bag when it comes to shift preferences. Yes, some people prefer weekends off. Others are happy with one weekend + one week day off. Others prefer to work both weekend days. So the idea that weekends are premium work dates doesn’t apply for everyone.

  24. Me (I think)*

    LW #3, on “too much” PTO. Honestly, this is another letter that shows how little PTO people get. After negotiating for extra PTO and carrying over excess, the LW has 4 weeks they have to take in a 12 month period. That’s …. astonishingly little under the circumstances.

    LW, take your PTO. Heck, take an entire month this summer and travel the country. Or take a full week each quarter and relax at home, or visit family, or work in the garden, or whatever helps you come back to work refreshed.

    1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      I work for a large US company, and that’s the amount of vacation we get by standard after 2 years, plus a shutdown week. It’s not even really unusual for Americans, take 2 weeks and travel, take one week over whatever holidays you care about, and use the other days for single day stuff. I’m 1 week into my 4 weeks for 2023, I will take a couple more days for school field trips and long weekends, 1+ weeks for a break in the summer, and the rest when school is out 2 weeks at the end of the year.

      1. Clisby*

        Yeah, when I worked for a nonprofit you got 4 weeks after 5 years and 5 weeks after 10 years. (I forget when you got 6 weeks – that was the most). Taking 4 weeks across an entire year just … doesn’t sound particularly excessive. It sounds good – I realize a lot of American companies don’t give that much – but it’s not like I’d consider it a wildly generous amount of paid vacation.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I read the letter a little differently–not that the LW gets four weeks every year and that is “too much” but that the LW is coming up on some sort of cap on the number of vacation hours they can bank, and they need to take four weeks (160 hours) this year “to not lose any of my time.” That will still leave them with “a fully excessive amount of time to take off in 2024,” presumably from the rest of the hours in their bank. I think the LW has enough vacation time to take five, six, or maybe even more weeks of vacation this year, if they wanted to and if there weren’t staffing worries. Also, the LW did specify that it was too much vacation time to easily take because of the understaffing issue, not “too much” in a general sense.

      LW, can you take some of your vacation time as single days? A Monday or Friday to create a long weekend, a Tuesday or Wednesday to get all your chores done on a weekday and focus on fun activities on the weekend? A few days here and there (in addition to a few week-long vacations throughout the year) will run down your vacation balance a bit and will (possibly) be less burdensome to your coworkers. I do strongly co-sign Alison’s advice to take at least four weeks of vacation this year because understaffing is management’s problem, not yours.

    3. Seashell*

      It sounds like that’s the amount that they have to take in order not to lose it. There may be more available that they can either use or carry over to the next year.

      1. LW3*

        That’s it, exactly! I have to get myself down to 80 hours left by the end of the year, so I don’t lose any time.
        So, I’m just going to do it.

  25. Unite!*

    I work for a union and all staff is unionized and the collective agreements all state that allotted vacation time is to be taken or you risk getting it paid out. We have a generous vacation policy that starts at four weeks for new staff.

    Thing was, the employer was lax about it and some of the administrative and support staff had started “banking” their vacation to be able take summers off or for the “pre-retirement” vacation. This was so commonly known that it was becoming part of the culture. The union realized that this was a huge accrual of funds being tracked every year (some staff got a six-month pre-retirement vacation!) and reminded everyone, hey, you’re all contravening the agreement, you need to start taking vacation or get it paid out.

    Those with the largest accrued days of vacation designed individualized plans with HR (no one was expected to take it all at once or get 100s of days paid out all at once). And there was a HUGE stink about it, despite it being clearly outlined in the collective agreement and despite everyone having the belief that vacation is necessary and healthy for staff. (I’m still not sure why my union didn’t claim estoppel but /shrug.)

    Understaffing is NOT your problem, LW. But being forced to take your vacation when you don’t want to, should your employer decide that vacation must be taken, could be. And getting it paid out instead, should your employer decide to do that, could result in more taxes paid, when you don’t want.

    Take your vacation.

    People were forced to spend down their vacations during the pandemic and there was nowhere to go because the employer was committed to the plans. Staff were salty about it!

    I was going to take some but we had new staff (again) and I’m transferring departments soon, so I stayed on to onboard the new staff and clean up my files before I change offices. I’ve got plans for a long break before Xmas.

    1. LW3*

      My company is 100% employee owned. This is strictly an issue with “I feel bad about leaving my work to my coworkers when I take time off.”

      My workload is unpredictable, but very time sensitive. Their work can be put off for a week, so their vacations don’t effect me at all.

      But, that’s not my problem. My boss / leadership can deal with the shortage.

  26. Meghan*

    LW#1: iirc You can (if you haven’t told him which hospital you’re going to) restrict who visits someone in a hospital. If someone comes in looking for you, the hospital shouldn’t even reveal that you’re there.

  27. Grim*

    LW1: It’s absolutely wild that somebody’s boss would think it’s appropriate to invite himself along to their surgical procedure! But depending on the setup of the hospital, it’s quite likely he’ll need to have somebody specifically let him in if he wants to be anywhere near the actual operating theatre on the day of the surgery. Many of those sorts of areas at the hospital I work at are locked behind swipe card access, and visitors need to call on the intercom to be let in. And even if the patient doesn’t want to directly confront the boss about how inappropriate this is, there will probably be plenty of opportunities to have a quiet word with the staff about her unwanted potential visitor. It doesn’t even have to rise to the level of calling security or anything, most nurses are somewhat experienced with this sort of thing, and would probably be happy to tell the boss that she can’t have visitors right now because she’s [currently sleeping/still sedated/about to have her wound dressings changed and needs privacy/etc], or to diplomatically encourage him to go get a coffee and sit in a waiting room somewhere out of the way. In my experience it’s actually not uncommon for patients to have visitors they’d like to politely get rid of, even if only because they’re tired and unwell and would like their beloved relatives to wrap up the visit they can take a nap! I’ve known wards whose visiting hours were unofficially 24/7 if the patient really needed the support, but they had signs posted up with two smaller windows of “official” visiting hours so that patients had an excuse to kick their visitors out around mid-afternoon if their company was wearing a bit thin.

    1. LW3*

      I broke my jaw in a company softball game in 2008, and required surgery (and 3 weeks of a wired jaw) to fix things.

      My boss at the time (who meant well, I know) was planning on visiting me after surgery, and I only found out when I checked in with the other person in my dept.

      My mother had to call him to say that visitors weren’t allowed to make him cancel his plans.

      I had 2 black eyes, a moderate concussion, and couldn’t talk. And was in a hospital gown, without a bra. Not the way anyone wants to present themselves to a colleague, let alone a superior.

      That needs to be shut down.

  28. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (PTO when understaffed) There needs to be a conversation with bosses here, as workload does (imo) need taking into account when planning to be away, even if it is part of the “compensation package”. As a one-off can they pay out the accrued leave as a sum of money so you are starting off again on a more manageable footing?

    1. LW3*

      I’ve started the conversation. Part of the problem is that we’re in an industry that tends to feel economic downturns very quickly, and rather significantly. But still, I’ve decided that I’m taking the time I’m eligible for. Or, at least enough that my carry-over time to 2024 will be within the allowable limit.

      I actually have 6 weeks of vacation time to use, but can carry over 2 to next year.

    2. Observer*

      as workload does (imo) need taking into account when planning to be away, even if it is part of the “compensation package”

      That’s true when the place is appropriately staffed and there are reasonable ebb and flow periods.

      For many years one of our programs had “blackout dates” where you could not put in for vacation time. But the rest of the year you could take vacation and work would get done. For the most part staff were find with it, because they knew that they *could* take vacation, and the could schedule around it, as the blackout dates were known well in advance.

      When the issue is understaffing and ANY vacation time, no matter when, is going to cause problems, staff don’t need to take on that burden.

  29. Richard Hershberger*

    LW2: Are you a white male? If so, strategic incompetence is often a good option. It should only be used with BS tasks. Use it on stuff that is actually part of your job and you are merely incompetent. Use it on stuff that needs to be done and everyone pitches in, and you are merely a jerk. And if you are not a white male, there can be further repercussions. But if you are, and for stuff that isn’t really part of your job but some clever manager thinks is a bright idea? Go for it! Agree to speak at a company meeting, and be spectacularly bad at it. Print out your speech. Read it verbatim in a mumbling monotone. Make the print too small, so you need to hold it up to your face. Break from the text for a rambling irrelevant digression. Make it such an awful experience for everyone involved that they never ask you to speak in public again. The goal is to have your boss think of you as a fine lead writer–lucky to have you!–but don’t put you in front of a group.

    1. Riot Grrrl*

      I’m going to have to disagree here. This seem unnecessarily conniving. I think OP can just state their preferences regardless of race or gender, like an adult. Or at least start there.

      I don’t know how others feel, but it’s pretty clear to me that Adam is not trying to screw OP over. Adam is offering what he thinks is coaching toward an increased role in the organization. That’s not an unreasonable thing to think your employees might want. OP just needs to tell Adam thank you, but that they’re not comfortable in that role and move on.

      1. AbruptPenguin*

        Also, it *will* make LW look bad! Maybe the boss knows LW well enough that this wouldn’t impact his perspective, but to the entire audience (including higher-ups at the company), LW would just look unprepared at best and incompetent at worst.

        1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

          It sounds to me like normal expectations for a lead… Incompetence will get you a bad review, or demoted.

    2. Lenora Rose*

      I hate weaponized incompetence; I hate it more when it’s used before, or in place of, simply Using Your Words.

      I also think that there is no group, including white men, where the bad repercussions of saying “Thanks, but I do not like or want this to be part of my job” are worse than the potential bad repercussions of doing something badly.

      More to the point, it sounded from the letter like the OP has done this stuff before, and done it well enough, that suddenly being incompetent this next time would seem very strange.

  30. Fishsticks*

    I think about that Boss shows up to chat during chemo letter all the time. I wish we had an update on if anything ever did change at that workplace, or if they ever acknowledged how awful it was to do that to the LW.

    I agree that about the best that can be done in this situation is to warn the two people that Boss intends to show up. Since the husband is friends with him, he may be able to politely ask him not to come by. But it may be entirely out of anyone’s hands, if he’s very very determined to worm his way in.

    This ALSO reminds me of the woman whose coworker was trying to force herself into the LW’s life regardless of constantly being given signals to stop. Why are some people so insistent that every aspect of your life belongs to them?

    1. Clown Eradicator*

      I highly doubt the husband’s actually friends with the boss /owner of the company he and his wife work for, but stranger things have happened.

  31. Falling Diphthong*

    Re surgery: Covid has really limited the options for support people waiting on the premises during surgery. This will vary place by place and over time, but it may be that her husband has the option of waiting in the general waiting area, from which it is harder to remove people as it’s quasi-public. Or a nearby coffee shop, in which case no one is removing sight seers.

  32. Pink Candyfloss*

    LW#1 – since COVID a lot has changed in health care. Who are allowed to be in a hospital waiting on procedures is a lot more limited now. D-I-L recently had a baby and gone are the days when the whole family could gather – only two people at a time limit, plus mom, so when grandparents came dad had to leave the room, for example.

    This could be an out for Amanda if she & her husband truly don’t want boss there – “Sorry, but the hospital has informed us only one immediate family member can be present due to restrictions. You will not be able to come to the hospital.” And the nurses can help enforce that if he shows up anyway.

  33. mreasy*

    LW3, a week off every quarter is only 20 vacation days in a year! I know you said “more than…” but if your department is so under resourced than taking a a week a quarter – a normal amount of vacation time to be allocated, especially at a senior level – not only seems tough but like a ridiculous idea, they need a wake up call. Once you’ve taken a 2-week summer vacation, a week at the winter holidays, and an extra floating vacation (normalize vacation!), any overage can be long weekends, doc appts, etc. I’m sorry your workplace has put you in this situation!

    1. LW3*

      I have 6 weeks available, and I’m allowed to carry 2 over to 2024. I’ve already got some significant plans for that.

      But, I’m making my plans for this year, too.


    2. sofar*

      Yes, this! I think one of the things I value about AAM is that I have learned to consider it the company’s problem (not mine) if me taking time off leads to coverage issues. The company can staff up, or not. Those who are left behind dealing with the mess can decide to jump in and save the day (which can be strategic for their own careers) … or decide not to, and pass the buck toward those who can make staffing decisions.

  34. KatEnigma*

    LW1: It sounds like Amanda is the one who struggled with work/life. She came in because she didn’t trust Boss to do payroll. That was 100% on her, not him. And are you positive she didn’t ask him to bring her the work, or ask him to stay? And if Boss is friends with husband, are you sure husband didn’t ask him to come to the hospital, or at least okay it? I also fail to understand why any of this is your concern. Don’t let him come when you’re in the hospital, but you don’t get to make that call for anyone else.

    1. Generic Name*

      Ha, I thought about this when I edited my comment before posting because I had written it thinking the LW was the one having surgery themselves. I do think following Allison’s advice and alerting Amanda the boss plans to barge in, but yeah, any more is fighting coworker’s battle for her. It kind of sounds like the whole office has loose boundaries.

    2. 653-CXK*

      I disagree – I don’t think Amanda is struggling with her work/life balance as much as her boundary-violating, tone-deaf boss is. It doesn’t matter if boss is buddy-buddy with her husband – when you expect your employees to be focused on work, 24/7/365, it warps what you perceive is normal.

      Examples: A boss sending flowers and telling you not to worry about work while in the hospital? Normal. A boss demanding passwords, engaging in dangerous activities (such as focusing on a phone meeting rather than the road) and sending you work while you/your loved one is in the hospital or dying? Those are candidates for Worst Boss of the Year.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      And are you positive she didn’t ask him to bring her the work, or ask him to stay?

      The LW said Amanda told them how bad it was that the boss was there and brought her work. While it’s possible Amanda was lying, I don’t think we need to start writing fanfic here.

      1. Observer*

        I agree that we don’t need fanfic. But it’s highly possible that that Boss did get indicators from Amanda that she would appreciate it. And only afterwards did she realize that it was the wrong move.

        Keep in mind that she actually came in the day her sister died! That is NOT on the boss. I still think he’s a boundary crossing loon, but there is also a lot of evidence that Amanda doesn’t have good boundaries either.

  35. Generic Name*

    #1: I recently had to deal with a tricky situation regarding hospital visitation, and the hospital social worker was very very helpful. I suggest telling Amanda she can call them and explaining the situation and say for her mental health she does not want her boss visiting. The hospital should have a way to keep him out and be able to do it sensitively. They may even have a policy that patients are allowed X number of visitors total, and they can make sure that the number is filled with their actual support people. Or maybe there’s a policy that family only can visit. Whatever the hospital’s policies are, they should be able to help Amanda keep her boss out.

  36. Rosie*

    Apologies – I didn’t mean to offend anyone! LW seemed concerned that 1 week per quarter was a lot of leave to take, and my point was that it’s not actually that much! The point that even if it were very generous LW3 should still feel entitled to the full leave in their contract stands, of course.

    1. Artemesia*

      I don’t think the poor benefits of US companies can be rubbed in. our faces enough. so many Americans literally are unaware that the rest of the developed world has good health care and ample vacation and a full safety net.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        The readers of Ask a Manager don’t strike me as the type of people who would be unaware of these differences.

        1. bighairnoheart*

          Agreed. There’s a difference between getting an issue out there to raise awareness to a general audience (good, in this case), and saying something most people on this site hear all. the. time. (understandable, but please don’t).

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s okay. It’s just tiring to have this conversation every time there’s a letter with PTO.

  37. Peanut Hamper*

    In fact, not taking your earned vacation time just makes it easier for your company to be in denial about its actual staffing needs.


    Your company’s staffing needs are not your concern. (Unless you’re in HR/recruiting, that is. But even then, you need to take your vacation.)

    Don’t work for free.

  38. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    WRT LW #4, I think Alison has previously said your work can make your weekends any days of the week they want (my husband’s friend’s weekends are Sunday-Monday, for example), but it has to be consistently those days.

    That means they can’t have you work Mon-Wed, then tell you your weekend is Thurs-Fri, and your new week starts Saturday so you work Sat-Sun. They can’t change your week start date to avoid paying OT. If I can find a link to a previous answer, I’ll post it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They don’t need to give you a consistent weekend. They just can’t keep changing their pay period around to avoid paying overtime — two different things.

    2. Allornone*

      Ever worked retail in the US? Consistent days off are often NOT a thing in retail. Sometimes you can get them, but they certainly are not the norm.

  39. Observer*

    #1 – I’m going to disagree with Alison a bit. Your boss is a jerk. But, other than telling Amanda (if she doesn’t already know) about Boss’ plan and offering neutral commiseration if she complains, stay out.

    Boss is a HUGE boundary crosser. But Amanda has not only allowed it (there are a number of ways she could have dealt with Boss showing up to her husband’s surgery), to some extent she is actually inviting it. I mean she showed up to work the day her sister died! Whatever Boss said to her, she could absolutely have not come in, but she did.

    The main reason to tell her is that it’s actually pretty easy for her to prevent this from being a problem *IF* she has decided that enough is enough. And it doesn’t even need to involve having a conversation with Boundary Crossing Boss. She can tell the hospital that the only people other than her husband who can be in the patient are are ~~Insert the family members she actually wants~~ (eg parent, sibling)

    1. September*

      Yes. The boss is egregious beyond all reason, but everyone seems to have succumbed to the warped office culture. I find it weird that LW also knows a lot of details about Amanda’s health situations. There is a serious lack of boundaries all over the place here.

  40. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    OP2 I sympathise with your plight! I too used to do presentations, until I realised how stressful they were and decided that I preferred not to seek the limelight.
    Your boss is suggesting you do this because they imagine you’d jump at the opportunity. If you explain that you’re not interested, I’m sure they’ll be able to find someone else to do it. Since you’re the one with the most experience as the head writer, you could always offer to help whoever does the presentation.

  41. Observer*

    #1 – Boundary crossing boss.

    I had another thought. Do you have a decent HR?

    You can’t complain on behalf of Amanda, but you can bring it to HR’s attention. Your argument is that Boss is setting some really terribly unreasonable expectations.

    If HR doesn’t see the problem, then maybe it’s time to start looking elsewhere…

      1. Observer*

        Good point.

        I misread that. In that case, I think that OP should start looking, as well as re-calibrating their own sense of norms. Because when it’s the HR group that’s this messed up, that’s a lot harder to do anything about.

  42. Hiring Mgr*

    When I worked retail jobs many years ago, we got paid time and a half for working on Sundays. I assume that was a state law of some kind (Mass.) but it does seem antiquated now (along with “Blue laws”)

    1. LW3*

      It’s still a law in Mass for most employee types.

      I think Market Basket used to pay more than that, which is why all of my friends worked there in high school.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Makes sense on MB – when they had their family battle of the Arthurs a couple of years ago there were tons of MB employees who had been there 30, 40 years, so I think they were always known as an employee friendly org

  43. I love it here*

    LW 1: I’ve had two surgeries in the last six months. The hospital where I was does still limit visitors due to Covid. Even better, once I was taken back, my husband was free to roam any visitor area; they contacted him via cell phone with updates.

    So unless Amanda’s husband is telling Amanda’s boss *where* in the hospital he is, he may be easily able to avoid waiting with the boss. (Assuming the hospital is big enough for this, of course)

  44. Here for the tea*

    LW#2 – Don’t blast me, but I wonder if part of this is as your role as team lead. Part of my duties are to make sure the work my team does is visible. We do things that aren’t really recognized and overlooked as back office work. So I need to constantly remind everyone, in the company and outside it, that what we do is important and should be supported. The question becomes, if this is part of your job, but you can’t do it (for whatever reason) what are the alternatives?

    1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      Agreed… It may be expected in the lead role, and be what the difference is between “experienced team member” and “lead”

      I frustratingly have to spend much of my day explaining my need and progress and get my project visibility as a technical lead. I no longer have the luxury of putting my head down and doing the work, I need to talk to people and advocate for my team.

  45. Parenthesis Guy*

    LW #1 – That’s one part sweet and three parts ich. It’s nice that the boss wants to help, but this may not be the smartest way to do it. The OP can’t do anything more though.

  46. Marge*

    Because my mind works entirely in Simpsons quotes, I read #1 and thought “You know, part of spending time together as a family is spending time apart as individuals.”

  47. El l*

    Look, a lot of times managers assume that you’re just like them. It’s very common to see (for example) that managers think that you regard working late like they do, and that you like public attention like they do.

    Suggest: “I appreciate the vote of confidence – but I’m not interested in more of a visible role. I’m certainly happy to support initiatives and people who can bring more visibility to our work, but I’m not interested or comfortable in doing that myself.”

  48. Lauren*

    PTO OP

    You should do a 4 day work week! then schedule a few week long vacations. it will do wonders for your mental health and worklife balance. I also suggest taking a nice long 2-3 week vacation too. If you would prefer money, you could ask them to pay you the time instead. At some point, they will create a no roll over policy and then you are screwed. Take your time or get paid out before it is too late. Put the request in writing / email before they suddenly make a policy because you asked.

  49. Overtime dodges*

    if you work for a car company and you are in a union, your contract may well specify that you get double time on sundays, time and a half on saturdays, plus overtime for anything over 40 hours worked. also you should check with your State Department of Labor to see if they have any regulations on this. when I was young and worked retail we even had this in the state of Illinois though we were not unionized. they couldn’t just magically assign your weekend to be Tuesday and Wednesday and then pay you straight time. so do check further with the appropriate authorities and check with your union if you have one.

    1. I'm Just Here for the Cats!!*

      I’ve never heard this before. So the state said that people who worked on Saturday or Sunday had to be paid at a premium rate for those days? Or was this just for car company’s

  50. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    The only reason that boss wants to be at that surgery is to talk about her “plans to return.” If I shake my head any longer my jewelry’s gonna fly off.

  51. Spicy Tuna*

    Had a pregnant co-worker refuse to tell our boss where she was having the baby for fear he would show up with work for her.

  52. The Rafters*

    Hospitals in my area are still in pandemic mode. Only so many visitors per day. My dad’s girlfriend was recently hospitalized, and he couldn’t see her because it would mean her own children wouldn’t be able to see her. He missed her but fortunately isn’t an AH and understood.

  53. marcus by goldman sachs*

    LW4: I can see their point but my part-time job has this same setup–some fulltime coworkers’ “weekends” are Monday and Tuesday, or Tuesday and Wednesday, or the traditional Saturday and Sunday. Due to the nature of our work, someone ALWAYS has to be on site doing things (animal rescue). Since we’re closed to the public Sundays and Mondays for deep cleaning and such, that’s effectively the company’s “weekend”–but there are still fulltime employees working those days to feed the animals, provide medical care, clean the kennels, run laundry, update files, etc.
    Half of my family work in healthcare (everything from hospital to retail places) or law enforcement so again, there’s really no such thing as a “weekend” in terms of “weekends only happen on Saturday and Sunday.” They definitely get holiday pay when they’re scheduled to work major holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, etc. But their “weekend” might be Tuesday and Wednesday or Wednesday-Friday and their Saturday and Sunday shifts are paid the same rate as if they were working on another day of the week.

    I don’t want to end this with a “because duh” but…duh.

  54. bunniferous*

    My husband had a quadruple bypass a couple of years ago and if my boss had brought me work while I was at the hospital with him…it would not have been pretty.

    (granted, the type of job I do, there are occasions when I have worked from my hubby’s hospital room-he’s had various health issues over the years-) but in a VERY limited capacity and only small things with a particular timeline. NOT DURING OPEN HEART SURGERY.

    OP #1, please get word to your coworker. This is awful.

  55. El l*

    Unless it’s written into your contract, would you let them lower your paycheck because of team staffing levels?

    Your vacation time is part of your compensation. There’s a little give around that. But there has to be that boundary and that fundamental principle (including for things like being asked to work during your vacation).

  56. Bookworm in Stitches*

    LW#1 Wow on Amanda’s story. And double wow on the chemotherapy linked story that was shared. Wish there could be an update to that!! It’s appalling the boundary smashing in both cases!

  57. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW1 — You didn’t say how long you’d worked at this company, but I think it’s time to start looking. Yes, I know this can be difficult, especially if you live in an area where there aren’t a lot of jobs available, but it’s time to at least check what’s out there.

    What you’re describing is a deeply entrenched cultural problem. You’ve already expressed your concerns to your boss, and he took it “terribly.” He also made Amanda come in on the day her sister died to run payroll! His attitude is not one that’s likely to be fixed by anyone who reports to him.

    Why Amanda puts up with this is anybody’s guess, but her passivity is yet another indication that the culture in your workgroup is rotten to the core. Get out as soon as you can! Check the AAM archives for advice and start looking for a job at a firm run by normal people.

    I know it’s tempting to believe that, if you can just find the right words, people will suddenly Get a Clue. But it doesn’t work that way in real life. Concentrate on getting yourself out of this situation, before you find your boss standing at your, or a loved one’s, hospital bed.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I’m guessing Amanda was pretty stressed in both of those situations and either couldn’t face a row on top of everything else or was just so stunned, she went along with what the boss suggested. I found out my dad died just before a staff meeting once and honestly, if the principal had told me to stay for the staff meeting, I would have because I was just so shocked, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Thankfully, our principal was an empathetic and normal human being whose immediate response was to sympathise and then to ask another colleague who lived near me to drive me home.

      But I can well imagine if one’s boss comes into a hospital waiting room to drop off work while the person is worried about their husband’s recovery, the response might be “um, right, I’ll try to get to it if I can” rather than potentially start an argument in public when she already had enough to deal with.

      I’m also wondering about the “there was nervousness.” It doesn’t sound as if it was she who was the one who was nervous, so I’m wondering if she had numerous people ringing her up, asking her “did you explain to boss how to do x?” “are you going to check what boss did when you get back?” to the point that she might have thought it easier to just do it herself rather than come back to a situation where she had to check what boss did, soothe his ego about being checked up on, possibly reassure him he’d done everything fine and then field questions from numerous people along the lines of “are you sure my pay went through properly?”

      But yeah, that still backs up your point about it being completely ingrained and therefore…not a place to work for longer than necessary.

  58. Frustrated Front Desk*

    # 4 *laughs in retail*

    Not helpful, I know, but those ball games and parks and grocery stores and everything else you want to do on the weekend are staffed by people whose days off aren’t Saturday and Sunday. Before having an office job, I worked many a 36-hour workweek, 6 hours a day 6 days a week. That’s just the reality of some jobs.

    The short answer is, they get to change the terms of the job as needed, and you get to decide if you still want the job under the new terms. Your company isn’t refusing to pay for overtime. You’re worried they might shift your days off maybe. You seem stuck on the idea that, “the weekend is Saturday and Sunday,” rather than, “When your workweek is Monday-Friday, 8 hours daily, Saturday and Sunday would be days 6 and 7 and over 40 hours, so subject to overtime rates,” and missing that in this scenario Saturday and Sunday would not be days 6 and 7, nor would they be over 40 hours, and therefore not subject to premium pay. I don’t understand how you think it’s a sneaky trick. It would be disruption, yeah, and it sucks when the terms of the job change from what you agreed to, but this doesn’t sound like it would be an attempt to screw you over. It sounds like it would be an attempt to keep the factory running 7 days instead of 5, assuming it happens at all. If it does, you get to decide if you want to look at other options that don’t have the days off mid-week.

    1. Coco*

      I agree 100%. I tried to post a similar comment and yours is worded so much better. Your employer is giving you two days off per week. It’s not the same two days that you had off before. You have to decide if you are ok with these new terms if your employment , or if it’s a dealbreaker and you want to look for a new job. It would be nice if they offered some kind of premium weekend pay. You can attempt to push back or advocate for premium pay, but they are not obligated to provide that.

  59. Coco*

    LW #4: Keep in mind that millions of people work weekends as part of their regular schedule. Sometimes people work weekends by choice, and other times it’s a requirement of the job. For folks who work in retail, food service, healthcare, first responders, travel or hospitality industry etc… weekends (and most holidays) don’t really mean anything. They are just days on a calendar. It sounds like your employer is telling you that regular weekend work is now a requirement of the job. You can try pushing back to request premium pay, but considering your employer’s history, it seems unlikely. You will have to decide if that’s going to be a dealbreaker.

  60. RubyJackson*

    Whenever I hear the phrase, “We’re like family” my first thought is, where on a scale between Waltons and Mansons does this family rank?

  61. bripops*

    LW 3: force them to reckon with the short staffing by taking your vacation. I actually called out sick last month on the day my grandboss was scheduled to visit my city, even though I knew it would cause the visit to be rescheduled when my boss had to cover my office because we’ve been operating at 50% staff. what do you know, that inconvenience to grandboss was enough to open some positions. I wouldn’t voluntarily give up my health insurance to avoid being an inconvenience, don’t do it with your PTO!

  62. Morgan Hazelwood*

    For LW3 — I saw you said Wed/Thurs were meeting-heavy days, maybe just take every (or every other) Friday off when you don’t have a holiday coming up.

    No major ‘leaving them in a crunch’, but more restful weekends! I used to work 9-hour days and had every other Friday off, where I would get my chores done when everyone else was still at work, so the weekend was truly downtime.

  63. Anne Thropic*

    “LW4” here. A few clarifiers in response to comments.

    My company is not unionized. If we were, I doubt we engineers would be part of it. I believe, in the US, only Stellantis is unionized engineering. I am aware we need a union.

    We currently make overtime for anything over 40, so we don’t have to ask for premium as we have it already. My question was a hypothetical that was done once before when we were under a different classification (exempt) as opposed to now (non-exempt). We were considered management prior to 2016/2020 FLSA changes.

    The previous time this happened, engineers worked a week, and sometimes weekends, with the latter being premium pay, to support installs. How the company then deliberately avoids paying a fair wage is to change it by forcing you to take weekdays off when you haven’t chosen to to get around paying overtime. This is not the norm in engineering, which is the field under discussion (not retail or animal rescue.) The reason it is a “sneaky trick” is that it would be forcing people to work below the pay structure of their employment by forcing days off on certain days to which people did not agree initially. I disagree with the “they can decide to change it and you can decide to keep working” employment-at-will bromide; most people would just turn their output down to 10%.

    Was not attacking people that prefer working alternate days for weekends, or retail, or nursing, or firefighters, or police, or any other nation besides America’s definition of what a weekend is, or any other tangent that someone went on….

    Yes, the company will make unilateral decisions when they need to do so, and we have no power. Engineers are typically beta-males, so backbone is hard to find for most of us.

    I said “production engineering for a car company.” Not sure how someone got Auto Zone out of that. We’re either the biggest, or the second biggest, car company, depending on how the news wants to evaluate sales.

    I think we are non-exempt because we meet the FLSA standard of being non-exempt.

    1. Observer*

      It sounds like you didn’t write in for feedback or information, but to get the confirmation you wound up not getting.

      I disagree with the “they can decide to change it and you can decide to keep working” employment-at-will bromide

      It’s not a “bromide”, it’s statement of fact and law.

      1. Anne Thropic*

        Actually, I wrote to the person who ran the site, got my answer, and am content. Your implication that I wrote in for confirmation is insulting, as trends with the rest of your comments.

  64. Lolllee*

    Thank you for answering the question about taking vacation in an understaffed office. I had a similar experience with FMLA. my manager new 9 months in advance that my father had terminal cancer, wanted to pass at home, and that when the time came, I was going to take FMLA to care for him. I told my manager when he quite all treatment ad let him know Dr said he had 3-6 months left. I submitted all my paperwork and it was approved. 3 months later, I told him I’d need to start using my leave. My manager gave me multiple speeches about what a “hardship” my leave was for my team because we were so short staffed (due to the fact that the company laid off over half the company and 3/4 of my team), he twice pulled me into HR where they tried to claim I hadn’t submitted paperwork. When I pointed out I’d had to submit it all to the state including their approval so it was all on file, they tried claiming it wasn’t 30 days in advance as required. I counted days right then and there for 39 days. That was when I submitted it to the state. I actually had HR approval a few weeks before that. When I did take leave, my manager told everyone I was on vacation with no notice so our short staffed office was super angry when I returned. To top it all off, he’d entered my FMLA time off as “leave without pay – unapproved”, so I couldn’t actually get reimbursed through them or the state. 2 month after that, my manager and HR did nothing to rectify the erroneous time card entries and continued to maintain I had bo approval for time off and was “on vacation” so I quit with no other job lined up. It still enrages me what they did to me when I wanted to take FMLA after 9 MONTH notice and they were so understaffed because of their own choice to lay off 60% of the company. People I know that still work there say they keep insisting over 2 years later that I quite to care for my dying dad though he had died a full 2 months before I quit. At least I was able to spend those last days with him.

  65. Linda*

    Re: taking your vacation time. My old job in a public utility used to have an option to cash in a week of vacation time if workload, usually due to weather-related emergency responses, prevented employees from taking their leave time that was over the cap and would be lost at the end of the year. Caveat was that the employee had to have taken at least two weeks of leave time during the year and permission was required from the company manager, so it wasn’t something that could be considered a “given” every year.

  66. John silveira*

    my 2 pennies on those testimonials; 1 a employee husband, wich is a friend, having a surgery, I would be there, now the matter of bring work to the friends wife to do. that’s cold, but would be worse for all employees to be without a pay check or worse, a wrong pay check.. you de cide. on my view, the couple are close enough to the boss,for him to take this measure in to effect. the post is. like always is, someone over reacting and craving for online attention. the situation should be measured by all the angles.
    me, for instance, I wouldn’t mind at all my friend’s presence and support, and working a.little to avoid extremely headaches, would be a blessing. in fact I had similar experience 3 years ago, I had 3 hearth attacks, though it was a severe case of a cold, was working and decided,honestly my mind, some would say ; God screamed couple of times ordering me to the Er asap. wich I did. went straight to hearth surgery, I’d asked the nurse, beforehand to call my wife afterwards, but we have many friends among the hospital staff,nurses, doctors. so the news spread quickly and when I was out of the OR, in to PACU, I had so many visitors there, that my doctor asked them to leave, I am not very sociable, what I mean is; I don’t like lot people around me, makes me uncomfortable, but my wife and daughters, they craving multitude of people, so I respect, and appreciate they time given to me, next day. I was working. doctors and nurses were mad at me, trying to take the computers,phone and tablets away, my job, unfortunately, I am the only one who can make it happen, and many clients, customers and associates depends on it to keep on going. now I have e beautiful minds to help me do the same thing, honestly, they do it much better than I. young minds right?
    so it’s about planing, as former Army SF/ SO officer, we train to never get on a site without being sure of secondary exits, and in business it the same application, well, I did had someone to cover my absence, don’t know why, maybe I though I would be there forever. who knows, so I don’t blame the boss, the friend or the employee, nor the situation, as I said, I see no problem, and it needs to be assessed by all the angles.. bottom of the line; if the employee didn’t complained, why her colleagues had? another assessment to be looking into. be safe out there, be blessed

  67. John*

    Actually I would think it’s borderline illegal. When I was in business school we were taught about regulations. They(managers) should know to have a boundary. I went on to become a doctor. I also see how managers cut corners and breaks laws.
    It’s always sad when people have money and think that relates to being able to manage without the appropriate background or refresher training.
    there should be a lot more regulation in the management arena as it would lead to less stress and healthier lifestyles.

  68. Goody*

    LW1’s coworker Amanda should absolutely give the medical facility a list of approved visitors, and possibly also a list of absolutely banned people. I believe that with HIPAA, they can’t even acknowledge whether you’re a patient without your consent.

    Boss is vastly over-reaching and could potentially be exposing the company to legal liability by barging in on an employee’s personal life and particularly medical matters. As the HR manager, Amanda is actually perfectly suited to use that company exposure angle rather than her personal discomfort (and I’m definitely downplaying that). She should probably also push to bring in a temp for her absence, providing enough time to train them on specific tasks that Boss can’t be trusted to handle, like payroll.

  69. Snippet Queen*

    Amanda needs to draw her lines in the sand now, because she may not be in a state to do it later. I had a cardiac arrest and was in a coma for a week. People who were peripheral acquaintances at best (think fellow religious institution members) came to the ICU to “see how I was doing” — I was in a freaking coma and on a respirator, tubes everywhere. They knew this, wanted to see if I was brain damaged, and showed up anyway. Didn’t occur to my immediate family to limit access.

    Put these instructions in your medical directives. Don’t count on a spouse’s discretion when all $#@& is breaking loose.

  70. April M*

    #1 needs to stop worrying about things that aren’t her business. It’s up to the co-worker to decide if it’s OK for the boss to be at the hospital and to tell him how she feels about it. It is also her choice to come into the office when most people would choose to stay home (such as a death in the family.

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