can I ask for proof that my employee tried to find coverage, boss interrupts me, and more

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

1. Can I ask my employees for proof that she asked other employees to take her shift?

I am a shift manager at a fast food restaurant. I have a question that my manager seems to be avoiding. Today an employee (Emily) texted me that she won’t be able to come in. I told her okay, but to ask Xio, Luis, Sam, or Carlos if they’re able to come in. She said yes, she would text them. I ended up being the only cashier the entire afternoon.

When I got off of work I was texting Sam, who is also my friend, just ranting about the shift. Well, it turns out Emily never even reached out to see if she was able to cover her. So I’m not sure if Emily texted the other three employees. It also had me wondering if she was faking being sick or just called out to hang out with Luis, who is also her boyfriend, because he didn’t go to school today either.

I was wondering if I’m allowed to, or legally able to, ask Emily for screenshots confirming that she texted the other employees? If not, do you have any advice on how to handle this situation? I’ve had issues with her in the past such as her work performance and inability to follow instructions.

There’s no legal reason you couldn’t ask Emily for screenshots, but it would be a pretty crappy way to manage — and awfully demoralizing for her if she was actually sick and if she did indeed contact some of them. If you really want to dig into it, you’d be better off just asking the others … but even that seems like focusing on the wrong piece of the situation. If you have issues with Emily’s work or her reliability, address those head-on and tell her what you need to see change. If it doesn’t change, then decide if it still makes sense to employ her under those circumstances.

But most of the time when a manager finds themselves wanting to demand this kind of proof from an employee they already don’t trust, it’s a sign that you need to deal with whatever the issues are that have made you not trust them in the first place.

I’d also suggest rethinking the system of requiring employees to find their own coverage when they’re sick. I know it’s incredibly common in retail and food service and I’m undoubtedly fighting a losing battle on this one, but when someone is legitimately sick, it’s not reasonable to expect them to call around for coverage.

2. My boss interrupts me while I’m presenting

Someone who used to be my coworker became my boss. She has some micromanaging and impulse control issues. While she was my coworker, I was asked to give two different presentations to various groups. The first time, she interrupted my presentation to say, “Oooh, tell them about this,” and “You should tell them that!” I hadn’t got to that part of my speech yet, and it was really distracting to have someone coach me in public this way. I received a scholarship for the college forensics team, so I am not a stranger to public speaking. I had prepared a perfectly complete speech, she just couldn’t help herself from trying to “fix” it while I was in the middle of presenting it.

To avoid this happening the second time, I “practiced” my half of our joint talk in front of her so she would know that I was doing a competent job. (She did not feel the need to run her half of the talk by me.)

I have been asked to make two presentations at meetings she will be attending this summer. How can I ensure that I am able to give my speech uninterrupted by unhelpful comments from my boss?

The simplest solution won’t work. I can’t approach her about this, because she has a habit of not remembering things, and will have no memory of her rudeness, so bringing it up will be a waste of time. I do not want to “practice” my speech for her. My options as I see them are: (1) ask a coworker to sit next to her and stab her in the thigh with a pencil if she interrupts me this way or (2) publicly shame her by handing her the slide clicker so she can finish the presentation to her satisfaction. Do you have a more diplomatic solution?

Years ago, some other activists and I disrupted a speech by a presidential candidate (yelling, unfurling a banner, showering the audience with flyers, and generally causing a disruption). Unlike many of our other targets, he handled it perfectly. Rather than getting flustered or seeming irate, he called out, “Let’s hear it for free speech!” and praised us for exercising our right to protest. He looked great — in control and unflappable — and our protest fell flatter than it would have otherwise.

I’m not suggesting you use that approach with your boss, but I do think it’s valuable to consider “handling interruptions with aplomb” to be a sort of 301-level public speaking skill, and looking at it that way could help. That would mean that assuming that you’re going to get interrupted and preparing for it. If you’re expecting her to interrupt, you can be prepared with responses like “yes, I’ll get to that, keep listening” and “I agree, that part is exciting, give me a moment to get there” or whatever else makes sense for your specific context, and you probably won’t be as thrown off by the interruptions because you’ll have planned from the start that they’d be coming.

Read an update to this letter

3. I hate my job — do I have to stick it out for a year?

I just joined a company in my field with an good reputation after being courted for the better part of a year. There were pink flags in the recruiting process, and some negative online reviews, but I chalked it all up to a few dissatisfied people. How could a company with a good overall reputation be that bad? Turns out, I am having the most negative experience. My burnout is such that I spend most days crying at some point or another, and I generally feel like I’m failing. I work on a team whose leader is unresponsive and provides no guidance or support, and that’s making my job so much worse. A lesson to everyone to do intense due diligence and not be swayed just by a big paycheck and a past good reputation.

Needless to say, I’m considering an exit strategy, but I’m concerned that I’m doing damage to my career. My last two job stays were 2.5 and 2 years, and before that 4.5 years. I left a job during the great resignation, and my most recent job I made the mistake of not bringing my concerns to my manager, which were ultimately fixable. I also made the mistake of announcing the new job on LinkedIn, because it seemed like the new norm to announce fast. Waiting to make sure a job was for me before putting on LinkedIn was a rule I held firm on in the past. I’m worried now that my reputation will be impacted by my leaving this job after such a short amount of time. It’s been only 6 weeks, but my concerns go beyond buyer’s remorse. I’m miserable every day. I’ve put feelers out at my old job, but otherwise, am I going to have to stay here for a year to make myself look okay reputationally?

What, no! You don’t need to stay at a job for a year to protect your reputation; you can leave whenever you want. Leaving quickly can be more of an issue when you have a pattern of short stays (because at some point you look like you’re always going to move on quickly) but that’s not your situation. Your last three jobs were perfectly solid stays, particularly with that 4.5-year stay in there.

It’s true that if you had, for example, only four jobs and you hadn’t stayed at any longer than two years, I’d assume you were likely to leave after two years again — and I’d take that into account if it were something that mattered for the job I was hiring for (it might or might not, depending). But that’s not your situation.

Plus, six weeks is so short that you can just remove the job from your resume and LinkedIn entirely. Go ahead and get out, so you can stop being miserable.

Read an update to this letter

4. What if an employee who gave notice won’t leave?

I work in a nonprofit on a team of six people. For various reasons, three of the six have left or are leaving: one left a few weeks ago, one left this week, and the third, Jane, has more flexible departure plans but originally said she’d leave next month. Now Jane has indicated her willingness to “stay for a while and help out during the transition.”

My manager asked me if I was interested in pursuing the third position. I have a long tenure and a unique skill set, but on paper it is a lateral move. After doing some research and speaking with others in my field, I went to my manager earlier this week with a proposal to upgrade that third position and reconfigure the others to better align with current best practices.

Today she told me she’s worried if she posts this upgraded position while Jane is still here, Jane will change her mind and decide to stay. Is that a thing? Surely if Jane gave notice and we’re moving forward with hiring a replacement, she can’t actually just decide to not leave … right? And I’d think she certainly can’t decide to stay and just automatically get the upgrade?

I can hold my own in an interview process for this role, so it’s not about thinking it should just be handed to me. But the idea that the outgoing person has the power to just … not leave has my head spinning. In theory, how would a manager handle this situation?

Jane can change her mind and offer to stay —but offer is the key word, because she would need your employer to be on board with that decision. It’s not up to her once they’ve already began planning for her departure, but she can ask. They have the option of saying, “Thanks for the offer to stay, but we’ve already made plans based on your resignation, so let’s keep your last day as June 1.”

As for what your manager should do: She should first decide if she agrees with upgrading the position. If she does, then she should decide whether she’d rather offer Jane the upgraded role, or move you into it, or consider a wider range of candidates through a broader hiring process. If she doesn’t want to put Jane in that job, then she’d need to be prepared to tell her that if Jane asks about it. That could mean telling her that the revised position was created with you in mind, or created for a different skill set, or that she doesn’t think Jane is the right fit for the revised job, or that they’re far enough along in their plans for her departure that they no longer have a spot available for her. The fact that your manager isn’t approaching it that way is worrisome — is she so inexperienced that she doesn’t know she can? Or so weak that she’s not willing to? Or is it possible she’s not being fully straight with you about her hesitations about revamping the role in the way you proposed? My guess is inexperience/weakness, but assess based on what you know about her.

Read an update to this letter. 

5. Do employers who say they welcome diverse applicants want me to declare my marginalized identities?

I have a question about that very common language that many employers have somewhere in the job description, something along the lines of: “We seek to hire, support, and promote people from all genders, ethnicities, and all levels of experience regardless of age. We particularly encourage applications from women, non-binary individuals, people of color, members of the LGBTQA+ community, and people with disabilities of any kind.”

I am a member of the LGBTQA+ community — I am a bisexual cis woman in a long-term committed relationship with another woman. Obviously, this is a pretty large part of my life and identity. But I struggle with interpreting what this statement means and what I should do about it. The issue as I see it is that some of these “preferred” qualities in the list above are obvious to the eye and likely to be noticed at some point in the application process just by meeting a candidate (i.e., someone’s skin color, if they use a mobility aid, or even if they list their pronouns as “they/them” on a resume or something like that). Others, of course, are not!

What is the appropriate way to disclose that you identify with one of these categories in an application, especially when your identity may not be directly relevant to the role? If I was applying to be a counselor at a queer youth center, I could talk about my personal experience as a queer person. But if I am applying to be a project manager at a consulting firm, then how or when would (or should) I say, “By the way, I am also a member of the LGBTQA+ community” if it’s not related to the work I would be doing?

I also feel like I have it way easier than some other folks – like, for example, the “A” in LGBTIA+ typically stands for “asexual” or “aromantic.” I can at least (sometimes) drop a comment about my partner and use her pronouns during small talk in an interview, but when is an asexual person supposed to drop THAT information in the application?! “Oh by the way, I’m single because I don’t experience sexual attraction towards other people” seems like a super weird thing to incorporate into an interview — but the company is SAYING that they especially want asexual people to apply! Do you have any advice on navigating this as an applicant?

You’re assuming that diversity statements like the one you quoted mean that the employer wants you to declare the marginalized groups you fall into — but that’s not typically the case. Generally, they’re trying to convey to prospective applicants that they’re committed to creating a workplace where a diverse group of employees can thrive. It’s information for you — not a signal that they want you to declare anything back (unless you feel it’s relevant to the work you’re applying to do, such as in your youth counselor example).

Also, a note: You also called these identities “preferred qualities” — but they’re not saying they will give preference to people who belong to those groups. In fact, it would be illegal for them to do that in the U.S., except with disabilities. They’re just trying to convey that they’re a welcoming workplace that strives toward equity and inclusion. (Whether or not they actually are more equitable than most is often a different question.)

{ 478 comments… read them below }

  1. Jolene*

    #1 if you are an hourly employee, not a manager, does your employer (a giant corporation, fast food or otherwise) have to pay you for your time texting other employees asking them to cover your shift?

    1. raincoaster*

      As far as I know it’s never gone to court, but companies wouldn’t okay that expense. It’s too far out of their control.

      1. Jolene*

        Well, it’s pretty squarely in their control how I see it. It’s 100% predicable that shift workers will need coverage. The solution would be to pay a manager to find coverage. Not…expect their lowest paid employees to do it for free?

        I’m so tired of the expected “pro bono volunteer work for millionaires.” Seriously, these people are rolling around in cash like Scrooge McDuck, and they act like it’s an OUTRAGE to have to pay someone for 15 minutes to perform a task necessary for the operation of their business. Boo hoo. Pay your employees you greedy losers.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yep and not having to pay for this type of work means they don’t care to come up with a better system. I’m sure if they had to pay for it everyone would suddenly use a schedule app that handles this automatically (automatic message to everyone that coverage is needed for x time)

          1. Jolene*

            Sorry I’m salty. I literally quit my job yesterday after a big fight about compensation with my horrible, lazy, nepo baby boss. The good news is I picked up the phone and in less than 5 hours had a better higher paying job with a competitor. The bad news it’s a small professional circle so I cannot LOUDLY out my boss as a horrible human on my way out the door.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              No, but you can quietly and methodically drop relevant information when the opportunity arises.

              There’s a lot of satisfaction in that too, it’s just less immediate.

                1. Tedious Cat*

                  Whoops. Nesting fail. I still think OP #1 should, you know, manage instead of delegating to sick employees.

            2. Anonymous*

              Don’t be sorry; I’m sure a lot of commenters here feel the same way.

              Having worked in food service, it’s disgusting how you’re expected to come up with your own coverage for illness or time off (but especially illness). That’s a manager’s responsibility — but fast food managers aren’t paid very more than their employees. At the cafe in CA, the assistant manager only made $.25 an hour more than we did. Considering minimum wage was $5.15 at the time, that’s not much. :(

              1. A person in retail*

                I don’t have a problem with making someone find their own coverage if something non-urgent came up after the schedule was posted, or if someone forgot to ask for time off. That’s on them. But if someone is sick or has a family emergency or something, the employer should absolutely be the one sorting out coverage.

                1. Ace in the Hole*

                  Agreed. I’ve had jobs where it was expected that employees would arrange their own coverage for last minute time off requests, and it was fine. There are pros and cons, but in some ways it can be nicer than having the boss arrange coverage for you… it often means a lot more schedule flexibility since the boss is no longer the gatekeeper for schedule changes.

                  On the other hand, no good employer makes employees arrange their own coverage when they call in sick or with an emergency. I’ve had jobs that made us do it. They were not good jobs.

              2. Lizzianna*

                I’m still mad about the time I was working retail part time in college. I’d been really clear I didn’t want more than 12-15 hours a week. The manager messed up in the new scheduling software, and accidentally schedule me for 35 hours, with an extra 4 hours “on call.” (although goodness forbid I hit 40 hours…). It happened to be the same week as I had several midterm papers due so I just didn’t have the ability to suck it up for the week. I told her I couldn’t work all those shifts, and she told me store policy was that I had to find coverage. I can’t tell you how hard it was to find 20 hours of coverage, especially because people couldn’t accept shifts that had the potential to push them into overtime, and we’d frequently get scheduled “on call,” so it was impossible to know if you could pick up another shift until the day of sometimes.

                I got coverage for every shift but one, and got written up for not covering that one.

                I should have quit, but I needed the money and it was the start of the recession so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find another job easily.

                1. Kit*

                  Oh man, retail and college! My manager at a department store was pissed at me because she assumed my class schedule was finished at the same time as other employees who went to a different school. Apparently it was all my fault because I hadn’t told her otherwise… even though I didn’t know my schedule for finals yet. She rescheduled the shifts, but very begrudgingly.

        2. Sam*

          Exactly. When I worked at Home Depot, I was a head cashier so I didn’t plan the schedules but I did manage the cashiers that were there that day to make sure everyone got a break. The person who did plan the schedules never planned for just the bare minimum of cashiers so that if someone called out, coverage wasn’t necessary to find. There was almost always enough people and I can only recall one time where I was trapped at the self checkout and we didn’t have anyone else for about a half hour so the person who was working self checkout could take a lunch.

          1. A Nonny Mouse (possibly a A Nonny Bat?)*

            Sadly that’s not a bug–that’s a feature of retail and food service. I’ve worked too many stores where we’re REGULARLY a ‘skeleton crew’ with JUST ENOUGH to not go insane during busy-times and then whoops, most of that crew leaves so we’re left with only like…2-3 people who aren’t management.

            It’s part of why I believe retail and food service as we currently model it in the U.S. is inherently toxic. The model is not designed for anything but profit, and the margins are thin, so they’re always looking for more ways to get it.

          2. NotRealAnonForThis*

            That’s a better corporate than the one I got my management creds under.

            We were literally only allowed X number of hours per week for payroll, and it was based on sales numbers, not on sufficient number of humans to cover the store during open hours. The manager and assistant manager (me) hours didn’t count against those hours, but still, even with us both pulling 60 hour weeks…the store needed coverage 84 hours a week, and one week they gave us 90 payroll hours for that. Corporate policy said that two non-managers had to help close, and one non-manager had to help open. Oh, and shipping and receiving (again, retail store) counted against that 90 hours too.

            That place sucked and declared bankruptcy in the mid-00s, was acquired by another group, and finally closed for good pre-Covid. I wasn’t sad even though I’d long since left because it was just so foul. The only good part was that it made me think “nope, get out of retail permanently because this is BS” very quickly.

          3. Momma Bear*

            That makes a lot more sense. Also, depending on the severity of the emergency, someone may not have time to call. If I’m in the ER, no way am I worrying about covering my shift. They need a better policy. I used to work for a store where the manager would do the calls and I think that’s better.

          4. A person in retail*

            We’re not allowed to overschedule in my store either. We used to, but now we’re like NotRealAnon below me. As a result, we’re often short staffed and your “trapped at the self checkout” is an almost daily occurrence for us. Also, we have a lot of students and not enough adults, so there have been days when we had nominally enough people, but I had to apologize to customers and leave my station every five minutes to go handle alcohol or tobacco for an underage cashier.

        3. AnonInCanada*

          This exactly. Further to that, why should an employee at a minimum-wage part-time retail/fast-food job have the contact info for all their fellow slaves employees?

          Remind me what is the manager’s job again? Oh yeah, manage!

          1. AnonIn'Merica*

            This. When I was a shift manager for a security guard company (Which is basically one step up from fast food only in that you don’t go home every day smelling like french fries.) it was my responsibility to find coverage if one of my team called in sick… or else cover their shift myself. Because manager.

          2. Sopranohannah*

            I feel like if I were in retail or food service today, I’d feel pretty empowered to say that it’s managements job to find coverage. What are they going to do? Fire a decent employee that usually comes in. Then you have even more shifts to cover.

          3. Bob*

            When I was a manager at a movie theatre, we’d ask if they called or asked anyone – both the theatres I had worked for during this period had employee facebook groups so it could be blasted out instead of individual asks.
            Mainly to see if they had lined up someone – often they were pro-active, but also to avoid calling people who already were asked.
            Luckily, upper management at both places were very good and we rarely had a skeleton crew unless availability worked out that way. The GM at place two used to be AGM for the previous location so the first GM had trained that way. He over scheduled on expectations and then people cut from volunteers if not busy enough.

        4. SpaceySteph*


          I worked a mandatory coverage position for years. If I called out sick/with any kind of emergency, my boss found a replacement. If I had to cancel less emergently (like, say, I know I can’t come in next Tuesday) typically I found coverage. Both my boss and I charged time in those cases.

          The difference? This was white collar engineering work and not fast food/retail. There is no other context where this kind of thing would be legal or accepted, its only because they can take advantage of their low wage, low power employees.

        5. My Useless 2 Cents*

          Yeah, I remember hating this when I worked retail in college. 1st of all, I’m fairly shy, 2nd of all, I was in college with a very odd schedule. As a result, I didn’t socialize or get to know a lot of people and never had contact info for coworkers to ASK if they’d cover my shift. Throw on being sick on top of that and I was literally unable to find coverage. Managers need to do their own job!

        6. Ellen*

          I once, rather tartly, informed my manager that unless they pay for my telephone, assume it is at home, plugged in, on my desk. I was being given a very hard time for not answering many texts, about raw gossip, from my boss while on vacation. fast food job.

        7. raincoaster*

          Obviously coverage is a management responsibility. I meant that they can’t control the sick employees while they’re forced to look for coverage. In a big city, working for a chain, you could spend hours on the phone. Companies would never approve that expense.

      2. Random Dice*

        In California, yes, if the employer requires cell phone use for the job they have to reimburse. I don’t know about this specific incidence though, in California it may well not be allowed to require hourly folks to manage their own replacements. (I kinda hope so, and wouldn’t be surprised.)

    2. Zzz*

      The FLSA* has an exception for “de minimis”, but that only applies if – among other factors – the amount spent can’t be quantified. (Given the accessibility of satellite time, I’d argue that that should rarely happen – but I’m no judge or lawyer.)

      From :
      “As noted below, an employer may not arbitrarily fail to count any part, however small, of working time that can be practically ascertained.”

      *some states have stricter laws

    3. PJH*

      I’m more interested in why someone who’s (presumably) sick is doing the managerial job of finding cover for a shift. This is the sort of thing fall under “managing,” and that managing shouldn’t involve delegating the task to a non-manager, especially one who’s not in a position to do other work.

      I worked in fast-food back in the 80’s and 90’s, and it was always one of the on-shift managers who rang round for cover – mainly because we didn’t expect every employee to have every other employee’s contact details, but also… well, the reasons above. And also the managers knew the likely people who would be willing to cover at short notice.

      Offloading tasks like this comes across as simply lazy management.

    4. Your Local Password Resetter*

      They absolutely should pay you for that time if they mandate it, but they’re not legally required and no company with this policy would do it themselves.

      1. Antilles*

        You could argue that they are legally required since it’s a work related task and hourly workers are supposed to be paid for all their time. Unfortunately, it’s a small enough cost that it’s hard to imagine anybody being willing to fight about the time spent making 5 phone calls or sending a few texts.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’m really waiting for a court case on this. The way almost all US laws on the subject are written, they absolutely owe you compensation for that time. You’re right, and people often don’t pick up fights like this when they need to keep a job, but the cumulative time theft when you look at how common this practice is – companies are making out like bandits.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        They are *absolutely* legally required to pay you for that time if they mandate it. Employers must pay hourly employees for all time spent doing work. There’s no exception in the law for arranging coverage.

        Problem is the law hasn’t been enforced because it’s such a tiny amount each time it’s not worth it to take them to court.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      They should also give you a higher rate for that time, since you’re performing management duties by handling staffing. That part chafes me as much or more than the unpaid labor, the fact that managing overall staffing levels is obviously a management responsibility!

    6. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

      I’ve never understood this concept.

      Hourly Worker: “I’m sorry, but I have a fever of 105 and am vomiting every hour on the hour. I’m sick, I can’t come in today.”

      Idiot Manager: “Call someone to come in for you.”

      HW: “Sorry, nobody would come in.”

      IM: Well, then you need to get your rear end out of bed and come to work!”

  2. raincoaster*

    If the sick employee had to be paid for the time spent finding coverage, you’d find a lot fewer companies pushing this task on them.

    And it SHOULD be paid time.

    Scheduling and coverage are management responsibilities, and if you haven’t hired enough casual staff to cover sudden sick days, that’s on management, not the employees.

    1. Fikly*

      Exactly this. The reason companies insist on coverage being found for any time off by the employee is to make it as hard as possible for employees to take any time off, be it sick time or vacation or for any other reason. Why staff adequately when you can go a cheaper route?

    2. Keira*

      I remember my son’s first job in a grocery store. He called in sick, and they told him if he couldn’t find his own replacement he’d have to work the shift. So he showed up to work, and while he was working the cash register, he felt awful and tried to get someone to relieve him. He was told it wasn’t his break, so he ended up vomiting all over someone’s groceries. Needless to say, that was his last shift there. I told him if he was ever told to find his own replacement again, to just refuse outright. It’s not a 16-year old’s job to schedule people, it’s the manager’s job.

      1. Jolene*

        Wow. That’s…hoo boy that’s a story. The greedy employer got what they deserved, but poor kid I’m sure was horrified in the moment. Hopefully enough time has passed that he can laugh about it.

      2. Anonymous*

        Yep. The letter writer mentioned school, so I assume the people in the story are a similar age.

      3. Momma Bear*

        That’s awful.

        Once we stopped for food and belatedly realized the cashier was not well. Lo and behold we all got whatever illness they had a few days later. “Not allowed” to call out sick is problematic on so many levels.

        1. Good Luck*

          I had a friend that stopped at a drug store to pick up prescriptions. The person that waited on her was so incredibly sick looking she was alarmed. She actually called the store to complain and then their corporate headquarters. She made it clear it was not about the poor employee working but urging their management to either send sick employees’ home or have better sick leave policies. She said that someone working in a pharmacy should not be visibly sick like that. This was pre-pandemic too. I hope it didn’t affect the employee at all, but instead management at that particular store.

        2. raincoaster*

          Frontline workers need nationwide paid sick leave. You’d think after the past three years this would be a done deal, but nope.

          1. Emac*

            Yes, especially frontline workers do, but in reality, *everyone* needs mandatory paid sick leave in the U.S. (well, everywhere but most places are ahead of us on that)!

      4. Anonymous*

        My brother, who was late teens/early 20s at the time, was fired from a chain sandwich shop because he had the flu and they said he needed to either find coverage or come in anyway. He couldn’t find coverage despite trying and refused to come in and get his flu germs all over customers’ food, so he was fired. Same thing happened a few months later to his gf-at-the-time – she had a pre-scheduled and elective surgery, one of her coworkers said they’d cover her shift but ended up calling out, so they fired her (gf, not the coworker) for not securing reliable coverage.

      5. kiwiii*

        When I worked a coordinator role (like calling people to the front to bag, making change for people, scheduling and executing breaks, covering the help counter) at a grocery store fresh out of college, I got a bug as it was going around and tried to call out. They whined and complained that other full time people had already called out, and that I would need to come in on threat of termination. so I did, on a double dose of dayquil, coughing and sneezing on people, forgetting breaks, and misplacing my keys multiple times including at the end of my shift. they called to let me know they found them in a random cash register’s drawer and let me know I could call out that day if I needed to.

      6. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

        I posted this in the first thread, but it’s more appropriate here…

        I’ve never understood this concept.

        Hourly Worker: “I’m sorry, but I have a fever of 105 and am vomiting every hour on the hour. I’m sick, I can’t come in today.”

        Idiot Manager: “Call someone to come in for you.”

        HW: “Sorry, nobody would come in.”

        IM: Well, then you need to get your rear end out of bed and come to work!”

    3. Ellis Bell*

      As the OP is finding out, the company will get what they pay for. They want the most unmotivated person to do the task for free? They want to pretend this is their responsibility? Okay then, feel free to let your supervisors forever wonder if it actually got done, but at least it wasn’t paid for, right?

    4. Bilateralrope*

      Getting employees to arrange their own cover has so potential problems for the employer.

      – What do you do if an employee told you that they can’t contact their coworkers because they don’t have their contact details ?

      – Sick employee calls someone to cover their shift. Sick employee claims that {coworker} agreed to cover, {coworker} says they refused. Who do you believe ?

      – Texts can go unnoticed for a while. Imagine the texts going out but nobody they were sent to noticing until after the shift had started. Or worse, multiple people agree to cover, but the sick coworker doesn’t tell anyone that the shift was covered, so you get multiple people turning up for the one shift.

      Having the manager sort coverage prevents those issues.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Or the sick employee’s co-worker has changed her number. Or ran out of minutes on her prepaid phone. Or blocked her.

        This set’s teenagers, so I’ll add: Or had their phone taken by a teacher or parent. Or was in an standardized test.

        Managers & teachers who don’t acknowledge people get sick or injured infuriate me. May they all have instant karma of being vomited on the next time they insist someone must show up sick .

      2. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, I was wondering whether this still happens in the UK (it definitely did 15 years ago when I was doing customer service /coverage jobs) because requiring employees to have each other’s contact details on their private devices would be a *wild* GDPR violation.

      3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        this reminds me of a time I worked fast food and people were on Facebook switching shifts. They actually shut that down because it made too much sense!

    5. Fast Food sickie*

      I worked in a fast food restaurant when I was 16. Because it wasn’t in the US I never had to find coverage if I was sick. I just phoned in sick and the manager took care of it somehow. I worked in a chain that is definitely in the US. If they can manage it in my country they could manage it in the US, they just don’t because they don’t have to and I guess it might seem like it saves them money (I’d question whether it actually does).

      1. alienor*

        It seems a lot of things in international companies are like that. Somehow when they’re required, they find a way to pay their employees in other countries a living wage, offer parental leave, holidays, etc. Probably the fact that other countries have universal healthcare helps to offset that, but still, if they had to/wanted to do the same in the US, they could.

      2. what the nope*

        I once worked for the US warehouse of a Canadian-owned company. You can bet that skeevy unmentionable knew exactly how to take advantage of that. I was so happy to put her out of business when I ‘accidentally’ let her biggest customer know how badly they were being cheated.

    6. Lacey*

      Yes, finding coverage while they’re sick shouldn’t be on the employee.

      The time when it makes sense for an employee to find coverage is when they don’t want to work a scheduled shift and then they can trade shifts or whatever.

      I do get why this happens. Managers generally also don’t have sick time. They don’t get anyone to cover for them, they just come to work sick (and handle your food, how lovely!), so they’re not super sympathetic to the difficulties of having to text someone.

      I think the food service is over-due for a change in how they handle their workforce, but it will have to come from the owners, not the manager. They don’t actually have that much power.

      1. Woodswoman*

        Exactly this- the manager is most likely overworked and underpaid as well. It needs to be a systemic change.

        While I do agree that the sick employee should not be the one finding coverage, I have to admit that I really don’t have a good idea on how to solve these issues in retail/fast food, other than over-scheduling and eating the cost on the days when everyone shows up. And that’s if you can even hire enough to overschedule. It’s tough, for sure.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Regarding OP, s /he writes: “who is also her boyfriend, because he didn’t go to school today either.”
          Is OP a high school student tasked with management responsibilities and no managerial power? A meaningless title and 25 cents more an hour? Because that’s also ridiculous.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Most likely. Shift manager is just there to be a point of contact and maybe handle things like making sure burgers are brought out of the freezer in time, rather than any real responsibility in scheduling, coverage, pay, hiring and firing.

            1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

              So really what OP needs to do is kick this upstairs. Make this his/her manager’s problem. Stop trying to find ways to solve this cover issue. Stop trying to manage this employee. If OP had to cover that person’s shift, go to his/her own manager and say this isn’t working. People call me to say they aren’t coming in. I’m default coverage. I can’t make them come in. I can’t make them call people. Is my job “shift manager” or position filler?

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            OP could be a high school student, but it’s unlikely. Most employers I know of require supervisory positions (even shift supervisors) to be 18 or older for liability reasons and regulatory compliance.

            It wouldn’t surprise me if OP is a very young adult, though, nor would it surprise me if this is their first job and they got no training in management skills.

      2. raincoaster*

        It will have to come from the government. You think they would pay people what they do if they were legally allowed to pay them less?

        1. anon for now*

          In my area many places pay higher wages because it’s SO hard to find people willing to work these jobs. Even much higher than minimum wage, most fast-food or fast-casual places are chronically under staffed.

          Which is why I have a bit of hope that things might change organically. It’s not sustainable for these restaurants to be running a skeleton crew all the time. I think they’ll have to fix it for their own sake before congress even thinks about passing a law around it.

      1. PABJ*

        and also it tends to be discriminatory as less well-liked or outgoing employees have a harder time finding coverage.

        1. Silver Robin*

          That part. Do your job reasonably well but not personally friendly with the others? Generally reserved? Have difficulty socializing? Folks are a lot less willing to go out of their way for people they do not have a personal connection with. We see that even when the thing being asked for is part of the job! Now imagine asking somebody to come in for another shift at notoriously sucky jobs like fast food when they feel neutral/meh about you. That is a hard sell.

    7. Meghan*

      Yep. When I worked retail I literally went into work because it was more mental energy on my completely flu riddled body to call around, hope I got coverage, than to drive the 7 minutes to work and be told to go home because I was Typhoid Mary.

      Thank god that’s way in my rearview mirror now. But it shouldn’t be how places operate.

    8. a clockwork lemon*

      Lol this thread has just reminded me that when I was in college working retail, I straight-up quit a job after being chastised by the manager for ignoring a coworker calling me to cover a shift while I was in class. Nobody bothered to tell me I was supposed to be on-call, and I wasn’t about to skip school so I could work a minimum wage retail shift.

      The best part: when I was hired, nobody ever bothered to give me everyone’s phone numbers (and I only worked shifts with one other person) so I couldn’t have shopped for coverage if I had to call out unexpectedly even if I wanted to.

    9. CSRoadWarrior*

      I agree it is on management. When I was in college working in retail at a well-known store I am sure you heard of, I had to call out sick several times. And each and every time management/HR took care of it without getting me involved.

      Also, if you are sick, you should be recovering in bed, not calling each and everyone trying to cover for you.

    1. Jolene*

      Yes, but. They are not the owner. A shift manager at a fast food restaurant is not setting the policies or determining staffing. They are probably a non-exempt employee, but also probably wouldn’t be paid for texting/calling around off shift for coverage. This is a higher level management/structure issue. Not a shift manager level issue. The business needs to pay someone to do this work, not expect “the help” to do it for free.

      1. Observer*

        Either the OP needs to find coverage or they need to accept that coverage is not going to be found.

        They can’t change the top level policies, so there are the only choices left. Requiring people to prove that they tried to find coverage is not an option.

      2. MHA*

        When I was a shift manager in retail, I would call the store manager if someone contacted me about missing their shift– and the only people that did that in the first place were the high schoolers who didn’t realize being shift manager just meant I had the keys to lock up and balanced the tills at the end of the day, and had zero actual authority to change the schedule (or write them up, etc.) Of course, this meant it also would have been ridiculous for me to ask for proof they tried to arrange coverage!

        1. Jojo*

          I’m a former retail manager. I never made a sick employee find their own coverage. Making sure the shift was staffed properly was my job, and expecting a sick person to do it would have resulted in a lack of coverage. This was also before cellphones, and we didn’t give out employees’ phone numbers to other employees. It sucked, and I hated when people called out, but that’s what I was being paid to do.

          Also, shout out to Tracy, who covered so many shifts. She really saved me, probably at least once a month. I’d still give her a good recommendation all these years later.

      3. NerdyKris*

        I still handled the calling around for help when I was a team lead with no hiring, firing, or schedule setting ability. That was my job as the person running the shift.

    2. CityMouse*

      I’ve been jn this situation. I was in the bathroom throwing up and boss said I couldn’t leave until I found coverage. The kicker was that this was a fast food job so of course I shouldn’t be there. I was only 16 and I quit after that.

    3. Arthenonyma*

      They sound young to me. The remark about not turning up at school – I’m thinking OP is in the same peer group as the people they’re managing, and it’s teens or young adults. I’m getting more of a “urgh so and so in my class didn’t do her part on the group project” vibe. Which doesn’t excuse OP1 from the requirement to learn professional norms, but may explain the general approach here.

    4. anon for now*

      It sounds like the OP is a shift leader. Not even the general manager.

      But even the general manager can’t magic up coverage from nowhere.

      It has to be a good enough job to get people in. My husband managed a restaurant for years. But he had no power to give people raises or to raise wages or prices over all.

      It w as so hard to get coverage that sometimes he would pay people extra out of his own pocket. He’d give them rides, buy them meals, anything to just be able to get more than 4 hours of sleep. Sometimes it wasn’t enough. Sometimes he just worked 72 hours for a salary that, at that point, was only minimum wage.

      The manager has very little power in this situation. The owner does. But you know where the owner is? On vacation. At his son’s basketball game. Fishing. Doing whatever he wants with the ringer off so he can’t be bothered.

    5. AlsoADHD*

      Sounds like they’re more a shift lead and on shift, talking through the store phone, so they maybe couldn’t if they had to be working/on the floor. But their manager should—whoever the scheduling function falls under—or someone on shift should.

    6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I commented this above but I want to ask it here as well.
      OP writes: “Luis, who is also her boyfriend, because he didn’t go to school today either.”
      Is OP a high school student working a part time job with other high school kids?
      Congratulations, you’re in charge.
      The real manager is the one who is shirking responsibility.

    7. PlainJane*

      Yes, thank you. This should not have had a longer answer than that. There’s no situation where it’s okay to ask an employee who calls in sick to look for her own coverage. End of story, no appeals.

      1. PlainJane*

        Okay, reading the above, LW might not have a choice, but that needs to be a labor law that the company does not have a choice about, and doesn’t leave a teenage kid early in his career wondering about how to police his peers.

  3. Kiitemso*

    At my old work place (a call center with great volume, not a restaurant) we had an extra shifts text circle where a manager could offer up extra shifts and mass-text everyone who said they wanted them. The same manager would be the one to offer extensions (for example, adding two hours to a five hour shift to increase coverage) and extra shifts via text to those employees who were on time off. The system worked great. I wasn’t on the extra list but if a manager texted me if I could come in an hour earlier or leave a bit later and I had no specific plans, I could say “sure” or decline depending on my preference.

    We also had people offer up to change shifts on a company mailing list where the exchange was between two workers but I don’t think anyone was ever required to call or text coworkers to find a shift replacement on short notice. That was the manager’s job, always.

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      There are apps nowadays. We got one a few months before I left my last fastfood job and it was AWESOME. You could mark your shift as open and it would notify everybody who could take that role. It was the schedule too, which is way more convenient than the old way of posting it on the wall. No idea which app it was, but I believe there are several competing options available. I highly recommend getting one of them if it’s at all possible.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I work private security and we use one called Deputy. It does everything you describe there, though there are others.

        Though one thing to be aware of is that it will record the staff members location when clocking on or off a shift.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I’m always very wary of tracking software that records location, but recording location when clocking on or off a shift seems perfectly reasonable: the boss has a right to know where you are when you are working.

          1. Bilateralrope*

            Yeah. I’ve seen people fired because, despite the app showing your location on a map and the distance from your worksite, they still clocked on before reaching the site because they didn’t want to clock on late.

            A recent update removed that map for some reason. But the icon saying that it’s accessing location data still shows during the clock on/off process

      2. Be Gneiss*

        One of my kids works at a restaurant and they use an app for all of this. It works out great for finding coverage, and he likes being able to check and see if he can pick up an extra shift if his plans change. He also uses it to adjust his availability for scheduling. And he doesn’t need to give out his contact info to everyone, or have everyone’s number, or try to track someone down on instagram to ask them to trade shifts.
        However…the handful of times that he’s been sick or has been scheduled during a school commitment, he has called/messaged/texted his manager and told them, and they’ve found coverage for him. Which is a manager’s job.

      3. Pink Candyfloss*

        Totally agree. It’s bad enough asking anyone to find their own shift replacement. We don’t have to do that any more! We have the technology!

      4. Need More Sunshine*

        I work in food/retail and we use an app called 7Shifts – it’s so much more convenient than our old system of creating a schedule on excel and having everyone text each other for smaller changes! (Yes, unfortunately the bosses were still of the mind that employees should arrange their own coverage if it was a last minute change, but at least if the person was sick, their manager would do it for them.)

    2. Supermarketsweep*

      I work in a national supermarket chain in the U.K. and we have a shift tracking app thing where you can log in and see your shifts and any extra shifts you can sign up for, from that day to about a months time. You just click in the shift and it’s yours.

  4. JM60*


    I suspect that part of the reason some employers say things like that in a job description is to get certain intolerant people to self-select out. If a would-be candidate doesn’t want to work for an employer that “promote[s] people from all genders, ethnicities, and all levels of experience regardless of age,” then that employer is likely better off if they didn’t apply.

    1. scandi*

      And sometimes it is to get “points” while going through a diversity certification scheme of some kind.

    2. NerdyKris*

      It’s also to let people in old boy style careers know they’ll be happy there. For instance, women in tech are going to want a place that isn’t going to shove them into an office mom role while refusing to give them advanced work. A queer person is going to want to know if their office is going to be openly hostile to their existence. It helps bring in resumes from people that might otherwise be avoiding that career path entirely.

      1. DataSci*

        Eh. As a queer woman in tech I never take that sort of boilerplate seriously. It’s more like “the lawyers make us say this so we don’t get sued”. Not a sign of actual friendliness toward anyone and CERTAINLY not the “marginalized people have an edge” OP seems to think.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Same with disabilities. It’s just lip service a lot of the time. You often can’t tell until you get in and then it’s too late.

      2. She of Many Hats*

        I think you have to take the language with a grain of salt and some due diligence. Candidates can see from employers’ leadership pages how many are from marginalized groups, see how they talk about the company’s support of outside events or charities, who they bring in for VIP events, etc.

      3. Quill*

        I have been taking it as a good sign when I apply to a job and they ask you to specify your pronouns, or “chosen” or “preferred” name. Though I will admit that the time I had to sort through a 30 option list of genders was a bit clunky, given that they had some repeats. (And some failures of alphabetical order)

    3. ferrina*

      This, but also to signal that we are actively working on diversity initiatives. Sure, my company may historically have been a Good Old Boys Club, but in the five years, we’ve been working really, really hard to change that cultural legacy.

      My company includes this line because having a pipeline of diverse candidates is one of the metrics we use in our diversity goals. If we mostly interview straight cis white males, that’s who we’ll likely hire. But if we are interviewing qualified candidates from a wide array of demographics, we’re more likely to end up with a diverse workforce. Inclusion is more than just waiting for marginalized communities to come to us- it’s making ourselves actively welcoming so members of marginalized communities feel safe with us. We want our candidates to walk through the doors and think “yeah, I’ll be happy here”.
      Usually we also include a box on the application for candidates to self-identify if they belong to certain communities. This isn’t considered as part of their application materials and isn’t attached to the materials that the hiring manager gets. This box is solely for our own metrics so we can ensure that we are attracting a diverse group of candidates. If we aren’t, we need to revisit where we post the job or how we describe it or which recruiters we work with.

    4. Nina*

      I’ve seen ones that are worded as ‘we know people with marginalized identities (list of examples) are less likely to apply for a job where they meet less than 95% of the criteria, so we are asking those people especially to apply if they meet at least 50% of our hiring criteria’.

  5. Fikly*


    That kind of boilerplate language not only isn’t them inviting you to disclose your identity as a perk, it’s also not them actually showing any evidence of being a welcoming workplace. That’s them doing the bare minimum that is considered acceptable today to not be a red flag.

    For signs a company is actually a safe and welcoming environment, look for actions, not words. And no, ERG groups are not actions, they are at best useless and at worse, traps. Look, here’s a way for us to get all the minorities to identify themselves so we know who to target!

    1. Anonymous*

      Bad ERG groups are the worst. my employer literally throws them out for all problems. Like on an internal message board someone said something very sexist. Our “DEI” lead literally suggested he could “learn something by attending a ‘women in (company)’ meeting.” Like that was the formal response.

      1. WellRed*

        To be fair, it seems like in this case that sexist remark should have been addressed by the manager and/or HR.

        1. OrigCassandra*

          Agree. As my department’s current DEI lead, I don’t have any disciplinary authority whatever. If something like that happened and I took it on myself to raise cain with the responsible person instead of going through channels, I could expect to be in a world of hurt.

          That said, I would go in a “we don’t talk like that here” direction if I did see something like that — stating norms should be in-bounds for me.

      2. Seahorse*

        That sounds frustrating. If I’m in a group to support women, especially in a male dominated industry, then I don’t want to spend that time “educating” sexist men who won’t listen to me anyway.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Ding ding ding! Winner found!

          Existing in a male dominated industry is exhausting enough.

    2. PharmaKat*

      Also, if a company is larger than a few people, the company’s boilerplate language does not necessarily reflect the views of the hiring manager who has a final say in hiring decisions.

    3. Jopestus*

      What? Are you implying that lip service is not enough? Isnt that how companies have operated since forever?

    4. Garblesnark*

      These days when I interview for jobs I ask, “I see and appreciate [company]’s efforts for diverse recruitment. Can you tell me what [company] does to retain diverse talent?”

      The blank stares are INCREDIBLE. The startled glances to the other interviewers! The extended “uhhhhhhhhh”s. It’s what I live for now.

      1. Fikly*

        Another good one: Ask them about their inclusion efforts. You know, that forgotten I in DEI?

        Most of the time they stare at me in confusion and then ask me what I mean by inclusion.

        Answers I have gotten range from “well, everyone feels included!” to “we’re a small company, so we don’t have inclusion problems yet.” It’s wild.

      2. negligent apparitions*

        I was asked a stock diversity question at an interview in 2020 – (like, turn that question around – the interviewers wanted to know what I thought MY role would be in diversifying the company). I was surprised and excited he was asking…. until he made it quite evident that he could not have cared less about my answer.

      3. Silver Robin*

        Oooh my current workplace would absolutely have a good answer for that, but I also work somewhere where trying to hire only cishet white men would genuinely be difficult, hard to do only cishet white women too, but easier. We do a lot of work with various minority groups so members of said groups are interested in working here kind of thing.

        But! I am 100% writing that one down for future interviews, I *love* it.

      4. Chirpy*

        This, because I’ve definitely been places that said they were welcoming, probably thought they were if you asked, but had absolutely NO idea what “truly welcoming of diversity” actually looks like…and therefore, were not actually welcoming at all.

    5. SW*

      Yeah, it’s complete fluff. I had to explain to a friend who recently applied to a job at my university that it was just empty words that they are looking to hire nontraditional candidates. They’ll hire the candidate with experience in our field/specialty every time.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Well, they have to. If you have a diverse pool at the end of a search who also are fully qualified for the job, you can give preference to diversifying your workforce. But you can’t take protected class into account in hiring – not positively, or negatively.

        This language is usually meant to encourage that pool to be diverse, so that it’s more likely for the end candidates to be diverse. But hiring the person with experience in your field and specialty is what they’re legally required to do.

    6. Polar Vortex*

      I mean, I don’t know if it’s a bare minimum now a days given the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment, so they’re at least making a bit of a stand somehow….

      That being said I agree if they are planning on being out at work that they:
      a) Explore the company further online – mine has both the usual pride month stuff but also a lot of posts about the work it’s ERGs are doing and the company’s commitment to various causes (that they have put money and time behind) that impact marginalized groups
      b) Ask in the interview as some people mentioned. Even if the manager themselves are not involved, they should be able to speak to what is happening at the company, and what /they themselves do to support it./ Because that’s the big ticket there, I don’t expect all managers at my company to attend every ERG meeting (they don’t have the time in the day) but I expect them to give their employees time to attend, encourage the importance of the ERG work, and at least attend sporadically and to the big events.
      c) If they have contacts there, reach out and learn more. If there’s a shadowing/informal chat with a current worker, ask them about it. Get a feel for the culture. (Look at the office if it’s in office, see if they have gender neutral bathrooms, look for signs that support ERGs, etc.)

    7. The Baconing*

      You can also check the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) corporate equality index to see how companies score there. It’s a good indicator of actual inclusiveness.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      I see it as being really similar to “we support mental health” statements. As in, the company think they have to say that, and they might go as far as wearing a pin or putting something on Twitter, but generally you’re more likely to get hassled to drop everything and tank the figures relating to your role, right before annual reviews, so you can go do something meaningless for mental health awareness day (on Twitter) than to actually get your own mental health supported.

  6. takeachip*

    LW4, based on what you wrote (“more flexible departure plans”), it’s not clear to me that Jane formally gave notice and that everyone agreed on when her last day would be. Did she actually submit a resignation letter or otherwise commit to a specific end date, either in writing or verbally? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, did someone officially accept her resignation in writing with a specific end date noted? If the answer to all that is yes, when she offered to stay longer than originally planned, was she explicitly told that your organization wanted to abide by the original agreement and end her employment on X date? I’m asking because this is what it would take in my organization to ensure that Jane couldn’t just change her mind and stay longer. Your organization may have different policies and practices around what constitutes “resigning,” and the key question is whether those (if they exist) have been followed and consistently applied to Jane and the other recent resignees. If not, then if I were the manager, I’d consult someone who could advise me on the risk of basically trying to force her out under murky circumstances where she could easily claim that she hadn’t actually resigned if she wants to fight it.

    1. anna*

      Your company may have that amount of bureaucracy but usually if a person announces they are leaving and gives at least a general timeline….that’s a resignation and they can’t unilaterally decide they’re not leaving. There is no legal requirement that it all be in writing and signed on both ends. The letter says Jane originally announced she was going to leave next month.

      Obviously if the writer’s company has policies to the contrary that would change things but I’ve not worked anywhere that you would need the company to confirm your resignation in writing, you just let them know you’re leaving.

      1. takeachip*

        The risk I’d want to mitigate is the risk of a headache, not necessarily the risk of Jane successfully keeping her job or winning a lawsuit. I’d just want to get some advice from legal counsel or HR about the best way to get Jane out the door with a minimum of fuss and make sure I wasn’t accidentally tripping over myself. I work for a public employer so yes the bureaucracy is substantial, but to me it also just seems like a good practice to have clarity and documentation around end dates.

      2. Random Academic Cog*

        A colleague had a resignation letter emailed from an underperformer and was very thankful. No official acceptance was sent. When Susie Lackluster’s new job fell through, she rescinded her resignation. HR wouldn’t let my colleague terminate employment because there was no official acceptance on file. It’s a real thing.
        I have noticed Susie’s work improved significantly, so I suspect a stern conversation was had at least.

    2. LW4*

      I don’t know that they ask or require employees to give notice in writing here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. But I do know that Jane met with HR, the CFO, the CEO, and our manager in separate conversations to discuss her plans. She is also in the fortunate position of being able to leave full-time work and take some time to decide what’s next, rather than being on a timeline for starting a new job.

      I think especially with 50% of our small department gone and some pretty weak applicant pools over the last few years in my field, it’s a kindness to offer to stick around a little bit – but not indefinitely! We don’t even have somewhere for the new person to sit if Jane decides to claim squatter’s rights on her workspace.

      And yes – my manager, an otherwise very lovely human and very good at the non-management parts of her role, really struggles to be direct.

      1. takeachip*

        Yeah that puts you in a tough spot! Is there a way you could suggest to your boss that she take the reins a bit here and put something in writing to Jane, such as, “Based on our previous conversations about your plans to leave your position by the end of next month, we plan to begin the hiring process to replace your position on June 1. We appreciate your offer to stay on to assist with the transition if needed and have budgeted for your current position to extend as far as July 15.” This would clarify the situation for everyone and give Jane a firmer timeline with some flexibility. It creates a dividing line between Jane’s current role and the one that will be recruited for. The last sentence distinguishes between “you as a person who might be a good egg staying on to help” and “the budget that we have to pay people with which is obviously limited so we have to end this.” It’s not perfect but it seems like it would be better than the current wide open ambiguity. And it could also be a best practice for the future to balance having some flexibility with end dates & the need for the organization to manage timelines.

    3. *kalypso*

      I’m getting the sense that Jane is one of those people who is worried about leaving a disaster in their wake, is sensing the disorganisation about replacements, and is just like ‘I can help if you need’ and maybe needs to set boundaries, but isn’t necessarily going ‘oh I suddenly need to keep my job!’ about it.

  7. MSteacher*

    As a teacher, I can’t help but laugh at #2. I’m interrupted every two minutes, not by my boss but by twelve year olds who THINK they’re my boss. You learn to handle interruptions quickly without losing your momentum. Good luck, OP!

    1. Jill Swinburne*

      I think of how stand up comics handle hecklers. Usually they have a few choice responses that work for most garden-variety heckling (but obviously you need to be less rude to your boss!)

      1. English Rose*

        Many years ago, the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson was interrupted by a heckler shouting “Rubbish”. Wilson responded calmly “We’ll get to your special interest shortly sir”. I always enjoyed that story.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          A French politician was once interrupted by a guy shouting “Death to all jerks”, to which he suavely replied “That’s a far-reaching programme”.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            Both of these are glorious, but unfortunately WAY better to use on a random heckler than your boss.

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*

              No, I can see using a version of “that’s a far-reaching program/possibility” over something ridiculous with my boss. Granted I have a good boss who would read it as “yeah, that’s a bit much” which would be my intent.

            2. Venus*

              I think there are bigger problems if a boss is yelling “Death to all jerks” during presentations! And I think the response is perfect for anyone who were to say such a thing, including their boss.

    2. Allonge*

      Totally see your point!

      Just to say that the issue for me as someone with a boss similar to OP2’s would be that I expect my boss to participate in a meeting more with the clients in mind and not as an enthusiastic audience member. So interruptions should be limited to essential-in-that moment info, like correcting me if I say something costs 60k when it’s 16k.

      In a reasonable relationship with boss this should be something that can be discussed – it’s not out of line to expect that managers have some level of impulse control.

      And I don’t mind interruptions! But it would feel weird to be presenting something, on behalf of my team presumably, and for boss to be ‘oh, but’.

    3. CityMouse*

      Back in high school debate it actually wasn’t uncommon for our coach to interrupt us deliberately or throw balls of paper at us during practice.

      Lawyers actually have to be super comfortable with getting interrupted because of objections and judges asking questions (it really depends on the type of hearing/argument).

    4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Three months into my first corporate job, I gave a presentation on good security practices. I was 27, female, not shy but not yet particularly confident, either.

      The CEO at that company was… A Character. Just a little bit interpersonally weird. (Stuff like, he’d stand ~9″ too close to you in conversation, not that that’s relevant to this story.) In many ways a well-intentioned guy, certainly not trying to heckle. But he was extremely enthusiastic about the topic, and kept breaking in with anecdotes about how people had tried to hack his computer while he was traveling in Russia, and etc. It was like trying to give a presentation on dinosaurs with a 5-yr-old who was Very Excited about dinosaurs interrupting every 30 seconds. I wound up feeling like the CEO and I were co-presenting, without having practiced it.

      It was kind of stressful, and I do not recommend it, even to someone with teaching experience (which I have). But I got SO MANY compliments from my coworkers about how well I’d handled the CEO’s interruptions. All of which to say: while giving a presentation with someone like this in the audience is annoying, it is also an opportunity to show yourself to be someone who is classy, unruffled, and takes things in stride. Without those interruptions, my presentation would’ve been unmemorable. As it was, two years later my boss was still talking about “Hey, remember that time Cyborg co-presented with CEO with no warning?”

      1. ferrina*

        This is a really good point. If your audience knows your boss, they likely know that the boss tends to interrupt. They don’t see it as a reflection on you.
        (and well done on the surprise co-presentation! that sounds terrifying!)

        1. Momma Bear*

          Her being a known quantity has merit. Sometimes in a meeting my boss will pause and ask for questions and if someone brings up a point that he hasn’t gotten to yet he’ll just say, “Hold onto that. I plan to touch on that in a few slides” or “good question, but you’re getting ahead of me. Remind me of this when we get there.”

      2. mondaysamiright*

        Co-signed! I love this story and I had something similar to me happen recently. I had a speaking gig with a tough crowd a few months ago, and one guy in particular who could NOT STOP asking questions. Eventually, about 10 questions in and half way through my presentation, I told him I could tell he was passionate, and I’d be happy to stay after the event to address the rest of his questions one-on-one to give them all the attention they deserved, but I wouldn’t be taking any more of his questions during the presentation so I could get the rest of the group to lunch on time. I guess the rest of them were sick of him too, and several came up to me after to compliment me for how I handled him! (Oddly enough, he didn’t take me up on my offer to ask me more questions after the presentation…)

        OP, you’re a good public speaker and you’re pretty sure the boss will do it again, so handling the inevitable interruption in a professional way is just going to make you look better than you would have otherwise. Try to go into it with that mindset, and you’ll probably feel a lot less like stabbing your boss with a pencil when the time comes.

      3. Smithy*

        This is a really good point – at some point, if it’s a situation where a) someone is really off the rails and b) everyone else is professional then finding a composed or flat professional middle ground can still make a strong impression.

        A few years ago, I was leading a Zoom call to discuss a call for proposals being launched and the person presenting was pretty unpleasant. 5 minutes in, it was clear it was a proposal we wouldn’t be submitting but it was also the kind of call we couldn’t just end that fast either. Pretty quickly, most of my colleagues had turned off their video, but I kept mine on and did the assorted polite mmhm’s and “yes, that is interesting” for the requisite amount of time until we could thank him for his time and end the call. For ages, folks remember how professional I was, how good my poker face was, etc. All sorts of compliments.

        In the moment, it is not as satisfying as the Hollywood courtroom intellectual takedown or magic sentence that completely stops the unprofessional behavior, but regularly gets the job done and can get positive notice. Now, if these interruptions are causing professional harm (you are made to look bad in front of external parties and get negative feedback from your current employer for the result) – then that’s a greater concern. But it is worth stepping back and thinking if this is more irritating vs truly negative.

      4. OP 2*

        Yes! It was like this! I will be talking to a group that includes her about something she knows nothing about. It’s not like we would be co-presenting about anything to clients.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      For the OP, a response like – “We’re covering that topic on slide 13” might serve to shut the manager down or at least defer their interruption until later.

      Or “Don’t give away the punchline!!”

      1. Bookmark*

        Or, depending on your personal style and the formality of the occasion, something like “Yes, that part *is* exciting! I’m saving it for later to encourage everybody to stay awake [charming smile]”

  8. Heidi*

    Did anyone else think that LW2 got a college scholarship for crime scene investigation for second?

    I used to feel a lot of pressure to get through my talks exactly as I’d scripted, but I’ve gotten more used to fielding questions and interruptions over time. I figure that the audience is helping me to include the stuff they actually want to hear about. Even if I don’t get through all of my planned material, it’s usually fine in the end. Of course, some questions are more derailing than others, and I will say something like, “In the interest of time, I don’t want to go too far into that topic before I get a chance to present x, y, and z, but we should circle back to it during the Q&A.”

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Deflecting questions/comments is a definite skill that’s learned when giving talks.

      “That’s a bit technical to fit into the talk/I’ll move on so I can finish the material, but I’d be happy to discuss it more after the talk” for excessively technical questions or derailments or someone who just won’t shut up.

      “I”ll get to that later in the talk” for stuff you haven’t gotten to yet.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yes, I’ve used both:

        “That’s a good question, and I’ll address it in a few slides” and

        “Thanks for bringing up that point, and I’ll circle back to it in a few minutes”

        as “I’ll get to it later”-type responses. I find that after using them a few times, these responses roll easily off my tongue now and I am way less flustered by questions and comments in the middle of my presentations.

      2. negligent apparitions*

        Depending on my audience, I’ll also throw some humor into it to – “You’re stealing my material! I’ll get there!”

        1. Jojo*

          I’ve used, “Hey, spoiler alert!” a few times, followed by acknowledgement that I’ll be getting to that.

      3. Eldritch Office Worker*


        “That’s a little outside the scope of [restate scope] that I’m covering right now, but I will be happy to talk more about that one-on-one if you’re interested.”

        “Great question! I’ll be getting to that in just a minute.”

        “You’re a little ahead of me! But that’s coming”

        Practicing with these little polite redirections in your speech can be helpful so they become automatic.

        1. Ganymede*

          I would also recommend that after the first few times, you choose a phrase and just use it every time with exactly the same intonation. Not a snarky intonation, a mild, firm one. I lessens the reward for interrupting but is still gracious.

    2. TechWorker*

      Today is the first time I’ve ever heard of ‘forensics’ meaning ‘speech and debate’ events so yes I was pretty confused :)

      1. CityMouse*

        I did debate in high school and calling it “Forensics” is not uncommon. That’s what the “F” in the name of a bunch of debate organizations (CFL, National Forensic League, etc.)

          1. CityMouse*

            CFL stands for Catholic Forensic League and for whatever reason they ran all the Saturday fall debate tournaments jn the state I grew up in.

            What people also might not know is these tournaments include both what people might consider traditional debate (Lincoln Douglas, Extemporaneous Speaking, Policy,
            Student Congress ) but also the performative debate styles that were more theater kid stuff (Duo, Dramatic Performance, Oral Interpretation). I knew a guy from the debate circuit who is now on Broadway.

            1. Delta Delta*

              I used to do Broadcasting in forensics. It was great fun to get the copy, slice it up, write an editorial, and then deliver it like a news anchor in the span of 10 minutes. Low-risk adrenaline rush. And I was always very up on all the news stories because you never knew which headline was the editorial topic.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’ve never heard of those! Debate in my school was just debate team.

          Love learning random things here.

        2. mondaysamiright*

          Yep! Also, did you know the National Forensic League rebranded a few years ago? It’s now the NSDA, National Speech and Debate Association. Which is kind of a pity, because I used to be able to tell people I was an NFL coach! Ah well.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I think you still can if it was called that when you coached! I live for a loophole.

      2. PhysicsTeacher*

        It’s actually the older meaning of the term. Basically it comes from a Latin word that means that something is in public, so forensics = public speaking and forensic science = science that is publicly presented in court.

      3. My Cabbages!*

        Glad I wasn’t the only one who was wondering why CSI would be good at handling hecklers.

  9. Looper*

    LW1- there are way more advantages to having a Manger find coverage: you can negotiate the shift, offer incentives, have a complete view of the schedule and can flex shifts, etc etc. Even if the employee isn’t too ill to text, you’re creating a game of telephone (literally) wherein your middle person is already told you they aren’t committed to work that day. On top of that, you have no idea what the interpersonal relationships of these employees are like, don’t force them to contact one another on their private phones. I bet if you take this responsibility off of the calling-out employee and had a manager handle it, you’d have a way easier time getting coverage.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I think they’re great. I wish my old shift jobs had set up a coverage manger. I’m envisioning extra employees just hanging out back by a barn, waiting to be needed.

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      The point about managers having control over incentives and the overall flexibility of the schedule is key, and something far too many managers forget. I recently had a situation where a staff member let me know they were going to need day X off, which put us below minimum staffing. I had another person who I could have extend their shift, and we’d be okay for everything… but doing so meant I needed them to take another day, earlier in the week off.

      The problem arises that the two times weren’t equivalent. I needed them to work X+2 hours, and shift Y should have been 4 hours long. By law, I can’t have them work a 2 hour shift (minimum shifts are 3 hours where we live) – and they don’t want to commute for a shift that is shorter than four hours. I also can’t pay them more than X+Y hours * their rate for the pay period, due to business policies. As a manager, I was able to turn to them and say “Yeah, I actually can do without you working on day Y, but I absolutely need a body on day X, so if you can do this form me, I’m willing to pay you at double time for the extended hours.”

      None of my employees could have offered that – which is why I prefer to be the one finding coverage for them. I can do things to make the schedule workout that they can’t.

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly! As an employee, you really don’t have the same leverage. Or the reverse- you find someone that wants the shift, but they only want it because it puts them over 40 hours that week, then the manager gets mad at you (the sick employee) because you should have somehow 1) known that the coworker would be over 40 hours and 2) convinced them to swap shifts with you, when the only reason they would take your shift was for the OT.

        I would rather come in sick than try to play phone tag with coworkers.

    2. Melissa*

      Absolutely! I briefly worked in retail. When I got a text from a random coworker saying “Hey can you work for me Saturday?” It was basically an automatic No. But if my manager said “Can you come in Saturday?” it gave me the chance to say “Well yeah but only if I can swap for Sunday” or “I can cover 8-12 and I know that’s busiest but I’d have to leave after that” etc.

  10. fgcommenter*

    I’m undoubtedly fighting a losing battle on this one, but when someone is legitimately sick, it’s not reasonable to expect them to call around for coverage.

    Don’t despair; there’s plenty of doubt. The more bad behavior is called out and held up objectively so that its ridiculousness is clearly visible, the more people move away from it. It may be a slow “death by a thousand papercuts” change, but it happens. Look at the history of your blog and see the changes in what people accept as normal: two examples off the tip of my tongue are the move from “of course you should have to wear pantyhose” to “why should people be made to wear pantyhose?”, and the increased tendency to find it unreasonable to expect workers to be held to a strict time standard while those higher in the hierarchy blatantly ignore it. Even now, multiple posts consider this to be either unreasonable or at least work time that thus should be paid.

    Losing the battle is not a foregone conclusion. Your posts where you poke holes in the flawed logic of bad norms are some of your best, and I hope you can keep from feeling so defeated that you stop yourself from bothering to make more of them.

    LW2: “I have to finish giving the information in this part in order for that part to make sense.” worked for me. It showed that the order I was presenting the information had a basis in logic, and not personal preference; it made them feel less like their feelings on how it should go were merely running against someone else’s opposing feelings.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Point taken and appreciated! But I must make a very important correction to the record: there was never an “of course you should have to wear pantyhose” moment on this site! Unless I have repressed it from the trauma of it, but I don’t think I have.

      1. Zzz*

        Personally, I’m a big advocate of men’s fashion evolving to pantyhose-and-gradually-shortening-shorts as a necessary step towards the eventual shorts-no-hose!

        It would make men more comfortable in summer – and would cut down on the “men are more disadvantaged than women at work, because short skirts” complaints.

        Unfortunately, men’s fashion hasn’t entered the hose stage yet.

        1. Silver Robin*

          or men should just also wear skirts (kilts and skirt skirts). The breeze and the swoosh is so nice! ;P

          Honestly, I struggle to imagine office work professional shorts. Not sure if that is because they do not exist or because I just never see them in offices and would adjust once they became more common.

          1. Jezebella*

            One of the lawyers in my office wears those preppy bermuda shorts on days we don’t have clients. Like with a belt and a tucked-in shirt and loafers. It’s reasonably professional, IMO.

            1. Silver Robin*

              Ah, I can see that! Thanks for a reference. Shorts would still be surprising to me, but it is certainly an issue of adjusting norms and not, like, inherently weird.

              1. Calamity Janine*

                i would bet there’s also a strong element of regionality to this one – i’ve noticed with some other fashion styles, at least, how “but you must ALWAYS have these many layers or else you have FAILED” becomes, closer to the equator, very quickly “nah leave that off, it’s more important to not die of heat stroke lol”. when everyone is a bucket of sweat and misery, shock at short suits is often replaced with envy!

            2. Relentlessly Socratic*

              I remember the lawyer in Jurassic Park: Dear Martin Ferrero, trying his hardest to carry off a Shorts Suit.

        2. Phony Genius*

          Actually, I believe men’s fashion entered and exited the hose stage in the Middle Ages.

          1. Chirpy*

            Then we have to get into proper vs. scandalous tunic lengths to go with the hose….

          2. Calamity Janine*

            now we know the bent the column needs to take for Halloween this year – “prithee, Chancellor Alison, what advice have you for which codpiece will give the best impression unto the court of mine future leige…”

        3. Jack Russell Terrier*

          I remember seeing photos of British schoolboys wearing school uniform skirts during a heatwave. I think schools had made the uniforms ‘gender neutral’ so they could choose a skirt just as girls could choose trousers. I believe some did get in trouble.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I don’t think you did, but I can see the mistake because I think the tone of the commentariat on the issue has shifted quite a bit in the last 5-10 years.

        1. Mittens*

          There were some very yikes comments mentioning pantyhose on one of the (old) posts included in the professionalism round-up a couple of weeks ago, so those comments may be fresh in people’s minds. I knew the commentariat’s tone had definitely shifted but it was startling to see what people were saying here “only” 10 years ago!

  11. Artemesia*

    One of the most important skills for anyone doing public speaking is to learn to lean into a difficult audience member rather than show irritation or attempt to openly defend agains them. When it is your boss, probably even more important. If you show irritation or hand them the clicker to finish the presentation, you look insecure and petty. And for audience members who are not your boss, in a moment of friction, they are likely to identify with the audience member who is disruptive rather than you if you attempt to put them down. The examples Alison gave are great here.

    1. Beth*

      I personally loathe Arnold Schwartzengrabber. But he got hit with a raw egg during a speech many years ago, and rolled with it perfectly, and even I had to admire him for that. (Something about wishing they’d thrown some cheese as well so he could make an omelette, or something along those lines.)

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, you need to think of these situations as an opportunity to demonstrate how well you know your material, and how you handle conflict, the unexpected, and difficult people. Handing over the clicker would be saying “I give up” and that’s what everyone would take away from your presentation.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes to this. It’s a really important skill in the sciences (at least in academia/conferences) where there is always That Researcher (usually That Guy) who has “more of a comment than a question” and will attempt to dominate the room for the whole session.

        I have a vivid memory of a grad student (terrified) trying to give a presentation while her advisor and another senior professor got into an argument/pissing match and just talking all over her. (It was so miserable that several people faked getting paged to be able to leave the room and it only ended when another, more senior, professor needed the room.) The student was very junior so no one expected her to be able to re-direct Professor Questions (which is why her advisor stepped in, but then he started arguing rather than re-directing), but it showed us all the importance of being able to keep going when Professor Questions tried to derail.

    3. ferrina*

      Random memory- about 20 years ago my family was on an ecological tour with a couple other families and a boy named Walter (I still remember Walter vividly- he wore a yellow rain jacket and glasses). Walter was about 8 and had ALL. THE. QUESTIONS. He was a typical obsessed 8 year old who didn’t understand the concept of “other people are also on this tour”. The tour guide was amazing–he immediately altered his material to expect interruptions, knew when to answer the question for the whole audience and when to take a quick break to answer Walter quietly (the equivalent of letting folks read the slide while you say a couple sentences about the last question). He turned Walter from a hinderance to an asset. It was watching a peak athlete perform at top level.

    4. Random Dice*

      A really great comedian who turns audience interruptions into gold is Zoltan Kaszas.

      His A Man of Average Intelligence set is brilliant, but the grainier sets show him at peak heckler mastery – Someone Stole from my Yardsale

  12. Name*

    #5 – don’t disclose. When scheduling interviews, my goal is to have as little identifying information as possible. Most names will identify you as male/female. When I see you, I’ll likely be able to tell what race you identify as. Other than that, I want to know as little about any other protected class you may be in as possible. That way, I can honestly say that we did not discriminate in hiring. When they say they are about diversity, it’s a CYA. They don’t want to know until they need to present to government* or stakeholders what their employees look like.
    *Government because I have a report (EEO5) that I have to complete every 2 years that details our company’s rave and gender breakdown by positions. The instructions state that if I don’t know what ethnicity or gender you identify as, I’m supposed to look at you and make an educated guess. For some, how am I supposed to know whether they identify as a specific race or more than one ethnicity. It’s a pain.

    1. Hierarchy headache*

      Good advice. I have gone through blind screening before where I answered questions on my management style, important themes in our industry, etc, with all identifying information removed. The employer wanted to make sure that bias was removed early on. It’s not perfect but I liked that they had taken some reasonable steps to acknowlege and minimise inherent bias. They also welcomed applicants who didn’t meet all of the criteria, stating that some groups opt themselves out more than others so please apply. I work in a mission driven sector where, for some reason, because of the ethical/value driven nature of the work, people think they are not subject to bias. It infuriates me, because actually it has very severe representation issues which *are not* taken seriously; there’s a kind of halo effect of the original work that makes leaders think ‘oh we’re great people, we surely can’t be discriminating’

    2. tg33*

      AFAIR, my company sends out an anonomized questionaire once a year asking if you fall into any of a list of categories, and uses that info to say how many employees fall into different groups. I have been there over 20 years and haven’t heard of any problems with it.

    3. Mom2ASD*

      I’ve told my son who has ASD that since his awkwardness and discomfort with talking to people is going to be obvious in interviews, that he will be better off in the long run to tell people he is on the spectrum. He’s very obviously very high-functioning and is in university, but he struggles with eye contact, connecting with people, and is overall an awkward penguin in social situations. That’s always going to negatively affect him in interviews, and it makes sense for him to level the playing field as far as he can, since he IS diverse – just not visibly (as in race or physical disability, kwim?)

      It will be obvious that he’s different, so he might as well lean into it and tell people about his challenges (people are confusing, lives in a constant state of culture shock) and needs (clear expectations and instructions, someone who will help him navigate the unwritten social rules, a quiet environment in which to work), but also his unique superpowers (intense concentration, ability to learn/remember anything down to minute details, total reliability, amazing analytical skills and ability to interpret data, ability to predict 3+ steps ahead because he’s strategic, ability to work on 2 or 3 different mental tasks at once, fluency in higher mathematics — these are strengths specific to himself, of course).

      Managers who value diversity will be glad to have him on their team and will understand why he doesn’t interview well. Companies that prioritize diversity will want to at least consider him. As far as hiring managers who do not value diversity – well, he’s better off not working for/with them.

      1. Random Dice*

        Your son sounds really awesome. I love how your pride in him shines right through.

        I think that’s a great idea. I’d add a short addendum since too many people have bizarre notions about ASD.

        “I am on the autism spectrum. What that means is that I appreciate people using words directly, as I don’t pick up on hints or body language.”

        That’s not a full list of course – they don’t need it at this point – but it gives them specific things to do (that don’t involve speaking slowly or loudly), which can defuse the neurotypical awkwardness around autistic folks.

  13. takeachip*

    LW2, I’d do a combination of grey rock and broken record to deal with these interruptions. Just repeatedly say something generic and non-reactive, such as, “I’ll get to that” or even “sure” and continue exactly as planned. Like, literally the exact same boring phrase each time. This will get you through the moment and may help to extinguish the behavior by denying your boss the “reward” of putting the attention on herself or controlling the flow of your presentation. The repetitive phrasing may also help her realize how often she’s interrupting you and who knows, maybe she’ll feel motivated to change. As a proactive measure you could also send her an outline or a copy of your slides in advance; not far enough that she would have time to suggest edits but far enough that she can quickly look them over to see where you’re headed.

    1. DataSci*

      No. You’re going to get questions, and not just from this annoying coworker, so you need a way to handle them that doesn’t seem hostile. “I’ll get to that in a few slides” is fine if true, but “sure” is not. OP could start the talk by asking people to hold questions to the end, and then reminding people of that if they ask anyway.

      1. takeachip*

        This suggestion was specifically meant for handling OP’s boss, who is interrupting as a habit and not actually asking questions. She’s just interjecting and adding nothing to the discussion, and potentially derailing it. If you go back and read the examples OP gave of what the boss is doing, both “I”ll get to that” and “Sure” are relevant responses.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      If I got “oooh, tell them about this!!!” etc or other irrelevance that aren’t questions I would just wait for the interrupter to finish saying it and then continue as I was as if there hadn’t been an interruption. It doesn’t need a response or acknowledgement and the people being presented to will see that quite quickly.

      1. DataSci*

        LW #3, I’ll add that a very short stay like yours is clearly “this was a bad fit” and people won’t think twice. Staying for a year and then looking may be worse, if it means your last three jobs would have all been less than 2 and a half years – that could start to look like a pattern to some people.

      2. takeachip*

        Yes, I think that’s another good technique and probably better than my suggestion! The general idea is to not give the interruption any attention or power. I’ve occasionally used eye contact and a quick nod to let the interrupter know I heard them as I continue with what I was saying–so they don’t keep interrupting to repeat it. This is a tool for managing disruptive behavior, not for ignoring legitimate questions.

    3. seriously*

      that may work for internal meetings where everyone knows you and your boss, but for any meeting where you have to be the least bit charming, that sounds really off-putting

  14. nodramalama*

    Is Alison’s note for LW5 that preferences towards marginalised groups not being legal always correct? I will note that I am not American so maybe this only applies where I live, but I know that organisations I have applied for or have been involved in have recruitAbility, affirmative measures and special measures in recruiting that are designed to specifically target and look to try employ people of marginalised groups.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, it’s federal law in the U.S. It’s legal to make special efforts to generate applications from marginalized groups (for example, having a strategy of advertising at HBCUs, or to groups like the National Association of Hispanic Journalists or Out in Tech in so forth) so that you have a more diverse candidate pool to choose from, but employers cannot make the actual decision of who to hire based on protected characteristics like race, sex, etc.

      1. nodramalama*

        Can it be used at the application stage to decide who to interview? I believe that’s how its often used in Australia- as a tool to interpret resumes and applications, which is why applications will sometimes have an option to indicate if they are .e.g. “an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person”

        1. Observer*

          Can it be used at the application stage to decide who to interview?

          Nope. You are not allowed to use factors like gender, religion, race, etc. in any employment related decision, unless you have a well defined and accpetable “BFOQ” (Bona Fide Operating Qualification). IOW you would need to show a specific reason for needing someone of that demographic.

        2. MsSolo (UK)*

          In the UK it usually relates to interviews, too. Where I used to work was signed up to a disability scheme where if you disclosed a disability (physical or otherwise) and your application met the minimum required scores you were guaranteed an interview, even if otherwise the standard of applications was high enough they’re only interviewing the top 10. Didn’t guarantee success, but made sure the interview pool had the potential to be more diverse. Same rule also applied for internal applicants who were at risk of redundancy.

        3. Bookmark*

          While you can’t make a decision on who to interview based on protected characteristics, you can make the determination that you need to reopen the position/restart the process etc based on the totality of the pool of qualified candidates. So, for example, if you were hiring for a position and HR noticed that the only people who applied that meet the minimum qualifications are white men, they could make the decision to keep the application period open and do additional recruitment to ensure that the pool as a whole was more diverse. Most of the time there’s a defined procedure for this, so it’s not left up to individual hiring managers.

          1. Observer*


            And in a case like that a company should probably also give a more general look at how they are recruiting so that this doesn’t become a pattern.

        4. NerdyKris*

          You can’t use it to determine who you interview, but the point is to get a more diverse hiring pool, which leads to a more diverse company just based on the demographics. The more diverse the pool you’re pulling from, the more diverse your employees are going to be. You want the people that would normally not be throwing their hat in the ring to be up for consideration.

          A great example of this is the tech industry, which has so many problems with tech being developed by people with a very specific background and ending up unusable by large swaths of the population, because nobody from those groups was around to point out the issue. Automatic sensors not seeing dark skin, facial recognition seeing all asians as the same, products that only work in large stand alone houses, etc.

      2. word nerd*

        So I’m curious with something like, say, KPMG’s DEI commitments, which they spell out on their website ( It includes a “50% increase in our Black and Hispanic/Latinx workforce.” I mean, isn’t that preferring those ethnicities? I suppose you could try to say that they’re just trying to increase their pipeline and being exposed to more diverse interviewees will mean that they will naturally also hire more diverse people, but wouldn’t you think that if they have two equal candidates of different races that they are likely to prefer the underrepresented one to meet their goals?

        1. DataSci*

          No, because the white man who didn’t get hired would sue them into the ground. They get there by doing recruiting differently and perhaps by changing what they consider “qualified” – not preferring people with degrees from certain universities, for instance. Or by removing names from resumes before screening, so that identical resumes with Jeff vs Jamal as the name no longer get treated differently.

          Honestly, this “minorities have it so good” fiction drives me batty.

        2. Observer*

          It includes a “50% increase in our Black and Hispanic/Latinx workforce.”

          No. Not at all. I think that @DataSci is reacting so negatively to your comment, because you have the answer yourself and just dismiss it out of hand, with absolutely no basis.

          I suppose you could try to say that they’re just trying to increase their pipeline and being exposed to more diverse interviewees will mean that they will naturally also hire more diverse people,

          Why “suppose” and “try to say”? Why not accept that this is EXACTLY one of the methods that smart companies use? You know, things like broadening which colleges you recruit at, where you place job ads, etc.

          But also, looking REALLY hard at what you *actual* needs are vs what you are requiring. And looking equally hard at your internal culture and how your under-represented groups are treated.

          That matters because you can have the best “pipeline” but if you keep on losing good people, you’re not going to be able to really change your numbers.

          1. word nerd*

            I don’t really get the hostility here. I support diversity in the workplace, and I’m a POC. Sure, all those methods mentioned by you and DataSci are good for increasing diversity, but I’m just speculating that these companies that have these goals and are trying to increase the numbers of women or certain ethnicities in companies and leadership positions may also use some affirmative action along the same lines as what some universities do, even if it’s not explicit.

            1. word nerd*

              i.e. The same as what other people are talking about in some of these other countries. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, just that I find it interesting that technically U.S. federal law prohibits using race in these decisions, and wonder if that’s really true in practice at some companies.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                I really don’t think they have to, and they might struggle to actually do that even if they try. Most studies show that simply by removing names from resumes increases the chances of hiring someone more diverse. As in, people who really, really want to be unbiased and hire diversely are still unconsciously biased towards the same old categories if they can guess their gender or ethnicity. However if they simply remove that distraction and focus on qualifications and experience… poof! More diverse workforce without even trying to positively discriminate.

                1. word nerd*

                  I do think it’s cool how orchestras who do blind auditions suddenly get more diverse, and I agree that stuff like removing names from resumes is a good thing to do. But I’m sure biases come into play once you have interviews, and there’s all the systemic stuff that’s worked against underrepresented groups from birth (and maybe even in the womb!) before the interview to reduce the number of qualified applicants compared to the percentages in the general population. So yeah, there needs to be a lot in place to really achieve more diversity and keep those numbers.

            2. Retired Accountant*

              I agree with your speculation, and the aforementioned “white man who did not get hired” would have a difficult time “suing someone into the ground”. In the real world, people hire who they want to, and there is always something to distinguish candidates aside from belonging to protected groups.

              But companies who have that goal are most likely trying to diversify their applicant pools and examining their workplace practices as well.

        3. Joron Twiner*

          I think that kind of thinking is one common way these well-meaning diversity initiatives can fail. Clueless managers/HR think “let’s hire X as a diversity hire!” or biased coworkers think X was hired to fill a quota rather than for their skills (or maybe even X themself feels like they’re more valued for their demographic data than their skills!)

          I guess the good news (said cynically, ironically) is that racism/sexism/etc. is still alive and well, so the push to hire people because of their race meets the push to not hire those people because of their race. Maybe even if you execute this kind of DEI poorly, those two forces cancel out?

      3. Jack Russell Terrier*

        For non-Americans: HBCU stands for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      It is legal in Europe, at least for sex/gender! Job postings, especially for the public sector, often include words to the effect that women with equal qualifications will be preferred. It’s theoretically even enforceable in the public sector (though qualifications never being truly equal, it does leave a lot of room for interpretation).

      There’s are even EU directives about this. The one I found is for director level positions and states: “when choosing between candidates who are equally qualified in terms of suitability, competence and professional
      performance, priority is given to the candidate of the underrepresented sex”. Unfortunately they haven’t caught up with the concept of gender as a thing beyond a sex binary yet.

      For the record, I think this is generally the right idea. We are still in the “reaching balance” stage of gender equality, breaking up old boy’s clubs, getting women/nonbinary people in positions of power where they can pull others up behind them, etc. Just making everything equal on paper will mean progress to real equality will be asymptotic and we will never actually reach it. There has to be a temporary asymmetric force to push towards equality, or we’ll never get it.

    3. TechWorker*

      Affirmative action is also (sort of) legal in the U.K. – it’s basically that if you have two otherwise equal candidates, you’re allowed to pick the one that increases the diversity of your company.

      1. Healthcare Manager*

        Seconding that it’s legal in UK. At a previous work place it was literally called a ‘diversity contract’ (yes, horrible name) and termination rules were different too.

  15. Observer*

    #1 – coverage

    Depending on specifics, there actually may be a problem with requiring your employee to prove that she tried to get coverage. There are localities (eg NYC) that require employers to provide some number of days of paid sick leave . (In NYC it’s 3 days.) Two things to keep in mind with these rules. Firstly, generally you *may not* require a doctor’s note for these occurrences, and it may be illegal to ask for a doctors note for one-two days sick leave even beyond the minimum paid leave required by law. Also, you are not allowed to do anything that would keep a person from legitimately taking that time. That would definitely include requiring someone to find their own coverage. If push came to shove, you could probably get away with “asking”. But if you are going to make people prove that they tried, that goes beyond asking and could become a big problem.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      One thing about getting the employee to find coverage: it does depend I think on the reason for needing coverage: if the employee is sick, I agree that the manager should be the one dealing with the problem: the employee is in no fit state to be phoning round.
      If it’s simply that the employee has been invited to a party on a Saturday night, then the manager might well think, damn finding someone else is gonna be tough. Jane, I’m sick of rescheduling everyone, if you think you can swap shifts with Fergus or whoever, fine, but you have to have your replacement message me to confirm they’ll turn up on Saturday before I can approve this.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        Nope, it should still be the manager’s job, regardless of the reason the person needs to miss their shift. It’s petty and immature and somewhat revenge-adjacent to force a manager’s work onto a minimum wage employee just because they want to have a personal life outside of work.

        I managed a library for a couple of years. Making sure there were enough people scheduled to cover all of our service points was my job. It was not the job of my minimum wage staff. I was the person who knew how many hours people could work, I was the one who had everyone’s availability forms to know who’s likely to be able to cover, none of that work was something that a sick worker should be expected to handle.

        And sure, if you’ve got somebody frequently calling out at the last minute for non-emergency reasons, you should absolutely address it, but that conversation needs to be entirely separate from finding coverage.

        1. doreen*

          I think that depends – when I had that type of job, the schedule was not set in stone. There were changes every week based on requests for days off , so I could have a personal life – it was no problem to request the day off when I was invited to a party on a Saturday three weeks from now. The times I had to find my own coverage was when I was scheduled for a day that I was normally available and I didn’t request that date off before the schedule was made – for example, I was available Fridays, usually worked Fridays and decided after the schedule was out that I didn’t want to work this Friday. I don’t really think that’s out of line but it’s very different from expecting someone who can’t work and who couldn’t make advance arrangements to find their own coverage.

        2. Shan*

          I’d say there’s a pretty big difference between needing to miss their shift, and wanting to. When I was a supervisor at a cinema a million years ago, if Norah called in sick for her evening shift, sure, I’d have no problem being the one to call other employees, or I’d just deal with her absence. But if she called in because she wanted to go to a party – sorry, no. In that case, either you find someone to take your shift, or you come in. I don’t think it’s at all petty or immature to expect an employee to try to find coverage in that case.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yes, coverage for an emergency or illness should be the boss’s job. Coverage for “I have something better to do” or “I don’t wanna” should be the employee’s job. And if the employee doesn’t find someone to take their unwanted shift, they should be expected to work it anyway. But not if they are ill.

  16. Hierarchy headache*

    I had a similar situation to number #2, where a coworker became the manager of a small team. Not my team, but my team and hers worked closely together. After promotion, she seemed to need to assert herself early and take control in other people’s presentations. My report was giving a presentation on some work that she’d been leading, and in the first two minutes the new manager bulldozed her, talking for 5 minutes about what my report should or should not be doing and saying (before there’d been a chance to say anything…). My report was flustered but maintained grace, and kept going, with continued interruptions and directives. It was the end of a very long day and I stepped in to defend my report’s work in a more irritable manner than I’d have ideally liked… and then got feedback in my annual review that I need to be less frustrated with people. You can’t win.

  17. nnn*

    Potential scripting for #2:

    When your boss says “Tell them about the llamas!” You can say “Llamas! That’s my boss’s favourite part!” in a tone that suggests you’re confiding in the audience about the reason for your boss’s outburst while also suggesting that the llamas are in fact the good part.

    Then you can say, “To understand the llamas, first we have to talk about standard deviations, super quick”. Then return to the standard deviations you were just talking about, and continue your presentation at the normal pace.

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      “To understand the llamas, first we have to talk about standard deviations…”

      Does this presentation also have llama lemmas?

    2. Windy Village*

      I had someone interrupt my presentation in this way one time, and in the moment my response came out as “Shhh! Spoilers!”, with a wink at the interrupter, and then continue the presentation. I was pretty embarrassed afterwards, but it turned out that people thought it was funny and well-handled, and also that the person had a history of doing this so everyone just rolled their eyes at them for it.

    3. negligent apparitions*

      Love this scripting. I mentioned upthread that using light humor (not disparaging!) followed by affirmation is a tactic I use often for interruptions.

      1. pally*

        Me too! Probably good to have multiple “come backs” for the interruptions. OP will come off looking good to the audience, demonstrating their ability to think fast with each riposte.

  18. Dark Macadamia*

    LW1, how would proving she asked for coverage help you at all? It still could’ve resulted in being understaffed.

    This sounds more like a way to discourage people from missing work than an effective strategy for finding coverage when they do.

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Because it is. Generally someone who wants to resort to this is required to work (at no additional pay) if coverage can’t be found.

      The problem is that instead of realizing this is meant to incentivize managers to make good and robust schedules, many managers are incompetent and thus find it easier to penalize people in hopes that the problem will go away.

    2. Observer*

      This sounds more like a way to discourage people from missing work than an effective strategy for finding coverage when they do.

      It sounds that way, because that is EXACTLY what it is.

      If you give a look at the linked letter “should I ask my employee to find her own coverage for sick calls?”, that OP explicitly says that one of the reasons they “ask” staff to find their own coverage is to discourage them from taking time off.

  19. Irish Teacher.*

    LW2, while this doesn’t really change the situation, it might help to think about it a bit differently. I may be wrong but it doesn’t sound to me like your boss is trying to coach you or like she doesn’t think you are good at public speaking. It sounds more like she is really engaged and just got carried away responding, especially as you say she has impulse control issues. Or possibly like she meant it as encouragement/showing her interest.

    Obviously, I wasn’t there but to me, it sounds more like enthusiasm, “that’s really interesting, tell us more” than an attempt to fix the speech.

    1. Green great dragon*

      I think even if your boss is trying to coach you, it’s helpful to you to take it in the best possible way, and get used to just cheerfully noting that you’re getting to something (bonus points if you can specific slide x), or if it’s not covered that you weren’t planning to cover it today but would be happy to do a follow-up another time. Honestly, it comes over as a bit of insecurity to me – worried about the reflection on her if the presentation doesn’t meet her view of what it should.

    2. SarahKay*

      LW2, it might be worth trying something light-hearted like “Boss, no spoilers!” in a cheerful and slightly-faked-shocked tone of voice. It makes it clear to the boss that you’ve got that bit coming up, and shows the rest of the audience that you’re relaxed and in control.

  20. Cabubbles*

    LW1 I’m in retail so I get it. I never have sick employees find their own coverage. I do have team members attempt to find coverage for short notice semi- voluntary absences; ie I can’t work this Friday it’s prom. When I request that they attempt to find coverage I always end the conversation by reminding them to talk to me the day before the absence regardless if they find someone. In short never have your employees find they’re own coverage for same day absences.

    1. allathian*

      I worked in retail for nearly a decade, starting when I was 17. I never had to find coverage for my shift if I called in sick, but the chances of getting a shift changed were better if I found coverage for it myself when the shift was already posted. My employer always posted shifts three weeks in advance, and if I asked my store manager not to assign a shift to me on a particular day because I had something else planned, I can’t remember her ever assigning me a shift I wasn’t available for. I pretty much organized my social life around work, anyway. But I was almost always willing to do someone a favor and take their shift if they had something planned, to ensure that they owed me a favor if I ever wanted to change my shift at fairly short notice.

  21. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

    LW4, you don’t have a Jane problem so much as you have a manager problem.

    1. LW4*

      I wish you were wrong. :) I’ve worked for her for over a decade and I like her very much as a person, but she does struggle as a manager.

      I’ve probably been here too long already, but I am in a situation where I’ll be forced to repay a very substantial amount of tuition assistance if I go within the next two years, so I’ve been trying to find ways to poke at the next rung on the ladder and make some room for myself. We’ll see what happens.

  22. Called Birdy*

    #5 What about when the job application asks the candidate to disclose a marginalized identity in the optional section of the form? Is it in the candidate’s best interest to do so? I’ve seen one employer ask and specify sexual orientations (San Francisco). Despite there being a long list of protected classes, I feel like some protected classes are more protected than others, and will vary regionally and according to the employer’s values.

    1. Green great dragon*

      For our very large firm, answers to these questions will be separated from the hiring process and used to produce stats about success rates etc by protected characteristic. So there shouldn’t be any impact on the candidate at all, and they should never be linked back to to you personally.

      I understand this is the norm for how they’re supposed to be used. Though, as ever, ‘should’ is different from ‘will happen every single time’.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      Every hiring manager and recruiter I’ve ever seen address this question says that information is legally required to be separate from the rest of your application and has no impact – positive or negative – on whether you receive an interview. It’s just deidentified and reported out as indicated in the disclaimer above those questions in the application. It has no effect on any interests you have.

      I would like to address the spirit of your question though. I would say that disclosure of protected information is a personal decision, but you should consider whether you strategically want to disclose. I stopped flat ironing my hair for interviews when I decided that I did not want to work for a company that thought my natural hair was unprofessional. I started listing my involvement with LGBT organizations on my LinkedIn and (when relevant) on my resume because I decided that I didn’t want to work for an employer that was homophobic or transphobic. YMMV based on where you live, how common discriminatory beliefs are, and how badly/quickly you need a job to survive. But if you have the luxury of being a little choosy, it’s a nice way to screen out the worst of the worst.

    3. Tiger Snake*

      There are specific types of marginalised identity that may allow for special accommodations during the recruitment/interview process (depending on what type of company you’re applying for).
      But I feel like that’s the sort of thing where if you were part of that group, you’d already know from the people around you and therefore be comfortable including it?

      The best example that comes to mind is, if you’re applying for a government job and you’re a Torres Strait Islander, they would like you to disclose that – because of the specifics of those cultures, the interview stage is especially difficult to perform, so they make sure you have a liaison who attends the interview and can advocate for you if those specific clashes come up.

      1. Random Dice*

        I didn’t know about Torres Strait Islanders, and how they are distinct from Australian Aboriginal indigenous people.

        Why is the interview so likely to cause clashes, and what kind? Do they need translators from Creole? If you’d be comfortable expanding, I’d be interested to learn.

  23. Trinity Maddux*

    for LW1, not only take Allison’s advice, but consider some other points. asking your employees to find coverage means all your employees have each other’s personal numbers. And not every person will use that information correctly. I’ve had creepy coworkers that I wouldn’t trust to have my number. And people do change their phone numbers; often, they don’t think about telling their contacts that they have updated their numbers.
    I also want to point out that Emily could have reached out to Sam, and his phone was off. call my phone when it is turned off, and unless you leave a voicemail that I check, I won’t know you called.
    2nd point: just because Emily’s boyfriend was also out doesn’t mean she wasn’t sick. If they live together, they could both be sick. Or she is sick, and he called out to take care of her. Or he called out entirely separate of her being sick.
    Like Allison said, if you are having issues with Emily missing work, discuss that with her. But, don’t require her or any other employee to prove that they actually tried to find coverage

    1. Tiger Snake*

      > Emily could have reached out to Sam, and his phone was off

      Or, Emily has the wrong number, of Sam didn’t recognise Emily’s number and blocked her, or a million other things.

      I personally have a really simply logic to this: if you aren’t going to trust your employees when they tell you they reached out to find coverage, then you need to do it yourself. At the end of the day, an employee trying to find coverage should be a favour to their manager by saving them some effort. A favour. The person who’s responsible for making sure a shift has enough personnel is still the manager.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      I remember when one of my old phones was on its way out, one issue it developed was that it could take up to a week to let me know I had a voicemail. If I actively checked it before that, I could get them, but if I had no reason to know anyone had left me a voicemail, I might not have done so. If I’d been the Sam in this situation and Emily had left me a voicemail at the time, it would have been quite easily possible that I wouldn’t have picked the message up in time to do the shift.

      There are so many things that could have happened here that don’t involve Emily lying:
      1) Technology fail meaning Sam never got the message,
      2) Emily has out of date contact details for Sam and tried the wrong number,
      3) Sam chose not to do the shift, but on realising how angry OP was at the time, decided to try and cover their own back by claiming never to have received a message,
      4) Emily contacted someone else first and was under the impression they would do it. Thinking it was resolved, she didn’t think she needed to contact Sam.

      It really could have been anything.

  24. Call Me Wheels*

    LW5 – I hate those sort of boilerplate ‘applications from these marginal groups are welcome’ boilerplate things. In my experience it’s easy to give lip service to wanting disabled candidates but that rarely actually correlates to attempts at accessibility being made in the application process. I imagine it doesn’t necessarily correlate to support for other marginalised groups being in place either.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      *nods* Everyone wants disabled candidates until they have to ‘deal with’ a disabled employee.

      1. I have RBF*

        Yeah, like the companies that say they want diverse employees, but have cognitive tests as a pre-screening, which screen out a lot of intellectual disabilities like dyslexia, short term memory issues, TBI, color blindness, and all sort of ND groups.

  25. Dovasary Balitang*

    The asexual tangent in L5 is a bit odd to me. I’m not sure how it contributes to the rest of the letter. But I will say, as someone in that demographic, I would never announce it in the workplace, even to take advantage of diversity and inclusion practices, because the ignorant questions are exhausting and never ending.

    1. Junior Dev*

      I don’t think it’s meant to disparage asexual people—it’s saying that it’s less likely to come up in the sort of casual conversation that happens in a work context. Like, people will mention their spouse or partner which gives some clues to their sexual orientation, but there’s no equivalent in terms of things that naturally come up in conversation that would let someone know you’re asexual.

      1. English Rose*

        Yes, I think it’s just meant as an example of something that won’t come up naturally. Like if a queer person is single, references to their partner’s gender won’t be part of everyday conversation.
        I’m sorry about the ignorant questions you experience, Dovasary Balitang!

      2. My ex-girlfriend was a [insert as relevant]*

        For us monogamous bi folks, casually mentioning one’s spouse in conversation is more likely to lead to misidentification, because people assume a permanent monolithic sexuality based on current partner. Like to an astonishing extent, and especially if said partner is different gender to oneself so aligning with hetero norms. They’ve heard of the B but are unable to process it. So if I don’t wish to be misidentified, it’s necessary to somehow drop not only my current partner but past ones into conversation. (I’m hoping this is a middle aged person problem, and the younger generations are a bit more flexible in their assumptions…)

        1. bamcheeks*

          This is an assumed-monogamous bisexual problem too, unless you’re comfortable going into a *lot* of detail about how you spend your spare time. :-)

      3. DeeJay*

        Exactly. I’m an ace who’s not out at work because as Dovasary Balitang says, I don’t feel like getting bombarded with questions like whether I’m a virgin or how I know I just haven’t met the right person yet.
        The only time the subject’s even come close to coming up was when someone asked if I was seeing anyone, I said no, they said “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone” and I just refrained from replying that I didn’t want to.
        If my colleagues really thought about it, they might say “In all the time we’ve known you, you’ve never mentioned any kind of partner, or even ex-partner. That’s an awfully long dry spell. What’s up with that?”. But so far they never have and I continue to fly under the radar.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Also ace, and the idea of being out at work (or really pretty much anywhere) gives me the screaming vapors, because there is no way to talk about being ace without it being intrinsically linked to sex. All of the other identities (that’s not a good word but I’m not sure what is more correct) under the umbrella have non-sex-related aspects – you can talk about your life and incidentally mention your partner without it being about sex, but you cannot talk about being asexual without explicitly telling people about your (lack of) sex life. And absolutely nothing about one’s sex life belongs at work.

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            Yeah, the weird thing about asexuality is that because its defining characteristic is a negative definition, in order to talk about it you have to talk about the thing that it’s not. (And which you may be extra-predisposed to not want to talk about At. All.)

            1. wordswords*

              Yeah. It’s a thing I wouldn’t mind being more out about, but there’s really no way to talk about it in most contexts without it feeling like, “Hey! Wanna know about my sex life?? It’s that I don’t have one and don’t want to!!” Because I’m married to someone of the same gender, that part of my queerness is really easy to casually drop in conversation (which I know is not always the case for queer people in other situations), but this part, which is equally important to me, is mostly unspoken.

              Hardly the end of the world, as closeting issues go, but it’s awkward nonetheless.

            2. MadCatter*

              Just seconding this. I’m ace (not out – to anyone, because it just feels awkward for me to announce and at this point literally no one asks me if I have any kind of dating life), and while it’s a big part of my internal identity, it kind of stays there. It makes it more difficult because there are some people that don’t feel we should be considered part of the LGBTQIA+ community (despite the acronym), and putting yourself out there for rejection is difficult.

              All this to say – I kind of appreciate ace being used in this example because I don’t see it often.

              1. Verthandi*

                Another ace here: I’m far enough out that I’ve been on panels with other aces to talk about asexual issues, including invisibility. Nobody at work, and even most of my family, knows that about me because it just never comes up.

                As for the people who don’t consider us part of the queer community, several Prides ago, one major retailer had Pride merch prominently displayed. They really missed the mark with shirts for the employees. They spelled out the acronym and A was for Ally.

                1. DataSci*

                  Ugh, I’m sorry! No, allies, we love you, but you’re not part of the community and not part of the acronym.

                2. Dovasary Balitang*

                  I’m super curious about these panels! Are you comfortable / willing to provide more information?

                3. I have RBF*

                  That always frosts the hell out of me.

                  Ace is actually the most misunderstood of all the identities. People understand all the sexual attraction (GLB) and gender binary stuff (M2F, F2M), and maybe non-binary genders. But they don’t get people who just… don’t want to do sex, by choice. Then of course there are the different flavors of ace, which are confusing enough to me, that have most people’s eyes glazing over when you try to explain them.

                  But ace is an identity that actually gets closeted the most, to the point that even people in the LGBT+ community erase it.

                4. Dahlia*

                  @I have RBF

                  You do actually have a misunderstanding in your comment, even. Someone being ace doesn’t tell you anything about their sex life. Asexuality is not feeling sexual attraction, feeling very little sexual attraction, or only feeling it under certain circumstances. Some aces have sex, some don’t.

                5. Verthandi*

                  Ran out of nesting. To answer your question, Dovasary Balitang, these were panels at a queer-friendly sci-fi convention. Most of the time we talked about how asexuality relates to fiction, but real world science such as space exploration comes up, too.

              2. Chirpy*

                This, because especially if you’re a heteroromantic ace, you’re not always “queer enough” for LGBTQ+ spaces, but straight people just think you’re broken.

            3. Anonymous 75*

              exactly. and that defining characteristic is something that a great many people in society across a lot of sexual preferences, think of as intrinsic to being a human. I’m not “out” really but those who do know I’m asexual more than a few (wierldly its mainly younger queer friends) have very emphatically told me that no sexual attraction/desire is not normal.

              1. I have RBF*

                I’ve heard that all my life, from gay, straight and trans people. I figured, for decades, that I was just broken and I just needed to live with it.

                The first time I heard about asexual as an identity it was like “Oh, cool, there’s a word for it! It’s not broken and abnormal and needing to be fixed.”

                1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

                  Interestingly, at least 80% of the YA fiction I’ve seen that deals with asexuality (on the plus side: there’s fictional rep now!) treats it like an unwelcome medical diagnosis. Whereas most of the people I actually know are somewhere between, “Whatever, I knew that already” and “OH GOSH THIS IS A THING AND THERE’S A WORD FOR ME AND I’M NOT BROKEN.”

          2. Anonforthis*

            I am an old. I’ve been married 20+ years and it’s only in the last few years with new vocabulary that I’ve realized I’m demisexual and my spouse is very close to asexual. (Not aromantic). There’s absolutely no one I could trust to talk about this even in my personal life, forget work!

            1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

              It’s only within the past year that I realized that one of my close, parent-age friends, who I had always assumed to be a lesbian, is probably asexual. (She doesn’t identify as such, because she didn’t even know it existed until we talked about it, but I shared with her a piece I was going to present at church, and her reaction was, “OH! That’s what it was always like for me and M—-.”)

            2. Demi and ace*

              Solidarity – that describes my situation exactly too. Fortunately it works for us, but absolutely no one outside our bedroom has any idea, and no plans for that to change.

            3. I have RBF*

              I’m old too. I actually married my spouse after we both realized that we were both ace but wanted the affection and companionship. This year is our 10th anniversary, and we had a friendship/relationship for at least 20 years before that.

          3. Giant Peach*

            At my last job, the LGBTQ ERG gave a lunch and learn about asexuality. I had really mixed feelings about it bc one the hand, people should able to be their whole selves at work but on the other hand, why is there a work-linked event to talk about the sexual aspects of people’s relationships? I didn’t attend. I don’t need to know if my coworkers are are ace or demi or whatever the word is for people who are neither ace nor demi. It’s not a thing that should come up in conversation at work. Even having children doesn’t necessarily tell me anything, and I like it that way.

            1. Zephy*

              I believe the term I’ve seen for people who are not ace or demi is “allosexual,” but yes, that’s generally not information anyone needs about coworkers.

            2. Dahlia*

              By that logic, though, you shouldn’t have events about any kind of queer people besides trans people, because it’s exactly the same for asexual people as it is for, say, bisexual people.

              Perhaps you should have gone to that lunch. Because asexuality is not about “sexual aspects of people’s relationships”. It’s not about relationships at all, frankly. Like how gay people feel sexual and romantic attraction to people of the same gender, asexuality is people who don’t feel sexual attraction to others, or feel it very rarely, or only under certain circumstances.

              Allosexual, by the way, is the antonym of asexual. Perhaps another thing you could have learned at that lunch!

              1. Giant Peach*

                No. Orientation tells me WHO, not WHETHER. Trans status tells me about gender, that’s all. Big difference there.

                “Like how gay people feel sexual and romantic attraction to people of the same gender”

                Unless they are gay and ace. Some ace people feel romantic attraction.

                Perhaps “sexual aspects of a relationship” was poor wording. Of course people’s identity as bi/trans/ace/aro has nothing to do with being in a relationship. My intent was to umbrella language that included sexual attraction, not just sexual activities, but I guess I didn’t achieve that intent.

        2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          I would be perfectly willing to answer SOME questions (and perfectly capable of shutting down any that I felt were over the line), but I’m largely not out at work because there’s no casual way to mention it, exactly as LW said. Very rarely (usually in the queer slack channel, tbh) there will be a conversation where it’s a natural thing to mention, but unless I want to stick up a visible rainbow flag somewhere, there isn’t even a good way to indicate that I’m queer.

          At least, that’s how it used to be. Now I’m married and can mention “my wife,” if I want to, but I’ve merely traded that problem for the monogamous partnered bi problem, where my relationship signifier does not actually signify the correct thing to most people, without even the possibility of mentioning a different-gender ex to clear things up.

          That said, I do NOT want coworkers asking me about “dry spells.” I can imagine circumstances where I would not necessarily find “Hey, is dating a thing you’re even interested in?” to be horribly intrusive, but it would definitely depend on the person and the context, and as a general rule would not be something I’d welcome from casual coworker acquaintances.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            I have a very similar situation… got married, now everyone assumes I’m a lesbian and there’s no way to correct the assumption without getting intensely personal.

            Although in my case I’m at least now visibly queer, which has in some ways made things easier. I live in an area that’s quite LGBTQ-friendly but still iffy on the A part of the alphabet soup. Passing for gay means a lot less day-to-day friction and a much more welcoming reception in queer spaces.

        3. I have RBF*

          I’m ace, enby (afab), and married to another ace, enby (afab). At first glance my spouse and I look like a couple butch lesbians. But we’re not. We’re both ace, and both are just done with the gender binary thing. My pronouns are “they/them/whatever”, and my spouse’s are “she/they/just don’t call me late for dinner”. Plus, I’m bi-semi-romantic.

          I would never expect this to come up as an interview topic. Most people if I mention “my wife” instead of “my spouse” would assume lesbian. I will often do one or the other, depending on the vibe I get. I will specify my pronouns, but I don’t get hardcore about it, because while they matter somewhat, they aren’t a hill for me to die on at this point.

        4. Chirpy*

          Right, the only time it comes up in conversation is when people start grilling you on why you’re single, and at that point you know they’re probably the sort of person who either won’t get it, or doesn’t deserve to know because they clearly don’t respect your privacy.

      4. AceInPlainSight*

        I took the comment as about how difficult it is to casually out yourself as ace at work as well- at my old job, I was closeted until some coworkers were too pushy about setting me up with another coworker. They then proceeded to ask me all the usual intrusive questions. I went back into the closet, and it sucked. Now I just keep a rainbow flag around or mention my LGBT choir, but keep away from specifics.

        1. Bookmark*

          Going back to the diversity statement, the real purpose of them is to signal that *if* your asexuality comes up at work, there is (hopefully, though as Alison mentions, not always or unfortunately even usually) some kind of infrastructure or culture of not asking those intrusive questions, or nipping them in the bud if they do happen. It might also mean that they have made some intentional decisions about who can count as a plus one to events to recognize that romantic relationships might not be the most important one in people’s lives, or that they’re open to having that kind of conversation if a staff member brings it to them. And that they’ve done this kind of thinking not just for sexual identity, but all the other marginalized identities they list.

    2. Myrin*

      It contributes to the rest of the letter through the OP’s assumption that e. g. queerness is a “preferred quality”.
      If you think that an employer actively prefers one quality in a candidate, it makes sense to wonder how you as an applicant can bring up the fact that you have that quality, and to muse about how that might be more difficult for one group than for another.

      1. Smithy*

        Absolutely this – I do think that putting the difference between preferred quality and “welcoming workplace” is the difference.

        In general, I do believe that means a workplace that is more open to hearing how certain policies and benefits exclude certain communities or altered/expanded to be more inclusive. Now on the face of it, there might not be obvious benefits or needs that specifically address the asexual community from an HR perspective or otherwise for those outside of it. But I do think that in this case, its specific inclusion is saying that should an issue arise there is an intention to be welcoming to discuss those needs/concerns/benefits expansions.

    3. OrigCassandra*

      I don’t announce it as such, but I do wear an ace ring and have an ace-flag button on my backpack. I work in higher ed, so I think of it as a small inclusion thing. (It’s worked, a couple-three times — someone’s lit up on seeing my signifiers and given me a “me too! gosh, I’ve never seen another out ace person before!”)

    4. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Just wanted to throw in for the other aces, I’m an ace who’s out at work and my coworkers are very respectful and only ask questions when I invite them to. Which I often do because their past actions have shown that they really do want to understand.

      Y’all are perfectly valid for not being out; I just like to offer positive stories where I can because it gets so discouraging sometimes being queer.

      Also for what it’s worth to the letter writer, if you believe that this company really means their boilerplate diversity statement (and you should approach with caution) there are subtle ways to signal you share their values without announcing your sexuality. You can share your pronouns when you introduce yourself or tack a pride pin to your bag or dye your hair rainbow. :) Maybe that’s not all that subtle but I do like to see it in the wild.

      1. Ripley*

        I am also an ace who is out, generally, at work and with my friends/family. I found at work I was just matter of fact about it (oh, I don’t date, I’m asexual) and people were generally accepting without asking a bunch of invasive questions. I do work as an assistant to 5 mental health care providers, so definitely in a unique position there.

        In my roller derby community, I did get questions but they were respectful and curious. My family finds it a bit awkward to talk about, but I think it helped them understand me and my perpetual cheerful singleness.

        I would love to meet another ace in the wild. I have hopes for the upcoming pride parade.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Yep, you always run the risk that it will influence someone in hiring despite their best efforts to be impartial, and of course yeah, questions. Or in the case of an LD, nobody believes you because you’re generally intelligent so you must be faking to get out of [activity].

    6. SongbirdT*

      Also want to note, explicitly – Ace doesn’t always equal single. Or even sexless. (Although there is frequently cake and sometimes garlic bread.) There’s a lot of variation within the Ace realm, and many of us have romantic partners, as can be seen in the rest of this thread. Which is why it’s such an awkward thing to be out about.

      1. Dovasary Balitang*

        Yes, thank you. I wanted to add that as well but I didn’t want to overcomplicate a comment I was writing on mobile in the early hours of the morning.

      2. Chirpy*

        Yes, and “asexual” is sometimes easier to explain than the whole related group of demisexual, demiromantic, aromantic, biromantic, etc. Like if you say “asexual” people might sort of get it, but “heteroromantic demisexual” is just gobbledygook to most people.

    7. Ace in the Hole*

      I’m very much the A in LGBTQA, and I appreciated them bringing this up even if the phrasing was a bit clumsy. It’s refreshing to see someone acknowledge that we are so often overlooked, ignored, and erased as an identity in large part because of this invisibility.

      I wouldn’t come out at work either. Even when it would be perfectly natural to mention, I don’t. For example, if coworkers ask about a boyfriend it would be totally fine to say “Never had one, I’m gay,” but I would not say “Never had one, I’m ace.” Like you said, it does not have good results. There is a lot of ignorance and stigma about asexuality.

      But… doesn’t that rather prove the point? The fact that I actively avoid bringing up my sexuality specifically to avoid negative consequences is a sign that we need change. And we are quite often left out of diversity & inclusion efforts, or even met with hostility in supposedly LGBT+ friendly spaces.

      While OP’s question seems to miss the purpose of these inclusivity statements, they make a good point: some identities are more visible than others, and this has significant impacts on how people are treated. Including how DEI programs are structured.

      1. Mbarr*

        You’re not wrong. But we Aces tend to understand the difference between romantic attraction versus sexual attraction. For “most” people, those things are the same… But for me, coming out as Ace tells people more about my sexual preferences in bed (well, lack of) than I’m comfortable doing in the workplace. (That and general not wanting to deal with ignorance.)

      2. Old AroAce*

        As an older ace, I was happy to see asexuality being used as an example by the letter writer. Just the acknowledgment that it is an often invisible, often awkward orientation to have was valuable. And look at all of us aces delurking.

    8. Jessica*

      That was weird to me too (I am also ace).

      LW5 appears to not be ace, so why is she spending a whole paragraph trying to figure out how we should disclose at work?

      No one at my job needs to know I’m ace. They just need to back off if they ask me out or try to set me up with someone and I tell them I’m not interested.

  26. Took Asexuality 101*

    I had similar questions as #5 when I applied for a NGO internship. Their wording was “specifically looking for applications from marginalized groups” (translated). As an asexual person of color, I included a picture on my CV but was otherwise at a loss.

    1. SW*

      It’s just useless fluff; please don’t take it as an inducement to disclose. In the US they can’t directly ask questions about whether you belong to a protected category but anything you supply can be used against you.
      If you’re in the US I would strongly suggest that you not include a picture of yourself as that can invite bias from interviewers. It’s also illegal in the US to require that you include a photo and you should be skeptical of any job where it’s optional.

    2. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I work with, and attend webinars presented by, a US-based org that is very aggressive in showing their desire and commitment to diversity. Which, okay, yes. Great!

      They’ve taken it to a level where they ask about one’s pronouns (fine) and orientation (what?) on webinar registrations. If one submits a proposal, they want to hear about one’s org’s commitment to DEI. I always wonder if I need to put in my professional bio that I have an invisible disability, and for whom (or if) I have pantsfeelings.

  27. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW1, one of the reasons it’s always best for management to find coverage is because there may be factors an individual employee isn’t aware of, eg that Sally is already doing 48 hours this week, or that Jim and Bob can’t be on the same shift, or that Tessa is desperate for more hours.

    I’m firmly of the opinion that when someone is asked to do a management task, they should be paid a management wage for the duration of the task.

    1. Siggie*

      You have phrased this so perfectly, I’m just going to bin my own much less eloquent comment and reply to yours with the heartiest agreement possible. PREACH!

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      Uh, yes.

      I worked at VS for 5 years, and was not one to frequently call out (I was often called in, though, so there’s that). I picked up a stomach bug and couldn’t work two shifts. Before calling out, I text a few friends I had and swapped shifts. Text manager “I’m sick, but A will cover Shift 1 and B will cover shift 2” The response I got? “That won’t work – A is maxed on hours and B would just get pulled to the registers. Find someone else.”

      I said no, turned off my phone, and was “spoken to” by the MOD my next shift.

      I don’t miss retail.

  28. Habitual Lurker*

    LW2 – I always go for laughs when I am giving any presentations, so adjust for your own situation, but each time she does this, I’d probably just say “Spoilers!” and move on. It will almost certainly reassure the audience that you’d already thought of the important point, and probably get a giggle as well.

    1. Melissa*

      This is a great approach! Or “Now, I know you’re excited, boss, but you’ll just have to wait like everyone else.” Make the audience giggle, and it will gently draw her attention to her own behavior too.

  29. Done and done*


    If the employee has given notice, then that should be it. You don’t get to do takebacks.

  30. Seeking Second Childhood*

    LW1, I have to point out that your employees who are dating may both be sick. All it takes is for them to be together when a sick person sneezes.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. If they’re dating then Luis was exposed to whatever she has and apparently we all learned nothing as a society from the last 3 years of pandemic if we want that guy handling people’s food.

      1. Kara*

        Food poisoning was what my mind sprung to! But yes, on the face of things it sounds as though both of them could be legitimately sick.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          A lot of “food poisoning” is actually just food handled by someone with an illness that didn’t wash their hands properly or otherwise shed a virus/bacteria into the food. E. coli, norovirus, etc are things that can be passed person-to-person or through contaminated food.

  31. WellRed*

    Oh OP 3: please give notice ASAP! Your misery is coming through your letter. It sounds like, financially, you can take the hit. Get out! Update us when you can.

  32. SimpleAutie*

    LW1: I get the sense that Sam is your report, or at least on the same level as Emily; please please do not vent to Sam in that case!

    Sometimes reports are going to do frustrating things but you cannot, as a manager, deal with those feelings by confiding in your reports or by sowing dissension within your ranks!

    1. Observer*

      I get the sense that Sam is your report, or at least on the same level as Emily; please please do not vent to Sam in that case!

      Yes. That is completely out of line! Thanks for picking that one up.

  33. Melissa*

    Don’t worry too much about the fact that you put it on LinkedIn. If you remove that job, nobody gets a notification. Very few people are going to think to themselves, “LW said she took a new job a few weeks ago. I haven’t seen any posts about it recently. Let me navigate to her profile and see if that job is still listed. Oh it not! Did she quit already??”

    1. negligent apparitions*

      I’m going to think that, but I’m not going to judge you. I’m going to make it down as mildly interesting and move on with my life.

    2. Nargal*

      I’m not even on linkedin enough to notice who is taking what job. I imagine a lot of people log in maybe every few months?

    3. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I might notice and check out someone’s profile if I also know that the workplace is a toxic dumpster fire*, but in that case I’d be cheering the person on for escaping.

      *Which I would know because I, too, escaped said dumpster fire.

  34. John*

    LW5: that statement means nothing.

    Maybe they welcome and support a diverse workforce.

    Or maybe all they’ve done to become a more welcoming and supportive employer for diverse talent is including that throwaway statement in their job listings.

    Seriously. I would get on Glassdoor or nose around to see what actual employees are saying about the culture before taking that statement at face value.

    1. pally*

      Yes- good advice.

      I was told about the DE&I initiative during an interview. Didn’t feel like it was sincere. Not much talk as to the “how” they are becoming more diverse. Like a buzzword.
      The visual I got from a quick walk- through of the company didn’t bear it out (almost all young white men; a few women). But that may be a skewed observation.

  35. OneAngryAvacado*

    LW1, you’re the shift manager. Manage the damn shift.

    It’s unreasonable to expect people who are sick to be dealing with organising coverage (and what do you do if no-one can cover their sift? tell them they’re going to have to be there anyway?), so either pay the employees for the time they’ve spent dealing with scheduling issues – aka working for the company – or take that burden off them.

    1. nikkole82*

      all of these people sound young and like this is an afterschool job since they see each other in school. The shift manager doesn’t have as much power as most people want to believe. I was a shift manager in a retail store and all that meant was that I could give refunds and had keys to lock the door. I did not have control over operations or schedules. also, if they were the only cashier they might have not had a minute to start calling people in. She should have alerted the store manager as it’s their responsibility to make sure the store is operating correctly.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        It doesn’t matter how old these employees are, or whether it is an afterschool job or not. It is still unreasonable to expect employees to find their own replacements.

        And you are absolutely right that they should have contacted the manager with scheduling authority. Unfortunately, that’s now how a lot of these operations are run.

        The management should be structured so that employees who are sick need to contact whichever manager is in charge of scheduling to find a replacement, and to contact the shift manager so that they know what is going on. (As in “I can’t make it in; I let main manager know; they are trying to find coverage.”)

        But often these places are structured so that the burden falls on the lowest workers in the chain of command. It’s a crappy way to run a business, and one of the reasons I try to avoid spending my money in places like this.

      2. kiki*

        Yeah, I feel like there’s some ire being directed at LW1 that wouldn’t be if folks were aware what a shift manager likely is, what authority they have, and what level of training they were given. I was a shift manager at a grocery store the summer after high school graduation. I was simply a cashier who had worked there for a couple years part-time during high school who was now of age and deemed trustworthy enough to not try to steal the beer. I was also hourly and got 50 cents more per hour than my non-shift-manager peers. I didn’t have the authority to arrange it so I could get paid for managing the schedule for changes– that would have to happen in my off hours unless I happened to already be working when the coworker let me know they can’t come in. So if I were to have taken on the scheduling, it would have relieved my coworker, but the company still would have ended up profiting off the unpaid labor of an already low-paid employee.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Which is inherently unfair. But if the sick coworker has the authority to find a replacement, the shift manager has at least as much authority to do so too. It would have been in the shift manager’s best interest to do so, given they were the ones who needed another person working with them. If one person is going to get screwed over with having to do unpaid labor, it should probably be the one who isn’t home sick and needing to rest to recover.

          1. Allonge*

            Sure, but the shift manager did not come up with this policy, and most likely also their boss did not.

            It’s fair to point out that the policy sucks and OP should not go further with it (so, no screenshots); it’s unfair to blame OP for implementing it when they were told this is how things work.

          2. kiki*

            For sure, I agree in most* cases. My comment was to address folks like OneAngryAvocado above whose comments make me think they may be assuming LW1 is a true manager with more authority and agency than they likely have. In my experience, the shift manager at a fast food restaurant is really just the 19-year-old who is trusted the most with the keys.

            * I say most because I think the person arranging for coverage should be a manager who is being paid to work at that time. When I was shift manager, I covered nights, so I would get calls during the day letting me know that somebody couldn’t make it. Luckily, I could forward that to the day manager to handle arranging coverage because I was in school and/or at another job during the day– I could’t really spend my time making phone calls. Especially not unpaid for a job that only paid me $8.25/hr when I was on the clock.

  36. Good Luck*

    #3- Your situation is almost my experience exactly a year ago. I left my job after 3.5 years to pursue something different and for higher pay. I actually really loved my job, but the pay wasn’t great, and I had no room for advancement there. So, I found a job that looked great on paper, and even had won several awards “for being a great place to work”. I found that this was not the case at all. It was an awful experience. I toyed with sticking it for several years, to see if things would change but after 1 year I couldn’t take it anymore and left. I actually found a MUCH better job, that pays more, better benefits and is 5 min from home. Please don’t think you will hurt your career, I really think you will be fine. Good Luck.

  37. Honeybee*


    I’ve been asked to find coverage for myself when I worked in retail and I flat out told them that I couldn’t add I didn’t have anyone else’s contact info. Legitimately – why should the onus to find coverage be placed on the employee who is calling out sick? First, they don’t have access to the contact info for everyone who works there, nor should they have to have that info. Second, you have the power to fudge the shift for the employee who can come in at the last moment to make it more appealing. Shift starts at 5 but coverage employee can only come in by 6, you can make that happen.

    Also, on just a personal level – the employee is sick. They’re keeping you from being sick by staying home and they’re making you look better by not forcing them to work while sick. Also – they’re sick! Do you want to be calling your peers while you’re sick? I’m pretty sure you do not want to do anything while sick, it was probably a struggle to call in in the first place.

    I’m just gonna reiterate what others said – finding coverage for work IS work and should be paid. If I have to sit there while sick calling around because I somehow have everyone’s accurate contact info, I’m working. This was an actual duty of the job I had in college – when someone called out or just flat out no-showed, we, the people working, would find the coverage.

    1. Seahorse*

      The whole model for food and retail in the US is built on low level exploitation and mistreatment. Not every single business or manager does this, but it’s certainly the overall trend:
      – Pay employees as little as legally possible
      – Categorically deny physical accommodations and basic comforts that office workers get
      – Schedule erratically in a way that makes it difficult to make outside plans, hold a second job, or budget for next month
      – Offer no benefits and skirt around laws that require them by playing chicken with scheduled hours
      – Make the employees feel like they’re at fault for insufficient coverage and poor scheduling by management / corporate
      – Give them no power to stand up to abusive customers
      – Deny them regular access to water and/or bathroom breaks
      – Expect 100% focused efficiency from front line workers at all times without exception
      – Make a huge production about how employees should feel lucky to have a job and need to be loyal to the company
      – Complain that people don’t want to work when they decide they’re not putting up with all this BS.

      1. Chirpy*

        This. corporate LOVES to trot out our “great benefits” (meaning, our scheduling is fairly consistent, and we have bare minimum insurance, a little bit of vacation, etc) and how we should just ‘take more pride in our work because money isn’t everything’ whenever employees ask about cost of living raises. I guarantee the corporate office workers would not take jobs with the store workers’ pay/hours/benefits. And they even get *chairs.*

  38. DJ Abbott*

    #5- when I was job searchng in 2021, every employer had a diversity statement at the top of their post. It’s just marketing. They know they’re supposed to say that, and they don’t want to look bad compared to others.
    Some of the companies who say it mean it, and some of the ones who mean it are actually competent enough to back it up.
    You can’t know for sure until you work there. I think it’s more useful to read between the lines of the job description. Do they have unrealistic expectations? Do they mention values a lot? Or even worse, do they mention religion? Those are all red flags.
    Except for being female I’m not in any marginalized groups, but I’ve had enough bad experiences that I share a very little of my personal life and opinions at work. Even if the company supports diversity, there are often individuals around who don’t. So no matter what your identity is, I would always advise to be very careful sharing personal stuff at work.

  39. Boolie*

    Calling for your own coverage is common in early childcare too. It’s a crappy practice in part because the employee has no real power, and the practice seems to be present for jobs with an already high turnover which gives the employee even less of a chance to get the (precious little) day off they might need. It’s a shame .

  40. ivy*

    LW5: definitely don’t disclose. At best, you’re giving information that the hiring manager isn’t allowed to use and may feel uncomfortable having, and at worst you’ll be more vulnerable to discrimination.

    My company is better than anywhere else I’ve worked in terms of equity, putting in significant DEI work in addition to the kind of lip service you’re asking about. And yet, some departments are better than others at making good on it and some marginalized identities are more accepted than others- for example, being a white woman hasn’t held me back, but whenever I’ve disclosed my disability, people got VERY uncomfortable. Proceed with skepticism and don’t share more than you need to.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      We are asked not to diagnose in the comments.

      The reason why LW’s boss behaves like this is not on LW to figure out. It could be ADHD, or it could be that their boss is just three raccoons in a trenchcoat. The cause really doesn’t matter. They just need to navigate the behavior, regardless of the cause.

  41. Summertime*

    I manage teenage shift workers. We use a simple, common & inexpensive app for scheduling & clocking in & out. It’s one click to drop a shift & one click to send a message to all employees “please take my shift. I’m sick.” When I work & homebase are 2 that are $20/month. I have almost zero problems with this. They need process improvements.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I agree that they need process improvements. (And like, yesterday!)

      But I think it’s unreasonable to expect workers who are probably being paid minimum wage or just slightly more to pay $20 a month for an app. Unless, this is just a single fee that is paid by the company to cover all its employees?

      1. metadata minion*

        Every one of these I’ve seen is paid for by the employer, often in some sort of tiered payscale depending on how many employees you have.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        It’s paid for by the employer, not employees. Although there’s still the issue that some employees may not have access to a working smartphone when they need to call out, or may be (understandably!) reluctant to install a work app on their personal device.

    2. Observer*

      Agreed that they need process improvements ASAP. But that’s not in the OP’s hands.

      But if you are going to take time to deal with this, OP, suggesting something like this is better use of your time than demanding screen shots.

  42. ELT*

    LW2: that’s 100% annoying! It may be worth reframing in your mind that a presentation is not necessarily the same thing as a “speech.” That won’t solve your problem at all but may subtlety affect how you view interruptions. Best wishes!

    1. SpaceySteph*

      Agree, these particular interruptions are annoying but getting interrupted by questions/comments is part of presenting everywhere I’ve ever worked. And being able to handle them is part of being a good presenter.

      I’m thinking of a recent pitch where someone interrupted my carefully crafted presentation (seriously I rearranged those slides probably 12 times trying to figure out how to best present the story) on slide 3 to ask about info I had on slide 6. I just told them that I would be covering that information in a few slides and then when I got to that slide I looked back and them and said “here’s what will answer your question from earlier.”

      Life is most unlike debate competitions.

    2. Giant Peach*

      Yes. The point of a presentation at work is to communicate information. It’s not a stage performance. Interrupting isn’t inherently rude in this situation. As the presenter, learning to roll with the interruptions is a necessary.

      Practice “Thanks for that!” with a smile until you can say it naturally without gritting your teeth. Then pull it out for all interruptions.
      “Thanks for that reminder! I’ll get to that point in a couple of slides.”
      “Thanks for that question! Please hold on to it for a minute and if the next few slides don’t have the answer, ask me again.”
      “Thanks for that preview, Jane! We’ll touch on that at the end.”

  43. Seahorse*

    Sorry to go off topic, but my first comment on any post keeps getting eaten. Is this a moderating thing, or am I doing something wrong?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      If your comment includes a link, or certain words, it will automatically be held for moderation.

      1. Seahorse*

        They’re just normal comments without links or terms that should cause any issues. It’s not a big deal – I’m hardly offering life changing contributions. I wondered if anyone else was having the same issue, but it seems like it’s on my end.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          I have sometimes found that my comments take a while to show up. I suspect the list of suspect terms is long (and probably getting longer).

        2. Hlao-roo*

          I think the moderation filter will also sometimes hold comments if you post multiple in a short timespan (in an attempt to catch spammers). And moderation filters are known for occasionally holding comments for no discernable reason at all, so it could be just a minor run of bad luck with this particular filter.

        3. Giant Peach*

          I’ve noticed that whether my comments go right through depends on which device I post from. *shrug* nothing I say is life changing, either. It’s a free blog. I get what I pay for.

        4. Observer*

          It’s happened to me a few times. On at least one occasion the moderation system hung on to it, and Alison released the comments. But I mostly haven’t bothered to reach out about it, because, like you I don’t think I’m offering life altering comments.

          Useful, yes. But not THAT useful.

    2. Essess*

      I would see something like that and found I had to do an F5 refresh on the page for it to show up.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s likely that you have “collapse comments” selected at the top (since they’re not going to moderation; if comments are collapsed, you won’t see replies to anything).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Right, but this person says it only happens with their replies, not when they leave a top-level comment. And I can see that none of their comments were sent to moderation, so it’s the most likely explanation.

          1. Observer*

            OK, so I mis-read. It looked to me like they were saying that their top level comment.

            Sorry about that.

          2. Seahorse*

            It eventually showed up, so who knows? Maybe the DuckDuckGo app doesn’t play well with the site, so I’ll experiment. It’s almost always the first comment I make though, whether as a reply or a stand alone. *shrug*

    4. Allornone*

      I’ve had a few of my seemingly benign posts go into moderation, to the point where I thought I’d done/said something in the past to cause lasting offense (the last thing I want is to be a problem commenter). But it’s not every comment and the ones that do tend to released reasonably quickly.

  44. Meghan*

    #3: Since you know its likely your boss is going to do this, I’d also start the talk with “please hold all comments and questions to the end” (if that’s feasible for your type of meeting). That AND when she does happen to interrupt say “yes, I am getting to that” in a polite, but firm tone.

    1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      I don’t think you can enforce this with your boss. At minimum you need to have a conversation, well before the meeting, and ask. But expect you may be required to have the presentation approved or reviewed if you are insisting on no commentary or questions during the meeting.

      You don’t like your boss, but you have to work with them. They’re not a heckler. They may view this more like a university lecture with questions and comments than a presentation, and maybe they think it’s coming across too much like a debate speech than an informative presentation.

  45. just another queer reader*

    #5: this language sounds like boilerplate and I’d honestly just ignore it.

    (or rather, take it into consideration, along with a bunch of other info, when you’re deciding if this job would be a good fit for you.)

    Come out when or if *you* want to.

  46. Emmie*

    LW5: The language is required for companies which contract with federal and most (perhaps all) states. Federal contractors are required to file *de identified* diversity reports. They are also required to conduct an analysis of their pay practices, and their application, hiring, and promotional practices. I cannot speak for every compay. At mine, we address pay disparities, make efforts to change applicant pools to be more diverse, and counsel people on hiring and promotional practices. It’s not perfect. Federal race categories are outdated. They don’t recognize our multi-racial society; however, the data is valuable.

    1. Observer*

      It’s a very common policy. And it’s a TERRIBLE one. Especially in schools that don’t have an approved substitute list. Because it means that the school winds up with zero control of who winds up in the classroom.

  47. Riot Grrrl*

    LW2: Based on the examples given (“Oooh, tell them about this!”), it sounds like there may be a style clash here. That is, you’re seeing these joint presentations in a fairly formal way whereas she may be imagining these as more conversational, the way for example that two podcast cohosts would jointly present a subject. I only say that because it doesn’t sound to me like she’s correcting you so much as she’s trying to participate. It makes me think she might even be wondering why you aren’t jumping in on her parts.

    Have you tried letting her know that you’re looking at these as more formal types of presentations (Morning Edition), not conversational ones (Kathie Lee and Hoda)?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree with this – but also find the style obnoxious. Even in a more conversational style “ooh tell them about the thing” if you know they’re about to talk about the thing would be distracting to the presenter.

      But I know there’s a range of styles.

  48. Hiring Mgr*

    One of my kids is now old enough to have just started a PT retail job and the general rule seems to be if you’re calling in sick, the manager will find someone to cover, but if you want to take a random day off or switch schedules, then it’s up to the employees to work it out.

  49. DocVonMitte*

    One thing that always bothers me re: the diverse applicant language (yes, I realize this is pretty boilerplate) but so many employers say they want diverse candidates. However, they don’t want what that actually entails.

    I can’t speak from other sides of the “diverse” coin but I’m disabled and have another marginalized identity. I can often tell in interviews that my disability is immediately a turn-off (likely subconsciously for most). They want diversity but don’t want anyone that “feels” too different. It’s incredibly frustrating to experience.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yep. I will say I report my disability on like any EEOC form they send around but mask it as much as possible in an interview until I’m hired. Because disability can mean so many things, they don’t need to know how ‘annoying’ I might be to them later.

    2. I have RBF*

      Oh, gods, I feel this.

      When I first became visibly disabled, I would go to interviews with my cane, and see the really obvious change of expression on my interviewer’s face when they come out to get me from the lobby. I would have some of them deliberately take me up the stairs to the conference room, just so they could have another reason to reject me. I could tell within the first five minutes when they would be finding a reason to reject me, whether I was qualified or not.

      Interviewing and working remotely has eliminated this problem for me.

    3. Quill*

      My policy for jobs has been to tell them zero things about disability until safely hired. So far, nobody has come back with the idea that I ‘lied’ about being able to lift 50 pounds even if it was in the job description.

      (Technically speaking I can lift 50 pounds IF it’s not all at the same time…)

  50. Risha*

    LW1, just out of curiosity, what happens if an employee cannot find coverage? Are they expected to still come in and work sick (around food)? Sam says he never got the text. What if he just didn’t see it, or it never came through, or he’s just not being honest? What if the person calling out doesn’t have any minutes left on their phone and can’t text/call around? Why are they expected to use their personal phones on their personal time to do work related tasks? I have so many questions about this crappy policy.

    When I was young, I worked fast food jobs and was never expected to find my own coverage. I truly don’t understand why bosses do this and it seems like the most stressful, low paying jobs are the ones that do. Just let your employee rest at home and get better! OP, I know these rules aren’t up to you as you’re not the owner, but I’m sure you can realize it’s ridiculous and please don’t have Emily prove to you that she texted her coworkers for coverage. I’m guessing you’re all adults (or close to adults) so everyone there should be treated as such. It sucks that you were the only cashier on shift, but that’s not Emily’s problem or fault. It’s a staffing issue that goes way beyond her calling out. What if she quit? You would still be short staffed so the low staffing needs to be addressed first. Also, don’t assume she was with her boyfriend. What if she was? What if she was sick and also spent time with him? It’s sad that service workers cannot take days off just to be sick or rest or even stay home and not do anything.

    My son is going to be working soon, I told him that if he tries to call out sick and they give him any issues, to just quit on the spot. It’s just not worth the stress and annoyance. Bosses/corporations tend to not realize or care that their employees are actual humans who do get sick or stressed or just need a day off.

    1. lnelson1218*

      I am displeased with managers expecting the employee to find their own coverage. I get if someone knows in advance and can ask in person “can you?” But, I am someone who doesn’t want all of my co-workers to have my personal cell phone number.
      In my opinion, it is the manager’s job to find coverage if someone can’t make it in or if time off is known in advance schedule coverage appropriately.
      Seriously, why should the employee be expected to give out their contact information to everyone on staff?

  51. BellyButton*

    LW#2, I recently encountered this with someone who is much higher up than I am, I made a joke “Exec, you are stealing my thunder! *hahaha* I am just about to get there!”
    “Spoiler alert. HAHAHA” *internally rolling eyes*

    He seemed to take it well and stopped after that. It is SO RUDE!

  52. Bookworm*

    “(Whether or not they actually are more equitable than most is often a different question.)”

    #5: Yep, this. I pretty much agree with what everyone said: don’t disclose and don’t take this as a guarantee they mean what they say. Place I used to work at has begun including this language in its job postings, with a particular note to one marginalized group. As a member of that group, I can tell you that the organization isn’t good on this issue, or at least isn’t willing to *really* assess how to be better when it comes to addressing issues for this particular group. And that note is probably there to get applicants of that group into the door.

    I don’t have proof but have strongly suspected throughout my career that there are definitely several job interviews where in retrospect (and maybe sometimes during) that I knew I was only there because I tick certain boxes that would help with this. And I really resent this, any hiring managers who might be reading, because it does take time/effort/money and I don’t appreciate being used to fill a quota even though the interviewer is *clearly* not putting in the effort or it’s obvious that I don’t even fit this job, so why did you even send an interview invite?

  53. too many dogs*

    LW#1. Where I work (multiple locations/departments. I’m a manager) it is ALWAYS the manager’s responsibility to find coverage for a sick employee. a)They’re sick; they shouldn’t be searching for help. b) They may not know their coworkers’ phone numbers. c) Some people don’t get along with some coworkers, who would then refuse to work for them out of spite. d) the manager knows everyone’s schedules, so would know who to call first & get this settled. And: You’re the manager; don’t you want to know what’s going on at your business? It’s YOUR responsibility to see that your business/store/agency functions well; that service doesn’t suffer and that your employees are treated fairly — by you.

  54. El l*

    Not sure how forthright you can be with your manager, but the substance of the message that has to come across is:

    “Time for you to make a call. It is your choice how you want the position’s responsibilities and who you want to fill them. Jane has had her say already – she’s leaving, it’s time to move on. The decisions you have to make are (a) Whether you reconfigure the job or keep it as-is, and (b) Setting a boundary on how long you can let Jane stay in a lame-duck job.”

    And if they won’t act, you ought to consider whether you’re willing to stay. Because this is absolutely a problem that’s their responsibility.

    By the way, this was always true, even before Jane gave her notice.

    1. Colette*

      I would not say anything like this. It’s not your job to manage your boss; all you can do is be clear about the things in your area. For example, “I’m interested in the job if it’s reconfigured to include other responsibilities; otherwise I’d rather stay where I am.”

    2. LW4*

      Funny thing: I submitted this question last week sometime. This week, Jane was complaining to me privately that the position hadn’t been posted yet (I think she wants to be involved in the hiring process, which, no). I asked her if she’d set a last day yet since she’d originally told me she’d go next month, and she said our manager had asked her to stay on as late as August to help out.

      After my manager, I’m the most senior person in the office by like 7 years, so we have a pretty close working relationship (which is why I felt comfortable shooting my shot on the upgrade proposal). It became clear to me in a conversation with her later that she is under the impression that Jane volunteered to stay on “for another week or two.”

      I told her that I did not think she and Jane were on the same page about Jane’s departure date at all and that they probably needed to get together ASAP to clarify. I don’t know what happened after that, but Jane suddenly started bringing me junk from her office and asking what I wanted to do with it, so…maybe it’s resolved? I don’t know. It’s weird around here lately.

      I know for sure that some kind of reorg is in the works even if it’s not the one I proposed, but now I’m wondering if my boss has been sitting on the postings thinking she’d wait until after Jane was gone in the next couple of weeks – while Jane is potentially sitting on the job thinking she’d wait until it was filled to leave.

      Again: it’s weird around here lately.

      1. LW4*

        Oh, I should add: I’m in a situation where I must repay a significant amount of tuition assistance if I leave within the next two years, so I’m trying to make the best of things.

        1. Ontariariario*

          Take care of yourself first! It sounds like you are doing everything right, including share information between Jane and your manager. I almost always suggest avoiding the quiet sharing of information (‘triangulating’) because it can be toxic, but you seem to be making the best of the situation.

  55. Ann O'Nemity*

    OP #1 – I agree with Alison that the process for finding coverage needs to be updated. It was a terrible policy, even back when it was easy to find people willing to work food service. Now it’s just further contributing to staffing shortages. I’m not sure if you (the OP) even have the power to change the policy, but it may be something you bring up to your manager.

    Regarding Emily, before jumping to asking for screenshots why don’t you just ask if she tried to find coverage? You can gently mention that you heard from at least one employee that they’d never been contacted, so you’re asking Emily to see what happened. You can also share that you ended up cashiering alone as a result, which most people would be sympathetic to.

    1. Observer*

      why don’t you just ask if she tried to find coverage? You can gently mention that you heard from at least one employee that they’d never been contacted, so you’re asking Emily to see what happened.

      No. Do *not* do that. Leave it alone.

      The Op should not have been “ranting” about the shift to Sam, to start with. And it really, really is not Emily’s job to take care of this, even if it’s the policy. The OP really can’t pursue this.

  56. Cyndi*

    This isn’t a dig at OP1 because I know they don’t have a lot of control over their workplace policies! But I’m still thinking fondly of the store manager at my last retail job, who was a nursing student and absolutely religious about letting people call in sick. He always handled finding coverage, and on a few occasions when he couldn’t find coverage he covered my shifts himself. Including the time I gave a half hour’s notice because I got sick very suddenly and texted him a nice professional “joe i’m throwing up idt i can come in”–he worked a surprise double to cover me and never said boo about it.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Joe sounds like the kind of manager who understands what it means to be a manager. Because this is what managers sometimes have to do.

  57. digitalnative-ish*

    LW3: leave the job. My sibling was miserable at their first job and left after six months. New job in the same field and loving it. Worth it to get out.

  58. Qwerty*

    OP2 – I feel like this situation escalated quickly. There was one presentation when your then-coworker got overly excited and vocal. Sounds like you didn’t talk to her after or ask your then-manager to help with keeping distractions low during presentations?

    Then for the next meeting, you gave her the full detailed view – did she interrupt the whole practice round? Did it go well? There’s a potential it could have backfired – I could see a manager viewing the need for a practice presentation as someone wanting feedback.

    Now for future presentations, your suggestions are pretty harsh. It would look terribly unprofessional to abandon your presentation because someone interrupted!

    Have you considered any middle ground options like sharing an outline of your presentation? Including an agenda slide at the start so its easy to say “yes, we’ll be getting to llamas in a bit” ? Is this just a red herring and the real issue is that you and your manager are a bad fit job-wise?

    1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      Recognize that the presentation is a tool to achieve something, not something separate which is evaluated on its own merits.

      You are presenting to higher ups to convince them to fund a program, or to clients to convince them you can solve a problem, or colleagues asking for them to critique your plan or your design. You have a very specific audience you need to capture, with a specific background and personality, and they may have questions and not want to wait, or want you to explain a point. They also have the power- if you shut them down rudely, or seem to shut down your boss rudely, you lose, no matter how good your material is.

      This is part of being a good public speaker beyond making a scripted presentation with no interruptions.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’ve always done better with interruptions. They keep me from sounding like a robot. Assuming they’re more along the lines of “oooh this thing!” than Alison’s example, they show the audience is engaged which boosts my confidence a bit. I think once you get your head around the fact that they’ll happen you can use them to your advantage.

    2. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I have the worst time doing presentations on Zoom, because I used to teach and I actually MISS interruptions. Most of the time, interruptions signal engagement with the material, and it helps me if there’s some of that dynamic.

      Mind you, the benefits of not needing to go in the office, ever, or take 2 days of travel to give a 60 minute presentation to a client vastly outweigh the negatives.

  59. DivergentStitches*

    #3 I’ve been at my job 4 months. I wasn’t told about some things during the interview (like that I’d be on the phones in a call center type environment for part of the day and that I’d be expected to work 9 am to 6 pm).

    But overall the job is ok, it’s just not something I want to do long term. I’m committed to just hanging in there for a year before looking around internally for something that suits me better. Or could I do that now?

    Previous job stays were just under 2 years and 4.5 years.

  60. Sunflower*

    #1. Employees needing to find their own coverage. Wanting proof they asked around. Suspicious they are faking being sick. Sorry, but that’s the way to lose employees. In my area, fast food places are desperate for workers now.

    If you have a problem with her actual work or missing too many days, than talk to the manager about what to do with her or even fire her if that’s the policy. However, the rest of what you’re posting about is not a good move.

    1. Sunflower*

      Also, after venting to Sam, how do you know he didn’t lie to avoid your wrath too? It’s not professional to vent about one employee to another even if you are friends.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I wonder if Sam is a known not-a-team-player by the other employees. Everyone in a mandatory coverage position knows who will step up and take their shift and who always has an excuse not to. Or who will use their friendship with the boss to act like they outrank everyone.

        1. Observer*

          I also wonder if people avoid Sam because they know that Sam and Manager are good buddies. And just as OP vents to Sam, Sam tells them things that maybe staff don’t want the OP to know. Or they *think* that Sam does that.

  61. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    2. My boss interrupts me while I’m presenting

    I had a boss who was very interruptive to everyone, he just was that way, and it was often hard to give presentations when he was on a call. In general the whole culture of that company was like that, and people would constantly interrupt presentations before the presenter got to the slide with the information. It was so derailing and would feel dismissive and rude to the person presenting who worked really hard on the presentation and preparing for the meeting.

    I learned to build slide “breaks” into my PPT decks after about 4-5 slides for questions and comments, and I began the presentation by telling people to please hold their comments or questions for 4-5 slides as there would be natural pauses between sections for them to discuss. It really helped! I found I got through presentations much more easily. Also sending out an agenda to the meeting invite helps too, and build in “discussion time” as part of the agenda.

  62. Clefairy*

    OP1, when I was a manager in hospitality, we never required employees, sick or otherwise, to make any effort to get their shift covered, but we did incentivise them. We had a pretty typical attendance tracking system that dictated how many times they could miss work without repercussion- if employees couldn’t/didn’t want to show up for work, they could just take the point and we would find coverage. However, if they took the time to find coverage themselves, we didn’t hold the missed shift against them, so it’s like they didn’t call out at all from an attendance standpoint. It worked out really well, employees never felt obligated or resentful over needing to find coverage because ultimately they didn’t have to.

    1. External Drive*

      Yes. We had a similar setup in my old job, which was a union shop. Same idea. It worked well, but it was a bit of work to keep up with the system.

  63. External Drive*

    One of the big issues I have with requiring employees to find their own coverage is that employees have zero authority over each other, so if everyone tells the employee “no” or just doesn’t respond to their plea for help, then what? When a manager texts an employee or a group of employees to ask for coverage help, that manager is in a position to actually do something about it if people don’t respond. I don’t mean managers should strong-arm employees into coming in when they expected to be off, I just mean a manager has some leverage and authority that a fellow colleague who needs a favor just doesn’t have.

    Requiring employees to find their own coverage is lazy, the end. If you have a lot of call-outs, you need to address those patterns with those people. Putting a sick employee through a wringer because you don’t want to do that part of managing is just a sign that you don’t really want to manage.

  64. MicroManagered*

    OP1 you are trying to address the wrong problem. The problem here is not whether Emily lied about texting people to cover her shift. It’s that you expect her to do that. It’s not on the sick employee, who is not on the clock, to manage the schedule. That’s your job to figure out. I know this is really common in food service but it’s probably illegal and definitely wrong. You could to schedule someone to be on-call for key shifts or schedule one extra person to work, then ask for a volunteer to “get cut” if everyone shows up for work. Someone will always volunteer because food service work sucks so much lol.

    Storytime! In my 20s, I worked for a popular fast-casual chain who shall remain nameless. I got can’t-keep-anything-down-vomiting sick while working there, more often than any other time in my life. Like most food service workers, I was expected to come in when I was sick, or find my own coverage if I called off. Well, one time I could not stop vomiting long enough to even finish telling my manager I had to call off. She STILL tried to convince me I needed to call around to get someone to cover my shift… I had to interrupt her multiple times during the call, to barf, so I purposely held the phone right next to me so she could hear. Then I told her I wasn’t available to call anyone for her and she’d have to figure that part out herself.

    1. Zap R.*

      Having been the on-call person many, many times at an old retail job, I would like to add the caveat that on-call employees should be paid for the time they spend on-call.

  65. Essess*

    I’m jumping on the bandwagon for story #1 that covering sick shifts is a scheduling job and therefore is absolutely the management’s responsibility. Also jumping on the bandwagon that requiring someone to do scheduling work from home is absolutely work that needs to be paid.

    I also have a HUGE issue with making employees find coverage because it is a privacy invasion to give out employees’ personal phone numbers to all of the other employees. I don’t want everyone having my phone number. That should be private information available only to the managers.

  66. Quickling*

    LW3: I’m in a similar situation to you, and I commiserate!

    In my case, I’ve been here 5 months. It’s a project-based business – It took me 4 months to get a list of what projects we had. It’s not getting better. It makes my previous government jobs look considerate, agile and responsive.

    Because I’m in the UK, the dynamics are a bit different (for one thing, I have a 3 month contractual notice period). But I wish I’d noped out of this fractal clusterfuck when I first realised what I’d stepped into.

    If anyone has any suggestions for scripts to explain this kind of situation without sounding like you’re unreasonable, flaky, or otherwise insulting – either in cover letters or at interview – I’d really appreciate it.

    1. cat with thumbs (uk)*

      That sounds rough! Any chance you’re still in your probation period and have a shorter notice?

      Vague and brief is the way to go in an interview, anything along the lines of “the job turned out to be different than my initial expectation” or “I was hoping to get more experience doing X but that didn’t end up being a large part of the job.”

      It doesn’t have to be the main reason you left, it just has to be one sentence of vaguely-plausible interview speak before you get back to talking about why you really /do/ want the new job.

  67. badger*

    I have volunteer/leadership experience with a couple of LGBTIA+ orgs, one of which focuses on trans folks. They stay on my resume no matter what. I had someone tell me I might be missing out on opportunities by doing that, and it’s true that there are some places that will see that and not invite me to interview, if I were in the job market. But I figure I probably don’t want to work for the folks who would do that anyway, so it’s fine. Meanwhile, my boss at my current job has trans family members she wholeheartedly supports, so it might have given me a bonus point or two here.

    It’s harder when you have an employer where they’re accepting of some, but not all, or where most employees dgaf but the leadership does and won’t admit it. You could have colleagues in the L/G/B categories who are perfectly fine and happy and supported, but a trans person might not be and might not know until they get there.

  68. Duckles*

    Such sympathy for #3. I was in that position and left a dysfunctional job after just under a year (my boss later admitted they had mis-described the role) and after starting the new role six weeks ago, I have to work daily with someone who is absolutely awful (and unfireable). It feels so futile to try to screen for everything effectively from interviews but I just don’t have it in me to start job hunting again…

  69. Calamity Janine*

    to be cynical here… hey LW1, if you’re already texting someone a list of people to ask… how much more effort is it, truly, to just. make the question be texted to its intended recipients instead. all of fifteen, maybe even thirty, whole seconds? you already did the work of knowing who to contact. you’re even already typing them into your phone. why not just type that in the “to” field of a new group text instead? why are you trying to then solve the problem in a way that makes more work for you? (as in, you have to worry about work conversations that can just get stuck in he-said-she-said to the point of wanting to look through someone’s phone and write them up?)

    if someone has just told you “i am too sick to work”, and you dump a work task in their lap, it’s kinda on you when you are shocked it doesn’t get done. they literally just told you they are unable to work.

    at some point ignoring that veers into self-sabotage. and certainly as part of that is an apparent eagerness to waste your own time. instead of spending hours fretting because the thing you were told was unlikely to work did, indeed, not work, just as you were told… you coulda had this all over and sorted for a tiny fraction of your effort.

    forget industry norms and consider if you really want to treat yourself like that. i know i wouldn’t.

    1. Zap R.*

      Hard agree to all of this. You can even set up a group chat solely for shift-switching.

      1. Calamity Janine*

        i realize that it’s the unfortunate norm, but i just keep being boggled at the dedication to wasting time there. if you’re already listing people who may be able to cover the shift, just… put those names in the “to” field of a mass text… it ain’t rocket surgery, and we’re living in the modern age where group texts and group chats are commonplace instead of coordinating this by carrier pigeon bearing telephone trees.

        i’m hoping that LW1 is going to swing by the comments and have a moment of “wait… oh my god, i really AM just wasting so much time and effort here!”. i know how sometimes bad practices that “everyone does” can become enshrined in the culture and then develop into a sort of cargo cult that. nobody questions. but when the practices are bad, you can just… not do them… it sounds very obvious to us on the outside. on account of how it is, yknow, pretty obvious. but here’s to hoping that LW1’s takeaway is a moment of clarity via facepalm after figuring out this is silly, lol

        1. Calamity Janine*

          though i will also admit that “my employee told me she couldn’t work! why didn’t she do the work i then gave her?!” hits a personal nerve, as someone who is disabled. the times i have been handed work by those who know full well i am disabled, only to then have them be very offended when i tell them “i can’t do this, if i were able to do this job i would be working at it as my job instead of the government having told me i am not able to work”, is… higher than you would expect or hope…

  70. Mensa Maid*

    #1 When my dad died I was required to provide a copy of his obituary in order to get bereavement leave. When management does not trust employees they will live up to that expectation and behave in an untrustworthy manner.

  71. CSRoadWarrior*

    LW3 – Please don’t force yourself to stay. I had similar experience a year and a half ago so I know how you feel.

    To give you a little background, after leaving my old job I was at for 2.5 years, I started a new job with a much higher pay and an industry I was interested in. Only a mere 2 weeks in, I started feeling miserable, having multiple panic attacks every single day, and knew my work/life balance wasn’t going to be great. Also, the company was extremely disorganized and months behind on deadlines. A lot of employees were working 12 hour days and going in on the weekends.

    To make a long story short, I ended up quitting without notice 5 weeks later after nearly collapsing from what was my worse panic attack ever. Did I feel bad doing so? Yes, but if I had stayed any longer my mental health would have taken a severe beating.

    That being said, if you can give two weeks’ notice, please do so. I wouldn’t quit without notice unless your situation so bad it is putting you in serious jeopardy. But if you are already at that point, just leave. No job is worth risking your health over.

  72. ENFP in Texas*

    Handling g interruptions with aplomb:

    “I’ll get to that – don’t steal my thunder!”

    “Don’t give away the ending – I was saving that for later!”

    “Spoiler alert!”

  73. Space is cool*

    When I was 16 I worked at a certain foot long sandwich chain restaurant. I got super sick with a sinus infection and called out, and had to spend 2+ hours calling all the other stores in the area trying to find someone to cover when I had a 102 fever and could barely think straight. The next day, I was still sick and called out again. I was told I needed to provide a doctors note, which legally cannot be required in my state until 3 consecutive days called out sick. The following day, I walked in, handed them my doctors note, handed them my 2 weeks notice, and walked out. I was the most tenured employee at 9 months when I quit.

  74. In the middle*

    I have a boss like LW2’s. For him it always seems as though he’s never had the thought that we might not desperately want to hear his opinion. Obviously, he’s a middle aged white male.

  75. Zap R.*

    OP1: So, Sam’s your friend but you’re also Sam’s manager and you’re texting Sam to vent about Emily? OP, you’re badmouthing one of your direct reports to another direct report. Sam now knows that you’re suspicious of Emily and don’t trust her. That’s really not great.

    Also, jumping to the conclusion that Emily must be faking sick to hang out with her boyfriend is kinda crappy and sexist. My sister had a boss who would always accuse her of either “hanging out with her boyfriend” or “going shopping” whenever she tried to call in sick. It’s a pretty harmful trope to reinforce because it assumes that female employees are flighty and frivolous.

    I’d radically rethink your approach to this entire situation.

  76. JR*

    Alison, was the “Let’s hear it for free speech” politician Al Gore? I think I saw him react that way to protesters during a speech in Boston in fall 2000. Now I’m wondering if you were also there, or if maybe it was his go-to line!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! We were protesting his proposal for what would have been the largest animal testing program in U.S. history through the EPA. (It was eventually canceled.) He was very classy about our disruptions of his events that summer/fall.

  77. Midwest Teacher*

    I just wanted to point out to LW5 that being asexual has nothing to do with someone’s relationship status. Plenty of a-spec people date or have long-term partners.

    1. Giant Peach*

      Yep. Ace is not aro.

      And frankly, someone who is aro but feels sexual attraction might also be in a relationship. Relationship status is just relationship status. Doesn’t really tell you what the nature of the bond is (and it’s not my business).

  78. NeedRain47*

    I am just now writing a DEI statement for a job application for the first time. I did mention awareness of my privilege as a white cis woman, but I didn’t mention any of the things that un-privilege me. (other than “woman”, I guess.)

  79. AS*

    #1: I work in a customer facing business where we have to have X amount of each employee to be able to run daily. As the manager of the daily operations for said departments, myself or other supervisors on duty call to find any coverage for sick/personal call offs or cover it myself. I don’t ever expect my line employees to do it. However, if an employee requests a last minute day off that they are already on the schedule for, I then may ask them to ask around and find coverage or its a no. Any PTO requests before the scheduling cut off are generally approved unless too many ask for it off.
    Life happens and I don’t expect people to find coverage when they call in. If they persistently miss work, then it is handled by corrective actions or moving them to a shift where them missing doesn’t hurt as much.

  80. Smesshi*

    Three things from when I worked in fast food in a major Canadian city for a franchise of a “healthy fast casual” salad-focused business.

    I was promoted to shift supervisor after 3 weeks on the job. My pay raise was an additional 50 cents, taking me all the way up to a princely $10.75 an hour (this was 50 cents over minimum wage at the time). My additional responsibilities included supervising all employees in the manager’s absence (frequent), and keyholding (so opening and closing frequently).

    Once there were only two of us working including me, and my colleague was sick – vomiting, fever, etc. They wouldn’t let me send her home because “it’s illegal to only have one person in the store” (this is not true). I bought her anti-nauseant so she could white-knuckle her way through the shift.

    I got fired after a ten-hour shift because I didn’t smile at the customers enough and someone had complained to head office that I accidentally put an ingredient they hadn’t ordered in their custom salad. I checked and they had ticked the box for the ingredient on the custom order sheet. But it was a bad look for the store to get a complaint, and it was my fault it happened, so I got canned anyway.

    They made me return my uniform and hand in my key of course, but it couldn’t be on that day – no, no, I had to make a special trip to the store (an hour away from where I lived) to return the key, my t-shirts, and my baseball cap in person, after getting fired. Just to make the degradation complete.

    Please be nice to fast food workers. The ones in the “fancy” overpriced healthy fast food shops aren’t treated any better than anyone else.

  81. Jane*

    Hey LW1 – why don’t YOU, the manager, actually MANAGE and find coverage, not a sick employee? No wonder you have issues on your team. I’d be giving the bare minimum there, too.

  82. yala*

    OP1: Do not do that thing. Do NOT ask for “proof” that your employee tried to find coverage. One person on the tree says she didn’t call.

    There is no benefit whatsover to you asking for “proof.” It goes one of two ways:

    1: Employee did ask people (not Sam) for coverage. Now you’ve gone and implied that she’s a liar or irresponsible (and you do seem to think that, sense you jumped from “one of the multiple people she could’ve called said she didn’t call him” to “maybe she wasn’t even sick!”), or at the very least that you will not trust her word. That’s a resentment that lingers, and it’s terrible for morale, and not just hers. (I’ve also worked with people who, when a suspicion of theirs was proven wrong, seemed to actually resent the person who proved them wrong. Which you might not, but if I were an employee, I’d be worried)

    2: Employee didn’t, or doesn’t have some kind of tangible proof. Maybe she asked her boyfriend to do it while she downed some nyquil and passed out. Maybe she just straight up didn’t, because she was sick, or even because she was sitting at home, playing the new Zelda, and cackling to herself.


    What would finding that out accomplish?

    It’s really not reasonable–or even efficient–to expect someone sick or dealing with an emergency to find coverage. And it doesn’t set a good precedent to suspect employees calling in sick of not actually being sick.

  83. Victoria Everglot*

    Am I wrong, or is it kinda weird to delegate a management task (scheduling employees, in this case) to someone with no authority whatsoever, and just sort of hope that they’re friendly enough with their coworkers to both have their numbers, and to compel them to cover a shift? A lowly shift worker doesn’t know other people’s schedules, so if someone else has already gotten all the shifts they want that week, they’re just wasting their time trying to track them down (and hoping they answer in a timely manner). That’s a lot to put on the plate of someone who is already sick (or who isn’t actually sick but is probably doing something else that would render them unavailable).

    Like if my crappy coworker Greg who never does me a favor calls up and says “hey drop your plans for your time off, I need you to cover for me” I’m gonna be like “go to hell, Greg” but if my decent manager says “hey can you swap your shifts and come in today instead of tomorrow?” I’d be more likely to say “hmm, okay”. At least the manager has the power to change things so I still have the same amount of time off, Hypothetical Greg doesn’t.

    1. Liz the Snackbrarian*

      They probably have each other’s numbers for practical reasons. I’ve worked in a three floor library and I had my colleagues numbers not so we could text out of friendliness, but for things like “Hey, there was a huge crash that slowed down my commute, I will be late.” Opening the building if there’s not one person per floor isn’t exactly safe.

      Regardless, LW should be doing this, not OP.

  84. Anonymous*

    OP2, part of successful professional presenting is professionally handling interruptions, regardless of the source. It’s not like Debate team where you get to present your side in its entirety. it’s odd that you see the interruptions as antagonistic rather than a sign of engagement. Regardless, always be prepared to deal with interruptions that might mean touching on a topic earlier or more completely to respect your live audience if you want to be viewed as a subject matter expert who is confident in their information.

  85. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    LW1: agree that you should not be having staff find their own coverage. What if it’s a true emergency like an emergency appendectomy, a family member died and they’re busy dealing with it?

    Asking Emily for screenshots would be especially crappy if she had good attendance.

  86. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    OP #1: Are you paying Emily for the time you’re expecting her to spend looking for her replacement? And are you paying her management-level wages for taking on a management responsibility?

    Staffing each shift is the manager’s job. Demanding that people find their own replacements is inappropriate — they are NOT management, so you shouldn’t ask them to do management tasks, and they also might not be fully aware of which of their coworkers are going to be acceptable substitutes.

  87. Velveeta v. Cheddar*

    LW #3

    Yes, leave! I, like others was in this spot – – I actually thought you were a colleague of mine until the end of the description and I said “yes – she’s going to get out!” – – and while it is insanely frustrating to job hunt again so soon after joining a place, you’re entitled to an “oops job” or two in your life.

    We all do the careful vetting, but unfortunately unlike dating where after a few dates you can decide to no longer see someone, it’s a lot more invested in the job world in terms of getting one, going through interviews, paper work, thinking about whether the tough spots are growing pains or just part of the (bad) job.

    Hang in there and dump that job :-)

  88. XYTYTS*

    2-If your boss interrupts you, one thing you could do is pretend to be exasperated and whine, “spoilers!” ala River Song. Making the audience laugh will keep them on your side, get your point across without looking negative, and hopefully make the boss feel silly so she won’t do it again!

  89. Me*

    LW2: it seems that I’m definitely in the minority here, but this former co-worker is no longer your peer co-worker. She’s now your boss. And if she wants you to do the presentation in a certain way, you probably should do it that way. It sounds like she’s kind of annoying, but if you think she’s going to have opinions about your presentation, it’s probably in your best interest to find out what they are before the day of the formal presentation.

    With her current position, she’s not really interrupting/heckling you. She’s telling her direct report that she doesn’t like the product in front of other people.

    You say that you don’t want to give her a preview, but that seems like exactly the thing you should be doing if you think your boss is going to start interjecting because she doesn’t like your formal presentation.

  90. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    The practice of requiring people to find coverage is such an invasion of privacy too. When I worked fast food I would have been horrified if some of my coworkers had my personal phone number. Supervisors need to know how to contact me. Creepy Fergus who stands too close and stares and always manages to skirt just inside the line of documentable harassment does not.

    Compound it in cases where fast food often employs teenagers. Don’t be making it a job requirement that a 16 yo has to give her number to a 30 yo.

  91. BossTask*

    My first professional job was as a part time tutor at a tutoring center at a community college. My normal scheduled hours were 22/week and I was allowed to work either 34 or 34.5 without losing my part time status. I covered for other folks a lot because I could tutor any subject (although according to the rules I wasn’t allowed to officially tutor writing despite being a published writer). I was always called by my manager or asked by my manager – in fact, I rarely knew who I was covering for. The idea of being asked by a coworker to cover is weird.

    PS I think part of it was making sure all of the part timers – all but three employees – didn’t go over the allowed hours for part time classification. But I still would have thought it bizarre to have a coworker ask me to work and I’m not sure I would have trusted that I’d get paid for that time if they did

  92. Long Time Second Time*

    If you are the manager, isn’t staffing part of your job?

    No one is responsible for finding their own coverage unless they’re the boss.

  93. Friendly Neighborhood Bi Lady*

    LW5 – During a relevant interview question, I might say something like “as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am passionate about xyz.” Otherwise, I don’t mention my identity in my resume or cover letter. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community” doesn’t force you to specify partners, attraction, or anything else, so that could be a possible solution.

    Overall, though, I agree with Allison that it’s not necessary to mention your identity unless it would actually be relevant to do so.

  94. Inkognyto*

    LW 1 – Another angle on this. You are giving everyone others cell phone numbers?
    That’s PII, and expecting them to find coverage? If I found out work gave others my cell or posted it without asking, I’d be irked. This can be an invasion of privacy.

    I don’t even work retail or anything close, but 1 single person has my cell, the Director I report too. No one else needs it.

  95. Youngin*

    In reference to #1 Allision, please keep fighting that losing battle!

    It is utterly ridiculous for managers to expect minimum wage employees to find coverage for themselves, or even just employees dealing with idk, car issues. I am not a manager and there for I will not search for coverage. You get paid to handle the scheduling, not me. A lot of food service managers treat their employees like dogs, and that is just one of the many many ways that food service workers are dehumanized in hw workplace. I work in an office now and when I call out, my boss (the damn VP of the entire company) will text me to feel better and handle duties at the front desk, without snark. Its what you do as a manager in workplaces! Come up with a plan to cover the issue (instead of hiding in the back office like they love to do) and step up for your lower level employees.

  96. Just some girl*

    Back when I worked in restaurant, in my younger days, I got a uti and tried to come to work. I worked my shift until I was literally peeing blood. Manager on duty followed me in to the bathroom to confirm I wasn’t lying AND required I go to the ER and provide a note (newsflash, waitress don’t have great/any healthcare. That visit set me back a months rent.

    My best friend contracted chicken pox and they told her she had to work. She tried to explain that if she accidentally gave chicken pox to a pregnant customer the outcome could be devastating. She was told if she didn’t cover her shift or show up, she was fired. She worked and wore gloves and asked the hostesses not to seat her any visibly pregnant women and felt tremendous guilt about what she likely passed on (this predates the chickenpox vaccine))

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