owner won’t do anything about our terrible coworker, employee never covers other people’s shifts, and more

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

1. Owner won’t do anything about our terrible employee

I am late in my career and several years ago I was lucky enough to have found the best job I have ever had, at a very successful, very small niche company (8-10 employees). My boss (Jerry, the owner) and everyone I work with have been amazing. I am the office manager/HR and the only woman and only office employee. All the guys do field/shop work. It is a very rough and tumble sort of place, but the guys are great fun to work with and there is lots of mutual respect. We have a fleet of company trucks and are on-site at customer locations five days a week.

About a year ago, we hired a very problematic employee, Ron. He is mean, insulting, and disrespectful to most of his fellow workers. He has tried to work his own hours, comes and goes as he pleases, tells no one when he leaves (we have set shop-time hours). He ignores me unless absolutely necessary. He throws tools in the shop, has a big temper. When riding in company trucks, I have been informed that he gives the finger to other drivers when he feels they have disrespected them. I am also most concerned about what he will say to a customer if/when he loses his temper.

The majority of the other employees have voiced their concerns/filed complaints with me regarding Ron. My pleas to Jerry to terminate him go mostly ignored as Ron has a mechanical ability that is missing in some of the other employees.

The last straw for me was that Ron was recently given a company vehicle to drive. All our vehicles are numbered, for maintenance etc. All of these things run through me. The truck is very prominently badged with company logo, phone numbers, services, etc. I have numbers in stock when new trucks are purchased. He changed the truck number to 069 (it already had a number). He went out and purchased the new stickers. I was not asked nor notified. This truck is running all over five states and our customers see it. When I told the boss about the numbers, he did tell him to remove the numbers, but as of today he has not. New numbers were given to him by another supervisor and his response was that he already has numbers on the truck.

I do want to make clear that Jerry is one of the most outstanding people I have ever met. He is a great guy but we have had multiple conversations regarding Ron that get nowhere and this is very out of the ordinary. Until now, I have had an amazing relationship with Jerry but unfortunately this is making me consider early retirement, as I don’t want to spend my last working years dealing with this guy, but I’m still a few years away. I would love to hear your opinion on this.

For whatever reason, Jerry isn’t going to fire Ron. I don’t know why — maybe it’s really because of his mechanical ability, maybe he reminds Jerry of a loved one, maybe he’s holding his mother hostage, who knows what — but regardless, it sounds like Jerry has made it pretty clear that he’s not going to fire him. Jerry has the same info you do, and he’s not budging. (He does have the same info you do, right? If for some reason you’ve softened anything in relaying the problems, correct that … but I’m assuming for the sake of this response that he knows everything.)

Given that, all you can do is decide if you want the job under those conditions. You might be able to lay down some boundaries, like “I won’t deal with Ron on XYZ so you will have to handle that,” thereby shifting some of the pain of Ron over to Jerry … but mostly, you’ve got to decide if the job is still worth it to you if Ron is part of the package.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing ruins lots of otherwise good jobs.

2. I’m sick of being the only person who can manage our old technology

I work in a large company. I’ve only worked there for around 4.5 years, but due to a big shift in the technology they use, along with a loss of virtually all of the staff who were familiar with the old tech, I am now the only person who knows how to manage the older tech we use.

It’s not insignificant; we’re talking business critical databases, servers, and networking. It has never been part of my job description to manage these, but due to personal interest I learnt from the previous staff, who have now left. Due to the shift in technology, those positions have not been replaced.

I’ve been told by multiple managers that due to this being legacy technology, there is no point training new staff to deal with these systems. However, every project to remove them for the past year has been cancelled due to business priorities. We’re now a year past when I was told that we would no longer require them, but they’re still there and causing me a massive headache as I try to manage them on top of my fairly intensive job working with new tech.

I’m fed up with being the go-to guy for these, I get called out on holidays and out of hours to help with them. My manager is always very generous about giving me double time pay for the inconvenience, but I’m at a point where I am thinking about leaving just so I will not have to deal with old tech any more.

Can I give my department an ultimatum that I will stop supporting these old systems regardless of whether they are still in use? Can I train people secretly to deal with them if I am not available? Or should I just bear it until the business gets around to replacing them?

I love my job and the people that I work with, but I feel caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to balance my real job against the constant support of old systems that I have no formal training with and is not at all part of my job description … not to mention the expectation that I will be available when I am not on call to help out with issues.

You can try — including letting your boss know that they risk you leaving over it, at which point it sounds like they’ll really be screwed — but it’s very likely that you’re still going to get pulled into helping.

But what if you were simply unavailable outside of your normal work hours, even if it causes a crisis? That might be what it takes for them to be moved to finally act. It would be a courtesy to give your boss a heads-up about that change — something like, “My family commitments outside of work are ramping up and I’m no longer going to be available to help with OldTech outside of my normal work hours. If you want me to train others who can be, I’ll do that. But I want to make sure you know I won’t be able to respond if I get calls about it on holidays, evenings, or weekends.” What they do with that info is up to them — and if they don’t take you seriously when you say it, they’re likely to quickly realize it the first time you don’t respond when they need you.

Make sure you document in writing that you gave this warning, though, and consider whether there are others besides your boss who should receive that notification too.

3. My employee never covers other people’s shifts

What is your advice in addressing an associate who will never cover a shift when someone calls in sick? I have a very small staff of three, including myself, in a vision clinic. My other associate will always cover if she calls in, and of course I do. I think it’s very disheartening to my associate that is reliably available if needed.

If she’s otherwise a reliable employee, accept that she’s not available to cover shifts that she hasn’t been scheduled for. That’s not unreasonable of her — if she’s not scheduled, she’s presumably making other plans with that time and it’s not realistic to expect her to just jettison those plans at the last minute.

If you need someone who has regular availability for last-minute shifts, you need to hire specifically for that, making it clear that that’s part of the job so people can raise it up-front if they’re unlikely to be able to do it. But it’s not reasonable to expect that your staff member will always be able to step in at the last minute when someone is out, especially if she’s not being paid for that flexibility. If it’s truly essential, you might have more luck by paying a premium for those shifts or paying someone to be on-call.

4. I retired but keep getting requests from my boss

I recently retired from a state agency. Due to state law, I can’t work for any state retirement system employer for 12 months or I could forfeit my pension.

My former boss keeps calling me about issues in the department. Today she asked me to train her on a complicated task. I feel very uncomfortable with this. The problem is that my old job has not been filled. I gave my notice of retirement in January but the job was not posted until a month before I left.

I spent a lot of time documenting my old job and I feel like I wasted my time, as no one seems to be looking at the procedures. I don’t want to be an unpaid consultant but I don’t want to mess up my relationship with my old boss. I really like her but I feel like she is trying to take advantage of me. There was no discussion before I left of doing any in-depth training. I don’t mind the occasional question, but I don’t want to spend hours doing my old job for free. I am not sure how to address this.

In response to the latest message, wait a week and then send this: “Just saw this. Between family and other commitments, I’ve got no time these days — sorry I can’t help. But I documented everything before I left, and there should be useful info there.” Wait a week or longer before responding to any future messages too; she’ll learn to get her answers elsewhere.

Alternately, you could just explain that you’re not willing to do anything that could jeopardize your pension (“it was made really clear to me that I can’t answer work questions once I retired or I could lose my pension — sorry I can’t help!”) but if there’s any risk of her trying to say that you’re wrong about that, go with the first option.

5. Should I list two colleges when I only graduated from one of them?

I attended four years at a university but did not graduate. I have been up-front with employers about my not having a degree. After a long break, I went back to school, a different university, and officially now have a bachelor’s degree. I am in the process of updating my resume and am unsure of what to do with the other university. Do I leave it on there? In the past, I have left it just with the dates and no note about a degree. But now that I have the degree, it feels like I should remove the previous institution. Am I thinking too much about this?

Yep, remove the first school since you didn’t graduate from it and just list the one that you did graduate from. When you attended multiple schools but only graduated from one, typically you only need to list the degree-issuing institution. You can list the other if you want to, but there’s no need to. (In a different set of circumstances, you might decide to leave it on if it strengthened your resume — like if you wanted to be able to show you completed a large amount of coursework in Relevant Area X — but otherwise there’s no need to.)

{ 429 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    #2 – Stuck with old Tech

    Alison’s advice is good. But also, start training others to be able to provide support. Not secretly. And explain that until these systems are replaced there need to be people who can deal with the tech.

    Also, talk to your boss about what you can take off your plate to make a bit more time in your day. You don’t want to take TOO much off, as you don’t want to get stuck only dealing with the old technology. But there are only so many hours in a day, and that needs to be factored into the planning.

    I think that once there starts being a real price to maintaining the old software, the business priorities will shift a bit.

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      If the systems are as clunky and outdated as OP’s frustration with them suggests, I doubt they’ll get any willing trainees unless there’s a directive from management. That doesn’t sound likely to materialise, and going around management and trying to train (potentially unwilling) people anyway could cause problems.

      Pretty bold though how all the managers say there’s “no point” to training new staff, when these are business critical systems and they only have one staff member who can use them and who is on call 24/7 without a break. If there’s “no point” to guaranteeing 24/7 business continuity, that’s their call. But OP giving up their personal time is 100% NOT their call.

      I’d give them the warning as AAM suggests, say you were happy to pinch-hit in the short term but it’s not sustainable anymore. Then when you leave for the day set your auto responder detailing your work hours, phone on DND excluding personal contacts, and don’t respond to work until you’re back on work time. Set the boundary, then stick to it. They won’t figure it out until you hand the problem back.

      1. Earlk*

        I think you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to learn clunky systems than have to rely on one individual for any needs they may have.

        1. Victoria Everglot*

          I’m the laziest person in the entire world and even I would prefer learning something for myself instead of having to wait for someone else to come do it for me, even if it is clunky and “soon” to be replaced.

          1. MassMatt*

            You call yourself the laziest person in the world but you clearly are not if you prefer doing things yourself versus having someone else do them.

            No to mention this “training” is likely to mean being on call during weekends, off hours, and holidays. Honestly I can’t see why anyone would want to do this unless they were required. I wouldn’t expect volunteers.

            1. Selina Luna*

              The people deemed “lazy” will often find the most efficient ways to do things, including learning an old system rather than waiting for someone else to fix a problem, if the act of waiting for someone else is preventing them from being lazy.

              1. Victoria Everglot*

                Yes, exactly. Avoiding the stress about not knowing when I’ll be able to proceed with my work so I could go back to my laziness would be worth just learning to do something myself.

              2. IDIC believer*

                I’m lazy too. It’s the driving force behind my organizing and setting up processes to handle work tasks. I detest repeating actions that can be automated. It’s also why I learn as much as I can about a program’s capabilities. I believe in putting time in upfront so I can coast later.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          There’s a difference between clunky and legacy/obsolete, though. I bet they will struggle to find people willing to take this on even if the business recognises it as a risk, because people’s thought process will be “I don’t want to get pigeonholed into working on legacy tech and close off my career options like [as they perceive it] OP has”.

          I agree though that it is bold of middle management to accept this massive risk on behalf of the company and potentially its shareholders. Not uncommon.

          It might be time for OP to go off sick for a week or so if they are starting to feel overwhelmed with this…

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            This is what I came here to say. My entire career has been a nonstop fight against ending in the spot OP is now in – changing jobs, using my political capital to switch teams, etc. I am a hell of a team player and would go out of my way to support my teammates, but I’d be very wary of the training and support described in this job, because it’s a fast track to end up being the next OP after OP moves on. Which leads me to my advice to OP – move on. This has turned into a dead-end job for you and it’s never going to change, until one day they lay you off and you won’t be able to find work somewhere else with “supported Old As Heck systems using mid-20-century programming languages” on your resume.

          2. MassMatt*

            Tech jobs are fickle—older skills/systems go out of fashion quickly, and all the time spent on this obsolete system is time the LW cannot spend learning new things. Or enjoying their holidays, for that matter.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            Yeah, learning anything about the old system is a real risk, because (like OP) you can get stuck with the hot potato. It is guaranteed job security, but only until they finally shift off the old system, at which point all of your skills are obsolete. I’ve been there.

            At my current job, my department has taken the bold strategy of dropping the potato: *no one* knows or is learning how to fix or update the old system. It definitely keeps the pressure on moving to the new system!

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              This is an amazing approach, that makes me want to work at your department!

          4. goddessoftransitory*

            I think this is a very good point–nobody wants to be stuck with being the only person who can do XYZ–which is usually tedious and not career-boosting.

        3. Nina*

          At my uni (in 2018!) there were a shocking number of people learning COBOL either as their primary focus or as one of several languages they could work in, precisely because critical legacy systems with clunky out-of-date requirements are so common and so hard to find caretakers for, anyone who can manage them can get practically whatever remuneration package they want.

          1. HaterOfMainframes*

            I’m being constantly begged by headhunters to look at mainframe offers, even though i only have rudimentary experience with Z Systems. There is practically noone on the market and departments that work with mainframes have an average age of 53-55 with ppl going into retirement at an increased rate.
            All this while companies still don’t even have a plan on how to deal with these legacy systems that are still critical to their daily operation.
            “We need to get rid of this” is the tune i keep hearing since about 15 years and the only lukewarm commitment was like “ok, let’s try not to bring new projects to the mainframe”. turned out to be a nice try.

            if the OP wants to get rid of the “legacy system guy” stigma, the only way is to look for something else. the present company will change absolutely nothing, unless it’s going to hurt grieviously.

      2. Meep*

        I find showing them how to solve their own problem when they have issues is extremely useful and will cover the training aspect. It is empowering since they don’t have to keep asking you for help and prevents you from being the only one who knows how to do something.

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        Exactly. The LW needs the old “hit by a bus” framing to make it clear to the management that this is a critical company issue–the day is going to come (sooner than they think if he follows Allison’s advice) where he is simply unavailable to do this, and then what?

        This has to be made a business problem that needs a business solution, not a kick the can one.

      4. Artemesia*

        the only way out of this is to start looking for a new job; when you move on refuse to answer questions about the old system for more than a week. The new job will have you tied up ‘I can’t work for you now as I am full time here and busy with the job.’ Then turn off the phone or that job’s ring tone when you are off work.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      Upgrading obsolete tech and migrating databases is a painful process, but it has to be done, and it’s better to do it *before* things crash catastrophically, or the lone employee who knows how to run the system quits in frustration. But it’s easy to put things off if it’s currently working, and so they aren’t going to do anything about it until the current situation causes them pain. Being unavailable for stretches of time outside of normal work hours is a good way to do so, and certainly much less disruptive than giving two weeks notice (which is what will end up happening if the LW keeps doing this until they’re completely fed up).

      I don’t think training other people is a reasonable option. Without buy in from management, the LW doesn’t have the authority to pull another employee off their main job to train them in a different job, even if they could find an employee who was willing to do so.

      1. Observer*

        Without buy in from management, the LW doesn’t have the authority to pull another employee off their main job to train them in a different job,

        No, they don’t have authority, but they do have standing. So they can’t force anyone to take the training, but some people might we willing anyway.

        And whatever happens, the OP comes out ahead by trying to train. Either they get some help, which is the ideal, or they force a clear accounting that the PTB know what’s going on and what they are (not) doing about it. While that’s not ideal, it does give the OP some cover if the garbage hits the fan before they can get out.

        1. PinaColada*

          I feel the opposite—if they’ve asked to train others and have been explicitly told not to, I think it could come across as insubordination if they just start doing it.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          What do you think is the difference between ‘authority’ and ‘standing’ to train people in this situation? It seems like OP doesn’t set work priorities or assign work to other people (doesn’t seem to be a manager, coordinator, project manager etc) so anyone being ‘assigned’ work – and being trained on something is just another work task – by OP would, quite rightly, push back or escalate it to their supervisor.

          1. Observer*

            The OP can’t *assign* people to take the training, because they don’t have the authority. But they CAN approach other people who use the system and say “Hey, I’m the only one who can deal with this right now, and I’m not always available. I think it would be a good idea if you knew how to deal with stuff too.” And then do the training if the person agrees. Whether any given person agrees is not withing the OP’s power to insure, but no reasonable person is going to think “What business is this of yours?” And keep doing that until they are explicitly told not to – in writing.

            1. SoloKid*

              “no reasonable person is going to think “What business is this of yours?”

              I think any “reasonable person” would weigh the costs and benefits of doing someone else’s work.

              Once, I said “no thanks” to learning an obsolete clunky system with a large helping of “sounds like our bosses’ problem if stuff breaks, eh?”. There was a bit of “mind your own department” I didn’t say, and I think I was quite reasonable to do so.

              For a different request, it was a fast yes because I got to learn Python (from a coworker I really liked), which opened up areas at dozens more jobs in my field.

              1. Observer*

                I think any “reasonable person” would weigh the costs and benefits of doing someone else’s work.

                True. But this is also not really the OP’s job, on the one hand. On the other hand, the OP would be wise to approach people who need the system to be working, or support people who need the system to be working. Because then it’s a matter of mutual benefit. Someone who never gets near those systems will almost certainly say no.

        3. I have RBF*

          The LW needs a long vacation off the grid. Like two weeks at a remote cabin for a spiritual retreat off the grid type thing. Cell phone is locked in the office. Whatever. They need to be gone long enough and unreachable enough that the company feels the pain. Otherwise there will be no relief.

          I was that person at one company. I tried to schedule meeting to cross train folks. They weren’t available. I wrote documentation. No one read it. Then they laid me off. I’m pretty sure they didn’t really realize what I had locked in my head, even though I documented what I could. I’m also pretty sure they cursed my name, but didn’t/wouldn’t read the docs.

        4. Rebelx*

          I disagree that OP should be offering to train anyone in the old tech. They already want to do less work with this tech – no need to volunteer to take on the additional work of training people in it. Besides, management already said they see training as pointless and presumably wouldn’t want OP to prioritize their time in that way.

          Alison’s suggestion to be less available for emergencies outside of normal work hours is the way to go. I also think there’s room to push back WITHIN normal work hours, framing it as a matter of priorities. OP says they already have a significant workload outside of the old-tech stuff. Every time an old-tech request comes in, OP should go to their boss and say, “I just got this request. If I take that on, then task X will have to be pushed back until (time). How do you want me to prioritize this?” Make it clear that if they want you to keep dealing with old-tech, it comes at the cost of other business priorities that you’re working on. Hopefully that will also nudge them in the direction of a better solution. Worst case scenario, the boss will always choose to prioritize old-tech, but at least that’s useful information for OP that management sees this as a key part of their job, and they can decide from there if it’s something they’re willing to accept or if they want to start job searching.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      There might be people who are relying on Old Tech, and feel frustrated having to wait for OP to be found at the weekend before their work can resume. It might be worth letting these people know: “I’m going to be a lot more unavailable soon, but I can teach you how to x, y and z in (timeframe) for when I’m not reachable, if you want.” But I would definitely start to be more unavailable, even if I don’t think people will listen to warnings. Even if you start with a weekend: “I’m going to be off grid hiking this weekend, and I wanted to let you know in case you needed to put a plan b in place for problems with Old Tech.” Then, if they survive the weekend: “I need that plan B to become more permanent because it’s stressful that my job has unintentionally become an on call situation and there are definitely personal plans/commitments I’ve been putting off that I can no longer delay.” If they don’t survive the weekend? Well, you warned them and sometimes people only listen to actions and consequences.

    4. cabbagepants*

      Soft Skills Engineering podcast did an episode about something quite similar and I think their advice was great. Episode #338, first question. As I recall, their advice was:

      1) Negotiate for way more money. You have a lot of leverage here.

      2) Train others. Present this to the business as you helpfully identifying a risk to the company (only one person knowing how to do something important) as well as helpfully offering to lead the effort to derisk the situation (train a new person).

      I’ll post a link!

    5. kiki*

      I think if LW is able to make that call and just start training folks, that makes sense. But in my experience, even if LW is able to find willing trainees, leadership will push back on the time being taken out of trainees’ schedules because there is some project with new technology that has a deadline they want to hit.

      I don’t want to sound too much like a negative nelly on this, but I’ve seen situations like LW2’s happen at a few different places… and the person in LW2’s shoes always has to leave for anyone to take things seriously. And sometimes even then they don’t until they have a critical failure.

      Again, I don’t want to sound like too much of a downer, but it seems like the management philosophy du jour at so many companies is to not invest in their technologies until there’s an absolute crisis. Having a single point of failure like this should be raising so many alarm bells for management and leadership– that it isn’t makes me think LW2 will have a hard time pushing to get this addressed.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’ve noticed that a lot of US work culture is about urgency. There’s always some emergency happening, and planning beyond the next quarterly earnings report never seems to happen. As a result, it is so difficult to correctly prioritize things that are important but not urgent. The old “infrastructure isn’t sexy” issue. There’s never momentum to repair the bridge until after it has collapsed.

        1. kiki*

          Yes to the urgency issue. I am US-based and I feel like every company I’ve worked at swings from urgent issue to urgent issue and we never get the *important* work done that would prevent these urgent issues from getting to the boiling point.

    6. OlympiasEpiriot*

      It absolutely doesn’t pass “the bus test” — the what-would-happen-if-I-got-hit-by-a-bus scenario.

      Critical systems need to be maintained, regardless if they are on ancient, cranky software. They have to be forced to migrate the data and test the new system.

      OP, do whatever you have to do to make that happen!

      Wishing you luck

    7. There You Are*

      I’d be one of the people who would be fine with OP showing me how to do what I need to do on Old Tech to get my job done, and I’m not in IT.

      I do, however, have a good working knowledge of computers and applications from back in the day when I *was* in IT and even learning Old Tech would be a plus on my resume. (“Able to learn new-to-me tech in a fast amount of time to keep my department functioning during a complete technology changeover.”)

      I already tell interviewers who ask if I have experience in [some software I’ve never used] that I’ve never met a software application I couldn’t master quickly. Learning Old Tech to make my job easier would serve to bolster that statement.

    8. Momma Bear*

      I agree. If the same five things break, document them and teach people how to fix them and point people to your instructions. If OP gets hit by a bus, there goes ALL the institutional knowledge. There needs to be a backup person somewhere. I would reiterate to the boss that being one deep on this tech is a house of cards and you need to train someone/will be training someone (your new tech?) as an emergency back up.

  2. CL*

    #2 – This happens all the time. Legacy systems held together with duct tape and chewing gum. I would document the risks to the company of not addressing these outdated systems: security risks from outdated technology, inability to upgrade systems that are no longer supported by vendors, lack of back up support if you were to become ill. Sometimes those arguments to management help get the updates you need.

    1. Tiger Snake*

      My day job is documenting risks. Sometimes they do something, sometimes they don’t and accepted them – but the important part for the OP is: Now someone else’s name is on the accountability line.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I can’t tell if OP and their manager(s) have clearly labeled this risk for the higher level(s) who set project priorities, or for project managers. If there’s any chance the directors don’t know, it may be time to rock the boat by reporting the risk directly.

      (I’ve worked for people who considered me talking to their bosses to be a personal attack, so I don’t suggest that lightly.)

    3. JSPA*

      This! and explicitly tell them: as you were never officially trained nor certified, that they are in a “do not let the pigeon drive the bus” scenario, if anyone were to hold them liable for some data breach or hack. They need to migrate, or they need to get someone with actual training, if they have any data that they would not want to loose (or have breached).

      I would not offer to train anyone, as that implies that you yourself were trained, and that you yourself have the ability to adequately train others.

      You can be one of the last 20 people on the planet to know your way around a VAX…but still not be more than journeyman level (with gaps) in terms of skills.

    4. AnonInCanada*

      Exactly this. And what happens when the company gets the proverbial chomp on the butt due to said old technology becoming unreliable yet still reliant on? They spend countless hours and dollars in down time to do something they should’ve done years ago, for far less money and pain, but didn’t since “it just worked.”

    5. Beth*

      I’ve actually leaned in to being LW#2 — in my case, the legacy system still works really well — better than the newer options! — and is still supported by the vendor. I also really enjoy using the legacy system. But I know this isn’t at all the usual situation.

      1. Becky*

        I recall early in the pandemic, when many states’ unemployment systems were being stressed in unusual ways, some states were scrambling to find people who knew COBOL and could help update their old mainframe systems.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        There is absolutely a niche for people who enjoy working with legacy systems; a ridiculous number of critical systems in military and finance rely on niche systems that haven’t been updated in over forty years. However, that should be the job description, not an extra task on top of a full job.

    6. Lenora Rose*

      This is so common there’s an obligatory XKCD for the purpose.

      Note, old doesn’t always mean bad; the system could have been excellent in its day, and it could actually be harder to break. But a company really really doesn’t want to find out the hard way that they have a huge security gap or that there’s an irreplaceable bit about to break.


  3. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    LW3: I have been the employee who always covered shifts (well it was 2 of us on a team of 4). My manager knew I couldn’t always do it. One day a shift needed covering when it fell on my child’s birthday. My manager had no idea what to do. In the end I had to go to my manager’s manager. He pretty much said to her what I had been saying, come up with a backup system. This whole affair caused a huge rift between my manager and me. I ended up leaving over it. I disagree with Alison’s answer on this. You need to come up with a fair and equitable system to handle call outs. Your other employee at some point is going to get tired of covering for the one who will not show up. Be prepared to lose two people over this the longer it goes.

    1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

      ETA: It is late, I must have missed the second paragraph in the answer. In my comment above we actually did the whole hire someone to be on call. It failed epically because the person who was calling out had a small child and newborn. Her callouts were almost always last minute too. Think call at 9pm Friday to come in at 8am next day Saturday.

      1. Choupette*

        The nature of call offs means they’re almost always going to be last minute. In fact, I’d not consider 9pm the night before to be last minute, my last minute call offs tend to be 6am for 7am shift.

        1. Sasha*

          Yep, or “ooh, sorry, woke up this morning sick and won’t make it in!” At 8:05, for an 8:00 shift.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      That depends on how voluntary the extra shifts are.

      I’m also one of those employees who almost always covers extra shifts. The difference is that I can, and do, turn down those shifts when they don’t suit me. My employer deals with it, even when that means a shift goes empty. The only possible consequence to me is how many coworkers get offered those extra shifts before I get called.

      1. Capt. Liam Shaw*

        It is not just “how voluntary” shifts are. It can be used as a carrot “look at Jane she covers shifts and is a team player” and also a stick “well Jane never volunteers for shifts she isn’t a team player.” When the truth could be Jane doesn’t volunteer because she is Mom of two small kids and can’t because her husband is working and she can’t leave two kids unattended.

        If coverage is important to the job, have a fair and equitable system in place to cover call outs.

        IME (banking/finance industry)using volunteering is just lazy management at best and manipulation at worst. But I could see volunteering working well in something like
        nursing or healthcare, esp. if there at big OT bonuses.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I would add transparent to fair and equitable.

          If covering shifts when someone else is sick is part of the job, be clear about that, and about any incentives (like overtime) that are available (and, ideally, give some estimate of how often this will happen). If the expectation is that people who *don’t* have children will be on call when people with childcare responsibilities aren’t, then state that upfront, before hiring, rather than have people start work and discover that they’re now expected to cover more shifts than their coworkers.

          1. Choupette*

            That may be illegal depending on the state/locality, some have laws protecting “familial status.” This protects both people with children AND people without children from unequal/discriminatory treatment.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              It’s also a great way to make sure employees who don’t have childcare responsibilities quit. I’m a team player who will fight for better parental leave or caretaking leave for my coworkers, but I’d leave any employer who decided I would always be on call just because I don’t have kids. The things I choose to do with my life are important too.

              1. Starbuck*

                Yes, the two states of existence aren’t “has childcare responsibilities” vs. “has no kids and therefore no outside work responsibilities and is always free to cover.”

                I know commenters here generally know that, but it’s a common bias so I think it bears repeating.

        2. e271828*

          If an employer only says I’m a “team player” when I’m available for unscheduled work at short notice, 24/7 or otherwise, I’m happy not to be a “team player.” A job is a job, not a lifestyle.

      2. nodramalama*

        i don’t know what they do at a vision clinic, but when i was a receptionist at a medical centre it wasn’t possible to have nobody on. it was either a receptionist gets called in as an emergency or the clinic closed for the day. which just… couldn’t happen

        1. Rebecca*

          Why not? Life happens. I’ve absolutely had a doctor’s office call to reschedule when the doctor had a family emergency. (I once had an appointment canceled when the doctor died in a car accident,
          even.) But we can’t do that if it’s the receptionist? Who is presumably being paid a pittance compared to the doctor? Who can’t properly staff their practice? (They can’t if 1 call out shuts them down.)

          I am the person that always says no to extra shifts. I simply don’t want to. It has nothing to do with my coworkers. I just don’t need the money enough to disrupt my personal time. I couldn’t care less if that meant the office closed for the day. Not my problem. It’s the problem of a business owner that can’t correctly staff their business.

          I’m not paid enough to care about the business needs of my employer when I’m not physically working. So I don’t. If the owner of the business wants to make it worth my while, they can do that. But otherwise, I learned a very long time ago not to care.

          1. Victoria Everglot*

            My pediatrician (EXTREMELY small practice) hired on a nurse practitioner because he got sick and realized he can’t/didn’t want to leave families hanging when he was unavailable. For the medical field especially I think there are probably a lot of options for, say, temporary staff, especially if the practice is part of a larger network where anyone they get for the day will already know how proprietary stuff works.

          2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            Depends on the medical center, no? I mean, if my optometrist appointment is pushed back, it’s a scheduling annoyance. If, say, my chemo or dialysis appointment were pushed back, I would be CONSIDERABLY more upset. Especially because there is no way they’d be able to cram everybody in to the next day. They’d probably have to spread them out over the next week or two.

            1. AlsoADHD*

              So facilities that give chemo need to staff to that need, but to be fair, this is a vision shop.

              1. Artemesia*

                If my husband can’t get treatment timely he is blind. He could be pushed off a day or two but because the appointments are already at the ultimate distance, being pushed off more than that is a big risk.

                1. AlsoADHD*

                  Then a place that treats such needs (would those happen at a routine vision center—vision center makes me imagine a Target Optical or something) should have alternative arrangements or pay on call clinical staff for your kinds of needs, but this sounds like a job that’s not on call.

            2. The Shenanigans*

              Well, then, again, the problem is with the business owner who won’t staff properly, not with the nurses who reasonably conclude they are only paid enough to be at scheduled shifts.

              1. evens*

                Let’s say you need a total of 70 hours of staffing a week. How many people are needed for you to staff that “properly”? Should we hire 5 people and have them work 15 hours a week with no benefits, or two people full time with benefits?

                The problem is, if you don’t need many hours covered, you hire fewer people, which means fewer people to cover when others are out. This isn’t a hospital with thousands of employees, it’s a small office that needs coverage. It’s more complicated than just “business bad, worker good.” The reality is that if you work in a small office, the expectation is that you will 1) not be a burden by calling out late, and 2) help out when your coworkers have an emergency. Otherwise, businesses have to hire more people and give less hours to each employee.

          3. Nightengale*

            We have 2 nurses, one of whom covers several practices. If our main one is out and the other is scheduled to be in a different office. . . we don’t have anyone else to float to cover. I can get weights and blood pressures on the patients seen in the office (I’m the doctor) and do some of what she does if it can’t wait, and our office manager can pull messages off the phone but can’t do anything else with them because she isn’t a nurse. We manage, barely.

          4. Daisy Daisy*

            Yes I always declined extra shifts when I was in that kind of position. I’m available at my scheduled hours; finding coverage for callouts is the manager’s job and if they are too understaffed that solution isn’t coming out of my real-life time.

          5. The Shenanigans*

            Yuuup. This. It’s on the managers and business owners to deal with proper staffing and care about what happens if it’s not properly staffed. If you have a system that relies on, essentially, 24/7 coverage when the employee doesn’t even get paid enough to care about their regular job, then you have a system that relies on exploitation. Fortunately, a lot of employees are realizing this and pushing back.

          6. nodramalama*

            we were a clinic with over 10 doctors. thats hundreds of patients a day, many of whom need regular treatment. Do you have any idea the havoc it would cause to cancel a clinic of that large for a day with no notice because a receptionist wasn’t available?

            Trying to rebook that amount of patients when the waitlist for non-emergent appointments would be awful for the clinic, the doctors AND the reception staff. I don’t think you have any idea how many irate patients receptionists have to deal with when a clinic is running behind, let alone if they were to suddenly cancel every appointment.

            1. Fushi*

              Kinda sounds like the clinic should staff accordingly to their dire need for back-up receptionists, then. Still not the individual receptionist’s responsibility

        2. Observer*

          it was either a receptionist gets called in as an emergency or the clinic closed for the day. which just… couldn’t happen

          Then you need a “substitute list.”

          1. AMT*

            That’s what a lot of healthcare facilities do, and I’m surprised that’s not something the OP has considered! Lots of retired medical staff or people who work at other facilities pick up odd shifts for extra money. You don’t have to hire a whole new full-time person or have someone on call, just have a handful of designated subs.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              It’s a good idea, but I hesitate on the implementation. This works for school divisions (where they need substitutes for teachers, EAs, receptionists and other clerical roles), but for that, there’s a central hub that all schools are already linked to, so arranging the substitute, and doing the payroll for any and all one-shots, is not handled by the school. Even if they banded together to share out substitute clerks and nurses, small clinics would have a hard time without that central hub.

              1. Observer*

                This works for school divisions (where they need substitutes for teachers, EAs, receptionists and other clerical roles), but for that, there’s a central hub that all schools are already linked to, so arranging the substitute, and doing the payroll for any and all one-shots, is not handled by the school.

                I have no idea how this works in your school system, but it’s not universally true in all PS systems. And it is DEFINITELY not true in the private school sector. Not all schools have substitute lists, but many do.

    3. Not A Manager*

      I disagree with Alison’s answer on this, too. She suggests hiring someone specifically for last-minute shifts and making that part of the job description. But it sounds like *sometimes* being available is already part of the job. Two people are doing that part of their job, and one person isn’t. I think OP should make it explicit to their employee that they need to be reasonably available for last-minute coverage, just like everyone else is.

      If it’s possible to “just hire” someone to be specifically available to cover cancelations, then it would be easier to just hire that person to be a regular employee as well, with the expectation that they will sometimes cover for other employees. This is a three-person operation. It seems really inefficient to me to essentially keep someone on call when you could just have three people who are courteous to each other.

      1. Elsewise*

        Was that expectation made clear to the employee at the time of hiring, though? If not, LW needs to be prepared that she might leave over this.

        It’s also important to keep in mind whether or not the employee is working full time and making enough to get by, or if they need a second job to cover expenses. If you’re expecting employees to be able to cover any shifts last minute, you need to be paying them enough that they don’t have a second job.

      2. Quite anon*

        It is not reasonable to expect employees to be completely unable to make plans because they might be asked to call in. Work is work. It’s not a religion.

      3. Starbuck*

        “OP should make it explicit to their employee that they need to be reasonably available for last-minute coverage,” some people simply can’t or won’t do this; if OP wants to make it an ultimatum, fine, but they need to be aware they’d potentially lose this employee as it could be a dealbreaker.

      4. The Shenanigans*

        I agree they should hire another person, too. Or they could use a temp agency. I got a lot of calls for one or two situations exactly like this one. I would also bet they don’t make the requirement clear because if they do, they are just asking for people to drop out of the process or take the job because they are desperate and then leave as soon as they can. No one is gonna stay at a place that requires 24/7 availability for less than a living wage.

        Yes, the business owner is being extremely rude in making his poor business decision his employees’ problem. I agree with that.

      5. Moonstone*

        This isn’t about courtesy though. I can be the most courteous and diligent employee in the world and still not want to have to cover last minute shifts because I have a life. I schedule appointments and make plans for my off days. Even if that plan is to do nothing at all, I am not willing to reschedule my life because my employer is too cheap to fully staff the business. Once in a blue moon? Sure, I’ll maybe consider it. This sounds like a regular occurrence and, as such, the owner or manager needs to account for that and staff accordingly.

    4. ferrina*

      I’ve worked places where a certain number of extra shifts was considered part of job expectations. There weren’t a lot of call-outs, and we usually had one extra person staffed (so you would need 2 people to call out before you needed to find back-up). The manager started with the person mostly likely to say yes, then worked her way through the list. If no one was available, the manager had to work that shift (part of the role of manager- she had to show up when no one else did). If you said no to every shift you were asked to cover, eventually the manager would have a few quiet words about how you needed to cover from time to time. It was part of the job expectations.

      It sounds like OP’s business is too small for this to work, but could OP offer a monetary compensation to the associate that does cover? That could help with morale.

    5. Antilles*

      Your other employee at some point is going to get tired of covering for the one who will not show up. Be prepared to lose two people over this the longer it goes.
      100%. The key part here is that there’s only 3 employees (including OP) who can cover. If it was like 10 people, you could shrug off having Never-Covers-Betty because there’d always be someone who’d be willing and able to cover. But in a department this small, you’re just begging for the scenario of:
      1. OP is completely unavailable to fill in
      2. Andy is sick and needs to call out
      3. Never-Cover Betty refuses to cover the shift
      4. It hits the fan in some fashion. Either Andy is forced to drag themselves in while sick or the shift goes completely unfilled.
      5. Andy comes out of the whole experience ticked off at Betty and probably OP and the company too. Particularly since OP says that both OP and Andy have been covering for Betty, Andy is going to (very reasonably!) look at this as “when you needed coverage, I helped out, but when I needed coverage, you didn’t return the favor”.

      1. Antilles*

        And just to be clear, it’s entirely fair for Betty to decide never to cover shifts. If it’s not a condition of the job, it should be up to her. But from a management perspective (since OP is writing in), it’ll eventually cause issues that 1 person in the small group of 3 is never available to cover other shifts.

    6. Ginger Cat Lady*

      And I’ve been the employee who had a second job, was in school full time, and limited child care options and couldn’t be doing extra shifts at the last minute.
      Unless a job requires – and pays for! – 24/7 on call, they cannot realistically expect employees to always be available for unscheduled shifts at a moment’ notice. People have full lives outside of work and sometimes those lives take priority over a company’s poor planning and intentionally thin staffing to increase profitability.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That’s my reaction. I’m reading the letter and most of the comments as a report from an alternate universe. I was on-call 24/7 for six years. But we had three people on rotation and the ones who wouldn’t take calls on their on-call week and so force tier 1 staff to call their teammates during the teammates’ off-call weeks, were very rare, and got themselves a reputation right away. I cannot imagine a job where I’d be expected to be available to work an entire shift on a moment’s notice *in addition to my own* and be berated if I cannot do it?! Even now when my kids are grown, I have plans that cannot always be canceled last minute.

        When I was on the on-call rotation, all vacations, family activities etc, everything that would prevent you from getting and answering the call, like taking your kids to a beach or to a theater to see a movie… had to be planned around the on-call schedule. I cannot imagine always living like this. It was hard enough with the 1 week on, 2 weeks off, or 2 on/4 off schedule. I simply wouldn’t be able to do it every day of the year, does Always-Cover Allie from LW’s letter never go out of town? never take vacation? never get sick? what the hell is going on there.

        1. Quite anon*

          Yeah, I was on call this holiday weekend, and I…. did not go out to do anything fun. Because I was on call! But I’m not on call 24/7.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I’m still feeling guilty because, when the first Pirates of the Caribbean came out, my kids (10 and 7 at the time) wanted to see it on the opening weekend and I couldn’t take them, because I was on call! They are now 27 and 30 and think it’s funny that I feel bad about it, but really it’s not. And I remember them making other comments back at that time about how I’m never able to do things with them because of work. Even though, like you, I was not on call 24/7! I cannot imagine living with the expectation of having to drop everything and go into work anytime the boss calls and tells me to cover a shift.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          My dad was a doctor, and he was on call regularly–but that was part of a pre set schedule! It was very clear who was set up to come in when if X or Y happened, and everybody understood to not make huge, unbreakable plans on their on call days. Of course, life happens and sometimes the on call doctor had their own emergency, but then another person was set to step in. It was all built into the employment system and you didn’t get hired without understanding how it worked.

          But I promise you, he and every other doctor there would seriously side-eye some kind of constant “last minute” call ins to physicians who were not part of the on call rotation for that shift.

      2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        I disagree with you – because you said sometimes our lives outside of work take priority.

        The “sometimes” shouldn’t be there. People should always prioritize their life plans over companies being skinflint.

        1. Daisy Daisy*

          Yeah the idea that dropping your plans is “being a good worker” is propaganda to convince lower-level workers to act against their own best interest and pressure others to do the same.

          1. marvin*

            Yep. My experience from shift work jobs is that they operated on the basis of social pressure and veiled threats rather than paying for constant availability or letting overworked and underpaid employees actually take a reasonable amount of time off.

            1. e271828*

              The language in the discussion here enforces the social pressure. “Team player.” “Got themselves a reputation.” “Part of the job expectation” without being made clear in writing the original job description. “Reliably available” in the original letter.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Since “Got themselves a reputation” is from my comment, I’m going to reply to that one. After the fourth or fifth time your phone rings in the middle of the night, or on a weekend morning, and the tier 1 tech on the line tells you “I am so sorry, I know you are not on call this week, but I tried Fergus several times and he isn’t answering or calling back, you know how Fergus is” and you then have to log into work and spend several hours fixing the prod issue, when it’s not your week to be working 24/7… and have to explain it to your family too… then you gradually begin to get the idea that you don’t like, or want to be, working with Fergus. And when my Fergus was out of work and messaged me asking for leads and to be his reference… I didn’t answer. Because I do not wish this guy on anyone. I hope he found a job, but I didn’t want to be a part of the reason why his new coworkers now have to do theirs *and his* share of work, because he can’t be bothered to pull his weight.

    7. Just Another Zebra*

      When I was young, single, and broke, I was happy to be the “call me if you need me” person (it was retail, in a mall, so call outs were frequent). And then we had a holiday season that was an extra week long, I worked three shifts on Black Friday, and I was burnt out. The first time I told my manager “no, sorry, I can’t today”, I got called in the office on my next shift and was scolded for not being a team player. But people who never came in last minute weren’t scolded, because “oh, they never come in unless their scheduled”. It works both ways.

      OP is the manager, and needs to figure out something that doesn’t rely on an employee’s willingness to work when not scheduled.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        And as well as chiding you in an extremely unjust way*, I bet they never, ever, paid you a premium for your availability. If they really wanted people to cover shifts last minute, they need extra incentives and perks besides “Look, you get paid.”

        * It can both be true that the other staff had more reasons they absolutely could not take extra shifts, and should not be penalized for having a life outside work, AND that chiding the one person who is covering shifts for “not being a team player” the one time they don’t is absolutely ridiculous.

    8. Dawn*

      Nope, my personal time is my personal time. If you want to have a say over how I use it, you pay me more for that privilege and make it clear that’s what we’re doing so I have a chance to decide if those are terms I wish to work under or not.

      “Fairness” doesn’t enter into it. This is a business relationship, and working out your problems in the business you own is your responsibility; if having a lien on my personal time is part of your solution you must make it worth my while.

  4. Chacha Real Smooth*

    #5 — I also recommend taking your attendance dates off your education/degree. It can introduce unconscious bias/age discrimination.

    1. MorningStar*

      Actually, I put graduation date(s) back on my résumé.

      Unless you have face lift(s) done, the interviewers will be able to see that you are no longer in your thirties. Merely colouring your hair is not going to make interviewers think you are still young. Our faces are literally what gives us away.

      Leaving my dates on my résumé is actually a filter, i.e. will only hear back from those who are not ageists.

      When I was decades younger and had four interviews (at different companies) on the same day, I received job offers from two of the four companies. I would have received three job offers if the third company hadn’t made the decision to impose a hiring freeze due to their financial situation. Nowadays things are very different, e.g. lucky to even get an interview.

      Small businesses and non-profits seem to discriminate less against older workers.

      I found this interesting comment regarding HR and age discrimination:
      “It wasn’t all that long ago that I was reading some of the HR manuals in the company library. I found three that said that HR needs to understand that people over 40 have hearing problems, struggle to learn new skills, and they’re tired and often not as productive as young people. So it’s important to manage the workforce so as to keep the staff’s average age below 40. or in a tech field, 35. And I realized that if HR managed that, and each tech staff member stuck to a retirement plan of working until 65, they’d have to bring in kindergartners as new hires.”

      1. MorningStar*

        To clarify, I put the education dates back on my résumé, to prevent employers from wasting my time, i.e. being ghosted by interviewers after first interview, never advanced to subsequent interview(s) etc.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          If you’re in a position to filter out companies that discriminate, that’s awesome.

          For those who can’t afford to do so, the strategy I’d use is to get as far into the process as possible before disclosing the characteristic that people may be biased against. If the person reviewing resumes or doing phone screens is biased, you don’t want them to knock you out of the running before you can impress the hiring manager.

          Unconscious bias is most likely to creep in during snap decisions that don’t have a clear rubric, which I imagine is common for reviewing resumes. Small interventions at this stage (e.g. removing graduation dates, changing a first name to an initial) can have big impacts on the diversity of those hired.

      2. bamcheeks*

        people over 40 have hearing problems, struggle to learn new skills, and they’re tired and often not as productive as young people

        === are significantly more likely to have hard responsibilities outside work and are harder to exploit.

        1. lucanus cervus*

          Yup. I worked myself into the ground as a naive 20-something who was told in my first job that that’s what it took and if I wasn’t keeping up with my impossible workload, I just wasn’t managing my time correctly. All that company’s new hires were very young – fresh out of university, high achieving, inexperienced and insecure. When I got pregnant, the boss took me aside and told me that I’d never be able to do the job with a young family. (Which, I mean, he was right, but the correct answer to that issue was not constructive dismissal of employees who dare to reproduce.) You can’t get away with that shit when your employees have any real experience, or any major responsibilities outside work. That company would never consider hiring me as I am now.

        2. Sasha*

          I am interpreting “they’re tired and often not as productive as young people” to mean “people in their 40s are wise to the stay-at-work-until-10pm-if-you-want-promotion thing, and much harder to exploit. Hire people fresh out of college, they won’t have a clue”

        3. Lily*

          “are significantly more likely to have hard responsibilities outside work and are harder to exploit.”
          100% this

      3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Leaving my dates on my résumé is actually a filter, i.e. will only hear back from those who are not ageists.

        That’s a great reminder that all advice carries an implied YMMV; what works for one may not work for another.

      4. Jackalope*

        There’s a lot of advice (that I think has research backing it but too tired to look it up right now) talking about getting your foot in the door by not including information on your resume that shows you’re a member of a protected class. If you actually get an interview then you have the chance to demonstrate that you’d be the best person for the job, as opposed to getting screened out before that even happens. So I would still recommend not putting the dates of schooling on your resume.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yep, this is the advice I give people. Your resume should give someone the best five second snapshot of your candidacy possible – don’t give them a chance to discriminate against you on that page. You can say you’re doing it to self select out of bad companies, but that first pass at your resume may be some entry level HR worker who has little impact on your day-to-day life, or the bias may be completely unconscious and the screener would be mortified to have it pointed out, or a million other variables you can’t control for.

          Get yourself to an interview, get into a two way conversation, and make your judgments at that point, but don’t disadvantage yourself from the gate. Especially if your field isn’t thriving right now.

          1. MorningStar*

            When you are unemployed it becomes increasingly expensive to be wasting time going to dozens of interviews, only to be ghosted/rejected. Meanwhile your savings are being used up just trying to survive. There is the cost of bus fare or gas/parking costs etc.

            1. MorningStar*

              Many older workers report seeing an immediate look of disappointment by interviewer(s) when meeting them even though they look their best, i.e. business professional attire, make-up and hair coloured etc.

              The résumé suggested a thirty something candidate but the candidate is actually 55+.

      5. AlsoADHD*

        I mean, this is very individual. I switched fields last year and even if I don’t dye my hair and have the occasional gray (but especially when I do), people think I’m much younger than I am. I’m a middle aged woman but people estimate me closer to 30, sometimes even in my 20s! I had interviewers wonder if the dates were right on my resume because I look younger than they expected. My current team frequently assumes I’m younger. Your “face gives you away” assumes everyone looks their age when really some people look older than they are, some younger, and things like dye and skincare and styling weigh in (as well as genetic variation and how well we estimate the age of people of different races etc).

        1. MorningStar*

          The reality is that not everyone is as fortunate as you to still have a youthful face etc.

          1. AlsoADHD*

            Well yeah, but the notion that removing dates does nothing isn’t true, that’s all. It really depends on a lot of factors (how educational dates match the employment dates you’re including, if you’ll be thought younger or older, etc.) The notion that the “face always tells” is just not true.

    2. Zaeobi*

      Yes, I do this for all of my qualifications (regardless of how long it took me to complete them, or when).

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, I actually do have to include university dates and an exhaustive list of everything I’ve ever done, because working in education they need a timeline of where you’ve been as an adult for safeguarding reasons. Other industries? Definitely cherry pick what you want to showcase and axe the dates as much as possible. They want to know what you’ve done, and possibly for how long, and how recently but they won’t need a timeline like my industry does.

    4. Still Nameless in MN*

      If you have dates on your work history, they’ll figure it out. Any on line application requires dates and you can’t put in just the month or mm/dd you need the year also in order to move on in the application.

      My point being that leaving the date off of education on a resume isn’t going to make much difference. There are too many other “flags” for prospective employers to use as bias/age discrimination if that is what comes to their mind.

    5. Sloanicota*

      I was wondering about this, if OP’s first experience at college was close to the beginning of her career and her second experience was later. I wouldn’t want my resume to look like I’m a recent grad when in fact I’m mid-career, so I would probably leave the dates off my degree, and if asked I’d explain when I started, then took some time off, then recently finished.

      1. Smithy*

        I actually think this is the better reason for this OP to take graduation years off of their resume.

        For those with very linear resumes, the degree dates may feel like an age marker – but I think if your education and/or professional history is less linear and includes breaks, the dates can raise questions, often just out of curiosity. And during the interview, being able to say “I started at State University, but ultimately needed to work full time and began a career in human resources as you can see in my resume. Being able to complete my degree at City College fit better with my work schedule and also had a really interesting business administration curriculum.”

        For most interviews, versions of that will be more than enough. Even though those stories are often incredibly personal to us.

    6. The Day After*

      Unfortunately, the US federal government requires actual transcripts for positions with an affirmative educational requirement. I suppose applicants can try redacting their graduation date, but there is really no way to hide it. I removed dates from my resume but still encounter rampant age discrimination. I wish Alison would do a post about combating it.

    7. The Day After*

      Unfortunately, the US federal government requires actual transcripts for positions with an affirmative educational requirement. I suppose applicants can try redacting their graduation date, but there is really no way to hide it. I removed dates from my resume but still encounter rampant age discrimination. I wish there was more guidance about how to combat it.

    8. Lenora Rose*

      I’ve actually made the argument that if Florida keeps doing what it’s doing to its higher ed programs, people who graduated from those places years ago will want to start RE-adding those dates ASAP.

  5. Rando with opinions*

    Ah, question 5 just helped me determine how to get BYU off my resume – graduate from another school!

    It does seem interesting that neglecting mentioning another four years of presumably valuable education is more desirable to employers. I get out a little bit, like society values completing things and not dawdling in a program. But the extra education is also a useful thing. I guess this is all to say Alison is right, yet I can’t totally justify why.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      It’s probably not “another four years”. It’s not unusual to transfer some credits from an unfinished degree to a later one even when there is no connection between the Universities. Given that is really one degree and the unusual circumstances any value from extra classwork is probably not worth having to explain everything in some kind of coherent narrative (unless there is something particularly noteworthy about the first institution)

      1. Rando with opinions*

        Good point. That does make sense under those conditions. I must have been projecting my own situation in this particular instance without knowing how much more school the OP completed at the new university.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        As someone who attended different universities and got credits transferred between them, I list them all but under the same header (“B. Sc. in [subject]” and “M. Sc. in [subject]” ) and with the title of my thesis as the last line after the university where I got the degree.

        However, I should mention that I’m still very early into my career with have very little work history and therefore don’t need to worry about space (also, as a recent grad I probably get cut a lot of slack when it comes to my resume).
        But anyway, that’s my solution for listing multiple universities that resulted in one degree and I think it’s pretty coherent that way and not confusing. I may drop it in the future, though.

        On another note, if the LW was a full-time student it may be better to list the university than to leave a gap in the timeline.

    2. Trish*

      Why do you want to expunge BYU from your resume? It’s a good school, lots of people turn down Ivies to go there.

      1. Formerly Ella Vader*

        It invites assumptions about the graduate’s current religion, whether or not the assumptions are correct.

      2. Rando with opinions*

        My number one reason is bigotry.

        However, having gone to BYU, it really depends on what your major is and the metrics you are measuring to count it as a “good school”. If you’re looking at most anything in the business school, you’ll have your shot at a golden ticket to a Big 4 accounting firm or founding 1-800-Contacts. Not all programs at BYU are created equal, though. Many programs (my program) lacked the rigor of thought that comes from debating and sorting through conflicting viewpoints without an intent to use religion to determine the one right answer.

        Mostly, though, keeping religion off my resume in all forms is 100% preferred, especially if I stay in a Mormon-dominated state. There is less of a likelihood for employer bias if they assume you were never affiliated vs. once-affiliated.

        But yeah, I think some of the BYU education was valuable, which is why I find it a touch regrettable to leave it off the resume entirely. And I’m not sure how much more education the OP completed at the new university, so I could relate to feeling some conflicted feelings on leaving off the first school entirely.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          “However, having gone to BYU, it really depends on what your major is and the metrics you are measuring to count it as a “good school””

          Really, this is true with most schools. An otherwise nondescript school might be the recognized powerhouse in one specific field, while a prestige school might actually be quite mediocre in it.

          1. DataSci*

            Yuuup. My PhD is from a school that’s in the top few for that field, and a mid-tier at best public university otherwise. I’m no longer in the field, but am far enough into my career that “has a PhD in a STEM field” is the only relevant information from my education history, so I no longer worry about it.

      3. Ginger Cat Lady*

        It’s….not that good of a school to people who are not Mormons and Mormons have a real distorted rose-tinted image of it. If people turn down Ivies to go there, it’s because it’s so much cheaper and/or because they think anything outside the Mormon bubble is going to corrupt them. The reality is that BYU is quite problematic and I totally get why people want to distance themselves from it.

        1. SubjectAvocado*

          It’s a well-regarded school in the Mountain West and its business programs are quite well regarded nationally. Placement numbers as well as ranking will show you that academically, a BYU business degree (and, I believe, a law degree) doesn’t hold a person back. The problematic cultural elements are almost a separate issue than the academic rigor and can be screened through wise interview questions surrounding diversity and support of inclusive efforts.

    3. MK*

      It’s not that society randomly values completing things, it’s that an unfinished degree invites the question of why didn’t you finish. And a resume doesn’t have the space to explain.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I think society does value finishing things in its own right, though. Seeing things through, completing all the parts rather than just the parts someone found easy or likeable, self motivation and so on. (I say this as someone who has a really hard time finishing things — but I do see the value in it!)

        1. ferrina*

          Agree with this. Finishing the degree is supposed to show a certain level of discipline, organization and academic rigor. Of course, we know that life gets in the way and highly disciplined, organized, intelligent and rigorous people don’t complete degrees, but the degree is an easy shorthand.

          Interestingly, we don’t have a system for the converse. I had 3 degrees before I turned 23, but there was no real place to highlight that on my resume. (sidenote: the same skills that I used to get those degrees– organization, understanding exact specs, creative thinking, and sometimes just plain ol’ long hours– are all skills I regularly use in my career).

          1. The Day After*

            Finishing a degree can just show middle class privilege. Remember C student George Bush?College graduates tend to beget college graduates, there is an entire culture to navigate not just completing academic requirements.

            I did finish although I came form a lower middle class family without much higher education. I still wish artificial educational barriers would fall, so many jobs don’t really need four year degrees and this requirement creates an artificial barrier to entry. And pressures people to take on outrageous student debt.

            As an older worker, I recommend taking off anything over fifteen years or so from your resume, and definitely leaving off degree years unless recent. Even then, be prepared to be discriminated against.

      2. DataSci*

        It does. Someone who can never see a project through to completion is not an asset to most teams.

      3. bamcheeks*

        There is a lot of bias towards a normative education and career path, which I think is at least as important as “completing things”. An illness, a disability, an unexpected pregnancy, family poverty etc are all things that get in the way of finishing a degree on a four-year timescale and many employers see them as complications that they’d rather not deal with.

        (though people also leave degrees for things which are geenerally regarded as career-success, like, “I had an opportunity to go professional in my sport”, “my side business really took off” etc.)

        1. doreen*

          I think there’s a difference between not finishing a degree on a four-year time scale and never finishing a degree that you started. I started a master’s degree but never finished. It may have been on my resume while I was still attending , and possibly while I was on a leave of absence for a year , but after that, it was gone. There was no benefit to having the three semesters I attended part-time on my resume. All it would do is bring up the question of why I didn’t finish – and since the individual courses I took would not themselves make me a better candidate, there was no point in mentioning it at all.

    4. Zaeobi*

      Yes, I guess it depends what you were doing in those four years too – if it was all four years of just studying, then that would leave a noticeable gap in your CV/ résumé to leave it off, no?

      1. ecnaseener*

        It would only be a gap if their relevant work history began before attending that first school. Since they said it’s been a long time, I’m guessing they can start their work history from after that point.

    5. Eh*

      It’s not “neglecting mentioning another four years” that seems odd. What seems odd is mentioning every twist and turn and class you took on the way to the end result. I went to xx private school that cost a bazillion dollars. Then I ended up graduating from state school. My resume mentions only the school I graduated from. I’m 20 years into my career with a masters degree at this point, but also at basically any point in my career would it seem weird to mention some place I went to school and didn’t graduate from. Has degree in xx from yy school. That is what you put on your resume.

      Obvious caveat is whether the classes are super specific from a super prestigious school. But even that if I were hiring I would be concerned if you were like almost finished a degree at Harvard but ended up getting a degree from blah blah state school instead. I would NOT be concerned if you were like I went to xx state school. Only if you explained you dropped out of Harvard after almost 4 years.

      But really, you get your degree, you check off the ticky box. It’s not lying or disingenuous. That’s the school where you got your degree. Most places honestly don’t care. Especially if you are a bit advanced in your career. I don’t devalue education. I have a Masters and my sister has a PhD. But adding extra info is more than needed for general corporate employment. If you are an academic I change my position.

    6. Garblesnark*

      yeah, I’m not getting a master’s JUST to get my conservative undergrad off my resume… but it’s not not a reason.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        That’s not Alison’s advice AT ALL.

        LW did not graduate from school 1, but took a lot of classes so put that it on their resume to convey the 4 years of education that did not result in a degree. Now that they have a Bachelor’s degree just listing the degree from school 2 conveys the same thing (4 years of education) plus a completed degree.

        If you get your bachelor’s and master’s from different schools, you really need to list both. You don’t get to pick one and imply that both degrees came from it.

      2. Dana Lynne*

        In my experience both the master’s and the bachelor’s would be listed. You would not put just the master’s on a resume.

      3. The Person from the Resume*

        That’s not even the situation described in the letter. 4 years of undergrad classes resulted in no degree. As soon as the LW get an undergraduate degree at another school, they can drop the other school’s incomplete/never to be finished degree.

        You should list both your bachelor’s and master’s degree on your resume and you should list the schools for both.

      4. Rando with opinions*

        In my case, I did four years of BYU without a degree because you know, dropping out for babies and what not. So for me, this applies.

    7. Colette*

      There’s lots of ways to learn, and most of them don’t show up on a resume. Yes, you can learn a lot in university classes that don’t end in a degree – but you can also skip every class and fail out of the program, and there’s no way to communicate that in the space that fits on a resume.

      Similarly, you can learn a lot by organizing a massive family reunion or being the executor of a will or taking 6 months off to travel – but those won’t show up on your resume.

      A resume is not a summary of every opportunity you’ve had to learn, it’s a marketing document that highlights your job-related qualifications.

    8. Random Dice*

      My undergrad university has a problematic racist past (and arguably present), and I don’t include it on my LinkedIn. I put my graduate university on instead.

    9. Smithy*

      Speaking up here as someone transferred during undergrad, I do think that the balance in how to mention these things often comes with the personal relationship we have towards our own transfer almost as much as how employers will consider them. And more so, how comfortable we are at telling that personal story in a professional interview.

      When I first started applying for jobs, I felt I had to put both of my undergrad institutions because I had to put years of attendance and that there was no good way to explain only doing 2 years before getting a BA. It was wrapped up in so much more personal insecurity than anything more people genuinely cared about. However, later, I also came to terms with the fact that the alumni circle of where I went to school for the first two years was much stronger and so keeping on my resume in case it was recognized helped me out regardless of not having graduated.

      Degrees and education definitely aren’t equal for all jobs. But for me, the issue around what to list around my having transferred always had more to do with what I was and was not comfortable talking about than what any employer ever cared about.

    10. Selina Luna*

      I spent a cumulative 5 years on my 2 BA degrees. I had 2ish years at one school, dropped out of that one and started at another school a year or so later, and all of my credits transferred over. I took 90 credit hours at the second school, but only because I got a second BA so I could go into teaching English when the whole country changed the rules midway through my first degree. Since the US university system requires “general ed” classes, full BA programs are 4 years, but we could easily slice that down significantly if we could limit the programs to only the classes you need for your major.

    11. Nina*

      I’m not sure how it will work with a religious school, but where I am (and I understand in Canada) it’s extremely common to cross-credit. You don’t get full credit for everything you’ve done, but enough.

      My mom started her degree at one university, moved to be with my dad, cross-credited to the uni near him, got wayyyy undervalued on application and had it corrected when she graduated so she actually ended up with something closer to a Masters than a Bachelors (easier to do here than in the US). My brother started at one university, his department shut down, and he did the last year at another university. A guy I worked with went to four different universities in four different years and ended up with a degree from the last one.

      If you haven’t finished your degree yet and want BYU off your resume, apply to another school and ask what credit they’ll give you for the BYU courses you’ve already completed. It probably won’t be full credit hours 1:1 match unless the schools are affiliated or cooperating in some way, but it won’t be ‘nothing, start from scratch’.

  6. anon24*

    OP#1 curious on what others thoughts are about this. In a small business where OP sounds like they have a great relationship with the owner, would it ever be worth it to sit down and have a conversation to say “it’s me or Ron”? I know this is a drastic step that uses a lot of political capital and would never fly in a larger corporation, but if OP is close to the owner and is already willing to leave, would it be worth it?

    I did that once. I was in a job I loved and had a very close relationship with my manager. We had a problem employee who did not do her job, stirred up drama and instigated fights among the other employees, and somehow got away with it all no matter how much we all complained. She ended up quitting and we all gave a collective sigh of relief. A few months later my manager told me that she had reapplied and he was planning on rehiring her. I apologized and said I hated to be that person, but that if he rehired her I’d put my 2 weeks in. He asked me why and I explained that dealing with her had been incredibly stressful and I had no intention of doing it again. He picked up the application, threw it out, and said that was that and we’d never speak about hiring her again.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        It is only backfiring if you are bluffing. If you really would be happier quitting than working with this person, leaving is not backfiring: merely the less desirable outcome.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          It is only backfiring if you are bluffing.

          That’s what I was thinking. If you’re willing to quit to get away from Ron, and instead the owner fires you and makes you eligible for unemployment, that’s not exactly a hard loss.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Yep. If the LW can really back this up, I think this is the way to go. It’s extreme, but so is Ron.

          And unless he’s one of five people on the planet who can do this particular mechanical thing, he is not impossible to replace. It reminds me of a recent Slate letter where a woman, recently divorced, was dating a younger guy who was basically a leech whose political views she didn’t like and who never came to visit her because he didn’t drive, or invited her to his house–she was always booking Air BnBs and such. “But he treats me well and makes great coffee!”

          One thing to learn in business and life? MILLIONS of people make great coffee. Or know how do perform X mechanical thing. Of those, thousands of your preferred employee requirements will also be kind/professional, not make crude sexual joke stickers they place on company cars, throw tantrums and in general make life miserable and drive away clients.

          Right now Jerry is insulated from the consequences of Ron’s behavior, and the LW is trying to make this job what it used to be. Both those things have to change. Jerry has to start having to deal with Ron’s garbage directly, and the LW can find another job with great coffee and no Ron. It will be a pain, but not as much as the current setup.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        The other way you can help yourself in this situation is if it’s a group of employees. Saw that happen once – the problematic manager didn’t get the promotion they thought they “deserved” for time in grade and left in a huff (the whole team they would have been managing went in a group to protest that hiring).

    1. Adam*

      It’s absolutely an option, but you need to be truly prepared to go through with it, and I’m not sure OP#1 is. She says she’s considering early retirement but still a few years away, which reads to me like she’s not ready to quit over this yet.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        If OP isn’t ready to leave yet, saying something like “I love working for you and your business, but dealing with Ron is unpleasant enough that it’s made me consider leaving” could still be worth saying. If OP has softened the situation at all talking to Jerry, that could be a way of making it clear just how badly Ron is affecting other employees.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Definitely point out to Jerry that keeping Ron could lead to good people leaving. yes Ron has this mechanical ability that no one else has, but unless Ron has the ability to just touch a machine and it is already fixed, you can find someone else with this ability. Or do without as apparently happened before Ron came along.

          It sounds like you are in field service. Which is customer service. Having a jerk like Ron as your customer service rep WILL harm the businesses reputation.

          1. Mockingjay*

            Seriously, send people to a class and get them certified or trained in whatever mysterious ability Ron has.

            Does Jerry realize just how OUTLANDISH Ron’s behavior is? Throwing tools in the shop? That’s workplace violence. Replacing stickers on a truck because he wants to use his own numbers, then refusing a supervisor’s order to restore the original numbers? Refusal to follow instructions is usually a firing offense.

            OP1, I would try to get through to Jerry one more time. Ron is the visible face of the company over 5 states. Is Ron really who Jerry wants representing the company?

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I also doubt his choice of the number 69 is random. So it’s not just a favorite number, it’s a number he chose in order to bring references to sex acts into the workplace.

          2. Kettle of Fish*

            One more option: if this skill is so hard to find, get training on it for another employee, paying for it if necessary.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      It sounds like Ron’s skillset is hard to find vs. an office manager, whose skill set is presumably more common. So I wouldn’t go in with an ultimatum.

      What I would do, though, is offer to start a confidential recruitment drive for someone to replace Ron. You can post a job without company-identifying information. You might be able to find someone who would be a better employee.

      Why not tell your manager and the owner that you are really concerned about Ron’s behaviour, volatility, and the potential risks to the business’ reputation. You’re so concerned that you will personally do the recruitment to replace him.

      1. Myrin*

        It sounds like Ron’s skillset is hard to find

        It doesn’t sound like that to me at all, honestly. He has one ability that some of the other employees don’t have. That sounds hardly unique.

      2. Garblesnark*

        Have you recruited before?

        I have, and I would absolutely not start an unauthorized employee search. Way too much goes into good hiring for me to do it for funsies.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          I didn’t suggest an unauthorized search – I suggested offering to start the process, which would by definition getting approval from the owner, given how small the company is.

          Also, recruitment is a major part of my job.

      3. EPLawyer*

        A good office manager is darn hard to find. Unless Ron has magical abilities, someone else has his skillset. Also, the company got along just fine without his skillset before Ron came along.

        Heck, OP is HR. He is being insubordinate by not changing his truck number. Point this out to the boss. Then point out that the company got along fine without him before.

          1. Selina Luna*

            That’s amazing. I lived near there most of my life and had no idea!

            What the H E Double Hockey Sticks?

    3. TechWorker*

      I do think it’s easier to ‘not rehire’ someone than fire someone though.

    4. Tiger Snake*

      The squeaky wheel gets grease the first time. But if it keeps squeaking, then sooner or later the wheel gets thrown away.

      The OP has complained before about Ron: this would be a very risky manoeuvre, especially if it’s about having to put in the effort to hire someone vs having them quit. I wouldn’t do it unless she’s genuinely fully prepared to go through with it.

      (Ron’s not a squeaky wheel; he’s a squeaky stair. In that analogy, people just step over the problem rather than address it, because if the boss can avoid it then ‘it must not be a real problem’.)

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I think the big difference in your situation is that your boss was in the midst of the hiring process anyway. I wouldn’t say never do it, but I’d be inclined to soft pedal it, even if I had a strong instinct that my capital was such that I could get away with it. I’d also want to be relatively certain I was willing to follow through on leaving, and that it would be something I could quickly put into effect, just in case the response was: “Okay, I choose him”. Something like: “I am finding it more demoralising working with Ron as time goes on, and I don’t know how sustainable it is. To be clear, I really don’t want to leave this job if there’s a plan, or even a faint hope of the Ron issues going away, because I love everything else.” I think it’s a bit more palatable to say “plan” instead of “fire him” and phrasing it as “don’t want to leave” instead of “I’ll quit”, but the essential message is still there to all but the most ostrich like of managers. If your boss gets prickly at you, or gives you something weak like “I’ll talk to him again but it’s interpersonal stuff I expect people to handle…” then you need to exit pretty swiftly because that’s your answer.

    6. Pucci*

      What about if several of you went together to the boss and threatened to quit over this?

      1. Lance*

        I was thinking something similar. OP’s saying people are complaining to her, and then she’s going to the boss; how much of that is the boss really hearing? OP should at least be considering no longer being the wall between the employees’ complaints and the boss; maybe, just maybe, then he’ll get a clearer message.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          True – I honestly think it’s time to stop being the messenger for everyone else’s complaints about Ron.

          Also, like Alison said – can you shift all management of Ron and his antics and vehicle* to the owner? Make him have to deal with Ron – and maybe then he’ll understand what a headache Ron really is.

          *I propose shifting the vehicle because Ron refuses to change the number. Just a “hmm, I don’t show that vehicle ID number in my fleet inventory – you’ll have to take it up with Owner for how this is going to be processed.”

      2. ferrina*

        Even this may not work. In cases like this, the boss will ask the reasonable people to bear the burden from the unreasonable person, because the unreasonable person will act even more outrageous when held accountable.
        Boss may assume that they are bluffing about quitting, or may decide that they are the ones being overdramatic.

      3. Bagpuss*

        I don’t think you necessarily need to threaten to quit. I think that you can make it more of your bosses problem if you direct the complaints to him. So when they complain to you, document it but ask that they e-mail you the details and cc boss, and/or speak direct to boss.

    7. Story time*

      I’ve seen this work before. New CEO comes in and locks himself in an office reviewing financial statements for 14 days and makes no effort to get to know anyone. He berates and personally attacks the CFO that was there for 20 years in a meeting. The CFO told the owner that she was resigning over the new CEO’s behavior and she would only consider staying if the new CEO left. The new CEO was gone in the 3rd week.

    8. JSPA*

      short of that, there’s, “can we search for a replacement with his skills? we’re going to need a replacement for someone, soon, because if he stays, we WILL be losing other employees. Even I can’t commit to staying, and I spend less time dealing with him than most of the team. And if we do find someone who’s decent at those tasks, can we lose the undependable jerk, before we lose all the dependable, nice people?”

    9. WillowSunstar*

      I worked with a Ron and had a boss who refused to fire him. Started looking for other jobs within the company after a year since we had to wait that long to look. It had become obvious before then that my Ron was terrible and never should have been hired.

      I’m still with the company several years later in a better paying position, and Ron is not. Though it took that team changing bosses to finally get rid of Ron, I believe.

    10. geek5508*

      “He throws tools in the shop, has a big temper.” – this is an OSHA violation, with workplace injury (or worse) in the making!

    11. Hannah Lee*

      “Given that, all you can do is decide if you want the job under those conditions. You might be able to lay down some boundaries, like “I won’t deal with Ron on XYZ so you will have to handle that,” thereby shifting some of the pain of Ron over to Jerry … but mostly, you’ve got to decide if the job is still worth it to you if Ron is part of the package.”

      Thanks the bottom line of it.

      When I was working at a small private company and there was some looming issue (IIRC it was some export compliance thing that needed action before it put the brakes on shipment of a big revenue order) I was talking with friends about how “why won’t the owner respond with info to complete the filing, what if we miss the deadline, how can I get him to do it), one of my friends listened for a while and then said

      “Don’t be more vested in what happens than the owner is … if he’s not worried about getting it done in time, if he’s not taking action to get ahead of it, stop worrying about it or at least stop stressing about it. Especially when you’re not at work … don’t even be thinking about it.”

      It was a wake up call for me. Why WAS I more wound up about this than the boss was?
      From then on, I tried to focus on doing what was in my control, giving him ample notice when something was looming that he needed to take action on, make decisions on, set a calendar reminder to remind him … but then stop stressing about it. If owner didn’t act, on something that impacted the business as a whole, HE was the one who should be dwelling on it, not me. I was still super responsible about what I could control, would explore what if options if his inaction left us scrambling.

      Things like “jerk employee goes to customer sites with a made up 69 logo on a company truck because YUK … it could harm the company’s reputation” if my boss didn’t care enough to stomp out that dumpster fire immediately, I needed to let it go. I shouldn’t be more vested in the company’s success, the company’s reputation than the person who owns it and who stands to make a heck of a lot of money if things go well and lose a lot if it doesn’t.

      And if it was enough stuff that was negatively impacting me including having to witness abuse of others or fraud with no recourse, working daily with a complete mean-spirited jerk with no consequences from boss and no hope it would stop, I’d start updating my resume and get out of there. Because I don’t want to spend my days around mean-spirited jerks and those who for whatever reason enable them.

  7. Mmm.*

    I used to always cover shifts. Then I had a boss scream at me for not answering my phone off the clock (at 3 am) saying it was part of my job to always answer the phone, and because of me, she had to work for 6 whole hours. The horror.

    After that, nope, not doing it anymore. It carried over to when I became a teacher and they needed people to cover class periods when teachers were out except for one place that threatened my job over refusing–which I quit at the end of the year. The administors all had to have teaching degrees and experience, but they never left their offices unless forced.

    Now I’m a manager. I see my job as keeping the team effective and morale high. So, if someone can’t make a deadline due to an emergency and no one else is available (or I can’t give someone else enough time), I do the job in addition to my daily stuff. It’s part of being salaried, quite literally in some countries. As a result, I’ve ended up with ridiculously loyal workers who work their butts off for me–they know I’m on their side.

    If having just one person out is a disaster, something has to change. I agree that it needs to be hiring someone unless you can take those shifts–and it shouldn’t be many shifts because workers shouldn’t be constantly calling out. Yeah, it’s expensive, but it’s cheaper than closing shop for a day or two.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Businesses can’t staff infinitely. Our team is just the three of us, and under normal circumstances that has worked fine. The problem is that being engaged to wait is fine as far as it goes, but I wouldn’t think that even our public sector employer would want too many extra staff on the books who do nothing. And given I’m looking for something else because I’m bored (WFH killed our jobs but we still have to be in to provide the services to those who WFH, which makes things on reception a bit like Waiting For Godot at times), I would be very surprised if the team wanted another two or three people to sit around and be bored with us.

      And over nine years I can count the actual problems with no-one being available on one hand. It’s not a huge deal in practice but it’s part of the job that this employee is shirking and that’s not good for anyone she works with. With all three of us respecting each others’ needs it all gets done. Without that assistance it would fall apart.

      Many of us here don’t live to work (I’m grateful for those that do, however, because they get things done that make my life a lot easier). But this is one step beyond — it’s actively hurting the team and not doing what she’s employed to do. Work/life balance is important, but it does need some work in the mixture to work. Some latitude can be given, but if she’s all take and no give, she needs to find alternative employment that works better with her needs.

      1. Ellie Williams*

        She is doing what she’s employed to do. Assuming there are no other issues with her work and it is not written into her job description/contract that she must be available at all times to pick up shifts, then she is still doing her job. I work in a school where there are some teachers who can always pick up a class if someone is absent and some who never volunteer. But we have a staff big enough that we can always find someone to cover, even if that means leadership does it. If your staff of three can’t cover the shifts, then you need more staff, not to make demands of someone who seems to be very clear that they’ll work the hours they were hired for and no more.

      2. Starbuck*

        “All take and no give” you make it sound like this employee doesn’t work at all! I think your feeling about this is whatever, but it’s a bit out of touch. You say yourself it’s not actually a huge deal.

      3. AlsoADHD*

        The employee is not shirking a duty though, unless they were told they were expected to be available on short notice constantly or are on call (and paid for it). If you had to always be available to cover any possible shift, your life would be miserable and you couldn’t have work/life balance—any plan could be interrupted etc.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Yep this is the way. Its not possible to know what people have going on their lives and even if it’s “nothing”, people get to decide how much of their time they’re willing to sell you… particularly at short notice!

    3. Kelly*

      I stopped covering for other people when I agreed to work my birthday on call, but couldn’t get that person to switch with me “in case she wanted to do something” on a regular weekend. Our boss performed the same job duties, but refused to help out at all. If you did get a miracle and he took your on call shift, he would hold it over your head and make you do triple makeup for him.

    4. Seahorse*

      Yes, being too available ultimately hurts you. I’ve seen really excellent workers get taken advantage of because the business becomes dependent on their saying “yes” every single time. Despite offering tons of extra effort for years, coworkers and bosses became resentful of a rare “no” instead of grateful for the near-constant flexibility and willingness to help.
      My partner and both say no to extras occasionally just to establish the pattern, and we’re both considered reliable team players.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I was always this person, until I suffered a serious back injury and needed to take time off. I had covered a LOT of evening and weekend shifts for my manager, and when I came back from my medical leave she told me I’d need to work an extra weekend to “repay” the one she had covered for me, even though she’d never “repaid” any of the evening and weekend shifts I’d covered for her (I don’t know if that’s legal for an FMLA leave, but our upper management had taken her side over mine several times already and I was too exhausted to push it). I had a relapse a few weeks later and needed to leave early. My manager wasn’t in that day and she called me while I was on my way to the parking lot to beg me to stay because otherwise she would have to come in and cover for me. I told her I was in too much pain to stay and that she would need to figure something out. It was out of character for me and she didn’t know how to respond, but there was literally no way I could have stayed that night, no matter how hard she guilted me over it.

        I left that job a few months later with no guilt or regret, because if you have a pattern for “going above and beyond,” eventually that becomes the baseline expectation your managers have for you, and going back to the normal expected level of duties looks like slacking off.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          This crap reminds me of that meme of Obi-Wan standing over a roasted Anakin and the caption reads “So can you still come in for your shift tomorrow?”

          I get that having to work someone’s shift and still cover managerial duties is a pain. And I think some companies absolutely exploit that–at my local drugstore (part of a national chain) I have never seen the manager not be the only cashier in that severely understaffed store in well over three years. She told me she only gets one day off a week or the place couldn’t stay open. That is insane.

          But on the other hand, one of the reasons my current company has so many people who stay for multiple decades, which is unheard of in food service, is that the owner regularly fills in for driving shifts and mops various stores’ kitchen floors when they have somebody call out. Being a good company manager/owner does require still keeping your hand in the day to day stuff.

      2. EPLawyer*

        See one of the more famous letters here — person ALWAYS covered other shifts but for someone reason no one would cover hers. She asked boss for TWO FREAKING HOURS OFF to go to her own graduation, boss said no this is a no time off period. Then gave time off to someone to go to a concert. Employee QUIT immediately. If covering for everyone got her no consideration why stay.

        Boss wrote in about the employee’s unprofessionalism and wanted to talk to her about it.

  8. nodramalama*

    LW3 it seems like maybe you need more staff if this is happening enough to cause a problem.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes! Of course if one person out of three is sick, one of the other two cannot cover, then there is no choice left, but how often does this happen?

      Would it make sense to get a part-timer / coverage person, or is it more that even though it happens twice a year, it’s annoying? This may not apply to you but when I get annoyed by something like this, it helps to have some hard cold numbers on paper to decide if I will do something about it and what that should be.

      1. GythaOgden*

        We manage with 3 people. It’s happened once or twice in 9 years — even the time my two colleagues got COVID, I was out for a long weekend so was able to come in for a week on my own.

        The problems with another staff member would be budgetary, not having enough work to do (I’m the part time spare pair of hands myself and interviewing around because the work is currently so scarce and options for personal study that I’m climbing the walls) and that the days when everyone would be out at once are so few and far between that the cost of not having coverage would be far less than having yet another person employed even part time with very little to do. Then of course they’re also entitled to the holiday and sick pay we get and will have their own issues to deal with. We have backup staff from other sites who might do at a pinch, but that brings on its own costs, namely that when you deal with people in a job like ours, you do better when you know those people and can help them rather than just being someone parachuted in to press the open door button.

        Overstaffing might seem to be a good idea but being the spare is not all it’s cracked up to be. There is a point where you need someone to be reliable and for the balance to shift back towards work. I actually replaced someone who ghosted my colleagues and apparently just turning up reliably was enough to get me taken on permanently. I’ve made parts of the job my own — notably outgoing post — and knew that my job depended on me coming in.

        I’ve also been the temp who was highly praised but for whom there wasn’t enough work to keep me coming back. When they did ask for me again, surprise surprise I’d found a more stable job that paid me every day rather than a handful of days per month. It was a shame, but I had to eat!

        So the realities of customer service work is that there’s limited logistical reasons to take on a lot of staff. If this person can’t commit to the job she was hired for, she needs to make way for someone who can. It’s got to be resolved in a way that doesn’t short-change the employer, and it’s one of those things people don’t really understand about customer service on this site.

        1. ecnaseener*

          I really don’t think it’s fair to say “this person can’t commit to the job she was hired for.” She CAN commit to the shifts she was hired for, with occasional sick days. She wasn’t hired to be on call!

          1. Michelle Smith*

            That’s the thing that needs to change. There doesn’t necessarily need to be more staff, but there does need to be a clear expectation up front that occasional coverage at last minute notice is a part of the job. That way people who don’t want to or can’t accommodate that kind of lifestyle can opt out of the role. I have worked jobs were coverage, swapping shifts, etc. was something literally everyone did and it wasn’t a problem for me because I was hired knowing that was the expectation, and everyone did it equally. I am concerned that if this LW doesn’t change their practices in some way, the one who always covers is going to be frustrated at the one who never does. The only way I can think of to resolve it until one of them moves on is to pay extra for coverage shifts so the person who is covering those shifts is fairly compensated for it.

            1. Dahlia*

              If you want on-call availability, you need to pay for on-call availability. It’s ridiculous to expect people to make a job their number one priority… at all, really, let alone for free.

        2. FormerRetail*

          I have worked retail, I was very much adored in my job (they wanted me to go management track but I was in college to go into the professional field I’m in now).

          Not only did I not take any days I couldn’t take, I also pushed back when they scheduled me on days I said I was not available.

          Unless I am being paid to be on call, I’m not working.

          I did have an experience where one manager at a retail job blasted me for not picking up the phone (I didn’t hear it or I was out) when I was recovering from a mental breakdown and could not take another shift, and the person I was living with (we shared the line) not only heard the awful voicemail, but asked if I wanted them to call back and say I was not well myself.

          And I had peace for the rest of the day.

        3. Full Metal Cardigan*

          “If this person can’t commit to the job she was hired for, she needs to make way for someone who can.”

          Was she actually hired for a job that involves providing this coverage? And was that clearly stated upfront? Was she made aware of it before she accepted the role? I don’t see any indication of that in the letter.

          If so, fine. Fire her for not completing her job duties as required. If not, then she is doing the job she was hired for, and it is not her problem that the company is short-staffed and cannot manage their staffing needs appropriately. Unless this was stated as a condition of her employment initially, it is rude and uncalled-for to accuse her of a lack of commitment.

        4. Allonge*

          Hi, while I agree with your broad-strokes conclusion in your last paragraph, let me rephrase it for you: the employer is entitled to want someone who can occasionally step in outside of their scheduled shifts.

          So the employer can go to this person and say: look, we would like to keep you but part of the job from now on will be to take additional shifts, sometimes on short notice. Our goal would be for you to take at least half these shifts over time in a year. Can you do that, knowing that if you cannot, we will have to find someone else to do your job?

          And then your colleague can answer yes, yes if I get a raise or no, and if it’s ‘no’, the company can fire her and find someone who is able to do this, if it’s yes, if, the company can decide if that works etc.

          But the solution is not to make her feel bad enough to do it. It’s not a question of morality or dedication. It’s a question of the employer needing something the employee cannot deliver – same as if you needed someone who speaks Japanese or whatever.

          1. ecnaseener*

            100% — if the employer wants to change the parameters of the job to include availability for last-minute coverage, they can do that and communicate it starting now. They just can’t (reasonably) say “you should’ve known this was a requirement of the job all along” or “you should just automatically do this if you’re a good worker!”

          2. Starbuck*

            Yes, trying to frame it as some kind of moral issue is just trying to get the employee to do something of value to the business without having to compensate for that extra value.

            Clearly, the hourly wage or even overtime isn’t enough to make these requests worth it to her (assuming it’s even possible for her to work on short notice).

            If you value having her available to cover that highly, find some incentive, or fire her and find someone else who is able to offer the thing you need.

          3. AlsoADHD*

            The employer will need to get lucky or pay more or offer some benefit compared to other work options if they want that coverage. It’s not really that occasional even if it is because you could never make plans or live your life if you were expected to always essentially be on call but without on call pay. I’ve worked retail and such (not in a long time granted) and I’ve never felt I *should* be available in that manner because they don’t pay enough. I’m unclear if this vision job pays enough for that kind of availability ask, but businesses have to weigh out all of their needs and the employees on the market, sure. But every business would love to scrape all they can from folks. That doesn’t mean they can and get enough help/employees that meet all their other requirements. “Would you ditch an otherwise known and solid employee over this need for the unknown?” is the question if you want to rewrite the job—the person may even agree in the meantime and then just not find something else and leave. Is it worth it?

        5. YetAnotherAnalyst*

          Just to be clear, “reliable” means “shows up on time for scheduled shifts”. If a job is asking folks to come in at short notice when they weren’t scheduled or on call, then they’re actually asking them to be unreliable for all their commitments outside of work.

          1. kiki*

            Yes! It is cool to be a team player and fill in for a coworker when you’re able to, but sometimes you’re not able to! LW doesn’t know what other commitments their employee has. It’s really convenient when someone is hired who is able to cover for a lot of shifts for other employees, but you can’t design your staffing around that. Even for that same employee, their availability to fill in may change over time.

        6. Daisy Daisy*

          If she’s not being paid to be on call at all hours, being available is NOT part of the job she was hired for.

        7. Starbuck*

          “It’s happened once or twice in 9 years”

          This does not actually sound like a problem then! This employee is doing their job as far as I can tell; I gotta say it sounds pretty absurd to consider it worth losing them over fixing a problem that happens a couple times in a decade.

        8. Random Dice*

          You’re really digging in.

          Alison didn’t tell you what you wanted, and you keep defending your same point in the comments anyway.

        9. Lenora Rose*

          Can you clarify? Are you LW3, or are you just deeply sympathizing with their situation since you have the same number of staff and for *you* it’s only been an issue once or twice in 9 years?

          I’m seeing your answers being read both ways, and I’m still not sure.

    2. Kiki*

      It might be worth exploring having a part-time person who can assist and fill in if nobody is available but isn’t expected to do everything your other receptionists do. While in college, I had some friends who had roles like this in clinics— they weren’t doing the deeper organizational work, but they could answer phones, check patients in, etc.

  9. Green great dragon*

    OP4, I’m not clear how the pension point fits in. Did you mean you aren’t able to ask for consultancy rates for answering questions? I’d be surprised if answering questions unpaid from an old boss caused problems.

    1. Workswitholdstuff*

      I think the issue isn’t that it’s one or two straightforward questions along the lines of ‘where would I find x in the info you left us’, which would take 5 mins, but that its much more involved queries, and it seems, a wish to now be trained…

      something that is likely to take significant time and I wouldn’t be inclined to do for free either, especially when as the OP did there was the offer to do so pre retirement

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, LW says their old boss is asking for hours of LW’s time. They wouldn’t mind answering an occasional, brief question but that’s often not what their former boss is asking for. Normally, I think offering to be a paid consultant for that time would be a solid compromise to offer, but LW is saying that is not an option due to their pension.

        In addition to being unfair to LW, doing hours of unpaid work for your employer might also cause issues with the pension, it’s hard to know for sure but I don’t think LW should really feel compelled to investigate that further– they don’t want to do this unpaid!

    2. Michelle Smith*

      The letter says “I don’t want to be an unpaid consultant but I don’t want to mess up my relationship with my old boss.” From that I’d infer that these are OP4’s only two options (unpaid consulting or refusing to help the former boss entirely) that won’t jeopardize their pension. And paid consulting would be a problem.

      “I’d be surprised if answering questions unpaid from an old boss caused problems.” Yes, but OP4 is saying that they don’t want to do that. And I don’t blame them at all. I wouldn’t either.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        The thing is? It’s the old boss who’s messing up the relationship, not the LW. She’s asking for hours of unpaid work that risks the LW’s pension! That’s a huge deal! Especially when the LW spent a ton of time documenting and outlining how to do these things.

        If a friend outside of work asked me to do something that risked my ability to financially live, I would definitely question that friendship. Just because this person is a former boss doesn’t insulate her from what she’s doing.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I don’t think doing hours of unpaid work would risk the pension… but she doesn’t want to do unpaid work for no good reason and if she demands fair pay for it THEN she risks her pension.

          I think she needs to be firmer on “I left you a job bible. I am not the job bible. it is physically (electronically) there in the building with you. Consult it first, and only if you feel that not one person there can understand and follow my directions, call me.”

          (Because yes, one person may have trouble with parsing written directions as a whole, but if the directions are themselves clear, it seems unlikely that every single person reading it will have that same failing.)

    3. Samwise*

      Answering a stray question or two MAY be ok, but I would check with HR first.

      It’s a state agency. You cannot screw around with these rules. We’ve had folks retire from our office– we NEVER call them for anything the least bit work-related. Social calls, sure. Work — no.

      1. Allonge*

        If I had to guess, one of the original reasons for this rule may have been to prevent any free work by retired staff – this feels like something you would put in the rulebook just to make it clear for everyone that they can and should say no to such requests.

        1. Colette*

          I suspect it’s because it’s a public relations problem to pay a state employee a salary and a pension at the same time.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            this is the issue (usually, i obvi cant speak for all gov) – its to prevent double dipping. i made a stand-alone comment outlining it but it’s apparently its lost in the ether.

            they want to prevent people from drawing a salary and a pension. typically you arent really forfeiting your pension – as in it goes away forever. if you decide to take another job within the window, your pension gets put on hold.

            op should obviously ask for clarification from HR if they’re concerned.

            the issue really seems to be they don’t want to be doing unpaid labor for a job they no longer have. and to that OP just needs to become very busy and unable to provide further assistance.

          2. doreen*

            Yes, I think it’s more common to prohibit or limit paid work and while I suppose some pensions might prohibit volunteer work, I know mine doesn’t. The pension system doesn’t care if I volunteer * 40 hours a week for my former employer – there are only restrictions on work for which I am directly paid by a public employer that is part of that pension system.

            * “Volunteer” at my employer ( and probably others) includes people who are paid by some other entity but who works at one of their facilities – something like a chaplain who works at a prison but is employed and paid by a religious organization.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              In my spouse’s field pensions are still common – but you are required to do a “cooling off period*” before you take another in industry job or risk pension reductions. It’s mostly aimed at preventing somebody from doing 30 years – getting the pension – and then hopping to something like in-house lobbyist before the agency you just left. But if you want to go be a florist or open a restaurant, or anything else completely unrelated – have fun.

              *the cooling off period is 18 months, and does go both ways – so if you hop from industry to govt you can’t work anything related to the company you left for the same 18 months.

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                Correction: I got the leaving Govt Service Cooling Off wrong.
                Serve a cooling off period: Lobbyist, CEO, Board Member, or other Extremely High Level running the external Industry Agency Type Job.

                Other than that, no cooling off period required. Apparently quite a few retire and then go to be a local manufacturing plant safety officers – with no pension issues.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      There’s asking a question that takes five minutes…..and then there’s asking just a quick question, which is actually a leading question and the Real Question will take multiple hours to correctly answer. OP 4’s former manager is doing the latter. OP2’s managers really in a way suffer from the exact same problem – an unwillingness to make sure they know how to do something/know how to use the system in case the normal operator isn’t there.

      Honestly both OP2 and OP4 need to “have phone free hobbies” and just not be as available to help. And then when you finally feel like answering (have time to answer/are back at work), oh sorry I was at Blah and missed the message. To quickly answer you need to XYZ. It’s harder for OP2 because they still work there – but letting some balls drop because you are with your family may be the only way to make the migration a “business priority” for the managers.

  10. Jinni*

    I was once a customer of a business with a guy like Ron. The business did great work. Ron was crazy and I was glad to see the back of him.

    Two years later they called on me *in person* and asked me why I wouldn’t rehire them as they were asking all their customers because they were going out of business. Clearly, they never read the reviews on Angie’s list, where every single review said “fire Ron.”

    If Jerry doesn’t fire Ron, the marketplace may do it for him.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Please don’t leave me hanging–did that other place you mention get the point in time to save their business?

    2. Shiba Dad*

      A couple of jobs ago I worked for a business similar to Ron’s employer. We didn’t have a “Ron”, per se, but we did have customers that would tell us not send certain technicians.

      One instance that I remember was when “Dave” did some work in a school classroom. He determined the problem, which required the school to purchase parts and pay the labor for replacement. He then made an offhand comment to the teacher that “the school probably won’t pay to have this fixed.” That didn’t go over well when it got back to the people in charge at the school.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yeah, my HVAC company has a tech who is blacklisted from servicing my system (I have no idea if he still works there at all to be fair) because he started futzing with the wiring on my thermostat when I told him to leave it alone and ended up breaking it to the point where it heated my house to 87 degrees overnight after the a/c kicked on (no, none of that is typos), they had to send out a second tech to fix the issue (which involved actually replacing the smart thermostat because the first guy fried the original one with his stupid attempts to rewire it), and gave me a free year of maintenance when I pointed out that the hit on my power bill was going to be ludicrous and also that even if he had been supposed to be messing with the wiring (which he wasn’t) it was remarkably unsafe to both him and my home that on top of doing it poorly, he had been rewiring it without actually turning off any electricity.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            That was an utterly clear and comprehensible run on sentence and the situation warranted it.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          ::shaking head::

          Sheesh. Did he manage to land the wires for the A/C on the heat terminals, and vice versa???

        2. Ali + Nino*

          Man, that’s like…an impressive level of messing up your job. Sorry you had to deal with that.

        3. ferrina*

          Wow, that is an incredible mix of incompetence and gumption. Hopefully that guy got fired- that’s a lot of damage!

        4. goddessoftransitory*

          Ugh, you and he were lucky he wasn’t flash fried or your home didn’t catch on fire!

  11. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    Re #1 – I can’t help wondering if there’s more to the story than Jerry is admitting to the LW. I won’t speculate, because I know we’re not supposed to write so that, but oh, the fanfic I could write if I wanted to, lol! The excuse about Ron’s mechanical ability suspicious to me. If this jerk who is driving LW and everyone else as crazy as it sounds really has some skill Jerry values that no one else there has, it surely can’t be so unique that it would be impossible to find someone with it to replace him or get someone trained on it.

    It does sound like Jerry is hellbent on keeping Ron on for whatever reason, though, and it’s a shame, because a guy with a bad temper who throws tools in the shop AND likes to flip off other drivers while driving his company truck is bound to cause serious trouble eventually. He’ll crash the truck (a disaster, especially if someone else is harmed in the process), start a fight with a coworker, or injure someone (intentionally or not) throwing tools around. And that’s aside from people quitting to get away from the guy. What a nightmare.

    I don’t really have any advice except to make every possible effort to document EVERY SINGLE BAD THING Ron does in a log that she presents to Jerry at regular intervals (say weekly). I say this because it’s not clear to me from the letter whether Jerry realizes the full extent of the problem, and sometimes details do make a difference. Good luck, LW, whatever you decide to do.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > a guy with a bad temper who throws tools in the shop AND likes to flip off other drivers while driving his company truck is bound to cause serious trouble eventually

      Perhaps the boss is afraid of Ron’s reaction if/when he fires him? A lot of damage can be done in a work environment like that, not to mention the interpersonal part.

    2. Myrin*

      I call shenanigans re: the mechanical ability thing in general – OP describes it as an ability “that is missing in some of the other employees”. Like. I’d guess that that’s the case for most people in most workplaces – I’m sure every single one of my coworkers has an ability that some (some! meaning most do have it!) of my other coworkers don’t have. That’s hardly a reason not grant someone immunity.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Using Occam’s razor will suffice, no need for fanfic. Lots of bosses despise firing people, especially if they’ve been lucky with hires in the past, and are unused to it. The boss is usually insulated from the worst of the behaviour too. Hearing about it is different to seeing it. People also hang onto a belief that if they’ve told an employee to behave differently, they eventually will. Logically, why would this not work? They don’t expect firing to be necessary.

      1. ferrina*

        Yep, this was the scenario in my head. Jerry doesn’t want to feel like the bad guy by firing Ron + it will take time and effort to replace Ron + Jerry is insulated from a lot of the behavior + Ron is a little scary and the rest of the employees are reasonable and generally make Jerry’s life easier (through their good work) = Denial has a great sale on river cruises.

      2. Zweisatz*

        I think so as well. The boss doesn’t understand the hit that their reputation is going to take and he’s not sufficiently affected by Ron’s behavior to be annoyed. Thus, firing him and finding somebody with the same skill-set sounds like too much effort.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Or he’s doing that “avoid pain, effort, awkwardness right now” thing even though a sane person would realize that the bill is going to come due eventually and be much more expensive (in terms of pain, effort, awkwardness, expense, lost revenue, turn over in other positions, declining productivity as people waste time avoiding the Ron shaped dumpster fire)

    4. Shiara*

      based on the complaints of some blue collar friends, if Ron is a welder or similar, he would absolutely be able to get away with near murder and could easily take a year+ to replace.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s an interesting thing about human behavior that I think in almost none of these cases is it the case that Ron has hot blackmail stuff on Jerry which he is leveraging into an unfirable job. It’s almost always “Ron is unreasonable so everyone else in the business needs to bend to accommodate him–we can’t talk to Ron about his behavior, he’s unreasonable.”

    6. Petty Betty*

      No fanfic necessary. Boss isn’t dealing with the blowback directly and employee is a kiss-up/kick-down kind of guy. If boss doesn’t witness or have to deal with the day-to-day issues of Ron, then he can just Pooh-Pooh the “issues” as everyone being sensitive or personality conflicts or “Ron’s just enthusiastic/exuberant/a character” or whatever. Once he starts losing other employees, starts fielding complaints, losing business, and has fines/fees and damage (plus costs) to deal with, THEN he’ll actually realize Ron’s an issue. But it’s got to hit his wallet first.
      I’d be recommending that everyone document everything they see so when Ron DOES do something actionable, they can establish a pattern.

    7. fhqwhgads*

      I think you’re underestimating some humans’ willingness to choose doing nothing over something.

  12. Expiring Cat Memes*

    #1, so if I’m understanding this correctly about the sticker situation: Ron has been given the perk of a company vehicle, and in return he is defacing company property, refusing Jerry’s instruction to rectify it, undermining your fleet management system, and potentially expensing back the cost of these new stickers to the company? All that just because he wants to make a crude sex joke…?

    What an ass.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      He is a childish jerk in that respect (worse in others – throwing tools etc), doing all this just to make a crude joke? Yes, and guess what, he’s getting away with it!

  13. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Old tech:
    Ask the question ‘What will you do if I’m hit by a bus tomorrow?’

    1. Expiring Cat Memes*

      This is such a minor thing, but if you are going to say that I’ve found “if I win the lottery” or “get hit by the lottery bus” works better.

      There’s something about the bus where it’s either too far-fetched or unthinkable and the conversation gets off track, as opposed to them realising that one day you might simply not be incentivised to help them anymore and that will happen at some point regardless.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Also helps when a co-worker points out that possibility. Not sure why but managers don’t seem to believe a team saying “we are overscheduled” as much as they believe a third party saying THEY are.

        1. ferrina*

          Cosigning. As a consultant, part of my job is telling management what they’ve already been told.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Not saying you are wrong, but surely getting hit by a bus is more likely than a “never have to work again” lottery win.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          And if you win the lottery, you are still able to answer questions.

          If I were to win the lottery, I would work my notice period. If I were hit by a bus, I would not.

        2. Aggretsuko*

          I totally agree. I’m much more likely to die horribly than win the lottery. I don’t even want to pretend I could win the lottery anyway (never once played). Also, “I’m dead, there’s nothing you can do to get help out of me now” makes more sense than if you’re alive but rich, because presumably they could still beg a live you for help.

          1. KateM*

            Agreed, no reason to make your boss to think you are a not-team-player jerk who would go no-contact the moment they win lottery.

          2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            Well, your chances of winning the lottery are only slightly better if you actually play…

        3. Trout 'Waver*

          In the US, there are hundreds of lottery $1M+ winners per year and many fewer people injured by a bus to the point of not being able to work. Both are extremely unlikely, though.

          1. Random Dice*

            “On average, there are nearly 60,000 bus accidents each year in the United States. While most of these collisions result in property damage only, hundreds of people are killed and thousands more are injured. Researchers estimate that as many as 14,000 injuries occur in these crashes.

            However, most of those killed and injured are not bus occupants. During this time frame, a little under 10 percent of those killed were passengers on an involved bus, while the remaining deaths were occupants of other vehicles or pedestrians.”


            1. Trout 'Waver*

              Huh. I always took “hit by a bus” to mean being struck by a bus as a pedestrian. If you include all accidents involving buses, the numbers do change.

        4. ferrina*

          I had a coworker who was fond of saying “getting hit by space junk”. She declared it was her preferred way to die because 1) it would be incredibly unlikely, making her a statistical anomaly and 2) space is cool.

      3. ecnaseener*

        I’m a fan of “get abducted by aliens” because it’s less dark than the bus thing but conveys “completely unavailable no matter what” better than the lottery thing.

        1. cloudy*

          I use “hit by a falling piano”, also because it’s less dark – it evokes “cartoon physics imagery” to me… but abducted by aliens is really good, might throw that one in from time to time too.

      4. learnedthehardway*

        Also, might be upsetting to someone who has lost a loved one in a traffic accident.

        1. Observer*

          Which in this context would not be a bad thing.

          I hate to be so dark, but anyone who has suffered an unexpected tragedy will realize that this is not hyperbole. They know that unexpected tragedies are NOT “too far fetched or unbelievable”.

      5. Ellis Bell*

        I don’t think people use that phrase literally; if someone says “hit by a bus”, they mean “what if some unforeseen emergency makes it impossible for me to show up?” It might be a bit more pointed to say something like: “What if I wasn’t here next month?” and then just as they’re starting to think you might be quitting, say “What if I got hit by a bus/something happened to me?” I mean, depending on whether they can get through a week without OP, it might be worth saying”Well, what if I got the flu?”

      6. fhqwhgads*

        Usually when I hear requests on this front it’s not because getting hit by a bus is unfathomable (I actually worked somewhere and had a coworker who was literally hit by a bus on the way to work – he was out for two weeks recovering but he was not a single point of failure). The point of saying “win the lottery” instead is usually to try to leave violent imagery out of it and/or use a positive example instead of a negative.

        1. BasketcaseNZ*

          I live in a city where we go through spates of people being hit by buses – we have a robust public transport system, and a lot of pedestrians who have a habit of not checking before they cross the road.
          In fact, on one occassion, the Director of a company that owned the main bus provider even managed to do it.

          One of my workplaces, the main exit door opened to a bus stop. We actually had an email come out one day reminding us (for Health and Safety) to check before we entered the roadway, as we’d had a couple of our very smart consultants nearly walk out in front of buses in their determination to get to the supermarket across the road.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Ask the question ‘What will you do if I’m hit by a bus tomorrow?’

      That only works until you hear the answer “seance.”

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        “Steve, I know you’re reclining in eternal bliss there in the Great Beyond, but real quick; where’s on switch for the TRS-80?”

        1. NerdBoss*

          I also don’t like “if I got hit by a bus” and I’m a statistician so I would never say “if I won the lottery” so I’ve been using “If Thanos snapped his fingers and I disappeared in the Blip, what would you do?”

      2. Lenora Rose*

        That doesn’t work if you’re merely hospitalized for weeks….

        (and yes, you don’t have to remind me of the bosses who have been harassing their employees in hospital IRL – but most bosses at least try to pretend they aren’t that boss)

  14. Bob Howard*

    #2: This sounds like a very well known three-letter technology company. If not, it will be one behaving in a very similar way. Notice how it is not stated how all the experienced people were lost. There have been lawsuits that allege the company let them go because age=cost. The systems concerned belong to clients who have long-term and highly profitable support contracts. If the letter writer pushes back, they will be seen as “not a team player”. The choice is between being diverted into a technology back-water maintaining all these systems, and watching people being promoted past you until the company decides you too no longer have current skills and lets you go, or leaving now. Your urge to be helpful has sabotaged your career and you have limited options.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      ELF programming language is my guess. Government is having major issues with it.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It could be “that company” but also I have witnessed, and heard of, this happening at all sorts of companies – so much so that “being stuck as the last person who can maintain the Legacy Thing” is a class of problem in its own right.

      I expect the others were laid off (not necessarily on the basis of age or cost, could be all sorts of criteria) on cost cutting grounds, maintaining only bare bones coverage of this technology. All fun and games until the system has a meltdown (does OP have deep sysadmin-level knowledge or more operational, keep things running day to day and clear the temp drive when it gets full etc…?) or indeed until OP is out of town or wherever.

      I have seen people take 2 paths: leave and focus on the current tech, or become a consultant/contractor in the Legacy Thing and do similar work for other companies who still have installations of Legacy Thing. Of course that depends on market (how many companies), willingness to travel, how many years of ‘runway’ are in that relative to retirement age, etc — it’s certainly the more risky choice but can also be extremely lucrative (e.g. Y2K fixers). It seems clear that OP is in the first category, though.

      other comments are right – OP will never get away from supporting the Legacy Thing at this company. The most likely outcome if the company realises more people are needed is that that will be outsourced, and you know the ‘quality’ that will generate. Maintaining this system should be mentioned briefly if at all on a resume, although no doubt it has generated a lot of “a time when…” discussion opportunities for interviews.

    3. Polly Hedron*

      That three-letter company laid off my entire group and offshored all our jobs, while taking stimulus money earmarked to support American jobs.

      LW #2, if that’s where you are, get out ASAP. If you stay, no matter what you do, they will lay you off too.

  15. Audrey*

    #1 – Ron the crap employee
    I could have written this letter a couple years ago! Except my Ron was my Jerry’s SON. Ron had no accountability and was a total jerk.

    I used the technique Allison suggested of making Ron’s shenanigans into Jerry’s problem. Internally, I just decided I wasn’t the business owner and Jerry had the right to run his company the way he wanted to… but that meant that if Ron caused me problems, I made sure they became Jerry’s problem.

    Ron wouldn’t give me info I needed? “Oh hey Jerry I got 9 calls from customers today asking for their llama reports, all of which are Ron’s responsibility. Yep I already asked Ron for them but he’s not responding. What would you like me to do?”

    Ron being awful to his coworkers? “Jerry I heard that Ron threw a hammer and Clarence today. Can you please speak to Ron about it? Yes I know you spoke to him already about this two days ago, but it happened again. Nope I can’t do it Ron doesn’t listen to me.”

    Ron changing numbers on the trucks? “Oh, sorry Jerry I couldn’t order those new parts for Ron’s truck because of him changing the numbers on it. As soon as they get changed back, I can help.”

    When I did this… The Ron in my world didn’t get fired. he got so sick of Jerry constantly micromanaging him because he had no other choice beside firing him that Ron eventually quit!

    1. Mahonia*

      This is what I’m currently doing with my hellish coworker and weak boss. Usually my boss asks me to discipline my coworker. When I say no (because I’m not her manager) he shuts up and pretends the issue doesn’t exist, and coworker continues being an ass. Great management strategy!

    2. Introvert Teacher*

      This is THE best response. It does double duty of documenting (if you email these encounters to boss in real time) and making it more difficult for boss to be shielded from the effects of Ron’s bad behavior. And it makes OP look like a consummate professional by being able to stick to the facts and focus on problem solving in the moment. I hope this strategy could work.

  16. More Violas*

    LW 1: Gift Jerry a copy of The No Asshole Rule by Robert I. Sutton. If he still doesn’t understand that Ron can destroy his business, make a new plan for yourself before this goes very wrong and you are caught in the melee. I know you think that sounds dramatic, but I spent many years in similar service/maintenance businesses. I’ve seen how physical the climax can be. The best of everything to you.

    1. Zweisatz*

      This and the comment above about a company going out of business because they wouldn’t fire a jerk makes me think op should keep an eye out for negative reviews of the business that point to Ron. And forward them to boss.

    2. ReadtoLead*

      “It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate” — a great leadership takeaway from “Extreme Ownership”, another great gift option if the first doesn’t pan out.

  17. DyneinWalking*

    #2: People in general hate to fix a working system – even if it’s a very clunky and error-prone system. The AAM archives are full of letters bemoaning this fact.
    And so long as you keep helping out, the system is working. Yes, there are problems and a prudent company should fix these problems… but so far the problems all end up in your lap, and then you go fix them so they basically stop being problems.
    Setting up a new system would cost time and money and there’d be an uncomfortable interim phase where the old system is down but the new system isn’t properly working yet. So long as the discomfort from the old system is only felt by you while the people in charge stay comfortable, they won’t want to deal with the discomfort that comes from setting up a new system.

    So, as annoying as it is, if they won’t listen to your very reasonable advice the only other option is to stop being the buffer that absorbs the problems. Do what you can to prepare them for the outfall, but stop being the last-minute fail-safe.

    Captain Awkward has the saying “return awkward to sender” for dealing with a situation that was made awkward by someone else (the saying means: let whoever caused the awkward deal with the awkward and don’t rip yourself into pieces trying to save them from their own actions ). I think we need a similar saying for LW3’s situation that conveys “let whoever is payed to deal with a problem deal with the problem, don’t rip yourself into pieces trying to save them from their own lack of responsibility”. Maybe “forward problem to intended recipient”?

    1. More Viola*

      Your first two paragraphs need to be posted in every break room everywhere. Beautifully put.

    2. kiki*

      Yes! Right now LW is part of the system making it work. While management should be alarmed that their system is dependent on a single employee sacrificing their free time, apparently they aren’t. LW has to stop being a more convenience answer than fixing the system (either fully migrating off the old system entirely or having more staff trained to cover the old system).

    3. ccsquared*

      Yup, you’ve hit the nail on the head. One of my favorite bosses/mentors used to call this “pushing the pain [to the people with the power to solve it.]” There is an art to doing this in a way that you don’t suffer blowback, but often times it’s the only way problems like LW2’s get solved.

  18. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*

    OP #1…

    When “Keep This Employee Happy” becomes the official business plan, the business deserves to fail.

  19. CJ*

    LW2’s next vacation should be somewhere totally off grid. Even if it’s a staycation, as far as work is concerned, you’re going to be totally unreachable in the middle of an ocean, so unfortunate but that’s how it is, who should I train to cover while I’m out?

    (That might work for LW4 too – so sorry, just saw this, I was halfway up a mountain all week, hope you found it in the files!)

    1. Michelle Smith*

      And actually turn off your phone. Yes, it will be annoying, but that way you won’t even be tempted to help.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed. When I was a kid – before cell phones – my Dad chose our vacation spot quite deliberately to prevent anyone from work getting ahold of him. It was 1.75 hours drive out of town, through very rough roads. Only one person from his work knew where we would be (in case of emergencies).

      The one time there was an emergency, they had to send someone out across the lake by boat.

      I have similarly claimed that the area was not cell phone accessible. Reality is that it IS, but that lets me screen my calls and only get back to people every couple of days, “when I’m in town”.

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      My mom worked with someone who always took cruises for his vacation just so he’d be unreachable.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I had an opposing counsel refuse to reschedule a schedling conference because he tought I would be on a cruise and he said most cruise ships have wifi. I did not want to tell him I would actually be somewhere on a Museship which did not have Wifi — because my vacation plans were none of his business and I was not interrupting time with my husband just to do his stupid scheduling conference. He didn’t want to reschedule because he wanted a quick trial date. I laughed my butt off when we got one 18 months out.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Funny thing is I had a client where they had a high level executive go on a cruise…right before Covid. The executive had a number of emergency powers that had not been delegated. Yeah, after that they set up a better system for delegating who had the right to do things like order the business shut down in an emergency (FWIW, the employees at the business opted for ‘better ask forgiveness than permission’ option and the executive backed them up when he got back, so kudos all around to them for making good choices even if they didn’t have a good disaster recovery plan).

    4. AnonORama*

      Be careful with this, though — if you’re not going away and you say you’re going to be somewhere super-remote, you need to figure out how to ensure you don’t bump into anyone from work. Which may make your time off more like “March 2020 lockdown” than “fun time off near home.”

  20. Reality Check*

    #1 my first thought is that Ron sounds like the employee Gavin de Becker warns about in his book “The Gift of Fear.” I don’t have much for advice, other than I’d be seriously considering leaving over this. This guy sounds scary to me.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I worked with two Rons in my current job. Both times, it took several years to fire them. At least with one of the Rons, there were ongoing complaints to the HR and a large number of people, including Ron’s boss, wanted him gone, and he still stayed on for a few more years. People were afraid to come into work because of those guys and they still stayed. I have no idea why it was so hard to let them go. And yes, after Ron1 was finally escorted out, police had to be called and we had additional security on site for the week after in case he decided to come back and cause trouble in the parking lot.

  21. Link*

    3: It sounds like you’re complaining about an employee not covering shifts for those that call out. And quite honestly, you don’t get to complain about that. Your underlings are never required to come in on days they were never scheduled for in the first place, and what you wrote sounds like covering shifts isn’t a requirement. If one person calling out, and with no cover available really puts a wrench into things, you MUST find at least one other part time individual. Or find another person to hire as an on-call individual with specific times each day that would be required to be available for. For the US, each state has rules about on call employees so consider carefully how you’d proceed with that.

    1. ClaireW*

      Yeah agreed, I get the impression that a lot of companies/managers want to imagine that when their employees aren’t working, they’re just sitting staring at a wall waiting for their next shift. In reality people have lives outside of work, and for many people with shift work roles, they need to know their schedule in advance because they need to arrange childcare, or pet sitting, or school pickups, or a bunch of other things that can’t all easily be swapped round at the last minute to cover someone else’s shifts. IMO it’s unreasonable to expect your employees to be able to drop everything any time you text.

      1. 123*

        #3) If someone isn’t scheduled to work you can’t begrudge them for not being available to cover shifts. People have lives & make plans. Hire another employee or someone to be on call or just suck it up and be a manager. It’s not unreasonable to not be available on times you literally aren’t scheduled to be at work.

      2. Choupette*

        +1. I’ve had days off where my day is a carefully scheduled series of doctor appointments. There is no way I’m canceling 3+ doctor appointments and having to try and reschedule them all.

      3. kiki*

        Yeah, I’ve also had managers not understand that they’re not paying enough for folks to only have just one job. They’d get really frustrated about not being able to find coverage, acting like employees are being difficult, but nearly all those other employees are unavailable because they’re working another job.

        But on top of work, folks have other obligations: they may be caretakers, they might be in school, they have medical appointments, they could need to go to the DMV, etc. Acting like somebody “isn’t a team player” because they can cover for a coworker isn’t respecting the humanity of workers.

      4. doreen*

        I’m not sure where the idea that the OP expects this employee to always be available comes from – the letter says this employee will never cover a shift , which is not the same thing.

        I’m not sure there is a solution to this problem – it seems that it’s only an issue when someone calls in on short notice and not when someone is on vacation or taking other time off that was planned in advance. And that means it’s probably not frequent – which is going to make it difficult to hire someone specifically to fill in when someone calls in sick. Not many people are willing to take a job where they might only work a day every couple of months. And no matter what they try, there are almost certainly times when this employee will still be asked to cover a shift – even if you hire a fourth person with the explicit requirement that they will be expected to cover shifts when someone is sick or find someone willing to take a job where they only work when someone calls in, those people will also have days when they are not available because they have other commitments. Because those people are not going to sit around waiting for a phone call either.

        It’s easier to get coverage when there are more people who can provide the coverage – but that might involve cutting everyone’s hours (for example, hiring 4 people to work 20 hours each rather than 2 to work 40 hours each) but that’s not necessarily a great solution either.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Does nobody do agency work in the US? In the UK, lord of health professionals do agency work where they get paid a premium to go and cover a shift at short notice. Some people do it alongside a substantive role and some do it as their main role. I’m surprised that everyone is discussing this as if the only options are to hire someone else to be back up or make one of your existing three staff cover any unexpected work.

          1. doreen*

            Certain health professionals do agency work – but it’s not clear that the staff in question are health professionals. They could be front desk staff that would need to know that specific clinic’s computer system for making appointments etc. or since it’s a vision clinic , they could also be the staff that helps people choose their frames, and asks whether they want special coatings on the lenses , bifocal/trifocals or progressive lenses and so on.

          2. Sharon*

            There are plenty of staffing agencies that can get you either a general worker (office/labor) or a specialized professional. Will that kind of coverage be sufficient? It will depend on how good your procedures are and whether the person will be there alone or not. If you need somebody with specific knowledge of your company, then another hire would be the way to go.

      5. Nina*

        In a very much not shift work job (Aerospace R&D, need I say more) one of my coworkers had a second job, driving a tour bus on weekends when he was absolutely not scheduled to work. One day he got a call to say ‘can you come in on Saturday’. He told the boss that he’d be available on Saturday when he got paid enough to not need the bus driving job.

        Boss called further up the tree, and eventually great-great-grand boss called and said resignedly, ‘okay, how much is the bus driving job paying you?’ Added that to his weekly wage and suddenly he was available on Saturdays. A miracle.

    2. Kiitemso*

      I agree with this; if one person throws a wrench into everything then there needs to be a bigger team to make for better coverage.

      I remember a subsidiary of our company was constantly struggling for customer service coverage if one person from their CS team had a vacation or a sick day or something urgent came up. They would beg for my team to help them with phone CS, which we could do but they would be asking for help every single week. I told my boss this is unsustainable, we can’t constantly help out just because their manager doesn’t want to hire adequate number of people for the team. My boss agreed and we stopped helping them out, citing our own team’s workload. Eventually one of the CS reps quit and the boss finally woke up, hiring three (!) people to replace her.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        There are currently three people, including OP, and it sounds like that is nearly enough staff. OP doesn’t complain at all about vacation or normal workload issues, which is something she would probably mention if they were relevant. Increasing your staff by 1/3 is a major deal, while increasing your staff by 1/8 or 1/12 isn’t.

        I’m currently in a team of three and hiring an additional person just isn’t in the cards. We wouldn’t have work for them, for starters.

        1. Observer*

          Then you need to come up with a different plan.

          Maybe you hire someone at a higher rate to be on call. Maybe you split one job to have 2 part timers. Maybe you set yourself up so that you can function for a day or two if someone has a call out.

          Demanding that someone at a basic wage be available unpaid even when they are not scheduled is not reasonable.

  22. Grits McGee*

    LW #1- are the other employees complaining to Jerry, or just you? If not, it may be a good idea to start directing them to talk directly to Jerry instead of funneling their complaints through you. It may make a difference to hear complaints coming in from multiple staff rather than one person. There’s a good chance that Jerry will continue to ignore the issues, but hopefully it will at least relieve some of the burden on you to be the sole voice of the staff.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      +1 to this. And also, cynical me thinks “and maybe if some men complain to the male owner, he will listen…”

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Exactly. She’s a woman, and therefor the human pillow used to insulate Jerry from unpleasantness while the rest of the team uses her to muffle their screams.

        1. Random Dice*

          “She’s a woman, and therefor the human pillow used to insulate Jerry from unpleasantness while the rest of the team uses her to muffle their screams.”

          Oh my. This has so much truth to it, and is so evocative.

  23. Trout 'Waver*

    In regards to #4, I disagree with Alison a bit. Call me cynical, but I would never explicitly put in writing that I could lose my pension if I did any work, especially if I had already answered a few questions. You could open yourself up to the boss essentially blackmailing you with “Just answer these questions and I won’t tell anyone you’ve been doing it all along” Also, putting it in writing (that you’re aware of the risk to your pension) on the employer’s server could potentially be used against you.

    IMHO, it is better to stick with the rest of Alison’s advice and just not give a reason. Oftentimes I’ve found not giving a reason works better than giving a reason, especially when dealing with unreasonable people.

    1. Skytext*

      I don’t think the pension is at risk because she answered a few questions for free. The issue is that she can’t be paid as a consultant (at least for the first year) and she is unwilling to do for free the substantial work the former boss is asking for. I think she included that information to head off the usual advice of “just ask for (X huge amount) to be paid for consulting”.

  24. Seahorse*

    Re: #3 – I think this depends on the existing setup. If it’s a case of fixed schedules where, for example, Jen works MWF, and Alex works TThS, then it’s unfair to just expect coverage on the off-days. Maybe Alex has a flexible schedule, but Jen has care taking duties, another job, or just isn’t up for working extra days.

    There are cases where I can see this being a bigger morale issue though. An element of my job is coverage based, and we’re on a rotation to provide that coverage. When someone needs to change up their schedule, the rest of us are expected to be accommodating whenever possible. That’s part of the job description, and people are good about trading shifts or getting perks for someone who takes extra hours. While the manager for that area covers any really last minute stuff, it would be noticed if one person just refused to make schedule swaps or help pitch in with call outs.

    All that to say that I don’t think the OP is inherently wrong here, but they may need to rethink scheduling.

    1. Lily Potter*

      My read of letter #3 is that she has one employee who always says “yes” to covering for others and one employee who always says “no”. I suspect that if the second employee would just say “yes” every once in a while, things would be fine. The employer isn’t asking for the second employee to be willing to always say yes, just to SOMETIMES say yes.

      It’s a small organization. Sorry Allison and others, hiring another person just isn’t a realistic solution. What makes more sense is, next time you do hire, make it perfectly clear that “this is a small organization and sometimes we have to cover for one another. The expectation is that you’ll cover unexpected absences at least 50% of the time you’re asked to do so. Here’s how often it typically happens:________. “

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        If that’s the expectation then they need to pay more since they are essentially asking their employees to be on call.

        1. Lily Potter*

          No, not at all. On call means that you’re staying home waiting for the phone to ring and that you’re obliged to work anytime you’re asked. The OP doesn’t expect that. The OP does expect some scheduling flexibility though. Again, she doesn’t expect them to always say “yes” but she expects more than a blanket “no”.

          Honestly, this might be a mismatch between what the employee is able/willing to offer and what the employer needs. If this particular employee needs a set-in-stone, never-to-be-deviated from schedule, they’re not meeting their employer’s expectations. Now, the trick is for the employer to actually verbalize those expectations; I can’t tell from the letter that that’s actually happened.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            If you tell me I’m expected to cover 50% of the absences that happen (none of which I can plan for on my end) you’re basically telling me I’m on call and can’t make plans based on my days off. Let’s say I’m asked to cover five times in a year. The first time I have tickets for an event. The second time I don’t have child care. The third time I have a doctor’s appointment that I’ve already had to reschedule three times. Already, I’m not living up to the expected coverage requirement that’s been put upon me.

            The LW doesn’t know the reasons this employee has for saying no, and unless she is being paid to be on call it’s unfair to expect her to simply be available, even 50% of the time. If it’s causing an issue, then the LW needs to rethink the staffing.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              To add, people who need to provide care for a family member (be it a child, spouse, parent, etc.) aren’t always able to find last-minute care on short notice, so someone in that situation would either have to spend extra money on outside care just in case they are asked to cover OR not take a job that asks them to plan their time off around the company’s needs.

            2. Lily Potter*

              Yes, the LW may need to rethink the staffing – to include telling her “no” employee that she needs to find another job if she can’t find it in her to occasionally cover unexpected absences. It’s totally reasonable in an office of three people to expect this on occasion. The great unknown is whether the LW has communicated this to her employee. The letter asks Allison – what should I do about this situation? My response: use your words! Tell your employee the problem and what you need from her in order to solve it. And know that occasional unscheduled work in an office of three is absolutely a reasonable expectation. You can’t punish an employee for not knowing that you’re irritated for her declining in the past, but you can set an expectation of what you need going forward. And again, this may mean employer and employee parting ways if the employee can’t make it work on their end.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                She also then needs to pay her staff more to not make plans (including finding care for any dependents on their days off) just in case they might be asked to cover a shift.

                It’s totally reasonable in an office of three people to expect this on occasion.

                It’s reasonable to ask for someone to cover, but it’s also reasonable that they are not able to cover every single time asked. Asking them to be available is, again, essentially asking them to be on call.

              2. Observer*

                to include telling her “no” employee that she needs to find another job if she can’t find it in her to occasionally cover unexpected absences.

                You mean not having access to emergency childcare, having a second job or having some other commitment that keeps her from taking on unscheduled shifts is a lack “*in* her”? Like she owes some duty of “kindness” or something to put the business needs over anything else in her life?

                And again, this may mean employer and employee parting ways if the employee can’t make it work on their end.

                It may also mean that the OP is going to have to pay a higher salary, a significant payment for unscheduled shifts or do without another employee. There’s a lot of “why won’t people work anymore” floating around. But the reality is that it is not that people don’t want to work. It’s that too many employers have unrealistic expectations. You consider a requirement to be available for unscheduled shifts to be “reasonable”, and maybe in some world it is. But it’s unrealistic to expect that people who have care-giving, educational or other commitment to have that kind of flexibility. And it’s even more unrealistic to pay low wages to someone and expect this kind of flexibility. Because, even if the person doesn’t have a second job, this kind of flexibility costs money.

            3. doreen*

              Sure , the LW doesn’t know why the employee is saying no and neither do we. Maybe the employee is unavailable – or maybe the employee just refuses to cover on general principles.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                Sure, but even if it’s just them refusing for the hell of it, that’s their right. If you tell them they need to be available a certain amount of times to fill in for a co-worker, you need to pay them to not plan things on their days off (essentially to be on call).

        2. Bugalugs*

          The alternative sometimes to this is hire more people but everyone gets less hours since you don’t actually need more people you need more people to be willing to come in sometimes on a previously scheduled day off. So you likely piss everyone off and lose people because they’re not getting enough hours all because 1 person can’t or won’t ever cover someone’s shift. I agree with Lily Potter on when hired they need to know that it’s part of the deal to cover shifts sometimes.

      2. Lily Potter*

        Forgot to mention before hitting enter:

        The “naysayer” employee is not going to organically figure out that the boss is irritated by this without the boss saying something. If this is a hill that the OP wants to die on, she could totally sit down with said employee, explain the situation, and let her know that an expectation going forward is that she’ll need to start taking on these shifts more often (and give an idea of what “more often” means). The employee gets to decide whether that’s a job condition that they can live with or if they need to start working somewhere else.

  25. MondayMonday*

    #2 I have been in your shoes. And only when the servers started to actually fail, and we were losing our lease where the servers were stored, did management actually care and it took working long weekends to get data off these things and figure out how to keep all these historical records that were critical to the company functioning.

    My recommendation, if you haven’t already, is to put together a solid business case why you (1 person) can’t support these anymore. Use actual figures and dollar amounts — what will the company lose if these go down forever or you get hit by a bus. And document what it would take, timelines, cost, etc., to transfer the data to another location or decommission these things.

    I have also worked with people in your shoes that left the company/retired but were hired back as contractors for big bucks to help decommission the systems because they were the only ones that knew how to use them.

    Good luck!!

  26. Fluffy Fish*

    OP – just want to ease your mind a bit first.

    generally speaking in the US, when government says you cannot work for us or you wont get your pension, what they are saying is you can’t double dip. so you can’t retire, draw your retirement, then get ANOTHER job with the state, draw a salary AND draw your pension. some places require a waiting period like yours. some dont allow double dips at all no matter how much time passes.

    the intent is not we’re going to take away your entire pension because you answered a few questions from your old boss. it’s only if you are employed in that window and its a temporary suspension of getting the pension, not we’re punishing you say goodbye to your retirement.

    that said, Alison is spot-on. “So sorry , im not able to help with my former job any longer.”

  27. BellyButton*

    #2 this is 100% their issue. I advised the leaders at my last company that we had exactly 2 people who knew how to manage legacy tech at a CLIENT site, and t they were both in their late 60s. If we did not do succession planning for those roles we and our client were going to be screwed if they quit, got hit by a bus, or retired. No one would listen, and sure enough, one had a severe health issue and went on LTD, and one retired early. They ended up recruiting a consultant- a guy who worked there years ago, who was in his late 60s, and his fees were about what both the last employees’ salary were combined. I have no idea if they finally decided it was time to train some of the other folks on it, but yeah.. it isn’t good.

    For those in management/HR– succession planning isn’t just about future leaders, it is also about KEY and CRITICAL roles within an organization. If two or gawd forbid one person has the only skill or knowledge about something, you need to fix that.

    1. kiki*

      I feel like I’ve been encountering situations like this more and more– where company leadership seems unphased by a single point of failure that will inevitably fail at some point. I feel like the push for lean staffing has made leaders a bit delusional about what it takes for an organization to be properly run and not just fighting a new fire each day. It is almost always more expensive in the long run to not handle these things properly. But I think leadership of companies has become too short-term oriented due to quarterly incentive structures.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > company leadership seems unphased by a single point of failure that will inevitably fail at some point

        Ah, yet another appearance of hope as a strategy.

      2. Skytext*

        I think it’s because so many leaders aren’t in it for the long term OR the good of the company. They just want to suck up as much bloated salary and stock option money as they can before they move on to another company in 18 months-2 years. In my 2.5 years at Hertz I saw them go through a couple CEOs and Presidents and lots of other changes in the C-suite.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “For those in management/HR– succession planning isn’t just about future leaders, it is also about KEY and CRITICAL roles within an organization.”

      HELLO you hit a sore point for me. I’ll abstain from a rant but our leadership is dodging succession planning questions from our board because “no one is retiring soon”. Okay but we’ve been put in crap corners by people other leaving before, why aren’t we planning for that?

      1. BellyButton*

        Succession planning with leaders is part of my job. I have found at almost every company they will plan for leaders- which in reality, there are more than enough mid-level managers qualified and prepared to move up. BUT there is rarely anyone to fill key/critical/highly skilled IC roles. Then it is a scramble when people leave.

        I tell leaders you have to look at : marketability of someone– are they are a highly skilled, sought after skill set, are they in the 2-5 yr range of employment here, if you had to relace them tomorrow – how much would is cost you? Those are the people succession planning needs to happen for.

        1. Call Me Dr. Dork*

          I am an IC dealing with this right now. Management has had years to get some junior people hired and trained to handle our tech work (which I’ve mentioned in every single review as a need), and they haven’t done much. Now I’m planning my retirement and they’re just verbalizing their panic at me. Yes, I know it would be expensive to have more tech people on our team, but now all of us are at retirement age – what did they expect would happen?

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        This mindset reminds me of Caroline Knapp’s outlining of how alcoholics minimize their drinking–each bad thing or mistake is seen as discrete error that has no relation to other forms of behavior or their drinking in general, because after all, it’s not like they crashed their car or tripped down the stairs EVERY time they drank–heck, most of the time they were fine! It’s classic enabling thinking.

  28. Michelle Smith*

    LW5: Was the first college you went to a full time deal? Or part-time? In the unlikely chance you went to school full time and need a clean and easy way to avoid a large gap in your resume, I’d leave the school on there. Otherwise, it’s really a matter of personal choice.

    1. El l*

      OP, did you get any certificates or anything that might be a qualification from the original place? That may be worth mentioning on the resume.

      I accurately mention on my resume attending a place for 1.5 years – a received a certificate of completing a particular course but certainly did not graduate with a BA etc.

  29. Julia*

    The Ron’s of the working world…

    I agree with the commenters that said make Ron Jerry’s problem and/or get a couple of techs to band together with you and let him know that all of you are considering leaving over it. I had a hard time believing that Ron has a skill set that is so unique it can’t be found in a reasonable person. All of his behavior is a disaster or unfortunate accident waiting to happen. He’s going to be so busy shooting the finger to someone to notice that the car in front of him has stopped and he going to hurt someone and damage/total the company truck. Or he’s going to make a customer feel unsafe/uncomfortable with his behavior and you lose a customer over it.

    I don’t know what magic the Ron’s of the working world have to keep themselves employed, let’s just hope no one get seriously injured or worse while they are out there on the roads & jobsites.

    1. Seahorse*

      Many people read arrogant and mean behavior as confidence, and then read confidence as technical capability. If the Rons of the world can find a boss who thinks being a jerk = skilled worker, they can do quite well for themselves.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’ve only ever known one woman* who got the job because she projected this image. My boss was blown away, and thought he’d hired the next Bill Gates. She was arrogant and a pain to work with. She was let go three months later after she crashed the company’s web servers and mail servers on Friday evening, left for the weekend, and couldn’t be reached. She was shocked when the bosses let her go. Told them they were making a terrible mistake and that they’d never find another one like her (which I am sure they were okay with).

        * saying “only one woman” because in my work experience, it’s been super easy for a man of the right demographics to walk in like he owns the place, and boom! hired on the spot and taken at his word that he is just THAT good, whereas a woman would be put up to extra scrutiny and expected to show all kinds of proof that she really is qualified. This one slipped through the cracks somehow.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I loved an essay on Roger Ebert’s site about “problem” filmmakers that had a line going “just think of all the art that could be made in the world if fewer assholes were allowed to make it.”

  30. Qwerty*

    OP2 – You need a long vacation with your phone turned off. Preferably at a time when you think the old system is likely to have a problem. The higher ups will understand it is a problem real quick.

    If you do answer after hours phone calls, don’t drop everything to help. It is fine to tell them “I’m not near a computer right now, so it will be about 2hrs before I’m able to log on”. Avoid telling them what you are doing, just emphasis that you don’t currently have access. This is easiest if you slowly increase the time intervals – start with 15min, then 30min, than 1hr, then 2hr. You can rip off the bandaid and start with the 2hr, but sometimes that causes chaos and phone calls from more important people badgering you.

    Or do what I did one Friday night – “I’m in a bar, I’m a bit drunk, and I have no computer. I will deal with it Monday or not at all”.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      All of this and I want to add that you don’t have to lie about it, OP. Uber to that bar and have drinks with friends! Go to a beach! Vacation at a mountain cabin! Don’t force yourself out of bed to log in when you’re sick. Enjoy life, we only get one of those.

    2. Angry socialist*

      I am begging every person to stop answering phone calls from work after hours, unless you are paid to do so. If you don’t answer, you don’t have to say no. Best to set up a feature on your phone where your boss’s calls don’t even get through outside of business hours.

      When you answer your phone on your time off, you get yourself in a situation where you have to write to AAM. Also, you make bosses think it’s ok to call people on their days off. Put your boss on silent mode and enjoy your time off.

  31. ImprobableSpork*


    I’ve been in this position myself twice, and have seen it happen to others many more times. The most common mistake people make in this position is not leaving soon enough. So if you’re already at the point where you’re thinking about moving on, it’s definitely time to go, and time to go before management realizes how much trouble they’re going to be in without you.

    The sort of company that lets a critical legacy system fester to the point where only one person who knows how it works is very rarely the sort of company that respects “I have increasing responsibilities outside of work and won’t always be available to help off-hours.” Or “I will be on holiday and will be unreachable from to “. Or “I am resigning from the position of and my last day of work will be ” – almost every credible my-boss-wont-let-me-quit story I’ve ever heard has been a sysadmin who has been responsible for upkeep of a legacy system. If you’re really the only person in the company who can support this thing, and it really is critical to the business, there’s no scenario where you get to stop supporting the legacy system while still working there.

    Job-hunting sucks and I’m really sorry you ended up in this position.

  32. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

    #5 yes leave the old school that you didnt attend off your resume. It’s not relevant and doesn’t matter. It would be no different than if you had taken a more traditional route but transferred from one school to another.

    You could add it to your linked in though. Thats what I did with the tech college I went to before transferring to university for my B.S.

    The only time it might be relevant is if you are applying for a job at the college you originally went to. But then you could bring it up in your cover letter.

  33. VA Anon*

    #4 – Next time old boss requests something reply with the last sentence Alison provided: “I documented everything before I left, and there should be useful info there.” Then stop responding. No need to make up a story.

  34. Dust Bunny*

    LW3: If you’re regularly short a person on shift because of call-outs, you don’t have enough staff. Either you have enough staff to function less one person or you don’t, and if you don’t, you need more employees.

    I used to work at a small business that had this policy, except the people who were full-time weren’t supposed to get overtime, and the people who were part-time (and could cover without incurring overtime) were part-time because they were students and didn’t have flexible schedules. So . . . nobody was available to cover.

    If you’re regularly short, it’s not because this one person won’t take on extra shifts–it’s because you’ve cut your staffing too close.

  35. Girasol*

    OP1: I worked with a Ron in a sporting goods warehouse. He was belligerent, uncooperative, and nasty with everyone. He broke all the rules just to prove he could get away with it. He liked to aim guns from stock at our heads and dry fire them, knowing as well as we did that occasionally a return came back still loaded. The boss offered nothing more than a mild scolding, and for good reason. Our “Ron” bragged that he would track the boss down and kill him if he fired him. Maybe he would have, maybe he wouldn’t, but knowing the guy I could understand why the boss was afraid to do anything about it. I left. That may be the OPs best solution.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      ::jaw drop::

      Okay, one question: why on g-d’s earth were returned weapons NOT checked for ammunition? That is something that has been verbally drilled into me since I was a small child (family hunts for food) – assume every gun is a loaded gun until you physically check it to verify it is not.

      Based on my one question (which makes me think that there were overall problems with policies and firearms) I’m glad you left too!!!!

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Lack of discipline around firearms is–definitely a thing.

        I tend to watch lots of old X Files reruns and say what you will about alien abductions, Mulder and Scully’s trigger discipline was FLAWLESS. And that that’s unusual enough to be noted says a lot.

      2. Starbuck*

        Do you have to have any certification or specialized training to sell guns retail? My guess is, no. So that would be why mistakes happen.

        1. Girasol*

          This was wholesale, so I don’t know about retail. As for why guns weren’t checked, I don’t know. I don’t remember if I even knew who even did returns. But my point isn’t that mismanagement of guns is dangerous (though it is) but that a manager can be terrorized by a belligerent employee and not dare to fire a subordinate who obviously deserves it.

  36. Yes And*

    LW1, my jaw hit my lap on “He throws tools in the shop.” Any shop where that is not met by immediate dismissal is a catastrophe waiting to happen. Get out now.

    1. heather*

      Same here! That goes beyond ‘annoying’ and ‘might lose customers’ to dangerous and could cause a lawsuit.

  37. HannahS*

    OP3, in my job, the schedule is divided into “back-up” shifts. In addition to my scheduled work shifts, I also have days when I’m on back-up. I get paid a small stipend and I have to stay within an hour’s drive of my workplace. If I don’t get called, I get my stipend. If I do get called, I make my usual pay for that shift, and the person for whom I covered has to offer to take one of my shifts.

    I think it’s a good system, because I can plan for it. I have a child; I can’t drop everything and come to work on a few hours’ notice. On back-up days, I make sure that there’s someone available who can watch my toddler if I get called.

    It would be hard to introduce a system like this at your current work without adding some incentive, which is why the stipends could work. And it might not work at all, if your employee is fitting in her shifts around something unmovable, like a school schedule or inflexible childcare. As others have said, you can’t quietly expect people to step up; you have to make your expectation explicit. Or hire more people.

  38. Trek*

    OP1 Are any other employees sick of Ron to the point they want to quit? Maybe if a group of you go to Jerry on Wednesday and state this isn’t sustainable. We’re all taking Thursday off to think about our futures, you should as well. And then all of you are not at work Thursday but at work Friday and let Jerry see the future without all of you for himself it may work.
    Here’s the problem though, Jerry has broken a level of trust with his employees by not handling Ron and he may not be able to get this back. If you ban together Jerry may think the trust is broken and his demeanor can change towards all of you as well. He won’t be able to fire you or all of you but he may not be as pro-employee or as great a boss going forward as he has been.
    I would push all complaints, issues related to Ron to Jerry only and not deal with but I think you will end up having to leave over this issue so start looking for a job now or make a plan regarding retirement. Also identify the line you will walk over i.e. Ron throws a tool or a fit at me I’m walking out the door etc. whatever that looks like for you.

  39. Tara*

    Ron reminds me of a hilarious incident at a terrible place I used to work. They sold construction services and supplies, and the boss especially was not a nice man.

    One day, a couple came in for an appointment for a large ($$) project. But on their way there, somebody in a company truck had cut them off and flipped them the bird, and they were understandably not happy about this. Before they came in, boss had arrived in his company truck complaining about moron drivers or whatever. He ended up apologizing to these people, admitting it was him who had done it, and IIRC, still losing the job.

  40. Fluffy Fish*

    OP 1 – this is a bit of a Hail Mary and you likely already have, but just in case.

    Have you explicitly explained to Jerry the potential effect Ron has on the business, ie, damaging the quality reputation Jerry has spent so long to build? Clients and potential clients don’t care the Ron has some special skill. They care that they’re dealing with an glassbowl and that by Jerry not handling the behavior said clients will perceive that Jerry is fine with the behavior.

    No skill is worth a damaged reputation or lost of (potential) clients.

  41. Chilipepper Attitude*

    re #5, I attended grad school but did not get a degree. I have since earned 2 other grad degrees and don’t need the first one on my resume for any reason and I leave it off. But I have started doing some adjunct teaching, and they require transcripts from all my universities.

    Does anyone in academia know if I should include the school from the unfinished degree? I don’t mind, my grades were good, but it is a pain in the neck to pay for 4 transcripts from 3 different transcript systems. Can I leave that one off, or will they see it in my “permanent record” and ding me for not including it?

    1. just a random teacher*

      I have a similar situation and teach k-12. On my resume, I include only the teaching-relevant degree and courses. During the hiring process, if they want unofficial transcripts from everywhere all the way back to undergrad I have the whole stack available as pdfs already so I can send whatever that system wants, if they don’t ask I don’t send.

      When hired, I ask HR if they want transcripts from all schools or only schools where the credits will count for salary advancement (in my state, k-12 teacher contracts tend to include pay bumps every x graduate credits up to y maximum, but also only count credits after you got your teaching license). I have never yet had a district actually want an official copy of my transcript covering the credits that they won’t count.

      I would assume college is somewhat different in that at least some accreditors let you teach outside of your degree area if you have at least x credits in that area and a graduate degree in something, so they might want to track all grad credits in order to know who they could assign out-of-area, but I don’t know that this is the case. (In my state for k-12, what areas you can teach in is unrelated to college degree/credits and based on either education-specific coursework completed and/or subject area tests passed. I could theoretically add an endorsement to my license and be allowed to teach something at the high school level that I have not taken a single college-level class in but studied on my own until I could pass the subject test.)

      So: call HR and ask! Or better yet, email so you will have the answer in writing in case it turns out to be wrong later.

    2. Bang Pow*

      I’m very curious how the institution you are applying to would even know which schools you ever attended if you did not claim them. It does seem to me that if you don’t tell them about it, they won’t know there is a transcript to request.

      I transferred as an undergrad, so I have some transfer credits on the transcript from my second university (where I got a degree). I would request a transcript from the first place bc there is that traceability. Otherwise, I would not.

  42. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I have been in those shoes! It’s so easy for organizations to choose not to fix what isn’t broken, and technically, I suppose, the hodgepodge system you have now isn’t broken. It won’t be until something catastrophic occurs that the org will have to fix the problem. My former org did have such a catastrophe and lost a lot of data, which led to hand-wringing and “if only we’d done this sooner!” lamenting. Sometimes there’s really nothing more you can do than watch it burn, when it burns.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      It’s like how people will tape together falling apart, decade old glasses that aren’t even the right prescription for them anymore because going to get new ones is “too big a pain.”

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > technically, I suppose, the hodgepodge system you have now isn’t broken

      It doesn’t have the needed level of resilience and redundancy given that it is a critical system to the operation of the company, so in that sense I could describe it as broken.

  43. Delta Delta*

    #3 – When I was a baby lawyer I interviewed for a job with a statewide agency in a state near my own. The interviews were known to be tough. (FWIW people have compared this particular process to sorority rush minus the body-shaming) There were 5 people on the panel, and each got to ask a question. Each one of them asked a question that was some variation of “suppose you have a hearing in City A but your boss has a hearing he needs you too cover in City B what do you do?” And I ended up walking away with the distinct feeling the agency was a bunch of meanies who couldn’t be bothered to go to their own hearings.

    Point being – coverage is fine and sometimes it’s necessary for one person to cover for someone else. But if your entire schedule or business model relies heavily on coverage because people are gone, you don’t have enough people

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > “suppose you have a hearing in City A but your boss has a hearing he needs you too cover in City B what do you do?”

      Out of interest what is the ‘correct’ answer to this in the law world? I know how the equivalent in tech would go.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I think the answer is to ask the Boss how to handle the conflict. And if you can’t (or they blow you off), then ask *their* boss. I know that when I’m asked in interviews how I would handle xyz impossible situation, the right answer is always “talk to my manager about it”.

  44. Zee*

    I don’t want to be an unpaid consultant but I don’t want to mess up my relationship with my old boss.

    Your boss is the one messing up her relationship with you. Also, if you’re retired, you really don’t need to maintain this business relationship since you won’t be needing her as a reference.

    1. Empress Ki*

      Good point. And an ex-boss who expects you to work for them after retirement is the one who messes up her relationship with you.

  45. Critical Rolls*

    LW #3, I get that it doesn’t *feel* fair that one of your employees always covers and the other never does. But you aren’t a coworker. If the system isn’t balanced, you need to look at what’s going on with it and how to fix it. And the review needs to be honest about what expectations you have for your staff and whether they’re actually reasonable. For instance, did you hire someone with the clear understanding that occasional covering was expected? Or was that just assumed? If the staffer who always covers doesn’t want to, and the other isn’t going to, what then? Can you contract with a temp agency? Can you operate shorthanded? Give it some thought.

  46. Jules the 3rd*

    OP1: One thing to focus on that may help you feel better and able to hang on longer: Most of what Ron’s doing is not your problem.
    – Company’s image with the public (flipping off; 069)? Not your problem.
    – Coworker relationships (throwing tools?!?!?!)? Not your problem. Tell the co-workers you’ve told Jerry, maybe if they tell Jerry too, he’ll do something.

    Company relationship with customers does bring you in, since you’re probably the person answering the phone, but take those customers straight to Jerry: “That sounds awful! Let me conference in the company owner and see what we can do!” (Warn Jerry that if angry customers call, you will probably need to bring him in…)

    Good luck.

    The more you can think “that’s Jerry’s problem” and the more you can *make* that Jerry’s problem, the less unhappy you will be.

    1. Looper*

      D’oh, wish I’d seen this before making my almost exact duplicate comment lol Yes, Ron is 100% Jerry’s problem. It’s tough to have such a moron representing the company you work for, but that’s also Jerry’s problem to solve!

  47. Selina Luna*

    OP 5: Special circumstances: If you are in an industry such as education that requires transcripts for new jobs, you may still want to put your first university on your resume/CV. Some places are funky about that.

  48. HonorBox*

    Letters 2 & 4 seem very similar in that both LW are feeling like they can’t say no. It is OK to say no. And if you’re not interested in saying no and walking away, give a timeframe in which you’ll answer the question. “I’m not available right now, but can get back to in _____ timeframe.” And make that timeframe longer than you’d ordinarily make it.

    You aren’t required to be on call, even if you’re salaried. And certainly not if you’re retired.

  49. Elizabeth West*

    #4 — OP, do NOT risk your pension over these monkeys! You don’t work there anymore anyway; it’s no longer your circus. Tell her what Alison suggested and then ignore her emails.

  50. Looper*

    LW1- don’t care more about the company than the owner does. Ron sucks, but he’s not your responsibility and it seems like other than Jerry, no one else likes him either. If you otherwise love your job, do your best to ignore Ron and live your life. This is a guy making 69 jokes for only himself and alienating all his coworkers because he’s a rageaholic d***head. You don’t have to care about his driving or his interactions with clients. If someone calls to complain about him, take the message and pass it along to Jerry. Ron is a Jerry problem, not a you problem.

  51. Safely Retired*

    #3 said “…who will never cover a shift…”.

    You said ” But it’s not reasonable to expect that your staff member will always be able to step in at the last minute…”. I agree with that.

    But your answer’s condition – always – and the problem as posed – never – seem pretty far apart.

  52. SB*

    It is absolutely unreasonable to EXPECT anyone to cover shifts last minute unless it is part of their employment contract.
    If you want staff to be on call, pay them an on call fee in exchange for them not making unbreakable plans on those days.

  53. Anonymoustoast*

    While we’re on the topic of #4, don’t list colleges you didn’t graduate from. Hiring manager here. I have NO IDEA who is coaching people to list higher education they failed out of or took a semester or two of before dropping out, but it’s not a good look. It’s kind of like listing a job you held for two months… it actively makes you look worse.

  54. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW1, I’m aghast that Ron is throwing tools at people and yet Jerry has done nothing?! What is it going to take? Someone getting injured or even killed? Not sure if the job is worth it when you have to deal with this kind of violence.

    I hope we get an update for this one soon a d that it ends with Ron leaving and nobody else hurt!

Comments are closed.