employee always calls out sick after feedback, company doesn’t give much notice to come into the office, and more

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

1. Employee always calls out sick after feedback

I have a direct report who is the lowest performer on my team. He fails to be able to do the most rudimentary tasks despite repeat coaching, training, and ample time to complete them. After months of working with HR, I was finally able to put him on a formal PIP. I have led him from a place of support and assured him that the PIP is going to be his roadmap to success so that we can be sure that he has mastered the basic aspects of this role before we move him to more complex projects.

Sometimes he reacts to coaching with anger and sometimes he owns his mistakes, but without fail, the afternoon or morning after receiving formal coaching/feedback, he calls out of work. Either he is sick or his pet is sick. Just yesterday, 30 minutes after discussing that he was going to be given a verbal warning due to a mistake he made that had far-reaching customer-facing consequences, he told me that his landlord called to tell him that he had entered his apartment because he heard his pet crying and saw that the pet had vomited, so he was going to leave work to take the pet to the ER. Now today he can’t come in to work because his cat needs a procedure.

While I believe that people should be able to use their PTO however they would like, consistently leaving a team short-staffed because of an inability to process coaching is a tough pattern to accommodate. How do I address this without calling him a liar? Or can I preempt this behavior in the future the next time I have to inevitably provide coaching?

Can you just name the pattern? “I’ve noticed that every time I talk with you about a mistake, you leave early or call out of work the next day. I need to be able to give you feedback on your work and have you roll with it. That’s an essential part of every job here, and it’s especially important during your PIP, when I’m giving you extra support and coaching. If every time I give you feedback, it blows up the rest of the day or the following day, that’s not sustainable. Is there something I can do differently that will make those conversations go more easily for you?”

Maybe he’ll be able to suggest something that will help, like that he could process feedback better if it’s always at the end of the day so he doesn’t have to return to work immediately afterwards (that might not always be practical, but you could probably do it at least some of the time) or who knows what. But if he can’t suggest doing anything differently, you’ll have least have named what you’re seeing and put him on notice that it’s not workable.

Also though … he really doesn’t sound suited to this job. Since it took you months of working with HR to be able to do the PIP, I’m guessing that HR is the roadblock here — but it sounds highly likely that he won’t be able meet the terms of the PIP and you’ll need to let him go at the end of it, and so you should start preparing for that now. Coming from a place of support is great but you also need to come from a place of realism, and if he can’t do this job, it’s better for everyone to talk honestly about that possibility (and for you not to keep investing huge amounts of energy if it’s clear this isn’t going to work out).

2. How much notice should I get when my company wants me to come into the office?

During Covid, I shifted from totally in the office to 100% work-from-home. We have a mix of fully in the office, hybrid, and 100% WFH. Also during Covid I moved, so I’m now assigned to location A, while everyone I work with works out of location B (although my manager is also at location A). However, while initially the plan was for me to sometimes work from Location A, nothing ever materialized and I found plenty to keep me busy that I could do 100% from home.

Every once in a while, upper management wants to talk to all of us at Location A, and we are given less than 48 hours notice they want us in. For example, we are told Monday morning that we should be in Tuesday at lunchtime. I find it very annoying to be given such short notice to come into the office and wonder if I need to suck it up or can I push back? This most recent time I said I couldn’t do it due to a doctor’s appointment. (There was no way for me to get all of my work done and attend the in-office meeting and keep my appointment). I don’t think my boss was thrilled, but no one said anything (and I am actively searching for a new job). What would you recommend I do next time this comes up?

If you’re assigned to occasionally work from location A, even if in practice you end up working from home all the time, it’s not unreasonable for your employer to occasionally ask you to show up at Location A, even without many days of notice. “Be here in an hour” wouldn’t be reasonable, but asking you to be there the following day isn’t outrageous — as long as they accept that occasionally there might be a reason you can’t, like your doctor’s appointment. It’s pretty normal for this to be inherent in work-from-home agreements where you’re officially assigned to a local office. (I’m assuming you live within a reasonable driving distance of the location, of course.)

If that’s not workable for you (for example, let’s say you have a fifth-grader who doesn’t require “child care” from you while you work but who you can’t leave alone and so you need more notice to make other arrangements), that would be something to raise with your boss to figure out if there’s a solution. You’d just need to be aware that the answer could ultimately be, “Letting you work from home is contingent on you being willing to occasionally come in with only a day or so of notice.”

3. Navigating limited sick leave

How on earth do we navigate limited sick leave?

It makes no sense to me to limit sick leave. We don’t control when we get sick. That’s like limiting snow days. We don’t control the weather.

I’m used to places with abundant or unlimited sick leave. Now I work at a place with 10 days. I got a horrible infection that knocked me out for almost seven days. Six months later, I am sick again.

I think it’s pretty normal to get sick (or injured or need to take care of a sick person) two to three times a year, right? And also to go to the dentist and doctor, etc., even just for annual check-ups. If you have an actual medical condition, how would you possibly make do with 10 days? That’s absurd. It means I push myself to work when I’m sick, which just makes me sicker. This seems like bad practice all around.

Yep, it’s a bad system. In addition to the points you made, it also means people end up coming to work sick and infecting other people, and now you’ve got more people out than you would have if the person hadn’t felt obligated to come in.

Employers who resist unlimited sick days generally worry employees will abuse it. (I’d argue that good employees don’t, and if you have someone who does flagrantly abuse it, it’s usually accompanied by bigger problems anyway, and employers should train managers to address those rather than worrying about sick leave.) They also tend to worry about situations where someone needs extended medical leave of weeks or months … but that’s when short-term and long-term disability plans should kick in.

It’s still pretty common for companies to offer a limited number of sick days per year, so your company isn’t unusual in that regard, although it does seem archaic when you’ve experienced a different system.

4. Can I tell my boss I don’t want her job?

My boss is clearly grooming me to take her job when she moves onward and upward. Her feedback is now always directed toward how I should behave when I am in charge of our function.

The mere prospect of this fills me with dread. I hate 1) her job, 2) my job, 3) our company, and 4) perhaps our entire profession. I am tired and burnt out and the idea of putting one more thing on my plate or navigating one more sensitive work issue makes me want to scream.

We have mid-year reviews coming up. Can I (or should I) be honest with her? I don’t want her to think I’m out the door when I’m having trouble lining something else up. But it is killing me to stay positive and act like I care about any of this.

Stay away from telling her that you hate #2-4 (your job, your company, perhaps your entire profession) for your own job security*, but you can definitely tell her that you don’t want to move into her job when she leaves. You could say, “I might be misinterpreting, but I’ve gotten the sense you might be prepping me to move into your job at whatever point you leave. I want to be up-front that I want to stay where I am for now, so I wouldn’t want you to be looking to me to take over.”

* “Job security” in this case doesn’t mean “you will be fired if she finds out you’re unhappy,” but revealing that you want nothing to do with the job/company/profession can cause you problems — from not being put on high-profile projects that you might actually want, to ending up on the list if they have to do layoffs “because she wants to leave anyway.”)

5. What do I need to have in place before I announce my retirement?

I have been with my current employer for more than five years, and am planning on retiring next year. They don’t know this yet. I’m wondering what job-related ducks I should have in a row before I tell them. Should I have plans on how to complete unfinished projects, for example? Or is this just not my problem? I may be sensitive to “leaving them in the lurch” because I had to take a few months of unexpected FMLA last year to cope with the equally unexpected and rapid decline of a family member’s health. And at the time I left for FMLA, something I really had not planned on doing, there was no one in a position to do my job. If it makes any difference, I am in a creative industry, and at the moment, there is someone who could cover my work after I leave.

As I write this out, I am starting to feel that this isn’t my problem, but I’m still feeling (unnecessarily) guilty about leaving abruptly last year.

Unless you’re at a very senior level, it’s not really your problem. You should just plan to leave your work sufficiently documented that someone else won’t be starting completely from scratch when you leave — but that means things like writing down where projects stand, key processes, and important contacts, not devising a plan for how they will complete work once you leave. (Presumably the way they will do that should be to hire someone to replace you. But that’s something for your manager to figure out, not you.)

{ 502 comments… read them below }

  1. Gyne*

    Does anyone work at a place with unlimited sick leave? Particularly in a coverage-based field, and how does that work out?

    1. yvve*

      I work in a place with 10 paid and then unlimited unpaid sick days (hourly full time). I can see the advantages of that as a system, as long as its not too inconvenient for coworkers. Gives people the option if they genuinely cant work, but limits the ability to abuse the system.

      1. snoopythedog*

        I challenge the idea (as Alison did) that workers will abuse an unlimited sick time system. In a well managed and functioning work place, questionable sick time patterns are discussed as part of managing employees. Let adults, who know their bodies, use sick time when they are not well enough to come to work. They will perform better when they are at work and won’t get others sick.

        Unpaid sick time doesn’t fix the problem when people are getting by paycheck to paycheck. It also disadvantages those who are caring for others (typically women) or who have chronic medical conditions.

      2. There You Are*

        I wish we’d had that at the one retail job I worked as an adult. I got sick. Very, very sick. And was told that since I’d used up my sick time, I had to come back to work. I asked if I could use PTO. They said, “No, because that’s not for when you’re sick.” I asked if I could take the days off unpaid. They said, “Sure, those days and all the other days. If you don’t show up for your next scheduled shift, we’ll consider that a no-show and remove you from the schedule.”

        So I went to work. With flu that had turned into pneumonia and pleurisy that made it mind-bendingly painful to take even shallow breaths. And then, because I wasn’t allowed to rest and heal properly, and infection that ate through the septum of my nose. I can do a neat party trick now by passing a bent Q-tip into one nostril and out through the other. Thanks, Home Depot!

    2. AnonNow*

      Unlimited time off like at many tech companies can also mean theoretically unlimited sick leave. I was once given 3 weeks off for a terrible crisis, and I chose when to go back.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        This is how unlimited time off works in law firms, too. That’s not hourly coverage like in retail, but court hearings are very hard to move. At well run firms, someone else handles the hearing, if only to finally get it moved. At poorly run firms, it can be harder for the lawyers to take sick leave than the hourly employees, even if the lawyers have unlimited PTO, because no one can fill in for a lawyer.

        1. ferrina*

          This has been my experience in consulting as well.

          There’s not hourly coverage, but we have hard deadlines. You can take as much leave as you want as long as there is coverage. In a well run team, this means that there is a strong cross-training system and transparency, so we can quickly read someone in to our project to cover for us. In a poorly-run team, this means that you will never take leave because it’s a Cinderella/evil stepmom situation- “You can take your leave after your chores are done! And we need you to run the TPS report, sweep the floors, handle the client meeting, update the VP…”

    3. 1LFTW*

      FWIW, I’ve known people whose jobs offered unlimited sick leave, but never a place with unlimited sick pay.

      That said, even I places with “unlimited” sick leave, the prevailing norms required the employee to arrange for some sort of formal leave after a certain point. Like, if they were sick for a week and still not better, or whatever. But in the case OP 1 describes, it wouldn’t have been a problem.

      1. Eternal*

        I’ve worked in two opposite places. One that took care of its employees, with a better sick leave system. A minimum of 15 PTO days and the ability to opt for unpaid sick days instead if desired. And a boss that encouraged you to stay home if you weren’t feeling well. This was a larger place of employment.

        And then my more recent job had 3 sick days. Total. He wanted to hire me with 5 vacation days and I negotiated 10. Any sick day was scrutinized. When I was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma, tests and treatments were questioned and called out as burdensome. Very different and it definitely precipitated my leaving the company to focus on my treatment sooner than I thought I would. It was a much smaller (less than 15 employees) company.

        It’s insane the difference and how it makes an employee feel. And how an employee pressured to come in while sick can take down an entire office too. Expectations to work while sick I hope are changing slowly with time. It’s never really perfect, but some places are definitely better than others.

        1. 1LFTW*

          That’s inhumane, and I’m really sorry they put you through that.

          I agree that kind of thing makes a huge difference in how workers feel about the job or the organization. I’ve worked coverage jobs my whole career, so sick leave has never unlimited, but it makes a huge difference when management trusts me to know when I’m well enough to work, versus demanding a doctor’s note if I call in sick for more than two days. It’s especially egregious when the workplace in question applies that to workers who don’t get benefits.

        2. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

          Wow that is horrible and inhumane, so sorry you had to deal with that. Not to mention that boss could’ve been violating the ADA act if it was in the US and your condition/treatment could’ve been covered under it. What is wrong with people, why do they have to be such jerks.

          1. Lisa Simpson*

            Less than 15 employees means the ADA does not apply to their company.

            FMLA requires 50 employees and so does the ACA.

            This is why I hate the way we romanticize small business.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Yeah, I worked at a small business where the owner was impossible to reach and also two months late with my paycheck. Possibly the worst part is that she was so scatterbrained I actually believe that she misplaced the check and thought she’d already sent it.

            2. not nice, don't care*

              Worked for a small business owner who had a main facility in Canada and another in the US. When she grudgingly allowed US employees 5 days of paid leave, each day off request was met with “Oh, you’re using one of your special days!”

              Um no, you vile piece of filth (for oh so many well-earned reasons), it’s a vacation day, just like y’all are mandated to provide in your home country, as you well know.
              There was no paid sick leave.
              So happy when I rage quit and informed her (red carpet-level couture designers)customers how badly she was cheating them.

            3. Marge*

              Actually, small businesses under 15 employees still have to make every effort to comply with the ADA laws and they can only be waived if it presents an undue, extreme hardship, which is very, very difficult to prove. Even a significant loss of revenue is not considered undue extreme hardship, even though for a small business, it often is.

        3. Chirpy*

          Covid finally got my employer to permanently offer…three whole sick days for full-time employees. They think this is great and that we should all be grateful because it’s retail and this is considered “better than industry standard”.

          They had done a whole week during the height of the pandemic, and I still very much had to come back to a physical job dealing with customers face to face much earlier than I wanted after getting covid. Nobody in this job can afford to take unpaid sick leave, and I often got sick from customers/ coworkers pre-pandemic, so I’m *still* wearing a mask.

        4. AntsOnMyTable*

          I am a nurse. We have 40 hrs of sick time. If you can’t cover your whole shift with sick time then you get 1/2 a point. If you cover your shift with PTO it is a point. You get a verbal warning at 2 points. So if you are sick enough to need to be out for a few days it is better to just take the 1 point since, as long as it is consecutive, it just counts as one occurrence. Otherwise if you use your sick time it would wipe it out since everyday would need to be covered.

          You pretty much can only have one real illness a year or a couple minor. Now mind you I am working with patients that already have a decreased immune system due to meds, illness, etc. It is a dumb system.

      2. Dog momma*

        In healthcare, as well as other places I’m sure, its 7 days of paid sick time.. limit of 10 days I think, not sure am retired now and it may be different.. then you either come back to work or stay out on short term disability until you either return or qualify for long term disability.

    4. Clementine*

      I worked at a university in the UK with six months sick leave as standard for all employees. If someone took more than six months their pay dropped to 50%, but if they returned to work for one day, the clock reset and they could (in theory) take another six months. The people who were off for very extended periods were either seriously ill or problematic in a whole load of other ways. People were well aware which was which. It was incredibly unusual for anyone to be off for more than a day or two.

      1. A mathematician*

        I work at a university in Australia where everyone gets 3 months of sick leave early on (I think half or so on starting and the other half at the 1 year mark). I had 5 1/2 years of not using much, and then I got a brain tumour and had to have surgery and was out for a couple of months recovering and then only half days for six weeks or so after that and was so very grateful for the sick leave. Some of my work just didn’t get done, other stuff got postponed to when I was likely to be back to do it, and a few urgent things were passed on to others.

        Here if you’re out for more than 3 months there’s disability pay through superannuation, so that’s why it’s 3 months and not more – though the clock doesn’t reset on sick pay so I am slightly worried about what happens if I get something serious again before I’ve had time to build up sick leave again.

        1. *kalypso*

          It’s 3 months because that’s how long they’re required to keep your job for you if you’re out sick.

      2. Ellie Rose*

        6…months? paid?


        as someone who is juggling multiple chronic illnesses, being able to take just a few additional sick days would be amazing for my quality of life and probably also my job performance.

        1. InTheUK*

          UK here. Well, not necessarily paid well at all. My employer pays in full, for example, but the statutory pay (what they need to pay by law) it’s 110£ a week and the first three days are unpaid. That’s really little even here. Other European countries do much better than this, btw.

          1. amoeba*

            Germany has six weeks of paid sick leave (full salary) from the employer, after that health insurance kicks in and pays 70% of your salary before tax (or 90% of the salary after tax, whichever is lower). This is per separate sickness, not per year – so if you’re out for two unrelated things, it resets, if you’re out twice for the same reason, it adds up.

            In theory, you can get the health insurance payment for up to 72 months, although I guess you’d probably look into early retirement etc. before that in most cases…

            1. amoeba*

              The downside is, of course, that you typically need a doctor’s note for absences of more than three days, and some employers require it from day one or two. (At least it’s free to get one!)

              1. Other Alice*

                Yep. Nominally you need to see a doctor to get a note, but I’ve had many reasonable doctors that would send me a note for 1-2 days by email if I called them and told them I had a cold. They don’t want people to go into their office while mildly sick and spread gems, any more than you want to go.

                1. Tau*

                  I recently got a sick note by video call, because I caught COVID and didn’t really want to go to a doctor in person for obvious reasons. Worked surprisingly well!

            2. münchner kindl*

              And coverage is done … by the employer hiring enough staff.

              While illness can’t be anticipated, vacation can, since it’s legally mandated, so employers are used to calculate at least 24 work days of vacation (paid leave) plus an average for unexpected illness when hiring people generally, as well as when making staffing plans. So teams talk to each other how many people can take vacation at the same time while still leaving a buffer when somebody gets the flu / breaks a leg unexpected.

              Too many things coinciding can ruin even good plans, of course, but that’s life.

              Incompetent or short-sighted penny-pinching bosses don’t plan a buffer, so 1 person on vacation and one person doing everything, who then gets sick = business is closed. Which can impact the reputation, or currently is shrugged off because staffing is thin and difficult at all levels and most business sectors, so it’s more “be glad stores are open at all, even when they open later/ close earlier/ are suddenly closed without warning – better than shutting down forever” (which happened to some business during corona).

            3. Been There*

              Belgium has 30 days paid by the employer, than some percentage paid by the state (I think it’s around 70% as well, though not sure). Employers can decide to supplement that percentage to bring you up to full pay. My employer does for a limited number of days, which goes up the longer you stay with them.

            4. Laura*

              72 months? You’d need 4 different illnesses for that…

              After 78 (6+72) weeks of the same within a 3-year time span, you become the problem of the pension insurance. They pay OK for return-to-work programs, but not so for disability. In case of the latter, you better have a long and well paid working life behind you, or some independent wealth at your back.

              How long an employer will retain you is another topic. The field I’m working in, they will retain a qualified employee for as long as there’s hope, and re-arrange work or hire a contractor to cover for the absence.

          2. Cara*

            Yeah, I would be paid my whole salary – but like with a lot of types of leave / financial support in UK, if you’re dependent on the statutory minimum protections, you’re screwed.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          I’m a teacher in Ireland and yeah, for certified sick leave, we have 6 months on full pay and another 6 on half pay, across…I think four years (not sure because I’ve never come anywhere near to it. Just checked and yeah, it is four years and there is a max of 3 months on full pay and 3 on half pay in any one 12 month period.

          The downside is that we only get 7 days across two years rolling of uncertified sick leave, so basically, you have to be careful about days you call in for a headache or an upset stomach or something. And unlike in the UK, we do have to pay for doctor’s appointments (just to clarify as I know people often talk about Europe as if the same policies apply across it). Obviously, any appointments come under the certified.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          There are quite a number of companies here that will put you on a performance improvement plan or similar if you have more than X times off ill in a year. This is legal.

          I ran afoul of one who really came down on me hard for having more than 6 times off in a year (the length of time wasn’t the issue, the amount was).

          So it’s still technically limited but you have to check your contract.

          1. Workswitholdthings*

            I’ve just come off a 6 month sickness review after January’s bout of covid meant I’d taken a fortnight of sick leave.

            Mt lovely manager thought it was ridiculous (especially as I was testing positive till 2 days before I was due back!) they’ve changed the rules again if it’s actually covid and it now doesn’t count towards that, but yes it’s defo monitored.

            (first time ever had to get a sick note. all arranged via email given it was covid!)

        4. Abogado Avocado*

          I work for local government in the U.S. In addition to the paid sick leave that employees receive, there is a sick leave “bank” created by donations from other employees, with a minimum donation of 10 hours. As long as you’ve donated to the sick leave bank, you can apply for a sick leave grant in the future. I regularly donate sick leave because we don’t get paid for that when we leave/retire and I figure that it never hurts to have access to it as insurance.

          1. AnonORama*

            Nonprofit here, and we have a sick leave bank as well. I wish employers routinely provided enough sick time that folks didn’t need their colleagues’ donations, but as someone who’s generally healthy and has the option to WFH when I have a cold or something, I’m happy to give it to folks who really need it.

            1. doreen*

              I worked for a government agency (and much of my family works for other government agencies) – and almost no matter how generous a leave plan is there will always be those who need donations. My employer gave a sick day every four weeks starting from day one, five personal days granted on day 1 and every anniversary , 13 days vacation your first year , you could accrue up to 200 days of sick leave so it wasn’t use it or lose it but even if I have eight months of sick leave in the bank , I might need donations if I will be out for nine or ten months. depending on whether I used my vacation and personal days before I got sick. ( And in the government agencies I know with unlimited sick leave, it comes with restrictive rules)

      3. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

        I work at a university with 26 weeks sick leave from day one. For the first 3 months, it’s paid at 70%, and then after 3 months, you have 20 days at 100% pay and the remaining 18 weeks at 70% pay, and that ratio changes with tenure to more days at 100%. If you go past 22 weeks, you’re into short term or long term disability leave, which becomes a whole different thing.

        So, not quite unlimited, but functionally fairly close.

        After 5 consecutive days, documentation might start to come into play, depending on the situation.

      4. londonedit*

        Where I work (UK publishing) for long-term sick leave the company will top up Statutory Sick Pay to your full salary for up to 12 weeks in your first two years, and 15 weeks after that. For short-term sickness we can self-certify here for up to 7 days – longer than that and you’ll probably need a doctor’s note. But we don’t have a set number of sick days – basically it’s all done on a case-by-case basis, and if someone’s taking a lot of time off sick then they will most likely be asked to have a meeting with their manager and HR to discuss what’s going on, whether they need any accommodations, and whether it would be better for them to be signed off on a longer-term period of sickness. Anyone who was abusing sick leave would be dealt with via the usual disciplinary processes, but anyone who’s genuinely ill is supported – and that means it’s very rare for anyone to abuse the system. We also get a decent amount of holiday, so it’s not like people are trying to use sick leave when they’re not ill.

        1. Amey*

          I work at a UK university and our arrangements are essentially the same as yours. Patterns and high volumes do get looked, but it is essentially unlimited and rarely abused.

          One thing I don’t think is common here is being able to use sick leave for situations where you’re caring for someone else who is sick. I ran through a lot of annual (holiday) leave when I had young children off nursery sick. During the pandemic, my employer introduced paid emergency leave for caring responsibilities (like sick family members or school strikes) and this has now become a permanent policy which is amazing. This is limited to a few days per year but makes a big difference.

          Also, I’ve never officially taken ‘sick leave’ for a medical appointment. For the appointment itself, we’re allowed to just attend without taking leave but I often have to be out for quite a few hours for travel and usually take that as annual leave or make up the time.

      5. Bagpuss*

        I think that’s fairy common in public sector jobs – my sister works within the sate school system and a I think can get 3 months on full pay and a further 3 on half pay (may be 6 and , I’m not sure) I think it is a rolling total so you couldn’t return for a day and then go off for another 6 months.
        I think it is in part that larger organizations can genuinely cope better both with the additional costs and with internal cover for people who are off long term, and partly that these are organizations which are or have been strongly unionised .

        In my experience, in the private sector it’s very rare to have anything close to that – the most paid sick leave I have ever been entitled to in the private sector was 6 weeks, most places is is 5-10 days.

        (Although apparently the average number of sick days taken per year is fewer than 5 , and here, sick days are not for caring for others (there is a statutory right to take emergency unpaid leave to care for a dependent, and most employers will let you take PTO at short notice in those situations) or attending routine check ups, (which you usually do in your own time, taking PTO if necessary. Places I’ve worked have normally had a policy (either official or informal) that for things like routine check ups, there’s a degree of flexibility so you can came in late / leave early / take a long/early lunch to go to n appointment an make up the time, rather than having to use holiday), and in most places the making time up isn’t policed unless anyone starts abusing the system, although I’d assume things are a bit different in jobs like retail where hourly pay is normal, or in jobs where coverage is essential

      6. NotRealAnonForThis*

        University non academic work back in the early 00s in the USA, and we had several buckets of “sick leave”. I don’t remember the exacts (I was freshly graduated from college community living with no children so I didn’t find myself sick too much.) but I remember that taking time off paid, for any appointment, was NEVER an issue even for someone in my at that point lowly position. Taking sick time to care for a parents’ medical emergency was not a problem (it was a one time emergency so I never got into the bigger buckets that varied in size depending upon your length of service).

        I never had to dip into the “extended 100” and “extended 50” buckets, but I vaguely remember that the 100 bucket (100% pay) was something like 3 months for qualifying events, and the 50 bucket (yup, 50% pay) was more like a year for qualifying events. Those did require medical documentation and were used for things like cancer treatment, maternity leave, care of a dependent with a severe medical issue, etc.

      7. AA*

        I worked at a university that theoretically gave 6 months sick leave, but in practice used a system where if you had more than two occasions of absence in a rolling 6 month period, you got a talking to and if you kept having absences, you could be dismissed. So in effect, you could take a single 6 month period of sick leave if you needed, but if you needed 5 separate 1/2 days, you could get in trouble.

    5. Potato Potato*

      On paper, no. In practice, yes. Basically, the bureaucratic system at work is so convoluted and locked down that the managers can’t figure out how to track our sick time. We’re supposed to track it on paper, and use the honor system to not take more than we have. In practice, this means that my manager addresses it if we’re not getting work done, and otherwise doesn’t track our sick time. (This works for me because I have a chronic illness.) We’re salaried and ironically in a tech-adjacent field.

      1. Always On The Company Dime*

        Yeah, I’m in Australia with 10 days of sick leave a year. In practice the “sick leave accumulated” field on my pay slips appears to vary by a random number every month, usually upwards, whether I take a sick day or not. Last time I checked it was about four months. We have standard payroll software, they use it, but sick leave… who knows.

        I’ve never had push-back on taking sick days. The one weird one was in another job, breaking my collar bone and having the CEO say “you can’t work from home, you’re in the office full time or you’re on sick leave”. My team lead quietly disagreed and offered to drop stuff off to let me work from home (I was bored, having a broken arm really cut down the recreational stuff I could do. Work was better than staring at the wall…)

        1. *kalypso*

          You’re meant to accumulate it at 1/26th of your hours so someone full time gets 2.923 hours per fortnight. If they don’t show decimal places it can look really random as it adds up as most payroll packages calculate it that way but then have the option of rounding it for the payslip display.

    6. Kara*

      I work for a well known telecom company and we have a no-limit sick leave policy. The way the policy is written is that there is no day limit to the number of sick days you can take per year, however, if you’re going to be out more than 7 consecutive days, you’re expected to talk to your supervisor about short term disability, FMLA leave, or take unpaid time off.

      1. Jill Swinburne*

        Yes, that’s how it was at the university I worked at. Technically unlimited leave, but longer absences than it would take to get over the flu etc needed medical certificates. They also did keep an eye out for an inordinate amount of Monday or Friday sick days ;-)

    7. John Smith*

      I read of an organisation (I’m sure it was a US firm) that wrote up employees who came in while ill. From what I recall, if anyone was ill, they had to see a paid for private health care provider who would declare them sick and would not be allowed back into work until they were cleared. The organisation had an extremely low rate of staff absence and even lower turnover.

      What really annoys me is employers, like mine, who instigate the disciplinary process if you reach certain trigger points such as being off X times in Y time period. Being ill is not a disciplinary offence, nor is managing not to take a day off sick worthy of some reward or recognition. My employer used to give people awards if they went a year without taking a day of sick and I’m so glad they stopped doing that.

      1. YearRoundAllergySufferer*

        Oh yes, let’s have a random physician working for the company generate PHI and share it with the company. There’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. Not to mention who gets decide someone is sick rather than suffering from allergies or having had an asthma attack or any number of things that can cause someone to impute illness on someone else.

        1. münchner kindl*

          In the German healthcare system, I need a doctor’s note for more than 3 days of absence, but of course data privacy is observed.

          So I go to my doctor because I have a cold, he writes me a note “stay in bed and rest for 5 days”. The note is on special yellow paper, 1 copy with the diagnosis in the ICD key goes to health insurance, so they can pay the doctor, 1 copy with only the dates I’m out goes to my employer.

          My german employer knows less about my health than an US employer where my health care runs through my employer, because there is no direct contact between my health care company and my employer here, once I’ve told my employer which health care company I’m at.
          And now, where I’m private-paying public insured, the payment isn’t even substracted from my “paycheck” any longer, as is the case for normal public insured employees. Under German system, employers pay half, and employees the other half, of the fixed percentage rate of gross monthly income as insurance rate to public health insurance, so the employer needs to know which insurance company – AOK, DAK, TK? – and which member number to pay the total rate to each month when doing payroll, though since it’s usually always done by software, it’s rather easy.

      2. allhailtheboi*

        Yeah, my organisation’s policy is if you have three periods of sickness in three months, it goes into a scary formal process. I had over three months one day off due to my legally recognised disability, one day off because I was well enough to work and not infectious, but I needed to see a GP still, and one day off because I had an upset tummy. I work in social care so I am required to have 48 hours since my last D&V symptoms to come back to work. That’s three days off over three months.

        And my very strict, to the letter of the law supervisor initiated formal proceedings. This exacerbated my disability due to the stress, and I was 20 and un-unionised, so I was too scared to push back and assert my rights. Luckily I have a new supervisor who is extremely understanding. Ironically the reduction in stress over sick days… has reduced my sick days.

        1. WillowSunstar*

          In my last job, they fired a co-worker because her illnesses made it so she could not be consistently available and she had diabetes. She was in the hospital at least twice that I knew of.

          It is sad that the US system still allows companies to penalize people for being sick, and also that it’s considered “normal” here.

          I have currently a job with several weeks of leave, but I’ve been here 10 years and it’s the most I’ve ever had. In most office-type jobs, I was lucky to get 2 weeks after being there a full year. People definitely came to work with colds and flu bugs.

          1. Can't think of a name*

            This is what formal reasonable accommodations are for in the US. Your job will be protected. II recommend anyone in the US with chronic health conditions seek a RA, if you work for an employer that is large enough. My RA has been of tremendous help to me ad allowed me to stay gainfully employed. Good luck to all managing working while ill!

      3. snoopythedog*

        I’m an adult. I can tell when I’m sick enough not to work without needing a random ass doctor to “declare” it or “clear” me. F- that noise. So much of illness is subjective, how it is a doctor to declare my IBS bad enough that I can’t work today- there’s no test you can run, only ask me how crippling my stomach pain is today. A random doctor who isn’t my primary care physician isn’t going to have the history of what treatments we’ve tried, what works and what helps, so they cannot do anything for me other than be an annoying hoop I have to jump through. This goes for most illnesses, including colds. No tests to run, just a random subjective line of ‘too sick to work’ or not.

        1. Chirpy*

          I figured out as a child that most of the time, if I feel sick and stay home to sleep, I feel better by the afternoon, but if I go to school/ work, I’ll feel like crap all day (or week). It’s super annoying that people always want proof that I’m “sick enough”.

      4. Dek*

        We’ve just started (or maybe it’s just started enforcing) the disciplinary process for reaching certain trigger points, and it feels so frustratingly unnecessary.

    8. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, even in worker-friendly UK we have a instance system because of coverage needs. You can have 3 unplanned absences in 6 months or 5 in 12 months as a rolling thing, but those are instances rather than days so my two weeks off with the flu in January was only one instance. We’re a facilities and maintenance organisation in public healthcare — it may be theoretically possible to take time off for mental health, and the company offers unpaid leaves of absence which, due to having other funds, I’m considering taking, but because of coverage needs, it’s frowned upon just to duck out. They offer an EAP and while other UK companies do allot a handful of MH days in addition to other sick leave, they’re not really a big cultural thing within our organisation, particularly when your absence has a direct and tangible impact on others.

      We also need a doctor’s note after 7 working days. It’s only just been made possible to get these electronically; before 2022, they needed to be hard copy. The doctor didn’t need to physically see you but you did need to phone the surgery and get a phone appointment. Then someone had to pick up the paper from the surgery and post it to your manager. Now they are electronically available and able to be downloaded and sent by email, and they can be signed off by nurses or pharmacists as well as doctors. This is government mandated if you’re receiving the pretty pathetic statutory sick pay; in the public sector we can get up to six months full pay per year and six months half pay (we get a month of each per year of service), but we still need the doctor’s note.

      We also need to report our illness when we get back — this is a combination of occupational health and, well, ensuring we’re actually sick when we say we are. It doesn’t involve details — our people management software has a drop-down list including broad categories — but it’s again a cultural thing.

      Long term sick leave also comes with weekly check-ins. Again, it’s partly to make sure you’re ok and to make sure from their end that you’re still able to do the job. In the case where it’s like a broken ankle, that’s usually fairly limited, but I replaced someone who had mental health issues, took off on full pay for four months, ghosted everyone except when it was time to extend her leave and resigned as soon as she ran out of full sick pay. That’s not good here — if an employer is paying you not to work, you owe them at least a check-in; I took six weeks after the pandemic hit because the disruption to my routine and the suddenly deserted streets freaked me out, but I remained in close touch with my manager and returned to work after the severe restrictions were lifted (subsequently, the government and public transport orgs made it easier to have access to important things like dental care etc while maintaining public safety, and our office needed a skeleton building crew so entropy didn’t take over, but those first six weeks were brutal on me as autistic — the weirdness of empty streets and lockdown rules hit me harder than worrying about the virus). The org that took us over two years ago has very rigid policies, moreso than the one I originally signed on with where it was up to manager discretion, but so long as you work with your employer rather than against them it will be fine.

      So yeah, generosity in terms of leave comes with reporting requirements. While I recently interviewed for a public sector temp contract with the possibility of perm after six months to cover for someone on extended sick leave, and your job is generally protected, there will be conversations about whether you can do the job at all if you rack up too much sick leave. Again, they’re paying you, they need the work done and they need to know whether they should look for someone else to do that job.

      And keeping an eye on a sick cat is what you use AL for. I’m not sure it would fly here. You’re expected to manage that yourself; it’s not an employer’s responsibility. (I think it would be useful if an employer here did let us use sick time for things like physiotherapy and so on, as I chewed through a lot of AL last year going to physio on my ankle and am looking at another round again this autumn because I’m still in constant pain and I’m planning an ambitious trip to the Caucasus for autumn ’24. But again, we’re given generous AL and so that might be another trade-off for all but the most urgent of situations.)

      There isn’t anywhere where you can get signed off sick and paid for it without some kind of reporting requirements. Unlimited sick days usually come with a lot of strings attached in terms of reporting and so on, and in our world at this point, sick-cat-girl would be being spoken to in a quasi-disciplinary way.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, sorry, so used to saying it that way. ‘Vacation’ sounds odd to me and ‘holiday’ means different things in different places, so I just automatically wrote AL.

        2. anon for this*

          Annual leave is what we call pre-booked paid time off. It’s usually separate from sick leave in the UK (although there might be times when you take annual leave rather than sick leave, or a combination of annual leave and sick leave, to cover a planned sickness absence, depending on your company policies.)

      1. Alanis*

        AL is Annual Leave. The instances thing is part of the Bradford Factor calculation. It sort of indicates that 4 single days of absence are more disruptive than a single week off. You can read up on it on the internet.

        1. GythaOgden*

          That makes total sense to be honest. As long as it’s not excessively punitive, it’s a good way of ensuring coverage; it’s far easier to bring on a temp for a longer period of time, for instance, than it is to pick up someone else for a day and then lose them again and have to get another temp — because when I was doing that intermittent kind of work for one place, you bet I was looking for a more stable job. I took £7.50 an hour (back in 2014) for a full week rather than rely on a £10 an hour job that wanted me in for three hours maybe three times a week and couldn’t say when they would have more need for me.

          The other issue with coverage jobs is that it can be brutal to be overstaffed. I’ve been ‘quiet redundant’ for a while due to the needs of the job being reduced quite a bit thanks to mass WFH. We still need two receptionists for coverage, but part of the reason I want to get out of here is that there’s just not enough work for one person, let alone two. But because my colleague obviously needs breaks and coverage, and they need continuity and not to be training a constant stream of temps, and it’s triggered a lot of depression for me because of the lack of things to do but an inability to do personal stuff while out on the front desk.

          It’s a balancing act in many circumstances. We do have to work around each other’s leave so there’s always at least one receptionist in. That’s fine by me — the times both of us have been out at once are surprisingly few even over the past 10 years. But I’d hate to be the reserve of the reserve of the reserve — and I’m not sure how many businesses have the luxury of doing that ad infinitum, because labour costs are (rightly) rather expensive.

          There’s always a trade-off. The more generous a place is, the more rules are in place to manage the absences that it creates.

    9. anon24*

      I’ve only ever worked one job that had a separate bank for sick time, and it was 4 days a year but you couldn’t accrue more than 2 at a time (we also only got a pitiful amount of regular PTO, like 5 or 10 days). We had to come in a half hour early one day a month for special “meetings” which was just them lecturing us on whatever topic corporate chose that month and one month it was on sickness and we got to sit for 30 minutes before our work day and be lectured on how if we got a fever we needed to call out for the next 48 hours and if we got the flu we needed to take off at least a week. After about 20 minutes my co-worker said “yeah but we only can have 2 days of sick time at once so why are we having this meeting?” It ended rather awkwardly lol.

      My one job with the best PTO it was mixed with sick time but started at 165 hours yearly. The call out policy itself was terrible though because it was a healthcare coverage based job, if you called out sick without a doctor’s note you got an occurrence and occurrences took 90 days to go away and you couldn’t have another call-out or show up late during those 90 days or you accumulated another occurrence and reset the 90 day clock. Your third occurrence earned you a write up. A lot of us including me were constantly skirting the line of that third occurence and by the end of my time there I was so burned out I didn’t even care when I got written up, my boss asked if I wanted to talk about it and I was like nope, give me the dumb paper to sign and let me get back to work.

    10. ds*

      I work somewhere that gives us well over a thousand hours a year for sick leave. It’s enabled me, a human with three autoimmune diseases, to stop causing myself to be so stressed out they flair while trying to “make up time” every time I have a doctor’s appointment (which historically led to me working until 10,11,12 at night in the past position). I’m getting all my work done, meeting all my deadlines, and have effectively been sick less often due to being able to take those couple hours each time I have an appointment on a day I don’t have off (being a person with 8 drs means at least 3 of them don’t give me a choice of appointment time, just hand me a card as they are extremely busy nich-field drs).
      No one at my workplace seems to abuse it. No one is out a suspect period of time. No manager questions us about being out when we are. Migraine, cold, covid, dr appointment, even family member dr appointment are all treated the same: with respect that you are an adult, able to make your own decisions and still get your work done.
      Of course this is the benefit of being salary. You just get your work done and no one complains. Underperform and everyone will have a fit. So it kind of puts everyone in the mindset to, ya know, act like an adult.
      tl;dr it works out just fine

    11. portfear*

      My work has limited PTO, unlimited sick leave and requires 24/7 support. We’re all trained on how to support our product and either arrange directly to have someone take over our support rotation or throw it out to the whole team. We also track our hours because the business receives significant tax breaks on certain aspects of our work. anything that isn’t support and its derivatives or development and deployment shares the same time code. A week of vacation or sick days looks the same to payroll as a week of in-office social or learning events. I think technically at two weeks out consecutively your manager is supposed to initiate a FMLA discussion with you but I haven’t met anyone subjected to that practice since the unlimited sick leave was introduced near a decade before I started working here. The only hiccups I have seen is from mediocre-at-best managers who have been working from the days of only 10 days sick leave who somehow have missed all the HR updates in the intervening years and try to say we have limited sick leave. Which backfired pretty spectacularly for one of my old managers when I was on day 3 of a migraine and he demanded I show up for an HR meeting that they ended pretty quickly once they realized what was happening. I was only on 6 days out that year at that point, but had been required to do lots of trainings and meetings that amounted to almost 30 days worth of the joint time code. Apparently he’d been using his PTO as sick time so in the end he came out on top getting a pile of hours put back in his leave bucket.

    12. Knope Knope Knope*

      We get unlimited sick leave, tho short term disability kicks in at a consecutive week off. It’s worked out fine and no one has abused it.

      1. Lisa*

        My employer is the same. We don’t even track sick time as a separate code, it’s just between you and your manager because we are adults. A week or more at once and you’re supposed to go on Short Term Disability, and being out frequently enough that it’s affecting your work will get a conversation about what’s going on and whether you need official accommodations.

    13. Green great dragon*

      We have 6 months on full pay. There are some checks. If you take more than 2 weeks over 6 months you have a discussion with your manager, which can be 2 minutes of ‘sorry you had both flu and covid, I am putting a no action needed note in your file’ but can end up being a performance issue. But those with a serious illness obviously get the leave.

    14. BW*

      European country, we get up to 182 days of sick leave at a go at 80% pay (and then you can get another leave as long as you work 60 days without it, or you go on temporary disability at 60-70% of pay). Leave over a month is paid by national insurance, not the employer. All sick leave needs to be doctor-certified, so that’s a hard limit, and when you’re off for more than a month, national insurance can call you in for another medical examination to make sure you’re not faking. Which is so fun when your local national insurance office is in an old building and you have to struggle up giant stairs on crutches just to show off your broken foot. People tend to take holiday leave instead for mental health days or food poisoning rather than bother with doctor’s appointments, we’re allowed 4 days a year of holiday leave without approval.

      At work, it gets treated normally – life happens, people get sick or break legs or have mental breakdowns. It’s worked into staffing and work planning, the same way we work in summer leave season because everyone gets at minimum 20 days of paid holiday leave. I’m in a team of less than ten people and we’ve recently had several periods when three of them were out due to a combination of sick and holiday leave, with high work loads due to scheduling outside our control – and I dealt with it because I knew those people pitch in when I’m on leave.

      I’ve had periods of poor health when I was off for more than two months in a year due to a poor immune system or surgery recovery. I assume in the US I would have plain lost my job at that point.

    15. Emma*

      It works fine. I work in a small (<20) company and especially pre-covid, we had to be very strict about coverage. For insurance reasons, we needed to have 2 people physically in my team's office all day; so in practise you need 3, so that someone can go to the bathroom or take their lunch break.

      We hired and scheduled such that we would always have 4 people there, so we'd have a margin for someone to be on annual leave. Some days we would have more people, because there was plenty of work to go around. Only one person at a time was allowed to book annual leave, so we rarely had more than one person off on any given day; but on the rare occasion that someone was on leave and someone was sick, we would just put off nonessential work, and if needs be we would ask someone from another team to help us out. I think we had to do that maybe once a year.

      We start out on 4 weeks of full paid sick leave, rising to 12 with length of employment. After that you're entitled to statutory sick pay, which is a lower amount, for 28 weeks – though I think in some cases, the company can offset days so you get 28 weeks from the 3rd day of absence, rather than from when your contractual sick pay runs out. While on SSP, or after your SSP runs out, if you're still unable to work, you can claim disability benefits.

      Through all this, you keep your job. There's no maximum number of days you can be sick and keep your job; it's just a question of who is paying you and how much. If you abuse sick leave, that's treated as a disciplinary issue and can lead to you being fired. Medical documentation is required for extended sick leave only.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        THAT is the way for management to handle it.
        (1) Must have 2 people there at all times
        (2) Realistically that means a minimum 3 people scheduled for each shift because of bathroom and lunch breaks
        (3) Hire and staff for 4 people there at all times and have/enforce a policy that only 1 can take scheduled leave (annual or sick/medical appointment) at a time.

        Unfortunately too many companies try to get away with hiring only 3 and scrambling for a fill-in whenever 1 person takes planned PTO or emergency sick leave. Or worse hiring 2 and needing some one to backfill everyday when people take breaks and then needing all day backfill when 1 person takes any time off.

    16. MsOohcs*

      Yup. I have a type of role where I’m on call a lot. But, I just took two months leave to recover from major surgery. All fully paid. I will need to have follow up surgery in about 3 months and again, it will all be covered. There’s no issue with abusing leave, I think because it removes the scarcity issue. People take the time they need and if someone is being sketchy with leave, odds are there are other things that they aren’t doing well too. In my line of work, I’m trusted to deal with things way more complex and commercially sensitive than whether or not the day I took off last week for a cold is legit or not…. Being punitive just seems to be so dysfunctional. I know I’m in an area of the world where this is not uncommon and I’m grateful, I sincerely wish everyone had the same level of support

    17. Washi*

      My husband works somewhere with unlimited sick leave. The deal is basically that no one monitors how much sick leave you use until it starts affecting your job, then FMLA/short/long-term disability would come into play.

      It makes a huge difference for our quality of life as a young family with minimal cost to the employer but that being said, my husband’s job requires minimal coverage (being available to answer a couple questions by text is enough). I work in healthcare and I can’t imagine how it would work in my setting!

      1. Gyne*

        I’m also in healthcare- my call pool is 4.5 (one part time doc) and trying to figure out the schedule when one of us was out for a month was tough but doable. Covering call means canceling clinic, so ~30 patients that need to be rebooked each day. We can’t really hire more people because we’re a small practice and there’s a physical limit to the number of exam rooms in our building, and we’re private so already paying ourselves on the lower end of the market rate for our specialty to keep the office going.

    18. Cat Tree*

      I do, but not in a coverage based field. Sick time is unlimited and separate from (limited) vacation. We also don’t have to use any kind of leave for short appointments and don’t necessarily have to make up the time later, but we are salary so sometimes I do need to log on at night if something urgent needs to get done. We have the caveat that after three *consecutive* days of sick time we have to go through the short term disability process, which would require a doctor visit of some kind. But in my experience a cold that is severe enough that I can’t work for 4 days is serious enough that I would go to urgent care anyway.

      I like our system. I have multiple chronic conditions and consider myself to have invisible disabilities. I have lots of doctor appointments. I’m so glad those don’t eat into my limited vacation time, like it did at previous companies that had generic PTO. I consider it a matter of inclusion and it shows that my company is serious about it when they have policies that cost them money but results in making the workplace more equitable for people with disabilities.

    19. LedgerMan*

      Yes, my firm in both the US and the country I’m in now has unlimited sick leave. We are client-facing and project based, so coverage for your role in the project/team is always needed. It works out just fine, as the idea is another person at your level and function could be slotted into your projects. In practice of course, client relationships and institutional knowledge is a thing, but the rest of the project team is on hand to support.

    20. Medium Sized Nanaga*

      I’m salaried in the insurance industry (in Canada), and I have unlimited sick days with the caveats that a) if it’s longer than 5 days, I have to apply for short term disability and b) my manager can intervene if she feels I’m abusing it.

      We have a pretty strong culture of talking PTO when needed, so it hasn’t been an issue. I’ve been out for a few random days since I don’t get sick often, but it did help me feel better about calling out for smaller reasons. I used a sick day just because I was in a horrible mood and knew I would take it out on the wrong person.

      Note for appointments and maintenance things: I wouldn’t have to use sick time and neither would my hourly counterparts. We allow for flexible scheduling to let people get their ish done.

    21. Desert girl*

      I never have. The best I got was separate sick leave from vacation time. It was quite alot (not unlimited but i can’t remember how much). I was there for 3.5 years and sick leave could roll over from year to year. I had so much when I left. They paid out vacation but not sick leave.

    22. kiki*

      I work in a place with “unlimited” sick and vacation time. For my company how it works is that there is a threshold where you’d need additional approval from management/ HR. So 2 weeks of PTO in the year is always fine, no questions asked. 3 weeks of sick time is always fine, no questions asked. But when you exceed that, you have to get special approval from management. I’ve only heard of one person being denied their PTO request and it was somebody wanting to take 6 consecutive weeks off of work during a very busy time. I have never heard of sick time being denied, but I suppose a lot of folks wouldn’t share.

    23. Reality.Bites*

      I worked for a major company (a household name) in Canada. We had unlimited sick leave, but a doctor’s note was required after 3 days. After a short period you were off sick leave and on to short-term-disability, still at 100%. After 3 months that would switch to long-term, which I think was 70%

    24. Dust Bunny*

      Ours isn’t unlimited, I don’t think, but I currently have over 400 hours accrued and have donated at least 400 hours, total, in the past to the employee pool. I don’t know where/if it caps, though. It might be 480?

    25. Jay*

      Back when I lived in the Southeast US, sick leave was virtually unheard of outside of the higher levels of white collar employment. I was 28 years old before I got my first sick day or vacation day.
      In general, illness was low-key considered a moral failure on the part of the sick person. It was a “punishment” for doing “bad” things that got you sick, like not going to church enough, or socializing outside of church or work, or having hobbies or interests outside church and work.
      Or, of course, giving people sick leave will just “encourage” them to “get sick” to “avoid work”, making workers “soft” and “lazy” and “taking money out of the pockets of innocent business owners”.
      My current job gives me abundant sick and vacation time, more than I would usually take in a year, and they are fine with me coming in pretty much whenever I get there, as long as I make my 40 hours and all my work gets done. It’s just wonderful to me still, after all these years, and I have nightmares (literally) that I am forced to go back to the old ways now that I am old and sick and feeling the consequences of many years of difficult and dangerous jobs.

    26. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      We have one-bucket PTO, but my employer offers short-term disability for 26 weeks at half pay (no cost to us for that but we have the option to pay a few bucks a pay period and bump that up to I think 70% pay), and once per 12 month period, they will pay a full 2 weeks salary (without using PTO) for a FMLA-qualifying event that is the employee’s own health issue, which can either be used by itself or to cover the two weeks waiting period on the short-term disability plan. Probably more useful for a one-off type situation than for a chronic condition, I would think, but still not too shabby for the US.

      1. badger*

        I really don’t like one-bucket PTO – we have it too, and I maxed mine out both because I’m bad at taking time off generally (my boss and I have talked about it, I’m working on it) and because I’m super paranoid that I’ll need it if I get sick. I’m mostly WFH, which has helped a bit, because I no longer get all the colds that colleagues with small children carry with them into the office and I don’t have to worry about getting colleagues sick if I am and have too much to do to take time off, but it’s hard not to worry.

        I guess the pro is that if I am sick enough to knock me out for a longer period of time, I have enough to cover. But that circles right back around to “don’t use PTO because what if you need it.”

    27. Dek*

      We don’t have unlimited sick leave, but we have a fair decent amount that accumulates.

      Unfortunately, they’ve just decided to put a sort of use-cap in place where “unscheduled leave” (the kind you take when you get sick) gets you a note of concern after three occurrences in 12 months, a written warning at 5 and so-on.

      Which sort of feels like an excellent way to get employees showing up at work to pass on their sniffles and stomach bugs (especially with the school year starting up) because what if I get REALLY sick later. For me, it’s going to mean toughing out migraines, insomnia, and excruciating cramps more often. I’m going to miss feeling like I didn’t have to be direly ill to call in.

      1. Nesta*

        Ugh, that is terrible. You would hope that this pandemic experience we had would make people more inclined to be understanding of sick leave, but it feels like there is a real backlash –even from companies or organizations that never utilized this before.

        They will not only experience presentee-ism from people who are trying to work through migraines or insomnia, or battling a chronic illness, but a person on their first day or two of COVID (or for whom it doesn’t produce serious acute symptoms) will now be more likely to come in and spread it around because they won’t want to risk getting the note.

        1. Chirpy*

          Yup, I had to get an “official” covid test (county testing site, not an at-home test) and speak to someone at corporate to “prove” I had covid to get a measly one week off. Despite having pretty classic symptoms and a close contact with covid three days earlier. Lucky for my coworkers I wore a mask, was eating lunch in my car despite it being winter, and got sick over the weekend, so they had little contact with me. Corporate still treated me like I’d done it on purpose (my actual manager was decent though).

          1. Dek*

            Ugh, that’s horrible! Yeah, my buddy had covid, and even though he works in a public library, he only had a week off. After that, if he didn’t have symptoms (regardless of what his tests said), he had to come in. It’s madness.

        2. Dek*

          I’ve never heard the term “presentee-ism” but it sounds about right. And parents, I think, especially, are going to be the ones trying to power through it and show up sick, because included in the list of things that count as “unscheduled leave” is stuff like having to take care of a kid because of sickness or school closure. Last year I lost count of how many times schools closed for weather.

          We just had a big meeting where it was explained in semi-detail, and it did not go over well. I think the most infuriating thing is they kept saying it was to create a “culture of accountability.” Which, like. What does that mean?

          It’s really not going to be good for morale and it seems so unnecessary. The leave is there to be used. Certainly, it shouldn’t be abused, and any coverage-based positions have their limits for when and how leave can be taken, but this feels draconian, even if it was technically “always policy.” I don’t really know what benefit it’s supposed to have.

    28. Llama Llama*

      If I am out more than five days, I can be paid for sick leave up to 12 weeks. This works great if I were really on a leave (maternity is in a totally different bucket).

      I have a good amount of regular PTO so it hasn’t effected me yet of my shorter sick days.

    29. You can call me flower*

      I have unlimited sick leave. We’re a marketing agency and we’re fully remote. We document everything and all of our projects are in our project management system, so in theory, any one could figure out what you’re in the middle of and if anything is time sensitive. Managers or other team members step in if something has to be taken care of immediately. I’ve stepped up to help people before, and they’ve returned the favor. It’s actually great. I haven’t heard about anyone abusing it. Working from home helps too. Since sometimes you’re too sick to work and sometimes you just want to work from the sofa in your sweats because you have a severe cold and both are options for us.

    30. The Person from the Resume*

      I work for the federal government. I have accrued nearly 3 months of sick leave. I earn the max amount (4 hours of sick leave every 2 weeks), it accrues indefinately (so I have years of earning more than I take), and is paid out upon leaving the federal government. I have advantages because I’m a relatively healthy single childless adult (so I don’t need much), but our sick leave can also be used for appointments or illnesses of family members too.

      It’s a very good policy. I have enough that I don’t have to be stingy at all about appointments or illnesses like the full week I took off when I had COVID. But the pay out at the end of the career is something of an encouragement not to be wasteful (although that’s long term versus short term benefit).

      Now I don’t work with people that need strict coverage. If Joe is out for 2 months because of a surgery and recovery, we plan who fills in for him from the team and that person has a bit of extra work or different work and the team as a whole gets a bit less done that period. If someone is unexpectedly out and has a task that needs to be done today, someone else does it. Or occassionally some things are delayed because one person (the SME) is unavailable and no one can pick it the task and finish it before they are likely to return so it’s not worth it to try. Things get delayed for many reasons and a key resources was out sick is a rare one but understandable.

      If it is truely a mandatory coverage situation, management just needs to properly staff (may look like overstaffing sometimes) so the schedule can absorb people taking their planned time off plus unexpected illnesses. Or have a way to backfill a sudden shortage, maybe pulling from other areas.

    31. ThatGirl*

      I do, though it’s not a coverage-based job. What it looks like is, if you’re sick, you let your manager/team know and you don’t work. We are asked to provide a doctor’s note for longer absences (3+ days with some exceptions, like a positive covid test would not need a dr’s note) and if it were to stretch more than a week or so I think they’d start talking about short-term disability. But nobody’s tracking how many sick days we’re taking or when.

      1. ThatGirl*

        This is also the most generous place I’ve ever worked in that regard – my last job had 5 days of sick time separate from vacation/PTO; my prior jobs had one combined bucket for everything.

    32. Anonymoose*

      I did, at one of the big 3 accounting 3 letter firms. BUT, the expectation was that if you took sick leave OR PTO, that time would be made up through the course of the year, so it didn’t feel unlimited. It felt like an obligation. Fortunately, we were permitted to work from home, so I rarely needed to use it, but since “utilization” was one of the main metrics for our annual bonuses, and both Sick Leave and PTO counted AGAINST utilization, (first place I’ve worked where that was the case) people just really avoided taking time off for ANY reason. I left after 3 years because the pressure to be 100%+ “utilized” while also being required to do “400 hours over standard per year” just wasn’t sustainable.

    33. FrivYeti*

      Caveat: I am Canadian.

      Both my current and previous places of business offered unlimited sick leave. At the current place (which is not coverage-based for my team), I’ve been informed informally that most people take around nine days of sick leave a year, with some people taking more due to bad luck. At the previous place, we were small enough staff-wise that I don’t think there was an official policy, but also we worked with vulnerable people and the rules were very strict that if you felt unwell, you didn’t come in, no matter what. That was a coverage-based field, and we occasionally had to get instructors at the last minute because someone was sick, but I can only think of one or two times that something had to be canceled in the time I was there.

    34. RussianInTexas*

      Nope. I have 4 days total of sick leave.
      In my Old Job that had 27 vacation days, I still only had 8 sick days.
      10 days of sick leave, as long it’s a separate bucket from the vacation and holidays is a fairly generous one.

    35. I Have RBF*

      I have pretty much unlimited sick leave. Since I’m salary, they don’t really measure it, it’s just up to my manager that it’s not abused. Because I work remotely, there are actually fewer whole days that I need to call out, and yes, if there’s a scheduled thing and I don’t have a medical appointment, I’ll do the scheduled thing and then go back to bed if I’m sick.

      We do have coverage considerations, since in part we do a lot of ad hoc troubleshooting. But since I’m not the only one with my general knowledge, I get to take vacations and sick time. This is better than my previous jobs.

    36. TJMM*

      I work in a place with generous sick leave (3 weeks) that constantly accrues, so many people effectively have unlimited sick leave. We also need coverage. Honestly, it can be very challenging, especially combined with our generous vacation leave. It is somewhat tempered by the fact that sick leave counts toward service at retirement so there is an incentive to not spend it willy-nilly.

      We do have some policies around patterns of sick leave (if you are always taking it around weekends, for example) and the number of times you take it off in a six month period if it is not excused by a doctor’s note. These can be tricky to enforce, but I think that they make sense to have, as long as you have the discretion to make exceptions.

      I do think that people who are prone to abuse of these policies are prone to other problems. If we are managing effectively, the other problems are what we should address before or instead of the sick leave abuse. But we all know that there are many things that can get in the way of managing effectively.

    37. fhqwhgads*

      It’s not phrased as “unlimited sick leave” but the official policy is “if you need a sick day, take a sick day”. Only 15% of the employees are in a coverage-needed position, but they’re staffed well enough that generally, unless 5 people on the same team got sick at the same time, it shouldn’t really cause a problem.

    38. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Technically, I get 20 days per school year and I can bank what I don’t use up to a school year’s worth of days (but no payout for leaving days in the bank). There are also some options for long-term disability on a reduced salary, but the rules for sick vs leave are a little complicated. Originally, it was only to be used if you, personally, are sick, but it’s been expanding into drs visits and family care (really, most people have always just called in sick for that and principals don’t ask questions as long as you don’t show up on Facebook with a Pina colada, but the union wants more concrete language).

      It ends up being a little strange because it’s more than enough for most people (if you’re generally healthy/no major family health troubles), but folks with chronic illnesses often do burn through their days. We also have to be prepared to fight for our leave every contract because substitute teachers are hard to find and mean that the school board needs to pay two people for one day of teaching. Luckily, the union has made it clear that this is something the employer will pry out of our cold, dead hands so other than an “attendance support program” where you have to explain why you were out (that they brought back in 2021, ugh), it’s only rumblings so far.

    39. doreen*

      My husband’s employer used to have “unlimited” sick leave – but once they hired an HR consultant (previously HR had been handled by the owner and Finance) , that went away. But the thing was it wasn’t really unlimited – it was more that there wasn’t a preset limit. So that maybe Leon gets paid for the entire year it takes him to recover from his stroke, but Danny stops getting paid after one month even though he’s out recovering from surgery for two months. Which is almost certainly why the consultant told them to change things – it could be that Leon was there 30 years and Danny was there 5 or maybe it’s because Leon is the same race/ethnicity/religion as the owner and Danny isn’t.

    40. Mack*

      One of my friends left a job partly because of their interpretation of ‘unlimited’ sick leave. He worked there for YEARS with no problem, then one review cycle he was criticized harshly for using 7 sick days in an entire year.

      But I’ve worked 3 jobs with unlimited sick leave and it has always been fine for me, even when a specific coworker got covid 3 times in about half a year. We were worried about his health, but not worried about his employment or productivity.

      It’s never truly unlimited, there are always conditions that require one to take a different kind of leave like parental leave or fmla, but in my experience in the tech industry usually it’s flexible enough to cover anything that doesn’t send someone to the hospital.

    41. Anonono*

      I used to and it was great. And yes, there was that person who abused it and because not only was our manager bad at her job, but HR was bad at theirs, instead of addressing the problem overall they instead threatened the entire department.

      I admit it was possible the department abused it as a whole, but the job was boring, the department was poorly run, and we dealt with siding samples all day, some of which were moldy. It is entirely possible we were getting sick, but we definitely had a need for mental health days.

    42. Sara C*

      I’m faculty at a university, and our PTO is not tracked at all. If I’m sick on a day I’m teaching, I cancel or find someone to fill in or move things online in some capacity — typically depending on the level of notice. Like if I knew I was having surgery, I’d get someone to fill in, versus if I start vomiting 30 minutes before class, I’ll just cancel. If I have meetings, I cancel or Zoom in depending on how I’m feeling. Other types of work (research, grading, admin stuff) I just delay until I am well enough.

    43. LK*

      I find the way my employer handles sick leave very reasonable (though we are not coverage-based). Paid sick days are essentially unlimited, short-term disability (with full salary-continuance) kicks in after 5 consecutive sick days, and after 15 sick days in a year, management has the option to request a doctor’s note, but they only do so if there’s genuine reason to believe someone’s abusing the system; they’re not going to request it from, say, someone who they know used up most of their days early in the year with a bad flu, or someone with a chronic condition who can be expected to be sick more often, or someone who’s known to be conscientious and trustworthy. Time off that takes less than a day for appointments doesn’t count towards those 15 days either

    44. Prosecco*

      I don’t know if anyone said this already, but it seems to work out in most European countries?

      I work in Germany and we get unlimited sick leave. After 6 weeks of sick leave within a certain time frame AND for the same reason, public health insurance covers your pay and it’s about 70% of your regular salary.

      I never understood limited sick leave and (frankly) I think it’s totally barbaric and one reason the US labour laws seem incredibly inhumane to me.

  2. AnonNow*

    LW#4, as unfair as it might seem, if you tell your boss you aren’t interested in her job, she might see that as a sign to get an employee who is interested. So I would not expect a favorable outcome from telling her that. It might work out okay, but quite possibly not.

    1. Reb*

      And LW#4, are you certain you’d hate her job as much as you hate yours? Management can be quite a different beast to individual contribution.

      1. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

        Maybe it’s a different beast, but if you hate your company and perhaps the entire profession you work in, having to get other people to follow the party line is not going to be a very rewarding endeavor.

        1. Not Janet*

          What you say is true, not rewarding. But at least you’re getting paid more and gaining some new skills to demonstrate on your resume.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            As someone who was talked into a management job I didn’t want in an industry I was burned out from, the extra money isn’t worth it.

            1. Saddy Hour*

              Agreed. I was burnt out when I started my management job and it crushed the crumbs of my will and happiness into the ground, and that burnout echoed even after I jumped ship and pursued a different part of the industry entirely. I really don’t think OP should take on a role like this just to avoid making waves.

            2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              I was once talked into a management job I didn’t want in an industry I actually loved, and even then the extra money wasn’t worth it. I loved being an individual contributor in that industry but hated being a manager!

        2. MsM*

          Yeah, I’m not sure what about “if I have to take on a bigger workload or deal with office politics more directly, I’m going to scream” says this is the right move for addressing OP’s dissatisfaction.

          1. Kes*

            I think the dealing with sensitive issues part is the bigger deal, because taking on more may or may not be something that could be adjusted for (eg delegating more, or what OP’s boss is responsible may involve things they’ve grown into taking on that aren’t inherently a requirement of the role), but dealing with office politics is likely part of the manager’s responsibilities.

            I think that rather than saying “I don’t want your job” OP might be better off naming the underlying factors “I’ve gotten the sense that you might be training me for your job. To be honest I’m a little concerned though because I feel pretty overloaded already and I don’t know if I could take on any more, and I know your workload is greater than mine. Also, trying to navigate the politics around these sensitive issues is already challenging for me and I know that’s something you have to deal with a lot.”

            I know OP mentioned they’re looking for a new job, but it would definitely be worth taking whatever steps they can now to address their burnout – taking a break/time off if possible, prioritizing self-care and minimizing whatever aspects of the load can be minimized both inside and outside work, etc

      2. Ellis Bell*

        It’s not usually different in a more rewarding way if you don’t like the basics or overall mission though, is it? It’s all speculation obviously but I have never come across anyone who thinks ‘wow, I hate this, I must need more responsibility in it’. Must vary a lot by field though, as there are some management roles where you would never need to do a specific task any more I suppose.

    2. ccsquared*

      I agree that the boss is likely to start focusing on someone else, but if LW truly does want to move on instead of up, that could be a favorable outcome. Of course, if the boss is the petty sort and would start freezing LW out or giving her the worst work, then yeah, don’t say anything. But if it just means the access to info and the assignments that help one move up in management go to someone else and LW gains some time and headspace to focus on getting into a better situation, I’d call that a win.

      It’s a hard lesson I’ve had to learn recently: don’t put energy into holding onto options you don’t actually want, but rather use it to open up the options you do.

      1. ccsquared*

        Also, there’s definitely a diplomatic way to say this that will give the best chance of preserving the relationship. I’m not advocating for brutal honesty here, just gentle recalibration on career goals.

    3. ferrina*

      I was a little worried about this too. Is LW already job searching? If so, then there’s nothing to gain by saying anything. You’re already on your way out the door, and the boss clearly likes training you for her job. Take advantage of the favor until you move to the next thing (unless you have a colleague who would be a good fit and benefit from the training).

      If LW’s not job searching, that’s the more immediate issue. If the boss’s training is taking time away from LW’s next move, then yes, decline. But if the boss’s training is just swapping LW’s old tasks with new ones, I’d try to mentally detach and instead focus on what I need to help myself move somewhere better.

    4. Smithy*

      I think for some jobs and some workplaces that’s true….but I do think that depending on the overall industry and sector, this is why the OP’s letter is the most disconcerting. Where there seems like such a strong desire and focus around pressing the truth bomb button as opposed to plotting a strategic exit path.

      In my past job, my boss’ job was 100% a job I did not want. It was truly the worst of middle management with too much and not enough responsibility-power, disappointing everyone along the way. That was clear, however realizing I also didn’t still want to work at our employer did take some time. So that meant positioning myself for growth projects that kept me within the parts of our sector I liked, and around growth jobs that I thought I would like.

      Once I realized that my next step would be at a new organization, my efforts changed to focusing on keeping good references and projects that stressed me the least in case the job hunt took a while. That path may be a road that works for the OP or others, and it might not. But it takes having some time to step back, take some deep breaths and plan the strategic way to the next thing. Going to your boss and talking about hating your job, her job, the company and the sector is a great thing for AAM open Friday and job sector message boards to voice those feelings….but probably not the best for your midyear review.

  3. yvve*

    Im a little unclear why LW2 cant come in? Is she far off from the location? It sounds like she was above-board when she moved, since they reassigned her in-office location. Or is it because you might have something scheduled? in which case, could you just put a calendrer up the same way regular in-office workers do, to let people know which times you’re not available

    1. Person from the Resume*

      This most recent time I said I couldn’t do it due to a doctor’s appointment. (There was no way for me to get all of my work done and attend the in-office meeting and keep my appointment).

      I found this odd. (1) LW planned to be off for at least a few hours (2) LW couldn’t do all her work (3) if she attended the in person meeting.

      Seems obvious to me she should keep her appointment, go to the meeting in person like her bosses want (3) plan to not get all her work done that day because she attended a mandatory meeting and had scheduled sick leave for a doctor’s appointment.

      When you have to attend a mandatory meeting sometime else gets shifted.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. Obviously, if the doctor’s appointment and the meeting were scheduled to overlap, or to overlap if you include travel time to the doctor’s office and the commute, that’s different. But generally I’d expect a mandatory meeting to have a higher priority than other work tasks.

        If all else fails, you go to the meeting, bring your laptop, and multitask at the meeting. I wouldn’t recommend multitasking in most meetings, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, and IMO acceptable in meetings where you’re expected to be present but not to contribute much, if at all, to the discussion.

        1. LW#2*

          My work is 80% meeting, and the meetings are with customers. I cannot multi task during one meeting by attending another! I guess I should have made that clear in my post.

          1. ferrina*

            This definitely puts up different restrictions. I have a job where I have occasional meeting-heavy days (5-6 hours of meetings), and the commute makes it untenable.

            That said, I’d try to make it in when possible. The higher ups generally don’t know/care about the details of your job, and 24-hours notice isn’t a big deal in most roles (at least at my company). If you can swing it come in early, book a small meeting room all day so you can easily jump from meeting to meeting, and get that face time. It will also get you more grace when you don’t show up- instead of the person that’s never there, you become the person that is usually there but clearly had something very important this time.

          2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            Ah, yes, agree that your work is customer-facing changes it quite a bit. In that situation, would asking your boss for a guidelines be helpful? E.g.,

            “When I have to choose between completing my customer calls and a mandatory in-person meeting, how do you want me to prioritize? Should I try to reschedule the customer calls or should I plan to catch up on the internal meetings afterwards, or something else?”

      2. KateM*

        Even if you work from office A all the day anyway, something else may get shifted when you have to attend a mandatory meeting in office A. I’m not surprised that the boss was not thrilled when LW demonstrated odd priorities.

        1. Snow Globe*

          This! Meetings scheduled with 1-2 days notice are going to be just as problematic for people that work in office full time. People have outside appointments, meetings with clients, PTO, etc. I didn’t really even see this as a remote work problem, but a last-minute scheduling problem that probably impacts everybody.

      3. Coverage Associate*

        I have deadlines that would take precedence over even a very high level internal meeting. I have been in the position where I have to explain that I can 1) hit the deadline, 2) attend the internal meeting, or 3) keep my doctor’s appointment, and management almost always chooses 1 and 3, rather than 2 and 3. In those situations, management may not be aware of 3 when they schedule 2, so I do have to explain why the meeting interferes with the deadline, even though I should have time for both the meeting and the work.

        I put most doctor’s appointments on my calendar, but management never checks, and the location and type of appointment is a big factor. For example, a telemedicine appointment may take only half an hour if I am working from home, but my office walls are too thin for me to do telemedicine at the office, so now there’s some sort of commute for that appointment, which wouldn’t be marked on my calendar if I expected to be home that day.

        And when you usually work from home, there are lots of things that might not even need a mention on a calendar that are still a pain to reschedule. For example, I had groceries delivered at 10am today. Putting them away took less time than a bathroom break, but I would be annoyed if I found out only the day before that I had to reschedule the delivery.

        And then there’s the geography. An early morning or early evening appointment may not interfere with normal work hours if you’re going to the appointment from home, but if it’s in the opposite direction from work, maybe a 15 minute drive to the doctor, soccer practice, etc. from home is a 45 minute trip from work. That’s been an issue for me: 6pm classes and religious services that are counter commute if I am coming from home, but all traffic if I’m coming from the office.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Your doctor’s appointments aren’t your boss’s main concern, though. They’ll probably be trying to find a time that suits them and the other people and be struggling to find somewhen that works for the whole group. While they can generally be flexible with you, they’re not beholden to you directly with their scheduling requests.

          I know it sucks — I had to come in once when I was on AL when a HR rep from the org taking us over in late 2021 needed paperwork signed and she wasn’t in our office — or in our area — for any other day. It was only an hour or two that I was needed but I could definitely have done without it! I’m guessing it would have been different if I’d actively been away from home, but since I wasn’t, I came in to get things done. But the rub is that I’m employed by them — I need to be a little bit accommodating of their needs even if it meant an extra trip into town. (HR needed to see our physical paperwork and concrete evidence of our right to work in the UK so I couldn’t just send in scans.)

          I think when we employ people ourselves we can be mindful of others, but when others employ us they will have needs that may trump ours or mean our issues have to be managed in a different way. Sucks to be us, but we’re not the only ones in this situation with actual needs so…suck it up?

        2. ceiswyn*

          Seconded on management often just not checking the calendar. I once had a very awkward meeting with a concerned boss who wanted to check up on my mental health (I was suffering from depression at the time) after I turned up to work an hour and a half later than usual and ‘nobody knew where I was’.

          I pointed at the ‘Root canal appt’ written clearly on my Outlook calendar. I still wonder at the sort of person who will ask around random colleagues but not check the tool designed for this exact thing.

          1. LW#2*

            Yep, I put everything on my calendar but no one cares (which I get, most of us have our entire days blocked out for the entire week). I also need much less time for doc visits when I’m home vs in the office (all my doc visits are within 10 minutes of house but at least half an hour away from work).

            1. Gyne*

              I wouldn’t look at it so much as “no one cares” but that they probably scheduled the meeting for the time that worked for the highest number of people. Balancing flex time sometimes comes at a cost like this – presumably if you were out on vacation for the week, you would not have been expected to come in for a last minute meeting, you’d be Out. Similarly if you had booked an entire day off for the pre-scheduled doctor’s appointment, you’d be Out that day and not asked or expected to come in. If you have the flexibility to take an hour during your day to attend something that you need to do without burning an entire day of PTO, it can be a muddier boundary since you’re still working the other hours, so it’s kind of a work day and fair game to be asked to work, but there’s a piece of it carved out for non-work time.

          2. Observer*

            I still wonder at the sort of person who will ask around random colleagues but not check the tool designed for this exact thing.

            Someone who is interested in gossip and looking for excuses. It’s true that a lot of people don’t look at people’s calendars when they should. But in a case like this, that’s not the issue.

            It reminds me of the boss who started calling all and sundry, even tracking down the poster’s mother, when they didn’t answer their phone on a day that they were scheduled to be out – and that the boss KNEW about. He *claimed* that he was just “concerned”, but a lot of us didn’t buy that either, especially since he also did a whole lot of gossiping about the poster.

        3. Nancy*

          Things like grocery delivery are not work’s problem. They can be rescheduled, or can stay outside until you can bring them in. Leave a cooler. Or do what I do and schedule for outside work hours, even on WFH days.

          Sometimes it is simply impossible to find a meeting time that works for everyone, so some may need to move things around or
          miss a meeting.

    2. LW#2*

      I’m LW #2. I put my doc appointment on the calendar but only for one hour (it’s a tele appointment with a therapist). If I’m WFH, I only need an hour. If I go into the office, I need 40 minutes to drive home for the appointment first. There was no way for me to attend all of my meetings plus commute in and back for this in office meeting and attend the doc appointment.

    3. LW#2*

      Hi, I’m LW#2. I live about 35 minutes from my job. And I couldn’t come in because I had the doc visit scheduled. The doc visit is in my house (telemedicine) so I only need an hour when I WFH but 2 hours when I’m in the office (do not have a private office so cannot do it in the office). So on my calendar I had a 1 hour meeting booked when I actually need 2 hours when I’m in the office (which is practically never).

      1. Klaus*

        So… you got what I (and AG) think is a reasonable request to come into the office tomorrow, and had a valid conflict, and the biggest issue/consequence was that your boss was “not thrilled”? Your question was what to do the next time this comes up, and my answer would be that nobody really did anything wrong here. I guess being asked to do some of your assigned duties is some kind of red flag that necessitates quitting your job for you. If your job agreement is that sometimes you go into the office then don’t get all huffy when they ask you to do that.

        1. LW#2*

          I didn’t get “huffy” but thanks for your perspective. And I’m not quitting over this, am looking for other opportunities for a bunch of different reasons.

          1. Not Jane*

            I agree. Alison gets hundreds of questions daily and thought this question worthy enough to make it to the public post so clearly there’s more to it than being ‘huffy’.

        2. Z*

          This is unnecessarily rude. I’m sure there are dynamics between the poster and her boss and the company that we know nothing about and cannot be effectively conveyed in a short letter. There is no reason to be so harsh.

      2. Observer*

        This makes sense. But your framing is still odd.

        More useful and easily understood is saying something like “I have a meeting that I can’t move that conflicts with coming into the office.”

        The fact is that something like that could have happened even if you were in the office full time. Which changes the conversation in a way that is beneficial to you and doesn’t make people think about whether it might be a better idea to just make sure you’re in the office so they don’t have problems.

        I do also agree with the others who suggested that you should make the effort to show up if at all possible whenever this comes up. Again, that gives you capital for when it really doesn’t work.

      3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I think the way to frame it in the future, is, “Hey, my one hour block from 1-2pm is for a personal appointment that I am unable to reschedule, and which will require additional travel time if I come into the office tomorrow, so I’d actually need to be out from 12:30-2:30. I can make that work, but it will require rescheduling [Meeting A] and/or [Meeting B] for another time in order to accommodate this. Please let me know if that’s an issue on my end.” It’s possible your manager isn’t annoyed that you can’t be on site for this meeting so much as she’s annoyed with how it was presented to her when you informed her of the conflict.

        If you know this is something that is a regular occurrence, it might be a good idea to block off the travel time on your calendar preemptively, and then obviously if you don’t need it you can dedicate that to other priorities (if that’s something that makes sense for your role, that is). Another option is to ask your manager how she wants you to handle in the future if this comes up.

    4. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I can’t speak for the LW, but I would also consider one day’s notice too short. I am neurodivergent and one of the tools I use to manage that is routine. The only way I can consistently do basic care for myself is to work really hard at building a routine to do it so I never have to consciously decide to do something or remember to do it.

      Obviously things come up and there are times where other things have to be prioritized over my quality of life. However, if it is possible to give more notice then more notice should be given. The consequences and difficulty of pivoting can be much greater for some than others and it’s just decent to honor that. And I’m going to be honest, I will weigh the importance of whatever is happening in office against the value of brushing my teeth and eating regularly for the rest of the week. If it’s just like… a normal meeting for bonding purposes or something, that’s not a trade I’m willing to make. But if you give me just one more day’s notice I can reduce the impact on my life and it doesn’t seem like such a burden to make the meeting.

      Again, I have no idea if this is what’s going on with the LW but I hope this perspective helps. (I mean that genuinely and not in the snarky “hope this helps” meme way, I promise!)

      1. GythaOgden*

        I’m neurodivergent. I work in-person every day and have coverage duties, and I’ve had early calls in the past asking me to come in as soon as I can get there because my colleague is out. I’m part time, so theoretically I have mornings to myself, but since I might be asked to come in early or be given very short notice to do so (and work 11-4, which is basically covering peak working hours without being full time — sort of a worst of both worlds situation), I don’t schedule anything other than the odd dentist appointment, and I’m able to ring up to cancel if it’s really necessary.

        I totally get being neurodivergent is an uphill struggle, but here’s the rub — everyone struggles with something. Be they a carer, a parent, chronically ill, lame like me and so on…there’s no-one in this world whose life is completely perfect. So pulling this kind of card always frustrates me, because not only does it make the neurodivergent look fragile and infantile, it also erases the very real, very difficult things other people go through while also managing to hold down a job or having to give up a job to look after someone else (like my BIL did).

        Statements like this aren’t actually helping the cause of neurodivergence in the workplace. It just makes you look out of touch and unable to hold your own, and also hurts the way I’m seen by extension, because there are a lot of hard things I’ve had to deal with over the last few years without the privileges of a WFH job, and it just makes people here look rather silly.

        1. Katie Anderson*

          Which part makes them look out of touch and unable to hold their own? And which part makes people here look silly? The comment you’re replying to acknowledges that things come up where more notice isn’t possible and it isn’t worded dramatically. It just discusses why more notice is better and the costs to them of not getting that additional notice.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        I’m also ND, and I understand wanting to know the plan ahead of time. However, I would consider the knowledge that this is their standard for meeting scheduling to be my notice. If this is how they handle scheduling, you’d need to accept that and prepare to be flexible on the (rare) occasions that a mandatory meeting pops up, or choose a job where that flexibility isn’t needed. This dr appointment conflict presumably should be an uncommon occurrence, not something the LW would need to do for every mandatory meeting.

    5. Meghan*

      I’m not trying to put LW2 on blast but I’m pretty sure it’s just a matter of not wanting a day disrupted. I WFH all but one scheduled day a month. On throws other days I work in a role that has flexibility so I might plan to hop out, get my groceries in the morning before any meetings, then work the whole day. Or I might plan to log on early and wrap up at 3 pm.

      Occasionally we have important in office things come up not on our schedules day. (A SME flying in a day early to work on something with us or whatever.) and while my company has a policy saying they can’t *require* you to come in on those days, if I’m asked to come in, even if it’s really last minute (day before) I rearrange anything I have planned the following day unless it’s literally immovable. (Dr appointments).

      It seems like LW#2 probably wants more notice because it feels like the company is stepping on their plans, but that’s just taking a too personal opinion of it.

      I think this idea that the company should provide more notice before requiring you to come to your assigned location just says LW#2 is probably inexperienced and doesn’t realize this is typical. Unfortunately they’re unlikely to find another role with more flexibility than their current one unless they find an actual 100% WFH role.

  4. Reb*

    LW1, I agree that this is a suspect pattern, but if her cat was crying, she needed urgent vet care. But that could’ve been a boy-who-cried-wolf situation.

    I had an employee who wasn’t able to work after conversations about performance. I scheduled those meetings for late in the day so she could go straight home afterwards, and she mostly made it into work the next day. That was the best strategy I came up with. Your employee sounds even harder to manage and you’ve got my sympathy.

    1. Double A*

      A landlord entering your house because they heard your cat is a… very weird story to me. I mean, life is a rich tapestry, nothing is impossible in this crazy world…but it’s suspect. Especially on top of all the other call outs.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        This reminded me of a student research assistant a friend managed, who kept cancelling meetings at the last minute with all sorts of excuses. Any one of them by themselves wouldn’t be that suspect, but by the time you got to “my roommate’s grandmother died” after all the others it was a bit much. The student also wasn’t doing any actual work, so they didn’t last long.

        It wouldn’t be hard to work out the probability. Take the number of call-outs the employee typically has in a year, the number that occurred immediately after feedback, and work out the probability of the post feed-back call-outs being random. Being careful to handle small number statistics properly, of course.

      2. ds*

        the one time we rented an apartment in my life, the landlord found EVERY reason in the book to enter our apartment. I have no doubt if he’d heard the cat he would have used it as an excuse to enter. Who knows, maybe they have that shifty sob as their landlord LOL

      3. Ally McBeal*

        Yeah in the United States that would be illegal. A crying cat (not a cat screaming in distress, which is arguably different) would not constitute an emergency worth violating the 24-hour notice period for. And also, unless her landlord lives in a unit directly adjacent to hers or lurks outside her empty apartment all day, how on earth did he know the cat was crying?

        1. londonedit*

          Same here, tenancy agreements state landlords must give 24 hours’ notice unless it’s a demonstrable emergency (which a cat meowing definitely wouldn’t be).

            1. somehow*

              Emergency situations typically are outlined in the lease, e.g., severe water leaks, suspected foul play, by order of police, etc.

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          True, but can confirm that while in college, our landlord did a LOT of illegal things.

        3. Samwise*

          People do all sorts of illegal things, and managers illegally entering apartments is one of the more common ones.

          Apologies to anyone who is a stand-up apt manager, but there sure are a lot of bozo ones out there.

        4. ferrina*

          That was what I was wondering. In most large or medium apartments, the landlord isn’t in close enough proximity to hear a cat crying. The employee must rent in a smaller situation. I’d take into account the other information she’s shared about her life- I suspect at a certain point her story won’t add up.
          (not that I’d confront her- there’d be nothing to be gained by this. But this would impact how much grace I’d give her)

        5. Lily Rowan*

          Well, my cat yells if he hears anyone on the other side of a door from him, so I can see that part. But the landlord coming into the apartment? Hell no.

        6. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I’ve got a cat who’s mostly deaf of old age and her standard meow now sounds like any other cat’s scream of distress. We live on a largish property and you can easily hear her from the main road while she’s down by the house. However, I agree that this seems suspect.

        7. doreen*

          It would be illegal in the US without the tenant’s permission – but I know an awful lot of people who wouldn’t have a problem with the landlord or another neighbor opening the apartment door for a crying cat. But I’ve also lived in areas where most of the rentals are in 2-4 unit owner occupied buildings and landlords and tenants often become friendly, even taking care of each other’s pets although I’m sure that’s not the case everywhere. Just pointing that out because it’s not necessarily weird.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            I’d want the landlord – or a neighbor or anyone else – to call me, or at least TRY to reach me, before breaking into my apartment. Unless I’ve had a prior conversation about checking in on my cat if she’s crying, it’s unacceptable to just walk in.

        8. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          This is probably state-specific, like so many things, but this is what I’m used to as well. (And I’ve lived in the same state my whole life.)

          But why is anyone addressing that excuse as if it could be true? I mean, if I were this guy’s manager I would tread carefully because there is always that tiny chance it’s true, but just as an observer? Nope, it’s an easy (but stupid) lie, right up there with “my dog ate my homework”.

    2. allathian*

      Reminds me of a former manager, who took a full week of sick leave once after getting the results of an employee satisfaction survey. My organization values employee satisfaction and retention as one of five core values, and she wasn’t the type to retaliate in any case, but she valued being liked over being an effective manager, which meant that she didn’t deal with some issues that she should’ve dealt with, leading to unhappy reports.

        1. Need More Sunshine*

          I feel like that’s so often how a manager fails at being liked – they try so hard to please everyone that they become ineffective and then no one is pleased!

    3. GythaOgden*

      I’d imagine it was a convenient excuse tbh. Not everyone tells the whole truth in these situations.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        She’s playing to OPs sympathy it seems like, and it’s working since OP is now questioning herself.

        1. birch*

          Hard disagree with this, and I wish commenters had the same empathy for the employee as they do for the LW. This isn’t the most egregious example but I find it very un-sympathetic that LW doesn’t show any concern at all for this employee’s health and wellbeing. It’s highly likely that there is something else going on–most people are not just this terrible at taking feedback or using it to manipulate their manager, but difficult situations and mental health can make negative feedback push you over the edge. It sounds like the employee is really struggling, and while the advice is the same–someone who is still struggling on a PIP and cannot do the work needs to be let go for practicality’s sake, framing this as the employee intentionally being a PITA is just cruel. I’d encourage LW to critically examine how supportive they really are and whether they are asking and *listening* to what this employee needs. It could be that it would help her to have the weekend to process, so they could move the meetings to Friday afternoon, or she can rearrange her work schedule to do something less cognitively demanding after these meetings, or work from home the day after. But it also doesn’t sound like the employee feels like LW is a safe person to be honest with. And LW’s attitude of “I’m so supportive, why isn’t it enough for her” is not helping anything–coming from experience, it’s extra insulting to be the employee in distress and constantly hear how supportive and wonderful your manager is while they’re slowly destroying your confidence. (Also, is this employee getting any positive feedback at all? Hearing nothing but negativity really wears you down!)

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            Perhaps it was a little harsh of me but I’ve based it on the assumption (as I think OP would have said otherwise) that these call-outs always happen after some kind of reprimand or ‘conversation’, as opposed to that she often has incidents like this and calls in often in relation to herself or the cat, even when there hasn’t been some kind of ‘corrective’ discussion beforehand. I don’t think she is deliberately being a PITA though, but rather finding reasons that she hopes OP will find sympathetic, rather than bogus reasons.

            I have seen people get into this cycle a few times though and it is very very hard to get out of. There’s some reason the performance discussions start (precipitated by something, or just not a good fit for the job etc) and then the person becomes anxious, so they call out, make more mistakes, this gives the manager more reason to continue with the process, etc. It can work out but I am doubtful that it will work out in this case, not least because I feel like HR see the situation as redeemable even if it isn’t.

          2. Allonge*

            I would say this is pretty harsh.

            The employee, even if she is struggling, has the capability to talk to OP about specific things that would help her better than taking sick leave.

            And to me, OP (as much as they can) genuinely seems to want to support her. It’s just that there is a limit to what they as a manager responsible to deliver work can do, especially for someone who seems to be bad at the job. Holding feedback until Friday afternoon would be pretty unrealistic in most environments I worked in.

          3. cabbagepants*

            I agree that the employee almost certainly is experiencing a great deal of distress in response to the PIP and feedback.

            Calling out under false pretenses — IF that is what is going on — wouldn’t be a good coping mechanism and would be fundamentally manipulative — they may think that they wouldn’t be permitted to call out “just” because they feel bad and so are using a more sympathetic-sounding story. The employee is avoiding addressing the real issue that the current feedback situation is making them feel so terrible that they can’t bring themselves to work after.

            I empathize a great deal with the employee, but at the same time, bosses aren’t therapists and if we take LW at their word, they have been “led from a place of support” and, well, if the employee can’t even do rudimentary tasks, then it might be a case that there isn’t really much positive to say. :-/

            Sucks all around.

          4. DJ Abbott*

            Also, it sounds like employee is alone in the world with no one to help her. No spouse or other family member to help take care of the cat, or with help with anything else.
            People who have always had supportive family members to help them can’t fathom what this is like.

            1. Allonge*

              I live alone with my closest family over a thousand miles away. It can be difficult, but it’s in no way my manager’s job to solve.

              1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

                THIS. It doesn’t matter what might be causing the employee to react like this — the OP has to deal with the job consequences. It is also not OP’s job to speculate that oh maybe something is going on so I WON”T MANAGE THIS PERSON which is literally my job.

                IF something is going on with the employee such as mental health or lack of support, they need to raise it so then an accomodation can be worked out. Its an interactive process, not just the manager throwing up their hands and saying well this person MIGHT have some outside issue so I can’t expect them to meet the requirements of the job.

                On that note, OP, you did a disservice to your employee when you laid out the PIP as a roadmap to success rather than the serious thing it is. Is your employee aware that she could be fired at the end of the PIP? Or does she just believe she won’t be considered successful? The kindest thing you can do is be clear in your expectations, not shape up or ship out but I need you to meet the requirements of your job and if you continue to not do so, we are going to have to fire you. So it doesn’t come as a surprise when you let her go. So she can begin job searching now since it will take awhile.

            2. Magpie*

              You’re extrapolating a lot from the letter. Assuming the cat is actually sick, we have no way of knowing what kind of help might be available to her. Maybe she has a spouse who often takes care of the cat but was unavailable that day, or maybe she just wanted to take the cat to the doctor herself. But whatever the situation, it doesn’t change the fact that these situations only seem to come up after she’s received negative feedback and the rest of the time she doesn’t seem to have nearly as many conflicts.

            3. Observer*

              People who have always had supportive family members to help them can’t fathom what this is like.

              But what is the OP supposed to do? The OP COULD not, even if they wanted to, take on the role of being the employee’s support system, assuming that that is what is going on. By the same token, the OP is not in any position to diagnose the employee’s possible mental health situation or anything else.

              I find this take a bit odd, to be honest.I know a number of people who don’t have a family network near them. Some of the them live with room mates, others prefer not to. But none of them behave this way. Crucially, they don’t fall apart when they get bad feedback. Some of them would be *deeply* offended by this take.

              The OP *is* absolutely clearly trying to be a good boss. And I agree with Alison that the first step here is to have a conversation with the employee to see if there is anything *appropriate and work related* that they can do to help her. But ultimately, the OP cannot and *should* not try to go beyond that.

              1. AnonORama*

                Agreed. None of us know her, so we don’t know if she lives alone or has family nearby (specifically, helpful family she gets along with and trusts with her pet). If she doesn’t, maybe she could work something out with a friend or neighbor to check on the cat, or WFH more if the cat is frequently ill and that works for the job.

                But, “my employee calls off a lot because her cat is sick” is…not this letter. The timing — and the employee’s poor performance — are the real issues Could OP do more to help this person succeed? Maybe. Ideally, OP could build in more positive feedback, if that’s reasonable, or schedule these meetings for a certain time so the employee could leave right after. Maybe give her a WFH day after feedback if that works for the job! But running away after every instance of negative feedback is pretty maladaptive, and even if the OP doesn’t bring it up, it’s going to keep hurting this employee wherever she chooses to go.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  I sincerely hope that the employee is straight out lying about the cat’s MRI, and not dragging the poor thing to the emergency vet whenever work goes poorly.

              2. DJ Abbott*

                I wasn’t suggesting the OP do anything beyond the scope of managing employee. I was trying to help them understand what it might be like for the employee.
                Especially if she’s young and doesn’t have the life experience to handle adversity, and no close consistent support- I’ve been there.
                It would be a kindness if OP finds out what’s going on with employee and does as much as appropriate to help, such as suggesting an EAP if they have one.

                1. Magpie*

                  You say the OP should stick to the scope of managing the employee, but then you go on to say the OP should dig into what’s going on with the employee and try to help. That would be way beyond the scope of managing an employee. It would be really inappropriate for a manager to try and get information about an employee’s personal life and make suggestions. They can make sure all employees know about the availability of an EAP if there is one, and managers can help find work related solutions if an employee comes to them with a problem, but beyond that managers need to stay out of it. I’m also unclear why you’re so focused on the idea that the employee in this letter is alone in the world and needs help. Nothing the OP wrote indicates that.

            4. Anonymous 75*

              I’ve never really had supportive family and now what family o dis have are all dead and so yeah, I’m one of those “alone in the world” people and I gotta disagree with you. it’s not my boss’s job or responsibility to manage how I deal with my home issues. I am paid to do my job and it’s my responsibility to be at work wmd doing said job when I’m supposed to be there. its the deal I made when I agreed to the employment. sure there are exceptions (I have actually taken sick leave to take my cat to the vet) but this doesn’t sound like an exception, it’s sounds like a rule that the employee has decided to do herself in order to not deal with the reality of her job.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Imagine how we would react to “Dear AAM, My employee is alone in the world and I think she is making a bunch of poor life decisions, how can I fix this for her?”

                1. Observer*

                  In fact, we’ve had a few. And every single time Alison comes down to “This is not yours to manage, and it would be boundary stomping of you to try.” Much more diplomatically worded, but still.

          5. Falling Diphthong*

            It can be impractical to expect person A to build person B’s confidence when B is doing a bad job.

          6. Peanut Hamper*

            But this is work, not school. We hire people to get work done, not to provide them with therapy.

            The company was already doing the employee a favor by putting them on a PIP. Given the employee’s patterns, she would have just been let go at a lot of places I’ve worked.

          7. House On The Rock*

            Yeah, I feel this letter is going to generate all kinds of “commenter fan fiction”. The fact is we have no idea what’s going on with the employee, or her cat, and knowing definitively isn’t truly going to change the advice. The LW said they didn’t want to question the employee’s veracity, so all they can do is, as Allison advises, describe the pattern and work through the PIP.

            I once worked with a person who behaved much like the employee, to the point of going on medical leave when on a PIP and having all kinds of “emergencies” when she had deadlines, coaching sessions, etc. She clearly had something going on, wasn’t well suited to the job, and caused a lot of extra work for others…but I still felt genuinely bad for whatever she was experiencing (while also being relieved when she finally left).

          8. GythaOgden*

            Believe me many of us have actually been there. It’s just that we managed to deal with it ourselves and find the sort of resilience an employer needs in return for our payslip.

            Being empathetic does not always mean being totally accepting of an employee’s quirks. We’re paid to do a job, not mess about and strut off like a diva if someone says we need to do something differently. We are sympathetic because we’ve been there, but most of us who have held a job down for a while — and it took me a few goes — have established some kind of control over these emotional responses.

          9. CatParticle*

            Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment. I was on a PIP 20 years ago while I was dealing with mental health issues, and I still carry the shame and fear of it. I’m getting great feedback in my current job, but I automatically assume that any difficulty I encounter – too-heavy workload, a boss’s style that doesn’t fit me, even health issues – is evidence I’m failing.

            1. ferrina*

              Hugs and love! I also went on a PIP while dealing with mental health (MDD). For added fun/misery, it was in a new job right after I’d left two toxic jobs in a row. The brain weasels in my head tried to tell me “it’s because you only thrive in dysfunction and can’t hack it in a healthy place”. The brain weasels are liars.

              One thing that helps me is knowing that my performance that got me to the PIP isn’t something I’d done before or since. I might have a bad day or a bad week, but nothing like that. It was very much a symptom of the disease, and not a reflection on me. I wouldn’t be upset if a colleague had performance issues due to illness, so I try to show myself the same kindness.

              If it’s been 20 years, that’s a long time to carry this burden. This could be something that you work through with a therapist (that helped me a lot!). There’s also some CBT-style exercises you can do on your own to redirect your thought patterns. It’s exhausting carrying that stress all the time, and you deserve better.

            2. Z*

              I feel this so much. I’ve never been on a PIP before, but I had problems at a job about ten years ago. I assume that any difficulty means I’m failing, and that everyone is always on the verge of losing patience with me. I’m terrified that I’ll be suddenly fired without warning and that it will have been obvious to everyone but me. That then leads to engaging in an extremely unhealthy coping mechanism I’ve struggled with since childhood. It’s all entirely driven by shame and fear.

          10. HonorBox*

            The thing is, if this is a single example of a larger pattern, which it seems to be, I don’t think it is entirely fair for people to jump on LW for not being supportive. We don’t know the entirety of the feedback/coaching, only that each time there’s feedback the employee calls out. The example may have been an extreme one, and maybe the employee did need to go check on the cat. But the pattern is the pattern and the LW is asking for help with the pattern. Advice like giving the feedback at the end of the day is great. However, if there was a major issue as this one seems to be, feedback can’t always wait. We can and should give the LW the recognition that when they say they’re supportive and trying to help the employee, they have a better realization of the situation.

            1. Myrin*

              Exactly. OP says this happens “without fail” which is a huge problem no matter the underlying reasons.

          11. Person from the Resume*

            … but the employee is not only saying she’s missing work because she is sick / upset / anxiety / mental health reasons, she’s very likely lying about her cat being sick on cue.

            Much less sympathy for someone likely lying to you.

            1. Bored Chair Man*

              The fact that the employee feels like they need to lie raises bigger read flags about the boss than anything, to me. Why does the employee feel like they can’t trust them? What are they doing or saying that makes the employee think that they’re more likely to respect a sick cat than whatever they’ve got going on?

          12. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

            The LW didn’t sound uncaring or unsympathetic to me. Just professional. They’re wondering how best to resolve the work aspect of the situation – and that is the only element of the situation which is their business to address.

            They aren’t the employee’s therapist or even their friend. Yes, they should treat them with basic compassion and decency. Nothing in the letter makes me think they’re not doing this. But they’re prioritising the focus on the PIP and improving performance because that’s their role in Employee’s life.

            (Improving their confidence at this stage might not be helpful. It really, really sounds like the employee might need to be let go; if anything, the LW might have focused too much on being “supportive” and encouraging, and not enough on managing Employee’s expectations so they can prepare as needed for their future.)

          13. Myrin*

            Not matter what inner turmoils the employee is facing, her own mental health doesn’t make her cat sick (and I’m not talking about the one example the letter talks about in greater detail but about the fact that, per the OP, a sick cat is a regular excuse for the post-feedback-absences).
            Like you say, the advice would be roughly the same either way, but I really can’t blame OP for thinking this employee is lying.

          14. ferrina*

            You are reading a lot of subtext that I’m not sure is there.

            Here’s some key context: “She fails to be able to do the most rudimentary tasks despite repeat coaching, training, and ample time”

            This person just isn’t a good fit for the job and is being managed out. It sounds like the LW has done due diligence by clearly communicating expectations and putting this person on a PIP. The difficulty is that you can’t support a person that isn’t telling you what they need. LW is not a mind reader, nor should they try to be. I’ve been both on a PIP and I’ve managed PIPs- the manager’s job is to be clear in expectations and provide resources, and the PIP employee’s job is to use those resources and verbalize any additional tools or resources they need. Most people that succeed in their PIPs take the lead in their own success- they want success and they work for it (PIPs are exhausting!). They often articulate what they need of their manager and run the agenda for check-ins (“I want to know how I’m doing in X. I tried something different, and I think it worked but I want to know what you think”). As a manager, you can’t care more about someone’s job than they do.

            birch, you postulate that the employee has other issues going on. That’s not LW’s job to diagnose, and frankly, I wouldn’t want my manager to assume that they know what my issues are. And you are very generous in your interpretation of what the employee’s issues could be. The person I knew that was most consistent in taking feedback badly was a covert narcissist. He would have a mini-breakdown or be Sad Boy anytime you gave him negative feedback. It was a tactic to make you responsible for his emotions rather than him responsible for his actions. No matter how nicely you gave the feedback, it was never good enough when the feedback was negative. I’m certainly not saying that this is going on here, but if we’re going to make assumptions about what might be going on, let’s include the full range.

          15. somehow*

            At what point are employers expected to have employees who show up to work, to….work?

            Where is the threshold for stopping the excuse-making?

            Because some employees will milk that sympathy for all it’s worth, and it’s okay to admit that.

          16. Antilles*

            It could be that it would help her to have the weekend to process, so they could move the meetings to Friday afternoon, or she can rearrange her work schedule to do something less cognitively demanding after these meetings, or work from home the day after.
            Presuming that OP is providing the negative feedback in an appropriate professional way (and there’s nothing in the post indicating otherwise), it’s on the employee to be able to handle that. I don’t think OP should delay giving negative feedback until Friday afternoon or rearrange the employee’s deadlines or work schedule because the employee cannot handle getting normal coaching and feedback is just not reasonable.

          17. RussianInTexas*

            But the employee is bad in her job. You can’t build confidence at the same time as telling her she is bad at her job.
            Besides, OP is her manager. Not a therapist.

          18. Risha*

            I just want to thank you for saying this. I also have experience with being in extreme mental distress (in my personal life that unfortunately carried into work), and having managers tear me down while claiming they’re supporting me or trying to help me succeed.

            Yes, the employee isn’t performing at the level she needs to be and calls out after feedback. But to just write it off as her doing this on purpose is cruel. Of course, the manager should still deal with the issue, but maybe compassion would also help this employee. It’s possible she is just doing that on purpose, but showing some concern to her will help determine if it’s on purpose or if something else is going on with her.

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              What are you specifically suggesting that OP do here, and not just “compassion”? This isn’t a good employee who’s having a difficult couple of months. This is someone who is unable to do the job, and, honestly, letting them think otherwise would not be very compassionate.

          19. NotAnotherManager!*

            My HR department actively discourages me from armchair diagnosing folks or ascribing any sort of motives rather than just naming the performance problem and trying to work on improving that. I can refer to the EAP, have our in-house benefits team consult with them, and be accommodating of appointments, but I’m a manager, not a therapist.

            And, from the flip side of this, imagine having more than one low-performing, high-need employee like the one described and having to do the level of accommodation you’re suggesting for multiple people (because you can’t give one person something you’re not providing for others). How on earth would you get any work done if you had to spend your whole day planning around multiple people’s outsized reaction to routine performance feedback? EVERYONE has their own stuff going on outside of work. Right now, I have people navigating child care, elder care, health issues (their own, their children’s, their spouse’s), aging/sick pets, and even a tree falling into their roof and having to live out of a hotel while wrangling insurance and repairs. Accommodating everyone’s needs is a balance and means everyone’s got to call the ball on occasion, and, if you have someone who’s not able to perform even rudimentary tasks, they’re not helping carry the load, they’re adding to it, regardless of the why. It is not a fair to the other members of the team to lean so heavily into accommodating one person that it makes it impossible to offer others the same thing.

          20. Pointy's in the North Tower*

            I’m single and have a cat with a medical condition. I also have multiple chronic illnesses. None of that is my boss’s problem. His only problem is to find coverage on days when I can’t be at work due to illness.

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      There are several unbelievable things in that excuse:

      1) The cat crying because it was sick. Cats are small and tasty, so when they get sick they usually curl up silently under the bed where the wolves can’t get them and they feel safe.
      2) The landlord hearing the cat at all.
      3) The landlord entering the apartment because of a crying cat.
      4) Somebody taking their cat to the ER vet because it puked. Lots of cats (including mine) have sensitive stomachs. Puke is normal, not an emergency.
      5) The vet agreeing the puke is an emergency and doing lots of testing instead of sending her home with reassurances and instructions to come back if it continues.
      6) This whole thing happening directly after the employee got negative feedback.

      I can believe one or two unbelievable things. Weird stuff happens. I can think of unusual circumstances that explain any one of the above. I just can’t believe that all six of them happened at the same time, as part of a pattern of calling off after feedback.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This is a good breakdown. Especially that sick cats normally crawl into a small space and curl up in a silent little ball.

        One of the valuable things on this blog is that an OP will say “and then X happened” and the first five comments are “that is weird and I can think of no reason for it” and then the sixth is “if she has this specific combination of settings in Excel this would happen.” Starting from “maybe there’s a good reason” is usually sound.

        When you have a whole list of unlikely things, trying to find an elaborate reason that might explain all of them is usually a bridge too far, unless it is literally a creative writing prompt.

      2. Random Bystander*

        I have one cat who cries pretty piteously prior to vomiting. However, he’s the one who has been diagnosed with GI lymphoma. I did discuss with the vet at his last quality-of-life checkup, but vet doesn’t consider it an emergency. The testing all came before the vomiting was a major thing–my first clues were the diarrhea and dramatic weight loss (11 pound cat in January was 8 pounds in July last year) … we’ve slowed it down so that he’s now only lost 2 pounds in the year, but this is an entirely different kettle of fish than what I think of as a “sick cat” (one that has a URI or a UTI, for example).

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Oh sure, there are plausible exceptions for any one of these. Some cats are weird! I just don’t buy it that all of them happened at the same time.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Several of our cats have also been the wail-before-vomiting sorts – it’s always been the more vocal ones, and I assume feeling like you’re going to puke isn’t any more fun for cats than humans. It’s a very specific cry, and, with one, it was our cue to put something down in front of him to puke on for easier cleanup (and he always puked twice, no exceptions). It was not a sign of a more serious health issue. Our more vocal cat now has been puking up hairballs near constantly since the weather got really hot because he’s constantly shedding and grooming, but he’s also a William Shatner-level dramatist, and, if someone called us every time he was putting on a show or we were taking him to the emergency vet, we’d have exhausted our vacation days and paid enough to send the cat to college for a year.

          My cats who have been seriously ill have been the ones that lost a lot of weight in a fairly short period of time, became withdrawn, or started hiding from us. All cats are different creatures, but it would never occur to me to take Captain Kirk to the vet every time he started yowling.

          1. Random Bystander*

            Oh, I wouldn’t take him in just for the vomiting–it’s just with Domino’s diagnosis, it was a change along the way which made it an important point to discuss at the now-regular review of his quality of life, because we’re at the point of evaluating whether he’s got enough good quality or if it is time for the escort to the Bridge.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Of course, I agree with you and should have stated that clearly. When our fuzzy family members have an underlying/know issue, it’s a different calculus on their care.

              And I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this! We went through the same thing with our first pair of cats, including a presumed GI cancer with the same symptoms, several years ago. All my best to you and to Domino.

      3. Cheshire Cat*

        Yes, this. My cat was sick a couple of weeks ago, and he spent most of his time curled up in the laundry basket in my closet. And he throws up regularly. If I took him to the vet every time, I would be at the vet’s every week or so.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, but every time she gets negative feedback?

      I have a cat who has chronic pancreatitis and actually has ended up in the ER for vomiting (and at the regular vet for vomiting). But it doesn’t magically coincide with all the times something uncomfortable happens at work.

      Also . . . the landlord one? Cats cry. Unless it was really howling and annoying your neighbors it’s super weird that a landlord would check this out.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Also, my cat was diagnosed via ultrasound, so that’s not suspicious, and it might or might not be an emergency depending on what they find, but most things that are vomiting-related emergencies are diagnosed by x-ray first (I used to work for a veterinarian) because they’re things like foreign bodies, tumors, or twisted guts that you don’t need an ultrasound to see.

        I have missed work to deal with sick pets, but it wasn’t on schedule around my performance reviews.

    6. ferrina*

      I have more sympathy for the villagers in the boy-who-cried-wolf. It sucks when you drop everything you were doing to you can help someone who really needs it, only to find out that they didn’t really need it. A modern version would be the Kickstarter account that plays up how dire their situation is. Or the teenager who’s fashion-emergency demands instant attention. Or the friend who only tells you half of the story because that’s what will get you sympathy. Or the spouse who stays late at work then comes home to complain about their boss, and you feel too guilty to tell them how their work hours are negatively impacting you.

      A more insidious update on the boy-who-cried-wolf involves gaslighting. You can’t know for certain exactly if what I said happened, so you are morally obligated to give me the benefit of the doubt. My current story contradicts something I previously said? Well, I don’t remember saying that. Maybe I really am in dire straits and maybe I’m just tugging at your heartstrings- parts of my story are true and parts aren’t, and you have no idea which are which.

      This isn’t a story about an otherwise-good employee who has asked for unusual accommodations. This is the story of an employee who doesn’t do well at their job, doesn’t acknowledge a weird pattern, and has a checkered record of taking feedback. I wouldn’t call them out on lying (nothing to be gained), but I wouldn’t give them the same wiggle room that I might otherwise extend. Since this person is on a PIP, hopefully they’ll see themself out.

      1. penny dreadful analyzer*

        I don’t know if I’m reading these comments related to the Boy Who Cried Wolf fairy tale wrong, but… are there people who think that the villagers should have kept extending the benefit of the doubt? I was pretty sure the whole point of the story is that they reacted the only reasonable way to react and the boy shouldn’t have destroyed his credibility.

        1. 1LFTW*

          I think you’re interpreting it correctly. The boy in the story destroyed his credibility with the villagers, so he was ultimately the one responsible for being eaten by the wolf.

          I think the thread’s OP is saying that boy-who-cried-wolf is the best-case scenario here: the employee has been a chronic underperformer, has always found reasons to call out whenever she’s received feedback, and will therefore be harder to manage than their own worker, whose anxiety around performance feedback could be more easily be accommodated. Or at least, that’s how I took it.

    7. Peter*

      This is kind, “I scheduled those meetings for late in the day so she could go straight home afterwards, and she mostly made it into work the next day. ” – Reb. And is also something the LW could try. While as adults we all need to learn to handle constructive criticism, no one really knows the other burdens and challenges someone else is then bearing.

  5. Cmdrshprd*

    LW2 I think it kinda depends on the reason for the WFH, I think there are generally two types of WFH positions.

    One where the company has decided it is to their benefit/positions benefit to work from home and the position is now always remote. Aka primary benefit is for the company.

    Two where the company wants the position in person but has decided to allow a long standing employee to work from home. Aka primary benefit is for the company.

    Under situation one I think a longer notice would be required like 3/4 days unless it is an emergency. Under situation two I think 1 or 2 day notice is okay.

    1. allathian*

      In some cases, full-time WFH can also be a medical accommodation for a disability or illness. If it’s a medical accommodation, the employee should certainly get more notice to come to the office.

      1. Mimmy*

        Yes, especially if that person relies on alternate transportation arrangements, such as paratransit.

  6. Gatomon*

    #2 – I don’t think it’s off to provide <48 hours notice if you're within a short distance of the office. I'd put that around 30 minutes or less. If you've got to travel further than that, or if the road conditions are a concern, then I do think more planning needs to be provided. There could be extenuating circumstances for childcare or eldercare, etc. but in general if you can come in easily, it shouldn't be a big deal. (Doesn't mean you have to like it, but I wouldn’t raise an issue over it.)

    I had a similar situation recently where we had a team building day scheduled to be in the office, but a doctor had a cancellation on the same day with just a few days notice. I’d been waiting almost a year for that appointment, so I took it and explained the situation to my boss. It was fine. I did go in before the appointment to show my face, even though I missed the bulk of the team building. I definitely would’ve gotten more done had I not gone in, but that’s the choice corporate made, not me. :)

    1. GythaOgden*

      People shouldn’t generally be the carer for another person while working from home. There should be child-/elder-care in place as a matter of routine.

      1. Dahlia*

        As Allison said, there are degrees. Like most kids after 8 or so could chill in the house after school for 2 hours until their parents’ workday is done, but can’t always be left alone. It’d be silly to pay for childcare for something like.

      2. amoeba*

        As Alison said, that really depends though – there are definitely many cases where it’s only necessary for somebody to be at home and available in an emergency, while not providing any actual care!

      3. MsSolo (UK)*

        As Alison points out, with childcare there’s a difference between a kid that needs constant attention (like a three year old) and a kid that you can leave unattended, but not alone in the house (like a ten year old). Also, there’s school pick-up to consider; you can’t leave a kid stood at the school gates for hours because you’ve got a commute you hadn’t planned for today. Equally, for elder care, if you’ve got a day nurse whose shift is timed to match yours, they may not be able to stay for the extra time your commute takes.

      4. Not like a regular teacher*

        The example Alison gave (older child that doesn’t need hands-on “care” but cannot be left alone in the house) is a good example of the kind of family care that would typically be fine while working. Plus at this point surely everyone has had a day where their kid is unexpectedly home sick and they’ve got to make do that day.

      5. CJ*

        There are plenty of circumstances (like the fifth-grader Alison mentions in the answer, or an elderly relative who needs a few minutes’ help a few times a day) where it would be very possible to put in a full day’s work in another room but impossible to do that same day’s work in another location. And 48 hours isn’t much time to line up backup.

      6. Magpie*

        It really depends on the situation. I have school aged kids who are at school most of the day while I work. They ride the bus and arrive home about an hour before the end of my work day. They’re old enough that they can take care of themselves for that hour with minimal involvement from me, but if I had to go into the office for some reason I’d need to make other arrangements for their care.

      7. Engineer*

        Key word – “should.” Our childcare system is broken, our eldercare system is nonexistent, and our current and immediate election cycle of political candidates are doing nothing to address either issue.

        So your should means nothing in reality.

      8. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        I don’t disagree, exactly, but there’s a really wide swath where the care required is “be an adult who could call for help in an emergency”, and it doesn’t significantly impact work. We don’t have the sort of society anymore where you can rely on neighbors being home during the day who can keep half an eye on your kids or your elderly parents, and it’s really hard to justify spending thousands of dollars a month for someone to just sit around in case something bad happens.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          There’s also a wide array of ways that people have come to rely on the flexibility provided by WFH – employers are within their rights to demand that employees come in, but they should be aware of how much it may disrupt employees’ lives and create resentment.

          Grocery delivery (mentioned above), contractors who need to stop by, ducking out briefly to transport a older kid to an activity, throwing something into the slow cooker for dinner, privacy for a quick telemedicine appointment, not having to hire a dog walker 5 days a week… the list is long. Plus, as others have said, some people plan some work tasks for home and some for the office. Sure, companies *can* make everyone come in with little notice, and for some people it’s no big deal, but it’s not a great management practice or company culture.

          My office culture is pretty good at this most of the time (we’re all in the office 3-4 days a week already). Someone might ask if you’re available to be in the office tomorrow or the next day, but if you say that no, you’re teleworking that day, that’s accepted without question. When there’s a larger meeting that everyone needs to attend in person, generally there’s ample notice, like it’s in the following week or further out. Last-minute requirements to show up in person are definitely the exception.

      9. Irish Teacher*

        I do think it depends. While yeah, childcare would be necessary for a toddler even while somebody is working from home, I think it would be unlikely to be necessary for a 10-13 year old, but kids of that age still may not be mature enough to be left alone in the house (depending on both the kid and the length of time the parent would be absent for). Similarly, there is a difference between an elderly or disabled person who needs full-time care and somebody who just needs somebody else in the house in case they have a fall or something.

      10. kiki*

        Generally, sure, but I think there are a lot of situations where the level of care isn’t very high or requires you not to be in the office for a relatively brief specific period of time. So like school pick-ups, assisting an elder with something medical at a specific day, or an 11 year old who doesn’t need any active care but also really shouldn’t be left at home alone.

      11. Anon for this*

        Here’s my situation: My husband cannot be alone for long stretches (a couple of hours is ok, but not a half day) for physical reasons. I can work at home to help him and be around in case of a fall. It takes less time than throwing in a load of laundry.

        If I couldn’t work at home part of the week, I could not afford the home health aide who comes in when I’m at the office.

        It’s not like caring for a small child. Someone has to be here, but they don’t have to be massively attentive while they are here.

        I’m the carer on the days I’m WFH and it’s completely reasonable to do so. My boss agrees.

        Blanket statements about what care for others requires are going to miss all of the many exceptions.

      12. JTP*

        I work from home and have the theoretical fifth-grader in Allison’s response. He walks to and from school with a friend, and is generally self-sufficient after school, getting his homework done and getting himself a snack without involvement from me.

        However, he is too immature to be home alone until my husband and I get home from work. School has before- and after-care, but they require a week’s notice if your not a regular user of the service. Summer is more difficult because the music camp he attends doesn’t offer before- or after-care.

        My parents live nearby and are retired but travel frequently, so I wouldn’t want to rely on them for last-minute childcare. Thankfully, my boss always gives me at least two weeks notice if there’s something I need to go into the office for.

      13. Observer*

        People shouldn’t generally be the carer for another person while working from home.

        The key word is *generally*. But there are quite a number of situations where it can make sense. You have to be reasonable and realistic about this, but it’s more common that people realize. I’m not going to repeat everything that others have said, but it is a reality.

  7. Dutx*

    LW1, “discussing with her that she was going to be given a verbal warning due to a mistake she made”.

    Is that normal at your company? It sounds redundant at best to warn people you’ll be warning them.

    1. allathian*

      In some companies agendaless meetings are verboten. Even if the agenda is given verbally rather than in writing.

      1. Dutx*

        “Discussing” read more involved to me. I’d describe “We’re scheduling a meeting for a verbal warning about xyz” more as telling/informing/a head’s up.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      In the UK this makes sense as a concept. A verbal warning isn’t just the boss telling you to “cut that out” or whatever, but rather an official HR/disciplinary process that goes on your record. In theory the disciplinary ‘hearing’ that goes with it is where the decision gets made on whether to apply a warning and what level (verbal, first written warning etc) but in practice it is usually a foregone conclusion. The official-ness of even a verbal warning then has implications like if the same or similar mistake is repeated in the future, it can become part of a progressive process. Having said that, as a manager I would be looking carefully at the cause of the mistake to ensure it wasn’t better treated as a capability rather than discipline issue.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah, in the UK the process towards firing is the three strikes of verbal warning, first written warning and final written warning. It would be pretty standard to meet and let the employee know they were looking to start that ball rolling. Lots of stern reprimands happen without it being an actual verbal warning, so it would be far more serious to use that terminology.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes, my company is the same. If you’re giving someone a formal verbal warning you need to arrange a meeting with them to give them the verbal warning and then send them an email confirming that they’ve had it. You can’t just tell them off and assume that is it.

          It’s part of the formal process.

          Obviously if someone does something completely outrageous you can bypass it (e.g. for fraud, gross misconduct etc) but otherwise you have to follow the process to reduce the risk of legal challenge later.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yep, we go from informal ‘you need to stop this’ to a formal verbal warning, formal written warning, final warning then firing. And we have to warn the person they are coming up to one of those stages.

          Of course in cases of gross misconduct you can skip all of that and go straight to ‘get out’.

        3. Parakeet*

          This is similar to a setup that I’ve experienced in the US (same names for the three levels of warnings). And the LW’s apparent setup, where a verbal warning is given for a single mistake that has or could have had significant customer-facing/client-facing impact, is also the setup I’ve seen.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        Exactly. I’m in the US, and my company’s structure is 1)documented verbal warning, 2) documented written warning(s), 3) final (written) warning before termination, and 4)termination. There is a timeframe during which if you have multiple verbals, it will be escalated to a written, even if the verbals aren’t necessarily the exact same action. Certain issues escalate straight to written, final, or termination (ie. serious safety violations, sexual harassment, document falsification, that kind of thing).

        All of these have forms you have to fill out for HR. 3&4 require HR to review and possibly be present. Following any step the individual can appeal to HR to rescind.

      3. Maybesocks*

        So every verbal warning is written down in the employee’s record. I find inaccurate terms frustrating. Oh well.

    3. What's in the Booooox*

      I think it would be normal (or at least, logical) in many US federal settings. I’ve never had it happen to me personally, but my understanding is that union protected employees have the right to union representation at any disciplinary action. Bosses don’t have to give a heads up, but the employee can stop the meeting as soon as they realize what it happening and request that it be rescheduled with a rep present. So, it would make more sense to give them time to arrange that in advance.

    4. Parakeet*

      This makes sense to me – at any place that I’ve worked (I’m in the US) that had a system of escalating warnings, a “verbal warning” was a formal first-strike disciplinary measure. So, telling someone that they’re getting a verbal warning is telling them that they’re going to be disciplined, and therefore telling someone that they’d be getting one was the normal procedure.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is also my take on it, but I’ve also worked very recently with people who, even when you say, “We have discussed the fact that you cannot nick the llamas when you’re grooming them several times now, and you and Bob did a hands-on training on safe llama grooming. This week, you’ve nicked five llamas with the clippers, which cannot continue. If you continue to nick the llamas, your position here is in jeopardy.” do not consider that to be a “warning” that their performance is off unless you follow it up with something formal or say, specifically, “I am giving you a verbal warning and putting this in your file.” I don’t know if it’s coming from having worked in workplaces with more routinized/formal feedback processes, but it’s been odd to have extremely specific conversations like that with people and then have them tell HR they weren’t “formally warned” that their performance wasn’t up to snuff.

  8. Keymaster of Gozer*

    1. Is bringing back a lot of memories because back in my 20s (which was a long time ago) I did exactly that. Any negative feedback? I’d make a reason to be out of work for the next day or two.

    Partly upset, partly anger, a lot of made up ‘reasons’. How dare they do this to me? I would think. Don’t they know how I struggle? I was an ass and my work was suffering but I just saw it as the world unfairly treating me. I didn’t have ‘issues’ I had the entire library.

    What stopped this was a manager who’ll I’ll forever be indebted to. He pointed out my poor performance, my anger, the pattern of me being unavailable after every time I was criticised and told me flat out that this could only end two ways. One: I improved my work, took feedback to heart, stopped taking days off afterwards and stopped being so unpleasant to work with or Two: I continued as I was and lost my job. Now, given what he’d just said, could I see myself keeping the job?

    I called in sick the next day. Yeah, I know, I was young and arrogant. But it scared me enough to actually start down the road of making a change – he’d been very clear that even with UK employee protection I was actively destroying my career.

    To this day I’d say my weakness is I really do not like negative feedback and have to consciously work to take it as a professional. The urge to run away from it is still there, it’s just tempered by age.

    So I see a lot of old me in your staff and believe that like me on that fateful day she needs to be told plainly and straight that she’s on a path to failure.

    1. GythaOgden*

      I love the way you put it — don’t just have issues, you have the whole library. And yeah, I went through the whole same baptism of fire, to the point where celebrating a year in a job was amazing and something I only accomplished at the age of 35 (and I had almost a decade on sick leave). Resilience is a hard-won concept but it does get better with time.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Solidarity! I’ve got a whopping gap in my employment history due to sick leave (some physical but mostly mental) of many a year and it was hard to come back from that.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m still friends with that manager (after I left the firm of course) and 20+ years on he still says that was one of the most unpleasant conversations he’d ever had to have with a member of staff. Because you better believe I tried to argue my way out of everything he was telling me.

        But his very blunt, refusing to detour from the subject in hand, way of speaking really did sink in a day or so later.

        If he’d treated me with kid gloves and accepted that I had health problems and that’s why I was being an ass I think I’d still be a failure to this day. Sometimes you need the cold unfeeling truth of reality rather than the soft hold of acceptance.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Bingo. You’re always the centre of your world, but you’re not the centre of an employer’s world. They can do a lot in terms of support and so on, but ultimately the job needs to get done.

    2. Nelalvai*

      I have anxiety, and one of my worst triggers is criticism. Even gentle, constructive feedback can send me into a “I’VE RUINED EVERYTHING AND I SUCK” spiral that used to take me out for the day just like LW’s employee. With lots of therapy and LOTS of practice, I’m able to work my way out of the spiral and back to reality. It’s still really hard, I’m a long way from mastering the skill.

      Whether that employee is dealing with anxiety like me or arrogant youth like Keymaster of Gozer, I hope they can learn to handle criticism calmer.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is my default in-my-brain response to criticism, and I’m 30 years into working (mine also stems from next-level anxiety). I second the recommendation of therapy for anyone dealing with this – it is a constant, uphill battle.

        I was also graced with several really wonderful supervisors/bosses over the years who were an enormous help at framing that they thought I was great and had a lot of potential, but they had to be able to give feedback to tap into that potential. I am really grateful for both of them, but I also had to do the work to be able to receive their help.

    3. kiki*

      My situation wasn’t exactly the same as yours or the LW’s, but I was definitely served well by some “tough love” from a manager. Some of LW1’s statements make me think that maybe they haven’t been fully clear to the employee about how badly they’re doing and the toll their time off is taking on their professional reputation.

      “I have led her from a place of support and assured her that the PIP is going to be her roadmap to success so that we can be sure that she has mastered the basic aspects of this role before we move her to more complex projects.”

      Maybe LW has straight up said to this employee that their job is truly at risk and they just included the above to make sure we knew they were being supportive of their employee, but I’m guessing there’s a chance the employee genuinely doesn’t realize that if they don’t radically change their behavior and attitude, they WILL be let go at the end of the PIP.

      My situation was a little different than yours or LW’s employee in that I was so nice as a person people didn’t like being honest with me about when I was underperforming. It took a manager who was willing to say, “Hey, I really like you as a person and want to keep you around, but you’re really not trying as hard as you should be. Your minimum viable effort is actually not sufficient,” for me to get where I needed to go in my career.

    4. Unkempt Flatware*

      You’re so damn cool, Keymaster. I love how reflective and honest you are. I endeavor to be able to see myself as clearly. Thanks for how often you share. Maybe change your name to The Gatekeeper.

  9. Anonys*

    “I assured her that the PIP is going to be her roadmap to success so that we can be sure that she has mastered the basic aspects of this role before we move her to more complex projects.”

    As Alison said, it sounds highly likely the outcome of the PIP should be letting the employee go (and not in fact allow her to move to more complex projects considering she is still failing to grasp her most rudimentary tasks).

    I think far more urgently than addressing the outsized responses to feedback or even discussing verbal warnings, OP needs to make it clear to the employee that she is currently not meeting the PIP and that the consequence of that is being let go at the end of it (hopefully HR is on board with this).

    The current framing of the PIP as the roadmap to success reminds me of a (high-performing) LW here who once wondered if they could ask their boss to put them on a PIP for professional development reasons. It’s a mischaracterization of what is happening here. I can understand the OP’s instinct to soften the message given the employee’s reaction to feedback but being (brutally) honest is the right and kind thing to do here, and if the employee calls out afterwards, so be it.

    1. Viette*

      I agree. It’s not impossible that the employee might succeed, but they seem ill-suited for the job and even more ill-suited for the painstaking and difficult process of absorbing and utilizing all this negative feedback to grow and improve to the degree that they’re successful.

      They’re currently very bad at doing their job and also very bad at improving at their job. I think the LW would be better off being kind and realistic instead of looking for a miracle.

    2. Knope Knope Knope*

      Yeah this jumped out at me, too. I expected Alison to spend more time on it because she often counsels people to be very direct about the consequences of PIPs (and all hard conversations, really) and this sounded like a classic case of LW putting an employee on a PIP, softening the message—quite extremely in this case!—then tiptoeing around a significant performance issue.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I said this further up. OP probably softened it because they didn’t want the employee to be upset at being put on a PIP. but it really did a disservice to the employee. Right now the employee might believe if they don’t meet the PIP requirements all that means is they won’t get to work on complex projects. They might not realize that firing is a very real possibility.

      OP you need to sit down with your employee, state the pattern, discuss the progress of the PIP and explain the consequences of not meeting the PIP requirements. No softening. Blunt, but not mean.

      1. Tabby Baltimore*

        “… the employee might believe if they don’t meet the PIP requirements all that means is they won’t get to work on complex projects …”
        Pastor Petty, this is terrific insight. I hope the LW sees it and has a sit-down with the employee to make sure she understands what the actual consequence of not completing the PIP is.

    4. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      It sounds like it’s just simply time to cut the employee loose. It’s been months with little improvement on the PIP. I know OP wants to be kind and give this employee every chance, but it seems like it’s too much for the employee to overcome and they are not suited to the job at this point… for whatever the reason.

  10. Cambridge Comma*

    Has OP1 tried giving feedback at the end of the working day on Friday? Just to see what happens.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        It’s not about ruining her weekend. It’s about anticipating her needing the next day to “recover” regardless of what that day is – because remember she calls out the next day every time. So if you make sure the next day is a weekend, now she doesn’t need to burn PTO on it.
        Alternately if she suddenly calls out Monday as well…the pattern’s even worse.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This isn’t really sustainable, though. Feedback should be provided in near real-time because the goal is to improve performance as immediately as possible. If someone screwed up their daily report on Monday, I need to talk to them about it Tuesday so I don’t get four more days of bad reporting. If they’re giving the wrong return policy information to customers, I need to address that before more people are giving bad info. The longer you wait between the behavior and feedback, the less effective the feedback gets.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        The point is to see what happens when the next day isn’t a work day, not to use this as a permanent workaround.

  11. Little beans*

    #2 I am on the side of the LW. I work in the office 1-2 days per week, but I would find it very disruptive to have that changed on me with only a day’s notice. There are personal reasons – in my case, daycare drop off/pick schedules, but I can think of a hundred others people might have. On the work front, I have a lot of meetings that require some level of confidentiality so I always make sure that either: I have access to a private space at work or that it’s scheduled on a day I’m working from home. When I have meetings in person, I sometimes need to book travel time between meetings that isn’t necessary on Zoom. If I just scheduled another in person meeting on a different day, I might be annoyed that now I have to go in for 2 separate days when I would have scheduled them the same day if I had known. Etc, etc. maybe my work place culture but anything less than a week’s notice to change your schedule would be unlikely and unwelcome.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I’m also on team more notice, and a little surprised that’s the minority view in the comments.

      I and many of my colleagues have the kinds of lives people discussed in that thread last week on balancing two big jobs. Short notice changes are almost guaranteed to case disruption of some sort for personal stuff, work stuff, or both. If I couldn’t switch kid drop off and pickup around I’d have to reschedule other work meetings to get the commute time.

      Some jobs have genuine reasons for last minute stuff – my wife occasionally has client meetings crop up that genuinely couldn’t have been planned further out, and we make that work, and I’ve had IT trouble crop up that required a trip in to the office to fix. But senior management that schedules last minute in person meetings just out of poor planning or lack of consideration (which kind of sounds like what happened to LW2) will likely start generating resentment from employees.

      1. Allonge*

        I don’t think anyone is against more notice as such, but a lot of us are in jobs where having a sudden meeting scheduled for the next day is just something that happens (including the part that in some cases this means we cannot make it because there are other things we cannot cancel).

        It’s very much ok for OP to check if there can be more of a head’s up! But, we are hybrid and we need to be able to come to the office within 2-3 hours. So a day does not sound that bad.

    2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      I would find it often inconvenient to be called into the office at 48 hours notice. But solvable inconveniences aren’t things that I’d expect my employer to prioritise over their need/wish to have me in the office for whatever reason.

      1. Alice*

        I’ve noticed that the leader in my organization who calls short-notice mandatory in-person meetings the most frequently is also the leader who talks the most about work-life balance, how much they appreciate their team, how flexible they are, and how we are like a family. So, sure, they can prioritize their need/wish to have me in the office over my inconvenience, but they can’t do that *and* expect me to take their supportive statements at face value. (Not that I would say it obviously, but it breeds an atmosphere of cynicism.)

    3. bamcheeks*

      I would have found it very disruptive in my previous job where I had a pretty long commute, too. But I think how much you can plan your time and how normal it is to have last-minute meetings depends so much on the type of work you do and the type of role you have, and I don’t think it’s necessarily unreasonable for people to book in shorter-notice meetings. I do think it’s also reasonable for LW to explain to their manager how disruptive those last minute changes are and to find out whether it’s just “we are a bit disorganised and tend to do things last minute, we don’t have to” or whether it is actually necessary because they are reacting to new orders or audits or changes that they couldn’t have anticipated. Sometimes, just knowing the reason for something makes it feel better because you know it’s not just lack of consideration.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, this! If there’s a reason, then sure, it’s fine to expect people to be flexible on short notice. If it’s just poor planning, it’s not going to win you any morale points to disrupt people’s plans at short notice.

      2. Greg*

        In this particular instance, it doesn’t sound frequent! It sounds more like LW2 just…doesn’t want to go into the office at all and looking for a script so they don’t have to. 24 hours isn’t terribly convenient, but it also isn’t terribly sudden (and they were accommodated when they said they couldn’t make it).

        Theoretically, yes, the more notice the better regardless of working situation. Our larger meetings have at least a week attached to them, usually much longer than that. But sometimes things pop up and I need to get people together to resolve something quickly. Sometimes my boss drops a meeting on my calendar that I’m required to attend. If it happened all the time it would be a significant issue. But every once in a while…can’t argue about that too much.

    4. Lusara*

      My thought is that if you know you are expected to be available during specific hours, then you should expect you might have to go in during those specific hours, and giving a day’s notice is sufficient, IMO.

      1. bamcheeks*

        The flipside of that is whether the organisation wants to limit its pool of employees to people who can always work in the office or who can always go into the office at short notice, or whether it wants to widen its pool to include people who can do the job if they predominantly work from home and always get significant notice when they need to come in.

      2. BottleBlonde*

        There’s a difference between always being available during your 8-hour shift and always being available during your 8-hour shift *plus* commute time though. For my sister, the biggest benefit of WFH is that her work day wraps up five minutes before her six-year-old gets off the school bus. If she always has to have a plan for back-up childcare, for an hour-long commute that might be required out of nowhere at the drop of a hat, it kind of erases that benefit.

    5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Can the office call you in on short notice? Yes. SHOULD they? No. It’s about how your treat your employees. More notice so they have time to shuffle things around — oh I can’t meet that deadline if I have to go into the office on that day, okay, I will shift thing A that has a later deadline to another day so I can do Thing B that has the deadline that won’t be met. Oh my spouse has to pick up the kids that day because I won’t be home to do it because I will still be in the meeting at the office, oh spouse not available, let me call my aunt who is our emergency person. Etc.

    6. Daisy-dog*

      I think everyone’s reaction is based on the fact that there weren’t any negative consequences. Sure, on principle, LW2’s company should have given more notice. But nothing really happened.

  12. Commentmouse*

    LW3, you’re not wrong. I used to work somewhere (essential and coverage-based) where you accumulated 1 sick day a month but could borrow against future sick time up to a 3 additional days – but if you went one hour over that limit, you would get a written disciplinary warning. I always though it was such a weird, punitive thing to do. Even worse was during COVID, when they also made you wait to get official permission to return to work after being sick.

    I guess someone who studies these things could probably trace it back to the Puritans having an attitude that people got sick because of sin, or something like that. It’s unfortunately prevalent.

  13. Persephone*

    LW1 – speaking from personal experience, this sounds like me when my anxiety disorder was barely managed.

    And if it is anxiety, then that could be a major factor in her performance as well. That doesn’t mean she’ll be a stellar employee without it, and if the job is causing/aggravating mental health issues then leaving for something else is a valid option, especially if her performance has deteriorated too far to come back from.

    But I would advise you to ask “Are you having anxiety surrounding your work and could it be the reason for this?” when addressing the pattern.

    1. Heather*

      I’m not sure I’d go into that. What if her answer is “Yes I’m having crippling anxiety”? There’s nothing you can really do as her boss, other than refer her to your EAP or suggest she seek help. Her performance will still have to improve for her to keep this job.

      1. Cordelia*

        yeah I don’t think suggesting potential diagnoses is helpful or appropriate. Name the pattern of behaviour and be clear that it needs to change, and help the employee problem-solve how this could happen. If seeking treatment for anxiety is one of the things that would help, then you can support this.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      The thing is, no manager should attempt to diagnose or suggest a diagnosis for a member of staff. “You are having issues, maybe you need some external assistance?” is broad enough to be acceptable maybe but nothing specific.

      Don’t armchair diagnose isn’t just a rule for this site it’s a pretty good one for real life too!

    3. Cat Tree*

      I wouldn’t want my boss to ask me about a medical condition that I had never brought up before, and especially not to try to diagnose something. If the company has an EAP, LW could direct the employee to that resource and probably should do that in any case because a PIP is stressful for anyone.

      Anxiety is really difficult and I know that from experience. But if the employee has an anxiety disorder, that’s not something LW can solve for them. It sucks, but it’s not actionable for LW. That’s why you shouldn’t speculate or diagnose. If the employee wrote in, it might be useful for them. But LW isn’t a position to diagnose and then manage their employee’s health.

    4. Turingtested*

      I don’t think it’s appropriate for a manager to use medical terms like that and or imply that an illness is causing certain behavior. It’s one thing to use less loaded terms like stress and offer an EAP but straight up suggesting a diagnosis isn’t ok. It’s also not the employer’s job to manage an employee’s mental illness. It’s the employer’s job to be polite, respectful and open to changes to help the employee and it’s the employee’s job to get their work done and manage their emotions and health.

      1. HonorBox*

        Agreed. The LW could offer the feedback they need to offer about how the employee is reacting to feedback and suggest that an EAP could be a way to discuss it further with someone who is not the LW. But I would absolutely not mention anxiety or anything that could be construed as a medical diagnosis.

    5. Peanut Hamper*

      No, no, no. This is not something a good manager does. This is something a bad manager does.

      Just nooooooooo……….

    6. Knope Knope Knope*

      I also have to disagree here.

      First off, if the LW is the one to identify the anxiety, then yes of course that conversation can be opened. Particularly in the context of ADA accommodations. Anything else is both a huge overstep and an exercise in futility. Both my parent and spouse suffer from severe anxiety disorder. It doesn’t matter who wants to help, the only person who can manage anxiety is the person suffering. They have to be open to help. They have to be open to support. Most importantly, they have to even identify their own behavior as anxiety. Anxiety has a way of acting like a funhouse mirror. Everyone around you knows what you’re seeing is distorted, but if you’ve never used another mirror, you just think that’s reality.

      A manager can’t get that ball rolling in any way other than pointing out that the behavior has consequences, like losing or almost losing your job (again, had to happen to both of my loved ones). On top of that, anxiety is a comorbidity of MANY other mental health issues, and then you’re getting way out of manager territory. I think OP should focus on work actions and work consequences.

    7. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      NOPE. It is not on the employer to inquire into the health status of employees. If the employee is having issues negotiating the job, it is on the employee to start the conversation for accomodation.

      1. Can't think of a name*

        In the US, that simply is not true under the ADA. Supervisors can indeed initiate and are encouraged to initiate accommodation discussions, usually saying something like, “I’ve noticed _____ (insert behavior and associated work impact), is there anything that may help you do your job? This can be done without inquiring about anyone’s health status. I don’t know how this rumor got started that only an employee can initiate an accommodation discussion, that has never been a requirement of the law and I hate to see misinformation spread. Employees may not even be aware there is an ADA, but managers certainly should be.

    8. Observer*

      But I would advise you to ask “Are you having anxiety surrounding your work and could it be the reason for this?” when addressing the pattern.

      Why? Assuming that she says “yes”, then what? The OP is not her therapist and simply *cannot* take on that role. It’s a question whose answer is simply not relevant to the OP.

      Now, if the employee does have anxiety and needs an accommodation or knows of workable tactics to alleviate it, then it’s on her to bring that up and work with the OP and their HR to see what they can do for her. But the OP should absolutely NOT go beyond asking if Employee has any suggestions for how to handle the situation, into asking for medical information.

    9. Persephone*

      Alrighty, seems everyone disagrees with me and that’s okay, I very well may be wrong. But you’re also misunderstanding my comment so let me clear some points up:

      1. “Anxiety” isn’t a medical diagnosis. Everyone experiences anxiety and feels anxious at points in life. “Anxiety Disorder” is a medical diagnosis. I am suggesting that anxiety (not a medical diagnosis) *may* be the reason behind the behaviour. It’s a possibility for consideration—that’s it.

      2. If you don’t address the reason behind the behaviour, then the behaviour will continue. The behaviour is a symptom, and if you want the symptoms to stop then you need to treat the cause. You can’t treat the cause if you don’t know what it is, and if the cause can’t be treated at all—what all of you are saying in regards to management and mental health—then better to know that now and not waste everybody’s time. Amicably part ways, or fire her if need be.

      3. Sometimes, you don’t know you’re having a certain issue until somebody on the outside points it out. We’re all stuck in our own heads. Of course our own mental health is our personal responsibility, but that doesn’t mean we can’t, you know, care about each other?

  14. anononon*

    Well, I’m with LW2 on this one. I’m in the UK, and have fixed days that I work in the office. I plan my time around those days (because I can’t do focussed quiet-work in the office as it’s open-plan and full of people yelling into Teams calls all day). I also book my train commute TWELVE WEEKS in advance for the trips to the office – typically getting a return ticket for about £25. If my manager wants me in at a day’s notice I’m afraid she’ll need to pay the £130 the train would cost for a ‘walk up’ fare…

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      The transport costs probably aren’t comparable for the LW, though, or they’d have mentioned it.

    2. SB*

      It sounds like the situations are completely different & therefore not comparable in any way at all.

  15. SickLeaveWithMedicalNeeds*

    In my experience (a dozen or so employers, hundreds of interviews) 10 days is on the generous side of normal for sick leave (8-10 days). The most I’ve gotten in a set sick day environment is 12. I’ve always used all of it for dr appointments, tests, etc and made it work thanks to flexible schedules and working longer hours on days I worked at home or periodically putting in some weekend hours. It would not be manageable with either a set schedule or 100% work onsite.

    I have worked in a few environments with so-called unlimited sick time but they never meant it. In one case – my first unlimited sick time and the only time I took it seriously and actually took time when sick as well as for medical appts – you’d start getting “are you better yet?” or “can you come into the office yet?” or “can’t you work at home yet?” toward the end of day 2 and by the end of day 3 it was clear you were working the next day no matter what. In another it was part of a single pot of unlimited PTO where they basically never let you take time off for any other reason if you took more than a handful of sick days.

    My state passed a minimum 5 days of sick leave per year law a few years ago and many employers took it as an opportunity to readjust down as clearly they’d been giving too much sick leave before if the state felt 5 days was enough. So there’s that too – my 8-10 range is probably a little too high now.

    It is a stressful, stressful thing that requires a lot of attention to detail and working early/late to work.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Agree with your first comment – I was reading through LW3’s letter thinking “ohhh I have a lot of advice about how to manage with limited sick time because ours was super limited until this year” and then I saw the number 10. We got 3 sick days a year. I initially used them on appointments and then the HR changed the handbook to say sick time could only be used for unplanned illness and I started actually LOSING sick time while taking vacation days for things like planned surgeries (fun!!) Anyway, what helped us was, one, we were allowed and even encouraged to WFH when sick, as long as we weren’t too sick to work. Two, we had flex time, so if I had to be out between 2 and 4 for a Dr appointment, I’d then come back and stay 2 hours later than usual to make up the time. I don’t know how we would’ve managed otherwise. This year we went to unlimited PTO and honestly it is such a relief to be able to call in sick or go see a Dr without feeling that you risk dipping into the PTO bucket or that you have to work till late in the evening.

      An OldJob had all PTO in one bucket (and there wasn’t a lot of it – I started at 15 days) and that is the story of how I started getting a flu shot every year. Figured I had nothing to lose, but if it worked, I might save myself some PTO time to do something fun with it instead of taking it to be sick with the flu. I had kids in middle school at the time and coming down with the school crud they brought home was a regular thing. The flu shots… worked, I think? (I mentioned it above that at some point, I became unable to use up all my three sick days on unplanned illnesses and started losing a day or two every year.)

      1. Lucy P*

        We get 10 days of PTO in one bucket. This is particularly hard on parents of young kids who burn through those days quickly and end up taking a lot of unpaid leave. (Historically most of the parents in the office were hourly workers.)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yeah that is ridiculously now no matter how many buckets it is in. If they split it into 5 vacation and 5 sick days, it’d still be bad.

          My current job had PTO policies similar to yours when I started there (which also happened to be the year when I had to take my youngest for college visits, orientation and such). It really sucks and my employer eventually changed the policies after (I’m guessing) too many good candidates turned the jobs down because of them. (For reference, they had separate buckets and when you started, you got no PTO, 2 personal, and 2 sick days. The 2 personal and 2 sick were for your first year. After six months, you got a week PTO. At your first anniversary, you got 10 days PTO, 3 personal, and 3 sick. My boss was letting me borrow from next year for things like college visits, and by the time of my anniversary, I was deep in PTO debt.)

          1. Lucy P*

            When I first started, many moons ago, we had an increasing scale based on years of service maxing out at 25 days/year. During a down-turn it got reduced to 10 days regardless of years of service.
            We’re getting ready to come out of a long hiring freeze and I’m concerned that the lack of good benefits are going to be a show stopper for most good candidates.

    2. amanda*

      I typically take 3 or 4 sick days a year. I’ve NEVER gotten up to ten. Surely, if you have a routine doctor’s appointment, you would take off a few hours, not the whole day?

      So yeah, OP is on the high end of sick leave usage and should maybe look at what is making them sick so often and for so long.

      1. kiki*

        I think COVID has really changed things because that can knock you out for a week or two pretty easily, if not more. So having covid and a couple days of “normal” sickness could easily put you over that threshold. And any sort of chronic illness could really set you over the top.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I have only never gotten up to ten because we always could WFH when sick. And, like others pointed out, that’s before Covid (which i haven’t had yet).

        And it depends a lot on the people in your life. I used to get sick a lot more when I had kids in daycare or elementary school, they would always bring something home and give it to everyone. Then when they were in HS and college, I dated a college professor for two years and I swear I’ve never been sick so often before or after that. They weren’t allowed to call in sick. Anytime a student or prof was down with anything contagious, they’d come in sick and give it to the whole school, who would then bring it home to their loved ones (including me). Don’t know if Covid has changed that (I sincerely hope the answer is yes, otherwise everyone at that school would have long Covid by now).

      3. Pointy's in the North Tower*

        I have multiple chronic conditions. I’ve already taken more than 10 sick days this year. I don’t control the weather (migraine trigger, asthma trigger), what fragrances other people wear (asthma trigger, several allergy trigger, migraine trigger), wildfires causing poor air quality (asthma trigger), or when my GI tract will decide that the thing I ate yesterday with no issue is a BIG PROBLEM today. Some of us just get sick more often than others, and it’s not a failure on our part.

      4. JustaTech*

        At my work the minimum amount of sick time you can take is 4 hours, so if you can’t flex around an appointment you’re burning a half day for a 15 minute appointment.

        And sometimes life just gets you: I have a friend who is usually very healthy get a weird infection and ended up in the hospital for a week. Or another friend who got the flu and was basically unable to get out of bed for two weeks. Either of those would wipe out your sick days (though maybe you could get short term disability?).

      5. Can't think of a name*

        amanda, lucky you. I imagine you do not have one or more chronic conditions that require monitoring, treatment, and frequent office visits. Doesn’t mean we can’t work, we just need time flexibility and perhaps yes, we will need to use all of our sick leave. In the Feds, sick leave can be used to care for eligible family members also.

        Sickness is a very individual thing. It’s not moral at all.

        1. Lusara*

          If you have a chronic condition like this, then you should be arranging it under FMLA or STD.

          1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

            Short-term disability and FMLA don’t cover me being out a day because I’m having a migraine. If it does for you, great, but that’s not how it works in my world.

    3. Sparkle Llama*

      I get 13 currently, which is the most I have ever received. Ten to 13 is pretty standard in my sector (government) in the Midwest. I do think with some strokes of bad luck it can be tough in your first year or if you have young kids. Once you have had a few years to accrue a healthy balance it is much easier. At this point I have around 30 days at any point and I have coworkers with close to 100 days.

      I think it also depends on your health situation. I am decently healthy but without fail will get a nasty flu/bronchitis/crud every winter and need to take most of a week off and will have a few days throughout the year for other normal illnesses. But I also have coworkers who use maybe 1-2 days a year or who always max it out since kids can’t go to daycare with any number of contagious diseases and they may not have other family able to provide backup childcare.

      As for advice to the LW and others, when I have switched jobs and not had a bank of sick time accrued yet, I treat half of my vacation as sick time so I know I will have enough. Also you could ask about flexing time to accommodate Dr appointments so come in late and work late.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      Our state passed a law requiring 2 sick days. A friend’s workplace saw that as what was required – she gets 2 sick days, no vacation, no holidays. If she wants to be paid for July 4th, she works July 4th. It’s a good thing she rarely gets sick and knows how to work (and work and work).

  16. theothersteffi*

    Germany here. Technically, we do have unlimited sick leave. It works in several stages. One to three days? You just call in sick. over three days? You´ll need a doctors note. (Some companies require the doctors note from day one). You still get paid your full wages. After 6 weeks, sick pay kicks in, which is up to 90% of your wage, paid by health insurance. This lasts up to 72 weeks. If you are sich for longer than that (with the same cause), other social security mesures take over.
    All of this is regulated by law and no employer can opt out. So everyone plans accordingly. I´ve worked my whole career (20+ years) in coverage based jobs and that´s just how it´s done. You always employ and shedule enough people to cover eventual sick leave and annual leave for every employee, which is at least an addditional 4 weeks, but 6 weeks for most.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        I think doctors’ notes are the tradeoff for the ability to take very long paid sick leave.
        Visits & notes are free and since Covid most doctors will do video calls.

  17. SnowDayPendant*

    Just as an aside, snow days actually are limited.

    There are legal requirements for the number of school days that must be included in a school year. School districts make decisions about how much to pad this to account for snow days. Where I grew up in PA they padded by about 20 days, meaning if there were more than 20 snow days they had to make up the extras. We actually hit 19 one year and 20 another but we never went over in the 12 winter’s I lived there. Where I live now in MA they only pad by a few days and it is very common to extend the school year by an extra week or more at the start of summer vacation. IMO the PA system is far superior, but in MA they prioritize having additional break time (they have a whole week off in February, for example) and many districts have regularly scheduled half or whole in-service days every month. The school years are actually the same calendar length. I find the MA system baffling, and the extra time off weird, but there you have it

    1. Irish Teacher*

      That’s interesting. In Ireland, where we don’t get much snow, snow days come out of the legal requirement and are usually overlooked. Since covid, our government said snow days should be online teaching rather than days off, but the one or two snow days we’ve had since then (none in the 2022-2023 school year; I think one the year before), they’ve waived it. It is also said that things like the Easter holidays can be shortened to make up for snow days, etc, but again, in practice, it has never happened.

      I guess it’s not worth padding a year for the possibility of one or two days off. Our school years are legally required to be 166 days, so two snow or storm days might mean we do 164.

    2. Anne of Green Gables*

      I grew up in Minnesota where the school calendar was always padded for eventual bad weather days. (We were rarely out for snow, but ice or cold temperatures were fairly common.) If the Governor cancelled school state-wide, it did not count against the days you could miss. My senior year of high school, we had record-low temperatures all over the state so the state-wide no school happened a few times that year.

      I now live in North Carolina and there is no padding for bad-weather days. Which is crazy to me because even the barest thread of snow sends people into a tizzy around here, so it’s rare to have a year with no snow days. They do list scheduled holidays/spring break days on the calendar that will become school days if there is a bad weather day, but padding at least by a day or two would be so much easier.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Really?! I also live in North Carolina and they absolutely pad for unexpected school closures in our district. It’s not even specifically for snow. There are many days in hurricane season where the wind is too strong to send the buses out so they have to cancel. Or there’s a water main break and you can’t send kids to a school without water. Or someone drove into the power station again and you can’t send kids to a building without AC when it’s 102 degrees out. Or there was a hurricane and there’s too much flooding or debris in the roads and you have to close the school.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      Same. In Lousiana has more hurricanes weather time off than snow, but in the rare (every 10-20 years) cases that there is snow or ice, it is unsafe to drive so no school. The school schedule has padded some days beyond the legally mandatory number of schools days, but if weather events result in more days off than padded for there needs to be days made up.

      Of course this legal requirement for minimum number of school days is not relevent for businesses which can have as many snow days as the management deems necessary for employee safety. And sometimes that is zero for certain places and employees (like clinical staff in a hospitals and nursing homes which require 24/7 coverages).

    4. Clisby*

      Snow days are practically unheard of where I live, but hurricane days are a thing. All the school districts along the coast of SC build in 4-5 days when a hurricane might shut things down. (Of course, a devastating hurricane would shut school down a lot longer, but those aren’t common enough that districts are going to build in weeks of hurricane days.)

    5. Texas Teacher*

      In Texas, the minimum is a certain number of school hours in a year. My district pads for inclement weather by having slightly longer school days than strictly necessary. I think last school year, we had three unexpected days off and none of them were weather related: a World Series parade (bus routes and access to some schools disrupted near downtown), and two days regarding a city wide water problem. Go figure.

  18. AlwaysEOD*

    It’s always a good idea to give negative feedback at the end of a day if at all possible, especially if it’s coming out of the blue. Many people need a bit of time to adjust and digest the feedback. Calling in sick is juvenile and should be addressed (because it’s a pattern) but needing the evening or a couple of hours to digest is normal.

  19. Heather*

    #2 surprised me a bit. I’ve never worked from home, but my husband is hybrid. There is definitely an expectation that people can come into the office on short notice. I don’t know if I’ve seen it same-day, but next-day is 100% common. So, to get a message Monday to say “all hands on deck in office Tuesday” is common.

    For a doctor’s appointment, you’d be unavailable during that block of time, whether home or in office, right? So I’m not really seeing the problem.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I think it depends a lot of a) your commute and b) how much autonomy you have and how much you expect to be able to plan your time. Even without the working from home aspect, there are a lot of jobs where you expect to get pulled into surprise meetings and roll with it, and others where you have your planned workflow to get everything done and a meeting dropping in to the following day is horrendously disruptive and jeopardises deadlines.

    2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      Yeah, I think OP is more just worried about the optics of not being able to come in on the requested day. In my job (was 100% in person pre-covid, hybrid now) people live good distances away so that even having a middle of the day medical appointment during that 100% in person time period would require them to either have to take the day off or put in a telework request. So if the boss did decide to have a meeting the next day, the person would have just missed it because they were going to be at the doctors. I don’t think that it is unreasonable to give one day’s notice, I think it would be unreasonable if the management were upset that people had already planned to take vacations, go to the doctor’s, etc., on that day. I get OPs frustration that if they want 100% attendance they should schedule it out with more notice (like my team all hands is a monthly repeating meeting).

  20. bamcheeks*

    LW2, this sounds like something that doesn’t have to be framed as “who is being reasonable/unreasonable”. It sounds like what happened last time was that a meeting was arranged at short notice, you said you couldn’t attend because you had a doctor’s appointment scheduled, and your boss said OK. I totally get how that’s the kind of situation where you can feel narked and need to feel like SOMEONE did something wrong, but it can just be what it is, and doesn’t have to be a conflict in which one person is objectively in the right and one person is in the wrong.

    Unless your manager is really arsey about these things, I think it’s fine to say, “Would it be possible to get more notice when I’m needed in the office? For travel/planning/lunch/evening plans, it’s helpful if I know in advance where I’m working, and it’s a quite disruptive to only find out the day before that I’m needed.” The answer might be, “Sure, we can probably manage that” or “We can do that most of the time, but sometimes it won’t be possible” or “Unfortunately that won’t work, because of XYZ we tend to need to organise these last-minute, are you OK to roll with it?” Sometimes it helps to know that there’s a reason for the last minute-ness, rather than just people being inconsiderate of your time, or begrudging your work-at-home status.

    Alternatively, if you are pretty sure they are wedded to the last minute meeting and there’s no flex there, you could ask about prioritisation: “When I get called into the office without much notice, I have to alter my work plans because of the travel time. I just wanted to make you aware of that– if I could get more notice, that would be helpful, but if it isn’t possible, it’s going to mean that the weekly report is going to be finished on Wednesday instead of Thursday. Just checking that’s OK.”

    Maybe there IS arsiness about your working from home at work, and this is the way it’s coming out– in which case, it’s fine to be a bit narked! But it might be that it’s all OK and it’s fine for you to address it directly.

  21. 57 cheese*

    I would be thrilled with 10 days. We only get 2 and January and February and every Monday are blacked out. We have a no fault point system.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      OK I’ve worked at places with brutal PTO policies, but how does a workplace black out entire months from sick time and get away with it? Even if they employed robots instead of humans, a robot could break down or need maintenance. How does it even realistically work? what happens if Bob in accounting is hit by a truck January 10 and spends a week in the hospital, do they fire Bob or???

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        This is pretty standard in retail. I think it’s probably shifted a bit now given the challenges of hiring, but in my day if you called out any time between November 1 and February 1 you would be removed from the schedule. They never fired you because they didn’t have to; people don’t know how unemployment insurance works.

        There are probably other industries that are similar. Any non-unionized positions related to shipping and logistics probably, for similar reasons to retail. If your workforce is reduced or off on the weekends you have a lot to catch up on Mondays and the holiday season is the most profitable time of the year.

        1. Laser99*

          Yes. Getting sick in retail…hoo boy. I e. Even shouted and cursed at. In one job I was expected to arrange for my own replacement, and if no one would help me, I would have to work anyway. Like Fine Tipped mentioned above, you will be removed from the schedule if you get sick “too much”. It’s a foolproof method from their point of view because you can’t prove anything, they just claim they don’t have enough work to go around. Another technique is to change your hours all around so you will become frustrated and quit. This is all SOP.

  22. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*


    Maybe, as a test, give the feedback on a Friday and see if she calls out on Monday.

    1. birch*

      As a test to see if this employee is intentionally playing some sort of “I’ll call out exactly one business day after receiving feedback” game? How is this useful? OP could just have a conversation with her like a person and try to find a solution.

    2. Allonge*

      What would that achieve though? OP is very unlikely to be able to give feedback only on Friday afternoons – this is bound to be fairly disruptive (maybe not on the level of auto-call-out but still). And I would be afraid that the employee will then just start reporting sick for Fridays.

      Let her go, OP. It’s not a good match and you cannot fix all this for her.

    3. Isabel Archer*

      OP #4, I did NOT see this coming and it made my day: “I hate 1) her job, 2) my job, 3) our company, and 4) perhaps our entire profession.” Thank you!

  23. *kalypso*

    In Australia, 10 days sick leave (pro-rated for part time) is the basic standard. After that you can take other kinds of leave if they’ve accrued, or you take unpaid leave. If it’s a work-related injury, you apply for workers compensation. If it’s not, you apply for sickness benefits (forwhich you have to have exhausted your sick leave to qualify).

    There are various ways employers manage this – formal leave applications to emailing a manager and sorting it at payroll later – some employers grant more paid days than the minimum, some don’t; some let you run a negative balance, most don’t; some try to get out of it entirely, most don’t; casuals get loading in exchange for not accruing leave. Most people survive.

    The key part is that you don’t not get sick after using your 10 days. You just don’t get that kind of leave.

  24. JSPA*

    #1, some people will straight out lie to excuse an absence (even when no excuse is needed). But other people, when stressed, convince themselves that every small problem is a catastrophe.

    If the employee pushes back, it could be “resistance to being caught in a lie,” but it could also be that they really believed their own stress- induced, cat-related catastrophizing.

    If holding this (rarer?) possibility in mind helps you suppress your irritation at dealing with her, the conversation may go more smoothly than if what’s playing in your brain is, “but we both know you’re a lying liar.”

    I fear that if you switch to end-of-day sessions, she’ll start leaving early (habitually, or when you have a meeting planned). If that eases the path through HR to termination, though, it may be a “win” all around.

  25. Dog momma*

    Re sick leave..you shouldn’t have to use this for Dr appointments.

    need more info here..are you hourly vs salaried? are you using the entire day or just a couple hrs? Can you schedule appointments on your day off? can you do 2 in 1 day if you can plan that far ahead? Can you come in early or stay late to make up the time? I’ve been hourly and had salaried (RN) & done all of the above. Its scrappy to use a day off to get this done but if it can get them out of the way its worth it. Will assume you are fairly healthy as I was, but one never knows.

    1. Generic Name*

      I mean, yeah, ideally everyone in the world would have flexible schedules and policies allowing them to take care of the necessities of life such as healthcare without being nickel and dime by their employer. I am a salaried exempt employee and I use sick time for dr appointments. As a consultant, I am expected to charge my time somewhere. Sure, I could work extra to make up for the hour or two of sick time I used, but I have tons and tons of sick time that I’ve earned, so why not use it. My days off are Saturday and Sunday, and most doctors aren’t working then. I suppose I could work a Saturday so I could have an entire Tuesday off for a doctors appointment, but that strikes me as impractical.

  26. Rach*

    My husband is an hourly wage worker, he does not receive any sick time leave, and has to have doctor’s note to not receive any points against him. He earns limited vacation time per pay period, and the company flip-flops in whether or not that can be applied to time off due to illness. Very frustrating when we have bills to pay and children who can often get sick. I am fortunate that I do get PTO, and sick leave and vacation time, but it leaves me carrying the brunt of children’s appointments and sick time.

  27. Johnny*

    Had a roommate who insisted on taking all ten sick days.

    So she’d often call in sick on summer Mondays.

    “Can you just do that?” I’d asked. “They give us ten sick days.” (She wasn’t sick.)

    Shockingly, her professional career was very short-lived.

  28. Garlic Knot*

    LW3, I live and work in a country where full-time employees accrue 10 days of paid absence per year after 6 months, and this increases by 2 extra days per year until it reaches 20 days (if I’m not mistaken, I’m not there yet). These days are used for vacation, sick leave, mental health days, waiting for the plumber, sitting in a queue at government institutions, etc. etc. Anything exceeding the allotted number is taken unpaid. Much fun is had by all expats, particularly Europeans.

    1. Heather*

      My work also puts sick leave and everything else in the same bucket, which I don’t like! I want my sick leave to be for when I’m sick, and my vacation time to be for vacations. I guess it all comes out in the wash but I want two separate buckets.

      1. Nia*

        Yep this. My work puts it all in one bucket too and it’s stupid. It encourages people to come in sick because why waste what could be vacation days on sick leave.

  29. not bitter, just sour*

    Gonna be honest, I’ve never had a job with ANY sick leave so 10 days is a gift. A paltry one that barely helps but better than the nothing I’ve always had

  30. Mandie*

    I don’t know…I feel kind of bad for the employee in #1. I would be crushed if I received poor feedback from my manager, and I would probably want to process it at home in privacy. I’d honestly probably cry for 24 hours if I was put on a PIP. Sure, it sounds like it’s kind of a common thing for this woman, but still…maybe she’s doing her best and still not cutting it, which makes hearing the feedback even harder. I think as a manager, I’d focus more on how she behaves once she comes back. Does she implement the feedback and make real changes? Or does she just cut work and then come back with the same lackluster performance?

    1. SarahKay*

      I feel bad for the employee in #1, and I agree it must be tough for her.
      But it’s not her who is writing in, it’s her manager. And her manager needs to know how to deal with a pattern of behaviour which is creating extra work for her co-workers and manager, because this employee doesn’t seem to be able to take feedback professionally – and she needs that feedback because she’s not currently competent at her job.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        100% this.

        The response would be quite different if it were the employee who were writing in. But it’s not, it’s the manager.

        I said earlier that they’ve already done her a favor by putting her on a PIP instead of just letting her go. That was the employee’s signal that something is amiss at work, and it’s on her, and not her manager, to figure out if there is something in her personal life that is causing that.

    2. Myrin*

      “Does she implement the feedback and make real changes?”
      Well, given how OP says “She fails to be able to do the most rudimentary tasks despite repeat coaching, training, and ample time to complete them.” and this whole situation seems to have been going on for quite some time now, it doesn’t sound like it.

      1. Mandie*

        Right, and I guess this is my point. If I were the manager, I’d roll my eyes at the absence, then focus on whether the feedback was actually implemented when they returned. In my original comment, I just meant that I wouldn’t look at the call-offs as actionable events on their own, unless they were excessive or violated an attendance policy. I’d focus instead on whether or not the employee could make changes when they were done “processing”, and in this case, it sounds like they can’t.

        1. SarahKay*

          But you can’t *keep* letting an employee take a day or half-day off *every time* you have to give them feedback. At that point all your other employees are going to be side-eyeing you because they’re having to cover for all these absences, on top of extra work because their colleague isn’t competent in their role.
          OP1 has to be a manager, which means balancing the needs of all the team, not just this one person, however much they feel bad for them.

    3. Twitterpated*

      I think it’s easy to feel bad for the employee when you’re looking at it from the outside. My initial reaction was also, “oh that really sucks for that employee.” And if it was an occasional thing, like when they got really really bad feedback, I’d agree that the focus should be more on the work when they get back. However this sounds like it goes beyond “I had to be really candid with Cecil about the magnitude of this issue and it was probably hard to hear and they needed a day to process” territory, and more into a pattern. Once it starts affecting your ability to plan or the preload for your other employees it’s time to have a serious conversation about the impact to the work. If they’re already on a PIP then reviewing regular feedback is part of that and they need to be able to handle it or at least know that the way they’re handprint it now is not going to come across well.

    4. Allonge*

      The thing is, if OP needs to choose between giving feedback and having her call out and not giving her feedback – that is not something a manager can tolerate for long.

      Not because all managers are evil, but because the work is still to be done, and if this person is not there, the rest of the team has more to do, and a limited opportunity to take leave. The more this goes on the more likely it is that the solution is to fire this person and hire someone who can do the job. And availability is part of doing the job.

    5. Observer*

      I think as a manager, I’d focus more on how she behaves once she comes back.

      That’s not really realistic, though, especially when this is a common occurrence. Reacting this way to poor feedback is a problem in itself – it’s disruptive and makes it extremely difficult to provide the feedback.

      Given that she’s ALSO not performing well, and doesn’t seem to be taking the feedback on board, I think that Alison is correct that they are probably going to have to let her go. But it’s still reasonable to look at the specific issue for what it is – resistance to feedback and seriously disruptive behavior.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      If someone struggles to even hear the feedback, and then takes a full day to even process it, how good are they really going to be at implementing that feedback when they return? Calling out sick is not a “Yes I can probably do that” response. Hearing criticism and acting upon it is a general life skill, but it’s also a sign of a good job fit. I agree that there’s a huge difference between “you’re 90 per cent awesome and I just need you to improve the llama grooming” and “This isn’t going well at all and unless you can improve many basic things, it won’t work out”. But if it’s the latter situation, and it really does seem so impossibly hopeless to the employee, then getting to the end point of firing them is probably the kindest thing to do. People are not suited to every job and if someone’s response to feedback is severe blanching and a disappearing act, they may not become suitable in a reasonable timeframe.

    7. Parakeet*

      I feel bad for the employee, because I’ve been there (in a job that was a bad fit, not meeting basic requirements, on a PIP, being managed out). And it’s awful. When it was going on, I would cry every day after work. But I never called out over it. Not because I’m so tough and virtuous, but because 1) it honestly never occurred to me that I COULD find a reason to call out, and 2) it wouldn’t have made it any better, even emotionally. Now, if this is an open office plan or something, that makes it worse, because then there’s no privacy to process unless you want to go hide in the restroom.

      What I DID do sometimes was take a 20-30 minute walk outside afterward, and then stay 20-30 minutes later that day. Obviously not every job has that flexibility, and not everyone finds walking as useful for processing heavy emotional stress as I do. For that matter, not every job location has a remotely useful walkable area outside. But if some variant is plausible, that’s the kind of measure that you can take without making your situation worse by making up reasons to leave altogether.

  31. Lusara*

    LW3, “And also to go to the dentist and doctor, etc., even just for annual check-ups.” These are not generally accepted uses for sick days. If you have separate sick and vacation time, general checkups and exams fall under vacation time. Sick time is for when you are actually sick.

    If you have a chronic condition or such that requires frequent appointments even when you aren’t sick, then that gets negotiated, potentially falling under FMLA time or ADA accommodations.

    IMO, if someone is genuinely sick more than 10 days every year (I certainly understand there can be an occasional year it happens), then it is likely because of a chronic condition and should be handled as above.

    1. Lusara*

      I will add that I have only had one job in my life that had separate sick and vacation time buckets, and that was 30 years ago. Every job I’ve had since then has just had one bucket of PTO. IMO, it’s much worse if the goal is to keep people from coming in sick because people see it all as vacation time and don’t want to “waste” a vacation day when they are sick.

    2. Anonon*

      I’m coming at this from the UK so I know our laws and culture around leave are very different but I’ve always put things like a dentist check-up under sick leave. Then again I’m probably not going as frequently as I should….

    3. bamcheeks*

      if someone is genuinely sick more than 10 days every year (I certainly understand there can be an occasional year it happens), then it is likely because of a chronic condition

      I think this is really borderline, tbh! I mean, you can say, “more than ten days sick is by definition a chronic condition”, of course, but I’ve known plenty of people who had tended to have 2-3 sickness periods of 5-7 days because every cold they got turned into a chest infection, for example, which you *could* call a chronic condition but they didn’t really think of it as that.

      I also had >10 days of sickness for the 2-3 years after my kids were born, which was just being generally run down and lacking sleep and being ridiculously susceptible to every passing germ. Again, you *could* call that a chronic condition, if you were really wedded to the idea that >10 days means a chronic condition, but it isn’t really what people tend to think of as a chronic illness and there wasn’t anything I could do to “manage” it better other than wait til my kids started sleeping and my body got over itself.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      This really varies by place. I’ve had some jobs that made you use a sick day for doctor’s appointments, since it was health-related.

    5. NeedRain47*

      Really no. It’s very, very easy to be sick more than ten days a year. One cold/flu type thing keeps most people out for 3-4 days, if you happen to get two in a year, that’s all your time. Add a couple migraines, a couple days of terrible allergies, and that’s ten days or more. None of that is a “chronic” problem, a year is a long time and shit happens.

    6. Peet*

      Wait what? I have never worked somewhere where I was expected to use vacation and not sick days for medical appointments. That is ridiculous. It’s not a vacation, and it’s not leisure time off. It’s time needed to take care of the health of one’s body. What kind of employer would ask you to use vacation instead of sick time for that??

      I think it’s wild to believe that needing more than 10 sick days a year is indicative of a chronic condition. Especially for people old enough to need annual colonoscopies, it would be very easy to use the accumulated equivalent of 3-5 sick days annually just for preventative care appointments. (You will need 2 entire days off for colonoscopy, because of the prep day. And between general physicals, taking care of your eyes, teeth, skin, and for those of us with vaginas and breasts the extra appts those require, and the travel time needed in addition to appt time for each of those visits, it adds up quickly.) And then time needed off from work so you don’t spread germs when you get a cold, covid, the flu, etc. Or if you wake up with a migraine. Or if you have a kid — I easily lost 2-3 working days every time my kid had an ear infection when they were little, which was easily 2x a year if not more. Back then I had a job with amazing benefits — 15 sick days a year. And it was just barely enough, with me scraping by making time up by skipping lunches, etc.

      I know that most people don’t actually go to all of the preventative appts they should, often because of a lack of time and/or money. But let’s not normalize that. It’s terrible. People should stay home when they don’t feel well and/or are potentially contagious, and should be able to take care of their own bodies without having to worry about what it’s costing some corporation to “allow” them to do so. We should be demanding this from our employers, not just accepting someone telling us that our colonoscopy counts as a vacation, and that we should be grateful for that.

    7. saskia*

      Not true in Maryland. We have a sick & safe leave act that specifically says sick leave can be used for doctor’s appointments, caring for a sick immediate family member, all sorts of things in the illness realm.

    8. LW3*

      I’m LW3, and I’ve never heard of the idea that checkups and exams aren’t what sick leave should be used for. In my last 3 jobs (including my current one) that’s how we use sick leave. So I don’t think one can claim that’s “not generally accepted” – workplaces just vary!

      Also no, being sick more than 10 days does not likely mean a chronic condition. I’ve never heard anyone in the medical field or disability rights field claim that. Many people get the flu or COVID or bronchitis or other virus for a week or more. All it would take is for that to happen twice in a year and you’ve been sick more than 10 days.

      1. Clisby*

        I have no idea what’s “generally accepted,” but I’m 69 and now retired, and never worked at a place where sick leave was meant to cover routine medical appointments. If you were going to the doctor *because* you were sick, or going to the dentist because you just knocked out your tooth, you could use sick leave – but not for preventive care. I’ve also never worked anywhere that allowed sick leave to be used to care for family members. I realize, in both of these cases, plenty of people lied and took sick leave anyway, and I never heard of it causing a problem for anyone.

    9. cloudy*

      Interesting, this definitely isn’t true where I work (higher ed in the US). When we log sick time, we can choose preventative or illness, but neither comes out of vacation time and both use “sick time.”

      1. cloudy*

        Oh also forgot to note that family care is also “sick time” for us (eg staying home with a sick child or other relative you’re caring for).

    10. JTP*

      “These are not generally accepted uses for sick days. If you have separate sick and vacation time, general checkups and exams fall under vacation time. Sick time is for when you are actually sick.”

      That hasn’t been my experience. In roles with separated sick and vacation time, anything health-related (sickness, well visits, etc.) has fallen under sick time.

    11. Alice*

      I don’t know where you have worked but at every employer I’ve had where I wasn’t a contractor, I could use sick time for medical/dental appointments, even checkups. At my current job, it’s explicit that I can use it for my own illness/injury/medical appointments or when I am caregiving for a child, spouse, civil union partner, parent, FIL or MIL because of their illness/injury/appointment. You prompted me to look — in my state the option to use paid sick leave for preventative medical care is a legal requirement.

    12. Lily Rowan*

      In Massachusetts, the legally required sick leave can be used for your own illness or appointments, or for your child/spouse/parent’s same.

    13. Observer*

      And also to go to the dentist and doctor, etc., even just for annual check-ups.” These are not generally accepted uses for sick days. If you have separate sick and vacation time, general checkups and exams fall under vacation time. Sick time is for when you are actually sick.

      Not true. In fact, I’m fairly sure that in NYC, you are legally *required* to allow people to use sick time for medical apointments.

    14. justcommentary*

      Oregon lists as one of the reasons to sick leave for as “To care for yourself or your family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or need for preventive medical care“. So it’s really not that out there for sick leave to cover routine appointments.

    15. I Have RBF*

      No, that’s not true in most places in the US. Medical appointments, dental appointments, physical therapy, and sick kids all come out of sick leave or the combined PTO bucket. In 40 years I can’t remember a time when I had to use strictly vacation days for medical stuff. Going to the dentist is not a vacation, even if it’s planned.

    16. fhqwhgads*

      Unless you’re in a state that explicitly says sick leave can be used for medical appointments diagnoses, and preventative care, in which case it’s extremely normal. Sometimes also states that don’t have that written into law it’s normal for sick time to include appointments. It’s generally accepted a whole lotta places.

  32. Twitterpated*

    LW 4

    My former boss used to make comments like that to me all the time too. He was planning on retiring in 5 years and would constantly say things like “Well, when you’re doing this when I’m gone…” or “You know, in a couple of years all this is going to be your problem.” At first I didn’t know how to react to this so I kind of just laughed it off, but then he started to “train” me more and more, so I had to start being kind of firm with him that his position wasn’t one I’d ever want. I did have the benefit of having a very different educational and career background so it wasn’t necessarily surprising that I wouldn’t want his job (I was an engineer for the production floor, he was in charge of the production floor). We had the kind of relationship where he’d still make allusions to me taking over sometimes and I would say to his face “sir there is not an amount of money you could pay me to do your job.”

  33. HonorBox*

    LW1 – I think you’re seeing a path to termination. And I’m not saying that in a positive or gleeful way. Just saying that the employee seems to be unable to do the job. As for what to do: You should name the problem directly and without softening, and suggest a remedy. “Each time you get feedback or coaching, you leave early or don’t come in the next day. I need for you to be able to accept feedback and coaching and implement what you’re being coached to do in those instances.” It is very likely this employee needs a bit of time to process the feedback, so if it is feasible, you could try to schedule those sessions at the end of the work day when possible. That will give them time to process over the next 14 hours. But if that leads to them calling out the next day, you need to discuss that with her right away when you see her next. “This is an example of what I spoke to you about.” And there are times when feedback will be necessary at 10:00 am, too. That’s part of the job and sometimes we need to know of mistakes and correct them immediately.

    And then document, document, document. What is the feedback, how is it presented, what is their reaction, what is the outcome. You’ll want to have that for the conclusion of the PIP, as it will help inform how to proceed at the end.

    And I do agree with others who have inquired about the style/content of feedback. Maybe examine what the content of the coaching sessions is. Are you only giving negative feedback and coaching that could be construed as negative? Or are you giving positive feedback when it is warranted too?

    And finally, when you’re naming the problem, could you suggest that your EAP may be a resource for them to get help in working on accepting feedback. Because this is something they’ll need to figure out in this, or any future job. I hate getting negative feedback too, but sometimes it happens and we all need to figure out the best way for accepting it, dealing with it and moving forward.

  34. NeedRain47*

    I’m confused by the frequent mention of short term disability as a solution. Five of 50 states offer short term disability, it’s not an option for the majority of people. Is this something that’s easy to get in places other than the US?

    My workplace strongly encourages people to use (unpaid) FMLA for just about anything.

    1. Mim*

      I couldn’t even get short term disability when undergoing chemo, because I “only” needed 3-4 days off every other week to recover, which wasn’t enough days in a row for short term disability to kick in. Even though I spent months doing that. FMLA made sure I didn’t get fired for having cancer, and that was about it.

      The whole system is so messed up.

      1. NeedRain47*

        Your last sentence is what I was mostly thinking while reading the letter & comments. The current system doesn’t actually help people ’cause it’s not designed to do that.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I think some companies offer short term disability as a benefit, so it’s possible that employees outside of the five states that offer short term disability at the state level have access to short term disability on a company-by-company basis.

      1. Lusara*

        Yes, this. I have never worked for an employer that didn’t offer some sort of STD insurance benefit, either fully covered or as option to pay OOP.

        1. NeedRain47*

          I have never worked anywhere that paid one thin dime for any kind of supplemental insurance. (my current job offers some really good cancer insurance but no short term disability.)

    3. MaryB*

      Only 5 states mandate STD, but that doesn’t mean it’s unavailable to employees in other states. I’ve lived in states where it wasn’t mandatory, but many companies still offered it as a benefit. It’s definitely not available to everyone, but it’s available to enough people that it’s something worth looking into.

    4. new year, new name*

      I think people are referring to private short-term disability plans offered by their employer, not a state-provided program. I’ve never worked in one of those five states, but when I’ve worked in white-collar office jobs I’ve always had some kind of short-term disability plan provided as part of my benefits. At my current employer we get a certain number of weeks at 100% pay, and then at a certain point it transitions to a long-term disability at a reduced percent. If applicable, it runs concurrently with FMLA leave so in practice that’s how you get paid if you are out on FMLA.

    5. Justin*

      Well, it’s also often something offered by employers rather than states (outside of those 5).

    6. Generic Name*

      I have short term disability insurance that I pay a monthly premium for through my employer.

    7. doreen*

      I live in one of the states that requires short-term disability – but of course government employers are exempt. Even in my government jobs I had access to disability insurance , either provided by a union or I could purchase it on my own through a union discount plan.

    8. Cat Tree*

      Some companies/industries offer more than the legal bare minimum though, especially white collar salaried jobs.

  35. TX_Trucker*

    #2. We have a written policy on how quickly remote employees must report to the office when called. It varies by position responsibilities and ranges from 2 hours to 2 days. On the OP, the doctor’s appointment is clouding the issue for me, and perhaps for your supervisor as well. If you were an in-office employee, were you “scheduled out” and would miss the in-person meeting anyway? In my experience, WFH is not the same thing as a flexible schedule, and you can have one without the other. As a supervisor, I would not be happy if an employee with a set schedule couldn’t attend a meeting (virtual or in-person) unless they were specifically scheduled for PTO.

    1. SB*

      Yes, this right here. I see a lot of people who are still WFH who seem to forget that their employer is paying them for their time & it is not their own time to use as they wish. If you need to go to the doctor & absolutely cannot get an appointment outside of your WFH hours then you need to put in for PTO & treat it exactly the same as you would if you worked in the office.

      I wonder how many WFH people are actually working when I see posts like this.

    2. Elsajeni*

      I think it’s fair to note, though, that stuff might be scheduled differently depending on whether you’re in the office or at home — e.g., if I have teletherapy at 3 p.m. on a day that I’m working from home, I might just block off 3-4 on my calendar, because my “travel time” to that appointment is ~30 seconds to swap devices and move to a more comfortable chair. If you ask me to come into the office that day instead, I now have to drive back home to get to an appropriately private place to have that call; that’s going to change the amount of time off that I need to book, and it might mean that I’m not available for a 2:00 meeting even though that time wasn’t initially blocked off.

  36. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Maybe I’m not understanding the timing in #2. If the issue was that the medical appointment was at 1, and the manager said to come in at “lunchtime” (so, 12 or 1), OP could certainly say she couldn’t do that because of a pre-scheduled medical appointment. If the appointment was at 10 and she could do both, then what’s missing is the time to do the other work. But wouldn’t that be the case anyway if OP was working in the office? Suppose everyone is in-office and the manager came to them and said there was a mandatory meeting the following afternoon. That wouldn’t change the medical appointment or the need to shift other work so it can all get done. And I guess – if the meeting doesn’t go all afternoon, could OP work at the office and get her work for the day done? I don’t mean to be obtuse, but this doesn’t feel insurmountable.

    That said, I think OP can say to the manager if there’s a way to get a little more notice, it would help her with scheduling/prioritizing tasks, etc. That feels like a productive request.

  37. NoOneWillSeeThisComment*

    I’m curious about OP #3…WTH is a snow day? do you mean like a day it happens to snow (happens all the time) or are they actually implying that people take “snow days” off work like school children??? As a habitant of the frozen North, I have never seen a day where not working was okay because of snowfall. There are days that it’s bad enough things shut down (although that is rare as 20+ inches isn’t common).

    Additionally, businesses “limit” sick days not just because people are people and can and will abuse such things, but because *gasp* running a business costs money, and sometimes putting a number on things is how they decide to limit catastrophe or simply track stuff.

    I know the commentariat here loves to design all businesses as some sort of ubiquitous unknown made of an endless pool of money and nameless, faceless people cackling on top of it…but that’s not how it works. Ironically, ya’ll probably shop from Amazon and own iPhones XD

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I think the weather thing is going to depend on where you are. In Ireland, “red weather warnings” often lead to businesses closing. Now, these are rare and it’s not like businesses necessarily close for any snow, but it has happened. https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2018/0226/943637-businesses-should-prepare-for-red-weather-warning/

      But I would have read the LW as saying “that’s like limiting how many days it’s allowed to snow in a year” or “limiting how many days schools can shut for snow,” not necessarily implying her business shuts for snow.

      1. doreen*

        Although limiting how many days schools shut for snow might be a thing going forward . I’ve seen people complaining because their school districts are not planning to close for weather in the future – they will close the buildings, but they will go remote rather than having a snow day. I don’t really understand why they are complaining – the kids are missing an unexpected day off but they won’t have to worry about other days off being cancelled if there are too many snow days.

        1. Annie*

          I think it’s because the number of households with marginal or nonexistent Internet connections for remote learning is not negligible, there are concerns about the quality of actual learning going on during surprise remote learning days, and children in places where the type of weather warned about is uncommon (e.g. snow in a part of the world that rarely gets snow) “miss their chance” to enjoy a “fun” weather event.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      When I initially read letter 3, I assumed “that’s like limiting snow days” meant “that’s like a school district in the frozen north declaring ‘there will be no more than 3 snow days on any given year.'”

      On “snow days” from work: I am also a resident of the frozen north and there have been a handful of days over the years where the businesses I’ve worked for have closed the office location because of snowfall (but way less often than schools closed because of snow). Pre-covid, some people worked from home on those days and others did not (desktop computers or other technical limitations). Nowadays, I think it’s more common/expected that people can work from home on days when the office is closed because of snow.

    3. NeedRain47*

      this is so stupid. Are you aware that there are places where it doesn’t frequently snow a lot, and when it does, there’s no infrastructure to deal with it and it’s actually dangerous to go out? You are not better than people who live in these places and people should not risk their lives to drive to a job in hazardous conditions.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yep, this. The “no infrastructure” part is important. They don’t have snow plows, they don’t have salt trucks, they don’t even have road salt. A tiny bit of ice or snow can really make for terrible driving conditions if there is no infrastructure to deal with it.

      2. Parakeet*

        When I first moved (as a preteen) to a place where snow and ice were, if not frequent, at least common enough that there was any kind of infrastructure to deal with them at all, it was January in the middle of a cold snap and I walked to and from school, and at first I thought the salt on the sidewalks was little pieces of ice, because I had never seen salt used to melt ice on the ground before. In the place I’d lived prior to that, if there was significant ice on the roads and sidewalks, everything just shut down. When I found out that the stuff on the sidewalks and roads was salt, geeky 11 year-old me thought that that was so clever! I did not realize until somewhat later that this is an entirely normal practice anywhere that gets snow and ice on the ground more than 1-2 times/year.

      3. UKDancer*

        Yes this so much. I lived in Germany for a time and everyone expected settled snow in winter (from about December to February). So the infrastructure was prepared, people had snow tyres and snow chains if needed and nothing was much affected (apart from my needing warmer clothes). If you expect weather patterns then you prepare for them.
        In the UK we don’t usually get extreme weather so we don’t have extremely well developed counter measures, because investing in them would be disproportionate and expensive. As a result snow or extreme heat tends to cause significant disruption.

        You prepare for what is common. I talked to an American chap on a train in Italy and he explained the way his state prepared for hurricanes and the procedures and responses. It was completely alien to me because the UK doesn’t get hurricanes generally.

    4. Some Dude*

      Here in Ohio, we have snow emergencies that can be declared at the county level. Level 1 is basically “it’s pretty crappy out there, be careful.” Level 2 is “it’s really crappy out there, keep off of the roads unless you really need to be out there.” Level 3 is “it is extremely dangerous out there, only emergency vehicles should be on the road. You may be subject to prosecution for driving in this weather, you absolute maniac, as you are contributing to the safety issues.”

      Even when it’s just a level 2, some business or organizations (like churches) may close down for the day. If the city bus service is not running, then even more places will be closing down. These scroll on the TV along with the school closings.

      1. HotSauce*

        We have that in Wisconsin as well. Our city shut down the busses and told people to stay off the roads unless there was an emergency. My employer still expected everyone to show up and logged “occurrences” in the system for those of us who did not. I wasn’t able to make it in because my block had waist-deep snow and I don’t drive a Monster Truck.

    5. Admin Lackey*

      Love that you cap off the comment with “and yet you participate in society…. curious!”
      A+, stellar work, no notes

    6. HotSauce*

      The tone in this comment is completely unnecessary and rude.

      Believe it or not there are parts of the country that can get several FEET of snow in a very short time. No matter how important you THINK your business is, unless you’re saving actual lives, no one should be risking theirs to drive in those conditions.

      Secondly, yes, there are some people who will abuse paid sick days, does that mean everyone should suffer because of that? My employer punishes people when they call in sick, so people rarely call in. That meant that this place was a complete sh*t show during Covid, as it went around and around and around, many people ended up in the hospital, some died.

      Yes, businesses need to make money, but no one will want to work for you if you treat your employees like garbage. There’s a big area between giving away the store and being a slave driver.

      1. JustaTech*

        If we’re going to talk about the cold, cold numbers, what costs more, a) letting your puking employee not come in for one day, b) half the office getting a stomach bug and all having to go home throwing up, or c) the cost to replace the employee you fired for taking a sick day?

        A business that can’t afford sick days is one that isn’t being run well.

    7. touch grass*

      As a habitant of the frozen North, I have never seen a day where not working was okay because of snowfall.

      Ok but you do realize that there are people who DON’T live in the ~frozen North~ that get sudden storms and aren’t equipped to deal with it?

      1. HonorBox*

        I’ve lived in the frozen North and in the South, and I have been told not to report in both locations because of weather. It does happen. One time when I was the boss (in the North) I got stuck as I left my driveway and it took me an hour to get back into the driveway. I called everyone and told them we were closed for the day. And here in the South, we’ve closed because of hurricanes. Things happen and sometimes it is better to err on the side of caution.

      2. Lady_Lessa*

        When I lived in Southeast US, I’ve known of schools and businesses closed just due to threat of snow. And it makes sense for the situation, due to lack of equipment and driving experience for most of the drivers.

        Besides what frequently happens is that the first layer on the road is freezing rain, very few folks know how to drive on ice.

        1. cabbagepants*

          This is it. I grew up driving in Boston and have no issue managing my car safely on unplowed, icy, slushy roads. But when I moved to Albuquerque, I’d stay home if we got even an inch of snow, because the other drivers couldn’t handle it and caused many, many accidents.

        2. Clisby*

          Oh, yeah, that happens here. And schools closing has a ripple effect on businesses, of course. If all the schools in my county are shut because of icy roads, a whole lot of parents won’t be going in to work either.

        3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Besides what frequently happens is that the first layer on the road is freezing rain, very few folks know how to drive on ice.

          And even if you do know how to drive on ice, it’s often been 6+ months since you last did so.

      3. The OG Sleepless*

        *waves hand from Atlanta, a city that is happy to shut down and wait it out when there is the least bit of snowfall for all sorts of climate/geographic and infrastructure reasons; suffice it to say that it’s a lot safer for everybody to just stay put when it snows for a day or two than for us all to try to go to work and knock each other into ditches*

        1. JustaTech*

          Waves hand from Seattle, which is full of very steep hills and until recently had a whopping 4 snow plows for the entire city, and wasn’t allowed to use salt.

          If you’re not on a main arterial (basically if you’re not on a bus route) then the method of “plowing” is “have people drive on it until the snow goes away”. Which works about as well as you would think. (But since it only happens about every 2-3 years it really isn’t worth buying more trucks.)

    8. Rachel*

      You are going to get pushback on this but I think you make a point.

      A lot of comments here are based in the assumption that things employees want are resource neutral. Most places cannot give unlimited sick days. Unlimited guests to events. Unlimited WFH.

      There has to be a line and no matter where employers draw it will be considered unfair by some.

    9. Environmental Compliance*

      Hello also from the frozen North and having worked previously even more North.

      Have you never had the county declare a snow emergency and keep everyone off the roads? You’ve not once had the company you work at decide it’s not worth the safety hazard of employees driving in and call in their own snow emergency day?

      Snow days are not just for school children. This doesn’t even get into places where there is no snow infrastructure.

      Your tone is unnecessary and unhelpful.

      1. cabbagepants*

        There was a blizzard in Buffalo, NY last December that left 47 people dead, and that’s a city with a lot of experience dealing with heavy snowfall. Public officials received heavy criticism for not declaring the snow emergency soon enough. People went to work and then couldn’t go home safely.

    10. LimeRoos*

      Lol what? Also from the frozen north, we’ve definitely had snow days. I know we were hitting -30 with -60 wind chill a couple different winters in the last few years and I had work close on the worst days. My car battery died like three times that week, it was brutal. Before wfh I also had offices close for heavy snowfall. Heck, that’s not even including any of the snowpocalypses over the last decade where we get a few feet in a few hours and everything shuts down. It’s hella fun to see lake shore drive full of snow covered cars. Total apocolyptic movie vibe. This is Chicago and Minneapolis, so cities very prepared for snow issues and they still call it sometimes. Less often than other places sure, but it’s not like they don’t happen.

  38. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I agree with many other commenters that this pattern feels problematic. I also wonder if OP makes sure to give the employee positive feedback when possible. If the only interactions the employee and the manager have are the manager giving what feels like negative feedback, it may genuinely make the employee anxious/nervous/ill to simply interact with the manager. That’s not to say OP needs to shower employee with praise, or to say they’re doing well if they’re not, but a little positive interaction may help cushion the other interactions.

  39. HonorBox*

    OP2 – Maybe I’m an idiot, but I’m feeling confused by the scheduling of a meeting that happens to overlap with a scheduled medical appointment. Assuming (which I know…) that you’re WFH on a regular schedule, having a day’s notice that an all-hands meeting is occurring doesn’t seem like a bridge too far, especially if you’re one of few who are 100% WFH. The conflict that you have with a medical appointment shouldn’t cloud the issue. If you have that time booked, and your manager was OK with it, I don’t see a problem. Because it is likely that if someone who was 100% on-site had a previously-scheduled appointment that was going to be difficult to move, the boss would be OK with that too. The appointment seems to have made the area grey, but it also seems like a non-issue when you brought it up. All in all, though, asking that people be available for a meeting with a day’s notice doesn’t make me think twice.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Good point about the medical appointment having the same implications regardless of work location.

      Maybe OP has it more in mind because the appointment is much more convenient to their home than to their office.

    2. Friendo*

      If you have your doctors appointment near your house and you have a 45 min. commute, working from home is the difference between the appointment taking, say, an hour and a half, and nearly three hours.

      1. HonorBox*

        I absolutely get that. However, and maybe this was just my read of the letter, it seemed like the appointment was presented as part of the overall issue/question about how much notice is enough notice when it wasn’t actually pertinent. It sounds like the LW’s boss didn’t have a problem with them missing the meeting because of the appointment. The question was really how much notice is enough notice and I’ll stand by the fact that, pre-scheduled appointment (or PTO or whatever) aside, providing a day’s notice is plenty.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I am *extremely* in favor of WFH and have been fighting that fight in my own office… but “I need several days notice to be willing to make an occasional trip to the not-unreasonably far office” seems like an unreasonable take even to me.

          My office has gone hybrid and I’ve been fighting to be allowed to remain WFH full time. I have maintained throughout that I’m absolutely willing to go into the office on occasion when there is a specific reason to–like sometimes the CAO who generally works in another city is in town for a few days and they want to bring everyone in while they are in town or something. But I’m not on board for a totally arbitrary “come in twice a week just so we can justify that we are still paying for this office space.” But that means I do need to actually be willing to come into the office when they ask, and even though I may privately grumble if my boss says “hey, could you come in tomorrow to do XYZ” it would not really be an imposition to do so with a single day’s notice. (Obviously with the main exception being as Alison noted if you needed to arrange last-minute care for someone as a result)

  40. Irish Teacher*

    My guess would be that embarrassment is playing a part for LW1’s employee, that she is embarrassed about facing LW1 after getting negative feedback.

    Not that that changes the advice much. It’s still something she needs to change because you can’t just avoid any awkward situation at work. But I can understand the impulse. I think it is natural to feel a bit awkward going in to work, the day after you’ve been criticised for something.

  41. HotSauce*

    I have never worked anywhere that I have even had so much as ONE paid sick day, much less unlimited. As a matter of fact, the place I currently work tracks your sick days and if you have X number of “occurrences” within a time period you lose your ability to receive a wage increase for the following year. People just come in even when they’re at death’s door & spread illnesses all around. Covid was an absolute nightmare for the people who had to remain working in office.

  42. Art3mis*

    #5 My husband’s aunt retired from a large city government last year and told her boss by calling him as she was walking out on her last day.

  43. Hiring Mgr*

    I haven;t worked anywhere that’s tracked sick time in almost twenty years. Couldn’t imagine going back at this point – I’m an adult, I can figure it out.

  44. Anon in Canada*

    #3, if you’re in the US or Canada and do not work in government, having 10 paid sick days already puts you in an incredibly privileged position. Many employees don’t get any, or only get 5 or even less. The only reason this feels weird is because you used to work at an even better workplace.

    If you think everyone should have unlimited sick days, then this is something to lobby politicians to change; you shouldn’t be attacking a workplace that’s already offering more sick days than most are getting.

    I do, however, hope that any workplace offering a limited amount of sick days will allow unpaid time off. There has to be allowances for when people run out of PTO and are in a situation where they can’t come to work.

    1. Anonners*

      Also, keep in mind – just because you have 10+ paid sick days doesn’t mean that you don’t otherwise have company policies that will penalize you for using them all. Yes, even in Canada, even (especially!) in unionized jobs. Interestingly, this might be more common in government-related jobs than in other sectors.

      5 paid sick days + short-term disability for everything else does way more for normalizing regular illness than 10 paid days where using, say, 6 exposes you to mandatory “attendance management” policies.

  45. Scandinavian Vacationer*

    OK, so this is the way NOT to do retirement! LW5, pretend you have scheduled a medical leave for say, knee surgery (6-8 weeks.) Create lists, flow charts, spreadsheets, save important emails to the shared drive, etc. Empty your inbox as much as possible. If you prepare thoroughly for this fictional leave, this will suffice upon your retirement. It would be a kindness to give your boss at least 4 weeks notice (or more) if you feel safe to do so.

  46. el l*

    I think you need to nod your head and say nothing. There’s not a productive conversation to be had here.

    Focus your energies instead on getting (a) A vacation to lower the burnout – in the short term – and (b) Finding a job/profession that you can go for in the long term.

  47. Lolllee*

    Limited sick leave – I once worked at a company that informed me after I started that they only really had 5 days of sick leave (hiring paperwork had said 10 days), and that I had to come into work for 2 days before I was allowed to use any of the 5 sicks days. ?? When I questioned this, they said they didn’t “want anyone to take advantage” of the “generous” sick leave. So, people were coming into work sick as dogs and getting everyone else sick. People were vomiting in the bathrooms and crying on the job because they were forced to leave young, sick children at home while they worked or they’d lose their jobs, and I witnessed people get fired. When I got sick from being around so many sick people, I called in sick and didn’t go into the office. I hot multiple phone calls questioning if I was “really” sick and demands that I come into the office or be fired. My position was required by government regulations so they couldn’t just fire me without explaining why to the government agency. When I reminded them of that, the CEO of the company and the HR manager drove 45 minutes to my house with physical hardware and paperwork in the car for me to perform inspections and fill out forms while at home, while using my sick leave pay. The poor HR manager was crying and apologizing the whole time, the CEO was argumentative and horrible, I refused. I quit after 3 month. I worked at another company that required using all of your vacation time before you were allowed to use sick leave for the same reason they “didn’t want anyone taking advantage” of the “generous” 7 whole days of sick leave, and they also didn’t tell me this until after I started working there. Why are companies so utterly paranoid of employees “taking advantage” of a benefit they’re allowed to use? Why do they want people showing up to work sick to get everyone else sick? Do they honestly believe it increases their productivity?

    1. MsM*

      It sounds like they are? “Having trouble lining something up” suggests they’ve been trying.

    2. Anonon*

      They do say ” I’m having trouble lining something else up” so I assume they are looking but it is taking a while, as it often does

  48. Spicy Tuna*

    Sick leave – at my last job, we just had PTO which could be used for any reason. It started at 3 weeks and then increased to 6 after 5 years of employment and 8 after 10 years (this company paid very well for our area and had a LOT of long term employees). If someone was really sick or just gave birth, FMLA would kick in after all PTO had been used up.

    For things like doctor’s appointments or meetings/events at your kids’ school or other family obligations, people just cleared it with their manager and came in late or left early. The time was more than made up during busy periods. All of this is probably why there was very little turnover.

  49. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A note that LW #1 just asked me to change some details in the letter for Reasons, so you may see discussion in the comments that doesn’t quite match up with every detail in the letter, but not in any way that changes the substance of the situation or the advice.

  50. Kristina*

    sorry, 10 sick days are “limited sick days”?
    that’s a reach
    you take vacation or unpaid days after the 10 are up.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes? Literally any set number would be a “limit.” How are you even disputing that? It’s just how the word works.

  51. Lobsterman*

    LW4: I have different advice. Move on or don’t.

    If you move on, this problem is solved.

    If you don’t, then continue to lie and say what you need to say to keep your job. If you get another job eventually, see (1). If you get offered a promotion, take it. You won’t hate it any more than your current job, and you can use it to get a better chance to move on.

  52. ijustworkhere*

    I understand and respect that some people have chronic health conditions (I have one myself, fortunately one that hasn’t resulted in a need for additional sick leave–yet) but how can unlimited sick leave possibly work? If you’re not at work, who’s doing your work? What kind of work are people doing that the organization can function without them for 20, 30, 40 days a year on a routine basis?

    I’m not dissing the idea, just unable to see how you make it work, especially with jobs where work can’t be postponed or re-assigned.

    For example, if a fire fighter is out, you have to call in another firefighter because you have minimum staffing requirements. A bus driver can only drive one bus at a time, so either you call somebody in or you don’t service a route.

    How is that going to work if you have someone who needs a lot of sick leave in those jobs?

    1. Friendo*

      But like, under what you’re describing, if you are sick 11 days a year you shouldn’t be employed. Those staffing problems exist if you’re on FMLA (which is legally required) or using vacation time or using unpaid leave.

      Companies who have minimum staffing requirements should be able to accommodate.

    2. Alice*

      You plan your staffing with enough “fat” to account for people taking sick leave (plus parental leave, FMLA leave, vacation, etc). Do you think that sick leave usage is for some reason harder to forecast than vacation time or parental leave or other reasons that employees won’t be available?

  53. Sincerely Raymond Holt*

    #1: For the first time, I’m disappointed with Alison’s answer that HR is the roadblock here. Maybe after months of working with HR, the OP had enough documentation to put the employee on a PIP. Maybe after months of getting coaching from HR, the OP finally had direct and specific conversations with the employee. Why is always HR’s fault? There was nothing in this letter to indicate that HR was being a roadblock, but rather it sounds like the OP wasn’t addressing this pattern and/or wasn’t doing what was needed to start the PIP process. The order of operations isn’t poor performance > PIP. It’s poor performance > coaching > more direct coaching > even more > then PIP. Please don’t spread the incorrect stereotype that HR is not helping.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Because if it took months of coaching for HR to agree a PIP is in order, that’s an HR problem. The letter doesn’t describe an order of operations issue. It describes a timeline issue. It reads like the steps you’re saying should’ve happened did happen. What Alison’s suggest speculates is that all those steps took longer than they should’ve, and that may have been HR’s doing.

  54. Coin Purse*

    My most recent company went from unlimited sick time (for almost 100 years) to THREE DAYS a year. They pointed to some famously outrageous abuse of the unlimited policy. Everyone who worked there knew who the abusers were and they included upper managers. Rather than take on the handful of abusers, 3 days were added to our PTO. Yes, this is a US company.

  55. Syl*

    My current company offers 5 days of sick leave per year.

    If I go elsewhere, what’s a good way to inquire about available sick leave? Usually vacation time is mentioned, but not sick time.

    1. Bruce*

      A lot of places combine sick leave and vacation as “PTO”, which sucks if you actually get sick. You can certainly ask about it when you get an offer.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Personally, I would ask about it after I had an offer, during the benefits discussion. “What are the sick leave benefits?’ fits nicely with “Can I see the health insurance options?” and any other benefits questions you have at the offer stage.

  56. Miss Muffet*

    I was really hoping LW4 was going to add “and the horse they rode in on” to the list :)

  57. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 assured him that the PIP is going to be his roadmap to success so that we can be sure that he has mastered the basic aspects of this role before we move him to more complex projects.

    Are you are going to fire him if he doesn’t achieve the PIP requirements?
    If so, you must explain that clearly to him without softening – hopefully not for the first time – because your above statement indicates he is only risking not being assigned more interesting projects, rather than losing his entire job.
    Don’t let being fired come as a shock to him because he wasn’t clearly warned.

    #2 As the OP officially assigned to location A, it is reasonable that upper management would want to meet her there sometimes.
    Also, some meetings need to be arranged at short notice, but then generally with the understanding that not everyone can attend.
    So, as long as the OP is not getting criticised over this, it doesn’t sound like a big issue.

  58. surprisedcannuk*

    LW1 I think you just need to fire him. Talk to HR get all your ducks in a line. It’s just not working.

  59. Bruce*

    LW4: My boss was retiring, when I told him I did not want his job it started a lot of changes that have been for the better. We recruited a guy from an adjacent team that is doing a good job as the top boss, and I’ve since been moved back to individual contributor and a guy I’d recruited as a back-up for my manager job has stepped up to take my manager role. One caveat, I like the work I do and feel good about my company, I’m also close to retiring myself. I hope your conversation goes well, but having bad feelings about the whole structure is a concern…

  60. A Duck on my Face*

    I get 10 sick days at my job, and managed to burn through all of them in the first two weeks of the year getting a terrible bout of covid. Luckily I’ve been pretty healthy ever since, but I’ve had a few migraines I’ve had to suffer through at work. It’s honestly been miserable.

  61. wake me when August ends*

    LW 1: do we have the same employee? I recently had a direct report who was failing the very basics of his job and would often call out immediately after receiving a talk about his performance.

    He rage quit before we could fire him.

  62. Juli Patchuli*

    I lost a job with 6 weeks vacation and 15 sick days. New job is 15 total days off (bucket of vacation and sick days together) and will take 10 years of employment to reach 20. Yes, it has been an adjustment. (Of course, at previous job HR manager told me I couldn’t take a sick day for a colonoscopy because “sick days aren’t planned,” but that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax!)

  63. Dutch*

    LW#1 I’d be careful of how you’re phrasing things. I can imagine “(I) assured him that the PIP is going to be his roadmap to success” being reinterpreted as ‘But (manager) said if I went on the PIP I wouldn’t be fired!’.

    Especially as your HR department sounds less than stellar, I wouldn’t be relying on them to have your back!

  64. Tora Ziyal*

    Sorry if this all comes off as rude, but I can’t deal today.

    1. To me this person is failing their PIP. Bye.
    2. There was a time that we all went into the office every day. Most companies have core office hours for a reason. You should be available at these times. 48 hours to be in the office is completely doable especially, and it sounds like it, you live in the same area as your office. Learn to deal.
    3. Fixed sick time? Welcome to America. (I jest, but unless you live in Sweden or some other wonderful European country that offers endless sick time, this is the norm).
    4. Get out as soon as you can. Take it from someone who wasted years in an industry they’ve hated.
    5. Retirement! Good for you. Write stuff down and give them 3 months. Then Bye!

    1. Can't think of a name*

      Yes, it comes across as rude. Maybe you should have stepped away instead of posting.

      1. Tora Ziyal*

        Well I’m American, so rude is par for the course. People can’t take direct feedback anymore and have to pussy foot around issues because direct feedback is ‘rude’. It’s so in effectual and I’m tired of it.

  65. OMG, Bees!*

    LW#5 One option, which I haven’t seen in the comments, is to retire but still have a plan where the old company can call sometimes. In most situations, I would have a contract where they pay you for each call, but probably an informal one here.

    “I’m going to retire in the next few months and you have up to 2 months after that to call me for things not covered in my documentation.” Note, that is a generous one and if you have good standing, no need to accept any calls after retiring. But I would give more than the usual notice than the usual quitting, maybe 2 months.

  66. SB*

    LW2 – When we were WFH, the expectation was that you could be called into the office at a days notice for meetings or to attend to urgent tasks that could not be done from home & all were expected to make it happen. The employees with children were expected to have adequate child care while they WFH as they cannot effectively WFH & attend to small children & we were also expected to make appointments outside of business hours or let managers know if we absolutely had to attend an appointment within hours so they knew we would be uncontactable during that time. This is not an unreasonable expectation as WFH is just that WORKING from home. It is not your time to do what you like with, it is your employers time that they are paying you for, so you make time for them.

  67. Kate M*

    I’m at a place with theoretically “unlimited” sick leave, but I’m now discovering that when you have taken more than the “standard” amount like I have (due to a terrible year including covid, family trauma, mental health diagnoses and other physical health issues), now HR is asking for more details about my health, which feels intrusive and like they don’t trust me or respect my privacy, and which is adding to my stress, so counter intuitive.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, this would be the case here. Partly they want to know for reasons of employment and whether you’re still able to do the job, and partly they want to make sure that you have the accommodations you need. Look on it like that — you have been unable to come in to do your job, so they want to know the general issue so that they can do something to make your job easier for you.

      Here in the UK it’s expected that, in exchange for sick leave being considered essentially unlimited (inasmuch as you generally can’t be fired for being on long-term sick leave), you’ll report it to HR or management and keep in touch while off. It’s a way of making sure people don’t abuse the generosity of many places (like, our public sector allowance is six months full pay, six months half after six years of service, and unlimited paid leave would fall into that category) and that HR knows of any serious issues that would need accommodations or occupational health arrangements. They ultimately want to be paying you for you doing your job, and also want to help facilitate that if you have developed a long term condition.

      My org also mandates weekly check-ins, which I’ve adhered to every time I’ve been off for more than a day or two, and a doctor’s note after 7 working days off. That’s pro-actively making sure you haven’t just disappeared off the face of the earth; they don’t want graphic details, but they are concerned with both your welfare and that they’re paying you to be genuinely sick.

      They may be fine with ‘oh, it’s ok, it was just a bad case of flu etc that kept rebounding on me’, because that’s where I was earlier in the year, but they want a sort of quid pro quo for a generous sick policy and — as the people paying you — probably need to know at least something.

  68. MCMonkeyBean*

    LW 4 — Do you have any direct reports currently? If not, that is a clear and easy place to draw the line around what you are looking for. My manager recently told me that she saw me taking over for her one day and I was honestly shocked. I have been working very hard to set work/life boundaries because a lot of people on my team work more hours than seems necessary to me. I’m very much not interested in moving up if it would result in expectations of me being more available!

    For me when I brought it up with her later, I framed it as I’m really flattered that she thought of me but I’m not interested in pursuing a management path and prefer to remain as an individual contributor.

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