manager only invited half of us to a party, telling a sick employee to find their own coverage, and more

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

1. Can I tell an employee who calls in sick at the last minute to find their own coverage?

I know that you always advocate for the employer to find coverage when an employee is sick. But what about when it’s always at the last second?

I own a cafe and people have to be there at 6:30 in the morning. When people text me the night before that they are not feeling well, I have no problem calling around to see if anyone can cover it. I’m talking about when people call at 6:25 in the morning to tell me that they don’t feel well, and should they still come in if they’re throwing up/have a fever? (Magic words in the food service industry.) My opinion is, if you’re calling me at 6:25 in the morning, you knew that you were sick for quite some time, and you’re probably just lying in bed thinking, “Ugh, I don’t want to get up.” So now I have to continue doing my job, plus your job. I don’t have time to call six people to see if they can cover for you. Can I tell people that’s their responsibility?

No, you should not. It’s not reasonable to expect someone who’s sick and probably needs to go back to bed to start making phone calls. Moreover, finding coverage is work! I realize it’s common in food service to treat it as if it’s not and to expect people to do that labor unpaid, but any time someone is spending their time in service of their employer and engaging in action they wouldn’t be taking otherwise, that’s actual work and they should be compensated for it. And in this case, your employee is too sick to do that work and so it falls to you or someone you designate to take on that task instead.

That said, you can certainly ask people to alert you as early as possible if they’re sick. They might be waiting until just before 6:30 because they don’t think you’d want to be contacted at, say, 5 am … so ask them to text as early as they know they won’t be coming in, in case they haven’t thought that part of it through.

2. My manager invited half of us to a party at her house and excluded the rest of us

My supervisor invited two employees to a party at her house this weekend. I overheard (it’s important that I overheard) her invite one, and I texted my other coworkers to ask if they thought that was appropriate (to legitimately get a gut check). That’s when I found out she’d also invited another coworker.

One of the invited coworkers told her I was upset and that I felt it was inappropriate. So I was called to my great-grandboss’s office to “clear the air.”

The meeting determined that she’s allowed to invite some of her direct reports to her house for a party and not all of them. Out of four employees, she invited two and excluded two, and my leadership thinks that’s fine and said we can’t do anything about it because it’s a private event.

Further, my boss stated that I was causing toxicity by asking my coworkers about this. So: the supervisor who is showing favoritism isn’t causing the toxic environment, but the employee who asks about it is? Is this as nuts as I think it is?

Yes, this is wildly off-base. You are right and they are wrong.

Managers have a professional obligation not to show obvious social favoritism, like by inviting half their employees to a party at their house and excluding the others (also by not vacationing with an employee, dating an employee, having sleepovers with an employee, and on and on). People who don’t want that restriction on their social relationships at work shouldn’t accept management roles.

Your employer is 100% wrong that they can’t do anything about it because it’s a private event; they have the authority and the standing to tell a manager in their employ that she cannot show this sort of favoritism and still remain a manager there. The fact that they’re unwilling to is deeply problematic … and the fact that they’re blaming you for raising it is even more so.

3. Therapists and work advice

I, like many professionals, suffer from a mental illness. It’s well controlled with medication and therapy. Still, tough times at work exacerbate it, and I have often found myself discussing work issues with my therapist.

I’m sure the work advice my past therapists have given is what they think will be best for my mental health … but I’m not sure they’ve always understood the professional ramifications of their recommendations. It sucks to say it, but sometimes a temporary, limited sacrifice in one area of life (like a mild knock to my mental health during a stint with a bad boss or company) might set me up for long-term benefits that are worth it to me (a stable, decently paid, and fulfilling career path). It might make me feel better to pour my heart out to my boss and coworkers when I’m struggling — until I got fired for crossing professional boundaries! Then I would feel a lot worse than before. I would rather understand the trade-offs up-front so I can own the outcome, whatever I choose.

It’s awesome that we’re seeing a societal shift away from stigmatizing mental illness and are more willing to believe someone struggling with mental health can be a productive, even high-performing employee. But sometimes I worry that many therapists don’t fully understand that 1) that shift still hasn’t reached a lot of people, 2) some people will exploit any sign of “weakness” to get ahead, and 3) the contractual relationships and power dynamics in a business environment mean that you can’t or shouldn’t deal with your colleagues the way you should with your friends and loved ones. I wonder if therapists themselves have a unique working environment that might color their responses.

I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t seek out therapy if they need it! It’s been a huge help in my life. But are there common pieces of work advice that you hear from some therapists that you wish came with a few more your-mileage-may-vary qualifiers?

Oh yes. Some therapists give advice for handling things at work that might be great in non-work relationships without accounting for the dynamics in professional ones (and which in some cases could cause real professional harm). That’s not true of all therapists by any means, but when it does happen, the two big categories seem to be: (1) trying to destigmatize mental health issues without accounting for the level of medical privacy that’s appropriate at work, or not accounting for the reality that sharing mental health challenges can have professional ramifications (it shouldn’t! but it still does, far too often) and (2) not fully understanding the power dynamics and political realities of many workplaces, possibly because their own work environments are very different from the ones their patients are in.

Some examples that comes to mind from letters here: the therapist who told a patient to start highlighting issues with their work that their boss wasn’t concerned about in order to “break the silence” around imposter syndrome (including things like responding to being called a “perfect employee” with “I don’t feel perfect because of the issue with my work from last Thursday”). In the comments on that letter, we also heard about a therapist who “suggested simple conversations without acknowledging that politics could exist and those conversations weren’t as simple as she maintained” … and someone else reported, “It’s nice that my therapist thinks I so special that my employer should let me work three days a week if I want to, but she has no idea whether it’s a reasonable request.” Those are pretty typical of what we hear about when we hear about bad work advice from therapists.

4. Contacting a hiring manager directly to get around an automated requirement

My stepdaughter will finish her master’s program in December and is currently applying to full-time jobs for once she graduates. However, she’s been blocked from applying to her “dream job” and wants to contact a manager in the company directly in order to avoid using their hiring portal.

Here’s what happened: earlier this year, she applied to an internship with Big Multinational Company and had to take a logic test as part of their application process. However, she failed the logic test. When she tried to reapply and attempt the test again, she received an automated message that because she failed the test, she cannot reapply for any roles with them for 12 months. Now, after a successful internship with a different company, she’s found a full-time role that she would be perfect for with BMC — but her application was blocked, again, due to the failed logic test.

She considers that she’s gained significant new knowledge and experience from her current internship, so she deserves another chance. She found the hiring manager for her dream role at BMC on LinkedIn and wants to send a direct message in order to get around the block that’s been put on her applications on their job portal.

I think this is a terrible idea, but my husband (her dad) says she should do it because she has nothing to lose, so why not try? She’s in a big, generic field, so it’s probably unlikely that “word will get around” or anything like that. I feel confident that this won’t work, but it’s true that I can’t really think of any negative consequences. What should she do?

She can certainly try. If she’s a really strong candidate otherwise, the hiring manager might be willing to consider her — and hiring managers often have the ability to bypass some hiring portal requirements for a candidate they really want (although not always, and it’s less likely at a big multinational company). If she’s not an unusually strong candidate, though, it’s very unlikely that the hiring manager would do that … and they’re definitely not going to do it just because she’s had an internship since originally taking the test. (Presumably most people who failed the test have other work experiences afterward too, and that doesn’t get the 12-month wait waived.)

Either way, her dad is right that she has nothing to lose by trying it so she might as well if she feels strongly about it.

Someone should, however, try to steer her away from the “deserves another chance” thinking — which isn’t really a thing in hiring — as well as the whole idea of a dream job.

{ 627 comments… read them below }

  1. nodramalama*

    I really feel for LW1. It must be so frustrating to have someone call in 5 minutes before a shirt start, when you know there’s no way you’ll be able to find alternative coverage when the shift starts that minute.

    1. MK*

      Sure, but the frustration is leading OP to be both unfair and unreasonable. Her reasoning

      “My opinion is, if you’re calling me at 6:25 in the morning, you knew that you were sick for quite some time, and you’re probably just lying in bed thinking, “Ugh, I don’t want to get up.””

      is downright bizarre; a person who starts work at 6.30 isn’t still in bed debating whether to get up at 6.25. It’s much more likely they woke up feeling unwell but hoped they would still be able to go to work till the last minute or that they didn’t think calling sooner was appropriate because it’s so early, The “worst” scenario I can think of is someone who overslept and chose to call in instead of rush to work late.

      1. nodramalama*

        I disagree. Unless they live 5 minutes away from work, they know far ahead of 6.25 they’re not coming in because they’d have to commute. From my experience working in casual jobs is that most times when I, or someone else, calls in sick when their shift has already started, its because they don’t want to work.

        An employer can’t base their leave policies on that, but it doesn’t make it not true.

        1. MK*

          I am not actually seeing the logic in your argument, especially given the early hour. I find it highly unlikely that someone woke up in time to get to work perfecrly fine and then waited awake till the last minute to call in. A person who starts work at 6.30 is probably awake at least an hour before that, if they didn’t want to go to work, they would shoot a text at 5.30 and go back to sleep.

          1. nodramalama*

            to be honest i think your argument doesn’t make any sense. Someone who is sick would also know they can’t get into work before 6.25, because at 6.25 if they were planning on going in, they’re already late.

            Both groups of people know they’re not coming into work before 6.25.

            1. cutty*

              I agree nodramalama, they have either woken up late or pushed the snooze alarm too many times and ultimately have decided they can’t be bothered going in.

            2. Noblepower*

              I agree that they know more 5 minutes before their shift, but with that early of a start time, I think the suggestion to let staff know they should call in no matter the time is wise. For years I had a shift that began early in the morning and two hours before anyone else in my department. The first time I woke up sick at 3am was very stressful as we hadn’t spelled out before what my manager would prefer- to contact her as soon as I knew I was too sick to come in or to wait until my shift was about to start in the hopes that she’d at least be (maybe) awake. (I’d been previously asked to tell her the day before, but that isn’t always how getting sick works!)

              1. UnicornUnicorn*

                I used to work retail and once or twice a month I had to come in at 7 to do some work before the store opened to the public at 9. This was before the days of cell phones, and the manager on duty didn’t unlock the door until 7, so I literally couldn’t call in early on those days if I was sick. It was incredibly stressful. I’d definitely tell the staff they should call or text me earlier — perhaps they’re not doing that because they don’t want to disturb her at home.

            3. House On The Rock*

              Here’s another take: yes they know they can’t come in earlier than that, but their boss is prone to assuming employees are lazy liars and staff are afraid of repercussions so they wait until the last minute. OP (and those who are distrustful of hourly, service industry workers) may very well have created this situation themselves. If you treat your staff with respect and assume best intentions, frequently you get that in return!

              1. ScruffyInternHerder*

                That was my take here as well. Based on the reaction to the call ins that the manager is explaining in the letter…I’d wait til the last minute too.

              2. Decidedly Me*

                The LW is upset when the call outs are late. If your boss is annoyed when you call out last minute, that would be all the more reason to call out earlier, not a reason to wait.

                1. Chris too*

                  They’re afraid of how their boss will respond to a message at 3 in the morning! This isn’t unreasonable.

                  LW needs to explicitly say yes, it’s a pain to be woken up at 3 am but it’s better than finding out I’m short staffed at 6:30.

                  I’d also make it clear whether a text would be enough or not – if you are a sound sleeper or the phone isn’t by your bed a text might not cut it, you might have to phone.

                2. Jessica*

                  Never experienced pressure from a boss to come in and work when you can’t, huh?

                  One thing calling out at the last minute does is prevent OP from arguing with the employee that they should come in for their shift despite feeling sick. It makes it a “well, there’s no way I can get there in time now anyway” situation.

                  If OP genuinely believes that an employee should have to find coverage to be “allowed” to be out sick, which is incredibly unreasonable–other people don’t magically become available because I’m sick; those two things are unrelated, and I’m sick whether or not there’s someone to cover for me–it’s not surprising their employees are being avoidant about dealing with them.

              3. Rex Libris*

                This. Having worked at various food places in my youth, it’s the culture that causes this. The expectation (expressed or not) is often that if you aren’t in an ambulance spurting arterial blood, you will crawl your way to work. There were a couple bouts of flu where I waited until the last minute to call because I didn’t want to admit to myself that there was absolutely no way I could make it through a work day until it was too late to keep debating it.

            4. Ollie*

              From the bosses letter I would assume that if I called in at 5AM I would be expected to find my replacement. Of course the boss could peoperly staff and cross train so that one person out is not as big a problem.

          2. Cmdrshprd*

            I used to have a pretty short commute about 15 mins from door to seat, and I am one that does not need a lot of time to get ready. I would wake up about 15/20 mins before I had to leave.

            If I had a 5 minute commute, I would still have to get up about 15/
            20 mins before. even rushing I would need about 5/10 mins, so I would need to wake up about 15 mins before, if I lived 5 mins away. if I woke up feeling sick, I would still be able to give 20-25 mins notice, rather than 5.

            A person that calls in 5 mins before if they really were sick, knew about it for about 30-60 mins before.
            But as others have said they likely either missed their alarm and decided not to go in.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Or they were waiting for a break in their vomiting to be able to text their boss, a situation I have been in more than once.

              1. Srsly, let me off this ride*

                Currently recovering from covid for the second time and I had to take a couple of sick days for it last week and on one of them I woke up miserable and kind of just rolled over and went back to sleep, and it took my brain a couple of hours to remember “oh right, I need to text work…” so there’s also that factor.

                1. lucanus cervus*

                  Yeah, I once fell asleep in a nest of towels and misery on the bathroom floor, and only woke up when I was already late for work. It can happen.

            2. Nina*

              Like, thrilled to hear that you’ve apparently never had serious food poisoning, but there are definitely some common illnesses where going more than two steps from the porcelain altar is a mistake and if you didn’t bring your phone in there with you at 5 am, tough bikkies.

        2. Observer*

          . From my experience working in casual jobs is that most times when I, or someone else, calls in sick when their shift has already started, its because they don’t want to work.

          This doesn’t sound like a casual job. And you’re doing a lot of projecting.

          they know far ahead of 6.25 they’re not coming in because they’d have to commute.

          Which doesn’t negate the point. They still may believe that it’s too early to call earlier, or they were hoping that they could get themselves out the door, even if they get to work late, or they were too busy being sick to call.

          1. nodramalama*

            maybe its different where you live, but where I live the vast majority of cafe workers are casual workers. no projection, just realism.

            1. Fikly*

              What on earth is your definition of a casual worker?

              People working terrible customer service jobs, which is what these are, are doing so not as a hobby, but to be able to afford wild and crazy things like food and rent.

              The person waiting to call until 5 minutes before their shift time is trying to figure out if they can afford to miss the hours, not whether or not they feel like working that day.

              Check your username, it’s not reflecting realism.

              1. nodramalama*

                I think we might be talking across each other and it’s a definitional issue. I’m not American – casual workers are workers who basically are employed shift to shift i.e they are not part time or full time employees.

                1. anotherhr*

                  Yes, casual worker is an employment category in some countries. Where I am, it’s used as shorthand for ‘worker’, which is different in to ’employee’, as they have slightly different rights and contractual arrangements. A casual is someone who is employed but has no guaranteed hours. And as nodramalama says, cafe (and hospitality workers in general) are often casuals.

                  It’s not a comment on their work ethic, their financial status, or the individuals at all. Not sure it was necessary to make the comment about the username, really

                2. K*

                  I’ve literally never heard of this sort of arrangement or the term “casual worker”. This is almost certainly not the situation OP is talking about.

                3. Lexi Vipond*

                  That surprises me, because my impression from comments here was that it was MORE usual in the US to not know this week if or when you would be working next week.

                  It’s not that you’re re-employed from scratch every day, just that there’s no overall expectation that you will work 40 hours a week, or on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, or any other set pattern.

                4. metadata minion*

                  @Lexi Vipond — it is indeed very common in the US, but possibly because it’s so common, we don’t really have a job category to cover it. You’re considered a “normal” full or part-time worker (usually part-time so they don’t have to pay for benefits…) even if you don’t have a set schedule or guaranteed number of hours every week.

                5. Lilac*

                  @ K – It’s a pretty common term in the UK and Ireland (and maybe other countries too; I’m not sure). Functionally speaking, “casual work” arrangements are very similar to what part-time retail or food service workers have in the US. Casual workers can be employed for extended periods of time and have a consistant schedule from week to week—but their hours *can* be changed at the employer’s discretion, unlike someone on a contract whose hours are guaranteed for a set amount of time.

                  Employment contracts aren’t as common in the US, so there’s no need for a distinction between “casual” and “part-time”/“hourly.”

                6. Oryx*

                  @ Lexi Vipond Yes, the US has many jobs that are shift work that changes week to week, but they are still considered part or full time depending on how many hours a week they get (these roles are generally part-time as someone else mentioned so they don’t have to pay benefits).

                  I’ve never heard casual worker as a term in the US, and how it’s being described almost sounds like what we consider gig work.

                7. Lilac*

                  @ Oryx – Some casual jobs are similar to gig work, but many are virtually the same as what would be called a part-time job in the US. It’s not about whether the hours actually do change from week to week (sometimes they don’t), but whether the hours *can* be changed at the employer’s discretion. The casual jobs I’ve had in the UK and Ireland were roughly the same time commitment as part-time jobs I’ve had in the US.

                8. Pescadero*

                  Everyone in the US is either part time or full time.

                  …and absent an employment contract (which almost no Americans have) – it doesn’t matter whether you are part or full time. Your employer can change your hours in any way they want, any time they want and your only recourse is to get a different job if you don’t like it.

                9. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

                  > I’m not American

                  I’d sit this convo out then. Most letters, unless noted, are American workplaces. I do suggest Alison make it clearer the context in which the LW’s are in. Sometimes it’s not noted but I can see indicators that LW isn’t American through their spelling (“color vs colour”) — the attitudes and laws around work and the resources they have access to are so different at the national level. It would be helpful to have have to assume which lens to look at it through and avoid issues like this where people are just on very different pages re: norms, definitions, and cultural attitudes surrounding work.

                10. Candi*

                  “Casual worker” is a job class that exists in some of the countries that have employment contracts for everyone. Since the contract often defines the minimum number of hours the employee gets, they need a way to identify a worker who is not guaranteed a minimum number of hours. “Casual worker” won the day.

                  I first heard of it in relation to Australian employment.

                11. Lilac*

                  @ the bat in the office popcorn machine – I don’t think the distinction between casual and part-time changes the advice in this case. (I’m American but I currently live/work in a country where the term “casual work” is common.) The work itself is the same; it’s just the terminology that’s different and I think many of the commenters here are trying to clear that up.

                12. Starsky and Pooch*

                  I agree with Lilac that when you say “casual worker,” I believe that is a “gig worker” in the US. It’s like freelance work except you go through an app, such as Upshift or whatever, and they take care of the W2 for the worker, while the worker has control over their shifts and hourly pay.

                1. Me...Just Me*

                  Someone above gave some misinformation. There are a myriad of work arrangements in the US. Obviously, the full-time and part-time. There’s also per diem, PRN (or as needed), contract and probably several others that I don’t know. But, generally speaking, we don’t use the term “casual” to describe any of our workers. It’s just a cultural difference. Most of our hospitality folks would fall under the casual worker situation you describe.

              2. bamcheeks*

                Wait, “casual worker“ means working as a hobby in US English?! Well that’s kind of blown my mind.

                1. Lilac*

                  It’s not really a term that’s used much in the US. (I grew up there, and had never heard the term until I moved to the UK as an adult.) I think people hear the word “casual” and think “low-stakes/easy,” which is certainly not the case with all casual work I’ve encountered!

                2. sb51*

                  It’s not a formal term in the US, so people are just extrapolating from the meaning of “casual” in other settings. I’m sure most people in most countries have seen people of retirement age who find “doing nothing” boring and would like a little extra cash working part time, or high-school students working for “fun money”, and that’s where my mind would go hearing “casual worker” with no other context.

                3. doreen*

                  It doesn’t really get used much in US English – but when it does, it doesn’t really refer to people who are working as a hobby. It generally refers to people who are hired on a daily , occasional basis. It wouldn’t apply to people working regularly who have no guarantee of shifts but more to an individual who gets hired to work a few times a month to do something unrelated to the main business and who is neither an employee nor formally running their own business. Something like a person who is hired to mow the lawn in front of a business twice a month.

                4. Happy Camper*

                  In Canada a casual worker is someone who has NO guaranteed hours and would just be on call for vacations and if someone called in sick. They are regularly semi-retired and very much viewed as not needing the work.

                5. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

                  I’ve never heard of “casual worker” in the US. “Casual Labor” is a term that means workers who are employed for a single shift as needed, usually just for one day and usually through a temp agency. A building contractor needs a bunch of warm bodies to unload trucks for a day, they call the agency.

                  The workers you see hanging around the big box store waiting for someone to offer them a few hours’ work for cash under the table is a form of “casual labor” in the US.

                6. FrivYeti*

                  Speaking as a Canadian, casual work literally just means you don’t have guaranteed hours. There might be an *assumption* that casual workers are hobbyists or part-time retired, but when I was working as an usher all the casual workers that I knew were either university students, actors, or people juggling the gig economy.

                7. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

                  It’s not a term at all. If you said this people would define it according to their view of those two words together. To me, it sounds like gig work or a person who works when they want to, like a teenager or a retiree who wants some extra pocket money or someone on leave from their actual work who’s picking up work here and there.

                8. Baron*

                  Yeah, the one that always gets to me is “professional”. Here, it means “practicing a profession”. In the States, it seems to mean “going to work at your job and giving it 110%”.

                9. Gerri's Jaunty Hat*

                  It doesn’t literally mean “as a hobby”, just sounds like they’re implying that it’s a less serious commitment since it’s not anyone’s chosen career path, just a way to make a living while you work on getting into whatever you do actually want to do.

                10. Michelle Smith*

                  No, it’s not a term we use here. Casual just implies hobby because that’s not a worker category in this country and we’re trying to understand what’s being said on face value.

              3. Lilac*

                Seconding what other commenters have said—“casual worker” is a regional term and it has nothing to do with the difficulty or importance of the work.

                I’m not in the US, and I have a job that’s classified as “casual” in my country. It’s not a hobby—I work there so that I can afford rent and groceries, just like any other job. It’s basically a flexible part-time job: I’m paid hourly, and my schedule can change from week to week. (I’m in grad school so I can’t always work consistent hours.) The work itself is pretty similar to that of my coworkers who are full-time (i.e. not casual); the difference is that I don’t work as many hours as they do.

                1. Armchair Analyst*

                  thank you to everyone who has clarified. I used to work in global worker organizing from the US and I had never heard “casual worker” used in this formal context. I too thought the commenter was implying something about workers in low-skill part-time entry-level customer service jobs like food service or retail

                2. londonedit*

                  Yep, in the UK a ‘worker’ is a definition separate from an ’employee’. A ‘casual worker’ is usually someone with a zero-hours contract or someone who picks up work when it’s available, with no defined contract or agreement to work a set number of hours. The term has absolutely nothing to do with hobbies or with how ‘serious’ the work is, it’s a term used to define a particular type of employment.

                3. NotRealAnonForThis*

                  Ah, thank you for explaining.

                  That would be “part time hourly” where I live. (Midwestern US) We don’t have employment contracts typically, so if even if you’re hourly and scheduled weekly, you have no guarantee of hours (I mean if we’re being honest).

                4. londonedit*

                  There are other differences in employment law here but the main difference between a ‘worker’ and an ’employee’ is that an employee is entitled by law to things like sick pay, a minimum amount of paid annual leave, and maternity pay, whereas a worker may not be (though some are). Freelancers also fall under the definition of ‘worker’ because although they may work for a company or companies, they aren’t an employee of that company. It’s all to do with the responsibilities companies have towards the people working for them, really – every time I engage a new freelancer at work, I have to perform an online check with HMRC to prove that they should be classified as self-employed (and therefore a worker) and not an employee (in which case the company would have a responsibility when it comes to sick/maternity/holiday etc).

                  Casual workers are definitely more likely to be people on zero-hours contracts, gig workers or seasonal workers – they pick up hours when available rather than being contracted to work a certain number of hours a week (which you can do as an employee even if that’s part-time and on an hourly rate).

                5. Lilac*

                  @ Armchair Analyst – Yes, I thought the term sounded a bit dismissive the first time I heard it! It reminds me of those people who think that retail and food service workers don’t deserve a living wage because “they’re mostly just teenagers earning some extra spending money.” That’s not actually what the term means, but it took some getting used to when I moved away from the US.

              4. Too Bee or Not too Bee*

                Casual worker doesn’t mean hobby. Who is working food service for fun!? What a strange assertion.

            2. Youngin*

              “Casual” (whatever that means) doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the workplace though. I have worked plenty of similar jobs in food service and i just don’t agree with your assessment at all. Sounds like you worked in a place where yourself and other employees simply didn’t care and chose to act accordingly

          2. Fluttervale*


            When you have enough last minute call outs that you have to ask advice on whether to make people find someone to work the shift, you have employees that find the job so stressful that they are too anxious to work and HAVE to do it because the shift is about to start and don’t want a no-call-no-show write up.

            You’ve got to find a way to reduce how much stress the job is. As a manager, you think about what you can do to make work the place that isn’t stressful and that they want to be when they’re stressed out.

            That’s good training, expecting them to get along at work, being consistent with what they do each day, and having their backs when customers are jerks.

          3. aebhel*

            Yeah. The thing is, with bosses like this there’s often no winning. If you call in early enough to give them time to find someone to cover your shift, you’re obviously just planning on taking the day off because how do you KNOW you’ll still be sick tomorrow morning/a couple of hours from now. If you wait for the last minute, you obviously just overslept and don’t feel like coming in. Either way, the manager is starting from an assumption that their employees are lazy slackers and that finding coverage is an unfair imposition instead of their literal job.

        3. Despachito*


          They would know by the time they normally get up to go to work, or slightly afterwards. Which would be at least 30 minutes before the start of the shift.

          They may of course be busy being sick, or oversleeping due to sickness, but if so, it would be an one-off occurrence and not a pattern.

          I do think that they may be afraid to call OP during those ungodly hours.

          I see two actionable solutions for the OP:

          1) make sure the employees know that it is OK, and actually preferable, to call even very early in the morning
          2) to have a system for such cases (I would have a problem with calling people so early in the morning as well so I’d feel better if I gave them heads-up what I will do if I need last-minute coverage)

        4. SheLooksFamiliar*

          ‘Unless they live 5 minutes away from work, they know far ahead of 6.25 they’re not coming in because they’d have to commute…most times when I, or someone else, calls in sick when their shift has already started, its because they don’t want to work.’

          Well, no. They don’t always know. And if they’re sick, it makes sense they don’t want to work,

          I work from home and have a 20-foot commute to my home office. I get migraines, sometimes waking up with one – no warning, just the migraine. It takes me about 10-15 minutes to slowly crawl to my home office, pausing for nausea and pain, so I can text my manager and team that I’m out of commission. Granted, they don’t have to open a cafe without me, but I’m going to miss meetings and other work activities. You’ll have to trust me when I say I love my job, but when I’m sick I’m going back to bed.

          Also, I sometimes go to bed at night thinking, ‘Eh, it’s just allergies/I’m just a little warm/I must’ve eaten something that disagrees with me,’ and wake up feeling like hell. Getting up and trying to start my day only makes me feel worse. I’m over 60, but my body still surprises me.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            often I think I’m fine but halfway through getting ready I start puking or feel dizzy or too weak to get up

            1. Rainy*

              The number of times I’ve woken up, thought “Ugh, I feel like garbage but I can probably get through the day if everything goes well, I don’t have time to be sick” and then the effort of showering and starting to put on clothes shows me that I was too optimistic is…almost every time I’ve called out of work sick.

            2. Nina*

              Yep, same, woke up feeling okay but a bit queasy, by the time I’d been vertical long enough to shower and make coffee, it had turned into a blackout migraine complete with getting disoriented enough to walk into walls.
              I went back to bed and called in sick at almost exactly the time I’d normally have been leaving the house.

          2. Cmdrshprd*

            I don’t think they are saying they don’t go in because of the commute but rather, that people usually know by a certain time before the start of their shift if they will make it on time or not, and/or if they will make it in period.

            A work from home job is certainly different than going into the office.

            I am hybrid on days I go into the office it takes me about 45 mins. to get to work, I know that if I don’t leave my door by 8:15 am I am not going to make it on time for my 9:00 am start. So by the latest at 8:15 I know either I am going to be late or not feeling well enough to go in. The point is that people that have to commute to their job, have an X time that they know they will be late or not.

            Yeah on days I WFH, yes I might push until 10/15 minutes before I am supposed to start work to give notice if I am trying to see if I will feel better.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              Perhaps if you left home on time and started your commute and then started feeling ill (or thought you could muscle through but realize you can’t)? Maybe then you were more preoccupied with getting home before you puked in your car than with calling your manager to tell them you weren’t coming in and thus its 8:55 by the time you turn around, drive home, puke and rally enough to make a phone call?

              1. Bob*

                That literally happned to me on Monday. I went to bed a little off. Woke up just as much. But I have GI issues and eating often makes me feel better. I felt alright enough until I was on my way in and hit bad.
                That’s sometimes how it goes.

              1. Andrew*

                Yes, and that’s why the original poster on this topic explicitly said “Unless they have a 5 minute commute…”

        5. thelettermegan*

          From my experience with ‘casual jobs’, most people need the money enough that they can’t afford to skip a shift on a whim.

          It seems more likely that the employee waited to call out because they didn’t know they could text earlier, which in this case would be the wee hours of the morning when common sense and etiquette tells us to never reach out.

          The other scenario is that they’re sick enough that that slept through the alarm or were so sickly they couldn’t write the text any earlier.

          I think the solution is informing the employees to let her know they’re calling out as soon as possible, even if that’s the middle of night or the witching hour. They should know that if they wake up sick at 5:oo, it’s appropriate to text her at that time. It’s also ok not to wait until the last minute to see if you’ll ‘rally’. Better to make a decision as early as possible so that back-up coverage can arrive on time.

        6. Elizabeth West*

          It doesn’t make it true for every situation, either.

          From my own experience in many years of different food service jobs, you wake up feeling sick, and half the time you have to go in anyway because hardly anyone wants to come in on their days off, and many food service managers don’t want to cover you either even though it’s their job, or they make you call around yourself to find someone. So you get up and get dressed, then text or call and leave a message to see if you can stay home. If you’re excused and you don’t have to call anyone to cover, you take off your clothes and go back to bed.

          But only for one day, mind you, because the pay is so damn low you can miss one day of work, if you’re lucky, but no more than that. A lot of food service workers can’t afford to take off at all for something as piddling as illness, so the chances your food is being handled by someone who was puking a couple of hours ago are pretty high.

          Sorry I probably ruined your lunch!

        7. The Shenanigans*

          I get up about 20 minutes before I have to leave for a job because I hate getting up early. It’s entirely possible that I feel kinda okay when I wake up, but by the time I am done with a shower, I feel too awful to go to work. That would be about five or ten minutes before I leave. This goes triple if there are any disincentives to calling out.

          The OP should also check to see if there are broad disincentives to calling in sick that might make people want to or need to wait til they are sure they really can’t come in. For example, losing the day’s pay.

          Really the OP is doing what too many managers do and blaming the worker for logically responding to problems caused by run-away capitalism. I mean, of course, a worker is gonna wait til the last minute if, for example, they will lose money by not coming in. If that’s causing problems for OP, they need to lobby their boss and company to offer paid sick days. If that’s not gonna happen, the OP should do what Alison suggests but otherwise is just gonna have to deal with it.

        8. Itsa Me, Mario*

          Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter why they’re calling in sick. As someone in an office job, guess what? If I wake up and decide I really need a mental health day, I can just Slack my manager and say whatever works within that relationship (maybe”I’m feeling under the weather”, maybe just saying I need to take the day) and not go to work. I see no reason why someone should not be allowed to call out simply because it’s a small business and would be inconvenient for the owner. If you don’t want early mornings or having to get in the weeds with last minute staff coverage, don’t open a coffee shop.

          I know plenty of people with service industry jobs and have not yet met anyone who “doesn’t want to work”. That’s not a thing.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Especially since for most of those jobs, at least in the US, you don’t get paid for the hours you don’t work. And the wages are not high enough where people can just avoid work for funsies.

        9. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

          > From my experience working in casual jobs is that most times when I, or someone else, calls in sick when their shift has already started, its because they don’t want to work.

          You’re falling into several traps:

          1) Assuming malice when there may not be
          2) Taking limited experience and presenting it as universal fact
          3) Projecting your experience with other people onto this person, biasing your view of this situation before you even knew it
          4) Seemingly not understanding how being sick could possibly work (oversleeping is a thing? Particularly if you have a poor nights sleep.)

          No offense but from the tone and logic of LW1’s letter, I can imagine this employee is probably anxious to use their sick leave or sick time at all. If LW1 wants to fire them, they can. But they’re gonna be short 1 employee until they get a new one (&get them trained) and ruin morale among the other 6 employees (because regardless of the situation, you fired someone for being unavoidably sick — signaling to the rest they should plan out their sickness to ensure coverage) because of a few instances of them being sick.

          Seriously? Telling your sick employee they need to find coverage (unpaid work) for your business?? How about LW1 manage?? Coach this employee to tell the moment they feel sick to alert them and don’t wait it out to see if they feel better?? Go in themselves because it’s their business and their employee’s job isn’t beneath them, it’s essential to operations and needs to get done so LW1 can make money??? I can’t abide by business owners who think they never have to get their hands dirty with day-to-day work. My local cafe’s owner comes in to fill shifts when his employees are out — they all seem happy there.

        10. fhqwhgads*

          It doesn’t really matter why they’re doing it though. OP has a valid beef with the call out five minutes before the shift because unless the employee was completely incapacitated by the illness, they would’ve left before then to come in. which means they knew before then they weren’t coming in. So expecting the call-out to happen earlier is reasonable.
          Still, expecting the person to find their own coverage when ill is not reasonable.
          So there’s two issues at play, but the manager doesn’t need to try to suss out if the person is faking sick cuz they were going to be late/don’t want to come in vs if they’re actually sick. They say they’re sick, believe them (until/unless you see a live-stream of them at a some other event when they were supposedly sick or some other damning irrefutable indication otherwise).
          Finding coverage should always be a management task.
          If the employee has a pattern of giving what amounts to zero notice, that’s a separate problem that’s addressable.

        11. Rainy*

          Ah yes, “No one wants to work these days”. What a timeless, generous, and above all *accurate* refrain.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I see red every time someone says this. And they’ve been saying it for decades; it’s not new, unfortunately. Neither are the crap pay and shitty working conditions in a lot of service jobs.

        12. Vio*

          I’m aware of at least one person attempting to get to work, throwing up on the bus and phoning their boss to call in sick before switching busses to return home. I was on the same bus and fortunately did not get covered in their vomit but it was a very memorable experience. And could just as easily have happened to me (in my case I got to work before throwing up but that’s a different story).

      2. Lilac*

        I think Alison is likely correct that the employees don’t realize they can call as soon as they wake up. That’s especially true if they’re entry-level—which they might not be, but food service workers often are.

        This situation came up at my first job, and I remember being conflicted about whether to call first thing when I woke up, or wait until the business opened so I wasn’t calling at a ridiculously early hour. It seems obvious to me now that I should give my boss as much advance notice as possible when I have to call out, but it can take some time to learn professional norms.

      3. Mo*

        Yes. Calling in at the last minute can also mean that you really were trying to pull it together to come in. I often feel better after a shower and a cup of coffee, so I don’t like to call in until I’ve had them. If I’m throwing up, it generally doesn’t happen until I’m up and moving around or trying to eat.

        Also, some people wake up an hour before they leave. Others, like me, put their clothes out, have the coffee on a timer, and have the first alarm set 30 minutes before we have to be out the door.

        1. Ray B Purchase*

          I worked several different 6:30am or even earlier shifts in college and I usually woke up with the exact amount of time for me to get dressed and leave the house; sometimes not even 30 minutes before my shift started when I had a pretty short commute. I can definitely see a world where an employee wakes up, thinks “Well I sure don’t feel well but let’s see,” gets dressed, throws up, waits a few minutes to see if it was a one-time thing or not, and then decides with only a few minutes to spare that it’s just not going to work today.

          If LW has previously required her team to find coverage when they’re sick, I think she has likely caused this issue because her staff might be thinking that if they call out 30 minutes early but have to then spend the next 30 minutes finding coverage, they’re better off calling when there’s only 5 minutes to spare then it’s out of both their hands.

          1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

            And how easy is it to find coverage at the last minute? If I know at 6 am that I won’t be able to go in, I’m now calling people *on their day off* at 6 am. Who would even answer the phone?

            When your coworker calls you at 6 am to ask you to go into work for them *and* be there within a half-hour, it’s a whole lot easier to say no than when it’s your boss calling. OP doesn’t want to be the boss calling at 6 am asking someone to rush in for a 6:30 shift but they think it’s ok to have their sick employee do it for them. For no pay.

            1. SJ*

              Thank you! This has been bugging me, even if the boss gets notice at 3am, what are they gonna do? Call all their employees at 3am the night before their day off? It’s not actionable that early anyway!

        2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          This would be me. I’d wake up, feel like crap, but try to get ready anyway because I don’t want to call in sick. Not feeling well slows me down, I’m obviously going to be late at this point, but I’m still trying! Am I too sick, or just kinda sick and I can push through? Eventually I give up and call out, but it’s really late by then.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Ugh, I have no idea how you can do that! I have to get up at least an hour and a half before I need to leave because I’m a total zombie in the morning. If I skip that waking-up-with-Folgers-in-my-cup time, then I’m rushed and anxious, and when I’m anxious, I drop stuff and forget stuff and break stuff.

      4. Totally Minnie*

        I was brought up being told that it is EXTREMELY unmannerly to call someone early in the morning when you don’t know if they’re awake yet. It’s possible that OP’s employees would like to call out earlier, but they don’t know if it’s okay to call or text at 4:30 or 5:00 because their boss is sleeping and everyone the boss could potentially call to fill in for them is also sleeping.

        Finding coverage at the last minute sucks, but it’s the boss’s job. Blaming the sick person is not the way to go about it.

        1. Lilac*

          Yes, and for someone who’s new to the workforce (which LW1’s employees may or may not be), it can be hard to determine which issues warrant an out-of-hours phone call and which ones should wait until regular business hours.

        2. Gerri's Jaunty Hat*

          That’s my assumption. Despite the fact that everyone has control of how early they allow their cell phone to make noise, there are still tons of people who have a certain time they get annoyed at being texted before, even ones who work super early. OP should just let staff know the exact time. (And stop thinking of finding coverage as the employees’ work! If you’re managing them, it is YOUR JOB.)

      5. Lainey L. L-C*

        And my ex-boss wanted us to basically call when our shift started because “how did you know you’d be too sick to work in the morning/when your shift starts?”

        There was many a time I knew I was SICK the night before, but had to set my alarm to 7 to call off and then go back to sleep because I did not magically get better.

      6. kalli*

        Or they overslept and woke up at 6:24 with a blocked nose or nausea and went ‘oh sh…’ because sleeping more when you get sick happens rather frequently for some people.

      7. opining*

        Yeah — my boss’ “opinion” on whether or not I’m actually sick, and why I called when I did, is BS.

        Best solution for staffing shortages — how about hiring more staff so the ordinary mishaps in life don’t represent a crisis?

        1. Itsa Me, Mario*

          I think with a coffee shop it’s tough, because opening is both extremely early in the morning and then leads straight into the morning rush. IIRC when I worked in one, the opener came in at whatever ungodly hour, and then the additional morning rush backup person came in half an hour or an hour after. So if you’re the opener, you’re kind of up shit creek if anything comes up.

          On the other hand, small business owners who have mom & pop coffee shops should really anticipate the high-stakes morning opener situation and either anticipate that someday the opener is going to call in sick, or be prepared to cover such a vital shift themselves if needed.

      8. Jello Stapler*

        Good point. Probably also because they know the attitude their boss (LW) has about it. No doubt frustrating on all ends. And sometimes you wake up feeling crappy even if you were fine the night before.

        IMO, LW owns the cafe and staffing it is part of owning it, but again I get it’s frustrating.

      9. PlainJane*

        The reasoning that you know you’re sick before 6:25 is probably true–you’d be on the road by then if you were planning to come in. That said, that early in the morning, I would assume that no one is there to call in to, and if this is someone in an early career job, the thought of just texting the boss might not even be on the radar. It sounds like what OP needs to do is clarify the call-in process… when it’s expected, how to best reach someone before work hours, etc. I know that at an early stage in my career, my reasoning would have been, “Whoa, I’m on opening, which means that no one is really there much before before me… but OP usually comes in at opening, too, so she might be there a couple of minutes early…” And so on, without, “I’ll call OP on her personal number” so much as crossing my mind.

    2. Observer*

      I really feel for LW1. It must be so frustrating to have someone call in 5 minutes before a shirt start,

      I’d have a lot more sympathy if they were a little more reasonable. But their “opinion” that anyone who calls / texts at that point probably lazy and a liar is pretty gross. It’s certainly not rooted in reality.

      1. Cat Tree*

        She also presumably makes more money than those employees, so I don’t have a lot of sympathy when she has to do more work. That’s part of the job that is a tradeoff for earning more.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          This. And also, if your workers aren’t calling off until 5′ before their shift, that’s on the owner not saying “hey, if you’re sick, please feel free to call/leave a VM/text as soon as you know”. Maybe they know that the owner doesn’t show up until 6:20 so they’re like “oh I have to wait till then”. Be clear in your needs and you’ll get them fulfilled.
          As a side note, you still may have some people who are calling out last minute–sometimes you don’t know if you’re “can’t make it to work sick” until you’ve been up for 45′. I’ve certainly had that with a “is this going to be a migraine, or if I get up and walk around and go outside for a little bit, will it go away?”, and it takes a while to figure out what’s coming.

      2. Lilac*

        I agree. It’s a frustrating situation, but it isn’t necessarily the fault of the sick employee. Maybe they were being irresponsible, but there are lots of other legitimate reasons why they may have had to wait until the last minute to call.

    3. TG*

      I feel for her pain however I can’t tell you how often I’ve woken up feeling sick when feeling okay the night before. It does happen. I think it’s fine to ask if folks feel badly and think they should stay home to try and call the night beforehand but some stones that’s just not going to happen.

        1. Rainbow*

          “Oh no, I must immediately tell my boss who always thinks I’m a liar, that will be fun and good and not induce any anxiety at all while I’m vomiting up a new ocean”

          1. Allonge*

            How is anxiety helped by delaying to report in until for sure boss has an issue with it because they absolutely cannot find someone?

            1. Kella*

              The quickest way to (temporarily) relieve anxiety is to avoid the source. But of course the longer you avoid it, the worse the source becomes, which gets you stuck in a loop of attempting to escape the anxiety and continually escalating. This is why anxiety isn’t just an emotion, it’s a mental illness, because it compels you to act in ways that are actually harmful to your own well being. Knowing how to tolerate the feeling of anxiety and make the choices that will *actually* resolve the source is a skill, and not one that comes easily to highly anxious folks.

          2. hbc*

            I suppose you can be so incapacitated by anxiety that you wake up sick at 5:30 and can’t get the courage to call/text your boss for almost an hour, but that’s really something to work on if you want to keep a job with any boss, mean or not. It’s not like the response from a boss anywhere on the jerk scale is going to be *better* with last minute notice.

            And if you’re vomiting so much you can’t physically make that call for 55 minutes, your first call should be for a ride to the hospital.

            1. Observer*

              And if you’re vomiting so much you can’t physically make that call for 55 minutes, your first call should be for a ride to the hospital.

              That’s not true. Especially for people who don’t keep their phone by their bed.

              For example: When I’m running a fever, I have a hard time just walking across a room. I don’t need an ambulance for a 102F fever, but it *is* going to take me a while to figure out what’s going on and to physically get to my phone if I left in on my dresser or desk.

              For example (One which several others have mentioned) I’m nauseous and every time I try to walk I start retching. It’s going to take me a while to get to the phone, even though I most definitely don’t need the ER. I need a bed and maybe something like flat ginger ale to sip.

              1. Katy*

                Plus, when you are sick, your brain just doesn’t work as well. And often people who are sick don’t realize they are sick – not because they feel fine, but because they lose awareness of what normal feels like. So they may be getting ready for work on autopilot and then realize at the last minute that they can’t go in.

                I once called in sick for what I thought was just terrible cramps. I woke up in awful pain, realized I was on my period, tried to get up, and felt so faint and dizzy with pain that I actually dropped to the floor and had to crawl. I kept assuming that the faintness and sick feeling were from the pain, and so I put off calling in because I’d never called into work with cramps before and I hoped they would subside. Turned out that in addition to cramps I had flu and a high fever, which is why I felt so dizzy and awful and was probably making the pain worse as well. But at the time I called in I didn’t know this, so I just had to say “I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m in the worst pain I’ve ever felt and I can’t come in.” Luckily I had a very nice boss at the time, who didn’t think I was lying or exaggerating, and whose only concern was that I might have a kidney stone.

            2. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

              Right. Because restaurant employees have such good health insurance that ER or urgent care visits cost them nothing.

            3. Michelle Smith*

              Or maybe my first priority when I’m sick isn’t finding my phone and calling my boss, because my physical wellbeing is more important to me than making it easier for the people who profit off my labor under capitalism? Like what are you even saying? And most people in these jobs cannot afford a ride to the hospital, let alone the cost of the visit. And for what? To be told it’s probably a stomach bug, go home and rest for the next 2 days, and drink a lot of fluids? I can figure that out from Google without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars going to the ER for a nonemergency illness.

              1. aebhel*

                ‘If you are violently ill your first priority should be to make sure you’re not inconveniencing your minimum-wage job. The only excuse for not doing so is if you’re literally hospitalized.’

                Like, do people even hear themselves.

            4. Nina*

              And if you’re vomiting so much you can’t physically make that call for 55 minutes you might be wisely staying next to the toilet to avoid vomiting on the carpet, and if your phone is in another room, yeah, you’re stuck waiting until a break in the nausea to get your phone.

              That’s not really ER material even where I live (ambulance free, almost all health care free), let alone in the US where you have to pay for it.

        2. ceiswyn*

          “I don’t feel well but I can still do this, crap I’m running late, but at least I’ll be in, oh no I’m exhausted from just getting ready and trying to walk/drive has made me realise I’m much worse off than I thought, I can’t do this, I’m gonna have to call out”

          That never happens to you? Or waking up feeling a bit dodgy, but it’s only when you start really moving around that you need to rush to the bathroom? (Where I certainly do not call my boss while occupied at both ends)

          Or simply not knowing whether it’s OK to call your boss stupidly early in the morning? Maybe they realised they weren’t coming in when they woke up to vomit at 2am, and just set their alarm to call in at a time they knew was definitely reasonable.

          There are a lot of good reasons for a last-minute call out that aren’t just laziness, even if that’s the reason you personally do it.

          1. amoeba*

            “Or simply not knowing whether it’s OK to call your boss stupidly early in the morning?”

            I think this would be the most likely explanation (and, luckily, also the most easily resolved!)
            While I agree that sure, it can happen that you were planning to try and come in and realise on your way to the door that, nope, that’s not going to work, I don’t think it’s so frequent that it would happen regularly with multiple people.

            “Oh no, I cannot call Jane at this hour, I’ll wait until just before shift starts so I know she’s awake and not driving” sounds much more realistic.

            Also, do they have to call? Messaging or emailing might solve that problem (also in case you wake up at 2 a.m. sick, in which case presumably the LW *doesn’t* actually want to be called!)

            1. münchner kindl*

              Yes, especially when it’s so early in the morning!

              When I get sick, often it starts during the night and I sleep fitfully and feel exhausted at 6 am, but my normal start of work is 8am, so I can’t call in that early (nobody there yet), so I doze off exhausted and call in at 9am or later.

              With texting or emails, that might be easier, but OP needs to tell employees that it’s okay to wake her up.

              I also don’t like that OP assumes the employees overslept – wouldn’t they call/ text and say “so sorry, overslept, will be there x minutes later” but still do the shift (and get partly paid)?

              1. AngryOctopus*

                Yeah, if OP said “hey, if you’re sick, please feel free to shoot me a text as soon as you can”, then someone is much more likely to text at 2AM and say “really unwell, can’t make it in today”. If you don’t make it clear that that is OK, people are more than likely setting an alarm for “time boss will be awake/in” and sending the message/calling in then.
                OP, the LEAST likely turn of events is that someone overslept and decided to call in sick. It’s uncharitable of you to think so, and I do think if you set some guidelines (it’s OK to message at crazy hours, you won’t wake me up, but I’ll see it when I get up) you’ll have better results. Although I can’t help but think, as others have said, that with your attitude of “they’re lying therefore they have to find their own coverage because they’re just lazy”, that’s apparent to your employees and they’re less likely to want to make your life easier, because you don’t care about them. If you start thinking of everyone as human beings doing their best, you’re going to get better results (and anyone who IS actually an a-hole will out themselves pretty quickly).

            2. londonedit*

              Given the fact that this is happening fairly regularly, I also think ‘people don’t realise they can notify the OP earlier if they can’t come in’ is the most likely explanation. Of course, on the odd occasion you might have someone who is so ill that they sleep through their alarm and wake up five minutes before their shift starts, or you might have someone who’s so out of it with a fever that they don’t get it together enough to call in sick until just before their shift. But you’d assume those would be rare occurrences. If people are routinely calling in sick at 6:25 when their shift starts at 6:30, I’d definitely look in the first instance at whether there’s clear direction on what to do if you wake up and realise you’re too ill to work. If there’s a number they can text, or an email address they can contact, and it’s clear they can do that no matter how early it is, that might well resolve most of the issues.

              1. I Have RBF*

                This. One thing the LW might do is tell their employees when they wake up, and to go ahead and call at that time.

                If the boss wakes up at, say, 5 am, they could say “I’m up at 5 am on workdays. You should go ahead and call/text me at or after 5 when you are sick so I can try to find coverage. Thanks.”

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            “I don’t feel well but I can still do this, crap I’m running late, but at least I’ll be in, oh no I’m exhausted from just getting ready and trying to walk/drive has made me realise I’m much worse off than I thought, I can’t do this, I’m gonna have to call out”

            It happened to me and I had super flexible hours and no repercussions at all for calling in sick! About ten years ago, I started noticing a blind spot like a curtain in the corner of my vision. One evening, got around to reading up on it and was horrified! it said my retina was probably detached and to watch out for flashes, if you start seeing flashes then it is really bad. Stayed on the couch all evening afraid to move, went to bed, woke up seeing flashes and then… I got up on time for work and got ready to head into work. Called my eye Dr while drinking coffee and planning to leave for work immediately after, and she said to come in right away and sent me for emergency surgery. I have no rational explanation for why I was calmly getting ready for work, putting work clothes on, packing my lunch and laptop etc when I was about to lose vision in my eye. A lot of us have been conditioned to go into work no matter what, add to that things like hourly pay and knowing you won’t get paid if you call out, and there you go – you’ll be hanging on to the hope that you can make it in, to the last minute.

          3. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

            And do they actually have their boss’s personal number to call in earlier or do they only have the number to the store and they know there’s nobody to answer it before 6:30?

        3. Pescadero*

          Most of my friends who worked cruddy food service jobs rolled out of bed 10-15 minutes before their shift started.

            1. Laser99*

              You get what you pay for, absolutely. Even if all my years in retail, I am still surprised at how many employers don’t realize that. Oh, and that retail is doesn’t pay well because it is “low-skill.” It most certainly is not.

              1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

                Amazing how many low- or unskilled jobs still require at least 1-2 years experience to get hired.

    4. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      Reading through some of these comments, y’all are conjecturing wildly. At the end of the day, the manager/owner of the cafe is responsible for staffing issues. It doesn’t matter if the person called off in time to find adequate coverage before the shift starts or after. Certainly, if it becomes a pattern for a specific employee, that’s an issue that should be addressed- but if it’s happening every once and awhile, with a variety of people, for a variety of reasons, you just need to take care of it. I’ve never worked in a job where it was my responsibility to find coverage for my shift if I had to call off and I’d have found it really odd to call coworkers, whom I’m not in a supervisory role over, to ask them to come in. I don’t know my coworkers’ personal information and wouldn’t want to- that’s my boss’ job, not mine.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Pretty much this. Whether the employees just don’t want to work that day or are really sick is irrelevant. It is the managers job to find coverage, not the employees.

        I agree with Alison that telling people to let her know ASAP is probably going to help a lot of this. I know I am not calling my boss at 5 am. to let them know I will be out sick, unless told that is what they prefer.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Thank you.

        Covering shifts and making sure there is enough staff at any given time is part of managing shift workers. This is something white collar workers get enormous grace on (generally speaking I know there are bad managers everywhere) because it doesn’t impact other people quite the same way when someone calls out. But life happens regardless of how inconvenient your life is for your manager.

        And I have managed both and I TRULY know how awful it is to wake up to a text that throws the rest of your day into chaos. I do. But being frustrated in the moment is one thing, carrying that frustration to the point where you consider it a knock against the character of the employee and write in for support from an advice column is a little much.

        OP, I mean this in a constructive way – maybe this isn’t the job for you. Or maybe you’re severely burnt out. Either way, this reaction is a sign to step back and think about how this job is impacting you and how you relate to others.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          As someone who worked white collar, salaried, 24/7 mandatory shift work, we *never* were expected to find coverage for a call out like this, management did it.

          We also didn’t call out because we were lying in bed not wanting to get up, if you called out people believed you were sick. I think the issue here is that OP doesn’t trust their workers are calling out only when actually necessary, and that’s likely more to do with pay and environment than anything else.

        2. it happens*

          I manage shift workers and yes I do get those texts at the last minute which usually means I have to cover. I let it go mostly unless it is a pattern ex calling out the day before/after your scheduled day off or when you are coming back from vacation.

          So if this is a one off while frustrating it comes with the territory

      3. Mystery Mongoose*


        My guess is the café is probably staffed very leanly. If you err on the side of being slightly overstaffed, then having one or two people call in sick at the last minute shouldn’t result in a major disruption.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          I don’t know if the issue is getting better in other cities, but in my metro area, there’s still a worker shorter for service industry jobs* and restaurants in particular are still having to change hours, sometimes on the fly, because of staffing issues. The Facebook comments on notices letting patrons know of changes are really harsh- many of whom assume the establishment can just get extra help or can afford it. And the reality is, that’s probably not feasible right now. So, I totally get the frustration that the OP feels when someone calls off on very short notice and they may or may not be able to staff the cafe for the day. I’m very sympathetic to that. At the same time, that’s their responsibility to deal with, not the employee.

          *And yet more restaurants keep opening up. I do. not. understand. it. If established businesses can’t find enough employees, why do people double down and open new businesses? However, that’s another tangent.

          1. Observer*

            there’s still a worker shorter for service industry jobs* and restaurants in particular are still having to change hours, sometimes on the fly, because of staffing issues.

            That is true. But you know which places have the least problems with staffing? The ones who pay at the top of the range and who *treat their staff with respect! We know this. We know that among the most common reasons that people leave food service is because they can’t deal with the inconsistent schedules and they can’t deal how management treats them. Even problem customers come back to that, because people whose managers have reasonable expectations and back them against unreasonable expectations are a lot less likely to leave than the ones who are left to hang in the wind.

          2. Mystery Mongoose*

            Yup, I sympathize as well.

            The city I live in actually pulled through the pandemic fairly successfully (relative to everywhere else that is). I think the main thing that helped was the fact that even before the pandemic it was a very restaurant worker friendly area with better wages/working conditions, so there was a big community goodwill push to keep restaurants open by ordering a lot of takeout/gift cards/etc. There was at least one café that actually did away with tipping *during* the pandemic because they were so successful at the shift to takeout that they could raise prices to cover a big increase to employee wages (and offer benefits!). Most of the other restaurants we go to have the automatic gratuity as part of the sustainable/living wage pledge but you can still tip on top of that and it goes directly to the server. I know that a lot of it was luck – the restaurants that have raised worker wages were already doing well, but they’ve *continued* to do really well because the better pay/conditions means they don’t lose their best staff, and it’s easier to hire. Since I’m not in the industry I know my view is skewed and I could be ignorant of a lot, but it did seem to be a situation where employee favorable conditions created a positive feeding cycle that benefited everyone.

            But you also have to have the cash to cover it in the meantime. So as much as I want to tell the OP to just double the wages they pay and it will all work out… it doesn’t happen overnight. But I think “be the person you’d want to work for” as a general principal is a good way to start, and will pay dividends in the future. Starting with the attitude of “This sucks, but it’s my job to deal with it” will keep the OP from driving away the better employees and at the moment… that might be the best thing they can do.

            Actually that really may be the best way to look at it. Because people are calling in sick at the last minute either because they’re genuinely sick and didn’t know/weren’t able to call in early enough to help you find coverage… or because they’re not really sick, but don’t want to work. The latter group is who I think is driving your “They should find coverage” thought. But if that’s genuinely what’s happening, it means that the person isn’t a good employee. And if they’re not a good employee, they’re probably not going to be good at finding coverage which means that you’re no better off than you were to start with. But if it’s that first group, all you’ve done is made their bad day worse and they’re more likely to leave when they have a chance.

            Don’t shoot yourself in the foot because you want to punish/deter bad behavior.

          3. Justin D*

            As a consumer and someone who supports workers I don’t care at all. Not my problem. Don’t open an establishment if you can’t handle the ups and downs.

          4. Warrior Princess Xena*

            Re: the tangent. People open restaurants because they think “oh, I can cook really well! I bet I can earn some money off of it” without realizing that managing a kitchen and a business is wildly different than cooking at home, even for large events. They’re the most commonly opened and also the most common of small business failures, by far.

        2. Allonge*

          I agree that staffing levels should consider absences.

          But what is ‘slightliy overstaffed’ for a smallish café? Unless we are talking about a fairly large establishment with over a dozen people for each shift, there is no ‘slightly’ – you have 3 people or 4 (or 6 or 7); a big difference percentage-wise.

          1. Allonge*

            Which is not to say OP should not consider this, and other advice too (especially on communicating clearly and often what they want from staff in such situations)!

            1. Mystery Mongoose*

              Yeah, and it’s not just numbers but roles. If you need at least 3 cooks and 3 servers and staff an extra server because that’s usually the role that gets called out… not going to help you if one of your cooks wakes up with a stomach bug.

          2. Your local password resetter*

            Then you figure out a way to get people in on short notice (like by paying people to be on-call).
            Or you adjust to having a smaller staff. Maybe you can’t serve as many tables today, or you have to open later, or you can’t do those fancy extras.

            If your company really is one call-out away from collapse, then it’s financially unsustainable and everyone involved should probably start applying for other jobs.

        3. Itsa Me, Mario*

          Also, if things are truly so tough that staffing needs to be on a razor thin margin, the small business owner needs to be there in the trenches. It’s your business. If you’re so sure that your employees are all lazy halfwits, then maybe you should be doing it yourself.

        4. Burger Bob*

          Staffing levels can depend heavily on allotted payroll if it’s a chain business. Like at my workplace, yes, there are times in the year when they give us more than enough payroll to be well-staffed, and if we use all that payroll, a person being out sick once in a while is nothing. But we are always afraid to hire enough people to use all that payroll, because there are other times in the year when they give us only enough for a skeleton crew, and we’ve been burned by that so many times, winding up having to lay people off or cut their hours back to nearly nothing. We don’t want to set someone up for expecting hours and then two months later not be able to deliver any. Corporate seems to think the answer to this is flexing up your part-time staff by 10-20 hours as needed. We have told them for years that people do not want to work like that. They want to be able to count on a somewhat consistent number of hours of work that will pay their bills but still allow them to live their life. Corporate doesn’t care. Corporate believes in the myth of the magical part-time worker who has no life outside of work and just sits at home twiddling their thumbs and gleefully accepting any random shift that suddenly comes their way or any sudden cut in their hours. And corporate doesn’t acknowledge the reality that sometimes people will have last-minute reasons they can’t come in, and that it would be very valuable for those times to have staffed an “extra” person on the schedule.

          TLDR: It’s not always realistically within the manager’s power to staff less leanly.

        5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Came here to say exactly this. If it’s a regular or quasi-regular problem that people call out super early, the obvious solution is to arrange staffing so it’s not super disruptive when it happens. I get that cafes don’t make massive profits, but proper staffing is a cost of doing business. Things are just going to be smoother when you have more coverage.

      4. B*

        Thank you. Even if the person no-called/no-showed — that sucks, but you have to know you are in the kind of business where that happens from time to time and you need a plan for when it does.

        If you’re caught unaware when an employee does something bad you know, at some point, an employee will do, that is a management issue.

        1. Ama*

          Yes, I think Alison’s advice to just explain to the employees “it’s actually much better if you text me as soon as you know you won’t be in, even if that’s very very early” is the best option.

          I’ve never worked in food service but for a time I worked at a grad school that had an onsite staff kitchen and because my role handled temp employees, the kitchen staff would text me when they needed to be out sick so I could contact our temp agency. We actually had a similar issue for a while where one employee would often text while I was in the middle of my commute, which delayed me being able to contact our agency. It really did turn out that she was often trying to take medicine and make it in and only giving up when it became clear the medicine wasn’t helping- after I let her know that it was much easier to start the process of finding a temp if she could contact me by the time I usually left the house she started trying to do that and it made things much easier.

          It also got a little easier after we converted that employee to full-time so she had actual PTO (which at that employer was pretty generous), because she had less anxiety about losing money due to missing a day and was more willing to call out earlier rather than try to make it in.

          And no, I didn’t love doing it — I’m not a morning person and having to go into work mode while I was still trying to wake up was not fun but that was the job I had. When I started looking for a new one, I made sure to find one where I wasn’t going to have to be responsible for that kind of coverage.

      5. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

        The practice of requiring sick employees to find their own coverage at the last minute is pretty much only a thing in the restaurant industry and maybe some retail. It’s a terrible practice and literally no other industry does this.

        Practices like this and the absurd tipped minimum wage are the reasons even your best employees are not seeing this work as anything more than a stopgap till they find something better. If you expect a higher commitment from your employees, you need to exceed, not just meet, the industry standard because the industry standard is abusive and exploitative.

        Do you pay your servers the tipped minimum wage to do work that doesn’t earn tips? Side work like filling ketchup bottles, rolling silverware, wiping tables, cleaning bathrooms, etc. that in any other context would at least be paid actual minimum wage? If so, that’s you getting something for nothing. They are already relying on your customers, and not YOU, to pay them the bulk of their wages through tips.

        Having your sick workers do a manager’s work for NO pay at all? Gross.

        FWIW, my last restaurant job (as a line cook), I asked the manager at hire about this and told them that I wouldn’t be able to do that. If I’m too sick to work, I’m too sick to work the phones. They hired me anyway. The one time in my year there that I called out, it was an hour before start of shift. Manager said, ok, feel better, see you tomorrow I hope. And I never heard a word about it. (It helped that we had one line cook who needed extra cash and would happily take all extra shifts AND an owner willing to pay him overtime.)

      6. Hannah Lee*

        Any place I’ve ever worked that required the person calling in to find coverage, that policy had the not so hidden intent of discouraging people from calling in. “You want to call in, for whatever reason? YOU deal with the hassle of covering your shift”

        It was not a good management practice for several reasons, including the ones Alison mentioned. And also, in many cases the common reasons for a person calling out (sick, family emergency including sick family member, child care issue, confused elder asking for help, car trouble, problem at home (like flooding, power / heat outage, etc) are going to make it VERY difficult dig up whatever call tree/employee list they’ve can find and sit down and spend 15-30 minutes calling around trying to find someone to work.

        Plus it makes it a peer-peer conversation or an off-balance one if the person calling is less or more senior than the ones they are calling, where they are having to call like it’s a *personal* favor if someone covers their shift with all the social/interpersonal baggage that carries (my nana is awfully sick and SO scared and I won’t be able to take her to the ER for medical help unless you give up the day trip you’ve been planning for weeks and cover for me!) But in fact the person stepping in to cover isn’t actually doing a favor for the other employee, they are helping out the manager, employer who would be short staffed otherwise.

        Like it’s one thing if it’s a bunch of peers working retail and once wants next Thursday night off to do whatever and checks the schedule and asks around to to see if anyone is willing to switch shifts with them. It’s another if someone is ill or has an emergency that is making it difficult/impossible to work a scheduled shift that day.

    5. Beth*

      It does suck that the time limitation means there’s no way to get the shift covered. But is that really that different than if someone called in, say, half an hour before their shift started? As a not-a-morning-person whose alarm goes off only like 10 minutes before I start my commute, that’s around when I’d expect to realize I’m too sick for work–which is late enough that there wouldn’t be time for the manager to call around, someone to agree to cover, and that person to get ready and commute before the start of the shift time.

      Employees notify their manager of illness when they know of it. But businesses should also be staffing enough that if someone is sick (or gets in an accident, or has a kid throw up on the way to daycare, or whatever) at the last minute, it’s not the end of the world for it to take time to get coverage. If it’s OK for the shift to be short staffed for an hour, then there’s not a real problem here. If it’s really, really not OK, then the business should be staffing that shift less lean in the first place.

    6. Rainy*

      I’m sure it is frustrating for LW1, but assuming that someone “has known for ages they were sick” at 6:30am is so disingenuous that any compassion I would feel immediately evaporated.

      People who have 6:30am starts are not getting up at 3 and spending several hours getting ready. They are rolling out of bed 10 minutes before they need to leave, so by the time they wake up enough to be aware of their bodies and can stop vomiting long enough to call in, yes, it’s probably 5 minutes before their shift start.

    7. Arglebarglor*

      What LW needs is a policy in place.
      Make it a policy that anyone calling out of a shift has to call at least two hours before their shift is scheduled to start. Yes, that might be 4:30 AM, but if it’s a policy, that is what has to be done, and provide them with the number they should call. IF they don’t call in the time allotted, the boss has the right to make it an unexcused or unpaid absence. That’s what we do in healthcare.
      Or, create an on-call schedule. Someone (on a rotating basis) is scheduled on-call for certain days and if someone calls out, that person has to come in. When I was waiting tables at a busy cafe we would work 3-12hr shifts on, one on call, three days off (of course overtime was available). Everyone got $25 for the day they were on call whether they got called in or not, and if they got called in, they were expected to show up and work and got paid overtime. This also cut down on “frivolous” call outs because employees who called out a lot knew they were inconveniencing their coworkers.
      Instead of blaming the sick person, LW needs to create and follow a policy for all employees.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I like your idea of having someone “on call” every day, in case of emergencies. Really disagree with you on the 2-hour requirement. I’m not getting up extra early every working day, just in case I’m sick and need to call in. I’m going to assume that the LW’s employees are hourly, not salaried, so they wouldn’t be paid for the day they were sick anyway. So the employer could try instituting this kind of policy, but if I worked there, I’d try to get out ASAP.

        1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

          From the comment, on-call employees are paid $25 for the day just to be available. If called, they get the $25 plus their hours at overtime rate. Seems fair to me.

      2. Dahlia*

        No, that’s truly ridiculous. You shouldn’t have to wake up at 4am or earlier to realize you’re sick to call in early enough for your 6:30am shift. Absolutely no.

      3. Jackalope*

        Agree with you on the need for a formal policy, but no way is a 2 hour advanced notice call-in time reasonable for a position that starts at 6:30. Pretty much no one is up that early for such an early shift.

        1. Grim*

          I am! I wake up at 4 for my 6am shifts. Which really sucks, but I have a long commute, and need time to wake myself up, get ready, eat breakfast, feed my cat etc before I leave. But despite this, I still agree it’s unreasonable to expect people to call in 2 hours before such an early shift, because plenty of people can and do roll out of bed half an hour before the start of their shift. I certainly would be, if I had a short enough commute to make that possible.

    8. Misty*

      A lot of these comments aren’t understanding context.

      When your shift starts at 6:30am, you likely cut your routine pretty close in the morning. And for a cafe, I can see that attracting really local people, so maybe a 5 minute walk or drive. People don’t usually do hour commutes for these kinds of jobs.

      Shower night before, wake up 6:15, dress brush teeth out the door.

      You work at a cafe! You are the opener. You get there 30 mins before open usually. First task is getting your coffee ready, get everything set up, then have your breakfast right before open.

      Spoiler: I used to open a cafe. You usually don’t call in Willy nilly cuz you wake up craving that coffee and just get there as quickly as possible.

      When u get sick, lots of time you go to bed fine or neatly fine and wake up terrible. If your lead time is super short, you like need 10 minutes to figure out nope, can’t work today.

      1. Katy*

        Seriously. And in my experience, managers of jobs like this really overestimate how much their workers want to take unpaid time off. With low-wage jobs that don’t have PTO, people generally want more shifts, not fewer. Unless you hire a lot of teenagers, you’re not going to get many people calling in sick because they just don’t feel like working today.

    9. Misty*

      The other thing is LW1 should have a group chat just for staffing. If the team agrees to this of course! And service industry is usually more open cuz calls will be made if not.

      If there are 6 potential employees then one person says….oh I’m sick and then anyone who wants to step up can. If opener is 6:30 likely someone else is in by 8-9 for the rush so if they see it they might be able to get there to open.

      LW1 is making a lot of mistakes and needs to research how to manage a team. Because this isn’t it. You own the business. The staffing headaches are yours. You could have 2 openers if this is a frequent issue but my sense is not only do think your annoyances and irritations should be foisted off on staff to fix, but you are likely cutting corners on staffing to save money.

      1. Bob*

        A few places I worked had a dedicated facebook group for employees. So can post important information to pass on and talk about shift coverage. First thing you did was ask the group. Most of the time, someone would see it and jump in.
        Not required of course, as a manager if someone calls in, we’d ask if they asked the board and or another person (mostly so we don’t call them a second time). But it was up to us to find coverage if needed, or just suffer through. The places I was a manager at had great GMs who would over schedule in the expectation of call outs. We had enough business it wasn’t an issue.

        1. alienor*

          My daughter had a summer job last year where there were was a designated on-call person for each shift. If one person called out, the on-call person would go in. If an additional person needed to call out, there was an app where that person could offer their shift up for grabs to everyone who wasn’t working that day (they could also do this if they wanted to trade their Wednesday shift for Thursday, etc). It seemed to work really efficiently – wish it had existed when I was working retail/food/customer service as a college student back in the 90s.

        1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

          (hit post too soon)
          That is, she is at barebones crew now and can’t schedule any extra. Which means she has to cover the occasional missed shifts herself if she can’t pay someone to be on call.

    10. Lily*

      Our “official” phone to call for sick leave starts at 7 o’clock – that’s when the shift starts. In reality, people write private messages earlier (and then still have to call the phone).
      Once I vomited seemingly out of nowhere (there was some vague feeling but I thought it was just the early morning) 5 minutes before I would have left the appartment, thought for a moment I still could get in and then realized it was a bad idea. Sometimes stuff like this happens.

      The more you pressure people to come in/give them the feeling that it’s not really okay to call out, the later they will realize that they are really to sick to go in. Maybe that’s part of the problem.

    11. Doc in a Box*

      Yes, that’s a really challenging scenario. I’m a physician, which requires 24/7 hospital coverage at least in the residency years. (And usually multiple services, too … I did my residency at a single medical center — no VA or off-site hospital coverage needed, only the Mothership, and we had four different services that needed at least one, ideally two, residents every day.) We had a jeopardy call system to pull people from research electives. Someone calls out? Whoever is on jeopardy is called in.

      It stinks because you might get a call at 4am, 5am, 6am, that hey you need to be at the hospital and ready to round by 7. But at least it made the coverage policy very very clear. In my four years of residency, including a year as chief where I was the one making the jeopardy schedule and having to call folks in, I did not encounter a single incident of abuse. (We were a small crew, only 18 residents total; if you abused jeopardy others could and would make your life hell.)

      If the LW doesn’t have a similar backup system in place, they should consider it. You ought to pay people extra for that on-call status, but it’s worth it to avoid last-minute scrambles or being unable to open on time.

  2. Alz*

    LW 4- can you get around it by creating a new profile/using a different email address? There is plausible deniability that you forgot your login information or have updated your email address after graduating and I doubt they cross check against people who never worked there

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Hm…this seems like a bad idea. Not terrible, but not great for a few reasons:
      *It’s unlikely she would be caught, but why have that hanging over you in a new job, especially when so new in your career?
      *This seems like it’s heading towards being trapped into a mindset of focusing on gettimg This One Job. I know it’s not much effort to either create a new profile or to contact the hiring manager, but since it’s a large, generic industry, I think her energy would be better spent looking at other employers and job openings.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        “It’s unlikely she would be caught, but why have that hanging over you in a new job, especially when so new in your career?”

        I don’t think it would really hang over their head, unless the application directly asked of they have applied before. If they have a 12 month time out they might ask.

        Creating a new profile especially if they have moved/gotten a new email address seems so small that I can’t see anyone really getting dinged for that, if they were otherwise a good candidate. It is not like the company would be hiring them right away after that application/test. they would still have to go through all the other steps.

    2. Buzzybeeworld*

      A lot of ATS (applicant tracking systems) use things like name, birthdate and last 4 of SSN to create unique records, not email addresses, since email is not a permanent identifier like the others are. There is a decent chance the ATS would match her new email to her old application.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yes, this. I wouldn’t assume the email is the only thing used to identify candidates, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d had people try this before.

        1. Allamaraine*

          LW4 should absolutely follow Alison’s advice and reach out directly to the hiring manager. I did exactly this for a job at a FAANG company – for which I was extremely qualified – and landed an interview. The hiring manager was extremely helpful. I ended up not taking the position for unrelated reasons.

          I also got a plum internship the summer before college the same way. I was extremely well qualified for the internship, save that the organization didn’t want “rising freshets”; I reached out directly and landed an internship.

    3. LW4*

      Hi, I’m LW 4 :) Thanks for your reply — She actually tried this and the system still blocked her, so it must use something other than email to identify candidates (as has been suggested by other commenters). I think my question was trying to get more at “SHOULD she try to get around the block” than “how can she get around the block”?

      1. WellRed*

        I really think she needs to move on and take to heart the advice about not being too invested in a “dream job.”

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Me too. It’s only one job. There are many more.
          When I took the job I have now I was meh and didn’t have a lot of excitement about it. It turned out to be exactly what I wanted, and is even getting better. :)
          You really can’t know from the outside whether it will be the job you want or not.
          I have bigger doubts because it’s a large multinational corporation. I pretty much stopped applying to those because it was so difficult to deal with all the automation. And I ended up with a good job anyway.
          My experience with big corporations is they are not stable employers. You will be OK for a year or two, and then they’ll buy or sell part of the company and have layoffs, or change their direction and have layoffs, or close the office you’re working in. Smaller regional companies and government offices are a lot more stable IME.

          1. I Have RBF*


            Large multinational companies can be a meat grinder. Every one I have worked for has done things like stack ranking, annual reorgs and layoffs (“right sizing”) and has an odious application process.

            Startups are also problematic, because they are chaotic, precariously financed, and can go under in a flash, IME.

            The sweet spot seems to be medium sized companies that may not be household names, but are well regarded in their niche. They will have been around for over a decade, and have had slow but steady growth. While these are harder to find, they are often good places to work because they don’t like turnover and churn. But YMMV.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          This. If it’s a ‘large, generic industry’ it seems like there should be LOTS of other places for her to apply, rather than getting (a little weirdly) hung up on This One Place. Encourage her to widen her job search.

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Ding, ding, ding.

          I highly doubt one internship has made that much of a difference in her resume. Now the logic test might be something stupid that is not job related but they decided to use it to weed out candidates. But it is what this company uses. She needs to accept that. She can’t change there system. It’s only 12 months until she can reapply which is not that big of a deal. Get a job elsewhere, then when she has more solid experience and not just internships she can reapply. The block will be gone and she will have a stronger resume. If she even wants to work there after working someplace else.

        4. starsaphire*

          Or possibly consider thinking of her next job as “gaining experience toward getting the Dream Job someday.” (My fingers kept typing Dread Job and I wonder if that’s not a bit Freudian…)

          And if the next job is good, maybe the Dream Job will stay just a dream, or maybe in 3 years with some time under her belt, another perfect opening will happen at the Dream Job. It’s hard to be patient when you’re that age, but I think she’ll do a lot better if she waits it out and puts in the time at another company.

        5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yeah, this “cannot apply for a year because you failed an impersonal online test for unknown reasons that may or may not include a software bug in the test” rule immediately disqualifies this place from being a “dream job” for me. Makes me wonder what other unreasonably strict policies they have.

      2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        I think this is the universe telling her that a company that requires a stupid logic test to be considered for a job is not actually a “dream” place to work.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          That plus an arbitrary blacklist for 12 months if you don’t pass the logic test the first time. That says nothing good about their hiring process – not to say you can’t hire good people with that process, but you’re more likely to lose out on other equally good candidates for at least a year, or longer if they just decide to never apply again.

          1. FrivYeti*

            That was my sentiments exactly.

            Those sorts of “logic tests” are usually designed to deniably filter out disabled or neurodiverse applicants, and creating a blanket ban for a year means that they’re deliberately making sure they’ll lose *good* applicants in the name of getting *conventional* ones. I wouldn’t consider them a good place of business.

            1. I Have RBF*

              Those sorts of “logic tests” are usually designed to deniably filter out disabled or neurodiverse applicants, …

              Ding, ding, ding!

              I have taken those kind of tests, and failed them because of ADHD, dyslexia, memory issues, etc. They functionally screen out disabilities, while not “technically” designed to do so. The people advocating for them think that they are “fair” because everyone has to pass them and that the cognitive criteria really apply to the job. This isn’t the case, but you will never convince their promoters of that. (They are all the rage with people in the “organizational psychology” field.)

              It’s the equivalent of saying “You must pass a written English test to work here.” and the test is loaded with idioms and slang that is both regional and age related. Yes, some people with English as a second language can pass them, and some people outside the target age range can pass them. But they de-facto discriminated against ESL speakers, neurodivergent people, and people outside the age and demographic that the test is designed for.


              1. TeacherTeapot*

                And these are often written by inside-baseball folks who don’t see how their questions can read. I get hung up on particular words and wordings, especially connotations (which can definitely be an issue for 2nd-languge speakers). Too often I’m “this wording can mean four different things.”
                I’m a ELA teacher by trade, so it tracks to my thinking and stands out to me.

              2. Random Dice*

                I didn’t know that. Thank you for pointing it out. I’ll tuck that into my brain, as a neurospicy with a lot of ND family and friends.

      3. Observer*

        I think my question was trying to get more at “SHOULD she try to get around the block” than “how can she get around the block”?

        That’s what I got from you, and I think it’s a reasonable question.

        I think that unless there is a lot more to her added experience than a typical internship, even a very, very good internship, she’s barking up the wrong tree. I don’t think it is at all realistic to think that she’s such a great candidate that the hiring manager is going to want to make the effort to go around their system. And while it’s not likely to do her *major* harm, it could hurt her with the particular manager because it really could come off as out of touch and having a bit too high of an opinion of herself. Confidence is good! But *over*confidence can get you in trouble.

        1. Random Dice*

          I got that sense from this letter too, that she was asking if it was even a good idea to try to get around the requirement.

          It’s a good gut-check before giving work advice to someone much younger, since the rules might have changed since we were in that situation.

      4. Beth*

        If she was the one writing in, I’d tell her to make a note on her calendar of when the 12 months will be up and try again then. She can message the hiring manager, I don’t think it will hurt…but it probably will be a waste of time, unless her resume is substantially different from the hundreds of other people applying with some internship experience.

        But she’s not the one writing in. I think what YOU can do here is, encourage her to look at other companies that do similar work. She’s young enough that she lacks context on how job hunting works. Explain that it’s normal, especially at the beginning of your career when you don’t have any stand-out experience yet, to put in dozens of applications and have most of them end with auto-rejection emails. Any one job matters less than she thinks–especially for an entry level worker, any large corporation in her field is likely to give her similar opportunities and experiences. Large corporations are also hiring constantly, so there will be future chances to apply if she’s got her heart set on working at this one.

      5. I Have RBF*

        IMO, places that have tricksy “logic tests”, “cognitive ability tests” or “personality tests” are probably not places I would want to work. She didn’t pass their test, twice. It’s obviously more important to the company that everyone pass a test and go through the rigamarole that is their ATS than consider individuals as, you know, individuals.

        Being a big multinational company, they have lots of applicants. That test and their rigid ATS is the method they have chosen, rightly or wrongly, to narrow down their applicant pool to a manageable level. They could just as easily say “All applicants must have a certain lucky number present in their application, either in their address, phone number, or years worked.” or “Their resume has to have an even number of words, as counted by the computer, because we don’t want odd people.” Arbitrary? Yes. But since neither are protected characteristics, it’s legal.

        If you gather that I am not fond of arbitrary screening methods, you’re right. But I don’t make the rules, and I acknowledge that companies need ways to winnow out applications.

      6. Anne Shirley*

        I don’t think she should. There will be other opportunities.

        I have always had copyediting jobs. I have lost track of how many writers, teachers, librarians, or nieces of employees “who love reading and writing” felt they should be considered for copyediting positions despite failing screening tests. Are these often lovely, bright, professional people? For sure. But they do not have the particular skillset we want, and we do not want to waste their time or ours.

    4. K*

      This seems very unethical. She failed a test required for employment. She isn’t qualified and it’s not for a trivial reason. Attempting to circumvent that is not something I’d suggest.

      1. Pippa K*

        Agree. And with regard to “a full-time role that she would be perfect for,” sure, understandable that she could see it that way. But for the company, that’s not her call, it’s theirs, and they’ve already made it.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        Failing the test is not a black mark against her, since they only imposed a 12-month moratorium.

        Trying to get around the systems they put in place to enforce that moratorium? That is far more likely to get you a black mark in their books.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yes, this is the key point I’d bring to your stepdaughter. They have these systems in place for a reason. She’s not blacklisted, she’s in a mandatory waiting period. Trying to argue that the rules shouldn’t apply to her is unlikely to color her well unless she’s REALLY a gold star candidate. I would advise against it.

          We don’t know from here why they’ve enacted this policy, but it doesn’t sound unreasonably or harshly punitive.

          1. Tio*

            I would be far more likely to remember someone that put themself on blast that they failed the test and were trying to get around it than someone who just waited it out – and not in a good way.

            If she just recently finished school and an internship, she doesn’t sound like she has a lot of experience? It is a master’s, so that might be a bonus point in her favor, but I think a lot of people think about how perfect they are for the job without realizing that this applies to a lot of other people as well. If this is a big company, they probably get more than one application from someone with a master’s and an internship, and those people might have other qualifications as well that the daughter doesn’t have. And they’re probably not asking to be given a special pass because they failed a test.

      3. True Faux*

        “She isn’t qualified and it’s not for a trivial reason.”

        Given what I know about logic tests, I am going to hard disagree with both parts of your statement.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          There’s a wide swing on logic tests. Some are very bad, some are pretty reasonable and practical. It depends a lot on the test and the role.

          If she thinks another role would have helped her be successful in the test the second time around, I’m leaning a little towards it being a more practical one. With a heavy grain of salt.

        2. B*

          Well the company has decided passing the test on the first try is a qualification for the job. It might be a stupid qualification, but it’s a qualification and she doesn’t have it.

        3. I Have RBF*

          This is where I fall. Those logic tests, cognitive ability tests, and personality tests are just discrimination against the neurodivergent people in a pseudoscientific wrapper.

          Example: The FFM or “Big Five” personality test has one score that is “conscientiousness”. This includes questions about how clean your desk is, how organized you are, etc. Seems legit, right? Except most of the things that contribute to this score are problematic for people with ADHD. So even though, with workarounds, I am a very conscientious person at work, I score really low on this because of my ADHD. The “extraversion, neuroticism, and agreeableness” scores also would be impacted by things like autism, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, and even just plain introversion. But this is touted as a “fair” assessment, for employment, of a person’s personality that is not biased based on race, gender or age.

      4. learnedthehardway*

        It’s not unethical at all. These tests aren’t perfect. Sure, they weed out a LOT of people who are not qualified, but the quality varies. Eg. some are biased with questions that you need context for (they’re better now than they used to be, but there still can be issues).

        Also, people have off days when they’re not going to perform as well as usual.

        People who are accustomed to doing these types of tests typically score better, simply because they’re used to the way they work. Eg. MBA tests – there are entire courses on how to do the tests, how to practice for the type of material you might see, etc. People who train for the tests generally do better on them than people who don’t.

        And sometimes, the tests don’t test for what is actually really important in the role. I remember one test I did for a major CPG company. The role was in HR. The test was aimed at finance and marketing types.

      5. Beth*

        I don’t agree that it’s not a trivial reason (employment tests are often trivial and mostly not relevant to the actual job) and I don’t agree that she isn’t qualified (who knows if she’d be qualified if this was her first application today? 12 months is a long waiting period–an entry level employee can learn a lot, relative to their starting point, in that time).

        But I do agree that it’s silly to try to circumvent it. The hiring manager probably has dozens of applicants with some interview experience–the odds of them making a policy exception for yet another very similar candidate are basically nil. I don’t see an ethical problem here, but I do see a waste of time.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Yeah, and even though Alison says she has nothing to lose, I still feel it is not a great idea. I cannot think it would make that great an impression on the hiring manager for her to be asking to get around this block. Odds are good the hiring manager will ignore it and forget about her, but I would not have the best impression of a fairly recent graduate asking this just because she has since had an internship.

          1. Beth*

            I suspect Alison is right that she won’t lose anything. It won’t make a good impression, but she’s obviously new to the professional world–it’ll probably get chalked up to inexperience, not understanding norms, and possibly “I bet this kid got bad advice from a college career counselor/parent/internet person”. In a year or two it won’t matter at all–and in the meantime, it sounds like it’s a large field, so there are other hiring managers and other companies for her to apply with.

            What gets me is really that she’s wasting her time and setting herself up for disappointment. Entry level job hunting is rough even when you don’t get very invested in any single job–it’s a process full of rejection and uncertainty. She’s making it even harder on herself by pinning all of her hopes on this one thing.

          2. Itsa Me, Mario*

            Maybe it’s because I work in a small industry, but I actually think the LW’s stepdaughter has a lot to lose by reaching out directly to a hiring manager with a petty issue like this. I’m more established in my career and would only consider doing this if I had a prior connection to the hiring manager and felt like I was uniquely qualified in a way others might not be. I wouldn’t even consider cold emailing a hiring manager about a job where I knew I’d be one of dozens of equally qualified candidates. Much less in a situation where I was already at a disadvantage.

        2. Jen*

          I work for a company with a similar test. Everyone hates it, HR included, but it’s a prerequisite imposed by our parent company. There’s no way any hiring manager can circumvent it, even for the most unicorn candidate, so I think OP’s daughter should just focus on other applications.

      6. Love to WFH*

        Online logic tests are nonsense. She was disqualified for a ridiculous reason, but it’s the same bar that other applicants have to clear.

        My current employer has one of these. It’s required by our parent company. Everyone despises it, but there’s no way for hiring managers to bypass it.

        In a previous job, HR added a test like this without telling the hiring managers. A former employee contacted my boss and said he’d wanted to come back but failed the screening. My boss was able to him back in the queue and hired him back — but that was when the test was brand new and considered somewhat experimental.

        1. TeacherTeapot*

          When I worked at a long gone video business they had one of those awful Rate this from Very agree to Very disagree. It was terrible. Bad wording, unclear questions, would fail you for not being just perfect. My manager printed the “key” and gave it to every applicant ( you literally had to apply on a kiosk there).

      7. Nonanon*

        How much did she fail it by? If the cutoff was 75/100 and she got 50/100, sure, but 73-74/100? That’s within reasonable error and shouldn’t be an autoreject and “do not apply for 12mo”

        (IMO I think a logic test is a TERRIBLE way to screen candidates since it tests your logic against the person who made the test, and unfortunately, people tend to make different logical decisions! Look at this very comment section, where people express their logic about a variety of things!)

        1. tamarack etc.*

          Well, if she got like 25/100 she could argue that she just tried out the functions of the portal and didn’t seriously mean to take a test. It’s a terrible thing especially as a hard barrier!

    5. Itsa Me, Mario*

      To me this depends why the logic test is there, whether it applies to all employees or just interns, and how seriously it’s taken. It is hard to tell from the letter whether this is a mere technicality (long ago she applied for an internship with this wacky requirement, didn’t pass said wacky requirement, she is now applying for a totally unrelated role that won’t have that requirement, and nobody will remember that this ever happened), or whether every employee at the company has to take this logic test, and the recruiter will just pop into the system, look her up, and discover that she failed the logic test 6 months ago, and both deny her a shot *and* think she’s trying to pull something shady by using a different email address.

      I will also say that the fact that the logic test issue was apparently less than a year ago implies that this applicant can’t really have moved on, matured, grown in their career, etc. all that much. And definitely a hiring manager or someone in HR who is mid career and not 21-22 years old is going to see this situation as not indicative of whatever growth they would be looking for.

      Personally, if it were me, I would move on. There will be other jobs.

    6. tamarack etc.*

      This would have been my approach too. (Though contacting the hiring manager isn’t a bad idea either – but given the opactiy of corporate IT sometimes, the hiring manager may be unable to get the blockage resolved, and the use of the portal / applicant management system may be mandatory.)

  3. Fikly*

    LW1: Or, maybe, just maybe, they are lying in bed, feeling very ill, and trying to do the math on whether or not they can afford rent or food if they miss the hours.

    1. nodramalama*

      If that was true they wouldn’t call when their shift is starting. Even if they decided to get up, unless they happen to live above the shop, they’re going to be very late.

      1. Fikly*

        Except if they come in late, they can still make some money. And perhaps if the person running this business paid their employees a living wage or gave them actual benefits such that they could afford to miss a shift, they would feel more able to make a decision the night before if they were well enough to work the next day. You will call this an assumption on my part, that they don’t have this, and you will not enjoy if I tell you that if you get to claim your assumptions are based on reality, I get to make ones too, even though mine are backed up by actual studies and data.

        Stop projecting your bad behavior, and assuming everyone else acts that way. Most people don’t have that luxury.

        1. STLBlues*

          I think you’re projecting a lot more than nodramallama is.

          “Even if they decided to get up, unless they happen to live above the shop, they’re going to be very late” seems about as factual as any studies or data you have on (admittedly broadly terrible!) employee benefits/rights. 5 minutes is less than the vast majority of commute times.

          I don’t think your comment is unreasonable in subject, Fikly, but I think you were pretty aggressive and uncharitable to a pretty innocuous comment by nodramallama.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            If 5′ before shift time is the time they know the manager shows up to work, then it’s not unreasonable for them to be waiting for “time I know someone is there so I can call off”. If the manager needs something different, they need to be clear, aka ‘text when you know, don’t worry about the timing’.

          2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            5 minutes is less than the vast majority of commute times overall, but in my experience food service workers tend to have shorter than average commutes for a few reasons:

            1. These jobs are fairly common and interchangeable, so the one closest to home may be best for that reason alone.
            2. They’re more likely to pay terribly, making a long commute with the attendant necessity of maintaining a car or even a bus pass less attractive.

            Sure, most food service workers still don’t have a five-minute commute but a ten-to fifteen-minute commute and the thought process “if I’m five minutes late it’s not the end of the world/oh shit can’t do it” or time blindness exacerbated by feeling like crap or oversleeping could account for the scenario LW1 describes

            1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

              The exception to #1 is when it’s a resort town with a high cost of living. A town near me is something of a destination resort specifically for its restaurants and wineries, in California wine country. There is zero affordable housing for their employees within 20 miles. No apartment buildings in the town, no trailer parks outside of town. Just absurdly expensive to live anywhere within a half-hour of the town so pretty much ALL of the towns workers live 30-60 minutes away. Wages are about 25% higher than in the towns where the workers actually live to attract people and compensate for the commute.

              (It’s a perennial complaint. But any suggestion to build denser, less expensive housing is shut down immediately on the grounds that it would “change the nature and character” of the town. Like, yes? The current nature and character of the town excludes the people who work in it. Apparently the idea of a bar owner’s kids going to school with their employee’s kids is anathema.)

        2. Mr. Shark*

          You are making a ton of assumptions. And even though the OP may be a little pessimistic in regards to her employees, she probably also has experience with employees like that. My work in similar situations I don’t think it’s that uncommon that employees may be skipping work because they were out too late the night before, or just didn’t want to come in.
          Not all, of course. Some may well be sick. But it isn’t unreasonable to want some notice for the OP to have time to call in a replacement.
          You’re assigning a lot of blame on the OP when she actually wrote in to get advice on this issue.

      2. Rebecca*

        Hoe many times has your electricity been shut off or your car was up for repossession or you literally didn’t have enough gas to get to work? That kind of existential dread that’s “I’m puking my brains out but my water will get shut off because I’ll be short on the bill if I don’t go to work” can’t be understated.

        I’d guess that the majority of the people commenting here “that’s so rude” haven’t had to survive on a restaurant service job with the threat of losing basic necessities in the background.

        I’ve been that poor. And it sucks. Now that I’m not, I’d definitely give a heads-up much sooner, because I can afford to stay home if I’m sick. I also get adequate time off. Most service jobs like this don’t give sick or vacation days, and if they do it’s something like 1 week for the entire year.

        It’s easy to judge if you’ve never been in tha position. But the majority of people calling off their service job at the last minute are dreading both the short paycheck and their boss being a jerk about it. (See here: This employer flippantly expects these low wage workers to work off the clock when they’re sick. Statistically speaking, those workers almost certainly aren’t being paid a living wage or provided with benefits. But they’re expected to work off the clock, to relieve the boss that almost certainly isn’t paying them a living wage or paying them sick time.)

        1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          This. Add to that the fact that when we’re sick, we’re not exactly at our most logical. We experience time differently when we’re sick, especially if we doze off.

          So many comments seem to assume the callers-in are up to something when it’s a lot more likely that they’re just acting like sick people under a lot of stress.

          1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

            I recall another feature of restaurant work that slipped my mind when I posted earlier: it’s not uncommon to come in for a shift, then get sent home very early because it’s slow. So the element of “I might not even make enough for it to be worth it” is also part of the calculus the employee’s brain is trying to manage while sick.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          THANK YOU

          If you’re talking about a corporate chain instead of a mom-and-pop restaurant, the only people who matter are the shareholders. Welcome to corporate oligarchy!

        3. Mr. Shark*

          The OP is writing in asking for advice here because they were not sure if it was a fair practice. Why are we assigning this idea that they are evil, captains of capitalism that care nothing for their employees? Aren’t we supposed to be kind?
          Maybe the OP is painting a wide brush on their employees because they have had experience with employees that are waiting until the last second because they just don’t feel like showing up for work, versus employees that are very sick.
          But given that the OP is writing in, let’s not just say she is that awful.

          1. Rebecca*

            “I expect my restaurant service employees to work off the clock when they’re sick” is simply not a defensible position. I’m not saying she’s awful, most people aren’t and she probably isn’t either. But she’s definitely in the wrong.

            1. Gerri's Jaunty Hat*

              And the skepticism toward the “magic words” of fever or puking is a red flag that OP may be threatening public health by pressuring staff to come in when sick. That’s worth some pointed pushback.

              OP it’s better for a worker who’s not quite sick “enough” to still be able to call out, than even once for someone communicable to be serving food. Staff up, put in call-out time parameters, and/or be less chagrined to take those shifts yourself. You’re making more than they are and this is part of employing humans who have bodies.

              1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

                Yeah that jumped out. By calling those the “magic words”, OP is implying that anyone who reports fever or puking is faking it.

                I feel pretty certain that that skepticism is coming through to her employees, some of whom will respond by coming in sick, knowing they’re contagious, but afraid for their jobs if they call off.

          2. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

            Maybe the commenters who have worked in restaurants are painting a wide brush on their employers because they have had experience with employers who routinely dump *unpaid work* on them because they don’t feel like doing the work of a manager in ANY other business, versus employers who staff appropriately and manage the shift schedules themselves?

            Why is it ok for OP to paint her employees with a wide brush but it’s not ok for people who’ve worked in the industry to paint restaurant employers with a wide brush?

            It’s not “painting with a wide brush” to point out that a widespread and awful practice is both widespread and awful.

        4. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

          Your last paragraph especially!

          The OP’s complaint isn’t just that they’re calling out last minute but that her solution is to have them find their own coverage when they do.

          People calling out at the last minute because they’re sick happens everywhere. Every other industry deals with this. They have procedures in place and they can discipline or even fire employees who don’t follow them or abuse sick leave policies. Following these procedures and dealing with employees who don’t is the manager’s job.

          Only restaurant owners seem to think they don’t have to deal with this, they can just put this work onto their employees. Who, as tipped employees, are paid less than minimum wage by OP, often doing side work that has no possibility of earning tips (cleaning, etc.). When the bulk of their income is in tips coming directly from OP’s customers and not from OP herself.

          By the way, California did away with the tipped minimum wage. The minimum wage is now $15/hr for all. And the restaurant industry didn’t cease to exist, despite the predictions of doom from the usual suspects like National Restaurant Association that lobbied HARD against it.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t understand what’s so unbelievable about not realizing you’re unwell until the last minute. People oversleep when they’re sick until it’s practically time for their shift, or they get up thinking they’re just tired, until the ill feeling overtakes them. Things do happen suddenly sometimes. If OP tells them they can call at any hour they aren’t going to deliberately wait. But you still have to expect the unexpected.

      1. Jackalope*

        In addition, there can be other things going on. I was raised to think that I should never call in sick unless I had a fever or was throwing up, and anything else I should power through. I’ve had days of arguing with myself about feeling lousy, but I should power through, but I feel lousy, but I should power through…. I sometimes push the actual calling out because I feel so guilty. (Once I got a stomach bug and was actually throwing up in the morning but it was the day before a holiday and so I actually started on my commute before I started feeling so awful that I had to turn around, go back home, and throw up some more. And I still felt guilty about calling in.)

        Not to say that that’s the explanation for all of these call-ins at the last minute of course, but just putting this out there as a possible reason someone might call in so late. (Also, I think that if the OP tells her employees they can call in at whatever time they wake up then they might be more likely to give her a longer heads up. I think Alison is on to something with that one.)

        1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          exactly, Jackalope. I’ve had times (usually, it’s the monthly Red Scourge that’s the culprit for me) where I’ll be feeling generally lousy but able then halfway to work and NOPE. I’ll get hit with nausea, a blinding headache, and the feeling that there’s a baby alien clawing it’s way through my internal organs, brought on by the movement of the bus. I will have to call in, even though I don’t want to.

          Fortunately, this isn’t currently an issue, as I’m a petsitter and can actually chill a bit at the client’s home if I need to. None of them would be particularly upset if I do a quick out to pee/poop then lie down and cuddle the dog and try not to die.

      2. amoeba*

        Sure, but I think it would be surprising if that happened every single time employees call out in the morning! I’d assume the “normal case” to be calling whenever you usually wake up (so, maybe an hour before shift?) and 5 minutes before to be the exceptions, due to unusual circumstances.

        If all the employees usually call in just before shift starts, I’d guess there’s a communication problem – as in, OP has *not* told them they should call at any hour. (Also, does she actually want to be called at 2 a.m.? Maybe she should specify a little more – like, “as early as possible, but not before 5” or “I have my phone on silent when I sleep, so just go ahead and leave a message on my mailbox whenever” or “message me at any time” or whatever)

        1. Lilac*

          Yeah, I think the first step is to spell out what the expectations are for calling in sick. Maybe they just don’t realize that although it wouldn’t normally be okay to wake up your boss with a phone call at 5:00 in the morning, it’s fine in a situation like this.

          1. Pat*

            I agree. I have my boss’s mobile number, and I know he checks his email/IMs on his phone, so I can let him know I’ll be out, even if it’s the middle of the night. But if the only option was to call, I would wait until a reasonable hour.

            In the past, I’ve called out sick by leaving a message on my boss’s work phone, and she didn’t get the message until I didn’t show up, and she thought to check her voicemail. So I agree that the manager/owner should give employees clear procedures. Hopefully that’s would help bossand employees when this comes up.

          2. Observer*

            Maybe they just don’t realize that although it wouldn’t normally be okay to wake up your boss with a phone call at 5:00 in the morning, it’s fine in a situation like this.

            True. And keep in mind that many employers do not ALLOW you to call too early. You have to call the office and speak to a person. Which is stupid, but a real thing that happens.

            So, OP, the takeaway for you is to *tell your staff explicitly that you want to know ASAP*, even if it’s 4:00 am or whatever.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I think from the last sentence of the first paragraph: “But what about when it’s always at the last second?”

            On a second read through, I’m wondering if OP is noticing a pattern with *one* employee.

            “When people text me the night before…I have no problem… I’m talking about when people call at 6:25…”

            Like, do Alex, Beth, Charles, Dan, and Elle always call the night before but if Frank is calling out it is last minute EVERY SINGLE time? Though even in that instance I still agree with Alison’s advice — you shouldn’t make Frank find his cover but you *should* talk to Frank about the pattern.

          2. amoeba*

            Well, they only give two scenarios (calling the night before and calling at 6.25 in the morning) – so I assumed those were the two common times, and most people don’t actually call at, whatever, 5.30.
            Anyway, it appears to be a regular occurance, otherwise LW probably wouldn’t be writing in about it, so I’d assume it’s at least a significant proportion of the people who call in in the morning!

      3. learnedthehardway*

        Very true – I discovered I had a severe inner ear infection one morning when I was a university student, when I fell twice while crossing the room to turn off my alarm. Thought this was a bad way to wake up, so laid down again, and only then realized that the room was spinning. Nausea set in, so I crawled to the bathroom. After that, I realized something was very WRONG. Cue panic about possible carbon monoxide poisoning (I was living in a basement apartment at the time).

        Long story short, I didn’t realize I was sick until after I got outside.

        Definitely did not make it to class that day. Certainly would not have made it to work, and assuredly would not have been able to give any advance notice.

      4. Laser99*

        I used to call in at the last possible minute because I dreaded my boss so much. Every time I got sick she would make me pay for weeks.

      1. LCH*

        definitely curious how small cafes deal with sick employees in countries that are not the US. what is the protocol?

        1. kalli*

          In Australia they’re often casual (hourly paid with no promises re:hours although in practice people can have regular schedules, it’s just not illegal to not have them) and bad employers will expect them to find their own cover, even worse ones will expect them to come in sick if they can’t get cover, and good ones will either pick up the slack themselves, call around to find cover or hit up a family member or trusted friend for the day.

          The absolute worst ones will call a recent applicant, offer them a trial shift, leave them to do the majority of the work (sometimes even leaving them alone!) with no training, and then not even pay them. This is actually illegal, but it’s more intensive (and sometimes also more expensive) for someone to pursue the shift’s wages via legal channels than it is to suck it up in case the job turns legit or the employer has friends and talks etc.

          Oddly enough, ‘good’ employers look the same in similar economies, ‘bad’ ones vary by what the labour law structure allows them to get away with.

    3. Lilac*

      I think it’s also possible that they’re new to the workforce and just haven’t yet learned the professional norms around this kind of thing. What seems like common sense to an AAM reader might not to someone who doesn’t have a ton of experience with calling in sick.

    4. AnotherOne*

      or trying to figure out how sick they are. can they actually get thru a shift?

      or they’ve only just stopped throwing up enough to get thru a phone call.

      and if they’re the only one on in the morning and they live nearby, they probably know how late they can push a start if they actually go in. And that’s their focus- not LW1 finding someone to cover but them getting to work.

      (I really appreciate that my current job doesn’t do call outs, we email out. So I don’t have to call anyone when I’m sick.)

  4. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

    #3 My partner and now a number of our friends are seeing an ex-corporate HR, now clinical counsellor AND work/career coach. She’s like a unicorn for her experience and training, and has been enormously helpful! (and the best part is because she’s a registered counsellor, our benefit cover working with her). it may be worth seeking out someone with more relevant experience at times!

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I chatted to someone who is a workplace psychologist and coach at a recent networking event. Her specialist area was helping teams work together effectively and, even from talking for a short time, I could tell she was great at it! I wish we could have talked for longer because her job sounds really fascinating.

    2. Pat*

      I’m surprised by what I read (not just in AAM) about therapists giving advice. My therapist really doesn’t want to do that. She talks through situations with me to figure out the best way for me to proceed. If she really feels strongly about something, she asks if she can make a suggestion, and she’s open to it not being a plan of action that I’m comfortable with. She also prefaces some things by telling me it’s not her area of expertise. All of this works well for me.

      Plus, I have learned so much from reading AAM – it helps me to know what’s reasonable and what isn’t in a lot of work situations.

      1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

        When I’ve talked through problems at work with my therapist, it isn’t about the company or its policies, it’s about some interpersonal problem I’m having with a coworker or boss. The context isn’t ever about them and their choices, though. It’s about me and mine and how I deal with my feelings about it so I can communicate with them better. Sometimes it’s about finding a way to communicate a real problem so managers can help with it but most often it’s just about finding a way for me to cope with my own feelings about something that I know isn’t going to change.

        1. Hamster pants*

          10000% of my own experience here as well. It is mostly interpersonal things, adn dealing with my own feelings.

          In my own experience, it’s been getting a stronger sense of what teh cognitive distortions are, and building up my own self esteem and self worth to realize, hey xyz behavior is NOT OK and I deserve better.

      2. AMT*

        I’m the same with my therapy clients. Giving work advice (beyond the small amount of resource provision I do with younger clients, like, “You know you have rights at work, right?”) isn’t helpful. It doesn’t teach skills outside of “always depend on your therapist to know what to do.” I treat mostly anxiety disorders, and my goal is always for clients to increase their ability to tolerate the risk of making their own decisions when uncertainty is involved, not to depend on me or other people for reassurance.

        Also, I don’t know anything about my clients’ office politics! Even if I know what might be a reasonable thing to do in a normal workplace, there are plenty of terrible workplaces where reasonable advice doesn’t cut it.

    3. 2 Cents*

      This is why I love my current therapist. She worked an office atmosphere for most of her career, so she gets why offices are annoying LOL. And how office politics can work. And what it’s like to be a working mom. But I’ve definitely had otherwise good therapists who just have no clue.

  5. MK*

    #3, in my experience medical professionals prioritize their patients, as they should, but are often unrealistic/unthinking about the rest of the world being willing and able to do the same. It’s not just employers, I have seen it reflected in the often impractical (and sometimes downright unreasonable) advice they give caregivers. It’s not their job to consider anyone else but their patients, of course, but they definitely should modify their language to account for them not having all the information.

    1. Observer*

      It’s not their job to consider anyone else but their patients, of course,

      In one sense that’s true, but in another sense that is not the case. Because in some case, by not thinking about the other people affected or who would need to make the suggestion work, they actually cause their patient harm. But also, this kind of thinking can lead to suggestions that are not just not practical but simply unethical.

      but they definitely should modify their language to account for them not having all the information.


    2. John Smith*

      Some are better – and worse – than others. I was receiving counselling during an (unfair) investigation which management were eventually forced to abandon. My counsellor was very sympathetic and angry at the circumstances I was in and gave me some great advice on coping techniques. It was when she started – during our sessions and right in front of me – praying to God to give me strength that the problems started. Not quite proselytising – she was herself non religious – but it really damaged me for some time (I have issues with organised religion and conflict with faith and tenets of religion – dont ask) and left me at times feeling very depressed.

      What else bothered me was that the counsellor was contracted by our organisation’s outsourced Occupation Health dept who objected to her interim report to my manager and asked her to tone down the language so that managers were not seen to be blamed for what was happening (she refused). I never did see her again for the remainder of my sessions.

      I’ve since found that the OH dept are basically a whitewashing outfit to absolve management of their responsibilities. Another colleague who was being bullied was referred for fitness to work test, again during an unfair investigation. Despite reporting being suicidal and voluntarily sectioned (I visited him in hospital and affirmed that he was), he was declared fit to work. Unbelievable.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I’m confused – if she wasn’t religious and you weren’t either, why on earth would she pray? How bizarre!

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Yeah, I am a lawyer, but my work involves a lot of familiarity with therapists and their work, and while I have heard of counselors praying in sessions (usually in the context of a lot of inappropriate behavior by the counselor), they have always identified as Christian or faith-based counselors. For a non-religious one to pray for you in session is really strange!

      2. BreadBurglar*

        I went through occupational health (OH) and it isnt 100% white washing. At least ours wasnt. But I am in the UK so depending on where you are we might have more legal protections. OH kept me on amended duties/hours for 7 months. My work kept trying to put my hours back up and OH kept saying no because the amended duties wasnt giving me enough work as it was. Adding more hours with nothing to do is just demoralising.

        OH did make recommendations on what I could do and what not to do. The place was so badly structured though that even though I could have been just doing generic admin in a different location (our location was just for my 1 department) they never had me doing anything. Not even like stuffing envelopes. But that was my employer not OH. all OH really does it make helpful suggestions.

        1. kalli*

          It sounded like that particular service was designed as lip service, not occupational health generally.

          This is also super regional because ‘therapist’ and ‘therapy’ is a pretty general term that has regionally specific connotations with various levels of counselling and psych treatment – where I live we don’t colloquially talk about therapy or therapists, it’s ‘counsellor’, ‘psychologist’ and ‘psychiatrist’ and if they have a degree over a certain level they’re legally allowed to write medical certificates with work-related restrictions. It sounds like therapist in this letter is more of the lower end of the spectrum, and could even cover peer support workers or other people who provide talk-based supports without needing a bachelors’ to do so.

    3. Pet Jack*

      Therapists don’t help people in a vacuum though. Other medical professionals may, because they give a rec specifically on an issue, but therapy is different. The best thing may be for someone to leave a bad relationship, but if the person doesn’t want to, the therapist works with them. There are no black and white answers in therapy either. It is all about the client’s personal values. Therapists who think there is only one way are generally really unhelpful (to me, I guess some people like that.)

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I disagree. Many providers don’t treat their patients as individuals, and therefore are not prioritizing their well being. It is their job to *talk with* their patients and find out what treatment plan makes sense/is doable for them. The provider doesn’t have to already know everything about your life, but they do need to *ask* instead of telling or assuming. If they don’t, they risk alienating their patient and stopping them from seeking care in the future by giving wildly unrealistic treatment plans.

    5. Beth*

      It kind of is their job to consider people other than their patients, at least to the extent that they don’t give harmful advice to their patient! “You should consider whether there are ways to reduce work related stress in your life” = good advice. “I’m sure your boss will be totally fine with you only coming in half the time, you should skip work when you’re feeling stressed” = you’re telling your patient to do something that will actively make their life and stress levels worse, since most workplaces would consider that a serious problem.

    6. AbruptPenguin*

      I agree, and I think there’s also a natural bias in favor of the patient’s perspective because that is the only one the therapist is hearing.

  6. Tommy Girl*

    My therapist is great with work problems, and understands the difference between work and personal relationships. Maybe find a new therapist?

    1. Peanut Hamper*


      I’ve often heard people say that they got nothing out of therapy. When I ask them how many therapists they tried, they looked shocked and said “only one.”

      It’s amazing that people will often search around and try several different mechanics before settling on the one they are most comfortable with to do maintenance and repairs on their car, but will just assume that they can’t do the same thing with a therapist. Therapists know that they will not be a good fit for everybody and won’t be insulted if you try a different therapist after a while. (And if they are, that’s a warning sign right there that your therapist is not a good one.)

      1. AMT*

        I agree (as a therapist), and I’m also constantly surprised to hear that people get nothing out of therapy or don’t even know what they’re supposed to get out of it. To use your analogy, would anyone go to a mechanic who couldn’t explain how they were going to go about repairing a car, or kept insisting their repairs should be working despite the fact that the car was still broken? Competent therapists should be able to give a client at least a bare-bones rundown of the mechanics of change. If a therapist is capable of learning how their particular therapeutic modality works in grad school, they’re capable of passing some of that on to clients!

        That said, I acknowledge that people tend to know a lot less about therapy than they do about cars, and that it can be tough to ask these questions when you’re in an emotionally vulnerable place. And 99% of the blame for the lack of understanding falls on therapists, not clients–this should be talked about in session one!

    2. dude, who moved my cheese?*

      finding the right therapist is SO much work – if my therapist sometimes gave work advice that was off base, but was great at everything else, I’d be inclined to stick with them

      1. Your local password resetter*

        And building a good relationship with your therapist takes a lot of time. You could delay your treatment by a lot if you try to find one who is an expert at every relevant subject.

      2. AbruptPenguin*

        It’s also fine to push back on their advice and explain why. Therapists are just people and can make mistakes! If my therapist tells me that my boss will respect my need for a 3-day work week, I can say, “actually that’s not how it works at my job” and provide more information to get better-aligned advice. It’s a 2-way conversation (and if it’s not, then you do need a new therapist).

      3. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

        Finding a therapist at all, in some areas. My elderly mother gave up. Her insurance provider gave her a list of providers in her network but none are taking new patients. Her primary care doctor gave her a bigger list but none of them are in her network. So she’s given up.

        Someone with extreme social anxiety, age-related memory problems, and medical-related PTSD is expected to navigate the medical bureaucracy herself to get help. Which is like requiring someone to show they can walk a bit before you’ll get them a wheelchair.

        1. anne of mean gables*

          Truly. I have a PhD in a mental health adjacent field, pretty great insurance, and a job that allows me flexibility to make and field calls during the day. *I* had a hard time finding a therapist that fit my needs and found the process pretty overwhelming (and honestly…I kind of settled for someone who is adequate rather than great). I can’t even imagine how overwhelming it is for a typical person. “Just find a new therapist” (or even “just go see a therapist”) isn’t terribly practical advice for the vast majority of treatment-seeking folks.

    3. Anonym*

      Yeah, same. This is something a decent therapist should be aware of. Presumably most of their patients work, and norms vary across industries. It’s strange to me that any therapist would be as naive as what’s described above

  7. But Maybe I'm Just Old and Mean*

    LW 4, I know it’s generational but I’m amused by the parents being so involved and IMHO there’s no way in h*ll I would do this, it seems very tone deaf “of course these restrictions don’t apply to ME!”

    1. Babanon5*

      Yep. It also feels like this position is likely pretty entry level – the manager is very unlikely to want to go to bat for a candidate when they likely have a pool of candidates that look identical.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t think it’s generational at all. My cousin is in his early 40s and his mother pretty much got him the only jobs he had and bought the hiring manager chocolates or wine or something to thank them for hiring him. My grandmother, who would be 100 if she were still alive, rang up my mum’s employer under a fake name and pretended to be a customer who was highly impressed with my mum. This probably happened in the mid-60s.

      There have always been people who did stuff like that and there are plenty of parents today who are not involved at all.

      1. Rainbow*

        I thought they meant generational as in it’s the older parents who chose to get involved… massive generalization but old people seem to support this kind of thing all the time, and young people generally would rather walk into an interview naked than have their parents “help”

      2. ferrina*

        Yup. I know plenty of people who got their job because their parent knew someone who was able to waive a minor (or major) qualification. It’s a big mix of ages in that pool, and the further we go back in history, the more the job qualifications are “related to this person, the rest is flexible”.

        On the flip side, I’ve known parents (including mine) who refused to help their kid with the job search at all and would have immediately scolded them for trying to get any kind of exception because “you’re not that special” (thanks, mom). This extends about 4 generations down my family line.

    3. Bit o' Brit*

      They don’t sound all that involved, their kid just asked for advice. If you’ve got a good relationship with your parents that’s both normal and reasonable. It’s not like they’re filling out the application on their kid’s behalf.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        This reminds me of the mom in her 70s who constantly asked us librarians for help submitting multiple medical school and job applications for her son in his 40s!!

        She did it all, searched for jobs, wrote essays, cover letters, and resumes, scanned and submitted documents, wrote follow up emails, etc. And she asked us for advice at each step and was not at all tech savvy, which is how we knew so much about what she was doing. They were often international applications that required personal paperwork and had strict deadlines she was always not quite meeting and needing extensions for.

        We never learned whether the son even knew she was submitting all these applications for him! He never appeared and she talked like she was doing everything.

        That was an over involved parent!

      2. Happy meal with extra happy*

        My controversial opinion: there is a subset of the group of people who unfortunately had bad relationships with their parents, and that subset thinks it makes them better and stronger as a person, so they judge those who are close with their parents.

        (And because I don’t want to get these follow-ups – I mean close as in a normal, healthy relationship.)

            1. Gerri's Jaunty Hat*

              Agree, it’s definitely A Thing, even if it doesn’t apply to commenters here. A lot of people with emotionally unsupportive / critical parents try to justify that by viewing those with loving (but not actually helicoptery) parents as being “coddled”. Instead of just accepting that they got a raw deal and working through those issues.

        1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

          Huh? I’d take a step back.

          I’ve typically seen people close with their parents have a hard time comprehending people having a bad relationship, because that seems so unrealistic and impossible (“everyone fights with their parents sometimes! It’s okay! :)!”) Likewise, there are helicopter parents who sabotage their adult child by making them look immature and codependent in a very public fashion (like emailing their boss on their behalf or having their kid cc them on work emails) — that’s who people here are thinking of.

          The more I think about it, the more callous your assumption is…over involved parents are a massive trope in pop culture, too, so this leap is so bizarre when it’s clear that’s where people’s heads are.

      3. Itsa Me, Mario*

        Agreed, but I am a little surprised that the stepparent took it upon themselves to write in vs. just telling the kid that it’s not the done thing, and there are other jobs out there.

      4. Random Dice*

        Yeah agreed – they’re just doing a gut check on what kind of advice to give. I went into this letter thinking helicopter over-involved relatives, but then realized that totally doesn’t apply.

        This LW is actually quite skeptical about this recent graduate’s attempt to GUMPTION!!!!! her way around job requirements. She wants to recommend that the kid simmer down, which is the right advice.

    4. GammaGirl1908*

      I agree with Old and Mean. There are multiple letters here and elsewhere every month about applicants who want a faster answer or want to find a secret sauce to skip some formalities or want to try again when they didn’t do their best, which is the intersection where this young lady finds herself. Nothing about this letter says anything about the applicant “deserving another chance” now other than that she doesn’t want to wait, which, frankly … doesn’t make her more special than anyone else.

      Her new experience will still be valid in a few months. There likely could be another good position if this one is filled, especially because she is early-career (which, again, frankly, makes her even more dime-a-dozen). As has been noted in other letters, this is their process, they believe it works for them, and you aren’t entitled to do an end run around it just because you didn’t get the answer you wanted. She is not blackballed; she just needs to come back a bit later than she wants.

      I’m not disparaging the young lady or her experience. I’m sure she is great and intelligent and capable and will make a terrific employee when she finds a job. As mentioned, she even can try to find someone who can help her out and ask what else she can do. But … I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer is still “reapply in February,” which is just not the end of the world.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        The “deserve another chance” is in the letter re: the applicant thinking she deserved another chance at this job because now she has more experience. But as everyone is saying, it’s time to move on! And the sooner she can drop the “dream job” moniker, the better. No job is a “dream job” before you get it. You just don’t know what it’s really going to be like. And if this is a large generic industry, it sounds like the daughter needs to broaden her job search and apply to a lot more things that are actually out there for entry-level folks.

        1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

          This “dream job” is described as Big Multinational Corporation. Surely there are other BMC’s in the same industry where she can apply?

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think there’s an element of “talent show itis” here, where the media have taught us that what matters is *who wants it more* and *who tried their hardest*.

        Whereas a hiring manager’s list of desirable attributes has “relevant work experience and qualifications” at the top, and “dreamed of this career since childhood” precisely nowhere.

      3. ferrina*

        Yes! All of this!

        There are cases where exceptions should be made- this is not one of them. “I got 9 months experience in 9 months” is….. extremely normal. Part of what will help this young professional become a stronger candidate is being aware of what is common in the field and what is not. When you know which of your skills is rare/valuable and which are common – or even which skills to build to become valuable – you are in a much stronger negotiating position.

    5. Samwise*

      Eh, the daughter is just asking for advice, not asking them to be all in her business and pull strings for her.

      I’m in my mid-60s. I *still* ask my dad for advice about work issues — he’s retired from a related field, he’s smart, thoughtful, and willing to tell me (nicely) when I’m full of crap.

      (It was weird when my nieces and nephews started contacting *me* for advice — I’m not that old! am I???!!)

    6. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      While I think some of the responses to this are out of line, I also don’t think this remotely constitutes over-involved. They just spoke to their parents about something and the step-mom decided to write in to see what professional norms are and who is off base about them. Sounds like she will let the daughter freestyle when it comes to what they’re actually gonna do, but has reservations that it will hurt her.

  8. nnn*

    #1: One thing you can do is specifically tell people “I’d rather hear from you the night before if you know that you’re sick then.”

    Some employers in the world are suspicious of people who call in the night before, thinking they can’t possibly know if they’re sick that soon and they must be just wanting a day off. If you can explicitly make clear that earlier notice is welcome (and even preferred), you’ll have a win-win situation.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      This is what I ask for. If you’re feeling unwell the night before and aren’t sure how you’ll be feeling in the morning, just let me know. That way, I have more time to prepare for your potential absence, you can choose to not set your alarm and see if a little more sleep does the trick, etc.

    2. KateM*

      I think what would need even more to stressed is that OP would like to hear from them also in the middle of night (maybe through text, though). If they wake up at 5 and feel sick, they would wonder if it is too early in day to call.

      1. Higgs Bison*

        It’s certainly job and manager dependant. Special case, but I once had a job where we were specifically told to call after the start of our shift because it was a cleanroom, so there likely wouldn’t be anyone done showering in to answer the room’s landline phone even if you called exactly at the start of your shift.

    3. Melissa*

      I agree. When i was about 19, I worked in a nursery school. One morning I woke up sick, but I thought it would be better to go and TRY to work my shift. My thinking was sort of like “She’ll appreciate that I worked as much as I could.” Then midway through the shift, I told her I had to go home. Of course that was far worse than having called out, because I was stranding them mid-shift. But I really truly didn’t know that, because it was my first job. I was coming from a school context, where as a student, it’s better to attend half your classes than none.

      1. ferrina*

        When I worked in a corporate daycare, you came in to work your shift. If you tried to call out they would berate you and accuse you of lying about symptoms. The Inquisition would have been proud. You had to pretty much come in and throw up in the middle of the classroom to get sent home.

        If I had tried to call out the night before, I would have been hearing about it for a month.

    4. Also-ADHD*

      It’s also totally normal to not know until morning, though, but maybe LW could get an extra hour of notice (or more) if there’s some easy, no pressure way to text/email at 3am etc.

      1. Observer*

        It’s also totally normal to not know until morning, though, but maybe LW could get an extra hour of notice (or more) if there’s some easy, no pressure way to text/email at 3am etc.

        Yes. This is probably the best thing the OP could do.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          As a first time manager I’ve learned that I’d rather get the call or text in the middle of the night rather than just before the shift starts. I had one employee call me 30 minutes into their shift to let me know they wouldn’t be coming in and I had to drill into them that calling me ASAP was preferable to waiting for them to show up and wondering if they got hit by a bus or whatever.

    5. Anne of Green Gables*

      Yes, this is what I was thinking. I agree with Alison in that letting staff know that there isn’t such thing as calling/texting too early in the morning when you are opening shift, and would add what nnn is saying and mention that if you are feeling off the night before, it is ok and preferred to let the manager know at the point.

    6. Dona Florinda*

      Speaking of making things clear, one time I got yelled at at work because I called my boss personal cellphone, instead of the office number, to call in late. At a different job no longer after, I got in trouble because I called the office instead of my boss’ phone.
      So the clearer you can be about everything (time, means to get in touch, and so on), the better.

    7. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I was in a deli job at one point where to call out of work you had to talk to the manager/shift lead. No coworkers. If you couldn’t reach someone in charge you had to keep calling back until you did. The manager was frequently in the back storeroom doing restocks, or helping the Very Busy hot foods section. They were decent about scheduling otherwise but that made life really hard.

    8. WhoKnows*

      I don’t know about anyone else, but when I get stomach viruses, they almost exclusively hit me in the middle of the night or early morning. Like they’re timed to allow me to not get any sleep. If I’m throwing up starting at 1am, I guess I am supposed to shoot a text then and hope the boss sees it when they wake up? What if the boss isn’t on the 6:30am shift? It’s definitely a hard situation to decipher on both the management and employee side.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Understandable and also a good reason to follow Alison’s advice for the manager to communicate how they want sick days called in, instead of leaving employees guessing

  9. Cabubbles*

    I’ve been given some very unreasonable advice as a Caregiver and I called the counselor out on it. Funnily enough, the counselor immediately back tracked by saying the advice wasn’t directed at me specifically…. sure. I think it’s important to remember that counselors are people too and therefore can fall victim to tunnel vision.

  10. SB*

    LW1 – I had a similar issue with an employee so I let the whole staff know that the moment they know they will be unable to attend their morning shift they are to call me, no matter what the time, so I can make arrangements. This worked for all except the one I was having problems with. She would continue to call with only 10 to 15 minutes to spare before shift start, making it impossible to fill the shift & Leaving her coworkers short for the very busy morning shift. In the end I moved her to afternoon shifts which are much less chaotic (nursing home) & she ended up leaving of her own accord as she did not like being at work until 11pm. Problem solved itself in the end.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I think this is really the answer for the OP. Give clear instructions about when to call. If OP still sees the pattern, talk to the person about the pattern OP sees. Then OP can have a clearer sense that this is someone calling out for some non-sick reason and is “taking advantage” of OP. Until then, OP is just making themself stressed by assuming things.

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      OK but if the shift starts at 6:30am and your employee realizes at 2am that they can’t make it in…. so they call or text you… then what? Is the LW really planning on ringing the rest of her staff at 2am to find coverage or is she going to wait until 6:30am anyway? What do you do?

      1. Buzzybeeworld*

        Knowing earlier means the owner can make plans earlier. Maybe she comes in extra early herself to do some of the opening prep activities. Maybe she has someone who will pick up shifts that she can text at 5 am. Maybe she has other contingencies. As the owner she probably has ways to deal with people calling out, but her ability to use her contingency plans is greatly diminished by short notice.

        I don’t even manage a coverage based workplace and even still, the earlier I know a member of my team is out sick, the better. I’d rather they drop me a text at 2 am that I see when I get up, then call me at 8 when meetings are about to begin. It gives me time to adjust my day and reset certain things to make sure anything time-sensitive is covered.

        1. Massive Dynamic*

          Thank you – that all makes sense! I had an image of LW desperately waking up the rest of her staff via calls. ;)

        2. Itsa Me, Mario*

          If the owner has “ways of dealing with people calling out”, none of this ever would have come up. Since 3 in the morning is not a reasonable hour to canvass the rest of the staff to see who’s available to cover, what LW would do at 3am is the same as what they will do at 6:25. Which they would realize, if they were proactive enough to have a plan in place for their opener calling out sick.

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            This is provably false.

            I can get into work myself an hour earlier and do more prep work if I know. I can’t go in an hour earlier if I don’t know until 5 min before.

            I can take care of things before meetings if I know earlier. I can’t be in a meeting AND handle finding coverage/handle tasks if I only know 5 min before.

            Your comment is not only unkind in tone, it is also incorrect.

            1. LifeBeforeCorona*

              Yes! The more notice the better, I’ve gone into work early to cover the work of someone who called me. Can’t do that with 5 minutes notice.

            2. Dahlia*

              That’s all very valid, but the LW is clearly not doing any of that currently, if they are having people call their coworkers to come in.

  11. Observer*

    #4 – Stepdaughter’s application being blocked.

    This is is a nice counterpoint to all the parents who encourage their kids to “show gumption” and find ways to show how special they are. Good for you.

    I’m with Alison that if she’s really set on it, it probably won’t do her any harm.

    But she should consider that the company probably knows that a lot of applicants get jobs or internships after failing their logic test, and they still don’t think that that is sufficient. Why does she think that she’s different – and so much stronger due to her internship that all the other students who get internships and jobs in the interim? If she comes up with a good, clear and reality based answer to that question, she should definitely present this to the hiring manager as part of reaching out to them. But she should absolutely *not* let any whiff of “deserving a chance” to come through. Because it will almost certainly turn off any experienced hiring manager. And while I doubt it would hurt her in an industry-wide way, it could annoy someone enough that she could wind up on a “do not hire” list at that company.

    Obviously she’s an adult so you can’t keep her from doing what she’s going to do. But this is the one thing that’s well worth pointing out to her, along with Alison’s excellent point about “deserving another chance” not being the way hiring works.

    1. Buzzybeeworld*

      Also, the “worst that can happen” is the hiring manager realizes the end-run and the step daughter lands on the permanent do not hire list. I’m not saying it will happen, but trying to outgame hiring rules has absolutely landed candidates in that position.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        Buzzybeeworld, I was thinking the same thing!

        What if doing an end run around the normal process gets her on a “permanently do not hire” list for bothering the hiring manager?

        1. Pet Jack*

          Right. Alison usually tells people not to circumvent the system. So the hiring manager may wonder why the heck this person feels oh so special that they go around the system.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          I was wondering the same thing!

          Also, we have no evidence that the internship would have helped her pass the logic test. (I am very curious about this test, tbh!)

        3. Ex-recruiter*

          Yup – when I was in recruiting this would have annoyed the heck out of me. The candidate has been told they failed the logic test and have to wait 12 months to reapply. That rule applies to every candidate. They’ve decided that rule shouldn’t apply to them so they’re trying to game their way around the system. First by using different email addresses – rookie mistake, you’re now in the system with multiple email addresses against the same name/birthdate. When that didn’t work they want to try and find the hiring manager and get essentially a system bypass from them. You will be remembered by recruiting for all the wrong reasons.

      2. Itsa Me, Mario*

        Even if there’s no “do not ever hire” list, my experience is that you really don’t want to give strangers who are in a position to hire you a negative reaction when they hear your name. You absolutely do not want to be That New Grad Who Failed The Intern Test But Who Felt She Really Deserved An Extra Shot At A Permanent Job, for the next 5 years.

    2. stratospherica*

      Yeah, my gut is with “wait out the 12 month block” personally as someone involved in hiring – my company doesn’t do hard blocks or do-not-hire lists, but we have a restricted list where we require additional approvals for people who meet certain criteria (like applying over 30 times, issues during background check, etc.), so I feel like a company where the mood is “it’s OK to hire this person but be aware of the risk” would have a similar system rather than a hard block.

    3. BreadBurglar*

      This! Also I feel like people are overlooking that she failed a LOGIC test. They are using that as a screening tool for a reason.

      If I was hiring and someone contacted me to say they cant apply because they failed that test and the system says they must wait 12 months, that would be a bad look. Especially if there reason for special exemption is they did an internship. Nope. If I am looking for specific logic based skills and you fail that I wouldn’t see you as a strong candidate. Come back in a year and try again then.

      1. Testerbert*

        As a counterpoint: I’ve worked for a company which provided application tracking software which integrated all kinds of tests. ‘Logic’ tests are frequently absolute trash, only *slightly* above the behavioural slop where you have to guess whether the test writer wants backbone or a pliant drone. That the system blocks *all* applications rather than specific types (I failed tests for an internship, but I’m now fully qualified plus experience!) is blindingly shortsighted, especially when they inevitably over-rely on such tests for prospective interns because (drum roll please) they aren’t fully qualified and don’t have experience.
        Telling someone to wait a year may also translate into “Wait until the next annual new grad hiring window, where you’ll have to compete with all the fresh new grads and be judged for why you didn’t get a job this cycle.”

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Yes, exactly. This company is focused on keeping people out, not bringing them in.
          Maybe they have such a big name that everyone (thinks they) want to work for them and in that case this is understandable, but won’t help the applicant.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            And that is something the applicant needs to consider when deciding if this is really her dream job or not. The logic test may be absolute trash, but it is what the company uses. Does she really want to work for a company like that?

            I think the applicant needs to get off the dream job focus and focus on gaining experience — elsewhere.

        2. Jackalope*

          I agrée with this. The company certainly believes that they have a good reason to use this test, and it’s possible that said test does provide some sort of useful screening other than just making the number of applicants who make it through the screening a more manageable number. But just about every such screening test I’ve ever heard of is malarkey, and does not work in the way that the employers fondly believe that it does. Which doesn’t change the advice here – she still is likely to find that just waiting the full year is the best way to proceed – but it’s unlikely that the test actually works.

        3. Environmental Compliance*


          I’ve had to take a few logic tests early on in my career. Every single one was pretty useless, some downright dodgy, and most of them completely irrelevant to the job.

        4. Antilles*

          That’s true enough in my experience.
          But for OP in particular, I’m not sure it matters how useless the tests are. Any company which is using these tests is, presumably, fine with it narrowing their hiring pool. Especially for an entry-level job where they probably have a sizable amount of relatively similar “good enough” candidates, the hiring manager doesn’t really have an incentive to argue against the test and help Daughter get past the block when he’s *already* got too many candidates to reasonably interview.

        5. A Poster Has No Name*

          I agree with this.

          To me the logic test, that apparently applies to all roles, is a bit of sh*tty gatekeeping that certainly has impacts on diversity and other things in hiring and would be a giant red flag for me.

          1. I Have RBF*

            This is where I fall.

            Generic “logic”, “cognitive ability” or “personality” tests are loaded with discriminatory stuff, especially against people who are neurodivergent or who have cognitive disabilities. The damned things are the latest fad with the organizational psychology people, who refuse to see just how discriminatory they are. (I had a running argument with an org psych person who said they were absolutely not discriminatory and were more accurate than behavioral interviews.)

            1. Buzzybeeworld*

              All of that is true, but none of that helps the LW or her child. Telling a company that their test is likely discriminatory will absolutely not get her application another look.

        6. fhqwhgads*

          The test may very well be trash, but by telling the candidate they’re now out of consideration for 12 months, they’re being very clear saying “you didn’t meet this particular bar we have, and we don’t believe it’s possible to have improved enough in less than 12 months for it to be worth it to consider you”.
          So, the dad’s proposed is approach is to say “but consider me anyway” when they’ve said “we will not”. Like, sure, knock yourself out, but why anyone expects that to work is beyond me.
          Unless you’re the guy who invented a programming language 2 years ago and got screened out for not having 5 years of experience in said language, it’s probably not worth it for them to reconsider you just because you asked. The context in which it makes sense for them to reconsider is when they’re looking for some specific, hard to find skill and thus might not actually have 3-4 other candidates who’d be good at the job. If they can get enough good candidates with their current system, they have nothing to gain by pushing through OP’s stepdaughter. That’s what stepdaughter and dad don’t seem to be considering. It’s not about whether she’s “perfect for the job”. It’s about whether anyone else is.

      2. FrivYeti*

        A few people have discussed this, but there is a very good chance that the reason they are using it as a screening tool is discrimination.

        Most companies that require “logic tests” do so in order to verify that applicants have the same instinctual and rapid responses to opaque questions as the question-askers, in order to promote a “culture fit”. This filters out people with neurological conditions (especially ADHD or autism), people who speak English as a second language, and often people who are from a different class or culture and look at these problems from different angles. It promotes a corporate culture in which diverse viewpoints are filtered out in favor of creating as homogenous an organization as possible.

      3. Itsa Me, Mario*

        Even if the logic test is just a formality that everyone hates, unless it’s something they only ask of interns, I would be a little uneasy about a prospective new hire who felt that brazen about cold contacting a hiring manager with the assumption that the system doesn’t apply in her case. Without an amazing reason why the system shouldn’t apply, which should not be “But it’s been 6 whole months! I’ve grown so much since then!”

    4. JSPA*

      Unless she has a legitimate excuse, like a very specific and compelling computer malfunction, or she came down with food poisoning mid-test, I would suggest she NOT do it.

      So far they only know that she failed some abstract computer test. NBD. Nobody but the computer is blocking her.

      But double down with a combination of pushiness and a real-world demonstration of your logic flaws? Ouch.

      That’s potentially going to motivate someone to extend the ban, even if it means they have to reach out to HR to find a “do not hire” list.

      An internship does nothing to improve abstract logical reasoning; conflating “experience” and “logical skills” is, in itself, a failure of logic.

      Add a dose of, “but I really want this, so I’ll do an end- run around the rules” and…. Yeaaaah, I’m definitely not hiring you for at least the next two or three years, and I’ll be asking a lot of attitude and common sense questions, even after that point.

      If she’s indeed so unusual that the rules don’t capture her true talents, she needs to take those talents to a different arena.

      If she just wants to “manifest” specialness, or bring influencer vibes to a desk job, that sort of thinking will be legitimately seen as entitled, toxic, tiresome and distracting in most workplaces.

      1. Observer*

        But double down with a combination of pushiness and a real-world demonstration of your logic flaws? Ouch.

        Yes. The thing here is that the logic test may be trash. But even if that’s true, her reasoning is heavily flawed here, which makes the test look like it scored her correctly. Not what she’s going for here.

    5. Turquoisecow*

      I think where I get hung up is, why should the hiring manager care? What, specifically, makes this particular person so special and highly qualified that the manager should bend the rules for them (even assuming that’s possible, it might be something they can’t do, because HR/higher up executives set the policy and an individual manager can’t override it)? I was waiting for the part where OP says they hiring manager is a friend or relative or something who might be like “oh! This person! Yes, of course SHE should be hired, I know her/her parents/took a vested interest in her schooling/etc and she is definitely the candidate who would be PERFECT for this job,” despite failing a test required to be hired for the job.

      I mean sure, she can message the manager and see what happens, but I don’t see it doing any good unless there’s some kind of personal connection there, and even then, the company system may just not allow them to override it. How many times have we seen letters where people try to circumvent the application process or get a foot in the door otherwise and the hiring manager literally cannot consider them without them going through the process?

      1. Itsa Me, Mario*

        I can only come up with two compelling reasons (beyond the sort of personal connection you mention) to reach out:

        1. Very extenuating circumstances around the logic test. Like maybe she took it 20 minutes after finding out that a close relative had died, or while actively suffering from the flu, or something.

        2. Some aspect of what she did in the intervening months that would absolutely blow any competition out of the water. Like did she invent something? Spend the semester interning at the White House? Get a PhD?

        If the answer is just “I’m annoyed that I failed” and “I got a different internship somewhere else that is comparable to what other entry level applicants will have”, then do not reach out.

    6. B*

      Right, there is only “zero downside” if you are ok with never working for this company. Maybe you figure you’ll be employed elsewhere within a year and won’t want to reapply when the 12 months are up. Personally I think the upside is miniscule and the downside is small but material, so I’d just wait it out.

    7. Velawciraptor*

      Yeah, ignoring an employer’s stated hiring requirements is never a good look.

      Back when in the business of hiring, I had someone apply repeatedly for an attorney position who had never attended law school, much less passed the Bar. They insisted they’d be great and could take law classes at night to get up to speed. They deserved a chance to try.

      I recognize a logic test and a licensing requirement are different, but the refusal to believe that rules applied to them meant that even if their resume crossed my desk for something they were qualified for, like a secretarial or investigator position, it still wouldn’t have resulted in even an interview because they’d already demonstrated that I couldn’t trust their judgment.

      “Trust me, bro” isn’t a qualification. For any position.

  12. Observer*

    I let the whole staff know that the moment they know they will be unable to attend their morning shift they are to call me, no matter what the time, so I can make arrangements.

    That’s a very sensible move.

    his worked for all except the one I was having problems with.

    That’s so common that I think it would be on any list of “AAM Tropes”. (Like All Staff memos to get one person to stop misbehaving.) The thing for you is that it was a good idea anyway to tell you staff this, so at least you weren’t totally wasting your efforts.

    In the end I moved her to afternoon shifts which are much less chaotic

    You sound like a good boss, trying to do right by your staff.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think retail/shift work is one of the cases where all staff memos reiterating policies and procedures can be a good step, even if you do still need to address the problem person directly. There’s a lot of turnover, different people doing training, indirect communication with people you don’t always see regularly – things can get muddled quickly. So I agree, not a wasted effort. Just also not an ultimate solution.

      1. Observer*

        I think retail/shift work is one of the cases where all staff memos reiterating policies and procedures can be a good step, even if you do still need to address the problem person directly.

        I agree. That’s why I said that I think it was a good idea, and not a waste of time. I only mean that it’s totally nor surprising that the person who had the biggest problem at the time essentially ignored it.

    2. Observer*

      Sorry – nesting fail. This was meant to be a response to the post about a worker who had a lot of issues with call outs and the manager did explicitly tell everyone to call no matter when.

  13. TG*

    LW#2 – Bad management for sure – a manager should not show such favoritism and then to blame you for being toxic for asking about it is ridiculous. It is not appropriate at all. There was a manager in another team who did this and only invited who he “liked” to parties and so I was left off while other members of my team – all men – were included. Many of us were thrilled when he left as the boys club mentality eased a bit.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I don’t see many comments for OP#2 but I think they are in, “your boss/company sucks and is not going to change” territory. That makes it time to job search. I’m sorry OP, it really does suck!

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Agreed. This company has shown you LW2 who they are. Believe them. It’s not going to change, it probably won’t get better absent something drastic. It never hurts to polish up the resume and see what options you have.

  14. Educator*

    LW2, when you need to gut check things like this, it might be helpful to do it with professionals you respect who do not work for your company. You’ll get more objective advice, and the conversation is more likely to stay confidential. I have a few friends who work other places in jobs similar to mine who I often turn to for advice, and they are such an asset. Unless you are trying to organize coworkers to take action as a group or talking about salaries, which are of course protected activities where it makes sense to engage your coworkers, I would find other people you can trust not to have their own agendas or misconstrue your inquiries.

    1. MicroManagered*

      You captured something I was thinking in a very eloquent way that avoids shifting blame onto OP2. .

      If the goal was truly to gut-check — do that with people who don’t work there. It’s the only way to be 100% sure your private conversation will remain private.

      1. Anna*

        Yes, agree. While overall the manager shouldn’t be playing favorites, there could be some scenarios where it really wasn’t a big deal, but the left-out employee stirring the pot about it makes it worse.
        I may have a wrong impression of this, but everywhere I’ve worked (family business, large federal agency, small private business), some subset of coworkers, including managers and HR, has socialized outside of work without always inviting everyone else, so this seems pretty common to me, even if not scrupulously fair.

        1. OP2/LW2*

          We’re a government agency, and this has never been acceptable at any other agency I’ve worked at; you invite all of your direct reports or none. Peers? Do whatever you want, but it’s not the same for a supervisor/employee.

          I’m hoping you’re not calling me a pot-stirrer, especially given Alison’s response confirming that this is absolutely wrong.

        2. OP2/LW2*

          We are a government agency. I have worked for a few, and this has not been acceptable at any other agency I’ve worked at. You invite all of your direct reports or none. For peers, you do whatever you want (within reason), but the supervisor/employee relationship is different.

          I hope you’re not calling me a pot-stirrer, especially given Alison’s response about how this is absolutely not OK to do.

        3. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Having management/HR socializing with people they have influence on outside of work/workplace events is a non-ideal scenario. I know it happens, and often happens by accident; a partner at the firm I’m at started coming to my church, and we only discovered the work connection about a month in (luckily he was in a very different office/department). But courting those sorts of friendships often leads to trouble down the road l.

        4. Gumby*

          If something is only “not a big deal” because no one comments on it – then it is actually a bad idea. Silence doesn’t make a bad idea a good one. It might make it less uncomfortable if everyone ignores the elephant in the corner but the elephant is still there. Pointing out that the elephant is there is not “making things worse” – things were already bad. Blaming the person who acknowledges the elephant instead of the person who invited it in is some major league blame-shifting.

          If we were talking peers instead of a manager, I would agree that you can invite who you want but you should still be more discreet about issuing invitations and about discussing the party in front of non-invitees. That’s just basic politeness. But throw in the power differential and the control over someone else’s career and showing favoritism is a definite problem. It’s a problem whether someone mentions it or not. Not saying anything doesn’t mean the non-invited are ok with it. They could be. Or they could feel like they can’t speak up because clearly their manager doesn’t like them and they don’t want to get fired.

  15. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – as someone in HR, I would say your DD should contact the hiring manager. Explain that she heard about the role, wants to put her name in, but can’t because the system is blocking her. (No need to explain why the system is blocking her, at this point. Applicant tracking systems have their quirks.) Would they please take a look at her resume and connect her with whoever is managing the recruitment for the position.

    She really doesn’t have anything to lose. And if she is really a strong candidate for the role, the hiring manager won’t mind. If she’s not a strong candidate, then no harm done.

    If I were a hiring manager and an automated test got in the way of me hiring a good candidate, I would be annoyed. I would – of course – make sure that the candidate was thoroughly tested in the assessment process, but I would certainly make sure they got put through the process, if I thought they were someone I would be interested in hiring.

    1. rainyday*

      hmm, I don’t know – as a frequent hiring manager, I would only want to do this for an exceptional candidate, and not for an entry level job. It sounds like this is a position that gets a lot of suitable applicants, one way the company has decided to reduce the pool to a manageable level is to make this rule. Whether that’s right or wrong, that’s how the company works, and I doubt the hiring manager wants to hear from disappointed applicants who feel that the rule doesn’t apply to them. I do think there is something to lose, and nothing to gain.

      1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

        Yeah, she can try but what gets me is that this is entry level and presumably lots of people did pass this logic test, so it’s not like she’s exceptional. Failing an exam and then passing it after exposure and time to study isn’t exceptional to me — commendable for not giving up, but not exceptional, unfortunately.

        I would respond generically to her message that it’s out of my hands.

    2. nodramalama*

      I doubt it. It sounds like these are for graduate roles which probably means they’re probably sifting through thousands if not more candidates. Theyd be using the tests as like a first hoop.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      I feel like this approach would have a low chance of success because they’d quickly find out that she intentionally withheld the reason the application was blocked.

    4. Antilles*

      She really doesn’t have anything to lose. And if she is really a strong candidate for the role, the hiring manager won’t mind. If she’s not a strong candidate, then no harm done.
      There might not be anything to lose, but there’s also nothing to gain either. This is an entry level role with plenty of viable candidates.

      You know what the hiring manager (HM) is going to do when they see a LinkedIn message from some rando they’ve never met, asking to bypass the normal hiring process, for a commonly filled role?
      -One possibility is that the HM does nothing whatsoever because I don’t see the message or just don’t care because I’ve already got X viable candidates no need for more.
      -The other possibility is I assume it’s a technical glitch, search your name, then immediately find you’re not allowed to apply, and roll my eyes at your transparent attempt to end-run around the process.

    5. AngryOctopus*

      But the hiring manager can look at the system and see that the candidate is blocked because she failed the logic test. That’s not going to reflect well on her! In a ‘large generic industry’ entry-level candidates are going to be pretty plentiful on the ground. LW’s daughter is better off broadening her job search than being weirdly focused on this one job at this one company.

    6. el l*

      Small chance it’ll work – hiring manager will agree, “Yes, the test is stupid.”

      Probably it won’t – hiring manager will say, “We get thousands of applications,” or “We got to follow the process” or whatever.

      Best thing to do is to try – but walk in with the expectation that this is unlikely to work and have viable backup options.

      And now’s a good time to banish forever any notions of – as said before – “dream job”, “deserves another chance”, or anything which says that hiring fits within a Just World story of the Best Rising to the Top.

      Because you either fit the role – per the hiring manager’s best information (and perhaps the organization’s processes) – or you don’t. That’s all.

    7. thelettermegan*


      Big companies often have large, generic filtering systems, and in some cases the only way to move forward is to work around it.

    8. Observer*

      She really doesn’t have anything to lose. And if she is really a strong candidate for the role, the hiring manager won’t mind. If she’s not a strong candidate, then no harm done.

      So a few thoughts here. Firstly, what makes her a strong candidate? There doesn’t seem like much. What makes her a such a strong candidate that someone should take the extra effort (even a few minutes, but also time and potentially some political capital) to help her circumvent the system? Nothing, from what the OP says.

      Secondly, the daughter DOES know why she’s being blocked. And a lot of hiring managers, if they think it’s a good faith issue, are going to send her to tech support and / or ask what the problem is. At that point, she either needs to lie (which would be a *very* bad idea) or confess, at which point all of the potential issues that others have mentioned can come into play.

    9. Samwise*

      It’s industry dependent. I’m in higher ed, academic adjacent. When I chair search committees, I spend a non-zero amount of time responding to faculty who want me to interview one of their former students/interns/GAs…I have a standard bland response that every application will receive the same careful consideration.

      No courtesy interviews — those necessarily bump out an applicant who may not have had a connection.

      If the application gets blocked in our portal, I direct the faculty member (or applicant) to contact HR about the technical difficulties. I have never, literally never, had an applicant who was blocked for anything other than technical problems, then get through to my pile of applications. Because they were blocked for a good reason.

    10. Itsa Me, Mario*

      ATS systems have their quirks, but I’ve never literally been blocked from applying for a job. That would tell me that maybe the company didn’t want people in my situation to apply for jobs.

  16. Grey Duck 74*

    LW #1
    Do you allow texts or must you speak with people that call out? Are you also working the 6:30 shift or do you typically go in later? Me? I wouldn’t want to talk to anyone at 5am. And I know many others that don’t either. But I can handle, and would appreciate, a 5am text.
    Can they call an office line? Or only your personal phone? Maybe they wait until 6:25 because that is likely when you are shifting into ‘work mode’ if you are on the opening shift. If you’re not starting at 6:30… I certainly don’t want to call and wake you up. Nobody knows another’s morning routine, unless they share a house.

    If the callouts have a pattern.. same person, always on a Sat/ Sun/ Mon morning, when they have had a big event, etc… take that person off opening shift and switch to a mid or closing shift. If that still doesn’t change the callouts .. get rid of them.

    Regardless, finding shift coverage is your responsibility, not theirs.

    1. nodramalama*

      I mean obviously we don’t know the ins and outs of LWs shift roster, but in my mind if LW isn’t working the early shift not calling ahead of time is worse because there may be nobody to open

    2. WS*

      Yeah, I once worked a shift that started at 7am. The managers all worked 9-5 shifts. If I called before 7 I would get in trouble for calling too early, if I called the day before they’d tell me to call the next morning because I might be feeling better. We were very often short-staffed on that shift because of this, which made it a bad shift to be on and everyone (including me) changed to later shifts as soon as there was a vacancy, meaning that the morning shift continued to be bad. It still hadn’t been solved when I left.

      LW1 needs to be very clear – and preferably in writing – what she would like her employees to do in these circumstances. It’s entirely possible that there’s someone who is still going to be a problem, but this way LW1 will know it’s them and be able to change things accordingly.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Ugh, that’s frustrating. I know that at least in my branch of government, the time and attendance rules dictate you need to call and speak to a manager (preferably your manager) within 2 hours of your shift starting. In practice, most managers are more flexible about this because – as this thread indicates – that can otherwise be so disruptive.

      2. Observer*

        I once worked a shift that started at 7am. The managers all worked 9-5 shifts. If I called before 7 I would get in trouble for calling too early, if I called the day before they’d tell me to call the next morning because I might be feeling better.

        This is a perfect example of one of the reasons that might be at play with these call outs. Anyone who has worked at a place like this, or knows someone who and doesn’t have anyu countervailing experience is going to hesitate to call unless told otherwise.

      3. Itsa Me, Mario*

        One thing I’m struggling with here is that usually the opening shift at a coffee shop is a plum shift given only to the most reliable employees who have some seniority. That’s usually not the shift you give to someone known to be untrustworthy. And from the employee’s perspective, that’s usually the best tips of the day, because it’s the morning rush. Many fewer people want coffee in the afternoon than between 7-10am. So your good employees not only are the best qualified for this position, but would likely want that shift as well.

        All of which implies that either LW hasn’t been clear on their expectations, this was a one-off situation that should be taken in stride, or literally every single person who works there is sketchy and unreliable and has a bad relationship with the owner.

  17. Coverage Associate*

    My therapist used to be a lawyer, and so can understand some of the dynamics about my job, like the billable hours pressure and the consequences of being stuck with non billable work, but even she doesn’t understand some of the dynamics of my practice area, or of the profession since she left. The big example is that billing narratives have to be very precise and bills are regularly cut by 10%. If you bill for the non billable work, someone will catch it.

    1. sam_i_am*

      I work in academia, so it’s nice having a psychologist (who, by virtue of having a PhD for the job requirements, has been through academia). Academic power imbalances and structures are their own thing, and having someone who just Gets Them is great.

    2. AMT*

      Yeah, there’s a huge difference between being able to relate to something and knowing the specifics! I’m a therapist and can relate to a lot of self-employed clients’ experiences of having a lot of unstructured time or struggling to create work-life balance, for example. But I rely on my clients to know what will and won’t work for their work situations, even if they’re therapists themselves.

  18. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (blocked from reapplying for role) – if a “logic test” is key to their process in the way it seems to be, I don’t think an additional internship etc negates that requirement – otherwise the criteria for being considered wouldn’t include the logic test in the first place. I am also not convinced that even if she got a chance to retake the test, that the result would be any different, as a lot of these type of tests are identifying some quality that you either have it or you don’t.

    I am not a rigid rules follower by any means, I wouldn’t just go “computer says no” about the 12 months and leave it at that — my approach is that there are times to follow the ‘rules’ and times not to follow them, and needing to know the difference…

    It is worth a try at contacting the hiring manager, but I think it is unlikely to change the result (as the answer says). Unfortunately I think OP may have got trapped into the perspective of “my daughter is different though”, which is natural, but often not true.

    1. Maxine*

      What even is a “logic test”?

      Also I wonder if the 12 months is because the test is the same for one year and thus you can’t take it twice because that would be cheating.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Or even if it’s always the same but they assume it’s unlikely somebody would remember the details for years. They might think taking it twice 2 months apart would give an advantage that taking it twice, two years apart might not.

      2. bamcheeks*

        There are different types of tests used in hiring and selection— numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning and situational judgment are some of the more common ones, but logic/inductive reasoning is used too. I know a software company which does tests based on set theory because they find it a god predictor for how people with no coding / programming experience will take to it.

      3. Mister_L*

        I think I once took such a test.

        An example would be: “The profit for season A has decreased by x while the profit for season B has increased by y. Is it true, that the profit during season B was higher?”
        Possible answers were “Yes” “No” and “Inconclusive” (Or something like that, it’s been a while).

      4. Emmy Noether*

        I understood it as one of those IQ-type tests (with questions like “what’s the next number in this series?” and “which of these is unlike the others?”). Some places do those as one of the first steps in the hiring process.

        Im not a fan. For one, the tests don’t work all that well to determine intelligence, and they’re somewhat discriminatory. Even if they did work, there are better/more relevant ways to test for smarts, such as a technical test or technical interview. Hiring tests should be as close as possible to the actual job duties.

        If you accept that they want this as a metric, putting a ban on retaking for a set amount of time seems reasonable, though. Otherwise people will just retake until they luck or train into a good score.

        A tip if you encounter one of these tests: they are trainable (which is part of the problem with testing IQ with them). So it’s worth it to take some other, similar tests (such as those free IQ tests floating around on the internet) to warm up before the real test, especially if it is timed. Most people who haven’t taken one in a while are a bit slow in the beginning, but speed up significantly once they get in the right mindset.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I’m not an occupational psychologist but my understanding is that most of the psychometric tests used in recruitment have pretty good validity and reliability, and most organisations that use them test their predictive power pretty carefully. They’re usually quite a bit more sophisticated than traditional IQ tests, and are measuring far more specific skills. If you google “psychometric tests logic” you’ll get some examples, and they are quite specific about the type of reasoning they are testing. They’re usually used in large scale recruitment at graduate and entry level where the company is looking for potential and ability to learn rather than existing technical knowledge. A technical test wouldn’t help if you are looking for people you can *train* to be accountants, analysts, software developers or civil servants etc, rather than people who already have those skills.

          1. scandi*

            counterpoint: most of the tests are proprietary (i.e. have not been independently validated) and don’t actually measure something which can be measured objectively. civil servant-type tests are often far more involved than the psychometric ones other hiring use (e.g. include free-text translation and essay tasks that are manually evaluated and definitely don’t save time for the hiring manager).

          2. kiki*

            most organisations that use them test their predictive power pretty carefully

            I’ve worked at a few different organizations that use these tests and my experience is that they don’t really test their predictive power, they don’t have a lot of insight into what is actually being tested, and they implemented the tests because it sounded like a good idea not because they had done any depth of research.

            I am somebody who tests well and have never failed one of these, but I also don’t think they’re really predictive of much. In my experience, it tends to end up selecting for folks who have trained for taking this type of test, which isn’t necessarily a predictor of being good at the job.

            There may be organizations who truly invest in this sort of testing and implement it well, but I haven’t experienced that.

            1. bamcheeks*

              They’re definitely ones you can get better at by practising, but I’m not aware of that claim *not* to be. The ones I’m familiar with (UK graduate recruitment sector) usually strongly recommend that you take any opportunities to practise and understand the test before you start. They definitely select for people who are *prepared* for the recruitment process, but that’s true of all recruitment processes I’m familiar with. They don’t claim to be finding ability regardless of your education, cultural background, etc, which I think makes them significantly different from IQ tests.

              1. kiki*

                I think in an industry where it’s a known practice and most people applying are aware of the test in advance, it makes a bit more sense to me. Especially for folks coming straight out of school where there’s generally a bit more of a formal recruitment process and an expectation of more preparation on the candidate’s end in the hiring process

                The issue I have with these tests is for jobs where it’s not a standard industry/recruitment process– this organization has just chosen to incorporate a logic test into their hiring process. So candidates understandably aren’t really going to spend significant time training for one organization’s 30-minute logic puzzle test.

          3. Hiring Mgr*

            In my experience with these tests this is far from true. It could be a YMMV thing, but from what I’ve seen these tests are rarely used effectively

      5. nodramalama*

        I expect it’s a kind of psychometric test that are pattern recognition or logical word problems. I had to do a lot when I was applying for graduate roles.

  19. Stuart*

    I strongly feel that therapists should not be giving advice, it removes their clients agency and changes the counselling dynamic. They should also not be expressing their personal beliefs or get angry on their clients behalf. These things put the focus on the therapist instead of the client where it should be. The relationship you have with your therapist is very important, and so you should expect and demand the highest levels of professionalism. If you’re not getting that then perhaps it’s time to look for a new therapist.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      There’s a reason therapists are often called “counselors”. Some therapists DO give advice, and the good ones do it well and make it clear that they’re not getting personal. Some therapy is about deep inner feelings; other therapy is about finding ways to deal with a specific situation that is causing personal difficulties. Sometimes it’s combined.

      Example: I had to have a major bone surgery that didn’t go quite right, so I had to have a second one. I needed a lot of “get all the bad feelings out” therapy so I could approach the 2nd therapy more calmly, but I also benefited from practical advice. I wasn’t thinking clearly and my therapist sort of brain-stormed with me to help me see some options I wasn’t thinking of.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I hunk this depends on the type of therapy? Generally I’d agree with you but there seem to be some schools of therapy which are a lot more directive.

      I also think sometimes therapists say, “let’s explore what would happen if you did X, and how you’d feel about that” and the client hears, “you should do X.”

      1. AMT*

        This is an important distinction: the difference between specific life advice and general advice about applying therapeutic tools to real-life situations. That second kind of advice is more in the realm of “This seems like it isn’t working, what if you tried something else?” or “Here’s how you might try applying this anxiety management tool to work situations” rather than advice about how to concretely approach a particular problem.

        As a therapist, some of the therapeutic modalities I use, like ERP and ACT, are directive in the sense that, while the client might be gaining insight from talking to me in sessions, the real work happens outside the session when they use the tools I give them to apply that insight, and their brain begins learning from these new experiences. However, the client should be the one coming up with ideas about how to apply therapeutic techniques (e.g. “I would like to be more assertive with my boss because I know they’re reasonable and take feedback well, so maybe that is a good time to try X technique”). Any more direction from me (e.g. “You should ask your boss for more vacation time” rather than “What do you need from your boss?”) would be straying into life advice, which I consider inappropriate.

        1. OP 3*

          This is really interesting. I have been in therapy on and off since I was 16 (I’m 32), and it literally has never occurred to me that it is expressly *not* my therapist’s job to tell me what to do. (Multiple therapists during this time – not the same person.)

          I guess I always had the idea of, well, I’m the diagnosed one here, let’s take a guess on which of us is right on any given issue. It’s possible the “career advice” I thought my therapists were giving wasn’t intended that way at all.

          Can you elaborate a little more on what you see the therapist’s role as? Is there some professional code or such somewhere that describes it?

          1. AMT*

            It’s a little hard to say anything universal about therapy because therapeutic modalities are so different in their approaches. In general, though, the goal of therapy is to help clients figure out ways of making decisions or thinking about problems that don’t make them unhappy in the long run. People often come in for guidance on a specific issue—like “I’m unhappy at my job, what do I do?”—but that problem is usually part of a larger pattern or habit the client either doesn’t recognize, or does recognize but doesn’t know how to fix. Maybe it’s risk aversion, for example, or failing to consider their needs on the same level as others’.

            Whatever the pattern is, the therapist’s job is to teach them the skills to do something different, not just help them solve the problem. It won’t help the client develop those skills if we just give them concrete advice, in the same way that you can’t train someone to use software by being constantly on hand to walk them through every single tech issue. We might give a what-if scenario—like “what if you did X instead of Y?”—but it’s usually going to be in the service of illustrating a larger skill, like tolerating strong emotions or setting boundaries. The ultimate goal is for the client to generalize what they’ve learned in therapy and apply it without us being there to help. Once they’ve learned to do that, therapy usually comes to an end.

            I should note that it’s possible your therapists *were* actually giving you advice in a way that was inappropriate for therapy. It could have been a “what-if” scenario or a similar technique designed to stimulate thinking about your decision-making. But it could also have been…not-so-great therapy.

            I’m not actually sure if there’s a lot of material on the therapist’s role that’s generalizable to all therapy, now that I think of it. It’s so fractured by geography, licensure (e.g. clinical social work vs. psychology vs. counseling), and modality that there’s really no central regulating body or professional code like there is in, say, medicine. I’ve basically just synthesized all this from grad school, postgrad training, other therapists, and hundreds of books. I remember the site GoodTherapy had a list of warning signs of bad therapy for clients, but they were mostly about egregious bad conduct like inviting clients to their home, not as much about technique.

  20. nodramalama*

    LW4 my experience of doing logic tests for graduate jobs is that it’s an automatic thinning of thousands of applicants and it won’t matter whether her resume is better or not, and she’d have to wait the year

    1. Other Alice*

      This. Especially if it’s an entry level job, they have so many good candidates already. No point in focusing on this one job where she already failed the pre-interview part, she ought to cast a wider net.

    2. Clara*

      Yeah, when I worked at one of the Big 4 (not in US) they said that these tests easily filtered out about 70% of applicants. It’s not something to take personally, and I understand it’s frustrating – especially as it seems very far away from the job itself, but it’s something you’re unlikely to be able to get around unless you seem like a particularly strong candidate and there’s a gap / role they really haven’t been able to fill. You can work on improving at these types of tests, get more experience, and if it’s still your dream go in as a stronger candidate in a year.

      Potentially more frustratingly, one of my consultant friends was looking to leave her firm and go to the bank she was currently working on a project for in (at the team’s suggestion) and she got rejected for failing the initial situational judgment test! For a job she was actually currently doing via a third party! The recruiter was stunned, as they hadn’t seen that happen before, but even then they didn’t make an exception.

      1. Stuff*

        Honestly if these are thinning out 70% of applicants, they have to be having a very discriminatory effect on specific groups, which leads me to think they shouldn’t be legal.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Why do you think a test would be more discriminatory than any other means of selecting candidates? Most of the evidence I’ve seen suggests that exams and tests are considerably more likely to benefit minoritised candidates than things like interviews or CV checks (although still nowhere near neutral.)

  21. Lilac*

    LW 3: I feel this. I’m a PhD student, and academia (especially early-career) is a weird place with weird professional norms. My therapist…does not get this. Many of our sessions consist of me telling her about a PhD-related frustration, and her saying, “They shouldn’t treat you like that!” and me being like, “…yeah, I agree, but that’s just kinda how it is.”

    1. Lilac*

      Just remembered this anecdote:

      My particular field of study is notoriously underfunded – there’s no money for basically anything beyond the bare minimum needed to run a department. This is true pretty much across the board, not just at my university (except in *very* few cases). PhD students who need funding typically get it from outside sources, because the department can’t afford to fund research.

      I have a friend who has an advanced degree in a STEM field that gets quite a bit of funding, and they don’t always understand that not all academic disciplines are like that. I recently had to replace my (personal, not university property) computer, and they insisted that I should ask my department to pay for a new one out of the equipment budget. (Equipment budgets aren’t really a thing in my field.)

      So that led to the following conversation with my therapist:

      Me: I felt a little bit dismissed by [friend’s] comment, because they didn’t seem to believe me when I said that their solution wasn’t an option for me.
      Therapist: Well, maybe they have a point. Why don’t you ask your department to pay for it?
      Me: Because the department’s budget currently has a negative balance.
      Therapist: But it’s important to stand up for yourself and communicate your needs. The worst they can say is no!
      Me: The department currently can’t afford printer paper. There is no way they’re going to buy me a laptop.

      1. Buzzybeeworld*

        This illustrates why “the worst they can say is no” can be really bad advice! In your case, the worst that could have happened wasn’t the no, it was damaging your reputation by being so wildly situationally unaware as to ask in the first place.

      2. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

        Respectfully, they shouldn’t treat you like that. They aren’t wrong in saying that. PhD students accepting abuse without speaking up is how this system of exploitation festers – 100% not your fault and the power dynamics involved are/can be twisted, but it’s not okay.

        However, your department sounds like a mess. They’re accepting students and they don’t have any secure departmental funding to support them? There are bigger issues there than STEM vs non-STEM.

  22. JaneLoe*

    I am a mental health therapist. A good therapist really shouldn’t be giving a lot of “directives” about work, or work relationships. The only “directives” I provide my clients are regarding internal coping strategies. I will say directly that “I don’t like to give work specific advice” and reference my naïveté about the work setting (I have never worked in corporate America. Also, I worry that my client may be underperforming and perhaps unaware of it). But we will talk about how to cope or when things become unsustainable for the individual at work, we might address motivation for leaving or finding another job. If your therapist is telling you what to do in any arenas of life, you should consider a new therapist. Our role is NOT to give specific directives for how they live their life but instead helping clients come to conclusions on their own. I do point people to Alison’s website though! [I’ve been reading it for 10+ years because I am an advice column junkie but I think reading her responses have legitimately made me respond more diplomatically to unique situations]. I distribute the link to her resume and cover letter guides published in The New Yorker and will sometimes search for specific topics with clients in order to show the blog to them!

    1. Daisy-dog*

      This is a helpful perspective! I have worked with 2 great therapists before. Both had worked in corporate-ish jobs, but in entry level roles and quite a while ago. If I go back to either, maybe I’ll recommend AAM both for entertainment and as a resource.

  23. Vodas*

    LW3 I’ve just had to accept that my (otherwise great!) therapist is *not* my go-to person for work-related issues for the most part. I was fortunate to learn that early on in our relationship when I was discussing some of my work frustrations and realised her input, though well-meaning, wasn’t really applicable in the industry and environment I work in.

  24. borealis*

    It is important that a therapist recognises their limits and limitations. A little over 10 years ago, a few years after I’d finished my PhD, I talked to a therapist about my inability to carry out a research project and get published, how hard I found it to get started on new research, how much I feared receiving peer reviews on my articles, and how anxious I felt when presenting at conferences. Her response was “so maybe that is not something you need to do!”. She was not advicing me to change careers, but to simply not do research or try to get published. I’m not sure if she believed I felt external pressure to do something I didn’t really want to do, which would be weird given the fact that I’d told her that I really loved my academic field and had dreamt all my life of being able to do research on those topics, or if she thought I could just tinker with my own little private research projects without ever publishing, which would be rather naïve for a therapist working in a town where the university is one of the biggest employers… Anyway, it was only several years later that I saw a therapist who referred me to an assessment for ADHD, and I learnt about executive dysfunction and how people with my kind of neurodivergence (in my case ADD) often struggle with getting started on tasks that we actually really enjoy. I don’t blame my therapist for not knowing all that, but I did feel at the time that she was giving me routine advice that was rather out of touch with how academia works.

    1. Lilac*

      Another PhD student with pretty severe executive function issues here, and I had the same problem with my therapist. One time I was on a very tight deadline for a high-stakes project that I absolutely needed to complete or it would put my degree in jeopardy. My therapist was like, “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Do what you can and take time for self-care!” And I mean…ideally I would be able to do that, but not submitting the project on time wasn’t an option. (And I wasn’t the one putting pressure on myself – it was the university telling me that I needed to pass the assessment or I wouldn’t graduate!)

      1. AMT*

        I’m a therapist and have dealt with my own terrible ADHD, so I’d be incensed if someone told me not to put pressure on myself before a deadline! There’s such a huge difference between a question like “What’s about the way you’ve been structuring your time is working for you, and what’s not working?” vs. a piece of concrete advice like “Don’t do too much!” given without even trying to understand the motivation behind the overwork. As therapists, it’s important that we start from the assumption that our clients aren’t stupid and would never do something that made them unhappy without good reasons.

  25. JustKnope*

    Just last week I was talking to my therapist about the challenges of being a new mom in the working world. She suggested I take my son out of daycare twice a week and keep him home with me while I work. I can’t think of anything worse in this context than trying to keep my 8mo from destroying the house or injuring himself while I’m working my fairly high-pressure job. That’s not an actual mother/son bonding time ha

    1. atalanta0jess*

      Hah! Hey, since you’re struggling with these two major life things, maybe try to do them both at the exact same time so that you can just amplify the feeling of doing neither well. Would that help?

      No. No it would not.

    2. AbruptPenguin*

      Omg I’m sure your therapist is wonderful but that’s such bad advice! Sending good vibes to you — working mom life can be rough.

    3. ampersand*

      My first thought after I read “take my son out of daycare twice a week” was, “but you’d still have to pay for full-time daycare!” And then I got to the end of that sentence and started laughing at the absurdity. I completely sympathize!

  26. MistOrMister*

    OP1 – while I’m sure some of your employees probably could call out sooner, please try to keep in mind that some are going to legitimately be too ill to call you in advance, or are not actually ill the night before. I have some ridiculous stomach issue that, when it hits, comes on anywhere between midnight and 6am, generally starting around 3 or 4 am. Yes, when I call out at the last minute in those situations I probably could have called out sooner, but it is really difficult to get oneself together enough to call the boss when running back and forth to the commode between active sick sessions. So, no I wouldn’t be able to call the night before and there is absolutely no way I could go through a phone tree trying to find coverage. Again, I know this isn’t going to be the case for everyone, but some illnesses do come on quickly enough that not much warning can be given. And, it really is not an employees job to find coverage, regardless of when they call out. It is unfortunate that it is inconvenient for the bosses, but it’s part of life.

  27. cabbagepants*

    I’m so happy #3 was posted. I consider it a yellow-to-red flag when a therapist gives professional advice, for the exact reasons given. They almost never have accurate information and so shouldn’t be giving directives.

    (I also, personally, don’t want my therapist trying to fix my life for me beyond stuff like mental health coping strategies, but I know some people feel differently so it feels less inappropriate.)

  28. Clefairy*

    When I was the general manager for a front line operation with hourly employees, we had an attendance policy (dictated by corporate) that acted as a point system- you call out, you get a point. My personal policy was that if you called out, it was 100% on leadership to find coverage. However, if you find coverage for yourself when you’re not able to come in, you don’t get a point. It incentivized folks to find their own coverage, and they often did, because they didn’t want a point. But it wasn’t a requirement, and people were free to decide for themselves if they wanted to put in the time to find coverage.

    1. Ask A Manatee*

      That sounds terrible because 1) it penalizes people who are too sick to find coverage 2) assumes that a sick person can simply choose what to do 3) the people who find their own coverage are presumably not getting paid for the time spent doing that.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I agree. Point systems are always meant to be punitive and to punish people for having bodies that are subject to disease. The end result is that you get people at work who are sick and are spreading their germs to others.

        Point systems suck and there is no good way to humanize them. As you point out, not issuing a point if someone finds their own coverage just means that your sick employee is performing unpaid labor.

        1. Julian*

          Yeah as someone who is chronically ill this would have absolutely sucked at former job where there was a point system. It was already bad, but at least I didn’t have the guilt of not being able to find coverage while on the toilet or too depressed to get out of bed. I also wasn’t particularly well liked (combination of social awkwardness and inconveniencing everyone by having a body) so finding someone to cover me would have been absolutely miserable. It’s great that it’s not mandatory, but if you could be fired after X number of points, it still punishes the chronically ill and neurodivergent crowd.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        4) may penalise people who are less popular and therefore less likely to be able to get somebody to cover for them or people who are shy and would find it difficult to ask, 5) comes across as a bit infantilising. It seems a bit like a sticker chart for children.

        1. Gerri's Jaunty Hat*

          Plus, why should the sick person’s performance rating depend on whether coworkers happen to be available/interested in that shift? It’s out of their control.

          Also, if management wants coverage that badly, they’ll probably find that staff are more willing to say yes when the manager calls than when a coworker does.

        2. I Have RBF*

          … 5) comes across as a bit infantilising. It seems a bit like a sticker chart for children.


          Yes, I know coverage is important in certain jobs, and there needs to be a way to track people who abuses sick leave, but “points” are so infantilizing that it I would be wanting a different job immediately, especially since points systems are used for any little nitpicky thing.

    2. kalli*

      Sounds like there was more than points going on in that system. What’s the rest of the story? Fired if you get x points?

  29. Mmm.*

    No one is going to answer a call from an unknown number at 630 AM on their day off. But they clearly have the boss’ number, so the boss should call just to improve the chances of getting someone to pick up.

    Plus, what if they can’t find coverage? Make them come in? Fire them for not showing up? It’s really best to assume someone isn’t going to show up if this happens often enough for this letter to be sent, so maybe add some extra coverage for the peak times.

    It’s unreasonable to assume people are sick for hours and waiting until the last minute, too. A frequent flyer may need a conversation, but a lot of folks–myself included–just get sick without a build-up.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      It’s a very important point that you may not even be able to get in contact with coworkers that early! If they don’t have your number, they’re unlikely to answer. If they sleep till 7:30 on non opening shift days, they may have their phone on DND. They may have gotten up at 4AM on their day off to go hiking in the north, and they’re on the road, and not answering their phone. All this does is add to the stress of a sick person who may not be able to get in contact with anyone. This is on the manager to make sure they find the coverage.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think coverage may be key here. If absences are so difficult for LW, they might consider rostering at higher ratios, or having staff take it in turns to be the official fallback guy (like on-call, paid to wait).

  30. Katherine*

    #1 at a previous food service job i worked at, the (paper) schedule had space for people who would be interested in an extra shift to write their name and phone number in case a shift became available, perhaps you could try something similar? Not a guarantee that they would take the shift, but it gives you a list and a place to start.

    1. Captain Swan*

      My daughter’s restaurant job used an app for scheduling. if she was sick, she just had to go in and release the shift. Then the app would send out an automated email to any employee that was classified as the same type of position and indicated they wanted additional shift notifications. we also had daughter call her manager and let them know she was sick just to be sure they knew.
      Maybe LW 1 could look at such apps.

      1. Clisby*

        I posted something very similar. My college-student son has had food/beverage jobs for the past 2 years, and both had a setup like this.

  31. Doc McCracken*

    LW4 In my experience those logic tests are very general in nature. For instance in engineering those tests ask very simple mechanical questions that must students would be been exposed to in high school science. If this is the of those tests, I think an employer is not going to easily budge. I would encourage your step daughter to consider what was that test was looking for and what does failing it demonstrate to the employer. If the questions were very specific to the actual job, then I would be more inclined to reach out to HR directly. Some food for thought.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m curious about the nature of the test too. Behavioral/personality tests I have no time for, logic tests….well, there are good ones and bad ones. It’s hard to know.

      But the stepdaughter does know what was on the test so maybe you could think that through together.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      This was my thought, as well. They are probably getting thousands of applications; the test is a weeder test meant to winnow down those thousands of applications to hundreds of applications.

      Is it fair? Probably not. Is it the system that is in place, and that the company has decided works for them? Yep.

      It’s a twelve-month moratorium. That’s not a long time in the bigger scheme of things.

      If the questions were very specific to the actual job, then I would be more inclined to reach out to HR directly.

      I’m not sure why you would, honestly. If this is the case, it just means that you are definitely not qualified for the job. This would probably just raise the eyebrows (if not the hackles) of the hiring manager in question.

        1. Doc McCracken*

          I was thinking that if the test was job specific and her recent internship had potentially sharpened the skills the test covered, she could make a logical case without sounding entitled. That’s what I get for responding before I’m adequately caffeinated!

    3. Anne Shirley*

      I agree. The logic test is there for a reason. If it wasn’t a useful screening tool, it wouldn’t be there. I am in no way questioning the stepdaughter’s intelligence. This is just a particular skill set the company feels the need to screen for.

  32. Ellis Bell*

    OP2, if your supervisor’s party is considered a private event, then why aren’t your conversations with coworkers considered private? Is it because they took place while at work? Even if they did – so did the party invitation. Is it because it is affecting relationships on the team? So did the party invitation. This is simply DARVO because they cannot be bothered to make sure the team is equitably managed. I would not take it any further, however because it seems clear they will not engage in good faith here.

    1. OP2/LW2*

      That was my point also, but the great-grandboss stated that they also do exactly that, invite some of the team but not all. I can only imagine how my face looked.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, that workplace is a old boys club, and full of bees. I would start looking for a more equitable work group to be in.

        1. OP2/LW2*

          I came back from that meeting and literally said “this place is full of bees” aloud and got a couple of looks because people didn’t know what I was talking about. I am absolutely job searching. Thank you.

  33. Pet Jack*

    OP 3: People that work in helping professions, academia, etc have a very different view of how work should be than the reality of corporate life. I experienced wacky advice from a therapist when I was in a residential eating disorders unit. I was 35 and had a lot of stress from being there instead of in my leadership role at work. The very young therapist just did not understand what the big deal was, suggested I bring “my whole self” to work and other platitudes that just aren’t going to fly. I also felt like I was made to feel bad for being stressed.
    I also had another therapist tell me I should join a whole other industry because I didn’t particularly like my job at the time!
    When you work in an industry that is all about sharing emotions and is very much in tune with social issues, etc, it maybe is hard for them to understand that many MANY places are not like that.
    I’d rather have incompetence than the therapist who wants you to personally “break the stigma” that sucks for so many reasons.

  34. EAM*

    LW#3 – These are NOT good therapists… A therapist should not be giving advice, they should be exploring with the client what the client thinks the best course of action. They provide a sounding board and could also give alternate ways of thinking but should immediately move on if it is something the client rejects. It is a complete lack of cultural humility to assume workplaces (and cultures) are universal. LW may want to look for a different therapist who will allow the client to lead and be a level field (the therapist is not the authority/expert on LW’s life! They are!) I’d lean more towards LCSW-C therapists, who usually have greater exposure to being culturally humble and recognizing that a person’s environment is also part of their influence/challenge.

  35. I should really pick a name*


    Assuming someone wakes up sick (meaning they were not sick the night before, and therefore had no reason to contact you), does it make much of a difference whether they call you 5 minutes before the shift vs 30 or 60 minutes?
    Does that extra time give you the chance to call around to find coverage? I haven’t worked that kind of job, so I don’t know if it’s normal for people to get calls at 5:30/6:00AM asking if they can come in.

    This is an actual question, because I don’t know the answer.

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      When I worked a job that required coverage for 5am shifts, yes, it did actually make a difference. If someone called at 430 saying they couldn’t make it, I could put it in the group chat or phone around and have someone actually make it in for 0500 or 0530. If they were supposed to start at 5 when we opened…suddenly I’m stuck trying to do opening procedures and serve people while down a person and also still scrambling to make phone calls.

    2. CheeryO*

      Right, this was my first thought. I used to do 6:00-2:00 at a coffee shop, and there was no way in hell I’d be up that early if I wasn’t scheduled to work. There wouldn’t have been enough eye rolls in the world if I woke up to a 5:00AM text from my boss asking if I wanted to come in.

      LW may not have complete control over it, but the real answer to the problem is to schedule in a way that you are not absolutely crippled by a call-out. People get sick, people decide they don’t care… it happens, sometimes last-minute, and you can’t always find coverage.

      1. Samwise*

        That’s you.

        Lots of people are “morning people” and are up, or ok with being up, that early.

        I’m up that early, because cats. And household chores.

      2. Cake or Death*

        “I used to do 6:00-2:00 at a coffee shop, and there was no way in hell I’d be up that early if I wasn’t scheduled to work. There wouldn’t have been enough eye rolls in the world if I woke up to a 5:00AM text from my boss asking if I wanted to come in.

        I don’t get this. I understand that you wouldn’t be up at 5AM if you didn’t have to work that day. But if your normal shift is at 6AM, why would you be rolling your eyes at a manger calling at 5AM to try to cover a shift of a sick coworker?

        Of course, you don’t have to answer the call, but you’re implying that it’s unreasonable for a manager to call you on a day you’re not scheduled for coverage one hour before your normally scheduled shift. If shifts didn’t start until 8:00 or 9:00 and the manager was calling at 5:00AM to get a shift covered, that would be unreasonable. But when shifts start at 6AM, I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all.

    3. Lilac*

      I think the idea is that it would give the manager time to call around before they have to start their own workday. People might not be awake that early, but it’s a lot easier to leave answering machine messages or send emails/texts if you’re not also having to serve customers at the same time.

    4. AnonRN*

      I’m in a different type of coverage-based job than food/hospitality, but yes, 1 or 2 hours makes a difference versus 5 minutes. With more notice, a text can be sent out to see if anyone wants to pick up OT, or staff could be flexed from other areas to cover your area, or the patient assignment load can be adjusted between the remaining staff. In a restaurant environment I would imagine you could also adjust the timing of certain tasks to account for fewer staff (start the oven earlier, prioritize making the coffee rather than setting up the back tables, etc…). Or the owner would have time to decide to come in early to get things going.

      (My hospital–where there’s a 24-hour supervisor to take call-ins–requires at least 2 hours for nurses. Informally, though, they would also prefer that you still call in when you realize you’re too ill to work rather than waking up too late to call, trying to power through, and leaving partway through the shift and causing a scramble to safely cover your patient assignment. But if you made a habit of calling in with less than 2 hours notice you’d get spoken to about it. Ultimately I guess if you are prone to waking up ill with no warning the night before, you’d need to set your alarm accordingly.)

      1. Clisby*

        My college-student son has worked a couple of restaurant jobs where all the employees had a scheduling app. The restaurant manager would make an initial schedule – usually 2 weeks out – and if any0ne called out it was logged in the app and notifications would go out that a shift or shifts was available. Especially during the summer, my son was happy to pick up extra shifts. During the school year, he typically works only 2 10-hour shifts a week but occasionally will do another one. I’ve never seen the app, but apparently it makes it very easy for workers to volunteer to take shifts, and often somebody will. (His current job pays $20/hour plus tips, so that’s a reasonable incentive to work a little longer.)

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I spent a lot of years as a substitute teacher and could often get to schools in neighbouring towns in 30-50 minutes, so if I was called half an hour before school started, I’d get there pretty soon after school opened. If I wasn’t called until school starting time, I’d at least miss the first class.

    6. kalli*

      When my dad was on a 24/7 rotating shift roster we’d get calls within 1-2 hours of his start time asking him to come in early to cover… or stay late, sometimes only being told while at work. Cue the entire family having to change meal time or dad having to work a 14 hour overnight shift on 0 sleep. We started having frozen meals set aside in case of calls. Sometimes we had to drive meals out to him. Sometimes we’d get woken up at 3am, can he come in now someone just went home sick.

      If someone called out with more notice or was able to take a whole rotation off, they could get a floater in, but because floaters were people in training or on light duties, they could only work on shifts if people were on who had the right quals to train and couldn’t be called for half shifts.

      Retail and food service are like that but everyone’s on the one schedule and if someone calls out everything kind of snowballs.

  36. Psst Psst*

    #2 reminded me of the time that our entire agency went to an early-morning conference in the building, but didn’t tell the 5-6 juniors who weren’t invited. So what happened was the 5-6 of us walked around all morning wondering where the other 30 people were. It was so hurtful to be not invited (how could juniors *not* benefit from training?) AND to not be notified that most of the office would be out. 20 years later and I mainly feel *ugh* whenever I think about that job.

    1. Poppy*

      40 years ago I was a new employee; my boss, grandboss and senior colleague had dinners at each others’ homes, and showed pictures of said dinners afterwards around the workplace. I was too new and too unsure of myself to say, “This is unprofessional,” or anything along those lines. I smiled along and said they seemed to be having a nice time together. It is balm to me to hear that it’s considered wildly unprofessional.

      As you say: ugh.

  37. K*

    No 1, that’s a great policy if you want no coverage to be found. Even ignoring the ethics of it, I suspect you will have an easier time actually finding coverage since people are less likely to tell their boss “no”.

  38. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    #3: As a therapist I think it is important to recognize that when a therapist explores problem solving strategies to induce change that they are options that the client can take, not that they have to. It is not the therapists role to give the client a road map for how to manage their interpersonal relationships but instead to help them learn how to do that with their own language and behavior so that they can reach their goals and get the outcomes they desire. That being said not all therapists are created equal, it is important to work with one that you vibe with and respect. As the client you want to give the therapist the information they need to understand the ecosystem that you live and work in so they can get a clear picture of the strengths and limitations you are working with.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      Thank you. I do think that sometimes people will take suggestions as “advice.” I know my therapist has helped me a lot to consider coworkers’ perspectives. She acknowledges she can’t know for certain, but usually always neither can I, and things like, “maybe that abrupt email is not because they’re angry at you but because they’re busy with something else” are helpful and appropriate in my lay opinion. But even, “have you considered calling instead of email to resolve that problem” is appropriate, even though it’s very close to what people in my industry say all the time. I can see someone taking that as “advice” even when it’s phrased as a question, etc.

      I mean, I did see an ad for a life coaching app that had sample schedules that only allotted 4 hours for work and no time commuting, but there are competent therapists out there too.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yes, I think it’s also really important to help people articulate WHY some things aren’t possible, and to understand where they have agency and where they don’t. “It’s just the way it is, I can’t change anything” is an incredibly limiting and powerless way to feel, and it absolutely is a therapist’s job to test that! Sometimes the limits are things like, “because poverty and social stigma and the lack of social support”, and there really truly isn’t anything you can change about the context, and it absolutely is about managing the stress as well as possible. But sometimes the limits are, “because I work in BigLlama and that’s just the way BigLlama is”, and it’s really important to test whether BigLlama is always like that, has to be like that, and whether or not you want to consider other options outside BigLlama if BigLlama is making you ill. “BigLlama is a stressful environment but I choose to stay here because the advantages of XYZ outweigh the stress, but I have other options if one day I decide they don’t” is a much healthier state of mind.

  39. Ask A Manatee*

    My two cents for LW1. I get why you are put out by this. It’s no fun to scramble like that. But beyond telling employees to call as soon as they know, no matter what time, there’s nothing you can reasonably do. Anything that involves you thinking when they “should have known” or “already knew” is a pointless attempt to guess at facts that you don’t know.

  40. cabbagepants*

    Professional advice from a therapist is a yellow-to-red flag that the therapist doesn’t know (or doesn’t to stay within) the limits of their skillset — it would make me question their judgment about everything! And since they’re in a position of trust I’d argue that it’s borderline malpractice!

    I’ve had a therapist argue that the job market was robust for tenure-track professorships in the United States in the humanities and that so the fact that my boyfriend couldn’t find such a position meant that he was being a perfectionist. I’ve had a different therapist tell me to “just say no” and “set a boundary” that I’d turn off my phone at 5 PM when I was new at a professional job with round-the-clock response expectation. I’ve had other therapists offer to vet my resume for me (my field is computer hardware engineering).

  41. Bookworm*

    LW1: “So now I have to continue doing my job, plus your job. I don’t have time to call six people to see if they can cover for you. Can I tell people that’s their responsibility?”

    You are why no one wants to work. Someone may have waited until the relatively last minute to see if they could pull through and just do the day.

    LW4: Here’s another workaround: does your daughter’s school have any connections to BMC? Sounds like her school’s alumni network or career center connections could come in handy? Maybe it’s not directly with the hiring manager, but it’d be another avenue?

    1. Cookie Monster*

      Can we please not with the “no one wants to work”? It’s been debunked and explained so many times and simply isn’t true.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Although in this case it may fit because it’s really “nobody wants to work for low wages/ridiculous policies/etc.” I’m not saying that LW1 has other ridiculous policies, but they do need to think about some other strategies to prevent getting stuck in this situation. Several good ideas have been given upstream; I hope they see them and can give some of them a try.

    2. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      The only person who doesn’t wanna work is LW1, lol. A business owner who thinks anyone cares about their business as much as them is wild. Service workers can get another job in a moment and it doesn’t sound like LW1 offers anything high value to stay.

      Roll up your sleeves and get in their because they front line work is what gets you money. Triage your other work (maybe you have to do overtime today).

    3. Sleepy in the stacks*

      “You are why no one wants to work.”

      This is really fanfic-y. We don’t know how LW1 speaks to their staff, and they could be really good about keeping their frustration hidden when talking to staff. Their situation is frustrating, but it doesn’t mean they’re taking it out on staff.

  42. Boba Feta*

    Regarding #2 (and also being ignorant of any others who may have said the same): Why isn’t your step-daughter, or spouse (or, frankly, you) thinking of this in terms of contacting a representative of the company to ask about their procedures in this type of “screened by the bot but since have gained new experiences scenario, rather than what appears to be an emphasis on contacting a representative with an intent to (however innocently) subvert or circumvent any such procedures?

    Advise your step-daughter to reach out with the straightforward question: “Hi, I applied back in X and unfortunately failed the logic test. Since then I’ve acquired XYZ credentials, knowledge and skills but unfortunately the system has locked me out of re-applying until DATE. Is there any procedure or precedent for allowing applicants to reapply before the 12-month ban if they have updated their credentials? Thank you so much for your time.”

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      As a hiring manager who is screening hundreds if not thousands of applicants for an entry-level job, my thought would be “No, there isn’t” and I would just delete the email.

      Part of the purposes of these tests is to see if an applicant a) can follow directions, and b) has some basic analytical thinking skills. It is highly unlikely that a few months of an internship somewhere else are going to give you enough experience to learn those two things.

      It’s one job at one company. Move along. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

      1. Boba Feta*

        Imminently sensible. I think I forgot about the high likelihood of it being an entry level role for which multitudes would be applying, rather than something with a more restricted applicant pool. Move along, indeed.

    2. Student*

      At its core, I think this is much more about LW #2’s kid’s ego being bruised. She feels bad about failing the test and wants to redeem herself. I think she needs LW’s help getting over it and moving on to the next job opportunity, instead of digging in to try for a grandioss redemption story arc with this specific company.

      I think AAM’s advice to try to break the “dream job” narrative is key here. She’s acting like she got negg’d and now really wants to prove how wonderf she is to the company that rejected her. That’s not a good way to approach the working world, and long term she may dig in on jobs she should likelt move on from if this is her general outlook.

  43. LadyProg*

    I can’t see this post on the main AAM page and could only get to it by direct link on the Facebook post! Flagging in case someone can get it fixed :)

    1. No name yet*

      Interestingly, I’m having the same problem – but it still isn’t showing up on the main page for me. Yay for Facebook?

    2. The Nest*

      Same for me, I was worried something was up til I checked Twitter! I still can’t see it on the main page.

    3. Phony Genius*

      I’ve had this issue on several pages lately, although not here. Refreshing usually works when it happens. If not, clearing cookies may help.

  44. Another Academic Librarian too*

    #3 I received a list of accommodations for an employee from their therapist when they were already on a PIP.
    The majority of what was listed as accomadations were already in place like taking breaks as needed, grace period for “on-timelyness”, putting all directions and requests in writing,

    These two show a complete ignorance of what my responsibilities as a supervisor/ manager.

    -make provision for employee to have social interaction/ connection with student workers or other co workers because social isolation is a big trigger for her depression.

    What? This was a clerical/reception position. One of the issues of the PIP was that she would disappear for hours during the work day unaccounted for and spend unacceptable amounts of time socializing without accomplishing her work in a timely manner.

    – give the opportunity for employee to utilize her skills , strengths and gifts associated with creativity and imagination.

    This was a clerical position. Unfortunately “creativity and imagination” were not part of the job description.

    1. Observer*

      These two show a complete ignorance of what my responsibilities as a supervisor/ manager.


      give the opportunity for employee to utilize her skills , strengths and gifts associated with creativity and imagination.

      Worse, it shows a complete ignorance of the ADA. One of the core tenets of the ADA is that accommodations need to be *reasonable* and re-configuring a job and its duties is almost never a reasonable accommodation. Even if you have very little idea of what most workplaces are like, if you are at all aware of the actual rules ADA accommodations, you should be aware of that.

      I feel bad bad for the employee. Because the therapist was pretty much setting her up to fail with no understanding of what just happened.

    2. kalli*

      I’ve seen a lot of clunky PIPs and RRTW plans and often things like this come from therapists speaking therapy and businesses speaking business (whether it’s management, boss, supervisor, HR etc.)

      Like if therapist had said ‘this employee is probably more suited to working in a team environment than in an individual frontline role’ instead of ‘provide opportunity to socialisation’, or noted the ‘reception’ part of the role and worked with employee to use ‘dealing with people coming and going’ as socialisation, maybe you’d have been able to communicate on the same level. It sounds like the therapist was hoping you’d be able to redeploy employee into a cubicle-based team where they could personalise their desk, without realising that PIPs don’t work that way.

    3. Chili Heeler*

      That is very unprofessional of the therapist. Even when an employee gives approval enough to satisfy legal protections, discretion is the default when involving 3rd parties. Reaching out to the employer out of thin air is not great. Also, doing that -instead of supporting the client/employee in thinking of things that could help at work and then asking for them- is not great therapeutically either.

      Fwiw, anyone could ask for an accommodation without engaging the ADA. It is just that under the ADA, the employer will have a duty to consider those requests in certain situations.

      1. Another Academic Librarian too*

        to clarify:
        It was the employee who brought the document to a meeting with HR, employee disability services and me. And yes, according to HR, we had to consider the requests for accommodation seriously. The document had to be reviewed by legal and and I had to put in writing whether meeting the Therapist’s requests for accommodations could be met and if not, why not. Then I was interviewed by legal and then the union representatives.
        My point here was that the therapist wrote a document that did not reflect the “real work world ” situation.
        The position WAS tedious and boring. It was public facing and demanded attention to detail. The job description wasn’t going to change.

        1. bamcheeks*

          But it isn’t the therapist’s job to prioritise the business environment, it’s their job to prioritise the client. They made a list of what would be best for their client. You were required to justify why some of that was not possible because of the realities of the business environment. This sounds like the ADA process working as intended to me! I’ve been through the equivalent process as a manager in the UK and it was made clear to me that Occupational Health’s job was to advocate for the employee and make suggestions, and my job was to consider them in the context of business needs and decline those that weren’t actionable.

          It’s your job to say, “that won’t be possible” and I think it’s a good thing that your HR requires management to justify why something won’t be possible rather than allowing a flat no. It’s the therapist’s job to work through that response with their client and help them decide if that means they need to look elsewhere to get their needs met. It’s not the therapist’s job to shut down that discussion before it even reaches you.

          Now, if your own workload doesn’t give you enough time to do that management job properly and it becomes a source of stress to you, that’s a common and legitimate complaint. But it’s a complaint to your company, not to your report’s therapist.

  45. Justin*

    I told my therapist I was stressed about where we were in our plans to buy a house (not that stressed now, this was a few months ago, though we still won’t be doing it until next year), and she was giving me housing advice. It was kind, but I was like, yo, I have a realtor for that.

  46. Nonprofit No More*

    In the first year of COVID, I worked for a nonprofit that put in a huge Gala event. We made it virtual, and put together a hugely successful streaming event with new tech, video, digital marketing campaign, etc. As the marketing and communications manager, I was in charge of figuring out the brunt of the new stuff and ensuring it went smoothly.

    After the gala, I jumped into the Zoom after-party for staff, and was shocked to see about half the staff at the home of the founder/artistic director. All of us in Zoom had to awkwardly sit around watching the rest of the team party together at a time when group gatherings were still discouraged. It was bizarre and a huge hit to morale. Many of us dropped off the Zoom quickly, and the founder had to do a round of apology phone calls the next day.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Because there is a lot of emotion around minimum-wage jobs right now, a lot of which was induced by the pandemic.

      Some people have a lot of sympathy toward these workers, because some of these people who are calling out at the last minute are living paycheck to paycheck and are hoping until the last minute that they will be well enough to go in because missing a shift may literally be the difference between making rent or not.

      And some people are not entirely sympathetic to these folks. Some because they have worked these jobs before and have a weird “I did it; you have to do it, too” attitude. (Weird because it seems like you don’t want the world to get better; you expect everyone to have to suffer the same way you did.)

      And some are not sympathetic because they don’t respect these jobs. They admit that they have to be done, but they don’t feel that the people doing them deserve a living wage or humane working conditions.

      1. EA*

        Interesting that you’re assuming none of the AAM commenters are actively employed doing shift work! I feel like most of the people responding with a lot of emotions and nitpicking don’t have current experience with this type of work.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          No, I wasn’t assuming that, but I can see how my response makes it seem like it. I was deliberately leaving that group out of my response because for them, this is very much their current experience.

          And yes, you are absolutely right–a lot of the nitpickers don’t have any experience with this kind of work. It’s exhausting, both physically (on your feet all day) and emotionally (because your paycheck varies from week to week).

    2. sagc*

      Because there’s one person who keeps commenting as if it’s somehow a failing of the employees that they’re getting sick and doesn’t seem to take on board any of the responses explaining why it might be reasonable to call out a few minutes before your shift?

    3. Spearmint*

      Yeah is frustrating. I get it, service jobs are often underpaid and have crappy management, so people are primed to be unsympathetic to LW1. But it’s also true that managing shift work that requires coverage is also challenging and stressful, and I can imagine how frustrating it would be to routinely have time off taken from you because employees call out last minute. (And keep in mind that frontline managers in these jobs often aren’t super highly paid or treated well themselves.)

      And look, while most low level service workers are hard working, honest, and trying their best, in my experience these jobs tend to attract more… to put it mildly, difficult employees than most white collar jobs. (And yes, part of that is due to the low pay and poor management, trust me, I’m sympathetic to service workers). I feel like sometimes commenters here assume that all workplaces are or easily can be like a typical white collar office, but that’s not the case. So I can see how LW’s natural frustrations could lead them to feel the way they do.

      Anyway, I don’t disagree with Alison’s repose, but I wish people were a little less harsh toward the LW.

      1. Observer*

        (And keep in mind that frontline managers in these jobs often aren’t super highly paid or treated well themselves.)

        That’s a key thing. The OP is the *owner* not a poorly paid and overworked manager.

        And look, while most low level service workers are hard working, honest, and trying their best, in my experience these jobs tend to attract more… to put it mildly, difficult employees than most white collar jobs.

        True. But it’s *still* a garbage way to treat people. And also, one of the reasons that these jobs tend to attract that kind of employee is because inappropriate and often abusive treatment is so baked into the sector that people treat it as normal and commonplace. And people with other options will often nope out of that kind of situation.

        So I can see how LW’s natural frustrations could lead them to feel the way they do.

        The problem is not that they are frustrated, but that their “opinion” is simply not based in reality. It’s just not true people will always know well in advance if they are going to be sick, and that’s not going to change just because they believe otherwise.

        So, the OP is not a monster. But although their *frustration* is understandable, their accusation and proposed solution is not at all reasonable.

        1. Baron*

          Agreed with this. I thought Alison was really kind and measured in taking on the one line of the OP that I cringed at, which was the part about how if the owner has to find coverage for a sick employee, the owner is doing the sick employee’s job *and* their own job. And it’s, like, nope—“finding someone to work at the place you own” is your job if you’re the owner.

  47. hey ho let's go*

    For LW 1: I think the obvious reason the employee called in at five till is they may not expected anyone to be available to answer before then? I’ve had a good number of customer service/retail jobs, newish/much older employees tended to do this. They thought they had to speak to someone in person to call out.

    They weren’t trying to be jerks.

    And the owner is off base one hundred percent. Trying to call someone to cover sucks and it is work and you end up “owing” someone for covering your shift. It shouldn’t be like that.

    1. Lilac*

      Yes, this was an issue that came up for me when I was at my first job. (I don’t know if LW 1’s employees are new to the workforce, but many food service workers are.) I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to contact my boss outside of work hours, or wait until the business was open. Of course in hindsight it seems obvious that it’s best to let management know as soon as possible, but it wasn’t intuitive to me at the time.

  48. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    LW1: In cases like these, redundancies are your friend.

    Staff an extra person in the morning. The worst case scenario is you have one more pair of hands than you actually need (which, really, is never a bad thing – if you’re busy the extra person keeps the line moving faster; if you’re not busy, there is always always ALWAYS something to clean!)

    Staffing issues generally aside as everyone struggles to find additional employees, it is always a good investment to add to the payroll by 1-2 FTEs so that, in exactly these circumstances, you can continue to operate efficiently. (This goes for white collar jobs as well!) The idea that if one person is out will throw everything into chaos tells me you are understaffed.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Okay, so we have spotted the person who has never run a food service business.

      Margins in this business are slim. Having one or two more people scheduled for each shift than are actually necessary just in case someone calls out sick may mean the difference between staying in business or going out of business because you have to double your prices to cover all this extra labor expense.

      It would be better to offer paid sick leave; please see the comment below by “ijustworkhere”.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I agree with you that paid sick leave should be offered, but doesn’t help with regard to last minute call-outs.

        Look, I get that margins are slim. That doesn’t mean it is wise to run a shoestring operation to pay for that. I mean, the other option is that the cafe owner needs to expect the reality of the situation and may have to run her operation solo if there is a last-minute call out. Does she want to risk having to deal with that reality on occasion or is it worth it to her to cut into the margins so she doesn’t have to risk that? I guess that’s the equation at play.

      2. hey ho let's go*

        To be fair, the vast majority of people haven’t run a food service business.

        Paid sick leave is great, but not offered in any real way in the restauant/retail world (usually only to full-time workers and hardly anybody gets full-time. Even then it’s just scraps.)

        I used to work food service/retail. Now I work white collar. The difference in how I get treated is night and day. It’s actually gross. I worked way, way harder before and got paid way less. Plus, it was far more stressful. The indignity of being forced to call other employees while you are trying not to vomit or taking care of a sick child is callous.

        It should never, ever be up to the employee to find their own coverage.

    2. kalli*

      It’s a good investment to have a couple of floaters or family members who are happy with the occasional shift and can be available on short notice. Ideally you have a dishie for cleaning who’s reliable enough to step up to the line and obey instructions. But you can’t have an FTE in a kitchen with no station, because they’re not paying for themselves.

  49. Eldritch Office Worker*

    #3 I’ve found this to be difficult with therapists too – especially therapists who don’t understand my exact job or industry. Nonprofit management has a lot of emotional labor components that you don’t see as much in corporate, and I’ve held direct management, HR, and operations roles which have their own set of…stuff.

    So if I tell my therapist I’m losing sleep because I know we don’t have the resources to pay more, but I really want to find ways to support our junior staff without killing their passion, I just get told how awesome it is that I care but that it’s not my job to be that invested. Except…eh no it kind of is.

    Or when my therapist wants me to take time off and I tell her why going to work and getting out of the house is actually really good for me because I care about what I do she doesn’t really believe me and thinks I’m burning myself out.

    (This is multiple therapists over multiple jobs, not just my current one)

    I find it helps to really explain your job to your therapist and try to get them to understand your day-to-day because everyone’s relationship with work is really different.

    1. Mill Miker*

      it’s not my job to be that invested. Except…eh no it kind of is.

      I can relate to that. So many rounds of “It’s not your job to fix other peoples mistakes/get ahead of everyone’s problems/try and put out every fire” “Oh yeah, then why is it hear on my job description under ‘core duties’?”

  50. Julia*

    For L3: I’m a journalist and once had a therapist ask if I could just work on less emotionally fraught stories and only cover “happy” things. Trying to imagine how that would go down in a newsroom still makes me laugh.

    1. Annie*

      I once knew a former journalist who successfully transitioned from the “cover tragic stories” department to the “cover happy stories” department before leaving the industry entirely. So yeah, change divisions if your paper/website/company is big enough to accomodate is how that advice could be implemented. Obviously not an option for every journalist.

  51. ijustworkhere*

    Lw #1 I owned retail establishments for many years. This comes with the territory. Here’s what I did.
    1. I made sure people knew it was Ok to call me anytime day or night to call out if they needed to. The earlier the better.
    2. I told people, if you are sick at 9:00 the night before your shift, you’re probably going to be sick at 6:30 am. Go ahead and call out. It’s OK. In any case, call me as soon as you know you won’t be at work, I don’t care what time it is.
    3. And I gave paid sick time! This is key! If you are person who has a “no work no pay” job you are going to wait till the last minute to call out sick, because you hope you can rally and work because YOU NEED THE MONEY. Make it OK for people to call out sick and you’ll probably wont get so many of these last minute call outs. And I worked hard to help people make up their time if that’s what they wanted to do.

    And…sometimes I had to make some hard decisions. If someone is calling out a lot, my job might not be the right job for them, because we didn’t have the profit margin to have a lot of staffing redundancy. A person with a lot of health issues might be better suited for a job where their work can wait till they get back if they aren’t there.

    We had to serve the customers when the customers are there. I can’t tell them, wait till tomorrow when my server is back. I could accommodate occasional absences, but I could not accommodate someone with a chronic health issue. That may not be what someone wants to hear, but it’s the reality of small retail operations.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I commented upthread re: redundancies, however I think this is even better:
      “If someone is calling out a lot, my job might not be the right job for them, because we didn’t have the profit margin to have a lot of staffing redundancy.”

      I know this isn’t exactly the same thing as a reasonable accommodation, but thinking about things in terms of undue hardship is important. I don’t think it’s necessarily that if someone is calling out unscheduled, say, once every 3 months or so. That’s just to be expected, and I would say it is even MORE critical to ensure people who are working directly with the general public are healthy and contagion-free!

      LW1 I think is in a moment of frustration, and it’s likely because she has one or two staff on the opening shift who are more regularly unreliable. I know we talk a lot on here about how good managers are flexible with people, but time abuse is a thing. However the way to deal with this is to transition the flagrant abusers out, not to make people find their own coverage.

  52. Harper the Other One*

    OP1: in my retail/service experience, the places where people were most likely to get earlier call ins for illness did the following:

    1) they had a clear procedure for calling in sick. Every staff member knew exactly what to do (text the boss no matter the hour, leave a message on the store phone’s voice mail by X time, email “” by X time, etc.) I agree with other commenters’ assessment that part of the problem is likely the early hour and staff not wanting to disturb you.

    2) they had paid sick days. I know this seems counterintuitive, but most sick retail/service workers in North America are REALLY REALLY hoping they can make it in, because they need the money. Knowing that they get X paid sick hours helps eliminate the “I’m sick, but am I can’t go sick or am I push through it for that cheque sick.”

    I’d consider implementing both ASAP and I suspect you’ll see some turnaround. But please, don’t assume the worst motives of your staff. Nothing is more demotivating as an employee than a boss who assumes the worst of you.

  53. Oryx*

    OP #1, if an employee wakes up in the middle of the night sick and throwing up, what would be appropriate for them to call you to tell you they aren’t coming in for a 6:30 shift and have you made that time known?

    I’ve definitely had times when I’ve gone to bed fine and at 3 am find myself throwing up in the bathroom. I was raised with the understanding it was rude to call people super late at night/super early in the morning, but I also have other means of communicating with my manager that is anachronistic. I can send a Slack at 3 am knowing they’ll see it when they wake up before the start of work. At other jobs, if we called out it was supposed to be within 30 minutes of our start time. I would have LOVED to call in early the minute I knew I wasn’t coming in and sleep in, but instead I had to set an alarm to make sure I notified them within the window.

    As others have stated in this thread, sometimes we think we can rally to get to our jobs and then at the last minute realize it’s not happening. It’s not all due to lazy workers not wanting to work. So rather than blame them, consider what system is in place for last minute call outs especially for 6:30 am shifts. Because last minute call outs will happen. Do your employees know they can call you early if needed and have you told them how early that is?

    1. kalli*

      And the corollary, do employees who aren’t rostered on know when they can expect a call if someone calls out?

      If you wake up at 5am and check your messages and see someone texted at 3am that they have strep and can’t come in, and you do your calling around between 5am and 5:30am, then it also sets the expectations that if you can call in before 5am you should, if you need to make a judgement call about coming in then you make it at 4:50, and if you don’t get a call by 5:30am, you’re unlikely to be needed to cover and at 6:30am you can reasonably assume the schedule is working. Then if something does happen after 5:30am everyone operates with the grace afforded to ‘this is a genuine unpredictable and uncommon event’ without judgment.

      It also lets you manage your time rather than having your phone ringer up all night and waking everyone up at 3am to find out if they can cover, then again at 4:30 because contagious things are contagious etc. If you have 2 people call out you still do one round of calls. You can turn your ringer off and just check the single point of contact at 5am and proceed accordingly.

      Some people demand ccalls because they think it’s easier for people to call in sick unnecessarily or fake a sickie if they’re not interacting in real time, but instead it actually makes people more likely to call in when they need to because they can expend less energy than a phone call and waiting for you to be at work or guaranteed to be awake or done with the morning prep etc. – if they can leave a message or send an email, they can do that whenever and then focus that days’ energy on, you know, getting better; if you have the expectation that you’ll check x point of contact at 5am then they can do it at 3am and go back to bed, or text at 4am from the ER when it’s obvious they won’t be seen by then or whatever, vs ‘you start at 6:30’ and trying to stay awake until 6:25 because you turn the order phone off night mode on at 6:20 when you put the blinds up or whatever.

  54. kiki*

    For LW #1, how common of an occurrence is it that somebody is calling out 5 minutes before? If it’s really once in a blue moon, I think it’s safe to say that bodies can be weird and sometimes somebody suddenly feels bad, they’re so sick they oversleep, they are actively throwing up and don’t break to call or text, etc.

    If this is relatively common, I would assess a few things:
    – Does this tend to be the same person/ small group of people? If so, I would address it individually.
    – Have you communicated clearly to every staff member that it’s really important for you to know as early as possible that they are feeling sick so that you can find coverage? That sounds obvious, but sometimes folks really aren’t thinking about what them calling out means for you and coverage. And by communicated clearly, I don’t mean “it’s in the handbook.” I know it’s annoying, but a lot of people don’t really read that and even those who do struggle to absorb everything in one go.
    – Can you make it super clear that you’d rather get a text at 3:30 am, even if you don’t respond to it right away, than getting a call cutting it close to the start time? Your staff may feel like they’re disrupting you if they call the first moment they feel sick, especially if that’s 1-5am.

  55. AnonyMouse*

    LW3, in my experience this kind of thing is really common in a lot of professions. You can argue that most people’s default is to give you the advice they think is best for their field of expertise and leave you to decide if and how that advice fits into your life. I’m not defending this tendency or saying that they shouldn’t consider the larger ramifications for the person they’re talking to but I don’t think this is specific to mental health professionals. Consider, a medical doctor who advises a patient to see a specialist or have expensive testing done without considering their financial situation or who advises a dependent should have their blood sugar taken every 30 minutes due to non-compliance with brittle diabetes not considering that everyone else in the house works. Or you could even see it in managers who advise that in order to get a promotion an exempt employee should do additional work or training off the clock without considering how that negatively affects working single parents.

    1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      People go into therapy not realizing:

      1) you are the person who will have to act, they will not and should not tell you what to do. Just like regular coaching, therapy functions with the idea that you have the answer to your own issues – you just need someone to help you get there and give you techniques along the way.

      2) you will not find the perfect therapist for you. Some people need a heavy suggester, some people need someone who will not suggest at all, some need someone they can rant at, some need someone who will help center them, etc. There are different styles and approaches, and then there is the person themselves. If you don’t like the work your mechanic is doing, or your favorite restaurant does an overhaul and everything takes different, or if your doctor is making snarky comments about your lab results when you come in and you don’t like that, you wouldn’t think twice about switching. Same with therapist.

  56. Sabrina*

    LW3, my mother was a therapist at a clinic and the way they handled problems was exactly like you describe. Lots of talking about their personal struggles, group meetings to work out issues together, and it was completely expected for the managers to mediate personality clashes between staff. So when I entered the working world and would have issues with coworkers she constantly advised me to handle it in ways that would have been wildly inappropriate for my corporate job. She meant well! But me asking HR to mediate between myself and a coworker who was super annoying and hard to work with would have not made sense. She never understood why I didn’t take her advice since it worked so well for her.

    1. Chili Heeler*

      I have multiple family members who are clergy members who have worked in congregational settings their entire careers or just about. The fact that their hiring and working processes are specific to clergy and sometimes specific to their denomination has not stopped them from giving advice that no one asked for. Expectations, boundaries, and structures are just too different.

    2. kiki*

      Yeah, I think that’s an important point to consider– somebody who is a therapist probably has a very different experience with workplace norms than folks in other settings. It makes sense that their workplace advice may not be suitable for environments different than their own workplace.

      I think about this a lot with advice I got from my teachers growing up. I am somebody who struggles with being on-time in the early mornings (and our school had extracurriculars that met at 7am). All my teachers told me if I didn’t become a morning person, it would limit my success in the working world. That made sense because being a teacher does involve early mornings. But I’m successful in my career now and I roll in to work every day at 10am and it’s totally fine!

  57. mskyle*

    I would love to hear people’s strategies that have worked well for dealing with absences on early-morning opening shifts. I haven’t worked those hours in a long time but I spent several years working 7AM starts at a library that opened at 7:30AM. I was the only full-time person in the library until ~8:30AM, and I would have two student workers who started work at 7:30AM or a little before. If I woke up at 6:30AM and felt sick (or worse, overslept, which only happened once), it was already too late for any of my full-time coworkers to come in to cover for me (they had longer commutes and probably couldn’t get in any earlier than usual at that point).

    The way that worked out for me was I think I never took a last-minute sick day during the ~3 years I worked that shift! A few times I came in a 7 and left at 8:30 or 9, as soon as another full-timer arrived. Once when I overslept and came in after 7:30, the student workers should have been able to handle the opening but it was the one time the automatic timer on the door locks didn’t work!

    In retrospect, obviously this was not the right way to handle it but it never occurred to me to sit down with my boss and figure out a better way.

    (I did have a few student workers who I just had to take off morning shifts entirely – one very nice young man with great customer service skills repeatedly overslept 3-4 hours past the beginning of his shift, and I had to be like, “I know you say you’re available in the mornings but I think we both know that’s not exactly true!” He did great in a 7PM-close shift.)

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “I know you say you’re available in the mornings but I think we both know that’s not exactly true!”

      I love that, great way to approach it.

    2. kalli*

      When I was doing a morning shift the way it was handled was that the time-critical stuff was left to FTE people who were paid to be there before opening and they were never scheduled alone, so there would always be at least one person to open the door. Less critical tasks were handled by hourly paid people who had ‘get your work done by x, call in asap if you can’t’ and if someone called in, their boss went down the list of who wasn’t on that day and if nobody could come in, did it himself.

      When the boss was off for family emergency-turned-bereavement one of the hourly paid people just stepped up and came in every day to cover the task on top of whoever turned up because nobody else had time to supervise. I don’t think anyone even asked them; they just came in on their day and realised they were alone and got things done.

    3. Observer*

      The way that worked out for me was I think I never took a last-minute sick day during the ~3 years I worked that shift!

      That’s a terrible way for your employer to handle this. There NEEDS to be something else in place, because sometimes things really do happen!

      In retrospect, obviously this was not the right way to handle it but it never occurred to me to sit down with my boss and figure out a better way.

      And I think it was on your *boss* to realize that this was a potential issue. Especially given the one time you did get in late something mundane but disruptive happened.

  58. Pretty as a Princess*

    LW#4, I think “dream job” is doing a lot of lifting. A lot of new grads IME get an idea about a “dream job” but it’s really a company they want to work for or whatever. I don’t think that an entry level new grad position is really anyone’s true “dream job.” (Does anyone get an MBA to stay in an entry level position forever?) I’d advise chatting with the stepdaughter about what is appealing about this potential job experience in terms of her overall big goals for what she wants her life to look like and reinforce that any entry level job is just the first step in a professional journey that can go many directions.

    Not getting *this* entry level job at *this* company is not going to preclude her from getting on the road to her long term goals. And if the long term goal is just “work at this company” – that’s not an actual goal and could actually be a harmful thing to chase.

  59. el l*

    Comment directed not specifically at therapists, but “advice givers” in general:

    A big reason AAM is so valuable is because workplace norms are different from life norms. Whenever work problems come up in advice columns, my experience is that a disproportionate amount of the advice boils down to, “Ask HR!” Or ignores power dynamics. Or is otherwise unrealistic.

  60. constant_craving*

    LW3: There are people bad at their job in every field. If a therapist is giving advice on any sort of regular basis (actual advice, not bringing up things for you to consider and make your own decision on), that’s already a sign they’re bad at their job.

  61. Anon in Canada*

    What is happening to LW4 is garbage, garbage, garbage. I could understand blocking someone from reapplying for 12 months after they turned down an offer (if information about salary and benefits was provided from the start), but a one strike you’re out policy on a logic test? Complete lunacy.

    I would suggest reapplying under a different email and phone number; and using her middle name or a nickname; usually these blocks are based on email.

    Contacting the hiring manager directly is unlikely to work unless there was some sort of personal connection; big companies are usually quite bureaucratic.

    1. Satan’s Panties*

      I would say don’t apply, because if they’re that strict about hiring, what would it be like trying to get a raise or promotion?

      1. Anon in Canada*

        It’s really hard for new grads in most fields to find jobs. Beggars can’t be choosers.

        If it turns out to be a toxic workplace, she can job hunt again, but new grads can’t afford to be too picky.

  62. Chili Heeler*

    Regarding #1 if have definitely overslept my alarm and backup alarm (two shouty little kids) when I was really sick despite generally getting up with my alarm no problem. It is also hard to call/text if your illness requires you to remain in the bathroom. Or, they woke up feeling a bit off but thought some coffee/food/etc would make them feel better.

    The letter seems to carry a note of disdain for the employees, which I hope is not the case. People can pick up on that quickly and you can end up with only the employees who don’t really give a shirt.

  63. BridgeofFire*

    I’ve been on the flip side of LW 1, when I worked retail at a certain US-based “red shirt and khakis dress code” store. I dreaded working an opening shift, because I knew if there was any chance I would need to call in sick, there would be an ordeal. Why? Simple. Store policy was to call in no less than 2 hours before the start of your shift. 2 hours before the start of my shift, there would be no one in the store besides the overnight workers in the stock room. How often do you think they answered the phone? And no, there was no way to leave a message to prove you had called in on time.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Ah, the source of the most ridiculous call-out experience I’ve had in my lifetime.

      For reasons unknown to me, the retail establishment I was an assistant manager of did NOT have voicemail/answering machine (this early 00s, so it was really baffling). I was scheduled for an opening shift with the manager, with manager scheduled a half hour prior to me being there. I started calling the second she was to arrive, and repeating every five minutes until the time I was supposed to arrive having still not reached her. Gave up, called the mall office.

      Got a two hours later “WTF?!” phone call from the manager. Apparently her schedule was just on paper that day and she rolled in well after the store was to be open…to an unopen store. Was not the day for greeting me with that, what with a fever and a throat on fire and so achy I could barely move. My response was “well, WTF don’t we have a (f) answering machine then? Go ahead and call the (f) mall office and then tell me I didn’t make a (f) effort to notify you. Your home phone is unlisted, btw, information will not give it out. (SLAM)”.

  64. WNC girl*

    LW1 you seriously expect people who are throwing up or have a fever to work? Those things can come on suddenly anyway! You are way off base!

  65. KnitaBigDeal*

    Okay – this IS speculation, but I want to add it.

    For Letter #2 – Did all of the people who were invited belong to a specific demographic? At my work, there are exclusive events hosted by my grand-boss that are women-only. Generally, the guys have not had an issue with it because they are infrequent events and tend to be targeted at more traditionally female interests (think Galentines Day, etc). I think if one of the guys made a stink about it, the events would be more formally added to the Professional Women ERG schedule as their activities are protected.

    I will admit that my team does have something of a “girls club” mentality (5/5 internal managerial promotions in the last 3 years have gone to women despite a 50/50 gender mix), but promotions to other groups are easily available so it hasn’t been a big issue for any of the men.

    1. OP2/LW2*

      We are all women. The two excluded coworkers have both taken FMLA leave since the supervisor has been here while the other two have not taken any extended leave like that. I’ve taken FMLA twice now, for the full 12 weeks.

    2. OP2/LW2*

      Also, I am white but have a mixed race child. My other excluded coworker is a POC. The two invited and the supervisor are white.

      1. MarmotMarmot*

        In my situation, they’re all white men – but if I bring it up, *I’m* apparently the one discriminating

        btw I am not trying to steal your thunder, I just desperately need someone to commiserate with right now, I hope that’s ok.

  66. Lilac*

    I don’t think LW1 is expecting them to come in and work a full shift – they’re asking if it’s reasonable to expect employees to find their own coverage or call out further in advance. (FWIW, I don’t think it’s reasonable for them to find coverage. As Alison pointed out, finding coverage *is* work! Asking them to call out more than five minutes in advance is sometimes possible but not always, so I don’t think it should be a blanket policy.)

  67. Shawna*

    LW #4: I‘ve heard of people paying for tutoring to pass the logic test at my local Giant Generic Multinational Corporation. And FWIW if it’s the company I’m thinking of, I’m skeptical that it’ll turn out to be a dream job lol.

  68. SusieQQ*

    Regarding LW1… I agree with Allison here but wonder if it’s contingent on the person being sick. If someone called out of work for another reason, would that change her answer?

    Context: several years ago I was heading home from my day job to grab a quick bite before I went to my second job at a laundromat. When I got home, I discovered that some pipes had burst and water had been spraying into my garage and basement for god knows how many hours. I got the water turned off and the basement wasn’t flooded per se but the carpet was completely drenched. I called my boss and said that I couldn’t come to work and explained why. She told me it was my responsibility to find someone else to cover for me.

    The complete lack of empathy sticks with me to this day. There was thousands of dollars worth of damage to my house, I was single and lived alone so I was dealing with it all on my own, and I was worried about mold. And on top of all that, I had to get on the phone and start calling other employees. It was awful.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The reason the person isn’t going to be in really doesn’t matter.
      Finding coverage should be paid work, so if you’re not getting paid, you shouldn’t be the one finding coverage.

      This doesn’t change the fact that a lot of places operate that way anyway. An employee often doesn’t have any real leverage to push back against policies like this.

  69. mytummyhurtsbutimbeingbraveaboutit*

    I don’t think the points raised in #3 imply a bad judgement by the therapist. Their job is to help your mental health, not get you ahead in your career. imagine the case for a physical issue: your doctor would still give you the advice to keep you healthy (“take breaks from physics work” or “use proper equipment”) even if it led to reduced efficiency or impacted career opportunities

    1. I should really pick a name*

      If a therapist is giving you advice that’s impractical to put into practice, it’s not really helping you.

    2. Observer*

      imagine the case for a physical issue: your doctor would still give you the advice to keep you healthy (“take breaks from physics work” or “use proper equipment”) even if it led to reduced efficiency or impacted career opportunities

      Yes, but if the physician gave you advice that would get your fired, that would be pretty bad unless they were telling you that “You can either keep your job and it will kill you, or you get out and live to find another job.” Also bad would be giving you advice that could backfire on your health in other ways. Like when you have a kid who is not growing, one of the things you want to insure is that the food you feed them is calorie dense but you don’t say that the kid can’t have any water because it doesn’t have calories. (This actually happened to a friend of mine.) Or insist that you give your lactose intolerant kid milk because full fat milk has lots of calories and fats.

      Advising someone to something in the name of reducing stress which will actually cause more stress because the nature of your job is similar to those kinds of things.

    3. constant_craving*

      Actually, giving you advice at all is bad judgement on behalf of the therapist. I know people think that’s what therapists are for, but it’s actually pretty contrary to a therapist’s role.

    4. constant_craving*

      Actually, I would say if a therapist is giving you advice at all, that’s showing bad judgement. It’s pretty contrary to the role a therapist is supposed to fill.

      They can ask you to consider things, help you talk through pros/cons, give you tools that can help you in different situations, etc. but they’re not meant to just tell you what to do.

  70. Daniela*

    LW#1: Maybe they are not comfortable coming to you with this. While I understand that it’s very stressful for you to find replacement, maybe you can ensure them that it is indeed okay to call in sick if you are sick. If you are projecting the stress of finding a replacement onto them, they might be more inclined to just wait it out in case they can come to work anyway.
    But truthfully, there is no way around being shorthanded in that situation unless you have plenty of staff to go around – which most places to not have, esp in food service.

  71. Coin_Operated*

    #1, the easiest thing is to require call-outs a time of notice. At my work, we’re required to give 2 hours’ notice to our direct supervisor if we call out unless there are extenuating circumstances. It might make sense to require your employees to give you an hour’s notice or something similar so you’re not in that situation of trying to find coverage 5 minutes from when you’re meant to open on a regular basis.

    #3, I’d be curious if there are therapists on here, but I’m prepping to get my qualifications to become a mental health counselor, and so much of what I know about what being a good therapist is, is specifically NOT to just give advice, but to be working through what specifically is safe for each individual patient and learn about their circumstances to be able to better help them work through those circumstances, or the safest way to change those circumstances.

    1. Matt*

      #1 might be “the easiest thing” from the supervisor’s side, but a huge imposition on everyone working the morning shift. It means you have to get up two hours early every single day just in case you might wake up sick one day.

  72. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    Re: #1, IMO there’s one rule that supersedes all others: *never* give employees an incentive to come into work sick (*especially* in food service). Would you rather let a few employees get away with calling in sick when they just don’t feel like working that day (which, even if true, means they probably need rest)? Or would you rather several customers end up with a nasty GI virus because one employee decided it’d be easier to tough it out and go to work than to get a replacement on short notice in the early morning?

    Also, people don’t think clearly when they’re ill. It’s a mistake to read much intention into the decisions a sick person makes.

  73. Erin*

    I had a boss who was prone to interrogating why anyone called out and pressuring us not to, even if we had more than enough PTO to cover it, and even if the reason we gave was very serious. A real example: I was hit by a car, which the boss’s own two closest friends witnessed, and called out for one day to have the weekend to recover. She acted highly irritated, implied she didn’t believe me, and when I returned to work way too early, limping and covered in road rash, she still wanted a doctor’s note or police report to prove it happened.

    This was a pattern with her. The only thing it ever resulted in was 1) me downloading an app that would call straight to voicemail so I never had to call out with her directly, and 2) giving notice at the last minute to avoid an interrogation about if I REALLY couldn’t come in and a guilt-trip about letting the team down. Mine might be an extreme example, OP1, but it’s worth taking a look at how you respond when people do call in – if, as others have mentioned, you might be projecting the stress of finding coverage onto them.

    If not, clarify in writing either that it’s okay to call and/or text you at 4 am if they know they’re sick at 4 am. But recognize that for many reasons, some people still won’t grasp how sick they really are until 6:25.

  74. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: I hope you print a copy of today’s response to your letter and attach it to your notice when you leave. Because you absolutely should go someplace less toxic where your manager isn’t allowed to blatantly favor half the team.

  75. Another JD*

    L1: Hi Alison – lawyer here. I’d include advice to check local labor laws about whether an employer can require an employee to find coverage for their own shift. In Maryland, it’s illegal under the Healthy Working Families Act: “An employer may not require that an employee who is requesting earned sick and safe leave search for or find an individual to work in the employee’s stead during the time the employee is taking the leave.” Md. Labor and Employment Code Ann. § 3-1305(c).

  76. Jessica*

    LW1: “My opinion is, if you’re calling me at 6:25 in the morning, you knew that you were sick for quite some time”


    People wake up with symptoms they didn’t have the night before. People wake up and feel okay when they’re lying in bed, and maybe even when they’re in the shower, but then realize as they get up and move around that they’re more sick than they thought they were when they first woke up. People (hi! I’m one) get migraines that come on without much warning. People get fevers that they don’t notice until they’re up and about and realize they’re sweaty and light-headed.

    People need the money for their shift and so they get up and try to push through not feeling well until they admit to themselves that they really are too sick to work.

    Like, I get how frustrating it is to have people call out at the last minute, but sickness isn’t always convenient and it doesn’t respect work schedules.

    You can’t “allow” people to be seriously ill based on other people’s schedules and availability.

  77. Dahlia*

    “When it’s last minute”

    Do you expect them to know in advance they’re going to get sick? The nature of getting sick is it’s unexpected. How many days in advance do you know you’re going to wake up and start puking?

    1. I Have RBF*

      Yeah. I know damn well that I don’t plan on migraines, flu, colds, or injuries that don’t show themselves to be impossible to work with until after a night’s sleep. The only possible “plan” for illness is when I know I’ve been exposed to something like covid or con crud, and even then I’m always hoping I don’t actually get it.

    2. constant_craving*

      To be fair to the LW, it sounds more like they’re hoping for a call at 5:30 or 6:00 so they have time to call around for coverage. I don’t think they mean days in advance.

  78. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

    Unpopular maybe, but letter #3 is just…not a productive letter. There is no issue in the letter to even comment on. It’s just their vague, overly general musings on therapy.

    > I’m sure the work advice my past therapists have given is what they think will be best for my mental health … but I’m not sure they’ve always understood the professional ramifications of their recommendations.

    It’s hard to tell from the letter, but it sounds like some advice you got was to be more open with your colleagues and boss about your mental health needs. But when you did, you crossed a professional boundary. Without more details, it’s hard to know if your therapist actually set you up for failure or if you didn’t modulate how open you were in a professional context (i.e., remembering they are not your therapist and open to them isn’t the same as open to your therapist). The general advice is okay…be more open about your needs and your boundaries. However, excepting your therapist to provide custom catered AAM-style sound bites is…asking a lot. Especially when even AAM scripts still fall flat in uncooperative workplaces – you have to sus out what will work from the advice given.

    Finding the right therapist that will communicate and give advice/direction that works for you is hard. But therapy is a two-way street – they aren’t a life coach telling you to go out and do what they say. They’re supposed to be there to help you figure out and then help yourself answer, “this sucks but I need to tolerate it even though my mental health suffers…but what can I do to make sure it doesn’t deteriorate and affect my overall life?”

  79. anon anon*

    Anon for this one because anyone who knows I read this column would recognize me.

    I woke up a few weeks ago in *excruciating* pain. And I could barely move my arm. I felt entirely fine the evening before. But then 6 in the morning popped up and I was crying in pain for no apparent reason. It’s not at all logical to think someone has been sick (or injured) for a long time before choosing to contact their job. It’s not like sickness has a strict timeclock. I’ve also woken up with a fever or wanting to hurl more times than I can count, and it does not always have the courtesy of happening hours and hours before I have to work.

    1. SofiaDeo*

      True, but having been in OP’s situation, I would hazard a guess that this is not a one-off, it’s a pattern that 1 or more people are doing. I never really noticed when people called in, until I saw after a while certain people Always called out on a Friday, after a holiday, or 5-10 minutes before opening tasks. A one-off would not result in a letter here IMO. And the extra time is helpful. Waking up to a 3 am message is no big deal, the phone ringing 5 minutes before opening is a problem.

  80. AAlex*

    Had my favorite therapist ever suggest that I invite the incarcerated men who had been masturbating in front of me (at my prison library job) to a workshop where I present to them the harm it causes me and others. She was so so great and helped me see real things in my life but I definitely think it can be a lil bubble.

  81. Delphine*

    LW#1, you have my sympathies. I can see why it would be frustrating to get a sick call when the person should be at the tail end of their commute or walking through the door. That helps no one, especially if it becomes a pattern. But if those employees are so flaky that they only bother telling you they’re sick 5 minutes before their workday begins, do you think they’re going to put any energy into finding coverage? It’s not a rule that is going to make your life easier.

  82. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

    “So now I have to continue doing my job, plus your job.”

    Yes, that’s the definition of being out sick: the employee is too sick to do their own job, so someone else will have to do it.

    I realize there’s middle ground where you feel reasonably good but are highly contagious, like the time I had to stay home from school with pinkeye but could easily have made phone calls…but at least some of the time, you should expect to have to do someone else’s job while they’re out sick. As inconvenient as it is for you, the person who is sick is even more inconvenienced, and they would choose not to be sick if they could. (Exceptions are rare.)

  83. MarmotMarmot*

    LW2 – are you me? I’m going through a very similar situation (plus loads of other favoritism and bullying and general bullshit) and got a very similar response. It’s infuriating

  84. Sick Shift*

    I might be in the minority here, but I think it’s completely reasonable to tell your employees they need to find coverage if they’re calling out with less than an hour or two’s notice. Some people probably are genuinely sick, but if employees are chronically calling out of the 6:30 AM shift and never/rarely other shifts, it’s not legit.

    1. Sick Shift*

      Also – fever/throwing up are get out of jail free cards in the food industry. You can’t work with either of those symptoms and would be immediately sent home.

    2. Rainy*

      It’s a coffee shop. Probably half the employees *only* work the 6:30am shift, so yeah, if they’re sick they’re always going to be calling out of the shift they always have.

    3. Dahlia*

      Who’s going to consistently wake up two+ hours before their 6:30am shift if they don’t have to already? That’s literally just punishing people for working in the morning.

    4. Matt*

      And exactly for the “genuinely sick” people, be it “some” or “most”, it’s completely unreasonable. Do you expect them hanging on the phone for half an hour or whatever while not being able to get away from the loo? (Maybe they could sit on the latter and use the phone if the illness is only affecting the rear exit, but if you have to interchange between top and bottom it gets really difficult …)

  85. Idealist*

    LW3 I had a fabulous therapist with one problem – he assumed that employers would automatically pay for transportation to and from work *every* day as an ADA accommodation if I only would ask them to do so – and I should state it as a requirement when interviewing.

    Basically, he had an idealized view of how employers dealt with disabilities. But otherwise he was fabulous.

  86. bamcheeks*

    I’m so fascinated by all the responses to LW3, because so many of them are, “listen, my work sucks and that’s just how it is, the end” and, of course in a many cases that is true, but it is absolutely the job of a therapist to help you articulate how your job sucks, what the impact of that suck is on you, are yoh absolutely sure that you have no power to change the suck or leave the suck, what are the positives that keep you in that suck, etc.

    Of course, many of you may have terrible therapists! But “I can’t do that!” “Ok, why can’t you do that, what is stopping you, what are you getting out of palliative llama care even when palliative llama care is visibly making you ill” is an extremely valid topic, and the “I’m a palliative llama care specialist and palliative lllama is just Like That, you don’t know anything!” comes across across as really defensive ans reactive.

  87. A*

    2. My manager invited half of us to a party at her house and excluded the rest of us

    op is right, management is wrong. time to find a new job.

  88. JenniferS*

    LW2 – it’s just an awful thing for a supervisor to do. My boss was responsible for choosing which employees got invites for a company wide thank you party for a big project. Out of 20 employees, I and one other employee were left out. Brand new employees who had nothing to do with the project and other employees who had far less to do with the project than us were invited. You try to not let such things bother you but it was extremely hurtful and I thought sent a clear message to me and the other employee. I took the message. I was not at the company for much longer. Even if there had been a limit on number of invites, IMO any supervisor worth their salt would have advocated for 2 more invites.

  89. LScott*

    I worked for a well-known international company about 10 years ago. The branch I worked for had two holiday parties. One was a sad potluck during lunch. The other was a formal catered event at a local museum over the weekend. Everyone could attend the lunch. So that included warehouse and janitorial staff, customer service, executive assistants, and what seemed to be considered “low level” employees. The formal party was a secret invite only event. Business developers, managers, directors, their spouses…I think you know where I’m going with this. Strangely no minorities landed in the special invite group either. Assistants planned a party they could never attend. There were several people with 20+ years at the company who were never invited. That never sat well with me. Luckily, I wasn’t there long. OP2, I feel you.

  90. honestmistake*

    I experienced something really similar to #4. I found a job I was excited about and uniquely qualified for. Submitted my resume and writing sample and heard… nothing. I was disappointed, but assumed they found someone more qualified.

    A few weeks later, they reposted the same job and in rereading the job posting, I realized that it instructed applicants to upload the resume and writing sample in the *same document*. By uploading both separately, I must have been eliminated before anyone saw my application. I tried to reapply, but the portal wouldn’t let me because I had already applied to the position.

    So I created a new account with a different email address. Applied following the instructions to the T, got an interview a week later, was offered the job the week after that, and now I’m a year into a job that has been a huge step forward in my career. Sometimes all you need is to get yourself past the machine screening to a person who will see what you have to offer!

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