taking regular time off for a crafting group, a glitch stripped away hundreds of hours of PTO, and more

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

1. Can I regularly take PTO for a crafting social group?

I understand that vacation time is part of my compensation package and I need to take time off, but would it be considered unprofessional/immature to take PTO every other Friday afternoon to go to a recurring social gathering? I know that it is my earned time but cannot shake the feeling that going to a purely social crafting group on Friday afternoons, during the work day, might be seen as less appropriate than. say, taking the whole day off or taking my cat to the vet. I can’t exactly put my finger on why it feels wrong. Or other than just not mentioning the reason, is there a way to frame it that sounds less frivolous?

I am not necessarily worried about my direct boss/coworkers since they would encourage me to take some me time, but I am already seen as quirky (energetic with a decent Funko Pop! collection but am good at what I do) and would hate to tip the scales to unprofessional/immature outside of my team. My life outside of work is pretty nonexistent so I am trying to find ways to fulfill myself, since taking a day off without anything planned is the worst (since I could use that to catch up on my backlog), which results in me never taking time off to recoup from the burn out that is oh so real.

My only concern would be whether the recurring nature of it will make you harder to schedule with. Like if the only time everyone has free for a meeting is one of the days you’re going to be out, are people going to be annoyed if they know it’s because every other Friday you’re crafting? Same thing if you’re in a job where most people around you are harried and the nature of their work means they couldn’t do that — in which case you still could, but it might be wiser to be more circumspect about what that time is for.

But if none of those things are the case, or if you make it clear you’ll be flexible if it ever poses scheduling challenges, I think you’re fine. Even so, if you want to be vague about it, you could say you’re involved in a community group that meets then, or you’ve carved out that time for a hobby — you don’t need to say “crafting social group” from the get-go.

Read an update to this letter

2. A “glitch” stripped us of hundreds of hours of PTO

We were recently informed that for the last 28 months (since May 2021), the system that records our timecards, PTO, pay stubs, and other financial information had a “glitch” that incorrectly allocated more vacation time per pay period than was in the benefits guide. Leadership just found this out and are working to get the updated balances out to all staff.

For the past couple of years, leadership has waived the max vacation carryover rule and has repeatedly asked people to spend down their hours. People have saved PTO for honeymoons, to care for their children outside of school hours, and to supplement sick time for family emergencies and parental leave and were relying on this number to be accurate. Former staff members have come and gone and been paid out for these extra hours in that time. But now staff are finding themselves with negative balances, since the updated calculations are reducing totals by up to 200 hours per person. If you leave before your balance is over 0, you have to pay back the organization. If we had left before the error was fixed, we would not have been affected. It feels like the employees are being punished for staying, for a mistake that’s not ours and for trusting the system and the team in charge of it. What can we leverage to push back on this? Is there a way we can propose a different solution to leadership that wouldn’t penalize the team for this error?

Well, this is horrible.

It’s one thing to do this if the errors were very small and very short-lived — like just one paycheck and just a few hours of time. But it’s really awful to do it when we’re talking about years of miscalculations and people are losing 200 hours (!!) of the time they thought they had saved — that’s five weeks (!!). As you point out, people made decisions based on the numbers the company provided — and they had every reason to assume that the PTO calculations that had been showing in their records for the last two and a half years were correct. This is the company’s error, and the only ethical way to handle it is for the company to take the hit, let people have the balances they’ve been telling them they had, and just start calculating correctly from this point forward. Hell, not just ethical, but practical — because otherwise they’re going to destroy people’s morale, and that’s going to affect how hard people are willing to work for them, how interested they are in other offers, etc. And no one is going to trust a single thing this company tells them again.

As for what you can do, you could talk to an employment lawyer in your state about whether you have any legal recourse. Depending on exactly how those “glitched” balances were presented to you, it’s possible the company created a legal obligation on their side, given the length of time this was happening — but you’d need a lawyer in your state to tell you for sure. If that’s not fruitful, your best bet is to band together with coworkers and push back hard, insisting the company honor the vacation balances it supplied you with for multiple years in a row and that people relied on. They may or may not cave, but a concerted, organized push from a large group of you could pay off.

3. Should I organize a low-pressure gift collection for an employee?

I’m the manager of a team and one of my reports is getting married next month. I want to organize a gift collection to send a wedding gift, but I don’t want people to feel pressured to participate! (I’ve read your many posts on gift-giving and fully agree that gifts should flow downwards, but this is more sideways/diagonal?)

Is it fine if I organize this myself? If so, any suggested language so people feel very comfortable opting out if they choose (especially since there is that manager-report power dynamic)?

Or should I find someone else to organize this? But then how to ensure that that person doesn’t feel pressured either?

Am I overthinking this? Most likely!

If their manager organizes a gift collection, people will feel pressured to participate; it’s just how power dynamics go. There will be less pressure if if a coworker organizes it, but there will still be pressure … and pressuring people to spend their own money at work just isn’t a good thing.

It’s better if this kind of thing is paid for by the organization itself. If that’s not an option, I’d urge you to just circulate a card instead. In addition to the pressure to give money, this sort of thing can be fraught in other ways — Cecil organizes a gift when Valentina gets married because they’re friends but seven months later no one thinks to organize a gift for Jane, who feels hurt and demoralized at the difference in treatment … or Cecil feels frustrated that he’s always asked to donate for colleagues’ weddings but no one recognizes his own non-marriage major life events … and on and on. You’re much better off sticking with either cards across the board or gifts from the organization itself.

4. Should I tell my employee I’m going to leave soon?

I manage a small office that is part of a larger corporation. We have the only office in the state, although the company heads are only about two hours away. While I haven’t even been employed by them for six months, I have noticed quite a few red flags: many people in leadership roles are leaving (including the VP who hired me) and unobtainable metrics set in place. I believe this office is being set up to fail (I know firsthand that my one remaining employee, “Gina,” was put on a PIP with the hopes she would fail, but to their surprise she came out stronger), so I’ve been looking for a way out.

Well, it happened. I just received my offer letter for a position less than a mile from my home, at the same salary, and in a field I am more comfortable in. It is still in the pending stage due to background and drug tests (no worries there), so it will probably be at least two weeks before I can hand in my notice.

I’m holding a “training day” on Friday and I would love to make sure that Gina has every tool for success. Should I give her a hint as to why I’m doing this? I also want to let her know because I think there’s a good chance that this office may close in a few months without any other employees there (they can’t hurry up and hire … the process to hire me took three months and that was nearly a year after the last manager left!).

In hindsight, I probably should have never taken this job to begin with, but now I’m attached to my employee. Can I tell her that she may want to work on her resume? She has no desire to change roles into my position.

Even though you’re not expecting any problems with the background check or drug test, things happen — positions get put on hold, offers get revoked, things end up taking much longer than anyone thought …

If you tell Gina now, you’ll be taking the risk that she’ll say something to someone else that ends up complicating things for you, and then it’s possible the firm offer won’t show up, or won’t show up on the schedule you’re expecting. So it’s really a judgment call. It sounds like Gina has reason to be more loyal to you than to the rest of the organization, but you never know what stray remark someone might make that can then blow back on you. So you’ve got to decide if that’s a risk you’re comfortable with.

For what it’s worth, though, if you do get the firm offer two weeks from now, that small amount of time is unlikely to make a significant difference when it comes to warning Gina. I think you could simply wait to tell her until it’s final, without either of you losing much for having waited.

{ 488 comments… read them below }

  1. Caramel and Cheddar*

    LW1, I just want to say how much I love that you want to use your PTO for a recurring crafternoon!

    1. A person*

      I totally agree! My recurring crafternoon is actually Friday evenings but it’s important to me!

      If it helps, as long as I was flexible if something came up, no one where I work would bat an eye at that. People use PTO and leave early sometimes routinely for all kinds of reasons. Usually the only ones that get any flack at all for it are the ones that are extremely inflexible to the point where they always expect everyone else to cater to their needs while refusing to reciprocate (it’s not too common, but I’ve seen it a handful of times over my career).

      But I’d say go ahead and craft away!

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        I agree, the only issue would be if OP tried to stick to it very rigidly in a “I’ve had this time booked for ages, I always do this.” in a situation where another co-worker needed that day/afternoon off and it was coverage based in it is either coworker or OP that can be off but not both. Or as Alison said a meeting that happens to only work on that Friday afternoon, or even some big work crisis pops up that Friday morning that requires all hands on deck and OP refuses to stay to help.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          I’ve been doing something similar with a creative endeavour one day a week (more or less) since June of 2020 and haven’t caught any serious flack precisely because I will be available for half the day if needed. I haven’t explained the nature of my absence, just that I am not available most Friday mornings but can be available in the afternoon/another day/another time that ordinarily I’d find awful but might be good for someone else. My workplace is a bit more flexible than most but it’s my PTO and I’m allowed to use it, and frankly having a regular absence rather than random days where I’m like “nah” is probably a lot easier for my colleagues to schedule.

        2. Coin Purse*

          Yes. I had a colleague who wanted every summer Friday off but in our system we were rigidly “buddied” ….so it meant I had to cover every summer Friday. It was our busiest day of the week so I had to hold down 2 desks and keep all new work from both teams. Also it meant I could only take a three day weekend if I took the Monday.

          I struggled with the equity of this for years and finally retired to get out from under it. It’s someone else’s problem now. Fridays can be touchy in sone offices.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      There is an embroidery group in my town that is very obviously geared only for retirees. A friend of mine, before her retirement, would use vacation time to go to that meeting. However, it was about once a month. I suspect taking every meeting off might annoy a manager, though, but of course it depends on the manager.

      P.S. I would also like to add a slight grumble that as someone decades away from retirement, that every time I walk by a retiree crafting group event, they try to recruit me to it because they need younger members. I point out that I have to work during the day for the next few decades, they say something like, “our members can’t drive at night,” and I say, “well, I’m not your intended audience, then.” It is what it is.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, and this goes both ways. My org is always trying to recruit community members to things, but as an office, tends to schedule everything during business hours. Most people can’t attend webinars or come to a training held during the day!

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Yes or when people try for evening hours it’s at 530. Y’all know they making people return to the office, right?

          1. Lexi Vipond*

            Surely that’s the point – that you can go from the office to the event and then home, rather than trying to get home and fed and back into town in two hours flat, or hanging around for hours before it starts…

            1. kalli*

              It would be the point if actually getting from A to B in 30 minutes was possible in peak hour traffic. There are many places where that 30 minutes would only be feasible for people who were within walking distance, and anyone who had to drive or take public transport for more than 1-2 stops would not be able to attend. There are other places where everyone could go home and get changed and back in 30 minutes and have time to buy takeout on the way.

              At my dad’s I can get to anywhere in town within 5 minutes, even going through a school crossing. At my house it takes me 20 minutes to get to the corner store. It takes me a minimum of 45 minutes to get out of the CBD at the end of a work day; when I took a dance class at 6:15 at a studio right on the edge of the CBD, people coming from work would still be rocking up at 6:30pm.

            2. SJ*

              Sure, it works if you get off exactly at 5pm and the event is within a 20min radius, no traffic, and parking is extremely easy. That’s rarely the case.

      2. Artemesia*

        I am in. a book club where I used to be the youngest member — in my 70s. Over the past 10 years several members have died and we need new blood and have added a few members, but others want to recruit from working women. So we move the time to an inconvenient evening time and so far every person who has said ‘oh I could come if it were weekends or evenings’ has not actually shown up when it was scheduled weekends or evenings. Sometimes you just have to accept that everything won’t work for everyone.

        1. Anon in Canada*

          It’s better for seniors’ groups to remain seniors’ groups, and for a separate group to be created for working age people.

          If members are dying out, this seniors’ book club needs to reach out to recent retirees in their 60s, not try to become an all-ages group. Retirees want to meet during the day, not the evening – and working people can’t, that’s just how it is. If the seniors’ group moves its meetings to the evening, the working-age adults who may have had an interest in joining will either realize that the age bracket isn’t right for them before even attending, or will attend once and drop out because everyone else was way too old for them. And by doing that, the group’s core base (seniors) are inconvenienced.

          1. Same Old Same Old*

            This senior age person (68) still works full time during the day M-F. Please don’t categorize every older person the same. I don’t want a day book club and miss a lot of activities that are daytime only. We’re not all retired!

            1. Anon in Canada*

              Yes, people these days tend to have to work later in life than previous generations did, especially in HCOL areas. This is effecting major changes on what life is like for people in their 60s, and the assumption that “seniors” are available during the day is becoming less and less true.

              But then again, many of the “older” workers aren’t in M-F day jobs, but in jobs that require variable shifts throughout the week including evenings and weekends, so many people just aren’t as “available” for such groups as they would have been in times past, regardless of when the group meets are scheduled.

          2. A person*

            That’s a really sad take on it. I’m almost 40 and work an obscene number of hours and for the last 15+ years some of my best and dearest friends have been seniors!

            I make time for them and they make time for me (and other younger people) and sometimes things just don’t work out for everyone in the group every time. Plus, Saturday and Sunday still exist too. A lot of times we meet up on weekends instead of during the week.

            Fostering friendships with people that aren’t in the same life stage as you are can me such a rewarding thing for everyone involved!

      3. learnedthehardway*

        The weaving guild I belong to meets on Monday mornings. They’re trying to recruit younger members.

        The disconnect between these two sentences hasn’t resonated with most of the membership (who are retired), but luckily the president gets it and opens the weaving studio on Saturdays, so that those of us who are working can come in.

        1. Bootstrap Paradox*

          Our local guild has both Day and Evening meetings AND events, which works out well. That way evening guild gets the same or very similar presentations as the day guild.

        2. fellow weaver*

          My weaving guild meets monthly on Wednesdays for a full day. It is overwhelmingly made up of older white women who are either retired or independently wealthy. So far, my strategy has been to take off days well in advance – at the start of the year when they release the calendar – when I want to hear a particular speaker or attend a workshop at the beginning of the year. It means I miss out on a lot of community building, and I offer them that feedback when they request evaluations, especially about how to diversify the ranks.

          1. Bootstrap Paradox*

            “It is overwhelmingly made up of older white women who are either retired or independently wealthy.”

            100% this is our day guild.

      4. Justme, The OG*

        My kid’s HS PTSO has meetings during the day, not over lunchtime. And they wonder why it’s so hard to get people to join?

      5. Sally Rhubarb*

        “our members can’t drive at night,”

        Every time I ask the library/local nature center why X events aren’t held when working adults can attend, that’s their reason. Which fine, sure, valid, but the next thing I hear is “it’s so hard to get people interested!” Welp. Consider expanding to multiple times then.

        So frustrating.

        1. Menace_to_Sobriety*

          Maybe younger members can offer to buddy up and give a lift to an older “can’t drive” member who lives near them? Great opportunity to talk to someone else about their life history (if you’re into that; I LOVE old people and the stories of their youth), and to diversify the group dynamics. I AM surprised that is such a common excuse. My father in his late 80s is driving he and his wife to see me (8hrs) next week, and then another 8 to see my daughter, then back to me for a few days and then home. My friend’s Dad finally stopped driving at night recently…at 93! Is it just a few of the older members who can’t (aren’t willing?) to drive at night?

          1. Anon in Canada*

            Most seniors would consider that too complicated. They’d drop out instead. And since they represent the vast majority of attendees at such already-existing daytime groups, it makes sense for their point of view to be respected.

            If a library or similar organization wants to recruit people of all ages to such activities, they should create an evening or weekend group for working age people, and keep the already existing daytime group for seniors.

            That’s better for everyone, because even if a group meets at a time that works for both retirees and workers, trying to add working-age adults, especially young adults, into a group already dominated by seniors is hard. The young adults who try it out drop out almost immediately because they realize they’re the youngest by decades and being around such age-mismatched people isn’t what they want; and the group can never attract a critical mass of young adults at the same time so that those people are incentivized to stay.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              I like the idea of having events at various times, not just all evening or all during the day. Because then people come at whatever time works for their schedule, not by their age or retirement status.

              Yes, the demographics usually follow as you describe, but I know some people who don’t work who would love to go to an evening event (both retirees and stay at home parents who can’t do some) adult focused daytime stuff because they’ve doing childcare, and people who work evenings, nights, or various schedules, or college students with gaps in classes might enjoy daytime events.

              1. Anon in Canada*

                Good point that availability at particular times isn’t totally correlated to age or retirement status – but if there’s going to be two groups, an effort should still be made to keep ages separated as much as possible. This could be done by advertising events with some wording like “while these groups are open to all ages, the daytime group is primarily attended by seniors” – this would steer younger adults towards the other group, which is more likely to be relevant to them.

                1. Eff Walsingham*

                  See, I don’t get this. At all.

                  For my Mum’s entire life, she preferred activities that brought her in contact with people of all ages. It was a feature, not a bug.

                  Now, in “mid life”, my husband and I feel likewise. Having no kids of our own, we enjoy all-ages type events, and hanging out with people from a variety of backgrounds, etc. Keeps life interesting! And we learn a lot, and occasionally pick up new slang. ;)

                2. Dahlia*

                  @Eff Walsingham My favourite community event at my local library is attended by literally all ages. People in their thirties, independent roaming children (lol), teens, retirees, all of it. Two of our members bring their toddler and she spends the evening going from lap to lap depending on who has the best goodies in front of them.

                3. Nightengale*

                  I’m thinking about the adult chorus through our public school system night school that I was allowed to join at 16. I had not been enjoying the chorus at my tiny private school. There was one young adult member who had young children and the rest had kids or grandkids my age. I LOVED it. Not every younger person only wants to be around younger people.

            2. Menace_to_Sobriety*

              “Most seniors would consider that too complicated. They’d drop out instead”

              Would find…being offered a ride “too complicated”? Maybe there’s something in the water where I live or I come from really good genetics, but you have a really low opinion of “seniors” who are able to drive themselves (during the day) to a crafting session and …do the crafts. Maybe we don’t assume they’re all doddering, drooling and confused and not infantalize them as a group?

              1. Anon in Canada*

                Maybe I should have said “most people”. Most adults would feel the same way. The discussion was about seniors who can’t drive at night, so that’s why I said seniors.

                When you have a car and are able to drive, you’re used to being autonomous. Having to coordinate getting picked up, not being able to leave when you want or linger as long as you want, and not being able to combine doing errands before or after the group meet, feels demeaning when you’re used to more autonomy. That’s a pretty strong reason for people used to autonomy to prefer keeping the group meet to the daytime over losing the autonomy.

                1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

                  Yeah, I was going to say something similar, I don’t think a lot of seniors would want to pair up and have the younger generation drive them. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a lot of people writing into things like Dear Abby asking what to do when their parent won’t stop driving/give up their license. Maybe ‘complicated’ wasn’t the best word to initially describe, but I understood your point and agree!

                2. Same Old Same Old*

                  BTW, there are young people who can’t drive at all due to epilepsy or vision problems. Transportation assistance is needed for people in all age groups.

                  I drive myself everywhere at all times day or night.

                3. Anon in Canada*

                  When you can’t drive at all (no matter your age or the reason), you’re used to depending on others. You may be conscious that it sucks, but you’re used to it, so logistical issues around coordinating pickup and having to follow whatever arrival/departure schedule the person who drives you chooses to do, aren’t out of the ordinary. But when you’re used to being autonomous and can still be, having to put up with this feels demeaning.

                  So no, I cannot blame someone who can’t drive at night (but can do so during the day) to want to keep the group meet during the day, even if someone were to offer to pick them up.

                  If this applies a plurality or majority of the attendees, then whoever is running this group should accept that it’s a retirees’ group that works best that way, and that if working age adults are to be recruited, then another group will have to be created.

            3. Chinookwind*

              Which is a shame because we need cross-generational groups if we want the groups to survive more than a generation. By catering to only the older folks who can’t drive at night, the long term consequence is that the group will eventually fold due to the lack of members. If I don’t feel welcome when I am 45, why would anyone think I would feel welcome at 65?

              1. Anon in Canada*

                No, not true.

                There have always been groups that were only for seniors – they’re called “seniors clubs/centers” that have always had a minimum age to join. Until 15 years ago or so, they always replenished their numbers not by recruiting non-seniors, but by recruiting the “new seniors” – people who had just reached their 60s. Since then, many have had to fold because boomers have refused to join them, even as they reached their 60s and even 70s, and Silents have been dying out. The disappearance has nothing to do with a failure to expand their age range, but is because a new generation of seniors (boomers) is snubbing them even as they age.

                When I was 21 and tried attending “all-ages” public groups where I was the youngest attendee, and the second-youngest was around 35, I did not feel welcome. But now in my mid-30s, I’d feel comfortable trying again, hoping that my age wouldn’t be as out of whack.

                Same with other numbers: if a group is composed of people aged 65-85, and you try attending at 45, you likely won’t feel welcome. But you shouldn’t feel put off from trying again at 65 or maybe even 60 – it’s a seniors’ group, after all.

                1. Derivative Poster*

                  I’m 45 and everyone else in my book group is 65-85. We learn a lot from each other. Chinookwind is right that crossgenerational groups are important, for many reasons.

            4. Quill*

              I was part of an all ages book club where the middle aged to retirees were very common and the younger adults were not, and didn’t have a problem with how few of us were close to my age – because I was there for the books. Personally I think the problem is not that younger people drop because of the age range, it’s because the ones that try and then drop consistently care more about meeting peers than they do about the activity.

              (Add in other factors like competing activities for their nights and weekends, and the fact that the newer you are to the workforce the more likely you are to have a completely unpredictable schedule or change jobs, or to have to move, and you get a lot of drop among people who are there for the activity too.)

              1. Anon in Canada*

                Very good point about “attendees who are there for the activity” vs “attendees who are there to meet people and make friends”. What the person’s motivation for originally attending does make a huge difference on whether being far in age compared to other attendees will cause them to drop or not.

                But you’re right, people with schedules that fluctuate every week, or with otherwise busy lives, are likely to drop too, regardless of age issues or original motivation.

          2. Clumsy Ninja*

            This is what I do at a local association event. There’s a much older member who lives just down the road from me, and he really shouldn’t be driving at night (he admits this!). So when he’s interested in a meeting that I’m attending, we carpool.

      6. Frickityfrack*

        Ugh, I tried to start a crafting group for younger people that could meet after work, and 20-some people joined the online group but every time I suggest a meeting time, no one responds. It’s so frustrating because it’s that or, like you said, the retirees who meet when I’m at work. So I just craft alone. :(

        1. Random Dice*

          I’ve found that it’s easier to get responses if you send folks a poll with specific dates / times.

          And I find it so much easier to receive a poll with specific times. If people just say “When can you meet” I just don’t have the time to decent my entire packed schedule into text, so I just don’t answer.

          1. Frickityfrack*

            Everyone in the group said they can meet after 5-5:30pm, but when I suggest meeting on a specific day, no one responds. I’ve given up. There are some existing groups that are farther away (which is why I tried to create my own closer to home), so I’ll probably join one of them instead. I just didn’t necessarily want to drive 45 min after work if I didn’t have to.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              Not that you asked for advice, but would it help to say, “I will be at X place at Y time and you are all welcome to join me” rather than trying to coordinate a date of maximum availability? Something like you’re describing happened to me when I tried to organize an after-work outdoors group a while back and I ended up picking the day that was best for me and whoever could make it showed up. Of course I got a bunch of “I want to come but can only do Q day,” where Q was a different day for everyone. Can’t please everyone.

              1. Quill*

                Yeah the reality of organizing an event when everyone has independent schedules is that someone has to organize it. Which generally means one or a few people just picking what works and only changing the day or time if there is truly a universally better time, not just a chorus of people who all prefer a dozen different appointments.

            2. Sweetp*

              I run a very successful fiber arts meetup and what I found works best is to stop trying to make everyone happy. After some experimentation I found that having set dates and times and guidelines for location made it so much easier to schedule, get people to come, and not make it stressful. Generally we have two locations (a foodhall and a brewery) we rotate between and will occasionally go to someplace new.

              FYI when I first started the group I had no clue if everyone was going to RSVP but no show. I ended up with 6 people at our first meet up and most are still involved. Plan that half the people who RSVP won’t show up and be there for the other half that do!

        2. kalli*

          I started a yarncraft group; the writers and painters wanted in so we had to make it a generic creative group. fine.

          Everyone wanted to have in person meetings, but everyone wanted them 5 mins from their house; I said we’d alternate locations so everyone could come at least once a month. Fine.

          Everyone wanted to meet in a cafe; fine. It had to have no steps; fine. It had to have vegan food; fine. It had to have gluten-free food; fine. It had to have vegan and gluten free food and not charge for booking a table and have wide doorways and had to have no music and had to be able to accommodate people bringing five stuff for five-six different crafts, and everyone had an excuse to shoot down a particular place which boiled down to ‘I want to book it’. I designated people to organise for their 5-minute domains and sat back.

          So far, we have had no in-person meetings. And of the virtual meetings we had, which were not set by squabbling until a minority agreed on something and therefore actually happened, only one person turned up.

          You kind of need a small core to develop an impetus so everyone else can just join instead of having to please everyone to get over the hump of making it happen. I’ve seen successful groups where the time and date is set, like 7:30pm Tuesdays and every 3rd Wednesday at 8pm, and the venue is chosen by vote from suggestions in by a given time, but that’s about as far as people’s inertia can be stretched.

          1. CEMgr*

            It’s good of you to attempt to pull a community together. I have seen it be successful, and acknowledge it take multiple factors to align. The successful ones seem to have a pattern of a strong and committed leader, who is setting the terms (“yarncraft 2nd Tues 7 – 9 pm and 3rd & 5th Wed 2 – 4 pm, all in Room 3 at the community center”) and reinforcing them often and over a long time. The biggest, longest-lasting groups seem to have benign dictators at the helm with a strong vision.

            I’m wondering if this went off the rails at the first station – the one where you opened the yarncraft group to writers. There seems to be so little overlap between yarn craft and writing or painting, that it may have dampened yarn folk interest.
            And trying to combine it with use of a restaurant makes the task 10x harder IME.

            [I recall once being part of a loose group that attempted to meet 1 time for a discussion over tea and coffee at a casual restaurant. The oh-so broken operations of the restaurant – and members’ reactions to them – completely took over the evening. (Tea and coffee took literally 30 minutes to arrive, and it was a further 15 minutes before we learned that the heavily touted peach muffins were no longer available.) No wonder they had space to loan…..for free….]

            But don’t give up! Community is worth working for.

            1. Quill*

              Doing both yarncraft and writing… honestly there’s enough diversity in BOTH groups that they’d be hard to wrangle on their own!

              I ran a writer’s group for four years and in the process of trying to be open to a little bit of everything (except poetry, we swore an oath to send poets to the existing poetry group) it got real weird.

        3. catlady*

          I plan events/enrichment opportunities for working adults as a perk of their college enrollment. The MOST frustrating thing is that we get complaints when the events aren’t at a preferred time, or are online instead of in person, or in person instead of online, etc. etc. So we make the changes that a preponderance of complaints have requested, and STILL don’t get attendance, and STILL get the same complaints. We’ve wasted so much money on catering when only 10% of the registrants show up, those 10% say how amazing it was and how we should do it more often and how they’ll plug it to their classmates, so we do it again and only 5% show up :(

      7. She of Many Hats*

        Same apparent disconnect with my gym. Post-pandemic, there are very few classes in the early mornings, evenings, or weekends but lots going on during the work day. Part is staffing issues but when I got certified to lead classes when working folks could attend, management wasn’t interested despite trying to attract new, active members to join the gym.

    3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Not only that, but it’s exactly the kind of thing paid leave is supposed to be for! A nice relaxing activity that gets you chatting with other people while doing something you love, so you can wind down and come back to work refreshed and ready for work. I mean, I used leave to take the dog to the vet, but always felt cheated, using it for something that’s necessary but not at all fun.

      1. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

        That is kind of where I think my disconnect is. We get so used to the idea of using PTO for needs, that doing something fun feels like improper use because PTO is for taking care of business or full on vacation, not small treats.

        1. Paulina*

          Some people want their breaks to be short and frequent, not long and rare. It’s up to you to go for what works best for you. And depending on what your job is, it may also be a pattern that works well for your organization/unit — no “oh that’s going to have to wait for 2 weeks until OP gets back” for people who want feedback or other things from you, so adjusting to your chosen absences may be quite easy for them.

          The only issue I can see is if there are any coverage needs, since coworkers will want to be able to take Fridays off sometimes too. If this isn’t an issue, then you should feel enabled to go forth and craft.

        2. kalli*

          Mental health maintenance is a need.

          You get X hours a year for everything you don’t get a specific bucket for. You get x hours sick leave, x hours bereavement leave per death, x hours community service leave (or take it unpaid and take the jury reimbursement), whatever is in your package. PTO is for everything else – a day off to do fun treat stuff, a week in Paris, a staycation in your dungies, changing over to summer wardrobe, deep cleaning the fridge, lining up to renew your drivers licence, buying a new car, doing a charity marathon… There isn’t an improper use because it’s *your time* that you are paid to take so that you don’t burn out or end up with RSI and heart disease from sitting at a desk for 40+ hours a week with no exercise or fun stuff to insulate yourself from that.

      2. Helewise*

        Exactly this. This is part of your earned compensation and you should be able to use it in ways that refresh you. I don’t really see how it’s a problem at all – especially on a Friday afternoon.

    4. another fed*

      While not all industries are changing their ideas around what is appropriate or not, as an attorney, I knit my way through meetings and continuing ed regularly, and have for more than a decade, even when I worked at a state’s highest court in front of the Chief Justice. I’m comfortable defending my decisions, including using time off to attend fiber events, but as a BIPOC woman, I’ve already made other choices and taken othet stances that make white men uncomfortable with my presence already. That said, you can decide if they don’t need details if your employer will judge you or penalize you, and there are places that don’t have many people working past 2 or 3 on Fridays (hello, some higher ed in summer), and maybe you decide to go once a month (or not at all) during busy periods, and every other week during slow periods.

      1. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

        Funny you mention higher ed, that is my field lol. Normally we used to slow down in the summers (don’t get to go home early, but at least have lower stress) but the last few years have been all go all the time. I have thought about bringing in a sewing project for virtual meetings but would be afraid that I would get too distracted.

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          I am a big fan of scheduled mental health days in the middle of the week. I enjoy being off on a Tue./Wed./Thur. by myself just hanging out at home all day or going to a movie theatre double feature and lunch. I also enjoy doing this with SO/family planning a random day off in the middle of the week to do a lunch special or happy hour etc…

          I am also fine with taking last minute mental health days if needed, but I personally prefer to schedule them. Usually I can start to feel when I might need a mental health day and can plan it out a week or two in advance to take it on a day that is not so busy.

    5. Beth Jacobs*

      Not going to be true in every office, but mine is basically dead on Friday afternoons anyway and I suspect it isn’t the only one. I just checked our Intranet – a quarter are working remotely today, a quarter using PTO. I’m in the office but going to take off at 4pm, since we have flextime and I’ve got some banked. It would be out of sync with our culture to schedule a Friday afternoon meeting.

    6. Peon*

      My office is part of a larger org that really really values social interactions and they actually SPONSOR craft/interest groups among employees and encourage people to schedule them during work time. They started it about 10 years ago as a way to foster more engagement across different departments, and it’s really worked. People find “Joe from the photography group” much more approachable than his multi-syllabic IT title, y’know?

      I wish more offices did this and then LW1 wouldn’t have to worry. And now I’m kinda bummed that my sewing group doesn’t meet until next Friday.

      1. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

        I like that idea of having the work sponsored interest group. I am sure there are a lot more staff who enjoy sewing/knitting/crocheting and might like something like that. I should bring it up to our staff senate to see if that is something worth pursuing. Our institution does have an issue (in my opinion) about departments being silo-ed so we do not get to build valuable connections outside of our teams/areas.

        1. Meg Murry*

          If it’s higher ed, would you be ok with students joining your crafting too, or are you looking to connect with just faculty/staff? I used to work on a college campus (pre-covid, so things may have changed) but there were often posters that said “Do you enjoy [activity]!? Me too! I’ll be in (this common lounge area) on Tuesdays at 1 pm if anyone cares to join me”

          Or you could just skip the posters and try crafting in a public-ish space on the same day each week and see if any one stops by to strike up a conversation or join you.

    7. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I would schedule the time but not communicate the why. What you do with your PTO is really nobody’s business. If pushed you can say that you have a bad habit of not using your PTO and that you find regularly scheduled short weeks the most recharging for you.

    8. Oreo lover*

      Yes, it is an excellent use of PTO. I hope you continue with it and enjoy yourself. As I get closer to retirement, I’ve realised it is those hobbies like this, time with family, vacations, etc that are the important things in life. Doing good work is fine, and doing work you are interested in is better, but having a life outside of work is paramount to happiness. I sincerely hope American work culture starts changing to recognise these things. Work is not the most important thing in life.

  2. EL*

    #1 — I used to do something similar and it worked out just fine. In my case it was a musical group and it was once a month rather than twice, but as long as you’re flexible with scheduling concerns as Alison says, I can’t see most managers/coworkers having an issue.

    1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      In LW1’s position, I don’t know that I’d even tell people what it was for. I’d just be like “yeah, I’ve found I prefer taking most of my leave in regular small chunks rather than long holidays”.

      I think most people will understand that, and it reminds them that they’ve (probably) got their longer holiday to look forward to, and no reason to grumble about your afternoon.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        They might grumble anyway! I used to work a 4-day week and when I left on Thursday saying “see you Monday” there was always someone remarking that it must be nice to have a 3-day weekend. I would curtly say that they too could do it if they didn’t mind a 20% pay cut, at which point they shut up.

        1. Artemesia*

          Been there. when my boss whined that he looked for me yesterday and I must have taken off to go Christmas shopping, I said ‘Aren’t you aware that when I rolled back to 75% time that I gave up 25% of my income to work part time and be there for my toddler?’ He literally did not KNOW that — he assumed that my dropping a major grant project position just meant I worked less, not that I got paid less. He stopped bugging me after that. He was a great boss — this was the only hiccup.

        2. MBK*

          I did the 4-day work week thing for a while without giving up any pay by working 4 10-hour days (T-F, roughly 8:30-6:30 with some flexibility in actual start/end). It was great to have the option at a time when those hours fit my life. In addition to having more daylight to myself, being able to sleep in every Monday was great, and it also made the occasional trip to the DMV and other “business hours” errands/chores super easy to schedule.

          1. North American Couch Wizard Society Member*

            I work a 9/80 schedule (80 hours in 9 days) so typically work 8-5:30 and have every other Tuesday off. It has done wonders for my morale and it’s SO nice to have a couple of weekdays free during the month for general life administration–going to the bank, tedious financial stuff, scheduling contractors, etc., without giving up my weekends with my kids.

          2. All Het Up About It*

            Oh yes! I’ve worked places where people have flex days off every other week by working 9 hour days, so that’s something the OP could look at if her work place is flexible and she wants to keep her PTO.

        3. Baska*

          Yep — I’m 3/4 time. I get Friday afternoons off throughout the year and only work mornings during the summer. No one’s made snarky remarks yet, but if anyone did, the response would be “You can too! Just work at 75% salary!”

          1. Moonstone*

            I work four days per week and my off day rotates between Wed/Thu/Fri along with two other FT employees. We didn’t even have to take a pay cut when they changed to this schedule which is amazing. It really is nice to have the day off each week even though it can make it a bit confusing when scheduling appointments far in the future ( I just have to take the time to count out the weeks and remember to skip the weeks with a holiday). Overall though it’s been pretty awesome.

        4. Bast*

          I used to work consistently earlier hours than my colleagues, and was always met by the “must be nice” comment when I left at 3:30 daily, despite the fact I was regularly there for 6:30 or 7:00 AM, while they didn’t roll in until 9:00-9:30. The choice was always there for them to come in earlier and leave earlier as well, they simply didn’t want to. “Must be nice” always tees me off so much.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        The last time I had “too much vacation time,” I took Fridays off during the summer to use it up. I was of course, relaxing and doing fun things, which is what you’re supposed to do on PTO anyway.

        1. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

          Wednesdays are my day when I do that. It is like having two short weeks with a mini-weekend in the middle.

    2. Jenna Webster*

      I would love it if some of my staff with a ton of built up PTO would do something like this so that we don’t have to find a bunch of time at the end of the year for them to take vacation instead of losing what won’t roll over. Even in general, it’s easier for staff to be gone for short periods of time regularly. I do think people need to be able to take lengthy vacations regularly, but if you have the time, this seems like a brilliant use for it.

      1. Remotely Bound*

        I was going to say the same thing. So many people with use or lose PTO ! Much easier to take small chunks than all of December off

        And love the crafting angle!

        1. Me (I think)*

          Yup, we are getting to the season when a few of our staff will need to take half or more of the remaining work days off in order not to lose PTO. Like, you could have planned better, ya know?

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Sorry. I was too busy keeping the company in business; I’ll make better choices next year.

            1. MBK*

              Unless you’re the owner, sacrificing your own work/life balance (and not using PTO that’s owed to you) never pays off in the long run. Loyalty is great to a point, but if the company can’t stay in business without you for 80 hours out of 2000(+), there are too many things wrong with it for your dedication to fix.

            2. Eliot Waugh*

              I can guarantee you that your presence alone is not what’s keeping the company in business.

            3. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

              Right?! I never have time to take PTO because the work still has to get done and I like keeping my job. Luckily my employer just rolls any PTO over the max into our sick leave which can be used to retire early. I think by my calculations, when I retire, I should have a full year or more that I will still get my full pay/benefits before I actually retire and switch to pension.

            4. Really?*

              Or alternatively, my employer could let me roll unused PTO over. But if you don’t let me roll PTO over, don’t expect me to not to use up any remaining time that I may have saved to cover emergencies etc. at the end of the year….

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Rollover was a nice solution. I guess the numbers just got scary.

                I don’t know what I’m going to do next year. I’m not under the rollover cap by much now and it’s not going to get any easier to get away next year.

                1. Orora*

                  Ask them to buyout some of your time. Make it clear that you haven’t been able to take the time due to all the work and tince you are not able to use this compensation this way, they should ensure you can use it another way.

                  All they can do is say no.

          2. Bast*

            Out of curiosity, does your company make it impossible to use PTO? When many employees have huge amounts of PTO left, this could be the reason. I have dealt with several companies (my husband’s current job comes to mind) with “use it or lose it” policies regarding PTO where people are scrambling to use it last minute because it somehow is always a “bad time.” He couldn’t take it at the beginning of the year because someone quit and they had a hard time finding a replacement. That took 4-ish months. We took one vacation in late spring. THEN came summer and it was always a “bad time” because his boss or someone else would take a vacation. THEN the person they just hired quit at the end of summer (speaks a lot to the environment) and they’ve been dithering around to find a replacement since (2 months ago now). He has 2ish weeks of vacation currently that HR has been breathing down his back about for the last few weeks and YET they won’t even allow him to take a single day for running errands/doctor’s appointments/relaxing, although I should mention his boss has been able to take all of the vacation time in the world. This is definitely not the only company in the world that makes it impossible to use PTO.

            1. rollyex*

              The straw that broke my camel’s back and made me decide to leave my company (not the key reason – one of many) was an overly restrictive rollover policy. We had a moderate one – we could roll over 10 days as long as we used them in the first (or sometimes second) quarter of the year. Now it’s only 5 days and they must be used up in January. Not flexible enough for me considering work demands on my time. So I’m out.

              NOT the only reason.

            2. Quill*

              Yep! And it clashes spectacularly badly when that combines with “all of the majority cultural holidays are crammed into the exact same month (that coincides with the end of the fiscal year)” so everyone wants that time off anyways because it’s the only time that both everyone’s kids AND everyone’s working relatives can semi-reliably get any time off.

      2. Ophelia*

        Agreed! As a manager, I would want to make sure that there was some flexibility – we do sometimes have Friday COB deadlines for things, which could make this challenging, but otherwise, I’d welcome regular, small amounts of leave – they’re much less disruptive!

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Every summer I take off every Tuesday. Been doing it for ten years. 12-14 weeks.
      If there’s an issue or a cool project I want, My boss and I have a conversation.
      Otherwise, block it off and do my thing.
      I bet you will see people taking every Friday in the summer, this is every other week, It’ll work out.

    4. OMG, Bees!*

      I had a coworker and friend who had too much PTO but also never travels/vacations anywhere. He worked out with our boss that he would take every Friday off for a year to use up his PTO. And good on him for sticking to being unavailable on Fridays.

  3. Loux*

    I mean, it’s a Friday afternoon. It obviously really depends on the industry but where I work, we have multiple people who will add an extra hour to their regular workday and take every other Friday off, or some people don’t like to take long vacations or don’t know what to do with all their vacation time, so they will take most Fridays off to make a long weekend, etc.

    If it was like, Wednesday afternoon, I could see that, but honestly there are so many people who probably already take Friday off that I can’t imagine it being a major hassle to schedule around. Genuinely, how many people are going to be scheduling important meetings for Friday afternoons? Even the higher levels at my organization try not to do that.

    1. kalli*

      By that token it could also be seen quite negatively if the org or industry already has a long weekend sickie problem.

      But LW is confident their coworkers would encourage it, so it doesn’t seem likely that a 9.5-day fortnight would be taken negatively because it falls on Friday. So long as they have more than 13 days of PTO a year in case they do need to take their cat to the vet or are unwell themselves and not able to WFH to make it up (that pressure seems present), it should be fine.

      I wouldn’t tell anyone why, though. It’s not their business and I have seen people bullied for less.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        That is also a concern. LW watch your PTO balance. You don’t want to have an emergency and be out of sick leave.

        But other than that, well its half a day off to recharge and get back at it.

      2. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

        PTO balance is no worry, I currently have 300+ hours in my PTO bank and always roll 100+ hours to sick leave every year (in addition to the 12 sick days I normally get). I am terrible about taking days off. If I want to do things, I just do it on the weekend or on holidays we are already closed. Higher Ed may not be the most profitable field, but we get lots of time off to make up for it.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Oh higher ed? yeah every other Friday afternoon off will be barely a blip on the radar.

        2. Gyne*

          In that case, do the thing! Honestly an employer will usually see a high PTO balance as a liability – I’d rather have people use their PTO evenly spread throughout the year than need to pay out an excessive amount in one lump sum when they leave.

        3. My Cabbages!*

          In Higher Ed, in my experience, no one expects anything to be done on a Friday afternoon anyway. ;)

    2. Bagpuss*

      YEs, I think a Friday afternoon is a logical time to take if you are planning on taking regular short periods off rather than a longer break.

      I don’t think that there’s any reason to tell people what you’ll be doing , if you are concerned that people will see it as weird then if anyone asks then it is a regulars meetup with friends, but I suspect most people would see nothing odd about a regular hobby-based meeting , and if you are able to spare the time off to do it in the week then why not?

      1. anne of mean gables*

        Agreed. I have a colleague who started using her PTO to take her own ‘summer Fridays’ during the pandemic (and continuing). Obviously workplaces will vary in how this will land culturally, but she makes it work for her team and workload, leadership is vocally supportive, and she gets what she personally needs to feel recharged.

    3. WorkerAlias*

      I was thinking the same thing– at my company, Friday afternoon meetings are a no-go and people in general are sparse then. We all mostly work from home (one day in office, four day out) and no one really bothers keeping track of each other outside of when we have meetings, and on Friday afternoons people tend to log off of Teams. No one would even miss you if you had an every-other-week Friday craft meeting.

    4. OrdinaryJoe*

      Exactly what I was thinking … Friday afternoons seem to be rare meeting times except during a handful of crunch periods in my office. People bail early, use the time to catch up, clean out email, etc. I know several people who have set out of office appointments during the week and you quickly learn what those are and adjust. It’s life and sometimes life has to happen between 8-5 Mon-Fri :-)

    5. kiki*

      Yeah, I feel like it’s pretty common where I’ve worked for folks to just not really work after 3pm on Friday (unless there’s especially pressing business). Usually folks do this by working slightly longer hours other days of the week or clocking in early on Friday morning. Taking time off on Friday afternoons would really be one of the least obtrusive ways to take time anywhere I’ve worked.

    6. The Person from the Resume*

      My only concern was it could be a coverage problem if LW gets her requests in before everyone else and then someone asking for a popular Friday off (her first Friday off in months) is told no.

      But if there’s not a job/task coverage concern, it’s very common for people to take Friday off or Friday afternoon off so it might not be noticed.

      Friday afternoons are much less likely to have meetings than other periodsso that’s less of a scheduling concern.

    7. Nea*

      I was wondering if LW1 might want to just add the hours to the rest of the work week and keep her PTO while also keeping up her crafternoon plans. But if you’ve got the PTO, LW1, go and have fun! Send a photo of what you make sometime!

    8. Really?*

      My advice is do it! Every other Friday afternoon, taken from your own PTO bank, is not a big ask. And what you do with your PTO is nobody else’s business. Have fun!

    9. A Minion*

      I’s tend to agree with you that Friday afternoons are quiet. I think it depends on the company.

      My brother worked at a place where Fridays were quiet and they would leave early (like 3) as a nod to how much they work – often long hours and all salary. This was a lovely perk until a VP in HQ decided to start calling every Friday at 4 to check in

      1. Bast*

        And then everyone gets upset at the policing and spends that last hour scrolling Facebook/reading AAM/otherwise not working. I have seen companies try to roll this way, and very few people are doing any actual work that last hour. Sure, I will be PHYSICALLY here, but will zone out mentally.

    10. Rex Libris*

      This. It’s fairly uncommon to have more than 50% of our managers here on a Friday afternoon and it’s the favorite time for staff to cut out early too. It’s going to vary by culture of course, but Friday afternoon is probably the least problematic time to take a couple hours off most places.

    11. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I am one of those people that cannot do this! The boards I work with love to meet on Fridays for some reason, and so Friday is the day I am least able to take time off. But I cheer on anyone who can, for crafting, vacationing, doing a hobby, or even taking a nap!

    12. Just Thinkin' Here*

      I was going to suggest something similar – work the extra hours earlier in the pay period and then you should be able to take the time without using PTO. OP should run that idea by the manager before starting.

    13. Sharkie*

      Heck a lot of companies are moving towards ” no meetings on Friday period” model unless its an emergency!

    14. EngineeringFun*

      Im an engineer and work more during M-R, so that on Friday I am out of the office at noon. I ski, work on my house or just relax during this time. It’s me time! You’ll get over the guilty part. Only once have I “had to” go into a meeting during this time. I e been doing it for years at different companies.

  4. kalli*

    Many orgs have a 9-day fortnight, monthly RDOs, or similar arrangements. Taking an afternoon every second week, as long as all your work is done, would not be significantly unusual.

    1. kalli*

      Further thinking – LW, if you already can’t take a day off because you feel like you should be doing work you are behind on, would it not be better to discuss that with someone instead of deliberately reducing your hours and increasing that pressure? Or start with turning off work on leaving for the day and finding interest groups within your craft online (there is usually at least one pop culturer crafting group in anywhere larger than 15k people, plus there’s FB anf Ravelry and similar where cafe crafts and retreats/workshops are arranged that cater ore to working people than the daytime groups do – you’re less likely to be surrounded by retirees asking when you’re having kids) and siloing your off-time so you get a better mental break and can negotiate a solution or copium to the actual problem, which is not being able to keep up with your work?

      1. Jamjari*

        Interesting. I didn’t read it like LW1 is overwhelmed at work. More that they’re one of those people who has a hard time relaxing if there’s a single thing left they feels they should be doing, even if it’s totally something that can wait. So they need to distraction to avoid that feeling.

        1. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

          A little mix of both. My supervisor is aware that our whole team (himself included) is overwhelmed but there is not much they can do about it (company wants higher volume but no additional people). We talk about it regularly because I do not want to have it seem like I am hiding it then get fired, or worse disappoint people. He is fantastic and tries to support where he can and understands we are people and need some time to fight the growing burn out.
          But I am also one who hates thinking that I could be working on something that I left undone. I have always been of the mind that fun is a reward and work should come first always but when work never ends, that is not a healthy mindset anymore. Getting better about trying to let go but dang is it hard.

  5. Over It*

    If you take a half day every other Friday, that would add up to 13 days per year. Depending on how much PTO you get, that could make it hard to take any other time off throughout the year. That’s not to say don’t ever attend the craft group—that’s a totally valid way to spend PTO if it brings you joy! But unless you have very generous (by American standards) PTO, you might want to consider attending less frequently.

    1. Over It*

      In general though, there’s no such thing as a too frivolous reason to take your vacation time, and you’re also not required to tell people what you’re doing with the time off! The other week I took a day of paid vacation to work on grad school applications. Definitely not how I prefer to spend my vacation time, but they weren’t getting done outside of work hours. I told my team I’d be out that day, but didn’t share the reason why. No one asked, they just wished me a nice three day weekend and that was that.

      1. Ama*

        I was thinking the same thing. The best PTO I ever had in a job was 10 sick days and 15 vacation days (was 20 by the time I left). Using 13 of them for crafting afternoons would mean I couldn’t visit family for the holidays, travel during school breaks, etc. It sounds like OP has a hard time using their PTO right now so this could be a start towards self care, but I think there’s value in having longer periods of time where you’re unplugged from work and it would be tough to give that up.

        1. Bast*

          While I definitely do not believe it is “too frivolous” a reason to take PTO, I understand the concerns that it might leave time for little else. The last 3 companies I have worked at allowed for 15 days a year total (20 once you hit 5 years). This encompassed sick, vacation, personal, etc. Taking 13 days a year leaves little time to get sick, take an actual vacation (if OP wants to) or do anything else. While it’s possible that OP has a very generous amount of vacation time or separate sick/vacation banks, I can understand the (very American) concern of having too little PTO. FWIW, I’m not sure what the consequence is if you go over PTO for LW, or even if that is a concern. While my current company will allow you to take a day unpaid if you run over your PTO, it is highly frowned up unless it’s a dire, unpredictable emergency ie: death in the family, etc. In one of my former jobs it would be a strike against you, and would be used against you during your performance review — and more than one or two unpaid days off would get you fired.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          On the other hand, I get 12 sick days and 29 days of vacation/holiday… and some coworker get even more since it goes up the longer you work here. If I took 13 days for hobby stuff, I’d still have a solid three weeks of vacation for other things.

          We’re on the higher end of normal PTO for government jobs, but not by much. For a lot of public sector workers this would not be a big deal.

      2. Daisy*

        I want to double up on there is no such thing as too frivolous a reason to take vacation time. This is part of your compensation for the job you do.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          yeah, it’s supposed to be an opportunity to rest and wind down so you can come back refreshed and ready to tackle all tasks at work, and taking part in a crafting social group is what will help OP to do just that. Someone else might spend the day at a spa, or at the gym, or meditating in a cave and it’s nobody’s business except their own.

      3. Not Australian*

        I had a friend who, being a single man with only himself to please, scheduled every Wednesday afternoon off for several months so that he could watch repeats of a favourite children’s TV show. Of course this was before even taping was a thing and you had to be sitting in front of the set when the show was aired or you’d miss it altogether. I think most of us were actually pretty envious that he’d accrued enough leave (UK, so very different from US norms) to be able to do that, and we’d all have appreciated the chance to do something similar.

        1. WorkerAlias*

          I’m in Germany, where you can request to change your contract from 100% to 80% for short-term reasons. My husband has a young guy on his team that went 80% from May-September this past year so he could go hiking every Friday while the weather is nice. I think that’s an excellent use of time off.

          1. Quill*

            Sounds like a dream, that would be perfect for every late november to early january where I cannot be a person unless the sun is up

        2. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

          That is fantabulous! I have taken a day off before for a Bond-a-thon before Skyfall came out.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I was thinking the same thing, it might use all your vacation time to do something like that in the US.

    3. Allonge*

      I would expect OP made this calculation though – maybe all their family to be visited are living close enough that it’s not an issue, maybe the crafting circle has a long summer break etc.

      But totally agreed on the ‘no such thing as a reason too frivolous’! OP, go ahead and take the Friday afternoons off, at least on a trial basis. Have fun!

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I don’t see why we should assume hasn’t already thought about these (valid!) points – in fact, she’s been thinking about the issue enough that she’s decided to ask an outside source (AAM) about it, so I’d think she’s already accounted for everything mentioned in this thread.

        1. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

          Yeah, I have not been really using any PTO for the last several years so I have 300+ hours banked up and always roll a decent amount (100+ hours) to sick leave at the end of the year. I stink at prioritizing time off and I do not visit family much beyond the holidays (nor do I care to start) or have the budget to take vacations so I just never take time off.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Vacations don’t have to be grandiose plans to visit some exotic location. Plan a couple days to visit every museum in your city. Or the next city over. Stay a couple of nights. Got visit your nearest National Park or National Historic Site, treat yourself to an overnight in a hotel (there are deals all over the place for hotels).

            A vacation is Time Away From Work.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I agree. Besides that OP has most likely factored in what their PTO is and what they may need besides this time, we don’t know how many hours this is actually going to be. Many people are saying 13 PTO days. But the OP doesn’t say they would be taking the entire afternoon. They could just be leaving an hour or 2 early, which would only be about 6 days a year total.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      It might be an idea to stretch it out to once a month if the fortnightly numbers don’t work out, but it sounds like OP would rather take their time off in this small but regular way than to have full days off, though. Less backlog of work to catch up on when returning to work, and elongating the weekend a bit makes a lot of sense in terms of getting rest and preventing burnout. If they decide half way through the year they want, or need, full days off for something, they should be able to rearrange their remainder of their holiday bookings to that effect.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I think *if it were me* I’d probably plan to attend regularly, but probably not every single meeting – this would also break the pattern a bit so my coworkers don’t notice so much, and also let me save up enough leave to take a vacation – but, OP can decide her own priorities, of course!

      1. kalli*

        It may be or it may not be; it’s just a thought that OP can consider or rejustify when they read through.

    5. Namenlos*

      Companies in countries with more generous PTO often have rules that you have to take at least some of your PTO in bigger chunks to be able ro really relax. In my company we have to take at least 10 of our 30 vacation days in a row. The rest are flexible.

      1. Selena81*

        It’s to relax and to fight fraud and to test whether everyone is replaceable.

        We have 20 days of vacation and you need to take at least 1 full week of vacation each year.

        1. Fuse*

          LW #1. This is one of the cases where the correct answer is not the right answer. You can see it in the comments. It won’t be said to your face, except in the form of “optics” or “scheduling concerns” or “coverage” or some other BS.

          You gotta lie or omit the truth on this one.

          Consider instead ditching the funko pops at work. They are awesome and you are awesome. But work is not, and sometimes you have to make compromises to project am image.

          1. Fuse*

            I was convinced when writing the above that it was a top level comment. God only knows where this reply will end up, but I apologize, this was not meant in response to Selena81.

          2. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

            After reading a lot of the comments, when I sent in the request, I did not give the reason but was very clear it was not high priority and made sure my supervisor/coworkers knew that I was more than happy to skip weeks if needed for coverage/deadlines/meetings.
            Regarding the Pops, I keep them in my office as a conversation piece for the most part. I work in higher Ed and have student’s in my office so it gives us something to talk about/humanize me when I look at their records or let kids play with unboxed ones while we work on their adult’s issue. Plus they bring much more joy to glance up at then a picture of the university since I spend most of my waking hours here. So far faculty, staff and students have all said positive things and enjoyed having something to connect about as people but I do realize it is a quirk. Luckily I am good enough at my job to balance out my quirkiness but I always worry since I started my career in a higher than entry level position so I appreciate the feedback/thought.

            1. ErinWV*

              Having playful decor in your office is SO normal in higher ed. Lots of our professors have Pops (our Criminology prof has a Hannibal Lecter), or comic strips or memes taped to their doors, or blinking jalapeno string lights, or a standee of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow (these are all real). But sure, folks in other industries should consider their work culture norms.

            2. kalli*

              Taking your PTO for your mental health because you always feel like you should be working if you take it otherwise, and then going out of your way to stress that you’ll surrender it at the first sign your coworkers schedule something while you’re off doesn’t sound like it’s actually going to do the job of getting you out of your office, doing a hobby thing, and not thinking about all the backlog you could be working on. It’s still the same fundamentally flawed attitude to PTO that you have now.

              A lot of people giving ‘but coverage’ carve outs were accounting for the possibility of needing people for customer service or WHS, or there having to be a manager on duty so the safe can be accessed if the till runs out of money or to authorise payments from trust. A lot of these things don’t have a higher ed equivalent.

            3. Fuse*

              You work in higher ed! Ok, that completely changes my answer. You’re fine.
              I got the impression from reading your question that “quirky” in your office was frowned upon.

      2. Bast*

        I wish this were the norm in the US instead of the “burning yourself out is a badge of honor” culture.

    6. Dear liza dear liza*

      While many employers in the US are stingy with PTO, not all are! I work in higher ed and we accrue quite a bit of vacation time- enough that people are regularly warned about losing some because they are over the cap (about 6 weeks). In the summers I often take weekly half days, and this past summer I took a weekly morning ceramics class. As long as I keep my calendar up to date and record my hours, it’s fine with my boss.

      1. Tired and confused*

        Yes, our parent company is in the US and you get extra 1 week extra PTO every five years you work in the company. So plenty of people I work with gave 4-5 weeks holidays a year.

      2. Carmichael Lemon*

        Same. I get 4 weeks of vacation each year at my US company. I usually lose a couple days that can’t be rolled over because we also have a generous holiday and sick leave allotment. LW might have a similar situation.

      3. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

        Higher Ed – They do not pay us well, but we get a lot of time off. Great for those who use it and nice to have as a safety net for those of us who don’t.

        1. I Have RBF*

          IMO, if you’re working higher ed, they would encourage doing creative crafty stuff, IME. If you’ve been there a while, you would have lots of PTO, so taking Friday afternoons off every other week would not seem odd at all.

    7. Momma Bear*

      I think it’s reasonable to assume that LW is smart enough to calculate their PTO and plan/adjust accordingly. I could take 13 days off a year and have time banked. LW may work for a more generous company or simply have been saving.

      LW, enjoy your time. It’s YOUR paid time off and you should spend it as you want to.

    8. Zee*

      Yikes. LW1 is an adult. She’s fully capable of deciding how to distribute her PTO without your weird patronizing interference. Not everyone wants to take blocks of time off at once.

      1. LJ*

        I mean, this is an advice column. “Have you also considered X” is a valid thing to say as long as it’s said respectfully

    9. Samwise*

      Or maybe that’s how the OP wants to spend their PTO. Or they have a lot of PTO

      I work in higher ed, state university. We get 16 hours of annual/month, 8 hours of sick/month, some hours every year for volunteering, various sorts of bonus leave from when the state legislature wouldn’t pony up for raises. Annual and sick and bonus roll over, although there are limits on payout upon separation. (The pay is crap, but the benefits are pretty good)

      Right now I have 270 hours of annual, about 200 sick. I had a fair amount banked, and then hours racked up during 2020-2021, since we weren’t traveling and it was easy to work on days when you might not have gone into the office in the before times, but were well enough to work remotely. I could take every Friday off for a year and still have time leftover

  6. Reality.Bites*

    Gina is working at an employer full of red flags that put her on a dubious PIP – surely she doesn’t need OP to point out it might not be a great job in the long term.

    1. Sherm*

      And Gina has quite possibly figured out that the location is not long for this world. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is also job searching — and once OP leaves, I’d be surprised if she *wasn’t* job searching. Giving her tools for success at this place wouldn’t be necessary.

        1. Random Dice*

          All of which is why I’d drop her a hint, or even just level with her about the suspicions that the office – and her – are being sabotaged by management. That’s not something to keep quiet about.

          And no need to mention LW’s own job.

      1. Gritter*

        Gina, may well have come out of her dubious PIP stronger, but that in no way makes her position safe. If they want rid of you they will find a way.

        I also suspect she knows this and is hunting herself

        1. Selena81*

          My biggest worry about the story is that Gina might be very unwilling to move on (because she doesn’t like job-hunting, because she likes working with LW, because the company has a lot of prestige, or any other reason) and keeping her in the dark will let her maintain the delusion that she can continue on in this job.

          Also, LW says the pip was not warranted, but it’s not clear to me whether Gina knows that: she might be worried she is bad at her job and thinking her best bet is to hold on to the job she has.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes, but with all the horrible letters asking “is this normal?”, we know that people can sometimes make some assumptions that are way off base if they are used to dysfunction. And even if she is searching, I’m sure LW’s encouragement and assistance would be a boost to her spirits.

        1. BethDH*

          Yeah, it seems like the most useful thing OP can do is assure Gina that she’s willing to be a reference for Gina and give Gina her contact info. Having a recent supervisor who isn’t your current boss is so useful for job searching while employed. OP may be more useful to Gina having left than there given the way it sounds like this office is going.

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Ehh, tools for success may be transferable. So its helping Gina whether she stays or goes.

        The world is an uncertain place, a lot could happen regarding the job offer. Continue working as if this job offer weren’t happening.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      While I agree with the advice to wait to tell her, sometimes people have blinders on. Especially for something as important as your regular paycheck.

      I was a put on a PIP but I smashed it! I was shown the hurdle, I figured out how to meet every item, and I succeeded! That means things are now fine! Whew.

      I’m reminded of a line in a fairy tale book about setting someone impossible tasks, and being dismayed when they accomplish them. I don’t think a large corporation will have the same feeling of guilt for setting the task.

      1. Miette*

        I have to agree. It’s probably not the best manager practice, but perhaps the kindest, for OP to advise Gina to start looking once they’ve given their own notice.

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          I feel like the LW could tell Gina her concerns that this office may be closed soon without adding that she’s about to take another job. If it’s an incredibly shrinking office (used to have 10 employees and now only has 2) that’s just a fact to point to.

          Gina may be especially clueless or since she’s at a lower level so doesn’t have as much big picture as the LW. And Gina quite possibly doesn’t know that she was put on the PIP to fail.

  7. kalli*

    LW4 – Is there any intermediate info you can give Gina which might let her draw her own conclusion? Highlighting the departures in the org chart while reinforcing the report structure or something? Who would manage Gina if you leave – can you connect them now? If Gina doesn’t want your job, what would her professional development look like and can you talk about that – there might be no path for her and she’d have to decide about that (team llama admin for life vs team llama admin – team camelid admin – team yarn admin – executive admin). If you can hint at bees without saying that you are running away from them, that may be safer than going ‘AAAH BEEES! RUUUUN!!’ and leaving the door open on your way out.

    1. TriviaJunkie*

      I was thinking OP should head for the new job then try to recruit Gina to her team if there’s space to do it

    2. Gina's Manager*

      LW4 here

      I was considering this to be an option as well. We are having a “training day” today and I’m going to incorporate as much that I can into the day. I’m also hoping to mention how important an updated resume is without explicitly saying DO IT NOW.

      1. Generic Name*

        Hm, she was just on a PIP. I’m concerned if you tell her to update her resume, she’ll worry she’s about to be fired. Your concern for your employee is admirable, but she’s an adult, and she can manage her own career. Two weeks advanced notice you are about to leave (in another couple of weeks) isn’t much time in terms of the timeline of a job hunt. The company isn’t likely to collapse in one or two months.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I agree, let Gina manage her own career. This is similar to yesterday’s letter from the person who wanted to talk to his manager’s manager to ask them to lighten his manager’s load; although in your case you would have standing to try to lighten your employee’s load, it’s not really your place to tell an employee that they should update their resume and start applying to new jobs. If Gina brings up how she’s not sure she’ll stick around once you’re gone, or how she’s concerned that the office won’t survive your leaving, you can certainly be sympathetic or even say you were thinking the same thing, and also offer to give her a good reference in the future, but I don’t think you need to say explicitly that she should be looking for new jobs. You could also, if you think it’s safe to do so, mention how you don’t think the company is all that great a place to work, but don’t do that if you are worried that she might tell TPTB at the company, who then might give *you* a bad reference for future job opportunities.

          OP, can you take her with you? I mean, not literally, but if you get to the new job and need to hire for a position similar to the one Gina is in now, can you reach out to her and tell her to apply?

        2. JSPA*

          This. Though I suppose you could mention, as part of the training, being headhunted in the past (or a friend’s recent experience) and how useful it is to have a resumé to send along, even if you’re recognized as a rock star, and not actively looking.

      2. kalli*

        We can assume Gina, who was capable of getting a job and surviving a PIP, knows how to keep a resume in some degree of functional; it’s not your job to help with that unless she asks.

        My suggestion was more giving Gina an accurate picture of the company so she can make her own decision, whether that’s taking the knowledge to operate within the company as long as possible (maybe she’d like it if her job got folded into a different office, or they left her alone and reporting elsewhere, who knows?) or getting out as soon as practicable for her.

        At the dizzy most you can do outside your actual job without Gina asking directly, is that when you officially leave, you tell her how to keep in touch so you can be a reference. That’s acceptable and can be subtle or not so subtle, because whenever Gina leaves you will still have worked with her for x time.

    3. el l*

      No. Wait on anything besides business-as-usual until the offer letter is signed.

      Have to stay disciplined about the timing. Too many imponderables, too high of stakes if you let something slip now, even indirectly.

  8. Goody*

    My only concerns for #1 are the optics of regularly leaving early on Friday afternoons, particularly if doing so impacts the ability of her co-workers to ever do the same. There might be some resentment, regardless of what (if any) explanation is given.

    I would absolutely stay vague about the reason and just call it a recurring appointment.

    An idea might be to band together as a team, request an overall schedule adjustment to 8.5 hours x 9 days so that everyone can get a day out of every 2 week cycle to either leave early or come in late without having to burn PTO.

    1. Goody*

      replying to self.. .hit send before fully completing my thought… 8.5 hrs x 9 days plus 4 hrs x 1 day.

      1. mighty_midget*

        But there’s no suggestion that anyone else, or even the OP themselves, wants to work a longer day on the other days!

        1. kalli*

          My work gives everyone over a certain band n RDO every three weeks. Some give them every fortnight or once a month. Given how the 4-day week studies have largely shown no loss of productivity, I’d argue that the extra hours aren’t needed. It would likely result in a rebalancing of PTO packages but not necessarily less PTO or less $ overall.

        2. Sneaky Squirrel*

          This. I have no desire to work longer than the 8 hours I’m assigned. I imagine many with kids and other obligations after work also don’t. I would be angry if any colleague approached me at work and said that they were trying to rally everyone to change the schedule just because they themselves want 1/2 a day off every other Friday. Use your PTO, I have no concerns about that! But don’t try to change my schedule to suit your needs.

          If someone has a concern about the optics or wanting to do it the same, OP and manager can address it then. I don’t think it’s that difficult of an explanation to say “OP is choosing to use their PTO”. It’s also something that can be revisited at another time if OP’s schedule starts inhibiting others from taking off.

      2. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

        I already work beyond the 8-4:30 schedule most days (but I also slink in at like 8:15-8:20 most days because mornings are not my friend). My other co-workers, work from home on Fridays and I always let them know when I take time off for funsies in case they need to be out and am clear that I will not be offended if I need to cancel. Since I am the main person who always covers, everyone knows I do not mind to come in if they need me.

        1. Calamity Jack-O-Lantern*

          It would probably be easier for them to remember/work around consistently scheduled Friday afternoons vs. inconsistently scheduled time off.

          Source: I took a bunch of time off this summer and even my boss couldn’t remember which days I was or wasn’t working.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I think the whole point is that this is how OP wants to use her PTO. It’s not burning through it, if you’re trying to use it.

      1. Allonge*

        Exactly, it’s about (reluctantly, even) using some PTO.

        The thought of ‘the org could handle this if you worked a different schedule that week’ may or may not be helpful, but OP is really not asking for advice about how to handle work or how to get more PTO.

    3. Snow Globe*

      I was thinking that the potential problem is that people may not recognize that OP is taking vacation time. Regularly leaving early on Fridays doesn’t necessarily mean vacation, it could mean a person is just skipping out early or that they have gotten approval for an alternative schedule (which might not be available for coworkers). I don’t think the reason for taking time is important, but OP should let people know that they are using their PTO, to avoid resentment.

    4. JSPA*

      Why should it be on the LW to convince other people have to work a schedule that may not work for them, when it sounds like there’s no problem to be solved (either not yet, or not at all)? We don’t even know if this is a coverage-based position, which means we don’t know if one person being out makes it harder or easier for others to do the same.

      LW, take the time off. If anyone gets crabby about it after a few months, you can adjust (go once a month; start an evening session for one of the off weeks; whatever) or go with Goody’s option.

      1. doreen*

        There’s an additional issue that might matter for LW1 – does you taking time off every other Friday affect anyone else’s PTO use ? Since college, I’ve never had a job that requires coverage in the sense that if I want to take Tuesday off , I need to get someone to take my shift or trade shifts with me. But they’ve all required coverage in the sense of “some minimum number of Teapot Painters must be working during all business hours each day we are open ” which meant that not everybody could take Friday afternoon off. And in some situations , that might cause an issues.

        A somewhat related question of mine – are there really a lot of jobs where everyone doing a particular job/ in a particular department can take PTO at the same time when the business is open? People mention that they don’t have a coverage based job all the time, but I’m never sure if they mean there isn’t any need to find someone to cover/trade shifts or if it means they can take vacation whenever they want to because even if all the Teapot Painters choose the same week, that’s just fine.

        1. JSPA*

          Sure, many jobs are like that. But many other jobs are the opposite: if few or no teapot painters are there needing glaze, then the glaze mixers are also free to leave early, as are the drying room team and the firing team and the teapot packing team, depending on what else they have going on. As far as the teapot shippers, they can only ship completed, dried, fired pots, so while they may need to be working, their friday work does not depend on the teapot painters being there on friday.

          And, yes, even in a situation where everyone is functionally independent, a few people really can’t take friday afternoons–but they know exactly who they are.

          If (say) LW is the sole accountant, and the accounts are done friday at end of business, paychecks issued, and cash brought to the bank…the question would not even have been broached.

        2. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

          My position is more like what you have described. We do not have to have someone cover a shift but need to be sure that all three tea pot painters are not simultaneously out for extended periods of time (two hours on a Friday would not be a huge deal coverage wise). We also have some tea pot finishers in the office who could handle most basic situations if an emergency arose (or could call a painter to ask).

        3. kalli*

          I’m the only one who does my job and I can change my hours or take off for a couple of weeks and it’s fine, because people are so used to my job not being done from before I was hired to do it, that they forget to check whether my job is done before they do theirs! I’m fairly sure my job exists for woke points every time a bill goes out that isn’t up to date…

          Honestly given LW’s clarifications it sounds like the kind of thing they could just WFH on Fridays and fudge, if their brain worked that way.

    5. Sparkle Llama*

      I do agree that OP should consider impacts to others, when you have some aspect of coverage requirements shared with other people taking every other Friday afternoon would make me really frustrated with you since you would be staking claim on the most in demand time to take vacation – especially vacation days that I would like to be able to plan on short notice. Now my boss is great and would not approve that time off for my counterpart without figuring out a way to still have enough flexibility for me to take Fridays off enough of the time, but I know other bosses are less concerned about that and whoever just the request in first gets it, which will likely cause some resentment from coworkers.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I don’t think that there is going to be impacts to others because the OP doesn’t say that they have to find coverage or anything. In fact they say they have a backlog which to me implies that there is not someone who covers for her, at least on certain tasks.

        1. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

          I just noticed your user name and had to say I love it!! I always wish on the open thread when we get the kitty pictures, there was a caption about what they had going on.

  9. Mothman*

    LW1, I spent a solid year covering for a person several times a month when they chose to not be at work. It sucked, especially as the job already had limited break time throughout any given day. Please be sure to keep open communication with your teammates and make sure they’re not overly stressed.

    I’m genuinely not saying to not do it! Just be sure no one is taking on any of your tasks and to make sure the all know you think they’re awesome for being cool with it.

    1. Kombucha*

      Actually I think half days off often go the other way – if you take a week off, your coworkers have to cover for you because there are so many things that can’t wait a week. If you take of single or half days at a time, no one ever covers because most things wait until the next day. OP please be mindful of this and re-assess if half days don’t work for you. I went through a period of being more and more burned out by doing this because I came back to everything on fire the day I got back, and ended up working as many hours as I would have done if I hadn’t taken the PTO, just on different days.

      1. Rapunzel Rider (OP#1)*

        I agree with this idea. I don’t like taking long PTO periods because that means people have to cover for me. My co-workers do things differently so their “help” often causes more stress/work when I get back so I avoid taking time off because of it. I appreciate the thought behind it, but it just causes a lot of stress so I just avoid taking extended time off. So a single/partial day off is nice because no one has to cover me.

      2. Ssssssssssssssssss*

        Not necessarily. If someone is gone a half-day but works needs to get done for a deadline and you’re part of an administrative support team, it will fall on the person who is still in the office. Some stuff can wait for the next day, but a lot won’t or can’t. And 9/10 of the time, it’s a surprise to you because the person leaving for the half day says there’s nothing that needs worrying about and it turns out it’s not true.

        We have a culture of half-Fridays off every other week at my office for support staff. A good manager and good communicative team makes sure that there’s coverage and no surprises.

    2. Allonge*

      That’s for their manager to fix, though. It was not your colleague who messed with your ability to take breaks, it was your manager.

      1. GythaOgden*

        This is what bugs me about this kind of response, because it contradicts the idea expressed elsewhere that management should treat us like adults and not be micromanaging people or dictating things unreasonably. But if every time someone else feels like they have a colleague who is taking advantage of something and they get ‘talk to the hand, this is management’s job not your colleague’s’, particularly when the subject is actually asking whether what she wants is reasonable to ask for, then it kind of runs counter to the idea that management should be hands off and allow people to make their own decisions.

        You can’t have it both ways — you can’t have a relatively relaxed attitude towards PTO then snap at someone whose colleagues are actually taking more than they’re giving that it’s management’s responsibility to rein it in. It doesn’t compute.

        It’s a perfectly reasonable counter to the OP’s plan that her colleagues might not want her to do that and thus she needs to consider her colleagues’ needs. The manager might be the person who has the final word on that and says yay or nay, but it is also thus on OP to ensure that a very regular absence wouldn’t impinge on their ability to take time off. (Because it’s possible for people to be working on incomplete information here. In theory, they might be ok with it at the point where a decision is made. In practice, they might end up feeling like they got left holding the baby and unable to actually take time off when they need a break.)

        What goes around comes around, as well. If you’re considerate of your colleagues’ needs without being forced to be by management, then they will be more likely to honour your own and work with you next time. If the perception is that management always has to be reining you in from your whims and tangents and your response to this kind of conflict is ‘sucks to be you, management should be stricter on me but they’re not so I’m able to screw you over’, then that’s not going to breed the kind of respect and collaborative atmosphere that means management doesn’t actually have to step in and referee.

        Being considerate of your colleagues without having to be forced to be by a manager is more responsible behaviour than being an ass and leaving management to have to exert more control over you and everyone else. We also talk a lot about management needing to treat people as adults, but adults generally respect other people’s needs as well as their own without being forced to.

        1. WS*

          You can’t have it both ways — you can’t have a relatively relaxed attitude towards PTO then snap at someone whose colleagues are actually taking more than they’re giving that it’s management’s responsibility to rein it in.

          Sure you can, and I think the rest of your comment points out how! It relies on people behaving like adults and management being ready to step in when they don’t. What’s bad is either being guilted/forced into never using PTO because you’re understaffed (see: most caring industries) or colleagues using PTO to the detriment of others. Management needs to set up the circumstances under which you can have a healthy attitude to PTO, and correct if someone goes too far in any direction.

          1. Tired and confused*

            In our company staffing needs take backups into consideration. Wheather people take 3 weeks holidays twice a year o all the Fridays off for three months (real life examples) it’s the job of the manager to figure out how to re-distribute work loads. When managers have not been able to do this without micromanaging their reports that has reflected badly on the managers.

        2. Allonge*

          I work in a place where our manager has a right to not approve leave based on exactly these kinds of considerations, so OP would need to ask for this leave schedule and boss would be expected to say that this is too much (if that is the case). I cannot emphasize enough that this setup does not mean we are not adults, nor that we don’t consider each other.

          I would also expect that even in the case of a culture where you tell your boss when you take leave, managers would be expected to say, ‘actually you will not’ if it causes big issues for others. Mothman should not have been put in the position to do two jobs so regularly, and that is up to their manager.

          But my point is more that LW1 seems to have enough issues with taking leave overall. In that situation, I am a bit hesitant to tell them that they are solely responsible for every other coworker’s happiness and quality of life and need to consider that too before taking leave. I would tell them not to put a down payment for a whole year’s worth of craft sessions before discussing with their boss / team, for sure.

          1. AcademiaNut*


            The LW has a particular request for time off. She asks the manager if this will work – the manager, who has the overview of the work situation for multiple people, says yes or no, or offers alternate suggestions. If this ends up causing problems for another employee, then that employee should talk to the manager, not go directly to their coworker and pressure them to give up approved vacation. At the same time, while the OP should have a general idea about whether the request is a reasonable one to make, it’s not her responsibility to poll her coworkers and get a consensus before requesting vacation.

            It’s also the employer’s job to set up a leave request system that is appropriate for the type of work and coverage needs. A job where everyone works on independent tasks will have very different needs from a coverage based job, or a job with recurring deadlines on particular days, or regular meetings, or jobs with crunch seasons.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              Point about not having to poll coworkers is spot on. OP, if there’s a report due every Friday that you have to contribute to, you would of course make sure that you got your portion in well before you were taking time off, so you’re not impacting anyone’s work on that. However, you’re not obligated to ask Marge down the hall if she thinks it’s OK that you take Friday afternoon off because she once asked for your input on a different report on a Friday at 2:30. You know what needs to be finished before you go and what can wait, and as long as you have the time, take it!
              But, also, don’t deny yourself a longer break. Take a week at some point. You don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t even have to leave the house. But there’s something to be said for being able to decompress for a longer time.

        3. Rebecca*

          You’re responding to this as if the only way management can fix the problem is by telling the colleage not to take the PTO.

          “The job already had limited break time throughout any given day.” – couldn’t management be involved in solving that problem?

          I’m a teacher, and when a teacher was out, we were often asked to cover for each other at the private school I worked for, meaning that there was pressure from colleagues to never take a day off. I blamed management – not because I thought they should have ‘reigned in’ my colleagues sick days, but because they could and should have implemented a better back up system. Other schools employed substitute teachers, but my school didnt’ want to pay for them. I didn’t feel it was my job to not take my sick day because they didn’t want to cut into their profit margin.

          Management can solve the situation that’s causing the problem, it’s not always about managing the people who are going to solve it for them.

        4. Change name for today*

          Being treated like adults doesn’t mean you are required to your and your coworkers self manage and do your boss’s job. This is one of those things that needs to be addressed by someone who has the authority to address it, just like performance issues. Not by coworkers.

          It’s not appropriate for co-workers to be enforcing company policing amongst each other, approving leave is something by definition management needs to do.

          Also, co-workers might not have access to all the information necessary to address it. There might be ways to adjust work load or other adjustments to make it work for everyone.

      2. That wasn't me. . .*

        As to the PTO thing, I think the fact that management pushed people ro spend down their PTO should allow some pushback. And the idea you’d find yourself in the negative and OWE the company! Their mistake, they should bear the cost – after all, they were bearing it, and it didn’t bankrupt them before now.

    3. Earlk*

      they mi9ght be in a job like mine though where if I’m not in the work just doesn’t get done. Especially if it’s just for one afternoon a week.

    4. Emmy Noether*

      With that logic, no-one could take any PTO, ever, if their job is such that tasks may have to be covered in their absence. That’s not healthy! Good offices have everyone take time off and everyone taking turns covering for each other. The reciprocation prevents resentment. If that’s not the case, the solution is not to just never take time off! Don’t sacrifice yourself for the company like that, no one will thank you for it.

      Also, taking time off half-days at a time probably actually means less covering by colleagues. Most tasks can wait half a day in most jobs, where they may not wait two weeks.

      1. londonedit*

        Totally agree. It surprises me when I see people hear talking about how their work is just left to pile up while they’re away – everywhere I’ve worked, the expectation is that colleagues all cover for each other when people go on holiday. Two-week holidays are pretty normal here – of course there will be things that your colleagues might not be able to do, but what you do is get as much off your desk as possible before you go, and then you leave a list of holiday notes with your colleagues and ask them to move things forward. In my job that’d be things like ‘Final proofs for X are due in on the 18th; please could you send them to the author at [email] and ask her to return them by the 31st’. Meanwhile I’ll have alerted the author before I went that my colleague Tabitha will be sending her the proofs when they come in. Nothing too in-depth, but just keeping things ticking along while you’re off.

        For the odd half-day or day of holiday, in my job I probably wouldn’t need cover – things can wait. But I’m perfectly happy to cover colleagues’ time off by doing a few extra things for them, and in return they do the same for me.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Absolutely. The way my jobs works, there is almost always more stuff I need to handle waiting for me when I take one day off vs. when I take two weeks.

        2. Allonge*

          Part of it is the understaffing – if people don’t have sufficient time for their own tasks in the first place, they will not be able to do a lot to replace others.

          Part of it is – there are some kinds of jobs that are easier to replace than others. At Teapot AI Inc there may be dozens of Teapot AI engineers who can take substantive tasks over from one another, but there will only be two accountants (if not one), and then a backlog builds up while one is out – sure, some things can and need to be done but not the whole job.

          Part of it is – ok, I may (ha!) be a control freak but there are things that I prefer to do myself, even if it means extra work. Some of this is about something being my project, some of it is relationships-based (I know my potential replacement would do more harm than good), some of it is just that it would take way too much energy to hand something over for two weeks. Obviously if it’s my choice, I don’t get to complain that work waits for me but this too is a factor.

    5. I should really pick a name*

      How would this be any different than someone taking their PTO in 1-2 week blocks?
      I’d argue that talking half-day Fridays makes less work for coworkers.

    6. Beth*

      I think there’s a big difference between someone simply choosing not to show up (which is what it sounds like happened in your case–if they gave any notice at all, it sounds like it wasn’t enough to make sure there was coverage planned) and taking planned PTO. In OP’s case, since this is planned in advance and recurring routinely, it should be easy for their employer to plan for. I’m betting many of OP’s tasks can just wait until Monday, and whatever is truly so urgent that it has to get handled on a Friday afternoon can be distributed among their team members.

      If your person was giving advance notice and time to plan and your employer was handling that by sticking you with all the work with no breaks and no support, then I’m sorry you had to deal with such a bad employer.

    7. Ace in the Hole*

      This should be management’s concern, not LW’s.

      She gets paid time off. She shouldn’t have to worry about stressing out teammates by using the PTO she’s earned. If it will cause problems with workflow to use it this way, her manager should address that with her before approving the leave (or colleagues should bring it up to management if it becomes an issue later).

      But if having somebody use their accrued PTO is too burdensome then the workload isn’t sustainable and they need to hire more people.

  10. Knit4Life*

    I think you should use your time for whatever floats your boat. My former boss (30 years ago!) used to take an extra hour at lunch once a week to teach seniors at the senior center how to crochet. It was great for the students getting a free class, and I can’t tell you how much she looked forward to that 2 hours every week.

  11. John Smith*

    re #1. I have a colleague who takes almost every Friday off (sorry to rub it in but its the UK public sector with more leave than you typically get in the US) and also buys holiday time through salary sacrifice. Its murder for anyone else trying to book time off that includes a Friday as it leaves us even more short staffed than we already are and severly impacts any work we can do tgat day (some tasks require X number of people or people with a certain qualification which only my colleague and I have). I honestly don’t know why my organisation allows it (or thinks that being short-staffed is our problem, not theirs).

    If you’re not going to cause workplace problems, go for it and enjoy.

    1. Kombucha*

      How is this any different to somebody who works part time and doesn’t work Fridays? The real issue here is your workplace’s holiday allocation rules not making sense for the organisation/being fair.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > How is this any different to somebody who works part time and doesn’t work Fridays?

        Because when the part time role was created and working patterns agreed, management presumably didn’t think that a part time position that doesn’t work Fridays would be part of the “rota” so to speak of people who can be there on a Friday…

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Precisely this. A former employer of mine would grant part-time working requests but stipulate working patterns based on existing coverage. That’s meeting a business need.

      2. WS*

        My organisation has two positions where at least one person has to be present at all times. One of them is a part time position filled by two people, the other is a single person full time, so two people are regularly available and at least one when PTO is involved. John Smith’s organisation isn’t bothering to cover that Friday, and that’s the difference.

      3. Nebula*

        Yes, this, absolutely. Like John Smith here, I am also UK public sector and always have been, and so have a lot of holiday. It’s always been the case in my experience that while we’re encouraged to use our leave days, there’s also some, you know, management to make sure that everything is covered and it’s fair, including refusing certain leave dates if it’s going to be an issue. Taking almost every Friday off would not be allowed.

        1. Nebula*

          Actually, as people have pointed out further down the comments, for OP’s situation and for this person who John Smith works with, I think my org would suggest a flexitime arrangement rather than using leave for something like this.

          1. londonedit*

            I’m not public sector but I am in the UK and I think my employer would feel the same. Towards the end of the holiday year you always get people who have leave to use and who take a series of Wednesdays or Fridays off, and that’s fine, but that’s two or three rather than every other Friday throughout the whole year.

            We have flexible hours where we can work extra Monday-Thursday in order to take Friday afternoon off – I think my employer would suggest someone did that rather than taking every other Friday as leave.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            This was my vote. Not because I think using PTO would be inappropriate but because then you could also use PTO for other things!

            OP, if you are only taking 4 hours or less off I would definitely talk to your boss about whether flexing your time and working an extra hour Monday-Thursday to get time off on Friday every other week is an option!

          3. EasternPhoebe*

            OP said they want to use PTO to cultivate their personal life and that they need time off to fight burnout. So from my perspective, going to a flex schedule is very much NOT a good solution. Personally, if I had the PTO to use up, I would much rather use the PTO and work those fewer hours so that I actually got more time off, rather than just shuffling around my work hours. If OP is like most workers, they are already working plenty and could use the time off.

        2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          US public sector, and same answer, sort of.

          I don’t think it would be a big deal in, say, March. However, around/near holidays or school breaks and the summer, it might be an issue.

          MIGHT. You may also be in a role that doesn’t have coverage-based issues (i.e., at least one person from each team needs to be present/available on all business days Just In Case), in which case it’s probably not a concern if you have enough leave to cover it*. However, if you are, I’d just be mindful! It would go a long way, for example, if you said you only wanted this from, say, Sept to May and you’ll take the summer off (or drop down to 1x/month) so that you’re not causing an issue for others during a busy vacation time for most offices.

          *I have been in my public sector job for a long time, and have a lot of leave accrued. However, when I first started out I got 1/2 per pay period (every 2 weeks), plus some additional personal leave. Be mindful that you’re not immediately burning all of your PTO as soon as you get it, as you may want/need it for something else! (I trust you’ve already made this calculation, but wanted to bring it up, especially if you’re somewhere that allows you to bank leave and/or gives payouts for it – definitely good to have a reserve for a rainy day.)

    2. bamcheeks*

      Every UK public sector job I’ve had has had a leave policy that says you can’t use your leave that way, and that if you want or need to you should consider making a request to go part-time, so this leave simply wouldn’t be approved. It’s weird that your managers are ok with it!

      1. Bast*

        I think in general it’s because the US (typically) grants much less PTO than the UK, to the point where it wouldn’t be nearly as disruptive here as it would there. There are also plenty of places where if you don’t use your PTO, the company has to pay you out — and they would rather have you take every Friday off (or every Monday, or whatever) for the last 10 weeks of the year instead of paying you out for those vacation days.

        Also, if you don’t work in an environment where you typically share what you do on your off time, it leaves it up for question, and many don’t want to get that personal. Maybe I have a reoccurring medical appointment, go to therapy, or maybe I’m getting my nails done — but many people will shy away from asking further if you simply state you have a “medical appointment” or something similar. While pregnant, I tried to schedule my appointments on Friday afternoons, latest appointment of the day, because it was the least disruptive for everyone involved instead of having to duck out in the middle of the day and rush back, or turn up late. I still would end up having to duck out rather early, as the latest appointment was often 3:00, and it was an hour away, but it was the least bad choice open to me. For all the employer knows, there is a reoccurring medical appointment, and not every environment is a “sharing” one.

    3. Selena81*

      My work is the complete opposite: a full workweek is 36 hours and most people either work 4×9 or rotate 5×8 and 4×8. You block your free days in your agenda (mostly wednesday and friday), and when organizing meetings you let the software search for the first time everyone is available. With big meetings you only check availability for the most prominent attendees, everyone else is optional.

      This is the norm in all big offices in the Netherlands. Any mandatory team-meetings are typically scheduled on Tuesday or Thursday because these days are rarely taken off.
      Any team that needs to always have someone present (f.i. to answer phonecalls from customers) will coordinate their schedules, but otherwise you are free to decide for yourself which days and which hours to work.

      1. allathian*

        I work for a government agency in Finland and we have very flexible working hours too. Granted, those who work in customer service and some other jobs that require coverage are in a different situation than I am.

        I and my coworker who has the same job description as I do cover for each other. This means that we generally don’t take full days off at the same time, although if one of us gets sick while the other is on vacation, that’s life. Granted, my coworker did postpone his vacation a couple weeks ago because I’d been a week on sick leave with a mild case of Covid the week before that. We get along and are flexible when necessary, so our manager lets us pretty much manage our own time off as we like.

        But in my job, if either I or my coworker wanted to take a half-day every Friday, it would be NBD, as long as we worked the required hours during the rest of the week/month/quarter.

  12. AnotherLibrarian*

    #1: There’s no such thing as a too frivolous reason to take your PTO. It’s your PTO! Use it how you wish.

    Regardless of why you use PTO, if your job has coverage needs (ie: someone has to be in the office at all times for whatever reason) I would be careful to not inconvenience your coworkers by claiming every other Friday afternoon which could cause issues for scheduling. I’d assume you know if you work in a place where that would come up.

    The only other thing that can come up is perception. Like it or not, people judge folks by how much time they take off. So, do make sure that you’re on the ball, meeting deadlines, and otherwise super professional. I find as long as that is happening, someone taking an afternoon to do make wreathes out of popsicle sticks (or whatever the hot craft in these days) shouldn’t bother anyone.

    However, in general, I think you should use your PTO however brings you joy.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Unless I’m missing something, the LW wouldn’t be taking more time off than other people — she’d just be timing her use of the same amount of PTO differently.

  13. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

    OP1 if you say “crafting group”, it might be fine or it might not. If you keep it vaguer, there doesn’t seem to be a downside.

  14. Dogs&Yarn*

    #1- if you have good rapport with your manager and are flexible if they need you to occasionally miss you should be fine! While my obsessive crafting doesn’t pull me out of work, I’m my last 3 positions I’ve taken a 2.5 hour lunch EVERY Friday to go to a master agility class with one of my dogs. My coworkers know it’s important to me, and I make up the time the rest of the week (I need my PTO for the big competitions) and if it’s an important thing like a team building day I miss that class no big deal. Enjoy your crafting!

  15. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (PTO for craft group) – I don’t have any issue with it specifically being for doing crafts, but I’m not a fan of using PTO in this manner to effectively change your working pattern “by the back door”, because even though you’re spending your own PTO you are now working something like “summer Fridays”. Would the company have agreed if you asked to change your working schedule to half day on Friday like this?

    If there is any element of coverage or a certain quota of people needed on any given day (more of a general observation if this doesn’t apply to other people) this kind of arrangement can make it difficult or impossible for the “cover person” to take a whole week off, or even just plan a long weekend knowing that every Friday needs to be covered.

    1. kiki*

      I think that’s up to LW’s manager to decide if it’s logistically okay. LW’s question seemed more concerned with the perception of taking time off to craft regularly.

      I also don’t think this is really, “by the back door” at all because LW is likely going to run this PTO by their manager, they’ll review if it works by their schedule, then they’ll approve (or not).

      1. kalli*

        It’s not back door because they’re doing it in secret, it’s back door because it’s doing something with PTO that’s changing the functional structure of their working hours (9-5 x 9, 9-12 x 1) which is more appropriately done by negotiating flexitime or a contract amendment because hours of work are a part of the character of the employment agreement. If they were salaried and agreed to meet the same KPIs/billables in 33 hours instead of 37.5, if they were hourly and agreed to take a 30 min lunch break instead of 60 min, or stay until 5:30 the other 9 days, that would achieve the same result (an afternoon out every 2 weeks) but wouldn’t require PTO, and their hours would still be set and predictable and agreed to.

        1. Random Dice*

          But it’s not Flex Time – she’s not working more hours to cover it with no change in PTO, she’s using her legally earned employment benefit in a way that is completely legit.

        2. kiki*

          I guess it really depends on the office but it’s normal where I work to use PTO for a standing appointment/obligation. For a while, I used PTO for an obligation I had at 3pm every other Thursdays. Some people used flex time instead for that sort of thing, but I feel like at my office it’s generally up to the employee and their manager to discuss what makes the most sense for the situation. And for me, having it as time off, not expected to be made-up, was less stressful than having more time saved for some sort of vacation.

          I feel like LW’s main focus was really the optics of the ask rather than the logistics of how it’d be implemented anyway. If their manager feels like a regularly scheduled Friday afternoon off isn’t doable in their PTO policy, the manager will discuss other options (like flex time/ or a contract amendment) with LW.

  16. Free Meerkats*

    For #2, if the company continues in the way they are going after a group of employees lets them know it’s effed up, might be time to keep that group together and unionize. You already have a unifying reason, and the group is organized.

    Just saying…

    1. Ice Princess*

      A union would not help if they were awarded more leave than the contract specified, which seems to be what happened (more than the defined benefit plan stated).

      1. Allonge*

        Maybe not, but going forward it may well cause more issues to the owners than swallowing the mistakenly granted leaves would cause now.

        Which is a good reason to do it anyway, come to think of it.

      2. Fierce Jindo*

        In this case, the point of the union would be to create a sense in the company that the sense of grievance (in the general sense, not the technical contract sense) around this issue will continue to escalate and expand unless the company fixes this huge hit to morale. Unions (and unionization campaigns) win things beyond enforcing their existing contract all the time.

      3. Generic Name*

        In the US, if there is no union, there typically no contract. The employee handbook is not a contract (both handbooks I’ve read recently tell you this loud and clear up front).

    2. Governmint Condition*

      I can’t speak for private companies, but if this is a government employer, union or no union, the LW is probably out of luck. The state/local comptroller (or whoever is in charge of that government’s fiscal matters) will require any errors be corrected immediately after discovery. Especially if it’s the US federal government.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I’m honestly shocked that this didn’t come out in end-of-year accounting before now.

    3. And the Skeletons Are… Part of It*

      I’d also recommend contacting reporters. Publicity exposing the company forcing their workers to bear the brunt of the company’s own incompetence might spur them to do the right thing.

  17. Mo*

    OP3, I’m in an org/field where this wouldn’t be an odd thing to do. When I had an employee get married last year, I emailed the rest of our team to say I was purchasing a card and gift card on behalf of the team, and folks were welcome to contribute if they wanted. (I explicitly said I would sign all of our names as well.) I had a base amount that I was going to spend in mind, a few folks kicked in $5-15, and our coworker was touched and surprised.

    1. Typing All The Time*

      Yes, I would say a non-pressure approach would be good. And to not feel upset or react odd, if people pass on contributing. Or let people choose to give to the soon-to-wed employee directly.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        The thing of it is, there is no such thing as a “non-pressure approach”.

        Just the fact that it is out there will cause people to feel pressure to contribute, and if it comes from a manager, the pressure will feel even higher.

        1. Random Dice*

          Yeah that’s approach is definitely pressure.

          I recently sent a leaving boss a nice, customized gift, signed by all of us but only paid for be me and another manager. I didn’t let non-managers contribute because that would inherently create pressure, and it was gifting upwards.

    2. Fierce Jindo*

      But how do you know that the people who contributed didn’t feel pressured to do so? (I would.)

      1. Jackalope*

        Here’s the way we’ve done it at my work that I’ve found to work well. We pass around an envelope and everyone has to sign that they received it but no one knows who’s donated and who hasn’t. At the end of the day it goes back to the person in charge of getting the gift so they can keep track of the money received, and it keeps going round until everyone has signed that they got it. But again, no one has any idea who donated and who didn’t, so I at least always found it to be low pressure.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Yup, that’s generally how it’s done in places I’ve worked. We’ve now moved on to Venmo to the organizer if people prefer that to cash (I know I do, I rarely have cash on me!), but with both options it would still be hard to trace if you didn’t want to/couldn’t contribute.

        1. miel*

          To clarify, my +1 was to Fierce Jindo’s comment.

          Sure, there are lower pressure ways to collect money, but honestly? It feels unnecessary.

          I think a nice card is a very good gift, and is all that’s needed.

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            I actually don’t disagree, but almost always as the organizer you’ll have multiple people asking about how to contribute to a gift. So, if you are getting that and you’re inclined to organize, this is a good workaround.

            1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              And then what happens when someone forgets to ask or no one likes someone or they are new or whatever and nothing is organized. Or people give a lot to the popular person and not so much to the unpopular person.

              A card is so much easier because its the same across the board. Work is not the place to show how much you like someone. If individual employees want to get their best work friend a gift, fine. But anything organized by the office must be equal for all.

    3. TeaCoziesRUs*

      Thank you for this wording! We’re planning to mail a few expensive packages to military members who are deployed from our unit. I can take (and previously have taken) the financial hit to send them out, but was trying to think of less-pressure ways to say we’d accept help. :)

  18. GythaOgden*

    I’ve been working in a coverage job and #1 would be awkward. Regularly taking time off like that would mean that it would impinge on my colleagues’ ability to do so. I think there might also be language in the handbook about not using PTO to effectively change your (in our case contracted) schedule. In the UK, there is a right to ask for flexitime but the needs of the business come first, and you do have to consult with your line manager and colleagues to ensure coverage. As a healthcare facilities organisation, we have to make sure there’s adequate staffing to cover the needs of the people we serve; I also have experience of being the ‘spare pair of hands’ in a situation where staffing actually outpaced the amount of work to do, and it’s awful and I’m FINALLY finishing my horrible boring overstaffed job TODAY, so keep in mind that companies don’t want to overstaff and it’s not even good for the poor sap who is just there because of coverage needs. IMO it’s entirely reasonable to me that a company can ask you to negotiate with others when you take time off. For me, being part of the spare capacity actually made it harder to leave — not because my organisation wouldn’t let me go (the position I’m leaving for is an internal promotion, but I know they knew I was bored out of my skull and taking time off for interviews and at times my immediate colleagues were my greatest cheerleaders) but because the lack of work made me into really just a butt in a seat, and everyone I applied to externally made it clear I lacked the experience I’d need to jump ship. It took my regional manager taking advantage of a general reshuffle to create a position that will give me a smorgasbord of different experiences for me to get out of the vicious circle of underemployment. So the reality of staffing so thick that people can use PTO completely at their discretion without having to negotiate has drawbacks other than costs to the company.

    So while PTO is part of your compensation, I do think there are legitimate needs for a business to control how it’s used and when. The UK at least makes it legal for a business owner to restrict when it can be taken. If you wanted flexitime I think it might need to be for a better reason than just personal leisure (our application form asks you to consider the needs of the business and it wasn’t just a rubber stamp process; I did have to agree to come in on Fridays if either my colleagues wanted a break) after all, there are crafting groups made up of working people who meet after normal working hours like mine. I get the impulse, but I’m not sure it would necessarily end up being granted.

    1. Bit o' Brit*

      In contrast, I don’t work in a coverage-based role and take 2.5 hour lunches twice a month to attend a zoom-based social group for a specific disability (and walk the dog after). I can only request leave in half-day chunks and it runs 12-2pm, so I just block it out in my calendar and assume that it evens out with my frequent 6pm finishes where I lose track of time WFH.

      My boss knows what it is and has said it’s no problem, even though he works 8-4pm while I work 9-5pm so he doesn’t see my late finishes unless I have reason to email him.

    2. Joron Twiner*

      Yes, for similar reasons I am of two minds on this.

      On the one hand it’s part of your compensation and if you have the leave you should be able to take it for any reason. On the other hand, if the job requires coverage or core time or regular availability during business hours, then it can be a big inconvenience to your colleagues and customers and impact your professional reputation.

      Personally I would not commit to regular hobby time during work hours. But I have no difficulty taking mental health days and logging off when I need to/saying no to work in order to prevent burn out. If this is how you need to structure it to take time off, then go for it, just be vague about the reason why.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think it varies a lot – in this case, OP is looking to take alternate friday afternoon so it doesn’t stop others taking a long weekend as well.

      Also, in the UK, your reasons for wanting flexi time don’t matter and there’s no requirement to disclose what they are (although sometimes the reasons may cross over with it being a request for an adjustment for a disability, in which case obviously it would be relevant to mention them) . There’s no reason why you can’t make a flexible working request because you fancy a long lie in every Wednesday, or something equally ‘frivolous’

      The reason your employer asks you to consider the needs of the business is because that’s one of the things you are required to include in your request if you are making a statutory request for flexible working (“an explanation of how they think flexible working might affect the business and how this could be dealt with, for example if they’re not at work on certain days”)

      The rules revolve round what are valid reasons for the business to decline the request – these include the needs of the business including things like whether / how work can be covered. For tht reason, you get situations where someone could be turned down for a request to to flex if they wanted to (say) compress their hours or reduce their hours and not work on a Friday, if others have already done the same so that coverage is needed.

      The list of legal grounds for refusing a request are
      – extra costs that will damage the business
      – the work cannot be reorganised among other staff
      – people cannot be recruited to do the work
      – flexible working will affect quality and performance
      – the business will not be able to meet customer demand
      – there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
      – the business is planning changes to the workforce

    4. I forgot what I put here*

      But LW doesn’t mention coverage, so we can presume that’s not an issue. There are plenty of jobs where people can just walk out for a couple of hours and it will not influence the business, except for the fact that their colleagues will wonder where they are.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, in my job as long as I make sure there isn’t anything pressing going on (like I’m not waltzing off for the afternoon having failed to approve something that needs to go to press that day) then it really doesn’t make much of a difference if I take an afternoon or a day’s holiday. I manage my own schedules and deadlines so I just need to work around those, I don’t need anyone to cover me for a day or so. I’d imagine there are plenty of other roles and industries where it’s a similar situation.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yes, I’ve worked multiple jobs where I had a specific time that I needed off on a regular basis and they were able to accommodate that. It’s possible that it could be a problem, but that’s on Management to solve.

          And honestly, the staffing coverage issue seems like a Management problem to me, at least in general. They’re the ones who can see how many people are off on any given day. They’re the ones who know if granting a regular half day will affect others or not. If it doesn’t work with the needs of the company they can just say no, or negotiate (once a month half days rather than every other week, for example). Coverage jobs are trickier than others in this regard but even then, having someone who is regularly off at the same time twice a month is likely going to be easier to schedule around than random days off.

      2. Distracted Procrastinator*

        That’s what my job is like. I set my own work hours, so I come in early and leave when I get my work done. I’m hourly, and absolutely no one cares as long as I get my work done and record my time. I just make sure the hours I work add up to at least 40 hours and I’m fine.

        I regularly work 8.5 hour days so I can take off 2 hours early on Fridays. I worked longer days because of travel needs this week, so I’ll be off even earlier than usual. I do not have to clear this with anyone and absolutely no one cares. It’s quite nice being in charge of my own schedule.

      3. Random Dice*

        Yeah, if LW’s situation were such that she was screwing over the collective coverage, she would have mentioned it.

        All of this commentariat gnashing of teeth over using an employment benefit is really unexpected.

        Can we just assume that a LW who is thoughtful enough to read and write into AAM is not actually a raging jerk? Can’t we just extend the benefit of the doubt?

        Come on, folks.

        1. Joron Twiner*

          I don’t see anyone assuming LW is a raging jerk. I see people raising legitimate concerns that would impact someone wanting to take regular time off during the work day for their hobby. In the real world this might be delicate!

    1. Sloanicota*

      I was thinking that in terms of requiring a departing employee to pay back. I don’t see how the company can just announce, when you give notice, that they’ve just realized they’ve miscalculated your leave for multiple years and now you owe them money. Even if it’s true, I feel like starting to arbitrarily enforce it one day is fishy.

      1. tw1968*

        Exactly! And mgmt should consider how this message sounds: “No, we’re not going to go after the money from people who’ve left the company, just the ones who stayed.” Which becomes, We will treat you better BECAUSE you’ve left the company.” Good motivator!

      2. Calamity Jack-O-Lantern*

        I assume they are paid no less than monthly. If I got a negative 5 weeks balance like this, I would quit without notice on payday and tell them to sue me if they wanted the balance.

        One time I was laid off with a negative 2 day balance (by my own choice), but they just let it slide.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I have to wonder about that — because they paid out leave based on the error to those who left. So now people have negative balances and will be expected to pay back the company after the error was found? I think they can rely on past practice to say nope, you paid on the old balances, you have to continue to do that. pretty sure reliance might also apply here.

      It’s the company error, the company bears the burden of it. Not the people who literally had no control over the system.

    3. K*

      This may be true, depending on the state! My company was supposed to top off my pay while I received a portion through state benefits—they paid me my full paycheck in the meantime because they couldn’t get their admin in order to calculate how to issue partial checks. After a couple of months they did sort how I could pay them back for the equivalent of my state benefit, but at that point too time had passed for them to be able to legally reclaim all of the weeks as a paycheck error—and the state was adamant that the paycheck arrangement was between me and my employer and I was entitled to the benefit the state had paid me—so I essentially got a little bonus because my company took too long to sort the mistake.

  19. Nebula*

    Would love an eventual update from LW2, that’s horrendous and the employer should absolutely take the hit there.

    1. Doc McCracken*

      I agree the employees should NOT be penalized, but depending on who is responsible for the mistake not being caught, an outside vendor may owe the company for the extra hours they’ve paid out.

        1. La Triviata*

          Several years ago, the person who handled leave tabulations realized that the program she’d been using was not correctly tabulating the leave times. She announced this to the staff in December, telling people that they had to use any leave over the allowed carry over in that month or they’d lose it as of January 1. They would not extend the amount of leave time people could carry over, would not allow people to allocate the leave time to January (which would effectively extend the carry over hours). As a result, since most people had already scheduled their leave time, a lot of people lost accrued PTO hours. I lost 80 hours, other people lost more. It was infuriating, but the person in charge was inflexible and said that those were the rules.

  20. Panneni*

    LW1, I somewhat disagree with Alison’s advice here. You are not obligated to tell anyone what you use your time off for.

    All you need to do is talk to your manager/boss about blocking the Friday afternoons in question, since you would make this a structural thing. You don’t even have to tell your boss why though, just make sure it won’t be a problem with the workflow if you structurally have every other Friday afternoon off.

    The free time is yours and as long as it is cleared with your boss it’s no one’s business what you do with it. Go for it, and have lots of fun!!

  21. bamcheeks*

    LW, I would really encourage you to shift your mindset around PTO. It sounds like you feel like a) you shouldn’t be taking leave without A Good Enough Reason, and b) you shouldn’t be taking leave whilst you have anything on your to-do list. Both of these will really screw you up long-term! Even when there’s work that needs to be done eventually, having a break from work and a better work-life balance is so important for your health, both physical and mental, and overall will probably make your job seem easier.

    And if the backlog of work is stressing you out and making you feel like you can’t ever take time off (part of your negotiated compensation!), dig into why you feel like that and discuss it with your manager if they’re reasonable. Is the workload too high? Is the backlog increasing, or is it just leftover stuff like filing that needs to get done eventually but not at the busiest time of the year? Is it stuff that’s actually critical and stressing you out, or stuff that just needs doing eventually and you hate having it on your conscience? If it’s really preventing you feeling like you can ever take time off it’s a problem and really worth looking at how you can change that and talking to your manager about whether it *really* needs to be done and if so, what’s a reasonable timeline.

  22. Johannes Bols*

    For the LW whose company fuh… fu…f…erm… ‘messed up’ the PTO. Please listen to me: CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT. I’m serious. What I would do is mention to a few employees that you trust that you’d like to get together after work to have a chat. They may or may not know what you’re talking about. My point is do not mention it at work so they can’t ding you for it. And whatever you do, DON’T do it via Zoom or What’s App; somebody could record it and stab you in the back with it. Meet w/them, discuss the idea w/them, and see if organizing a CALS would work. DON’T FEEL BAD FOR THE COMPANY THAT DID THIS TO YOU. They don’t care! Take care of yourself first. I wish you the best of luck in solving this problem that never should have occurred.

    1. Mellie Bellie*

      LW should talk to an employment lawyer first to see if there is a legal basis for a lawsuit here. There may not be since these PTO hours may not have been actually earned. In general, if your employee overpays you by accident, they can take the money back. Depending on the state, the same may apply to these PTO hours. Which absolutely sucks. A good company would eat the cost. However, as we all know, there are quite few “good” companies out there, especially when it comes to protecting their bottom line.

      1. Outta Here Soon!*

        I think legal recourse is going to come down to how well the “official” policy is explained in employee handbooks, whether there’s documentation that employees received and read said handbook, etc. Employers aren’t generally legally responsible for making good on overpayments or for errors that indicate unearned benefits – just my thoughts. I mean, it sucks, and a compassionate company would work to find some kind of compromise. But I’m not so sure there’s any legal recourse here. I guess it depends on the state, the documentation, etc.

        If an employer accidentally overpays an employee and can provide documentation that the employee was aware of what their pay was supposed to be, then that employer can likely claw back the overpaid wages. Many would NOT do this because it would cause a hardship on the employee 0 but many would. So this seems the same. (I mean, years?? jeez.)

      1. Not A Manager*

        There are legal theories that could cover a situation like this. The issue isn’t whether they earned it, the issue is that they relied on the company’s representation that they had earned it. I don’t know whether that’s a winner, but it’s worth asking a lawyer.

      2. Nomic*

        if the company forced or even encouraged to take the leave (as LW2 indicates) as represented on their books, and then tried to claw it back, I think many state laws would have something to say about that. I’d love to get #LawTwitter involved in this, tbh, this is their bread and butter.

      3. Random Dice*

        You think a company isn’t going to choose to fix their own mistake rather than screwing over little people… If it becomes a big PR issue?

        They don’t care about the peons themselves, but corporate Reputation is incredibly important to executives.

      4. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Its because they were told they had X hours and relied on that and now the company is back tracking. I don’t see it as any difference that the company said they would pay $y amount and then they turn around and say they overcharged and its actually Z amount. Especially being that they are going to charge people for over use of the PTO if they leave.

    2. Sloanicota*

      To me the only issue that’s potentially actionable might be requiring people to pay back the company for the leave. There’s no way anything else described here is illegal, maybe unless OP is in California where the laws about PTO are a little different. In general in the US companies aren’t required to offer any vacation leave. You can still unionize though!

    3. class action*

      Class action defense attorney here. Agree first you would need to consult with a lawyer to ensure there is a legal basis for the lawsuit. But second, keep in mind that all class actions require at least one named plaintiff. So some employee will need to “out” themselves as the named plaintiff in this hypothetical lawsuit. And, unfortunately, I’m not sure how willing an attorney would be to take this on a contingency basis. Generally plaintiffs’ attorneys are paid 1/3 of the plaintiffs’ recovery. A lawyer can’t be paid with 1/3 of your vacation days, and there don’t seem to be any monetary damages at play here if plaintiffs are solely seeking an injunction to have their vacation days restored. However, I’m not an employment lawyer and maybe there are some monetary damages available that I’m not aware of. Also keep in mind that lawsuits take years to litigate. Unless you can secure a preliminary injunction preventing the company from docking your vacation days, the company can still take away your vacation time while the lawsuit is winding its way through the court system.

      1. kalli*

        The annual leave would be calculated as a monetary benefit at the employee’s hourly (or calculated per hour if it’s a yearly package) rate.

        The issue is that 2 weeks wages at most per employee would not necessarily be enough to cover costs, and wouldn’t be attractive to a litigation funder, so it’s likely it would be a net loss to the firm who took it on because these things take lots of paperwork just to file, let alone investigating prior to filing. If it’s been long enough that some of the overpayment is statute barred, that also cuts into the available damages.

  23. ActuaryMom*

    I have a different opinion on #2. The system was showing people they had up to 5 extra weeks of PTO beyond what they knew they should get? I don’t understand the thought process that says “I should get 3 weeks of vacation but the system shows I have 8, yay!” If there was a glitch in the payroll system and they overpaid salaries, would people just quietly say nothing about that? It’s messy, for sure, but it seems like individuals should be noticing & questioning if there’s a discrepancy between published PTO guidelines and what the system is showing.

    1. NaoNao*

      ehhhh I could see if someone was relatively new. But for people who’ve worked there 5+ years, they could reasonably have 4-5 weeks of PTO if the company has historically been generous like with 5 days of sick time + 2 weeks of vacation. Plus many people don’t really stay on top of the exact number. I just started with my company 6 months ago and was startled recently to see 50+ hours of PTO had accumulated–it seems like once you get past a certain time with the company it adds up fast.

    2. Beth*

      It was over the course of multiple years and presumably accrued gradually. 200 hours sounds like a lot, but over the course of 28 months, that’s a little less than one extra day/month.

      I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually keep track of exactly how much leave has accrued total over the course of the last few years. I see how much is available to me in the system when I’m scheduling, and assuming it at least loosely aligns with what I expected, I generally accept that without thinking any more about it. Maybe I’d notice if I was one of the people saving up all my leave for a big trip like a honeymoon, and was looking back at the end of the year going “huh, I have like a week+ more than I thought?” But as someone who uses my leave throughout the year, one extra day per month wouldn’t be obvious to me.

      1. Calamity Jack-O-Lantern*

        I track my pay stub to the penny and PTO to the minute. I have never ever in my working career had someone else tell me they do the same. On the other hand, I have had many discussions where I asked someone “hey did you see this new deduction on our pay stubs” and they told me they didn’t look at their pay stubs.

        1. Beth*

          It’s funny, I check the money side each paycheck (just to make sure I know what all the deductions are and why any changes are happening) but just don’t feel the same urgency around PTO! They’re both compensation, they’re both important to me, but the money side feels so much more complicated (federal taxes, state taxes, health insurance deductions, 401k deductions, bonuses, raises, so many different points where something could go wrong) and PTO feels like it should be simple enough that I can trust HR to handle it (HR puts in the same amount consistently, the only deductions are what I tell them to deduct, how wrong can it go?).

        2. Kayem*

          I don’t need to track mine on my pay stubs because we get all our vacation up front on January 1 and withdraw as needed. We also can’t take our PTO in anything less than one hour blocks, so tracking it to the minute would be a moot point for me.

          My partner doesn’t track theirs on pay stubs because they have a chronic medical condition that requires using leave at least once a week and by the time they get their stubs, they’ve already used more and the pay stub is now inaccurate. They just use the online timesheet portal to check balances.

          1. Kayem*

            Oh, and partner’s leave also accrues at a maddeningly arcane fractional formula to four decimal places that changes depending on the fiscal quarter, department, position, and probably the phases of the moon. Many people have tried to decipher the formula, no one yet has figured it out so they just shrug and assume 53.6692 hours current balance is close enough to accurate.

            1. Calamity Jack-O-Lantern*

              One time my employer at the time changed how much vacation we got per pay period, and I ended up with a balance ending in 56 minutes that was never going to change (because I was only accruing and consuming whole hours). I emailed HR and they rounded my balance up to a full hour.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      It would really depend on how PTO is accrued and reported. If, at the beginning of the year for instance, all of your annual PTO just pops in and you spend it down during the year — yes, employees should notice if they suddenly get more than expected. But if it’s accrued by a formula — a few hours at a time each pay period, every 2 weeks — I wouldn’t notice the difference between 27.3 hours and 31.9 hours. And then on top of that, my PTO rolls over each year and I have over 300 hours, I’m never going to notice 277 vs. 273. The only time I really scrutinized my PTO was when my org was switching to a new payroll software and I took a screen shot of my old info to compare with the new system to make sure that it all rolled over correctly — we don’t do paper paystubs anymore it’s all online.

    4. DisgruntledPelican*

      Yeah, I feel the same way. Like I totally get it’s a blow to have 200 hours taken away, but I can’t imagine not realizing that was there.

      But then I also assist with payroll at my office, so I’m feel like I’m often far more aware that payroll, just like anything else, is done by normal humans which means human error.

      1. Nina*

        I absolutely track my pay and raise hell if anything’s even a few cents off, but I’m in a country with relatively generous legal minimum PTO and a lot of avenues to accrue time off in lieu, often in weird increments. I’m almost always in a position to sell at least a week of PTO a year, and it accrues at different rates depending on how many hours I’ve worked on what days of the week, and also apparently the month, the proximity of public holidays, and my work location, so keeping actual track of it would be a nightmare.

        When I left my last job, paying out all my unused PTO cost the company about 30k. At my current job, I’m up to… a couple hundred hours? something like that. I’m definitely not tracking that the PTO accrual in each weekly payslip matches what I think it should be, because all the factors above mean it basically never will. If my employer’s math was off by a few hours a month and I’d been working there more than a few years, it would be super unlikely for me to miss 200-300 hours either way.

        I’d only really notice whether it was there or not when I went to sell out a week or so, or if I was daydreaming about taking a few months off to bum around the Pacific (which, the industry I’m in… yeah, taking more than three weeks off in a row ever would raise considerable eyebrows).

  24. Turingtested*

    LW #1, I think that’s a great use of PTO but that you might have to be a little flexible if something work related comes up or someone else wants the Friday off and you can’t both do it. That’s only because it’s long term and a desirable day to take off.

    I have 2 colleagues who regularly take Fridays off at this time of year to burn PTO. One gets all their ducks in a row, checks in with the team, and picks up the phone if needed. The other typically has a lot of hands on work on Fridays, makes no attempt to complete it early or make it easy on teammates, and won’t answer the phone. Management issues aside, the latter person causes issues and the former doesn’t.

  25. Ice Princess*

    As much as I feel for LW2 and everyone at that company I cannot wrap my head around how you all did not realize you were getting 80 extra hours of PTO a year? Or were people just hoping it would go on forever and no one would notice? Considering how PTO is usually a pretty standard part of a defined benefit plan this seems so odd.

    1. londonedit*

      I’m wondering about this too. I find our holiday allowance a bit confusing because it’s allocated in hours rather than days (to make it easier to allocate leave to people who work part-time) but several times a year I check how much holiday I have left, because I want to make sure I have enough to take a long break over Christmas and I usually want to save a couple of days to take over into the following year. If I did the hours into days calculation and realised I still apparently had 22 days’ leave left when I know I only get 25 a year and I’d already booked in 10, for example, I’d be asking HR whether something was amiss. And 80 hours is even more than that! It’s more than two weeks for me.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      This is exactly where I land – we accrue, so I have a spreadsheet that I use to keep track of my accruals and planned expenditures so I know what to expect. Our accrual is kind of a weird system based on hours paid (not worked, so you still accrue PTO on used PTO hours, but if you take unpaid time off you do not accrue PTO on those hours) so there’s occasionally a rounding thing that says my spreadsheet and my pay stub may vary by like, 0.01 hours (and it goes back and forth between which one is up or down, so it all balances out in the end) and I notice that 0.01 variance. I can’t imagine somehow getting an extra two full weeks a year and not noticing that.

      And if you get your allotment all up front rather than accruing it, then it makes even less sense.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (Yes, I just checked my spreadsheet against today’s paystub. 0.01 hour discrepancy adjusted.)

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think this may depend how complex the system is and how it’s allocated. If for example the system is updated weekly it would be much more difficult to notice discrepancies (because the extra would be an hour or so). But if it’s just one huge lump on January 1st you would struggle not to notice that it says 150 hours when you know your allocation is 72 or whatever.

      1. londonedit*

        That’s a good point – I’m used to a system where you can access your full allowance from the first day of the holiday year, so I’d immediately notice if my holiday balance started off at 35 days instead of 25. But if it’s a case of accruing a little bit every month throughout the year, I can see how that might make it slightly harder to spot. We also can’t continue to accrue vast amounts of leave – you get 25 days’ holiday and you can carry up to five days over into the following year, but any days carried over have to be used within the first three months of the new holiday year. So you can’t build up a stash of hundreds of days. I can imagine if it’s a situation where you can just keep accruing and accruing, if you’ve been there for several years it might be harder to spot whether you’ve got 120 days or 190 days in the bank.

        I think in an ideal world, a decent company would say OK, we messed this up and it was our fault, so everyone can keep the leave they’ve already accrued but in future your holiday allowance is X and that’s final. But then I imagine they’re not actually under any obligation to do that – just as if you’re accidentally overpaid on your salary then you can be asked to pay it back.

        1. Jay*

          For reference, the company I work for updates your total earned vacation time DAILY. So you see it go up by a fraction of an hour at a time.
          It would be very tough indeed to keep track of how much time/year you are actually earning.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        I think this may depend how complex the system is and how it’s allocated.

        This. For example, at my current company, vacation is accrued per pay period and the system shows how many vacation hours I have available at the moment I check it. Sometimes the math is easy. Say I have 12 vacation days per year and my pay periods are monthly. I accrue 8 hours of vacation every month. If I check the system in March, I’ll see “24 hours available” if I haven’t taken a vacation day so far that year, or maybe “16 hours available” or “8 hours available” if I have taken a vacation day or two. It’s easy for me to see that my available vacation hours match my accrual rate (8 hours per month) and my vacation usage (taken in 8 hour chunks).

        Sometimes the math is not so easy. Say I have 15 vacation days per year, and the pay periods are every two weeks. Now my accrual rate is 4.62 hours per pay period. So if I check the system in March, I’ll see “23.1 hours available” or “27.72 hours available” depending on whether I check after the 5th pay period of the year or the 6th (and assuming I have taken no vacation days so far that year). I can’t easily tell at a glance that the system has the correct vacation hours. If I want to double-check the system, I have to (1) convert vacation days per year to vacation hours per pay period and (2) determine which pay period we are in when I check the system and (3) count up how many vacation hours I have taken so far that year. Not excessively onerous, but why would I put myself through all that work if I think I can trust the system?

        1. doreen*

          It absolutely depends on how complex the system is – I could tell very easily if I was being credited the correct amount because every timesheet showed the starting total , how much I earned and how much I used that period and the ending total. I could tell at a glance if it was correct – if it didn’t say I earned 5.75 hours in that pay period, something was wrong. It would have been a pain if I just decided to check it for the first time in March – but I still had access to the prior timesheets.

      3. Quinalla*

        Agreed, I too was like “how did no one notice?” but if it is accrual every week or each pay period, that is super convoluted to track. I would notice as I’m meticulous about taking all my PTO as we aren’t allowed to roll over except in special circumstances, but I could see folks not noticing or just assuming it was some additional PTO that company decided to give them.

        Were people mostly taking their PTO? If so, seems like the extra PTO worked yeah? Company should just switch to the more PTO permanently IMO! But for sure, should eat anything from the past and start with the correct PTO from when they announced it.

    4. bestbet*

      Based on how the LW wrote about the situation, I think it might not have been a “too many hours given” situation as much as the company not enforcing a “use it or lose it” policy correctly, which I can definitely see more people not realizing.

      That said, plenty of people (I’d even guess most?) don’t track their PTO accruals very closely and tend to just look at their bank and call it a day. While it’s probably unlikely no employee would have noticed, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if most didn’t.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        THIS. People may not have been paying attention exactly to how many days they have. More a oh hey do I have enough time to take that two week vacation — oh I have 100 hours, cool.

        Actual pay, yes people pay attention very closely because they use that money to you know, live. But taking time off, you just vaguely know if you have time to do what you want or not. Especially if you have been accumlating. You might not remember how much exact time you already took off so you don’t know where you should be.

    5. Not Julia’s Child*

      My company is such a sh*t-show that none of us can find current documentation about how many hours we accrue. The most current documentation we found was from 2014, and it didn’t match any of our accruals now. Repeated requests to clarify get lost in the HR ticket black hole. My manager can’t even get a straight answer.

      If OP is working at a similar cluster of a workplace, I can see it happening.

    6. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I think the company waiving the max rollover amount because they wanted people to take less PTO (!!!) for whatever reason likely contributed to that. They were getting to rollover more than before, so I can see how that could get tricky to track, especially if they have a complicated system (not all payroll and benefit systems are created equal)

      1. OtterB*

        OP didn’t mention it, but I know my organization extended the max rollover amounts during the first couple of years of Covid because people couldn’t travel and would rather not spend down time on staycations. We’re transitioning back to the regular amount of rollover now, but they’ve been very clear about what limits apply when. But if your rollover is different, and accrual is fragmented, and you’re taking more of your time in days or half days here and there instead of a week or two at a time, then I can see not being on top of exactly how much you should have.

    7. Billy Preston*

      Our PTO accrues as you go, like some others here have stated. However, the system doesn’t show the amount you currently have, but the balance two weeks ago so you have to do some mental math to calculate if you took any PTO or accrued it within those two weeks. I can definitely see this happening and no user in our system realizing it. Cause what’s listed never matches up with what you currently have.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        Yep, what happened to OP 2 just happened to me as well (but I’m the only employee it happened to and it was only over a few months instead of years) and our system works a lot like yours so I didn’t notice.

    8. Fuse*

      Exactly. I can’t be the only one that reconciled/ tracked it. You are responsible for checking those paystubs for accuracy.

    9. Allonge*

      So – my org explicitly and regularly reminds us that it’s our responsibility to know what we are owed and what our obligations are.

      I agree that this kind of difference should have been noticed, but then the question comes: why did HR not notice it either? I can of course tell the difference between having 2 or 4 weeks time off, but, well, so can HR / management!

    10. Emmy Noether*

      I can easily believe that most people wouldn’t notice (most people don’t track that stuff very closely, and if the numbers aren’t round and it gets complicated because of how it is accumulated/rolled over/tracked, most just trust the system.

      However, this seems to have affected quite a lot of people, and it’s unfortunate that there wasn’t even one weirdo that likes to track stuff and make Excel sheets (me, that would be me) among all those people. We’re not that rare.

      1. Beth*

        Just because OP doesn’t know of a spreadsheet fiend doesn’t mean they don’t exist! They could have chosen to keep quiet because it seemed like it was benefiting them, they could have raised the question to HR and been told that the system was accurate (which HR clearly thought it was, since they were paying out PTO based on it when people left), they could have asked around and heard that this had been normal for a year already and assumed that the benefits guide was out of date.

  26. KHB*

    Q2: The company is handling this terribly now, but I have to wonder how the “glitch” went unchecked for 28 months in the first place. 200 hours over 28 months is more than 10 extra days a year. Did this truly go on for more than two years with NOBODY noticing that you were all racking up that much more PTO than you were supposed to? Or did people notice, but they kept their mouths shut, because they assumed the error would ultimately work out in their favor?

    Q3: We had a situation recently like the one Alison describes. Cecil got married in a big fancy ceremony, and he made a big deal out of planning time off for the ceremony, honeymoon, etc. Meanwhile, at about the same time, Valentina got married at City Hall, and she just mentioned it discreetly to a few of us in passing. Our admin took up a gift collection for Cecil’s wedding but not for Valentina’s. I don’t know if that’s because she didn’t know about Valentina’s wedding, or if Valentina had asked her not to make a big deal out of it, or what. But it felt really weird to be asked to donate to a gift for Cecil when I knew Valentina had gotten married too.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I suspect that increasing the max rollover helped hide the glitch. If anyone in finance, HR, or leadership noticed that the financial liability for PTO was higher than in past years, they may have chalked it up to their decision to increase the rollover without digging deeper.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    #1: It seems like it would be ok overall to take this time off, but I agree I wouldn’t necessarily mention it’s for crafting – though if you start taking Friday afternoons off as it gets toward winter people might think you’re observing Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath – Friday night)

    #2: That does suck and I agree that the company should take the hit, or at least a compromise of some kind. On the other hand, didn’t anyone in the entire company realize their PTO balance was wrong all this time?

    1. WellRed*

      That’s what I’m wondering. If you know you get x days/weeks per year, even though company accruals are weird in how they do it, how do you get “ overpaid” in vacation days. I still the company needs to make this right but if I magically had a few extra hundred hours of PTO I’d probably question it.

      1. Kayem*

        Since it’s a gradual accrual, they might not have noticed. OP did say it was over the course of 28 months and that it was calculated per pay period.

        At current job, I’d notice if suddenly I had that much because we get all our PTO on Jan 1 and then withdraw throughout the year. At OldJob, I likely wouldn’t notice if my pay stub went from something like 6.497 accrued hours to 9.326 accrued hours. Everyone was told we had 15 days/year of PTO, but the accrual was something like 15 minutes for every so many hours worked. PTO also rolled over and we got a certain number of extra hours for each year we stayed with the company. At most, I’d probably just be like “Oh nice, I leveled up!”

  28. Nia*

    What makes LW2’s situation different than when a company accidentally overpays employees?

    There’s been letters about that and the answer has been the employee should have noticed and brought it to their employer’s attention and there’s nothing wrong with the employer taking the money back.

    I think the employer should have to eat the cost either way but I don’t understand why the answer is different for PTO than for salary.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      For me the difference is how long it’s been going on. If you are overpaid then typically it’s one or maybe two paychecks, and you might get one or two paychecks to pay it back. Everything happens very quickly.

      But this is so long it all happens in multiple tax years (argh), and applies to people who have long since left.

      In my opinion the employer should write off anything old (eg previous tax years, or previous PTO years) and adjust only this year. It could be a big hit, but it’s a hit they’ve already taken, if you see what I mean.

      Also, being able to carry that much PTO is a recipe for accounting disaster at the best of times.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        And they paid out unpaid leave with the wrong balance. They didn’t catch it and notice they were paying out a lot in unpaid leave.

        They do not intend to go back after those people, even though it is clearly an overpayment. But do intend to enforce repayment against those who leave and have a negative balance. (I would leave and say good luck collecting).

    2. Sloanicota*

      The other difference is that employees are required to reconcile their tax payments every year against their W2 and paystub, so it’s something that should and would generally be caught sooner (although I know there are of people whose spouses do the taxes or even don’t file taxes). How do you not realize you’ve been overpaid by a large amount when you’re looking at a W2 with annual earnings that exceed your salary? PTO accrual is a bit more confusing, sometimes it rolls over and you’ve been there a long time, plus there’s no clear time it gets reconciled. I admit I rarely review mine (which would mean I took two weeks in a year and somehow have a giant bucket just accruing on its own, not that I thought it was okay to take five weeks).

    3. Delphine*

      I think if the employer had been overpaying employees for years and the overpayment reached thousands of dollars in total per employee before the employer noticed (even $50 per check can rack up after a few years), the advice might not be that the employer would be right to claw the money back. It’s probably about how much of a burden an employer’s mistake creates for an employee.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        But, conversely, if the employer had been underpaying for all that time, people would be yelling that the person should beaded whole woth back pay. Not many people would say that the underpaid person should swallow the discrepancy. So why is it different when it’s the company losing out?

        1. Beth*

          Because companies aren’t people. When a person gets underpaid by a few thousand dollars, they’ll likely struggle with basic bills like food, medical care, rent or mortgage payments, etc. When a company gets underpaid by a few thousand dollars, that’s probably a tiny slice of their budget.

          And maybe even more importantly, the company is the one managing the entire payroll structure (or selecting a vendor to manage it). It’s their responsibility to set it up right. The individual employee should be checking that they’re getting what they’re owed, sure, but the setup is ultimately not something they control or have direct power over–even if they find a problem, they have to go to the company to fix it and hope that the company follows through. So yeah, I do think the company is more responsible if there’s a problem. And if they ignore or fail to check for long enough that there’s a huge discrepancy, the responsible party should be the ones to bear the consequences of that.

    4. kalli*

      PTO balances are different in that they don’t always correlate to wages per hour or accrue per hour. If someone is salaried and gets 10 PTO days at the start of the year, them having 5 PTO days left at the end of the year doesn’t change their salary. If someone is hourly and accrues 2.7 PTO days per 40 hr week, then when they take their PTO they receive PTO wages based on the hours taken, that’s much more able to be mentally addressed as ‘wages’ than the ‘benefit’ the salaried arrangement gives.

    5. Student*

      There are also legal time limits that may play into the appropriate response, depending on local laws. This incident covers a long time, and depending on the details and local laws, they may not be legally able to claw back all of the PTO – maybe a significant part of it, still.

      My employer overpaid me. I reported it as soon as I noticed. They ignored my report, and my two follow-up attempts. I held the money aside in case I needed to pay it back for a time, but there was also a time limit on how long they had to claw the money back, based on my local laws. So after the time limit, I stopped holding the money aside and considered the matter closed. I’m not going to steal, but I’m also not going to try to fix it forever, and I’m certainly not going to drop a bag of cash on their doorstep and hope for the best.

    6. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I notice immediately if my salary/paycheck is off because it’s the same amount (roughly) each pay period (2 weeks), but PTO is counted in hours not money until it’s used, so I may not notice for, like this case, months or years when I go to use it. Depending on the state (or country) PTO isn’t even owed to the employee in the same legal sense as a wage — it’s an optional benefit for many — so it’s rational that the same rules don’t really apply. I think the company should eat the cost of already paid out PTO — no negative balances, no going after money — but they could adjust the accrual rate and/or spread out the loss of PTO over time instead of just wiping away 200 hours from each person immediately. It would still suck, and people might still feel demoralized and leave.

  29. Kate*

    #1 is actually a great way to use PTO! That goes double if, like me, you work in a place where it’s never “a good time” to take a big chunk of time.

    After I got cashed out of hundreds of hours of vacation time last year, I started using it for a pottery class every Thursday morning.

    Would I prefer to take a big chunk of “real” vacation time? Yes!
    Will my boss ever actually approve it, when push comes to shove? No!
    Does having that mid-week break make me feel sane, and like my job isn’t *actually* taking over my entire life? Yes!

    1. Sloanicota*

      Certainly in my workplace, where PTO doesn’t roll over and is deleted at the end of every year, taking friday half days is better than losing it (as I do).

  30. Laura Cruz*

    The thing that jumps out to me for LW2’s company is they have the audacity after making an error like that to additionally threaten the employees that they will have to pay back the PTO balance if they leave the organization. Yea, good luck getting that.

    1. Student*

      Bad news – this is an instance where they can potentially just withhold it from your last paycheck. Depends on local laws.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        They would see me in court. Some states have treble damages for employment law violations.

        1. Tally miss*

          If they are 5 weeks in the hole for time off, does that mean they just lost their time off for the next year or two?

  31. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    LW1–If you being off doesn’t dictate someone else not being able to be off, do it!*

    My job would not care if all but one of the team was gone on Friday afternoons. My partner’s work, though, can only have two people gone at a time. I get to hear every weekend about the one person who has a standing appointment every Friday at 2PM that they leave early for.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > My job would not care if all but one of the team was gone on Friday afternoons.

      So what would the remaining person do if they ever wanted/needed to take a Friday afternoon? That doesn’t pass the “what would it be like if everyone did it” test.

      1. Myrin*

        I don’t think it’s the same “one”, as in, always the same person remaining, it’s just that it can’t be everyone on the same day.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yes, I’ve had jobs where a specific number of people can be off, and I’ve had no problems with being told, “No, we already have our max number off, pick a different day.” Sometimes I’m able to get that time off and sometimes not, but I know what the rules are and that they’re applied fairly and that’s enough for me.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Yeah I thought that was probably the case, but thinking more that if time off is routinely approved so that an individual (different person each time) employee is the only one “holding down the fort” – what happens if they are sick, wanted to take that day themselves, etc. It seems like there wouldn’t be enough slack in the system. Because you can be sure if they were out sick or whatever, the department being left “empty” would be attributed to them leaving the team in the lurch by calling in, not to the others who had all taken off at the same time.

      2. Dinwar*

        The team I work on avoids this by having a calendar on the wall in the break room and regular discussions of planned PTO. That way we can make sure everyone’s happy, everything’s covered, and everyone gets enough time off.

        “Discuss plans and adjust to find a solution that works for everyone” does pass the “what would it be like if everyone did it” test (which is a fairly limited test anyway). If everyone acted like adults at work this blog would have far fewer letters to respond to!

      3. Someone Online*

        Not every job relies on coverage, though. If no one was in the office in my job on a Friday afternoon there wouldn’t be a problem.

  32. Doc McCracken*

    LW1 There doesn’t seem to be much of an advantage to being detailed about the group other than it is an organized community group. As long as you are flexible on the scheduling for “big” things and this doesn’t cause major disruptions to your job duties, this should be fine. Just communicate with your team and be open to changing it up if it doesn’t work out.

  33. Bast*

    LW1: As long as you have the PTO to use, what you do with it is your concern. I know plenty of people who don’t take any actual vacations, but will take every Friday off all summer/take half days. I am none the wiser as to what they do with their time — attend a craft group, get their nails done, or sit and binge watch reality TV for hours on end– and it really isn’t my business. Their time is their time. The ONLY time it has ever been an issue is if too many people are trying to put in for the same day, as Fridays do tend to be a popular day to take off. In this case, usually someone is willing to move the day, and if not, there have been a few occasions where we just had to power through as it was only a single day.

  34. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (too much PTO) – did no one notice that they were being given more than the particulars said? Did no one query it? I bet some people did and kept quiet, hoping it wouldn’t be noticed (and not wanting to be known as the person who caused it to be stopped) – and they would have been right, until now.

    If a “glitch” caused you to be paid extra relative to the agreed salary, would we expect the company to swallow that as well? Maybe some people will say yes, but I do think there’s the “ought to have known” angle. The same as if you ever get a deposit into your bank account that wasn’t intended. Do you tell the bank about it, or just spend the money? It’s the same principle.

    I feel like I’m at odds with all the comments suggesting sueing, unions, etc.

    1. kalli*

      If someone noticed and asked, and the answer they got was ‘well that’s what the computer says so it must be right’, then asking wouldn’t have helped.

      If the glitch affected totals and the accruals were stated normally, someone would have to be actively comparing their payslip period-to-period to have noticed.

      The complicating issue here is that everyone had high balances and were encouraged to use them to get them down, and that didn’t trigger a ‘wtf’ from payroll, and that people who left and received their full stated amount as leave or with their final pay don’t seem to be included in the recouping efforts, so some people have used the extra leave and are in the negative or have to actually pay back money, some can just have their balances changed back to ‘normal’, and some don’t have to change or repay anything. Because some people don’t have to repay anything, it shouldn’t matter if anyone asked or not, everyone should not have to repay anything. If they’re taking every ex-employee who benefited to small claims and proving that yes, everyone received too much leave and they were overpaid and didn’t know until now, this is the amount for this ex-worker, and enforcing it as a debt, then yeah, that’s when everyone has to pay it back.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > If someone noticed and asked, and the answer they got was ‘well that’s what the computer says so it must be right’, then asking wouldn’t have helped.

        Would you just go away satisfied with “computer says it’s right so it must be”? I wouldn’t. I’d try to ask other people if they had experienced the same (if relationship / culture allowed) and then I would go back to HR with my own calculations and ask them to detail out their calculation for the computer-generated number.

        1. kalli*

          Which works if the HR person you talk to has control, which they may not. The point being, if HR/payroll think they’re right, they’re not invested in fixing it or being told they are not, in fact, right.

        2. Ticotac*

          I would be satisfied, yeah. If the person in charge of PTO says, “nah it’s fine,” my assumption is that they know how that stuff works and I don’t.

    2. Michelle*

      I would have noticed because when I first started, we had to meticulously keep count of our PTO or we might lose out because we did not have a tracking system (we do now), we were just expected to keep up with it and turn it in with our time reports. I would have been the one to say “Hey it looks like I have extra hours of PTO. Did I miscalculate?” because I wouldn’t want to miss out on paid time and we are not allowed to rollover anything but the measly 24 hours/3 days of sick leave.

      That being said, I think their needs to be some sort of compromise since this has been going on for so long. I don’t understand how this was happening for over 2 years and no one questioned it, not even once?

    3. Capt. Liam Shaw*

      You’re not the only one feeling this way. The LW even states people were saving the time, so they knew it was wrong. I disagree with AAM on this. I don’t think the company should just take the hit. This mistake could cost the company tens of thousands of dollars depending on how many employees were impacted. This could have already cost the company tens of thousands of dollars if folks cashed out PTO when they left since this started.

      I do like the analogy about checks though, feels fitting here too.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I don’t think the company should take the hit, but I do think clawing back PTO is a mistake for morale and logistics. I’d float the idea of halving the correct PTO accrual going forward until the balances return to where they should be (zero distorts behavior too much for my taste, even if it does correct the imbalances faster).

        If someone departs before that correction period is over, that’s just the cost of business and screwing up the PTO tracking.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Saving the time does not necessarily mean they knew it was wrong.

        More like they looked at their paystubs saw they had 3 weeks of PTO and did not take PTO because they wanted it for the big trip in summer/over the holidays. Not that they realized they shouldn’t have 3 weeks of PTO.

        Saving PTO is pretty normal is you know you have something big coming up.

        1. Momma Bear*

          It could certainly have “looked right”. I don’t know off the top of my head what I have banked unless I check the system. I know how much I accrue per paycheck. I can see how people just assumed the math was right, especially if it incremented over time or the amount per pay period was listed and it made sense. It’s not entirely clear here if it was just that it jumped from x to y or if the whole setup was wrong and it accumulated incorrectly from there. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if it coincided with some kind of system change or annual review, which would also possibly make an increase not look out of place. So TL;DR, there’s a lot of ways people could plausibly not know this was wrong.

          I agree, though, that taking 200 hours now is horrible and even if they don’t lose people immediately, they’re going to lose people who disagree with this correction. The company should have eaten the cost especially since they didn’t catch it prior and PAID OUT overages to exiting employees. If they can do that, they can adjust the PTO for people who stayed and just move on from there. Don’t stomp on people for your mistake.

          I think LW should follow the advice…and dust off their resume.

      3. Parenthesis Guy*

        The LW wrote that people were saving PTO for honeymoons and vacations. If I know in August that I’m going away for two weeks in January, I’ll make sure to save PTO in August so that I have it for when I need it. When the company “adjusted” everyone’s PTO balance, people that thought they had enough PTO for their vacations/honeymoons/what have you, discovered that they no longer did. That’s a problem, because it’s hard to tell your future spouse that you can no longer go on that honeymoon you were planning. In no way is what they did dishonest.

        This has the potential to cost the company tens of thousands per employee.

        1. Calamity Jack-O-Lantern*

          Also the company removed the cap because people couldn’t or wouldn’t travel during COVID.

          My company didn’t remove the cap, but they did raise it, and even so I frequently took days off just to use them not lose them. And then when they lowered the cap back to normal last year I had to take that day and the day before, or I would have lost those two days too.

      4. kiki*

        I’m pretty sure LW just meant that folks were intentionally not using the time because they had upcoming life events they wanted to put that time towards, not because they knew the PTO accrual was incorrect. I think they said this to highlight the huge impact it will have on folks’ lives– I would be livid if I were planning on having 5 weeks of PTO to put towards parental leave and then found out I had none or a negative balance.

        Additionally, I’m sure some folks stayed in this job because of how much PTO they had accrued. Folks might have turned down jobs with higher salaries because they wouldn’t have 5 weeks of PTO available to them.

      5. Samwise*

        People save the time for all sorts of reasons, not just unethical reasons.

        Here is why I personally have saved PTO–none of these are nefarious:
        It’s hard to find time to get away due to work requirements, especially when we are short-staffed
        I want to take a really long vacation next year
        I want to get pregnant and I want/need maternity leave to be paid
        I have a young child and I know I will need more time off than usual once they go to daycare and catch every illness
        I have had a sick family member and I know I may need extra time off / I want my FMLA leave to be paid

      6. Calamity Jack-O-Lantern*

        If people were trying to trick the system, they would have used up the time, not just let it accrue.

    4. Lainey L. L-C*

      I’m still not sure how much time was showing up, let’s say monthly, for employees. I’m still not used to the system we have at work, it shows up as hours, and we’re earning every month a certain rate…I don’t know that I’d catch it.

      Having had a “glitch” with a paycheck once, at the same exact time I was also getting overtime and holiday pay, I didn’t notice that either until they came back and were like, “We overpaid you, so your next check will be smaller.” Once they mentioned and I looked back at the stub and did the math, yeah they had overpaid, but all I saw when I glanced over it was, “oh overtime pay is on there, holiday pay is on there, that’s why it’s so much more than usual.”

    5. kiki*

      Somebody probably did notice like you said, but some PTO accrual plans are complex and require you to track, like, fractions of days accrued per week or something. I can totally see most people not doing the math and trusting the system in that sort of scenario.

      I think if a company overpaid an employee gradually overtime over several years in a way that the employee was likely to not notice, the company should swallow the cost. Though perhaps the employee should have noticed sooner, I think the onus is more on the employer to track this very closely.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        Yep, the same thing that happened to OP 2 just happened to me (but I’m the only one affected and it was only for a few months) and this is part of why I didn’t notice. We accrue in weird fractions, plus there’s a pretty big lag in updating our balances.

    6. glebers*

      Even 200 hours over 2.5 years is a pretty small amount per pay period. Presumably most people’s incorrect balances were even less. I’d bet the number of people who noticed and felt they were getting away with something was vanishingly small.

      And if they do notice, why not trust the company’s accounting? Oh I have 17.3 more hours of PTO than I would’ve guessed. Maybe it’s because …
      (… of that reorg I was part of. … of that promotion I got. … I’m misremembering my sick/vacation PTO mix. etc etc)

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, if the company used a weekly accrual system, each week they’d see less than 2 hours extra per week– that’s easy to miss. I also feel like most people check the math on their paystub/FTO accrual a few times when they start a job, then going forward just make sure that each pay period they’re receiving about the same. So it’d be easy to miss.

    7. Angstrom*

      We accrue PTO at X hours per pay period, and only see the current balance on our electronic time sheets. So if the balance is roughly what I expect, I don’t worry. Would I notice that I was getting 5.79 hours instead of 4.63 hours of PTO every two weeks? I doubt it.

    8. Busy Middle Manager*

      FWIW loads of companies use ADP for payroll. They redid their software in maybe early 2022, could’ve been late 2021. There was a glitch with PTO in it and the field was blanked out for months. So to me this is different than over-paying. There were many months where we had to go to HR to ask how much PTO we had, and they tracked it outside ADP. We certainly couldn’t have been the only company with this problem since the software is used at thousands of companies. So during this period, which felt like most of 2022, we just assumed ADP was tracking PTO time correctly!

    9. Hiring Mgr*

      Same. I agree the company should eat this mistake, but I do think that if this error had gone the other way, the employees would have figured out how to calculate their balance :)

      1. AngryOctopus*

        People would notice if they were being given under the correct amount of PTO, because they won’t have the time they know they’re entitled to. Will I notice that I have 7 hours given instead of 6.25? Unlikely, esp if I’m just letting hours roll because I am taking a long vacation in 8 months. Will I notice in 2 months that I got 5.25 instead of 6? Yes, because I have LESS that what I thought I should have. I still likely won’t notice the paycheck to paycheck difference. But if I know I should have days available when I go into the system to put in time off, and I don’t? Yeah, I’m going to notice that. I still may not know exactly how much it’s off (which is where company tracking comes in), but “I know I should have 4 days, why do I not have 32 hours available here???” is more obvious than “oh look I have 40 hours” when you should maybe only have 35.

    10. Angstrom*

      Part of the problem is wanting to claw back 2+ years of errors in one lump. It’d seem a lot less punitive if the company said something like “You have X too many hours of PTO. We’ll divide that by 28 and tht’s how much we’ll reduce your PTO accumulation for the next 28 months.”

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Or even “you can keep up to X time because this is our error” and going forward the accumulation is correct. But suddenly saying “oh, we screwed up, so you don’t have 120 hours vacation, you have 32” is fostering bad feelings everywhere.

      2. Phony Genius*

        Your plan makes more sense than the one I was going to propose: to freeze PTO accumulation until they’ve caught up to the overage. But that won’t work for people who already spent most or all of it. Spreading it out makes more sense. (But maybe shorten it to a year, depending on the impact.)

  35. Dinwar*

    LW #1: “My only concern would be whether the recurring nature of it will make you harder to schedule with.”

    I disagree with this statement. My experience has been the opposite: Routine recurring events, even personal ones, make scheduling easier.

    A colleague of mine had a standing appointment that required him to be gone early every other Wednesday, and it actually scheduling. We knew that he was going to be gone at 3 pm every other Wednesday, so we could plan around it. We treated it no differently than we would any other standing meeting. From a professional standpoint it made no difference to us whether he had a meeting with a client, a vender, another group within our organization, or some personal thing. What mattered was that he had a chunk of time where he was routinely unavailable so we didn’t schedule things then.

    It’s when the event is random that it can becomes disruptive. “Every other Friday this person will be unavailable” is pretty easy to work with. If you’re taking off Friday one week, Tuesday the next, not taking time off for two weeks, then taking a long lunch Wednesday and Thursday the next, it becomes a royal pain. But even that’s not the end of the world–no PM I know has the same meeting schedule two weeks in a row, so while this is annoying, it’s within the boundaries of normal business annoyances.

    One key thing to bear in mind: The ONLY routine burden this created for us was the mild and routine burden of “Look at his schedule and make sure he’ll be available before posting a meeting request.” The guy is extremely diligent and made sure that his work was handled before he left. If he’d left us with a pile of crap to deal with every other week this would not have gone so well. I know sometimes it’s inevitable–there were times he’d ask one of us to handle a task that needed to be done during the time he was gone–but such events need to be the exception. Again, keep it within the bounds of normal work behaviors and treat it like you would any other meeting.

    1. Lily Potter*

      Dinwar, I would be in agreement with you about this (recurring appointments being NBD to schedule around) except that LW#1 is asking for Friday afternoons. This falls into a “prime real estate” category in the world of scheduling. LW#1 taking off every Friday to pursue a personal pursuit may make it hard for others to take time off themselves and may, indeed, be seen as frivolous by her co-workers. Or not! Each workplace is different. Maybe it truly wouldn’t be a big deal. LW#1, do you have someone in your office to provide feedback on the idea before formally pursuing it? You are, technically, allowed to request the time off and your manager, technically, has the right to say no in order to meet office needs. We can’t tell from the information you provided how it will be perceived.

      One area I disagree with Allison’s response is the whole “you don’t need to tell people what you’re using PTO for” thing. It can work to be vague about what you’re doing when you ask off for one Friday afternoon. Asking for every Friday afternoon off is going to mean explaining your reasons for effectively changing your schedule. If your manager is hesitant for whatever reason to approve the every Friday request, s/he is likely to ask you point blank why you want a schedule change. Even if you somehow get the request approved, it’s going to be really hard to keep the contents of your Friday afternoon a secret from the people you chat with during the workday. Staying vague indefinitely is going to invite speculation – maybe LW#1 has cancer and is taking weekly radiation! Maybe she’s started a side business and has a gig every Friday! You get the idea. If you stay vague with most but tell a few select people, it will get out eventually – not necessarily because of gossip but because people are human. Your trusted co-worker Valentina won’t go around blabbing your business, but she might inadvertently say “LW1 is on her way to her craft group, so I’ll be covering her calls after 12:30”. You don’t have to proactively tell the world your business, but being vague really isn’t feasible for the long term.

      1. Dinwar*

        It’s not every Friday, it’s every other Friday. That still may be annoying to coworkers, and the LW should discuss it with them, but it does make it less of a burden.

        You’re right that we can’t tell how it will be perceived. I wasn’t trying to address that, though. My argument was far more limited–I was arguing against the idea that periodic, predictable time off would interfere with scheduling. It hasn’t in my experience because 1) it’s not functionally different from any other routine obligation, 2) the predictability makes it easier for coworkers to manage, and 3) the people I’ve worked with went out of their way to avoid making this a burden on the rest of us (this is more “advice” than “reason”). If the company culture is such that these don’t apply, the LW will need to take that into account.

        1. Lily Potter*

          Oops, you’re right! LW1 is asking for every other Friday, not every Friday. I don’t think it would have changed much of my answer though. LW1 needs to think through the optics, regardless. As far as my “prime real estate” comment, I’ll stand by that one. Yes, there are places that are slower on Fridays so perhaps a reoccurring PTO wouldn’t evoke as much envy in those places – but I can’t think of any M-F workplace where people wouldn’t love to be off Friday afternoon.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Whether Friday afternoons are “prime real estate” for scheduling depend very much on your company and whether it’s a coverage-based job. Many places I’ve worked try to minimize Friday afternoon meetings, and they aren’t coverage-based, so it would be a fairly easy time to schedule recurring appointments of any sort.

  36. I should really pick a name*

    The only thing I’d be concerned about is if regularly being unavailable on a specific day causes issues.

    Ideally, the reason you want the time off shouldn’t be relevant. Where I work, you book time off by entering it into the system, you don’t need to give a reason for it.

  37. Spicy Tuna*

    Never tell anyone you’re leaving until you’ve passed the drug test and background check! Even if you don’t use drugs and have a squeaky clean background!

    I once had an offer for a job with security clearance. The offer was contingent on passing a thorough background check. The 3rd party company they hired to do background checks made a mistake and my background did not check out!! I was able to sort it out, thankfully, but it delayed my “official” offer by a few weeks. It would have been really bad and stressful had I given my notice to my existing job before the background check came back

    1. Kayem*

      And if the third party drug testing service they use isn’t good or they don’t do their due diligence, there could be a failed test that could result in a delayed or rescinded offer.

      Last two drug tests I had to take (both library volunteer positions) were supposed to verify my prescription history from the form I submitted at the time of the test. They did not and the antidepressant I take came back as positive for amphetamines (the one I take is known for it). Both times, I wound up having to have my doctor submit information to HR and it delayed my start dates by a few weeks (kind of tanked my morale for a bit too).

  38. Pretty as a Princess*

    LW 1 – I don’t think you need to provide your reason, but you do want to understand if a “regular” PTO pattern like that requires any special approval. We have a policy that PTO use that is going to be a long-term pattern (beyond 2 weeks) needs to be approved specifically at a higher level than the direct manager. It has to do with the fact that in a lot of our project work, having someone routinely absent on the same days basically means that you have to plan projects they are on around never having them available on those days. Which is different from “Jane will be taking off next Tuesday and Wednesday.” Some of this has to do with access to certain data or facilities where you can’t just swap in another human due to legal access requirements (“need to know/need to access”). Some of it has to do with making sure that all of the people in a similar function (say our administrative support team or financial analysts) have the ability to use their PTO as well. If you have two admins and one claims every other Friday afternoon off, that could prevent the second admin from being able to use their own PTO if the department has coverage requirements, making the request less likely to be approved.

    TLDR none of us know the specific requirements of your job, but I would find out your employer policy and broach the idea of the every other Friday PTO with your supervisor. If you are in a department with coverage needs, you might need to sweeten the pot by being flexible.

    1. Anon for this one*

      That really stinks. There are a lot of medical appointments that need to recur, and needing to publicize “hey I’m going to be having chemo and will be out every other Wednesday afternoon for the next six months” or similar really means disclosing more personal medical information than most people would be comfortable with beyond their direct manager (who presumably actually knows them).

      1. kalli*

        It has to go to approval, not necessarily all the details. There’s room for the manager to go to bat and keep private info private.

  39. Hiring Mgr*

    I know it has its drawbacks, but one big advantage of unlimited PTO/sick time/etc is you don’t worry about the sorts of things in #1.

    1. Salsa Your Face*

      This, unfortunately, is untrue.

      My former employer held an information session when they made the switch to unlimited PTO. One of the questions they pre-emptively answered is “does that mean I can use PTO every Friday and give myself a 4 day work week?” The answer was “yes, you can do that under this PTO policy. However, if your job can routinely be done in only 4 days each week, we might start to question whether you need to be given more work or whether your role is needed at all.”

      Even though OP is asking about a half day a week rather than a full day, they run the risk of giving people a similar impression.

    2. kiki*

      You don’t need to be worried about the glitches, but if you switch managers or HR decides to implement a more restrictive policy, you have to deal with the confusion of what length of vacation will be considered reasonable.

      I work at a company with an unlimited PTO policy and my current manager is great– I was just able to go to Spain for two weeks without issue. But my manager is being promoted and the new manager I’ll report to is known to be a bit stingier with time off requests. I have a wedding and honeymoon I’m planning– will I still be able to take 3 weeks off under the new manager? We’ll see!

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        That is true – to me it’s less about the “unlimited” and more about the overall flexibility in terms of not having to think about sick time, how much PTO do I have left, what bucket should it come from etc when you just want to take a day, or plan a vacation.

        But to me regardless of what type of PTO anyone has, wedding and honeymoon deserve three weeks!

      2. Beth*

        Time to put in the PTO requests now, while you still have your current manager??? Even if they’re far out in the future, I bet you can get them approved in the system and on the calendar.

    3. Beth*

      Agreed. It depends on having a manager who believes in people taking time off, which isn’t a given…but if you do, this system can work very well.

  40. rollyex*

    If my company reduced my compensation abruptly by the equivalent of 200 hours of pay. If they said they couldn’t afford doing that all at once, I’d accept a payment plan. But it has to come back. I’d be talking with an attorney and/or looking at leaving the organization if they were not reasonable.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > I’d accept a payment plan. But it has to come back

      There’s nothing to “come back” or to be repaid… other than from the employees to the company potentially. You could ask whether the company will accept a payment plan on the PTO instead of having it zeroed out at once though… (which is what some of the comments suggest). The company isn’t “reducing your compensation”, it is correcting an erroneous overpayment.

  41. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    For #2 – some people very carefully check their PTO and calculate every pay period. Some don’t. Neither way is right or wrong. But it can be complicated. I worked one job where I got standard PTO of 2 weeks, plus comp time. I worked a lot of OT. I didn’t take vacations until my boss started begging me to take time off for my own good. But even then I only took short vacations, a couple days here and there. When I left, I still got a pay out of over a month’s worth of time. Which is clearly way more than PTO.

    We don’t know how the company calculated PTO, how much they were supposed to have, if any other factors added to that time or what that would have made it easier to catch. This is on the company, not the employees.

  42. Ragazza*

    Can’t LW #3 just send her own gift to the report? I suppose it comes with the risk that other reports would feel slighted if they don’t get one for birthdays or whatever, but not sure why managers always default to “let’s all pitch in.”

    1. kalli*

      I feel like if it’s just one person sending the gift, it creates less chance of other people feeling left out if they don’t get one, because the ‘they’re personal friends outside of work’/’they work closer together than we do’ kind of excuse is available. When a whole team or the whole org is involved, that’s when everyone has the right to expect the same treatment because it’s a team/org thing. When managers do it for a report, everyone on that level of report (and above, if there are multiple layers between the report and that manager) expects the same because they have the same or closer relationship with that manager.

      Ideally in this case the gift would come out of an org ‘gifts for employee morale’ fund, and the team contribution would be limited to ‘sign a card to go with our gift’, while individual team members could choose to give something personally if they’re close enough that the friendship itself warrants it. Asking people to optionally contribute money will always create pressure to be seen to be giving, risks making people feel resentful they have to pay for a company gift, may not take into account people’s ability to give etc. however much someone wants to minimise it.

    2. Risha*

      I agree with this. If you want to buy this person something, by all means do it. But I don’t understand why everyone has to pitch in for it. Even if it’s presented as “low pressure”, many people will feel obligated to pitch in so they’re not labeled as not a team player (which even if you don’t do it, they may still feel that way). Some people may not have any extra money to give, they may not like this person, there could be so many reasons why someone doesn’t want to pitch in any money. I know I don’t have any extra money to give, I’m on an extremely strict budget right now. I would feel like I would have to contribute, even if you said no pressure. And I would not feel comfortable sharing with my boss that it would be financially difficult for me to give money. There are many people in my situation.

  43. HannahS*

    OP1, I am both very enthusiastic (and envious!) about the possibility of taking a half-day every other week on Fridays and also would advise caution, because I think it really, really depends on your field and your specific workplace.

    It may not matter in your field–I have friends who work in tech and they just work whatever hours on whatever day they want and as long as the work gets done, it works out. If your field is like that, then it should be fine.

    On the other hand, I’m in a coverage-based field where Mondays and Fridays are the busiest days, and using vacation time that way would be taken very badly. I routinely cover for colleagues taking a half-day off here or there for medical appointments or whatever and they do the same for me. But if someone was routinely taking off Friday afternoons for fun, it would leave me working late every single Friday and make it harder for me to take vacations. It would reflect badly on someone who did that. But I think if you were in a field like that, you’d know it!

  44. glebers*

    LW2- I had a similar issue in a pretty sizable (~15k employees) company when they slashed paternity leave benefits with three weeks notice. So you could’ve planned your whole leave and daycare strategy based on the original benefit and had it changed once everything was locked in.

    When I got nowhere with HR, I emailed the CEO. He realized it was ridiculous and pushed back the change by a year. The takeaway was that no one in HR felt they had the power to do anything even though they all agreed the original plan was bad. And I think top leadership just hadn’t really considered it.

    So: is this stubbornness coming from rank and file HR or actual leadership? If the former, you can try going over their heads. Benefits administrators may feel like they have no choice but your executives may not have really considered it.

    If this isn’t the case, I’d encourage everyone to individually complain with their specific hardship to HR and leadership, plus leave Glass Door reviews

  45. Brambles are not the only fruit*

    LW1: This is exactly what your PTO is for so just book your Friday afternoon off and don’t concern yourself about how it looks for a second. Yes, I work in Europe and yes we have people taking a whole month off at a time or working 4 days per week and you know what, the world keeps turning, businesses keep businessing and no one says anything and that’s how it should be. Don’t pre-emptively offer to be flexible, you don’t have to mitigate the effects of your absence. If we have people joining a meeting or taking calls during their time off, it is greatly appreciated but certainly not expected. I can hear the chorus of ‘but that’s not how it is in America’ and it’s clearly not. I understand that there are things that cannot be changed in the short term such as, the introduction of work contracts, minimum 28 days of paid annual leave, de-coupling of work and health insurance etc, but what you can change immediately is your attitude to work. Work hard and diligently by all means and get pleasure from your work but it is just work. There should be no guilt associated with wanting to do a Friday afternoon crafts thing because these are the things that life is about.

  46. This_is_Todays_Name*

    I don’t think you owe your employer an explanation of WHY you’re using you’re EARNED time off. If I will be gone for several days/week(s) I simply say, “I’ll be off on XYZ day(s), but of course, feel free to text me for anything truly urgent, and I’ll answer if and when I can.” Or something to that effect. I may mention something like “Note that I’ll be in X timezone so it may be difficult for us to connect,” but for a half day now and then? Even a regularly scheduled one? I just block it on my calendar and say the day before or that morning, “Hey don’t forget I’m on PTO at noon. Have a great weekend.” Nobody has EVER pushed back asking “where and why”. Of course if your boss is an a-hole, YMMV but it sounds like he’s not. So just … take your time off!

  47. This_is_Todays_Name*

    For LW3: I completely agree with AG. I was the person always organizing the celebratory events; I managed our “Sunshine Fund” and people would immediately quit it after THEIR bday or whatever, so I’d end up paying for cakes and cards out of my pocket, etc… or else I was going around hat in hand asking for donation for so and so’s whatever. My bday? Nothing. My child born? Nothing. My 3 week life-threatening stay in the hospital? Nothing. If anyone on your team is invited to the wedding, they’ll be providing a personal gift. If not invited people may resent being asked to give. A congratulations card is great (and look if you as the manager, want to slip a gift card in there with a note to “Have a nice dinner on us!” or something well that’s nice but not necessary. Best is if your company has (and most do) a morale fund of some sort where you can ask that a lovely fruit or wine basket or bottle of champagne or something be sent to happy couple on behalf of the entire company–obviously the basket is dependent upon the event and the people blah blah blah… Just my .02 cents (because someone WILL jump on me to say “Some poeple don’t drink wine or champagne, and diabetics shouldn’t have fruit and….).

    1. Anax*

      Yeah, agreed.

      I’ve had coworkers organize a nominal gift of time to a celebrating coworker, and that was cute – but not monetary, and since it was on work time, the company was still paying for it. That’s about the only coworker-to-coworker gift that feels appropriate to me, in general.

      (For instance, one morning, we all spent about fifteen minutes finding silly RuPaul’s Drag Race pictures and decorating a coworker’s cube for his birthday. He loved it, for the record, and it was nice to collaborate to surprise him.

      In the same vein, I could imagine, say, “if you have ten minutes this morning, fold a paper star out of one of these strips of paper, and we’ll put them in a jar as a ‘congratulations from the team'”, or “email the organizer a cute animal video, so we can send the coworker a list to cheer them up” – as long as it was truly optional and a nominal investment.)

  48. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

    to LW2 — Were I in your shoes I would be terrified that my taxes had not been properly withheld and paid (particularly Social Security — it’s a lot more obvious if one’s income tax withholding isn’t proper). If the company’s HR and accounting departments were so understaffed (trying to be kind here) that nobody noticed a significant error like this for over two years, it’s not exactly a big jump to wonder about all the lines on the paycheck.

    Employees can request audits if they suspect errors. Just saying.

    Having said that it wouldn’t be a surprise if the company had already been through a DOL audit and that’s how they found the PTO error in the first place. Computer glitches happen for a reason—if the company is using a common, well-established system like Workday or Kronos, and the accrual pattern was wrong, it’s because somebody at the company told the program the wrong pattern. I accept that sometimes computers burp, so to speak, but a company-wide, accumulating, repeating error isn’t a burp, it’s a human mistake translated into machine language. (I am taking for granted that this isn’t tied to the Kronos data breach that gave rise to a class action suit.)

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I assume the glitch was something like a “inches assumed to be centimetres” error. Someone had an annual figure, divided it by 12 for monthly, and then someone else put in the monthly figure as the accrual per 2-week pay period. Or something like that.

  49. I should really pick a name*

    There are very few situations where an employer should be asking employees for money for something that doesn’t benefit them directly.

    If a gift is warranted, the company should pay for it.
    If someone wouldn’t normally be getting a gift for someone on their own, I don’t see the point in asking them to contribute.

    1. Grouch*

      Tell that to my company, which comes to us hat-in-hand a couple of times a year for one kind of community fundraiser or another. For example, it wasn’t enough to say “there’s a box for Toys for Tots in the lobby”, they also come around cubeland asking for cash once it was apparent that donations weren’t happening. Thankfully, we no longer have to deal with “voluntary” United Way payroll deductions any more.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        It’s incredibly common. I just think it’s a bad practice.

        “We want to show we’re good corporate citizens by donating your money”

  50. That wasn't me. . .*

    I’d say the timing of LW1 meetings is more likely to be a cause of disgruntled than the purpose. Friday afternoons! Similar to someone going getting hold of the vacation schedule first and snagging ALL the weeks next to holidays – it may come acrossas greedy. On the plus side: it is only every OTHER Friday, and as far as meetings go, usually no one want to schedule meetings then anyway. Talk amongst yourselves and see what the feeling is: if Friday afternoon coverage is needed, every other Friday not ne fair. But if coverage isn’t an issue, maybe the staff would like to lobby for a 4.5 day workweek (4×9+4)?

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I said above, I take a day off every week for part of the year. I’m not trying to be contrary, I’m saying my department is great. People who had crap to say about me, had crap to say about everyone. They moved on. Other people realized, they could do something like that too and we all adjusted.
      I think OP should try it. And her manager should be supporting it, so everyone knows it’s not “special treatment” but rather an option for everyone. .

  51. ThatHRLady*

    LW2, depending on where your company is located, this is STICKY at best. I took over payroll for a large company and ran a liability report — and realized that NONE of our employees had “max accruals” programmed into their profiles. Some had accrued over 400 hours!

    But because we were in CA, there was NOTHING I could do. They had accrued the time off, they had paystubs showing they had earned it, and CA employers are not allowed to touch accrued, unpaid Vacation time. Best I could do was let those employees know that they weren’t going to be able to accrue more until they had used enough time off to dip back below the max balance.

    Definitely worth consulting a lawyer because this is murky at best, illegal at worst.

    1. Brambles are not the only fruit*

      It sounds like you were disappointed you couldn’t take away their accrued time off.

      1. LJ*

        That’s a bit hostile. OP seemed alarmed that the company (which probably had a written policy of max accruals, as is common in places like California where you can’t have a use-it-or-lose-it policy) did not correctly program their written policy into the software. Which turned into a “bank error in your favor” for the employees.

        I’d assume all those people probably had to suddenly took a large allotment of vacation to get back under the accrual cap, which is not good for them either (family vacations typically being taken on a schedule and not so last minute)

  52. Fuse*

    LW #2.

    200 hours in 30 months. I’m doing the math and have zero sympathy.

    If your company messed up tax withholding, you still owe the IRS. They don’t have sympathy either.

    I do think the communication was lacking. Software doesn’t have “glitches.” There was a bug or a data or a process error. It was on the part of your company and/or the payroll provider. I don’t see any attempt to communicate any of that to you.

    If this was ADP, I want to hear a lot more details.

    1. ThatHRLady*

      But… I mean, it’s not crazy that employees wouldn’t notice. The rate works out to an additional 0.038 accrual rate, or roughly 6-7 hours extra a month, so maybe an extra 3ish hours of PTO per pay period? I can absolutely see how an employee wouldn’t notice that. This is unnecessarily harsh when the fault is absolutely squarely on the shoulders of whoever set the parameters in their payroll system.

      1. kiki*

        Yes. And mistakes do happen, but the company should also have systems that check periodically that everything is being allocated correctly. The fact that this went on for over two years clearly demonstrates a huge lapse in the employer’s systems and protocols. Blaming the affected employees for not catching this error when the company HR/Payroll did not seems wildly unfair.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I agree that this is very harsh and it would be easy for an employee to not notice. Also, the OP said UP TO 200 hours. I take that to mean that not everyone was out on 200 hours because they don’t get that much. I can see this happening if you earn more hours after a certain amount of time at the company. So if someone just had their 5 year anniversary and earned 50 more hours or something and then this glitch happened they may not have realized that there was something wrong.

      1. Fuse*

        I work in software development. It’s a software error (“bug”) or a process error.

        A “glitch” is a sudden, temporary malfunction and the connotation there is that there’s no explanation for it, it’s random, it just happened, it’s unpreventable. If we agree, for argument’s sake, that “glitch” and “bug” are equivalent words, no problem, we can call it a glitch.

        Fun fact is that back in the day, a glitch was called a bug. It was literally a temporary problem caused by a live bug flying into the works.

        1. Calamity Jack-O-Lantern*

          I also work in software development.

          I must admit, I basically agree with you. Unless LW2’s company wrote the payroll software themselves, there’s a 99% chance it was a user and/or configuration error. 1% chance it was a true bug in the software (would the vendor be liable)? That said, misconfiguration could very well be called a “glitch” by some.

          Not really relevant, but the only difference between a bug and a feature request is that a bug is when the system doesn’t work like the developer expected and a feature request is when the system doesn’t work like the user expected.

          1. Fuse*

            Thanks for replying! And thank you for pointing out configuration errors. I was oversimplifying by lumping that under “process,” but it really does deserve to be mentioned on its own.

            And agreed, it’s not a bug when the system is working as designed.

    2. Fuse*

      I did want to say that if anyone felt personally attacked by my comment, I did not mean it to come across that way and I apologize for the wording. I still stand by the sentiment, but I could have done a much better job of phrasing it, so please forgive me for that.

      I do agree that people who were out smaller amounts are victims here, and they could not be expected to reconcile their time off down to tenths of an hour.

  53. WorkingGirl*

    In the job i just left (music industry), Fridays were our busy day (new music releases). So, yes, people did take days off on Friday – but taking off every other Friday would create some issues.

    In many other industries though, Friday afternoons are probably the best time to take off because everyone’s mentally in the weekend already.

  54. Fuse*

    LW #1. This is one of the cases where the correct answer is not the right answer. You can see it in the comments. It won’t be said to your face, except in the form of “optics” or “scheduling concerns” or “coverage” or some other BS.

    You gotta lie or omit the truth on this one.

    Consider instead ditching the funko pops at work. They are awesome and you are awesome. But work is not, and sometimes you have to make compromises to project am image.

    (I posted this in reply to another comment erroneously. Sorry for repeating myself.)

    1. Czhorat*

      I disagree on this; I think we should normalize being a bit weird, so long as it’s not TOO far out of the norm or not safe for work.

      I’ve said before, I use my lunchbreak to juggle in the park. Everyone in the office knows this, and none of them particularly care; it hasn’t hurt my professional reputation, and I’m still known for being available when it’s needed or appropriate for the job.

      Nine workplaces out of ten if you say “Friday is crafting day!” then people will be some mix of disinterested and intrigued. I don’t see any reason to file down your rough edges to appear bland and “normal”.

      1. Fuse*

        I agree with your disagreement! We should normalize being human at work, complete with personalities and quirks and weirdness, yes. However unfortunately, we do not live in that world right now and my answer was meant to be practical instead of ideal. It’s that 1/10 of the workplaces you mentioned that would have an issue with it.

        OP wrote in to say the field is higher ed and with that context, my answer changed. Higher ed is not an environment that would have a problem with it.

  55. Dulcinea47*

    Holy moly, LW#2. I hope you can pressure your employer into doing the right thing… my (now former) employer switched to a new payroll co. at the beginning of 2023 and it was a hot mess. But they did the best they could to make sure it didn’t end up punitive for people and some benefitted by having leave time that normally expired roll over into vacation time, which doesn’t expire as long as you don’t go over the max. Charging people for vacation time that was their mistake is ridiculous.

    1. Kayem*

      Partner’s former employer switched from a monthly payroll system to a bimonthly payroll system. The chaos that ensued was mind-boggling. Paychecks were so screwed up that I don’t know if anyone ever noticed whether PTO balances were correct. After months and months of seemingly unending screw-ups, everyone was just happy to finally be getting paid correctly.

  56. HonorBox*

    OP2 – IANAL but I think you need to check with one. The thing that stands out to me is that others who have left were paid out based on the incorrect PTO accrual. I’m wondering if that helps your case when you ask the company to correct the glitch in a way that doesn’t cause you additional loss. The fact that others received more than they were supposed to while others who are currently there are being “penalized” seems like an issue that the company will have to deal with. And I used quotes because technically the company really should only have to provide what your handbook says, so there’s no real penalty. But in my non-legal opinion, it does feel like if they’ve provided more in error to some, they should be required to provide the same for all.

  57. Erica*

    LW #1

    As someone who works in finance and accounting, one of my first thoughts is that it is quite common to be required to take at least one full week off each year. This is for security reasons since vacation time can be a great fraud detection tool when others are covering your duties. I wouldn’t be allowed to take a bunch of individual days (or half-days) off if it meant I didn’t have enough vacation days left for my week off.

    From the sound of others’ comments, I don’t think this very common, but it could be a legitimate reason your request could be denied.

  58. Jodi*

    #1 My only issue with OP booking every Friday afternoon off would be if that prevented others in her team from being able to book off on some Fridays. I worked in a small office and at the beginning of each year two team members would jump in and book off all the Fridays before long weekends along with as many other Fridays available. That left the others no chance to do so due to needed coverage.

  59. EAB*

    I’m a director of engineering, and I take one Monday morning off once a month for a musical ensemble rehearsal. I miss a fairly important meeting for it, but because it’s predictable, I can arrange a backup. My senior director and VP both have been told it’s for my harp group, but I don’t remind them routinely that’s why I’m ditching the meeting. I just say I’m OOO and Fergus will represent.

    I might get some eyebrows raised if it were biweekly, but monthly seems to be okay for my org at my level. I also have a very solid reputation for being extremely dedicated in general. My boss and VP know that music is my major stress relief, so those rehearsals are an acceptable cost of not having a valuable employee run off screaming into the hills.

  60. Itsa Me, Mario*

    Re LW 1 – let people believe it’s for golf, tennis (or pickleball?), or something to do with the local sports team, and I’m guessing that nobody would even blink.

  61. Semi-retired admin*

    LW1, of course, I don’t know your work situation, but would being out every other Friday cause hardship on your co-workers? For instance, if your staffing is such that only one person can be out, will you be shutting others out of an occasional Friday afternoon off? Also, does it mean you would be frequently “getting out of” a crappy assignment? I’m thinking your turn to clean out the communal fridge, a dreaded weekly staff meeting, a particularly busy time of the week. Just some things to be mindful of in your decision. Not saying you shouldn’t do it, just that if some of these scenarios are likely, you may encounter resentment from co-workers.

    1. Coin Purse*

      That was also my point upthread….Friday afternoon in my industry was where everything blew up and whoever was working got stuck with the mess.

  62. Eric*

    Low pressure Gifts…I so totally understand the issues on both sides, particularly the idea of “Jane” feeling left out. I used to work at a company where I was friends with a coworker and her daughter…and they always made a HUGE deal out of my birthday…for some reason (I always wondered if I was the butt of a joke, but I enjoyed it). I mean, desk fully decorated, a card, humorous gifts, and always a load of Twinkies. Another coworker sort of resented ME for it. It wasn’t company sponsored, neither I nor my coworker had any authority over the other. I thought the reaction was odd, but this helps to make it make sense.

    Seriously, the decorations were always tongue-in-cheek…tons of Justin Bieber or Meghan Trainor photos (with the MT year having balloons with her song lyrics), a joke t-shirt I was required to wear (which the company was fine with), stuff like that. A poo emoji pillow..which I gave to my cats.

  63. Lizzianna*

    I can’t do this in my current role because I have too many last minute meetings pop up, but in my last position, I took every other Wednesday morning off to volunteer at my son’s school. I have a flexible schedule (I can work extra hours on other days as long as I get 80 hours in each pay period), and it’s not unusual for people to take advantage of that for all kinds of things. As long as you’re not missing an important standing meeting, taking every other Friday off would be fine in my office (and frankly, because of our flexible schedule, we don’t schedule a lot for Friday afternoons anyway, because anyone who has hit their 40 hours is usually out of there a little early anyway).

    But as others have said, this is really a know-your-office thing. If I was in office that required coverage, I could see your coworkers being annoyed they could never take Friday afternoons off because you’d already spoken for those hours. I also had an experience years ago where my grandboss just flat out didn’t care that people were off – my counterpart worked 4 10s, which meant she was never there Fridays. If he needed something on Friday, it didn’t matter if it was her project, he needed it NOW. But he also wouldn’t tell her that she needed to be available Fridays, so it would often completely derail my afternoons, which I had set aside to try to wrap things up before the weekend.

  64. Jean*

    For LW2 PTO – How did not a single employee in the company – including all the staff in HR/payroll – notice that there were getting way too much PTO in their leave bank? Do the employees not know how much leave they are supposed to be earning? If I’m supposed to have 3 weeks a year and the system gives me 6 weeks, I should be asking questions before using it.

    1. JustaTech*

      I don’t regularly check how much PTO I have or have a good understanding of how much I should be earning any given week (because it’s reported in hours, not days or weeks, so I have to get out a calculator to understand how much leave I have in days).

      And since the way I would “check” is by asking the computer, if the computer is lying, I don’t have a good way to confirm that number.

      I’m impressed by everyone who checks all their leave balances every week and independently confirms those numbers – I simply don’t have the brain bandwidth to do that. I know this is a failing on my part.

  65. Pip*

    LW2 – As Alison said, absolutely talk to an employment lawyer about this. Your company is being incredibly unfair and cheap. The situation is totally their fault and they need to suck it up and take the hit, not pull people’s PTO that they’ve been COUNTING ON out from under them. Perhaps a group of you could consult with an employment lawyer so you’d all be on the same page. So sorry you are dealing with this. What a nightmare, and so bad for morale.

  66. Luna (the other one)*

    LW 3, Allison, and Readers,

    I wonder what y’all think about how my work does gifts. We have a group of volunteers who accept donations from people, and pool them all together to use for every special occasion. (Those donations don’t have to be cash, we accept party decorations and supplies too!) We do one big birthday cake once a month for all the birthdays that month, but we also do baby showers and special treats for everyone for holidays and sometimes “just because” donuts and coffee. Oh, also condolence cards when needed, or organizing a food train if someone is dealing with some major and they think it would be helpful.

    Anyway, we ask for donations about twice a year, in a general email, so there’s no pressure on specific people and no one will know if you donated or not.

    I think it works out great, personally, and could be a model for other companies to follow.

  67. NP204*

    I’m confused as to why there’s any need to mention WHY you’re using your time. That’s the easiest answer. Request the time off – you never need to say why

    1. Christina*

      Came here to say the same thing. I never say why, has never even occurred to me that I would need to do so. If I’m using PTO to go to a sex dungeon, that should be fine, as long as I have the hours accrued.

  68. Christina*

    RE: Letter 1 — is it really the norm to give the reason why you’re using PTO? I did not know that. I certainly don’t do so. I might casually mention via Teams to my supervisor what I’m doing on my days off if I think she’ll be interested to hear because we’re friendly, but in my official time off request that I send to her and my grandboss, I never mention reasons why, just that I’d like to request off for such and such dates and times, and specify if I’m using vacation time or sick days for it. I’m a private person, and the idea that I need to account for my time outside of work kinda makes my skin crawl. I guess the recurring nature of this one might make it a little different but I still probably would not be more specific than “I’ll be having a recurring appointment every other Friday at this time, but I can be flexible if I occasionally need to reschedule it for coverage reasons.”

    1. Lily Potter*

      The answer to your question is really workplace dependent. If you work 100% remotely and barely interact with other people on video or phone, entering your request into the computer HR system and keeping mum about your plans for the PTO time is feasible. If you work 100% in person with your boss and co-workers, you’re going to be chit-chatting with them all the time. SOMEONE is going to ask what you do with your time every other Friday, and it’s probably weird to answer “I have a recurring Friday afternoon appointment” with no further context. I know that if I tried that at my last 100% in-person job, I would have gotten responses like “What kind of appointment?” and a sarcastic “I’m SURE, you have a VERY IMPORTANT Friday afternoon appointment!” Put simply, it can be tough to keep your life 100% private when you’re with people 45+ hours a week. Also, regardless of whether you’re in-person or remote, your boss may ask why you need the recurring time off in order to decide whether to approve it. It might not be particularly convenient for the boss to approve that kind of a PTO request (it’s an on-going schedule change, TBH) but a good boss will want to work with you and may be looking for a “good reason” to approve your request while not allowing others the same approval.

  69. Loose Socks*

    For LW1, this heavily depends on the business. I am one of people in the HR department of my work, and the other person is part time. I have PTO available, but if I used it to fundamentally alter the hours I was hired to fulfill, that would be a very big problem and I would most likely not have met job.
    one of the shifts I hire for is similar, and we recently found out that the new person we hired for the M-F position suddenly has to leave every Friday at 2, and he knew that going in. It has caused a big problem, because part of the reason he was hired was specifically because of the Friday availability, the others in that position work M-Th because business needs made that possible when they were hired, but needs recently changed. We’re currently trying to decide if we can even keep him based on this availability. We had made all this clear during the hiring process and he signed documents acknowledging he is expected to be on site until 5 M-F.

    Basically, what I’m saying is that theoretically yes, it’s your PTO and you should use it as you like, but realistically you were hired in part because of your availability. You would be changing the terms of your availability on this case, as long as that’s fine with your job, then that’s not a problem. But there are legitimate reasons why that wouldn’t be ok in some fields.

  70. Megan*

    OP2- I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to take away compensation you’ve already been paid. Look up detrimental reliance. Definitely talk to an employment lawyer!

  71. SnappyGirl*

    100% YES on letter #3. We just had a situation at work where a co-worker organized a “grandma baby shower” for her boss (celebrating this person’s first grandchild). It was weird, to say the list. I never heard of a “grandma” baby shower, unless grandma will be raising the child, which was most definitely not the case here.

    Not only were people’s noses out of joint by having to spend time and money on this, but NO other grandmas in the office were celebrated this way, which caused hurt and bitterness.

    I happened to be out of the office when the card and money envelope went around for this one and I’m hoping the grumbling on this gets back to management so it will be the first and last event of its kind.


  72. Tiger Snake*

    What I want to know is what LW#2’s company is doing regarding people who had already spent all that extra PTO.

    Like – are there a bunch of employees whose pay is being deducted because of the company’s mistake? Or were those extra used days forgiven, meaning there are a bunch of employees who now don’t have the same perks as people who took their PTO straight away?

  73. Raida*

    3. Should I organize a low-pressure gift collection for an employee?

    I would suggest you organise a gift yourself, offer the card for staff to sign, and if anyone asks about a gift you tell them you’re covering it, if they want to donate they can but it’s not needed – with a smile.

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