I’m in trouble for badging in and then going back home, coworker made a pass at me, and more

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

1. I’m in trouble for badging in, then going back home

My large corporate employer is coming down hard on people who aren’t returning to the office in person. I’ve been badging in the required three times a week, but now I’m being investigated because I’ve been badging in, then immediately out to go home and do my work. I was working from home for three years during the pandemic. I also just started a coaching business, which was approved by the company, but they are questioning if it interferes with my work and work hours (it doesn’t). Someone reported me; I have no idea who.

I was required to meet with employee relations this week (two of them) via MS Teams. They told me they were recording the call but said I was not allowed to record it. Is it legal for them to record the call and tell me I can’t record it? I am badging in three times per week as per their directive. There is no minimum time required. Can they take action against me?

Yes, they can fire you over this, and it’s very likely that they will if you dig your heels in. You’ve got to be aware that they didn’t just intend for you to badge in and then go home; they wanted you working in the office three days a week, period. Not only are you breaking that policy, but you’re also trying to deceive them about it (or you’re being intentionally obtuse about what the badging in requirement meant, as malicious compliance) — and adding intentional deception to the mix will always make things worse.

If you want to keep the job and they’re telling you the three days a week in the office is a requirement, then you’ve got to decide if you want the job under those terms or not. That’s true even if you think it’s a ridiculous requirement and even if you did fine working from home for three years previously; they have the authority to require on-site work. They also have the authority to decide your coaching business is a conflict, even if you feel it’s not.

Also, yes, your employer can put restrictions on what’s recorded, although that’s the least of the issues here.

2. My coworker made a creepy pass at me

I started a new job this summer around the same time as another coworker, “Mac.” Our office is one where we’re often up and moving between different areas to complete tasks, so there’s a fair amount of brief socialization that goes on as paths intersect. Mac and I have started to gravitate to each other often in that context. I had assumed it was because we’re some of the only employees in the same particular stage of life: married with kids the same age, similar lifestyles. We even discovered we live in the same neighborhood, just a few streets apart. But Mac said something to me this morning that has me scrutinizing all of our past interactions and unsure how to move forward.

He said, “You have this whole ‘sexy librarian’ thing going on today, and I think it’s a problem for me.” His statement was made with a bit of a smirk and a raised eyebrow, and it came across like he was making a pass at me.

Now I’m looking back at all of our past interactions and wondering if I’ve been giving the wrong signals. I make no secret of the fact that I’m happily married and I love my husband, but I talk to Mac more than any other coworker. I’m also open, friendly, and quick to smile … but I’m like that with everyone. Even our clientele regularly comment on my upbeat and smiley demeanor, and I am definitely not flirting with any of them. (Not on purpose at least. Now I don’t know!)

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do from here. In the moment, I laughed it off and kept moving to where I was going without comment. I did do my hair and makeup a little differently today and wore my oft-neglected glasses, so maybe I won’t do that combination of things again. I don’t want Mac to think I’m interested in a clandestine office romance, but I don’t know how I should act around him going forward. I’m not very good at turning off the “happy” that apparently reads as “flirty.”

Ugh, I’m sorry. You don’t need to change your hair and makeup choices over this! I promise those choices are not responsible for Mac’s creepy remark; Mac himself is.

If you’re comfortable with it, you could go back to him and say, “Your remark the other day was really inappropriate. Don’t say things like that to me again.” Or, “Your remark the other day was really inappropriate and frankly it pissed me off that you’d say something like that when we’ve had a good working relationship up until now. I’ll forget it happened as long as it never happens again.” If he says something stupid in response or tries to play it off as a joke, say, “I don’t want to debate it, I’m just telling you not to do it again.” If he’s weird with you for a while after that, that’s on him, not you. Let him manage his feelings about being called out as a creep on his own.

If he continues similar remarks after that, or if he makes your work life difficult in any way (because he feels awkward or embarrassed or angry), that’s something you should report because that’s harassment territory and your company would legally need to put a stop to it.

But please don’t let this make you question whether clients and others think you’re flirting with them. This was a Mac problem, not a you problem. He took what sounds like a normal and friendly work relationship and sexualized it because he wanted to and didn’t care if he made you uncomfortable. You didn’t cause that, he did.

Read an update to this letter

3. My staff is pushing back on schedule changes

I’ve just recently stepped into managing a team at a fitness studio, and I am not keeping the same hours the previous manager kept. Scheduling has been really difficult as the staff all have extremely specific availability, and they’re being very inflexible with the changing schedule. I need to balance the needs of the business with the availability of the staff, and no one is happy. I am getting so stressed trying to make things work, but I am getting constant pushback.

How do I set a boundary of “this is the schedule, you’ve got to come in or find someone to switch” without losing my brand new staff? I don’t want to be a pushover and give in to every little request, but I can’t risk a bunch of people quitting either. What’s a good way to juggle this and transition smoothly?

If they each have specific availability … that is probably their specific availability, especially with fitness center jobs, which a lot of people do on top of full-time work elsewhere (and if they have to choose between the two, most people will choose their full-time jobs). If they were hired on the premise that they could work a specific set of hours, it’s not unreasonable for them to push back when you try to change that.

You do need to prioritize the needs of the business, but you can’t make people magically change their availability. You might need to hire new people who can work the schedules you need … but while you’re doing that (because it won’t happen overnight) you’ll have to decide if it’s more important to stick to the hours you want or to keep the staff you have. It sounds like they’re telling you that doing both isn’t an option.

One note: You put this in terms of setting boundaries. The thing to realize about setting boundaries is that boundaries are about what you do. They’re not about what someone else does. You can say “these are the hours I’m scheduling you for and I’m holding firm on that” and that’s your boundary. They can say “that won’t work for me so I’m quitting” and that’s their boundary. You’ve got to decide if you’re okay with the risk of that outcome.

4. How do I get my staff to take PTO earlier in the year?

I have over a dozen direct reports and every year we run into the same problem: they wait until early November to try to use up PTO and between holidays (we’re generous with time off) and already planned vacations, we can’t fit in all of their PTO. In years passed, I have tried reminding them as a group or individually (or both) to try to spread out their PTO, take it in the summer (we’re slow), and even have gone so far as to look up the spring break schedules of their kids’ schools to try to entice them to take time off. It never works. Every year they seem shocked that they have so much time left and they’re DEVASTATED if they have to lose any time. I feel for them — I plan my vacation very diligently so that I won’t lose any PTO.

Am I obligated to approve every request simply so they don’t lose time even if it will make the remaining folks miserable? Is there a way to convince them next year to take this more seriously in spring and not wait until late fall? I want to be a good manager to my entire staff, but this time of year that starts to feel like a fool’s errand.

No, you’re not obligated to approve every request even if it will make the remaining folks miserable, at least not as long as you’ve been proactive about pushing people to take their time earlier in the year and — this is key — ensuring they can actually do it without coming back to a pile of work so large that it wipes out any benefits of them having gotten away.

Since you know this is a thing your team struggles with, why not address it as a group? As in, “This keeps happening, I remind everyone throughout the year, but people still aren’t taking enough time off and then are devastated if they realize at the end of the year that they’re going to lose time. How do we want to handle it?” Sometimes getting people’s involvement in the solution makes them take the problem more seriously. Some things to put on the table to consider during that discussion: a formal quarterly report from you about how much time each person has remaining and a nudge for a plan from them to use it, or even a scheduled time (June?) when you sit down with each person and say, “Here’s how much time you have, let’s plan when you’ll take it.” But also as part of that conversation, make sure you ask why it’s happening, since if it’s being caused by workload/workflow issues, that’s not something people can solve without your intervention.

5. Professional obligation to employer after a layoff

If someone with mid-level fiduciary duties at an institution is laid off by new leadership, and that new leadership has no real idea of the scope of that person’s role and responsibilities (and frankly does not care), does the person being laid off have a professional or moral obligation to document one’s role and responsibilities before departing, even though no one in leadership has asked/seems to care/has a transition plan in place? Asking because I am staying at the same organization in a new role and because I care about the place.

The fact that you’re staying on in another role means you shouldn’t just throw up your hands and leave them with nothing, even if they don’t seem to care. But that just means you should do  what you reasonably can to document your work in the amount of time you have left; don’t exhaust yourself doing it. That means don’t work extra hours to get it done or take on additional stress; it should be part of your normal work, to the extent that you can comfortably fit it in. If you find that you don’t have the time to fit it without extra stress or extra hours, you should flag that to your boss — “in order to get XYZ documented before I leave, I’d need to move ABC off my plate.” If they make it clear they’re not willing to prioritize it, then you don’t need to care more than they do.

One thing to consider: I’ve seen people spend hours on lengthy, detailed transition memos that no one ever reads. Hell, I’ve written those lengthy, detailed memos and am pretty sure no one read them. Short and concise, with only very top-level stuff, is more likely to get used. Think about what’s truly a fiduciary responsibility and focus there.

{ 856 comments… read them below }

    1. Indigo a la mode*

      The immediate “How did I cause this and how can I change to prevent it?”…I feel for OP and I’m sad for her. It’s so frustrating how much women still so often feel pressure to take responsibility for the behavior of men.

      1. stratospherica*

        It happens a lot with people seeking relationship advice too. “My husband kicked me down a well and spat on me, then had me chased out of town because he accused me of casting dark and evil magicks on the town, what can I change about the fundamental core of my being so that I can be OK with this?”

        1. Transatlantic*

          I’m pretty sure my answer would be “learn well the dark and evil magicks to change the fundamental core of HIS being … into a frog!”

      2. DJ Abbott*

        Seems like we were just discussing this last week, and here comes Mac.
        OP, it’s not you. Men commonly try to hold women responsible for their own (men’s) actions, and until recently society supported it. If they can blame the woman for their inappropriate feelings, they don’t have to take responsibility.
        I’m really sorry this person you thought was a good colleague and friend turned out this way. I would document what he did with date, time, and details, in case you need to escalate it. If you talk to him like Allison suggested, document that too.
        Don’t cut him any slack. Don’t listen to it being about how beautiful/great etc. you are, or any other excuses. This is something he is doing, and he’s probably done it before.

        1. Random Dice*

          Send yourself an email (to your personal email) describing the interaction, so you have a time stamp.

      3. RagingADHD*

        Part of that is a psychological need to feel like you have agency. The idea that we have zero control over other people treating us badly is terrifying. If it were our “fault,” then we could stop it from ever happening again.

        It’s like a kind of superstition.

        1. Fraggled*

          Thank you for adding this. I hadn’t thought of it this way before. It’s a beautiful, scary, and complex insight.

          I struggled with blaming myself for all the horrible things that happened to me as a kid-to-young-adult. That lingered well into later adulthood and I truly believed I was just supposed to absorb ‘bad behavior’ because *I must* be the problem, after all, it’s me who was damaged from trauma so I must be the abnormal one.

          It took a long time and a lot of work to realize what it meant to put the blame where it belongs.

          But, something was missing and it still felt weird. Why should it feel weird if I didn’t do anything wrong, though?

          It didn’t occur to me that it was a desperate attempt of grasping at any iota of control.

          Seems so obvious now. Simple, almost.

          1. Johannes Bols*

            I have Stockholm syndrome from being bullied at ten years old in Catholic School (I later transferred out). It is something that is part of my personality make up, there’s nothing I can do to change it. Except be very aware when people devalue and disrespect me; and then to act accordingly. Just to say I understand your ‘absorbing’ the bad behaviour of others. It doesn’t necessarily get better; but we can get better at detecting the crap behaviour of others towards us.

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Exactly! Many women blame women who are attacked for Doing Some Bad Thing. This makes the first women feel safe, because they never Do The Bad Thing (like go into a changing room in a department store, to give an obvious stupid example). Those first women are wrong.

        3. Despachito*

          This is such a good explanation, thank you!

          Now the stupid, deep-rooted idea that”if harassment/bullying happens to you, there must be something wrong with YOU” makes perfect sense.

        4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I agree.
          It’s the same reasoning that makes people blurt:
          “Well, what was she wearing?”
          “Why was in that neighborhood?”
          “They bought that fancy car, OF COURSE (accident/stolen/damaged) was going to happen.”

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Seriously, reading this letter made my blood boil. I’m just so sorry for OP and so mad at how easy it is for men to make one awful comment they will probably never think about again while the woman they harassed sits there questioning everything they’ve ever said or done or worn. UGH.

        I absolutely *love* Alison’s second script though. I don’t think I could pull it off but I think someone like OP who seems to present a generally upbeat and friendly attitude could pull off saying something like that and then just behaving normally.

      5. Roland*

        The “how can I change to prevent it” is the key, I think. We want to feel in control, that we can do something to make men stop being Like That, but the unfortunate reality is that it’s not us, it’s them, and there isn’t anything we can do about it ahead of time.

        1. darsynia*

          Thank you for this comment, it restores a bit of agency– it’s not always meant as self-blame, it’s also an attempt to claw back some control. Unfortunately it can look the same as culpable mitigation (and sometimes it’s both, or sometimes it’s fully self guilt!), and from the outside that doesn’t read as healthy.

      6. morethantired*

        I have to think Mac’s exact comments contributed to this with “YOU have this sexy librarian thing going on today and I think it’s a problem FOR ME.”
        Implying that his reaction to her appearance is a problem she needs to be aware of and help resolve. I would have been so tempted to fire back with “That doesn’t sound like MY problem, so why are you talking about it?”

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I was so proud impressed with my one coworker who replied to a male coworker’s “You are going to get me fired wearing a dress like that,” with “you will get yourself fired. It has nothing to do with me.”

          And for the record the dress is….
          nope, doesn’t matter.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      And yet, in the year 2023, we still have to struggle not to leap to “what was it I did that set him off in that way?” Because ARRRRRGH.

    3. Claire*

      This whole letter is an illustration of how patriarchy has led women to internalize “But what were you wearing?”

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        This is another of those double binds for women–be friendly, but when you’re friendly, people might “get the wrong idea”* and that’s your fault for being friendly.

        *=use your friendliness as an excuse to behave inappropriately.

      2. Heart&Vine*

        Yes! I wanted to hug and shake OP at the same time! You could’ve been wearing fishnets or an oversized sweater. You could’ve worn a full face of makeup or none at all. You could’ve greeted him with a hug or an icy stare. You could’ve smiled at him and been super nice or you could’ve glared at him and told him to get back to work. It doesn’t matter because NOTHING you do warrants a comment like that! HE is the problem!

    4. Soupspoon*

      You did not cause this, and you do not have to change your behavior as a result. But I completely agree that you need to talk to HR right away. This slimeball knows where you live. He’s testing your boundaries so he can trample them and then blame you.

      I am speaking from personal experience here, and it is so so awful that you have to deal with it.

      1. Sara without an H*

        This. LW#2, harassment always starts small, then escalates. Deal with it early.

        And Soupspoon, I’m sorry you had to go through that.

        1. higheredadmin*

          +1000. Squash this now, and hard. Talk to him very bluntly about this time, and practice your look of total disgust plus comeback. (I like “what the f*** is wrong with you” personally, but that’s just me. You do you.) Note that this is NOT victim-blaming – this behaviour is NOT ok and is a real shock, especially when it comes out of the blue. Nor is pushing back guaranteed to work – all of this is the man’s responsibility to not behave like slime. However, it is also true that the sneaky “nice guy” slimes typically look for someone who will twist themselves up blaming themselves and not say anything, so it is worth a shot.

        2. night cheese*

          “You’ve got a bit of a sexual harassment thing going on, and it is definitely a problem for you.”

      2. Crumbledore*

        Was coming here to say it seemed like boundary testing, like he wants to see how you react and if he can push things further. I hope the commentariat’s righteous anger on your behalf helps give you the strength to shut it down!

    5. Up and Away*

      I had a very similar situation happen a few months ago, and I was also questioning myself in terms of my behavior, appearance, etc. It was pretty awful.

    6. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Agreed! Agreeing so hard!

      I have all the sympathy to OP2’s reaction/thought, as most people-who-behave-reasonably will be thrown off by someone acting out of bounds. And then it’s common to wonder, “That was so bizarre…was it me? Did I do something?”

      No, no you did not.

      The other person acted inappropriately. I’ve spent years of therapy unpacking a 2 year dysfunctional same-sex relationship where my ex weaponized my insecurities, because “that was so bizarre and inconceivable that anyone would act that way, so I must have done something to deserve it” (no, I did not).

    7. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      SO not your fault. This letter made me so angry at Mac and at the world for continuing to make young women feel they have any responsibility or control over the male gaze.

      I think what finally broke my self-blame was a coworker who told me that a particular shirt was “hot” when it was the most boring shirt ever. I didn’t wear the shirt for awhile. So then some other shirt became “hot”.

      This was not about what you wore. This was him KNOWINGLY deciding to be inappropriate and making it about what you wore because that gives him “cover” .

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Your second paragraph illustrates the Macs of the world’s strategies perfectly. The second you don’t wear the shirt that “caused” the comment, they simply switch targets.

        Because it is not the shirt. It is not the anything about you, LW. It. Is. HIM.

    8. Library Lady*

      OP1, I had a similar situation about 10 years ago at my last job, although it wasn’t a coworker making inappropriate comments, it was a slew of patrons, to the point where I was subconsciously dressing down and not wearing things that made me feel good about myself because I was afraid that any high self esteem would draw more unwanted attention. It wasn’t until later when I casually mentioned this in conversation to a couple friends that someone told me “That’s not right. You shouldn’t have to feel like that.” And it was like an epiphany – I went to my managers couple days later to tell her about what I was experiencing and it led to great changes and a massive change in how I perceived myself and my work. I hope you have a similar epiphany – none of this is your fault, and you shouldn’t have to dull or hide yourself because of someone else’s behavior. I hope you will consider telling him that what he did was massively inappropriate and/or reporting him to someone in authority. Mac is an ass.

      1. Clare*

        If you’re looking for ways to deflate such comments in future, I’ve had a lot of success with responding like I think they’re women. So then the interaction goes something like this:

        Dude: “Wow you look so hot in that shirt.”
        Clare: “Thanks!! I got it at Shirts-Are-Us. Gosh they have some great sales. I managed to find this one 30% off, which is fantastic because you know how hard it is to find rayon in this shade of blue. Have you tried their sales?”
        Dude: “Uhhhh no…?”
        Clare: “Well, I can definitely recommend them if you’re looking for nice rayon pieces. Have a nice day!”
        Dude: “Uh. Thanks. Bye.”

        Guy: “Your profession is hot.”
        Clare: “You know, I never understood that cliché. Funny how stereotypes are often so inaccurate. I was reading a great book on stereotypes by Smith just the other day, actually. Have you read any of Smith’s works?”
        Guy: “No.”
        Clare: “Ah. What about Baker? She has some great pieces in the broader field of sociology.”
        Guy: “No, I’m not really interested in sociology.”
        Clare: “Oh” *pause* “Well, it was nice to chat to you. Have a great afternoon!”

        The key is not to come across as oblivious, because they’ll see that as a challenge. You have to give off a vibe of “I am definitely, intentionally, steering this conversation to a different place. If you talk about my appearance any more we will stay here.” Interrupt if necessary. Segues don’t need to be subtle, they can be very firm. Think “No, child, we’re not talking about poo anymore. How about dinosaurs?” vibes. It’s over, Dudakin. I have the high ground. Works like a charm.

  1. KWD*

    LW#2

    This is not your fault. It is not because of how you wear your hair, or if you wear glasses. This is his fault.

    If it were me (or a friend/sister/colleague I was advising) I would be going straight to HR with this. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, just make the appointment and get this bullshit documented immediately!

    1. Inkhorn*

      Came to the comments to add to the chorus: OP, this is emphatically NOT. YOUR. FAULT.

      Wear the glasses if you want to wear them. Do your hair and makeup any way you like. Keep the happy switched on. This has nothing to do with any unwitting signals you may or may not have been sending, and everything to do with Mac being the kind of guy who sees the signals he wants whether they’re there or not.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        … and everything to do with Mac being the kind of guy who sees the signals he wants whether they’re there or not.

        I’d add an “and/or” to that. As it ” and everything to do with Mac being the kind of guy who sees the signals he wants whether they’re there or not and/OR everything to do with Mac being the kind of guy who is going to act like a creep regardless of what signals he “sees” ”

        Some of the the Macs of the world don’t give a flying fickle what signals are being sent, or what signals they’re imagining. They just see a woman in their airspace and use that as an excuse to be gross and entitled and test the waters or get their ya yas.

      2. Rex Libris*

        This. OP, think about it this way… Literally every other coworker you have: “OP is nice and upbeat, that makes her pleasant to work with.” One random lecher: “OP is nice and upbeat, that makes her open to my creepy sexual advances.” The problem here is not you.

        1. OP #2*

          That is quite helpful framing. Aside from one client old enough to be my great-grandfather saying suggestively he wishes he were younger, no one else has taken my way of carrying myself as an invitation to make it weird.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I’m a big fan of dealing with dudes at work myself whenever possible, at least initially, but yeah I agree this definitely falls in HR’s remit. This isn’t just getting asked out or someone saying they’d like to spend time outside of work with you; this is being sexualised at work. I think I made out loud gagging noises at the stereotype of “sexy librarian” and especially the “problem for me” part. There’s absolutely no way OP could have inspired anyone to be that stupid and self involved. The guy needs a whole bunch of training and explanations of why that’s gross and it shouldn’t fall to OP.

      1. Artemesia*

        ‘The problem for me’ moved this from inappropriate/bad judgment but sometimes it happens to waving red flag. A heads up to HR might be appropriate — not a request for action, but having someone there realize it happened in case it happens again or in case he does something to harm her career when she tells him to cut it out. Talk to someone as ‘just want this on the record in case he attempts anything down the road — I’ll handle it, I just want someone in HR to be aware.’

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          Yes, that language raised it from “inappropriate compliment” to red flag for me. He’s putting the responsibility for his actions on her, and it genuinely set a cold shiver running down my spine. In LW’s shoes. even if I got an apology from him and wanted to move on, I definitely couldn’t go back to being friendly with him, knowing he thinks like that.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            This is the shifting of responsibility for actions, emotional state kind of stuff that leads to girl’s / women’s dress codes being written because whoever is writing them assumes that men are incapable of and – more importantly – at ALL responsible FOR, acting like civilized humans in the presence of other humans who happen to have wrists and faces and knees and other body parts.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Yes, that comment is very “you’re making me do this with your seductress ways”. Even if he meant it as a joke (which he will 100% claim, but I don’t buy), just the fact that that’s where his mind goes… is a problem.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            The “you made me do this, you evil temptress” line of bullshit is so very old and so very, very gross.

        3. Harper the Other One*

          +1. I understand why Alison’s script is to deal with the coworker but that line IMO makes it an HR issue immediately. This is NOT the first time he’s said something like this I bet.

        4. Your Former Password Resetter*

          Yeah, he’s already victim-blaming for his predatory behaviour. He absolutely planned this and knows exactly what he’s doing.

        5. Relatable :(*

          I’ve had that line used on me before (multiple times, actually) and it made me sad and sick to see it hurt the OP. It is not your fault for simply existing, even if it makes someone feels some kind of a way. They are NOT obligated to even acknowledge that feeling, let alone tell you about it.

        6. But what to call me?*

          Definitely.

          The sexy librarian part could *maybe* scrape by as an extremely oblivious guy thinking he was joking around with a friend. Maybe. The “problem for me” part was… actually I’m having trouble describing all the different variations of creepy-crawly feelings that one inspires. Every meaning that could possibly have is gross, and I’m rarely one to describe things as gross.

        7. SarahKay*

          That was the bit that really waved the red flag for me too. First half of the sentence – stupid man trying to be funny. Second half of the sentence – oh hell NO!

          OP2, I’m seconding the suggestion to at least give a heads-up, either to HR or to your manager. If they are any good they will take it seriously.
          Some years ago I had a male colleague make a similar sort of comment to me and it happened to be one of those lucky days when I had the words to shut it down with cold displeasure. I mentioned it to my manager, more as a ‘rolls-eyes, you won’t believe what x just said’ moment, and he actually took it more seriously than I did, and made sure both HR and the colleague’s manager was made aware of inappropriate behaviour, and I understand colleague was spoken to about not ever repeating that behaviour.

          By the way, I am absolutely NOT meaning to tell you, OP2, that laughing it off was not the way to go. I’ve definitely done the same regularly; the main reason this encounter stuck in my head is because of its rarity value where I behaved in the moment much as I might have wished I’d done afterwards.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            All this. Laughing it off and other de-escalation behaviors are defense mechanisms. OP, don’t feel bad for defending yourself against such over-the-line behavior from someone you thought was a trusted colleague.

            I would encourage you to report this to HR or your manager, even though I know that’s so much harder to do than to say; this guy’s comment was incredibly shitty and made you feel unsafe just wearing glasses!

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Absolutely let someone know. The “problem for me” bit indicates all kinds of bad. The one that bothers me most is, he might expect you to do something about it. He will keep on or escalate unless he’s shut down by you and authority.
              So let someone know, don’t try to handle by yourself. Take precautions just in case. Don’t be alone with him.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            Yeah that second half of that comment is all kinds of yuck.

            Stuff like that is SO disappointing and disheartening. There you are thinking you have a good, collegial relationship with a peer, a decent guy you work well with. And all of a sudden you realize, no, nope, he’s yet another creepy glassbowl in the long and over crowded history of creepy glassbowls.

            So it’s not just the appearance of a sexist jerk in your workplace, that leaves you on edge and figuring out out to navigate it to keep working effective there and not having it become an ongoing issue. It’s ALSO the dropping of the mask by a colleague who had fooled you into thinking he wasn’t a creep, fooled you into thinking he viewed you as colleague worthy of respect as an equal instead of someone to objectify and use, and the loss of a trusted work friend all at the same time.

            tl:dr – it’s not just the SUPRISE! addition of a negative (the jerk) into your world, it’s the loss of a big positive (a trusted peer)

          3. OP #2*

            My laughing it off was less defense mechanism, more “that was so out of left field that you’ve shorted out my brain and the most coherent response I can muster is to laugh awkwardly and walk away.”

            I’m very much struggling to muster the courage to call it out now. I’m reading as many comments as I can and they’re really opened my eyes to this being Mac’s issue and not mine, but unfortunately that doesn’t make it less daunting to speak up.

            Would it be horribly cowardly and wrong to hope it was a one-off but be prepared with scripts to shut it down should he ever say something similarly out of line?

            1. Snow Globe*

              You should do what is most comfortable for you. It sucks that you have to wrestle with deciding whether to speak up or not, when he is likely not spending a moment thinking about whether his comment makes you uncomfortable. If you’d rather ignore it now while being prepared to respond if he says something else, that’s your prerogative. Vicariously, we’d all like to imagine you taking this guy down, but you are the one who would have to do it, so do what you want.

            2. KWD*

              No, of course it’s not cowardly! Women have been dealing with this kind of shit for centuries and we are still so unsure of how to deal with it in the moment, the men have designed it that way so we don’t feel safe or sure of ourselves. And for all of us giving you advice, we are not perfect at this stuff either, so I’m sorry if it feels like we are ganging up on you in a “this is how you must behave, for the sake of womenkind everywhere” kind of way.

              I would recommend at the very least writing down every single interaction you have that makes you uncomfortable, in case Mac escalates/continues his creepy comments, so you have a record of it. Good luck, I’m really sorry this has happened.

            3. SarahKay*

              It’s not cowardly at all. Women are conditioned to keep the peace and smooth over every “misunderstanding” (which is what people like Mac would like you to think of it as – yech!) so to go against that is *really* hard, especially doing it in cold blood rather than in the moment.
              Whatever you decide to do though, I’d recommend practicing saying it in advance, out loud, so that you’re not ambushed by emotions when/if you actually say it in person. I’m always surprised by how I can think something quite calmly but then saying the words out loud for the first time, even with no-one else around, can make me tear up or choke or otherwise struggle to actually get the words out.
              Good luck!

              1. Princess Sparklepony*

                Great advice. It’s easier in your head. It’s good to say them out loud before you need them.

            4. DJ Abbott*

              If you want to wait and see if it happens again go ahead, but I think you should let your manager or HR or at least a trusted friend or your husband know. Document everything about that encounter and like someone said above, email it to yourself so you have time and date. And, of course, record the time and date it happened as close as you can remember.
              And please don’t be alone with Mac. Take the precautions you would take against someone potentially dangerous, because he is. I am 61 and I’ve never had anyone say that to me. It sets off all kinds of alarm bells.

              1. Wes*

                Yeah the part of the letter I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is that they live in the same neighbourhood (and have discussed that). So there’s a good chance he knows where she lives. I hate to say it but this really does have to fall into the ‘he’s potentially dangerous so please keep yourself safe’ territory.

            5. Clare*

              OP#2 this is your life, nobody else’s. If you think it’s wise – based on the victim-blamey and sceptical society we live in – to wait until such comments become a pattern of two (rather than a plausibly deniable one-off), then that’s wisdom not cowardice, or doing the wrong thing. You got this.

              And even if you decide later that you’d rather have acted differently, well, you acted as best you could with the data available to you at the time. Not even a supercomputer could do better. You’ll be no less wise and strong, whatever the outcome. I trust you, OP#2 :)

            6. Awkwardness*

              You do what is best for you.
              I would only recommend to prep thoroughly. If you know that you are struggling it is even more important to practise different reactions and find out what feels most comfortable for you (a serious message, a little joke with serious double meaning as the HR hotline mentioned above, rolling your eyes or a disapproving look). Maybe ask a friend or your husband on their opinion so you do not fall into the trap of delivery a serious message with too much friendliness.
              Maybe also try to speak about it. In case this topic ever comes up again, you want to go to your manger or HR as quickly and decisively as possible and not be held back by shame.
              You can do this!

            7. Clare*

              Wise and strong and capable, and utterly intelligent;
              OP2 is capable of dealing with the crap she’s sent;
              Mac had better make a start on finding where his brain cells went;
              Cause OP2 is wise and strong, and utterly intelligent.

            8. Critical Rolls*

              I think it’s perfectly normal to hope it’s a one-off and you won’t have to deal with it further. But I don’t think it’s realistic. So maybe the thing to do is decide how to set yourself up for success if we assume recurrence — informally telling your boss, practicing scripts until you get comfortable with them, things that aren’t CONFRONT! CONFRONT! but will give you a foundation if it gets to be confront-o’clock.

            9. Crumbledore*

              As someone who encouraged you upthread to “shut it down”, I want to clarify that you should absolutely do what feels right to you for your own comfort and safety. <3

        8. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Totally agree, start the record with HR now (assuming basic competency in HR regarding a company’s responsibilities to protect employees against sexual harassment).

    3. Elizabeth*

      Dorothy Parker told us SPECIFICALLY that men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses! Someone should have informed this dude. Maybe it should have been “Men, don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.”

      1. ferrina*

        I was stress-giggling when OP said she shouldn’t wear her “sexy” glasses (rolls eyes).
        Wasn’t the 80s trope that the girl wasn’t sexy when she wore her glasses, but suddenly became a bombshell when she took off the glasses and took out her ponytail?

        But yeah, echoing other commenters- this is in no way something that OP caused. She wore normal clothes, and he decided to make a creepy pass. He knew what he was doing, and knew it was inappropriate. He knew that OP would be too nice to call him out. OP can either go back to him and call him out and tell him to stop (he’ll say something about how she took it wrong- this is his attempt to deny his own accountability), or go straight to HR. That wouldn’t be an over-reaction. That is the correct reaction when someone makes a really creepy pass at you at work.
        OP, if you’re feeling nervous about his reaction, research DARVO. It’s a technique where the offender Denies, Attacks, and Reverse Victim and Offender. Often used by abusers and by many creeps in general. Example: “I didn’t make a pass, she’s taking it wrong.(denying) She’s too sensitive! She’s accusing me because she’s jealous! (attacking). I made an innocuous comment, and she’s blowing the whole thing out of proportion because she’s interested in me and I’m not interested in her! (reversing victim and offender)

        1. Kyrielle*

          YES. Also, OP, you could have showed up in lingerie with a robe over it and opened it to him, and his comments would STILL be the wrong response from a coworker. (The correct one at that point would be along the lines of, “Um, that’s not work-appropriate, you should go change into something that is. I’m sorry, but I need to let our boss/HR know about this also.”) There is *nothing* you can wear or not-wear to work that should lead to a coworker making that comment to you!

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          You are referring to the old 80’s chestnut of the PUG. The Pretty Ugly Girl. She wears sloppy clothes, has her curly or shaggy hair pulled back into a messy ponytail, and wears glasses. Is either artistic or smart or both. Then comes the makeover montage – hair straightening, nails done, leg shaving, eyebrow grooming, new dress, make up, and those glasses come off and suddenly – SHE’S A STUNNER! She tones down the art and the smart and she’s HOMECOMING QUEEN!

          Yes, it’s awful. See the Princess Bride – it was eyebrow plucking, hair straightening, and a new dress courtesy of Julie Andrews (Julie, how could you?!) That annoyed the heck out of me.

          1. Garrett*

            I think you mean Princess Diaries, although I can imagine Buttercup getting a makeover for Prince Humperdink!

            The spoof Not Another Teen Movie does a great take on this trope.

    4. Sara without an H*

      Yes, please, document, document, document. Talk to HR — you can frame it as a request for advice, if you like. You will also have to talk to “Mac,” since HR will inevitably ask you if you told him that his comments were unwelcome. Alison’s scripts are fine, tailor them to suit yourself. Document any interactions with Mac that are not fully professional.

      Should you tell your manager? This depends on your relationship and what you know about them. Personally, if you reported to me, I’d want to know about this.

      But don’t second guess yourself and don’t dial back your friendly, bubbly personality. This is all on Mac. Don’t take responsibility for his bad behavior.

  2. Person from the Resume*

    LW4, do what my employer an org within the federal government does. Pick a date in October whereby everyone must schedule their remaining leave so they don’t lose any. If you see conflicts where you don’t have enough coverage (that would make the people working miserable), talk to people to adjust their leave.

    If for some reason October is too late in the year, do it earlier.

    It also doesn’t hurt to remind people in July that half the year has passed and they should have used up about half of their leave by then and again in October that they should have used up at least 66-75%of their use or lose leave by then. (We know because of Thanksgiving and Christmas that people possibly plan to use a bit more leave in November and December.) Especially when for coverage reasons, people can’t take the whole month of December off.

    1. nnn*

      That’s what I was thinking – addressing it as an “everyone wants to use their PTO in the same part of the year” problem might help.

      This would also give people specific advance warning that they definitely aren’t going to have room to use it all up in November and December, rather than a general vague background messaging of “Use your PTO, use your PTO!”

    2. MirandaSpeaksGerman*

      Could the amount of PTO be the problem? The US system of very little PTO or no paid sick leave sounds crazy to my European brain.
      If I only got one or two weeks of paid leave (and might need to use it for unexpectedly caring for a sick child etc) I would definitely save it for the holidays.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think “what are they saving it for?” may turn out to be the key to this.

        If it’s a joint PTO/sick pot then it is prudent to hold on to five days or so pretty much indefinitely – goodness knows there are plenty of unpleasant bugs whirling around in December.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Yes, the only time I lost PTO was in 2020, when I was saving it up for potential Covid daycare closings that could exceed my child-sick days (plus there was nothing nice to do with the time off anyway). That didn’t end up happening, so I was sitting on several weeks of unused PTO in december.

          Some sort of carryover policy (limited in time or amount) can help with this, so one doesn’t have to go to exactly 0 at a specific point.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            My current role will automatically carry over 1 week of vacation time at the end of their fiscal year, and you can apply to have extra carried over; management assesses whether there will be a significant impact of you are allowed to carry over extra. It’s a flexible system and seems to work well because a lot of people don’t want to deal with paperwork to carry over more than that, so they start sprinkling half/full days through the last three months. However, for folks who have an event, a big vacation, etc. it’s easy to carry over the time so you can use a larger block the following year.

          2. Little Bobby Tables*

            A use it or lose it policy penalizes anyone who finishes the year with leftover vacation days. Do employees have other options such as rolling over vacation days or cashing in unused ones? If their only way to use remaining vacation days is to schedule last minute vacations, that’s what the company is effectively telling them they should do.

        2. Lab Boss*

          That’s exactly the case at my company- it’s a joint PTO/Sick pot, and when it re-sets at the start of the fiscal year everyone is limited to rolling over a maximum of 40 hours. Every year there’s corporate complaining about people wanting time, and every year I’m stuck explaining to people who should be experienced enough to know better that you can’t act surprised when employees work in line with the incentives the system creates.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            This is why I am so glad that I no longer have one bucket for everything. The only way you don’t end up scrambling to use up time at the end of the year under that system is if either the PTO rolls over (good) or you ended up using it for unexpected medical reasons (bad).

            We can only roll over one week of vacation (unless we get special permission), but it tends to be slow at the end of the year, anyway. It’s common for there to be very few people around the last two weeks of the year.

        3. Snow Globe*

          I think even if people had 8 weeks of PTO, a high number of them are going to want to save a couple of weeks for Thanksgiving/Christmas/other holidays at the end of the year.

          I think the problem is people assuming that they’ll automatically get that time off. The LW should make it clear earlier in the year that a minimal amount of coverage is necessary, and some people may have their vacation requests denied if they wait until the end of the year.

          1. Snow Globe*

            As I think about it, I wonder if the problems is the dreaded combined PTO bucket – both sick leave and vacation days in the same bucket. My company does that, and while the total number of days is fine, I am cautious about saving some days for the end of the year, because what if I use my PTO by October and then I am hospitalized in December and I have no PTO left? So, everyone saves at least a week of PTO in case they need it for emergencies, then try to use it for the week between Christmas and New Years.

            1. Lexie*

              And this is why I think people should be allowed to carry over a couple of days of PTO into the new year. That way they can hang on to it just in case something happens in that last month and there’s less of rush of everyone trying to use up a week or two in the same month.

            2. Anon in Canada*

              Correct, combined PTO is completely awful in every possible way and incentivizes hoarding PTO even more than separate buckets does.

              But this isn’t the only issue – not allowing unpaid time off also incentivizes hoarding PTO or vacation days. If your family is too far to visit in a single weekend, and your company does not allow unpaid time off, you’ll wait to hoard at least a week’s worth of vacation until the end of the year. Because what if there’s a family emergency or sick/dying family member near the end of the year, and you’re out of vacation days – and you get told “too bad, you’re out of vacation days so you can’t go”?

              Companies need to allow unpaid time off.

              1. Hannah Lee*

                The one big pro I’ve seen in combining the two is that it eliminates the weird dynamics of a boss/employer weighing in/overstepping RE the employee’s health situation every time they try to take a sick day.

                I’ve been at too many workplaces where managers take an adversarial or parental role, trying to litigate whether a given employee was ‘really’ sick, or sick ‘enough’ to be eligible to apply sick time or sick in an ‘acceptable way’ eg PMS/migraine/hung over call outs got push back or lingering consequences. Plus it was often it was managed poorly, inconsistently (ie some employees automatically taken at their word, others challenged every time, some managers grilled all their employees, others just accepted employees’ time off requests as is) and that had unintended consequences as employees tried to navigate an unfair, unpredictable system.

                But if the PTO and/or sick leave buckets/carry over policies are miserly and/or the paid absence policies are written, administered haphazardly, yeah, employers are going to get some workers saving up their time just in case, or wanting to use their meager time off allotment at year end for vacation/family/holiday stuff.

                1. Anon in Canada*

                  This is what the defenders of combined PTO say, and it’s a valid point; however the disadvantages vastly outweigh this one potential advantage.

                  The 3 main disadvantages are 1) combined PTO makes it so employees are incentivized to come to work sick/contagious, because taking a sick day means losing a vacation day, 2) it punishes people who have pre-existing health conditions that they have no control over by making it so they don’t get vacations at all and 3) it makes it impossible to plan vacations properly over the year, because you don’t know in advance how many sick days you’ll need.

                  People should be taken at their word when they say they’re sick, unless they have previously behaved in a way that reasonably causes suspicion (such as calling in sick on a day that they had previously asked to get off and been denied, or having several times called in sick on Mondays or Fridays but never in the middle of the week, or having made suspicious public social media posts on sick days), or if a sick absence lasts for more than 2-3 days. If bosses would just behave reasonably and consistently on this issue, the one argument for combined PTO would be obliterated.

                2. Orv*

                  I think that problem is only sort of solved by a combined bucket, because you’re really supposed to plan vacations in advance. So if you call in and say “I can’t come in to work today” there’s still going to be that same argument over whether you’re sick enough to be out on short notice.

                3. Your Mate in Oz*

                  eliminates the weird dynamics of a boss/employer weighing in/overstepping RE the employee’s health situation every time they try to take a sick day.

                  But in OP’s case, replaces that with a weird dynamic when staff take a bunch of sick days at the end of the year after they have carefully scheduled things to have the bare minimum of staff working that they can get away with. That sucks for both sides, especially if doctor’s notes are needed. But it ends up being a stupid game of guessing who will be taking a couple of days a week off sick and who won’t so OP can give people vacation days.

                  In Oz we get 10 days a year sick leave by law, and I try to take at least half of them (they accumulate indefinitely and are not paid out when you leave, so I have more than a months worth accumulated over 10-ish years)

                4. Melody Powers*

                  This is why I loved when I had PTO all in one bucket and I get so tired of people telling me I’m wrong for that, especially when it’s people without chronic illnesses speaking for me.

                  I was so confused by this for a while until I realized that generally healthy people see PTO as “vacation unless something goes wrong” where I see it as “sick time unless I’m unusually lucky this year”. With separate vacation days, I end up having to dip into them for my illnesses anyway and it’s extra demoralizing for me when they’re explicitly labelled as vacation days whereas I just don’t see general PTO that way.

            3. IrishGirl*

              while i save a few days, i also put specific days on the calendar in December that i know i can change and pull back from if i or my kids do get sick. I would hope that a company would allow some flexibility for things like a day needing to switch due to sickness vs someone planning on a week long trip.

            4. Banker chick*

              That exact thing happened with a coworker of mine- used all of her PTO by October and early November is having emergency surgery. Nearly died as she went to work for several days when she should have been already at the hospital but she didn’t have any time off left. (I should say that our employer did not pressure her to come in and insisted she go to the hospital when it was apparent how sick she was). But things like that happen when you have one bucket.

          2. Allonge*

            If it’s really sufficient PTO and the issue is that everyone wants Christmas off, the solution is to have a discussion on this and use a leave planning calendar where people add their wishes by , e.g. September, review, see where there are conflicts etc. Make it clear early in the process that not everyone can be off for four weeks in December.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              ^ this!

              And also, think about what the real needs of the business are. Given what your workplace does, do you really need to be running 100% during the holiday periods or at least 80%, just because?

              I worked at a place where something like 75% of their client base and vendors shut down for 2 weeks between Christmas and New Years, but the owner insisted that the company be running, staffed normally during those times, aside from being closed on the legal holidays, even if people had very little to do. No leaving early, scheduling vacation/PTO was frowned upon, resented.

              It was just one symptom of his 1%er attitude towards his employees, viewing them as slackers if they wanted any balance in their lives. They could have easily shut for that period, allowing people to use PTO, or maintained a skeleton or on-call crew for emergencies. But nope. Don’t be that boss.

              1. Orv*

                Yeah, I’ve worked at places that simply closed most operations for the week between Christmas and Thanksgiving. People could still come in and work during that period if they had work to do and didn’t want to take PTO, but there was no expectation that the place would be fully staffed.

                As a computer support person who didn’t usually travel for the holidays, I actually liked it a lot, because I could do maintenance on our computer systems without disrupting people’s work.

                1. Freya*

                  I’m in Australia, and my workplace does this as a matter of course – the only things that get done in that week are things like payroll (and only if that can’t be pre-scheduled – all my clients are either pre-scheduling or don’t have a payroll due that week this year; my own timesheet is already completed for that week). Everyone else is turning their computers off and only answering for absolute screaming emergencies.

          3. Trippedamean*

            That’s how my workplaces have typically done it. At my current one, we are told the basis on which holiday requests will be more likely to be approved (seniority and who actually has the time, for instance). At other jobs, it was clear that if you got time off around Christmas one year, you wouldn’t get it the next year so that employees could switch off, but if you didn’t get time around Christmas, you would get time around Thanksgiving, etc.

          4. münchner kindl*

            So under the European system, where people have paid sick time and seperate over 20 days of vacation, the usual method for a team with coverage requirement is that before each major federal holiday (Easter, Pentecost, summer, Christmas + New Year), 1-2 months before at our regular team meetings, supervisor asks “who wants to take which weeks?” and we put our wishes into the calendar (used to be a big paper one, now it’s outlook) and boss looks over whether there is enough coverage, and then either approves, or somebody has to switch. And there’s discussion “I took Easter off, so I will cover Pentecoast/ I took July off, so I’ll cover August”.
            Then people do the official application for time off and get it approved.

            But given how many times people here have told about saving up PTO days in case of sickness, a change of system might help.

            And communicating clearly “we need x people per day for coverage, so I can’t approve all requests if they overlap.” and offer whether it’s first come, or seniority based, or 2 people cover all holidays one year and get pre-approved next year.

        4. rollyex*

          I save PTO as much as a I can for uncertainty. I do not feel comfortable without five days in the bank. My employer keeps trying to force us to spend that, but I don’t want to and have told them that. They say, well you can borrow from the future if you need to do that. Apart from a mortgage, I’ve never borrowed anything for more than a couple days, so don’t don’t want to do that. So I end up burning it up at the end of the year.

          If PTO was more generous in quantity and rollover policies, I could have five in the bank and spend more evenly through the year.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            That’s fine and your prerogative, but you can’t then be one of the people that LW describes as being upset at the end of the year if your leave isn’t approved because everyone else on the team took it off first. That’s the issue LW is dealing with – the shock and confusion despite being warned many, many times over that rollover is not allowed.

        5. doreen*

          It could be, but the same problem existed at my job in a state agency , where we got lots of time off. When I left , I got 25 days vacation/personal leave, 12 paid holidays and overtime eligible people got comp time for the hours between 37.5 and 40. Sick leave was separate Vacation time could accumulate up to 40 days of vacation , and for most people, they had to be below the limit on April 1 , at which time they would lose the excess. And then exceed it on April 2. Exceptions could be made – for example, the limit was waived during 2020-2022. So it wasn’t a matter of needing to save time for illness, or planning to take it around the holidays. But every year, people in certain titles would try to take nearly the whole month of March off to use it up and every year supervisors and managers would approve it so they didn’t lose the time regardless of the impact it had on operations. Until finally there was a big problem and no one was working in that particular office. Upper management started cracking down on ensuring coverage and people lost vacation days that year. And that’s when people started paying attention to the limit.

          Why were they saving time ? The only thing that ever made sense was that because of the very flexible schedules those people had, they never needed to take personal/vacation time to stay home for the plumber or go to the second grade play. They could work a few extra hours on Tuesday to make up for leaving early Wednesday or take Thursday off and work Sunday.

          1. Smithy*

            Yeah….while the issue of pooled sick/vacation PTO can certainly cultivate some understandable anxiety around having adequate PTO all year, I actually think the bigger issue in the US is combating larger cultural issues around taking vacation.

            Even if the OP’s workplace has separate sick/vacation PTO and also offers a relatively healthy amount, getting everyone to actually use it still requires combating the larger US culture around not taking vacation. I had a job where we had 25 days of use or lose PTO (not including sick days or public holidays), and a fiscal year that ended in September. Starting in July – you’d see so many people starting to work 4-day weeks as the only way to get close to not losing all their vacation.

            It was a huge push by managers to get their staff to actually use all their days, and honestly get staff to think of things like taking an extra day or two off before or after going out of town. Especially when travel included more likelihood of jetlag. To think about adding a PTO day to a public holiday three-day weekend. Because I think the reality for a lot of Americans who don’t need much PTO for in-town home/family/friends needs – it can become hyper focused on the literal concept of taking a vacation. And if you can’t afford to go on more vacations or have no one to go with (based on their finances or PTO realities), then you just don’t go – and taking off a week to just be at home isn’t for everyone.

            This is obviously not everyone, but think it can be helpful to remember that a lot of culture around vacation days is happening outside of any given employer. So an employer can be doing “everything right” and still need to proactively work with their team to actually take time off.

        6. Beth*

          Agreed! If the problem is that people have, say, 10 weeks of leave and are trying to use 5 of them between Thanksgiving and New Years, then yeah, pushing them harder to take leave all year might help. But if your org offers an amount of leave that’s more normal for the US, then people are saving a good chunk of that for the end of the year on purpose. Between the holidays (which people take leave for whether or not they celebrate–schools are closed so parents need to be home, lots of federal holidays close together mean a long trip will cost less PTO than usual, clients and partner businesses are closed or low staffed so it’s an easy time to take leave without getting backlogged, etc) and flu season, most people use lot of leave at this time of year. No amount of prompting is going to make them use it earlier when they’re intentionally saving it for now.

          Some things that might actually help (if your org isn’t doing them already, if you have any ability to advocate for them, etc):
          – Let some PTO roll over (or, if it already does, increase the amount that can roll over).
          – Make sick leave a separate bucket, so people don’t feel the need to budget time for potential illness.
          – If your department isn’t essential during the holidays, look into whether you can just close from 12/24-1/1. If people don’t need to budget leave for those days, there’s a lot less need to save PTO for the end of the year.
          – If your team is essential during the holidays, try taking the opposite approach from asking people to schedule their leave early–ask who’s willing to be in office to cover those days. Addressing the actual need directly might help your team think about their leave planning differently.

          1. Me...Just Me*

            This. Rather than look at who is requesting time off, start by planning on who HAS to be there during November-December and make those plans early in the year. Then, if people know that they’re obligated to work the week of Christmas (for instance), they can mentally prepare for it well in advance and others are welcome to work or use PTO as they see fit. This should be a rotation, so that those who are expected to work that week this year are definitely not obligated the next year and those working Christmas week aren’t also obligated to work Thanksgiving week, etc. Also, maybe evaluate how much coverage is really needed during this time – working a skeleton crew, if feasible.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              I want to push back gently on the rotation idea. It’s a solid one if everyone cares about those holidays equally, but in many workplaces, they won’t.

              I am visiting my family this year for Thanksgiving for the first time in almost a decade. Why has it been that long? Because I have always worked Thanksgiving and/or the day after in previous jobs and my family lives 500 miles away in another state. I am an atheist, but my family is all Christian. They care a LOT about Christmas. By taking off the week between Christmas and New Years, I could maximize my vacation time and limited travel budget (money for train tickets was always the issue more so than PTO time). My Jewish colleagues were more than happy to cover Christmas in exchange for me covering Thanksgiving.

              So I say all that long winded stuff to mean that you should ask your people first. Not everyone cares about the same winter holidays and the team might end up being happier with certain people consistently working Christmas or Thanksgiving than they would be with a rotation that makes it so they can’t travel every other or every third year.

        7. Lainey L. L-C*

          I think the problem is likely it’s a joint PTO/sick pot or they can’t use sick days for taking care of a sick family member (as you aren’t sick) like my former job. So everyone’s saving a certain amount of days to make it through to the end of the year in case a family member gets sick. We always had that problem, and management would get mad when everyone wanted off at the end of the year. Well don’t make us hoard PTO then for “emergencies!”

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This could be very much it. I put in for December vacation every January, because I’m allowed to UN-schedule it a day at a time if I need to use it for PTO. I’m not in a coverage based role though, and some years my department has just closed for a period of time.

      3. Also-ADHD*

        LW says it is generous, so I can’t imagine it’s two weeks. My company has a minimum PTO (technically unlimited) both per quarter and per year, the per quarter not being nearly 1/4 off the per year minimum, and I take about a month off between Nov/Dec intermittent personally (personally, I’m cautious so I plan this very early in year and get it approved —this year most of it was approved before May —, though it’s common in my department to take the last week or two of the year off with little notice). Lots of people just like time off this part of the year (and the folks in my department who like to work or enjoy that it’s slow and prefer to take their time when they’re busier). So I think that needs to be addressed directly as an issue if it is an issue at LW’s company. I don’t think the issue is they’re forgetting or whatever—the issue is likely that they all have the same preferences and it’s a strain on their company/department needs.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          You’d be surprised what some employers consider “generous”. I seem to remember a letter from a manager mentioning their “generous” five days of paid sick leave.

          1. Also-ADHD*

            Employers maybe but it seems like LW is just a manager and likely has the same amount since they write about how they take theirs? I could be wrong. But any individual who thinks 2 weeks is generous for a regular FT job is very silly.

              1. Also-ADHD*

                I’m American for the record! And while many people may only get that, that’s exactly why it’s not generous—generous leave would be at least double the average/what many people get, I’d think.

        2. SaltyAtty*

          As far as I am concerned PTO means “Prepare for me To be Off”. I have worked three different jobs where the workload made it impossible to actually plan time off more than two or three weeks out- and no one made enough to afford to take a real vacation(and that’s if the office didnt have a crisis where you had to come in or telework when you were supposed to be off)- but everything slowed down in late November through the end of the year. So that’s when everyone took their time. At my current job due to use or lose policies I am expecting all of our senior non-management staff to be out the last six weeks of the year.
          If you don’t want people using a part of their compensation package in the way that works for them you need to pay them for it.

      4. hbc*

        I think it’s probably the amount, but that it’s almost *too* generous for our American standards. I worked for a company where it was three weeks PTO to start plus we had two paid week-long shutdowns around Christmas and 4th of July, when Americans usually use vacation. None of us could wrap our brains around how often we could take vacation, and so pretty much everyone had time left at the end of the year.

        1. Cinderella Sparklepants*

          I worked at a company with pretty fair time off (for the US), and they made us schedule part of our vacation by a certain point in the year to ensure coverage. It wasn’t that we couldn’t use it, we just had to schedule in advance so they could make sure we didn’t have 10 people off on the same day. Plus, it forced me to think about how I wanted to use it. They always let us keep a couple of unscheduled days, but the overwhelming majority was on the calendar before summer.

          1. lurky mcgee*

            This is the same at my company. In July, my manager’s manager reminds the entire team that if you have more than 10 days unbooked, you need to ensure that at least 5 of them are booked on the calendar through the end of the year by August. This doesn’t mean that it is permanent and can’t be changed, but it helps make sure people think about their PTO. We get 20 days. We are also allowed to carry over a max of 5 each year.

            1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

              Yeah, we work in an industry where November/December are very busy and it’s challenging for too many people to take time off during that period, and also I had a new person start partway through the year, and I was worried that the new person would either get to the end of the year and find it all booked up and she couldn’t fit in her vacation time, or would feel like she couldn’t take meaningful vacation at all this first year (we have “unlimited” vacation, so there wouldn’t even be a tangible thing to lose), so sometime in her first few months I put it on the agenda for our 1:1 and told her that I was assigning her the task, within the next two weeks, of scheduling at least a week of vacation for this year. I wouldn’t recommend it with everyone, but it worked great with her.

            2. AngryOctopus*

              Same. We have to book up all our time by Oct (for accounting purposes), and can roll over 5 days w/out issue. Rolling over more triggers a justification for your manager, but just so that you’re not saying “I had no chance to take vacation because I was swamped and now I have all these days” instead of something like “I’m planning on taking a longer vacation next year so need to roll over more time”. They want you to take your vacation. Our department head in August always reminds everyone to get it on the calendar and use your days (and this year even said ‘I’m rolling over more but I’m planning on a longer vacation next year’).

        2. Smithy*

          I worked at a place where I had 25 days a year of use it or lose it vacation (not including sick days or public holidays) – and the point about it being “too generous” by American standards resonates well.

          As a US based employer, for a start there was NOT a culture of taking off more than 10 business days in a row. I’m sure you could make that request under extraordinary circumstances (i.e. marriage to partner with family overseas), but the end result was that I started doing things like taking the day after a vacation off to get caught up on errands or making it standard practice to add a PTO day to a three-day weekend. All to say, that it was actually challenging personally to think about how to take off that many days within the larger culture of US vacation time.

          1. Your Mate in Oz*

            My current employer tried the “not more than two weeks at a time” but it did not go down well. Not least because the employer likes to spend winters in the other hemisphere so will be on the road for 3-4 months of the year, including cruise ship periods when he’s basically not available at all.

            We’ve slowly worked around his concerned, showing him that the system doesn’t collapse when we go on holiday (or in one case, someone died). The policy has mostly relaxed/disappeared. I’m about to use all the leave I accumulated during covid… months of it :)

        3. Me...Just Me*

          5 weeks of vacation to start? — Yeah, Americans aren’t prepared for that amount of time off. I know when I got up to 6 weeks PTO at one job, I really had a hard time conceptualizing it – that’s a week off every 2 months?! Figuring out how to organize my workload around that amount of time off was incredibly difficult, too — and I never quite managed it.

          1. Anon in Canada*

            Also, people typically don’t go on vacations alone – and if they have a partner, their vacations will be spent with their partner. If the partner only gets 2 weeks, or even 3, the one who gets 5 will likely be at a loss on what to do with the excess days, especially if they don’t have small children.

          2. Orv*

            I’m kind of in the same boat. I get a generous amount of PTO but using it is challenging, especially since there isn’t really adequate coverage for me. If I leave for more than a week at a time things will start to grind to a halt.

          3. Freya*

            Basic minimum leave entitlements for a permanent employee in Australia is 4 weeks paid annual leave plus 2 weeks paid sick/carer leave (whatever a ‘week’ means according to your contract). If you’re a casual, you’re not getting leave entitlements, but you’re also getting paid at least 1.25x what you’d be getting paid as a permanent, to make up for the lack of entitlement to paid leave.

            (also, it’s illegal to cap leave entitlements – depending on your state, employees can cash out excess annual leave, but it’s pay they’re entitled to and it’s got to be paid at some point. Annual leave gets paid out when you leave a job, sick leave doesn’t have to and usually doesn’t)

            What this means is that if employers make it difficult for their employees to take leave, then they’ll eventually have to pay it at the higher rate of pay the employee will be earning when they finally leave. Doesn’t stop employers doing it, but there are predictable consequences for the choice.

      5. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Part of the issue is that we don’t have a “system” so some places have little to no PTO and some places do have legitimate generous PTO policies. At my current job and past job, I’ve had about five weeks of PTO plus 8 to 10 holidays.

      6. AnotherOne*

        My office has the opposite issue of we have so much (for the US)- but ours expires in the summer v. December. And my specific department than goes- well, fine you can use those days for another 2 months but only unofficially.

        That way year and quarter ends aren’t impacted, and everyone isn’t trying to take time at Christmas.

      7. GingerFox*

        In my context (Aussie here), we get 4 weeks annual leave plus 10 days sick leave and 5 days carer’s leave, so I do a call out as a manager at the end of each year asking people to submit requests of a week or more for the following year (school holidays being important for parents, and then other people may want to plan significant holiday travel). Of course that doesn’t preclude later requests, it just means everyone gets a fair chance at popular dates (we do get an extra week between xmas and nye).
        But ours doesn’t expire (although we get warned if we get over 5 weeks of annual leave, so we do have to take it then).
        Asking for the leave in advance of the year allows me to create a calendar to try to plan out to make sure I have staff on in each of my teams at all times.

        1. Freya*

          I’ve just had to put the call out telling people that if they’re taking leave in between the public holidays, when the office is shut and not answering calls and I’m on leave, they need to put their leave requests in so that the payroll system deals with it all automatically and I don’t have to do it manually. I don’t care if they take leave or not, as long as they take it at some point before it gets ridiculous and I have to start making noises about it, but I _do_ care about having to do unnecessary work…!

    3. londonedit*

      Yes – we don’t have a particular policy where I work, but I have friends whose employers say you must use X amount of leave by the end of September, or whatever. It’s slightly different here because you can’t do the thing of rolling over tons of leave every year (or at least I’ve never heard of that – usually the maximum you can roll over is around 3-5 days, and often there’s a stipulation that any rolled-over days need to be used within the first few months of the year) and sick time is separate from annual leave entitlement. Apart from being able to roll over a small number of days into the next year, it’s use-it-or-lose-it, so people do tend to use their holiday entitlement. But if there’s an issue with everyone saving up leave until the end of the year and then trying to use it all at the same time, I’d firstly look at why that is (do they not have enough days to use for Christmas, for example?) and secondly think about some sort of policy like ‘leave must be booked X date’ and/or ‘you must use at least X days’ holiday before the end of September’.

    4. Thrupence Found*

      Would it be possible to change the month that the leave year ends? So rather than everyone wanting to use the rest of their leave by the end of December, if the leave year went August to July (for example) then the scramble for using up the rest of their vacation would be in July.

      This is obviously a long term solution that will cause a certain amount of short term pain and may be culturally difficult as well (I’m not American), but I thought it worth a suggestion.

      1. Polaris*

        My employer’s leave-year doesn’t end with the calendar year, and it probably makes things easier on us employees as a result.

      2. Wonder Woman's Tiara*

        In my dad’s old job, the leave year began on the individual employee’s birthday. It was a brilliant system as it meant there were never too many people trying to use up all their leave at the same time!

      3. jane's nemesis*

        This is what I was going to suggest! I’ve worked many places where leave year transition was in summer and it was so helpful. Of course, we were also allowed to roll over vacation time up to a certain capped amount…

      4. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I’ve never worked at a company that did this but it does seem like the only sustainable solution. (Rollovers are the other possibility, but I’ve never had that option either.) It’s so obvious there must be a reason companies don’t do it?

        Almost no matter how much or little leave you offer, the problem is the convergence of multiple holidays / school outages hitting right as the calendar year ends, winter flu hits, and vacation days are timing out. Most people want significant time off during this season. I have appreciated working for companies that just shut down.

        My company is practically begging us not to take PTO this December. Usually PTO is pretty much rubber stamped here, but not this year.

        1. THAT girl*

          The reason is, it is a nightmare to track. (I’m HR and responsible for all benefits including paid leave)

          However, we do things to mitigate the issues such as different pots for vacation and sick leave (very generous pots by US standards) and we allow rollover with some stipulations.

          We also are in an industry and serve a customer base where things tend to be very quiet from Thanksgiving until after the New Year. This enables us to close down the week after Christmas (paid) each year and also allows anyone who wants to take vacation the week before Christmas to be able to do so as long as we maintain a skeleton crew (basically someone to answer the phones and process mail and bank deposits as we also deal with a lot of end of year financial contributions) We generally don’t have too many issues and most people don’t end up losing a lot of time at least not for this reason. The flip side of this is, we provide so much leave to tenured employees as compensation for inability to pay someone what they’re worth, that it’s often difficult to use it all because unfortunately, the workload prevents it. But that’s another letter for another day!

    5. Grith*

      Similarly, a previous company where this was a problem used to say that you have to have at least half of your holiday used or booked by the 6-month point. The “or booked” is important – it stopped it being two distinct holiday half-years, but meant that people were obliged to be looking at the holiday calendar early in the year and thinking about when to use it all up.

    6. Earlk*

      Most places I’ve worked have a rule that you need to use an even amount of leave in each quarter unless you’ve requested to use most of it on a long holiday which needs to be agreed at the start of the year.

    7. I don’t post often*

      My department has a cap on the number of hours that people can take in December that is announced in January. We must have a certain amount of people working. This has worked well.

    8. Thomas*

      My current employer, a UK local council, takes the approach that your “leave year” ends on whatever month you first started in. So you don’t get everybody trying to use up their annual leave all at once, unless the initial hiring was a big cluster (which OK will happen sometimes).

      Probably OP can’t make a change like that now though.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I’ve worked somewhere like that. It’s a good system, because everyone doesn’t take time off at the same time.

    9. Colette*

      I wouldn’t expect people to use leave up proportionally (i.e. you should have 50% of your leave used up half way through the year) – multi-day vacations are a thing! But it’s reasonable to ask them to have their vacation scheduled by August (for example), with the provision that they can change things if staffing needs permit.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I would remind people in the fall that they can only carry over x number of hours and that due to coverage needs, not everyone can take off around the holidays. My old boss used to ask for people’s requests for the end of the year October-ish and usually it was granted in order of real need or seniority. We had to have someone on site every day so who was going to be in? We often worked with each other to maximize time off as a team.

        The flip side is I’ve also worked for companies where not taking PTO was a problem because the workload or company culture was a problem. If either of those is impacting the leave bank, then that’s a whole different thing to evaluate. Maybe what needs to happen is some cross training so people feel like they can take time off.

    10. Jenna Webster*

      Also, set limits on the number of people (overall, or on each team) who can be gone during the holidays and set up a rotation so people know ahead of time if they can take that time off or not. And it should apply equally to everyone, including people without kids.

    11. Gatomon*

      Yes, this is honestly such a good way to do it. I wish my current employer did the same. At my government job, you had to submit your Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s time off requests by X date in early October. You had to specify your first choice of dates, and a second choice of dates. You absolutely could not take both holidays off. If you had Thanksgiving off one year, you would be de-prioritized for Thanksgiving the following year, for example. If all requests could not be fulfilled, the second choices would be taken into account.

      It forced people to plan ahead, be reasonable with their choices, and be fair. In my current job, I have a coworker who books all his holiday leave at the beginning of the year to ensure he gets a bunch of time off around Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s every. year. It’s not really a huge problem because we usually don’t have everyone try to take the same day off, but then I wonder, do people see his leave on the calendar and decide not to ask because they think they’re too late?

    12. Not A Manager*

      Decades ago, I worked in a department that could only have 3 people off at a time and still function. So we had a clipboard with actual paper on it with each week of the year listed, with three blank boxes after. We could sign up anytime as soon as that clipboard went up at the beginning of the year. It worked well. Surely there’s some higher-tech way to do it now, but it can be done.

    13. North American Couch Wizard Society Member*

      I also work for the federal government and for high-popularity holidays (the Friday after Thanksgiving and the 2 weeks around Christmas/New Years, my group asks for priority requests *a year in advance* since we have to have a certain amount of coverage at all times. Usually we are able to give the dates to everyone who requests it a year in advance and lists it as a top priority, and it really serves to emphasize to people that no, you can’t just decide on Halloween that you’d like to take the week of Thanksgiving off . (Any new hires are offered one of those holidays–their choice–since they weren’t around to request it early). We hardly ever have to deny leave requests that way.

      Doing it a year in advance might be a little bit overkill, but you can surely tell people in July or August that they need to start planning Nov-Dec vacations ASAP. We also keep a shared calendar of time off (due to coverage) and so it’s easy to see how many other people have planned time off when you are considering it.

  3. Ginger Cat Lady*

    OP3 – I’ve been on the employee side here. And I think you’re being a bit of a jerk about this. Your employees have been clear about their availability. You don’t get to violate their stated availability and expect them to just suck it up and comply.
    They have families, likely other jobs, etc. You come in and decide to redo everything (so you can do it YOUR way? To demonstrate that you have the power to do it?) and then to make things less difficult, you just ignore the needs and availability of the employees.
    Being the boss isn’t just about power over others. It’s about putting your ego aside to make the business work.
    And in my case, that new boss who went on a power trip changing everything drove the business into the ground within 60 days. 80% of the instructors quit and he was never able to recover from that.

    1. Just me*

      That weirded me out too.

      But LW4, I love that you want your people to get their paid time off and want to figure out a way that doesn’t unduly burden whoever is working those days. Truly, cheers.

      I think that if you make a clear, fair system, remove obstacles and issue a few reminders throughout the year — reminding everyone all at the same times and/or giving individualized reminders whose timing is based on work reasons (like, “Maybe you’d like to take a week off right after this big project deadline”) — that will be a winning combination.

    2. Ink*

      I noticed that too- *I* keep a different schedule than the old boss. Shaking up everyone’s schedule and potentially losing emploees so that *you*, personally, can have the schedule you want sounds like a nosedive for morale at minimum

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I am giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming the schedule change wasn’t just “hours I want to work” but rather “hours I think make more sense for the fitness studio to be open.”

        But even if that’s the case they can’t force their employees to suddenly have different availability. They can certainly try to make it work, but they may need to realize that they either need to work with their employee’s existing availability or they need to hire people available for the hours they want.

    3. Avi!*

      Yeah, the whole tone there came off as ‘I want to work different hours and now it’s everybody else’s problem’. Just completely unwilling to admit that they’re the disruptive element in this situation, not the employees.

      1. Artemesia*

        And the iron law of ‘taking over’ is to listen and observe for awhile until you see how things are working. This OP has all the earmarks of someone about to take this business down the tubes.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I do think it’s problematic to become a new leader/manager/whatever and then come in and immediately start changing things without asking why things are the way they are first. That’s usually always a recipe for disaster.

          1. ferrina*

            Exactly. First thing a new boss should do is understand why it is like it is. Sometimes it’s as simple as “old boss was lazy”. But sometimes there’s factors like “employees have limited availability and that’s not going to change, so we need to work with what we have”. It’s ridiculous to expect employees to suddenly have availability that they haven’t had before, especially when that hasn’t previously been the expectation. Especially for the pay rate of an average fitness studio employee

            1. Worldwalker*

              Before you tear down that old fence, be sure you know why it was built in the first place. Otherwise you’re likely to be sharing space with a bull.

              1. Ozzac*

                This read like a new manager power trip, when they change things just because they can. I also find the surprised tone of the letter funny “Alice said she is only avaible on mondays and friday, so I’ll put her on thursday and tuesday, she will surely come. What do you mean you can’t come and will only work on avaible days?”

                1. Random Dice*

                  When someone weaponizes therapy talk, I take a long hard look at them.

                  This LW isn’t “setting a boundary” – this just isn’t that situation, for heaven’s sake.

                  Calling one’s managerial demand a “boundary” is manipulative – then she can claim to be a victim if they don’t capitulate to her demand.

                  Instead, she’s trying to force her new employees to change for her convenience. They’re just going to quit, and that’s a reasonable consequence, not boundary violation.

          2. darsynia*

            Yeah, it’d be good as a manager to realize that the thing which changed was the management, not the employees. They didn’t ‘suddenly’ have recalcitrant availability! Their availability didn’t change at all.

    4. Meemur*

      This is exactly how I felt. LW doesn’t say *why* they’re operating under new hours. There may be a legitimate business reason but the overall tone sounds so much more, “Because I said so”. With that kind of attitude, staff morale will plummet anyway. There are so many things that make a good employee and being fully flexible is not one of them; it’s a nice bonus but that’s all

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        For this job the prime requirement would be flexible in body, not flexible in schedule.

        And OP do listen to everyone. I’m related to a personal trainer who went independent after her chain got heavy-handed like this. She had a good number of regulars who went looking for her after she resigned, and followed her.

      2. Annony*

        It’s true that there could be a legitimate reason to change the schedule. But that doesn’t obligate the employees to change their availability or to find coverage for shifts they can’t do. OP needs to only schedule people for the time they have indicated availability and accept that they will lose anyone they can’t accommodate. Or they need to decide that changing the schedule is less important than keeping the instructors.

        1. But what to call me?*

          There definitely could be legitimate reasons to change the schedule. OP could even decide to change the schedule just because they felt like it. But why in the world is OP acting like employees being unable or even just unwilling to rearrange their lives to accommodate this new schedule they never signed up for is some personal attack on OP?

      3. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Well, they did say why – it’s for the needs of the business. If you don’t believe that, I guess you do you, but they did say why.

        1. Lexie*

          OP said they don’t keep the same hours as the previous manager but didn’t say if it was their personal preference or a business related issue. The needs of the business came up when talking about the current staff not being willing/able to work the new hours. So it could be that the schedule changed because the business needed it to or the schedule changed because OP wanted it to and now that it’s changed the business needs to be staffed during those hours.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            It’s very possible that the OP is changing hours because they see a business need, but OP, you can’t then say to your current instructors “you must conform to my new schedule and take different hours because it’s best for the business”. They’re already working hours that work for them (and the possible/probable other jobs they have!). You may be looking at hiring more instructors who can accommodate that new schedule, because your current ones are not able to make that change (and may not want to either).

        2. Also-ADHD*

          “Needs of the business” isn’t saying why since the business needs seem to have changed as LW changed their own schedules. “Because it’s necessary” isn’t the reason it’s necessary. LW doesn’t say what the business need is or why it has changed.

    5. bamcheeks*

      I wondered what that meant too. If it means that the old manager did the 9-5 coverage, but LW wants to do 11-7 and is struggling to find people to cover the earlier part of the day, I’ve not got much sympathy! But I wondered whether it was more like, they’ve identified that the gym isn’t actually open the right hours to attract business, and they need more lunchtime and weekday evening classes or something, but their current staff have got their lives planned around afternoon and weekend availability. That would make it a legitimate business need, but the answer is still going to be that you need to hire new people if your existing staff aren’t available at the new hours.

      1. kiki*

        The latter was my assumption too– that the LW noticed a lot of interest in 8am classes, but right now the gym only offers classes at 6 and 7am because the instructors need to get to their day jobs by 9am. Or something in that vein. It seems like LW may have come into their position with a lot of ideas for improvements but didn’t realize all the logistics and reasons the previous manager may have had the schedule as they did.

        It is tricky as a manager in this situation to remember that your employees in this case have a different relationship to their jobs than you do. This, presumably, is your full-time job and you’ll make the rest of your schedule work around the job to a certain extent. These employees took this job in part because they could fit it in with their higher priority obligations. If that is no longer the case, they will likely leave the job.

    6. Monkey Princess*

      I’m a bit more sympathetic, because I’m reading this as “my boss/the owner is sick of dealing with all of these people who want very specific and similar hours, so they promoted me, and told me to be the bad guy.” Which isn’t fair to the LW, because that’s a no-win situation, and LW was set up to fail, probably because they’re young, personable (and well liked by other staff), eager-to-please (and so won’t question the boss), and don’t have enough experience to know that there’s no way to succeed here..

      I’ve definitely seen this exact situation go down more than once, though.

      1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

        That would make me more sympathetic, but I don’t see any of that in the letter as I read it. The language reads to me as, “I personally go in different hours than the prior manager” not “I realized we needed to change our hours” or something.

        Like others, I got the distinct impression that OP changed the schedule for their convenience/preference and is now demanding that others work with the new schedule that creates.

        1. M2*

          Yes if they changed the schedule for their preference then that’s not good. If they are trying to change it because that’s what the clients need then maybe discuss it with the team.

          I go to a nice gym with classes and wanted personal training in addition once a week either at 8 PM or 5 AM (after my kids were asleep or before they woke up my spouse was taking another day to do the same). They couldn’t find a personal trainer who would do either time so I had to switch gyms! I guess I could have just stayed with the classes, but I liked having one day of PT at that time because I wouldn’t motivate myself to the same extent and could get a lot done in 50 minutes of training then stretch quick shower and if I was lucky I could be home in 90 minutes.

          1. rollyex*

            “Yes if they changed the schedule for their preference then that’s not good. ”

            It’s not bad with enough lead time for the other party to make alternative arrangements. This is basic in business relationships: people and organizations can change what they want. They just have to give a good heads up. I’m not sure how long, but at least a few weeks or maybe a couple months.

            If they don’t it’s scummy, but it’s OK to change preferences. Really.

            1. Also-ADHD*

              Sure, but LW wants to keep the staff AND change things—that’s not reasonable in many cases as Alison notes. It’s fine to tell people with notice especially that schedule needs and business needs will be changing and see if that works for them or they want to move on. But LW seems to think they should “suck it up” and not take their availability seriously.

              1. rollyex*

                My point is to get out of the “good” and “bad” thinking in these situations and instead understand that needs on all sides change. With enough lead time it’s just business.

                “It’s fine to tell people with notice especially that schedule needs and business needs will be changing” I thought I said that.

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

              Even with a month’s heads up there’s going to be a lot of people who aren’t going to be able to work the new schedule. As Alison and others have mentioned, these people probably do this around full-time work. No one is going to change their full time job to suite a schedule for this fitness center. They probably only teach a few classes a week as extra income and because they like it. They obviously have a schedule that works for them and have the ability to say no.

            3. Worldwalker*

              It’s okay to change preferences; it’s not okay to demand that other people accommodate those preferences when they’ve already told you they’re unable to.

            4. Annony*

              It’s fine to change the schedule with notice. It isn’t fine to assign people to days/times that they have said they are unavailable and then expect them to find someone else to cover. OP can explain that their desired day/time is unavailable and ask if they can do the alternate time and realize that they may need to hire a new instructor if the answer is no.

              I was an adjunct professor and made it clear that I was available to teach specific classes (and ok not teaching if they didn’t need someone to teach those classes). I was still assigned a class not on that list. Not offered, assigned. They were surprised when I said no and I decided that if they were going to push for more than I was willing to give, I didn’t want to deal with it at all.

        2. Gyne*

          Ses, I didn’t get the impression the hours were for OP’s convenience at all. The gyms/fitness studios I’ve been to (crossfit, yoga, small personal trainer gyms) almost never have had the owner or manager on-site during all of the operations. One coach or instructor or trainer would be there teaching a class or meeting with a client, and then would lock up or hand over to the next coach who came in to teach the next class. I figured the hours change was probably necessary to get classes scheduled at a time where more clients could actually come. Like, it’s great that my yoga studio has a 9:30 am class every day but I’m at work then, so I go to the 6 am class on Mondays instead. My assumption was that OP took over a (possibly) failing business and is trying to turn things around by increasing hours and classes to bring in more revenue.

          Which doesn’t change the core availability of the staff – they’ve been working their schedules for a long time and probably have their lives built around that. It just means OP will probably have to hire new staff and will lose some existing staff. It isn’t good or bad on anyone’s part, just is.

          1. Lexie*

            Even if an owner or manager isn’t on site all the time a change in their hours could affect the rest of the schedule. If the manager is just there doing manager duties and the staffing doesn’t change then the schedule change could be because of the things you said. However, if the manager being there means one less staff member is scheduled then the new manager working different hours could definitely shake up the schedule.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        But if this is the reason — they need to change the hours to fix the business, then you need to tell the instructors. Openess at this point will go a long way. If you just say you have to do these hours, I don’t care what your availability is, then you are going to get pushback. But if you say, we need to change the hours to grow the business, how can we make this work, you will get more buy in. Who knows maybe folks have some flexibility or just need to re-arrange things, but they aren’t going to do it just because OP said so.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          And if OP says “we’d like to change to run more classes at these times” and allows current staff to see if they’d LIKE to take any of those, that’s fine. But it’s a world of difference between “hey we’d like to offer a class at 4:30, would you be interested in that?” vs. “well that class is going to be at 4:30 now so that’s when you teach”.

      3. Sarah*

        Having been in fitness, I’ve seen this play out again and again (new manager comes in and wants to change everything with their shiny new ideas). But LW doesn’t seem to realize that if the instructors can’t make times work, chances are they’re going to be the one on the hook to make sure the class has an instructor.

    7. GammaGirl1908*

      I have worked in fitness in addition to my regular job, and I think LW 3 really needs to adjust her expectations about what the current staff will be able to do.

      It’s not clear what changes she is making, but if it’s something like, say, opening the gym an hour earlier and wanting most of the front desk staff and trainers to shift their schedules back, or adding a lot of morning and midday classes and wanting the group exercise instructors to teach those instead of evening classes (or vice versa), she needs to be clear-eyed that she very likely will need to hire new people to work those new hours. That’s not the same as losing your current staff … but your current staff has picked their hours and organized their other commitments accordingly, and they are not going to be able to shift their whole universe.

      It might not seem like a big deal to bump things back an hour, but it is. Someone who arrives to open the gym at 6 being asked to start opening the gym at 5 needs to shift their whole ecosystem including their sleep schedule to do that. You can do that once in a great while, but for it to be an everyday thing isn’t something people are willing to do. If you are opening at a new time, you need to find a new opening person who is hired knowing their start time and starts the job willing to open at that time on a regular basis … not expect everyone else to change their lives around.

      As for instructors, daytime and nighttime instructors generally can’t switch. Daytime instructors are often parents who need to get kids off to school in the morning and be home in the evenings with their families. Nighttime instructors generally have 9-5 jobs and aren’t available in the day. Those are both nonnegotiables. Asking someone who teaches at 9am to teach at 8 means they can’t make breakfast and put their kids on the bus. Asking someone who teaches at 5:45pm to teach at 4:45 means they are sneaking out of their full-time job early every time. The answer to both of those is no. Again, it’s one thing to help out once in a blue moon, but in general, my regular class needs to fit in the regular availability I have, or someone else needs to take it. If you are adding classes at new times, you probably need some new day / night instructors. You won’t be able to just cut someone’s 7:30 classes and expect them to pick up the new 4:30 classes when they have a 9-5 job.

      None of these are issues that can be solved by asking people to be more flexible and tighten their belts and pitch in for the good of the business. Kids still need to get off to school at 8:15 even if the gym would prefer their parent be free at that time, and that is out of the instructor’s hands; they are not being unreasonable to note that they can’t just shift the start time of the school. That is even more the case when you are dealing with part-timers, where even if they would really love to find a solution, this job isn’t going to be their first priority when the rubber meets the road. I absolutely have left classes or whole gyms when new managers came in and started throwing around huge changes that meant the three hours a week I taught there no longer worked for me.

      I say all of that to say … you’re likely going to need to do some hiring EVEN IF you keep your current staff. Everyone is not going to be able to just smile and start an hour earlier or stay an hour later.

      1. Corporate Lawyer*

        Yes to all of this. I taught group fitness on the side as a Fun Job for 24 years, whilst practicing law as my Day Job, and there were lots of my fellow instructors who also had Day Jobs or other important things in their lives that imposed major scheduling constraints. I taught classes at 6AM because that gave me enough time to shower, grab breakfast, and get to Day Job by 9AM. If my gym had tried to shift my classes to another time, they would have had to find another instructor to teach them.

        Interestingly, at one point, my gym had four instructors who were lawyers. It’s a weird combo, and I was surprised to discover I wasn’t the only one.

        1. Arabella Flynn*

          I have a dance instructor with a JD. He quit lawyering to teach (and be an NBA cheerleader for a season!), although I gather he did both while in law school/internships.

      2. Sarah*

        And to add on: just changing the schedule and expecting the instructors to find the coverage for you is likely going to end up with instructors just no-showing or simply telling you that they will not be able to make it and that’s it. It’s a very different professional dynamic when most of your employees are doing it for fun. If it stops working for them they’ll just walk away.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Right. It is my job to find a sub for my regular class on the rare occasions I have a conflict. It’s not my job to be available at all hours if the schedule is changing. If I’m not available at noon because I have a 9-5 job, that’s not going anywhere.

          It’s also my job to make sure I am available most of the time to teach my regular class and not sub it out a bunch. If I have to sub out my class a lot, then the time doesn’t work for me and I need to give it up. It’s not my job to hire somebody to replace me. That falls to the group exercise manager or gym manager.

      3. Worldwalker*

        +N

        OP#3 seems like they have main character syndrome; why aren’t the NPCs conforming to the OP-centered world?

      4. Regular Human Accountant*

        To add on from the client perspective, if I had a 6 pm class that was shifted back to 5 pm AND my beloved instructor left, I would be unhappy. If this happened across my whole week of classes, I’d find another gym immediately.

        This is something actually brewing at my own gym right now; a new team leader came in and wants to switch up classes and push out old instructors, not realizing (or caring?) that many of us have been loyal to those instructors for many years and she might just push us out the door as well.

    8. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      New managers needing to shake things up to “mark their territory” are the WORST for morale. Unless you’re trying to drive people out to replace them with your own, which is unlikely at a fitness center, this is a bad look.

      1. gmg22*

        “Unless you’re trying to drive people out to replace them with your own … this is a bad look.”

        I gotta ask. Am I (hopefully) misunderstanding your wording here, or would it somehow be a good look if this WERE what the manager were trying to do?

        1. sparkle emoji*

          I think if this really was the goal(odd but possible?) it would be better for the hypothetical manager to at least be self-aware.

      2. PresidentBob*

        I had that a lot when I was in the service. The command/building/shop/shift is going well, smoothly moving through. Morale is strong, work getting done. Being the military, people move about and new leadership person at one of the levels comes in. Either they work differently or need to make their mark but they make a lot of changes, bust down on things, shift schedules and work production, etc. Morale goes to hell, people get angry and it’s never good.

    9. Beth*

      Agreed. People who specify limited availability usually do so for a reason, they’re likely working around things like school/childcare/another job and don’t have the option to be flexible. This falls in the category of “you employ humans, not robots.” People don’t rearrange their whole lives for a part-time job!

      OP3, you have three options.
      One: Stick to the existing schedule.
      Two: Ask (as in a genuine question, not an “I expect you to say yes”) whether people are able to adjust their schedules. Expect most to say no, but who knows, maybe a couple can accommodate. Figure out how to run your business with the staff hours you’ve been offered.
      Three: Find new staff who are available to work the hours you want.

      There is no magic option for “my existing staff will make themselves available whenever I say they will.”

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yes, a combo of 2 and 3 will serve you well. Maybe a staff member can pick up a different time than what you want them to. Maybe they see the new schedule and want to rearrange. And maybe you can’t cover things with existing staff so you hire new. But inflexibility and “because I want it this way and said so” will just cause you 100% turnover.

    10. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. People have a lot of reasons for their schedules. Childcare, other jobs, etc.

      I had a new manager at a store I worked at come in and start to demand people take new schedules. She would also do things like have you close one night and open the next day. I was a student taking a summer class and had another job. My availability was what it was. Those were things I signed up for with the understanding of the old manager. I ended up quitting the store job. If OP doesn’t stop being adversarial about the schedule, people will quit. Talk to the team about the hours and see who can fit in where. Maybe pick up some hours to make it fit. Leadership over being a boss.

      1. Worldwalker*

        And if instructors quit, the odds are very high that *clients will quit too*. They’ll follow their favorite instructors to wherever they move to.

    11. Lainey L. L-C*

      Yeah, you might have a legitimate business need – say people want classes they can attend after work (like me!), and all of your staff has the availability to work until 4 – but that doesn’t mean your staff can change their schedules to work until 7, or on the weekends, or what have you. They may have second jobs, family commitments, etc. You may have to look to hire new people to cover where you need. Demanding the change isn’t going to do much for employee morale, trust me.

  4. LinZella*

    OP #2: Please please don’t let this go. What Alison suggested is exactly what Mac needs to hear and not in a friendly tone. Not rude or sarcastic of course, but definitely serious.
    I can understand a huge reluctance to let slide – DON’T.
    Practice at home, write it down and just keep it in your pocket for moral support.
    Be don’t let Mac slide. He doesn’t get a freebie.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing very hard on this. Mac was trying this on to see what he could get away with – he’ll continue unless he gets shut down with prejudice.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Mac was trying this on to see what he could get away with.
        This is the key to so many successfully shitty people–they know how to be normal, and they know how to float test balloons, and they know how to back off if the test balloon gets an “Oh fuck no, you asshole.” If it doesn’t, then the next test balloon pushes your boundaries harder.

    2. Allonge*

      I really agree – and maybe OP also needs to say it, for herself. Things we say out loud have a different kind of power in our own psyche – hopefully it will help internalize that this is not in any way OP’s fault but Mac’s alone (plus, you know, patriarchy but plenty of men manage not to harrass women, so… yeah, Mac).

    3. LCH*

      yes, do this. there is always the chance Mac realized his terrible choice after the fact and will be relieved to apologize instead of reacting badly (which he should have done on his own, but anyway). tell him it was not cool.

  5. Indigo a la mode*

    OP3, can you say a little more about why the needs of the business mean the staff can’t keep their hours? If it’s just your preference, I guess that’s your right, but it would go a long way toward forming good relationships with your employees if you gave them the flexibility they’re used to. I would really chafe if I had a new boss come in and stress out my entire schedule. As the new person, it might behoove you to work with them.

    A note: I know trainers are often classified as independent contractors (although IME they’re often taken advantage of in that arrangement) and if that’s the case for yours, you generally can’t determine their hours for them. If they’re W-2 employees, please disregard.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s not quite correct; there’s no blanket prohibition on dictating the hours of independent contractors (and in a case like scheduling fitness classes you normally have to). In determining if someone qualifies as an IC or not, the law looks at the totality of the circumstances, and controlling their hours is just one factor on a list of everything that gets looked at; there’s not a single factor that will on its own make you an employee.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I suspect that they’ve got times when they want to offer classes/coaching, or customers are requesting classes, but there aren’t any staff available, and the LW wants them to shift their hours to cover it. Which makes sense – if the staff is available at hours that people don’t want classes, or if they’re paying people for classes that aren’t well attended, the business isn’t making money.

      Pressuring them to change to hours they can’t work, because of other jobs, or childcare responsibilities, or transit schedules, isn’t going to get them what they want, however. They’d have more luck hiring someone new who has the required availability.

      1. MK*

        Also, I feel like “this is the schedule, you’ve got to come in or find someone to switch” is basically offloading OP’s responsibility as a manager to make a schedule that works to the instrustors: “I can’t figure it out, so I am going to make a schedule based on the needs of the bussiness and my personal schedule, and you have to do the work to make changes if it conflicts with your availability”. It’s very unlikely to be acceptable, unless the job is particularly attractive to the instructors, but it sounds more like something people do as a side-gig/part-time.

        1. bamcheeks*

          It’s not a bad place to *start* doing a rota though, as long as there’s a long enough lead-in for people to sort out swaps and if they can’t work it out they can come back to you. When I’ve had to work out rotas, I’ve either crowdsourced it initially (“Here’s the shared spreadsheet, please put down your preferred hours and we’ll see how far that gets it”) or done a draft and then asked everyone to see if it works for them and do bilateral swaps if it doesn’t. Fifteen people looking at a rota to see if it works is much more efficient than one person trying to remember fifteen people’s schedules.

            1. Annony*

              That’s where the problem is. If OP schedules someone for a time that the person has said they are not available, that person should not suddenly be responsible for finding someone else to cover. That is OP’s job. If they can’t accommodate limited availability anymore, they should make that clear but they need to be prepared to lose pretty much everyone unless they are offering full time hours and pay (which seems unlikely).

              1. GammaGirl1908*

                Even if LW IS offering full time* hours and pay, that doesn’t solve the problem. Many instructors and trainers already have full time jobs and aren’t looking to be full time at the gym. Gyms also need to have a variety of styles of group exercise, and everyone doesn’t teach every discipline. If only one yoga teacher and one cycling teacher are even able to go full time, what happens to the 14 other instructors teaching pilates, kickboxing, HIIT, aqua, strength training, barre, and senior fitness? Many gyms are very dependent on people who are only there for 1-3 hours a week.

                *Also, full time in group exercise is considered to be 15 classes a week, at every gym where I have ever taught (which is about 15 gyms in 4 states over 20+ years). Physically, it’s hard to do much more, gyms don’t have classes for 8 hours a day, and you need variety because every instructor is not going to be every participant’s cup of tea. That one cycling and one yoga teacher above are going to lose the people who preferred another style.

            2. Lainey L. L-C*

              Agreed. When I was in high school working a part-time job, I would give them hours I was available – which came down to nights and weekends. And occasionally, some genius manager would put me down to work 1-9 or 2-10. I was a teenager. Still in high school. High school didn’t get out until 3 p.m.!!!!!!

              I understand its hard to do a schedule and get everyone’s availability straight, but sure, look like an idiot to the kid.

          1. Beth*

            It’s different to ask people to put down their hours vs to schedule people for times you already KNOW they’re not available for, though. It sounds to me like people have already shared their availability, OP has access to that info (so it’s probably written down), and OP either just doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of scheduling around availability or doesn’t want to face that they need to hire new people to cover new time slots that no existing staff are available for.

        2. ecnaseener*

          Agreed. It’s one thing for one-off conflicts, but it sounds like LW’s regular MO is to schedule people without regard to their stated availability and then say “you’ve got to come in or find someone to switch.” Offloading a huge amount of scheduling work that way.

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

          I know. It feels very much like retail or resturant work where the boss changes your schedule and you just have to suck it up. The diffrence here though is that the workers probably are not relying on this as their main income so they DON’T have to suck it up.

      2. Oatmeal Mom*

        This is what I’m wondering, maybe someone who goes to fitness classes a lot can explain: surely some of the staff have their own specialities and therefore would find it difficult to just switch shifts with others?

        As in, if you teach a Zoomba and a pilates class, you might not be able to cover someone else’s aerobics class? If the shifts are about manning the front desk or being available as a PT that’s one thing (although different clients might not want a different trainer as their PT because they get along with X and would work within X’s availability or just not take any personal training at all). But in my understanding it might not be as simple as switching shifts with someone else.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          yes, as a former fitness instructor I could teach many classes (yoga, spin, bootcamp, power pump) but not all (no zumba, pilates, dance cardio) and there were some who could do only spin, some spin and zumba or any wild combination.

          Members get PISSED if they show up and the format is different or class is cancelled so coverage, or the right coverage, is key. And the members kinda dictate the schedule, not the instructors. And OP might not be able to jump in an cover every class every time someone calls off.

          I think the OP needs to look at a bunch of factors, including it might just be time for new staff due to availability. Same with personal trainers schedules…they vary greatly so not everyone is going to be happy with just anyone. It’s a mess. And similar to the restaurant biz & retail jobs I had in college/post-college, it’s usually on the instructor to try to find coverage if they know they are out, not the manager. That’s just standard in the industry (not saying I agree with it).

        2. GammaGirl1908*

          Yes. All fitness instructors do not teach all disciplines. Some do teach multiple formats, but there are plenty of people who are specialists in one format. If you are subbing a class, you should be planning to teach a similar format. You may have your own style that is different from the regular instructor, but the basic form of the class should be very similar. Only in a REAL pinch do you sub with a completely different format, like kickboxing for Zumba or Pilates for cycling.

          1. She of Many Hats*

            Yup, certain types of classes you *must* be certified to be an instructor in that discipline (health & safety requirement) or certified as an authorized user of a licensed program like Zumba. Most fitness trainers and instructors are not cross-certified for all or most types of instruction since the instructors must pay and do the certifications & continuing ed on their own. Few gyms pay for initial certifications & the continuing ed to keep certificates active.

          2. Feckless Rando*

            I imagine I’m not alone in this, but I would 100% of the time rather get a refund than a cycling class when I expected and paid for Pilates

      3. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. Hire someone if no one currently on staff is available and they really want to offer those hours to customers.

  6. Forensic13*

    Am I the only one weirded out by the person who looked up the vacation time of the employees’ kids? I know it’s probably publicly available, but I would be SO creeped out if my employer did that.

    By this I mean—OP4, it feels like you’re starting to take this personally and get very personally invested. Can you just make the policies and stand firm?

    1. Pop*

      In my state, spring break is the same week across all districts, and the schools take the full week off. Even people without kids often realize it’s spring break because there’s less traffic in the mornings or their favorite cafe is busier. It would definitely not feel weird to me in this situation if my boss mentioned something about spring break and vacation time, but I do recognize this is fairly specific!

      1. Silver Robin*

        we have literally moved meetings around to take into account breaks and the first week of school. Neither I nor my first supervisor had kids but folks on our team and some we worked with did do we kept those in mind. OP looking up breaks strikes me as thoughtful/normal, especially as it is very publicly available info

        1. Coffee*

          Yeah, at my company, we literally don’t hold Big Group Meetings during our equivalent of the local schools’ spring/fall break. Seems like a very standard thing to know about your community, even if you don’t have kids? Shrug.

          1. OrdinaryJoe*

            We’ve done the same thing … when setting the yearly calendar for events, meetings, deadlines, etc. it’s very common for people to talk about school breaks the same way they talk about holidays. In 2024, we’re even taking the US solar eclipse into account!

          2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            If it’s all at the same time, that’s okay! But around here (DC Metro area) people will live in a variety of school districts, plus some private schools, so I was imagining someone looking up a half dozen individual kids’ schools to say “Fergus, your kid is off the week of April 3, and Wakeen, yours is April 10….” which is creepy.

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*

              That’s where I fell too – I was once asked to avoid something sports related for “spring break” by a team I coached. And I pointed out that with the number of schools represented being number of players minus three, that was just not a reasonable ask. So if someone then turned around at work and pointed out when my kids’ spring break was, I’d fall into camp “WTAF? Creep!”.

            2. Silver Robin*

              eh? I guess the specificity of it can lean that way, but school breaks generally happen around the same time. I saw it more as “March/April are coming up…when exactly will Janet have spring break again? Perfect, no deadlines or anything major that week, that could be a great opportunity for her to use PTO” or something along those lines.

            3. Lenora Rose*

              Maybe it’s because the DC metro area crosses state lines that you get actual variance, but I know here, the Province as a whole schedules the first school day, last school day, and spring break, because otherwise scheduling 38 (!!) separate divisions would be madness. (They don’t schedule the exact winter break, oddly, only the duration, but since the divisions’ winter breaks last year were no more than a day apart, it can still be planned around).

          3. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            My previous employer made an effort not to schedule over local half terms. Unfortunately, we had staff from enough local authorities that that cut out about a quarter of the (university) term, so in the end we gave up to be equally annoying to everyone.

        2. ferrina*

          Yep. My team will actively compare kids’ school schedules for this reason. It strikes me as practical and thoughtful.

    2. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      Oh yeah, that was extremely weird. People know when their kids have school breaks and decide to not take vacation time then. If a boss said to me, “I know your kids are on spring break now, ” I’d be seriously creeped out.

      1. Not Australian*

        Ummm, no??? There will be a limited number of local schools that employees’ kids can possibly attend, and having information about the dates of their breaks is not in itself creepy. OP’s original letter doesn’t indicate that they’re *tailoring* this to their staff by saying “I know your kids are in St. Monica’s, why don’t you have your PTO while they’re on break?” or whatever – just that they have the information and are therefore prepared for people to want to take time off in this particular week. If that isn’t a basic function of their job, I’d like to know what is.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          That’s not always true. I’m guessing you’re from a place where people live close to work.

          For big Manhattan companies, people come from 3 different states, and they may take a train 90 minutes one way.

          In rural states people often have to drive long distances to an employer. (You cant move a farm, whether that’s the employer or the residence.)

          1. Amy*

            I’m at a big Manhattan company. We never schedule meetings the middle week of February (week of President’s Day weekend) or the two weeks around Easter. Those are weeks that most schools in the NY/NJ/CT region are closed for Mid-Winter Recess and Spring Break.

            1. Ally McBeal*

              I used to work for big Manhattan companies and looking up your employees’ kids’ school holiday schedules feels no different, in my estimation, than looking up this year’s High Holy Days when you know your employee is Jewish or Ramadan for Muslim employees. The information is freely available on the internet and essential to scheduling important business functions.

              1. Seashell*

                If people aren’t taking time off work for their kids’ school vacations, then when it occurs really isn’t the boss’ business. My kids sometimes visited their grandparents out of town during those vacations, so I wouldn’t have to use up all my vacation time for those. I also wouldn’t expect my bosses to know whether employees’ kids go to public or private school or where younger kids go to pre-school/daycare.

                If the issue is scheduling business functions, then ask the employees to schedule vacation time two months in advance or whatever.

        2. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Not sure where you live, but this is not true for my area. My company of 100 employees, people commute from at least 4 different counties. And each county has multiple school districts that run on different schedules. Add in the number of employees who’s children go to private schools that also run on different schedules. My previous job, we had people living in 3 different states working there as we were only about 20 miles from 2 different state lines.

          Now, the rural area I grew up, you statement would be more accurate. The entire county was 1 school district and almost every employee working where I worked during college lived in that county, so most everyone’s kids went to school in that district. That would make more sense to be aware of the school calendar foe everyone’s kids.

          Based on what OP describes, sounds like they looked up multiple school calendars, which I agree, is a bit weird. I know that every single one of my direct reports are located in a different school district from my kids and I would certainly not be looking up all their kids’ school calendars and then suggesting they take PTO at that time. To me, that’s overstepping.

        3. This Old House*

          I think it depends a lot on the size of the team, as well as the geography. OP has “more than a dozen” reports, but presumably not all of them will have kids, so something like maybe 4-10ish employees with kids. And you typically know what town coworkers/employees live in without having to look it up, particularly on a small team. My team of almost a dozen represents what would be 7 school districts in 2 counties if we all had kids; in reality, only 4 of us have kids in school, and anyone who knows where we live would essentially know where our kids go to school, too. (Small but densely populated suburban area.) Sometimes I know when a coworker’s kids are off because I know my friends’ or relatives’ kids in those districts are off. If you had dozens of employees from all over a metro area, that would be different and weirder.

      2. londonedit*

        Maybe it’s different in the UK but school holidays follow the same broad timetable, so even though I don’t have kids I know that the summer holidays start around the end of July and kids go back in the first week of September, I know they get two weeks off for Christmas and Easter, and I know half term will broadly be around the last week of February, last week of May and last week of October. That’s not creepy, it’s just the product of a) having been to school myself and b) knowing when the schools around me and my friends’ children are on holiday. If you want to book a foreign holiday and you don’t have children, you absolutely 100% check the school holidays and book outside of those times, otherwise the flights are extortionate.

        1. bamcheeks*

          (This year has been way more complicated than usual though! There have been at least three different half-terms this term, and some LAs have Christmas from 18 Dec to 1st Jan and some have 25 Dec to 8 Jan. It’s pretty great for work but it means it’s impossible for me and my siblings to get all the cousins together! :( )

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, I have had the sense this year that for some reason it’s out of whack (my nephew’s half-term was what I’d call the ‘usual’ last full week of October, but friends’ children here in London didn’t have their half-term until the first week of November) – but again, I’ve got that sense despite not having children myself! I don’t think it’s in any way weird or creepy to have some sort of idea when the kids are likely to be off school.

            1. BubbleTea*

              It’s usually the fault of Easter floating around disrupting things. They try to make each half term approximately equal, so if Easter is unusually late or early, it shifts everything else.

        2. Rebecca*

          I’m in France and it’s similar – the schools schedule is published for the country in the summer, and everybody knows when all the school holidays are. It’s definitely not weird for employers to be aware of when holidays are and to accommodate for them when it’s possible.

          Even if I were in a region where different districts have different holidays, I wouldn’t think it was creepy for my employer to have googled the school holiday dates for the districts around the workplace and to be broadly aware of them. It’s not like they looked up the address and pick up times of Little Suzie’s specific daycare, school holidays are public knowledge and have a huge impact on whole industries.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, maybe I’m imagining something different here than the thread starter but I’m once again amazed what kind of thing people find creepy which seems completely unremarkable to me.
            And even further, I’m always astounded when commenters focus on one quarter of a sentence – and it’s generally not a quarter that is the secret key to a letter! – instead of the actual problem an OP is having.

        3. EvilQueenRegina*

          The one where I might urge caution on that for the UK is if an employer was close enough to the England and Scotland border to have employees on either side, because I know the summer break in Scotland is something like June to August rather than July to September (something obviously sank in when my Scottish friend explained their system to me at the start of uni!) Otherwise I would agree with that.

      3. AnonORama*

        That could come across creepy, but that’s generally not what folks say or why they look (to figure out the location of some specific children). We do this all the time and it’s by school district, not by person — we look at the districts nearest our work to ensure we’re not planning a major event when folks are likely to be out. We also look at other competing events, festivals, etc. Nothing creepy if it’s done that way.

    3. Just me*

      That weirded me out too.

      But LW4, I love that you want your people to get their paid time off and want to figure out a way that doesn’t unduly burden whoever is working those days. Truly, cheers.

      I think that if you make a clear, fair system, remove obstacles and issue a few reminders throughout the year — reminding everyone all at the same times and/or giving individualized reminders whose timing is based on work reasons (like, “Maybe you’d like to take a week off right after this big project deadline”) — that will be a winning combination.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        A local union gives out calendars with the public holidays and dates when the national schools are closed. I find this helpful as part of my job is planning meetings, so I will propose dates which avoid, for example, Easter or the week of 1st November, which people are likely to want to take off.

        1. Just me*

          That’s nice of you, and smart.

          I live in a U.S. metropolitan area where there’s a huge city with a huge public school district, many smaller cities with smaller public school districts, and a lot of private schools and charter schools. Each public school district, each private school and each charter school can set its own vacation schedule.

          So for me, figuring out which colleague sends their children to which schools would be a significant effort, and then I’d have to look up all those schools’ schedules. That would be a creepy thing for me to do.

          You make a fair point that in some places, schools’ schedules are much more synchronized. If it’s as easy as consulting a single calendar and announcing to all your staff, “Schools’ spring break is coming up. Who wants time off?” then I agree that’s not weird.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I live in an area that has historically had a mixture of schedules (every vacation from October to April this school year is an entire week different for my different age children – have mercy) but is moving to harmonising across the entire area.

            Even with that variation, though, a manager with many reports who are likely to be affected by school vacations can pay attention to general trends and avoid having major deadlines or scheduling unmissable events in April, for example. Because even if the precise dates vary, there will be some predictable hotspots.

          2. doreen*

            Even when they aren’t synchronized and school district A might close for a week in October while school district B doesn’t, there are some commonalities. Most schools are going to be closed on Thanksgiving and the day after, most schools are going to be closed from Dec 24 to Jan 1 although there could be a couple of more days on either end , most schools have a week off in the spring and so on. Sure, if you’re looking up every individual school’s individual days so you can tell Sally that her kids school is closed for an inservice day on Jan 15 in that’s weird. It’s not so weird if you know that Sally’s kids probably have a week off somewhere in April.

    4. Sunny*

      In my city, it’s really normal for a major employer, with lots of staff, to know when the public schools are closed. It’s just having an awareness of the ebbs and flows of life for many – but not all – people, so you can anticipate when to schedule big events or meetings, or when your clients may be less available. Not necessarily that different from knowing when major religious holidays are.

      Obviously this depends on context. We’d have no idea when private schools are off and looking up that info for specific employees would cross a line. But that wasn’t my read here, though maybe that’s what the OP meant.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Everyone talks about it where I work because the roads are noticeably quieter during school holidays, and getting to work is *way* quicker if you drive or come on public transport.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I think it depends. If they just googled “school vacations 2023-2024, such a state,” I don’t think that is particularly weird. If they went checking which specific schools each employee sent their children to, then went through each school’s website to check their specific vacations and then made a note “John’s children are on vacation for the second week of March,” yeah, that’s a bit odder. But I’m guessing it was closer to the former.

      1. Allonge*

        The former is how I read it too – obviously there are regional changes in this but school holidays are very close to being a part of our work calendar here (we are not a school, nor do we deal with school-age kids) – there are some meetings we don’t schedule on a school off week and so on. I don’t have kids so I need to ‘look it up’ for specifics, but it’s not a major invasion of privacy.

        But, just for the record – I don’t think I ever asked, but I still know which school each of my coworkers’ kids go to, because they talk about this when we do small talk or scheduling.

    6. Rew123*

      My job covers 3 regions. I check the school holiday times of all three so I know to plan my work and when to book/not book meetings and when I can expect my colleagues to be out of the office. Those are the most common times for employees to take off.

    7. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Here, Spring Break is big news, many businesses like ski hills and resorts advertise family specials and libraries etc would have special programs. At the same time the LW should wait a while and see where the problems are in the schedule and then make changes. Changes for the sake of change are rarely well received.

      1. kalli*

        Here, a lot of adult-oriented hobbies and clubs keep to school schedules as well so everyone has a basic awareness because ‘oh my dance class is off for two weeks in April for school holidays’ or ‘the Show is on so the next two weeks are holidays’ and it’s more looking up the exact dates or checking whether the private school is offset this year or not, if you know someone sends their kids to a specific private school (possibly from photos or break room discussion).

      2. Delta Delta*

        In my town the breaks are also advertised on the big electronic sign in front of the jr high/high school complex. There’s no secret. Anyone driving down the main road can see it.

    8. ClaireW*

      In Northern Ireland, all the schools take roughly the exact same holidays for the major breaks (Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Summer) with a day or two variation for exceptional closure days – it’s pretty common for folks to know them. Even as a non-parent non-manager, I organise events so I know the school holidays so that I can work around them.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        In the Republic, those are set by the government (well, there’s a bit of leeway around the summer, but that really means a matter of a couple of days; secondary schools close from the Friday before the first Monday in June and then return around the last week of August; schools have a bit of leeway as regards the exact day and primary schools have holidays from the end of June to around the last week of August) and as they match with well-known holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Easter) and the summer, I think most people would know more or less when they are without even thinking.

    9. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

      I think the ‘weirdness’ of this will depend hugely on where OP is located and how many school schedules there are going at any one time. In my current country it is very normal for childless people to be aware of the term-times because of the impact on work schedules since the schools all have the same breaks in a given region; however when I lived in US that would have been very unsual as the schools all varied considerably.

    10. M2*

      No! I have many different people from different school districts on my teams. I ask them or look up school schedules to make sure if I’m able to not have any mandatory anything during school breaks. Sometimes you can’t help it, but many people take off them if leave early etc. most people will say ahead of time, but in my area with privates and public schools some of them have different breaks and I also have team members in multiple states/ countries.

    11. Phryne*

      In my country, school vacations are set by the ministry of education. The country is split in three portions, and these either all have the same week or are staggered on purpose. It would take a 2 second google search to find out. Employers will actively plan for it. So no, not really creepy to me tbh.

    12. CL*

      I have looked up local school schedules when helping my boss plan department events. We have staff in at least 6 different school districts and spring break could be any one of several different weeks. It helps knowing who might be planning to be out at a certain time. I also look up the holidays for all the major holidays our staff celebrate…Easter, Ramadan, Diwali.

    13. Gudrid the well traveled*

      I think the weirdness level of looking up break schedules depends on where you live. In a big metropolitan area where people are spread out it would take more work to know where they live and look up each district’s schedule. But in the rural area where I live it would mean looking up a couple districts to know when breaks fall for the whole area. It could even be as simple as knowing that spring break is on the late end of the season vs the early end. And it can help with balancing coverage if you know when people are likely to request time off.

      1. Tau*

        I was really taken aback that people thought this was creepy because in Germany, all school in a state have the same break schedule! I don’t have kids but will still check when Berlin holidays, Saxony holidays or wherever are this year to try to avoid taking off during peak holiday times if I don’t need to, especially during the summer. TIL.

    14. Retail Not Retail*

      I work with teenagers and we have notes in the back office of the big breaks for the school district of this county and some sports schedules. It’s public information and sounds pretty considerate!

      “Are your kids on spring break next week?” “Nah, they go to private school xyz, they’re off whenever.”

    15. Falling Diphthong*

      In my state, public schools all take the same breaks. I look them up even though my kids are in their 20s because it will affect crowds at museums, traffic, whether it makes sense to fly on that weekend, etc. I don’t think OP knowing the public school schedule is at all eyebrow raising.

    16. Colette*

      I’ve looked up when spring break is because it’s sometimes relevant to me – it’s not creepy to look up public information. (It’s also not personal – everyone gets spring break at the same time! It’s not specific to a particular child.)

    17. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      It is a little creepy. Because she took extra effort to find out in order to encourage vacation.

      On the other hand, as a family law attorney, even though I don’t have kids, I have to know the school schedules and look them up all the time. Pro Tip – never schedule a trial on the first day of school. So sometimes that information is necessary.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        It doesn’t seem creepy at all to me. At least in my state, all the schools are off at the same time, so it’s not like she had to look up anything private about specific individuals

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I really can’t see anything creepy about something like ‘Well, why don’t you take three days at the end of October – that’ll be half term for your daughter, right?’ It’s not exactly looking up personal information.

    18. RagingADHD*

      It’s really common to take school breaks into account when scheduling all kinds of things for community events, work, etc. They are a type of public holiday, after all. Every district publishes them for exactly that reason.

      It’s no weirder than looking up religious holidays that you don’t practice, so you can schedule around them for a conference.

    19. Sparkles McFadden*

      No, this really isn’t a weird thing to do when you’re managing people. You have to make sure the work is covered, that no one is stretched too thin, that you have enough coverage if someone gets sick *and* you don’t want your staff to lose their time off. Plus some people are really bad about requesting time off and they forget to do it until the last minute or until they realize someone already asked for the week they wanted. So you double-check and say “Hey are you going to take off for your kids’ spring break?” or “Do you need time off to drive your kid back to college?” and a large portion of the time, you get “Oh yeah, thanks” as a response.

    20. Jo*

      It’s a common and important planning tool to be aware when various local schools and colleges have their breaks. We need to track this just like holidays and religious observances as it impacts employee and client availability. In the summer, when the school schedules are published and set in stone, I add the key school dates like start/end, spring break, and winter holiday break to my own calendar for awareness. It’s just a matter of checking the school districts’ publicly posted calendars.

      1. 1-800-BrownCow*

        My county alone has 18 different school districts. For my team alone, no one lives in the same SD as anyone else on my team, so every person is on a different school schedule. I can’t imagine looking all that up and trying to track it for each of my team members. For example, there was a 1 month difference overall for the 1st day of school for children of my team members this year. 1 person’s child started early August and the last start of school for children of another team member was after Labor Day in September. Part of my team, their kids have spring break, the rest of us, our kids do not. And for Thanksgiving coming up, my kids have 5 days off for Thanksgiving holiday, some have 3 days, one person’s kid has only 2 days. Thursday and Friday are the only “common days” that everyone shares. And I don’t remember yet who has what for December, but everyone’s children have a different holiday schedule and number of days off. Plus, I live where it snows so they build snow make-up days into the calendar, again each district does in different. So if we get a lot of bad weather and school cancelations this year, my kids will lose some of their scheduled days off and may have to go longer at the end of the year, as well.

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

      Yeah, this is not weird at all. As others have mentioned it’s a curtosy some companies do to try and make it easier for everyone involved if their is a meeting or something.

      Now it would be weird if the OP looked up the kids who were in a school extracurriculars and said to an employee I see little Sally is in the school play. Why don’t you take some time off to see the play.

    22. Office Lobster DJ*

      I agree that I’d be a bit put off if my boss went so far as looking up the specific school schedule and tried to push me toward taking it off.

      OP4, I love that you want your reports to get the PTO that is owed to them, and there have been some good suggestions — I like the idea of “all planned leave longer than X days must be scheduled by October.” Ultimately, though, it’s a situation of leading a horse to water but not being able to make it drink. It may feel lousy, but it is not you as a person who can’t accommodate the absences; it’s the needs of the business that can’t support it.

      And for what it’s worth, kicking myself over losing a few earned days is what made me much better at planning my PTO, without any feelings of resentment toward the powers that be.

    23. Mill Miker*

      I’m picturing OP doing something more like “Hey, spring break for [district] is coming up, and no-ones booked time off, so that’s some prime vacation time with no conflicts up for grabs, any takers?” and less like “Psst. Hey Joe, I hear your kid’s got some time off next week. It’d be a shame if he had to spend that time… alone, ya get me?”

    24. Lightning*

      In my mid-sized metro area absolutely every school (that I know of anyway, maybe some random private school does it different? but it’s so uniform I feel it must be a state level thing) has the same break schedule, at least for the big week-long breaks, not necessarily every single day off. Everybody knows when the break weeks are, it wouldn’t be creepy at all.

    25. The OG Sleepless*

      I don’t think it’s creepy. Maybe it’s because I live in a big suburb with a highly visible and well-ranked public school system, but everybody knows the school schedule. It’s just a part of life. The break times are posted on the school signs, the newspaper mentions it in “back to school” or “here’s what to do in town during spring break” type articles, and so forth.

    26. Momma Bear*

      I’m not creeped out by it but I would also expect the boss to be mindful of other events like non-Christian holidays. Depending on where you live, you might not have the same schedule as another parent or you might have daycare that will charge you whether you use it or not. It can be suggested, but shouldn’t be demanded.

    27. anon_s*

      This is one of those things that isn’t weird unless you try to make it weird . They clearly looked it up for a reason, not just for kicks.

      So I’d say it’s not weird in the context of LW’s letter. If they went out of their way to say, “Hey, break’s coming up and you don’t spend nearly as much time with your child as you should” then it might cross a line into weird because they made it personal.

    28. Bethany*

      I always look up school holiday times (they are state wide for us) because I will avoid travelling or doing kid-friendly activities like going to museums during that time. It’s more expensive and very busy!

  7. Darla*

    LW2 I recommend documenting everything in case it comes out and he tries to say you encouraged him. You’ll probably do this anyway but you need to stop being even slightly friendly with him, in case he interprets it as encouragement. I’m so sorry – this happened to me too and it really sucked that I could never relax again around someone I used to be quite friendly with at work.

    1. T.N.H*

      Eh I think this is victim blaming. Who cares if he says she encouraged him? He can’t start being inappropriate with her at work even if she smiles.

      1. Artemesia*

        Well yeah. But friendly banter is fine in the office until it meets Mac. When you have someone like this, then you dial back the friendly banter and become very ‘businesslike.’ Even his comment, although inappropriate, could be a variety of that friendly banter. It was the ‘this is a problem for me’ part of his comment that make clear he was a problem. She needs to change her behavior, talk to HR just for the record, and let him know it was not okay to say that. This doesn’t make it ‘her fault’.

        1. Sage*

          If the OP tells him it was not ok, she will later have one ressource more to make it clear it was not welcome. It is possible that Mac tries to debate it or to mak excuses, but she will be able to say she made her point clear and he refused to respect her.

        2. Awkwardness*

          I think I disagree on the part that she needs to change her behaviour. There is nothing in the letter that suggests that she is actively flirting or treating him differently a way that is typically linked to romantic interest. They just seem to talk more often as they have more in common. Which is completely normal! This guy tried to test the water and it is completely on him.
          But LW needs to practise boundaries. In my opinion a smiley and warm attitude is completely fine as long as you able to make it clear if behaviour is unwanted (no smiles, no apologies, clear and direct language in those cases) an defend those boundaries.

          1. The Rafters*

            I think OP needs to be “coldly professional,” and never mind any warmth. Guys like this will take any kind of warmer behavior as an invitation for more crap even after being told flat out that the behavior was unwelcome and to knock it off. I’ve seen it happen with friends and it’s happened to me.

            1. Estranged Adult Child*

              Unfortunately, this has also been my experience. The only thing that has reduced unwanted approaches (besides changing the job) has been acting as unfriendly as professionally possible.

              To add to the OP: if you tell Mac something about his behaviour, and that it needs to stop, is can still happen that he chooses to escalate. If so, document that to and go to HR. If they are professional they will take you seriously.

            2. OP #2*

              My problem with this approach is that I don’t know that I’m even capable of “cold.” I can, however, try to avoid crossing his path as often, be too busy to chat, and work back towards a work acquaintance relationship rather than a work friend relationship.

              1. Awkwardness*

                I think this is the reason why I am struggling to recommend being “coldly professional”. This comes easier to some then to others and it is an additional task which easily can be perceived as need to change their personality.
                Maybe try to frame it as “boring as possible” instead of “cold”?

        3. Harper the Other One*

          I’d also argue there’s unlikely to be work-appropriate friendly banter that includes the phrase “sexy librarian”.

          I don’t disagree about notifying HR, because he’s seriously out of line. And I would absolutely move to frosty/businesslike because dude, gross. But it’s really, really important here – especially because OP is internalizing this as her fault – to emphasize that THIS IS A MAC PROBLEM, not a her problem.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            It’s unlikely but possible to have a bit of banter with the words “sexy librarian” in it (eg, between two straight women discussing fashion or Hallowe’en – it’s even not impossible with a straight man), but it is absolutely not possible as soon as the continuation is “And that’s a problem for me”. That’s where it tips over from “well, that was dubious but…” right into RED FLAGS WAVING.

        4. Observer*

          Even his comment, although inappropriate, could be a variety of that friendly banter.

          No, it could not. This is not “Mad Men”.

          I do agree that she needs to change her behavior with him. But NOT because there is the slightest chance that he “misunderstood” anything. But for her own self-protection.

          Unfortunately she’s going to need to totally project to him and all bystanders how disgusted she is while staying professional – which is a really unfortunate and unfair requirement – to avoid all the people who are going to try to bend themselves into pretzels to explain how he “misunderstood”.

        5. MCMonkeyBean*

          Nooooooo this is a bad response.

          I think she is *likely* to change her behavior because is seems like she previously thought of him as a work friend but I doubt she does anymore.

          But it is really gross to tell her she needs to change her behavior, and is reinforcing all the incorrect thoughts already filling her head about whether she has done anything wrong here at all. Nothing about her behavior was wrong and there is not one single thing she needs to change if she doesn’t want to.

      2. kalli*

        This isn’t saying it’s her fault; it’s recommending that she keep records in case dude tries to get out of consequences by saying she consented to or initiated sexualised interactions. You, know, like men do when they are faced with either admitting they crossed a line or presenting as so attractive women begged them for the most unoriginal pick up lines.

        Ideally an employer would see through that and go ‘nope, don’t do that here at all’ but a startling amount do not want to get into it and will take any hint of ‘well she was into it’ as an excuse not to, especially if they don’t have a fraternisation policy or there isn’t an obvious power differential that can safely be challenged.

    2. Observer*

      You’ll probably do this anyway but you need to stop being even slightly friendly with him, in case he interprets it as encouragement.

      No. He is NOT “misinterpreting” anything. The trope he used and the way he said it, goes well beyond anything that could reasonably be attributes to a genuine misunderstanding of what the OP was wearing and doing.

      Now, I might still go cold as ice with him. Not because I’m worried about his “interpretations” of my behavior but because I think I might be so disgusted with him that it might be the only way I can manage to stay professional.

  8. Bramble*

    OP4. How possible is it to let them carry it over into January? At my company it was a reoccurring problem with people taking almost the entire month of December off due to not taking enough vacation earlier in the year and any untaken vacation being lost at end of year. For years there was a little bit of a wink-wink informal policy that if something urgent came up that you had to work and lost vacation days you could make them up in January. And then about 5-6 years ago it became formal, vacation would carry over into January, but only that one extra month. That helped spread it out a bit. Although some people who were taking the entire month of December just switched to taking the entire month of January. They would never really space their vacation out through out the year, I think they liked taking it in one big chunk at year end.

    We went to unlimited vacation this year, so there’s no time lost, but its still so ingrained that I expect the office will be pretty empty by the middle of December.

    1. Green great dragon*

      if you’ve got the authority, you can put limits on how much they carry over, whether that’s letting everyone carry over a few days, or just giving it to those people who have their December request refused.

    2. Mrs CPA*

      It becomes a liability booked on year end financials. They may be wanting to avoid that as much as possible.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I admit, I work in a field where fiscal year end isn’t anywhere near calendar year end, and it *would* be a headache to account for, but even knowing that, I think there needs to be a balance between “This makes our bookkeeping sad” and “this makes our employees sad” and it should, ideally, tip in favour of not-sad employees.

  9. FourOfCups*

    I understand why certain jobs need to be office-based, but the awful and hypocritical ways that tech companies in general and my company specifically have been instituting back to the office are infuriating and embarrassing. You go to the office and there aren’t enough desks, no private rooms, too much noise, no easy way to have confidential meetings. For many people, no one on their team is there anyway—they’re scattered around the country and around the world. Workers who were hired remote, even headhunted and poached with the promise of remote work, are being told to move to high cost of living areas with bad housing markets and few rental options. Higher level managers don’t even pretend to go to the office, while forcing employees with disabilities who really benefit from remote work to commute hours every day. We all know management is doing this for two reasons: control and trying to thin the herd (though I’ve already heard from skilled workers who left over this and are now being begged to come back!) OP1, badging in and then obviously leaving the office isn’t going to work and they can fire you. But you have my understanding and commiseration. There are thousands of us looking for jobs because of this disruptive policy.

    1. judyjudyjudy*

      Is your advice to look for another job? Then if this employee is asked to stay, they leverage for WFH full time?

      1. judyjudyjudy*

        BTW, LW1, my advice is to at least consider looking for another job, start your search now! You seem really unhappy with the current state of things at work and I think you’ve blown any chance to push back against any of it after the badging shenanigans. Maybe you can eventually find something with more flexibility to suit your needs.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My employer is doing a similar thing in an equally heavy handed way. More so if you look at merging regional branches.

        Many of the people who are now job hunting are not looking exclusively for remote work. They are just looking for something within a reasonable drive of the place they live.

    2. Jane Fiddlesticks*

      @FourOfCups: While I share your commiseration for LW 1 about having to work in an office when they’re very unhappy about it, I think your message violates commenting rule number 8: Respect people’s anonymity.
      It is not in a LW’s best interest that it is speculated about which company they work for as this may mess with their anonymity on this website and at work.

    3. HonorBox*

      This is wildly speculative. We don’t have any of the context you’ve included in the LW’s initial message, so while some (or all) of this may be true in some places, all we know is that they were badging in and leaving, which is clearly a problem. They didn’t say, “I’m badging in and finding no desks available to do my work.” The advice would be very different if that was the case. All we know is that they’re basically fudging the system.

      1. Seashell*

        I don’t think the above post speculated anything about LW’s experience, just that the demands of return to work have issues. My husband recently had to return to the office a set number of days a week and has experienced much of what FourOfCups described, although he does find some limited benefit to it. LW is clearly not going along with what is expected at all.

        1. Elsewise*

          Alison says above that she removed a line from the comment speculating on where LW may work, so it’s likely the comment changed between HonorBox’s post and yours.

        2. HonorBox*

          Explaining all the demands of returning to work is speculative because LW didn’t highlight any specific thing(s), but rather just said they were breaking the rules. Creating a scenario in which there aren’t desks or space for private conversations or too much noise provides an “out” for the LW because FourOfCups is inventing scenarios in which the workplace is not providing adequate resources. The LW is choosing to badge in and then badge out right away because they just want to work from home.

    4. Catwhisperer*

      +1 to this, as someone who also works in tech and has been asked to come in 3x per week.

      My company has made a big deal about how in-person attendance is being tracked via badge. I’m in the EU so they can’t share data about individuals, only aggregated data, but they are sharing individual’s data with management in the US. It’s possible no one reported OP1 and that the company knew based on badge tracking data.

      1. Random Dice*

        At my company, one has to badge in at the door, then badge regularly within the building throughout the day, to get into suites. If their office had a similar situation, one could easily tell if someone was just badging in at the door. (And most companies have CCTV at the doors, for insurance and lawsuits and security.)

    5. Fishsticks*

      My exact situation, more or less. My team is split between multiple locations so everything has to happen on Microsoft Teams anyway. I was full-time in office and happy to be there, it didn’t bother me, except that they then forced us out of our offices and into a nasty cubicle environment (it had been abandoned during covid and they forced us to move in without cleaning it again first – we dealt with roaches and mice within the first week). We don’t even get dedicated cubicles. There are offices but they’re “hoteling space” so you can’t claim them. Facilities will throw your things away if you leave anything. I switched to hybrid and even the two days a week I go in I really feel how thoroughly unappreciated we are as a workforce, even as they keep pushing and pushing us. They’re moving other departments into the space they forced us into, making it louder, disruptive, hard to be productive.

      Meanwhile, the C-suite guys come and go as they please and when they ARE in the building, they have lovely personal offices that are the largest ones, which they spend less time in than any of us poor peasants stuck in the half-wall cubicle nightmare.

      We hired a new marketing director who initially pushed for us to be back in office full time… until she learned that they refused to give anyone dedicated space and there weren’t enough cubicles for us in the main building where she wanted htem to move us. She dropped that push real fast after that.

      Thankfully I have a supportive supervisor who has had my back on going hybrid and will support me if I ask for full-time remote.

      1. CanadianPublicServant*

        Tech and the Government of Canada, apparently! I don’t mind coming to the office, personally, except for the inherent unfairness that senior leaders have their closed door, decorated offices while I live in fear my illicit shoebox of emergency supplies will be thrown away, scrounge daily for private space for sensitive meetings, and spend 10 minutes every day wiping down and adjusting the desk, chair and monitors (and don’t get me started on what I have found trapped in shared keyboards!) If I had a desk, at least, I could bring in an air purifier and possibly take off my mask every so often. Worst of both worlds right now, and no improvement in sight.

    6. Monkeypants*

      I didn’t realize this was a tech thing. I’m in tech and my company is doing this, too. It’s really awkward! My team is all experienced, mature engineers and our boss has had to shift from treating us like adults and giving us maximal flexibility as long as we get our work done, to mandating so many WFO days like we’re little kids who need supervision. We have the exact same issues with noise and not nearly enough conference rooms. There is even a giant construction project coming that will take away ALL onsite parking for almost three years and we have to carry on the farce that we’ll gladly add a lot of time and inflexibility to our commutes by using remote parking plus a shuttle, rather than just working from home.

      The rule change is obviously coming from above but he has to pretend that it’s a good policy. (I trust that he has pushed back as far as he can already.) Just awkward all around.

      1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

        I don’t think it’s tech specific and don’t know if it’s more prevalent in tech vs. other white collar workplaces. A lot of companies seem to want more control and oversight over their employees, or to use the office space they are paying for, to who knows what.

        My office only mandates 1 day a week in office (and so far it hasn’t been strictly enforced). But they changed the policy early this year so that you only get a dedicated desk/cube if you spend 3 or more days in the office. Otherwise, they took your desk and made it into a hoteling station. The company continued to grow even during covid and there weren’t enough desks for everyone to get a dedicated desk they weren’t using regularly.

    7. ferrina*

      I’m a big, big fan of remote work for all the reasons. I commiserated a lot with OP until they got to the point of badging in and walking out. The deliberate deception is an extreme measure. I’ve certainly used the deliberate deception before, but it always comes with risks. OP took a risk, got caught, and now seems to be blaming everyone around them.

    8. lilsheba*

      I agree with you so much. We have proven over the last 3 plus years that we work just fine from home, it is NOT necessary to be in the damn office and all it does is make work MORE miserable. Just let people work from home like they have been! And yes this affects those of us that are disabled really hard. I can’t physically commute anymore. I am a part time wheelchair user, and would have to use my electric chair at work. But my apartment is not the least bit accessible and I can’t keep the chair inside the apartment, because I can’t haul it up and down stairs. And I am not keeping a $3000 plus device outside where I can’t keep it safe. So we keep it locked in our Jeep and use it when we go out together. So yeah a return to the office would be devastating for me, and completely unnecessary.

  10. John Smith*

    Re LW1 and the recording…. bit unfair, isn’t it that they insist they can record the meeting but the employee can’t? Also how can a company approve the coaching side business then query whether it’s a conflict later? Sounds to me like corporate is not a good employer to work for.

    I’m just wondering whether there is more that LW said in their post which isn’t posted, as I’m finding the advice given to be a bit harsh and missing the “maybe you could push back” etc advice normally given.

    1. lyonite*

      Eh, this one really seems like ‘I did the absolute minimum, how does that not count?’ which doesn’t lend itself well to pushing back. And considering that the coaching business is coming up in the context of needing to not go into the office, I wonder if it’s really interfering as little as OP1 insists. It’s totally possible that the employer was fine with a side business done on personal time, but if you need to be home in the time you’re being paid for to run it, then I can see how there might be a conflict. And, if everyone else is being made to come in, fairly or not, ‘I have a side business to run’ is definitely not the excuse you want to use for an exception to be made for you.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        This is way beyond “I did the minimum” and into “I tried to actively deceive my employers.”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She wasn’t asking if it was fair; she’s asking if it’s something they can do and the answer to that is yes.

      But to address fairness: She was coming to work, badging in so it would look like she was on-site, and then leaving for the day, so that her employer would wrongly believe she was working from the office. That kind of deception is a big deal; some places would have already fired her for it. I’m all for pushing back when you feel strongly about something, but she’s lost whatever moral high ground she might have had; they’d be perfectly justified in firing her for the intentional deception. If I were her manager, it would take a lot of convincing for me to think the relationship could be salvaged.

      And a company can change its mind about whether the side job is posing a conflict, particularly if they see problems they believe are stemming from it … and certainly pretending to be in the office when you’re not really there is the sort of thing that might make an employer awfully wary about you working a second job.

      1. Blo*

        I mostly agree, but to be clear: did she badge in and stay that way or badge out directly afterwards? See the comment about no minimum time per the three days needed. The first is much worse, IMO.

        1. MK*

          I doubt the employer will make much of this distinction. I very much doubt that the policy was “you need to badge in 3 days a week”, so all this talk about badging in and out and minimum time is irrelevant. They wanted OP in the office for 3 days a week, she knew that and she didn’t comply.

          1. Myrin*

            I do feel like it makes a difference from an “honesty” perspective, though; I think there’s a difference between just badging in and pretending to have been in the whole time and badging in-and-immediately-out-again which at least makes it clear that you weren’t staying in the office. I can’t really explain it exactly but the former feels like clear deception whereas the latter feels like annoying-but-at-least-honest rules-lawyering.

            Whether the company makes that difference is a whole other topic and I definitely agree with you that either way, OP wasn’t in the office 3 days a week in the way her company expected her to.

            1. Hiring Mgr*

              Yeah I can’t see that mattering to the employer – i think it’s one of those “distinctions without a difference”

            2. ecnaseener*

              I don’t think there’s as much of an honesty difference as you think. It seems really clear that the employer was looking at the list of who badged in (at least once) on any given day and using that to track who was in-office that day. They wouldn’t have also been looking at every single badge-out from when someone forgets something in their car, goes out for coffee, etc. LW knew that badging in made it look like they were onsite for the day.

            3. Lily Rowan*

              FWIW, my job has badging in but not badging out, so there’s no way to see from that data how long anyone was in the building.

              1. Big Ba Da Boom*

                Yes, same. We only need to swipe on our way in and they can’t tell how long we stay. Even my boss has said to me “well there’s no requirement for how LONG you stay, so head home at lunch if you want” and many people do that….stay a half day.

                But that feels very different than just swiping and going home immediately.

              2. Myrin*

                A few people have said that, but OP’s job does have badging out and I was specifically referring to that.

                1. GythaOgden*

                  Yeah, but it’s kind of like OP here trying to argue semantics about badging in — it makes about zero substantial difference to the employer’s opinion and probably won’t mitigate anything that happens to the OP.

            4. fhqwhgads*

              I hear where you’re coming from, but I sort of think the “there’s no minimum time per day” part of the letter is a disingenuous reading of the policy. If it says “3 days a week” and doesn’t specify number of hours per day, most reasonable people would read that as meaning “3 full work days”, not “unspecified amount of time on 3 separate days”. There’s simply no way for this to be an honest interpretation of the policy. Is it ever-so-slightly less dishonest than pretending to be there all day? Sure, but not by much. If the policy said something like “some portion of 3 days” and didn’t specify a min, it’s letter but not spirit of the policy and they got caught and the likely result is the policy becoming more specific, not them being off the hook. But even then, it’s not a good look for OP’s judgement.

              1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

                I fall in the middle here. I agree that that badging in and walking out is definitely not spirit of the rule, and interpreting it that way can’t be defended. But…I’ve had two roles with onsite days and I definitely did not stay a whole day! I usually did about half days and felt like that was fair.

          2. (Health, Safety) Environmental Compliance*

            At my (manufacturing) workplace, turnstiles are only at the actual main entrances, not on any of the numerous general building exits. Turnstiles require you to badge in *and* badge out. Some areas do have badge access only to enter, but those are mostly off-limits to the general employee – HSE, Security, Maintenance for example can badge through those doors, but not production.

            If the OP worked where I work, as an office-staff member, there’s a way they could have badged in to the front office area and then walked back out a side exit to not have badged out. At that point though they’d be on camera a couple times getting back out to the parking lot.

            My department does have a coverage requirement. I’m not super fussed if my team wants to wfh a day or so a week, and have actually encouraged it, but I do require them to be on-site the majority of the time during normal operations/life. If one of my staff was badging in, then leaving out a side door to go home? I’d be pretty hard pressed to not find that purposefully deceptive and an attempt at malicious compliance.

        2. MistOrMister*

          It sounds like you are assuming OP is swiping in to a time clock, thus her employer realizes when she is and isn’t physically on site. Most offices do not have ways for you to badge out. When you badge in, they’re noting your keyfob/key card activating tue doors in the office. Those doors don’t have sensors to let you out so the company has no way of knowing when you leave. Thus it is fraudulent to come in, swipe your card and immediately leave again if office policy is that you need to work on site. OP was well aware that what they were doing was not sanctioned behavior.

          1. Duke Flapjack*

            It depends: some do. A few of the highrises I used to work in you badged in AND badged out to get through the turnstiles in the lobby.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Emergency management loves to know exactly how many people they’d be looking for.

              Employees stuck in lines at inadequate turnstiles hate it.

              1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

                YES. Exactly how it works in my building. Granted our’s don’t have a physical barrier to prevent walking through (we have multiple security checking to ensure your badge scans and it makes a noise if you walk through w/out scanning), but still, like 7 turnstiles for 2000+ people is not going to cut it. It’s obnoxious when we have an offsite meeting and a good portion of a large team comes back at the same time.

                1. Lilo*

                  I have a badge out system and they open the gates during fire drills. You also can go through the alarmed doors without badging out, they just go off.

                2. WantonSeedStitch*

                  I’d expect there are emergency exits that don’t have turnstiles! But if there are people who badged out before an emergency and the company has that data, they’ll know not to panic if they can’t find those people after the emergency is over.

                3. A Poster Has No Name*

                  Yeah, my company has badge in/out turnstiles, but the gates are open during drills, and alarms are turned off on exit doors. In an actual emergency, we’re obviously encouraged to go out any other exits if they’re closer to our desks.

            2. Lilo*

              My employer started doing a badge in/badge out requirement because an audit showed some people were doing exactly what LW was doing. I work for a government entity so it gets framed as “stealing from the taxpayer” and a couple bad actors causes them to come down hard.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            Mh, every place I’ve worked/am familiar with had badging in and out. It serves the dual purpose of a time card and knowing which people are in the building in case of emergency.

            LW speaks of badging “out” again immediately, so I presume this is the case where she works.

          3. IrishGirl*

            Pre-pandemic we had to badge in but there only time you had to badge out was on the weekends. While the builidng was shut down, they put in new gates at the entrances so you now have to swipe in and out. So now they could track both the incoming and outgoing swipes.

        3. don'tbeadork*

          As per their letter, they were badging in and then out immediately before going home. I had to read it twice to see that.

          And yeah, if they say I have to come in to work three times a week, they don’t mean I have to be parked in the lot for 5 minutes. They mean they want my butt in a chair AT THE OFFICE for at least a few hours. This kind of behavior is what drives bosses to insist that everyone come in for the full day every day so they can be sure work is being done.

          Were I OP’s boss, I’d be wondering what other things they half-assed.

          1. Observer*

            Were I OP’s boss, I’d be wondering what other things they half-assed.

            Totally. And I would also know that they are going to rules lawyer the life out of everything.

            And also, now I’m going to have to worry about how much micro managing I need to do. Because the last thing I need is an employee who says “But you never TOLD ME” about a clear requirement that they just decided they don’t want to do.

            That’s how those legendary manuals with all sorts of insane rules get built. Either that, or you get rid of the people who make it necessary.

          2. Me...Just Me*

            Yes. And, of course they’re now questioning the person’s ethics in regards to their side gig, now as well. If you show yourself untrustworthy in one way, your boss is going to now assume that you’re not trustworthy in other areas.

            1. Momma Bear*

              Agreed on all fronts. OP knows what they meant/intended and is skirting those guidelines. I hope the side gig takes off b/c if OP wants to double down, I bet they’re going to need that income…

        4. You want stories, I got stories*

          I think badge in means something different than what you are thinking.

          At my work, badge in means I scanned my badge to get through the front door. There is no badge out, So yes, I could literally take the elevator to my floor, scan my badge at the door, it opens, and then take the elevator back down, and go home. The system shows I came into work on that day.

          I am assuming this is what the LW is doing.

      2. Nocturna*

        LW1 says, “I’ve been badging in, then immediately out to go home and do my work.” I definitely get how that’s adhering to the letter but not the spirit of the in-office requirement, but I’m not seeing how that’s deceptive? She’s not badged in when she’s not in the office.

        1. Allonge*

          If it’s not deceptive, it’s worse – senseless, in all kinds of ways.

          If someone is pretending to comply with office policies, at least they should put some effort into the pretending. Why on earth commute in just for what is essentially a f*** u.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            Exactly. It’s malicious compliance. You want me to badge in. Well, I badged in at 9:00AM and I then badged out at 9:o1AM and went home for the day. It’s disengenuous to pretend otherwise.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            I surmised the badging in for a minute was to fool whatever automatic check there was to see if people badge in the required number of days, and it came out when an actual person looked at the data.

            Or else it is pure malicious compliance rules lawyering.

            Neither will go over particularly well with an employer.

            1. Myrin*

              Yeah, our system will show me as “hasn’t been here” when I don’t clock in at all and give both me and our HR the opportunity to correct it but if I clock in for even half a minute, it will deduct the respective amount of overtime but it will also count me as “present” on that day so no warning will appear anywhere – however, like you say, an actual human can of course immediately see what happened.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, my impression is someone who read too many “I complied maliciously, and everyone clapped, and there was nothing the corporate overlords could do about it” stories, and assumed there could be no consequences to their version. And now there are.

            1. nikkole82*

              this is my impression as well. People are going to end up losing their jobs taking edgy advice from reddit and other places.

            2. Observer*

              Yeah, my impression is someone who read too many “I complied maliciously, and everyone clapped, and there was nothing the corporate overlords could do about it”

              Yeah, those are fun to read. But really, no one should treat them as anything but escapist fiction, even if they are true. Because the vast majority of the time, they are total outliers.

              But also, in most of the really good stories, the malicious complier has a plan and a specific reason for why / how they can get away with it, or they are willing to risk their job (mostly because they believe that they are too valuable to the company, or they have other options.) They say things like “I checked my contract”or “I spoke to the Union” or even “I spoke to HR.”

              1. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

                Yeah and most of those stories are also “Everyone clapped and although I was immediately fired, it was worth it.” Not the expectation that everything was fine.

                When you pull a stunt like OP’s, you KNOW it’s a firing when you get caught. I doubt anyone is that much in denial to think there’s a way to salvage your job after this kind of lie. I think OP is just looking for reinforcement of their sense of injustice around all the other ways their company is handling it.

              2. Managed Chaos*

                I think malicious compliance only really works well when you hold at least an equal amount of power as the person forcing the compliance. That doesn’t apply to an employer/employee relationship generally.

          4. Fishsticks*

            Really if they came in for a few hours – just two or three – they probably could skirt around this fairly easily. This is definitely a malicious compliance situation. “Oh, you say I need to badge in twice a week? Well watch me technically do that without doing what you are actually asking for.”

            1. A Poster Has No Name*

              Agreed. I sympathize with having to come into the office and sitting alone in a cube all day, but if you have to badge both in and out…c’mon, man. They’re going to figure that one out, no ‘someone reported me’ needed. If you didn’t have to badge out you could maybe maintain some plausible deniability, but really, just work a couple hours and head home at lunch.

          5. FrivYeti*

            To give OP the benefit of the doubt, it could serve the purpose of clocking in, saying hi to your teammates and finding out if there’s tasks they need from you, then clocking out and leaving to go home and work.

            It’s still clearly not the intent of the policy, and it’s still going to get them in trouble, but I *can* see a way in which someone could think it was fine.

        2. I need caffeine*

          It’s deceptive because the point of badging in is so the employer can know who’s in the office and there may not be any badging out.
          Where I work, you swipe your badge when you enter. When you leave, there is no place to swipe your badge again, you just leave.
          At the place I work, before covid, there were several positions that were hybrid and the company had a desk sharing policy. You had to be in the office a minimum number of days to not have to share a desk. If they suspected you were working in office at not the minimum requirement, they’d would check the frequency of your badging in.

        3. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

          I think you’re thinking of the badge like a time-card: you badge in and it flags for the employer, you badge out and it flags for the employer. But nowadays most time cards are digital and so a lot of offices have the badges more as security — so they will see who enters but they often won’t require you to badge out as you exit.

          So the employer will see that she comes in and naturally assume she is spending the workday there.

          Absent more information from OP, that would be my assumption as that is most in line with my work experience.

          1. Myrin*

            I mean, OP does say herself that she was badging out (“badging in, then immediately out”), so I assumed that she is indeed dealing with a timecard situation.

            1. I Would Rather be Eating Dumplings*

              Oh, I missed that!

              I think it could still very likely be a security badge rather than a timecard (otherwise she would presumably be clocking in again at home rather than work the day for free, or she could be salaried). But that might make it less deliberately deceptive, depending on how the employer is tracking who is coming in – like if they are tracking badges in vs hours logged.

            2. Observer*

              I mean, OP does say herself that she was badging out (“badging in, then immediately out”), so I assumed that she is indeed dealing with a timecard situation.

              Highly unlikely, because they also say that they go home and work, and are clearly getting paid for the time. So, they must be *clocked in*, even while they are *badged out*.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                At my work, one has to badge out when leaving the building, even for breaks. When doing a half office/half home day, one would then badge back in via software. So it is possible, if it’s a system like that.

          2. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

            I was thinking OPs was more in line with mine. You put your badge on the reader when you walk in the building and put it on the reader before you walk out of the building. If I have to go to a different building I have to badge out of my building. Therefore, the readings aren’t exactly reflective of hours worked, but they can still pull the records if they needed. Also, for my system, you have to go to security to get your badge re-coded for access if you don’t scan within 30 days, and after 60 days they cancel it altogether, so you need to fill out all the paperwork like you are a new hire to get access. Because of these things, most checks are to see if you are badging in, not necessarily looking at the time you were “there”.

        4. Antilles*

          I think it’s deceptive right here: “I am badging in three times per week as per their directive. ” OP is acting like they’re fully in compliance with the directive as written, but based on my experience with corporate communications and policies, that was definitely not the full extent of the directive.

          Do we actually believe the policy exclusively describes badging in and nothing else? That there’s not a single mention of working from the office in either the actual policy or management’s messaging around the topic? That the entire net sum of all communication related to the new topic is solely describing the need to swipe your badge three times per week? Not a chance.

          And there’s the deception, OP is trying to present it as “I was following the directive” but the reality is you weren’t, you know you weren’t, and you’re lying by pretending otherwise.

        5. Tiger Snake*

          “I’ve been badging in the required three times a week”

          It seems very clear to me that LW1’s office has made it abundantly clear that they expect a hybrid model where they want you in the office at least 60% of the time, but have worded their policy to offer as much flexibility on how people do that as possible. That 60/40 split has been a very common compromise from what I’ve experienced. It allows for flexibility while still ensuring in-face time between teams, management and their in-house clients.

          Given the level of flexibility LW1 is describing in that policy, I’m sure that LW1 would have had many opportunities to compromise with her manager on the days she was in the office, or even if she wanted to do some sort of half-in-half-home arrangement each day (mornings in the office and then WFH in the afternoons, etc). They also could have made an argument for full WFH, which could have then been either approved or rejected.

          That LW1 has chosen to do none of that tells me that she knew what she was doing wasn’t going to be found acceptable. Not only do I see LW1’s actions as deceptive, I see them as insubordinate.

      3. Bruce*

        With the “we will record but you can’t” I think this meeting is going to go badly for LW1… my guess is that they don’t trust LW1 at all and want to make it harder to create trouble by sharing the video in some way. If LW1 actually sues them then the recording would be part of discovery, but first they would have to get a lawyer who thinks there is a winnable case.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I definitely wouldn’t let a dishonest employee record anything to do with a closed door meeting! Unfortunately OP has tanked a lot of trust and goodwill by deceiving the company. I also think they probably won’t have much longer to worry about whether whether the company is fair or not. The coaching business got approval when OP was perceived as honest; now that they have been fiddling the appearance of hours on site, and pretending to go along with instructions, there’s a much higher risk of OP not fulfilling their main job requirements and covering that up (because OP has already done that!) If they push back at all, they’re going to get fired. It’s a shame they didn’t push back earlier and more honestly about coming on site, if it’s truly unnecessary, instead of just pretending they were. It’s too late to expect enough trust to negotiate now.

      1. bamcheeks*

        In the UK and EU you’d be able to ask for a copy of the recording, though. You could be on dodgy ground if you recorded it yourself without getting everyone else’s permission, but they wouldn’t be able to withhold the recording from you even if you were in the wrong. You’ve a right to it under GDPR.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          At least in my US site, Teams automatically makes the recording available to all attendees. Additionally, recording is IT restricted to approved people—I never submitted for it myself.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            This has to be a company specific setting – recordings are only available to the participant who did the recording in my version of Teams, that person then has to share the link manually.

        2. Observer*

          In the UK and EU you’d be able to ask for a copy of the recording, though

          Certainly if the company wanted to use the recording in any sort of legal process, they would also have to provide it to the OP as well in the US. I do not know if the OP would have a *legal* right to it otherwise, but there is really is no good reason for the OP to need otherwise, anyway.

          1. Bruce*

            I had the same thought, but HR may want to prevent LW1 from using the recording in some sort of tik-tok stunt.

          2. bamcheeks*

            Under GDPR, you have a right to any data which an organisation holds on you. So for work you can always request HR files, copies of meetings about you, handwritten notes that managers made about you, conversations in Slack or Teams, etc, and you can also do the same for any organisation that holds your data as a customer, student, patient, service user etc. You can make a formal subject access request for the data (you write to the organisation saying, “this is a formal subject access request”, and they have a certain number of days to comply) , but for something like this any organisation with a sensible information policy would want to make it available to you so you *didn’t* make a formal SAR because that’s a lot more hassle to comply with!

          3. Nik*

            Certainly, there are possibilities of legitimate reasons the LW may want the recording, so that they have a record of what they were told and it isn’t a he said/she said situation if those details are questioned later – whether it gets to the legal stage or not.
            For instance if they ask “On days I am working at the office, how many hours am I required to work at the office and how many can I work from home?” And then is told there is no minimum in-office required (which seems to be what they were told in the past)… well that backs up what they were already doing. If they don’t want employees clocking in then immediately out, they should set a minimum.

    4. Beth Jacobs*

      The time for pushing back was before committing time card fraud. OP has lost the kind of capital to negotiate above-standard remote work.

      The coaching business would have been fine if OP was a stellar employee. But if someone is not showing up to work, a second job looks like it could have something to do with that.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        Or to be exact, if someone is only showing up to the office for three minutes a week, a second job looks like it could have something to do with that.

        1. The Rafters*

          We don’t know if OP is claiming she actually worked from 9 – 5, but actually worked from say 9 – 6:30 to make up for the turnaround commute time. Based on the rest of the info given, I have a feeling she’s claiming she worked a regular day and didn’t work longer hours to make up for that.

      2. Sneaky Squirrel*

        To be clear, LW is in the wrong here, but we have no reason to believe that it was time card fraud and given that it hasn’t come up in the discussion, it’s likely not. My company has a security badge swipe that let’s me in. I know that it’s also tracked by the company as a way of determining who is in the office that day. Mine doesn’t require a swipe out but it wouldn’t be unheard of to have a swipe out which would easily be justifiable to help emergency services determine who was in and out of office should the need arise.

      3. Also-ADHD*

        It sounds like LW didn’t commit fraud (badged in, badged out) and likely isn’t hourly and doesn’t have a time card.

    5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      The main gist of OP’s post is — can they expect me to be trustworthy? And no they can’t now. She knows badging in meant being in the office. She chose to be deceptive. If she were my report, I wouldn’t even worry about the coaching business being a conflict, I can’t trust her anymore. This is pretty deceptive, its not even malicious compliance, its literally lying to her employer. She would be done.

        1. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

          Yeah when you do something like this, “They’re not firing me but want me to quit my side job” would be a remarkably lucky escape. 90% of the time I’d expect a firing.

    6. Beth*

      Malicious compliance stories are satisfying on the internet, but in the real world they lose you most of the credibility and goodwill that you could’ve used to push back on the policy in question. When you get caught intentionally deceiving your employer, and your only explanation is “aha, I have this clever loophole, you can’t punish me for acting against the obvious intent of this policy without telling you when I have this in my back pocket!” of course your employer will lose trust in you and give you less leeway in other areas. LW1 is honestly lucky to still be employed there.

    7. Observer*

      bit unfair, isn’t it that they insist they can record the meeting but the employee can’t?

      Agreed, but also stupid. Because if it comes down to any sort of legal process, they are going to have to hand over the recording anyway.

      Also how can a company approve the coaching side business then query whether it’s a conflict later?

      Easy. In fact totally reasonable. The original approval was given based on the information that the OP gave them. But now they know that the OP is playing games with attendance. That changes everything, including how much benefit of the doubt they are willing to give.

      The reason there is no “you could push back” advice here is that the OP has already blown up their credibility and there is also clearly no pretense of good will any more. Now is not a time where the OP could push back.

    8. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Am I the only one who’s noticed that although this post talks about the unfairness of the employer being able to record the meeting but not the employee, all the replies are talking about whether it’s unfair to require the employee to badge in?

      There does seem something off about “we can record the meeting but you can’t.” In some states, you do need consent of both parties to record a call (which we’ll assume a Teams conference counts as), but I suppose when one of those parties has the power to fire the other for any (lawful) reason, they can say “you’ll consent or we’ll fire you.” Still, it’s a bad look for the employer IMO.

      1. Bruce*

        Agreed they would have to share the recording if there is a lawsuit, but short of that they are not required to make it easy for LW1 to take the recording and show it to lawyers to try to get a lawsuit going

      2. AgainstHypocrisy*

        No, I noticed that deflection as well.

        It’s amusingly hypocritical to say “there is no explicit requirement to allow the employee to record, so it’s okay to not do something not explicitly required” while also saying “there is no explicit requirement to be at the site for any length of time, but it’s not okay to not do something that is not explicitly required.”

        1. Lurker*

          I think in this day and age the company would be less worried about a recording being used to consult a lawyer and more worried about the untrustworthy employee editing it and putting it on the internet. I bet they would be happy to give it to a lawyer, but perceive LW to be wildly out of step with business norms. There have been instances of employees recording meetings and then trying to spin up sympathy on the internet. I bet they are more worried about something like that.

        2. Enai*

          Yes, it’s a bit like “malicious compliance is okay if companies do it, but not individuals” or, short, pithy and latin: “quod licet iovi non licet bovi” (what’s allowed for Jupiter isn’t allowed for the cow).

          Something, something neofeudalism?
          Feels weird, in any case. Especially with the many examples of companies mandating “return to office” as a way to lay off people without having to pay severance and/or just not having enough office space for everybody and/or making work unnecessarily unpleasant for no real reason.

          Something’s strange and I don’t get why commentors go along with it, being mostly workers themselves.

      3. STG*

        Yea, depending on the state, he may not even need the consent of the employer to record the phone call. I know my state is a one-party consent state.

  11. HiHello*

    OP 1 kinda blows my mind that they thought it was acceptable to literally just badge in and leave. At least stay a few hrs? What’s even the point of going all the way to the office to leave immediately? You would’ve been so much better off by staying, at least, till lunch and leaving right after.

    1. Kella*

      I think Alison was right that this employee was trying to engage in malicious compliance, which has been made way more popular by reddit etc. I enjoy reading reddit for entertainment but the vast majority of the “strategies” on there are great for stories, bad for real life applications.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I read it not so much malicious compliance as rules-lawyering. “You said we had to come into the office three days a week, but didn’t explicitly state that we actually had to *work* at the office when we came in so you can’t get mad at me.”

        The problem is that this sort of logic only works when there’s an explicit legal contract involved where you can find loopholes that could be defended by a lawyer. In a job where you can be fired for any reason that isn’t explicitly illegal, it’s not the most sensible of strategies. The LW tried it, got caught, and should consider themselves one mis-step away from being fired.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          This letter is an example of how malicious compliance is fun and satisfying until it collides with cold, hard reality. I enjoy reading about malicious compliance as much as the next person- but I take those stories as somewhat exaggerated wish fulfilment and not as examples of things you should actually do in the workplace, even if stupid policies are annoying you.

          1. judyjudyjudy*

            Those malicious compliments situations only work out favorably for the storyteller when the consequences of complying are HUGELY negative to the business. These dreadful consequences are usually caused by a person in power over the employee (a manager, a customer, etc) not knowing or listening to critical information, and insisting on following a bad path. This is not how LW1’s scenario played out.

          2. AngryOctopus*

            Most malicious compliance stories are also along the lines of “I got a new job, then started MC” or “I expected to be fired”. A very small percentage end with the MCer keeping their job at that company under the structure at the time of the MC. They might get hired back years later by others, but that’s also rare.

            That to say that OP should know they’re skating on thin ice with what they think is MC (but as said above, is more like ‘rules lawyering’), and they have really lost credibility with this stunt. They could have spoken to their manager and HR at the time about exception carveouts, or they could come in while looking for a new job, but doing what they’re doing is the worst possible look.

        2. Myrin*

          Yeah, the whole thing read like “Well, you only said I had to badge in, not that I actually had to stay in the building – that’s on you for not clarifying, heehee!”. It’s like a manger telling her employee she can’t wear her ballgown with llamas on it to work anymore because it keeps knocking stuff over and making people trip and the employee then comes in with a ballgown with teapots on it because after all the manager only talked about the llama ballgown.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, definitely. It just comes across as rules lawyering/malicious compliance/thinking you’re really clever for gaming the system. It’s quite obvious that when your employer says ‘you must come to the office three days a week’ they mean ‘you must work from the office three days a week’ and not ‘yeah just turn up and badge in and then go home again’. I get that it’s disappointing when things change, and I’d be annoyed too if I suddenly had to be in the office three days a week, but the way to deal with that is not ‘OK well I’ll just tap my badge on the reader and immediately go home’. I’m not surprised the OP’s employer is far from happy – it’s taking the absolute piss.

            1. Ama*

              Yeah and quite honestly it’s people who play games like OP1 who wind up as the case studies senior management uses to justify micromanaging the rest of their staff on their time. Case in point, my office returned this year to three required in office days a week with less wfh flexibility than we had before the pandemic and when any of us tried to push back we were told that the policy was set the way it was to keep people from “abusing the system.”

              (Those of us with a little more political capital have tried to argue that the people abusing the system should be dealt with appropriately instead of punishing all of us for their faults, but no dice. And now staff morale is completely shot and I suspect we’ll see a lot of people leave in the next year.)

              1. londonedit*

                Yep – this is exactly how you end up with a ‘this is why we can’t have nice things’ situation.

        3. Richard Hershberger*

          This. If this is malicious compliance, I don’t understand the term. My understanding of it is following orders that you know are in fact harmful to the interests of the person giving them. This letter is indeed rules lawyering, seeking a way to follow the letter of the order while not the clear intent.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            If this is malicious compliance, I don’t understand the term.

            To me, malicious compliance would be along the lines of LW stating “I’m not as productive onsite; this role needs full productivity to be effective, so the organization would be better off not requiring my presence onsite every day,” then showing up and demonstrating that lowered productivity (meetings, ambient distractions, socialization. Not intentionally dogging things, just allowing the warning to come to fruition). Then fighting the manager on any poor reviews or attempts to reduce annual adjustments, since it was the organization’s misstep, not the employee’s.

            I agree that this is classic Rules Lawyering. All that’s missing is a redefining of the word “is.”

            LW1, I’d recommend interviewing out before (or after) they dismiss you. You’ve poisoned this well.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I think rules lawyering often comes about from attempts at malicious compliance by people who do not understand the power dynamics at all.

          3. doreen*

            Yes, malicious compliance is more like the following – at one of my jobs, the executive director decided that everyone should start and end their day in the office even though most days consisted of seeing clients at their homes. Took about two weeks before he realized that he was paying people who lived in city A to drive an hour from the office in city B back to to city A and the reverse at the end of the day so two non-productive hours each day that had been productive before the change in policy. I’m sure someone told him about this before he issued this policy but he came from a very different background.

          4. L.H. Puttgrass*

            Pretty much. “You say I have to come into the office three days a week now? Well, there, I came into the office—and then went home! Rule exploited! Ha ha!” As if the difference between “come into the office three days a week” and “work in-office three days a week” were an exploitable error in language.

            That might work in statutory interpretation. In an employee (understandably, IMO) trying to avoid working in the office? “Too clever by half” is how I’d describe it. (It’s also how people think lawyering works, but 90% of the time it’s not at all how lawyering works.)

        4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          It’s not malicious compliance or rules lawyering — its what Alison said being willfully obtuse. OP knows darn well they mean work in the office 3 days a week. She’s pretending she doesn’t know that is what they meant in order to do what they want.

          I don’t think they are a mis-step from being fired, I think they are a waiting for the end of the investigation away from being fired. OP starts job hunting now, because this job is gone.

        5. Beth*

          That’s what malicious compliance is–rules-lawyering so you can argue that you’re following the policy while you’re actually fully going against the spirit of it. It makes for fun stories, but in the real world you shouldn’t do it unless you’re trying to get fired in a blaze of satisfying-internet-story glory.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            No, malicious compliance is “I gave you a reason why this policy will turn out bad, actually, but you’re telling me to do it anyway. So I will do exactly what you said without any modification to try to decrease the Bad. Then you will experience the Bad, despite my doing exactly what you asked.”

        6. Lainey L. L-C*

          It reminded me of a former co-worker who pretty much did the same thing and got fired for it. Sure, you CAN do most of your job at home, but the problem was they were late with every project and people were having to call/text/email try to contact them to get updates before they could do their part of the project. So they were told that like the rest of the staff, they had to come into the office again. So they pretty much did what OP did, refused to actually stay there, and got fired. OP better start complying or start looking for a new job!

      2. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        The thing more people need to remember about the phrase “malicious compliance” is that the important part of it is the word malicious, and not compliance. No one talks about plain old compliance.

        Malicious literally means the action was done with the intent to do harm. It is really hard to claim the actual moral high ground when you’re deliberately seeking to cause harm.

    2. Do You Have A Helicopter?*

      I was wondering how/when this person got to work as well. For most people it’s the commute that’s the PITA, you’re telling me they don’t just stay 4 hours at least and then go home?

      1. UKDancer*

        Yeah I mean in London it takes me 60-75 minutes each way to the office. Why would I come in and go home straight away. Once I’m in the office I don’t typically want to go home partway through the day because it takes too much out of the day. So I would usually arrange my after work social activities on days I was in the office to minimise travel.

      2. amoeba*

        Eh, the way they describe it, it seems that the actual office environment is what they don’t like. There are certainly people with an easy commute who still don’t like working in the office! However, that doesn’t really change anything – those people should just… not take a job that requires time in the office. Not try to play games and find loopholes.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          re: “just… not take a job that requires time in the office”

          Some companies have done a bait-and-switch on remote work. This probably isn’t one because OP would have mentioned it. But I mention it here because the internet is forever.

          1. Allonge*

            Sure, but even there the real solution is to find a job that allows full remote (or act collectively to push back), and not to play individual games.

          2. Leandra*

            Agree with Allonge. Some people have taken jobs they knew had an in-person component, either thinking or hoping they could somehow mold it into 100% remote.

            1. T.T*

              This just happened to me!! Hired someone, made it very clear it was in office twice a week (our job is part physical security). They agreed, came to work for a month, and quit because we wouldn’t let them wfh all five days.

              1. UKDancer*

                Yeah I was advertising a job in my previous company with a requirement to spend 1 day per week in the office in city A (about 1 hour’s train ride from London) and put in the job advert and specification that this was an essential requirement and needed in person attendance. I had a non-trivial number of applicants ask if that was necessary and ask if it was possible not to go. I also made it clear at the interview that this was an essential requirement and still had people asking.

                Not wanting to go to the office in city A doesn’t remove the requirement to be there 1 day per week. It doesn’t matter how often someone asked, the answer was the same.

          3. Nik*

            The OP did mention the company “coming down hard on people who aren’t returning to the office in person” so they had a fully remote position for a while.

        2. gmg22*

          This is where I’m at. I absolutely understand being deeply frustrated at a dumb, one-size-fits-all rule that your company has set re in-office time, especially if you feel that you simply get more done working from home. But the answer is to say your piece about that to your manager and/or to organize a group of employees to straightforwardly advocate for remote work — AND IN THE MEANTIME, do as you know your employer expects (ie, actually go to the office three days a week and stay there for the day) so that you have the high ground to push for an improvement. If those approaches don’t work, the next step is “find new job that’s fully remote.”

      3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        For most people it’s the commute that’s the PITA, you’re telling me they don’t just stay 4 hours at least and then go home?

        Yea. That, and I just wasted however much time it took to get to the office out of the productive part of my day, so I’m going to waste it again just returning to my regular workspace? Sure, as a one-off here and there, I might do that, but week in and week out? In addition to the other issues LW1 has created for themselves, my productivity would go to pot as well.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Theory: Either it’s a short commute, or the new side business can be done near the office. During the hours the employer expects OP to be focused on their primary job, and OP has for some reason decided to really underline that they are not doing that.

      5. Observer*

        For most people it’s the commute that’s the PITA, you’re telling me they don’t just stay 4 hours at least and then go home?

        Yeah. I think that that’s part of the reason why the company is questioning the new business specifically. Because why is it THAT important for the OP to be in their home office that they are willing to make the back and forth trip at the beginning of the day?

    3. Lilo*

      Yes, this clearly was a bad idea and something they could get fired over. If they don’t get fired, they’ve torpedoed their relationship with this employer. LW1 needs to get the resume out.

    4. Also-ADHD*

      I have a friend whose boss told their whole department they only needed to badge 2 days a week, not stay, so it’s not that wild to me. They technically digitally badge and she does it from the parking lot and goes home. Of course it’s different if that’s been conveyed (she says in writing to the whole team too so not covertly). Her team is basically full of people they can’t afford to lose, but HR wanted a compromise over letting them stay full remote. So they lose a few hours of her productivity a week so she can drive in to clock in during work and presumably all on the team. Companies are doing RTO in all kinds of bizarre ways is my point. I think in LW’s case, there were caught and chastised so now they need to follow the actual policy or find a new job, but the RTO push really isn’t always logical or applied with consistency so I’m not sure I can blame OP for trying if what they asked for was even technically covered by badging.

    5. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

      OP 1 is going to be the reason for some stupid new policy that gets rid of flexibility that people in the office probably enjoy. I mean, if OP wasn’t caught for some time, I’m assuming there’s not a hard ‘must be here for 8 hours a day’ requirement. So people who are leaving early for whatever reason (medical appointment, beating traffic, etc.) are now going to get hit with something like ‘you have to be there 8 hours a day or it doesn’t count as an ‘in-office day.”

      1. bamcheeks*

        This is certainly possible, but if they’re the kind of organisation that responds to one employee doing a obviously daft “nnuuuhh, the rules don’t SAY that” by changing the rules rather than just going, “No, they don’t, but it’s what was meant, deal with it”, that’s on the employer.

        I’ve worked somewhere where we’d inherited a ton of excessive rules, and IMO it was purely because a previous manager refused to have difficult conversations. Good management means sitting down with the one or two uncooperative employees and telling them what they can and can’t do, not taking away everyone else’s flexibility to be faaaaaaaair.

        1. Antilles*

          The funny part about those excessive rules is that no matter how much you try to set those rules, you’re still going to end up falling back on judgment a lot of the time as you encounter situations not yet covered by the rules or where a couple rules conflict or people finding loopholes or etc.

          1. bamcheeks*

            right– because most of us are not qualified lawyers with several years experience in drafting clear, watertight contracts or laws! And even if we were, there’s a reason lawyers need courts…

        2. Observer*

          This is certainly possible, but if they’re the kind of organisation that responds to one employee doing a obviously daft “nnuuuhh, the rules don’t SAY that” by changing the rules rather than just going, “No, they don’t, but it’s what was meant, deal with it”, that’s on the employer.

          That still doesn’t excuse the employee though.

          But more importantly, there can be a middle ground here. Notice that the OP’s first response is essentially “is this legal?” Now, fortunately they do have some sense, so they asked Allison rather than barging ahead with “You can’t do that to me! Lawyer time!” But if someone does take that tack, a company might try to have that conversation, but them come down with “we can’t afford to have a law suit every time some idiot wants to rules lawyer us. Let’s cut down their opportunities to pull that.”

        3. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Thank you, exactly this. Very tired of overreaching rules that treat people like children because some people don’t know how to manage properly.

      2. E*

        Yes! My husband’s company did that, they were hybrid pre-covid, entirely remote for over 2 years, the. returned to hybrid. After about 6 months of people not showing up, they started tracking badges and now they require a full 16 or 24 hours in the office every week. People have been fired, including high level midmanagement that thought they were too important to be let go.

        1. But what to call me?*

          If a company did decide to go the ‘certain amount of time in the office’ route, measuring it in hours would be a decent solution for maintaining flexibility while making it extremely clear that showing up just to badge in and leave didn’t count. It doesn’t solve the question of whether there’s any reason to bring people into the office at all, which would vary quite a bit based on job tasks, but it would account for ‘we want you here 60% of the work week’ without requiring that those hours must be reached in exactly three 8-hour days.

          Although I’m not sure what’s accomplished by ‘we want you here sometimes but don’t care when’. Presumably the reason for hybrid work is either that there are some parts of the job that need to be done in person (which are usually scheduled at certain times in my experience, but maybe some jobs aren’t like that?) or to increase collaboration with colleagues, which would only work if you’re there when your colleagues are there.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      As with the person who quit on the spot, attempted to tear out of the parking lot over the concrete divider, and then had to come back in and ask his coworkers to come lift his car off the curb: Sometimes it doesn’t play out like it worked in your head.

    7. IrishGirl*

      What is intresting is that my manager told us that our company was pushing us to get back in 1-2 days a week. She asked us to go in and said even if we only went for half the day, the company would see the badge swipes as they were looking at the total number of people per day. They have not gone down to the individual data yet.

      Also, I cant believe the time wasted going in to just leave 1 minute later.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        But it doesn’t actually “waste” time to leave 1 minute later! It’s the same round trip whether you stay 1 minute or 8 hours. (The traffic conditions may vary, of course.) You could argue that after having made the trip, you could try to get something out of it onsite — face time, get credit for being there, talk to a human or two — but the actual commute math doesn’t change.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          It’s a waste to put in all the effort for none of the compliance. The commute right now is being billed entirely to the “up yours” account, rather than the “not damaging my reputation to the point of maybe getting fired” account.

    8. S*

      The point of going in and going back home is that people really really dont want to work from the office so some are trying everything they can to get around it or to comply just enough they dont get fired

      My company could very well be the one OP works for, though we dont use Teams. I really dont want to go to the office either, and when I was able to continue WFH according to my managers guidance I did and now that the crackdown is happening and he says I have to go in I am, and I’m trying to make it easy for my manager to establish im doing my best to meet the letter and the spirit of the law. I am the single income for my family, I dont have time to play stupid games because i dont want to win stupid prizes

      I really wish people would stop with the campaign of fighting back because the more they do, the more the company cracks down and tightens its fist. It’s going to be extremely obnoxious if, as a result of all this malicious compliance, they start issuing edicts on exactly how many hours you have to be in the office and what days and what’s acceptable as business hours or whatever. I’m sure my badging looks weird because on my floor i have to badge out to use the bathroom or go to the kitchen for water, coffee, lunch etc so I’m in and out all day over and over lol. I want my company to treat us like adults, but people are not acting like adults (because this whole thing is ridiculous and horrible ) so the cycle continues and the more they crackdown the more people play stupid games the more they crackdown

      As someone caught in the middle just trying to do my job it really sucks

      1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        Yeah, this is exactly what I’m worried about. Right now, my management has been cool about stuff like this. We’re a massive organization so there’s just a generic ‘3 days a week’ policy that’s in writing, but it’s really up to each locality/office to enforce how they want. My division is very much of the mindset that we’re adults and it’s our responsibility to get our work done how we see fit and to attempt to meet the expectation of 3 days in office. You do two a couple of weeks? No worries, as long as work is getting done, no one is hunting you down/checking for you at your desk. However, because management isn’t going around to see who’s in, people started just not showing up at all for months at a time, and management did notice, and some people may be friends with their management on social media where they post themselves “teleworking” from places like the movie theater, the beach, etc. They’ve issued ‘letters of warning’ to those who have not shown up in months, but at the same time there’s been hints at more managerial oversight because the understanding from higher than the local offices is that because management doesn’t micromanage us, we are not performing well. It’s annoying because I really like being able to have this balance where I am just trusted to do my job, and allowed for some leeway that doesn’t need anyone’s explicit approval. But there’s always a subset of people who do this gaming the system crap and ruin it for everyone because finally management just decides it’s too much hassle to allow people to reasonably manage their own work lives so they go back to draconian policies.

    9. Clisby*

      +100. I get not wanting to come in at all (commute, whatever?) but once you’re there, why not stay for a few hours?

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I’ll put a little color on this one — I’m not defending the LW’s decisions here, they are in the wrong. But I am 100% unproductive in any work environment that isn’t my house. So I would go inside because if I’m there I may as well try to get a little bit of face time credit and use it to connect/collab with colleagues in person, but to get any actual solo work done I have to go back home.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          That’s what my time onsite laregely ended up being during my first 6 months with my current employer. Face time, cross-training, socialization, etc, and then 4 hours of furious productivity after everyone else went home or I went back to the hotel for the night.

  12. niknik*

    LW#1,
    Alison: “your employer can put restrictions on what’s recorded”

    Rest of the letter aside. So they can decide to record, but can deny you making your own record at the same time ? How is that supposed to work ? Can you elaborate ?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A private employer controls who can record what in their workplace. They can put any restrictions on it that they want; there’s no legal right to record meetings against your employer’s wishes. (The exception to this is recordings made as part of an employee exercising their right to engage in protected concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other organizing under the NLRA.) I’m not arguing this is necessarily fair, just explaining what’s legally permitted.

        1. John Smith*

          Just an aside on this, in the UK there have been employment tribunal (and court) cases where the employee has secretly recorded meetings and been permitted to use the recordings in evidence even when such recordings were explicitly prohibited for either party. In such cases, it’s usually the case that the evidence the recordings give is directly related to the case (usually the employer gaslighting, to use a term) and where there is a full documented and timed transcript of the recording along with a “highlights” copy of the relevant parts. It couldn’t be “my employer is horrible, listen to this!” but more “my employer continually used racist language which they deny even now. I have this recording of the meeting where I am repeatedly victimised and told I’m going to be sacked because they don’t like me for my race. At 5 minutes in, you can hear my manager call me a stupid X” and so on.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Is this true even in dual consent states? Is an employee deemed to have automatically granted consent?

        1. kalli*

          That’s going to depend on the workplace – some contracts do include a release. In many cases it’s more commonly handled with a notification of recording and the ability to speak up. That said, because workspaces are technically private areas under the control of the employer, the employer is within their rights to instate a policy regarding recordings and take it that employees consent to that if they are made aware and don’ t quit. The policy is valid to the extent it doesn’t infringe on workers’ rights or State/Federal law regarding both privacy and surveillance, so in any case it then depends on the exact policy and the facts as to whether it is deemed legal and sufficient consent, or otherwise. Generally, however, a tribunal or court will look for specific act of consent or a specific lack of action in context of a notification or recording, before looking at whether consent could have been assumed by nature of being present at work.

        2. mlem*

          My Massachusetts-based not-a-lawyer understanding is that the employee can refuse consent to be recorded … but the employer can then fire the employee for refusing. This may have different nuances in other dual-consent states, though.

        3. L.H. Puttgrass*

          In the IT context, “consent” is usually a result of those long login banners that no one reads. Plus, consent may not be required for use of the employer’s systems operating in the normal course of business.

          In the context of a Teams call, I’m not sure whether that’s covered as an employer’s system operating in the normal course of business. And I can’t remember the wording of the Teams “FYI, you’re being recorded” message, but I wouldn’t be surprised if continuing with the call after being told that it’s recorded counts as consent (even if that consent was obtained under the threat of no longer having a job).

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I was just on a recorded Teams call and that is indeed the message — remaining on the call constitutes your consent to be recorded.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          I always assumed it was considered “consent” in these situations once you have been made aware of the recording and chosen to continue in the conversation. So OP could say “no I don’t want this recorded” and then leave, but then they’d probably be fired. Or they could insist on making their own recording and then the employer could refuse to continue to conversation… and then without the ability to discuss things further they’d probably default to just firing OP.

      2. Lemon Difficult*

        there’s also no legal *prohibition* against recording even if it’s what your employer doesn’t want in a one-party state. if you’re in a one-party state you can legally record all your meetings. you’d be breaking company policy but you wouldn’t be breaking the law.

    2. Washi*

      I don’t really see the problem with this? I work in healthcare so am used to looking at things from a privacy/security standpoint. Possibly the company has protocols for what happens to a recorded meeting and how it is shared and stored, and is concerned about the potential for an unauthorized recording to be shared in a problematic way. Again, coming from healthcare where HIPAA is a big deal and comes with hefty fines related to storing anything with private information, this seems normal and not shady to me.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Considering the OP has already been shown to be deceptive, I would not give permission to record either. Who knows what would happen to the recording or how it would be handled.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Right, the employer in this case is basically saying “we’re gonna say stuff to you in this meeting about our business and we don’t want you to be able to share that with whomever, so we can record it but you can’t, cuz it’s our business stuff”. It’s entirely separate from the employee saying “I decline to be recorded and am not participating in this meeting”. At that point they probably just fire you. Or if the employee says “I decline to be recorded unless I can also record or be provided with a copy of the recording” the company can still treat that the same as “I decline to be recorded” scenario.

    3. Mudstomping*

      What’s wild to me is that everyone is jumping on LW1 for what they are doing, but no one is distressed about the Company’s actions.

      Like, no, LW1 isn’t necessarily in the right, but that doesn’t make the Company perfect, good, right, or better.

      Some seem to have taken the “Corporations are people” too literally.
      I’ve got some boots that need licking.

      LW1–you have a phone. Record it on your end on your own. I wouldn’t trust the company to keep it accurate, or even to get you a copy.

      *I do think that LW1 was very bold and I wouldn’t have the courage to do that every time from the get-go. I would probably have tried it once or twice, and then reserve that trick for rare occasions. Or maybe pop in, use the restroom, and then go. Or pop in, say hi to someone, get my face seen, and then go.
      Also, LW1, you said someone told on you, but you don’t know who. Perhaps someone looked at the records and caught you, and maybe someone saw you do it, and probably multiple times. But when maliciously complying, no one is your friend. You gotta do that on your own.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        I mean there’s nothing distressing about the employers actions. Someone filed a complaints, they’re clearly investigating it as opposed to just immediately firing OP. OP’s actions are indefensible – they played the proverbially stupid game and are now winning the stupid prize. The company doesn’t need to make up or manipulate anything against OP – their actions are absolutely an immediate firing offense.

        What exactly are you concerned they company would be doing?

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          I agree.

          OP1 followed the letter, not the spirit of the law. The employers are mad that she didn’t follow the spirit of the law and are within their rights to fire her for that. What could they possibly manipulate on the recording that would make them manipulative or underhanded? OP1 is clearly already in the wrong.

          And of course their coworkers are not their friends! If I saw someone clocking in and clocking out to spend all day at home when I had to work in the office the majority of the week according to the rules, I’d be letting someone know, too! It would absolutely tank my morale that my place of work was paying someone so deceitful and so openly disdainful of the rules the same or similar to me.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        No one is saying the corporation is right. But this IS the policy and OP is playing games with it. The company is not doing anything illegal by telling her she can’t record. If she does record anyway, that’s just further grounds for firing. Is it fair? No. Is it reasonable to come up with a policy of 3 days a week in the office if there is no good business reason? Again, no. But this is what the company is doing. If OP wants to remain employed there, she needs to follow the directive because the company can legally fire her over it.

      3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        What? LW is in the wrong. The fact that you started out with “not necessarily” means you’re already not arguing in good faith. The fact that the LW is in the wrong doesn’t make the company… anything. Company can be wrong *and* LW can be wrong. At the same time.

        I guess you’re one of those people who doesn’t understand that criticizing one side of a dispute does not have anything to do with the rightness/wrongness of the other side of the dispute.

        Also, insulting people you disagree with is both gross and shows you don’t have an argument to make on the facts, so you sink to name-calling as a distraction.

      4. Nancy*

        The LW is wrong in this case, and that can easily be seen when checking records. There is nothing distressing about a company setting up a meeting with an employee who is not following policy.

      5. Antilles*

        Since it’s on Teams, yes, it’s very easy to record the phone on your own end. But what’s the point of OP recording the conversation? The company isn’t violating any laws by deciding they want you to work in the office 3 days a week. They have the legal right to write you up over this, make you ineligible for promotion, or straight up fire you on the spot. So I’m just not sure what the point is.

        Also in terms of “jumping on LW1”, it’s because LW’s actions were so over the top that it basically ruined any chance of sympathy. If LW had written in complaining about the policy and asking how to advocate for changing it? Everybody in the commentariat would be on their side. But not when you pull an absurd stunt like this.

      6. Head sheep counter*

        Advising someone one to what they were told not to do when they are in trouble for dodgy behavior is an interesting choice.

        Its not bootlicking to acknowledge that in a world where you need a paycheck that the paycheck provider has more power than you. Its stating a fact. Many office buildings record all kinds of things (see the badge reader). There is no expectation of privacy in your office beyond perhaps the bathroom and a space provided for nursing mothers.

      7. nodramalama*

        They’re literally being reprimanded for being deceptive at work and your recommendation is to keep being deceptive?

        The company didn’t do anything wrong. They want people in the office 3 days a week, that’s their policy. If that policy doesn’t work for you the answer is not to lie to your employer to sneakily keep working from home.

      8. Critical Rolls*

        The general sentiment around here is very much pro-WFH; no one at all is arguing that the company is “perfect, good, right, or better” regarding their in-office policy or implementation. The boot-licking comment is disgusting and uncalled for.

        What everyone else is recognizing is that reacting to a company policy you don’t like — however legitimate your dislike is — with deceptive defiance and deliberate obtuseness is a bad strategy that can easily get you fired, and that it is legitimate for a company to fire an employee who won’t comply with policy and engages in deceptive practices.

  13. E. Monday*

    LW2: ” … it came across like he was making a pass at me.”

    That’s because he WAS! Don’t let him gaslight you into thinking you’re misinterpreting a friendly comment. What he said was gross innuendo, wholly inappropriate, sexual harassment creep behavior.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Yeah: if LW does confront him you KNOW he’ll jump right into that “just joking, I thought we were friends, geez, can’t ya take a compliment?” routine in order to deflect what they both know is true–he made a gross, inappropriate comment to a colleague. On purpose.

      1. Artemesia*

        The sexy librarian part of the comment could be friendly banter that slid over a line — the ‘that’s a problem for me’ part moved into a pass that should be shut down and HR needs to know of a potential problem, just for the record in case he tries some sort of retaliation later.

        1. Observer*

          The sexy librarian part of the comment could be friendly banter that slid over a line

          Hard disagree. We’re talking about a supposedly competent employee, who is also a spouse and parent. That is, not a newbie to the world.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I was thinking the same thing. It alone would still be a very inappropriate thing to say at work but I think something like that would be pretty normal to say to a friend–and since sometimes the lines between friends and coworkers blur if you spend enough time together I might personally be willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt if they stopped there. I would call it a red flag and keep my eye out for escalation.

          But adding “that’s a problem for me” was him straight up saying to her “you are turning me on” and it really escalated things from like 7 to like a million on the inappropriate scale.

      2. hbc*

        I accidentally solved* this once when a coworker friend told me about how he had a dream about him making a pass at me and me rejecting him. He kind of made it a “ha ha, weird dream” story, and I instinctively joked right back, “Yeah, anyway, what’s the number for the HR hotline again?”

        *At least, he never made a Schroedinger’s Pass at me again. One of my great regrets is that I’ll never know if he spent as much time wondering if I was joking as I did about him.

          1. Bruce*

            Agreed, that is a hilarious way of putting it. I like the quick response too. My late wife knew Aikido and had to use it a couple of times on coworkers who groped her, she never seriously hurt anyone but when they got their hand back from her they knew that next time they would have broken fingers…

    2. kiki*

      Yes, he was making a pass at you. Having it be slightly indirect was a way of testing the waters to see if you push back or not. It’s not your fault, he’s being gross and trying to push boundaries with you in a way that you have no way invited. This is 100% him being gross. You are allowed to be friendly and have work friends. Being fun, friendly, and smiley with coworkers isn’t flirting. Being a woman in the workplace can be difficult because if you are those things, some men decide that means you’re flirting with them. But if you’re not those things, you’re cold and unapproachable. LW, you did nothing wrong here.

      1. Awkwardness*

        “Being a woman in the workplace can be difficult because if you are those things, some men decide that means you’re flirting with them. But if you’re not those things, you’re cold and unapproachable.”

        And even if you are cold and unapproachable, this does not stop them, because they might be the one to loosen you up.
        If cannot win one way or the other, you could be your normal friendly smiley personality as well.

        LW, you did nothing wrong. It really saddens me to see the self-doubt in your letter.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Yep. You could be a literal Medusa, snakes waving in the air around your head, surrounded by the statues of once-were-men, and some moron is going to think his brand of “humor” is just what is needed to “soften you up.”

    3. Observer*

      LW2: ” … it came across like he was making a pass at me.”

      That’s because he WAS!

      This. A thousand, a million times over.

    4. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

      Yeah OP don’t doubt yourself- there is no real-world interpretation of what he said that isn’t a sexual advance/ harassment. This isn’t borderline or any kind of fuzzy area.

    5. OP #2*

      My letter got edited down a little bit… there was a small part removed there where I was implying that I suppose someone really socially inept might say the same thing in a terribly worded attempt to be honest about an attraction and put a boundary up considering he’s married, and I knew this wasn’t that. I’m struggling to word my point (probably why Alison edited it out!!) but long story short I know it was definitely a pass.

      1. Observer*

        (probably why Alison edited it out!!

        Also, I suspect because in a way it’s not really relevant. What he did was wildly inappropriate, and I think Allison was trying to forestall all the of people who have a tendency to jump in and “explain” why the person did this ridiculous thing because maybe, possibly, it could be that he is “socially inept” / Autistic / special needs / Excuse Du Jour*.

        The bottom line is that he made a pass at you, and it was one that is more gross than most. Please do not blame yourself. This wasn’t about mixed messages. Certainly don’t try to turn off your personality.

        *And before anyone jumps down my throat, I do *NOT* think that any of these items are a reason for this kind of behavior, or that those things are actually especially correlated with this kind of misbehavior.

  14. Kella*

    OP4- I’m assuming that when PTO resets at the beginning of the year that employees don’t have to also start accruing it from scratch too? Because that would be an obvious reason for PTO to not get used until the second half of the year.

    1. Stipes*

      Yeah, rollover is really helpful in getting people to spread out their usage. If you can save some amount of time year-round for emergencies, it’s easy to spend down to that level here and there. If the amount I need to spend down to is ‘zero’, I’m not going to do that until absolutely necessary, in case I need it more later.

      1. Stipes*

        Of course, it doesn’t sound like LW4 is the person who could set that policy. But it’s one angle to think about.

    2. gyratory_circus*

      I’ve only ever worked at one place that front-loaded PTO instead of doling it out in increments-per-pay-period, and it was absolutely easier to take time off earlier in the year. My current job only allows us to roll over 40 hours, so there’s no way I’m comfortable taking more than a day or two off until at least March unless I absolutely have to.

      My father was diagnosed with cancer this past January, and only the fact that I had rolled over 40 hours from last year allowed me to take intermittent PTO to help him and my mom while he was in the throes of treatment. If I hadn’t rolled it over, I would have been forced to take unpaid time – and who can afford that?

    3. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Hilarious reason why OldJob kept running into this problem…the local C-suite spent a lot of time screaming that the office couldn’t be closed for the last two weeks of December, except:
      1. Accrual based system
      2. Limited rollover
      3. Limited ability to borrow from yet to be accrued
      and
      4. Our industry all but shuts down as a whole for the last two weeks of December, so….why is it a problem exactly? (Wasn’t just the business, I mean its the whole industry in our particular region!) One year the receptionist who drew the short straw tracked the number of incoming calls for that two week period and deducted the “oops wrong number” from it. The number was four. Not per day, that was the total. Our normal DAILY total was between 50-100.

      Far as I know they’re all still screaming about the issue.

      1. Bruce*

        This is part of why my employer has a November to October fiscal year… before my group was acquired our fiscal year ended December 31, and it really sucked. We also have a shut-down from Christmas to New Years. Most of our staff are salaried, but PTO is reasonably generous for the hourly staff so they can take the break and still have PTO hours to use other times.

  15. Not Australian*

    OP1: if nothing else, the employer needs to know who is on-site at any given time. If there’s an emergency – say a fire, or a shooter, or pretty much anything that endangers other workers – they need to not have to spend any time looking for someone who has badged in and then b*ggered off. The moral high ground you think you have disappears when it involves potentially endangering the life of a first responder who may be called upon to search for you while you’re miles away working your side hustle. Have a bit of consideration.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      True, except OP has “badged out” again a few minutes later, so when they print (or however this is done) the list of people who would have been in the building, OP won’t be on there.

      1. Anonandanonandanon*

        It never says that OP1 is badging out. Some workplaces only track the badging in. My mother’s work, which is pushing 3 days in office as well, only requires employees to badge in. It doesn’t track when they leave.

        1. Kella*

          OP says it here “…but now I’m being investigated because I’ve been badging in, then immediately out to go home and do my work.”

        2. Zelda*

          But it does say that: “I’ve been badging in, then immediately out.” The verb isn’t repeated so it’s less obvious, but I read that as “I’ve been badging in, then immediately [badging back] out.”

      2. Ellis Bell*

        But that is such a banana crackers thing to do, that it won’t necessarily make sense to anyone: “Oh it says here that an employee entered the building at 9, but left again almost immediately”. “Well, that can’t be right, they must have double swiped, or gone back to the car for something they forgot. We’d best check anyway; better safe than sorry” No one is going to think that OP would do such a strange thing deliberately. I mean it might flag up to the company as a strange pattern over time, but not in an emergency.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          You would ask people who work nearby OP, or other people like a receptionist who might have seen OP come and go, whether OP was in the building that day.

    2. niknik*

      No, they badged in and immediately out again (just to create an ‘on-site’ entry in their timesheet, i guess). So not a smart thing to do, but clear on that front at least.

    3. Mornington Cresent*

      I came here to say something similar about it being a horrid idea from a safety perspective, so pleased to see someone else got there first!

    4. Also-ADHD*

      Didn’t LW say they badge in and out? It didn’t sound like they were fraudulent, though that’s not to say they were “right” and can do what they want.

    5. Heather*

      I’ve heard this argument get brought up before, but is this really something that happens? if there’s a fire and everyone is huddled in the parking lot, are the fire crews going to ask someone to run off a headcount report once the fire is under control? everywhere I’ve worked everyone holds doors for each other anyway so the count would never be accurate. Maybe I just have a skewed sense of how it works since it’s a bit of a joke at my office.

      1. Rachel*

        Of course it happens.

        In the case of active shooters specifically, the news is usually there at the same time as law enforcement so the number of people, and accounting for them, is public information.

        This policy makes perfect sense from the perspective of the first responders and from the perspective of loved ones waiting to hear if their person is okay

      2. miel*

        +1.

        At my office, people are always coming and going – for lunch, off-site meetings, appointments, staggered hours. There is no badging out.

        My understanding is that each manager is supposed to account for their direct reports in case of an emergency, but honestly, it would be pretty much impossible to account for everyone quickly.

      3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        For certain environments. A school would absolutely do a headcount to make sure no children were missing. I’ve worked in a laboratory and we did a parking lot head count by lab (so such lab counts and verifies the 10-20 people in their group) when we had building wide emergency evacuations. And the lab was at a university but we weren’t students
        for the most part.

      4. SomeWords*

        It does. I work for a large company. There are people (managers, mostly) designated specifically to do head-counts in emergencies. Groups are assigned a specific spot to go to outside the building. There are multiple gathering spots. Each group has a head-counter.

        1. Heather*

          Oh for sure, that’s what my company does too (fortunately it’s only come up in fire drills so far!). My point is that it’s got nothing to do with the badging system.

      5. Fluffy Fish*

        (EM here) so they do care but not as much as you might think. Reality is they would never ever assume that everyone made it out of the building – they would respond as if someone might be in there.

        Many many places dont have badging, and those that do may require in but not out. People go home sick, leave for meetings and appointments, etc. Even if all employees badge in and out, what about guests?

        They’re showing up and handling the emergency – someone will probably ask about staff accountability at some point but they aren’t showing up, and waiting around until all staff are accounted for then handling the emergency.

        So yes they care but accountability is on the company and no it doesn’t really affect their initial response.

      6. doreen*

        It’s not really going to affect the initial response of emergency services but I’ve worked at jobs where there was no badging in and out but you were supposed to move a pin or a nametag from the “in” side of a board to the “out” side. And someone was supposed to grab that board off the wall on the way out, so everyone could see that Jane was not in the building and Gary was. It might possibly have made a difference if it was known that Gary was in the building but wasn’t in the parking lot.

      7. ClaireW*

        It’s pretty common in my experience for the most senior person to be expected to do a headcount when there’s a fire evacuation (or drill). This does get awkward if it’s over lunchtime or people are out for coffee…

      8. Nebula*

        We have to sign in when we come into the building, and sign out if we’re going out for whatever reason. In the event of a fire alarm, we have fire wardens (on staff) who will check off who is present against the list so they know that everyone is accounted for (or not). If your workplace doesn’t take that seriously and doesn’t have proper processes that people know and understand for what to do in an emergency, that’s kind of concerning imo.

      9. J*

        My previous employer used to be in a larger coworking space with heavy badge reliance. We did fire drills twice a year and we absolutely generated lists from apps of who was listed in and out. Each company had a reporter back to the property manager and we’d have to give our counts – both from the app and who had exited to our designated meeting point and names of the missing. My husband’s Fortune 500 company does a similar thing. They even have smaller fire captains who all have to carry First Aid kits in their vehicles, provided by the company.

        I’ve also worked for many companies that didn’t care but all you need to do is read about Morgan-Stanley on 9/11 or the Joplin tornado hitting so many businesses and hospitals to get why more companies should be doing more.

      10. Onyx*

        Yes, I’ve evacuated for fire alarms at my workplace (both drills and “real” as in *something* legitimately triggered it and required the fire department to investigate), and there were specific people who were assigned to run down the list of building occupants to account for them while the fire department was checking the building.

        I wasn’t one of those people, so I’m not sure of the details other than that they did a roll call at the evacuation point and checked off everyone present. In our case, we didn’t badge into the building, so I think it was basically a list of people with offices there, and if someone wasn’t present at the evac point then they needed to confirm that they weren’t in the building, e.g., by their manager confirming they were off work/working elsewhere that day, colleagues reporting they’d seen them leave the building, trying to reach the person on their cell phone, etc.

      11. Observer*

        are the fire crews going to ask someone to run off a headcount report once the fire is under control?

        Not necessarily. But the idea is that whoever is in charge will try to get that list and check to make sure that everyone who badged in is out of the building. And they probably would not look at the badge out list, because in a case like this doors being held open is obvious. Instead people would be asked “Do you know what so-and-so’s schedule is?”

      12. judyjudyjudy*

        I had an official list of my employees. For fire drills and, once, an actual lab fire, I had to locate my employees physically at the rally point, check off my employees on my list, and the report to the Safety lead. So, yes, it does happen.

    6. Roland*

      Eh, I’ve never worked somewhere with badge out and don’t find this argument very compelling. Someone could be in the bathroom or getting coffee or at lunch or they came in for half a day. And if there IS badge out, then they know they’re not there very easily.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, it seems to me that either you have a strict badge in/badge out policy that’s useful for safety purposes — in which case it sounds like the OP is actually complying, since they mention badging in and then immediately back out — or you have a list of people who were in the building at some point today, in which case the OP is no more of a safety problem than the dozens of other people who badged in and then left to get coffee, lunch, go to an off-site meeting, went home sick, etc.

    7. NaoNao*

      Ehhhhhh whatever means the OP’s employers used to figure out that OP was not in fact on the campus can be used to figure out where she is or isn’t in the event of emergency. While the OP LW in this case *is* in the wrong, I have *zero* sympathy or desire to prop up a crappy, arbitrary policy like the one LW’s company is enforcing and to “have consideration” for whatever hypothetical safety personnel is on site, if any.

      My company is doing something similar as LWs–with uneven enforcement. I have a coworker who is teaching online classes virtually and then has to go into the physical office because those hours don’t “count” towards a minimum she has to be in an office. So she works for 4+ hours, has a 60+ minute commute one way and then has to “do time” in an office of hotel desks where 0% of her coworkers are collocated. Make it make sense. Like 90% of the teams in the company, we’re scattered and there is ZERO benefit to being in the office.

      The company line as to why we’re doing RTO is (among other reasons) “to be more visible in the communities we serve”. We’re in a badge-in office multiple floors up with absolutely zero interaction and visibility with anyone outside the office. It’s not like we’re manning booths at some conference or handing out flyers on a street corner. There is zero opportunity to interact with said community, I have no idea what they’re on about and I find it totally disingenuous.

      That’s one example and I’m sure the commentariat can come up with many more about how short sighted, arbitrary, self-destructive, and punitive these RTO policies are.

      1. Jelly*

        Yet none of this matters. If a person doesn’t like one or more company policies, they need to find a different job.

        It’s just that straightforward.

  16. Missy*

    LW4 I’m in the UK so holiday allowances are much more generous, ‘use or loose it’ is still a thing here but it would be very rare to actually happen. It is expected that everyone use their annual leave which is normally around 25 days so apologies if I am missing some important nuances here.

    The issue seems to be that holiday requests are being made too close to the time they need to be taken. So if leave cannot be approved their is no option to use it another time.

    Christmas is an important time of year that requires advance planning for lots of people so it makes no sense to leave everyone waiting until November/December to find out if they can have time off.

    What my team do is put in our Christmas holiday requests early September (you could even do earlier if that works for your team) and agree between us how we will cover so everyone gets some time off and no one works both Xmas eve and NYE.

    Doing it this way means we know early how much leave we will have left to use and can take it over the last few months of the year. It also sets expectations around what time we are likely to get off of the next year (ie if someone has Xmas eve off this year, next year they will likely have to work it but will get New Year’s Eve off instead)

    This doesn’t mean everyone will get what they want but everyone feels more included in the decision making and could something with any holiday allowance they can’t use at Christmas.

    For example if I request 2 weeks off at Xmas and only get one week approved I could then take the remaining week off in say October.

    1. Storm in a teacup*

      Fellow Brit here and we also do the same.

      Also when in my previous role I used to manage a large team. I made sure the culture was one where people felt they could take time off and that people did so. At my quarterly check-ins we would actively check leave and if it was being used / booked. Only 5 days (<20%) were allowed to be carried over to the following year and had to be used in the first quarter.

      LW worth considering if the team feel they can take their leave, are encouraged to do so and it’s approved if they do request some? If so, then some tough love so they do lose it if they’re not planning properly.

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      I’m in the US and we do something similar: we have to get our requests for time off around Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s in by some time in August, then management goes through all the requests to create the PTO schedule for that part of the year. So we know when we’re going to be off well in advance. (I’m taking the week between Christmas and New Year’s this year.)

      The annoying thing, though, is that our PTO is all in one bucket, use it or lose it, and the cutoff for losing it is 12/31. So, for instance, right now I have 2 days left that I haven’t scheduled. I’ve been saving them in case I get sick or something. I’m going to have to figure out when to take them, but it’s going to be hard because the most obvious times to take those days are precisely when I can’t take them (if I wanted to take the day before Thanksgiving or the day before Christmas, I would have had to request that back in August, which I didn’t). So I’m just going to have to take some random days off.

      It would be so much easier if we were either allowed to roll over some small number of days to the following year, or if the use-it-or-lose-it cutoff were at some other time of year (any time of year besides the two months when PTO has to be scheduled the furthest in advance!). I have no idea if the LW’s workplace has a similar situation (and if they do, it’s not clear whether she has any ability to change it), but if so, that might be a potential reason why people are reluctant to use PTO too early in the year.

      1. Missy*

        Spencer’s Hastings, Thank you for clarifying makes a lot of sense why people would be saving PTO until the very end of year.

        In the UK rolling over up to 5 days holiday each year is the norm (although sometimes limits are placed in how far into the new year you can use them, an employer might insist that you take those 5 extra days in the first quarter for instance).

        Although it seems nuts to me as a Brit that holiday and sick leave are essentially one and the same. I really sympathise with US workers, it sounds like you have no choice but to stockpile a few days just in case you become unwell and at the same time take the risk you won’t need them and potentially lose them.

        I wonder if it would be an option at LW4 workplace to change the holiday year to run to over a different 12 month period to the standard calendar year. Say maybe June to May rather than January to December so thanksgiving and Christmas fall somewhere near the middle rather than at the end.

  17. Someone else*

    LW4 Could you set up a calendar showing how much availability there is for PTO each week for the coming year? So if, for example, you can have 2 people off at once, you show two available slots each day, and update them as they get booked. You wouldn’t necessarily need to show who has booked them, but it would allow people to look at what is already booked, and know if they are likely to be approved for time off. That way, if the end of the year gets booked up early, they will be able to clearly see, and hopefully it’ll make it easier for them to take into consideration if there are too many people already off.

    (We have this at my work, with the understanding that you’re never guaranteed to get PTO approved just because there’s availability, and that they will make exceptions and allow an extra person off in emergencies or special cases, at their discretion. It’s pretty useful to be able to see what is likely to be available when I’m planning what to book.)

    1. Annika Hansen*

      We have something similar. We show the names because we don’t all have the same skills. Like if Stephanie and John are off, I can’t take that day because then all X technology specialists are off. However, if it is Stephanie and Bill, I could take off because John can answer the X technology questions. Bill specializes in Y technology.

    2. kalli*

      My work does it a bit differently – we have an Annual Leave calendar where everyone’s RDOs, leave, all-staff events (staff meeting, client events, dinners etc) and school/public/major holidays are all blocked out, and because it starts with ‘A’ it’s at the top of everyone’s calendar tab. Leave gets added as it’s approved (and only the person who approves leave can add to it, everyone else is view-only), and because people have to check it when they’re arranging cover for meetings when they’re out and can’t move them and it’s basically always in the sidebar, everyone’s more aware of ‘I can ask for leave’ and when nobody else has booked leave, so people take their leave.

      But we also close over the Dec/Jan public holiday glut, half of which doesn’t count against leave totals, so people aren’t saving for that time – my boss spends a month with her family overseas for Christmas but only needs to actually take 5 days leave to cover it, whereas in this situation it might be that someone might need all of their leave to cover travel and the holidays.

      I do wonder whether having a policy of taking bookings earlier may help; some workplaces I’ve come across have only allowed leave applications 1-2 months out and where people get used to that or assume they can’t put in earlier (or are waiting for schedules vs scheduling around leave) I see these kinds of gluts reoccurring frequently.

    3. Garblesnark*

      I was going to suggest this too. I manage a coverage based schedule. We can definitely support 4 people being out. We can sometimes handle 7 people being out. 10 people is just not an option. If these limits are clearly communicated, there’s a lot of ability to communicate frankly. For example, I recently got a request for a day when the maximum team members were already out. I was able to just say back, “we already have a lot of people out that day; I’m not sure we can make this work. Do you have something special planned?” The employee said, “it’s opening day, I just want to be done by 3pm.” Well that I could work with! Any time you can be transparent, it helps.

  18. Le Vauteur*

    LW1 – so you’re travelling to work, presumably minimum of 30 minutes, for your regular start time, badging in and out, then travelling home before you actually start work? So essentially travelling your return commute on company time? Or have you adjusted the times you’re badging in and out to allow that to all happen on your own time? Are you still actually working your required length of hours, or is some of it taken up with your commute? I can absolutely see why, if the latter is the case, the company isn’t happy, aside from you not working in office when they expect you to be.

    The recording bothers me less – I don’t believe it is possible on Teams for more than one person to record the same meeting, so it makes sense that they are in charge of that as it’s their meeting. You could ask for a copy or transcript of the recording afterwards, however.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I like your final paragraph very much.

      Where an employer says “we will record; you may not” it would be odd for them to refuse a request along the lines of “great, please let me have a copy”.

      Or maybe I’ve been a paralegal too long (not employment law or even US, but too often involved in discovery).

      1. mlem*

        My company got into a tizzy because some internal video presentations were mocked on YouTube. They spent a lot of time updating “proprietary” labels and the like. I wouldn’t be surprised if a company refused to share a copy of the recording because they don’t want it disseminated. Their HR staff could be made into fools online (whether honestly or via Project Veritas-style fraud). It’s certainly worth asking! But I think it’s also possible they might refuse.

    2. N*

      This is how my organization’s MS Teams works as well… one participant hits the record button and then after the recording has ended a link to the recorded meeting is available in the chat to anyone who participated

  19. Jane Fiddlesticks*

    LW 1: I completely feel your pain about having to be in an office 3x a week when you’d rather work from home. I would be very unhappy about this too.

    I don’t know whether and how often you previously raised this with your employer and were able to have any constructive conversations about it, but clocking in and then leaving probably wasn’t the best strategy as they will see this as insubordinate.

    Know that there are companies that offer fully remote work if you want to change employer. It may be a bit harder to find now, but not impossible. Good luck.

  20. Labrat*

    I once had a manager who notified us in September that if anyone had unrequested vacation days remaining at the start of October, *he’d* select when we’d take them. Oddly enough, that got people putting their requests into the system…

    1. Artemesia*

      Seems like a good idea if notice alone has not worked well, so long as enough lead time is given e.g. Sept 1 tell them and Oct 15 assign the dates.

    2. OrangeCup*

      I was once voluntold at a new job that I started in October that I’d be working the week between Christmas and New Years since everyone else had families of origin out of the area where we worked, and mine was in the area we worked in. That turned into them expecting me to always work that week. What I learned was the company basically shut down that week, no emails came in, and I didn’t have to do any work, so I brought a book in to read and took the first week of January off every year instead. It was like getting two weeks vacation for the price of one and I didn’t feel bad about it at all.

      1. miel*

        Yes, working the week of Christmas can be really nice and chill!

        And if there *is* work to be done, it’s amazing how much one can get done without a constant barrage of emails and meetings.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah I usually volunteer to work between Christmas and New Year. It’s nice and quiet and I can catch up on my filing. Occasionally I go away for NY but most of the time I work through and then go away for a week in January to the Canaries to escape dull grey January weather.

        2. Wonder Woman's Tiara*

          I don’t have kids and often take a week of leave earlier in December, so I’m usually happy to cover for the parents in my team by working Christmas week if needed. I always get so much more done without the constant meetings!

      2. Coin Purse*

        Yes! I once managed a rehabilitation unit that didn’t have patients Christmas to New Years. Requirements for certification mandated coverage so I’d work it with no patients. Got a lot of knitting done.

  21. Jess*

    Strong disagree with the answer to 4. The way to get staff to use their vacation time in an even manner instead of loading it up at the end of the year is to let them carry a couple of the weeks over into the new year, and not an automatic expiry. Working-age people usually have potential emergencies they are banking holiday for. Sick parents, sick children, etc. If it is a good year, and those things don’t materialize, they should not be prevented from using their accrued benefits before they expire. This is the sort of thing that will make good people walk.

    1. nnn*

      That’s a policy set at the top of the organization, not by individual managers. If they’re your average mid level manager they aren’t going to have any way to change that.

      1. NYNY*

        This. One reason companies do not like to do this, is that then they have to track it and put a liability on their balance sheet, and track when used. PITA

        1. GythaOgden*

          Not much we can advise the OP to do on that score though. This isn’t just a debate site about workplace issues in the abstract; it’s a place where real people are coming for advice.

          1. Jess*

            Yes. Real people/managers can suggest greater rollover allowances at their workplaces if they see employees loading up their vacations in Q4.

        2. MicroManagered*

          Sure they can. That’s … basically what being a manager is.

          OP4 could and should just clearly tell everyone they can’t accommodate everyone using PTO at the same time, right at the end of the year. If you would like to ensure you don’t lose any time, you must plan ahead so you’re not in that jam at the same time as everyone else. Communicate this in January and then periodically throughout the year. Remind them that if they wait, you may not be able to accommodate them and they may lose the time — and then hold to that!

          Sure, having PTO expire every year sucks and the policy should be changed. And I whole-heartedly think OP4 should continue to “make some noise” to superiors and try to get that policy changed. However, unless or until that change occurs, communicating the expectations clearly and often is the route to go.

    2. Red Flags Everywhere*

      Eh, we can carry over a significant amount of leave, have separate sick and annual, and still run into this issue most years. Senior staff get more annual leave over time and we have a significant number of decades-long employees. This is the first year one of my staff isn’t having to burn leave – but it’s one person and I really stayed on top of her leave balance through the year. She ended up taking a lot of half-days through the year. You do what you can, but there’s no magic solution here.

    3. WellRed*

      If people can’t or don’t use the the time within the year, I don’t know that rolling it over does anything but exacerbate it for the most part.

      1. Jess*

        Re don’t: we have five weeks, and can roll a couple weeks of it over; they expire end of Q1 of the new year. People who have been holding on to those last couple of weeks in case life goes nuts use them in Q1, once they have a new set of holidays they can use in case life goes nuts in the new year.

        Re can’t: a workplace where people can’t use their holiday time has or is a bigger problem than people asking for too many Q4 holidays.

  22. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (pto crunch at the end of the year) – I get the feeling there’s a bit of a strange dynamic here.

    You ask “am I obligated to approve every request even if it will make the remaining people miserable”. I understand that PTO is subject to approval (I’m a manager myself so I do get it), however, is it happening a lot that you have to decline time off requests? Why? Why are the remaining people miserable? Is it due to understaffing relative to the workload or unrealistic expectations for coverage? Most significantly, have there ever been times where you had to rescind previously approved PTO?

    The reason I ask all this is I’ve seen this dynamic before where people feel that their requests won’t be approved or come with too much hassle (e.g. you can take this day off IF you can find someone to cover the shift – but no one ever wants to cover as they are working too many hours already… etc). So they wait until the end of the year, when the company “has to” allow them to take it before it’s lost.

    Have you tried asking them why they are holding out like this? – the answer might surprise and enlighten you.

    1. doreen*

      As far as “am I obligated to approve every request even if it will make the remaining people miserable” , at my job making the remaining people miserable was a result of nearly the same amount of work with only 25% of the staff because 75% were approved to be off at the same time . Now of course, 25% of the people couldn’t literally do 100% of the work so a lot didn’t get done, but the extra work stressed people out and eliminated any downtime.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I’m wondering if it’s a combined time off/sick pay allotment, combined with a use-it-or-lose-it system, and people are holding onto their hours in case they get sick late in the year?

  23. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    OP2 – I now have to make another cup of tea to replace the one I spat across my desk when I read the second paragraph. Ye gods, on which planet could anyone consider this even vaguely appropriate?

    Tell him to back off immediately. This is in no way your fault, please do not question yourself. This is all on him.

  24. Rosacoletti*

    #2 I don’t find that one remark creepy in isolation- it sounds like he just feels comfy making jokes around you, albeit a tiny bit risqué.

    #3 Not staffs’ job to find someone to cover a shift if they’ve already flagged they are unavailable- that is YOUR job.

    #4 start turning down requests! We allow people to book annual leave as early as they like, years ahead if they like and the earlier you book, the more likely it will be approved. If you have a policy that clearly states this and people stop assuming they can all go off at the same time, it will self remedy

    1. ginna*

      OP23 found it creepy, and asked how to handle it on that basis. They were there, they were the target of the comment, and they get to decide if it was creepy.

      Your personal tolerance for creepiness is not the issue here, and does not help the OP.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes! The lesson to be learnt is that this is is not something to ‘joke’ about*.

        If you fancy someone, either ask them out for real (think about it twice at a workplace); or, if that is not an option, jokes or any other comments on their appearance need to stay on the inside of the brain.

        *Exception: you have been in a relationship for ages and you know the other person likes it. Still – don’t do this in the office!

    2. She who lurks*

      The fact that YOU don’t find Mac’s remark creepy makes no difference to the impact it had on the OP and the advice from Alison.

    3. Kella*

      If it was “just” a risqué joke, it was a risqué joke in which he explicitly sexualized her. Regardless of whether you consider that creepy, it’s inappropriate for a workplace and could easily be considered sexual harassment, especially if it’s repeated.

    4. She who lurks*

      On the off chance that you have line management responsibilities, please take the opportunity to educate yourself about sexual harassment so that you can provide proper support to anyone who comes to you for advice, and don’t just dismiss them based on how you think you would react.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      If by “risque”, you mean that it’s risky to tell colleagues that they are making you sexually aroused at work, then yep. It is risky! If by “joke” you mean that anything that is inappropriate and creepy can inspire nervous laughter because it shouldn’t have been said… nah, I don’t think it counts as a whole joke. I can’t find the punch line at all, actually.

    6. TimeOffCanBeHardToTake*

      LW4, when this happens to me it’s because I’m overworked and don’t have time (or sometimes permission) to use time until it reaches use it or lose it stage. I spent an entire year at one company taking 1-2 days off every pay period to stay just ahead of accrual limits. So if no one is taking time off, check workloads.

    7. Mister_L*

      I live in a country where casually asking “How are you?” carries the risk of receiving an answer that includes illness, vomit and diarrhea.
      And even here no sane adult would consider Mac’s comment appropriate.

    8. amoeba*

      I’ve certainly had (female and male) work friends with whom that level of joke would have been fine. However, in those cases, that worked because we knew each other really, really well, also outside of work, and were actually good friends who trusted each other. If you spring it on a friendly acquaintance, that’s creepy, period. Also, if they had that kind of relationship, the LW would… not be writing to an advice column about it.

    9. Washi*

      A risque joke??? The sexy librarian comment is questionable on its own but adding “it’s a problem for me”? Like what on earth would that mean other than an innuendo.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      “You’re” and “I have a problem with it” do not belong together at the workplace except in a report to HR.

    11. mlem*

      I’m pretty sure the comment in #2 is less “a tiny bit risqué” and more “the textbook definition of sexual harassment under EEOC and most state guidelines”.

    12. Falling Diphthong*

      I would recommend that you not make “risqué” jokes about how your coworkers’ appearance is going to make it hard for you to control yourself near them, if you don’t want to find yourself in HR because your coworker doesn’t feel safe near you.

      1. Jo*

        #2 If it made you uncomfortable, 100% address it with the person who made the remark. If comments continue, THEN take additional action. But I think other commenters’ advice to go to HR based on a single remark from someone you’ve previously had a good work relationship is over the top.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          There was the guy who finished his probationary period and then decided the client would like to hear his collection of 9-11 jokes. Sometimes the first offense is pretty extreme, and merits escalation. (In that case to immediate firing; in this case it would be normal for someone who has more heft than OP to say “Dude. Do not describe your pants feels at work. Ever. Even if she was nice to you. Even if you can wave your poor wife around like a fig leaf. Even if it sounded really funny in your head. No.”

          I’m fine with anyone who had the presence of mind to say in the moment, “Never speak to me like that” and was willing to then wait and see if that worked.

          I’m also fine with the delayed response. Very often we instinctively smooth things–especially if female presenting–so I’m also fine with anyone coming back and saying “Hey, that thing you said? Extremely creepy and not okay.” And then it will be awkward–perhaps more than if she’d pushed back immediately and he didn’t spend a week thinking it had worked–but that is on him for being super creepy, not her for not correcting him in the moment with exactly the right tone and exactly the right phrasing so that he saved face and didn’t have any bad feelings about the pushback.

          And I’m fine with taking it up a level if it was extreme–which for me would include suggesting he can’t control himself around her, and it’s her fault, hee hee hee.

    13. Everything Bagel*

      It’s hard for me to understand how you read OP2, Alison’s response, and all of the follow-up comments, and still don’t see how the coworkers comment to OP2 isn’t completely gross and out of line, or why she would be worried about how to proceed and how he will act going forward. That asshole just changed their entire work dynamic and her work environment where she is now completely uncomfortable at her place of work, and treading through thinking she did something to cause this, if she should say something to him, if she should tell someone, what will be the repercussions of saying anything to him or anyone else, and so forth. He did this to her on purpose.

  25. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (laid off, what obligation to employer?) – what an interesting philosophical question (whilst recognising that this is also a real situation). To what extent is your fiduciary duty towards “the organisation” in the abstract, compared to being towards “its current leadership”? What does it even mean if the current leadership are out of alignment with “the organisation” in the abstract? … etc.

    Where I would land on this is that if you see duties – that you used to hold – going un-done due to the new leadership not knowing what they are or not caring – you have a moral duty even if not a fiduciary one to make that known, firstly to the leaders / people with influence over the leaders, and then if you get nowhere, with other relevant people (could be Legal, Compliance, HR etc).

    If the new leadership seems to be steering the company into a black hole, maybe best to think about what your future is at that company.

    1. kalli*

      I read it as the role contained fiduciary duties, not that there was a fiduciary duty to the organisation. A fiduciary duty is one where someone has an duty of care to act in the best interests of another, having taken on a legal imperative to do so; it doesn’t arise out of an employer/employee relationship, but as an employee a person may be tasked with managing the organisation’s fiduciary duty to a client – often where someone is engaged directly in their role at the organisation, the contract includes anyone working at the organisation even if there is one person named as a primary agent/file principal. They might be managing trusts or investments, or serve as a public guardian, or be a lawyer.

      So LW is asking what they are required to do if they’ve been taken off a client file but to their knowledge, nobody’s stepping in as a primary agent/file principal for those clients – how do they ensure those clients’ best interests are protected?

      While common law does hold that an employee can be constructed to have a fiduciary duty to their employer, that’s a general duty and not multiple individual duties, and generally doesn’t come in levels – you don’t have a mid-level obligation to act in good faith; you do or you do not. In this case that duty would be fulfilled by completing tasks as assigned and maybe raising the concern for those duties once or twice, but if they’ve already been told not to worry about it, then there’s nothing else they need to do. Sometimes we think our jobs are more important than they are because they are a huge part of our lives but only a very small drop in the corporate bucket from a management perspective, so if management don’t care and we can’t make them then all we can do is believe them.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        It isn’t fully clear (IMO). There is such a thing as a role in which the person has a fiduciary duty to put the employer’s interests ahead of their own. Typically it doesn’t apply to all roles, like an entry level X Analyst probably won’t have this obligation, but a Director often will (where they are an actual director of the company, not just a “Director-level position”, that is) and sometimes people of levels in between. I will put a link to an example write-up of this in a follow up comment as I know links often go into an approval process. I believe this exists in various different jurisdictions.

        In that case, the person with fiduciary duties does have an obligation to work in the interests of ‘the organisation’ ahead of their own interests. So, whilst OP might be inclined to go off into the sunset and not worry about aspects of their old job being done, they are still under this obligation to act in the best interests of the company. This potentially becomes a question for legal opinion.

  26. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW4, to get a real answer you’re going to have to look into why people are hoarding their PTO.

    Is it impossible to use PTO before you’ve accrued it? Is it a single PTO/sick bank? Are people already using the quieter periods you describe to catch up on routine work from busy periods? How much cross-training and redundancy do you have in your team?

    If people can use PTO before accruing it, or if they can buy/sell unused days, or if their ability to cover emergencies won’t be affected, or if there are periods where there no work will pile up in their absence, they will take PTO. There might be some simple changes you can make, or at least advocate for to your own bosses and beyond.

    – signed, somebody who needs to allocate 2.5 weeks by the end of 2023 right as we go into our busiest six weeks of the year

    1. what's a vacation?*

      +1

      This summer I took off 3 days around a weekend. I told everyone in advance, I left an out-of-office message, and I checked my email a few times during the first day and a half of it. I am a relatively low-level non-exempt person, but happen to have a somewhat unique role so there is no real coverage for many of my particular duties.

      I came home to an inbox full of “emergencies” (very few actually urgent) complicated by the fact that people panicked and wanted someone else to handle it when they realized I wouldn’t get it done immediately (again, most of it not actually urgent) and several people demanding to know on Monday why something they asked about on Friday wasn’t already sorted out. It took about two weeks to catch up.

      We haven’t had any really slow periods in what feels like years, and when we do ebb a little there are huge ongoing projects that need to be attended to. At least if I take my time off in December when everyone else is out, my absence has less of an impact on people- though I know even when I do take a week off after Christmas I’m going to have to call in for certain meetings and handle certain things, otherwise I’m not going to catch up before March.

      1. kalli*

        +2

        I was in hospital for two weeks in August and I still haven’t caught up. I’m thinking about taking an extra day unpaid over the end-of-year break but if I do that I’ll come back behind and may never catch up, especially as everyone finally realised I had nothing to do and started giving me small but recurring tasks like ‘go through this spreadsheet and correct the voice recognition typos’ and actually releasing work from their hoards, which they love to do over the break…

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I came home to an inbox full of “emergencies” (very few actually urgent) complicated by the fact that people panicked and wanted someone else to handle it when they realized I wouldn’t get it done immediately (again, most of it not actually urgent) and several people demanding to know on Monday why something they asked about on Friday wasn’t already sorted out.

        I feel this on so many levels.

        When I must take PTO, I don’t fear the work that is left undone in my absence. I fear the work someone else tried to tackle in ignorance and I have to roll back and redo right.

    2. Katara's side braids*

      HEAVY on the combined PTO/sick bank. My org does this and I do everything I can to avoid taking time off until the last few months of the year.

  27. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    Come on OP1, your employer’s regulation is to work in the office three days a week, not swipe your badge in and out to prove you were at the office for a minute. That’s worse than not showing up at the office at all. It’s clear you’re trying to game the system. It stinks that you have to go back into the office after working at home for all this time. But they changed the rules and those are the rules if you want to keep your job, if it’s not too late for that. You are not the injured party.

    1. Artemesia*

      I’m surprised they didn’t already fire her. Maybe they are waiting till they have someone to replace her with. There is zero trust left now.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        They want to show they did a full investigation first. But yes, firing at the end of the investigation is a very real possibility.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      You know how sometimes there are oddly specific or painstakingly worded requirements in employee handbooks etc and it’s because of a particular situation in the past…? I get the feeling OP’s company is about to get one of these added to their paperwork!

      1. Be Gneiss*

        The number of times in onboarding that I say “It might seem weird that I have to say this, but please don’t “

        1. alldogsarepuppies*

          Never forget the time my orientation explicitly said we could not make fresh guacamole at our desk

          1. Enai*

            But guacamole is objectively awesome and easily made! Did someone proceed to immediately smear in into the innards of their computer or typewriter? Was there a person with a deadly allergy?

            Please, I need to know why such a bizarrely specific rule existed.

        2. Leandra*

          At a past job, I was based in the Head Office but was told multiple times during the interview process that I’d occasionally have to work in Branch Office across town.

          I accepted that as part of the job, and upheld the duty. But they had other hires who acknowledged it during interviews, then the first time they had to go swore up down and sideways, “You never told me I’d have to go to Branch Office!”

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          I’m a teacher and one thing I’ve learnt is that 95% of those utterly stupid rules schools have are because at some point somebody did something really stupid that the rule is designed to prevent happening again (the remaining 5% are things like some school uniform rules that people just get het up about for reasons I do not understand).

          I have no doubt similar rules apply with adults.

      2. Bread Crimes*

        Every place I’ve worked that has an employee handbook has something like that. The most memorable one being the page on what to do if government officials show up and start confiscating company equipment.

        (I mean, the company won the lawsuit on that one, but just in case it happened again, there was now Documented Procedure for it.)

        1. Evan Þ*

          So what was the procedure?

          That reminds me of how my dad mentioned his company has a procedure for “you’re going through Customs with a laptop full of clients’ confidential data, and Customs wants to confiscate it.” Procedure is: you tell them what it is; if they still want to take it, you let them; you notify company and clients ASAP afterwards.

  28. Bellis Perennis*

    Re OP4, my organisation (UK based) has a solution to this which I’ve never come across elsewhere but works fantastically. Basically, each employee’s (around 400 staff) annual leave allowance starts from the month they started at the company, and resets 12 months later, so my leave runs August-July, while my boss’s runs December-November. This works out that approx. 1/12 of the staff are coming to the ‘use it or lose it’ stage with their leave each month, which spreads the load evenly across the year, so there’s never a time when half the office are away because everyone needs to take it at the same time

    1. Ellis Bell*

      That’s actually brilliant and far superior to the other managing method I’ve come across in my partner’s company; Use half your leave Jan-June and half July-Dec. This was a disaster because so many people preferred to take their leave later. We wanted to go away over Christmas and during the summer, but they wouldn’t let him borrow the leave required from the first half of the year.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        That stinks for anyone whose family is overseas & stays a long time because of travel cost. (Especially in US where starting PTO is often just 2 weeks.)

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Well, yeah, most people take most of their leave in July/August and December. It should at least be split so those aren’t in the same half.

    2. MsSolo (UK)*

      Hah, we have this, and we’re phasing it out, because it’s an absolute headache to manage at scale and keep track of who has what leave left (but we are over 100x larger than your org!). It creates various financial liabilities that are really hard to measure and control; if you have a bunch of people leaving at the same time (redundancy, perhaps) some of them will need holiday paying out, and some will need holiday recouping from their last paycheque if they’ve taken more than their pro-rata for the year so far, and having 12 possible annual leave years to calculate is really messy.

        1. bamcheeks*

          My experience of having software do stuff like this is that the calculations are easy, but writing a programme from scratch that gives 100+ people their own log-ins in order to book leave, get it approved by their manager (who needs a manager log-in and a personal log-in) and check their own balance is much harder, especially when you have to keep all that stuff secure. So it’s easier to start with existing software that has the log-in and security, and bodge it to fit everyone’s unique leave year, and … oh no, now it’s a mess.

    3. ClaireW*

      How does this work with the UK legal requirements that people take so many days within each year? Sounds like it would need a lot more monitoring to make sure nobody takes like, 3 days one year because they use a bunch the previous year and are saving a bunch for the next year

      1. amoeba*

        Does it have to be calendar years by law or could a year be defined as “a twelve month period” starting whenever? (Sorry, not familiar with UK laws!)

        1. londonedit*

          It definitely doesn’t have to be a calendar year. I’ve worked for companies before where the holiday year was 1st April-31st March, for example. So I think you could have it as ‘the holiday year runs for 12 months starting on X date’. It definitely sounds complicated having everyone on individual holiday years, though!

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        The holiday “year” can be defined either as a calendar period (Jan-Dec, April-March or whatever) or anniversary of joining date.

        1. ClaireW*

          Ah I see, every place I’ve worked for has done it as a Jan-Dec calendar year so I wasn’t sure, thanks!

      3. Lexi Vipond*

        I don’t *think* there’s a law that an individual has to take a certain amount of leave, only that they have to be allotted that much leave to take (and not prevented from actually taking it, presumably). I suppose it could be a contractual requirement to take a certain amount e.g. for fraud prevention purposes.

        1. Beth**

          The Working Time Regulations as implemented in the UK do mandate a minimum period of leave to be taken. But as others have said, that’s over any 12 months, not a calendar year. An employer would be open to legal challenge if they allowed people to roll over leave that left them with less than the minimum amount (5.6 weeks inclusive of public/bank holidays).

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My cynical view is that some corporations prefer it to expire at one time so they can do layoffs at a time when few people have accrued time to pay out.

    5. jellied brains*

      My company has a similar policy. You get half your PTO on the anniversary of your hire date & then the other half 6 months later. You can also carry over up to 40 hours (I think) into the next calendar year.

      I should add we get 60 hours the first half and 60 hours at the second half.

      Now if only they’d have a separate bucket for sick time…

  29. Sage*

    OP #2 – coworker with the gross comment:
    Men that take a woman being friendly as flirting are men who are only friendly to women because they want sex with them.

    It’s not you being inappropiate and not noticing it, it’s him sexualizing you. And to pretend you where doing something wrong is a very widespread gaslighting tactic from this type of creeps.

  30. kalli*

    Where I live, if someone’s laid off that means nobody’s taking over as the job as described no longer exists, so documenting would be rather a waste of time. I get ‘laid off’ doesn’t exclusively refer to redundancy in some dialects anymore, but I do wonder whether LW may be able to reframe ‘new leadership doesn’t care/isn’t prepared’ as ‘new leadership doesn’t need that now so I no longer have to worry, focus on new role’. After all, they may not need to be privy to all the details of any work that’s been reassigned in their new role either.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Is it really forced RTO though? LW said it was WFH for the past 3 years which was the pandemic. If LW worked there longer than 3 years, there’s no reason to expect accommodations for a global emergency to last forever. People also couldn’t cross international borders for much of the last 3 years but we don’t expect that to be that way forever.

      1. Roland*

        I mean, yeah? They were WFH because of the pandemic and are now Returning To Office. This is the classic case of RTO. What would it refer to if not something like this?

        1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          If they were originally hired as a remote worker and the job requirements were changed on them, that would be forced RTO. This is just revocation of a temporary accommodation. Like if you broke your leg and your employee said you could WFH for 6 weeks until you’re out of a cast. Then you’re all “I was equally productive how dare they make me come back after my cast comes off?” Like, it was never said it was permanent.

          1. Elsewise*

            But if they were hired as remote it’s not really RETURN to office, it’s just a change in working conditions. If they were previously working in the office, then working remotely, and now they’re returning to the office, I’d call that RTO.

  31. Melissa*

    #1–
    You said “there is no minimum time required”— I think you were indicating “So the one second that I spent on site counts, because they didn’t specify a certain amount of time you have to be there.” To be honest, that sounds like the reasoning of my 12-year-old son. He always thinks he can win an argument by pointing out some tiny, invisible loophole. It never works, because it’s absurd.

    Your trying to somehow win this argument (it’s not an argument, it’s your workplace telling you what to do) by saying “But the rules don’t say how many minutes I have to be present” would just make me fire you way faster.

    1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

      Yes, LW1 sounds like a 12 year old who thought they were getting one over on their employer.
      In the US, an employer can generally fire you for any reason, with exceptions for certain prohibited reasons.
      Age is one prohibited reason, except it is written to only apply to discrimination against those over (or perceived to be over) 40.
      You can totally get fired for acting like you’re 12!

  32. Turingtested*

    OP 1, I worked with someone who really didn’t want to return to the office. They always had an increasingly unbelievable reason to stay home. It really eroded their reputation and trustworthiness to be suspected of lying a few times a week. From their perspective it was so absurd to come in that their excuses were white lies.

    It was an unfortunate situation. The coworker didn’t have any goodwill from the team and felt picked on. They took no responsibility for their role in the situation. The team resented what they perceived as bad behavior being rewarded.

    I’m not trying to pile on. Just consider that behavior like this can be perceived to be about way more than a couple of badge swipes.

    1. Alice*

      FWIW, I have been super diligent about complying with my employer’s minimum on-site work requirement, to the point where my great-grand boss explicitly thanked me for doing it, and I do not care at all about whether my colleagues are breaking the rules. I honestly haven’t noticed that some of them are not coming in the minimum amount of time — I only know because my great-grand boss told me. Everyone has been very on the ball about replying to me when I ask questions or delegate work. Why would I care where they are?
      Now, I’m not willing to take the risk of breaking the rules myself. But I think the rule is stupid and I don’t resent the people who don’t comply.

      1. Turingtested*

        My favorite was that 100% of the clothing they owned had been doused in smelly fabric softener in the communal laundry room of their apartment. It was simply impossible to come in wearing what they had on (obviously we would have been understanding). On one hand it’s funny but on the other super insulting to think we’d believe that.

        FYI this person has a decent wardrobe this is not a situation where they had to do frequent small loads to keep up.

  33. Also-ADHD*

    For LW4, I’m confused because they don’t say if there’s coverage based work or clear first come first serve policies for taking off time etc. Reminding people of PTO isn’t the same as making it clear they can’t approve all requests in November/December, so I feel like they need to do that too if that’s the case. Reminding people to take PTO isn’t the same as saying it won’t be approved later. LW seems to think people forget to take it, but it could be that they simply want to take it at that time. I understand if they all can’t (depends on the work and needs obviously) but if they have been, that needs to be made clear too and a system for who gets to take that time off the year off.

  34. I should really pick a name*

    #3
    Being flexible around scheduling is not being a pushover.

    If there is a concrete business reason why you can’t be flexible, then that’s what it is and you might lose some employees. The default position should be to accommodate requests if possible without putting undue hardship on others.

  35. Anon for This*

    My work has locations all over the world, so for people to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other end-of-year holidays with family in the U.S. they need to make arrangements early, buy expensive plane tickets, etc. We start asking about holiday leave in June – and make clear that it is first come first serve. So while some people get irritated that the November/December leave schedules are somewhat set in early fall, when they haven’t yet decided what they want to do, everyone knows the deal. Planning ahead helps a lot.

    (We have the same issue with summer holidays – start asking about them in January.)

  36. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

    OP4, as a repeat offender of saving my PTO until the end of the year and then scrambling to take it – does your company offer rollover of unused time? Consider it if not! I also wonder if you offer some kind of incentive – you get an extra day or half day if you use up 50% of your PTO (or have it scheduled for the future) by June 30th, for example.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      My organization allows a certain, and very generous, amount of rollover and I still had to scramble to use up two weeks at the end of this year.

  37. Delta Delta*

    #3 – it feels like some key facts may be missing from the question. First, when OP says she’s keeping a different schedule than the prior manager, it’s not clear what that means or what, if any, impact there is on the staff. Does this change the availability of management to staff? Is this a problem? Second, if the staff have strict boundaries on their time, is this the problem? Say Jane is a third grade teacher and she also teaches CrossFit, and she says can teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:30. You can’t now demand Mondays at 11 from her. Or is it something else? Is Jane now saying she’ll only teach classes starting at 4:30 but not 5? What kind of flexibility are you looking for from folks? If it’s the latter, and it makes sense to start classes on the hour instead of :30 (or something like that) communicate that. If it’s the former and you’re unwilling to work with people’s actual availability, communicate that, too.

  38. L-squared*

    #3. You sound a bit difficult here. Fact is, you chose to change up the schedule that worked for everyone before. I’ll be honest, this kind of sounds like new managers making changes just to put their stamp on things as opposed to a truly necessary change. But even if you deem it necessary, you need to decide if you are willing to get a whole new staff because of it You sound like the inflexible one here, not them.

    #4. One question I have, is this 1 big bucked of PTO for EVERYTHING, or do they have separate sick time? As someone who has had jobs before with 1 bucket, lets just say I would keep more of my PTO time til the end of the year too, because who knows if I would get sick in November and need to take multiple days off. Even if I had nothing happening, I’d always want at least a week left in PTO by Thanksgiving for any emergencies that may come up. I’m not sure if this is your situation or not, but it is something to keep in mind.

    1. Ada Lovelace's Bestie*

      That’s a really good point on #4. As someone who tends to get *really* sick when they get sick, I never let my PTO drop below a month when it’s a common PTO pool. (I actually don’t think I’d even consider working somewhere that has use it or lose it PTO and shared pools)

  39. OP #2*

    So… the title having “creepy” before “made a pass at me” was Alison’s doing, not my own. Not to say that she’s wrong, but apparently I did not really see it that way. Alison’s response and all the comments have me reevaluating what I thought I knew of Mac. I was definitely blaming myself and scrutinizing our past interactions for *my own* mistakes, not his. This has been a wake up call to change the lense I’m looking at this through.

    1. Elsewise*

      It’s always really uncomfortable when someone you’ve looked at as a friend starts unexpectedly sexualizing you. I’ve been there, it’s jarring and unpleasant and makes you question your own actions. (I’ve heard it referred to as being fk-zoned, like the inverse of a friendzone). I’m sorry this is happening to you.

      1. ZugTheMegasaurus*

        I’ve had that happen to me and it’s awful, lost my best friend since I was 5. I’m sure unrequited feelings don’t feel good, but I have an extremely hard time imagining that it’s worse. Friendzoning is essentially like saying “I want to do everything with you except one thing.” The opposite is saying “if you won’t do this one thing, I don’t want anything to do with you.” It’s horrible.

    2. NaoNao*

      I think some of the creep factor is the wording in the pass/come on. If “Mac” had said something like “listen, I’m aware you’re married happily but I wanted to share that I’m feeling some attraction. I just wanted to get ‘sunlight’ on it to get it out of my system, please don’t feel you need to do anything or change how we interact” vs. “UR SAXXY WINK WINK” I think that’s the distinction Alison is (correctly) pointing out!

      1. OP #2*

        For me the things that made it uncomfortable were, 1. I know Mac to be skilled socially, not someone that would say this as a poorly worded attempt bring light to and put a boundary around a growing attraction, and 2. the body language. His face, more than anything else, told me what his comment really was.
        Now I’m just working on internalizing that none of that is my fault.

        1. H.Regalis*

          I feel for you. Women are groomed their entire lives to be deferential to men, assume everything is their fault, not trust their instincts, etc. It’s really, really hard to unlearn that. A lot of awful people have a vested interest in convincing you that as the victim, sexual harassment, violence, etc. is somehow your fault. It’s not. Be gentle on yourself and please don’t beat yourself up about any of this.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m both sorry and glad you’ve had this epiphany. It sounds like Mac really sucks.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Both your experience *and* your reaction to it are unfortunately both so common. I’m really sorry that you are having to deal with this at all but I’m glad that Alison and other commenters maybe helped you feel like you didn’t do anything wrong here!

    5. Doc McCracken*

      Mac is a creep and is testing the waters to see if you’re open to pursuing an affair of some level. There is no way to sanitize those comments without Olympic Level Mental Gymnastics. If he was trying to give you a compliment in a fun, silly way, he could have absolutely done that BUT HE DID NOT.

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    I think #1 may have taken the site’s request for examples of malicious compliance and pettiness a bit too seriously.

    I get that you don’t want to come back to the office, but if you want to keep this job it sounds like the boss has put their foot down and continuing to use the letter of the law strategy won’t work.

  41. Anon in Canada*

    LW4 – does your company allow unpaid time off?

    If it doesn’t, then the company is asking for this problem to happen. Given how stingy most American and Canadian companies are with PTO, if you say “you get those X (low number) days and then you need to show up to work no matter what”, it’s understandable that people will hoard their vacation days in case something happens near the end of the year.

    Allowing unpaid time off would allow people to better spread out their vacation days throughout the year, while maintaining peace of mind that if something happens near the end of the year, they can still take the time off.

    Considering that an outright majority of people live paycheck to paycheck nowadays, few people would actually take more than a small amount of unpaid time unless it’s a true emergency.

  42. Cruciatus*

    My own opinion is that nobody is really shocked to discover they still have that much time off *just around the holidays*. I feel like they are waiting because that’s when they want to use it.

    1. so very tired*

      I take 2 weeks off at the end of the year every year because A) it’s traditionally a slow period in my industry/roles and 2) I like having the time to unplug and recharge completely. It is a huge boon to my mental health. I intentionally bank my time for the end of the year for this purpose.

  43. Czhorat*

    I’m quite honestly surprised that LW1 didn’t get fired. The intent of the rule isn’t “badge in and go home”, it’s “badge in so we know where you are”. And that’s within the employer’s right.

    It’s been a roller-coaster, from WFH being a rare perk, to being nearly mandated during the height of the pandemic, to the long, uneven “return to the office”. Having worked both ways I see plusses and minuses to each. And yes, being able to have a side-gig like a coaching job that you might not be able to get to on time if you have to commute IS a plus.

    You knew the rules, you cheated, you got caught. Then rather than throw yourself on the mercy of the court and beg forgiveness you seem fixated on the letter of the law rather than the fact that they’re clearly unhappy with you violating its spirit.

    To be honest, the best that you can do at this point is say that it was a terrible lapse in judgement and will follow the actual rules in the future. That might, if you’re lucky, save your job. It’ll be some time to restore your reputation

    1. kiki*

      Yes, LW is approaching this completely wrong. They’re acting like they’ll be able to argue their way out of this when that will only make them look worse. If they’re US-based, they’re being employed at-will. Following the letter of the law but not the intention is still something you can get fired for. Even if LW finds the perfect wording in their handbook to support their case, everyone involved knows LW wasn’t doing what anyone intended.

      1. kiki*

        My interpretation of the letter was that the meeting this week had already happened. But it does sound like termination is likely on the table. My guess is that they’re investigating LW in part to understand exactly how long this has been going on and how nobody caught it until now. Presumably LW’s manager should have realized LW wasn’t in the office when they were supposed to be. Maybe LW’s manager was remote or based in a different office where they wouldn’t know, but if this has been going on for months it is kind of wild nobody even noticed until now.

      2. Fluffy Fish*

        Very likely.

        Even in at-will states most employers will still do an thorough investigation especially since this is a situation where a 3rd party filed a complaint. They’re not simply taking that persons word, they’re investigating.

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      It sounds like they are currently in the midst of the investigation and my guess is that LW1 will be fired if they keep their current attitude. If they admit they were wrong and agree to the intent of the badging in rule they MIGHT just get a warning/less discipline. But if it was in my organization I would recommend termination. This wasn’t a mistake or misunderstanding. This was flagrantly trying to “beat the system” which is essentially dishonest. And I don’t tolerate dishonesty.

      1. Czhorat*

        Which is why I said the ONLY path forward is to admit it was a terrible lapse in judgement, beg forgiveness, and promise on all that you hold dear to never to anything like that again.

        It quite honestly still wouldn’t be enough, but anything less than that you’re looking at a one way ticket to the door. Groveling some might give you 95% likliehood of getting fired rather than 100% certainty.

  44. Then This*

    Ah the “generous” time off. I remember when work told me one week was the norm (plus 5 sick days) and then, after you’d been there a couple of years, you’d get two weeks off.

    “…as you’ve been proactive about pushing people to take their time earlier in the year and — this is key — ensuring they can actually do it without coming back to a pile of work so large that it wipes out any benefits of them having gotten away.”

    Is this a real thing? I’m legit curious if companies do this and the worker feels this way.

    I do force myself to take a week off a few times per year but it’s a stressful, horrible time right up til the day I go. I always know work will be piling it on in anticipation of my leave. And the entire time I’m gone, I will 100% be stressing over and worrying about the mountain of work that will be on my desk, the flood of email in my inbox, and that, when I return, I’ll have no real time to catch up while hitting the ground running on all the new stuff the second I walk in the door.

    1. Loux*

      I think that’s the problem, a lot of companies don’t have anyone who is trained to take on someone else’s work in the event they’re away, so the person with that workload feels a lot of pressure to either minimize their time off or, worse, work during their time off. I have a coworker who does this. The additional problem this causes is that it’s not then clear that they need to hire or train an additional person, because the current person is going to excessive lengths to ensure the work gets done.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        In order to allow for reasonable sickness and decent PTO, you have to expect no more than about 85% from each employee. So if you think you need six full-timers, you actually need (does some calculations the background) seven, and if there are predictable crunch periods it may be prudent to have eight, and be relaxed about having people leave early or do crosswords in quiet periods.

        Too many employers plan for 100% capacity even though the math doesn’t math.

  45. Czhorat*

    For OP3, I appreciate that you feel a need to reset expectations and fill the needs of the business. One of those needs IS having a happy and engaged workforce, and tightening the thumbscrews won’t help with that.

    I know it’s not atypical for retail and similar sectors, but forcing people to find their own replacement coverage is an absolutely abysmal policy. It puts what should be a management responsibility on the shoulders of employees and can create an environment in which those in the “in” group get the time off they want, but those who aren’t as beloved or friendly with their peers are frozen out. “I put this on the schedule for you and it’s your problem now” will sap any positive feelings and enthusiasm your team has.

    Wrangling with the schedule on your own might be harder in the short term, but it will pay dividends in the long run when you have a team who respects and appreciates you; then they might be willing to sometimes go out of their way to help.

    1. ClaireW*

      ” forcing people to find their own replacement coverage is an absolutely abysmal policy”

      This is especially true is OP3 has come in and suddenly told all the employees they need to work to a new schedule that they didn’t expect, and is then telling them to resolve any issues to make it happen. If that is the case it’s an extremely unreasonable expectation from OP3.

    2. Loux*

      It definitely is a bad policy. It can also end up really alienating those who are actually reliable and give a crap about their jobs. A friend’s workplace is short-staffed because they essentially do this to all their part-timers. They give the full-timers priority on time off requests, then they don’t try to find coverage until a few days or even the day before the unfilled shift, even if the time off was known about well in advance. Even though the schedule for the week was supposed to be finalized a week in advance where possible. When my friend was part-time, she was getting seriously annoyed because she was guaranteed a certain number of shifts a week with every other weekend off, but ended up working sometimes more than full-time AND every single weekend as well. Her boss wouldn’t approve or deny her time off requests either unless she really badgered the boss about it.

      She also started getting stuck with a lot of these last-minute shifts and eventually found out it was because she was actually reliable and would show up. A lot of the other part-timers would call out for frivolous reasons or no-show, which annoyed her when she first started working there… but then eventually we realized they did that so it was less likely they’d get stuck with the last-minute shifts that could ruin all your weekend plans. Eventually she moved onto full-time and had a regular schedule so it was no longer a problem, but it’s no big shocker they can’t keep reliable part-time employees when they tell them one thing when hired, aka regular x shifts a week, known about several days in advance, with every other weekend off, and it actually ends up being, x+ shifts a week, sometimes randomly put on your schedule, and working every single weekend with no chance to take off because there’s no coverage.

  46. Joni*

    LW4
    My work has a ok system that we all think is mostly fair. If there was no coverage problem, then people could take as much leave when they wanted to, but there is. So we have a compromise.
    Personal time off is not the same a sick leave, so no need to save for emergencies. (Europe.) Not all vacationtime rolls over to the new year, but att least a few weeks. So no need to desperately try and use if before a new year. Not something that is easy to copy.

    Also, we work for the city and how many vacationdays we have is determined by age. I have 31 days, which is common. (Some people also have some parental leave saved, as you can use it until the child is 12.)

    Summer is the most difficult as most people take at least 4 weeks, but we manage. For example christmas is coming soon. Mid october we had a last day to wish for christmas leave. You get one week of you choice off work if you want. Week 51, 52 or 1. Or the week before christmas, between christmas and new year or the week after. If you are too late, then no leave. This way it is not first come, first served. This is just for holidays where many wish time off, if you take a couple of weeks mid spring, there is no problem.

    In short having a last day is very helpful, so noone can just book every popular date in january. If the company can accept a few weeks or days to roll over to the next year, so much the better. If there is no need for coverage, then ask yourself if it is really a problem with most people out of office.

  47. President Porpoise*

    #4 – Not sure if this is feasible – but could you change the ‘use or lose’ cutoff date to August 31st? Then people are way more likely to do their panic scheduling during the period where you’re naturally less busy.

  48. kiki*

    LW 3: I think it’s important in a management job like yours at a fitness center to realize you have a different relationship to the job than your employees do. Your employees are likely not doing this as their primary source of income and/or have other things they’re going to prioritize way more than this job. You have to try to work with them and their schedules more than you would in other situations. Or, if this is a popular job and you know you can find other folks who can work the hours you’d prefer, you’ll have to consider letting some existing employees go in favor of new ones. That’s a hard situation and can cause more departures than you might plan, so make sure you understand the market for the roles you’ll need to replace. You also have to understand that a lot of people take classes for the teacher. Though a 7am class may be more desired by clients than the current 6:30am class, you may lose a lot of your 6:30am attendees if that instructor leaves and goes elsewhere, even if the 7am time is technically better for a lot of them.

    There’s a lot to consider! Managment is hard!

  49. Rachel*

    A lot of people are calling for rolling PTO.

    I think this is a good idea with some restrictions. Like you can roll over 5 days to be used by, say, April 1 of the following year.

    Infinite rolling over of time is difficult to track. It also allows people to take large swaths of time off, sometimes leaving other people holding the bag.

    Mostly, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Make sure your staff sees you taking vacation. Send out quarterly reminders of vacation time left. Send out reminders that not all holiday PTO is honored. They are adults and if they decided not to use it, there is only so much you can do.

    1. Delta Delta*

      More than once I’ve led my horse to water and she’s given me a dirty look. That also feels like an apt analogy here.

    2. higheredadmin*

      Note that unused paid time off is a liability for a company – as in, if someone leaves then the time off has to be paid out. This is why most companies have a PTO year or clock, which, if you take a look, will also often align with their fiscal year.

    3. JustaTech*

      My company has rolling PTO (sick and vacation separately), but the limitation is that there is a cap, and beyond Z hours you don’t accrue anymore (so you’re essentially losing pay).

      Most places I know of that allow rolling PTO have a cap that allows you to save up for something big like a multi-week trip.

      As for leaving other people holding the bag – I feel like that (specifically the distribution of work) is something that could be at least mitigated by the manager, whereas policies like PTO roll over or not come from on high.

      1. Loux*

        My job pays out accrued time off beyond a certain number of hours. You can accrue something like 6 weeks (and this is separate from sick time), but after that anything else is paid out. I feel like that’s a decent way to do it.

  50. Claire*

    LW3: if you schedule someone outside their stated availability, it is not their job to find coverage. Finding coverage is YOUR job. Period.

  51. John O*

    LW4 – while i think it could be beneficial to get some input on managing the process when there are recurring conflict issues, these are adults willingly choosing to put an available personal benefit at risk. anything else should be a 15 second discussion – “you know, you should probably request PTO before it’s too late and everyone else asks at the same time.”

  52. RagingADHD*

    Sometimes it’s a blessing to have a weak verbal filter, because it would do every person Mac has to deal with a huge favor if someone responded to him by blurting out, sincerely, with their whole chest voice, “Ew, gross!”

  53. Ex-prof*

    LW 2, society has done a magnificent job of convincing us that when men misbehave, it’s our fault.

    And that’s not your fault either.

  54. BellyButton*

    LW2, please do not change anything about yourself. Smiling a lot, being nice, being outgoing, being chatty, being attractive, wearing a skirt, wearing pants, wearing a burlap sack, being a woman- does not mean you are flirting, despite what men want us to believe.

    We have had so many letters recently so let me say this loud and clear- we are not responsible for men’s behavior and we do not have to manage their feelings about their inappropriate behavior.

    1. OP #2*

      Thanks for this. These comments are really opening up my eyes… I was absolutely looking at this like, “oh no, *I* made Mac think that kind of comment would be welcome,” totally glossing over the fact that the comment was gross even if I was literally wearing a sexy librarian costume. I definitely have been conditioned into feeling responsible for whatever sexualization comes upon me. What a paradigm shift all these comments are creating!

    2. Angstrom*

      You should expect — and demand — professional behavior in the workplace. Personal, sexualized comments are not appropriate. You should not have to put up with that.

      Guys, this isn’t rocket science…..
      -It is ok to think to yourself that your coworker is cute. That’s being human.
      -It is not ok to express that thought in any way to anyone in the workplace, including your coworker.
      -It is unprofessional, unethical, and illegal to treat coworkers differently because you do or don’t think they are cute.

      Mac is allowed to think what he wants about your outfits. He is not allowed to make you uncomfortable or change the way he works with you because of your appearance.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Also and more specifically, lots of people meet their significant other at work, so clearly there is some flirting going on. But:

        *The bar for assuming a person has romantic interest or would welcome a sexual comment is MUCH higher in professional situations than elsewhere. WAY too many men seem to think women are flirting when they are being professionally polite or just existing; or, worse, think any interactions with women, even in professional situations, have or need Sex Potential.

        *Mac is well aware LW is happily married and vice versa. I realize this is not foolproof, but it’s certainly a data point that should have been useful to him.

        *Mac and LW do not have a flirtatious energy. At all.

        So while I wouldn’t say no one ever welcomes the news that a colleague thinks you are cute, this? Is not one of those moments, and that should have been extremely obvious to Mac on the front end.

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

    #2: people like Mac really piss me off. And I say people because I’ve had women accuse me of flirting with men because I am also a person who smiles and is friendly and such.
    Men need to realize that just because a woman smiles at them and is nice does not mean they want to sleep with them. I hope OP shuts this down and please update us with what happened!

  56. BellyButton*

    LW4, you sound very inexperienced. Your letter came of as “I am the boss, and you will respect my authority” That isn’t how being an effective manager works. Alison, is right- you have to decide what you want- are you willing to lose a good chunk of staff because you want what you want? How does your boss feel about that? Do you know how much time and money it takes to recruit a new employee as opposed to retaining current staff? How many of your staff are personal trainers who have clients who will follow them to their new gym? People are loyal to people, not the place. These are all things you need to consider. I would also strongly suggest you take some management classes, if your company won’t pay for it, there are plenty of free videos and articles, and AAM is a good start, about being a good leader.

  57. Fluffy Fish*

    C’mon OP 1 – “can they not let me record” is the least of your problems here.

    You made a decision to try to game the system on a technicality and now you’re trying to do the same thing to get out of the trouble that got you in in the first place.

    If you have any hope of salvaging your job its time to stop playing games, own up to what you did with zero excuses, apologize profusely and cross your fingers they let you off with a warning.

    And take a second and think about your colleagues here. Because I would not have warm fuzzy team player thoughts about my colleague pulling this kind of thing.

    Also a word of warning in general – there’s a lot of flashy sexy articles about people gaming the quiet quitting, working two remote jobs, playing the not going in game like OP did, and in general sticking it to the man. This is yet another reality check that those things are not the widespread reality and most people playing those games WILL face consequences sooner or later.

    1. anywhere but here*

      “Quiet quitting” aka working to rule is not gaming the system. It is doing what is needed for the role and no more, rather than going above and beyond for an org that isn’t going above and beyond for their employees.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Yes I understand the spirit of quiet quitting. However the reality of what people are describing is beyond doing what is required for the role and more how little can I do (below what is required for the job) and then being surprised when it backfires.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      The last part reminds me of what I always say to students who complain about how “other people were doing it too and you didn’t catch them so it’s not fair if you punish me”: “It doesn’t matter who else is doing it. If you do something you’re not allowed to, you are taking a chance and if you get caught, you will be in trouble. Yeah, some people may get lucky and not get caught, but the fact that somebody else may have avoided consequences doesn’t mean you will. And you usually don’t know anyway, because good bosses and teachers reprimand in private where possible so the people who appear to be ‘getting away with it’ may well have faced consequences you are unaware of.”

      The last goes double for what you read online where people tend to post when they get away with something and not when it goes wrong for them. The odds of the person who posts with his great plan for “sticking it to the man” coming back and posting, “actually I got caught and fired” is pretty low.

      1. TMarin*

        That reminds me of the story about the man who complained that he was stopped for speeding when other people were also doing it (remember once police officer can only stop one car at a time). The response was “when you go fishing, do you catch All the fish?”.

  58. thelettermegan*

    vacation time!!

    One thing you could do is specify the vacation in terms of quarters/semesters instead of years – so each person can think about taking one week off every quarter, or two weeks off every six months.

    You should have some sort of emergency PTO that’s always available in the form of sick-time that can be used for family emergencies as well.

    You might also want to think about how holidays are actually managed. If you can slow down for the big ones (thanksgiving, end-of-December) to the point where the office is essentially shut down for those weeks, then more people can take those two-three weeks off.

    It’s always worth it to take a long look at your concept of coverage. Some managers will enforce coverage because it makes their team look important. At the end of every holiday season, you should do a root-cause analysis and see what emergencies occurred, who actually fixed them, and who was needed to help. Lots of teams put in extra effort in July or October to ensure that emergencies do not happen in December, and if that works, companies should acknowledge that by letting employees take time off or go into “You’re not on PTO but just keep your phone on and someone will reach out if necessary, other than that please enjoy staycation” mode.

  59. pageall*

    OP3: I went through a management transition like this, where a manager came in and started changing the schedule “for the needs of the organization.” First off, it came off very badly for her to say “I need to prioritize the needs of the organization” when she was new and many of our staff had been there for years. No matter how true it was, it came off naively and arrogantly, as though she knew more about the org than the 25-year veterans, and that we ourselves couldn’t possible care about the org the way she did. Second, with her pointless and inflexible scheduling, she ended up losing 1/3 of the 20-person department in her first year, and 1/2 the department by the time they made her resign. All this to say, you may have a legitimate reason for needing to change the schedule, but you should really, really step back and reflect on it first. It seems they were doing just fine with the existing system, and if your new staff is already pushing back on your changes, you have a long way to go to rebuild the loyalty and trust that may be lost.

  60. MCMonkeyBean*

    LW1 I honestly don’t understand what your plan was or how you thought this would work or even why???

    I am extremely pro WFH and have pushed back hard at my own company’s return to office. But if they are monitoring you closely enough that you feel the need to badge in to prove you were “following” the mandate… why would you think they wouldn’t notice that you always badge right back out? I don’t know why you feel certain someone reported you–maybe someone did, but this seems like something that would be very easily caught out without anyone else having to say a word.

    Personally I also just don’t get the benefit of this as to me one of the biggest benefits of WFH is not having to commute. If you are waking up, getting dressed, and driving all the way to the office… why not just actually go in and do some work?

    1. Clisby*

      Especially since OP says there’s no minimum amount of time in the office required. As someone else suggested, as long as you’ve had to make the effort to come into the office in the first place, why not just go in, work about a half day, and go home? At the very least, I think OP would be in a lot more defensible position than with this crazy badge-in/badge-out scheme. As it is now, if the OP manages not to be fired, I’ll bet a minimum time in the office requirement will magically appear.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, it’s as much the commute as the office environment that I hate.

        If I had to go in to an office, with all the commute and crap that it entails, I’d make sure to get the most out of that in-office time, to the point of making sure I got face time with movers and shakers. Yes, I would be grumbling about wasting my time in the office where I am not as productive. Then I would head home well before the evening commute and get my actual work done in the evening.

        But seriously, if you’re going to put on the dog and do the commute, you might as well give it a few hours of “being visible” in order to make the effort worth it.

        IMO, going in just to badge in then out is… wasteful.

    2. Wes*

      I read it that someone reported them for the side business, not the badge thing (which as you say, the company clearly can and is checking up on).

  61. anywhere but here*

    LW1, I think the kind of company where they require you to be in office but (up until now) only monitor it via badge access is not the kind of company you (or anyone) want to work for long term. If there’s a genuine need to have people in the office that connects to people’s work, then your manager should be able to tell whether or not you’re in office without monitoring your badge access. Monitoring via badge access alone (unless someone narcs on you) is a pretty good indicator that this requirement has nothing to do with your actual work and success in your role – if it were important to your work that you be in office, then surely your manager would have noticed that you’re never in and spoken with you about it?
    I can’t speak to the firing thing, but if they do fire you, you’re probably better off somewhere else where management doesn’t treat employees like children.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Employers have rules and people are allowed not to like them. And I don’t disagree that a lot of times in office work is not necessary.

      But I would argue that an employer who doesn’t actually micromanage your attendance until someone reports you for cheating the system is not treating employees like a child.

      They were clearly trusting employees to do what was asked and only investigated when OP1 was outed.

      1. anywhere but here*

        Managing =/= micromanaging. If the only way an org monitors in-office time is by tracking badge taps, that is more infantalizing (not less) than having one’s manager be aware of when one is or isn’t in office. If it’s that important to the org that people be in office, surely the person’s manager would be tasked with using the in-office time to have meetings? In which case, LW1 would have been missed.

        Monitoring via badge taps rather than via . . . actually managing employees makes it abundantly clear that the directive is arbitrary. If there were actually work-related reasons to be in office 3 times a week, there would be work-related problems that crop up if LW1 was only in the office 1-2 times a week, much less never going in. Treating someone like a child is crafting and enforcing rules that have so little impact on their actual work that you have to directly monitor said rules to determine if they are being followed. They may as well monitor employees’ laptop usage (which unlike the badge taps is at least likely correspond to work output).

        1. KP*

          For me, I read it as they were reported and their badging history was checked to confirm. I didn’t read it as they were just checking badge history to check badge history.

          This is the scenario in my head:

          coworker “where is LW1? I need them for this (insert project)”

          Boss: “hey LW1, just a reminder we need you on site 3 days a week for reasons A, B, and C”

          LW1: “I’m badging in 3 days a week!”

          Coworker: * complains again *

          Boss: *checks badge access because something strange is happening, discovers issue”

          1. anywhere but here*

            That’s plausible. My assumption was that LW1 gave us all information relevant to badging in/being in the office, since “my boss has talked to me [once, twice, multiple times, etc.] about being in the office” or “my coworkers complained which I think is why they double checked by badging data” would change the advice given.

            If there’s never been any discussion with the manager/if the manager has never raised this issue with LW1, it reads as a very different kind of situation. The fact that their manager is not involved in the meeting with Employee Relations makes me wonder if this is something where the manager doesn’t care about enforcing the CEO/other exec’s preference for in-office work as long as no one attracts attention. I don’t think malicious compliance is a great idea, but if only exec cares about in-office and their direct manager doesn’t, I could see why LW1 did that.

        2. Fluffy Fish*

          You keep saying they are monitoring badge taps. They aren’t monitoring badge taps. I’m not sure why you think they are. Investigating after a complaint is made to assess the validity of the complaint is not the same monitoring badge swipes.

          They only investigated AFTER someone complained OP was not doing what was required. That full well could have been their manager – we don’t know. What we do know is someone absolutely noticed OP is not in the office. There is also the full possibility with the complaint that OP is not coming in the office and the questioning of the side business becoming a problem that they absolutely noticed an issue with OP’s work.

          The issue at hand isn’t that the in office work request is stupid, unreasonable, unfair or anything else. If OP didn’t like the policy then they should have looked for another job. Instead they chose to willfully disobey the company directive.

          1. anywhere but here*

            “I’ve been badging in the required three times a week” implies that the way they track in-office days is via badge taps. At best, whether or not they continuously monitor badge taps rather than checking only when they have a problem is ambiguous based on the letter – it is not obviously the case that they don’t monitor badge taps.

            1. Fluffy Fish*

              Ok I think we have different interpretations of what monitoring is. I also don’t think it’s ambiguous at all per the letter but that’s ok people have different interpretations.

              Monitoring badge taps to me means the employer is actively regularly checking up on employees. OP states they are badging in then out. What I’m saying is they are not actively monitoring badge taps doing that. To me it’s not ambiguous because if they were, OP would have been 1) caught before now and 2) would have stated that’s how they were caught.

              At my employer , and most that I know who using badging, we badge in for security reasons, not accountability. It’s not for monitoring days in the office. It’s because only authorized people are allowed in workspaces. However the information exists so it can be used to confirm someone came to work and badged in at a certain time. And in fact it was – we had an employee who ended up getting fired for being MIA from work but putting on their timesheet that they were working during those hours. Similarly to OP the issue was identified, investigated, and the employee given a chance to explain. They were not a good employee. There were repeated issues with their work that had been addressed regularly.

              You are assuming OP’s work has been just fine and there hasn’t been an issues but we don’t know that at all. Maybe OP’s manager has spoken to them regularly about issues. Maybe they are the worlds greatest employee and do more work than anyone else in the entire company. What we do know is that someone somewhere in the company identified OP was not coming in to work – so someone absolutely has noticed something whether its their absence, work, or something else.

              To me there is a huge difference between actively monitoring employees and using information as part of an investigation into a problem. One is micromanaging. The other is properly investigating issues and not just taking someone’s word. In fact the latter could very well work in an employees favor by proving allegations false. They could have just fired OP.

              So yes, I do not agree that this company was actively monitoring badge status to check up on employees being in the office not that the