updates: the awful workload, the extra sick days proposal, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are three updates from past letter-writers.

1. I asked my boss for help with my workload, but she didn’t come through

First I want to thank you and the commenters for the perspective you provided. You had insightful solutions that should have helped if the problem was just the workload, but I realized in implementing them that the problem was actually the leadership.

After I wrote in I felt pretty silly about not following up more. It’s not like we hadn’t talked about it at all in 8 months, but I thought maybe I hadn’t been clear or direct enough about my problem and my needs. So I talked to my manager again and proposed just getting my work plan done first as suggested. I even offered to draft it myself and just refine it together like you suggested!

But she was trying to rebalance the workload of the team and needed to settle who would be taking some things off my plate before we could do that. She said I was doing a great job prioritizing on my own and I didn’t need to worry; I guess she thought anxiety about doing well was my main concern.

Then she recommended I forward staff to her every time they harass me about information they could easily access if they tried at all, information I already told them, or something that I’m not meant to be helping with (as if any of us know where that line is). That actually just increased the amount of communication I got because staff complained to me about their manager berating them after I forwarded their message to my manager, while still continuing the same behavior.

So she suggested we revive the weekly meeting. I explained as clearly as I could that constant updates and prioritizing this volume of work without any guidance was taking so much executive function that I had little left to do the tasks themselves. I thought that surely she could give me this very small amount of support now that she understands the problem is not just anxiety.

We never had a single one of those meetings. She re-scheduled or cancelled at the last minute every time until she quietly just cancelled the series.

I continued to do a great job but it was costing me. I was too fatigued to do anything except work, I was struggling to manage my ADHD, and I was growing bitter and resentful. So when a new role on our org’s executive team opened up, I applied. I’m now earning 20% more while working with a team that trusts, respects, and supports one another. I have more work to do but the load feels lighter because roles and expectations are clear.

I worked overtime every day for my last month in that role trying to set the department up with everything they needed and give my replacement a fighting chance. I still get multiple emails a week from my former manager and team asking how to do things I had documented and explained several times already.

In the exit interview, my manager said I did a great job of managing up. I don’t miss it.

2. Company says they’ll fly me to another state if I need an abortion (#2 at the link; first update here)

I have been waiting for SO LONG to send you this update. The last year has been brutal. If you take a look at the timing of my original email and update, you’ll notice that Partner left Big Tech Company right before the whole tech world crashed. He has been unemployed since October ’22. He applied for literally hundreds of positions. He has stellar references, friends and colleagues who referred him for dozens of jobs, and — I understand I’m his partner/biased but I’ve heard this from enough other people to think it’s accurate — he interviews very well and is quite personable. (Particularly for a scientist.)

Nothing. He heard back about a small handful of roles and mostly got ghosted partway through the recruiting process. He was rejected for roles that were far beneath his level of expertise and experience. The way the market is now would have been unthinkable two years ago.

I’ve been supporting us as a freelancer for the last year, but this month was the very last of it — all of our savings, everything I’ve earned. We also have a lot of veterinary debt from losing our beloved dog a few months ago. I honestly didn’t know what we were going to do in January…

…until yesterday, when he got a job offer from Fancy East Coast University (for remote work!). The salary is lower than his previous one, but the benefits are great and it’s enough that we’re going to be able to (slowly) rebuild after this nightmare year. Also, we definitely used AAM tips to write his successful cover letter.

We don’t regret leaving BTC for reasons that we believed in, but I can’t lie — the aftermath was a lot harder than we’d ever imagined. For anyone else who’s struggling to find something right now, I’m so sorry. It’s (almost definitely) not you, it’s the market.

Wishing everyone a better year ahead than the one we’re leaving behind.

3. Should we give extra sick days to employees who can’t work from home?

No great update here. I floated it to my boss, who presented it to the CEO and it was rejected. We still have a very low amount of sick time (5 days annually) and I’m still seeing people come to work sick. I’m hoping to bring it up again when I have more political capital to burn. We’ve had crazy high turnover, ironically among the WFH crowd, so I think they’re hesitant to make any changes that would further scare them off. I’ll keep pushing on this and other policies to create equity on the team. Thanks for your great advice.

{ 54 comments… read them below }

  1. Sprigatito*

    My sincerest sympathies, LW2 – I was laid off from a tech company at the beginning of the year and spent eight months sending out so many applications and doing so many interviews that I lost count, and that DRAGS on you. It very literally is a “it’s not you, it’s the market” situation for so many people out there right now, so a virtual fist bump of encouragement for anyone else going through that.

    1. new old friend*

      Hah, same boat as you! I was decently confident, since last time I was job hunting it took me like, a month to get a new job, but hoo boy was I wrong.

  2. new old friend*

    #2- Glad that your partner got a job! I was part of the huge batch of tech layoffs in spring this year, and only just got a job at the end of October. People kept asking about why it took so long and I kept having to explain that there were a *ton* of people looking for work right then too.

    1. Sprigatito*

      In one of the interviews I did this summer, the interviewer said something about how the last time he opened a position he only had about fifteen applicants and this time he had over 200.

      It’s RIDICULOUS.

      1. Sharkie*

        same here. I am not in tech, but in an industry this is highly competitive that was rampaged by covid ( over 60% of the industry was laid off). We were hiring on my team and we had over 500 applications.

      2. Happy Pineapple*

        I work in Big Tech and my company has also been experiencing this. When 400+ people apply for a single position we can’t possibly give every qualified person a fair shot. That doesn’t make it any less demoralizing for the candidates receiving rejections though.

    2. Syd*

      Glad LW#2’s worked out. A family member was laid off from a 100% remote job because their company will no longer have employees who reside in Texas due to the conservative abortion laws. (Family member wasn’t in a position to move to another state, the only other option.) The job search is not going well and they are really discouraged.

  3. Zarniwoop*

    “I still get multiple emails a week from my former manager and team asking how to do things I had documented and explained several times already.”
    Real curious how you reply without either wasting time or being unprofessional.

    1. Just Another Cog*

      Since the new job is with the same company, I hope LW #1 replies that the new position is taking up all their available bandwidth, but is certain the info is in the documentation they left behind. (Similar to what Alison has suggested in the past when people are pestered by former employers for help).

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Oh my gosh. I laughed so hard I coughed.

        Bonus points if she can start a

    2. Panneni*

      As per my last emails and phone calls, please check the documentation I provided you with. Since assuming my new role, I have gotten so absorbed in my new responsibilities that I have forgotten how to do most things I did on your team.

      I do remember that I left you with extensive documentation on how to do everything my role entailed. You’ll find your answers there.

      Best wishes, OP

      Maybe wait with the ‘as per my last email’ until you’ve sent an email like this the first time. From the moment you get to the ‘as per’ stage, make it an automated message or a script you can copy paste. That way, the former colleagues will get the message sooner. Maybe you’ll even ‘manage them up’ to start thinking for themselves, lol.

  4. Skytext*

    LW2, so sorry you had such a rough year. But please don’t feel guilty or that you sacrificed for your principles. Even if you and partner had sucked it up and moved to Austin, there is no guarantee that BTC wouldn’t have laid off your partner. He would’ve been in the same boat job hunting, but you both would’ve been stuck in Austin, probably without the funds to move away. So maybe it was for the best that he left his company. Hugs and so happy things are looking up.

    1. Love to WFH*

      Yup, the odds are good that your partner would have been laid off, and you’d be in Texas.
      I’m so glad your partner has found a new job!
      If it’s any consolation (and your past year requires a _lot_ of consolation), I bet companies in Texas that don’t allow working remotely are having a tough time recruiting and it will just get worse when the job market gets better. I bet they have more people quitting, too.

      1. TXescapee*

        Absolutely, I quit and moved from TX to a blue state after they kept electing the same people over and over again. I’m a woman in my 40s with my tubes tied but I couldn’t stand to live in Gilead, it was wrecking my mental health. My former employer won a big government contract and they try to get me to come back but no amount of money could make me move back there.

      2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        “…I bet companies in Texas that don’t allow working remotely are having a tough time recruiting and it will just get worse when the job market gets better.”

        I agree. They’re probably not feeling it yet, because there are so many people in tech looking for work right now, but sooner or later they will start finding it harder to recruit new hires.

  5. Piscera*

    LW3, if you’re able to share, I’d be interested in the reasons for the turnover among the WFH crowd.

  6. The Grinchess*

    LW3 makes me curious… what IS the standard # of sick days (I assume employees in the USA) get a year? My company gives 5 as well. Do most people get more?

    1. Bored fed*

      I’m government but we get 13 days per year with no cap. They can be used towards overall years/months of service when you retire so lots of folks bank a ton and then retire 6 months early.

    2. Lurker*

      At most places I’ve worked (nonprofits) we’ve had 10 days that don’t roll over. My current org offers 12 days/year and you can keep rolling them over up to a max of 65 days. (Unused sick leave isn’t paid out if you leave so it’s not a liability on the balance sheet.)

      1. Sloanicota*

        We get I think eight that don’t roll over, but (unfortunately, in my opinion) there’s not the same sense that you’re “leaving them on the table” if you don’t use them up, as there is with our vacation time which also doesn’t roll over. So I end up hoarding the sick leave days because I’m afraid I’ll get sick in the flu season and then if I don’t, poof, they’re gone.

    3. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      Higher ed, private: exempt employees get 12 days, and they carry over. Non-exempt get 90 hours, ditto.

    4. Freya*

      In Australia, you get a minimum of 2 weeks personal leave (sick leave, carer leave, etc) and 4 weeks annual leave (holidays). You can negotiate up from there, and some industries have extra written into their Awards, but that’s the absolute bare minimum for permanent employees. If you don’t use it all within the year, it MUST roll over and continue accruing; it is illegal here for it to be taken away from you without your explicit permission and without compensation. When you leave a job, your unused annual leave accrual must be paid to you, but unused personal leave it depends on your contract.

      If you’re a casual (I think the equivalent in America is zero hours contracts?) then you get no leave entitlements, but you are required to be paid at least 125% of what you would receive as a permanent. And after a year, if you are doing substantially the same job with the same hours and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, your employer is required to offer you permanency or explain in writing why not.

      1. RVMan*

        The equivalent to Australia “casual” in America is a normal job. We don’t have job contracts, period – it is all at-will (i.e. any employer can fire any employee at any time for any reason other than certain legally named ones like racial discrimination or whistleblower retribution). And there are, in most states, no statutory minimums for leave, only what the market will bear.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Huh, that’s interesting about it having to roll over. In all the organisations I’ve worked in in the UK, it’s always been clear that most annual leave doesn’t roll over because the point is you’re supposed to use it, and allowing people to roll it over creates an incentive not to take leave. Are there any counter-incentives to try and make sure people do take their leave?

        1. Giant Space Pickle*

          On the flipside, a lot of employers will not let it carry over to save money because they’re cheap sociopaths. “PTO is not an entitlement, you should be grateful for any time off” etc. Then you get into the whole “We’re shorthanded and this project is urgent, we can’t let you take time off right now. Oops, year’s over, you waited too long, poof PTO is gone!” thus is, far too common, and usually the only recourse is to leave.

    5. Was the Grink There*

      We get 10 sick, 10 vacation, and a couple personal days, and they roll over, plus our org recognizes littler holidays like veterans’ day and presidents’ day off. Best I’ve found in the region.

    6. RabbitRabbit*

      Companies in the US, on a federal level, are not required to provide paid sick days. (This varies by state but the majority are similar.) So “standard” will vary depending on what you mean and by industry/state/etc.

    7. Llama Llama*

      My company will pay up to 12 weeks if you go on leave and then pay 60% after that. However leave is a problem that lasts for more than a week. Maternity is separate and longer though.

      That being said I also get six weeks of PTO that will roll over.

    8. Zzzzzz*

      It varies so much… My last 2 jobs: I get no sick leave. Just 18 days/yr to use as needed for vaca or sick leave (which means I am terrified of getting sick as that will leave me with no downtime for real vaca). There are a handful of cities in the US which require 3-7 days off depending on the size of the company, but it’s oh so not enough…

    9. Cat Tree*

      My company has unlimited sick days, although if it’s more than 3 consecutive business days it triggers the short-term disability process. It’s not meant to be punitive though.

      1. Annie*

        That’s basically my company, at least for salaried employees in the U.S. There’s no limit but obviously if there is a major sickness or someone is obviously abusing it, then it can become an issue.
        Separately when I lived in California, the state guaranteed 80 hours (2 weeks) of sick leave, and our company had a form that we could fill out. Since we generally don’t keep track, I never filled out a form, but I was never close to sick for two weeks, and it was generally just a day or two here and there. Our managers never worried about it, just told us to feel better soon.

        1. ariel*

          I am unwell at how boggling your CA workplace description is to me!!!!!!!!! I can’t imagine not being worried about sick time.

    10. Clisby*

      Before I retired, I was working for a nonprofit that gave 18 sick days a year (1.5 days accrued every month.) You could roll it over but I kind of think there was a cap, like 6-8 weeks you could roll over. Unused sick leave was not paid out (I’ve never worked anywhere that did.)

    11. Bast*

      5 seems to be an average in my industry as well (not including the “mixed banks”). The most I have gotten at any job was 6. The minimum was 5.

    12. Constance Lloyd*

      I have 10 vacation days, 3 sick days, and vacation accrual is capped at 20 days. My company also have fewer than 50 employees in each state if operation, so I’m not eligible for FMLA. I feel very vulnerable.

    13. Dust Bunny*

      I have 480 hours. That might be the cap at which they stop accruing until I use some. I’ve donated several hundred hours to the company pool in the past.

    14. Orv*

      There is no standard. Where I work, at a higher ed institution, it’s a fraction of hours worked, but it works out to about 1 day per month accrued if you work full time. The maximum you can accrue is 90 days.

    15. Gumby*

      Not sure about most, but definitely *some* jobs have more sick leave. I maxed out several years ago at my current job so am not 100% sure but I think we get 10 sick days/year. It rolls over each year but stops accruing when we hit 180 hours. Also we only take sick time in full-day increments so I can make up the time for medical appointments within the pay period and count it all good.

      At previous jobs: 12 days/yr with no accrual limit at a private university, unlimited sick time at an internet start up, and 12 or 15 days/year at a more established and much larger tech company.

    16. tamarack etc.*

      I work for a public university. We accrue about 15 days for a full-time employee in a year, a few hours at a time with each pay check. Part-time are pro-rated, and in actual fact I’m not sure how faculty on 9 month contracts with or without extension are handled (which, well, is my case). And it doesn’t expire. So after a few years if you happen to be hospitalized for an extended period you may have enough banked to get your usual salary paid throughout.

      1. tamarack etc.*

        (We can take sick leave in partial day increments – I believe hours. Also, for many of us who are salaried the job is flexible enough that a morning, lunchtime or late afternoon appointment doesn’t require to take leave, but we can flexibly adjust work time so that the work gets done. Hourly employees likely have stricter constraint, but they also get overtime if applicable.

  7. kalli*

    #3 – What are the chances of the turnover among the WFH crowd being influenced by the expectation that people WFH when they’re sick – giving everyone more sick days might help with that as well as reducing presenteeism with the in-person staff!

    There’s room for negotiating individual solutions with people who genuinely cannot work from home on top of that still, but resetting the expectation that sick = WFH to sick = sick leave has to include a default of not expecting people to work, instead of ‘work from home unless you literally cannot sit up and even then’.

  8. Pups & Politics*

    FWIW, there’s a good chance that if you guys HAD moved to Texas, he still might have lost his job after, and then he’d be unemployed AND stuck in Texas.

  9. Hlao-roo*

    LW#1 – Congrats on your new job!

    LW#2 – Sorry to hear the past year has been tough for you and your partner. Best of luck to him in his new job!

    LW#3 – Thanks for the update, and you did a good thing pushing for more sick days, even if you weren’t successful (yet). I hope things go better if/when you bring it up again!

  10. Festively Dressed Earl*

    LW #2, you still did the right thing. Consider that BTC’s solution for healthcare would have opened you and your partner to criminal prosecution had the situation come up. You dodged a bullet. Best of luck to Partner in his new job, and to both of you in building back!

  11. Morgan Proctor*

    My company has a branch in Texas, and they offer a formal medical travel reimbursement benefit for any healthcare that anyone in the company (not just the Texas folks) can use for medical care they cannot receive in their home state. I have a feeling this benefit is going to become more common.

    1. Orv*

      Agreed, with the caveat that there’s been some talk of making it illegal for companies based in Texas to do that.

  12. Jane*

    To LW2 – I live in Texas, and trust me, you all made the right call! Your company is crazy to think getting an abortion is just like scheduling any other appointment. Sometimes, you are facing a time-sensitive matter of life or death and need an abortion immediately or very soon, and that doesn’t leave lots of time for flying to other states and scheduling, etc. That’s if you even can fly (medically). We just had a case in the news like this, and the woman ended up having to risk her health traveling to another state for her abortion. Anyway, thank you for standing up for human rights even though it was so financially hard. Much love from Texas.

  13. LW2 + Partner*

    Thank you all for the support. We hope anyone else who’s job searching has a similar update soon! <3

  14. OMG, Bees!*

    For LW1, my favorite way I saw a coworker handle too many top priority tasks from our boss was that he wrote done each project on a notepad he kept at his desk, and if/when boss came up with a new project, he would directly ask which current project would get bumped. It worked whether the boss was in the room or not.

Comments are closed.