updates: the snub, the person who didn’t take time off, 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. How can I take time off when my team needs it more?

Last year, you answered my letter about my direct report taking time off that I intended to take off as well as how I managed vacation time more broadly. I don’t think your readers will be overly thrilled with me but I made progress.

First of all, last year’s problem solved itself when I became so sick over the holidays that I couldn’t get out of bed on Christmas or three days after it, let alone do any work. So I did end up taking that time off and one of my team members volunteered to be a emergency point of contact. It worked well (other than the part where I missed my aunt’s amazing cooking).

Going into this year, I did come up with a system for the team but I didn’t have to implement it as one of my employees took an extended trip in the middle of the year with the intention of working over the holiday. So there is a system (based on a mix of first come, first serve as well as “who worked last year”) but it hasn’t been tested yet.

And for me personally … this is where you all will be disappointed. I did not take all my vacation time this year. It just wasn’t achievable given some projects that came up. However, I did take a real vacation with my family for a week. And I didn’t work during it!

I took a day off to do nothing for my birthday (which to be honest, I did not love). But the most important thing is… I am president of a volunteer group and on the board of another. I actually took the day off before both group’s individual biggest annual fundraisers this year. Typically, I saw I am taking those days off but end up taking a couple of meetings anyway and then I’m running myself even more ragged to prepare for the events. But this year, I didn’t take any meetings. Not even when I was in the car running errands for an hour and easily could have!

I already have a week scheduled off for a vacation next year so I am trying but it’s a process.

Thanks again to everyone for making me see that proactivity was the better way to manage this!

2. I feel snubbed at work — should I quit? (#4 at the link)

When I wrote AAM asking for advice on this, I was surprised at the internal switch I made solely from changing my mental perspective. You wrote back challenging my surface concerns, which seemed childish, and prompted a more holistic study of the situation.

There are, as you and some of your readers suggested, deeper issues at play and several intangible things I didn’t mention … like I get to work with my beloved husband in the same office daily. Win! I have forged good relationships with a lot of the folks. Win! I feel I’m on the verge of a professional uptick at this company … potential win!

The bottom line is I did listen to your advice and decided to hold on one more year, to closely study the vibes and see what I feel during the next annual gathering in January ’24. If I still feel snubbed and haven’t received a good raise I will be moving on.

P.S. The woman who got all the attention despite not doing shit got fired six months ago.

3. My company decided to close for 2 weeks last year — and charged me a chunk of this year’s PTO for it

I appreciated my question being answered. The feedback I received really validated how I was feeling and solidified my decision to leave.

The update is that I found a new job and have been happily working there now for three months. The company culture is a lot better, I got a raise, and my new job has an unlimited PTO policy so I don’t have to worry about a similar situation occurring in the future. The timing also worked out perfectly and I was able to use the week between jobs as a vacation with my family that I otherwise would have had to work through.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. SJ*

    I may be in the minority on this but I’m so disturbed by the idea that “in the car running errands” is presented as an easy time to take meetings? I know people have headsets and it’s not technically illegal but… oof… I could never. Driving just takes 100% of my focus I guess? Augh.

    1. Anneke*

      If you’re in the minority I’m right there with you! If you’re driving that’s the only thing you should be focussed on, and it is illegal in a lot of places to be on a call even hands-free.

    2. ENFP in Texas*

      It sounds good in theory, but if you have any takeaways, or if there are any visuals that are being shared, or if you even just have to take notes, it is not an option unless you can park your car in a parking lot and actually pay attention to the call.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Heck, I can’t play *Candy Crush* during a work meeting where I only need to listen and reliably focus on the meeting (so I stopped trying and just, you know, attend the meeting). And there is no way on earth that Candy Crush requires more concentration of me than driving. None.

        1. No Longer Looking*

          Candy Crush requires significantly more Active Focus than driving does actually, at least for most experienced drivers. Driving, absent environmental effects like rain/snow or being in an active downtown area, mostly requires Passive Focus where you need to be aware of unexpected changes in the environment (unusually fast driver, someone swerving, person walking, etc).

      2. OP 1*

        I know it won’t please everyone but yes, it is totally handsfree. The meetings I take in the car are either 1. consultations where my advice and expertise is needed or 2. those 300 person department meetings with forced recognitions and updates you’ve already gotten in three emails but your boss wants to see your number dialed in. I’m more invested in my podcasts than I do those meetings.

        I do hear everyone’s concern and will try to keep it only to the second one.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I will say, though, OP1, that I’m not disappointed in your update. You’ve made some changes, and you know there are more to be made, and you’re working your way to it – that’s good! The fact that the universe decided to make it a moot point in one instance and that you’re still working on it doesn’t make it disappointing to us. (I imagine being that sick was very disappointing for you, however!)

          1. HB*

            Agree with this. Everything about your update and your response here indicates that you’re headed in the right direction. For instance, the being on meetings while in the car is one of those insidious things where a few people do it, and then it becomes the norm/expected even though it really shouldn’t! It’s really hard to push back on things that don’t seem right, but also may not immediately read as wrong until a few people speak up and say ‘Hey wait a minute’. The key is being someone who listens and re-evaluates, which you’ve clearly demonstrated.

            Hope things continue to improve for you and you don’t get sick this year!

          2. Uranus Wars*

            Ditto! I was thinking the whole time that I’m not disappointed at all. It’s hard to undo all those habits and change your mindset. OP has done great work in this area in my opinion.

        2. SJ*

          Kind of you to reply OP, trying to keep it to the second type sounds like a good step to me. Sometimes our norms and priorities can get so skewed from the pressure of the workplace. I think that’s really normal to be dealing with and it sounds like you’re taking good steps to disentangle yourself and make more balanced choices. Hang in there! You deserve to be at the center of your own life. :)

    3. Brain concern*

      Me too. Also just the notion that any time not spent working or engaging with people is potentially work time – even on a day off! When do you get time to just think? Or to shut off your brain? Might as well take meetings in the shower.

          1. Juli G.*

            They were multi tasking. They were on mute with camera off. They turned off the water and unmuted themselves to add commentary.

            They accidentally turned on video instead.

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              I almost got on a Zoom meeting on a Saturday morning and realized at the last second that I was Inappropriately Undressed…but had a saving roll and I’d gotten the wrong time.

    4. Llama face!*

      Yeah I hard cringed at that line. Please don’t do this, OP #1! Distracted driving is dangerous and people’s lives are not worth the time savings.

      Glad you are making some steps towards better work-life balance!

    5. Kate*

      In some workplaces it’s applauded. I am with you! We think we can multi task, but research suggests otherwise.

      1. RVA Cat*

        If the workplace encourages it, can the accident victims sue them? Plus the injured employee could file worker’s comp.

    6. WellRed*

      Yeah, no. Thats not a great time to take meetings. Also, work doesn’t love you. Food for thought for some day even if you won’t see that now. But congrats on making a start.

    7. Orv*

      I have a coworker who takes zoom calls (and sometimes even answers email!) while driving and it makes me cringe every time.

    8. nodramalama*

      Eh I’ve definitely attended meetings where I’ve contributed very little and don’t have to give it any more of my attention than I would listening to a podcast

    9. amoeba*

      Yeah – I’m very happy my big company actually has a strict policy forbidding any calls while driving, hands-free or not (it would be legal in my country, in general).

    10. bamcheeks*

      I’m sure there was a letter a few years ago from either a manager asking whether they could tell their report not to take meetings whilst driving, or someone asking how to push back on their boss’s expectation that they don’t take meetings whilst driving?

      I actually kind of feel like if it was a long drive on motorways and a meeting that was basically “listen in”, it wouldn’t be the worst thing— not so different from listening to a radio drama or a podcast or an audiobook. But doing errands where you’re probably on city roads with a lot of junctions and parking and getting out sounds like a nightmare. Too many things to think about!

    11. allathian*

      Yeah, mine too. I know that people’s brains are wired in various ways and some handle auditory multitasking better than others. I can’t take in anything I hear unless I’m in a dark room with my eyes closed because visual stimuli override aural ones every time in my brain. This is why the only time I’ve ever listened to podcasts was when I had a case of pinkeye last year and wasn’t allowed to focus on a screen for more than a minute or so at a time. Long enough to select a podcast but not much more. I also couldn’t read paper books because my vision was so fuzzy.

      I can listen to music when I drive, but that’s it. Nothing that requires me to focus or respond. When people are in the car with you, most adults will recognize when you need to focus and stop talking. This doesn’t happen when the other person’s on the phone.

    12. kiki*

      Yes! I’m definitely not capable of multi-tasking successfully in this way. I know there are some people who are capable and LW may be one of them, but I’ve encountered a lot of folks who think they are doing a great job being present for the meeting but really aren’t. Sometimes it’s not a big deal, but other times it’s disruptive for the meeting.

  2. Marcella*

    Snubbed, I feel for you. And I don’t think it’s childish to care about recognition and visibility. I can tell you that with some of my clients/jobs, I’ve been responsible for managing social accounts or publishing shoutouts in newsletters. And it had a HUGE effect when people felt ignored. Leadership would choose to spotlight the same small group of people over and over for awards, praise, company spotlights, etc. And the other coworkers, who worked just as hard and achieved just as much, resented it. Favoritism is so horrible for morale and retention.

    Since you’ve been there a while, do you feel comfortable saying you feel overlooked? Can you make it less of an “I feel snubbed” situation and more of an “I’ve noticed that a lot of staff are never featured” POV? I think it could help to bring it up as a suggestion to build a more positive workplace culture.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Definitely easier when you can make it about someone else. “I noticed that Jim and Jane are featured in the newsletter, but Betty also got a promotion last month and it wasn’t mentioned this time. Is there a way to make sure that everyone is featured when they have a big moment?”

      But I’m also very vocal and not very good at keeping my head down when something is really bothering me. I’d be very inclined to go to the person who makes the newsletter and directly ask for my promotion to be included. Which may or may not land well politically to do, at all.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      It happened to my colleague. She had previously been the golden girl, staying late to finish stuff while I rushed to pick my kids up. Then the tides changed: my kids were old enough not to need picking up, and she had just had twins and needed to rush home. The company was sold while she was on maternity leave. There was no welcome back message or even any announcement that she had come back, she didn’t even have an email address for about a week, and for ages she wasn’t included when messages were sent out to all staff. I wrote several times to HR saying “Marion didn’t get this message, could you add her to the list of staff members” before it actually happened. Then we had our annual meeting and the boss mentioned her in a speech, but very bizarrely, saying jokingly they had seen her name on the payroll but didn’t know her, she was very mysterious but now she’s back, without mentioning that she’d been on maternity then parental leave. I told her she had every right to feel snubbed.

  3. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: You’re making progress and that is great. You’re learning that not everything has to be an opportunity for multitasking, you can take vacation, and you can disconnect from work. I’m proud of you.

  4. JaneDough(not)*

    LW2 (snubbed), it’s *not* childish to feel miffed about being overlooked at work, esp. when a fuss is made over others — so please stop with the self-criticism.

    One thought: It sounds as though you mostly like your workplace and don’t want to leave it, so perhaps you could find a way to make sure that you aren’t overlooked in the future (ex.: after you get your next promotion, ask your boss, “Do you want me to draft the announcement for social media, or are you going to do it?”) — in other words, don’t be passive. Don’t make your decision to stay / go based on progress (or not) over the next year *unless* you make an effort to implement some change; if you just passively sit and let the status quo continue, that’s a recipe for continued discontent.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yes, sometimes this stuff is absolutely about self-promotion or the manager responsible for team-promotion, not at all about who the leadership sees and values spontaneously. I had to really step this up when I was managing a team, actually— I’m more of a “quiet sense of satisfaction in a job well done, and if someone else notices, that’s lovely, but it’s not the main thing” person. One of the other managers at my level was a, “shout about her team’s great achievements” and I realised I really needed to switch that on because it wasn’t about *me* any more, but about making sure my team got due recognition.

      1. Umami*

        This 100%! I oversee a team of people who do these types of communications, and they are only as good as the information they are given. You would think there would be a more structured mechanism for receiving things like promotions/recognitions, but there often isn’t – it’s department driven. Some departments are great at team promotion and will regularly send over items for publication, and others are … not so great. I’ve tasked the team with having a better balance so the same group isn’t always showing up in communications, and they set up a dedicated email address so that people can submit recognitions for themselves, peers or staff. It’s a start, but it still won’t capture those who don’t feel comfortable submitting their achievements for consideration or who feel it should come from leadership. I would hope Snubbed can speak up and let them know they would like to be featured vs. waiting and feeling ignored. I bet the communications team would really appreciate it!

  5. Ellen Ripley*

    Hi LW1! Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s hard to change our engrained habits but you’re making great steps. I’m glad you got to enjoy a work-free vacation this year, that’s huge! Hope the good experience will make it even easier to do next time!

    And for taking single days off/short vacations, since you don’t like to sit at home maybe go visit some shops in your local area, or take a hike, or plan something little that will take up a few hours that is hard to fit in on the weekend. Might be a good way to use up more PTO.

  6. just Splendid*

    #1 – Congratulation on starting to get out of the workaholic mindset, keep going and soon you’ll be free and enjoy all the extra hours not wasted by doing work.
    There’s a song I listen to when I start to backslide which has lyrics like:

    “Isn’t that all better, better than a call centre ’til it’s all pallbearers?” and
    “Nobody’s on their death bed wishing they worked harder”

    All in Together by Professor Elemental

  7. Matt*

    #LW1. Is the work you do life or death, ie will people die if you are not there. If not, and I doubt it from what you say then take all your time off. It is a cost of doing business that you hire sufficient people to do the work in the timeframe you want. If you and your team can only do this by not taking vacation time, and working during you leave and being under extreme pressure then there are not enough of you to do the work.

    Have you spoken with your manager about the staffing ratio and what is required and asked for more staff. If the answer to that is no have you prioritised the workload so that the urgent stuff gets done first. Have you let your boss know that work you turned around in a day will now take a week etc.

    You are working for free for the company and you need to stop doing that and let your manager sort priorities and staffing needs.

  8. Shiara*

    It sounds a little like both examples were related to social media/marketing, so it’s worth thinking about whether she can do something to be more visible to the person who primarily handles that stuff.

    It’s also worth remembering that the public social media image doesn’t have much to do with the company’s actual priorities. She got a big promotion, after all, even if it wasn’t announced, and clearly the highlight reel had nothing to do with how the company valued the people involved but was likely a combination of aesthetics and convenience.

  9. Msd*

    Unlimited PTO is the worse thing for employees. Do people really think employers would offer unlimited PTO if it cost them money? Companies give unlimited PTO because it sounds really good but in reality it saves them money because employees actually take even less time off. Employers also do not have to pay out accrued vacation when people leave. The unlimited PTO is now subject to a manager’s approval which makes for widely inconsistent treatment across teams/departments/etc. What a scam.

    1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Looking at the phrasing of the original letter, I’d guess that OP got three weeks of PTO at their old job, max. Unlimited PTO can have its problems, but “we are forcing you to use 2/3rds of your PTO, after you’ve already spent it” is not one of them. And I’d rather work for a place where I need to be conscious about making sure I use enough of my PTO (assuming there isn’t weird culture stuff pressuring me not to) than somewhere where I just don’t have enough PTO, ever.

    2. Clark*

      Unlimited PTO is only as good as the company offering it. If the company is bad in other ways, then sure, they’ll probably find ways to limit you from using the “unlimited” PTO.

      On the flip side, when my family member had a medical emergency in the spring, I took 3 weeks of PTO with no notice to be at the hospital and was relieved that I didn’t have to be counting days off (thoughts like “if I stay at the hospital another week, then I won’t have any more time off for the rest of the year” never had to enter the equation the way they would have had I been at prior jobs where PTO was closely tracked and scrutinized). I was able to take additional time off throughout the rest of the year and it was never held against me. It was a case of unlimited PTO working extremely well, because I was at a company that cared about it working well for employees. It’s not always nefarious – like so many things, it just depends on the employer and what their general culture and attitude towards employees is.

  10. Not disappointed in this update*

    Hi OP 1! I sympathize with you because I just went through the transition to the kids being in school all day, and I wasn’t prepared for how life would change again. As your kids get older, those weekend and holiday times are really precious. Your week doing “nothing” with the kids is not less important than someone else’s trip across the country. Good job setting boundaries on your days off! And good job recognizing what’s important to you so that you can negotiate for it, even if you don’t always end up with your ideal resolution.

  11. Ilyasaurus*

    LW2- ugh, I feel for you! I was a legal admin in a pretty large firm, and the fourth year in a row of not receiving even one iota of recognition (I was the only support staff for 30+ lawyers for a year!), not even a COL raise (I reiterate, in FOUR YEARS) I ended up quitting. Some folks are fine going without recognition, but when everyone but you gets a “good work award” given quarterly (including the office manager who was on a PIP for bullying), it just stops being worth the effort.

    “Hey Ilya were folks shocked you quit?” Why yes they absolutely were, and offered “literally anything” for me to stay. Also I’m still pretty salty about it almost two years later, in case that wasn’t already obvious. LOL

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