coworker doesn’t come to the office even though it’s required, do I have to use the phone, and more

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

1. We’re required to work in-person, but my coworker doesn’t come in

I work on a team that is separated into two teams: one with about 12 people and then my team of five. Our larger team works in the office three days a week. These days were chosen to align with other cross-functional teams that we work with who are also in those same three days.

I’ve been with this company for about a year and a half and early on, I learned that one of the people on my smaller team rarely came into the office due to an HR-approved reason. I did not find out the reason until, unfortunately, her husband passed away from cancer early last year. Now it has been nearly a year and she still rarely comes in. She will come in for a special event like our team holiday event and then leave directly after.

I have talked with our manager in the past about some of my frustrations, but she has indicated both that she will never make this employee come back to the office and that our VP thinks that “things are working.” She also has said that it might be an HR problem. Shortly after that conversation, she mentioned integrating this person back into the office, but did not give any other details. This was all prior to the holidays and nothing has really changed.

We recently had a small event on-site that this person came in for and then, maybe 10 minutes after it was over, left. She was then on a team call later that afternoon. Our boss also never seems to know when she will be in the office or be leaving right after an event.

Is it time to go to HR? I try to be understanding that this person has lost their partner, but I’m also struggling to balance that with the reason we’re given for being in the office.

Is it affecting your work? If so, talk to your manager about the impact it’s having on your work and ask for her help in solving that.

But if it doesn’t impact your work and it’s just a matter of what seems fair, you should leave it alone. You don’t have the standing to raise someone else’s schedule if it’s not affecting you, and there could be all kinds of info you’re not privy to — like that she has an ongoing medical accommodation for something unrelated to her husband’s illness, or she’s so excellent at her work that the company negotiated a different arrangement with her, or a bunch of other explanations.

But even if there’s nothing like that and it’s just plain unfairness, you still don’t really have the standing to object to someone else’s schedule if it doesn’t impact you — and when you’re new to a company that clearly wants to accommodate her, you risk looking callous and like you’re overstepping. (To be clear, if your boss wrote in and said they were exempting one team member from a policy everyone else had to follow and they had no real justification for it, I’d give them different advice. But you’re in a different position.)

2. Do I have to use the phone for my freelance client?

I am a freelancer. I balance multiple projects for a variety of clients. Almost all my clients reach out by email, which allows me to get to them when I have a minute while also providing a written reminder of project specifics that I can consult as needed.

However, one client prefers the telephone. Edwina is the nicest person, and chatty. She calls whenever she has a project and will explain at length what she needs, sometimes going into tangents on somewhat unrelated things. The calls can take up to 10 or 15 minutes, sometimes more. They are also out of the blue (any other client I have will schedule a call by email).

Am I being too picky about these calls? They require that I stop the project I am on, which is unfair to the client I’m currently working for. These calls are also unbillable hours, as they are essentially project requests. I also hate being on the phone, especially unplanned, and the whole thing leaves me anxious. Then I have to find my way back into the focus of the project I was working on in the first place.

Letting her calls go to voicemail is even worse. Then I have to listen to a long message and then call her back, making the time spent on just establishing if I can do the project even longer. Plus I have to make myself a reminder to check my messages (I never ever get calls so it’s not a habit) and knowing I have to call back leaves me feeling anxious until I do. I really do hate the phone.

That said, Edwina is lovely, her projects are important, she trusts me which I am grateful for, and her intentions are only ever helpful. I would not want to lose her, and if this is the extra cost of having her as a client, that’s fine by me. But every time the phone rings I go through this whole thought process.

Some people are phone people and feel they communicate better over the phone, just as some people are email people and feel they communicate better that way. As a freelancer you have the power to decide you’re going to funnel all clients to email, but it does mean that some people may decide you’re not the right fit and you’ll lose their business. Some freelancers are fine with that! But it sounds like you’d rather keep Edwina if that’s the price.

I can’t tell whether you’ve tried asking Edwina to initiate new projects by email. If you haven’t asked yet, you could. In fact, why not create an online form that collects all the info you need and ask her to fill that out? You’ll be less likely to sound like you’re just saying “I don’t want to talk to you,” plus you’’ll get the benefit of collecting all the info you need.

But also, 10-15 minute phone calls are not terribly lengthy when you work with clients! I agree you shouldn’t interrupt work you’re doing for another client to answer them, but you’re choosing to do that rather than (a) coming up with a system to remind you to check your messages  later or (b) asking Edwina to stop leaving details on your voicemail and instead ask you call her back when you can talk. By choosing to interrupt other work to take her calls, you’re making it harder on yourself but not fully owning that choice, which makes me think you’re letting your dislike of the phone color your actions too much.

All of which is to say … yes, the price of keeping Edwina is a client might be that you have to talk to her on the phone, but there are things to try that could make it easier.

can I tell clients that I don’t talk on the phone?

3. My old high school started a mentoring program and it sucks

I’m in a specialized field that requires a graduate degree, and I work at an organization that’s viewed as very desirable. I mentor a lot of different ways: through my college, graduate school, and as an official resource at my organization for people looking to learn more about joining the organization.

My high school (!) set up a career networking site and invited alum to join, to both seek and offer mentoring, networking, post jobs and internships, etc. Standard stuff, though for high school students and alumni. The head of the new career networking site, Allan, emailed me, asking if I would mentor students and I said sure. Then, the weird part comes: Allan emails me and dozens of other alumni, cc’ing one student (Bertha), saying, “Hello alumni in [field]. I have cc’d Bertha who is interested in your field. Please reach out to them.” Over the next few days, I received more emails (and so did my fellow alumni) for more students, though eventually we were all added to the bcc line, so I couldn’t see how many of my fellow alumni were on the emails.

This is all really weird, right? I get that they’re high school students, but doesn’t it seem like it 1) totally defeats the purpose of teaching them how to network, and 2) seems a little creepy? I’m a man, and I feel uncomfortable reaching out to high school students, where as far as I can tell, they haven’t indicated they want to talk to me. It’s one thing if they message me first, another thing for me (and 50 of my friends!) to reach out to them. I sent a message to Allan outlining my views: I wrote that I am happy to speak to students, but I do not want to be one of 50 alumni sending unsolicited emails to students. But Allan’s messages continued. Thoughts? Shouldn’t this career networking guy be teaching students how to send emails to request networking? What’s my responsibility here? This seems like a horrible program, but I’m just one alum, and I’m not particularly involved in my high school. Should I contact someone above Allan?

Yes, this is a bad program. It puts too much of the onus on the people who are offering a favor and too little on the student seeking it, and it doesn’t teach those students about how networking actually works. It would be a far better program if Allan kept short professional profiles of each of you, helped students decide who they should contact, and then taught them how to do that.

But since you’ve shared your views with Allan and nothing has changed, why not just opt out of the program? You can explain why and be done with it. If you want to, you could certainly share your concerns with someone above him, but you don’t need to (unless you’re fired up about this and want to try to get it fixed).

4. Should I tell my interviewer I plan to retire in two years?

I work for an engineering company typically working on projects for various customers while working from home. The last few months I have been located at one of our customer’s sites filling in doing general support work because their engineer left the company. I was originally scheduled to be there until they hired a replacement for the engineer who left. They are having trouble finding a person to fill the position and have asked me to interview for the position and I have agreed to talk with them.

I am planning on retiring in two years. Should I reveal that to them when I interview? I am reasonably happy with my current company so I don’t need to move on but it could be a good opportunity so I am willing to at least interview. Would it be ethical to take the job and then leave after just a couple of years?

That’s not unethical. It’s super normal to leave a job after a couple of years! It would be different if you were planning on retiring in six months, but a couple of years is a reasonably solid amount of time that doesn’t require ethical qualms or disclosure in the interview. (The exception would be if it were a set of circumstances where that timeline would clearly would be an issue — like if you were interviewing to be the dean of students at a school that had had a lot of turmoil and was looking for long-term leadership stability. But that’s not this.)

5. I’m worried my manager will challenge the title on my resume

I’m preparing to leave a field I’ve been in for decades, and an organization I’ve been at for almost 10 years. Because I’m changing careers, I’m trying to highlight all of my transferable skills so they’ll be recognizable on my resume by employers in my new field.

My concern is with my current director, who is unpredictable. He’s controlling and demanding and does not like to be crossed. For three years, I served as the de facto interim assistant director of my department, under him. This was not an official position, and I did not receive any additional money or a title that reflected what I did; I simply did the job because he demanded it and it was good experience. (I stopped when they finally made this a new, official position and hired someone for it; I declined to apply.) Now, I’d like to highlight that on my resume under a subsection that calls the position what it was: interim assistant director, or something close to that. The duties for this position were so different from my regular job duties that it doesn’t really make sense to lump them together on my resume — imagine being an office manager for a construction company versus operating the bulldozer.

However, I worry that if I ever have to get a reference from this supervisor, he’ll freak out if a potential employer mentions this. I also worry, though less, that he’ll see this on my resume if he ever stalks my LinkedIn or my personal website (I wouldn’t put this past him). I wouldn’t ever go out of my way to list him as a reference, but I think it’s possible that I’ll have to give a supervisor’s name and contact information for certain jobs.

You can’t really give yourself an official job title that you didn’t have. I know that’s frustrating when your job was so different job from what your title indicates, but it’s common for reference-checkers to verify titles and if your employer (correctly!) tells them that wasn’t your title and it looks like you tried to inflate your role, it could cause a bunch of problems. You might eventually be able to straighten it out by explaining all the circumstances, but it’s not a good risk to take.

But you can still put all the work you did on your resume! You just can’t imply you held a title you didn’t actually have. But you could put all those duties under a section for that job called “team management” or something similar (so you’re describing the area of work, just not giving yourself a title) and then have bullets that explain exactly what you achieved in that area.

{ 570 comments… read them below }

  1. Viki*

    LW1, without actual evidence in the letter, that the employee is causing you (valid) work issues, this is something you have no standing to address and could honestly be hurting your reputation on the team by pushing this issue.

    She has an accommodation, for whatever reason. It’s her’s to use.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I lost my ability to work from home exactly because of a person like this. Her department head wasn’t ok with letting her work from home, so she made a big fuss about the people who did work from home, meaning I was dragged back to the office. She doesn’t work here anymore, but she was not well liked by most people for the rest of her time here, because she was why we couldn’t have nice things.

    1. Roeslein*

      I do think there should be some kind of acknowledgement from management that an HR-approved accommodation exists, thoug. No need to give more details but pretending there is nothing unusual will lead to perceptions of unfairness.

      1. Goldie*

        Actually that just leads to more questions and speculation. As an employee you don’t get to know everything.

        LW might try to have some compassion for someone who probably cared for a spouse through a terrible illness and who knows what else.

        1. Roeslein*

          Clearly speculation is going to happen anyway or the OP wouldn’t have written in. Reassuring the team that processes are being followed and this person’s remote work is in fact approved is unlikely to make it worse.

          1. Observer*

            Reassuring the team that processes are being followed and this person’s remote work is in fact approved is unlikely to make it worse.

            Given the question in the letter, I would have to say that’s not the case. Because it would just validate that they are entitled to information and Opinions about the matter. And while we all get to have opinions, the opinions of the OP and their coworkers have as much standing as their opinion of what investments their boss makes.

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Roeslein, speculation is a given. What isn’t a given is an explanation for why a manager accommodates an employee in a certain manner. It truly is not anyone’s business if ‘processes are being followed’ or ‘remote work is in fact approved.’

            The OP doesn’t have to approve of the arrangement, be informed of the rationale behind it, or even like the arrangement. But they are not entitled to an explanation or even acknowledgment. The OP would be well-advised to not assume ill intent on the part of management and/or associates.

          3. Sweet Summer Child*

            Yes, it is. But I have bitter experience about this. And proof that telling people won’t change the ones who are “just going to speculate.”
            Speculation is going to happen. But the people who are speculating about someone’s personal situation are doing it because they want to make sure “they get theirs.” Well, not everyone’s “theirs” is the same.
            We have an employee who uses a scooter.
            Two employees speculated that she didn’t need it because she would park it outside the rest room and walk the five steps in. They would be more content if they knew this woman’s medical situation? Doubt it. Here’s how I know:
            I had a cast on my arm and had more doctor appointments than they thought appropriate. They speculated that I didn’t need to go that often. They speculated that my arm wasn’t really that bad or I wouldn’t be in at all. In fact, ten years later, I was talking to one of them and she mentioned how I had that cast on an awfully long time when I “broke my finger.”
            I had a compound fracture of my forearm.
            And I’d even told her and my group this. But since I came to the office, she and her cronies speculated. And shared that it was unfair and they didn’t think it was that bad.
            She was so caught up in my “getting away with leaving early once a week” or so that the truth just got in the way.
            No shade to OP.
            Just saying, don’t turn into a bitter person thinking that someone has it easier. You don’t go far with that.

            1. WillowSunstar*

              On my last team, we had an employee who had diabetes. It may matter that she was also a minority. She was in and out of the hospital a few times and on FMLA. There were speculators on the team, the main one being an older lady who has since retired. She would say she was going to be there and work late, but then not show up and I had to stay late to do whatever she was going to do. Yes, I got OT but was annoying because I was still online gaming at that time and had a schedule after work. I did not complain at work however, only to my online gaming friends outside of work.

              Now this person did eventually get fired for apparently not being able to meet scheduling that had originally been agreed to. I don’t know if the speculation played a role, but just be aware not to do it if you have a sick coworker.

            2. Sara without an H*

              +1. Some people are just like that, unfortunately.

              Jedi hugs and I hope things are better for you now.

              1. Sweet Summer Child*

                I accept! Thank you. And They are, indeed. Willowstar reminded me of my FMLA that took in later years, as well, the speculation for the reason about that got extreme.
                And the reason people knew I was on it.
                The speculators threw such a fit that people in the group were required to mark FMLA on the team calendar so that “people wouldn’t be upset and speculating.”
                So my legal rights were less important than some coworker being butt hurt I got an hour off.
                But, I have outlasted three different speculators, one truly mentally ill and potentially violent, and mulitple incompetent coworkers and happily staying here until retirement, if all goes to plan.

            3. Random Bystander*

              And sometimes people can be just flat out ridiculous. Several years ago, I injured my shoulder (rotator cuff injury), and my dr sent me to physical therapy for a time (“if this works, fantastic; if it doesn’t work then we’ll have to talk about surgery” … needless to say, I was extremely dedicated to my PT, including home exercises and was fortunate enough to not need surgery). Now, at the time, I worked physically in the hospital, and the outpatient building was connected by an inner walkway. There was an elevator that was “front of the house” (i.e. would be used by visitors) and then there were the “back of the house” elevators (moving patients from floor to floor, and also employees were instructed to use). So, while I was in PT, I would clock out and *gasp* use the front of the house elevator (which put me on the same side as the building where I was going). A co-worker saw me waiting for the elevator to arrive (front of house elevators were right next to the bathrooms), and she’s all “You know you’re not supposed to use those elevators” and I told her “right now, I’m not waiting as an employee, I’m a patient”. Now, there weren’t any visible signs about my shoulder, but I can tell you it hurt like the dickens until the PT started to make a difference. She actually went and tattled on me to the supervisor because I was “breaking the rules” by using the front-of-house elevator (which was substantially more convenient than the back-of-house elevators when going to a medical appointment”). Thankfully, supervisor had my back on that and then sent out a general email to everyone “if you are off the clock and headed to an appointment in the medical office building, you may use the front of the house elevators”.

              1. Rain*

                Man, people can be super petty. Why was that a good use of her time?

                (As a fellow “rotator cuff injury” person, I literally feel your pain.)

            4. birb*

              I would absolutely write an employee up for making these comments if ONE serious discussion and warning to cut it out did not make it stop. Something VERY SIMILAR (brief use of a cane) has been considered harassing someone based on a disability even though it was temporary. I DID write the person up in that case. If I remember how legal worded it correctly, the directive going forward was for her to not comment on her coworkers bodies, disabilities, or any legally protected statuses, and we reviewed those with her and what was and wasn’t appropriate in the same meeting.

              1. Sweet Summer Child*

                I wish you had been in charge, instead of giving in with a, “weeeelllll, put on the calendar so you don’t look bad.”
                Which is exactly why I’m losing my head about this post and anyone saying, “jus tell them.”
                No, just act your age and your wage and back off.

            5. Random Dice*

              I’m disabled, and rarely use the disabled parking placard because I fear that people like this will decide I don’t meet their bogus arbitrary standards for “disabled enough”. I think many (most?) of us with disabilities worry about this. We need our disabilities accommodations! Everyone else please kindly fork off about it.

          4. Stead*

            The LW has ZERO standing to know the reason for an accommodation, but I think that they do have a valid interest in knowing whether this workplace allows for alternate schedules to be negotiated outside the formal accommodation process. I can understand wanting to know if this boss has leeway to approve them and a track record of using it.

            1. Sloanicota*

              I do think it’s kind of human nature that if you want something (remote work / flexibility) and you see first hand it’s clearly possible in your office since other coworkers have it, you’re not going to feel great about just being told to mind your own business and keep coming into the office. There ought to be some kind of middle ground that’s less damaging to the morale of other employees.

              1. Roadkill Zombie*

                The thing is, anyone who’s been in the workplace for any amount of time SHOULD understand that others have personal situations that aren’t your business. The OP should have at least guessed that someone’s being allowed to work remote is an accomodation.

                And not to be a jerk, but people who’ve victimized themselves that my ADA accommodations (I’m disabled due to an attempted m*rder) make them feel like I get “special treatment”, really create a very hostile and difficult work environment for disabled people for no reason, and makes it much harder for us to earn a living.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              Yeah, I think the conversation will go far better if OP concentrates on making the case that they should be allowed to work from home more often, rather than that coworker shouldn’t be allowed to.

              OP can’t argue that she definitely deserves the same treatment since she doesn’t have the full context, but I think OP could mention “coworker seems to be successfully doing this same role from home most days, I wonder if that’s something I could work towards.”

              1. thats just me*

                That’s the ticket. Regardless of why this other employee is allowed to work from home, it seems like she’s able to do the job to management’s satisfaction without being in the office all the time. It’s reasonable for someone with the same or similar role to then wonder if it’s really necessary to be in office. OTOH, it seems like a lot of companies are going with “you have to be here because I said so [and because I need to protect my office real estate investment],” and a middle manager may not have standing to grant a lot of flexibility without being legally compelled to.

            3. KTC*

              I agree. Asking the question in a neutral but interested way is completely reasonable and is in no way overstepping or invasive.

              1. So Tired*

                I don’t care what tone OP uses, asking why another coworker is allowed to work from home more frequently is absolutely overstepping. There is no evidence that this coworker’s schedule is impacting OP’s work. Therefore it is absolutely not any of their business and they need to move on.

                1. Joron Twiner*

                  OP could definitely say “is the flexibility that coworker has available to me as well? or is it a formal accommodation that she has? Because I would like that flexibility too if possible”

                2. Quantum Possum*

                  @Joron Twiner – No, I don’t recommend that LW mention their coworker when asking about WFH. It shouldn’t be about the coworker at all.

                  Just talk to your boss about your desire to WFH more, if that’s truly what you desire and this isn’t just about “fairness.”

                  I mean, you can ask your boss if a coworker has an accommodation, but don’t expect to get an answer beyond “that’s none of your business.” And don’t be surprised if your boss seems to lose a tiny bit of respect for you.

            4. Hannah*

              That’s a valid question then! Is there a way for alternative schedules to be negotiated? Then you make your own argument. “I bring X, Y and Z to the table that is highly valuable to you. In return I’d like to be able to work from home.” or something like that.

              The co-worker has nothing to do with the argument. You should argue on your own merits.

            5. Random Dice*

              She knows the process exists, because in her letter she said that the grieving coworker has gone through the HR process and had it approved.

              She just doesn’t want that to be true, and thinks her vague feelings of injustice (!!) are more important than the law or being a decent human being to a coworker who has been through hell.

          5. Eldritch Office Worker*

            HR here: giving a nugget of information about an employee’s accommodations or personal situations always makes it worse. Every time. Without fail.

          6. Transmascjourno*

            I’m going through the process of receiving accommodations right now for an invisible disability, and I’m also the manager of a remote team. I know that speculation among my reports will happen, and I’m prepared for it. But you know what’s a lot worse than that? Stating it’s an ADA accommodation approved by HR, which would only fuel further speculation about what it’s for, why I need it, and if my reports (who I have a generally positive relationship with!) will suddenly question my ability or judgement. Stigmas exist and they suck, but in a good and healthy work environment, there’s no need for that kind of disclosure. (And no need for that kind of disclosure anyway.)

        2. Non non non all the way home*

          I agree. I can imagine a busybody co-worker deciding that they need to know the reason why HR approved an accommodation, then pestering people including the affected employee to find out why.

          1. Non non non all the way home*

            Where my previous comment nested it may not be clear that the commenter I am agreeing with is Goldie.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*


            I need to put something into perspective for you.

            My husband died one month ago. I’m not yet able to WORK full-time. I’m well past corporate bereavement leave and burning vacation time.

            There’s a steep learning curve for all the life chores and decisions we used to share. Plus I’m still taken by grief at unexpected moments — I don’t intend to share that with co-workers or fellow commuters.

            Give your co-worker my condolences and my praise for being back to work full-time so soon.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I had intended this to be its own top level comment. If that’s the only mistake I make today because of unpredictable emotions, it will be an improvement from yesterday.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                I am so very sorry for your loss. Be kind to yourself as you grieve, sending hugs and healing.

            2. Nonprofit lifer*

              Sending you lots of good thoughts. I’m three years out from losing my husband – those first months are a very special kind of awful.

            3. A widow person*

              Just want to say I KNOW! Try to give yourself grace. The sudden tidal waves that overwhelm. Sending you a moment of peace in the grief storm.

            4. Quantum Possum*

              I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m mentally sending a hug and an oversized mug of hot cocoa to you. Thank you for sharing your story.

            5. AnonInCanada*

              Likewise for you as well. Sending internet hugs and condolences for your loss. I hope this puts things in perspective for OP#1.

            6. We still use so much paper!*

              I’m so sorry for your loss. I went back to the office 4 days after my husband’s death due to all kinds of reasons. I don’t know how many times I caught myself staring into space. I am grateful to my coworkers for letting me be and having my back when I needed it.

            7. Rainy*

              I lost my first husband fifteen years ago and I want to really back Seeking up on this. LW1, if you read the comments and make it this far, please know that whatever your motivations are, the way your *actions* *look* to others is heartless and nitpicky. This is not a great way to foster positive personal relationships with your colleagues, because the next colleague who experiences some kind of life or health event that requires (legally) accommodation and (interpersonally) kindness will know that they cannot get either of those things from you without a lot of judgement and intrusive demands for information that isn’t your business.

              I was in a PhD program when my husband died. I was caught sobbing in our reading room by a group of other grad students late one night after a song sparked a sudden memory. It was four months after my husband died. I was doing my absolute best to keep it all together, and a master’s student who was in the group who walked in on me crying immediately started a whisper campaign about how I was obviously mentally unwell because why was I still sad after four months.

              My friends–and even people who were just sympathetic bystanders–did things like check in with me, ask if I needed anything, suggest things that might take my mind off things for a few hours. That master’s student told people I was insane and should be kicked out of grad school.

              Guess which of the two you’re acting like right now, LW1. :( It’s a bad look for a professional.

            8. Delightful Daisy*

              I am sorry for your loss. Sending you virtual hugs as you navigate this. Grief follows it’s own path and is different for each individual. I hope you are giving yourself the time you need to grieve and that you have a good support system to help you through.

        3. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, for all I have sympathy for those with an obligation to be in person and how it looks from that perspective, this is one point where I can actually directly empathise with the colleague. A year after my own husband died put me right in the depths of the pandemic as an in-person worker who was feeling neglected by the general debate, and I would have given anything to be able to work from home (except my job really couldn’t be done from there anyway).

          This is one letter where I’m on the side of the person who isn’t coming in. There are reasons why it might make sense for people to be in 60% of the time while others get an exemption, because there’s a lot you see from my perspective as an in-person obligate worker (including softer situations like people losing touch with the people that support their work and thus needing to re-establish that kind of soft connection with us) that someone used to WFH wouldn’t see. But OP1 is just…acting strangely about this situation.

        4. Random Dice*

          The letter already says grieving coworker has an “HR approved” legal accommodation.

          She knows that a legally binding negotiated accommodation exists, she just doesn’t want it to exist.

          1. Nynaeve*

            No, she knows that one *used* to exist, but believes it should now be defunct as grieving coworkers circumstances have changed. I can see where she’s coming from, but it’s none of her business. It’s up to HR and grieving coworker’s manager to ensure she is following the rules and manager has confirmed that everyone with standing is alright with the arrangement.

            Let it go, OP.

            1. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

              I’m not even convinced that it doesn’t exist anymore. Does OP know that the coworker’s accommodation was for her husband’s cancer, or did she just assume that when he died? As Alison said, it could be something completely unrelated.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                Yes, it’s unclear whether OP was actually ever told the husband’s cancer was the reason for the accommodation or if she just came to that conclusion on her own. Either way, it still wouldn’t mean that she knows all the details of what accommodations may or may not be in place *now*

            2. not nice, don't care*

              Extreme stress causes my chronic conditions to worsen, sometimes irrevocably. It also causes flare ups that can last for weeks. I could totally see needing ongoing health-related accommodations after losing a partner.

            3. Random Dice*

              She doesn’t believe it’s defunct, she’s guessing it may be, because she’s guessing why it existed in the first place.

              Irrelevant – she knows there’s an HR process that this coworker followed. She just thinks that she somehow knows better than everyone in the know just because she’s aggrieved.

          2. Temperance*

            We don’t know that it’s “legally binding”; that’s really not typically how something like WFH works, except in some extreme situations.

            1. Random Dice*

              Legally binding is perhaps a bit strong. More that one has significant legal protections for a negotiated ADA reasonable accommodation.

        5. DBB*

          Edwina is an easy fix. When she calls and wants to talk about a new project, you stop her right there and tell her a) you are in the middle of something at the moment so you can’t give her full attention and b) that you would love to schedule 15 minutes to talk with her later that day. “Should I pencil you in for 4 pm?” At the end of the call, you thank her for her flexibility and throw in a comment of how well you thought the scheduled call worked, as it allowed you to prepare for her and arrange your most recent notes. Then you suggest her scheduling future calls – via email. Even a few hours notice would be more than enough. As far as not talking on the phone, in my experience, it’s similar to public speaking. The more you do it, the easier it usually gets. The cure for phone anxiety is not less phone, it’s more! And I couldn’t imagine ever working with a consultant that wasn’t ready to listen to my issues. Too much gets lost in writing.

      2. MK*

        There was an acknowledgement that there was an HR-approved reason for her being remote. Then the coworker’s husband died and OP, assuming that must have been the reason, decided that the reason no longer exists.

        Also, it’s not particularly unusual that some perks go with tenure, and this coworker has always been remote since OP was hired. If your much more senior coworker being given a perk strikes you as unfair, the problem is with your perception.

        1. Jade*

          And what, exactly, is the HR complaint? My coworker gets to work from home and I don’t? Not a good look.

        2. Em*

          to your second paragraph- 100%!!!
          I am trying to negotiate a 4 day work week for myself (I work across time zones to the point that I basically have 10 hour days and end up truncating my Fridays to compensate). The challenge for me is that on my team a colleague successfully negotiated a 4 day week years ago, so whenever I raise the topic I am really careful about framing it around my team, my work, my schedule, my time constraints, how it would help my US colleagues who are 9 hours behind me etc.. because I think the worst tactic that would put my request firmly in the NOPE pile is to say “hey Tim has this perk and it’s not fair I don’t get it too!!”

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Whereas “this has been tried before, and it seems like Tim is able to successfully do this role in a 4 day week” is a winning argument! Groundbreakers do a lot of the heavy lifting for us in proving what is possible.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            I think it’s totally fair to mention that other people have been able to do something you want when you’re arguing for it! Not in a “they shouldn’t get to do this if I can’t way” but in a “there is a documented history that this kind of accommodation can work in our company” way, ideally accompanied with specifics of why you think it would work well for you and your team (which it sounds like you had plenty of!)

      3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yes, I thought about this for a while and I agree. If (for whatever reason) she is basically fully remote, and the manager and VP think it is working fine, it does raise the question of whether the 3 day a week requirement is actually necessary. I understand having people together in a workplace to collaborate, but is the remote worker “behind” in that respect, it doesn’t seem so. So it does seem like an arbitrary requirement is being put on everyone here. I do think for morale purposes that people should get an explanation, not details of the HR stuff of course but an assurance that the remote work is genuine and a justification for why in spite of that working OK, other people are still needed in the workplace 60% of the time!

        1. MK*

          Whether the 3 day requirement is necessary is a separate issue than the coworker’s schedule though. And it could be working fine for one person on a team of five to be remote, but it wouldn’t work for everyone to be remote; and/or, this person has a proven track record of and the higher-ups are fine with them continuing remote work, but they aren’t open to extending it to others.

          And I don’t think an explanation is particularly owing to the OP, because that was the set-up of the team since they were hired. They joined a team with one coworker fully remote and the rest hybrid; it’s offputing that they are spending so much thought about her schedule.

        2. Random Dice*


          I have an Americans with Disabilities Act medical accommodation


          I have a legally protected right to privacy about my ADA accommodation.

          Your feelings about it are your problem to handle.

          Your curiosity about my disability or my legal negotiation is your problem to handle.

          Your ignorant assumptions that my life-altering disability must somehow be unfair FOR YOU is, well, frankly, enraging.

          1. i drink too much coffee*

            I love this comment SO much.

            I don’t have a disability myself, but my daughter does, and I’m constantly having to fiercely advocate for her (she’s only 1 so obviously unable to do it herself yet!).

            This whole situation is like those videos where someone approaches someone with a service dog in a store demanding to know why they have a dog. That’s not information everyone is entitled to. The person has an accommodation, they’re using it, end of story.

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Sending you a standing ovation, that is righteous.

            Used to work with someone who told people like the OP that if they had a problem with a certain decision or action, ‘You’ve gotten your answer and don’t like it, so this is your problem to manage. I trust that you’ll handle it professionally and in a way that doesn’t make it anyone else’s problem.’

          3. juliebulie*

            Agreed! I was OP’s coworker at one time due to a medical issue. People who didn’t know what was going on were envious. FWIW, my boss told them to mind their own business. I was putting in 60 hours a week during that time. Sure, working from home is great if you aren’t tethered to the toilet. If someone had been envious enough to trade with me the WHOLE deal (the overtime and the toilet), they might have gained a new perspective on what is “fair”.

          4. bleh*

            Neither the LW nor Captain wants to know about anyone’s disability business. They just want the opportunity to be remote more themselves. If the work doesn’t require it as evidenced by absence of person, then the work doesn’t require it.

            1. Leenie*

              Absence of one person and absence if an entire team doesn’t necessarily have the same impact. So that conclusion is iffy. The LW accepted this job as a hybrid. In any event, if she wants to see it she can negotiate more WFH time, she should try that. She needs to stop counting other people’s in-office hours though. If she were being singled out for disparate treatment, that would be one thing. But her focus on an individual coworker’s accommodation is problematic.

            2. Observer*

              They just want the opportunity to be remote more themselves.

              If they want that, that is what they should ask for. What their CW does is not relevant.

              If the work doesn’t require it as evidenced by absence of person, then the work doesn’t require it.

              Not true. It could be that certain items have been shifted around to make this work. It could be that this person has ways to work around the issues that others don’t have. It could be a lot of things. And none of it is the OP’s business.

            3. Quantum Possum*

              I do think for morale purposes that people should get an explanation, not details of the HR stuff of course but an assurance that the remote work is genuine and a justification

              That…sounds like wanting to know someone’s disability business.

              Employees don’t get to demand “proof” of management/HR/legal decisions.

            4. MCMonkeyBean*

              There is nothing in their letter asking what they can do to be allowed to work from home themselves. That *should* be what they are focused on, but instead they seem to only be asking what they can do to force someone else back to the office or else be given a thorough explanation for why they don’t have to be.

              1. Galadriel's Garden*

                Yes, that is exactly my issue with this as well. If the LW wants to also be able to work from home, *that* should be the focus – “this is working well for my coworker, can I ask to do so as well and cite that as an example of remote work working smoothly for our team?” Instead, the focus seems to be “My coworker works from home, and I don’t, and That’s Not Fair.” If HR and their manager don’t have an issue with it, and it doesn’t impact the team’s workload (which, if it did, probably would have come up in the letter?), then it is quite literally none of LW’s business.

            5. anon-y-mouse*

              You are missing the point. If you want to be remote, ask for it.

              Other people’s medical business is private. This really is very basic and fundamental. It doesn’t matter why someone else wants to know about it – they can’t.

          5. Lizzianna*

            Yes, my HR is very clear that even disclosing that an employee has a Reasonable Accommodation is a violation of that employee’s privacy.

          6. Quantum Possum*

            THANK YOU.

            I’m also on an ADA accommodation and have had to take short-term disability leave before. I truly don’t care if my coworkers thought it was “fair” or not. (I never heard complaints, but I’m sure a couple of people had them.) I mean, I love my coworkers and all, but this sort of stuff is 100% Pure-Grade No One Else’s Business.

          7. AnonInCanada*

            You said it! That’s telling OP#1 to take it up with Ms. Nunya Bizness in no uncertain terms. I love it!

          8. Sparkles McFadden*

            Thank you for this comment. I was trying to figure out why question #1 got me so disproportionately angry. This why.

      4. Also-ADHD*

        Accommodations are usually kept as private as possible, but it sounds like LW was told by someone that one exists and this is the way it is but then assumed it was going away when the coworker’s husband died of cancer? I think sounded like LW has essentially been told the accommodations exist, though not what they’re for, and that’s that.

        1. Snow Globe*

          I agree with this. It is entirely possible that the LW needed accommodations for personal reasons beyond her husband’s illness.

        2. Saturday*

          Yeah, the husband’s cancer could have been entirely unrelated. It’s just a situation where you need to MYOB.

        3. Mark Pugner*

          I currently have a WFH exception as part of an FMLA situation, to allow me to care for an aging parent with broken bones. I already feel guilty as hell for taking random days off with little notice, and not meeting our 2 days/week office requirement. However, I am thankful that I work for a manager who has been very kind, and very supportive/understanding throughout the ordeal, and I’m glad to know that if my colleagues would find themselves in a similar situation, they also work for a company that will likely not hang them out to dry.

          It’s probably best for LW1 to just worry about themselves.

      5. ecnaseener*

        The only reason HR is mentioned at all is because the boss alluded to an “HR problem.” Setting that comment aside, LW has been told the boss and VP are both fine with this arrangement, so it really doesn’t matter if there’s also a formal HR accommodation.

        1. Random Dice*

          No the letter referenced the grieving coworker having an “HR approved” legal accommodation to work from home.

          1. ecnaseener*

            True, I phrased that wrong. I meant that’s the only reason we’re talking about whether should be an acknowledgment from management that there’s [still] HR approval.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              The only one entitled to said acknowledgement would be the person with the accommodation. I still fail to understand how this is ANY of the LW’s business (though admittedly, I am upset because of how people have pried about my accommodations in the past).

            1. Goldie*

              I’m guessing the manager probably was struggling end the conversation because these are tricky waters to navigate. LW is asking questions that the manager may not know how to answer.

      6. Random Dice*

        From the letter: “I learned that one of the people on my smaller team rarely came into the office due to an HR-approved reason. I did not find out the reason until, unfortunately, her husband passed away from cancer early last year.”

        1) LW already does know that the windowed coworker has a formally negotiated (and legally binding) accommodation through HR, and

        2) Is guessing that it was due to spouse’s cancer because nobody in HR or management is violating the coworker’s legally protected privacy, despite her curiosity and outrage over an imagined violation of playground fairness rules by (checks notes) a grieving widow who’s been through hell but is still getting her job done.

      7. Hokey Puck*

        Why though? I work for a company that is a hybrid company, but when they hired me, I said I wasn’t interested in that. They were interested enough in me that they told me I could continue to be remote – I would not have taken the job if not. So lots of people work in the office, but I do not and that was part of my negotiation. High level, hard to get people have more bargaining power.

        Also its no one’s business. You don’t tell people they are on medical leave. They are simply out.

        If people who have to come to the office don’t like it, they can negotiate not coming or find another job.

        I would be more mad at a company that is requiring working in a specific location for possibly no reason instead of getting mad at the people who stand up to that.

        1. Betsy*

          Our schedule for being in the office has always been (and still is) flexible – doesn’t matter which days you’re there or for how many hours (within reason).

          Now that we’re required to be there 3 days/week, I’m doing my best, but I haven’t made it yet. Every time I tell my boss I’ll be working from home, he says that’s fine. I’m going to continue assuming that my best effort is good enough for my manager. I really am trying, but if it turns out I just can’t do it, and my boss needs me to have an official accommodation (depression-caused low energy is the problem), I will.

          A colleague has called out to me as I’m arriving at my desk, “why are you coming in late today?” He’s done this twice – months apart, which seems odd to me because I answer (with a smile), “I always come in late.” I also always stay later than everyone who’s there when I get there, so they don’t know how long I’m working. Whatever.

          I’m an extrovert, and I LIKE being in the office, and certain things definitely do get resolved faster if I can chat with someone who’s right there (vs. email, IM, etc.). But if I am just not able to get there 3 days/week, as long as my manager is OK with my schedule, that’s what counts.

      8. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        We’re not allowed to say if someone has an accommodation because that’s disclosing that they have a medical problem.

        1. Stead*

          LW said that an accommodation used to exist and that they think it’s no longer in place. LW could easily be wrong, but they did not say “an accommodation exists”.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            If the worker is still being allowed to work from home I think that’s a clear sign that the accommodation still exists, even if the reason for it has changed.

          2. sub-editorial*

            If an accommodation exists or doesn’t exist, it’s still not something for LW to know. It’s not pertinent to LW in any way.

      9. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        OP already knows its an HR accomodation. She just thinks it ended because she decided the reason for it. So HR stating its an accomodation changes nothing.

        The best and only advice is — butt out unless its affecting your work. This is clearly not your business territory.

        OP, I think your frustration is that this person doesn’t have to come in, but you must 3 days a week. You resent having to come in when someone else doesn’t. You need to focus on that more than why this person doesn’t. Would you prefer fully remote? Maybe its time to look for that instead. Do you come in and all this cross functionality is zoom meetings and emails anyway? Focus on the real issue, not that one person has an accomodation.

        1. StarTrek Nutcase*

          Totally agree. LW is seeing only trees not the forest. She wants more remote work, sees that can be permitted, and that work doesn’t have to be negatively impacted. I’ve certainly had to step back a time or two to recognize my issue isn’t a specific person one but rather a management one. (For ex., my increased workload when a coworker goes on maternity leave isn’t her fault but management’s refusal to make proper arrangements.)

      10. TheBunny*

        No. It’s really no one’s business if another employee has an accommodation. To behave otherwise invites a whole bunch of craziness whenever anyone does anything someone else doesn’t.

      11. Kay*

        No. Just because people want to be nosy and get into things that aren’t their business doesn’t mean they should be indulged nor encouraged. That should be shut down if anything.

      12. kiki*

        Perhaps LW’s manager hasn’t said that in so many words, but they have indicated that they and upper leadership (VP) are aware of the situation and think, as long as things are working, they’re never going to ask this employee to return to office. We don’t know what the reason is that this particular employee doesn’t have to follow the in-office policy like everyone else does, but I don’t think LW really needs to know why or determine for themselves that it’s a good enough reason. LW knows two levels of leadership are aware it’s happening and giving their go-ahead.

        Unless LW is really finding it hard to get their job done or has concerns about the work of the employee with the flex schedule, it seems a bit like they’re fighting a battle that isn’t really for them to fight. I had a hard time adjusting to this to, but sometimes in a workplace decisions are made above you and you don’t get to know the whole reason.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed – unless this affects the OP’s ability to do their job effectively (not just because they don’t like meeting on Teams vs in the office, for example, but actually affecting their ability to get their work done), then this is really none of the OP’s business. Having raised the situation with their manager once, they should leave it alone – a) because they are not privy to whether their coworker has official accommodations or not (and that’s none of their business), b) because this is their manager’s decision about how to manage the employee and the situation, and c) because it’s just really will come across as unfeeling and petty for them to make a further issue about it.

    3. Medusa*

      I don’t even understand the problem in Letter 1. Yes, it’s mildly annoying if a co-worker doesn’t come into work if you are not working at remote workplace (I have a lot of colleagues who don’t come in, despite clear guidelines about requirements to come in). But it doesn’t actually affect you and I don’t see why you would talk to management about it.

      1. Yellow sports car*

        I get it. The company is saying that WFH doesn’t work. That coming into the office most of the time is essential. That their work cannot be done without this.

        And yet – it seems that this isn’t the case with a colleague. So is it that the work can’t be remote? Or that YOU as an individual aren’t trusted/valued enough to get that?

        It’s fine to say you shouldn’t care about how your colleagues are treated unless it directly affects you. But that isn’t reality. Feelings of unfairness (and actual unfairness) are corrosive to workplaces. Hypocrisy grates on people. Personally, I totally care that I am treated unequally – be that a colleague getting paid more to do the same job, or getting more leave, or a more flexible work schedule. Discrepancy in treatment does affect me as it affects how I feel in my job.

        Not that LW had any standing to change things – they aren’t interested in her getting this perk/arrangement or d have it. She either needs to accept that the job is hybrid for her but not everyone else, or job hunt.

        1. bleh*

          Exactly. LW1 puts herself in danger on the roads every day, which is a health risk. She wastes her resources (gasoline, etc) and her time commuting. If entitled lady can stay home, so should she.

          1. Tobias Funke*

            This has big “I get angry when make a wish kids get to do cool things because I also want cool things” energy.

            1. Quantum Possum*

              I’m reminded of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” when Frank and Charlie get upset over a Make-a-Wish kid cutting to the front of the lines at the waterpark.

              (I thought with your screen name, you might also be an IASIP fan.)

          2. WorkerDrone*

            Come on, are you really calling a grieving widow, whose manager and VP both agree that her work arrangement is going well and doesn’t need to change, an entitled lady? That’s just being nasty.

          3. Irish Teacher.*

            There is nothing at all to indicate that the coworker is entitled. She has an accommodation; we do not know why. And whatever the reason, it has nothing to do with entitlement.

            Nor do we know whether the LW even wants to work from home. A lot of people would hate it. It’s possible she does and the last part about the reason they are recalled to the office does seem to imply it, but it’s also possible that the LW is finding it difficult to contact her coworker and wants the coworker to return to the office to make collaboration easier or even that the LW is just somebody who feels strongly about people following the rules and thinks the coworker should follow them.

            We don’t know what the LW’s concern is.

            We also don’t know if it is true that there is no work reason for people returning to the office or if the company has made accommodations to allow that one specific coworker to do so or even if she has a different role to the LW’s. Nobody says it’s entitled of office staff in a building company that they can work indoors while the builders have to go out in the rain. They are simply different jobs. And if it is the case that there is no reason to bring them back to the office, that the job could be done just as well or better from home, with less cost to the company, less damage to the environment and less inconvenience to the employees, then the problem is with the company and their poor decision making skills and would be the same if this woman were not allowed to work from home.

            If the LW wants to work from home and her job allows her to and there is no benefit to being in the office, she would be far better off making a case for it based on her needs and the benefits to the company – less electricity being used if more people work from home, less office space needed, no risk of her being late due to commuting delays. “But if she can do it, why can’t I?” is not anywhere near as convincing an argument and is something I find very immature when my 13 year old students make it.

          4. Quantum Possum*

            “Entitled lady” is uncalled for.

            You have no idea what is going on with this person. None of us do, including the LW.

            1. Random Dice*

              Not to mention:


              We all are. That’s why we have laws.

              Entitled my disabled butt.

              1. Quantum Possum*

                Excellent point.

                This whole line of thinking makes me think of a Khalil Gibran poem, “On Giving.”

                You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”
                The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
                They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
                Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
                And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
                And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, or receiving?
                And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?
                See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving.
                For in truth it is life that gives unto life—while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

          5. Observer*

            If entitled lady can stay home, so should she.

            Based on?

            You don’t know that she is “entitled”. Nor does the OP.
            You don’t know what legal obligations exist. Nor does the OP.
            You don’t know what she is giving up in exchange for full time WFH. Nor does the OP.
            You don’t know the full reasoning for the current hybrid set up, so you have no idea what the actual impact is. In all probability the same is true for the OP.

            On the other hand, it’s clear that the real frustration is about the fact that someone has something. The OP does not indicate that they would like to have more WFH time, but that they want CW to start coming into the office.

            There was a letter linked to one of yesterday’s posts about an employee who gets bent out of shape when other people use flexibility that doesn’t use. This letter (and tbh your comment) has a lot of the same energy.

          6. Ellis Bell*

            It’s entitled to lose your spouse is it? So unfair to other people that one. Or is it entitled to have privacy about potential medical conditions? I’m not sure what other speculations could possibly be described as entitled. I doubt the colleague simply said ‘I am entitled to work at home, so I am” because OP is trying that herself, or at least saying she’s entitled to know other people’s business to argue the toss, and it isn’t working.

          7. Astor*

            Yes, and people who are full-time wheelchair users also don’t wear out their shoes as fast.

            What I mean by that, is that my previous job could be done 100% from home and I would absolutely have been willing to come to work every day in exchange for not having to deal with any of the things that required that medical accommodation. The risk of being on the roads and the cost of commuting is hilariously small in comparison to the risk of my medical condition and the cost of my medical treatments, never mind the additional complications and cost to just living daily life with it.

          8. Also-ADHD*

            LW doesn’t even mention or focus on wanting to stay home though—why be crabs in a bucket about it?

        2. Leenie*

          It seems to be hybrid for everyone except for one person who has an accommodation. You seem to be flipping reality into an alternate, and opposite narrative, wherein the LW is being undervalued and mistreated, instead of actual reality where a coworker is receiving an accommodation.

        3. Quantum Possum*

          I have difficulty grasping why this is anyone’s business except for the Coworker, her management, and HR. This sounds like an accommodation made for an employee, even if the company isn’t quite phrasing it that way.

          Honestly, I can tolerate a lot of things as a manager, but a perceived lack of empathy is not one of them. Let’s be clear: No one knows everything that goes on in another person’s life. It is not for us to judge what is “fair” or who is “deserving.”

          1. herding kittens*


            Well said! I am dealing with this with one of my own direct reports this week who is constantly complaining about not understanding the details of someone else’s accommodation. I assured her that I wouldn’t be able to share anyone else’s private information and asked if there were any medical or emotional accommodations she wanted to make me aware of for herself. When she declined I let her know the door is open when she needs help, but that the help other people receive isn’t her business to assess.

            1. Quantum Possum*

              It sounds like you handled that perfectly! It’s a difficult situation to be in. You were firm but compassionate.

              I love being a boss and I love my employees, but omg, the pettiness that fully-grown adults are capable of…it boggles the mind at times.

          2. Allonge*


            I think if OP can do it neutrally, it’s fair enough to ask what kind of things can be accommodated by more/full WFH in general. It’s really not anyone’s business what the reason is in a specific case.

        4. Sparkles McFadden*

          “Fairness” is a concept that depends on an individual’s point of view. I worked in a place that gave us vision coverage and someone lodged a complaint that the vision coverage was not fair because he didn’t need vision correction. He wanted to be given extra compensation because he didn’t use the vision coverage. Another person complained that someone was out for maternity leave. When I commented that this guy himself had taken *paternity* leave so he shouldn’t complain about *maternity* leave, he said that the woman on leave already had a kid so she shouldn’t get time off for a second kid. (This guy also complained when someone was given maternity leave after adopting a child.)

          In this case, the person working remotely clearly has an accommodation. The what and why of that accommodation is no one’s business, and no reason ever seems to be good enough for people who use a “fairness yardstick” for everything.

          1. Zweisatz*

            Your examples are all bonkers, but the maternity leave thing… because she already had a kid! Wow.

    4. GenevaHill*

      I recently turned down a job (therefore remaining unemployed) precisely because of people like LW1 and I think this letter illustrates perfectly an issue that keeps so many people who require accommodations out of the workforce. My accommodations are due to residual issues from a spinal cord injury and would see me, like LW1’s colleague, working from home most of the time with presence in-person occasionally. If you met me you’d have no idea that I have these particular issues as I am able to walk after lots of rehab and otherwise look fine. Although the employer was happy to make accommodations I declined the offer as I knew that I would stick out like a sore thumb because of it, and the gossip-mill would be in overdrive with the wider team about how I managed to get to WFH more than them, how unjust/unfair it is, wouldn’t they all love to stay home every day but they have to come in etc. etc. etc. and this would ultimately affect my enjoyment of my job and relationship with colleagues. In case I’m being unclear here LW1, it is not your job to be policing accommodations a colleague has agreed with your employer, and people like you keep people like me out of the workforce all the time.

      I’ve re-read the letter several times and I think Alison has given you more grace in her response than many others would. If you want to make a case for a higher WFH ratio, then do, and advocate for yourself citing that there’s instances of it working well in the business that provide an opportunity to review the approach. But your letter doesn’t read like that, it reads as one entirely too focussed on why a colleague has an arrangement that you do not, and despite what sounds like repeated assurances that it’s been approved and deemed workable by management, you persist in pursuing it, speculating all the while about your colleague’s personal life, and talking about going to HR. I’m concerned about you working somewhere where you don’t trust the people and systems above you, don’t listen when you’ve received a reasonable answer on something more than once, and feel that HR needs to intervene because you don’t understand something that isn’t your business.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        This! In many companies, having someone in your role full-time WFH would be an asset in your own WFH negotiations. You don’t have to know why coworker was approved to work remotely point out to management that others in your role are successfully WFH most days and ask if it would be possible for you to go down to 1 or 2 days in-office.

        Even if that doesn’t work, aren’t you glad to know that your company would consider that a reasonable accommodation if you needed an accommodation in the future?

      2. LT*

        Even if the LW1 were to go to HR, I don’t think the outcome would be what the LW1 desired/intended. Now if the manager had seen impacts on the coworker’s work, there’d be standing to address the arrangement, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the information we’re given.

    5. tinybutfierce*

      This. Your boss has told you she has no plans to change anything and the *VP* is also apparently fine in it, and based on the lack of a single detail about how this affects the writer, they have absolutely no reason to change their minds about that. And yeah, pushing this further will absolutely just come off as bizarre, at best. If I were another of the LW’s coworkers and found out they were so focused on someone else’s schedule just “because”? I’d assume they were just a petty busybody or something.

    6. cardigarden*

      Yeah, LW 1, your coworker has a negotiated, legal accommodation. Just because your assumption about it doesn’t feel valid to you (anymore) doesn’t mean it’s not still in force. You really should mind your own business about this one. Signed, someone who is negotiating increased telework for medical reasons beyond what’s typically offered by my company.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        This is the crux of the issue. LW, you *think* you know the reason for the WFH accommodation. You *think* it was because her husband was ill. But you don’t actually KNOW anything about it, beyond “yes, higher ups know and it’s fine”. Therefore, you need to pull back from this and Let It Go.

    7. iglwif*

      Yep. There are so many perfectly reasonable explanations for someone to have a different work setup than you, and only one situation where you have standing to complain about it: it’s specifically affecting your work AND you have tried other ways to resolve the issues that have failed.

    8. bleh*

      The real thing to do is stay home yourself, and when they cite the rule just raise the ol eyebrow toward her desk. It’s ridiculous that squeaky wheels get what they want. Squeak a bit and see what happens.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        This only makes sense if LW has an actual reason to work from home, and absolutely knows that their coworker does not – which they don’t know. They made an assumption they knew what it was all about, but if they’re wrong, they’re going to look pretty darn bad.

        Look for the comment by juliebulie as another example.

      2. Quantum Possum*

        Please don’t do this, LW. It’s passive-aggressive and could be considered insubordination depending on how it’s executed.

      3. Observer*

        Squeak a bit and see what happens.

        Yeah, there is an internet meme about that (and an acronym.) The thing is that that generally comes up when the attempt to “squeak” blows up spectacularly.

      4. FrivYeti*

        That’s not how it works.

        There are plenty of issues in which if one or two people are doing a thing, it’ll be fine, but if everyone is doing that same thing it will become a problem. It could *easily* be the case that a team can manage one person working from home by adjusting schedules, but too many people working from home can become a scheduling or organizational issue.

        And there’s nothing more arrogant and entitled than *assuming that you know why someone is getting a medical accommodation* and then whining like a toddler that you deserve it too because they’re *not really in need*. That’s the sort of ableism and prejudice that subjects people with medical problems or disabilities to harassment and worse.

      5. nofiredrills*

        ….are you calling people who need accommodations “squeaky wheels?” I hope you’re more pleasant and less passive-aggressive in your office.

    9. Anon for this*

      This x 100. I can tell you from my own recent experience with an employee constantly escalating similar concerns (meaning a fear that somebody somewhere was getting a perk that they weren’t.) the most likely outcome is that you’ll eventually get a talking to about how you’re not their boss, it’s not your job to set their schedule, and you don’t know their situation.

      1. Kay*

        And if I were their boss – if you keep doing this you are impeding your own ability to advance here.

    10. Lenora Rose*

      I can think of exactly two reasons it might be LW’s business:

      – LW’s work product is affected – and not in a way that can be handled by using other communication forms more often. This Alison covered.

      – LW has a reason of their own why an accommodation might make sense, and was turned down (or discouraged from applying in the first place), and wants advice how to approach the matter. In which case they should be talking to HR about themselves, not about their coworker, and the sole reason to compare their situations at all might be if LW suspects unfair treatment due to a protected category.

      Since this latter did not come up in the letter, I assume it is not the case.

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

      I 100 percent agree. My first thought was just because the husband had cancer doesn’t mean that was the reason she had accommodations for WFH.

    12. Hush42*

      Right! There could be more than just her husbands passing that was part of the accommodation that you wouldn’t and shouldn’t know about and your manager isn’t just going to come out and tell you why she can work from home. I have an employee who has a religious accommodation that allows her to work 4 10-hour days most weeks (the day she needs off change every several weeks) while everyone else in the company works the more standard 5 8-hour days. It’s not my favorite thing ever but it’s an accommodation for a sincerely held religious belief that she requested and we approved. If another member of the team came to me to complain that she off one day a week and that it’s not fair then all I would be able to tell them is that, if they need accommodations for any reason they are welcome to reach out to HR to discuss. I couldn’t and wouldn’t give them any details as to *why* she has an accommodation as it isn’t any of their business. If they came to me to discuss any issues that her being out one day a week is causing for them I would be happy to talk to them about it and come up with solutions to those issues.

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        I’m fascinated about which religion this might be? There are so many wonderful ways to worship a Supreme Being / Supreme Beings. If it’s too nosy, I get it. :)

        1. Quantum Possum*

          Some Jewish Messianic sects and Christian Pentecostal sects consider the first day of a new moon to be a sabbath day and therefore a day of rest.

    13. Beth*

      It sounds like it was communicated that there was an HR-approved reason. OP assumed when the coworker’s husband passed that his cancer was the reason, but I’m wondering if that was faulty speculation–it’s just as likely that there’s always been a reason related to her own health, for example, and her husband’s cancer was irrelevant to her not coming in.

      1. AnonORama*

        Right, this is the kind of situation that led to the phrase “don’t assume — you’ll make an “ass” of “u” and “me.” I don’t think OP has made an ass of themself yet, but if they continue to push this, it’s definitely going that way. OP, you can 100% advocate for WFH for reasons that relate to you and your job! But you’re working without all the facts about your coworker’s accommodation, and frankly, the facts aren’t your business. Making this about her is a dangerous path for you, and not fair to her. Keep your eye on what you want; you might get it and you might not, but you won’t burn the kind of bridges you’re headed toward burning right now.

    14. Remote Guy*

      Thank you, Alison, from someone with an invisible medical accommodation to work remotely. If this were my colleague, I would be so anxious that I had impacted their work negatively, because I overcompensate for being fully remote knowing the stereotypes. And if it was confirmed that there was no impact on their work, I’d be pretty annoyed with them for bringing it up for no reason.

  2. John Smith*

    LW2, Why not try a voicemail that instructs the caller to email you and makes clear (in an indirect way) that you won’t be answering the phone or returning phone calls? Don’t call back and you never know, Edwina might get the message and be happy to email. If she doesn’t, you’re going to have to decide whether these calls and the anxiety they bring you are worth her business.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I see what you’re saying but I think this is the equivalent of making a dress code policy because Bob recently started wearing flip flops and cutoff jeans shorts to work, rather than talking to Bob directly.

      In the LW’s case, I think the message would also be lost on Edwina (or she’d just be confused by it) since she already talks to the LW on the phone for 10-15 mins each project.

      I think LW should have a conversation with her, tell her she’ll be using that form going forward, ask her to send that form and then schedule a call if needed. Or, maybe Edwina is one who needs 10 mins to chat before the start of each project in order to feel comfortable.

      1. Goldie*

        “Or, maybe Edwina is one who needs 10 mins to chat before the start of each project in order to feel comfortable.”

        I’m guessing that Edwina wants to check in before starting a project. As a freelancer, you get to pick who you want to work with. This doesn’t feel that odd to me and worth losing a client but that’s your call.

        1. Anonym*

          Why not just tell her that you’re happy to schedule time to talk? It’s perfectly normal to do. Book 15 mins, she gets to talk through things (not unreasonable) and you don’t get interrupted. And of course if she calls at other times, reply via text or email at your convenience offering the times you’re available for a scheduled chat.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            yeah you book those 15 minutes and remember to build this time into your estimate for your work too! When clients waste my time, I make sure to bill them enough to make it worth my while.

      2. Despachito*

        I do not think 15 minutes of talking at the beginning of a project are unreasonable at all, and I would not want to lose a client over it. As a fellow freelancer, there are definitely going to be unbillable times, and I’d consider myself lucky if it is only 15 minutes per project.

        However, I’d tell Edwina I’ll call her back later that day, and do so when it is more convenient for me.

        1. Chas*

          I imagine for Edwina those 15 minute talks are her reassurance that LW2 understands the project (and possibly the context behind it, depending on the nature of her tangents), has asked any relevant questions she didn’t think of and isn’t going to come back with something that isn’t what she really needs.

          I’ve just had a (scheduled) 15 minute chat with someone that has probably reduced the quotation for a DNA synthesis project I ordered online by almost £2000- because they hadn’t noticed that I was asking them to make the same thing 3 times, just with extras added to it the second and third time (so they can just make the first part once and then take some of that and add extras to it for the second and third versions). And while I could have asked about that by email, it was a lot quicker to just have the chat and know that he understands exactly what I’m suggesting they do.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          This. I can’t see a reason why LW can’t say on the phone in the moment, “I’m in the middle of something and can’t give your project the attention it deserves right now, but I can call you back at X o’clock and give you my full attention.”

      3. John Smith*

        The same can be said about using a form or any other sort of intervention, but the whole point is that Edwina won’t be talking as she won’t have the option unless and until LW schedules a call following an email – she’ll either be emailing (result!) or taking business elsewhere. I’m sure there are many other providers for Edwina and many other customers for LW.

        My go to hairdresser started an online booking system and would not accept bookings by other methods. Some customers gave him grief but he just repeated “It’s online booking, go elsewhere if you don’t like it” and wouldn’t get into a discussion over it.
        Result: some customers went elsewhere, hairdresser got new other customers and far less stress.

      4. ADHDFox*

        I’ve had reasonable success with an (internal) customer who likes to “call” by letting her know that I prefer that she texts before she calls – giving the reasons why (very similar to yours ) this is preferable. It means that our conversations are a lot more low-stress, especially as I am then in the right mindset. Perhaps part of what you can share is “I want you to get the most value out of my time and therefore want to have everything ready for briefing”

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          This sounds like a great solution for this LW.

          Also I note that some people find it harder than others to switch between tasks, and your username may be relevant.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Agreed! It sounds to me like asking Edwina if she’d be ok with emailing (or texting, if OP is ok with that) OP to schedule a call would be the way to go. I also have a lot of trouble switching between tasks (why yes, I have recently been diagnosed with ADHD, why do you ask?) and unscheduled phone calls drive me absolutely batty. If a coworker messages me on Teams with a question, I can take a minute to think about what the answer might be or then say, “Would you like to have a call right now to discuss this?” If a coworker calls me out of the blue (looking at you, former grandboss) it absolutely messes with my concentration on the task I was doing AND I’m not able to focus on what they are asking me.

            So it’s a little trickier when you don’t have an internal messaging system like Teams with an outside client, but the emailing or texting route might work.

        2. User12345*

          This is the best idea. It’s a good compromise. Or scheduling a quick 10 minute meeting. I sense that it’s not so much the phone call that is the issue – it’s the disruption to work flow.
          And sometimes a phone call can be the best way to communicate. I’m Gen X and the number of times I’ve seen Slack or email exchanges ping pong back and forth endlessly when a phone call would have been far quicker is ridiculous. Phone calls can feel stressful, I get that, but they can also be efficient and collaborative.

          1. Elsa*

            Yes, I also find that I’m really resentful when someone from work calls me out of the blue and keeps me on the phone for 15 minutes, but I’m perfectly happy to spend 15 minutes on a scheduled call or zoom meeting. (And with the way some clients love the sound of their own voices, 15 minutes is usually getting off easy!)

            I agree that the best thing to do when Edwina calls is to not answer, and follow up with an email or text saying, “I saw that you called, can you speak at 2 pm?” or “I saw that you called, here’s my calendar link to schedule a 15-minute meeting.”

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Yeah, when LW said that Edwina is chatty and likes to go off on tangents, I did NOT expect her to say that the calls were mostly 10-15 minutes. I like to think I’m not a horrible bore of a conversationalist, but my tangents have tangents longer than that!

          2. allathian*

            Indeed. I don’t hate talking on the phone, I just intensely dislike people calling me out of the blue. Thankfully that isn’t really a thing at my org, at least not in my department.

            My org is large enough, about 2,000 employees, that I don’t have everyone in my contact list on the phone, even if they’re obviously identifiable on Teams. Unless I know someone well enough to recognize their voice, an unscheduled call from a random internal client would have me scrambling. Thankfully the vast majority IM me first and then call me on Teams to discuss future projects, if they don’t schedule actual meetings.

            Sometimes after bouncing emails for a while, I’ll be the one to suggest a call and to send an email afterwards to make sure both of us are on the same page about whatever it was. Calls are great for clarification, emails for documentation.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              The really nice advantage to someone messaging (or me messaging them) to schedule a call is that I can not only mentally prepare for the call, but I can also find out the general topic of conversation ahead of time and actually do some research if it’s something I’m not as familiar with. I can also get my brain working in the background on the topic even if I’m not actively thinking about it. A call out of the blue obviously prevents any of this from happening and I’m also really not great at thinking on my feet (switching tasks…all that stuff…ADHD is my superpower) so the quality of my answers, advice, etc, is hugely affected by whether I know what we’ll be discussing or not.

              But I also agree that calls are definitely a necessary part of work, unfortunately. A 15-minute phone call can clear up misunderstandings and provide clarity that could take days of back-and-forth texting, messaging, or email to resolve, if ever they even could. Sometimes an actual discussion is vital.

              OP, another tack that you might try would be to start mentioning to Edwina that you never check your voicemail. Plenty of people never check their voicemail and it seems like modern etiquette has accepted this as perfectly ok. Then don’t ever check your voicemail! That resolves you of the responsibility of having to listen to her long voicemails anymore. It might work for you combine telling her that you don’t check your voicemail with asking her if she can text or email to schedule calls. If you spin it as “I’ve gotten so many projects lately that I’m revamping how I keep track of them all. I’m now requiring everyone to schedule calls with me ahead of time so that I can keep my calendar under control” or something like that, she might respond well to your new limits on how often (never!) she can just call you out of the blue.

              Best of luck and solidarity in hating phone calls!

          3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            I agree with this, but you don’t need to minimize the stress. For many people phone calls ARE extremely stressful, they don’t just “feel” stressful. (And for some people, such as myself, scheduling the call in advance reduces the stress.)

          4. iglwif*

            Yep. It’s a work meeting! It’s reasonable to ask Edwina to text or email to schedule a call, and she may be very receptive to that once LW explains that with a scheduled call, she’ll be able to focus completely on Edwina and her new project for the scheduled time. Call it a project kickoff meeting, which is what it would be called in a non-freelance situation.

            As a freelancer — I speak from experience — you do sometimes have to talk to clients on the phone, and in some situations it genuinely is more efficient. In other cases it may not be more efficient for YOU but is, as Alison says, the price of keeping an otherwise great client. What you do NOT have to do is let random unscheduled phone calls interrupt your other work.

          5. anotherfan*

            I do wonder whether this is a generational disconnect; is Edwina older than LW or from a place or generation that isn’t as stressed over talking to people via phone? Edwina might, for instance, be unhappy with filling out a form and hoping they got their idea across the same way most people who call a business and get a phone tree would rather talk to a person because their issue has nothing to do with the options they’re offered. So I think LW has to decide if accommodating a well-paying customer’s preference for talking is worth it, especially since Edwina appears to be the only customer who does this. Making a single exception does seem to me a do-able thing, but I don’t stress over phone calls so I can’t say what would work for LW.

            I will say that I ran into a problem with strictly form-based/email based communication when I wanted something done for my work by another department. What I thought I said/wanted wasn’t at all what the person on the other side assumed I had asked for. They produced something completely useless to me because I was unfamiliar with the form and wasn’t specific enough in my request. A three-minute phone call to ask — is this do-able? what do you need from me to make it happen? would have solved the problem but that wasn’t an option. We all lost out on that deal.

            1. I should really pick a name*

              There’s probably a trend of younger people having less of a preference for the phone, but that’s not really relevant here.

              What’s relevant is the LW’s preference, and Edwina’s preference and how they can find a way to work together. What the source of those preferences is really doesn’t affect anything.

              I’m pushing back a bit because when you start speculating “they prefer X because they’re from generation Y” it can lead to unhelpful assumptions.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                Agreed. Some people of all generations prefer talking, some people of all generations prefer writing. For most I imagine, it’s very context-dependent: I prefer writing for anything with lots of details, but I prefer talking when relaxing with friends.

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          I kinda do this. When I get a phone call, I text back to please email me so we can set up a time to chat via zoom. I prefer zoom to phone calls, even if the person doesn’t have their video on. Dunno why, but it works better for me.

          For Edwina, you can text back to set up a time to call. That way it works with your schedule without having to interrupt in the moment.

          Also for checking voicemails — my phone service has email transcript so I get an email of the voice mail. Yeah its bad, but its more a visual reminder of the call so I don’t have to check email. Google voice will also do this.

      5. Also-ADHD*

        From LW’s description, I’m quite surprised they don’t already have such a message and think it’s only because hardly anyone calls them. My personal and business phone boxes basically say to text or email me respectively, and I feel that’s common around friends my age too (older Millennial—we are not phone people). It doesn’t seem like a wild blanket policy because the only reason it’s for one person is only one person is calling. But it won’t impact others negatively.

        1. Fellow Freelancer*

          My voicemail explicitly states “Please don’t leave a message as I don’t check voicemail often,” and then tells them to text or email if they want a response. I have a few clients who like phone calls, and they have learned now to text me, and then I can text them back quickly letting them know I will call at xx time. They feel like they’ve gotten immediate attention, and I get to schedule the call for a time more convenient. Win win.

        2. Blue wall*

          As others have elsewhere, pushing back on it being a generational thing. I am also an elder millennial and I love talking on the phone and call friends unscheduled often.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            In my universe (a young Gen Xer), an unscheduled call means:
            1. At work: there is a huge emergency.
            2. At home: someone died.
            Please don’t randomly call me, I may die of shock.

          2. Also-ADHD*

            Generational doesn’t mean universal, but trends show that people my age (Gen X and older Millennials) are the most phone resistant and prefer text. Younger Millennials aren’t far being usually, though Gen Z is a happy to text but surveys as enjoying calls and face time style stuff more. Boomers are way more likely to have cable and landlines, but my Boomer parents have neither. Generational trends are just what’s commonplace in that age group, which was all I referenced.

      6. AngryOctopus*

        I think it’s 100% fair for LW to say “Edwina, I really enjoy working with you and your projects are interesting. Going forward, I’m going to need you to use Form X to fill out details of new projects. This is for my needs, as I would like to have scope and activity laid out so I can consider if I have the time for it. If you need a phone call to discuss after the form has been filled out, please email me to schedule the call so I can be fully prepared to discuss what you need at the time we have the call, and I’m fully focused on our discussion.”

    2. Yorick*

      If anything, LW2 should ask Edwina not to leave details of the project in the voicemail. Explain that it’s hard to make sure you don’t miss anything, and that you prefer to schedule calls ahead of time.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      This seems like really poor customer service and most freelancers, unless they have more work than they can handle. If people don’t want to take personal phone calls, that’s one thing, but this is a business and presumably LW1’s livelihood. I would happily never talk on the phone again, ever, but that’s the way some people (and, in this case, people paying money for LW1’s time and expertise) prefer to communicate – and some people are just better at it verbal than written communication. At work, we have a general rule that, if after two to three email exchanges, you have not been able to hammer out what needs to happen, you should pick up the phone and talk to one another because time is money. (And, having worked in litigation discovery for years, there is SO MUCH stuff that should never have been written down in the first place.)

      The most reasonable thing to do with Edwina, *if* LW1 wants to keep her as a customer, would be to ask her to schedule a time to talk via text or email so they can speak when LW1 is not working on another client’s project and can get in the right headspace for the call.

      I really struggle to understand this whole “I don’t check my VM” thing. Every phone I’ve ever had, office, home, or cellular, has a pretty clear notification for messages. On the cell phone, it looks exactly like the notification that pops up for text messages and is customizable in the settings so it can show up on the app, in the notifications center, and on the lock screen. It’s not some herculean, burdensome task. But, just to be safe, we’ve added it to new hire orientation at work because telling customers you will never check your VM or return calls is not remotely acceptable in our line of work.

      1. Prismatic Garnet*

        Agree, OP mentions that they would need to come up with a system to remind them to check voicemail… what about the little red badge that pops up on your phone already?? If you don’t get calls that often, it should be even easier to remember to listen to that VM, because the red popup button (and notification banner if you have that turned on) will be unusual.

        OP also mentions dropping other clients’ work when the phone rings… why? Let it go to VM and call back in between tasks!

        I agree email is better (have all the details, asynchronous throughout, easier to stay on topic) but it does seem like OP is letting their dislike of the phone excuse not making some pretty easy adjustments here to make it a better workflow.

        1. Turnipnator*

          for what it’s worth: my phone prioritizes WiFi connection if it’s available and will only pick up voicemails over data, which means unless I turn off my wifi I don’t get voicemails or even know if there are any. There’s no notification on my phone without specific action.

          That said I don’t clear missed calls until I check. But it stands that “obviously they get a notification about voicemail” isn’t necessarily true.

      2. Beth**

        I don’t check my personal voicemail because 99% of the time it’s a scam/spam/the blood donation people.

        This did cause an issue once when my MIL left a voicemail and I didn’t listen to it, but it wasn’t particularly urgent (“can you ask my son to call me when he has a chance?”) so no harm done except my MIL thinks I am flaky.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          My phone now transcribes the voice mail, I don’t remember when I actually listened to a personal voice mail. Work voice mail happens, although rarely.

      3. K*

        You can turn off all notifications in settings on all smartphones. I haven’t gotten a notification of any kind in years. I just check each app when I feel like it.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I only have notifications for calls, texts, WhatsApp, Facebook messaging, and e-mail. The things that may need a response.
          All other apps? I don’t care to see if someone liked my post on IG.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Sure, but that’s making a choice to ignore those things, which is a very different calculus for personal use versus if you are running a business with paying customers. It’s also not the default setting, it’s an active choice to not use the resources available on modern communication tools. If you’re missing the calls from a client you want to keep, turning off all notifications, especially on things you don’t have a habit of manually check regularly, would not be a prudent business decision.

    4. Jaydee*

      I’ve actually do a scaled back version of this and it works pretty well. A huge percentage of the calls I got were people asking how to apply for our llama grooming services. I can’t send you an application over the phone, but I can email it. So my outgoing voicemail message says that if you’re calling to request an application, please email at this address. It saves everyone time because I can respond to that email much faster and easier than playing phone tag or leaving them a return message that says to email.

      The key is to use it for things that genuinely make sense on both ends. It saves everyone time, so the callers don’t mind because they’re getting a faster response. And it saves me the effort of using the phone to get their email address to then send them the info they want.

      I don’t love phone calls for a variety of reasons mostly related to my ADHD. It’s a mix of sensitivity to distractions and some overlap of auditory processing, executive functioning, and working memory issues that make it hard for me to maintain my train of thought during a conversation and also make it hard to retain info just from hearing it. But I do acknowledge they are the most practical option in plenty of circumstances so I’m not going to eliminate them completely. If I can prepare for them, schedule them, take copious notes, etc. that is ideal.

      1. Calpurrnia*

        Your last paragraph is me 110%.

        I can’t completely stop having calls, even though I wish I could; sometimes it’s just easier for a customer to screenshare and show me the issue they’re having (which might turn out to have a quick fix, along the lines of “oh! to do X you need to click that other button, the one you’re using actually does Y instead of X”, and save us both time).

        But scheduling them in advance is key. Email or message me with a 1-sentence explanation of the issue and asking to have a call, and I’ll get something scheduled at a time that works for both of us. Calling me out of the blue is so, so, SO rude, honestly. People don’t know what I’m busy with, and their unannounced call basically communicates their assumption that I’m just sitting there doing nothing and waiting for them to call me with whatever they want me to do. They’re interrupting me while I’m in some entirely different headspace and giving me no chance to have looked quickly at the topic and have my notes open and everything.

        And don’t get me started on the calls to explain something that could easily have been fully and clearly explained in 2 sentences in an email or message. “Hey could you re-send that thing from last week? I can’t find it” does not merit a call. That’s got all the downside of the rude interruption and derailment of my work, without any of the actual benefits of having a synchronous 2-way conversation.

    5. AnonInCanada*

      I really don’t like that approach. You’re essentially indirectly telling Edwina to stop doing what she’s doing without approaching her directly. What I would say in my outgoing message are words to the effect of “Please leave a brief message (emphasis on brief,) and I will return your call when I am able. For a more immediate response, please (preferred method: email/text/Twitter DM/whatever).” If Edwina calls back and leaves some long-winded voicemail anyway, ignore it and upon your call back say “I’m so sorry, but your voicemail was garbled, it must’ve been a bad connection. How can I help you?”

      Now you’ve been saved from having to listen to her long-winded voicemail (since she’ll likely be repeating herself when you call back anyway) and you can take the call when it’s convenient for you. I hate being on the phone myself, and much prefer email as I can respond at my convenience and not lose focus on what I’m doing. But if Edwina is an important client, then you need to compromise and do some things her way. Just not all of them.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      I think OP is just not all that used to using the phone if they don’t know how to direct someone and chose when’s best to speak to a person who prefers a two way conversation. My first industry was very phone heavy, because it was all about developing and managing relationships and it’s a true learning curve, very different to personal phone use because you’re juggling work too (I was a teenager before mobile phones were a thing). During that learning curve I used to be able to listen to lots of people in the office speaking to their contacts and I would pick up the phone tips use that way. If you want the information in written format first, either send the request in writing that they do a form, and add “I’ll call you EOD when it’s submitted”. You could even do a quick few minutes phone call (start of day, before your work can be interrupted!) “I only have a few minutes but I need you to fill out form x before we next speak. It’s in your inbox!” Then choose a time to speak that suits you. Text them the time to let them know and say something like “I’m in meetings/unavailable except for this time, so let me know if you’re unavailable and what time you’re free tomorrow”. As for voicemail, often I don’t even listen to them because as OP says it’s two phone calls; one to a recording, one to a person who’s going to repeat it verbatim; if you really hate voicemail, a lot of the time you can disable it. Or, just listen to one second/identify the caller and call them back at a convenient time: “Sorry I didn’t have time to listen to your voicemail yet, can you sum it up?” I have ADHD and interruptions are BAD for me. But you can be a skilled and efficient phone person I promise! You can decide when they happen and you can set time limits and you can direct people to email you as long as they’ve had a chance or will have, to ask questions in real time. Now I’m a teacher and they send all the trainees to me to learn how to call parents (We are NOT allowed to just email even when making positive reports home, so it’s a really vital skill sometimes.)

    7. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I am in much the same position as OP2 and I have a message on my voicemail to say “please don’t leave a message, I’m too old for this stuff so I have no idea how to listen to them, just text me like a teenager”. I still get messages, mostly with the speaker trying to suppress laughter (so I know they listened to my message)… some of them also text me but not all.

  3. Not A Manager*

    LW2, can you text Edwina as soon as you see her call come in? My phone offers me boilerplate responses like “I can’t talk right now,” but you could text something like “Swamped rn, can I call you back at 4 pm?” If you do that consistently, that might nudge her into texting or emailing you to set up a phone call.

    Also, no one listens to their voicemail. Just call her back and say, “sorry I didn’t have a chance to get to your message, but please go ahead and walk me through your project.” You’ll still have to spend 15 minutes on the phone, but at least it will be 15 minutes of your choosing, and you won’t have the redundancy of voicemail.

    1. Megan*

      I listen to my voicemail! Perhaps an easy soultion to this is disabling voicemail on your phone? That way she can’t leave a message.

      1. Viette*

        I also listen to my voicemail! In fairness the people who leave them are pretty good at leaving voicemail, so they communicate decently in the time necessary.

        I feel disabling voicemail is a bit of a big reaction — Edwina clearly prefers the phone for her communications, and she’s polite enough to not call over and over. She prefers to leave a voicemail and she prefers to chat on the phone. She’s paying you. The client is not always right, but then again there are tools to figure out how to remember to check voicemail. You can force her to not leave voicemails but it feels very reactionary. OP2 hates the phone but they might not *have* to hate the phone if they’re willing to work on this a bit.

        And not to be all ‘get off my lawn’ but we listen to podcasts for hours and can’t listen to a voicemail? Yeah a bad voicemail is kind of meandering and boring, but lots of things are boring.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I didn’t use to feel like that but I’ve come to realise how very practical voicemail technology is – I’m in and out of my office all day and for some reason, I’m a master at timing it just so that I get calls whenever I’m out. Before I set up my voicemail, I’d have to call people back to enquire about their call but when they leave a decent voicemail, I can call back and cut right to the chase.

          I’ve also found – quite surprisingly! – that my callers tend to be much more concise when leaving a voicemail than when talking to me directly. Probably because no one is actively engaging with them so there’s no opportunity to react to my reactions.

          Of course that doesn’t help when people leave uncoordinated, rambly, confusing voicemails, but I’ve found that those same people also have direct conversations in uncoordinated, rambly, and confusing ways and just listening to them without having to react is actually still more pleasant to me than actively talking to them.

        2. Ray Gillette*

          My mobile provider includes voicemail transcription in their services, so I can read my voicemail! It’s not 100% accurate but it’s close enough for me to understand what’s being said.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            For a while, I had a hilariously bad voicemail transcription service. I’ll never forget the time one transcription started with, “[MigraineMonth] is dead. Call me back when you get a chance.”

            The actual voicemail was, “[MigraineMonth], it’s Dad. Call me back when you get a chance.”

            1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              I got a voicemail transcript one time that just said, “Dead dead dead dead.”. I opened it with some trepidation and a lot of curiosity, only to hear boring static.

              Nevertheless, I do recommend using one. Far faster to glance at a message and get the gist, and you can always listen to it afterwards.

              1. Kara*

                Highly recommend voicemail transcript as well. Not perfect, but it lets me get the gist of things in 30-60 seconds instead of sitting there through a long voicemail. And i still have the option of listening to the voicemail later when I’ve got time and bandwidth should it need an actual listen.

      2. ecnaseener*

        I listen to voicemail too, please everyone keep leaving voicemails! My work phone (softphone) doesn’t even log missed calls without a voicemail.

        1. My Useless 2 Cents*

          Yes, if you expect a call back, leave a message. At the very least your name and request for a call back (with number!). I do not return calls if someone doesn’t leave a message. Too many spam calls and you can’t trust caller ID either.

          Also, do not assume people have the same technology as you do. Our office phones do not record missed calls and haven’t for well over 15 years. 10 years ago I was getting heat from management about not returning calls. Turns out, it was because a customer was calling, not leaving a message, and then complaining to management. I literally had to change my voice mail message to specifically say “leave a message, our system does not record or log missed calls”. And I still had intermittent problems with this customer who wouldn’t understand because *his* phone logged all phone numbers in and out. But at least management got off my back as they understood I had no way of knowing I was missing his calls!

        2. Sparkles McFadden*

          Yes, and if you don’t leave a voicemail, don’t be annoyed if I don’t call you back. I can see my missed calls but if someone doesn’t leave a voicemail, I assume it was a pocket dial.

          1. AnonInCanada*

            Or a scammer or someone else you’d rather not talk to. Or some poor innocent person whose number was the one the scammer spoofed when they called.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I listen to my voicemail. It is usually either a) a relative passing on information I will find useful; b) spam which I promptly delete.

        This is one of the weirder technology conventions to arise, since when we had physical answering machines it was definitely the convention to listen to the message (at least long enough to determine if you should listen to the whole thing). But put the answering machine inside the phone and suddenly it is a burden.

        (I did appreciate that a relative recorded my mother’s voicemail message (you couldn’t opt out) as “This is Margaret’s cellphone voicemail. She is never going to check it.”)

      4. Venus*

        I think the better option is to cut short the amount of time for the message. It sounds like Edwina can talk for an unlimited amount of time now, whereas most services have a limit of a minute or something, and that sounds like a good option for LW.

        Let Edwina leave a short message, call her back whenever it works for LW’s schedule, and hopefully that makes everyone happiest.

        1. Kara*

          Better yet, check and see if your voicemail has a transcript feature. She can leave as much detail as she feels she needs, and reading takes a fraction of the time listening does, and allows for skimming if you’re in a hurry or in the middle of something. Plus, you’ve still got the original voicemail should you decide you need to consult the original after all.

    2. Ghostlight*

      This is just a bad take and incredibly unprofessional. If your job requires communication, even if you have a preference for written communication, sometimes you have to use the phone. And if you’re client facing, unfortunately some people prefer a call (even if an email is the logical means of communication). That’s part of working with people (especially when running your own business like LW2).

      If you don’t want to listen to your voicemail in your personal life that’s a choice (probably a bad one since plenty of service providers do use the phone for scheduling), but to say that for work you don’t and shouldn’t use the phone/voicemail (especially when you’re client facing) is a bad policy and even worse advice to someone who clearly has a client for a preference to the phone.

      LW2, I get it, I avoid phone calls whenever I can, but not every minute of work/running your business is going to be billable and clearly Edwina is a good and frequently returning client. Think of the phone calls as the cost of doing business/acquiring a customer. But also don’t immediately drop everything to answer. Does your phone notify you when you have a voicemail? Just don’t listen to the voicemail until you’re dealing with it so the notification stays. That’s your reminder right there.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I don’t know. I think answering the phone for just long enough to schedule another actual in person phone call for the details sounds like a better choice than voice mail, if the LW wants to minimize the interruption and still accommodate Edwina’s preference.

    3. LCH*

      haha, i don’t exactly listen to my voicemail; i read the crappy transcriptions my voicemail creates. then listen if the transcription is so bad, i can’t figure out the message. i have a dad who leaves like 2 min VMs and i’m picturing Edwina a little like this.

    4. Temperance*

      I don’t listen to my voicemail. I get so many calls that are just “call me back at your earliest convenience” with no context that it’s essentially useless.

    5. Prismatic Garnet*

      People do listen to their voicemails, or at least read them. It takes like four seconds for the transcript to come up.

    6. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

      No one listens to their VM? That’s rude & unprofessional. I always do, I have to, or I might miss important work related (or personal) information! I’d consider it very odd & immature for an employee to never listen to their VMs.

    7. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I listen to voicemail because I’m polite like that, the only thing is that the notifications seem to come randomly and only in one place where I never look.
      But I invariably end up telling the client, OK please can you recap all that in an email so I can refer back to it? They have to send me the work by email anyway so they might as well also just note the important things I need to know.

  4. Heidi*

    Yikes. Imagine emailing 50 lawyers and asking them all to contact Bertha. If everyone is nice and responds, how is a high school student supposed to manage meaningful correspondence with that many people? I also think it’s possible that no one will respond (because they assume others will), and how is that going to come across to Bertha?

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Oh, I read it as dozens of people in many *different* professions were emailed (because Bertha isn’t sure yet what she wants to do?). But your read is also possible. In that case I’m kind of impressed they got so many alumni to agree to mentor, but also really wonder how they think this will work.

      1. Tio*

        The letter says the emails are like “Hello alumni in [field]. I have cc’d Bertha who is interested in your field” so I assume that Allan is at least sticking to one field, like lawyers or engineering from that context. But that’s wild if they really have that many people in one field getting emailed at a time!

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      Yeah, I would have freaked at 16 or 17 if 10 or more adults contacted me. “How do I tell them somebody else has already given me the information I need? Wouldn’t it be rude and wasting their time after they bothered to contact me? But I haven’t time to speak with 15 people. I also need to study to get the grades for this career choice. Plus, it would also be wasting their to ask them for information somebody already gave me. They are going to get mad at me.”

    3. Lenora Rose*

      Even if it’s just a dozen, that would be rather heavy. This seems a terrible way to go about it for *both* the would be mentors and the students.

    4. K*

      I bet the students are getting very few responses. All the alums probably assume someone else will do it and then no one does.

    5. Delta Delta*

      Lawyer here. I am not emailing Bertha. If Bertha wants to talk to me, it’s up to her to connect.

      Where are my fellow Deadheads also singing Bertha after reading this letter?

    6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I expect none of them will respond, because they’ll all be thinking wth just like OP!

  5. Megan*

    OP1, you are coming across super unhappy with your colleague’s wfh arrangements but it doesn’t sound like it’s impacting you in the slightest – you are coming across jealous and envious. I wonder if you’re unhappy in others ways and have latched onto this (perceived) injustice? You ask if its time to go to HR but you have no evidence HR aren’t aware of this arrangement, nor is it your position to report it to HR – that’s your bosses job.

    1. John Smith*

      We don’t actually know if it’s having an impact on LW, but it’s not being handled well otherwise there wouldn’t be grumbling.

      One of my colleagues gets to wfh an astonishing number of times given that his job mostly involves operating industrial machinery that cannot be taken home. The fact that he is so inept at his job is, of course, absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with why my manager lets him “wfh” rather than actually deal with his ineptitude.

      1. Kella*

        “it’s not being handled well otherwise there wouldn’t be grumbling.”

        This is incredibly not true. People will absolutely grumble about their coworkers who have perfectly legitimate medical reason to wfh that are not divulged to their coworkers (for obvious reasons), even if their absence doesn’t impact them. When you have chronic medical problems, a certain kind of person will always resent you for the “extra” resources you’re granted.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          We are a grumbly species.

          If anything, someone grumbling along about something that doesn’t affect them is proof that you have a group of humans and not chatbots.

          1. SarahKay*

            Oh, give it time. Chatbots already emulate all the bias they see out there; I can’t imagine it’ll be long before they start grumbling.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              We already have racist and romantically frustrated chatbots, so I assume we’re past that point already.

        2. Visually Impaired Guy*

          On rare occasions I have people tell me how lucky I am to have accommodations, while completely ignoring the fact that the reason that I need them is impacting my life negatively. Pointing this out doesn’t change their minds, they feel that I’m lucky to get technology that gives me the ability to work as effectively as they do, not better (even if they had this technology themselves they wouldn’t be able to work harder, yet they think it’s really neat). Thankfully none of them grumble, but I’m pretty confident that if my special tech was something that would be helpful to them then they would feel slighted.

            1. Non non non all the way home*

              It’s like the people who say “You’re so lucky!” because I lost 10 pounds when I couldn’t eat solid food for some time while curled up in bed in the fetal position in agonizing pain due to an intestinal issue.

              1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                yeah, same for me except it was my neck that was swollen so I couldn’t even swallow my own saliva. Eating a quarter of an individual pot of yoghurt or baby food took a good 20 minutes, by which time I was thoroughly sick of it even though I was still starving.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I think accommodations technology is really cool and I’m blown away by how skilled some users are. I’m not, like, jealous of a colleague’s screen reader, though. That would be super weird.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        I don’t think your first point is necessarily true. While there is no reason to assume this is true of the LW, there are people who grumble even about things that are handled well. Yesterday, I had a colleague grumbling about staff meetings having agendas, being used to get department planning done, etc, because he thought they should be an opportunity, “just to vent,” “for staff wellbeing.” He was also complaining that the principal shouldn’t be using the resource hours for resource because that would take up too many teachers and basically, he wanted them used to create more classes so the classes were smaller.

        There are some people who will grumble no matter how well handled things are. Now, it is quite possible this is being handled badly and the LW certainly sounds like a reasonable person, but the fact that people are grumbling is not, in itself, evidence that a decision is bad or poorly implemented.

      3. MK*

        Is anyone else grumbling other than OP? Though I partly agree, I think OP’s boss should have been more firm in telling him that their coworker has a wfh arrangement and shutting down his preoccupation with the matter.

      4. Anya Lastnerve*

        I get why a lot of commenters are saying this, but seeing the morale fallout at my extremely large company from return to office makes me more empathetic to LW1. Many people felt/feel that they performed well or very well while wfh during Covid and resent being told to go to the office. Many working moms continue to struggle with juggling sick kids, daycare drop off/pickup, etc. So I’m imagining a person who is very frustrated at a situation that is causing them angst and feels forced into an office to take all their meetings over zoom anyway while one coworker seems to be able to continue to wfh without all of this pressure.

        I don’t think management needs to address this coworker specifically but they should be clear on what types of situations they consider when granting remote work so everyone feels they are treated fairly. Otherwise, resentment will fester.

        1. MK*

          But that isn’t OP’s situation at all. They have only been at this job for 1,5 years, so they haven’t performed well during Covid and then asked to come back, at least not at this company. The accepted a job that was hybrid, knowing it was 3 days per week at the office; I don’t see how it is conceivably unfair for the company to stick to their original agreement, or why they owe OP an explanation why they are treating a long-tenure employee differently. To any reasonable person, it would be obvious.

        2. cardigarden*

          OP’s coworker has a negotiated accommodation, not a negotiated benefit, which means fairness to other coworkers isn’t relevant here. OP may not like it, but once “HR accommodations” is said, it very much becomes a MYOB situation.

          1. MK*

            Even if it was a negotiated benefit, I don’t think this is an issue for coworkers who were hired afterwards, knowing the schedule beforehand. If you have 5 people in a team, and one negotiates being fully remote, which limits the other four from doing much remote work, yes, fairness is an issue. But if you hire a person for a team with 1 fully remote and 3 hybrid workers, and specifically tell them their schedule will be hybrid, what complaint can they make? That the job can be done remotely? Lots of jobs can be done remote, but aren’t.

        3. Mind blowing Tuesday*

          LW1 knew their work hours/conditions when they accepted their job. Another coworker’s WFH agreement is absolutely none of their business. If they want to work from home then they request it or look for another job. And, similar to what a few other commenters have said, it absolutely boggles my mind that anyone could be resentful because another coworker gets to work from home because their spouse died!

        4. K*

          Do they *feel* they are just as effective at home than in the office or are they actually just as effective? I suspect it’s the former.

      5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        In the before-times, there were people at my workplace who seemed to spend more time logging other people’s hours than doing their own job, so I don’t agree about the grumbling bit. There are plenty of people who hunt for grievances like that’s their job.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Same. If people would spend more time with their eyes on their own work and less time tit-for-tatting what they perceive other people are getting that they don’t, they’d be a lot more productive and probably happier.

          I cannot and will not share the details of anyone else’s personnel situation. I can confirm I’m aware of and have a handle on the situation and don’t need anyone else policing their coworkers for me. My experience has also been that it’s never the high performers who are policing their coworkers.

      6. iglwif*

        it’s not being handled well otherwise there wouldn’t be grumbling.

        Well, that’s not true for a start!

        I mean, it may be true, but it’s equally likely that it’s being handled fine but people are grumbling anyway. Because some people are just Like That.

      7. Lenora Rose*

        It sounds like you’re projecting your own situation onto this – but in your situation, there is a demonstrable effect on work product. LW hasn’t indicated so, and was told this was an HR accommodation. Their assumption that the HR part is over and done with due to the coworker’s husband passing is based on incomplete information (I can think of two different situations in my recent experience where both partners in a situation have medical concerns that could warrant WFH if that was feasible.)

      8. Observer*

        We don’t actually know if it’s having an impact on LW, but it’s not being handled well otherwise there wouldn’t be grumbling.

        Well, we know that the LW took the trouble to write in and say that they have discussed it with their boss. And they also made it clear that no one is giving them any information but they are assuming that the original reason does not apply. But somehow, they can’t manage to articulate a single reason *why* they are frustrated or how it affects them. Which is a pretty strong argument for the idea that it actually is not affecting their ability to get their work done.

        On the other hand, there is not *general* “grumbling, jut the LW getting on their high horse. That *could* be because it’s not being handled well by management. But it’s far more likely that the poor handling is completely on the part of the LW, who is getting far too worked up over something that is really none of their business.

      9. HSE Compliance*

        I’m not going to jump in too badly here to continue to dump on the “grumbling” part of this – which I do disagree with – but I’ll share a story.

        We have an HSE event every year. We give out freebies, we get groups onsite for benefit discussions, work groups, etc. etc. Any employee can take part, but they don’t have to. Freebies have included t-shirts, lunch boxes, water bottles; groups have included blood drives, clinic staff, energy efficiency initiatives….

        There is always at least 5% of our staff that are incredibly vocal about how much we all suck. They didn’t like the shirt colors (our company colors…), they wanted a totally different random color. They wanted to know if we would be providing them a lunch to put in the lunch boxes (???). How dare we overstep and have clinic staff onsite to explain the services provided by the FREE employee clinic – what are we implying about their health???!

        Those 5% are exhausting.

        1. Quantum Possum*

          When he was mentoring me, my favorite boss ever used to (secretly) call those types of employees “life drainers.” He would let them vent their spleens for a while until he felt like he had about “15% life left,” and then the conversation was over. It became an inside joke when either of us needed to vent to each other – “I’m at 18%, you need to wrap it up.”

      10. Bitte Meddler*

        Please describe what “handling it well” would look like.

        Would it be going to HR, filling out all the paperwork for an accommodation, working with HR and your manager to negotiate an accommodation that works for both you and the company, and then getting that accommodation in writing? Because that’s what I think “handling it well” looks like.

        And yet…

        When I did that, I still had totally healthy, unencumbered co-workers complain about me “getting” to work from home.

        None of those people had lost two loved ones two months apart due to very violent, traumatic circumstances. None of them had family members who received life-altering diagnoses a month after the 2nd violent death. None of them were the sole caregiver to an elderly parent whose physical and mental health were declining because of the violent death of one of her children. None of them then received a life-altering diagnosis of their own five months after then 2nd violent death; a diagnosis that meant driving to a clinic once a week for treatments that left them very ill and weakened. None of them then had to have life-saving surgery followed by a different, more brutal, treatment protocol.

        But, yet, they were absolutely certain they were being denied a special perk that the “entitled lady” was getting.

        Those petty busybodies can eff all the way off, as can their defenders.

  6. Viette*

    OP2 – Alison may be onto something with the comment that your hatred of the phone is coloring you ability to figure out a good solution.

    Start from a place that accepts that Edwina is going to call you if she is your client. You clearly like her and would like to retain her. Talking for 10-20 minutes on a billable call is not by nature an onerous aspect of a freelancer’s job, I think.

    I talk on the phone a lot but am also sometimes absolutely not available to talk, or have quite limited time. Things I do:
    – Recognize that reasonable people who call people on the phone do NOT expect them to be 100% available just because it’s a phone call. You can tell Edwina knows this because she just leaves a voicemail message when you don’t pick up
    – Let it go to voicemail and make a note in pen on a piece of paper to follow it up. Your anxiety around forgetting a voicemail simply asks you to develop a system to remember it, as I’m sure you do other tasks for your projects
    – Tell the person calling me that I have about 5 minutes to talk. If they go on a tangent I interrupt and redirect them by paraphrasing what we’ve said so far and prompting their next question or thought
    – Talk to people when I’m in a good headspace with time to explore ideas verbally so that I get the most out of a call. Sometimes it’s a good way to discuss a project! The more you get out of each call the less you may hate them

    Exploring how phone communication works in a business context may help you shed your assumptions around phone contact being pushy and intrusive. She’s not screaming outside your window, she just prefers to express herself verbally as opposed to in written text.

    1. Smithy*

      Absolutely this.

      I am someone who has a “generalist” job where I often work with technical experts, so it’s regularly much easier for me to ask questions, clarify points, and figure out next steps via talking vs in writing. While I may be an “expert generalist”, it’s not uncommon for the questions I’m asking to be misunderstood. And I am experienced enough to know that these common misunderstandings can lead to either a lot of time/effort spent on the wrong work – or nothing being done because people are confused.

      All to say, that I push for meetings or calls even from people who say “I shared everything in the email” from a business need perspective. I do understand that some of those colleagues may see me as irritating or think it’s for irrelevant needs, but provided they take the call – I don’t need to change their attitude towards talking. So there may also be a plus side to just recognizing the business plus side, but still personally disliking the activity.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, the first thing I’d change would be to start charging for the phone calls, even for an initial project consultation. Then at least the LW would get paid for the phone calls.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I got stuck on that — why does it have to be non-billable? Would making it billable help? (Tho I suspect not. The issue is how LW wants to work.)

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I’m in a similar position to OP, except that I’m not grumbling. Clients that eat up more of my time than others, get billed more for the same output. It’s the “with a smile” part of “service with a smile”, and it’s not free of charge.

    3. Snow Globe*

      I think it would be very reasonable for the LW to suggest to Edwina that for new projects, she should send an email first to request a scheduled time for a call. That way the LW won’t be in the middle of another project and can focus on what information they will need to get from Edwina. And, yes, this should be billable.

    4. Quinalla*

      Agreed, I get it, I don’t like to talk on the phone either, but if you have to – set yourself up for success!

      I would try to direct her to do the initial reach out over email or through a webpage if you have one. Even if all she does is say “Hey, can you call me back about a new project?” then you can call her back. Also, you say you can’t charge for the phone call? Why not? If it is only 15-20 minutes, yeah I probably wouldn’t, but if it goes longer than that, you should charge for it if and when it turns into a project. No reason not to! Or raise your rates a bit to accommodate for it.

      If she won’t redirect to email, don’t answer if you are in the middle of something. Maybe make a reminder to check your messages later in the day when your phone rings or just have a daily reminder to check phone messages at X time. Then same thing, set up a phone meeting with her when it is convenient for you or call back immediately, either one.

      And even if she doesn’t really use email, you can still email her with all the details of the conversation for your records if that is how you like to refer to project details. Or just email yourself if she is going to be weird about getting an email. I would consider NOT using email for this and storing project details somewhere else, but if it works for you, well just use the same system for her too whether sending to her or to yourself. This is how I handle phone calls at my job is to document the conversation afterwards. Occasionally for CYA, but mostly because one or both of us will forget what we talked about!

  7. Gilgongo*

    I charged for phone calls when I was freelancing.
    Both because I HATE talking in the phone and because my clients (all men, for some reason) were lonely and chatty. (Like, 10 minutes discussing work & another hour telling me about their hobbies, etc…)

    Charging for phone calls cut the chattiness WAY down, but they were all pretty passive, aggressively bitter about it.

    I attract these guys, for some reason. When I was interviewing for a full-time position, when it was an older guy, I would inwardly roll my eyes because I knew I was in for 15 minutes of talking about the job & asking me questions…. And then 45 minutes of listening to him talk about woodworking or his favorite bands.

    1. Despachito*

      I cannot imagine a contractor not cutting me short if I went tangential with something that is not related to the subject matter. They would be very matter-of-fact, polite but firm about that.
      “Sorry but I must get going, is that all you wanted”? I get you cannot do that for an interview, but as a service provider, absolutely. To charge them for that was a very valid alternative, I doubt I would have the patience to listen to them.

  8. JSPA*

    LW5, you have already solved the problem “De Facto Assistant Director” and “during X month period following resignation of Assistant director, assumed essentially all aspects of their duties, including X (increasing X metric by 10%), Y (meeting benchmarks), and Z (including essential task 1, short term task 2, and long-range task 3), while continuing essential aspects of [actual job title].”

    1. Tinkerbell*

      I had to do this with a job in my early twenties – I was very proud to be the “acting manager” of my tiny bookstore (because the manager quit and the owners decided I was doing it well enough they didn’t want to hire another one). I didn’t get an official title change or a raise, I just got all the extra responsibility and blame. Twenty years later, I look back and I know that 42-year-old me wouldn’t stand for that, but I was still very much in my Hermione Granger phase at the time :-)

      Anyway, on subsequent job applications I couldn’t put “acting manager” even though that’s what I was – but I was able to emphasize my more manager-like duties (arranging scheduling for everyone, sorting out paychecks, conducting initial interviews with potential job applicants, etc.) in ways that made it clear I wasn’t just a generic retail worker. When I had actual interviews, I was able to explain the situation more!

    2. Quinalla*

      I was interim head of my office for a bit while we were in between heads (I did not want the job permanently, but was willing to step up temporarily) and on my resume I had it as a bullet under my job explaining how long and what I did. I was officially that, but I don’t think my title ever changed “in the system”, so I just listed that I was that as a bullet, for how long and brief description of what I did for that. That way I wasn’t claiming it as an official title, but it explained what happened.

      1. Antilles*

        Yeah, I think this is the way to do it. List it as a bullet with a description of what your role included, but don’t try to claim the title. That explains things and shows your duties, but without raising potential issues.
        Interestingly, this would be a concern even if the director wasn’t vindictive. He could be a perfectly pleasant guy and it could still be an issue; for all you know the reference check could go to HR rather than him and HR reports back your title as “bulldozer operator” rather than “office manager”.

      2. m2*

        I didn’t hire someone because they did this on their resume. Came back they exaggerated their title, so how can you trust someone after that? If they explained on they resume and in their interview, I would have understood, this stuff happens, but to put a false title on your resume is not good and makes me question your judgement elsewhere in your work.

        I also had to contact a former employee who put “Manager” in her title instead of “Coordinator.” She didn’t manage anyone or any project, but thought that looked better apparently. I got a reference call and the person was shocked. Then I saw it on LinkedIn and contacted the person to tell them not to falsify what they did and their title. I won’t be a reference for this person again.

        Not worth it.

      3. Imp*

        Agreed, I’ve done this too and I think it’s the best solution. I kept my official title and included a bullet along the lines of “While serving as interim lead llama groomer, introduced X new process, saved $Y, and achieved Z results.” Just describe what you actually did, and it will be impressive even if your title doesn’t match.

    3. ferrina*

      Exactly this.

      I literally did my department head’s job for over a year. We had a department head, they were just incompetent and refused to do their job, so I took over 80% of it (it was less painful than having it go undone).
      I never had a title change, so I put all the accomplishments under my official title (which was my title when I did the accomplishments). Employers immediately saw that I was performing higher level work, and I got hired in at the level for the work I was doing.

      It’s a common scenario- someone takes on higher level work, does a good job, but still doesn’t get promoted because [waves vaguely]. That person doesn’t get acknowledgement in their current company, so they look elsewhere. This is a normal reason to job search, and employers can usually recognize it on a resume.

    4. Yes And*

      I did exactly this in my last job search. I had been performing all the functions of, say, Director of Teapots for a portfolio of clients who had outsourced their teapot operations, but my title was much less impressive. I listed my real job title accurately, and then my first bullet point was “Served as de facto Director of Teapots for # organizations” etc. It had the double advantage of positioning me well to apply for the actual title of Director of Teapots at other organizations, and it also summed up what I was doing efficiently, which would have taken many more lines to itemize out on my resume. It worked out – I had many interviews, and finally got exactly the kind of job I was aiming for.

  9. JSPA*

    Trying again, un-nested:

    LW5, you have already solved the problem “De Facto Assistant Director” and “during X month period following resignation of Assistant director, assumed essentially all aspects of their duties, including X (increasing X metric by 10%), Y (meeting benchmarks), and Z (including essential task 1, short term task 2, and long-range task 3), while continuing essential aspects of [actual job title].”

    1. Elizabeth I*

      I second this – if you add in “de facto”, that indicates that your title never changed. So, if a reference checker calls your old boss, there won’t be any confusion about your official title.

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

      It doesn’t sound like there was the assistant director job title until later. That the boss just gave the OP those tasks but it was later that they decided they needed an actual role for this.
      Regardless, I think the OP could say something like “took on responsibilities that consisted of assistant director position including tasks, XYZ until permanent assistant director was hired.

    3. ArtsNerd*

      I handled it very similarly to this. First bullet was pointing out I was doing executive director level tasks, then the subsequent ones elaborated on both the successes I achieved in those areas and my regular work. As I got further away from that job I cut it down to just the first bullet.

      I do have to say, sticking to my official job title absolutely held me back (in combination with being a young-looking woman, I mean.) Across two subsequent jobs I worked as hard as I possibly could to build an impeccable reputation, extensive network and truly impressive portfolio of successes in a particular subspecialty of my field. But nope, potential employers had zero interest in me for anything but the parts of marketing I hated the most. It took putting “freelance [subspecialist]” at the top of my resume to start getting ANY bites on that work.

      I’m doing it in-house full time now, but it took a decade to get here. If I felt comfortable taking the risk of changing my job title, I probably could have started doing this work years ago for a company that doesn’t do a good job of checking references. But I’m a terrible liar even in the most benign scenarios; the guilt would have eaten me alive. My current employer would also 1000% rescind a job offer if they discovered any discrepancies in my application like that.

      And it’s a really good employer on the whole–the kind that sees the work you’re actually doing, cares about the kind of work you’d like to do, and supports you in moving into that work officially where possible.

  10. notthemomma*

    LW1, I had someone who died suddenly in late 2022. I still can’t go back into the office on a regular basis. Sure, I can for a day and appear fine, but I’m not. I still cry daily. I don’t know when I will fall apart. I don’t know how hard I will fall apart. I wish like hell I could be there and see the people I’ve worked with for over a decade. But I can’t. I miss out on the in-person work conversations, the social, the cake and treats; and now that my site is closing, the goodbyes. I want to be there. And yes, I’m in therapy, I’m on medications. And luckily, I can do my job remotely with a fair amount of time autonomy.

    While I hope your coworker is in a much better place than I, she is grieving and coming off a long bout of being a caregiver; that is rough. Thank goodness your workplace still knows the meaning of accommodations. If it is affecting your work, yes, discuss with your supervisor. If not, please allow others the grace you would hope to receive for yourself.

    1. Goldie*

      Sending support-I don’t think anyone can understand what it was like to go through all of that. It sounds really hard

    2. Harper the Other One*

      My husband is a minister and he almost always has to tell families that grief has no timeline – he makes a point to keep reaching out to the folks he serves six months, a year, and years later because he knows something will happen that makes it all feel raw again. I’m so sorry for your loss and hope you find a bit more peace soon.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        The minister at the funeral I went to yesterday said the same thing, and she encouraged everyone there to keep supporting the family in the coming weeks, months, and years.

    3. iglwif*

      I’m so sorry for your loss, notthemama. I’m glad you have therapy and a workplace that lets you do what you need to do to get through this.

    4. Generic Name*

      I am so sorry for what you’re going through, and thank you for pointing this out. The LW just quickly breezed over the fact that their coworker’s husband had been sick with cancer (so presumably a long illness as she was his caregiver), and has died. Reading the letter, I felt like there was an unspoken “she should be over her husband’s death by now”, and as you show, that’s not always what happens.

      1. Le Sigh*

        And if it was a short fight with cancer, that comes with it’s own challenges and trauma. Having watched this as a third party, I don’t think people realize what it is to nurse your partner through a devastating illness, lose them (and with it any future with them), and then have to pick up the pieces. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

    5. Former Retail Manager*

      Yes, I came to say that I suspect that the coworker in OP#1’s letter is likely experiencing what you are experiencing. (Sending good vibes & support). I have a coworker who lost a child unexpectedly about two years ago. She is also in therapy & on meds and it helps, a little, but being in office every day is just not doable for her. Even when working from home, she still has days when things just hit her, and she will abruptly take the rest of the day off without notice. Fortunately, our employer has been very accommodating. I hope these comments help OP view the situation through a different lens. Complex grief is exceptionally difficult and a lifelong struggle for some.

    6. Alpaca Bag*

      Hugs to you (((notthemomma))). I lost my kiddo in May of 2022 and also am not done healing. I never know when a grief-storm will roll in, and I don’t want my co-workers to think of me as the one who cries a lot. I want to be the clever and kind one who is doing better, and I can be that while I work from home. Your message fits well with my experience.

    7. I am a grieving widow*

      exactly this. AND the grief hangover. I have a bad day or bad evening and am wrecked and exhausted. I miss my work in the office, I miss my colleagues who I have worked with for over a decade. AND I miss me. The me I was before. I am grateful that I can work from home and do enough.

    8. WorkerAlias*

      Yes to everything you said. That first letter made me so angry. Grief is so terrible, so difficult, and so complex, and yes, being around other people and having to act normal is often incredibly difficult and sometimes impossible. I had a stillbirth this summer and could barely leave the house for months. When I did go back to work after a few months, being in the office even one day a week was really, really hard. Grief is also exhausting, so working from home most of the time allows me to conserve some energy and leave me functional enough to do things like care for my older kid. The letter writer comes off as incredibly self-centered and unempathetic– imagine criticizing someone who lost their husband less than a year ago, for something that has no impact on you whatsoever.

  11. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – I work with a number of different clients, and I always factor in client meetings, as well as travel time, into the project fees. There are some of my clients who I think I am more or less their work therapist, they spend so long talking about extraneous details, but as long as that time is paid for, then I don’t mind. My client meetings can go for over an hour for a project pickup, and at least a half hour for project updates – that’s standard for my line of work, and I charge for all of that. For a couple clients, I have what I call an “aggravation tax” – i.e. they can’t articulate what they want, I can’t read their minds, and time gets wasted until they manage to tell me what it is they actually need. That time gets billed into their projects. (I even arranged this with the admin assistant for one of my most challenging clients – the EA heartily endorsed the idea, because nobody else would work with this person. Turns out, they are one of my best clients. Took me a couple of years to get used to their communication style, but it was worth it – the individual is really a good person, just lousy at articulating what they need. It’s a win/win.

    1. Caliente Papillon*

      Ha I even feel like this doing non- freelance. There have been times I’ve been asked to do something dumb but guess what I get paid well, etc. If it were constant that would be a problem because I wasn’t hired for random tasks but can I do one from time to time, sure.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I was a freelancer. I also have a friend who loves to catch up and chat forever randomly, and I can’t do it. You are not going to get this person to switch to a written form, but you can definitely redirect her to scheduled calls. The model is, you are busy and when she drops a call out of the blue, that doesn’t get her need met. When she calls unexpectedly, do not pick up. Delete her messages without listening and email her to ask if she is free at 3PM or whenever is best for you. Even better, don’t have a machine so she can’t leave a long rambling message (if you’re unwilling to do this, set up one of those services that transcribes to email, and skim it). Explain that you are not available for unexpected calls because your time is being billed, but that you are always available to schedule a call for the same day or the next day if she shoots you an email. Make it easier for her to reach you this way and don’t reward random calls.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      This is my new go-to explanation for why software design projects are so tricky: “they can’t articulate what they want, I can’t read their minds, and time gets wasted until [I guess] what it is they actually need”.

      No, I’m not worried about ChatGPT taking my job and will laugh at anyone who thinks it can.

  12. JustAnotherTues*

    LW2, you can set up Voicemail Transcribe on your phone, so the transcribed voicemail is sent to your email. It may lower the hassle of checking audio voicemail for you.

    1. Batman*

      I was going to suggest this! I adore this function. Especially combined with telling Edwina to not leave details on your voicemail (but rather her own availability for a call that day or the next), I think it’d be a very workable solution that allows LW2 to maintain their focus without losing Edwina as a client.

    2. leeapeea*

      Came here to suggest this too! My work system automatically sends voicemails as emails along with the audio file (useful when translate garbles the message). I find it extremely useful to collaborate with colleagues by just forwarding the email, and it works better with my personal org style. I can also schedule a meeting to myself to return the call and the meeting will have the voicemail linked so I can speak to it. Maybe calling Edwina back in your own time and not feeling stressed and interrupted will help you feel less negative about your phone interactions with her? Best of luck!

  13. Ellen Ripley*

    LW1 is giving me the same vibes as that group of interns. There is probably a reason this person gets this accommodation, and it’s not your business. If you had an accomodation for a private medical issue would you want HR blabbing about it to everyone who asked? Probably not.

    If it’s affecting your work, focus on that. Or if you want to work from home some days and your job allows, ask your boss.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > If you had an accomodation for a private medical issue would you want HR blabbing about it to everyone who asked?

      I may be alone in this but if I was receiving what others would correctly perceive as “special treatment” I would have proactively talked to people, at least my own team-mates, myself (probably not with all the details, but enough). Perception of fairness and decisions having a rational basis behind them is important in a team.

      1. Scooter34*

        As someone who tried this I think you are underestimating some people’s capacity to feel aggrieved.

        Coworker owes LW nothing. This is a matter between coworker and corporation. “It’s not faaaaiiirrrr” is for playgrounds; adults focus on equity. Is LW getting what they need to do their job? If LW would like to work fully remotely than they should ask for that privilege and pursue a job that offers it if they are denied.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think you are underestimating some people’s capacity to feel aggrieved.
          It’s like we took the general feeling from out fellow social mammals, and used language to develop it into an art form.

        2. RVA Cat*

          It’s surprising how much the Fair Fairy’s meltdown in Dog Man: Fetch-22 is applicable to adult life. Today’s kids get to learn early that whining “it’s not faaaaaiiiiirrrr” leads to “YOU GET NOTHING!”

      2. Greta Gerwog*

        But this person already had this schedule when OP was hired. They should not then have to go to this new employee and explain, “BTW, I have this accommodation because…” your point *might* make sense if someone is on an existing team and wants to explain an upcoming change, but it’s still not something I would do. I owe other employees zero information about my cancer diagnosis and autoimmune disease. It’s the managers job to state simply that it’s an accommodation and it’s not up for discussion. The only thing OP has the right to raise is any impact to their work, but it sounds like OP is just indignant that they have to come in and a coworker doesn’t.

        1. allathian*

          I strongly suspect that the accommodation is necessary for the coworker to be able to work at all. I’m *certain* that the coworker considers full-time WFH no consolation for losing their spouse to cancer. Given the choice, I’m sure that they’d vastly prefer having their healthy spouse back even if they had to come in 3 days a week.

          Some days I just can’t with some people…

          1. I Have RBF*

            I work full time remote. The jobs I can reasonably take because I need to work remote are limited. Why do I need to work remote? Lots of reasons – IBS-D, migraines, the fact that my roomies are immune compromised, and the fact that now my spouse has cancer.

            I’m lucky my team is geographically dispersed. Yes, I’ve been pretty open with them on the basics what’s going on with my spouse, because I have to be out of the office at least once a week to drive her to medical appointments (the medics don’t want them driving because it often involves sedation.) They’ve all been supportive, and I haven’t allowed it to affect my work.

            But she (pronouns are she/they, so I alternate) gave me permission to share their medical situation where I felt appropriate. Yes, I explicitly asked, and would have been more vague if she wanted me to.

            But the reason I need remote work is not my spouse’s medical condition, it’s mine. Remote work makes life much more manageable when you have IBS-D, especially when stress can trigger a flare-up.

      3. Anon for this one*

        I didn’t, when I was immunocompromised due to chemo and had an exemption to WFH full time. Because I didn’t want to make it all about me, or have my coworkers know the details of my medical issues. I had a medical reason and that’s all they needed to know. (For me, telling people I had cancer was also INCREDIBLY difficult.)

        1. Mine Own Telemachus*


          I have a coworker on medical leave right now. I have no information about what’s going on because it’s none of my business. Simple as that. We have a good relationship, so I sent her a note of well wishes, and I will see her when she returns. That’s it.

      4. Slartibartfast*

        But that’s your information to disseminate and your decision to make, not HR’s to do it for you

      5. Irish Teacher.*

        I don’t think you are alone in it, but I do think it depends on a whole load of factors, such as the reason for the accommodation (caring for her husband is one that is less likely to damage her career than something like mental health issues, even if those were caused by the grief or care-giving), how supportive or otherwise the workplace is (in some workplaces, it would not be a good idea to divulge too much, due to bullying or other issues) and the person’s personality and how happy they are to have people knowing their personal business.

        Neither choice is better or worse and what is right for one person in one situation may be wrong for another in a different situation.

      6. Jezebella*

        You may not be alone in this, but a lot of people really, really, REALLY do not want to have to explain their reasons to the whole office. This stuff is personal and confidential for a reason. Remember the LW who was assaulted, came back to work with black eyes, and the whole office harassed her for details until she had a meltdown?

        Sometimes being proactive like you describe just opens the door for people to get more in your business. Sometimes being a good team member means minding your own damn business. “Teams” need to decide they can work with people without knowing every details of their coworkers’ lives. Nosiness in the name of “teamwork” is obnoxious.

      7. Kel*

        I’m glad you feel comfortable doing that, some of us don’t and we shouldn’t have to. It is not my job to manage your feelings about my accommodation.

      8. Quantum Possum*

        As someone who’s on ADA accommodations, I have never felt the need to let my coworkers know the details of my disability or accommodations. Similarly, I wouldn’t dream of asking someone who wasn’t my direct report to explain their accommodations to me.

        If someone thinks it’s unfair, then that’s a “them” problem, not a “me” problem. And my side has the law on it.

      9. Lenora Rose*

        Maybe, but other people prefer to have their managers handle that sort of difficult conversation, and in this case the manager already said to OP that it was an HR accommodation, so it was addressed. They just don’t like the answer.

      10. Observer*

        I may be alone in this but if I was receiving what others would correctly perceive as “special treatment” I would have proactively talked to people, at least my own team-mates, myself

        That’s not really relevant, though. If you are more comfortable doing that, then you do you. But not everyone is comfortable, and they should not have to.

        Beyond that, there are many reasons why someone would hesitate beyond just wanting to maintain their own privacy. That includes people who decide that the reason is “not good enough”, people who use the information to cross other boundaries or discriminate, or the need to protect someone else’s privacy.

        Say Jane has an accommodation in order to help care for a child with mental health challenges. Explaining this to her team means that she is now discussing someone else’s mental health with her team. Not ok! Or Sam’s dad has prostate cancer and he’s helping to deal with the fallout. Again explaining this to the team means discussing his father’s health. Again, Not ok!

        The bottom line is that it really is not ok to pressure people into sharing this stuff, and HR is 100% correct in not sharing it.

      11. Le Sigh*

        In my experience, there are, broadly speaking, two people in this scenario: 1) people who know this isn’t their business and respect their coworkers’ privacy, and 2) people who treat other people’s privacy as a personal affront to their right to know everything and/or the need for them to feel that everything is “fair.” Being proactive and sharing info seems to have no effect on either group — the people in #1 continue to respect your privacy, and the people in #2 take this as an invitation to interrogate you about the legitimacy of your need/illness/accommodation, what your treatment plan is and have you tried this, or this, or this, etc., or tell you how “lucky” you are to get to work from home (or…to my relative, to lose weight so easily while dealing with cancer…). The people in my life who deal with this have found the only effective way to deal with this is to shut it down and refuse to engage. Otherwise they find themselves having to constantly justify their own existence.

      12. Ember*

        I proactively talked to a new hire who got assigned to the cube next to me about the high-risk diagnoses of someone in my household (with the sick person’s permission, and at my manager’s suggestion that I “share more”).
        New coworker said, “So would you like me to wear a mask?”
        I said, “Yes, I would.”
        They said, “Well, I’m not going to.”
        Do you think I will ever have a warm relationship with this person? Sharing doesn’t always lead to caring.

      13. I am a grieving widow*

        “I may be alone in this but if I was receiving what others would correctly perceive as “special treatment” I would have proactively talked to people, at least my own team-mates, myself (probably not with all the details, but enough)”

        Absolutely not.

      14. MCMonkeyBean*

        Absolutely not! I am WFH full time as a medical accommodation and I would never tell my coworkers the details. I did tell my manager, but honestly I didn’t even have to do that. I only needed to tell HR, they reached out to my manager to ask whether the accommodation I was requesting would be a “hardship,” and when she said no then it was approved in the system.

        If my teammates want to advocate for themselves that is their own business. I believe one other person on my team is also WFH full time and I do not know nor would I ever expect to know why.

    2. No name Username*

      Yes – I immediately thought of the intern dress code column when I read the letter.

      LW it’s none of your business why your coworker is working remotely. If their absence is affecting your work then you can talk to your boss. But I think that’s highly unlikely as your letter made no mention of work problems.

      Your boss has told you it’s approved and VP is aware and doesn’t have a problem. But you still want to raise it with HR? I hope you do, especially be sure to tell them that you are asking because you know “it’s almost a year since her husband died”.

  14. Work smarter not harder*

    OP1, if I were you, I’d be using this to make my own case for why I should be WFH as well, not trying to have your colleague’s WFH arrangement, which is none of your business, revoked. Perhaps you could make a friend of this colleague, and any information she gives you about her WFH arrangement may help you build your own case for why you (and perhaps others) should also be able to WFH more often.

    1. MK*

      There is zero indication in the letter that OP wants to work from home. This seems to be solely about the coworker’s schedule being unfair.

      1. Techie Boss*

        I know LW didn’t specifically say this, but this is one interpretation of the frustration about the situation. If their boss is reasonably good, this would be a great conversation to have if the LW’s desire to work from home is the driving factor of the frustration. Not with the coworker, but with the manager so that the manager can address the reasons that some folks are required to be in the office and others are not.

    2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      Oh, no no no no no. Befriending someone just to worm information out of them that is nobody’s business, just to benefit the LW? The WFH person would, I hope, have every right to report LW to HR for doing something that slimy.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, that would ruin the OP’s relationship with that colleague and everyone else who heard about it.

    3. Random Dice*

      “Hi grieving coworker, so… why do you get to work from home, you lucky duck? Your husband is dead, I’m assuming that’s why you got this perk, you lucky lucky thing. I think you should work from the office instead now that he’s super dead.”


    4. Pummeled by PowerPoint*

      I disagree. It doesn’t matter why the colleague has an accommodation. If LW1 has a reason they should have an accommodation of their own, it still has nothing to do with their colleague. Accommodation situations are unique and I don’t think using someone else’s situation as precedent is a good idea. LW1 isn’t owed the facts of the matter and as many have said, it’s none of their business.

      and making friends with the colleague just to get the information…that’s just icky.

  15. Oh, just me again!*

    Op 5, would you feel comfortable putting your actual job title as the paragraph heading (with overall dates) and then, within the paragraph include that you “acted as de facto interim assistant director” from date to date, doing x, y and z? And list the other accomplishments/experience while working under that title as well? I love the way you described it here: “de facto” says it was unofficial, but you sneak it in anyway.

    1. Guy Incognito*

      This is what I do. An early and very formative role I held was as a government contractor and my official title was something nebulous like “Science Researcher” but I was really acting as a Chief of Staff for a respected government employee title like Llama Herder. So me resume has my odd official title, but the first bullet is “Acted as Chief of Staff to Llama Herder” then listed all the duties I had that supported that claim.

  16. Ellis Bell*

    Sounds like Allan is not too well trained on safeguarding. I know how difficult it can be to get teenagers some good quality work experience but it’s so much safer if they’re the ones doing the approaches. He’s basically ringing a dinner bell for anyone interested in exploitation.

    1. Georgia*

      Yes, as someone whose org (in the UK) specialises in facilitating mentoring between adult volunteers and young people, I was completely shocked by this. Our mentors have to go through rigorous training and vetting before they are matched with a young person. I cannot ever imagine a teacher inviting direct contact like this.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes this jumped out to me. I’m not accusing OP in any way as I’m sure they are genuine, but this is a group of 50 basically unknown people, being sent the email addresses of high school students… The interesting thing about that is that the email addresses (of the potential mentors) used to be visible to everyone, but then it was switched to put them in the bcc field where they are not shown to other recipients. Had someone complained about their email address being circulated like this? Maybe or maybe not, but the solution isn’t to distribute the high school student’s email address to all these people instead! I wonder if the parents and guardians know this is happening (and whoever is responsible for safeguarding at the school- I think Allan has gone a bit rogue here).

    3. Em*

      Yeah, my guess is Allan has never had to network. A decent percentage of folks working in public schools started there the second they graduated and are while they’re experienced with how things operate in the bubble of public school, they’re not in the wider professional world. My brother returned to school to be a teacher after working as a corporate manager, and he said there’s a lot of people who have no clue how the “real world” works (ironically, because these are the same teachers who try to scare kids with statements about how they’ll need to know xyz in the ‘real world’)

      1. bamcheeks*

        I don’t think this is a “not knowing how to network” thing– teachers network just like any other profession, and the idea that it’s “not the real world” is a kind of a condescending way to talk about teachers IMO! There are certain things teachers don’t need to know, just like there are certain things that accountants don’t need to know, but one isn’t more “real” than another. But teaching young people how to network and organising networking events is a different skill, and being good at networking yourself as a professional adult doesn’t necessarily help. I think the problem is probably that the school isn’t investing in proper careers support– they’ve either given it to a full-time teacher to do on top of their day job, or they’ve hired someone very junior or inexperienced in this type of work on the assumption that anyone can do it.

      2. LW3*

        LW3 here. Beats me if Allan ever had to network before, but I will say, Allan is in charge of this entire career/networking/mentoring website, which sure seems like it had a lot of effort put into it! It is a pretty nifty website. So I’m totally flummoxed that the school would put the effort into this program and hire someone who didn’t have experience. So I’m not really willing to chalk this up to little experience.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I’m not clear on what the website actually does if Allan is sending out emails outside of it, though! There are a few different software options to manage mentoring which will create profiles, allow people to contact each other or facilitate matching, prompt you to set goals and record meetings, generate reminders if people haven’t been in touch and so on. But it sounds like the mentoring is happening outside the website itself, so is it just a careers resource site?

          Maybe Allan was hired for his web design or development skills and not as a teacher or careers practitioner, though!

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this whole thing arose from “Networking is important.” “How do you network?” “Inheriting your parents’ network is a good start.” “What if the kid’s parent doesn’t have a network?” “Poor planning not to be born into these things.”

        That is, we REALLY emphasize networking to young people. Like, as 19 year olds or 15 year olds, they should be connected to people who can help them achieve the next step in any career path of interest. (Rather than as something that will naturally grow over the course of life, and you can do things to help or hinder that. One of my young relatives left college to do performing arts for a while, and going back in after a decade now had college friends in a position to give just that sort of help to a new graduate in their field. But when everyone was 19 this wasn’t true.

        I empathize with Allan and the school for not actually having a good answer, but trying to do this thing everyone keeps insisting is important. OP is absolutely allowed to just drop out; and even a well-run program like AAM describes is perhaps not going to be well suited to high schoolers. But I get where the impetus arose.

        1. bamcheeks*

          There are quite a lot of good answers, though– for this age group, a careers fair or a panel where students can submit questions in advance or some other structured activity can work well, and don’t raise nearly as many risks. If you want to have one-to-one mentoring relationships, there should be way more background checks on the mentors, a matching process, training for both mentors and mentees, and a lot more structure in terms of how they communicate and if/where/how often they meet. There is a very well-established good practice on this kind of stuff!

      4. MsSolo (UK)*

        But even if he never had to network you’d really hope he’s done some training on safeguarding, working with minors, and would understand why sending out teenagers’ email addresses to unvetted strangers to encourage them to get in touch with minimal oversight might be problematic!

      5. Ellis Bell*

        I’ve worked as nothing a journalist and a teacher, and this is more someone just not trained in a key.teacher.skill. (I would never criticize someone for not knowing how other industries work!) Our safeguarding training is repetitive and frequent and we have to sign off what we’ve been told in ink, that’s how much more important it is than networking. Also, while Allan is clearly a really a poor networker, most teachers get their jobs via networking. Interviews are all day affairs with a decision needed that day if you’re offered it; you need inside information in order to get a decent job. Also, you’ve accidentally stumbled on a pet hate of mine, because I still work in the “real world”, just because I’m in a school doesn’t mean I’m still .at. school. I’ve dealt with a starving child, an abused child and a student’s panic attacks this week. You don’t get more real world than that. When I was still bragging about my “real world” experience, it was only because my teaching experience was still in the shallow end.

    4. Quantum Possum*

      I agree, someone needs to put a wrench in Allan.

      Bad puns aside… You bring up a very good point that he’s not only inconveniencing potential mentors but also basically throwing these teenagers to the wolves. They could be exploited. They could make huge fools of themselves – because no one took the time to give them any training or preparation – which would turn into Anti-Networking. At best, they just won’t get much from the experience except frustration.

      Allan needs to stop, sit down, and rework the program, preferably with input from trusted mentors.

    5. F as in Frank*

      LW3: Please contact the high school principal about the safety aspect of this.

      I coach youth soccer for my kids outside of work and I was horrified by the lack of safeguards for the students described in your letter. In order to volunteer as a coach for underage players, I am required to have a criminal record check and take a lot of annual training. Good practice (and a requirement by the national organization that my club reports to), includes ensuring that an adult in a position of influence (e.g., mentor, coach) is not alone with a player. This includes not having direct, unsupervised conversations via email or social media.

      As an example, recently, a player on my team asked if I could connect him with a professional soccer player for a school project. I reached out to an individual in my network (of other coaches at my club). He was happy to help out provided that I be copied on all emails between him and the player on my team.

      Allan should have a better system to protect these young people.

  17. eatmorepita*

    “The duties for this position were so different from my regular job duties that it doesn’t really make sense to lump them together on my resume — imagine being an office manager for a construction company versus operating the bulldozer.”

    Okay. I’m imagining that. If that were the case, I would put my true job title, instead of one I made-up, and list all my job duties.

    What was this analogy supposed to prove? Weird.

    1. Orv*

      Where I work nearly everyone uses “made up” working titles because our real titles are job classifications that don’t say much about what we do, e.g. “Information Technology Specialist III”.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I thought that part was fairly clear as an analogy – someone is employed as a bulldozer operator, but also has to do essentially an Office Manager role due to short staffing or whatever. The two roles are so different in duties that it doesn’t make sense to lump them together on a resume.

      1. Also-ADHD*

        You could still create a section that isn’t the title and list the duties, saying during the X month/year period, you did X, Y, Z. Lots of people are in this sort of situation so it’s not that wild. Changing the official title when it didn’t is too much.

      2. Maggie*

        I don’t even understand what LW1’s problem is. They come off sounding extremely immature, I hope if they do decide to talk to HR that they come up with the actual problem first because the only problem apparent right now is that they don’t know how to mind their business.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      I think the point is that they felt they had to give further context as it made little sense without some reference to the actual job they were doing.

      To use their example:
      2015-2023: Bulldozer Operator.
      My duties included driving the bulldozer, ordering supplies, overseeing the work of the office staff, overseeing the accounts…”

      That doesn’t make much seen when phrased like that, so they are wondering if they should make some reference to the fact that they were basically acting as office manager.

      1. Dahlia*

        Or the other way around!!

        2015-2023: Office Manager

        Duties include organizing supplies, overseeing the work of the office staff, and driving a bulldozer

        That would, ah. Raise some questions.

    4. Heather*

      It illustrates (quite clearly) that it would be a lot less confusing to list the two positions separately on a resume than to mix them together. and I think it’s a perfectly valid question. The LW did the job for three years and is looking for the best way to demonstrate that. There is no need to jump down their throat and essentially accuse them of lying.

      1. Heather*

        …meant to add, I would have thought listing “acting manager” would be fine since the “acting” shows it’s not the official title, but someone else suggested “de facto” which probably works better.

    5. Friendo*

      You don’t think it would be a bit strange to see a resume that’s like:

      Bulldoze Driver:
      -Scheduled meetings for a team of 30 people.
      -Managed incoming calls


  18. Oh, just me again!*

    OP3, did the program director actually use the word “them” saying reach out “to them”? Because I think maybe he was instructing “Bertha” to reach out to you all, rather than the other way around, and just giving you a heads up that you might be hearing from her? That would be less creepy, less demanding etc. The wording is ambiguous (poor) and it’s possible, of course, that “Bertha” is a person who uses they/them pronouns, but if you take that plural literally, I don’t think they are making outrageous demands.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Bertha cannot reach out to the mentors, because they are in the bcc field and their email addresses won’t be visible to Bertha. (They were visible in the original email, but OP says this has changed so that they are now in the bcc, but it seems the format of the emails otherwise hasn’t changed). So now, ‘Bertha’ cannot see the mentors’ emails but the mentors can see Bertha’s.

  19. Jade*

    OP 1: it’s not your job to police who is coming into the office. It’s your employers. If it is not directly affecting you, accept it.

    1. JustaTech*

      Yes! Because not only it is not your job, it will not create a good impression of you with your other coworkers.

      I had a coworker who was endlessly frustrated and annoyed with our coworker who worked a later-shifted schedule. Once, this had impacted her work (he missed a thing that I ended up stepping in for), and ever after she just could not stop grousing about how he was never in the office and must not work at all.

      One day I was just done with her complaining and said “You know he stays until like 7, right?” “He does? Oh.”
      I found the complaining kind of annoying, but I was kind of astonished that she had never considered that he was just working a later schedule, rather than only a couple of hours, especially given that *she* worked a shifted schedule (early rather than late).

      OP1, your complaining is likely creating a negative impression of *you*, and not your WFH colleague, with your coworkers.

  20. Oh, just me again!*

    And finally, OP 2, just grow up a bit and get comfortable with the telephone! I remember being in my 20s and early 30s and being uncomfortable talking to strangers on the phone (or anyone, really) but you know what? I got over it! You can too!

    It’s so much quicker and easier to invest a little back and forth, listen to tone and hesitation, know where you can lead and where to follow the clients lead, iron out wrinkles and clarify issues BEFORE they become a corrections or adjustments to the first draft, which take a lot more of a freelancers time.

    And 10 to 15 minutes – it takes me that long to compose a coherent email! Isn’t it worth it to let your client know your a nice guy and that you value her business?

    1. Oh, just me again!*

      Can’t you set badges on you phone app to remind you that you have a missed call? And just call back and say you didn’t listen to her message because you wanted to get back to her “right away”. She’ll be ok with that!

    2. Orv*

      The problem, IMHO, is once you finish the call you have to compose an email summarizing all the points so that it’s in writing. So it’s a lot of extra work.

      1. Snow Globe*

        But email-only often results in a lot more back and forth to clarify things, which is also a lot of work. I don’t think either is necessarily best all the time, but there are good reasons for each.

        1. Orv*

          I think this varies. I have a much easier time making myself clear in email, especially about detailed technical topics. Plus I can stop and look things up when composing an email, which would be rude on the phone. I end up focusing so much on my tone of voice and not leaving too much silence that I find it hard to think.

    3. Kella*

      It took me until my 30’s to recognize that my aversion to the phone was not a result of immaturity or irresponsibility but because my brain really struggles to process hearing words when there is any kind of sound interference, which there always is over the phone. It also affects me when someone talks to me from another room or when there’s a podcast playing in the background or if someone has an accent I’m unfamiliar with. I have to spend a lot of brainpower to understand, if I can at all.

      Once, someone called me about a piece of legislation that was up for vote and asked me if I was familiar with it. Wanting to be a responsible citizen I said no and asked for more info. He spoke clearly and at a reasonable speed and I could not parse ANY of it. When he was done, I had no idea what the legislation was or how I would vote on it. My struggle to understand the words was compounded with my general anxiety which makes problem-solving or making decisions over the phone very difficult.

      But because I know that about myself, I’ve found ways to work around that. I communicate via text-based methods as often as I can. I write myself scripts for when I need to make challenging phone calls. I don’t expect myself to make phone calls on low-resource days and treat it as a hard task rather than as a task that “should” be easy. And if something is highly time-sensitive and I cannot handle a phone call, I ask someone for help.

      OP can decide whether she wants to find adaptations that allow her to further reduce the time she spends on the phone or whether she wants to accept the resource loss that phone calls cost her in order to keep this good client. “Getting over it” may or may not be an option.

    4. WS*

      Easier for some people, definitely not easier for everybody. The “just grow up” is pretty harsh and unjustified – if they don’t have a lot of phone experience, “practise it” would be better advice. I’m in my 40s and I hate talking on the phone, and I find it much easier when I’m following a “script” of sorts. This kind of long back and forth sounds awful to me, and I don’t even have any relevant disability, which plenty of people do.

      1. ecnaseener*

        +1. Phone anxiety is a real thing, or rather several different real things – it’s not always the same root anxiety but it’s not about “just growing up,” and I say that as someone who did overcome my phone anxiety with practice! Being told to just grow up would not have helped, being gentle with myself and giving myself time to prepare for calls did help.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          Thank you. I developed a phone aversion after working at a job in a call center. It’s not about growing up; it’s because my brain now associates the phone with stress and it’s trying to protect me.

      2. Awkwardness*

        Yes, it is a bit harsh. I think some of the reasons LW2 listed are quite fair. I get that it is easier to schedule calls and prepare beforehand than sitting there in surprise not remembering what the client specified. I also get that out is annoying to take care of a call unrelated to the project you are trying to focus on.
        I think it cannot be avoided to take calls at all. But there are some possibilities to ease the process. Just try what works for you!
        1) You can set up your phone so it shows missed calls or sends messages if calls went to your mailbox.
        2) Set yourself a reminder in your phone with the name of the person to call.
        3) Block 30 min two times a week to handle these calls. If it can be done en masse you might not feel so much interruption.
        4) If they go off on unrelated topics, feel free to point out your schedule. If you actually have other calls scheduled, it might feel less rude to you to stop them.

      3. Sparkle llama*

        Agreed! I used to be very anxious about phone calls but after having a job that involved answering 5+ calls a day I no longer have an issue. My partner rarely has to take calls and experiences sheer panic when his phone rings. It sounds like LW is only dealing with calls from one client so it is hard to get into the rhythm and get used to it.

        One thing I tell people when training people who are not used to taking phone calls is to say I don’t know and tell them you will call back. I think there is a feeling of being pressured when having a conversation in real time that can be tough if you tend to want to think things through before responding.

    5. Lily Potter*

      Re letter 3 (high school mentorship program) in addition to the concerns cited by the OP, I see a big hole in the mechanics of the mentorship program. High schoolers are not email people! I know quite a few – and the only way to get them to open an email is to text them and tell them they have a message. Similarly, we had a youth outreach director at church that failed spectacularly in part because they refused to use text as a communications method. Allen may not have their phone numbers on file, but I’m quite sure students will share them if it means not having to deal with email! Allen is doing what is easiest for Allen, not what will actually yield results.

      Likewise, re LW2 and their dislike of phone calls – suck it up, buttercup. Just because email is easier for you doesn’t mean it’s easier for your client. Talking on the phone is what works for the client and the client’s needs trump your preferences. Meet their needs or release them to someone who can.

    6. Also-ADHD*

      It is extra time LW can’t bill for (that should change) too, so is essentially free work LW doesn’t enjoy. I think framing it as “growing up” is ridiculous. If LW is busy and in demand and good at what they do, and they’re willing to lose work if needed, then setting boundaries on what you want to do isn’t “juvenile”. I would say asserting one’s self is plenty grown up. Yes, it might take the other person the same time to compose their email, but it may not take LW the time or cause the interruption. Freelancers can determine their workflow and client requirements and wanting a written paper trail for work is pretty normal as well.

    7. Yup!*

      I find the “just grow up” angle here particularly ironic, as younger generations are no longer using the phone for the most part and communicating in ways that are more streamlined, less disruptive, leave a written trace (so people can agree on details in writing and not rely on memory), and overall better suited to the modern workforce/place. It’s less “grow up” that people need to “catch up” to where communication is going (by not wasting precious energy, time, resources, etc. on phone calls that could have been an email; there’s a reason that meme is so popular!).

      Also “nice guy” is an assumption that someone writing in is male, which is really problematic to me and part of the overall issue with this response. We no longer default to “he” because it’s 2024.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        “more streamlined, less disruptive” for them. The problem with this debate is that both sides feel they are superior, often for the exact same reasons. Some people find it easier to ignore a phone call and let it go to voicemail, as opposed to a text or message.

      2. Seashell*

        Also, men who are very insistent that they’re “nice guys” tend not to be.

        I would rather work with a freelancer who shows me that they’re professional and polite instead of nice.

    8. Kel*

      Hey, ‘just grow up a bit’ isn’t fair. Some people have legit reasons they can’t use the phone, whether that’s anxiety or auditory processing.

  21. Daffodil*

    LW1, unless your employer is being unfair as in refusing you accomodations, while allowing them to others, you should let this go.
    There is a difference between equality and equity. Not everybody has the same needs, personal situations are different from one person to another. As long as you can ask for accomodations when needed, there’s no problem here.

  22. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 What is upsetting you about her accommodation?

    If you want to wfh too, then request this.
    If it is hindering your work, then ask your manager how to help this.

    If it’s just annoyance that she gets a perk you don’t, then stop.
    With an accommodation you don’t know what it was for or why it has been continued. You do know the details should remain private.

  23. Keep quiet*

    I disagree with the answer to #4

    I wouldn’t tell an interviewer you’re planning to retire in two years. That’s information that can only downgrade your chances of being offered the position, so why do that to yourself?

    Anyone can move on in two years … or two months! It’s not relevant information for the interviewer to know (noting Alison’s caveats of a role that is requiring long-term stability), so don’t tell them.

      1. CB212*

        When I first read this column, that answer started with a “Yes” and it wasn’t clear if it was to “is it ethical” or (as I also originally read it) to the lead question, “do I need to disclose”. That’s been removed now and the dit may have happened while this poster had the original version loaded.

    1. ferrina*

      I think you may have misread something. Alison said not to tell the interviewer about retirement plans. Y’all are already on the same page.

      I also agree- you don’t need to disclose your longer term plans to an interviewer. My rule of thumb is to calculate the time to truly onboard (not just orientation, but really understanding the role) then multiply by 3. In my field, to truly get acquainted with the nuances can take up to 6 months, and it’s expected people will stick around at least a year and a half. Obviously we prefer that folks stick around longer, but you won’t burn bridges if you leave after 18 months. Usual caveat about job hopping- if employers see a series of 1.5-2 year stints on your resume, they’ll assume you’ll do the same to them and some employers would not be interested in that (though that’s not an issue for this LW).

      Besides, a lot can change in 2 years. You could win the lottery and retire early. You could really love the job and want to retire later. The economy could change. No need to give an end date and not be able to take it back.

  24. Alex Rider*

    #1 as Alison said if it’s not causing you more work let it go. There is no HR complaint. If you had an accommodation that was medical would you like everyone to know? I would assume not. Keep doing your job and don’t worry about what your coworker is doing.

  25. bamcheeks*

    LW3, your instincts are correct: Allan has no idea how to run a mentoring programme and this is a nightmare. As well as the safeguarding issues, high school students just aren’t equipped to handle this kind of completely unstructured “mentoring” and either nothing is going to happen OR they’re going to have some major problems with some poor mentor getting dozens of inappropriately aggressive and demanding emails from teenagers or, worse, some mentor taking the opportunity to harass or groom a teenager.

    I’ve been involved in several mentoring projects with undergraduates, and they are a LOT of work. Setting expectations with mentors, setting expectations with mentees, providing a structure for the relationship, chasing up mentees and mentors who don’t get in touch, dealing with complaints like, “I didn’t mean anyone who works in fashion journalism, I said specifically someone who works at Vogue!”, dealing with the small minority who decide it’s a romantic opportunity, etc etc. It’s super fraught even with undergraduates who are technically adults and for whom the safeguarding responsibilities are consequently much less robust. A much more sensible option for the high school cohort would be a careers day or a networking event where kids get to ask you questions, but, here we are.

    You shouldn’t feel bad about declining to participate, and I would say there’s a case for making your concerns clear to Allan. If it was just “horribly organised”, I’d stop there, but given the safeguarding issues I would definitely consider going over his head to a more senior teacher or a governor. I don’t think there’s any kind of obligation on you to do that, but I don’t think it would be an overstep because the risks here are pretty high.

  26. Ivana Tinkle*

    I’ve been on the other side of letter 1 and it’s not pleasant! Last year I had an accommodation where I didn’t go into the office at all for over 6 months due to an incredibly painful medical condition involving my eyes, which was exacerbated by aircon. The company was great about it and insisted that I WFH full time rather than coming in 1-2 days a week. However, some individuals made me feel awful with their passive aggressive comments about ‘how nice it is to be the favourite and get away with never coming in’ or asking me how to ‘play the system’ so they could do it too. Stop being an arse about other people’s accommodations and take it at face value that there’s probably a very good and private reason why, that is none of your business!

    1. Gigi*

      Ugh. What is wrong with people?? I received an accommodation for a health issue and get business class for overseas travel. I’ve started answering people who say something like “ohhh, business class, must be nice” with “Yes! And all it took was a degenerative disease! Lucky me.”

    2. Random Dice*

      I have been fortunate not to work with a-holes like that. I have been working remotely since well before the pandemic, due to disability. If I could magically trade WFH in order not to have a disability, I’d be in the office every dang day.

      Fortunately my coworkers aren’t jerks like LW1.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      Long time ago but when I was in high school I had severe depression and was on medication that made me tired so I often got to school late. Some days I came in part way through first period. The school gave me an exemption from tardiness and absenteeism rules or else I probably wouldn’t have finished the year. The teachers didn’t question it or harass me, even the first period math teacher (I felt terribly having missed so much but I did reasonably well in his class, and all my classes despite missing a fairly significant amount of time, which is probably part of why the accommodation happened). Some of my classmates however, told me they were “determined” to figure out why I got to come in late and not get in trouble. Since their behavior was part of why I was so miserable (I wasn’t bullied exactly but I didn’t have any friends), I felt no need to confide in anyone about my mental health troubles.

      LW1’s behavior is reminding me a bit of my former classmates. Don’t be like that. Have some empathy and understanding that your peers may be going through some rough times that you, being neither close friend, family, or even long term coworker do not need to know about.

      If your work is suffering – you need them for something and they don’t respond quickly, or you have in person work to do and could use a second person but have to do it yourself – address those concerns with your boss and let them handle it. But “Jane is working from home all the time and that’s not supposed to be allowed,” is just petty. Management knows that. She’s not pretending to come in the office in the morning and then slipping out, they know she’s working from home and they’re okay with it. If this is about you wanting to work from home more often, approach your boss with that proposal, but what Jane is doing isn’t going to factor into their decision. Maaaaybe you could say something like “I see that Jane is doing X and Y and I think that I could thrive that way as well,” but be prepared for them to knock that down, since you were hire for hybrid and that’s what everyone else works.

    4. EvilQueenRegina*

      My coworker had that, but it was from our then-manager – she had something under investigation involving her eyes, and also quite a long commute, and had been given medical advice not to drive in the dark, which meant she had to adjust her hours for the winter to avoid that. From what she said at the time, our manager Umbridge was clearly not happy about it but because there was this medical advice, she didn’t have a leg to stand on.

      Coworker had explained the situation to the team herself and no one had any issues with it. However, one day Umbridge hauled her off, along with another coworker who had also been working flexible hours, and yelled at them both for 10 minutes about how these flexible hours were causing problems with the rest of the team. No one had actually complained at all, we all knew the reason behind it, and had been surprised when this happened – when Umbridge had taken them aside, I’d thought it was for a catch up on the training they’d been doing with a new starter that week! I believe it was getting quite close to the time when the clocks were due to go forward, and driving in the dark wouldn’t have been an issue after that, but there were ways of having that conversation about returning to normal hours once British Summer Time started that didn’t involve biting her head off.

    5. AnonInCanada*

      I hope you’ve also sent all these passive-aggressive notes/comments to either your boss or HR so they can put their foot down on all of this as well. That’s uncalled for and patently unfair on you because your boss made it work for you. I’m sorry you had to deal with it.

  27. UnderwaterShoe*

    LW 5 – A way to approach it might be a section under the role just titled “Acting Up 201x-20xx” and then describe the role below. This shows you were acting outside of your job description to support the director without giving yourself a specific job title that could be objected to. Close it with the line “Concluded when Assistant Director of Department was appointed Month, Year” and the person reviewing the resume can make their own decisions.

    1. E*

      Hm I’ve never heard this term in this context (I’m in the US, maybe it’s common elsewhere?) and as a hiring manager wouldn’t understand it if I saw it on a resume. To me acting up either refers to the aids activist movement or being a bit mischievous / poorly behaved.

      1. UnderwaterShoe*

        That’s interesting. I’m in the UK and it’s a fairly common term for someone performaing the duties of a more senior role, either formally or informally. Formally would usally get you the title of “Acting Role” and more pay, but anyone can ‘Act Up’ informally it just wouldn’t come with a title or pay – like in this case.

    2. Quantum Possum*

      Unless LW5 was officially “acting,” I wouldn’t recommend wording it that way.

      Of course, YMMV – where I work, “acting” is only used in a job title if it’s been bestowed upon you by The Powers That Be. Someone claiming to be the “acting assistant director” without having been appointed as “acting” would be seen as improperly claiming the title.

      I would recommend added a subsection under your current job to focus on these additional duties — e.g., “Performed the duties of Assistant Director from XXXX – XXXX, which included Job Duty 1, Job Duty 2, etc.”

  28. cosmicgorilla*

    I don’t see why the last LW can’t put the title on their resume. Resume searches might be looking for titles and not pick up on what they needed from a list of duties. But I’d put it as “performed duties of Assisstant Llama Director on interim basis, including:”

    and then list away.

    This to me is not claiming a title they didn’t have, but describing where the duties would typically fall.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I think your phrasing is fine, “performed duties of” or “covered” or etc. makes it clear that you’re not claiming it was your actual title. LW was asking if they could just put Interim Assistant Director alone, which would read like it was official.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I’d do something like, “in absence of Assistant Director, assumed responsibility for X, Y, Z during [time period]”

  29. Greta Gerwog*

    OP1, you seem to include information about your coworker coming in for “fun” activities like your holiday party but leaving right after as a way to say “see? She’s not disabled! She can come in just fine!” That’s an incredibly ableist framing of it. Many disabilities that require accommodation are invisible, and you have no right to your coworkers private information. No one needs to tell you why she has this schedule. Discuss any impacts to your own work load, but leave your playground concept of “fairness” out of it.

  30. Tiredofit all*

    LW1, if I were on the team, I would request WFH if I wanted it, and if denied, ask what criteria are to get WFH. If enough people on the team do that, HR and management will have to deal with it.

    1. Snow Globe*

      Deal with what?

      The answer, most likely, is that accommodations may be made due to specific personal circumstances on a case by case basis. I don’t think your question is a “gotcha” that will get the LW approval to WFH, nor will it force HR to reveal private information about the coworker. The LW needs to let this go.

      1. Tiredofit all*

        I do not think it will force anyone to give the information about a co-worker, BUT the company should explain what would allow LW1 or others to WFH. Almost everyone wants to WFH.

        This is nuts to say mind your own business. If a coworker is getting paid more, getting better working conditions, of course people can ask, what about me. This is why women get paid less, or get crappier work. They are conditioned not to ask why not me.

        1. Colette*

          But they already have that information – everyone must come in unless they have accommodations. There’s almost certainly not a hard and fast rule about what an acceptable reason is; it’s probably done on a case by case basis.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            I think that’s a bit of a nitpick. It is completely valid to say that many people see WFH as a perk. Does it really matter for future responses if they said “almost everyone”.

            1. Valancy Snaith*

              Yeah, it does, because it contributes to the persistent echo chamber on this blog that work is exclusively white-collar office work, which is frustrating and annoying to those of us who don’t. Not that this blog is a great resource for non-white-collar work to begin with, but it’s just part and parcel of the greater picture which is that work = office work only. Which is untrue and erases the majority of the workforce.

              1. TeaCoziesRUs*


                Also, even amongst officers workers, there are folks who actually LIKE going in the office. I don’t look for WFH positions because I HAVE WFH the last decade raising kids. I don’t mind a computer but don’t want to stare at the thing all day in order to get adult interaction.

              2. Cake or Death*

                1000% this. I am so tired of the assumption that not only everyone has a job that can be done from home, but also that everyone WANTS to work from home.

                1. Irish Teacher.*

                  And I think it contributes to the resentment against people like the LW’s coworker if people assume they are getting something “everybody wants.” If we see it not as a perk, but simply as a way to work, just like the way some people work set schedules and others’ change shifts each week or some people work indoors and others outdoors, it might reduce that a little. Especially, if we accept that it isn’t possible for some jobs and is likely to be necessary for others (as some businesses are going entirely online and don’t have premises).

            2. Observer*

              Does it really matter for future responses if they said “almost everyone”.

              Actually, yes it does. In addition to what has been said, it’s also just worth pointing out that it’s this kind of “There is only ONE way” thinking that causes problems.

          2. Prismatic Garnet*

            They already said “almost”; if we make people qualify their statements into infinity then the site becomes unusable.

        2. cardigarden*

          Coworker has an accommodation, not an extra benefit. That’s the line that LW’s employer has drawn wrt working from home more than the 3 day hybrid schedule. It’s got nothing to do with the conditions that pay women less.

        3. SarahKay*

          Umm…. I’d like to challenge your assertion that “Almost everyone wants to WFH”. Granted, AAM readers tend to skew strongly that way, but even then it’s not everyone, and I suspect in the wider world it might still be a majority, but less of one than on AAM.
          Yes, for a lot of people the commute is grim, but for others there are benefits to being on site. Speaking for myself I’ll live with the commute because on site I’m not paying for the heating (or air-con in summer), I get a bit of socialising, and I get easier collaboration, plus a better separation between work and home.

          1. I Have RBF*


            I am a promoter of remote work. I think it is better for the environment and, if managed properly, can save both the company and the worker a lot of money.


            There are a lot of people for who remote work just doesn’t work – extroverts who live alone, people who have problems with computer communication, people who’s home is too chaotic or small to get any work done, and of course people who do things that are physical or that require face to face interaction with customers.

            There is room in the world for both types of people, and multiple ways of handling work location. Yes, I rail against CxOs who insist that in-person is the only way to work for jobs that do not actually require physical presence. But a plumber still has to be physically present to fix your pipes. It’s not even a financial thing – plumbers make more than I do.

            But just as I can no longer do lab work, I don’t expect a person who has various physical disabilities to be able to work in person. Before the rise of remote work, that person would be unemployable and stuck on disability. The ADA has given a lot of people the ability to be gainfully employed that otherwise would have been shut out of the job market.

        4. Lenora Rose*

          There is a difference between an accommodation and a benefit. OP was told this was an accommodation. This is not “Jeff and I do the same work and started at the same time and I’m paid 75% of what he is.” This is “Jorge told HR what his medical needs were and they agreed he could work from home.”

        5. Observer*

          If a coworker is getting paid more, getting better working conditions, of course people can ask, what about me.

          Aside from what has been said, this is not what is going on. The OP has actually not expressed any interest in, much less a need for, WFH. They simply do not like that the other person gets to do this.

          If you see someone who is apparently getting paid more than you for the same work, sure, ask about it. (In fact, the last letter posted yesterday actually addresses that question.) But it is NOT ok to express frustration that “X gets to do Y” and then go to HR when your boss won’t share information with you. Especially if you’ve been told at some point that and *HR accommodation* has been made. What you can do is ask for whatever it is you want / need and if you get turned down as what it wold take to get whatever it is.

        6. Quantum Possum*

          This is why women get paid less, or get crappier work. They are conditioned not to ask why not me.

          This is not an accurate analogy, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s actually the opposite. So much so that it’s borderline offensive.

          Judging from the information LW gives, Coworker has an accommodation worked out between herself, Boss, and HR.

          Accommodations exist to make things equitable for people who are otherwise at a disadvantage (whether temporarily or permanently). In other words, accommodations are equivalent to equal pay for women – they level the playing field.

          People did fight and speak up and protest and work their butts off to get the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed and enacted. They still fight, work, etc., to ensure that it’s administered properly.

          1. Random Dice*

            I’d say it’s well over the line from borderline offensive to outright offensive.

            Weaponizing the language of equity to harm the disabled is forked-up.

  31. Annisele*

    My team is hybrid (two days a week in the office), but for various health-related reasons I refused to go back in. My boss and I debated my reasons for ages, until I finally got fed up and said this:

    “Look, my choice is to go into the office or not to go into the office, and I’ve chosen not to. That isn’t going to change. Your choice is to accept that or to dismiss me. I hope you choose to accept it, but either way you don’t have a choice that involves me entering the office.”

    The wording there is very blunt, but softer versions just produced circular conversations. My bluntness moved us from whether my reasons were valid to whether I understood the consequences of my choice (and all the harms to my career that fall short of actual dismissal). My boss is now satisfied that I’m clear-eyed about the consequences, and whilst he’d prefer I’d chosen differently he sees no reason to dismiss me right now. I have an employment contract (I’m not in the US), and he can’t demote me or anything like that; his choice really is to either accept that I don’t come into the office or to dismiss me. He can make a bunch of choices about where to assign projects etc, and about pay rises, but he can’t make me work in the office.

    If LW1 worked for my employer, then if LW1 made a fuss about my accommodation they would effectively be arguing for me to lose my job – and my boss wouldn’t be too impressed by that, given that he decided he wanted to keep me. LW1 would effectively be saying that they disagreed with my boss’ judgement, which isn’t something my boss would be particularly keen to hear from somebody who didn’t work with me closely enough for my work to matter to them. On the other hand, if LW1 wanted accommodations of their own, I know my employer would be perfectly happy to discuss that.

    1. Chriama*

      > “Look, my choice is to go into the office or not to go into the office, and I’ve chosen not to. That isn’t going to change. Your choice is to accept that or to dismiss me. I hope you choose to accept it, but either way you don’t have a choice that involves me entering the office.”

      While blunt, I appreciate the clarity of this framing. Sometimes people feel like their job is to convince the other person to agree with them, and worry about trying to “justify” their opinion. The conversation drags on because both sides are trying to get the other side to change their opinion, and therefore their behaviour. And to be fair, a lot of conversations do work like that. But when one side has drawn a boundary in terms of what they are or aren’t willing to do, it’s helpful for the other side to recognize that their options are to accept or reject the behaviour *but not to change it*.

      I also see the above in relationship issues on Reddit. How can I get my partner to stop doing the thing that annoys/hurts me, or start doing the thing I need them to do? Well, the fact of the matter is that if you’ve discussed it multiple times and the situation has gone on for weeks, months, or years, there is no way that *you* can change your *partner’s* behaviour. You can just decide if you’ll live with it or leave the situation (and presumably, the relationship). Recognizing when someone has said “I’m not going to change my behaviour”, whether implicitly or explicitly, is a valuable skill.

  32. M*

    The one thing I’d add to Allison’s answer for LW5 – this is a great thing to *really* highlight in your cover letter, particularly if you’re applying for a position where those skills/tasks are directly relevant.

  33. ijustworkhere*

    Re: phone client. I have a lot of experience with this issue! Here is what I have landed on that works for me.

    I absolutely start the conversation by explaining how I work on the phone. I start by saying “before we start I’d like to let you know how I work with clients on the phone” and I set a few expectations.
    I let them know at the beginning that I have X minutes to talk right now. If we need more time, we can schedule a follow up. I also tell people (when I first meet them as clients) that they are welcome to leave me a message but keep it brief because the truth is that is that I don’t listen to lengthy messages so if you want me to have some context before we talk, it’s more helpful to me if you put it in an email!

    I also tell people up front that in order to make sure we use our phone time wisely I may interrupt you so that I can get clarity about what you want–just want to let you know that before we start because sometimes the discussion gets way ahead of me–I need to ask some clarifying questions before we get too far away what you said. Is that OK?

    It’s interesting isn’t it, how some people organize –or don’t organize–their verbal interactions? There is “work talk” and “social talk” and some people do not understand the difference.

    1. ijustworkhere*

      and just to add, I’ve never lost a client that I am aware of by operating this way. I have plenty of business.

    2. Random Dice*

      Regional cultural differences come into play too. In some parts, the socially-required chitchat is 30 seconds, in others it can be 15 minutes or more!

      1. ijustworkhere*

        that’s true. I am in an industry and an area of the US where you need about 3 exchanges of “how are you” before you hit the business part! I factor that into my time and approach.

  34. CountryLass*

    #2 would it be possible to explain to Edwina that unexpected calls interrupt your focus on whichever project you happen to be on, and would it be possible to email you to ask you to call her when you are at a stopping place to discuss the next project? Yes, it will still involve speaking on the phone, which you have said you dislike but can accept as the cost of keeping her as a client, and hopefully it will stop the interruptions and loss of focus.

  35. Little Miss Sunshine*

    LW2, does your phone service offer voice to text mails? I dont mind the phone, but I hate voice mail and I have a service that transcribes the message to text. Open the app on the phone, take 3 seconds to read the message and act or delete. Its not perfect, but I get notifications of new messages and can check at my convenience. Maybe that is an option for you.

  36. BatManDan*

    LW #2 – I highly encourage you to use a scheduling program (even if it’s just for Edwina) and allow to her schedule her phone calls in advance with you. You have all sorts of limits you can put on something like that, and then she knows that you are ready for her call, and that it has an end time. I’d bet a million bucks that it makes those calls better for you AND for her.

    1. Clisby*

      Yes. It sounds like LW2 wants to keep Edwina, which means she needs to accept phone calls, which of course should be billed. She does not need to talk to Edwina whenever Edwina feels like calling, though. It’s perfectly reasonable to make Edwina schedule the call, whether it comes from Edwina or LW2.

    2. veebee*

      Echoing this!!! I have a client that loves to chat stuff out on the phone – and in my super busy season I have a hard time managing it with other clients (plus he has a young kid so he works funky hours). I set up a Calendly and it helps so much!

      The other thing that has helped for this client is Loom! It’s a program that pretty much screen records with a voiceover so the client can show a visual and explain what he’s talking about, kind of like a one-way video call. I find it super helpful because I can 1) watch it on 1.2x speed to cut down the time and 2) go back to cross-check information 3) it TRANSCRIBES it for you!!

      It’s been such a win-win and works so much better for both of our schedules!

  37. Choggy*

    LW1 – I’m really missing where your coworker’s WFH schedule is interfering with you getting your work done. If the fact of the matter is that you just want her to be in the office, like the rest of you are, you won’t win that battle. She has accommodations, and rightly so given her circumstances. I have worked with someone who has been WFH for more years than he’s been with the company due to a chronic illness, and have been extremely frustrated because he also sucks as a coworker. Focusing on him has only made me miserable, so I made a concerted effort *not* to focus on him, and just do my work. Thankfully I’m retiring this year, so I’m giving even less f’s now, and he’s finally back in the office 3 days a week like the rest of us. I am grateful for my position, and would never want to trade places w/him just because he was working from home, would you want to trade places with your coworker? Probably not.

    1. Chip*

      I really appreciate this perspective. I have a slacker coworker (or at least it appears that way) and it frustrates me. He doesn’t contribute as much as the others on the team and often gets the same amount of credit. But focusing on what he doesn’t do instead of my own work will just drive me crazy. I can only control my own actions. Additionally, maybe my coworker is struggling for a reason – illness, family problems, lack of confidence or knowledge – and that reason is none of my business.

      LW1, focus on yourself. You can only control yourself.

  38. Chriama*

    OP1 – I’m not sure from your letter if this is having an impact on you or not. Everyone here seems to be defaulting to the assumption that it doesn’t, but I’m willing to hear you out. You talk about “sharing your frustrations” with your supervisor and hearing that the VP thinks that “things are working”. Are your frustrations due to the fact that the coworker is hard to collaborate or get in touch with when they work from home? When the VP says “things are working”, does she mean everyone else on your team is managing to cover whatever in-office tasks your coworker is skipping out on?

    I will say that even if there is a direct, measurable impact on your work, it’s clear that your bosses have chosen to continue this arrangement indefinitely. Maybe it started when her husband was sick and they feel like jerks for saying “well now that he’s dead you have no reason not to come in to the office”. Maybe her husband’s illness and passing created a more complicated home situation (single parent or caring for another person) that means she needs a permanent WFH arrangement. Or maybe they worry (or know for a fact) that their options are to have her as a remote worker or not to have her at all. Regardless, they’re not interested in changing the way things are now. Continuing to complain about her will just brand you as a troublemaker.

  39. Letter Writer #2*

    LW #2 Here!

    Thanks for all the great responses. I really like the idea of having a form I can send by email that will capture all the info I need to evaluate if I can do a project. And if we do agree to go forward with it, that can serve as a brief. It feels like a polite, motivated, and forward-thinking way to approach a project, as opposed to dealing with calls that have to be written out as an email/brief anyway so we can sign off on details and ensure we’re on the same page.

    I really appreciate everyone who mentioned that talking on the phone is simply overwhelming for many people. That’s me! It makes me feel unprepared and overwhelmed, and I can’t think on my feet on a phone call, and end up with mind blanks even if I’m taking notes. I understand that clients may be the opposite and find writing too much or too long for them, so a good middle ground is needed.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      There’s still a good chance that people who prefer phone calls over emails will just see an emailed form as a version of an email, so not necessarily a middle ground. It’s 100% your call, but it still might not solve the problem for those who prefer calls.

    2. Throwaway Account*

      Did anyone suggest this already: why not ask Edwina to schedule phone calls?

      Do not interrupt your work to answer calls or to listen to voice mails! I have zero anxiety over phone calls but I definitely only take them when it works for me. And I don’t listen to voice mail messages at all, I just call the people back and say I saw you left a message but called back without listening to it. People learn quickly that I don’t listen to their messages (but I don’t have a business).

      Instead, put on your voicemail a message that says, “I’m working on a project right now, please email me a request for a phone convo or schedule one using the form on my website.”

      This way you can talk to Edwina or anyone else who prefers phone calls but you are in control.

      Plus, I don’t think I’d like to fill out a form with the details of what I need, if I could write it out, I’d be sending an email. I probably need to talk to you to be sure I’m writing things they right way.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        *but I called back without listening to the voicemail message

        In case that was not clear

      2. bamcheeks*

        why not ask Edwina to schedule phone calls?

        We’ve just got into Microsoft Bookings, which allows you to put specific times in your diary when people can book directly into meetings with you. You can specify the length of the appointment, and it won’t book in any time that’s marked as Busy in your Outlook– so you could either specify that you can take a call between 9-11, or just block book 11-5pm for “Working on X project”.

        We have corporate Microsoft 365, so I don’t know what kind of office software you have as a freelancer, LW2, but there are cheap/free plug-ins like Calendly that can do similar things too. Something like that might really help you create space and structure for Edwina’s calls.

    3. Jackalope*

      One other thought that I haven’t seen mentioned is to have your phone on Do Not Disturb if you’re working on something that you don’t think should be disturbed (ie you need a long stretch of uninterrupted time to work on it). That way you won’t even know if Edwina calls during that time and you can get back to her later without having your concentration broken.

  40. HannahS*

    OP1, if you’re “struggling to balance that with the reason we’re given for being in the office,” then the solution is to advocate for yourself, not try to take something away from someone else.

    “It doesn’t feel fair,” should lead to, “I’ll ask for more flexibility myself,” not “Take it away from her!”

    This actually just came up my workplace. Junior employees advocated within our contracts to streamline a very burdensome/redundant task. When a senior employee heard about it, he wanted our institution to re-instate the burdensome process for juniors, because senior employees haven’t renegotiated. It’s so infuriating! If you think someone has a benefit/privilege/accommodation that you want, advocate to have it, not to take it away from someone else.

    1. Little beans*

      Came here to say this. OP 1, it sounds like your office doesn’t actually want to enforce people being in person. If you are jealous of your colleague working from home, just ask to work from home yourself more often.

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah, or if the issue is that someone else’s accommodation is impacting your ability to do your work, then advocate to have the resources you need. I am sympathetic to the fact that having one team member working from home when everyone else is in-person can cause challenges, but that issue can be addressed in a lot of ways.

    2. ijustworkhere*

      HannahS is right. Don’t jump to wanting to take something away from someone else–especially since you have no idea why she’s been granted this accommodation. Instead advocate for expanding this option to yourself and others.

      “Fairness” does not happen by leveling the playing field down. Don’t fall for that fallacy. It happens when the playing field is leveled up to the highest possible place for everyone.

    3. Observer*

      When a senior employee heard about it, he wanted our institution to re-instate the burdensome process for juniors, because senior employees haven’t renegotiated.

      I hope they didn’t win out on that!

      Do you mean that Senior was just annoyed because “I paid my dies, so now you have to”? Or “Why do the young shnooks get to renegotiate this task, and we don’t?” Because the former is “just” gross. The latter is gross AND stupid. They should just renegotiate the task.

  41. Keymaster the absent*

    OP1: There’s a reason I’ve changed my comment name to include ‘absent’ as I’m going through some serious medical stuff and am not around as much.

    VERY few people know the exact reason. My husband, doctors and HR know – that’s it. Not even my boss knows the full reasons (she’d try to ‘help’ by suggesting treatments and believe me I do not want that). My coworkers only know it’s for ‘medical reasons’.

    Some years ago I was dealing with some extreme stress and grief due to losing loved ones to covid. I didn’t go out, barely spoke to anyone. Grief doesn’t resolve on a company-approved timeline and even today it can hit me out of nowhere and make me reclusive.

    Bottom line – try refocusing on a different train of thought. Instead of ‘how come SHE gets to do that?’ try ‘she’s been through all that and is now dealing with the loss of her husband, no wonder she doesn’t want to be here’. Then proceed from there. Getting rid of the negative feelings can really clear your mind as to how much this is *actually* affecting you.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I did notice your username had changed and wondered about it.

      Sorry to hear about the serious medical stuff and I wish you the best.

    2. Alpaca Bag*

      Hey, Keymaster the absent – your messages have often resonated with me and sounded familiar, and I thank you for all the helpful things you have written. I wish you the best possible health (whatever that is for you) and peace of mind. Also, may you be able to think of those you’ve lost with more smiles than tears.

    3. Nana Kathie*

      Another who has followed your wisdom for many years…and sends you all kinds of good wishes. And gentle pats and/or hugs, if you want them.

  42. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    LW1, I left a company about 5 months ago where a similar circumstance was happening on my team. (It wasn’t the whole reason I left, but it was definitely part of my calculus.) One team member was working 90% remote, while the rest of us were under constant passive-aggressive pressure to have our butts in our seats. The remote person did have a legitimate HR accommodation, but that didn’t make it any easier for the rest of us to swallow – particularly since our job could easily be done mostly remote. Management wouldn’t even consider a hybrid schedule for the rest of the team.

    I did some soul searching and realized that the reason I was so dissatisfied was not because one team member had an accommodation and the rest of us didn’t – it was because the flexibility to work remote when I needed to was very important to me, and my old job didn’t offer that. I started looking and found a fully remote position within a few months. Polish up your resume and see what’s out there. You never know until you try.

    1. Caliente Papillon*

      Wow, this is a great point! LW1 is focusing on their coworker when they should focus on what they want and go after that.
      If you want remote work get a job that’s remote.

    2. Observer*

      did some soul searching and realized that the reason I was so dissatisfied was not because one team member had an accommodation and the rest of us didn’t – it was because the flexibility to work remote when I needed to was very important to me, and my old job didn’t offer that.

      This is an excellent point.

      OP, if you are frustrated with your job, deal with that or start looking for a new job. Sure, there is no guarantee that you’ll find something right away, but the sooner you start looking the better.

      But I can see no legitimate reason why your coworker’s schedule per se has any part in this discussion.

  43. Michelle Smith*

    LW1 – Leave your coworker ALONE. It is not your business to go to HR, to your manager, to anyone about someone else’s work schedule. Mind your business.

    I am someone who has been given unofficial permission to work from home, despite office policy to the contrary. I have serious, debilitating medical issues that make going into the office extremely complicated. I’m also dealing with grief atm and I know how debilitating it can be too. If I was forced to go into the office 2x week like we’re supposed to, I would have to quit my job. At least with WFH, I can cry between meetings, lay down with my laptop when I’m in too much pain to work at my desk, and I can take a real break at lunch (difficult in our zero-privacy cube setup). It seems a bit like you resent your coworker for being able to break the rules without repercussions, but respectfully, you don’t know how bad things are for her and she’d probably EAGERLY go into the office if it meant having her husband back. Be kind and leave her ALONE.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Also your “nearly a year” comment is way out of line. Grief doesn’t have a particular timeline and your implication that she should no longer need accommodation at this point is upsetting.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        Especially as we don’t know, for sure, that grief is the only thing or even main reason.

        And condolences.

  44. I am a grieving widow*

    Number 1. This feels like an Am I the As–h-le? letter.
    Sorry for being so harsh but since you do not state that the grieving widow is impacting your work (and if it did perhaps you and your supervisor my have to adjust to accommodating the situation), you are being petty and a jerk.
    Scientific studies have shown that this kind of grief is akin to a Traumatic Brain Injury.
    (The Grieving Brain)
    You have been told,
    ” has indicated both that she will never make this employee come back to the office and that our VP thinks that “things are working.”

    Your thinking is akin to saying to a person who has disability parking near the door of the grocery store, “it must be nice.” t0 be able to park so conveniently forgetting the probability of chronic pain.

    No I am not “back in the office”
    Yes, it has been more than a year. I am barely hanging on.
    Yes, I show up at events for a limited amount of time. Barely hold on and go home and fall apart.
    Yes, I have grief group, individual grief counseling etc etc.
    I do my job. “well enough”.
    I have years of good will and credibility banked.
    It saddens me that there may be a recent hire at my office who is thinking, oh look, why does that widow person get to work from home?

    Stay in your lane.
    Keep your eyes on your own plate.
    I hope and pray you never experience profound grief.

    1. Katie*

      Widowed 11 years here. My heart aches for you. I’m so glad you’ve read The Grieving Brain–I read it last year and thought “I wish I’d had this 10 years ago!” Stay strong, be kind to yourself and try to shut out the people who think you aren’t grieving appropriately.

    2. Good Enough For Government Work*

      I’m so very sorry for your loss.

      For what it’s worth, if LW #1 came to me with this complaint and no suggestion that it impacts on their actual work, my response would be “why in God’s name do you care?”

      I would be judging THEM, not the person with the accommodation.

  45. Raw Cookie Dough*

    LW1, silently removing your focus from the widow’s work habits would be a lovely way to proffer your condolences.

  46. nonprofit director*

    LW1, leave it alone. If it’s impacting your work, speak with your supervisor about the specific ways it is impacting your work. But the arrangement with this employee is none of your business, especially if the company thinks it is working.

    1. nonprofit director*

      Let me add a little more context to my comment.

      My husband is in the hospital right now. He’s on day 17. We’re hoping he can get a lung transplant for his rapidly declining idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. If not, he has asked me to get him into hospice.

      I am doing my best to work remotely. I need to keep my job and our health insurance. I am also managing all the little things related to life that we used to share and have been for a while due to his declining health. If he passes away soon, like before he can get a transplant or if he’s not approved, this will not be over for a long time … the grief and the work of just living.

      The last thing I want to do now is forced cheerfulness around others. It’s hard to even go food shopping. I cannot imagine spending more time with coworkers, as much as I like them.

      Dealing with a partner’s serious illness takes so much out of you. Losing a partner, I imagine, is on a whole different level. Have some compassion for your co-worker who is doing the best she can.

      1. Lily Potter*

        My heart goes out to you, ND, and I’m saying a prayer for a transplant match. Someone close to me died of IPF and it’s a rough road.

        Please people – consider being an organ donor when you pass.

      2. a grieving widow*

        oh my heart goes out to you. and yes thank you for bringing up “forced cheerfulness” No one at work wants or needs to see the “real” me right now.
        Focus on what is important and let go of the rest.

  47. Katie*

    I was widowed 11 years ago and I still have trouble getting out of bed and getting to work some mornings. One year is nothing; I didn’t feel semi-normal again until about year 5. There are also all sorts of things besides the grief–it’s hard to go from having someone share the responsibilities of keeping a home, etc. to doing it on your own. Please have some compassion.

  48. LucyGoosy*

    LW 1 – I think you’re missing the part that it’s an HR-approved reason for being out of the office and, presumably, the individual is in regular communications with their manager and HR about where they’re working and why. I get the sense you’re frustrated because you have to come into the office when this person doesn’t…but in that case, it makes more sense for you to advocate for your own work-from-home options if it makes sense.

    This came up in my office recently–someone in my office has a chronic illness but has been coming to the office every day (per our official policy). Someone else was recently approved to work from home a few hours each week (basically, they go home early to take care of a family member and then work from home outside of the 9-5 range). Person with chronic illness was pretty upset…but I don’t know if they’ve officially said, “Hey, since this person was approved to work from home, can we revisit our previous conversation about my work from home accommodation?” At the same time, my company has unlimited sick time and very limited PTO to take care of a family member outside of FMLA, so the work-from-home request for coworker with chronic illness was probably denied previously because our manager said, “Hey, if you’re having a particularly difficult day, just stay home and rest–don’t try to work.”

    All of this is to say that this probably isn’t done as a special “favor” to the employee–this is probably viewed as fair and equitable by management and HR given the person’s role, personal circumstances, and the employee benefits available.

  49. Juicebox Hero*

    As for #1’s coworker coming in just for the fun activities, let me tell you caretaker burnout is real and heinous, especially if the person you’re caring for is terminally ill. The last year of my mother’s life left me with diagnosed PTSD and physical injuries*. I’m able-bodied and didn’t have any diagnosed mental health issues beforehand. Getting out of the house for a few precious hours and doing something pleasant with functional people was one of the few good bright spots in my life.

    I imagine it’s all that times infinity for your coworker, who also had to contend with whatever issues she has the WFH accomodation for.

    Basically I’m Nth-ing the people who are saying, if it affects your job, address that aspect of it with your manager. Otherwise, be kind.

    *Physical injuries from trying to lift/move her because she wouldn’t even try to do things herself. I wasn’t educated on how to do so properly, and it did a number on my back, shoulders, arms. She didn’t hit me, although she told me often enough that she wanted to.

    Getting out of the house for a little while and doing something halfway normal with other people is vitally important.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      It’s also a lot easier to get out of the house for 3 hours of unstructured activities where one can pop in/out as they need to use a phone/leave unannounced if they must, than a 3 hour structured event where they may cause disruption if they try to do the same.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yep. “I came into the office for a fun event scheduled to run 3 hr but I don’t have to stay the whole time and can easily duck out if needed and won’t miss anything” is very different from “there is a 3hr onsite training but if I have to leave I’ll miss a bunch especially if I have to get home to deal with Issue”.

    2. Quantum Possum*

      caretaker burnout is real and heinous, especially if the person you’re caring for is terminally ill

      This is a crucial point.

      Caretaker grief compounds “normal” grief.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Also, “fun” work activities are still work! I am WFH but my boss encourages me to attend the social work functions when they come up specifically because I am WFH, to try to get some face time with the other employees for just a couple of hours. It’s nice to get some free food on occasion I guess, but most of the time I really would still rather be home!

    4. Also-ADHD*

      Honestly isn’t the fun activity where the benefit of having her in person is anyway? Though if there’s an issue in LW’s job/workflow at other times, bringing that up is fair, but it didn’t seem like there really was.

  50. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – If your work is being impacted by your colleague working from home, then you should address it with the manager with an eye towards finding a solution that works. If your frustration is more that you are required to be in the office and someone else is not, then channel your efforts into figuring out how to best address your desire to work from home with your boss. You’ve already been informed that this person has an HR approved accommodation, how they are using it is between HR, the boss, and the employee.

    #4 – Many people choose to job hop every few years and it’s common not to disclose those plans to job hop. This is not that much different. Two years is more than enough of a time commitment to a role. And should the unthinkable happen and your plans change, you don’t want to end up in a situation where an employer ushers you out the door and writes you off when you’re not ready. I’ve had a number of conversations with hiring managers who would tell me that an employee plans to go to graduate school/retire in 2 years so we don’t need to do XYZ for them.

  51. BellyButton*

    This may be a unkind of me, but is a 10-15 unplanned phone call really that big of a deal? It seems like an out of proportion annoyance and anxiety in that letter. Maybe because I have 3-4 Zoom meetings a day, which is basically a phone call, it doesn’t bother me. Talking to people is how you do work. In this case it is how you maintain a client who gives you work and how you discuss if what she needs is something you can take on.

    1. Lily Potter*

      My take exactly. He who pays the piper, calls the tune. If you have a client that wants to talk on the phone, you talk on the phone. You don’t necessarily have to drop what you’re doing to answer every call immediately, unless your client is paying you extraordinarily well and sets the expectation that you’re at their beck and call. You can ask that phone meetings be scheduled, if that’s really a huge imposition to you. But it’s out of line to dictate communications preferences to a client to the degree that you never talk with them on the phone. They’re paying you; they get to decide how that works. If you don’t won’t with their style, they’re absolutely in the right to take their business elsewhere

    2. AngryOctopus*

      It’s not unreasonable to ask the client to schedule these phone calls, so that 1-work being done at the moment isn’t interrupted, and 2-LW is in the correct headspace to deal with what the client wants, and can give her full attention.

  52. BellyButton*

    LW1, I think you need to look inward at why this bothers you so much. Is it really about one person having an accommodation or is it about other inequities that you are feeling? My guess is you latched onto this because it is easier to identify.

  53. Wendy*

    My husband has a friend who had an accomodation at a former job of his.

    He did not work at home.

    He worked at the office, but he had IBS.

    So, a note was put in his personnel file regarding his need to use the bathroom more frequently, and HR was notified.

    According to my husband’s friend, several of his co-workers complianed to the manager in charge of the department all of them worked in regarding his frequent use of the bathroom.

    His need to go to the bathroom more frequently compared to everyone else did not impact their work.

    According to him, he went to the department manager and told him he would explain to everyone why he had to go to the bathroom more frequently so they would stop complaining, but the department manager told him it was none of their business, and that there was no need for him to do that.

  54. Chris Massey*

    Freelancer – you are in a customer service business. If you can’t take a 10-15 minute phone call from a client, you are a bad steward of your customer service and if I were her, I would stop working with you. If you want to keep clients, you have to bend a little to their preferences. That said, you can proclaim “office hours,” or ask that she schedule her calls 24 hours in advance, but you can’t just *not* talk to her, unless you’re willing to lose her as a client. You are (mostly) in the wrong.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I don’t really understand this take. Surely one of the delightful things about being a freelancer is that you get to make up your own rules, and if you want to decide that clients can only contact you by carrier pigeon during the full moon whilst wearing purple trousers, and you can find enough clients willing to do that to make your business viable, you can do exactly that.

      Being a freelancer does not mean that you are automatically “in a customer service business”. The balance of how strict you can be with clients about how you want them to contact you varies according to all sorts of unknowables like how in-demand LW’s skillset is, how competitive her prices are, what comparable professionals and competitors do, how much Edwina values her work and all sorts of other things. Introducing moralistic ideas like right and wrong seems like an entirely unhelpful way of thinking about it.

    2. Lenora Rose*

      I think this is very ungenerous, and I would think that *as* a client; if I wanted the work from a particular freelancer because I like their product, being asked to call only at a specific time or text/email first to arrange the call time doesn’t seem that big a deal.

    3. Also-ADHD*

      You have no idea what freelancer does or how much Edwina benefits vs freelancer etc. LW seems to realize that client satisfaction matters and wants to make Edwina happy, but “you’re in the customer service business” feels way too far. I freelance (on top of a FT job) and I don’t view myself as beholden to work however any client wants. Freelancers can choose boundaries too.

  55. Lily Potter*

    Most responders in this thread discuss whether the recent widow in letter #1 has an formal accommodation to WFH, be that for grieving or perhaps a medical accommodation of her own. I’d like to point out that it doesn’t matter what kind of accommodation she’s arranged. Her “accommodation” could be that she’s worked there a long time, wants to WFH, will leave for greener pastures if denied, and the company has decided that letting her WFH is worth making an exception. Employers do not have to apply the same rules to everyone!*

    I foresee this happening more going forward with new hires – a company wants to recruit someone from a competitor, and said recruit accepts the job on the condition of being allowed to WFH even if that’s not the norm at the new company. Whining ensues at new company. Sigh.

    * disclaimer because I’m sure someone will pipe in – they’re not allowed to apply the rules differently based on age, sex, national origin, blah blah blah

  56. Leenie*

    Someone who reports to me had her spouse suddenly die last year. It was truly terrible. I could only do two things that were actually helpful: 1) Tell HR and my boss that we needed to let the employee take as much time as she needed, and allow her to go into the hole on PTO, if necessary. I got agreement on that, and let the employee know. It turned out she wanted to return before her time was exhausted, but couldn’t really face full days around people. So I went to 2) Told the principal of the team that she was supporting (and my boss) that she was 100% WFH until she was ready to come back to hybrid. She’s starting to come back now, but it was at her own pace.

    If another employee protested this, knowing what she’s been through, I would really question their judgment. You’re really jealous of someone who has been visited by tragedy because of the perks? Incidentally, I’ve also worked with HR to get permission for employees to work from their home countries for a few weeks at a time, and been able to get other forms of flexibility for people when they need it. The company is committed to a hybrid schedule, and I do think there’s some benefit to colocated teams. But there’s no reason to be rigid about things instead of accommodating people’s reasonable requests (even when the law doesn’t necessarily require it). If you need something, ask for it. But don’t try to get something taken away from a coworker because you’re jealous.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      Thank you for sharing your story. It’s always heartwarming to hear from great bosses.

      LW1, please consider what Leenie has said here – good managers want to work with their people to help them succeed. If you are passionate about WFH for yourself, then present your case to your boss. Just don’t bring your coworker into it.

    2. a grieving widow*

      thank you for your compassion. When my husband died suddenly, I just couldn’t.
      My supervisor was great. My team was great. I was a mess.
      I spoke with HR about taking a leave without pay because I felt I just couldn’t work.
      They asked if anyone had any criticism of my work, I said no.
      HR said, no, you don’t need a leave.
      You just need to do less.
      You are an A plus employee. Be a c plus for a while. Your supervisor will let you know if there is a problem.
      And that’s what I did.

  57. Catwhisperer*

    LW1 I totally understand where you’re coming from because I had a similar experience pre-pandemic. I realized eventually that the problem was not that my coworker wasn’t coming in enough, it’s that I wanted to have a more flexible schedule too but assumed that I had to strictly follow the rules. I was also coming from an environment that was very rigid about working in office to one that was a lot more flexible.

    In the end, the only thing my complaints to my manager did was make me look overly controlling and negatively impact my reputation. I wish that I’d reframed my thinking and asked for the additional flexibility I wanted instead of feeling resentful towards my colleague. I hope that’s what you end up doing as well.

  58. Kristin*

    LW1, I also have a colleague who flouts our in-office requirements without anyone seeming to care, and it was really bothering me too. I realized, though, that what really bothered me was her trying to make me do a task which can only be done in office when she didn’t feel like coming in. I successfully pushed back on that and now I feel a lot less annoyed when I see her workstation abandoned in the morning.

    She’s still a problem employee, but that’s between her and her manager, who is fortunately not me. We get a lot of flexibility around in-office requirements that I appreciate when I need it, so I’m glad I didn’t raise a stink about her absences and end up making work more difficult for myself!

    1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      But isn’t it possible that she has accommodations that allow for “abandoning” her workstation not just that she didn’t “feel” like coming in? I presume you use abandoning because you don’t believe she is actually working at home?

      I get you are annoyed someone asked you to do something that in an in office task because they are not in the office–and if it isn’t your job to do that task, it makes sense to bring that up with her and your own manager that this colleague asks for your help and you don’t want to help her because you believe she should be in office.

      Also, either your in office requirements are flexible or they are set in stone and she is “flouting” them. Presumably her manager is aware of her in office time and it isn’t an issue, so I don’t get why you are so bothered by this.

  59. HonorBox*

    LW1 – You don’t know, and don’t get to know, the reason for the accommodation. But it exists, and based on what you said in your letter, it doesn’t appear that you coworker’s schedule is negatively affecting you. So let it go. As comedian James Pietragallo says on his podcast… Mind ya business. We could all do well to just mind our business when there are times that would lead to speculation about why someone is doing something out of the ordinary or different than us.

  60. Ccbac*

    I am a freelancer (in addition to working full time in a related role) and about half of my annual income comes from my freelance business. I am absolutely not primarily a customer service business. It is true that I want to provide an excellent finished product to my client, but it is also true that I am highly selective and often turn down work due. I have a solid stable of regular clients with whom I have a mutually beneficial relationship. I have turned down work in the past if the client was not easy to work worth and had unreasonable expectations that made their project not worth my time given the compensation. I wouldn’t find the act of speaking on the phone to be overly burdensome, but given that my clients are all over the world and I work full time, a needy client who wanted regular phone calls is probably someone I would drop (unless they paid well enough to account for all the phone calls and hand holding). Not all freelancers are struggling/desperate and need to accept all work that comes their way! I am highly in demand in a niche area, so I don’t bend to my clients demands — they need to work with with me and acknowledge that I am not their employee who is at their beck and call 24/7.

    1. Letter Writer #2*

      Thank you for this key point. Freelancers are not on a payroll. We cannot “just” talk on the phone, answer a quick question, chit chat, or help a client work out their idea/project on the fly in a phone call out of the blue. That’s what employees are paid for. Freelancers make a living providing services that clients can’t–or aren’t worth having–in house. So my letter is both about not liking to be on the phone (especially without time to prepare, which is tangible output I can bill) as well as a client perhaps misunderstanding that I’m not in the same position as a coworker in the next room they can stop to have a casual conversation with about a project. It probably means some client education is needed on my part, and I may need to funnel the request into a format that requires the client to do their thinking/brainstorming first instead of working it out with me randomly (which honestly isn’t productive as I need time to think and work out ideas).

      But I will reiterate that I like this client and their work, and even if I can’t stop these calls I would not want to drop them. I appreciate all the ideas, feedback, and dialogue about it here. Thanks so much!

      1. Also-ADHD*

        I freelance in addition to my job (like the other poster) and I dislike the phone too, but I charge time/fees for phone calls, meetings obviously, and even email sometimes (depending). Freelancers CAN bill for those things too – your issue is valid but also consider billing all your time, if you can.

    2. Blue wall*

      Edwina doesn’t read as “needy,” she reads as have a preference to verbally talk through her assignments.

      1. e271828*

        I find it’s is very often the case that a phone call (with a confirmation email or text) saves me from a huge email chain (or text chain) of back and forth and clarification and no the following week doesn’t work and we may need it on three colors of paper, what do you have, and so on and so on and so on, not excluding “Do you have any thoughts about the most efficient way to accomplish this?” and a few minutes of discussion on that.

        A 10-15 minute phone call is not a long phone call! If LW hates the idea that it’s not directly billable so much they’re thinking of dropping a good client, then budget phone call time into project quotes.

  61. Observer*

    #1 – Coworker who works from home all the time while everyone else is hybrid.

    I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but I see you’ve gotten a lot of feedback. I want to highlight something.

    Please do not even *consider* going to HR, and stop putting this on your list of “frustrations” when talking to your boss.

    Unless you left out a major fact here, this does not affect you. And unless it does affects you, is dangerous, is illegal, or contravenes a formal code of ethics in your company or profession, you simply have no standing to raise the issue.

    On the other hand, no competent HR is going to share any information about this with (just as they didn’t share this information when you started), and they will probably not care that you are unhappy. If they *do* care, though, it will not be beneficial to you. To the contrary! If they care it will be because you will be seen as a butinsky, complainer, and / or someone with very bad judgement.

  62. TheBunny*


    I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you need to stop. Things will always be uneven or unequal, especially from the outside looking in. You don’t know the conversations that have been had with the employee, if she has an accommodation that is being met through this schedule separate from the needs when her husband was alive. For all you know she could have said she was resigning and to keep her the company offered her a remote option.

    Or it could be no good reason at all but she has the arrangement, it wirks for her, she’s proven herself to management and done. She comes to the events, but leaves when they are over. So? Is there an “appropriate” amount of time to stay at something after it ends???

    You also mention that no one in management has an issue with the arrangement. Let it go. You’re going to annoy your managers and frustrate yourself well before anyone changes her schedule or in office requirements.

    If it’s impacting your work that’s different but be careful there too. If she answers emails promptly (based on your company norms) and picks up when you ping her on Slack/Teams/whatever it’s not a valid complaint that you can’t walk to her desk down the hall.

    1. Colette*

      I once saw someone ask “would you really exchange places with them without knowing what they’re dealing with?”, and that’s a question the OP should ask herself. Would she jump at working from home if it came with chronic pain? What about it it involved dealing with children who are dealing with their father’s slow death, or packing everything you own because you are losing your place to live, or struggling to care for aging parents, or not being able to afford enough food, or struggling to get anywhere because your husband died and he did all of the driving?

      The OP is focused on what she wants (WFH) and ignoring the fact that her coworker works from home as an accommodation.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      It’s also possible that while they are on the same team, they have different roles and her role might be able to be done entirely from home whereas the LW’s may need more interaction with colleagues.

  63. Glazed Donut*

    LW3, you raise good concerns. As someone who has worked in a high school before, I think it may be helpful to acknowledge 1) that HS life is very different from the real world, and the counselor may not be considering other workplace norms and 2) the counselor may be enacting a project/directive from a higher up without much clear direction or resources to do so.
    If you have the capacity, I’d suggest you reach out to the counselor and recommend another way to do this – “Can I send you my resume and you can share it with students who are interested in my field/work trajectory?” “I’d be happy to schedule a lunch and learn meeting to talk to any group of students who are interested in this” etc. Sometimes people who work in schools are stretched thin and try to go for efficiency over more reasonable paths, unfortunately.

  64. Lily Potter*

    LW3 (high school mentorship) – red flag to neon this one was that Allen is using e-mail as a communication vehicle. He’d be much better texting them if he had access to their phone numbers. Every teenager I know hates email and only logs into their account when a parent knows there’s something in there and nags them into looking. We also had a youth/young adult pastor fail spectacularly a few years ago at his #1 job priority (youth engagement) because he was determined to communicate with his audience almost exclusively via email.

    1. F as in Frank*

      Connecting underaged students with multiple adults via text is not a good plan from a safeguarding students perspective.

      The mentorship program does not have to cater to the preferences of the students who would benefit most from this program. Some of the ideas above (e.g., career fairs, lunch and learns) are better choices

  65. Lumos*

    In regards to letter number 5, I have a little bullet point on my resume that says “Performed as acting Llama Manager for six months” to indicate I filled the job duties but not the title. This probably isn’t perfect, but it’s not hard for me to explain it if asked.

  66. FormerAdmin*

    #5, you can block people on your LinkedIn if you worry about your old Director looking on your profile. I did this for an old boss who I suspect was contacting my new employers every time I switched jobs and was smearing my name. One job I was hired as a Executive Assistant and I show up and they say I’m now a regular admin assistant for a department I didn’t even interview with, and they had no work for me to do. My old boss knew where I was going. At the next job, I got hired in and from day one was treated with hostility, threatened with HR write up for a small dress code violation that I didn’t know was a violation because I saw other people wearing the same thing. I realized he was following me on LinkedIn.

    1. Stardust*


      Also, you can not list your new job until you’ve been there for 6 months so that my that time they know you’re a good worker and that he’s a just a weird stalker.

  67. YourFriendlyNeighborhoodCatLady*

    For story #1, I was immediately thrown off by the language “it’s been nearly a year” when discussing the coworker. Yikes. Grief has no timeline, and while I would address it if her not coming in (but still doing her job from the looks of it) was affecting your job in a major way, but honestly it sounds really callous to put a timeline on someone losing their spouse. Maybe that wasn’t the intent, but if you keep pushing this and there isn’t a work-related reason people will view you as callous.

  68. K*

    With the last one, I feel like this advice does not solve the problem. Potential employers will call OP’s former employer and ask about their “team management” role and will get told that OP was never a manager.

  69. Procedure Publisher*

    LW5, I have this problem with my first job. The job title implies something that was not done at this job at all. One of the people I worked with has potential employers question them about that job title. So far I have not had that experience. The only question I received from potential employers is about the II for this position. (Thankful, I’ve had other positions since then.)

    I make sure the duties are clear by the responsibilities with my accomplishments.

    1. An Australian In London*

      Exactly so. Many workplaces use internal job titles that are not known outside that workplace, or are misleading. LW5 isn’t quite in this scenario, but the costs of it are the same, as is the remedy:

      Multiple job titles on the resume and LinkedIn, both the internal/actual title for reference checks, and the widely known and understood title that correctly maps to the duties and responsibilities.


      Principal Engineer (internal title: Database Engineer)

      I’ve never had any push back for this in interviews or from recruiters and reference checks.

      So here that might be something like

      Assistant Director of Llama Grooming (internal title: Senior Llama Groomer)

      Text in other answers about “assumed duties of” or “de facto assistant director” would make it clear that it wasn’t claiming something that wasn’t true.

  70. MCMonkeyBean*

    LW1 – Don’t try to take away what other people have. Advocate for yourself instead. You admitted you had no idea what her situation was when her partner was dying of cancer, but you need to acknowledge that you *still* have no idea what her situation is now. And it’s frankly none of your business!

    My company forced hybrid back to office last year and I have personally not encountered a single person who is happy about the change, though all the emails keep insisting this is what the employees wanted. We were all very frustrated to learn that one single team that we work with was classified as fully remote. Clearly their boss advocated for them in a way that ours did not. We did not try to fight to have them forced into the office; we tried to get our boss to advocate for us in a similar way so we could all be remote.

    Unfortunately our boss never stands up to management and we were unsuccessful. I managed to get eventually a medical accommodation and am now considered fully remote. No one on my team knows what my situation is, they just know I’m not showing up to the office. And it’s none of their business! And if I found out any of them were complaining about it I’d be really pissed (especially when I tried to rally people to fight back as a group but they were not willing).

  71. AnonORama*

    #2, Unless you just can’t do the phone at all, it will probably be best for your ongoing work with Edwina if you’re willing to schedule short calls. You can be clear you want blocks of time to concentrate on your project work, which she should appreciate because it means you’ll be doing the same for her. Also, setting a time slot creates a natural hard-stop she’ll hopefully respect.

    It doesn’t always work; I have someone who calls out of the blue, asks one question about work and then talks for a literal hour about, well, everything. Last time she told me about her friend who got a snakebite (she’s fine); her grandmother’s cuckoo clocks that never cuckooed at the same time; and whether you could make tasty low-carb cookies. She’s someone I do have to answer right away and she’s not deliberately disrespectful of my time, just oblivious. I always somehow “remember” an appointment to get her off the phone. But, I have 40 external stakeholders and she’s the only one who does this, so ideally if you get Edwina into a schedule you’ll have less of this interruption.

  72. McS*

    LW 3 you have already done a service to the program by offering direct feedback and would continue to be of service by explicitly quitting and giving your reason. I’d guess most of the other alumni have already filtered Allan’s emails straight to trash and the kids have no idea why the program isn’t working as he tells them it’s supposed to.

  73. Jon*

    A lot of people writing in should watch the song about when not to tattle from Craig of the Creek.
    Just replace “grown up or big kid” with “your manager or HR” and you’re good.
    Not sure if links work here, if not, look for Craig of the Creek “Mind your own business”.

  74. Raida*

    1. We’re required to work in-person, but my coworker doesn’t come in

    If you want flexible work, tell your boss you want flexible work.
    Show them how this lady is not negatively impacting anyone’s work.
    Show them how the OTHER team working 3 days is going fine.

    Because that’s what this sounds like – IF the business gave you a reason to be in-person, then she SHOULD be in person. IF she’s not in-person… then why are you?

    1. Lily Potter*

      Nope, nope, nope. Work from home is not a right. Just because one person is allowed to do it, doesn’t mean that others in the team are automatically entitled to a similar setup. The person getting the WFH exception might have a medical accommodation. There might be reasons that the person doing WFH is considered more trustworthy than others in the group. The person doing WFH may have told the boss that if they can’t WFH they’ll find another job, and the boss would rather not lose them. Shoot, the person getting to WFH might be a huge suck-up and the boss’ favorite. Doesn’t matter. There’s no “right” to a WFH arrangement. If the LW wants WFH, she has to make a business case for it that doesn’t include the phrase “I should get it because so-and-so has it”. Employers are under no obligation to treat everyone equally on this.

      1. Orv*

        Where I work WFH is for people with kids and no one else. I don’t love it but it’s their right to do it that way.

  75. Raida*

    2. Do I have to use the phone for my freelance client?

    Why are you on the phone with her for so long and unplanned?
    Because she called…
    And you didn’t do anything about it.
    So next time she calls you say…? “Hi Edwina lovely to hear from you! A new project? Sounds great, let’s set up a time for an initial meeting. Yep sorry I’m not free right now to talk.”

    Then accept she needs to chat – or don’t, and keep the meeting to an agenda, actions, parameters, etc.

  76. Moonstone*

    LW1 – unless you can articulate a reason as to how your coworker’s WFH accommodation is adversely affecting your workload, leave it alone. Based on your letter alone, it comes off as sour grapes. You’re actually contemplating going to HR over this, after you already talked to your manager and received an answer? While you may not have liked the answer, you got one. You have presented zero evidence as to why you should escalate this so, please, walk away from this while your reputation is still intact.

  77. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 (the soon to be retiring person) – don’t disclose your intention to retire in a couple of years. While 2-3 years is as much as any employer can reasonably expect someone to work in a role, hiring managers are biased to want stability and to not have to fill this role again soon. Reality – they probably will have to do so, no matter who they hire. But they don’t want to realize that.

    Also, you don’t know what the future will hold. Sure, you might retire in 2 years. Or you might realize you absolutely love the job and decide to stay for 5 years. Or perhaps you’ll have a situation come up that means you need to work for longer. Plans are great, but reality sometimes has other ideas.

    So, I would not bring it up yourself. If asked what your future plans are / if you can commit to being in the role for X amount of time, only then would I say you were expecting to work for another couple of years. You might want to say 3 years, rather than 2 – that would be likely more palatable. One of my candidates the other day told me that for the right role and situation, he would commit to working for another 3 years – that seemed quite reasonable to me. He’ll have time to make an impact, train his successor, and accomplish the major objectives of the role.

  78. Introvert girl*

    1. Before the pandemic I was the person who was allowed to work 3 days a week from home due to medical reasons. None of my coworkers knew why but they saw that I had lost 14 kg. It was no one’s business what was agreed on between me and the company.
    I work for a different company now, completely from home. Still due to medical reasons I would only be able to come to the office max 1 a week if I really really had to.
    The fact that I don’t use a wheelchair doesn’t mean I don’t suffer. But it isn’t my coworkers business what’s medically wrong with me. As long as my job gets done.

  79. WorldsLaziest*

    LW1… I’m not your coworker, but I could be. I work in a position with tons of autonomy, sometimes I need to be in the office, but usually I don’t. There’s nobody making me spend time in the office, and nobody really NEEDS me to be there more than I am. I get all my work done either in the office or from home, and I’m efficient. (My coworkers could be doing this too, they just…. don’t.) But every week somebody has to say, “must be nice.” And I say, “Yes, it really is.” When there’s a work event I have to go to, I don’t leave 10 minutes after it ends. I leave 1 minute after it ends, then I go hang out with my spouse or friends, or use my time in any other way I see fit. My job pays me money to do some stuff, and I do the stuff, get the money, and live my life the way I want to. I don’t know if it’s generational or I’m just weird or what. I like my job and my coworkers, but some people just don’t buy into the whole idea of a “work family” or being particularly devoted to a job. Sometimes a job is just a job, and maybe that’s how your coworker feels about it, or there’s some other circumstance which is also not your business.

  80. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    OP2 I’m in a very similar position as you, as a freelancer with the vast majority of my clients sending stuff by email and just some who like to chat on the phone.
    I’m resigned to the fact that some need to chat with me to feel comfortable about sending me work. It’s especially the case with clients in the music industry for some reason, I’m guessing musicians are chatty people.
    It’s true that phone calls can interrupt your train of thought and eat into time you’d allocated for other stuff. If I have a tight deadline looming, I’ll quickly text to ask them to send me an email and I’ll call them back later if necessary.
    I find that chatting with clients can often lead to them telling you stuff that you didn’t realise you needed to know, and it’s very important in terms of goodwill, so I mainly suck it up.

  81. Dee*

    As someone who has negotiates more WFH than others because I have a health issue AND because I want it and will take WFH/flexibility over pay in some situations, I would find it EXTREMELY problematic and bizarre if another colleague raised it to HR.

    If the issue is OP has trouble reaching their colleague for essential communication or collaboration then they can use their big kid vocabulary and resolve that issue. Otherwise stfu.

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