employee “works” after playing video games all night, what does mileage cover, and more

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

1. Employee “works” after playing video games most of the night

My remote employee struggles with attention to detail. He stays up late many nights but has told me he can’t help it and he would prefer to work a later schedule (think log in after 10 am, log off at 5 pm, then log in later). He wasn’t doing very well with those hours and that was getting inconvenient for me, so I asked him to start working more common hours and log in by 8:30 (most people log in between 8 and 8:15 in our small department so he used to really stick out). Our day is officially 8-5 with an hour lunch and most people stick to that pretty closely; being remote, you don’t have varying commutes to deal with. He complied pretty well after I reminded him a couple times.

However, his work has not improved a lot. It’s improved a little. I get the feeling his work suffers because he still routinely stays up until 1 am. (He mentions drinking a lot of coffee and playing video games, which would be my first thought as to what’s keeping him up late.) I have made comments that he needs to review his work more to catch issues, and that if I had his schedule my work product would suffer, but I’m not sure if it’s my business to say directly that he might need to get more sleep if he wants to be effective at his job.

Recently, he mentioned he stayed up until 4 or 5 am for a video game event that lasted really late. Can I tell him that he should be just using a vacation day, or vacation half day, if he finds himself up at 4 am? I am fine with him sending me a note at 4 am that he is taking off that morning. It’s better than him pretending to work and either doing not much or doing something that has very low quality. I plan to tell him so (probably in kinder words) but do you have any advice?

I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing. If his work quality isn’t as good as it needs to be, that’s the issue, not his sleep schedule. After all, if he were going to bed at 9 pm and getting a solid 10 hours of sleep every night but his work quality was exactly the same as it is now, it would still be an issue, right? So keep the focus on the problems in his work; be explicit about the bar his work needs to meet, where the gap is, and what needs to change.

In doing that, it’s fine to say something like, “You’re in charge of your own sleeping hours, but when you talk about staying up so late that you’re not getting much sleep and I see your work quality suffering, I hope you’ll look at whether lack of sleep is part of the problem. But whatever you decide there, I do need to see XYZ changes in your work.” You shouldn’t need to spell that out for an adult, but you can note it as a possible contributor if he doesn’t seem to be putting it together himself.

It’s also fine to say, “If you’re up until 4 or 5 am, it’s going to be hard to work at the level we need a few hours later. If you’re up that late, I’d rather you take the morning off and not start work until you’re reasonably rested. Obviously that can’t happen routinely — I need you reliably working the hours we agreed on — but if it’s only occasional, that’s how I’d prefer you handle it. When you start work, the expectation is that you’re rested enough to work at a high level.”

As you talk about this, be open to the idea that this could be rooted in a medical thing that he could end up needing accommodations for; if he does, he needs to raise that, but keep it in your head as something that could be in play. I know it doesn’t sound like that (he’s drinking coffee and playing video games! no wonder he’s not sleeping) but he wouldn’t be the first person to do that because he has a sleep disorder, rather than the other way around. Right now, though, your job is to be very up-front about what needs to change in his work output.

2. Should I drop out of a books-and-wine club now that I manage someone in it?

Two years ago, I started a position at a higher ed institution. I love my job because we’re a pretty casual bunch and we all get along well!

A coworker from a different unit on campus with whom we have very little overlap invited me and someone else in my unit, “Kara,” to a special-interest book club last year. No one else in the book club works at our institution. At meetings, we usually drink wine, chat about our lives and the book, and generally enjoy each other’s company. Some people smoke weed, which is technically illegal where we live. I don’t smoke with them, and nor does Kara (she’s allergic; I don’t want to be high around people I work with). Kara sometimes gets tipsy to mildly drunk, and I usually drive her home. I’m not close enough to anyone in the book club that I’d invite them over outside of this context, but I like our monthly meetings.

A few months ago, I got promoted (yay!), and I’m now Kara’s direct supervisor. Because of this, and because we sometimes discuss things that aren’t usually things I’d talk to a coworker about, should I bow out of book club? I don’t want Kara to feel like I disapprove of her or am uncomfortable with her, but maybe she’d be more comfortable if I wasn’t there? I also don’t want the other person I supervise to feel like Kara and I are closer because we hang out once a month outside of work. This is my first management position and I’m in the dark!

You should bow out. Socializing with one employee but not the other can cause all sorts of problems (even if just the appearance of bias/extra access without the actuality of it), and that’s before we throw in that she’s often tipsy. I’d advise that even if you were a more experienced manager, but trying to navigate it on top of all the challenges of being a new manager is a particularly bad idea.

Ideally you’d develop a scheduling conflict or something like that, but if there’s no plausible excuse available, it’s fine to be up-front with Kara about it: “It’s fairer to you to be able to relax without your boss around, and I don’t want it to be weird for SecondEmployee.”

3. What does mileage cover?

This situation happened a few years ago, but once in a while I remember it and feel bugged. I was on the road with a few colleagues to a work conference, and one of my staff members was driving. Another staff member offered her money for gas (which prompted others in the car to open their wallets), but I asked if the driver was submitting her mileage form. She said she was. The colleague who had first offered money said, “Well, that doesn’t cover gas.” Our company’s mileage rate at that time was 55 cents per mile. She went on to say something like how 55 cents wouldn’t even come close to covering $3.50 per gallon (or whatever gas prices were at that time). I was pretty confused and didn’t want to argue, so I said no more and gave the driver some cash, but I thought that was the point of mileage — to cover gas, plus a bit for wear and tear on a vehicle. Was I off-base?

No, mileage reimbursement is supposed to cover gas and wear and tear on your car, and it typically does. For 55 cents/mile not to cover gas prices of $3.50/gallon, a car would need to get truly terrible mileage (that would mean the car was getting less than seven miles per gallon — and I can’t find a single car with gas mileage that low; the average seems to be 21 miles per gallon).

4. Letting people know of a terminal illness

I’m terminally ill. I don’t know how long I’ve got left, but likely months if I’m lucky rather than years.

I haven’t been working since before Covid, nothing other than I was taking some time off, intention was to travel but Covid came. My question is, I have a fairly wide circle of people who I have worked with in the past. They’re not local to where I live and I wondered if I should update my LinkedIn and what should I say. Occasionally people will reach out and it seems rude to leave them hanging.

I think you get to do whatever you’re comfortable with in a situation like this! That said, if you have other options, LinkedIn isn’t the ideal forum for this sort of announcement; a group email (or individual messages, if you’re up for it) would be better if you have a way to do it. Another option is to deputize someone from each circle (like one person from each job) and ask them to share the news with others in that circle, so that less of the work is on you.

I talked to my terminally ill mom about this because she has done an excellent job of keeping people informed since her diagnosis. She keeps stressing that because she’s been so open with people about what’s going on (she has an enormous email list that she regularly sends candid updates to), she has a ton of support from people from all eras of her life, including from some quarters that I think surprised her. She says most people’s tendency is not to share enough when it’s happening to them, and as a result they don’t get the full benefit of that support. So I am passing that along from her ❤️

{ 450 comments… read them below }

  1. Prefer my pets*

    ugh. Employees like #1 make me crazy. I have a genuine circadian rhythm issue…my natural sleeping hours are an hour or two after sunrise for 7ish hours, basically the opposite of 90% of the world. I do absolutely everything recommended by sleep doctors/circadian rhythm experts and the absolute best I can get is asleep around midnight or 1am.

    I am lucky to FINALLY have a supervisor who understands it’s a genuine thing for me and allows me to shift my schedule a bit as well as have standing flex option if I have a particularly tough night. People who stay up all night for entertainment & then slack make it that much harder for people like me (roughly 10% of the population…don’t knock it, we protected your ancestors from night predators!) to get accommodations instead of being viewed as lazy slackers.

    (yes, I’m a gamer myself, but I save it for days off & am extrodarily careful about my blue light exposure)

    1. desdemona*

      It’s very possible Employee #1 also has circadian rhythm issues! Perhaps he’s tried no coffee and that’s worse, or hasn’t clocked the pattern yet, or this is the first time his sleep schedule is actually hurting his work life, and he isn’t aware of how poorly.

      1. Orv*

        Yeah, I feel like just because he spends the night doing things he enjoys instead of lying there fruitlessly staring at the ceiling doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an actual issue.

        1. Estrella the Starfish*

          I agree, and some people aren’t that affected by coffee. It’s clear that he’s a night owl rather than early bird and society judges that. I understand that working 10-5, then some hours later is a bit weird, but why can’t he do 10-7 rather than 8-5? Unless there’s a good business reason, I don’t understand why LW would want him to work in his less productive hours – the reason given in the letter is that the rest of the team log on around 8, which doesn’t seem like great reason unless their meetings tend to be 8-10. My work has core hours between 10 and 4, with us fitting in the rest of our 8 hours as we see fit, which works very well. Obviously the quality issues need to be addressed, but perhaps an adjustment to his hours would help.

          1. GythaOgden*

            The business reason is probably being available when other colleagues are available. It would be impractical for me to do 10-7, for instance, because the colleagues I support as team admin are around 9-5. My org is maintenance and facilities, so even if I did have a problem with 9-5, I’d have to suck it up or change jobs. Even the senior staff can’t really flex their hours or work condensed hours, because they need to be around during the day to keep an eye on their sites while others are working in them and be responsive when there’s a need for their attention to a problem on site.

            Can we really not haul OPs over the coals about working hours and needing someone on during normal business hours? Because the vast majority of jobs are done as teams, and need someone to be available when others are even if they’re working on projects that can be done at any time. Jobs where someone can work completely independently of others are very rare; even the side gig I had selling ads for a community magazine, where the admin could be done after I got home from my day job, needed me to take a few calls in the morning with clients who again generally worked 9-5 and needed me to phone them when they’d be in the office rather than play infinite games of email tag when a magazine deadline loomed or we needed paid and they hadn’t responded to multiple emails. I worked afternoons at that point so it was very easy to state that I was available for calls before 11.30 and after 6.30 (to allow for commute and getting ready at my day job). Now I’m a full time employee I wouldn’t be able to handle that (and wouldn’t need the money) but I no longer try and work for them.

            Ironically I’m only just awake at 8 after having to treat a migraine around 5.30 or so. It’s crappy, and luckily my anti-anxiety meds make migraines easier to treat with regular painkillers and sleep rather than being an instant day off. I have several important meetings today about projects I’m involved with (and the adjustment to being more than just a flunky is probably what is causing these migraines as kind of growing pains). So I need to be up, washed, dressed and downstairs by 9 to take care of prep for them. It’s my job and I enjoy it enough that I’m happy getting up for 9. I was a bit of a night owl when I wasn’t in work but I adapted fine to 9-5 when the need was there. And I’m neurodivergent (autistic), so don’t try and pull that card on me — we’re not that fragile and inflexible.

            Work is a collaborative process. If you find you need to do something at odd hours, that’s your problem to fix. There are a lot of options, from freelancing to video game streaming to night shifts, but don’t think for one moment that employers who need people on a day shift can be forced to accommodate your schedule. We’ve gone straight through compassion to belligerence here, but society runs when we work together, and unfortunately that often means we need to be able to accommodate other people’s schedules. Doing so will make it much easier in the long run for them to make accommodation for us, but since we can’t force them to do anything, if we meet them half way that makes it clear that we’re making an effort and they will generally be happier to reciprocate.

            Life is crappy for a lot of people, myself included. (It’s crappy in some way for everyone tbh.) You need to try and resolve your own needs rather than making someone else responsible for them. Employers are sympathetic to different needs — in this case, they tried 10-7 and it was still a problem on both sides — but they can’t be infinitely flexible. I’m not sure where people have worked where they could be totally flexible about their hours, because my 20+ years in the workforce has been clear that you start at a specific time, finish at a specific time, and that it was my job to make it work. You’re basically expecting other people to manage your life for you, but they themselves are only really ultimately responsible for their own lives. You need to take responsibility for your own life and find the way through it.

            1. i can't help you with that*

              +1 in my last job, we had general 9-5 hours, and one person negotiated that they’d work 8-4. Which was fine, until the other person who did that job also wanted to work 8-4. Which meant anyone who needed that task done between 4 and 5 couldn’t get it, and the receptionist spent several months fielding angry phone calls for an hour every day.

              In the grand scheme of things not a huge problem and people mostly adjusted, but there was an impact. If you’re in a team environment, not everything can be done asynchronously.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I really commend LW1 for giving him exactly what he said would help the issue, since it was possible to do that. For a lot of people (like Prefer) that would in fact have been enough, and the office would soon adapt itself to the idea that Bob signs on at 10:30 rather than 8:00.

              And while it could be medical, it could also be like other forms of bad resource management: 1) I’ve built up a margin to cushion things; 2) That means I can spend more of the resource; 3) Oh no, the resource is gone, how did that happen.

            2. Kara (not letter Kara!)*

              Yep, which says to me that LW is chasing a distraction rather than the actual problem. It doesn’t sound as though LW has actually talked to their employee about their work quality yet. My advice would be to do so, and during that conversation make sure they’re focusing exclusively on the changes that need to happen to their work product. No diversions into the employee’s personal time; it’s missing the real problem and will only distract from what needs to get discussed.

          2. Allonge*

            Core hours work fine for us too, but there are plenty of places where there is a genuine advantage of everyone working by and large at the same time (for highly collaborative work, for example, or delivering services that are time-sensitive).

            If everyone else starts at 8, this may not be the workplace for someone whose brain kick into gear at 10.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Circadian rhythms and sleep cycles can be tricky. I used to be a total night owl but as I got older, I became a morning lark. My natural sleep time is 9-ish pm and I wake up around 4 am; I work from home a lot and my typical work day is 6 am to 4-5 pm. I feel energized and only need a little coffee.

          But dinner with friends or doing anything that delays bedtime by even an hour means I am wide awake well past midnight. Melatonin doesn’t help me fall asleep, I still wake up at 4 am, and you can imagine how productive I am even with coffee.

          I tend not to socialize during the week because of this pattern, which isn’t healthy. But always arranging my life around work isn’t healthy, either, even though I love what I do.

      2. Akili*

        Yeah – not to arm chair diagnose, but as someone with ADHD it sounds a *lot* like a disorder with a video game hyperfixation (I sometimes can’t sleep until 2 or 3 AM, and my first few hours of work – 8:30-10ish – tend to be foggier; and caffeine makes me sleep) – however that doesn’t excuse the employee and their bad work habits. Maybe it is a disorder and they don’t know, maybe they do know and can’t afford, or aren’t taking, medication, maybe it’s NOT a disorder – but I know I’ve been called lazy for things I can’t control. It’s still my responsibility though, not my employers (to at least identify whether medical accommodations are necessary I mean).

        1. Orv*

          I’m almost never able to get anything useful done before 10, but since my employer judges me at least partly by what time my butt is occupying a seat instead of by when I’m actually productive, I end up sitting there zoned out every morning.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            The LW started off approving an adjusted schedule – the employee started at 10am, and made up the remaining time later in the evening. The employee wasn’t productive, and the shifted schedule was causing inconvenience, so the LW asked them to shift to a schedule closer to the standard one, at which point his productivity did improve (if only by a little).

            1. Dina*

              All the LW said was “He wasn’t doing very well with those hours”. I’m not entirely clear on what they mean by that.

              1. Allonge*

                In context, I expect it means that there was no / not enough improvement to his work (or it was even worse) that would justify the added inconvenience of the later ‘shift’ start.

              2. GythaOgden*

                Let’s take her at her word. She’s privy to the metrics of what she needs from him, and he wasn’t actually meeting that is all we really need to know.

              3. Happy meal with extra happy*

                What more can it mean, beyond “he wasn’t doing very well.” Like, seriously, do some commenters need to see a full performance evaluation before they accept that someone isn’t doing a good job?

                1. AngryOctopus*

                  This, honestly. LW gave him a shifted schedule, and nothing really changed. Therefore, he wasn’t doing well with those new hours.
                  Flexibility is important (I’m an early bird, and my boss understands my need to start at 7:30ish and be DONE by 3ish, depending on what needs to be done–I’d be a disaster working a 9-5. It would miss my most productive time and encompass my most “I NEED A NAP” time), but if flexibility doesn’t improve the problems seen, it’s not the solution. LW definitely needs to focus on the “your work isn’t anywhere near the level it needs to be” conversation, and feel free to refer him to the EAP, but it’s on the employee to figure out their stuff and make their work life better. The LW can’t do that for them.

          2. Gatomon*

            Yeah, I have to work at 8 too but honestly, nothing really happens until 8:45-9ish when my medication kicks in. I wasn’t medicated prior to covid when I worked in office every day, but now I usually spend that first 45 minutes eating breakfast, planning my tasks for that work day, and reading a smidge of a novel while my tea cools down to drinking temp, then I sit down at my desk at home. If my brain is fairly calm and “pointed” towards work when my medication kicks in, I have trouble remembering to get up for lunch.

            In theory I should be able to do my routine before 8 am, but: ADHD. If I’m logged in at 8:01, we’re off to a great start with the day, honestly. If only I didn’t have to wake up first to take them.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              >if only
              My dream, a patch type thing that I slap on once a week. Maybe one of Alison’s readers is a pharmaceutic researcher who will invent the method to have the even dose pause for a regular sleep period.

              1. Roy Donk*

                My daughter’s ADHD doctor recommends she keep her meds and water on her nightstand, set her alarm 30 minutes before she needs to get up, take her meds, and then go back to sleep, to help with this. (She tends to just snooze through that alarm, but! Still might be helpful advice!)

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              Not sure if this works for you, but I keep my meds and a water bottle within reach of my bed. Set an alarm for 30 min before I need to get up so I can roll over, take my adderall, and go back to sleep. That way it’s already working by the time I’m up.

          3. kicking-k*

            I’m the same, and I live in a country where it is very hard to get ADHD meds at the moment. I have managed to drag my circadian rhythm back to “asleep at midnight” with intense attention to sleep hygiene which took a lot of managing, but it takes one interruption (like a child with a nightmare stopping me getting to bed) to knock it back to “asleep at 3.30, up at 7.30 and not doing great”. Coffee does not wake me up (and I don’t use it to try to stay awake).

            To me the amount of effort is not worth it. I don’t want to be awake till 3.30, but I have flexible working hours (as I said, I’m not in the US) and even if I go to bed really early I am still not at my best in the mornings.

          4. KaciHall*

            At my job my first task is to pull numbers from a variety of sources. On a good day (one where I start after 10) it takes about 2 minutes. Everyone assumes it takes me 15 or 20 – that’s what it takes my manager when she covers my vacations, and is about how long it takes me at 8 am. but as long as I’m physically in my seat and able to answer the phone at 8, no one cares how productive I am in the morning.

        2. Shakti*

          Yes I was thinking of this too! It sounds very familiar as someone who is very acquainted with adhd and a lot of people don’t get diagnosed until there’s a series of problems as adults. School or different jobs aren’t as affected by these patterns of behavior if say they’re very intelligent or on a different schedule

        3. MassMatt*

          “Not to armchair diagnose”… the most frequent preamble for armchair diagnoses. Please stop.

        4. Mockingjay*

          The real issue is performance. It’s not OP1’s responsibility to come up with all kinds of work schedules in hopes that one fixes the problem, or hint that employee’s personal habits outside work may impede their performance, or wonder if the employee has some undiagnosed/unknown condition affecting work. OP1 needs to set clear expectations for work output and spell out consequences for failure to improve (PIP, reassignment, firing).

          It’s incumbent upon the employee (an Adult!) to figure out what they need and whether they can meet the work expectations. Employee can approach the company/OP1 for accommodation if warranted. But the purpose of accommodation is to keep the employee performing. Condition or not, accommodation or not, the employee still needs to produce quality work.

          1. Gemstones*

            Amen…It just sems like overstepping to be this involved in an employee’s sleep schedule or personal life.

            1. Annie*

              It seems bizarre that the employee is telling the LW all about his sleep schedule and personal life, though.

              Rather than keep informing the LW that he’s video gaming until 3:30am, why doesn’t he just request a later schedule and say it works better with his circadium rhythm? It’s like the related letter question in which the employee asks the manager for time off because of a video game convention. It’s none of the manager’s business why the employee wants time off, and in both cases, the manager is looking down upon the “why” rather than what the actual need is.

              Say, if the employee was up all hours because of a child, and needed to start work at 10am, there might not be the same amount of judgment by the LW. But ultimately, as others have pointed out, it’s the quality of work that is suffering.

        5. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Absolutely! I spent over 10 years with insomnia and have always been a night owl and have a video game addiction to boot (which I combat by just NOT playing games ever, but I do slip into it now and again and waste a lot of time and get really mad at myself about it). Started taking trazodone two years ago and I am not exaggerating when I say that it’s been a life-changer. Once I was finally able to get a full night’s sleep and not need a nap every afternoon, I then noticed that my brain wanders alllllllll the time and I can’t focus on anything at work. Started looking into ADHD stuff and realized I do have it and finally got a diagnosis a few months ago (at the age of 45!). The line about how the employee may be staying up late playing video games and drinking coffee because he has a sleep disorder and not the other way around is absolutely correct (the same can also be true for substance abuse issues). For ages people have been confused about the cause of these things and are only now beginning to realize that the kinds of people who tend to fall into these patterns do so because of real biological differences in the ways their bodies process dopamine and other chemicals.

          None of this is on OP to manage, of course, but it might help OP to be more compassionate with their employee when helping him figure out how to improve his work.

      3. Prefer my pets*

        True…it’s very easy to not realize it’s a biological fact not a moral failing to not be on the “normal” schedule.

        For the record, I in fact don’t lay staring at the ceiling. I do both household chores & “fun” stuff with my evenings. But even when I was in my early 20s instead if planning my 50th I was still smart enough to talk at work about simply my insomnia (even though that term isn’t accurate for me) rather than talking about being up all night gaming, cleaning, or riding my horse.

        1. Orv*

          Yeah, the social rule seems to be that if insomnia makes you too tired to go into work, you have to lie and say you’re sick or something. Because being up too late is associated with laziness in a way being sick isn’t.

          1. Boof*

            Idk i think you can say “insomnia” (implies can’t sleep rather than won’t); saying i was up all night playing games to your boss is on par with saying i was up all night clubbing or “omg so hungover” or other things one nominally has control over – shows questionable priorities (fun over function the next day) + judgement (then telling your boss about it?) – they’re not madmen doing drugs to burn the candle at both ends! (I hope!)

          2. butter rat*

            If I force myself to get up when I haven’t had enough sleep, I start the day vomiting, so “sick” isn’t a lie in my case.

          3. My Useless 2 Cents*

            Both managers at work are chronically sleep deprived (but insist on coming in at 5AM every morning) and brag about falling asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow. They have no understanding of insomnia or being so tired you could cry, be lying in bed, and STILL be unable to fall asleep. So I have to say I’m “not feeling well”, it does grate on me. And unfortunately with phones/tv/games/all the modern distractions the stigma is getting worse, not better. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard something along the lines of “don’t play on your phone after 7PM” or “turn off the tv at least a hour before bedtime” :( *sigh*

      4. Mongrel*

        It’s also possible that it’s self-induced. I used to smoke a lot, just normal tobacco, but as it’s a stimulant it wrecked my sleep patterns.
        Having said that I think OPs responsibility stops at “Maybe you should get that checked out as it’s affecting your work”

        1. GythaOgden*

          I think it makes a difference between being relatively sympathetic (if he was genuinely struggling with his health or e.g. was studying alongside work) and just that his only answer was gaming. I think OP is a stage ahead of us — she’s tried to work with this guy on the basis of being compassionate and understanding and it’s failing and she’s asking us ‘what now?’

          These things make a difference.

    2. Orv*

      I’ve been fighting my natural circadian rhythm every day since high school. At this point I figure I’m just going to be continually sleep deprived until I retire or die in some kind of fatigue-related accident. No one has any sympathy, they just think people like me are lazy.

      1. Melicious*

        That cultural narrative is so strong it’s maddening. Why is it lazy to sleep in but NOT lazy to go to bed early? I

        1. Melicious*

          I STILL get side eye from my family for letting my husband sleep in every weekend while I get up with the kids. Because I have the option to go to bed before 1am! He doesn’t! It’s one of the only ways he can function during the work week that starts at 9am.

          1. Violet*

            It’s because of the Puritans! Puritan culture heavily emphasized getting up early to work hard and toil for God. They considered early rising a moral issue, and several Bible verses specifically mention getting up early. And Puritanism was so influential in early America that lots of their values have just stuck around and become part of our modern mentality without us realizing where it all originated

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I agree (and wrote about it here) but I don’t want us to get so sidetracked on this point that we end up in a discussion that doesn’t help the letter-writer.

              So I’m going to ask that people refocus on constructive advice to the LW, keeping in mind that this particular employee is struggling with work quality and his work output was worse when he had a later, more flexible schedule.

                1. AngryOctopus*

                  Employee’s work was not good to begin with though. So for sure LW has to have the “your work needs to consistently be at level B, and what I’m getting from you now is level D at best. We need to make a plan to make sure you can produce at level B” conversation.

              1. kicking-k*

                When I was younger and had a totally flexible schedule, I would end up feeling I could do work anytime, so there was no urgency. For a lot of people, neurotypical or neurodiverse, allowing work to be done anytime eats at focus.

                I still have flexible hours but in practice I can’t work evenings because I have kids. It’s actually helpful. I would suggest a compromise for this guy such as 9.30 to 6 – that’s not such an early start but does end in “normal” business hours and maybe he needs that hard stop at the end of the day as a target to hit.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                I don’t think it says his output was worse, or even that it wasn’t better than it is now. Just that it still wasn’t great, and that the hours were inconvenient for OP.

                1. MCMonkeyBean*

                  I don’t think that means he has to offer an altered schedule if it genuinely wasn’t working. Just further reasons that he should stop thinking about the employee’s sleep schedule at all when judging his work output.

                2. Hlao-roo*

                  The letter-writer wrote that since the employee switched to the earlier schedule, “his work has not improved a lot. It’s improved a little.”

                  He was performing worse (just a little bit, but still worse) when he was working the later hours compared to now, working the earlier hours.

        2. Pink Sprite*

          I was just trying to get that point across to someone today. Well, yesterday, because it’s 1:00 AM and I’m still wide awake :\.
          The guy I was talking to is in his 80s and I’m in my early 50s. He goes to bed at about 6:30 PM.
          If I’m lucky, I’ll fall asleep between 1-2 AM. He was making fun of me – jerking my chain and I just blew up. Ranting about how I can sometimes got as much sleep as he does, but it’s just shifted on the clock.

          Sleep disorders are no joke. They aren’t given as much attention (other than fluff media pieces) as to the seriousness and severity and long term effects.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, I feel privileged because my circadian rhythm matches the ideal. I normally wake up before my alarm rings at 6 am and usually go to bed by 10.30 pm at the latest during a weekday. This works for work, but it does limit my social life, if I want to stay up past midnight, I need a cocktail of caffeine and alcohol, otherwise I’ll just dislocate my jaw yawning. I indulge maybe once or twice a year, because the disruption of my circadian rhythm isn’t worth it.

            That said, I’d love to see society change so that a later circadian rhythm would no longer be seen as a moral failing, but just a brain chemistry difference. Then people could stop talking about it as a sleep disorder. I’m not holding my breath, though…

            1. Bad Wolf*

              Ha! I’m just like you. I’m all about a social happy hour cocktail and TV in my jammies by 8pm. This is fine now that I’m middle-aged. But college was torture. My friends actually took early evening naps so they could go out to the bars after 11pm. Why!?!

        3. Cathie from Canada*

          Yes. People who get into the office early, before it opens, are given credit as “keeners” while people who stay late, after the office workday ends, are criticized as “behind in their work”.
          One of the delightful things about being retired now is that I can stay up until 2 am, and sleep until 10!

        4. Dulcinea47*

          This is a misconception a lot of people have, that society thinks going to bed early is okay. It’s just not true. You basically don’t get to have a social life and people think you’re probably sick or old. Basically having a full time job doesn’t leave anyone the time to have the sleep schedule that works for them.

      2. An Honest Nudibranch*

        Seriouslyyy. Like people really underestimate how much the attitude of “sleep problems as moral failures” messes with people’s heads and discourages proper treatment.

        Like I have had to deal with unexpectedly passing out, unexpectedly taking like 6 hour+ naps, dealing with severe pain upon waking if I try to sleep for 8 hours consecutively. . . and the reaction is near universally “have you tried just having more Self Control?”

      3. DyneinWalking*

        Orv, did you ever consider working a job with shifts where you can take the night shift? It seems like the obvious solution to me.
        Of course that would depend on the availability of such jobs in your area, your profession and so on but… honestly, as a person who also struggles with sleep deprivation (though I’m an early bird) I’m sitting here thinking that a whole lifetime of non-stop sleep deprivation sounds like hell. Personally, if I knew for certain that the issue was my circadian rhythm, I’d rather get into a maybe not-so-awsome but at least night-shift compatible line of work (and move if such a job wasn’t available in my area) than spend my entire life in a sluggish sleep-deprived state.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m starting to think that school guidance counselors should include information about the types of careers that are typically done on non standard schedules.

        1. Rachel*

          I agree, a lot of people are going to the hardware store looking for bananas.

          There is nothing, zero, zip wrong with being a night owl. But it’s surprising to me that people are a night owl and pursue professions that start early in the morning.

          1. kicking-k*

            I haven’t as yet found any professions I can do that would let me work at night – and I now have children at school, and I can’t very well force them to be nocturnal, or leave them when they are asleep. Working from home at nights might work, but my professional specialisation isn’t suited to that.

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          I’d settle for my child’s HS guidance counselors having any clue about the reality of the working world…but I digress (its been a week y’all….)

        3. Lenora Rose*

          The problem is, all teenagers seem to be on something closer to a later sleep pattern (it’s a known circadian shift from childhood to teen years); it’s near impossible to guess in the teens which kids will be that way all their life vs which ones will shift back to the “traditional” adult schedule.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              This makes you an exception to a trend, it doesn’t undermine the trend.

              It’s why, when parts of the US switched to starting different schools at different times so they could use the same buses and drivers for multiple grades, the fact that they put the high schools at the earliest time, not the latest, was seriously problematic.

          1. doreen*

            If you would have asked me in high school or college, I would have absolutely told you I was a night owl. Left to my own devices, I would have slept from about 3am to maybe 10 or 11 am. That went away and for the past 30 years or so, I rarely can sleep until 8AM. Usually I’m up by 6;30 even though I am retired and have no reason to get up that early.

        4. Double A*

          I’m a teacher, and I actually do tell kids to think as much about the type of schedule and environment that they’d like to work in as they do about the field itself. But it’s not commonly emphasized.

    3. Tiger Snake*

      At the end of the day, just like Alison says, I don’t think the cause matters.
      In fact, I’d argue that since LW#1 chose to revert a previously agreed flexible schedule, and didn’t see much change positive or negative to the outcome, the employee is doing ‘fine’ at managing his personal time. It’s not the games, it’s that he’s not great with details.

      LW#1’s employee is at work and he’s working to the same standard he was before: He’s just not very good at his job.

    4. Mmm.*

      I have a pretty bad sleep disorder that affects my sleep schedule. I also spend my sleepless nights doing things I enjoy. We already don’t get enough hours in a day to do those things. May as well take advantage of this.

      I have gotten to watch so many movies I wouldn’t otherwise have seen.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I’ve never understood the position that ‘jerks who pretend x make it harder for the rest of us with x to be taken seriously’. No they don’t! People choose not to take you seriously because *they* are jerks. I hear this is gluten free circles sometimes and I find it baffling. If someone refuses to believe a medical condition exists, or to consider you as truthful without cause, then they’re an ableist jerk whether they’ve had an encounter with another jerk or not. In the boy who cried wolf, it was the boy who ended up being disbelieved in. People didn’t stop believing in wolves!

      1. Silver Robin*

        People do believe that these conditions are real. But if folks without said conditions claim them falsely, it becomes harder to trust that the next person is telling the truth, especially since claiming those conditions is usually to ask for an accommodation, which means more work (for the kitchen, for the manager, whoever) or some kind of benefit for the claimer.

        Are you *actually* gluten free or are you doing the same thing the last five people did and just want to avoid bread? The latter can be accommodate much more easily. The former requires a significant effort from the kitchen to avoid cross contamination.

        Do you *actually* have a sleep disorder? Or are you asking for flexibility because you want a cover for why your work is not great? This is much more likely to be applied with an ableist lens, folks are so much more skeptical of this kind of thing off the bat, which is a problem. But yeah, OP feels like their report got what they asked for and then continued to be mediocre (if not worse), so next time somebody asks for that accommodation, OP has a memory of that being a red herring/not working. If it happens enough, or if requests associated with X have this result enough, then OP is understandably going to be skeptical that such an accommodation is necessary or effective. That makes things harder for folks who do actually need the accommodation.

        1. Ohio gal*

          But those problems can be solved by asking clarifying follow up questions, which you need to do anyway for real disabilities and allergies. “Should I leave the bread off your plate or do you need to avoid cross-contamination?”

          During training I was told my boss had an allergy to ____ and my first thought definitely wasn’t “ooh, what if he’s faking?” I just asked if it was safe to bring in food with that ingredient or if it should be avoided altogether, and that was that.

          I work in customer service and deal with plenty of dishonest people, but it doesn’t make me ableist unless I choose to let it.

          1. Silver Robin*

            Of course you can ask follow up questions, and people do. But do you not see the difference between somebody saying, “please leave the bread off” and “I’m gluten free”? The stakes are rather high for people who are allergic to or cannot process gluten (or any other ingredient). The stakes are low for somebody with a preference (the preference should be respected and accounted for! But the stakes are still low). Using the high stakes language for preferences is annoying and misleading. It makes sense that people might get distrustful of the high stakes language if it is regularly used inappropriately.

            Notice that I am not advocating for dismissing people out of hand. Nor am I saying that a preference should not be accounted for. I think flexibility is great and we should all get meals and work schedules that best suit us. I just understand why Prefer My Pets is so frustrated. It is extremely human (and logical?) to have prior experiences influence future interpretations. The world is better when people use accurate language to describe what is going on.

            1. An Honest Nudibranch*

              Person with celiac here. I’m fully with Ellis Bell on this one – people being dishonest about having diagnoses doesn’t hurt me much, but people approaching requests for accommodations as “they’re probably a *faker*” does.

              People who pull “all people avoiding gluten are silly hipsters” do that regardless of whether they’ve interacted with someone who’s been dishonest about gluten before. The fact people make jokes about “oh ya, *gluten*, it’s probably some misguided dieter” is enough to convince them the next person who comes in asking about gluten is probably a fraudster – the jokes and constant insistence that all gluten-free requests are petty does much more damage then the actual people using the words “I’m gluten-free” when they don’t have a condition.

              Like, to be clear, I still don’t think it is reasonable or ethical to be dishonest about relationships to gluten, because that puts way more work on food service workers. But I’m really tired of people pointing to that phenomenon to go “oh yes that’s why people are super distrustful and dismissive of celiacs,” when like. No the problem is ableism, and people will be ableist regardless of whether they’ve seen examples of people misusing terms before.

    6. MK*

      i disagree that this has much to do with his sleep needs or schedule. Staying up all night sounds like a special occasion, not a regular thing, OP says the employee generally goes to bed at 1am and has to start work at 8.30am. That’s around 7 hours of sleep, which is perfectly adequate; yes, some people need more sleep, but, barring a medical conditions, I don’t think it’s likely that he is not rested enough to work after 7 hours of sleep.

      Frankly, I think OP is being judgemental about him staying up to play videogames and it is obscuring the simple fact that he isn’t good at his job.

      1. Rebecca*

        7 hours would be enough, if he indeed can get up at 8 for an 8:30 start, but the LW doesn’t know what else is on his schedule. I start teaching at 9am, but my kid has to be out the door at 8:15 for school which means a 7:15 wake up for me and a 7:30 wake up for him.

        We have no idea what this guy’s schedule or his sleep patters are. I agree with you that it’s coming from a place of judgement about his hobbies – if he was up all night with the volunteer fire service or writing papers for a degree, LW would likely be more forgiving. Focusing on the poor work output rather than trying to figure out why he’s staying up late is LW’s best bet.

        Especially since I’m skeptical that LW actually knows that much about his sleep schedule or what he’s doing every night anyway, based on a few comments about staying up to play video games a few times. I doubt he’s giving her a detailed account of his sleep hours and activities every night, or even always telling the whole truth about why he’s tired.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        It does feel like LW is hoping that if the employee were to stop gaming late on a consistent basis, they might be able to devote more thought to their job. It’s less of a judgement and more of a “I would hope that a lesser focus on X would help him to focus more on Y”, which *might* be helpful, but it might not. The bottom line is that it’s probably best for OP to focus on work, talk about how the flexible schedule from before didn’t make an impact on the quality of his work, and how can they fix that going forward, because he needs to be at B but he’s at D. It’s on the employee to either stop gaming so late so that it affects their work, or to try to work out WHY they can’t sleep until so late and therefore stay up gaming.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          You nailed it. Not staying up playing video games might be the magic solution. But it doesn’t really matter. The issue is — the guy’s work is subpar. The focus needs to be on that. What needs to be done to get your work up to the quality it needs to be.

          And just as an aside, OP, this might not be the job for the guy. He could stop gaming altogether, get a full 10 hours of sleep a night — and his work could still be terrible. You need to be prepared to transition him out, kindly of course, if he just can’t do the work to the quality you need it done. This is needs improvement territory. If he can’t get to meets (reasonable) expectations, then you have to make a business decision.

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

        7 hours of sleep is not perfectly adequate on a regular basis. Also that assumes he falls asleep at 1 AM, wakes up at 8 and immediately starts working.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          How much sleep you need varies from person to person, but 7 hours per night is fine for many adults. The normal range of sleep required for an adult is between 7-9 hours per night, depending on health, age, and individual needs.

          The CDC and Mayo Clinic both say adults need “at least 7 hours” of sleep per night, and the National Institute of Health has multiple articles recommending 7-9 hours. And NIOSH information on improving sleep health for shift workers states “There is individual variability in how much sleep we need. Most adults need about 7 to 8 hours of good-quality sleep per night.”

      4. Lenora Rose*

        7 hours of sleep isn’t nearly enough for some people, especially every night. Plus, your math only works out if there’s no night or morning routine to speak of.

    7. Earlk*

      I doubt this will help anyone with Circadian rhythm differences but for people suffering from not being able to sleep til late (including people with ADHD; which I have): I recently started getting up at 7am every single day, including when I’m not working (this works for my schedule obviously time needs to be adjusted accordingly, the key is that it’s the same EVERY day).

      It has, annoyingly, been the most effective thing that helps with, my sleeping. I have been maintaining it even if I’ve been out drinking the night before and I feel so much better than I would if I was sleeping in after it.

      1. Lady Lessa*

        I just want to support those who have found it better to keep the same/or similar schedule the week around. I know that it works better for me. (especially when I go to the next time zone west).

        Another suggestion for all is to include protein as part of your breakfast. I just finished up some black beans with mine.

        1. GythaOgden*

          They renovated/rebuilt the library while I was in my second year at uni and since we were in London, they moved it to a building about a mile from campus. I’d walk there, study until it closed at 10pm, and then go for a Burger King at the outlet nearby. I could feel the bacon cheeseburger working to renovate my brain after a hard day’s plugging away at courses I really, really shouldn’t have taken.

          There was a marketing slogan back in the 1970s in the UK that said ‘Go to work on an egg’. (The equivalent of Got Milk? — not a specific brand of eggs, just advertising eggs as protein bombs as marketing boards sometimes do.) Now I work from home, I’m doing that quite a bit and it’s helping a lot.

        2. Vespertine Chronique*

          Feel compelled to add a word of warning here. I have suffered from ME for over 10 years. The most likely contributing factor is that for the 10 years prior to that, I forced myself through will power into following an early schedule (for a job I otherwise really liked and cared about) when I’m naturally a clear night owl. I set my alarm for 6am every weekday, year in year out. My time of falling asleep never shifted to earlier than midnight. Forcing yourself into a schedule a few hours away from your natural circadian rhythms is equivalent to doing shift work, strongly evidenced as being bad for health.
          Now I have it as part of my disability accommodations that my work day starts at 11.

        3. Earlk*

          Great inclusion and something I found out recently that’s very important to me is that bagels usually have around 9gms of protein :).

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I am glad this works for you, and it’s a pretty standard suggestion for people WITHOUT sleep disorders or circadian rhythm differences. For people in those situations it’s a little like telling someone with chronic fatigue syndrome about how much more energetic you feel when you exercise regularly.

    8. MassMatt*

      You say employees like those #1 drive you crazy, but seem to be… like the employee in letter #1?

      All this armchair diagnosing of what possible medical problem there might be with this employee 1) Violates the rule against armchair diagnosing, and 2) Is utterly beside the point.

      Whether the employee is staying up late playing games, drinking too much coffee, or has a circadian rhythm issue is irrelevant—he is not showing up on time, AND his work is shoddy.

      It seems as though this is not the right job for him.

    9. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, I’m a bit oversensitive to this issue lately but the more I learn about chronotypes/circadian typology the more angry I get that the world is literally built around “early birds” and then they judge anyone who doesn’t fit into that mold as being lazy. For most of my life I was made to feel lazy because I sleep a lot on the weekends. But that’s because I get very little sleep during the week trying to force my body to work on other people’s schedule.

      If he’s not doing well then he’s not doing well and you need to talk to him about that. But you’re not his dad and you don’t need to tuck him in at 9 and ground him from playing video games.

    10. Another academic librarian*

      I appreciate Alison’s advice. It is not about the employee’s sleep habits etc.
      It is about the work product.
      I had a very similar issue.
      Created a flexible schedule for my report with their input. That didn’t change anything.
      I got wrapped up in whether I was being a “good person.”
      Document, document, document.
      Does the employee need to be available for core hours?
      If the answer is yes, this might not be the job for them.

    11. Kotow*

      At this point, the only reason I can function on the rest of the world’s schedule is by taking **two** sleep aids (melatonin and clortromiton which isn’t technically a sleep aid but helps when the melatonin isn’t doing it). Waking up feeling like a truck hit me results in a lot of coffee to get going. Even so, there are still nights where the sleep aid cocktail isn’t working and I’m going to be up until at least 1am because that’s my natural cycle would rather do. The choice is to either lay in bed staring at the ceiling getting more and more stressed about how I won’t get enough sleep, or get up and do something I enjoy until I naturally become tired.

      Just because he’s playing video games doesn’t mean he can’t have a legitimate issue. It may be that he tried to go to bed earlier and playing video games was better than anxiously trying to fall asleep for hours.

    12. Selina Luna*

      Before I was diagnosed late in life with ADHD, I self-medicated in the way that the guy playing video games was working. I am NOT saying he is doing this; I am saying that medical issues (especially undiagnosed) are often self-medicated destructively.
      Also, I have a circadian rhythm even with a diagnosis and proper medication similar to yours. I work in a school, so unfortunately, hours are just set so I can never get enough sleep. It sucks, right?

    13. MB*

      Prefer my pets – so happy you have a position with a great schedule friendly supervisor. Love the ‘don’t knock it, we protected your ancestors from night predators’. Spot on! Society is still in the dark ages with their understanding of this – being able to wake up at 5 am is NOT a predictor of a work ethic or success. Sincerely dislike all the ishkibbile that needs to be waded through in the community on behalf of a family member.

    14. birb*

      I feel this in my SOUL. I have POTS and EDS, which makes sleep very difficult. Sometimes I only get one or two hours a night, after genuinely laying in bed for 8 hours with my eyes closed. I have never in my entire life slept through an entire night, and genuinely didn’t know that other people did until very recently.

      I hate when it comes up because people just assume if you can’t sleep you must be doing something wrong, and the questions and unsolicited advice is always incredibly patronizing. Yes I have good sleep hygiene. Yes my doctor knows. No I do not have sleep apnea. No I am not “scrolling all night in bed”. Yes I have a weighted blanket and weighted sleep mask and blackout curtains and a white noise machine, and no, your chiropractor cannot fix it for me!

  2. Ann*

    I completely agree with your mom and wish you both the best. I received the most generous work support I could have imagined during my parent’s and my own stretch of illness simply because I made people aware of the extraordinary circumstances. Coworkers came out of the woodwork to unexpectedly offer their solidarity, thoughtful messages, counsel, phone numbers, grocery ordering, you name it, an experience which made us closer.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I really like the advice that you can share more and share widely if you feel inclined. I think sometimes people are reserved and cut off in times of crisis, not because of a desire for privacy which would be cool, but because of a vague idea we’re not supposed to be publicly human.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      This has been my experience also. I was the primary organizer of support for a terminally ill co-worker and his wife. So many people offered to help. This included driving him to appointments so his wife could work her regular hours, grocery shopping, and bringing meals. But it also included just being a good friend and continuing with living a joyful life–singing and playing instruments together, hanging out to watch a movie, taking walks.

      Those were such precious times, and he and his wife helped me learn the joy of being open-hearted. It deepened what is a lifelong connection with his wife many years later.

      For the letter writer and Alison’s mom–you truly give others a gift when you allow them to be generous and kind. I wish you all well on your journey.

    3. bamcheeks*

      The same happened with my mum, and it was lovely. People she’d worked with in her twenties and not seen for thirty years drove two hours to spend an hour or two with her and then home and it just brought so much light and laughter to those last few months.

      Lw4, if you have any thoughts about hoe people can help you, please say so! It feels weird to blatantly ask/tell people what you need, but it’s so helpful on the other end to KNOW what you can do, especially if this news comes to old colleagues and friends you haven’t seen for a long time. “At the moment I’m able to manage meeting for lunch not too far from home, and that would be lovely if someone wants to organise it.” “Long visits tire me out, but it’s lovely when people come over for half an hour and bring all the gossip!” “A very kind friend set up a GoFundMe which is helping me tick off some items on my bucket list!”

      Of course, you may not want anything! But this is the time when people who haven’t been in touch for a long time often will want to do Something, and if you would like that, take advantage of it! Don’t think of it as asking for help, think of it as directing people’s WISH to help in the most useful way possible. For me it’s a great relief when I know exactly what to do and how to help, rather than doing something that *feels* helpful but may actually be unhelpful, annoying or too tiring.

    4. English Rose*

      Yes, so much sympathy to you, LW4. It’s interesting to me how much we don’t share about our own experience until someone else ‘comes out of the woodwork’. I’m sure you’ll find added peace in the time you have left from those contacts.
      On a practical note, there are ways to arrange in advance for your social media channels to be closed when the time comes. I think this varies from channel to channel.

    5. Mairead*

      Yup, I had a friend years ago who got a terminal diagnosis and was advised to share the news. He really didn’t want to, but did it anyway. He said it got easier with each person he told and it turned out to be a great relief not to have to dance around why he wasn’t looking too healthy etc.
      One benefit was that people got a chance to say the nice things directly to him that usually only get said at the funeral when it’s too late. Even people he hadn’t got on with came to tell him how much they respected him despite their disagreements.

    6. Jessica Clubber Lang*

      My wife did the same when she had a miscarriage. Her telling people early that she was pregnant made it easier to then talk about the loss which was great in her having support

    7. Lily Rowan*

      Agreed — and you can’t really predict who will step up to do what. When my father had early-stage dementia and needed someone to hang out with him sometimes while my mother was at work, the people who volunteered to go for a walk with him were not necessarily his closest friends. It was some of them, too, but those “weak ties” really matter.

    8. Clare*

      A lot of people really like to support others at times like this. It makes them feel like they’re a nice person when they can do something to help, even if it’s just a tiny thing like offering a listening ear while you vent or being gracious when you forget to text back.

      So to everyone who finds themselves in these situations, please don’t hesitate to accept offers of help if you want what’s being offered. You’re not being a burden to people when you say ‘Yes please, that sounds great’; you’re doing them a favour right back.

      My best wishes to you all.

      1. Random Dice*

        “It makes them feel like they’re a nice person when they can do something to help” – or they may genuinely want to help because they’re thinking of the other person?

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        Me too. I think about you and your mom all the time, Alison — your mom was diagnosed around the same time my mom died. I’m glad you have this time with her.

  3. Artemesia*

    A former student of mine, then colleague had a serious diagnosis this year which we hope will not be terminal but may well be — she used a site called caring bridge to update people on her condition. That way she doesn’t have to conduct people individually or answer a lot of questions at a difficult time. This is an option.

    Another one is to construct email groups and let people know. when my oldest friend was diagnosed with a terminal illness, her husband sent out a note to all her friends with the details they wanted to share. She and I then were able to connect and I planned a couple of cross country visits knowing time was short.

    You of course choose what you are comfortable with but these are just two ways I have seen this done.

    If it would be helpful there are also apps for organizing meal trains — if that would help you might have a close friend organize that. One benefit of doing it this way is coverage, and another is so people know what you actually want to eat at this time. I have participated in several of these where once a week I would drop off a meal for a friend and her family.

    I hope the time you have will be gentle and you will have the support you need.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      If individual emails and updates are too much to manage, I second CaringBridge as an option to consider. I know several people who have used it to post updates. For privacy and avoiding spam, the site requires readers to sign up. If you create an account, you can send an invitation to the people you’d like to include for updates. It also enhances a community of support because posts are visible to everyone else signed up. For example, the person I know who used it most recently posted about how moved they were by all the comments and responses from so many. I wish you well.

    2. Someone Online*

      A former colleague of mine is using CaringBridge to share her cancer treatment journey. As she has retired and lives far away I might not have otherwise really kept up with her, but it has been lovely to be able to offer her and her family support as they go through this hard time.

    3. Nancy*

      Agree with CaringBridge, I know several people who used it to keep everyone updated on themselves or family members. It’s a great resource. You can designate someone if you prefer, if you aren’t up to providing updates yourself. My thoughts are with you, LW4.

    4. Dry Erase Aficionado*

      Agree and wholeheartedly endorse CaringBridge or a similar tool. When my dad was terminally ill, it allowed us to get the information out to those who cared about our family, but it lessens the emotional load of giving all the updates and having to manage the Feelings and responses you receive in a phone call or in response to an email.

      Peace to you, OP4.

    5. Nonanon*

      +1 to CaringBridge; my mother grew up in a fairly small college town, and her best friend happened to be the university president’s daughter. She’s been using CaringBridge to better manage sending out updates, especially since some people want updates regarding her father, whom they knew, and others more want updates regarding the dean, whom they remember.

      LW 4, I wish you and your loved ones peace

    6. new old friend*

      We used CaringBridge for my mom, and it was tremendously helpful to keep everyone up-to-date

      1. Haijlee*

        Came here to post the same thing. CaringBridge is a great resource for keeping everyone up dated, and its easy for people in different circles to share with other people in those circles if they don’t know about it. Hugs to you and your loved ones OP 4.

  4. Jade*

    Just fire the unproductive guy with sloppy work. He’s not prioritizing his job. Many people are terrible insomniacs or have off circadian rhythms. We manage to pull it together. More and more excuses are being made for people not doing their jobs.

    1. Phryne*

      ‘More and more excuses are being made for people not doing their jobs.’

      Sorry, you lost me there. ‘People just don’t want to work anymore nowadays’ is as old as the Romans, and it has never been particularly true at any point in the intervening 2000 years.
      OP should focus on what they need from the employee, and yes, if they cannot do that they may have to be let go, but the judgyness about the cause (that we only have from a biased second hand here anyway) needs to stay at the door.

      1. MassMatt*

        OMG the excuse-making and armchair diagnosing about the employee in this letter is bizarre. This is not about a cranky pants shouting “get off my lawn”, this employee is showing up late and doing shoddy work. People seem to be going very much out of their way to invent reasons excusing this bad conduct.

      2. Antilles*

        OP should focus on what they need from the employee, and yes, if they cannot do that they may have to be let go, but the judgyness about the cause needs to stay at the door
        Exactly. It’s completely irrelevant why he’s not able to perform during the listed work hours. He could be up late because he’s volunteering at a children’s hospital reading to orphans (or some similarly noble cause) and the message from OP would still need to be the exact same: The documents you’re producing have way too many errors and I need you to do a better job of checking your work and paying attention to details.

      3. samwise*

        “I have made comments that he needs to review his work more to catch issues, and that if I had his schedule my work product would suffer, ”

        OP needs to be explicit and clear. Lots of people do not pick up on comments — don’t know if these are off=hand comments.

      4. boof*

        Dang those lazy slaves not wanting to toil every moment of their waking lives for their masters D: (I’m citing rome here)
        … but I will say for this specific case I agree the thing to focus on is that they are underperforming compared with their peers according to OP and they need to focus on communicating that to their employee and working to fix it or decide if they need to move on if it’s indeed bad enough. I think it’s a bit soon to jump to firing but I suppose if there’s no improvement despite addressing it clearly then could get to PIP and firing.

    2. Anima*

      Uh this set me off, too. I’m also not prioritising my job, because that’s not what I live for.
      My work output is good enough for my boss, still.
      Granted, if he does not improve after following the advice given, he might loose his job, but right now there is no need for harsh actions.

    3. Bagpuss*

      You don’t know that. It may be that ultimately, he will be fired if ihe isn’t able to improve, but based on the letter, so far, OP has not actually explicitly told him that hiswork is not up to the required standard.

      As a bare minimum, she needs to do so. It looks as though so far she has made comments abotu how her own work might be adffected if she kept similar hours and ha suggested he checks his work more carefully.

      That doesn’t amountto telling him, explicitly, his work is not of the requiremeed standard and he needs to make significnat imporevments.

      If she does have that conversation with him, and is clear about what that means and what the conequences will be if he doesn’t improve, then she may get to a apoint where firing is appropriate, but right now, the issue is partly that as his managerm, she hasn’t made the expectations of him clear.

      Of coruse, itt if possible that once his manager starts that process, he might make ecuses rathr than trying to imrove, but there is nothing in the letter to suggest that tat is the case at the moment or that it will be how he reacts.

      1. ecnaseener*

        The letter actually does include at least one explicit instance of LW telling him he needs to do better work.

        1. Lydia*

          I’ll add, when she did, the employee gave her a reason why it wasn’t working for him, the OP adjusted his schedule, and it still didn’t improve his work. At this point, she needs to be explicit about the changes he needs to make and the consequences if he doesn’t. She hasn’t been dancing around the issue.

    4. AngryOctopus*

      I don’t particularly prioritize my job, yet I am quite good at it and do well. The problem isn’t that the employee needs to make their job their life. The problem is that LW isn’t seeing them succeed despite trying some ways to help him. Yes the employee needs to step up with their job, but they aren’t failing just because the job isn’t their life.

        1. GythaOgden*

          I hear the socialists weren’t especially happy with people not showing up when they were supposed to either.

          1. Lydia*

            I think the message all comes down to, if you’re supposed to show up and do the work, then show up and do the work, whatever that looks like. If you need to check out for a day, that’s also okay.

    5. My Useless 2 Cents*

      “He’s not prioritizing his job.”… we don’t know how hard he is working or what his priorities are. We only know he is not doing well at his job. Sometimes hard work does NOT equal great results.

    6. SereneScientist*

      Hard disagree; we can discuss productive ways for LW to manage this employee and that can include PIP or even dismissal without buying into this nonsense about “excuses being made for people not doing their jobs.”

      Our culture, in the US or globally, is moving on from this idea that work is identity or sense of value. Trying to bring back this archaic notion doesn’t help anyone.

    7. Random Dice*

      I appreciate all the people sharing their experiences with circadian rhythm issues, and the messed-up culture around rising early bring moral that originated with Puritans.

      I knew very little about this topic, going in, and learned a lot. I didn’t even know to challenge that cultural faux-moral, but now it’s in my brain that it’s not true. I don’t have an employee with this issue at this time, but if I do one day I’ll hopefully be better at supporting them than I would have been without reading this thread.

  5. Shakti*

    Did anyone else notice the judgment coming from the book club lw? It was a wine and book club why wouldn’t it be ok for someone to get tipsy at that? This is coming from someone who has stopped drinking alcohol, but understands that it’s very normal at events with alcohol to drink it and then get tipsy? I do think the advice is spot on definitely bow out of the club, but I worry about the levels of judging coming from LW towards her direct report

    1. John Smith*

      I dont think it’s judgement from LW about employee getting sloshed, it’s about the potential consequences of doing so with her manager (who she is alone with for some of the time being driven home by). It’s one thing to do this with peers, but when one of the two is a manager of the other… that’s just opening the door to all sorts of problems.

      Aside from potential of adverse behaviour (whatever form that may take) from the colleague due to inebriation, there’s the issue of how LW may view this person during work as their manager which really shouldn’t be a position to be in. Plus, as Alison says, there’s the issue of how this might look from others.

      I’m sure that LW doesn’t mind colleague getting as trollied as she likes so long as it doesn’t affect work.

    2. ad astra per aspera*

      I didn’t interpret it as judgement! I read it as a factual statement to give additional context—not only is it manager-employee socializing, there’s an added layer of vulnerability from the employee’s side. I like my boss a lot, but I wouldn’t want to routinely get tipsy around her in my off-time either!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree, the context “People are noticeably altered at the event due to drugs or alcohol, including my new report” is different from “People meet to discuss gardening hints while sipping non-intoxicating beverages.”

        (Specifically, I think there’s a level where “very large group of sober people” is okay to attend with your report, and as the group becomes smaller or the behavior less sober and guarded, there’s a point where it becomes too intimate.)

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Yes – “My new report and I attend the same exercise class at a gym” or “My new report and I both do swing dancing with the local swing dance club that has 50 or so regular attendees” probably wouldn’t be a problem in the way that either a small, sober book club or a large, not-at-all sober hobby (like going to drunken raves at the same clubs?) would be. The size and the not-soberness both matter here. It doesn’t feel like a problem to have the occasional happy hour involving alcohol that all employees can attend or not as they choose, but a standing not-work-connected event with only one of two reports is different.

    3. Awkwardness*

      I did not feel there was judgement. But it is additional context how relaxed/intimate those meetings might get.

    4. WoodswomanWrites*

      I didn’t get that the letter writer was being at all judgmental. I read what they wrote as an explanation of their history to date with Kara whom they are about to supervise. It was context about their social interactions which were just fine as friends but not be comfortable for Kara once the person driving her home is her work supervisor.

      The letter writer made a point to say: “I don’t want Kara to feel like I disapprove of her or am uncomfortable with her, but maybe she’d be more comfortable if I wasn’t there.” I see this as being concerned about Kara’s well-being at work, actually the opposite of judgmental.

    5. Got Coke?*

      No, I did not read them as being judgemental at all, merely factual.

      You, on the other hand…

    6. Over my head in bananas*

      All OP said about the drinking was that Kara sometimes gets tipsy to mildly drunk. It was a statement of fact with no editorializing or value judgments attached, and it was relevant to the question because it was part of the reason that OP was concerned about their continued mutual involvement in the club. She’s concerned that she’s going to cramp Kara’s style because Kara isn’t going to want to get tipsy and be driven home by her boss.

      I don’t understand how you interpreted this statement as being symptomatic of problematic “levels of judgment” coming from OP toward her direct report. What am I missing?

      1. Erin*

        And it’s also one more reason to have the conversation that you’re leaving the group ahead of the next meet – Kara needs to figure out safe transport if she wants to continue enjoying the club the way she has been.

        1. Venus*

          I was thinking the same thing. Kara may be disappointed to learn that LW isn’t going to drive her home, and because of this I would suggest that LW say that she can’t continue due to an outside perception of bias, not that the other employee will be bothered. I would hope that Kara would understand, but worst-case Kara might approach the other coworker to ask if it’s okay for LW to continue attending the meetings.

    7. Bagpuss*

      I didn’t read it that way – I read it more as OP setting out facts abotu the nature of the club that might be relvant to how appropriate it was for her as a manager to be attending with her direct report.
      LW presumably doesn’t have an issue with people smoking weed at the book club even though it is ilegal where she lives, otherwise she’d presumbly have found a diferent club. She does recognise that being in a situation where illegal substances are being used, with a her direct report, might be an issue .
      Same with drinking. She is not critical of the rinking, sh makes clear she offers her collegaue a lioft so no one is drink driving, but it’s relvant to how appropriate it is given their working relationship. (and again, I assume that if she prudish about people rinking she might be expected to join a ‘straight’ book club rather than a books-and-wine one.

    8. Still*

      Didn’t feel any judgement at all, the LW seems really kind and reasonable. My read is that the LW has really enjoyed those nights, didn’t mind helping Kara get home afterwards, and will be sad to leave the club, but she’s willing to do it in order to avoid making Kara uncomfortable and to be fair to her other report.

    9. L-squared*

      I didn’t find it judgmental, just stating facts and why she felt dropping out might be a good idea.

    10. sparkle emoji*

      I didn’t find it judgemental. Kara getting tipsy is relevant because LW frequently acts as the designated driver for Kara. That may have been appropriate as peers, but LW wanted to know if it would still be appropriate when she becomes Kara’s boss. I think it’s good for her to be considering that and getting advice when she has questions.

    11. Artemesia*

      C’mon — they are illegally smoking dope and getting stoned as well as drinking enough to get tipsy at this event. It is entirely appropriate for the LW to be attending such a group that includes a subordinate.

      I have been a member of half a dozen groups over the last 50 years that drink wine and discuss books — I don’t remember a time when anyone got tipsy during one of them. It is not a big deal that they do (if the have a DD) but it makes participation by a boss more problematic than if it were not a group with those habits.

  6. John Smith*

    re LW1. if the employee is citing his desire / need to stay up late as the reason for his poor performance, I’d suggest to him that he looks for a job that suits him and his sleeping habits more (ignoring the fact that his work didn’t improve when accommodations were made for him).

    I had a colleague who infuriated me because he thought it was acceptable to turn up to work at a time that suited him (and his sleep schedule) rather than when he was needed at work (numerous times we had to cancel jobs with clients because of him). I lost it when, on the latest no-show, he strolled in at 1030 am (agreed start time was 8 am) and casually mentioned he was chatting online to a potential date ’til 3 am as justification for his lateness (as far as he was concerned, it wasn’t an issue as he was going to work ’til late even though the work that day was with the client who closed at 3 pm). Thankfully, he’s been pushed out, but I still cannot get over his sheer arrogance and blasé attitude.

    You’ve already tried an accommodation, and if there’s no other reasonable accommodations available, it’s time to ask him to look elsewhere.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, if he’s producing subpar work, the reason doesn’t really matter.

      The thing that bugs me most about these is the sheer audacity of confessing that they didn’t get enough sleep because they played video games or chatted with a potential date.

      I have intermittent insomnia. A few times a year I have such a poor night that I call in sick that day because I’m basically a zombie, even after 4 cups of coffee.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        This is where I am, too. I work with university students. Many of them don’t know and are learning how to be professional adults.

        I cringe when students start a conversation with me with, “Not going to lie…”
        -“Ngl, I partied too hard last night, so I overslept and missed class.”
        -“Ngl, I’m kind of high right now, so could you send me the notes we just went over?”
        -“Ngl, taking exams gives me stress diarrhea so I’m probably going to need to be excused during the test.”

        You don’t need to lie! You just don’t need to tell me the whole truth! Oversharing is not going to change my response to missing class, asking for extras, or anything. I always just assume the worst AND the best and go from there.

      2. Dahlia*

        Was he not getting enough sleep because of playing video games or was he playing video games because he couldn’t sleep, though?

        When my insomnia gets bad enough I start hallucinating spiders and tbh that kinda freaks me out so I tend to need to not be alone with the phantom spiders. Movies, youtube, low-key video games (not all video games are high energy – things like animal crossing or stardew valley can be very chill).

        The correlation and causation are unknown here.

        1. dot*

          Sure, but the thing people seem to be missing is that that is the employee’s responsibility to figure out and sort out. If the LW is clear on the expectations (with the plan to accommodate if it does turn out to be a medical issue), there’s really no point speculating on the reasons why.

          1. Dahlia*

            I actually said that in my other comments.

            I was responding to the comment using the phrase “the sheer audacity” which was over the top, in my opinion.

          1. Dahlia*

            Again, I said that in my other comments. I didn’t feel the need to copy and paste the same comment several times and was addressing a specific part of the comment I replied to.

        2. OP*

          In this particular instance, he was at an event, so the cause and effect was clearly “not getting enough sleep, because at an event”

    2. WS*

      There are jobs where it doesn’t matter what time you get the job done, and there are jobs that work for a non-standard schedule, but if you don’t have one of those, you can’t just will it to be that way!

      1. Orv*

        I find it’s pretty well impossible to find jobs like that that pay well. Night shift work in particular is usually underpaid because the assumption is if you’re working those hours you must be desperate. There’s a huge stigma.

          1. Orv*

            That makes sense. I’m in IT so that’s not really an option. Most people I know who work night shift are doing call center or security guard work for minimum wage.

            1. Dahlia*

              Funnily enough some IT jobs are actually shifting towards later shifts. Probably a regional thing, though. A local IT company I work says it’s much more profitable for him to have shifts starting at noon and ending at 9 because most businesses in our area don’t want him there while they’re working – they want work done after their offices or stores close.

    3. Keymaster in absentia*

      I’d definitely fall to this if he couldn’t make any plans to improve his performance. It seems accommodations have been tried but failed (and even resulted in worse work) so a ‘this can’t continue, what are you going to do?’ questioning is needed.

      And yeah, had one guy who decided he was only going to show up when he felt up to it. Dude wandered in at 2pm one day (we are tech support) to be faced with the coldest glare it’s possible to receive from a team.

      We eventually got rid of him but it took a long time (UK laws) and him unilaterally deciding he was working from home full time on his own schedule without warning.

    4. e271828*

      LW1 as a manager has TMI about the employee’s activities. Strip out and ignore all the stuff about gaming and whatever: the employee requested an accommodation in work hours for their nonstandard sleep schedule. The employee is allowed to work a schedule that overlaps with the core hours of the rest of the team, but their work is still subpar. The subpar work is the problem. My sense is that this employee is immature and not picking up information about ordinary professional/work life (deliberately or not).*

      Tell the employee that you don’t care about their recreations, that the accommodation you’ve made is the one you can make (unless you want to do one more timeshift if requested), and then focus on the work performance issues only. At this point, a written PIP is probably the best strategy going forward; the employee is so boundaryless and unfocused that that may be the only way for them to grasp that it’s serious.

      *I have known many, many employed people who worked odd hours, and the thing they had in common is that doing so enabled them to excel. This person is not excelling.

  7. An Honest Nudibranch*

    Haaaah, person with sleep disorder here. Yes, frame it with the benefit of doubt that a medical condition might be part of the issue – I cannot tell you how aggravating it is to have sleep issues that actively interfere with my life framed as a moral failure instead of as a medical condition that needed treatment, and people have that attitude in the workplace All. The. Time.

    That doesn’t mean you just go “welp it’s a medical problem, nothing we can do.” If the employee can’t do his job, then he can’t do his job. But that convo will go a lot better if you approach it as “we need this output and we’re not getting it, what’s going on” then it will if you lean into “well it’s probably because they’re lazy and stupid, why else would they be up late.” And like, while most people have the common sense to not actually say the second one so blatantly. . . trust me it is very noticeable when people are talking about sleep problems from the perspective of “unexpected sleep patterns must be a sign of irresponsibility, lack of self-control, or lack of common sense.”

    1. Heather*

      “If the employee can’t do his job, then he can’t do his job.” I agree, and clearly he can’t, whether he starts work at 8 or at 10. (This employer tried to accommodate his sleep schedule and the employee still fell short of expectations). Put him on a PIP but accept that he may not succeed.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, it really is a simple as “This is what I need from you. Can you do this? Is there anything that could be done to help you do this?” Sometimes the answer is that there’s no way for a particular person to be successful at a certain job, but, most of the time, you can work with the person to find a solution. You need to treat people like responsible adults in charge of their own lives.

    3. Union nerd*

      I’m pleased that LW has already offered to change the schedule because this can often help. The fact that it didn’t, and in fact made it slightly worse, shows that there are deeper performance issues. It could still be a sleep problem, yet the employee isn’t acknowledging the problem and isn’t willing to talk about what help they might need.

      I helped someone out when he was at the beginning stages of being in trouble for not getting to work early enough, and his manager wanted to help him out but didn’t know how. Employee made a comment to me that he had tried a bunch of different medications from his doctor but no matter what he tried the result was that he wasn’t effective before noon. He was young and hadn’t thought any of this was relevant to his manager. He was in a job where he mostly worked alone, so it was like a light switch went on for everyone because his comment about a doctor meant that he could confirm a need for medical accommodation. Once he knew that he should explain this to his manager, his manager was excited to officially change his schedule to later in the day. The key part is that the employee was suddenly much more productive, so the accommodation was beneficial to everyone.

  8. Mack*

    I’m sorry about your mom, that sounds rough. I hope you’re also feeling supported. Good luck and thank you for your (and her) insight.

  9. Oscar the Grouchy Nurse*

    LW#2, I don’t agree that you should leave the club if you genuinely enjoy it. Maybe invite your other coworker along. Continuing to attend might seem like preferential treatment to one employee over another, but if they go and decide they don’t like it (or maybe they absolutely love it), they won’t feel so left out. I play DnD, and my supervisor is in the campaign party, and one of her old employees (my former coworker) is the DM. We’ve invited our unit to join, but no one else was really interested, and no one feels slighted because we’re nerds being nerds. She doesn’t treat me any different at work than the rest of the crew even though I go over to her house almost every Sunday. I guess it’s all by how you manage it.

    1. MK*

      I would be very interested to know whether your coworkers would agree that she doesn’t treat you any different.

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          +1000. The only people who ever think this kind of manager-direct report relationship is perfectly fine and doesn’t negatively affect others on the team are the ones who are benefitting from the relationship and aren’t viewing it as the outsider.

      1. Cookie Monster*

        Yep. And even if they asked me I wouldn’t feel comfortable being honest about my feelings about it, because then I’d be the “problem.”

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          How is it incomplete? If they don’t agree it means the manager isn’t a very good manager.

    2. Yellowstone D*

      Your manager is being deeply irresponsible and inappropriate, and this is likely to have a negative impact on you as well as them. The optic of the situation are terrible whether or not there is any actual favoritism going on, and any good well-run organisation would want to shut this down fast.

      I’m sorry, I know you want to believe this is all fine because you like the situation and don’t want it to end but this is weak management and it will backfire sooner or later. And you are gonna get caught in the splash zone. I sure hope your DnD campaign is enough fun to make up for the hit to your professional reputation and career prospects!

      1. Anonymoose*

        I think this is quite negative of a specific situation given that you don’t know the full context.

        I don’t think it’s appropriate for LW to stay in the book club, but I happen to work somewhere that has similar arrangements to Oscar’s and it hasn’t caused the company to fall apart. Our performance reviews aren’t done by our managers, they are reviewed by subject experts, and we all have individual areas of expertise so managers can’t really show preference. It’s a small community and we’ve all known each other for a long time, and I’m not bothered by social events where I’m not invited. So while in almost every situation I wouldn’t suggest that a boss socialize with an employee, there are situations where they can work.

      2. Santiago*

        This is a pretty over the top thing to write to a stranger. There are kinder and simpler ways to make this point.

    3. Danni*

      i agree that quitting a club you enjoy shouldnt neet to happen. in this instance because illegal activity is happening it might be smart. but for those of us not in the city with tons of opportunities for socializing quitting a club might mean having no social outlet. i live in the country there are few non-religious and non-bar drinking activities to do. yes we can drive to the city but an hour drive plus during winter it makes it dangerous. having a job, and being a manager shouldnt make you miss out, outside your job

      1. MountainAir*

        I agree with Allison that based on all the circumstances described in LW#2’s letter (including the presence of illegal activity), bowing out is the right move. However, I do think you raise an interesting and valuable point here that broader social context can influence some of the calculus in situations like this….specifically rurality. It’s true that if you live and work in a rural community, the lines are going to get blurrier about where to set some of these boundaries because realistically, you’re likely to have a harder time creating professional distance with coworkers (and even supervisees) than you would in other places. When you see each other at the grocery store and at the local parades, all interact in the same tiny social circle, etc., it’s just a different social universe and you’re right to point that out. I think that if I was LW#2 and in my small town, I might have more pause about leaving a social outlet I really enjoyed, because there might not be another one.

        1. Orv*

          This reminds me that I knew a teacher who worked in a very small town. She used to drive an hour to the next town over when she wanted to buy wine, because if one of the kids she taught caught her with wine in her shopping cart people would talk.

          Small towns are *stifling*.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I think that’s a really unfair position to put the other report in. If your boss tells you she socialises with your counterpart, and invites you along, then you either have to go or miss out on the same level of face time, drinking-with-the-boss intimacy that your colleague gets. It’s also really poor form to show up to parties when you’re the boss, it’s a buzzkill. While this is a bit of a shame for OP, they accepted the promotion and know that it’s their job – no one else’s -to level the playing field of access to them, for both of their employees. This is why they are getting paid more, and yeah, it’s lonely sometimes. It’s still not fair to make it the responsibility of someone who reports to you.

    5. Dinwar*

      To add to this, I will point out that any apparently conflict of interest is already in place. By attending this book club and driving the coworker home a relationship has been established, and like it or not anyone who’s going to view the LW’s actions through the lens of apparent conflict of interest has ample ammunition with which to do so. Someone with such a mentality is absolutely not going to say “Oh, but you left the book club when you became manager, so that’s all right then.”

      Leaving the book club does nothing at this point; it’s purely performative, and can VERY easily come off as “I’m above you so I can’t be seen associating with you anymore.” For my part, I see no point in engaging in performative self-abnegation when the only possible audience for such a performance isn’t going to care anyway.

      1. Stead*

        I recognize that it’d seem performative to you, and that communities without a lot of options for socializing might treat this scenario differently. But that’s not universal. I’d respect this manager for putting her relationships with direct reports on a path toward equality rather than sticking to one that veers away from it.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        Leaving the book club does nothing at this point; it’s purely performative, and can VERY easily come off as “I’m above you so I can’t be seen associating with you anymore.”

        I think it’s possible for leaving the book club to be misinterpreted, but that’s why the suggestion is for the letter writer to “develop a scheduling conflict or something like that,” so it comes off as “[letter writer] is no longer free on book club night.”

        I also disagree that leaving the book club is purely performative. Appearance of bias/conflict of interest was explicitly mentioned in this answer. Past letters on the topic have included other reasons to minimize outside-of-work socializing, including “a professional obligation to treat her the same as everyone else, give her constructive feedback, and make decisions that could affect her livelihood.” If leaving the book club makes managing easier for the letter-writer, then it’s not a performative act.

        1. Dinwar*

          “Appearance of bias/conflict of interest was explicitly mentioned in this answer.”

          But as I said, the appearance of conflict of interest is already established. The LW has been in this book club for how long now; the type of person who thinks being in such a social setting with an employee is a conflict of interest is going to view past associations as a potential conflict of interest as well. That doesn’t go away merely because the LW walks away from the book club, at least not in my experience. Either the relationship the LW has with the employee she attends a book club with is going to suffer (which will necessarily create tension in the team), or people are going to attribute any apparent differences in treatment to the fact that the LW used to hang out with that employee.

          If the LW wants to do this that’s fine, they’re an adult and can make their own choices. I just think the reasoning as presented is deeply flawed.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            Oh, I had that sentence in there are a way of saying “I know you object to appearance of conflict of interest as a reason for leaving the book club.” Wasn’t trying to convince you on that count! I think there are other reasons why the letter writer should (consider) leaving the book club besides that one, and those other reasons make leaving a non-performative decision.

          2. Stead*

            I’m a person who would see being in the club together as creating a potential conflict of interest, and I’d see the boss’s choice to leave the club as a way to diminish it, whereas staying in the club could, in my opinion, grow it.

            Conflict of interest isn’t a yes/no toggle switch but a gradient. Leaving the club would start the boss moving in the right direction along that gradient.

            I’m not expecting to convince you to agree with me but rather to acknowledge that my perspective exists (and might be common).

            1. sparkle emoji*

              Yes, it was fine for the LW to be in the when Kara was a peer. It wouldn’t be reasonable to avoid any socializing that could potentially lead to future conflicts of interest. However, it is now reasonable to stop engaging in this club in a way that could be considered a conflict of interest because circumstances have changed. The LW needs to manage how they handle the potential for conflicts of interest now, not go back in time to un-join the book club.

      3. bz*

        This is the conversation I came here for (had to shift through an awful lot of people interpreting LW#1 through their own history). LW#2 is a really tough letter, and I agree with you that there is an existing conflict of interest. You shouldn’t need to end your social life when you become a manager; though, perceived conflicts of interest can degrade morale for direct reports. I wonder if AAM would give different advice if there were no illegal activity. What if the employee never needed a ride home due to intoxication? Those two things push to toward agreeing with AAM.

        On the other hand, what if there was a bigger conflict of interest? What if the activity was a significant part of the manager’s social life? Would she have to give it up because she took the job? Tough questions… One thing I will say is in all of these (LW#2 and the what-ifs) the manager should coordinate the issues with her boss.

    6. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Illegal drugs are consumed at this book club though. A LOT of people would be uncomfortable with that, especially if their boss invites them.

    7. Starbuck*

      Lots of people took issue with you, but I think the social context really matters. I live in a small town – choices for locations and activities for socializing are limited. Especially once you get more and more niche. Inevitably you run across your coworkers in passing. Sometimes the mixing is more than that – and yes, it is possible to make it work! If I was going to be precious about it and never attend clubs or other regular events where people I work with might also be, my options would be sadly limited. It’s still not that hard to be careful about things not getting too weird with people you supervise or people who supervise you.

      1. Starbuck*

        But as far as actual useful advice for LW – honestly I would keep going to the book club, it’s a group setting. You already know what you know and have seen what you’ve seen. It’s only once a month! But I probably would not offer the rides home anymore, so that you’re not giving someone extra 1:1 time.

  10. Daily Fan*

    LW 4 and Allison’s Mom – hugs! Thank you for sharing your stories and reminding us all that life is short and relationships matter.

  11. Christine*

    My natural sleep hours are around 3 am to noon. I dealt with it by becoming an adult school teacher! The early years of my career did include some early starts, but then I settled into all-pm classes.
    I know many careers don’t allow such flexibility, but it’s worth considering jobs that work with one’s sleep cycle rather than fighting one’s body for decades.

    1. Modesty Poncho*

      Yeah…one of the big, if not the biggest reason I freelance, is sleep. I’m definitely one of those people who wakes up at the same time every day…it’s just that time is 10am, and I’m in bed by 1. With melatonin shortening the time it takes from turning the lights out to actually being asleep, I still wake up multiple times in the night and have to take a nap somewhere between 4 and 7 most days. I’ve never slept well, my sleep study team was only focused on how weird it was that I didn’t have sleep apnea as a fat person, and I just…can’t stomach the idea of ever going back to a 7am alarm.

    2. RegBarclay*

      Agreed, a lot of office jobs also want people who can work a later shift. I know in my last job, most people wanted to work the early shift but we also needed people there well after 5 to support the west coast. We had a couple people on a 12-8 shift. Bonus is that after 5 it tended to be much quieter and they could get more work done.

    3. Ramen102*

      Yes! I work a high paying job because I wanted the hours other people didn’t (2-8pm) and a weekend here and there. People sometimes tell me it must be so hard to work into the evenings…but I just can’t function a whole day if I have to be at work by 8am.

    4. Bee*

      When the LW said he was allowed later work hours I assumed it was going to be something like 12-8! My office is 10-6 by default, though some people have shifted their hours to 9-5. My natural sleep hours are about 1-10, so I will never take a job where I’m expected in at 8 am because I do not want to start every single day fighting my body. This isn’t actionable for the LW, of course, just noting that while this definitely seems to be a mismatch in terms of job responsibilities, it’s probably also a mismatch in terms of working hours.

    5. snailsharkk*

      Remote work in another time zone is also a potential solution (depending on the job, obv your mileage will vary). I work at a US-based company with an office in Dublin and one of my US coworkers is on Dublin time because of his sleep issues. Similarly, I have friends who live in PST and work EST for similar reasons.

  12. Keymaster in absentia*

    1. Oh I’ve done this myself in the past, late night playing Dragon Age, Diablo, World of Warcraft etc. and realising that oh crud work is in an hour. I’m at my best between 6am and 4pm so that can really eff things up.

    However, the times I’ve got into trouble at work for it have been due to performance issues and that was what was told. They weren’t interested in my reasons (nor should they be) it was entirely ‘you can’t show up spaced out, solve only 2 cases the whole day and bugger off at 4pm to stagger to the tube station’.

    Don’t get bogged down into possible causes else you’ll be second guessing your decisions all day. ‘You have a performance issue, how do you see this being solved?’ Then you can decide if their rationale is something you can deal with.

    (I ended up on meds for the insomnia and stopped drinking so much tea past 4pm. Also I book the week off for a video game release I’m excited for)

    1. GythaOgden*

      Hah! I book the week AFTER for it, particularly if it’s an online game. By then the servers have calmed down and I can actually get on.

  13. IT Squirrel*

    For LW#2 – I think there’s value in using Alison’s second option right off the bat, and just being upfront that you are bowing out now you’re the supervisor and why, instead of developing a (fictional?) schedule conflict. It models good manager behaviour, and if Kara becomes a manager in future she’ll have seen a good example to learn from!

  14. Keymaster in absentia*

    People are all different and your proposed times would not work for someone with a natural 11pm to 5am sleep schedule. Fact is, one cannot moralise as to what sleep pattern is ‘correct’ for everyone and that’s why you make the conversation about performance.

    As a manager I’m not interested in when someone sleeps, only that they can do the job. There’s a bit of leeway but I do need staff during the hours when issues are logged.

  15. anononon*

    It really doesn’t matter why LW1’s employee is performing badly. You wouldn’t be writing to Allison if he was up all night looking after his new baby, or volunteering as a Night Warden or studying for an Open University degree. The slightly disapproving tone of ‘he’s playing video games’ infantilises him – but the fact is, he’s performing badly. Deal with that, not the reason!

  16. Tyke*

    I’m sure this isn’t the point but – average 21mpg?? is this a weird inefficient US car thing? 40-65 feels about average here in UK depending on engine type and car size (my husband’s slightly clunky petrol engine is at the lower end, my petrol/electric hybrid is nearer the top)

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I think so. I think US / European MOGs have really diverged over the last couple of decades because there are market trends towards bigger and bigger “cars” in the US, and much tighter regulation here.

      (Although I think you’re probably a bit optimistic about the UK — I get ~50 on my 12 year old hybrid if I’m doing motorway driving, but only 35-38 if driving around town, and my vehicle excise tax is only £10 a year, so I cannot be that far below average!)

      1. Tyke*

        definitely not optimism, my car (7yrs old) runs at about 45-50mpg at the moment when it’s freezing weather and less efficient driving, but usually I’m averaging about 55-60 for normal commuting and 65ish on long trips. Using a fudge factor for UK/US gallons makes 60mpg = 50mpg in US. I’m astonished at the difference!

        1. bamcheeks*

          I mean optimism about the average! To me it sounds like your car is much better than average— I’d think 40-65 was pretty good and expect the average to be a bit lower.

    2. Emily*

      I think this might be an issue of kilometers vs miles. 40 kilometers is only about 24.86 miles, and it does seem like cars in the UK tend to be smaller than cars in the US.

      1. Madame Arcati*

        We use miles in the U.K. so it’s not that.

        I think on average USians May drive bigger cars but the main difference is the fuel price. You’d faint. But see my comment below!

        1. bamcheeks*

          I’ve now gone down a MPG rabbit hole and same miles, but different gallons. UK uses a larger gallon measure in MPG than the US.

          Though we also have smaller cars and much stronger pressures to get greater fuel efficiency, so it’s not *just* that.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I recall a discussion about driving a few hours to something, and that US cars were built around being comfortable for driving to something 1-4 hours away, while European cars tended to be smaller (fitting smaller roads), and more fuel efficient (fitting higher fuel costs), and you had more train options (car is for local use, train for distance).

            1. Dinwar*

              SUVs and pickup trucks are also designed to haul things. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve discussed fuel mileage with who don’t understand that for many Americans, it’s an hour drive OR MORE just to pick up groceries, so they tend to do their weekly shopping (or biweekly, or monthly) in one go. Then there’s also a strong DIY culture here, which includes things like adding new additions to a home. Hard to carry sheets of plywood or 2x4s in a compact car.

              Scale and culture are huge factors here.

              1. Saturday*

                But it’s also true that it’s not at all uncommon for each adult in a household to have a very large vehicle even when they live in the city, drive short distances, and don’t haul anything. It’s become part of the culture.

                1. Dinwar*

                  Agreed, but it’s not for no reason, like far too many people pretend it to be (not accusing you of that, just griping mostly).

                  And even in a city, there are reasons to have multiple vehicles, even multiple larger vehicles. If you have more than one child you have multiple after-school activities, and if you only have one vehicle either the entire family goes, or someone’s stuck in the house (which may not be an option depending on career path). Most households have two working parents as well. Unless one works from home you need two cars. And “city” doesn’t necessarily mean things are close together. American cities tend to sprawl more than European cities, with very few walkable communities.

                  Further, the USA is gigantic compared to Europe. It takes me 8 hours to visit my family when we go up there. 8 hours from Paris puts you in Germany, England, Italy, Austria…you can’t quite get to Spain. And I don’t really live that far from my family as things are measured in the USA. The culture reflects that. There simply isn’t any good public transportation option at these sorts of distances (don’t get me started on high speed rail, I’ve worked on those projects, they’re mostly just ways to line someone’s pockets). Again, if my wife takes the kids to see our family, I can’t afford to be stranded at home. And again, my situation isn’t unusual.

                  My point is, pretending that this is “culture” and thus something that can easily be changed isn’t giving an accurate picture. There are real practical reasons for this culture. A lot of people take it too far, sure–I have zero respect for someone with a pickup so tricked-out that it can’t be used to do actual work–but there’s baby in this bathwater.

                2. Over my head in bananas*

                  @ Dinwar, sure, there are valid reasons for a family to have two cars, but for the average urban family, there’s no reason that those cars have to be a quad-cab pickup and an SUV (as they are for many families in my city). Cars that size are not necessary for a monthly Costco run or because someone thinks it’s possible they might redo your bathroom someday, and saying they are is disingenuous.

                  The truth is that Americans (I am one too) have a peculiar obsession with having the biggest everything, which is becoming a problem on many levels. For example, in my city, it’s become nearly impossible for a young family to find an affordable starter home, because our housing stock tends to be newer and all anyone has been building for the last 20 years are 4-bedroom 3-bath places with huge primary suites and 3 car garages for $500k + because “that’s what people want.” The average family doesn’t NEED supersized homes, cars, etc. — they want them. It’s preference, not necessity. This is fine, I guess (although I do get irritated when the same people who choose a huge pickup when a Honda Accord would work just as well turn around and complain that the price of gas is crippling them), but let’s not pretend it’s a choice that’s getting made for valid, necessary reasons.

                3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  There are other factors in play as well.

                  An aging population starts to prefer higher vehicles that they find easier to get in and out of.

                  A significant portion of the population finds those higher vehicles feel safer and easier to see out of (until everyone else has them, but consider the stereotype of the 4′ 12″ woman driving a Suburban because she perceives it as “safer”).

                  As the price of all vehicles rise, consumers start trying to “future-proof” their purchase by basing it off potential future uses and needs instead of current ones.

                  Inexpensive fuel makes buying performance more attractive. That’s not just a slow-slung racing car; that’s a V8 in your minivan so you can pass on the freeway with ease.

                  (These are all tacked on the more readily judged reasons, like insecure males peacocking).

                4. doreen*

                  @ Dinwar there are legit reasons for households to have multiple cars, even a a large one , even in a city but plenty of people have them without any reason other than wanting them. I live in a very walkable place, there’s a walk score of 89 , everyone in the neighborhood is with walking distance of at least one supermarket ( I can walk to four) and my next door neighbors have two cars even though both take public transportation to work. The family across the street has four although one person works at the supermarket two blocks away and two more are school bus attendants who get picked up , leaving only one who drives to work.

                5. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

                  My spouse and I have two cars. We live in one of our city’s most walkable neighbourhoods, but have just a few too many commitments that are at weird times, in opposite directions from each other, or in areas that aren’t transit-friendly. We’re not quite able to go to one car yet, although we don’t drive both cars every day.

                  However, we’ve gone about as small as possible. We have two Smart cars and love them. We’ve been driving Smarts for about 10 years now, renting larger vehicles on the rare occasions when we need them for a road trip or hauling larger purchases.

                  (I’ve actually had people stop in the Ikea parking lot to watch me load my flat-pack furniture into my Smart car. It fits a lot more than you think it does, but it certainly makes you a spectacle!)

                  One of our cars just died, and we want to replace it with another Smart or something almost as small, which is incredibly difficult to find in North America. The Smart hasn’t been manufactured here since 2019, and many of the other smallest vehicles (i.e. Fiat 500) have intermittent model years and/or limited options for maintenance. We just want teeny, tiny vehicles! It’s very frustrating to find that kind of car here. We’re looking at second-hand and have had to expand our search to about a 500 km radius to find enough options to get what we want.

                6. bamcheeks*

                  @Sola I tried to look up “car safety” the other day as in, how safe are other people *around* your car. No data to be found! People only buy cars based on how safe the people inside the car are. I’m still really shocked about that.

                7. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  @bamcheeks – That wasn’t exactly what I meant.

                  Larger vehicles can feel safer to their passengers without actually being safer. E.g. An SUV might feel safe, but it’s higher centre of gravity also means they’re much more prone to rollovers. Their increased mass also means they’re much harder to slow quickly. In combination, an SUV is easier to lose control of than a once-mainstream sedan, which in turn was easier to lose control of than a subcompact coupé (which have all but vanished from the American market).

                  The data you’re looking for is out there and it says nothing good about modern American car tastes:

                8. Saturday*

                  @bamcheeks Yes, it drives me nuts that in the US, vehicle safety statistics don’t consider the safety of other people, just those inside the vehicle. I hear people saying that they want to make sure their teenager has an SUV “for safety,” but there’s no consideration of the lack of safety for other drivers and pedestrians when someone inexperienced is driving an enormously large and heavy vehicle. Also, everyone wants to be higher than everyone else on the road, so it’s a bizarre arms race.

              2. Insert Pun Here*

                And yet a large portion of folks who drive pickup trucks rarely or never use them for their intended purpose and would be equally well served by buying a Toyota Camry and renting a truck when they need it:

                75 percent of truck owners use their truck for towing one time a year or less (meaning, never). Nearly 70 percent of truck owners go off-road one time a year or less. And a full 35 percent of truck owners use their truck for hauling—putting something in the bed, its ostensible raison d’être—once a year or less.


                If you are driving an hour or more for groceries, you should, logically, be looking for a more fuel efficient vehicle, not a gas guzzler.

                1. Over my head in bananas*

                  I was interested, so I did some research. 80% of the US population lives in urban areas. Even in rural areas, in my experience, it would be unusual to have to drive an hour for groceries. It’s just not that common, and certainly not common enough to explain the American propensity for owning outsize vehicles. That’s has just grasping at straws. I don’t understand why people who own large vehicles get defensive and make up excuses. Just say you have it because you want it!

                2. Starbuck*

                  Yes, exactly. There are lots of silly and emotional reasons people use to justify getting cars far bigger than they need (ironically while the actual truck beds have shrank), but let’s not pretend it’s logical or based in facts to do so – it’s the result of poor urban & transit planning in the US and our culture of rugged individualist resistance to collective & environmental benefits. The main reason US car have gotten larger and less fuel efficient is the bizarre exemption for fuel efficiency standards for SUVs and trucks, so car makers in the US produce and sell more of them. It’s a bad thing!!!

                3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  The main reason US car have gotten larger and less fuel efficient is the bizarre exemption for fuel efficiency standards for SUVs and trucks, so car makers in the US produce and sell more of them. It’s a bad thing!!!

                  It’s not so much bizarre as it is protectionist. Historically, trucks were higher-margin vehicles (because their earning potential offset some of any initial premium in price), and they were very simple devices mechanically. Mostly rear wheel drive manuals, devoid of creature comforts like air conditioning, and reliant upon the load in the bed for traction. Usually using older technology in the engine bay that was perfected at the cost of performance. They were also bulky, which made them a less attractive vehicle for foreign companies to ship to the US. In combination, the lower fuel-economy standards for trucks were intended to protect domestic production and subsidize tighter competition in the passenger (sedan & coupé) market.

                  Not only did the primary intent fail (as pretty much all attempts to manipulate their domestic auto market to America’s advantage), but classifying early SUVs and vans as trucks (due to originating on truck platforms mechanically and resembling pickups with bed covers) opened up this can of worms.

          2. amoeba*

            And then you read this from continental Europe where we generally have L/100 km (so not only both units different, but also the inverse fraction) and just… give up trying to convert anything!

            1. In the provinces*

              If you multiply the American measure, miles/gallon by the European measure, liters/100km, the result is always 240 (well, 237.5 precisely, but 240 is a convenient round). Knowing this trick makes it easy to compare fuel efficiency across different systems of measurement.

          3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Half the weight per vehicle, more efficient transmissions to get the power to the wheels (a large % manuals), and crippling (by US standards) gas taxes. It all adds up to much lower fuel consumption.

            Japan had many similar constraints in the 80’s and 90’s, hence their pioneering work on turbochargers to reclaim and repurpose energy lost in the exhaust, which the US adopted with enthusiasm to reach the last increase in fleet fuel economy requirements.

            Last time I checked, the US reimbursement rates were consistent with an automatic V6 Taurus. When I drove a 5M Civic, I was reimbursed 3-4x what I spent in gas for the drives.

            1. Orv*

              Imperial vs. US, yeah. It’s also why 20 oz. became a common larger pour size for beers — an Imperial pint is roughly 20 oz.

              1. Dahlia*

                Actually, fun fact, american cups and canadian cups are different sizes too. Like for recipes, “1 cup” in america is 237ml. In Canada, a metric cup is 250mL. Before we converted to metric, though, it was 225mL!

    3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Yes. In the US the average “car” is an SUV, which have different – much lower – fuel standards. (Our plug-in hybrid gets about 55 on the engine, about 180 so far over the life of the vehicle. The clunky old Subaru is down to about 25 now, but it’s 15 years old.)

      1. ecnaseener*

        And on top of SUVs, factor in the huge pickup trucks. Some of the most common ones get around 16 mpg.

    4. xbleeple*

      Well yeah up until recently you had EU regulations for cars. I’m sure those are a few shades greener than what the US does. Even if you count the whole VW fiasco.

      1. londonedit*

        I don’t know for certain, but we probably still have the same laws. Most EU laws and standards have been absorbed into British law; not much has actually changed (apart from the dire state of the economy and public services, but that’s not for here).

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It doesn’t fully explain it, but a US gallon is smaller than a British one. Are the respective MPG relative to the country’s own gallon? I’ve never really thought about it but I suppose they must be. A British gallon is 4.5 litres and a US one is 3.8.

      1. socks*

        I was curious and looked it up, and apparently 40-65 UK mpg is about 33-54 US mpg — so the average would still be higher but not by quite so much

        1. Schrodinger's Cat*

          Probably the difference is in the types of vehicles predominant in each country. In the US there are large numbers of trucks (lorrys) and SUVs, not as many sedans and smaller cars. In the UK it’s the opposite.

    6. Generic Name*

      Yes, fuel efficiency standards in the US are atrocious. But of course small, daily personal decisions (wash out your ziplocks!) will make the most difference to climate change and not enacting better standards for fuel efficiency or pollution controls on industry. /s

      1. amoeba*

        I agree in general – but choosing an efficient car is, of course, also a personal decision, and one that has a much bigger impact than washing out ziplocs!

        1. sparkle emoji*

          I think generic name’s point was that if fuel standards mandated all car options were more efficient, we wouldn’t need to rely on individuals making better decisions. Gas guzzlers don’t need to be an option.

      2. 1-800-BrownCow*

        Yeah, that one always cracks me up. I drive a Honda Civic and then the one day I come into work with something in a plastic bag and someone comments about me using a single-use plastic bag as they’re stepping out of their monster SUV that they absolutely need for them and their Shiatzu that they occasionally take places.

    7. TX_TRUCKER*

      For passenger vehicles, USA mpg is lower than in Europe. However, for large transportation trucks such as 18 wheelers, the USA has better mpg … even though Europe tends to favor smaller cabover semi- trucks. In the USA, professional drivers are on the road typically 12 hours, versus a maximum of 9 in the EU. So the USA has a bigger focus on driver comfort which means bigger trucks an cars.

      1. Heather*

        At the risk of being snarky, I think the 9 vs 12 hours shows that it’s Europe that cares more about driver comfort ;)

    8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I get around 27 mpg for my 2018 Subaru and that is considered good, not the best, but not “gas guzzler” level.
      You get twice that?
      You also say UK. Would your numbers be kpg?

      1. londonedit*

        Nope. We use miles here, and fuel economy is mpg here.

        Schools here teach metric measurements and have done for many decades now (kilograms/grams, metres/centimetres, litres/millilitres etc) but for road distances we use miles, so it’s miles per gallon (even though petrol here is sold in litres. No it doesn’t make sense). And in everyday life you’re still more likely to know your height as 5’8″ (rather than 173cm) and your weight as 11 stone (or however many kg that is).

        1. back in the day*

          yes but you use imperial gallons, right? We used to live there and had to refigure it so we knew how much gas cost in US dollars/gallon v pounds/imperial gallon.

          1. londonedit*

            Yes, I think that’s one of the things that’s making a difference here – different-sized gallons. As well as the engine/car size differences that other people have mentioned.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Thank you for explaining. And the other replies about different sized gallons. I’m glad I asked. This is so crazy, it’s cracking me up. It’s impressive we communicate at all.

    9. RussianInTexas*

      My 2022 Mazda3, which is a compact car, has the average of 29.1mpg and I hit about 39mph on a highway on a smooth drive.
      It’s about normal for a non-hybrid compact, with a lot of city driving.

      1. Freya*

        The several years old Australian-sold Hyundai i30 I drive gets 5L/100km for my daily drive, which is just under 12mpg – it is the diesel model rather than the unleaded petrol version (the ULP version reportedly gets ~8L/100km or 19mpg).

    10. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’m surprised the average is as low as 21 mpg! I had assumed that after cash for clunkers and fuel efficiency advancements, we’d be doing better than that.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Cash for clunkers’ accomplishments were more emissions than economy. Older vehicles have less robust exhaust scrubbing (e.g. catalytic converters) so that improved, but there’s only so efficient you’re going to make a naturally aspirated 4.5L+ V8, and most of the low-hanging fruit in that regard was achieved in the ’70’s during that energy crisis. The technology on emissions, however, has improved greatly since that time.

        It isn’t just that Americans prefer vehicles with more cabin volume, it’s also the run up in engine that lower gas prices facilitates. European vehicles with American engines and tastes in transmissions wouldn’t get much better economy–it’s just not as much of a market want in America, which deemphasizes it as a design goal.

      2. Phony Genius*

        The lowest mileage I could find was 8 MPG on a Bugati, confirming Alison’s point that there are no cars as low as 7 MPG. (I am not counting professional race cars, which do have lower mileage.)

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          And hopefully the OP’s coworker wasn’t driving the Bugatti, since it’s a two-seater! Unless OP and at least one other coworker were riding on the roof. (I don’t think the trunk would even hold a carry-on suitcase.)

    11. fhqwhgads*

      It’s combination of things:
      1) a significant number of US cars are huge trucks/suvs with crap mpg. some of these are older and still on the road, but some aren’t even that old.
      2) the efficiency requirements are based on the fleet of a manufacturer, not on individual vehicles. so the US versions of giant trucks and whatnot can still have the aforementioned crap efficiency, and then they throw an EV and some hybrids into the lineup and suddenly are compliant, cuz it’s all about the average.
      3) we tend to drive more, larger vehicles here.
      4) are you sure you’re factoring in old vehicles still on the road and not just recently released models?

    12. Laura*

      A majority of Americans prefer SUVs or trucks over regular cars and those have lower gas mileage because they’re bigger, so yeah, 21mpg seems right for the US.

  17. Emily*

    LW # 3, I don’t blame you for being bugged, I’d be bugged too! It seems like the person who said 55 cents per mile was not enough was really not thinking things through (and may need to brush up on their math skills). It seems like a peer pressure situation where one person gave the driver money, so everyone else did as well, and it can be super uncomfortable in the moment.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      I think it’s frankly dodgy AF. If the driver claims from the company then extra cash given…they’ve simply trousered that.

      1. Emily*

        It wasn’t the driver asking for the cash though, it was another passenger offering it. You could argue the driver should have refused, but like I said, those situations can be uncomfortable.

        1. B*

          They absolutely should have refused, it’s the same as if they were taking colleagues’ money for a meal they were going to expense. They are double-dipping.

          1. Jackalope*

            In the many years I’ve shared cars with people, I’ve regularly given someone extra money if they were the ones who used their personal vehicle to drive. And I’ve cheerfully accepted money in turn when I was the driver. This may not be the case for you, and if so that’s fine, but many people see that as a way to compensate the driver for being the person who has to be focused and can’t use the drive as a way to relax, etc. Honestly, I’m happy to have the person who drives get that extra money and wouldn’t see it as double-dipping at all.

            1. Lexie*

              I used to have a job where we all drove our personal vehicles a lot and were reimbursed at the maximum allowed rate. When we did carpool none of us ever offered to pay the driver and if someone had I can’t imagine any of the rest of us accepting. If it’s going to cost me money to ride with someone else I might as well drive myself and get reimbursed.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the simplest explanation is that someone somewhere didn’t understand mileage reimbursements, and they told their coworkers, and now it’s The Thing You Learned When You First Learned The Thing and that can be hard to dislodge. (Though usually people are not emotionally invested in this kind of mistake, so if they are exposed to the correct explanation–perhaps delivered to someone else so they don’t feel challenged–they are more likely to absorb the new information.)

    3. Llama Llama*

      While .55 covered gas, I would argue that it certainly didn’t cover the wear and tear of a vehicle One trip is probably no big deal though. My dad and brother both regularly had to drive for work. They both got mileage reimbursement but both complained that it wasn’t enough.

      1. ecnaseener*

        How do you figure that? Even on a big car with crappy mileage, only about half that .55 went toward gas.

        1. Owlette*

          Because tires, batteries, alternators, oil/fluid changes, replacing cracked windshields, etc. are all incredibly expensive?

          1. B*

            You’re rolling the dice to some extent–mileage reimbursement won’t be enough to cover a big repair that you might incur while traveling for work. And it depends on how reliable your vehicle is. But most of the time, you actually come out ahead, in my experience. The average American drives 300 miles a week. If you drive 300 miles at .55 cents a mile, you’re getting reimbursed $165. If you get 20 miles a gallon and gas is $3.50, $52.50 of that goes to gas. So you’re getting $112.50 toward wear and tear. Over the course of a year that would be $5,850. According to various internet sources, average car maintenance costs are $500-800/year, so the mileage rate effectively incorporates the equivalent of a $5,000 one-off repair every year. That seems fairly generous to me.

            1. Snarky McSnarkson*

              I was hoping someone would do the math. The thing that no one tells the driving employees is that the $112.50 should be PUT ASIDE to cover the inevitable early repair. No one does that though – they just want the cash.

            2. Owlette*

              Huh, I replaced my tires this year, and they were $1000 alone. That doesn’t county my oil change and tire rotation every 6 months, and the various fixes I need. I guess I’m above average for car maintenance costs and was considering that in my response.

              Average car insurance is $2,150/year according to Forbes.

              The other thing is if you’re driving your car frequently for work, you need to replace it faster. You’d need to save that reimbursement (if you don’t have high maintenance costs) for a downpayment on a new vehicle. Considering insurance and downpayment, you’re really not coming out ahead.

              1. Texan In Exile*

                And this is one of the reasons Uber and Lyft anger me so much. The people who drive for them have not done this math, I am guessing. After the cuts that Uber and Lyft take and self-employment taxes, I can’t imagine the drivers are doing much more than monetizing their cars.

              2. B*

                Good point on insurance and depreciation. And you are also running the risk of accidents, speeding tickets, etc., etc., etc. It’s probably not right to characterize it as coming out “ahead,” but the IRS mileage rate does a decent job of breaking even over the long term and over a large population, which is what it’s intended to do.

                Of course, though the reimbursement rate is basically right *on average,* you’re taking on a fair amount of individual downside risk by driving your personal car. There might be, say, a 95% chance of breaking even or coming out slightly ahead with the mileage reimbursement, but a 5% chance of totaling your car or something that will cost you thousands of dollars out of pocket. Whether that is worth it comes down to an individual’s risk tolerance, finances, etc., and I think as a best practice, employers shouldn’t require the use of personal vehicles for that reason.

                Once that decision has been made, though, your colleagues shouldn’t need to personally supplement your expenses!

          2. bz*

            If you have a big crappy, inefficient car that burns $.30/mile in gas. $0.25/mile goes towards everything else. Over 100,000 reasonable life of a car, you are talking about $25,000. That is an awful lot of tires, batteries, alternators, oil/fluid changes, and cracked windshields.

            I drive a 14 year old Prius. I make bank when I drive for work and get reimbursed.

              1. Orv*

                Car insurance is a sunk cost — they’d be buying it whether they were using their car for business or not — and only goes up slightly with more miles driven.

      2. doreen*

        Just because they complained it wasn’t enough doesn’t mean it wasn’t. My husband is a salesman and did not get actually reimbursed* until fairly recently for his expenses so every year when we filed taxes we had to figure out the car expenses. After adding up the gas, repairs , insurance and depreciation for the year, the portion attributable to business mileage always came to less than just using the per mile rate so after a couple of years, I stopped bothering and just used the mileage rate.

        At my job, we were reimbursed the IRS mileage rate. Some of my coworkers insisted that they were better off deducting the expenses from their income rather than taking the non-taxable reimbursement. That’s not possible unless their tax returns were a work of fiction (which they probably were , considering other things they told me)

        * He got a certain amount every week for expenses, whether he worked or not regardless of how much he drove. It really should have been part of his salary but his company gave him a 1099 for it.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          My former job paid only 42 cents a mile even though the IRS allowed 54. They were just mean.

      3. Student*

        In the US, these numbers for gas mileage reimbursement tend to all be derived from the US government rates for gas mileage reimbursement, even if the company is private.

        The company doesn’t HAVE to reimburse at that rate if they are not part of the government. However, the allowable tax accounting they can do for driving-related business expenses is tied to that rate, so it’s generally in their interest to do so, or at least to track that rate and not exceed it. They’d have to account for actual costs in tax filing otherwise, which is an option, but not favorable to most businesses.

        In the US, these rates are set by the IRS, due to the tax link. They are researched and updated regularly. Keep in mind that they have plenty of incentive to research these carefully – business lobbying, government (taxpayer funded) use in government accounting, etc. It’d probably require some digging, but you can likely get the breakdown of how they came up with the current number (or a summary report) by poking around. I found an initial document that gave some info on it on their website, but not quite in the full details I think you’re hoping to see.

        1. Freya*

          In Australia, it’s similar – the Australian Tax Office has set the c/km rate for claiming vehicle expenses for the 2024 financial year at 84c/km. Employers offering employees reimbursement at this rate treat it as a reimbursement of costs incurred when it comes to their employee’s tax, but if they pay more than the ‘reasonable rate’ then the extra has to be treated as income for the employee and gets tax withheld on the employee’s behalf. The employer’s tax return needs documentation if the extra is to be treated as a reimbursement of costs incurred and not a wage expense.

          The employee is then free to claim the actual costs against the reimbursement+income on their personal tax return, with the associated extra documentation requirements. Below the ‘reasonable rate’, the tax office tends to assume it’s cool and can’t be bothered chasing people for their paperwork (unless you get flagged for other reasons and get audited. It’s always a good idea to document everything properly just in case) because the dollar amounts involved are smaller than the cost of chasing taxpayers.

          1. Freya*

            The c/km rate in Australia covers registration, insurance, fuel, servicing, and depreciation. You get to use it if it’s less than 5000km in a year that you’re claiming, and the tax office won’t require you to keep all your receipts (but may want to look at your work diary to see how you worked out how many km you travelled). There’s also restrictions on the same expense being claimed on both employer’s and employee’s tax returns.

    4. hbc*

      It reminds me of some math I was provided by an employee who moved about 20 road miles farther away. He said he needed an extra $3/hour in his paycheck to cover gas for his commute. I wasn’t raising his salary for his personal choices so I didn’t need to verify, but it took all I had not to crunch the numbers with him on the spot.

    5. Also-ADHD*

      I think no one did anything wrong there, though—one person voluntarily chipped in, so others did, and that’s just kind. If someone is driving and putting in the mileage, that means I don’t have to drive or put in mileage, both excruciating tasks to me, and I’d want to give them some compensation too (I might not depending on the situation). I don’t think it’s required, but as the driver didn’t force it dishonestly, it’s not really wrong. The peer pressure comes from people not wanting to diverge rather than any actual pressure applied, it sounds like to me.

      1. Phony Genius*

        But then what about other work tasks you find excruciating? If a coworker does them, do you feel obligated to compensate them yourself, rather than letting the employer do so?

        1. WorkerDrone*

          Is the coworker using a personal item like a car to do other work tasks, though?

          The additional compensation is directly tied to the coworker using their personal vehicle on a work-related trip. This is not comparable to other work tasks a co-worker might do for me.

          I can’t think of many other work tasks where this would be the case. Maybe using a phone as a hotspot or something like that for internet? In which case, if the coworker was incurring wear/tear/extra costs on their personal device that saved my personal device from the wear/tear/extra costs, then yeah, I would feel an obligation to offer some kind of compensation similar to throwing a driver gas money.

          1. Phony Genius*

            The additional compensation is the 55 cents/mile. If I’m reading Also-ADHD correctly, they are more should be given on top of that based on how “excruciating” the task, not because it was their personal item. It’s different if the distance was so short that the driver would likely not bother filing for reimbursement.

            It’s important to remember that the driving was done to benefit the company. If I’m driving, I would not be happy about being put in a position of having to refuse taking a coworker’s personal money for doing my job. That’s the company’s responsibility only. And if the company is not reimbursing mileage properly, they can provide a company vehicle or I’m not going (in anybody else’s vehicle, either); that would make me look for a new company.

            1. Also-ADHD*

              I think they’re still putting money out of pocket and doing a favor—each person could have to sort transportation and reimbursement individually. I think this is outside their normal work tasks and yes I’d possibly give a coworker a cash or gift for other help outside their job like this.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I think they were incorrect about mileage not being enough for gas but unless OP was so strapped at the time that pitching in a few bucks meant they had to sacrifice something else… I think it’s a bit out of proportion that they are still annoyed about it years later. That person still provided a service for work that the others didn’t have to, and presumably getting reimbursed for mileage takes some time.

        1. Saturday*

          I think maybe they were mostly bothered by the fact that what the coworker said didn’t make sense, but they weren’t able to say that at the time. I sometimes ruminate on those kinds of conversations. Not saying that’s super healthy or anything, but I think that might be what stuck in their head, rather than the money itself.

          1. OP mulling the mileage*

            OP for mileage question here–that’s exactly it. I didn’t care about the $$, it was just the lack of logic that bothered me. I certainly wasn’t going to push back or do the math on the spot (it just wasn’t that big a deal), but once in a while I remember it and scratch my head. The staff member who said it didn’t cover gas was a long-term employee, and the other staffers were newer, so I also thought they might then believe that mileage reimbursement didn’t cover gas.

            I’m really enjoying the conversation in previous comments about whether it’s more ethical to chip in anyway because of the extra work required by driving. Never thought about it that way, in part because other people’s driving tends to make me nervous (I’m probably overly cautious) and I prefer driving myself, and driving alone, so hitching a ride was more stressful for me. I’ve had white-knuckle rides with tailgating-at-high-speed coworkers before; luckily, this person was a much safer driver.

            1. Jackalope*

              Interesting! I find driving to be a truly onerous task if I have to drive more than 20 minutes or so, and I have multiple good friends who feel the same way. That’s part of why it seems normal to me to have some extra money go to the driver, and I’m usually very happy to have someone else drive. Someone in a thread today said that in a way it’s like tipping the driver only we don’t usually do that for friends and coworkers so we call it “chipping in for gas money” instead because that seems like better phrasing for someone we actually know, and that made a lot of sense to me.

    6. Ann O'Nemity*

      The IRS mileage rate for 2023 was 65 cents/mile, so maybe that’s why the coworker said 55 cents/mile isn’t enough? (It’s up to 67 cents in 2024, btw.)

      1. Phony Genius*

        They LW also said it was a few years ago, so 55 may have been the rate at that time.

        (As I type this, Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55” jumps into my head.)

  18. Madame Arcati*

    #4 is baking my noodle. What would mileage reimbursement be for if not fuel? Do they think their coworkers will celebrate the joinery by ceremonially keying their paintwork and dousing the back seat with a venti unicorn mochaccino, necessitating a large allowance for wear and tear?

    Warning for the next bit – Brits, I did the maths and frankly, I wouldn’t recommend it. Run save yourselves, it’s too late for me!
    I’m in the U.K. where petrol costs A Lot more (I just looked it up and converted to litres and pounds, and wowzers) but the mileage I get from work is within a couple of cents of what LW’s company gives – and it does what LW describes – covers my petrol plus a bit more.
    By my reckoning, even if (and there’s no suggestion of this) the coworker had just moved to the US from here and hadn’t yet bought petrol for themselves, they would still look at that claim amount and think, ok sounds fair enough.

    1. Bagpuss*

      In the UK at least, the HMRC llowance is inteded to be a bit morethan just fuel costs as obviously there is also wear and tear. That said, it’s been 45ppm for a very long time so is onbviously worth less than it used to be, in real terms. And that figure is just what HMRC allows you claim as an expense, businesses can pay more or less , but if you get more, then the difference would be treated as taxable income, but it’s what a lot of comapnies use (presumably it is simpler for payroll purposes)

      I think the mileage rate also reduces if you do over a specific number of miles per year, although I can’t recall the cut off point.

      There is a similar tax allowance for mileage if you use a bicycle for business travel, where obviously you don’t have any direct fuel costs – its 20ppm. Presumably that is based on waer and tear on the bike and equipment.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I once claimed 30p bicycle mileage just because Lyndsey who did our expenses had never done one before and thought it was funny. (It was part of a larger batch of expenses— I didn’t get a BACS transfer of 30p!)

      2. Madame Arcati*

        Yes – wear and tear is definitely included on both sides of the pond but the point, fuel definitely is part of it!
        The upper limit you mention (I just looked it up for my bit of govt) is 10,000 miles then the rate goes down.

    2. Dinwar*

      The problem is, gas isn’t the only cost of owning a vehicle. If I’m driving a lot for the company it’s valid to expect the company to pitch in for oil changes, tires, and the like–maybe not outright buy them, but help defray the costs. Alternators go bad, gaskets fail, spark plugs need replaced, various components wear out–and that’s driving defensively and conservatively on good roads.

      If the company’s JUST paying for gas, and you use your personal car more than every once in a while, you’re losing money and depreciating a very expensive asset for someone else’s benefit. Looks good monthly, maybe even quarterly, but yearly and above it’s a losing proposition.

      1. hbc*

        Depends on how expensive your car is and your fuel efficiency. If you drove 100K miles for the company at 25 miles/gallon and paid $3/gallon every fill-up, you’d still have $43K left after gas with the $.55/mile reimbursement. That’s enough for a substantial number of repairs and a reasonable replacement vehicle, with a lot more room if you get better gas prices or fuel efficiency. Obviously not enough if you’ve got a luxury gas guzzler.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          You’d also have extra depreciation on the vehicle that had 100K more miles on it than it would have otherwise. I expect that is substantial.

          1. Daisy-dog*

            Yes, 100K miles just for the company would probably mean it’s almost time for a new car when you add in personal usage – unless the car is never used for anything except work and they use a bike/public transportation at home.

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I drive for work all the time and we just get standard mileage. ( I live in the US though)

      3. Antilles*

        That’s why the mileage rate (which is typically just using the IRS rate) is as high as it is. It’s not intended to be “JUST paying for gas”; the mileage rate is intended to be set high enough to cover both gas AND wear-and-tear on your car.

        Let’s use OP’s example of 55 cents for mile and assume the distance is 100 miles to make math easy. If we use the average fuel efficiency of 21 mpg, that works out to about 5 gallons of gas. The typical cost for gas is somewhere between $3 to $4 a gallon. That means you spent $15-$20 on gas, but the mileage reimbursement pays you $55. That extra $35 is specifically to defray the costs of oil changes, tires, gaskets, and so on.

        Whether that $35 successfully defrays the cost is a question that depends on the specific vehicle. If you’re driving a $30,000 Civic sedan that gets 35 mpg, it does; if you’re driving a $70,000 supercharged Ram truck that gets 15 mpg, it probably does not. But the mileage rate is set in a way that the company theoretically is pitching in for all those items.

    3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      There’s also a social wrinkle in that someone who takes on the mental load of driving for you (in a cab or rideshare) is in our culture generally seen as someone who should be tipped, but you don’t tip co-workers or friends, so “for the gas money” is a polite fiction to cover it.

    4. SpringIsForPlanting!*

      1) Shocked that I had to scroll down this far to find some opprobation for the jerk pocketing gas money and
      2) Thank you for “baking my noodle”

  19. English Rose*

    LW1 – the advice about concentrating on work quality and output is absolutely the way to go here. To me, there’s an equivalency with parents of young babies who can have broken sleep patterns for years. You support as best you can, but still need a way to have good work quality.
    I was struck also by your remark that his unusual work hours were ‘becoming inconvenient to me’. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but if this was a stellar performer, would you be more willing to accommodate different hours. In other words if there’s no problem with quality and quality, does the working pattern matter?

    1. Rebecca*

      If he was a stellar performer, OR if the reason he was up was one that was more acceptable to her? If he was up all night writing papers for a degree instead of playing video games, would you find yourself being more forgiving?

      I agree that focusing on the work and not the reasons or his schedule at home is the way to go.

      1. Minerva*

        I can’t help but wonder if LW is hung up on the “video games” aspect as well. While playing video games has definitely more acceptable as a hobby for an adult, folks who don’t play video games sometimes still peg it as immature or childish or frame it as an “addiction so bad they don’t sleep” rather than something people might do when they *can’t* sleep like watch TV or read a book.

        If employee had talked about staying up all night reading books, I doubt LW would have focused on the reason. The problem is the work is not up to snuff with or without the schedule adjust. Alison’s advice is spot on.

    2. Emily*

      I think asking if LW would accomodate different hours if employee’s work quality was better is a bit besides the poimt. The employee’s work quality is not good, and LW did try to accomodate different hours, but it did not work out. I think Alison’s advice on how to handle this is really good.

    3. GythaOgden*

      It probably would, because most jobs do have set business hours that need coverage and responsiveness and not just people completing work on their own time. I’m in maintenance and facilities where everyone has to be around during specific hours because we need to be able to pick up situations as they happen. Our company handbook even states that we can’t compress our hours into four days to get an extra day off, because staffing is planned around there being enough people on duty to respond to issues in a timely manner. (And having been the spare pair of hands for quite a long time, I agree with this — because it was soul-destroying to be underemployed, forced to come in and out every day because of being in the coverage position but not able to work on anything personal at all, and only there to cover the occasional absence. Temps aren’t always an option — our line of work really needed someone who knew the building — so my skills went to waste and my experience went stale. There are significant costs to overstaffing just as there are to understaffing.)

      Part of being a good performer is also accepting that there are limits to flexibility and being around to share the knowledge and pitch in if necessary.

      I’d say there were probably more jobs that require someone to be around during specific hours than there were jobs where you could do it totally when you felt like it. Self-employment requires you to be on the ball for your clients’ sake as well, and most of them will be working normal business hours.

      Also the OP tried a different schedule and there were still the same problems, presumably of overlap between her clients and the person meant to be serving them. Those things are the business case for not being able to carry even a brilliant employee who can’t meet the hours they need to at any one particular job. It would be their responsibility to find a job that fits better with them than try to half-arse a job which is incompatible with their lifestyle or with which they’re not at least making an attempt to fit in.

      There was a really good thread where this was examined from the employee’s side where people were being helpful in explaining some of the reasons why OP needed to be on time for meetings and why her boss couldn’t change the times of those meetings easily (because of needing to coincide with people in different time zones almost directly opposite where they were in the US). It was handled a lot more thoughtfully by the commenters back then and so I’m not sure why people are suddenly mystified by the idea that OP is asking her employee to try and meet the obligations he accepted alongside this particular job.

      1. OldHat*


        Even in an office job, a schedule like 10-7 would be pushing it for a high performer if it was just that person work that schedule consistently without an obvious business need.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      A sub-par employee requires a lot more, even constant, supervision to find where the problems lie and then train them up to the required standard. So maybe the OP requires them to work normal hours rather than changing her own hours.

      A stellar employee would require very little/no supervision and also may be allowed perks such as more flextime that others are not.

      1. Shiara*

        A stellar employee is usually good at communication and keeping needed documentation up to date so that status of projects is very clear if anyone needs to check. A sub par employee may not stay on top of that, meaning that if questions or problems arise when they’re not working, getting answers becomes much more inconvenient.

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I think it was “inconvenient” to OP as she was having to supervise and cross check him in a way she shouldn’t need to. So if he was working late, she’d have to be available as well.

    6. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Well, of course if he was a stellar performer he would get more leeway! That’s just fair. A mild inconvenience is far more acceptable from someone who otherwise makes your job much easier.

    7. OP*

      If he was a stellar performer, it would still be a downside if he wanted to work hours different from the rest of the team, but the upsides would outweigh the downsides. Here there are no upsides to outweigh the downsides. So you are both correct in reading that but not correct in the implication that the schedule doesn’t matter.

  20. GythaOgden*

    OP4, you are in my thoughts and prayers (if you’ll have them). The way my husband kept in touch during his illness was through Facebook, but he was friends with a lot of his current and former colleagues, so when he passed away I was able to leave a message for everyone there.

    I can’t give you much other advice but I think it’s immensely brave to post here asking what to do and you sound like you are at peace with the outcome. My one wish is that you keep yourself comfortable and that you are surrounded by as much love and comfort as my husband was, are kept out of pain, and that when the end comes you find it in a place of respect and dignity. Your family and friends will miss you but the main thing is to leave them with the memories you made together and for them to know that you are now at peace.

    Oh, and ♥️.

  21. Also-ADHD*

    I hate situations like LW1 where managers or anyone gets into “parental” mode. I’m on early for my remote job mostly because I’d rather be early and leave early that day, or Friday extra early if I can’t I’m that day, since that’s often allowed (and do have coworkers who start late or seem to disappear, but I only care if I’m my getting deliverables from my team—I’m a team lead but not a manager). But I’d be so frustrated if my manager made any work issue thing about my personal choices, like sleep. I’d just stop sharing about my life frankly. I’ve met loads of people with not enough attention to detail in work that don’t seem to be up late playing video games, and frankly would anyone tell sleep deprived parents they needed to rest more and that was the issue? I think even the advice to take off time is overstepping, though if you are fine with people shifting time occasionally, just not stating at 10 every day, make that policy clear. Otherwise, I think it should plainly be on work expectations— be here, that’s fine. Do work to X standards, sure. But it’s not about what the employee does in their personal life or how they sleep, unless they need a medical accommodation for a sleep disorder (and even then, it’s only about how you can reasonably accommodate their needs).

    1. Bob*

      Did you miss the part where she’s made accommodations for him and he’s still a bad employee and constantly talks about being up all night before starting work?

      He’s telling her everything. She’s not prying. He needs to grow up.

      1. Also-ADHD*

        No, and I wasn’t suggesting making accommodations (unless it’s medical, as Alison mentioned). I assume he’s still mentioning it because he doesn’t realize LW thinks as they do about video games etc. I think the issue is trying to “parent” (don’t stay up late and come to work tired) instead of asserting the quality concerns directly (this is the expectation of the work, how can you get there?). I think it’s inappropriate to even assume WHY the work is sloppy or to think it matters if it was insomnia, a teething baby, or video games if it’s a regular work issue his quality isn’t good. It feels like the focus is 100% on the wrong thing, and that the work errors need to be actually addressed.

    2. Orv*

      Agreed. Some of my most tired, absentee coworkers are that way because they have kids. But no one stigmatizes parents the way the person in LW1 is being stigmatized.

      1. OP*

        I think because having kids is usually a protected legal activity which employers need to accommodate (see FMLA). Video games is not like that. And there is less you can do to manage a baby that won’t sleep than to manage a hobby like video games, which you can absolutely make sure only happens the hours you want it to happen.

        1. Orv*

          I have a really hard time managing my sleep cycle. Sometimes I play video games when I can’t sleep, sometimes I don’t. But this thread is why I never EVER ask for any kind of accommodation from my manager, I just grit my teeth and say I’ll try to do better. Because any excuse I give will be judged and used to build a case against me.

    3. OP*

      So if you had a teammate who was botching things and constantly talking about how they often stay up til 3 am, and didn’t seem to make the connection between the two things, you would just keep your mouth shut about it?

      1. Joron Twiner*

        Yes because we shouldn’t have to parent our coworkers and reports.

        You have plenty to support you in putting him on a PIP or firing or whatever next steps based on performance/results alone. Why does it matter how the employee manages their time, if it’s not a medical thing?

  22. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 If someone reports that insomnia/sleep disorder is affecting their performance, I would regard it as self-sabotage if they are staying up late to use electronic devices and to consume caffeine:

    While all types of artificial light can affect circadian rhythms, blue light – which electronic devices emit – has the largest impact because it suppresses the body’s release of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel drowsy.

    The first advice typically given for sleep disorders includes avoiding any electronic device for at least 1 hour before going to bed and also cutting out caffeine after 3pm.

    Of course these measures alone may not bring enough improvement, but at least the report should stop doing obvious “fun” things that likely make an existing condition things worse.
    I would make fewer allowances for someone who wilfully/foolishly exacerbates an existing problem for fun than someone already taking all reasonable measures to help themself.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      When someone was having performance problems, I used to monitor them very closely, which of course meant they needed to work about the same hours as I did. The start and end of the workdays were often the most important for guidance and feedback.

      And of course, some jobs where a team is working together require frequent communication and deliverables between members or the work of the team slows down. Not all jobs allow everyone to do their own thing all the time

    2. Kara (not letter Kara!)*

      If you were managing an employee like the one described, my advice would be to focus completely on the needed improvements to their work product and entirely skip the focus on their “self-sabotage”. That is indeed the common advice, yes, but the jury is from out on whether it is effective, and there are many people (like me!) whom caffeine doesn’t affect at all. Blue light was all the rage for a few years, and then contradictory studies started coming out and at the moment the evidence is muddled at best. It’s possible that the problem is that it works for some people but not for others, and that’s why there’s no consistency in the results, but focusing on judging their time at home rather than their work runs a real risk of running headlong into disability discrimination. This young man has said nothing, but neither have i at work because there is a real risk to disclosing my ADHD. Start pushing on the aspects of my life that you don’t approve of and my response might be to bring in paperwork and make things formal. Meanwhile, my actual work product goes unaddressed because you were focusing on my personal habits rather than my work and right now I’m under the impression that my problem is a judgy boss rather than a problem with my output. Everyone is unhappy here and nothing productive is being accomplished. Skip the other stuff and focus on what you need to see from their work. As tempting as it is, do not say even one word about the staying up as per Alison’s otherwise wonderful script because it’s going to take the focus away from where it needs to be and breeds resentment from the employee. You want their full buy-in on trying to improve, and bringing up their habits isn’t going to accomplish that. ‘X needs to be done to this standard. Y needs to be done by this time and to Z standard. MN and O must be 100% completed per these steps and handed off to these other people. Do you think you can do this?’ That’s where the focus needs to be, and that’s what has the best chance of working.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Would you apply that same mindset to someone with a different medical condition that you thought they were handling wrong? That feels like an inappropriate road for a manager to go down. I understand having private feelings about it, but I don’t think you should let it affect your treatment of the employee.

    4. Jackalope*

      Please read the many, many comments above where people talk about having tried all the typical pieces of advice to no avail and finally just choosing to find something to do during the hours of insomnia that isn’t just staring at the ceiling. We don’t know if a sleep disorder is the problem here, and frankly even if it is that’s mot the OP’s issue – she needs to address his work quality, not his habits off the clock. But being judgmental about how someone dealing with a sleep disorder spends their time isn’t helpful and as many have said above can be actively harmful.

    5. AngryOctopus*

      I get it, but the most that the employer should do here is refer to the EAP. All the advice above is for a doctor to give. It’s much more appropriate if the employee wants to come back and say “I’ve talked to a doctor and they advise X and Y, so I’m starting that and I hope we can track improvement.”. It’s not for the employer to say “so I want you to stop drinking caffeine as of 2pm and no elecronics after 8”.

      1. Dinwar*


        It would be bad enough if my parents pulled this. Once I moved out of the house I was on my own. If a manager tried to mother-hen me in such a way I’d be aghast. It’s a wild over-step and certainly implies a lack of understanding of professional boundaries. Under capitalism workers exchange labor and knowledge for money. The employer/employee relationship is not parental in any way.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Dollars to donuts this guy has been hearing this stuff from his parents anyway. Hearing it from someone else *miiiiiight* make a difference but he’s probably so sick of hearing it that he’s either learned to tune it out or he will be resentful that yet one more person in his life is nagging him about something he doesn’t care to change (or maybe even can’t change). And of course, it’s absolutely overstepping for his boss to bring it up anyway.

    6. Nancy*

      Neither LW1 nor her employee has said a sleep disorder is involved. There is no reason for LW1 to discuss any of this.

    7. Irish Teacher*

      I’d be careful about coming to conclusions like that. I mean, yeah, I’d agree that for most people, playing video games late at night isn’t the best way to improve one’s sleep patterns but we really don’t know enough about this individual’s situation to know even if he has a sleep disorder, let alone what helps or hinders it. To give one example, if he is dealing with something like anxiety or PTSD that is preventing him from sleeping, he could be video-gaming to distract himself from whatever it is that is bothering him. The options might be staying awake video-gaming or staying awake with nothing to distract him from panicked thoughts.

      Obviously, there is nothing to suggest the employee is dealing with these issues, but there are many possibilities as to what might be happening here and I don’t think we or the LW knows enough to be making judgements on what might help.

      I also think it can be a bit of a slippery-slope. I do understand wanting to give more allowances to somebody who is really dealing with something difficult rather than somebody who appears to be contributing to their own problems, but firstly, we don’t know if he is and secondly, where do we draw the line on that one? A lot of illnesses can sometimes be caused or contributed to by personal decisions and even more have things that can help. I would definitely side-eye somebody who felt that the allowances an employee with diabetes was entitled to depended on how carefully they were sticking to a diet and while this isn’t quite the same, I still think it’s probably not the right road to go down.

      And I don’t think it’s really relevant anyway. We don’t even know it’s the lack of sleep that is causing the work problems. Given that he didn’t do well with a later start, I suspect the two things are likely completely unrelated. 1am isn’t even that late to go to sleep! I suspect he just isn’t very good at his job.

    8. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I agree with the other comments people have made about your post, Vulcan, but also, weirdly, caffeine close to bedtime actually can HELP some people sleep better. I know, I know, that seems counterintuitive, but it also appears to be true.

      Also, I had insomnia for over a decade and absolutely none of the “sleep hygiene” recommendations made a bit of difference.

      1. metadata minion*

        People with ADHD often react “paradoxically” to stimulants, and find that they have a calming effect. Bodies are weird. I take a medication that was originally an antidepressant, but it has such a strong sedative effect that it’s now prescribed almost exclusively off-label as a sleep aid. But my mother, who has even worse insomnia than I do, can’t take it because she’s in the tiny percentage of people in whom it causes mania instead of sedation.

    9. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I live about 5 miles from a large sleep clinic and one of the consultants goes to my gym. She has shared that screens are the major exacerbating factor, sometimes even the root cause.
      Gaming is a particular problem because of the continual spikes of reward, excitement, failure/wanting to redo.

      1. Kara (not letter Kara!)*

        I hate to say this, but you may wish to review the studies for yourself. Screens and blue light have been the subject of many a breathless headline, but the actual research is so far out in the weeds that there is very little consensus. This study says blue light restriction works. This one found no effect. This one found an effect, but only in some people. Personally, my money is on that last one; similar to how caffeine has an energizing effect on neurotypical people and a relaxing effect on those with ADHD. Think of it this way: if blue light worked the way it’s said to in the wellness blogs, there would not have been both morning larks and night owls in the days before artificial lighting. Yet differences in sleep cycle from ye olden days are well documented. Same amount of light and blue light exposure, very different results.

      2. Joron Twiner*

        Do not give medical advice to your reports based on what you hear from a gym buddy who works at a sleep clinic. Someone actually dealing with sleep problems has heard it already directly from their doctor. And we don’t even know if this guy has a sleep disorder!

        This is like telling overweight employees to exercise more. They don’t need rudimentary advice on how to live their lives, especially not from their employer.

    10. Daisy-dog*

      I think the questionable part for LW’s employee is that he’s sharing this with his manager, making her feel like she can make recommendations rather than focus on his work output.

      I don’t tell my manager if I’m out drinking on a work night or decided I wanted to finish a book (both rare occurrences at this point in my life). I might tell my manager if my dog needed multiple potty breaks which meant I only got a couple hours of sleep.

    11. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      As always, it’s unwise of the report to share / excuse himself by saying something that has such bad “optics.”
      Better just to say he slept poorly or best of all not make any excuses, just state if he needs help, more training or whatever.

      The OP should tell him very clearly what he needs to achieve for an acceptable performance level and then if he doesn’t do this, start a PIP.

    12. watermelon fruitcake*

      The first advice typically given for sleep disorders includes avoiding any electronic device for at least 1 hour before going to bed and also cutting out caffeine after 3pm.

      As somebody dealing with a sleep disorder myself – no problems falling asleep, but problems staying asleep, which leaves me restless at night and hypersomnolent in the daytime – I’m going to echo what my sleep specialist said: the first thing we try is always sleep hygiene, but there are over 100 causes of sleep disturbance and lifestyle changes don’t even help most of them. “Limit coffee/screens” is the first advice because it is the simplest, least expensive, and least disruptive thing to try; it filters the real-sleep-disorder wheat from the unmanaged-lifestyle chaff; and because those kind of behaviors can not only aggravate but mask relevant symptoms.

      Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it is broadly effective advice for the people who are actually suffering sleep disorders – or, rather, disorders affecting sleep! In fact, stimulants – caffeine being one – are not only strategically suggested but prescribed for some people with sleep disorders. Narcolepsy comes to mind, but ADHD is extremely commonly accompanied by atypical sleep patterns and low quality sleep. It’s a bit of a meme anymore but there is truth to the observation that caffeine addiction is a form of self-medication for both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. My own doctor has brought up putting me on amphetamines and to help me function through the day and “tire me out for the night,” but I’ve been resistant due to worries about my heart. (Meanwhile poor sleep is associated with higher risk of cardiac death, too. Ugh.)

      I personally don’t like coffee or soda or most caffeinated beverages, and the “perk up” effect lasts a very, very short time so it does not even make it worth the effort. As a result, I am sleepy all day. It is inconvenient to get drowsy in droning meetings and seminars I can’t escape, or in the middle of reading or even writing a report, but it is downright dangerous I when I get drowsy driving). However, I could absolutely see somebody who, with a similarly disrupted sleep pattern and daytime hypersomnolence, would self medicate by drinking a ton of caffeine during the day, at all hours just so they could function during the day, since they’re going to sleep poorly for known or unknown pathological or idiopathic reasons, anyway.

      All that to say, it is awfully presumptuous to frame it as if limiting blue light and caffeine intake is going to help this particular employee or any employee in their situation, that they haven’t tried it already, that they aren’t electing habits that actually help them function, that they are clearly (ignorantly or willfully) engaging in (self-)sabotage, and – perhaps most importantly – it goes well beyond the scope of this blog in the first place. If he is a bad employee, the OP needs to sit him down and explain exactly where he is failing, with clear expectations and benchmarks, ignoring irrelevant moral judgments (i.e. it does not matter HOW the employee is spending their free time, only THAT it is interfering with their obligations) and focusing on specific responsibilities, goals, and objectives for them to keep their job. Or if his output is really so bad, they can let him go – but, importantly, it needs to be because of his quality of work, not because of assumptions and criticisms of their lifestyle.

      (If there is a medical condition at play, the latter opens the employer to liability, anyway, so if you find yourself leaning toward moral judgment instead of objective quantitative or qualitative assessment, it’s good to take a step back and re-evaluate your stances lest you are being motivated by an implicit bias.)

    13. Dahlia*

      So, here’s a thing to consider – people are allowed to do things that worsen their disability. People “self-sabotage” all the time. They go on hikes knowing they’re going to be sore the next day. They drink too much knowing they’re going to be hungover.

      Disabled people are also allowed to do things that make their disability worse.

      This is called “Dignity of Risk” and it’s a really important concept when it comes to talking about disability. We don’t need to be protected from ourselves – that’s incredibly infantilizing. https://dsporientation.partnership.vcu.edu/section-i/the-value-of-dignity-of-risk/

      Whether this person has a sleep disorder or not isn’t even OP’s business. The accomodations may be, but OP’s business really is the quality of the work. That is what they need to talk about, not the video games, not the sleep. Just the work.

      1. Jackalope*

        Your comment also implicitly points out the side correlation: everyone (disabled or not) gets to figure out what their personal risks and payoffs are and decide accordingly for themselves. If you don’t experiment then you won’t know (to use your example) how much of a hike is normal soreness you can ignore vs. the level of soreness you’re only up for if you have the next day to lounge vs. not okay ever for you because the payoff isn’t worth it. Once you get an idea for your limits then you can make your choices from there, but if someone “protects” you from experiencing the consequences of those actions (both the good and bad consequences – a beautiful hike and fun day with friends vs sore the next day) then you don’t have the info needed to make your own decisions. I don’t know how old this employee is, but I know that while we all have to recalculate this regularly as we grow older, many people are especially doing that in their late teens through their 20s because it’s the first time they’re not having their actions dictated by their parents.

    14. Orv*

      Eh, I have coworkers who “self-sabotaged” by having kids. They’re absent all the time because the kids are sick or childcare fell through, they don’t get enough sleep, all they talk about is their kids, etc. But it would be really gauche of me to point that out to them.

    15. Kotow*

      I wouldn’t say I have a “sleep disorder” because I’ve never been formally evaluated for one but my natural rhythm is going to bed at 1am (2am would be preferable) and then getting up at 9 or 10. Plenty of individuals in our society consider this to be a “sleep disorder” but I really don’t see it that way (nor do I want to add to that perception by getting a formal diagnosis). I’ve tried the no electronics after 9, cutting out caffeine after 3pm, and going to bed earlier (which I do during the week, and it takes multiple sleep aids to fall asleep). Sometimes there are nights when it just doesn’t work and I’m going to get 4 hours of sleep. Even with that, and feeling like a truck hit me because of the multiple sleep aids that didn’t work, I’m still going to naturally want to stay up until 1am the next night. When there is massive insomnia, and the standard tips and tricks don’t work to force me onto a “socially acceptable” schedule, then I’m just going to do something that is pleasurable and distracts from the anxiety of knowing how bad I’ll feel the next day. That may be what this person is doing.

      In any event, if he performed worse with a later start, then the issue may not even be related to getting enough sleep. The manager should start with what the expectations are instead of trying to go into the reasons for the problems.

  23. Cabbagepants*

    #3 either the coworkers were terrible at math or somehow had the idea that the $0.55/mile was somehow supposed to fill up your entire tank. Either way they’re wrong.

    Especially if you have a fuel efficient vehicle, there is plenty of money left over after you cover the gas cost. as a poor student driving a Prius, I always offered to drive people to conferences etc because I could net several hundred dollars towards the routine maintenance I’d have to pay for anyway, like oil changes.

      1. ABC*

        My guess is that she thought the reimbursement should be $3.50/mile. Because that’s how much gas costs, and you should be reimbursed for the cost of gas, right?

        Not realizing that a gallon and a mile are not equivalent measures.

    1. Orv*

      The $0.55/mile is meant to cover average depreciation and such, as well. If you have an older, fully-depreciated car that gets reasonable fuel economy you’ll almost always come out ahead on the standard reimbursement rate.

    2. McS*

      Oil changes are needed more often if you drive more miles and even if you’ll never sell your car, there are only a certain number of miles before it stops working. Mileage covers all of that. For a Prius or an older Corolla, I’m usually spending less than half the federal mileage rate even properly accounting for maintenance and depreciation.

  24. Dinwar*

    Regarding #1, it’s worth asking what cause and effect are here. I get migraines, and insomnia is part of it. If I can’t sleep anyway it’s far better for my wife’s sleep schedule if I go somewhere else and do something else–and games are a good way to handle it. And caffeine is one of the drugs that can help a migraine. There honestly are times where I have to choose between a night of agony and not sleeping.

    Secondly, I detest the all-too-common view that video games are inherently childish and that it’s okay for people to shame people who play video games. And frankly that’s coming through in your letter loud and clear. If he were staying up late doing some other hobby would you have the same reaction? Would you be willing to say “You need to stop listening to music and get adequate rest”? Stop reading so much? Stop woodworking? Get rid of a hobby farm? I know people who stay up late doing all of that. Simply put gaming is not the issue here, nor is it your place to comment on it.

    The focus needs to be on the work, not the worker’s private life. His hobbies are his choice; your concern as a manager is the work produced.

    1. Stead*

      I’d question staying up until 3am for any of those activities, but gaming is the only one you mention that involves exposure to blue light, which is known to disrupt sleep. That takes it out of “maybe fighting boredom in the wee hours” to “contributing — or being cavalier about the risk of contributing — to the problem”.

      I agree that its outside the boss’s purview to police that; at the same time it’s worth considering that playing video games (or watching TV or scrolling on your phone or writing a novel on a laptop) is different physiologically, not just culturally.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah, just like it might also be the case that the employee is staying out late and ends up oversleeping and/or hungover. Kind of like you really don’t have to force yourself into an almost athletic regime just to keep your mind and body in tip-top condition for work, but you don’t want to do things that directly aggravate the situation either.

      2. Dinwar*

        “I’d question staying up until 3am for any of those activities…”

        It’s remarkably common in the crafting world to hear stories of people staying up WAY too late to finish a project. There’s a point where you’re in the zone, and you’re almost done, and you can finish it tonight with just a little more effort. Same with reading. As for music, I’ve spent many a happy night listening to various music (everything from classical symphonies to bluegrass to heavy metal to Celtic stuff) until “late” became “early” with fellow music lovers. Music speaks to the soul and has a powerful emotional impact; many people I’ve spoken with simply can’t sleep after listening to certain music. And before you say it, it’s more common with Celtic and symphonic music than with heavy metal.

        The fact that you haven’t experienced these things in no way proves they don’t exist.

        As for blue light, we’re talking about nerds that spend hours a day doing things that can cause eye strain, which reduces their ability to do the thing they enjoy; the idea that they haven’t considered this issue is another manifestation of the cultural view of video games as childish. There are a number of ways to mitigate these effects, ranging from specialized treatments for glasses (which also have benefits in office environments) to adjusting the brightness on your monitor, a lot of which are discussed in the gaming community. Further, the research is hardly as cut-and-dried as people are presenting it. The effects of blue light on hormone regulation are very difficult to disentangle from the effects of other behavioral patterns on hormone regulation, and individual capacity to handle the types of light generated by devices is highly variable, both between people and within the same person over time (I can handle 10 hours a day for work just fine, but if I get a migraine screens literally feel like I’m being stabbed in the head).

        1. Stead*

          I know that people stay up late doing many different kinds of activities. I’ve done it myself, and when I have I’ve questioned my judgment for doing so.

        1. Sandals*

          Boatloads of credible, verifiable, reproducible research have found that blue light suppresses the body’s natural release of melatonin.

          1. Joron Twiner*

            And that is the smoking gun for every single sleep disorder? There are no other factors that are at play here?

            Plenty of people look at blue light sources before bed and sleep fine. It’s not a 1-1 thing.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      All the sympathy to you regarding migraines! My husband gets them and they seem brutal. Thankfully imitrex works quickly for him. I had a coworker with horrible migraines for whom NOTHING worked – not various meds or acupuncture or Botox – and she just seems like she’s carrying this heavy invisible blanket over her all the time. I had a different kind of chronic pain for about a decade and it was awful (thankfully now resolved). Extending all the empathy to you.

  25. Charming Charlie*

    #1 I am all for remote work wherever possible, but in my experience, the privilege is not reserved just for people who need minimal guidance and management. There are a lot of people who need hand-holding to the point where they really should be actually sitting with someone. So I agree that the issue might not be his sleep schedule but that more training is necessary.

    1. Blue Moon Baby*

      Lol, I thought there would be more comments on this one. But it’s so true. Regardless of if you have health issues; kids; ill parents; whatever, no good can come out of a remote position if you can’t justify it through good work. And a lot of people landed a 100% remote job through dumb luck as opposed to merit. So many people leave emails unresponded to, so many people have no clue how to manage their time, so many people let jobs lag on for months. And being in the office where people can sit with you and call you out can remediate SO much of that.

  26. Nancy*

    LW1: discuss his work, not his sleep patterns or what he does when he is not at work. Help him come up with a plan to fix the issues ( review work before submitting, have someone else review it, etc). Again focus on work, not hobbies or sleep.

    1. kiki*

      Yeah, as much as it might seem like you’re trying to point out a helpful and fairly basic life lesson about not staying up too late on work nights, it’s getting into invasive territory. There are things all of us could do outside of work to ensure our work performance is tip-top. I’d likely do better work if I consistently exercised and ate only nutritious food and meditated. But if my boss were to bring that up during a discussion of my performance, that’d be going too far. Sleep stuff is kind of borderline too.

  27. JTP*

    Allison, despite never having met her, I love your mother based on that article. I hope for continued good health for her!

  28. CeeBee*

    Allison – and everyone dealing with a terminally ill loved one – I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

  29. BuckeyeIT*

    As an ADHDer LW1 could have been describing me sleep patterns-wise. I wonder though if the LW is getting too caught up in what the employee is doing during his sleepless hours. I could be wrong, but I get a hint of disapproval because his time was spent playing video games and if he had said something like “I stayed up late reading” (or whatever other ‘acceptable’ hobby) the sleep schedule wouldn’t be such a sticking point.

    None of that excuses poor performance but I agree with Alison that LW1 was focusing on the wrong issue. Address what needs corrected in his quality of work and it’s up to him to figure out if a change in sleeping habits will fix that

  30. MCMonkeyBean*

    Thank you for sharing the article about your mom. I love her perspective on how being open with more people means a wider support network, and I’m glad that has worked so well for her. I hope the letter writer gets to experience that as well.

  31. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – This feels like a judgement of the employee’s hobbies. Whether the employee is staying up late to play video games or to study for school/take care of children/volunteer, there’s really no reason to bring up the sleep schedule at all from the employer’s perspective except to ensure that the employee space to request accommodation if it is a medical issue. How the employee chooses to spend their off hours is their choice.

  32. el l*

    Their schedule matters only to you insofar as it affects his responsiveness. If they need to respond to you/clients in short order, they need to work essentially standard business hours; if they don’t, they can log in as best suit them. Schedule and how to manage the odd sleepless night is otherwise their problem.

    The attention to detail is…their problem. You have to set the standard you need, and you can certainly provide advice on how to get there. But figuring out how to solve the problem of bad attention to detail AND to implement solutions to get to your standard is…their problem. Not yours. And there’ll have to be a point of time at which you say, “I’m defining standard x. You’re not meeting that right now – and unless you meet that standard by y date, it’s time to go down the PIP/firing road.”

  33. Harper the Other One*

    LW4 – I am sorry about your diagnosis; it’s a lot to navigate. I just wanted to add a voice to say it’s also okay to NOT share the information widely until the time of your choosing. I am a very private person and would not want check/ins/well wishes from all my previous contacts while also trying to reconcile myself to my situation. One option if you decide to this is to compose a single post/email etc. and either release it yourself when you’re ready or get someone you trust to release it at a designated point. But mostly, keep in mind that you can decide what you want, whether it’s to gather support from widely around you or just to lean on the people you’re closest to.

  34. Lobstermn*

    LW1: document and fire. Anyone who is bragging about showing up to work altered is not interested in improving.

    1. Sandals*

      Yep. It’s entirely reasonable to expect employees to be refreshed for work, no matter the reason for a lack of sleep. It’s why people say, when socializing outside of work, for example, “Well, gotta go; got work in the a.m.” Do what you want on your off time, but if it’s impacting your work during work time, make a change/get help/get a different job with a more suitable schedule of hours. Why is that so hard to grasp?

    2. Baron*

      Where in the letter are you seeing anything in the same universe as “bragging” or “altered”?

      1. Lobstermn*

        “Recently, he mentioned he stayed up until 4 or 5 am for a video game event that lasted really late.”

        Bragging about coming into work sleep-deprived.

        1. Orv*

          This is why I never discuss my social life at work. You never know what someone will get judgy about.

          1. Sandals*

            But “judgy” is a false premise in this particular situation. The employee told LW1 he stays up late because he was playing video games. Is LW supposed to unhear that somehow? Substitute other reasons – video games-playing just happened to be the reason the employee provided to LW – and it still boils down to an employee who lacks the maturity to address on his own behalf whatever it is that’s causing him to consistently produce sub-par work.

            I do agree that it’s unwise to share with bosses “I did ‘x’ until 4 am all this week and gosh am I half-asleep!” It presents a natural cause for concern about the quality of a person’s work, which is an entirely reasonable reaction.

            1. Also-ADHD*

              It’s judgy to assume that the issue is the staying up late and playing video games. You don’t have to unhear it to choose to think neutrally on that and address the performance issue as the performance issue. Whatever LW needs him to do better, it needs to be better whether he gets 2 or 10 hours of sleep. Unless there’s a genuine safety issue (and no because he works remotely so he’s not even commuting let alone performing surgery or flying a plane) related to physiological sleep in some way, LW shouldn’t even assume tiredness is the reason for the errors.

            2. Orv*

              Right, that’s my point. Avoid saying why you we’re up late at all costs. Preferably just say you’re sick because insomnia will be judged too — it opens you up to “did you try ALL these sleep tips I found online, or are you just lazy?” discussions.

      1. fanfix*

        OP1, please do not take this commenter’s advice. Anyone whose first piece of advice is “fire them” or “put them on a PIP”, especially in an instance like this where adjustments and accommodations should be put in place, should not be in a management or decision-making role.

  35. MB*

    Genetics has a large role in whether you are a night owl or morning lark. Can’t control genetics. If the employee is in their 20’s, layered onto night owl tendencies is the temporary delayed phase sleep shift that hits at adolescence. (the foundation of the start school later advocacy). Your sleep hormone doesn’t release until later, and natural bedtime prior to 11;30 is impossible for some. As to video games – which come first, the chicken or the egg? Most night owls play video games because they are in their normal waking hours, not because of the commonly tossed around phrase ‘addiction.’ AAM is spot on with focusing on work quality and pointing out that is the major issue. Accommodations could be productive and in play.

  36. oaktree*

    First of all, condolences to Alison on the news about your mom. Hadn’t heard.

    When my wife was terminally ill (very early-onset Alzheimer’s), I regularly posted updates on social media. It’s possible some people thought it was oversharing, but 1) it was the easiest way for far-flung family and friends to keep up, and 2) people really need to know what the condition is like. The stigma we attach to illness is harmful to people dealing with it and their caregivers.

  37. Ex-prof*

    #3– That driver should not have taken the money. She took advantage of one passenger being bad at math and the other passengers, including LW, being polite.

    1. Jackalope*

      It’s been said a few times above, but many people (myself included) consider it acceptable and desirable to give extra money beyond what is needed as a thank you to the person who is taking on the stress and bother of being the driver, particularly if it’s not a regular task that they deal with. It wasn’t cool to pressure the OP into donating if they didn’t want to, but people just kindly offering up money above and beyond what’s needed is something I’ve seen many times and consider a polite way of acknowledging the extra burden of driving.

  38. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish*

    The Bugatti Veyron hypercar gets about 7 miles per gallon. That is, unless you’re going full out, in which case it gets 3.

    1. Student*

      I would like to have some stern words with whomever is using their Bugatti to do work-related driving.

      These will happen after I catch my breath from hyperventilating to the company counsel about possible business risks/liabilities/insurance issues because somebody was driving a Bugatti for work-related driving.

      I got anxiety just THINKING about this, even though I am quite sure I will never encounter it. The closest I ever had to get to something like this was a discussion about the risks, safety, and responsibilities of transporting radioactive material in rental cars.

        1. Phony Genius*

          If I ever have to rent a car for work, I wonder if I can get reimbursed for a Geiger counter to check for fallout from the previous renter.

      1. GythaOgden*

        IIRC from the years of Top Gear I watched with my husband, (a) Bugattis aren’t actually road-legal because (b) no one will insure them (and at least in the UK insurance is mandatory and paid per person per car). I think this is a case of the extreme edge case and can be safely assumed to be not the situation with the poster’s problem.

        On the other hand, nuclear materials are really not compatible with rental cars and I would love to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting. Maybe Alison should do a thread about the weirdest stuff you’ve had to talk to a colleague about or the weirdest round-robin fingerwagging you’ve had — although perhaps it might stray into ‘immediately identifiable’ territory…

  39. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: Another ADHDer here whose sleep schedule went to hell during the pandemic and hasn’t entirely recovered (turns out having like, zero scheduled activities outside the house did not have a positive effect on me). It’s important to make it about his work quality, and not play doctor – or mother. When and how he sleeps is his business. His productivity at work is your business.

    My sleep schedule is slowly “normalizing” again, but I’m a night owl by nature, and even my 9am start – later than most of my team – feels too early most days. My manager seems to have caught on that I’m not at my best in the morning in general, but I seem to do well enough at my job overall that it hasn’t come up as an issue. And that’s the thing – even on days where I’m running on very little sleep from the night before, I do my best to compensate for it, including slowing down and triple-checking my work. I might be a hair slower than on days where I’m better rested, but I take precautions to not let a pile of errors slip through.

    For your employee – if he’s sleep-deprived, that’s his thing. What he needs to be made to understand is that he has to find a way to do his job anyway.

    (And yes, I’m also frustrated at a work environment and society that sees night owls as “lazy”, when I frankly probably sleep less than most of my colleagues bouncing out of bed at 5 or 6 am and ready to work by 7.)

  40. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    OP4 – so terribly sorry.
    I did want to suggest something like Caringbridge site as a good option. When I had a family member going through something similar it was a good way to both keep people updated and minimize the amount of phone calls and emails on days when it was just too much. People tend to respond on the site and you can choose to read on days you want to and not read on days you do not.

    You can allow someone close to you to also have posting privileges if needed to keep things updated when you no longer are able to.

  41. Pinta Bean*

    An observation that LW mentioned the lack of commutes for their remote team as something that should theoretically make the schedule easier on the staff member.

    During the height of the pandemic, I worked exclusively remote, and I did appreciate the benefits of not having a commute. It was more time for me, in the morning and in the evening, what’s not to like?

    But now that I am on a flex schedule, and work from home a few days a week depending on work flow, I noticed that a benefit to starting work in the office with a team is that it allows for a more of an easing into the work day. My office is not that chatty in a social sense, but typically team members arrive at 8:30 am and much of the “work” is casually, verbally checking in with each other on workflow while doing some basic office tasks. On some days we do jump right in with an 8:30 am meeting when necessary, but mostly the first half hour or so feels like gearing up as a group. In contrast, when I am working from home, often it feels like jumping in full bore right at 8:30 am — and I never really appreciated the more gradual ramp up of the office until I could make a direct comparison. (Also I don’t want anyone to think my team is sitting around the office doing nothing for the first part of the day, our chit-chat *is* focused on work, just that it has a different feel at 8:30 am than it does at say, 11 am.)

    I think it’s natural to think that a remote employee should benefit from not having to commute, but there may be some less obvious factors at play as well.

  42. Giggly-Puff*

    What an interesting question! I would think that simple math would have stopped this whole conversation. I love getting mileage. When I worked at a nonprofit, but had to travel from the office most days, it was a great little boost to my paycheck. 50+ cents a mile is great when you’re driving all over the place!

    I wanted to add a story to this. I hope it’s not (too) derailing.

    I did once work for an organization where they in fact, did NOT pay mileage, but instead they conservatively calculated how much actual gas it might take to get there, and paid that. So once I had to drive from one city to another, about 5 hours away, about 350 miles. Rather than the 50+ cent a mile, which would have been a bit more than $175, they decided it took 2 tanks of gas to get there and back, and paid me about $50. (When in this millennium have we been able to fill up a tank on $25? Not in 2016 when this happened.)

    That did not include the wear and tear, plus 3 other people in my car that did NOT have to use their cars, parking at the event, and it really didn’t even cover the gas!

    They paid that only because we went to a different city. They didn’t pay it when we had events in town, even though this large city is an hour away from itself, and even though we always had to go into the center of town before and after the event to pick up and drop off the needed materials to do the event.

    I never did another event for them.

  43. Coverage Associate*

    Just adding that the federal mileage reimbursement math is different state to state. In California, there’s a state gas tax of like $0.50/gallon, or maybe that’s the federal tax and state is $0.70/gallon. Anyway, over $1/gallon is just taxes. Add in repairs also costing more and around 9% sales tax on cars, and the math is different. Things are probably even worse in Hawaii.

    I think sometimes my employer or client have done the math and concluded it’s cheaper to rent a car for longer trips than reimburse mileage, if they don’t have to pay for the extra travel time. I had a client who wouldn’t even reimburse mileage if it was less than 50 miles.

    Also, in my experience mileage is always on top of bridge and highway tolls being reimbursed. $7 at the Golden Gate would definitely change the math.

  44. Head sheep counter*

    LW#1 if your employee isn’t on a PIP – it sounds like time do so. Focus on work quality/expectations and on having professional/work conversations. His private activities are just that and resetting both of your communications on the work problem that needs solving would be beneficial to you both. Its natural to have gotten into discussions about what is causing frustration but… in this case… it matters not at all. He could be a vampire who only rises at night… but if the job requires something else… then its not the job for him.

  45. Head sheep counter*

    Regarding LW#2 I’m curious why the illegal activities aren’t a bigger issue than the conflict of interest. I know attitudes and laws are changing and have changed but… I can only imagine that this would be job/industry specific ie job doesn’t require background checks or drug testing.

    I concur that quitting the book club is the cleanest path forward for the employee issues as stated. I hope there are other book clubs you can join as it sounds like this has been a meaningful activity for you.

  46. SometimesMaybe*

    For letter #1, there are way too much armchair diagnosing happening in the comments. yes natural sleep patterns do vary, but the guy is not getting his work done well, and he also regularly stays up late (into the early morning). If you commit to a job where you need to function in the daytime, then you commit to performing that job at a certain level at that time as well. I also have trouble waking up in the mornings, but my kids need to get to school by a certain time and my clients expect me to be available at convenient times. Would I love to have a meeting at 11pm, when I am at peak mental focus – Sure/ Do I really expect my employer to accommodate that?

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I have a sleep disorder that means I generally do not hit REM sleep at night (I would need to sleep during the day). But my job requires me to work standard business hours, so I do. It’s miserable. I desperately wish I could start at 1 pm, but I do client-based work and they work normal business hours so I have to do that too. There are accommodations I can offer myself though. For example, when I’m in control of the meeting schedule, I prioritize afternoons and generally only offer 9 am (never earlier) if there is absolutely no other time that works for everyone. I also advertise that I’m not a morning person so that other people take that into consideration before inviting me to a meeting that starts at 7 or 8 am. That way, when I’m not at my best, others don’t see it. I also set an alarm Sun-Thurs that goes off at 9 pm to remind me to take the stuff I use to make myself sleepy earlier than my body naturally would be sleepy. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t – I was still up in bed praying for sleep well after midnight last night lol. On less productive days, I may make up for it by proofreading, organizing, etc. on a Sunday evening when I’m clearer-headed or working from home so I can take frequent breaks/control my environment better for more focus. But I digress, the important thing to note is that even though I do have a medical disorder, I picked a job and field that requires me to work primarily during the day during my less-than-optimal hours and I’ve decided on my own that the struggle to make that work is better than changing careers. My work quality is good enough that I’m meeting or exceeding expectations on my reviews, so good enough for my boss and for me. That’s a decision LW1’s employee is going to have to make for themselves, not something the boss can do for the employee. I agree that the focus needs to be on the quality of the work, rather than advising on the personal life.

      1. ChipDust*

        Well said, thanks. I was always lucky to be able to work as a night shift nurse but not all professions have that option.

  47. Middle Aged Lady*

    My nephew has ADHD, insomnia, and circadian settings that make him a night owl. His answer was to get a night job.
    Since the employee has shared that he stays up late and drinks coffee, that does open the door for the OP to discuss circadian rhythms. “Have you always been like this? Why do you think you are having trouble with sleep/your schedule?” It may just be that the job hours are not a good fit. Or, that the employee is wrecking his sleep with caffeine and gaming.
    There is such a fine line between being professional and caring. I hope the OP can walk that line.
    I am an early bird and like another poster, couldn’t plan many evening activities on work nights, or I would get overstimulated and miss my bedtime. That was my responsibility—to be alert and ready to work when I arrived on the job.

  48. Dawn*

    LW#1 – he only stays up until 1am and you’re worried?

    You’re not this guy’s mother, you’re his manager. Let him worry about his own routines outside of work.

    1. OP*

      No, it’s routinely 1 AM, and often 2 or 3. I don’t care what he does if he gets the job done, but he doesn’t, and it’s an employee’s responsibility, unless there’s some medical issue or rare happenstance, to be rested enough to work well when they work.

      1. bellz*

        Is the work genuinely time-sensitive, or is it just that him working different hours was outside the “normal” hours for the business and occasionally inconvenient for you in a way that was not creating any sort of impact on something that was genuinely critical in importance?

        If you want to set this guy up for success and for him to do his best work, I would strongly advise letting him work adjusted hours. Every single time I’ve encountered this issue as a manager, letting the person work adjusted hours (like 10am-6pm, 11am-7pm, or 12pm-8pm, or taking a longer break during the day and logging back in later like 11am-2pm and then 5pm-9pm) has been an extremely easy fix, whether the person had an actual sleep disorder, was neurodivergent, or was simply a natural night owl.

  49. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

    #4 – Here to +100 to Alison’s mom’s advice. My sister-in-law passed earlier this year and posted her status nearly every day on Facebook, almost to the end. The outpouring of love and support was very meaningful to both her and her daughters. I completely understand that not everyone wants to be that public but it was really special to all of us who could send love and support and not have to constantly check in with the actual sick person or their family to stay updated, which feels invasive.

  50. Cee S*

    Alison on answering OP #4: Your mom is remarkable on telling the story about the diagnosis and the treatment. The most remarkable point is that she has been passionate about assisted dying and now she has the optimism about more days to live. Pancreatic cancer is almost certain to be a death sentence, sometimes rather quickly (in under a year).

    A former colleague dead from cancer last year. (We weren’t in touch really.) Before he died, his partner gained access his social media accounts. When he died, she posted that my former colleague died from cancer and the funeral arrangements. I appreciate his thinking about his foreseeable death so that I could pay respect timely.

  51. Book Club Manager*

    Hi all! I’m LW2 and I want to thank both Alison and everyone here for their input. It’s been really reassuring to see that I was leaning toward the right option in leaving the book club.

    I really appreciate everyone who didn’t see me as judging Kara–I promise I’m not. She’s an amazing employee and person, and her getting tipsy at book club gives me zero concerns–I just don’t want her to feel uncomfortable about it, or to change her behavoir on my account.

    Some important context may be that this is a queer book club and, as a queer person in a conservative state and straight-passing relationship, it’s one of the few places I get to be in community with fellow queer people, so I’ll be sad to leave. However, the same is just as true for Kara, and I would hate for her to feel uncomfortable in such an important space.

    1. Dawn*

      Whoof, I feel that for sure, and I sympathize with you on how hard it can be to find community with other queer folks.

  52. Brain the Brian*

    I would encourage commenters who are armchair-diagnosing LW1’s employee to consider that he may have sought treatment for a sleep disorder and had no success. For instance — I have a circadian rhythm delay, but I also have another neurological condition that prevents me from taking any sleep aids and the medication for which amplifies my circadian rhythm dysfunction. If I’d known at age 18 that this would be the case, I almost certainly would have chosen a different career path (I work in international relations and my regional specialization forces me to work with countries several hours ahead of my own), but that ship has long since sailed, and I — like a lot of us — am where I am in my career with little chance for change. I have a boss who is supportive of flexible schedules, but — like LW1’s employee — I am more productive on days when I work a traditional schedule because I have more direct collaboration time (and frankly, because I still have a lot of internalized shame around sleeping in that prevents me from fully engaging in work if I’ve let myself “slip” at all in the eyes of my colleagues). That said, losing 3-5 hours of sleep every night to maintain a traditional workday just isn’t possible; it would trigger my neurological condition in really dangerous ways, and it has in the past. Our solution has been that I can start late if I have no rescheduled morning meetings, but I will take morning meetings when required and can take a midday nap after them if I need.

    All of that said: yes, I agree with everyone that LW1 needs to focus on their employee’s work product. Name the real problem; otherwise, the solution isn’t going to materialize. What an employee does in their off time isn’t an employer’s business, and if it’s affecting work, that’s where to focus.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Gah. *prescheduled* meetings near the end of the first paragraph. Sorry for the typo, O Commentariat.

  53. ChipDust*

    #4…..my high school class has a private chat group. When someone gets an unexpected diagnosis, they usually post it. It has enabled the rest of us to reach out in whatever way works for our expertise.

    A man I was not close to in high school was handed a very poor diagnosis and was struggling with pain management. I reached out to him with a script to use with his physician. It worked and he was able to spend his last weeks more comfortable. In no way would I have called us close friends but you’d be surprised who can be of help in medical struggles.

  54. Random Dice*

    Thanks for the info from your mother Barbara. She seems really thoughtful and like a hoot. I’m glad she’s had some extra time through treatments. Sending warm thoughts to all of you.

  55. bellz*

    LW1, with respect, I’d like to share a hard-won management lesson that may be of help to you. Unless the work is truly time-sensitive (and I mean that there is a genuine risk of death, injury, or serious financial harm to someone if they do not log on by a specific time), do yourself, your team, and the employee a serious favour and let the employee work on an adjusted or flexible schedule. It being “inconvenient” for you does not count towards the work being time-sensitive.

    On average, it is unlikely that any more of a third of your team are true morning people who will actually be productive at 8am. You are shooting yourself in the foot by insisting that people who have natural circadian rhythms that mean they are more productive later in the day start work early just because it is your personal preference, the preference of someone else further up the chain, or because it has become the status quo at the employer for no particular reason (or a reason that is no longer relevant).

    Every single time I’ve encountered this issue, letting the person work adjusted hours (like 10am-6pm, 11am-7pm, or 12pm-8pm) has been an extremely easy fix, whether the person had an actual sleep disorder, was neurodivergent, or was simply a natural night owl.

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