should I tell my boss my coworker is working a second job during her hours for us?

A reader writes:

I wanted to get your thoughts on something that has bugged me for a while. My coworker has a second job as a photographer and does photoshoots during work hours when we are required to be in the office (only three days a week, mind you). I am aware that Covid created a new way of making money with side hustles and taking on a second remote job, but we are required to be in the office three days a week, and she will show up for a few hours one day, and then we won’t see her for two weeks. To add to that, she does not respond to emails or Teams messages, only doing the bare minimum.

I usually mind my own business, but I would also like to work remotely with no repercussions like my coworker is. Can I tattle? It’s not my nature to tattle, especially since all I’d get out of it is seeing her downfall, but I asked to work remotely in another state and was told no.

I wrote back and asked: “Does it impact your/your coworkers’ work at all? For example, does more work fall on you when she’s not there, or do you have to wait on responses from her that you don’t get while she’s doing her second job?”

Her work doesn’t fall on me, only my coworkers. I don’t work directly with her. But from what I’ve heard, yes, they (and our clients) wait on responses from her. I know leadership is aware as they’ve received complaints about her, but from what I know, haven’t done anything about it. I don’t think the complaints involve her second job, though. I’m not sure a lot of people know about the second job.

This is interesting because it’s not affecting you directly — meaning her work isn’t falling on you — but it’s understandably frustrating that you’d like to work remotely too and have been told no one’s allowed to, when right in front of you is an example of someone flouting that rule with no consequences.

If her absences were affecting you, the answer would be easy: talk to your manager and explain that your coworker is rarely available and you’ve having to cover her work because she’s not around. That keeps it about the impact on you.

I do wonder if it’s really true that it’s not affecting you at all. While you don’t have to pick up actual work for her, if she’s not responding to your messages, that’s a legitimate issue to raise. And you can encourage coworkers who are more affected to talk to your manager themselves.

Beyond that, should you report it if it really doesn’t impact your work? My stance differs depending on your relationship with your team, your boss, and your company. If you like your manager and company — if you’re treated well, you’re invested in the work, you care about seeing your team succeed and see this hurting them, and you know your manager puts real effort into creating the conditions where people can thrive — it could make sense to have a discreet word with your boss.

If those things aren’t true … well, I still understand the impulse but I’d lean away from acting on it. That’s not out of some idea that worker solidarity should keep you quiet (your coworker isn’t entitled to have colleagues cover for her when she’s claiming for herself a benefit you’ve been told no one can have) but simply because it’s not a mess you need to wade into.

I’m also curious about why your manager doesn’t already know what’s going on from her own observations (not the second job, but the lack of availability). I’m guessing she’s not a super effective manager if she doesn’t already realize she’s got a team member who’s AWOL for weeks at a time, not responding to people, and only doing the bare minimum. That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that she’ll handle it well if you do tip her off (and makes me worry the whole group could be penalized with less remote flexibility overall).

It’s also notable that your leadership has already received complaints about this coworker but that doesn’t seem to have resulted in any changes. What do you know about your leadership, in terms of how assertively they address problems? Do they address things forthrightly or allow problems to fester? (Even managers who are conflict-avoidant will often be moved to act if the volume of complaints goes up. But it’s useful to view this in the context of what you know about them in that regard.)

{ 197 comments… read them below }

  1. Toni*

    If she doesn’t show up for weeks at a time and management apparently knows, there might be a health-related reason for at least some of the absences. Not that this changes the advice but maybe the thought would make you less irritated with her.

    1. Gandolf the Nude*

      If she’s working a second job and doing photoshoots during work hours I doubt this is health-related vs someone just taking advantage of a weak manager. Not impossible but chances go way down. I think we can acknowledge that.

      1. samwise*

        I’m curious how the OP knows the coworker is doing photoshoots during work hours and is only doing the bare minimum, when OP doesn’t see the coworker or work directly with her… I know we are supposed to take OPs at their word.

        Really it doesn’t matter if the coworker is doing photoshoots or whatever, it’s whether she’s getting her work done and not inconveniencing her colleagues.

        1. Petty_Boop*

          It sounds like she IS inconveniencing or dumping workoad on her colleages, just that the OP isn’t one of them. But a well-placed, “Oh Jane is probably at her other job; but I’m sure she’ll check her email later,” when someone else complains of her absence might just do the (admittedly passive agressive) trick!

        2. SnackAttack*

          Could be that coworker advertises her services on LinkedIn or social media. If she does photoshoots, she probably has a fair number of accounts to showcase them.

          Either way, it sounds like she isn’t getting her work done, and she is inconveniencing colleagues. Heck, even clients have complained. I’ve worked with a couple of people who were doing 2 jobs at once, and in every instance, the coworkers had to pick up the slack. I appreciate sticking it to “the man,” and if it only affected millionaire CEOs I’d be on board, but the reality is that this kind of thing usually ends up impacting your same- or lower-level coworkers.

        3. GythaOgden*

          Also for us in my UK public sector org, the flip side of very generous sick leave policies and pay is that you are meant to remain in touch with management, they require medical documentation and if the absence goes on long enough they can have a conversation about whether you’re fit to work there at all. In practice people can string it out for quite a while, but although the conversation has to be genuinely constructive about helping someone come back to work if at all possible, it’s not just carte blanche to not show up or not keep in regular communication with your management.

          The biggest type of worker fraud in the NHS is taking sick leave to work another job. Because of the generous leave policies, again, we have to have a balancing thing in play to ensure you can’t abuse the policy.

          So even if this was sick leave related, at some point they really would be having a serious conversation about whether she’s fit to work at all.

    2. NerdyKris*

      But then her coworkers would know she’s on leave. It would be weird for management not to communicate to the team when a coworker is on leave.

      1. samwise*

        Not necessarily. I’ve been on intermittent FML leave for almost a year now. The only people in my office who know that are my supervisor, the department head, and a couple of colleagues who can be trusted to keep their lips zipped.

        1. anecdata*

          But surely you have some kind of out of office email set, or the time blocked out as “away” on your calendar (or you’re taking it in small enough increments that for your job it doesn’t noticeably change reply times (like an hour for an appointment; in a role where you would also often be unavailable for an hour because you’re in meetings). You’re not just “way slower to respond and delaying other people’s work”

          1. samwise*

            We are on a hybrid in office/at home schedule; I’m mostly at home, which I’m sure people have noticed. I’m not delaying other people’s work, but I’m not always working during regular working hours, sometimes that’s scheduled and sometimes it’s not. Anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours. I usually throw an “away” on our office google chat (because it’s a quick click), only put up an away message on email if I can get to it.

            If any of my coworkers are complaining that I “get to” work at home a lot more than is allowed for anyone else, I haven’t heard it. Either they are not complaining or my boss is not passing on complaints.

            My original point is not that no one has noticed I’m out. My point is, very few people know I’m taking leave. I’m responding to “It would be weird for management not to communicate to the team when a coworker is on leave.” It’s not weird, because it’s not the team’s business.

            1. allathian*

              Depends a lot on the organizational culture. In my department at least it would be *absolutely unthinkable* for us not to inform each other of absences. A simple OOO in Outlook/Teams would suffice most of the time, although I will tell my manager and the close coworker who has the same job that I do why I’m out. My manager approves things like sick leave for whole days, but if I start feeling unwell in the middle of the day, I can take sick leave for the rest of the day with a simple heads-up. Our HR system tracks the half-days and if there are too many within a few weeks, my manager would intervene at some point. I use flex time for appointments in the middle of the day. I’m allowed to take 5 days sick leave without a doctor’s note, although the count includes the weekend, so if I get sick on Friday and I’m still unwell on Tuesday, I need a sick note for Wednesday.

              We have long vacations and a department-wide calendar where everyone’s vacations are noted, especially around the end of the year and summer.

              We don’t have intermittent FMLA here, but some of my coworkers work 4 days a week and others work 6-hour days 5 days a week. These people absolutely note their availability on their calendars, Teams statuses when absent, and email signatures.

          2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

            Actually I do have a colleague who is basically Not Doing Her Job and whose work is basically Not Getting Done, and I’ve escalated some feedback about that and been told “in confidence, this person is out a lot due to family medical issues”. Which on the one hand it’s entirely correct and appropriate for them to keep that under their hats, and I’m not entitled to that information; but on the other hand, someone needs to be picking up the slack (this person apparently has no backup at all.)

          3. bookends*

            I’m sure this differs by organization, but I think it’s pretty common not to have an out of office for this. Intermittent FMLA can be used for flare-ups of a chronic condition, so an employee would just call in sick like normal and it would be protected under FMLA. I would find it odd if an employer was telling me to log in and set an out of office each time I called in under FMLA for a day.

  2. Earlk*

    Sounds like management is already aware of the issues if complaints have been made so I don’t think you’d need to get involved in it at all.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, this is where I land. If management wasn’t already aware of the complaints I think that would be important to bring to them (no need to even mention the second job, just that there are client complaints at stake), but they know and it’s on them to act.

    2. Sloanicota*

      That was my take. By your own admission it doesn’t affect you, and you don’t work closely with this person so you may not have all the info, and it sounds like management is aware there’s an issue. So, no reason for you to stick your neck out. By all means feel free to encourage your coworkers who are actually picking up her slack to say something, but focus on your own case for remote work, or trying to find another better run job that will let you work remotely.

      1. Typing All The Time*

        Agreed. The ones who are directly impacted by her work need to say so if there’s a problem.

    3. HonorBox*

      I mentioned elsewhere, too, that management may be aware but not totally aware. As in, they’re aware that coworker is absent A LOT and others are picking up the slack. But they may not know the WHY. Coworker may have played fast and loose with facts and management may have given some leeway for the wrong reason.

      That’s assuming I know, but there’s not a clear statement from OP that management knows that the coworker has a side hustle that’s occurring during normal work hours. If they are and they’ve given the go ahead, this is not something that will be helped by saying anything more.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Still, it sounds like it’s something of an open secret among the workers and I think it would come better from someone closer to the problem, versus OP.

      2. Earlk*

        I know what you mean but it sounds like the letter writer kind of doesn’t want to be involved at all and is trying to see if they have an obligation to get involved. Based on management knowing a problem exists, even if they don’t know what the source of it is, means that the LW doesn’t need to feel bad about staying out of it.

        If the colleagues know she has two jobs it won’t take management long to find out either.

        1. linger*

          Mostly, LW wants to use this colleague as a reason to be given more flexibility.
          (“It’s so unfair, why can’t I do this too?”)
          But getting involved will absolutely not give the result LW hopes for.
          Management is far more likely to react by cracking down on everyone.

          1. MassMatt*

            I was going to say this. It sounds as though management is both inflexible and incompetent, which is not a good combination.

          2. Remote viewing*

            Informing on the co-worker is unlikely to get anyone else remote working privileges.

            The company will conclude, correctly, that it’s time for return to office.

      3. Angora540*

        As long as the work is being done by her co-workers there is no incentive for management to address the problem. A discreet call to HR / Payroll may work if trust them to keep your name out of it. I do not necessarily agree with anonymous notes, but that’s a possibility.

        Payroll may jump it on quicker than HR. They hate to pay people that are not working. It’s payroll fraud.

        1. Statler von Waldorf*

          Paying people that are not working is not by itself payroll fraud in Canada. A quick google search indicates that this is the same in the US as well, but I can’t speak to that one as authoritatively.

          As long as the proper taxes are deducted, a company is legally allowed to pay someone to do nothing. I’ve did payroll for small family businesses that did exactly that, and I even went through a CRA audit over it. In some cases the income was deemed to not be insurable income for EI purposes because of the family relationship, but the business didn’t get in trouble for paying people that were not working.

          This assumes that the co-worker in question is not an hourly worker and is not misrepresenting their hours. That would be fraud, but I see zero evidence in the letter that their co-worker is getting paid for hours they aren’t working. For all the LW knows, the co-worker has a medical accommodation for their reduced hours and is filling out all their timesheets accurately.

          That’s why I agree with Alison’s advice that this isn’t worth getting into. Sure, in my opinion the odds are better that the co-worker is up to something shady, but if they are wrong, this can and probably will blow up in the LW’s face.

          1. GythaOgden*

            It would be considered fraud here in the UK — there are big posters up here spelling it out. There are always cases coming up of people who thought they could use the generous public sector sick pay allowance to double dip. I won’t say it always gets caught, but there are enough cases that it’s likely to be picked up somewhere along the line.

    4. sookie st james*

      yeah, tbh i don’t see any personal gain to be had here, but there is potential risk – you dont know if she has some arrangement you aren’t aware of and you could potential get a reputation as a bit of a jobsworth, tattling just because you’re feeling jealous when you really dont stand to benefit from her downfall

      it’s frustrating for sure, but I’d focus on what those feelings bring up in you – if you really want a more flexible schedule or full time WFH, are there ways you can negotiate for that, or look elsewhere for jobs that would give you that? focus on what you can productively gain from this feeling beyond just making the source of your jealousy go away

      1. ABC*

        Pointing out the risk makes me think of the infamous “interns petition for a flexible dress code” letter. They specifically called out a coworker who was wearing shoes that didn’t fall within the dress code, and they were frostily informed that those shoes were a medical accomodation for the coworker.

        Of course, that was far from the only misstep in that situation, but calling out that coworker unquestionably made the interns look even worse.

        1. Sue*

          This all day. Does OP know for a FACT that their coworker is essentially stealing time? Might there be another explanation that management knows of/approves and of which OP might be unaware? This could go sideways for OP, and I’d advise them to remain silent. These things have a way of working themselves out – or biting the informant in the b*tt.

  3. anono*

    Working remotely from a different state has tax consequences for the company if they don’t have other employees or a location in that state, which could be an explanation for why they shot that down specifically. There could be another reason, like they just don’t want to allow you to do it. I am sorry you are in this position because it sounds crappy just reading it.

    1. Barbara*

      exactly this. employees don’t think about how. much work it is for the business if they don’t operate in that state already, so OP needs to educate themselves on that before seeing red about someone else being “remote” locally.

      I might plant the seed of gossip, like ask this photographer (loudly), “hey, I happened to know someone you photographed, that’s a pretty great sidegig.”

      BUT if customers are complaining about lack of response already… you don’t want to bring attention to yourself/force everyone back into office 5 days a week, right? not just because you’re unhappy they are not getting in trouble.

      Lots to unpack and think about here.

      1. Kel*

        “I might plant the seed of gossip, like ask this photographer (loudly), “hey, I happened to know someone you photographed, that’s a pretty great sidegig.””

        This is so unnecessarily passive aggressive???

        1. metadata minion*

          And while I can admittedly be slow on the uptake, this wouldn’t immediately read to me as a hint that she’s working her side gig while she’s supposed to be at her full-time job — photography is something she could be doing evenings and/or weekends, especially if she does events or something like that. Plenty of people have very-part-time side gigs like that.

    2. Corporate Lawyer*

      Yep, I had the same thought. Requesting to work remotely from a different state is a much bigger ask than requesting to work remotely from the same state where your company/office is, for legal and tax reasons.

      As for whether to raise the issue of the coworker’s unavailability, it sounds like management is aware of it, so I don’t think the OP should raise it unless, as Alison points out, it’s impacting OP’s work.

      1. sf*

        Agreed. Also, if leadership is aware, it’s possible there are coversations happening behind the scenes OP doesn’t know about.

    3. K in Boston*

      Yes, I’m very surprised Alison didn’t mention the state component here! Not that it’s a complete gamechanger for the issue at hand but seems worth pointing out as one part of the equation.

      1. Angora540*

        It’s more work for HR and Payroll if they are out-of-state. It could cost more to set up taxes & payroll if no one else is working from that state. Plus the additional work and training that it would force HR & Payroll to go through for one individual working out state makes it a “no go.”

        1. LikesToSwear*

          It’s not just HR and Payroll that have issues to consider; depending on the state, there are corporate tax laws that will come into play. My employer does not hire at all for remote workers in a few states – because the cost would far outweigh the benefits.

      2. ABC*

        I think it would have been worth noting in the response because if the LW’s goal (or one of the goals) with this complaint is to be able to work remotely more often, it’s highly unlikely to happen for very good business reasons, not just “fairness” ones. If the LW does report the coworker and focuses on the remote work denial, they’ll seriously undercut their entire point. They probably shouldn’t mention that at all.

    4. sdog*

      Yes, I was going to say this, too. The working from another state is a different issue entirely. It sounds to me like OP is working from home 3 days a week, same as her coworker, so it’s not that the coworker is receiving a benefit that OP is not. The problem seems to be that OP’s coworker hasn’t been managed well – is her manager not physically in the office? Or does she come into the office on different days than your coworker? How else would she not know that the coworker doesn’t stay all day?

      In any case, I agree with Alison’s advice – if it’s impacting you, then I would discuss THAT with your manager and probably leave the second job alone. Her manager doesn’t need to know about the second job in order to monitor her performance, which she does not seem to be doing.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Except the coworker is receiving a benefit OP does not get – OP is in the office three days a week as is required, but the coworker is only coming in for a couple hours once every three weeks or so.

        I agree with what else you’ve said, but I think if coworker was just slacking off on her two home days but still in the office (and presumably working) the rest of the time OP wouldn’t be nearly as annoyed. The coworker is basically disappearing for weeks at a time.

        1. sdog*

          So I was assuming that coworker also has to be in office 3x a week, but she’s not following the rules and her manager is not noticing/discussing with her. This actually happens in my office – we all have to be in the office twice a week, but since our manager is not in at the same time, he often won’t know if we’re all following through on this or not. And I know multiple folks on our small team have come in for a few hours on our office days and left after a few hours/half a day (including me sometimes). In my case, I’ve just come home to work but honestly, I wouldn’t know what other folks are doing unless I was specifically looking to meet with them.

          But you’re right that it could also be that coworker’s manager is not requiring the same amount of in-office time, which is also problematic.

    5. Ms. Elaneous*

      Tax consequences?

      They just withhold taxes from a different state. ( paperwork)
      For all we know, LW was moving to a state with no income tax, like NH.

      1. doreen*

        Not income tax for the employee – the employer is likely to have costs associated with that employee working in a different state which might include collecting sales tax or the business owing income tax in that state. In addition to having to set up unemployment and workers comp insurance in the state where the employee is now working and learning and complying with the laws in that state which may be very different from where the job is currently located ( some states require breaks, some require PTO to be |paid out , some require overtime for more than 8 hrs in a day or 5 days in a week even if there are fewer than 40 hours worked in a week )

      2. anono*

        doreen’s comment covered this but I do want to point out that withholding income tax in another state is not just paperwork! It requires registering with the state, then now you have an employee in the state and probably income tax nexus, so the company has to file (most likely) an income tax return in a new state. The percentage of states with an income tax far outweighs the percentage of states without. I mentioned the tax consequences because tax is my job, so for me this is top of mind. For you, it isn’t! And that is okay, I just wanted to point out reasons that some people don’t think about why this isn’t always feasible for companies to say yes to :-)

        1. sdog*

          Yes! And to add to the chorus on this, once a company goes that route of allowing someone to work in another state, they have to monitor employment laws in that state. So, for example, if your employee moves to WA, where they recently implemented a paid family leave law that requires employer compensation, the out-of-state employer would have to comply or face tax consequences. Some states, like CA, have fairly strict labor laws too, regarding, for example, workweeks and overtime. Most companies don’t have the bandwidth to stay on top of all that.

          I get that watching someone coast without doing much work can be so terrible for job morale, and that’s a huge issue in and of itself, but if you’re hoping that highlighting your coworker will help you with your own remote work request, I wouldn’t really count on that.

        2. Freya*

          Australia has a lot fewer states to deal with, but I can say that in the last couple of years, we had to do the paperwork for one of my clients to be registered for payroll tax in a new state for them, and it took 5 MONTHS for that state to respond to us when we filled out the forms and said “we’d like to pay you money, here’s all the details, please give us a log in so that we can”.

          They’re probably not going to get pursued for it, but that’s five months what they were required to be registered and paying payroll tax and weren’t, so were technically liable for penalties and interest. Through no fault of my client.

      3. Also-ADHD*

        It costs the business taxes do operate in a state, and set up costs, so if they don’t operate there, it’s a different financial thing.

    6. Cherub Cobbler*

      Plus privacy/data laws and employment laws …. There are a number of issues to consider and experts to engage, which means $$$$ and time. There’s no upside to the employer to allow it.

    7. Festively Dressed Earl*

      That’s what jumped out at me as well.

      but I asked to work remotely in another state and was told no.

      LW won’t be able to use her coworker’s side gig as an argument to become fully remote. With that out of the equation, is it worth informing management about the coworker at the risk of being perceived as a tattletale?

  4. Watermelon*

    I definitely lean toward the side of, if her supervisor hasn’t noticed, mind your business.
    No good can come from you jumping into something like that.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I think it’s a fairly common question, though I recall another (maybe two weeks ago?) where someone was talking about a co-worker who works mostly remotely (likely due to her late husband’s illness and then death). I think the main question was if they, the LW, could complain about it.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      We did, but also “My coworker is doing this thing that isn’t affecting me directly but that annoys me, can I tell my boss?” is a recurring theme in general.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      There were a number of “secret second job letters” in the past five years, mostly in 2022:

      “my coworker plans to work a second job during our work hours, without telling our boss” from February 27, 2019

      “is there a way to find out if someone secretly has two full-time jobs?” from September 15, 2021

      “I’m working 2 full-time remote jobs — is this unethical?” from November 3, 2021 (update August 15, 2022)

      “should I tell my boss my coworker is working a second job?” from July 13, 2022

      “my new hire was secretly working a second full-time job during his hours for us” from August 8, 2022

      “my coworker is using paid paternity leave to work a second job instead of taking care of his baby” from August 24, 2022

      “how can managers spot people who are working two full-time jobs at once?” from September 7, 2022

  5. bassclefchick*

    I’m confused. Was the writer told no one can work remotely or THEY can’t because they want to work in a different state? If the business doesn’t have nexus in the state they want to work in, that’s probably why they were told no. But for the most part, I’m of the opinion “not your circus not your monkey” and leave it alone.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yes, this. It’s not just that the OP wants to work remotely. She wants to work in a different state. So she doesn’t want the exact same benefit this other coworker has. She wants a benefit that she sees as similar but, from the company’s perspective, is quite a bit different.

      1. HonorBox*

        Right. This is two separate issues that are being lumped in together, and they aren’t the same issue. If OP wants to work remotely and isn’t able to, it might be time to make a change. But if OP is concerned about the coworker’s continued absences due to second job, that’s a different issue. It wouldn’t be helpful to present the concern about coworker’s absence and the impact on OP (if/when there is one) and others as data to support a request that they could work remotely from another state.

    2. amoeba*

      From how I read it, they have three mandatory office days anyway, so fully remote isn’t an option for anybody, different state or not. (That a different policy in that matter might not necessarily help the LW is a different matter…)

  6. Sara*

    If it doesn’t directly affect your job – then its not your circus, not your monkeys. Just keep doing your job, don’t let the drama in.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      This. Keep doing your job. It’s on your coworkers who work directly with this person to bring up impacts on their work (keep bringing them up, I guess). For all you know management is aware and taking steps, but this woman doesn’t care, so things aren’t changing, but the process has to be followed either way.
      Either she gets fired, or management actually does nothing. Either way it can help you make decisions about the job.

      And as others have said, your “work remote from another state” request is actually a red herring. Not something that has anything to do with this situation at all.

    2. Artemesia*

      Probably. But people who abuse WFH like this are the people who ruin it for everyone else. So she never gets handled but suddenly everyone else ends up without a benefit that makes their lives better.

      The real question is how can I make sure management knows what is going on without it damaging me?

      1. Also-ADHD*

        The reality is that LW complaining would very likely lead to policies that are applied to all, though, in many cases.

  7. Czhorat*

    Your lane. Stay in it.

    You never know if there are reasons behind the scenes to which you’re not privy, and even if there aren’t your manager is being paid perfectly good money to worry about your peers’ productivity.

    There’s nothing to be gained from reporting it, so just pretend you didn’t see anything.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      This is the go-to answer online but in reality, so many jobs, especially above entry level, are not that clear cut. I wrote a longer comment elsewhere but something that’s been bothering me a lot about corporate America lately is precisely this sentiment. We’re a team and being a team player is supposedly so so important, but when your coworker drops the ball or is MIA, suddenly, team work isn’t important, you need to be an individualistic self-starter, your coworkers have no impact on you, even if you need to pick up the slack and have triple the responsibility for same pay. It’s nonsense and people need to push back. This is how slackers are able to coast for years and other people are driven to burnout, as I’ve gotten twenty years of corporate experience under my belt, I’ve realized that it’s actually not good to keep this stuff to yourself. I don’t get how it’s “professional” anymore. I’ve seen people do the equivalent of put their hands up when you try to hand them a tray of work, letting the proverbial tray fall to the floor. And get paid the same as people doing all of the work and telling upper management “but that’s not my job”

      1. Admin Lackey*

        Allison consistently advises against complaining for the sake of complaining, even in cases of perceived unfairness – she /always/ advises to focus on the ways in which other people dropping the ball affects the LW’s work – and in this case, the LW says that it doesn’t affect their work. If one of the coworkers who is having to cover for the photographer employee wrote in, I’m sure her advice would be different.

        Also I think what lets slackers coast is lazy management rather than people not wanting to tell on their coworkers – the LW says management already has complaints about this person, which means either they’re working on it or they don’t care.

        Given that management already knows and there’s apparently no direct impact on LW, I don’t see what they would gain from complaining, nor what it would accomplish, so I think this /is/ a stay in your lane situation

      2. For Ril*

        I agree with you. Watching this unfold, being irritated, and having to keep it to yourself is what drives poor morale among the rest of the team. It also drives others to abuse the system because, hey, why not? Sometimes managers are so overwhelmed they choose to overlook this type of thing unless they know it’s creating unrest and then they have to make change. I would speak up.

        1. Me... Just Me (as always)*

          Exactly. It tends to be a slippery slope- others see what their coworker gets away with and suddenly you’ve got people doing all sorts of weird things. Meanwhile those keeping their heads down and working get more and more burned out and upset. So much better to bring it up now than sit and watch the dumpster fire these situations create.

      3. Bitte Meddler*

        But that’s not what Alison and others are saying, *at all*.

        Your statements are self-contradictory: “…your coworkers have no impact on you…” and “…even if you need to pick up the slack and have triple the responsibility for same pay,” are opposites.

        Yes, if your coworkers have no impact on you, then MYOB.

        But if you need to pick up the slack and have triple the responsibility for the same pay, then your coworkers DO have an impact on you and you should speak up.

        When the scenarios are different (impact vs no impact), the response should be different.

        1. Busy Middle Manager*

          I don’t understand why people are parsing my comment to this level in an attempt to find logical flaws? I’ve worked on teams in medium sized companies and this is my common experience every has in real life, I don’t think there is value in trying to find a logical flaw in people relaying real life?
          Again, when you work on a team MYOB often can’t mean “just ignore what other people do.”

          1. Two Fish*

            People aren’t nitpicking in an “attempt” to find logical flaws, they’re pointing out significant ways the comment doesn’t make sense.

            If your coworker’s choices don’t affect you, the “hoe your own row” advice applies.

            If you’re having to pick up their slack, then by definition their choices are affecting you, so you do have standing to address it with your boss.

            1. Busy Middle Manager*

              oh that’s the whole, you guys keep adding in “If your coworker’s choices don’t affect you” as if that’s true. Sorry, your teammates absolutely impact you except in a tiny # of situations. I certaintly did not at all say my coworkers didn’t impact me!

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                Except the LW in this case has explicitly stated that the co-worker’s work doesn’t fall to them when she’s out. So no, it doesn’t impact her in this situation.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  @Cicely because anyone can decide that something impacts their morale simply because they don’t like it or think it’s unfair.

                2. GythaOgden*

                  Someone flagrantly Not Doing Their Job is bound to cause problems that have a knock on effect on others. Also, there’s only so much you can push this back on management — at some point, it’s your responsibility to be at work on time when you’re supposed to be there, and insisting that it’s management’s job to /make you/ do what you’re being paid to do is really bizarre.

          2. doreen*

            I think you are thinking of your own job and not realizing that other jobs are different. For example, my husband is in sales and his manager constantly refers to them as a “team”. In some ways they are, but if one of the other reps calls his customers from home rather than visiting the customers’ stores or works only two hours a day , it has no impact whatsoever on my husband.

      4. Boof*

        I think allison’s advice navigates this perfectly; in some ways perceived unfairness DOES effect you, but the question is, what can you do about it? In an org that is usually good/responsive, maybe a discrete heads up will fix a situation they are somehow accidentally unaware of. But usually something so flagrant from a coworker who isn’t an immediate part of your team ought to have been noticed by their manager/more immediately impacted colleagues, and if none of them have done anything about it despite it being as outrageous as it seems, that does not bode well for LW being able to do anything further other than frustrate themselves. So maybe the best course is to try to ignore it, or job search if it’s just one of many issues.

      5. The Starsong Princess*

        The coworker’s actions are negatively impacting clients. It’s not a far leap from impacted clients to lost clients which transitions into lost jobs for people like op. That will affect them quite a bit. Frankly, I’d have a word with the manager and drop it after that.

    2. HonorBox*

      The only place I disagree is that, at least with my read of the letter (which may be incorrect, of course) is that management knows that the coworker is dropping the ball, but they may not know the reasons why. They should definitely be doing the work to figure it out, but if coworker is not being totally truthful when they’ve been asked about it, management may think they’re giving some flexibility to someone for the wrong reason.

  8. Busy Middle Manager*

    I have major issues with the “does it impact YOUR work” part. I keep seeing and hearing this argument. Here’s the thing: when you’re at the same job for a long time, stuff randomly ends up being your job because you handled it well once in an emergency, or you did it for someone who got fired, or you were the first person to respond to an email, etc.

    So if a coworker is generally either not skilled enough or off the day something happens or just MIA in general, they can coast a long time in corporate America doing 30% or 50% of what everyone else does.

    Then you go to your boss and complain about workload and they inevitably treat you as if you’re working at the same level because they are doing “their job” and you’re doing “your job” but most companies for some weird reason, in my experience, never analyze things like, does one person’s job take 50 hours and another person’s takes 30, does one person coast on sending emails and doing basic reports while another person has to do much more complicated work? Seems like something most companies should be on top of; most are actually not.

    1. L-squared*

      But still, you have to look at the real impact.

      If I’m in accounting and someone else is in marketing, there is very little chance that I’ll have to cover for that person because our jobs aren’t the same. So if something just doesn’t affect you at all, except that you don’t like that you can’t do it, then its not a real work concern.

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        “If I’m in accounting and someone else is in marketing” – OK so that wouldn’t really be your coworker then, so not sure how this applies? And if we’re going to go there, it can impact Accounting. For example if Marketing randomly shows up (or doesn’t) and does not respond to invoices needing approval, or pretends to not know how to check the line items in invoices and then that gets dumped on Accounting (to pull a real life example that took me two seconds to remember!)

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Accounting teams and marketing teams at the same employer are absolutely coworkers by any common definition of that word.

          1. Tussu*

            I don’t necessarily think so. I might call them a “colleague” to an external party but I wouldn’t call them a co-worker. I’d call someone I worked with on a daily basis a co-worker. I also wouldn’t call my boss or someone higher up in the org my co-worker.

            I think your way of using co-worker is completely correct and reasonable but I don’t think it’s universal or the only common use. I think it’s one of those words that different people associate slightly different connotations to.

        2. A Girl Named Fred*

          Again though, in those examples there is a direct negative impact against the person who wants to report the behavior, rather than a distaste that the coworker is getting away with something the person can’t. (And I get the distaste! I’m definitely not immune to the siren call of, “Well if I just didn’t care, I could also slack off and do nothing!”) And in your examples, the person should be reporting the direct impact – IE, “they haven’t responded to X invoices which has caused Y delay,” and “they haven’t been attending B meeting which has caused C issue” – rather than saying “This person is working a second job.”

          Also seconding Michelle Smith that people in different departments are absolutely my coworkers, whether or not they’re my direct teammates.

    2. HR Friend*

      This feels like a massive projection. There are plenty of jobs in which you interact with a coworker but wouldn’t be expected to do their work in their absence, and it sounds like LW is in that position. There’s also no indication from LW that she’s overworked, just that she’s concerned about her company’s remote work policy being impacted by her coworkers slacking off.

      Sorry if you’re dealing with leadership who don’t track this sort of stuff, but it’s not really applicable to LW.

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        I’ve worked in three 500+ people companies and one 40 person companies and I don’t think I’m very special, people taking on extra responsibilities over time because others are MIA is so common, I highly doubt I am the unique case? Not sure that qualifies as “projection” when it’s so common?

        1. HR Friend*

          Because you’re projecting your own experience? LW by her own admission is not overworked nor is she being asked to cover for her co-worker. Your point or advice is that leadership should monitor individual workload and care about an equitable distribution of work. While that may be true, it just doesn’t apply here.

          1. Busy Middle Manager*

            That’s not what “projection” means LOL. Projection is when you bring up something totally unrelated, usually having to do with a traumatic or negative event, and it’s odd to those around you that you attach it to the new person. Not sure how “this is how it works in most companies” is “projection” unless business operations is now some niche field

            1. Rex Libris*

              Encyclopaedia Britannica: Projection, the mental process by which people attribute to others what is in their own minds. […]

            2. HR Friend*

              What Rex said. And you keep saying that you know how things work in most companies when you also say you’ve worked for 4. Your limited experience does not apply to everyone, everywhere. Neither does mine! No one’s does! But the points you’re hammering to death here certainly don’t apply to LW, and you seem completely unable/unwilling to admit that.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          It’s projecting because you keep looking at it through the lens of your own experience even though the OP explicitly said the extra work is *not* falling on her, but on some of her coworkers.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      You can choose to set boundaries, you can choose to pull back on how much you do, you can choose to change your emotional investment. All of those things are in your control. But life isn’t fair, period, and that means you cannot control the amount of effort other people put into their jobs. Some people are going to work harder than others. Some are going to violate policies and not get fired for it. Some people are going to be more ambitious and motivated and some people are going to “coast” by doing the bare minimum they need to do to keep drawing their paycheck. That’s just life and I think it’s healthier to accept that and decide what you are going to do based on what you think is right and what you find fulfilling rather than reporting on what other people are not doing right in your view.

      I am working from home unofficially and in direct violation of our office’s hybrid work policy. My boss is aware that I’m doing it and has given unofficial approval for it to continue indefinitely so that I don’t have to fight my employer on their denial of my request for WFH as a reasonable accommodation. I still attend the rare (1-2x a year) in-person mandatory events, but otherwise just do my job from home. I am always responsive to messages and do a decent job, though I don’t feel like I excel at it (as I’m still learning and developing and this is a new role for me). If someone from another team in my department complained to my boss about my violation of the policy, she wouldn’t think badly of me or start enforcing it. She *would* balk at someone else complaining about something that doesn’t directly affect them though. The complainer would absolutely be the one to lose capital in our work environment, not me as the policy violator.

      Tread carefully and don’t get involved in things that don’t affect you just because of your sense of fairness.

        1. linger*

          WFH was explicitly sought as a “reasonable accommodation”, and it’s something the manager is happy to approve unofficially, which might include factors such as impractical transport options, unavailability of childcare, physical disability, scheduled medical treatments, etc. But commenters aren’t obliged to divulge personally identifying information.

      1. mbs001*

        There’s a reason your employer denied you the accommodation. You are part of the overall problem — people thinking they can WFH while everyone else has to play by the rules. Wrong.

        1. Joron Twiner*

          The reason is without a certain % capacity, they no longer get tax breaks from the city for having a downtown office and supporting commerce in the city.

          If the rules are stupid, and people with genuine reasons don’t follow them and nothing bad happens to them… why are you still following the rules?

    4. fidget spinner*

      I totally agree. Maybe it’s because I work for a small business and not a huge corporation… but anyone harming the productivity/revenue generation of the business does affect me, even if I’m not the one picking up the slack.

      I get it if you don’t care about the overall success of the place where you work… but my job provides an important service that people can’t necessarily get elsewhere. My boss is also really great–we get bonuses and pay raises when more revenue is generated, so I am affected when someone else slacks off, even if indirectly.

    5. House On The Rock*

      I hear what you are saying, but what you describe is impacting you and your ability to do your job. I know what it feels like to be the only adult in the room and to have people expect more because of it, while giving others a pass. It’s frustrating and can build resentment. But I also know what it’s like to manage “hall monitor” types who want to complain every time Susan is inactive on Teams for more than 15 minutes or Talia leaves early. That is also exhausting.

      Perhaps this framing might be helpful: inconsistently applying policy can certainly impact morale. That be may or may not be something a company wants to address, but it’s a way to raise it without it appearing to police others whose work you don’t control. It’s also totally valid to say “I ended up handling the widget assignments last quarter because Lyta was out, but going forward we need to find other coverage or re-prioritize some of my work”.

    6. Leenie*

      But your work is impacted in your example, so the advice wouldn’t apply. In fact, Alison actually questions the LW about possible impact on her work, even after being told there’s no impact:

      “I do wonder if it’s really true that it’s not affecting you at all.”

      And then goes on to discuss the standing that LW has to raise the issue, even if she’s only tangentially impacted. So you’re not necessarily disagreeing with the concept that if it doesn’t impact you, you can let it go. You’re just having trouble envisioning situations where there’s really no impact on you if someone is slacking in your office.

    7. Tussu*

      Yeah, I agree.

      It’s pretty well documented and researched that this kind of thing does have an impact on people even if it doesn’t have an impact on their work. To put it in the lingo, is that poor organisational justice is a psychosocial hazard that affects morale and mental health. Just seeing poor organisational justice does this, you don’t have to be the person most affected.

      If something is having an effect on your morale at work, and there is research to back up that this kind of thing does, by all reasonable standards you should be able to raise it. Work places just rarely have reasonable standards for what you can raise without your standing being affected. And that sucks. And while Alison’s advice is practical and prudent office politics, I wish there was a wider acceptance of including psychological effects in what’s meant by “impact on word”.

      (And yes, seeing poor organisational justice can affect people differently and no, people who can turn a blind eye are not more rational or superior to people who are more affected.)

  9. Insert Pun Here*

    I agree that the best course of action is probably to stay out of it. But now you have valuable information about your manager: either they’re playing favorites, or they’re checked out and thus not aware of what’s going on, or they’re aware and just don’t care to mitigate the consequences. Just because you don’t say anything to your manager doesn’t mean you have to pretend you don’t know that one of these things is true. That can and should affect how you think about your own career path in this particular company.

  10. Gayle*

    It’s also possible the coworker has experienced consequences the OP is not aware of. Perhaps she is on a PIP now due to the complaints that have been received.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      This. She may not care, and wants to ride it out till the PIP is done, but you have no control over that. But since it’s not affecting your work, you have to leave it alone.

  11. HonorBox*

    There’s a critical piece of information missing, and that might change my perspective some. Does management know that she’s working on her photography business during your regular hours?
    LW, I’d suggest that it is still probably mind ya business territory, in as much as I wouldn’t march into management offices and report something or start peppering your coworkers who are directly affected with questions. But if it comes up that you’re not getting responses in a reasonable timeframe or you have a coworker who is griping about a project being held up, it would be time to say something.
    To manager: I’m not getting responses from Jane and need her input on this project, and I’m aware that she’s working as a photographer. Now I’m wondering if she’s delayed because that job is taking her away from our work during our regular hours.
    To coworker: I know that this is frustrating. You need to say something to manager, and you might want to mention that some of us are aware that she’s working on her photography business during our regular hours. They probably need to know that.

    You needn’t go out of your way to report this, unless it does have direct impact on you. But you can also find ways to say something if/when needed.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I don’t like this phrasing. It sounds just as tattle-y to me. It doesn’t matter *why* Jane isn’t responding, just that she isn’t. Even if she was sitting at her computer at the office and just not paying attention to her messages, the problem would be the same and should be approached with the goal of “I need a response” rather than “Jane is doing something I don’t like and I think she should get in trouble for it.”

      1. Banana Pyjamas*

        I mean Jane’s committing payroll fraud. That brings it above the level of so-called tattling.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          In most cases, this won’t be payroll fraud (Jane would have to be hourly, and by the description, that sounds unlikely).

    2. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yeah, this is where I land. Stay out of it for now, but keep half an eye out for signs it’s having a bigger effect.

  12. danmei kid*

    LW, since this doesn’t directly impact your work, unless you want to give yourself the reputation of being the office tattler and lose trust with your other colleagues, then mind your business.

  13. blah*

    If you were to bring it up to your manager (which, like Alison mentions, I think you should do depending on your social capital and if you’re willing to put your neck out about this), I think their response would be telling: if it’s a matter-of-fact, “we are aware of this situation, it’s being handled,” you need to stay out of it. But, if for some reason they weren’t aware of it, maybe it would help them prioritize the other complaints?

    (I am petty and would complain, but obviously that is not a solution that is always advisable or practical!)

  14. Hiring Mgr*

    I think if your main motivation is “seeing her downfall”, it might be time to step back and think it over a bit more

    1. Ellis Bell*

      OP should decide if this feeling is envy, resentment or a desire for a just world, while also deciding how they want this to affect them personally. I’m always curious when people seem to be saying they’re jealous of the office slacker, who’s racking up complaints and everyone hates them for the workload they’re creating. Do people really want to be that person? Its important to note that this specific OP doesn’t actually say that; specifically they say that: “I want to work remotely without repercussions”. But tattling on the coworker they envy/resent wouldn’t be able to help them achieve that goal anyway. Maybe OP just wants a more effective manager who makes sure people aren’t left doing inequal shares.

  15. blah*

    If you were to bring it up, if your manager says anything along the lines of “we are aware of this issue, it’s being handled,” then you would need to leave it ALONE.

    (I am petty and would complain, but that is obviously not always advisable or practical!)

  16. Helen Waite*

    My advice? Leave it alone. You said yourself the only thing you’d get out of it is seeing her downfall. That fits my personal definition of “tattling” vs “reporting”.

    Tattling is when all you really want to do is get someone in trouble.

    Reporting is when someone is doing something that causes harm. If her lack of response to your messages is causing you to miss deadlines, that is something worth bringing to your manager’s attention.

    The fact that you used the word “tattling” makes me lean toward thinking that she’s not actually creating a bottleneck, and that the real issue is more that you’d like to work from home more often. As mentioned above, there are legal and tax-related issues for people working from another state.

  17. NotHannah*

    I have a colleague like this. She is perpetually under water with her workload, and yet she brags about her side hustles to my team. It’s pretty demotivating. My manager allows it for a number of reasons – this colleague has purported financial difficulties that make it necessary for her to work other jobs, my manager is somewhat conflict-avoidant, etc. I don’t make a big deal out of it for all the reasons mentioned in the answers here. Outside of this one person, my job is pretty great. If I did leave it would be because of this colleague, though. It hasn’t been enough in the four years I’ve been here to tip the scales. But it is hard to take. My sympathies.

  18. Rachel*

    There is a battle cry for more remote work in this comments section.

    Part of the reason some organizations hold back on remote work is that it’s so much more difficult to ascertain if people are working other jobs simultaneously.

    It seems like people want things both ways: they don’t want the LW to snitch, they also want employers to trust they aren’t working a side hustle at their day job.

    I am ambivalent about this specific letter. I think this comments section would really benefit from some introspection that there are downfalls to remote work, some people do game the system, and this is a gamble for employers.

    This is not the first letter with this theme.

    1. Ama*

      The person in this letter isn’t SUPPOSED to be working remotely, she’s supposed to be in the office three days a week and most of the time she’s not. So she’s already not doing her job the way she’s supposed to and her management would be totally justified telling her to knock it off and be in the office more (assuming there isn’t something going on that OP isn’t privvy to).

      This is absolutely not about a person who was granted remote work who isn’t holding up their end of the deal.

    2. tree frog*

      I mean, I think part of the reaaon people are working multiple jobs is because it’s increasingly impossible to live off just one job and people have seen how easily employers can lay them off.

      I also take issue with the idea that this is a problem as long as the work you’re paid to do is getting done, which employers should be able to tell whether you’re in the office or not. I don’t want to feel beholden to some vague sense of loyalty to my employer if they won’t pay me a living wage or ensure that I won’t be let go at any moment.

      1. Rachel*

        I missed the part of the letter that explained this job doesn’t pay a living wage and it is necessary to work two jobs simultaneously to meet necessities.

        Do you mind pointing that part out?


        1. tree frog*

          I was responding to your comment, which is not specific to this letter. I was also responding to, you know, the general state of the world. Most people who work multiple jobs do that for money, not for the thrill of putting one over their employer.

          1. doreen*

            It’s absolutely true that most people who work second jobs do it for the money but it doesn’t follow that they are underpaid. At my job the $40K clerks didn’t have second jobs – it was the people who earned $75K – $140K who had second jobs.

            1. tree frog*

              Not necessarily, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as cost of living increases and housing becomes increasingly impossible to afford, we’re also seeing more people trying to work multiple jobs. I feel like the default is to assume people are trying to take advantage of employers in this way, when we know that overwhelmingly it’s employers who take advantage of workers and have unreasonable expectations of commitment.

              1. Cicely*

                I wonder, though, if those who said the same and were business owners themselves would be okay with paying an employee to be on the clock, knowing that the same employee was on another business owner’s clock simultaneously. I know I wouldn’t.

                I mean, wages not indexed to inflation is a problem, certainly, but I just don’t agree that it’s to be solved by working two or more jobs at the same time.

                1. Trout*

                  I don’t think anyone *wants* working a second job to be the way to keep take-home pay at pace with inflation, but it’s a solution that’s more readily accessible to employees who can’t set their pay or be confident a different job will be better.

            2. GythaOgden*

              Yup. In addition, working two jobs around each other is totally fine by me. It’s not ok to take advantage of a situation — remote working — to do two jobs at once on the same clock.

              In general, the people who can work from home also get paid more than those who have to be in person, so it’s a thing that generally people with better paid options are doing. People who do two in-person jobs have to fit them into double the hours and make double the effort but trying to hold two jobs in system like WFH which already has a significant amount of baked-in privilege associated with it (again, due to better pay, less reliance on costs of commuting, buying food out etc) is not the anti-capitalist flex you think it is.

              1. Kindling*

                “In general, the people who can work from home also get paid more than those who have to be in person, so it’s a thing that generally people with better paid options are doing.”

                Yeah, that’s definitely going to be a “citation needed” thing, coming from someone who has done onsite roles and WFH roles (sometimes for the same company, with fluctuating pay).

      2. Busy Middle Manager*

        Quite a few assumptions here. I think this wave of inflation was unique in that it hit everyone (including employers) and since there is no concrete reason for much of it (not sure why landlords “had” to suddenly add $800 to the rent around here for example) I think a lot of employers and people in generally are in wait and see mode to decide if current prices are going to stick (and then pay accordingly), or if they’re just the residual impact of peak covid pricing and zero percent interest rate policy and things will deflate, like housing is in some markets or in the used car market. Employers need to financially catch up as well. There is often talk of “record earnings” but what is not mentioned is that this is not likely to impact any given employer. For example, this quarter was great for United Healthcare and Nvidia but not so hot for big food companies or Apple. So there is very much a possibility that companies just don’t have money to hand out.

      3. SnackAttack*

        Yes and no. I’ve worked under someone who was working 2 FT jobs at once (it was terrible – all of her work fell onto me and it was impossible to get ahold of her), and I know for a fact that she made at least $200K at my company.

        1. Kindling*

          spoiler: she was the one that wrote into AAM about working two different $200K jobs and the whole darn peanut gallery couldn’t sing her praises hard enough :-/

    3. Alex*

      The side job is a red herring–the actual problem is that this employee is that she isn’t responding to messages in a timely way.

      I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with employees working two jobs at the same time as long as they are fulfilling the requirements of both jobs. In this case it seems like she is not doing that.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      It might be more difficult to see them actually doing a side hustle, but it’s not difficult for anyone to see unavailability, or lack of work output. A good manager who measures actual results, doesn’t need to track their employees every move.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Yeah, because it’s not being enforced! The conscientious people are coming in on the required number of days, while at least one person is apparently just doing whatever they want without repercussions.

  19. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

    At any time, for any reason, justified or not, someone can go to management and complain about your activities.

    Do your thing, do it well and beyond reproach, and live your life to the fullest. Ignore the noise around you, but make your noise joyous.

  20. Indolent Libertine*

    You asked to work remotely “in another state.” That’s a completely different situation. It creates big burdens on the employer if they don’t already have a presence in that state, like making sure they’re complying with all the labor laws, paying into that unemployment and disability benefit system, to name just a few. Absolutely not comparable to working remotely in the same state where the employer is located.

    1. Bog Witch*

      Yeah, I’m surprised Alison didn’t bring this up in her response considering this came up in a lot of letters during the pandemic and she would address the amount of work it takes to set themselves up to do business in another state, make sure they’re compliant with that state’s tax laws, etc.

  21. Lisa*

    Your issues with your coworker and your wanting to be remote are separate issues.

    If your coworker’s behavior is affecting you and your ability to do your job, complain about that outcome. If it’s affecting others you can encourage them to complain about that outcome. What exactly she’s doing to cause that is really irrelevant.

    Also, “Jane is allowed to flaunt the rules so I should be able to too” doesn’t really work as an argument if their flaunting is making things harder for others.

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

    I agree with everything that Alison said. But I don’t understand why the OP thinks the coworker is working their photography job? I’m not seeing anything specific that shows the coworker is doing anything else, except they are not responding to messages, etc.

    I would say, if the op is not getting a response, to let the manager know, but leave the 2nd job out of it.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I was wondering that as well–is this an assumption that OP made, or is the coworker talking about that openly at the office? If OP knows because she’s been talking about it, then other people probably know too which seems like extra reason to decide it’s just not your problem to deal with.

  23. Michelle Smith*

    Mind your own business. You say it doesn’t affect you, you’re just annoyed that your WFH in another state request was denied. Those are denied by many businesses all the time because of tax and labor law requirements that are much more complicated to deal with than an employee who is doing the bare minimum at their job. They are completely unrelated issues. Follow the WFW hybrid policy or don’t, but leave your coworker out of it.

  24. Unreasonable Doubt*

    I disagree with most of the commentators at this point; I absolutely think this is something the OP can and should raise with management.

    First, there is a big difference between complaining about performance issues, which can often be hard to pin down, and reporting that someone is flagrantly violating a known and apparently strict rule- to be in the office 3 days per week. I’m sorry, but “doesn’t return calls fast enough” SOUNDS like it’s clear-cut, but in reality it often isn’t! What is “fast enough?” What does it mean if she’s “hard to get ahold of?” Can she push back against that criticism by claiming she was in the bathroom or on a lunch break or just busy prioritizing other tasks?

    Secondly, I think it’s premature to assume that management is absent or failing to see the problem. OP fully admits that she does not know what, if anything, the supervisor has done about the complaints. More importantly, we tend to VALUE when supervisors do not micro-manage and leave employees to do their work. We don’t know if there is some effort behind the scenes to coach this employee on their performance deficiencies, but without management’s knowledge that the reason she’s not prompt in her responses is because she’s violating the rule. I think it’s unfair to paint the supervisor (absent further information) as disengaged and failing to appropriately manage at this point.

    Finally, it’s not at all an automatic truth that her violation is not affecting the OP’s job- precisely because there is a decent chance that if/when this violation is eventually discovered, management will likely take action that negatively impacts ALL employees. How many complaints have we seen over the last year about the heavy-handed micro-managing that employers have engaged in to track their employees?? All it takes is one employee abusing a system that operates on trust for a company to decide that trust is not worth the cost of being scammed. And then you wind up with companies monitoring employees through cameras/mouse activity, badge trackers, etc. Or they decide to have everyone be in the office 5 days a week.

    I know the answer to that is “employers should be better!” “You can’t base a decision on what a ‘BAD’ company will do!!” But I think its reasonable for employees to be invested in the (somewhat) communal aspect of a workplace, and when one person puts that at risk, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for it to be addressed.

    1. mlem*

      To your “finally” point, the LW didn’t ask, “How do I convince my coworker to stop breaking the rules before we all lose WFH privileges?” It was literally “Can I tattle?” That’s going to make the team lose privileges far sooner!

  25. tree frog*

    Your coworker is out here acting as a test subject for just working remotely (slash blatantly not working) and risking the consequences. I would try to observe what the reaction is, and use that plus your general sense of your workplace to see how much you can get away with. Probably not as much as she is judging by the complaints, but you might be able to quietly expand your work from home time without anyone noticing or caring. Working from another location is a whole different category because of the tax and legal implications, though.

  26. Slow Gin Lizz*

    This question is so timely. We have a new development dir who hasn’t done a dang thing since she was hired months ago. I spoke to my now-retired grandboss a few days ago and she said she thinks this person (who is on the same level that my grandboss was, but a different dept) is working a second job. Whether she is or not I can’t say for sure. It only affects my job in the sense that a) she keeps scheduling really pointless meetings (with a TON of people in them; we normally only meet a few ppl at a time and for very specific purposes) and b) she keeps saying she’s going to give me things I’ll need to update or tasks I’ll need to do for her and yet she hasn’t done so more than once or twice since she started. As much as I’d absolutely *love* to report her (like OP, I want to see her downfall), there’s no business reason why it matters to me that she hasn’t done a blasted thing, except of course that I resent that she’s being paid a lot of money to sit around and drink wine or whatever she’s been doing. So I’m sitting around and watching her crash and burn, as well as attending her meetings while pretending I’m a scientist observing an experiment, hoping she gets her comeuppance sooner rather than later.

    Also I’ve lost a lot of respect for the head of our org, who either doesn’t seem to notice that she’s doing nothing or doesn’t care. She’s a talker and I am suspicious that the head of our org doesn’t bother looking past her empty words. Ah well, job searching am I….

    1. BellyButton*

      But how do you know? Maybe she is working on a new strategy/new business model, new something- and has the support of higher leaders to do this. A high level position can take time to get a grasp of what is going on, who every one is, what people are working on, what the goals/mission/vision is. This is better than someone coming in and making assumptions and sweeping changes.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        She came in and made a lot of assumptions and changes that didn’t need to be made, so…yeah. I don’t know that she’s actually working a 2nd job – and that’s honestly irrelevant – but I do know that she was supposed to get us new wording for our donor thank you letters sometime in Jan and we’re still waiting on that. Our spring campaign letter, which is supposed to go out in mid-Feb, hasn’t gone out yet. Yes, it takes awhile to get to know a new org but five months is ridiculous, especially for small things like rewriting three or so paragraphs for the letters that go out to all our donors. (I could rewrite them myself but it’s not my job so I’m not going to.)

  27. Chairman of the Bored*

    IMO worker solidarity actually should keep LW quiet.

    If management wants to pay some Pinkertons to monitor what the employees are doing all hours of the day then fine, but if not there’s no obligation for other worker bees to do this job for them for free.

    1. Feral Humanist*

      Oh please. I am all in favor of worker solidarity but it does *nothing* for the cause for someone to be blatantly faffing off like this in a way that affects her coworkers (if not the LW directly). It puts work onto other people and it puts *everyone else* at risk of being collectively punished in some way, in fact. (“We used to let you WFH on an in-office day if you or your kid was sick, but now, since we caught Jane working a second job, we can’t allow that anymore.”) “Worker solidarity” does not mean putting up with bad behavior in perpetuity.

    2. len*

      agreed, glad to see this perspective acknowledged even if LW doesn’t ultimately share it (which is also fine).

  28. feather*

    Why does it matter that she’s specifically off working a second job? Would it be any better if she was chilling at the park or lounging on her couch?

    1. Angora540*

      Management may be unaware of the issue since the coworkers are doing it. The coworkers may need to “not cover” and let a few balls drop that the absence employee should be doing. I would hate to let something drop for a client though. That’s the first priority.

  29. BellyButton*

    When these letters come in my first thought is always- life isn’t fair, people do get treated differently, and there isn’t much you can do. Secondly, you may not have all the information. You have decided you know what is going on, but you may not. If she isn’t coming in and leadership knows and I presume others know she is working a second job- maybe she has been given reduced hours. Maybe they have made an arraignment to let her work different hours. If it isn’t effecting your work, then let it go. Don’t focus on what other people have/get that you don’t. It is a negative way to live.

    1. Cicely*

      But it does affect morale, and suppressing the feelings low morale causes is an unrealistic way to live.

  30. Angora540*

    Management may be unaware of the issue since the coworkers are doing it. The coworkers may need to “not cover” and let a few balls drop that the absence employee should be doing. I would hate to let something drop for a client though. That’s the first priority.

  31. FunkyMunky*

    I would stay out of it, but if any of the affected coworkers complain to you, I’d suggest just tell them to speak to the manager
    I’m weary blowing up her side hustle because I wouldn’t want this to come back and bite ME on the ass

  32. quit yankin crabs back in the bucket*

    The world is on fire, 99% of us are one bad month away from destitution, and your employer probably won’t return whatever loyalty makes you want to tattle on your coworker. It sucks that you’re not able to work remotely, but getting somebody in trouble for gaming an inherently unfair system isn’t going to change that.

    1. SnackAttack*

      But the thing is that in many cases, gaming an unfair system isn’t hurting “the man” – it’s hurting your colleagues, aka the regular people who are one bad month away from destitution. I feel like many people see what the coworker is doing as existing in a vacuum, in that their actions affect the CEO and no one else. I’ve had to work under someone who was working 2 jobs at once (one of which netted her $200K/year, btw), and it truly sucked. I couldn’t get ahold of her, clients would get mad, and I had to cover for her work. It made me look worse than her. She did eventually get let go, but it was a very frustrating experience.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Your situation isn’t what is described in the letter, though. The LW herself states it isn’t impacting her work, which is why she should leave it alone. If her coworkers had written in about how it was affecting *their* work, same as how your colleague’s failures affected *your* work, Alison would have given a different answer and the comments also likely would have been different.

        1. Cicely*

          …but the advice included positing that perhaps LW’s work is impacted in ways LW doesn’t realize.

  33. Eggs*

    Either stay out of it or start doing things your way. No you can’t work out of state because of tax implications, but guess what, you can come into the office less than 3 days and then wait for your manager to fuss at you to come back in. If they don’t, yay! If they do, it’s probably not that serious of a talk, especially because they don’t have consequences for your coworker.

  34. Cactus_Song*

    You shouldn’t tattle in a direct way, OP. And it sounds like you may not be in a position to tattle at all, really. You have to manuevre carefully. Usually the people who get away with this sort of thing are very good with soft skills – building relationships, being seen by the right people, etc.. You’ve got to respect that game and work on building your own.

    I also have a colleague whom I suspect of having a second job, but her work (or lack thereof) affects me a bit more directly than your colleague affects you (we’re both admins on an admin team). I don’t tattle on her or outright say, “I suspect Suzy is working another job.” But when my boss asks how the admin team is doing, I’m honest about meetings she skipped (with no explanations given), responsibilities she’s passed on to others (with no clear explanation other than she’s “too busy”), and her general unavailability and unresponsiveness to simple requests. When my boss asks what Suzy’s so busy with, I tell him that I don’t know – she doesn’t have any defined projects that I’m aware of, but maybe Suzy’s boss can provide more clarity on that. I leverage her own words (too busy!) while also acknowledging the nebulousness of those words and let people draw their own conclusions. It’s a fine line to walk and a marathon, not a race. And maybe there’s another reason – a good reason – for it! I don’t know. So I make no accusations, I just report things as I see it from my perspective.

  35. Banana Pyjamas*

    It doesn’t sound like you work in the public sector, but I think that’s an important consideration. If this is a public employee working a second job on the clock, that’s a misappropriation of public funds. I think in that situation you would have a responsibility to the taxpayers to report it once and only once to the appropriate manager. A manager would have a much higher level of responsibility in that situation.

  36. reality check*

    This is a good situation to make an anonymous report to HR. This site and most of its commenters seem to hate that, but reality is different. What the co-worker is doing would piss anyone directly or indirectly affected. Wanting to put a stop to it is a natural and perfectly justifiable response.

    For all the haters, that’s just how the world works. Want to break the rules and have a side hustle? Fine, nothing philosophically wrong with that—just don’t get caught. Part of not getting caught means (1) not antagonizing your colleagues with absences to the point that they get pissed off, and (2) not expecting them to cover for you.

    And there is nothing to be gained by putting one’s name to the complaint. You shoot your (anonymous) shot with whatever hard evidence you have. If it connects, great. If not, you tried, didn’t get your hands dirty, and can get on with your life.

    1. Admin Lackey*

      Sure, but LW states that management already knows because others have already complained about this employee. Which, I think, means either management is working on it or they don’t care.

      With either of those possibilities, I don’t see what the LW gains by complaining and, if there’s no anonymous way to complain, they may risk coming across as a busy-body.

  37. Girasol*

    It’s so hard to mind your own business in a situation that seems desperately unfair to you. I had a coworker like yours. I was the one who had to answer “where is she??” from boss and coworkers and “but where’s the document?” (I’d find it) and “but she’s supposed lead the 11:00 meeting!” (I’d chair it). She got all the breaks but when I got snowed in I got chewed out for working from home. It was so hard to keep my mouth shut but I knew the boss would react badly if I spoke up. One day there was a reorganization that put her under new management. A month later she was on a PIP and two days later she was out. Old boss suddenly became more lenient with me. If you can manage to be patient, these things often work themselves out.

  38. Annah*

    isn’t there something to be said about perception of double standards affecting employees moral, brewing resentment, being enough to bring the issue up to management? something only affecting one s workload leaves behind a really important part of work place satisfaction. maybe that absent employee is really smart and only answers messages from the manager, leaving the manager blind to absences. I’d rather have employees tell me when they are upset with someone s work integrity and ethics so I can start investigating the issue.

  39. CV*

    — In the office three days a week, and remote the other two. —
    I tried to find the answer myself, results below, and am hoping someone who knows specifics could chime in:

    If the remote work is over a state line, does the 3-days in the office ie, majority of work time, mean the company doesn’t have to do all the messy business with being registered/etc. in that other state?

    I did some websearching (I am not a payroll-professional or employment lawyer, just very curious) and eventually found this at NCSL [dot]org “State and Local Tax Considerations of Remote Work Arrangements” … which leaves the question up in the air:

    “At the other end of the spectrum, a teleworking arrangement that permits an on-site employee to occasionally telework at an out-of-state home office, even as frequently as once a week, likely would be localized in the state of the employer’s location under DOLETA guidance. The out-of-state employment likely would be “incidental” to the work performed at the employer’s location.
    But where the teleworking arrangement is less than full-time, such as where an employee spends equal time at his or her home office and an employer’s location, the localization of work analysis is less clear and ripe for guidance from DOLETA.”

    So, in other words: 1 day a week remote *probably* doesn’t affect the location where work is being performed as at the employer’s actual office. But there’s no solid information/policy/law (that I could find) on anything up to half the time working remotely.

    That site has a few solid examples of other edge cases (ie, person employed in NYC moves to FL and works remotely) but not this hybrid one.

  40. Caramellow*

    Pre-pandemic I was told an absolute NO to work from home even in the event of weather issues. A complete no. Meanwhile my colleagues with children were told they could work from home for child care emergencies. My coworkers stretched that to the point they were working from home 3-5 days a week. Practically speaking this dramatically increased my work load because I was there and the WFH colleagues….were not. And one of them sat across from me so I got to look at an empty chair every day.

    I took this to my manager with dated screen shots of empty desks (she worked in another building). She got annoyed with me but I pointed out I was told no while my coworkers were home 3-5 days a week. After that no one was allowed to work from home and everyone was pissed at me.

    Then came the pandemic and WFH changed forever.

  41. Not an expert*

    Don’t tattle. It ultimately won’t help you. It sounds like you want to bring this up as a segue to have a discussion about you working remotely. But pointing out that your coworker is abusing your hybrid schedule is not going to make management more open to you working remotely. It’s likely going to strengthen their hesitations about remote work. So I would stay quiet.

  42. Raida*

    I’d have coffee with the coworkers who’re impacted.
    Tell them “Look I’m not going to say anything, you need to tell [Manager] that [Photographer] is literally moonlighting during work hours if you want to see a change.”
    I’d tell them the Code Of Conduct that should be quoted as a reason to ‘tattle’, I’d tell them they should outline impacts of them being AWOL, I’d tell them the method of communicating it…

    and then just enjoy the coffee and let ’em go.

    1. Martha S*

      Agree! It’s the “not my circus, not my monkeys” principle. I think also LW isn’t considering that often management’s response to issues like this being raised is just to revoke privileges for everyone rather than grant privileges for the few raising it.

  43. Fiachra*

    “I usually mind my own business, but I would also like to work remotely with no repercussions like my coworker is.”

    If that’s the LW’s aim here, I would think tattling and bringing extra scrutiny is the worst thing they could do.

  44. GythaOgden*

    We’re shorthanded at the moment due to the transition between two new starter managers, second-tier vacancy caused by someone on secondment which now looks like we’ll have to replace him as well, and the sudden illness of another of the second tier staff. (One of the new managers starts on Monday and we’re really happy about that!)

    Whether or not your work depends directly on hers, it’s not ok to swan off and work on another job while supposedly on the clock for one employer. It has an impact on the team as a whole and if you know for absolute definite this is what is happening, then I think you should say something.

    When one person lets things slide like this, the whole team and the customers/clients/other stakeholders also suffer. Few businesses are so siloed that one person can be totally absent without it having an impact on the team. As regards WFH, I also work in the public sector and, despite being fully remote, I’m needing to do on-site days because there are things I’m responsible for that involve in-person work — like hospital maintenance — and it’s much easier to be able to step into the actual places you’re working on projects for and see what’s going on. WRT remote work in the wider workforce, we’re reaching the point I think where some degree of on-site presence is useful in quite a number of fields, and if you have anything to do with those whose work is in-person obligatory (and 70-80% of the workforce are; even madam in the OP is working remotely in order to do a job that requires her to be in-person as a photographer, which is pretty ironic when you think about it) it really helps if they can see their administrative/commissioning/PM/co-ordination staff at least make an appearance.

    It’s good as people who evidently take pride in their work as we do here to not just foist this responsibility off on management (as if they’re a race of superhumans or demigods who should be omniscient; we’d absolutely hate that if it were true) and be the one to bring it to their attention or be the ones to behave responsibly with the privileges we have. Because, yeah, in the grand scheme of things, it IS a privilege to be able to work remotely. And being foolish with that privilege is not only playing with fire itself for your own freedoms, but management may feel that it’s not the best use of their time and energy to police/track performance in WFH environments and just ask people to come back full time. It might not even be seen as punishing everyone for the actions of one person; it might just be that they don’t have the bandwidth to monitor individual performance that closely and that the time and effort it would incur would be better spent on other things more important to business needs.

    (Case in point, my boss asked me yesterday for one on-site day a week to make sure I actually got to know the places I was working with. Anything beyond my home office, where I previously worked as a receptionist and which isn’t as reliant on careful management as, say, one of our community hospitals or central health hubs, will pay me train fare if not also an overnight stay plus breakfast, so it’s not a huge imposition. Having to give up one day a week in exchange for keeping the really awesome way I work now after my fully in-person job was such a nightmare is sweetened by the gift of expenses and corporate travel bookings. I’d be utterly mad to throw away my really great new job in a fit of pique, and I do need to get out of the house more regularly as well now I’m settled into the role.)

  45. halliexyz*

    Letter-writer here! I’m on a different team than her, so most of her work falls on my coworkers to take care of to ensure (internal/non-paying) clients remain happy. I am using “client” as generically as possible. Essentially, she does not fully execute her job responsibilities, affecting both the “client” and her coworkers. I had not looked at all scenarios – for example, that it may be a medical reason and management is aware. If that is the case, I think her immediate team should be aware that work will shift around when she can’t get to it. I do not think that is the case because I know my coworker would share that or at least say “drop it” when I bring up my frustration.

    I am looking at this more from the perspective of if she is fully able to do photography during the day, why can’t she do her job during the day? If her absence eventually ruins remote work for the rest of the company (we’re currently in a hybrid model), then yeah, I am frustrated as I actually do my work and would also do it remotely.

    I have a relationship with my boss where I can share these things. I teeter back and forth on whether I should share or not. Ultimately, and for lack of better words, if it is being preached that we should “row in the same direction”, then her riding in the back sans paddle is hurting us all.

    In summary, I am frustrated for multiple reasons, and likely the biggest is not understanding why the company won’t do something about it and why I feel like I’m being punished.

    1. Miss C.*

      Since you have a good relationship with your boss, yes you should say something. It’s fine for people to say “not your business,” but if it’s affecting morale and impacting the company because clients are unhappy, then yes, it’s everyone’s business. And it’s the principle of the thing. This just isn’t right.

  46. rebelwithmouseyhair*

    I’m surprised Alison didn’t address the bit about OP wanting to work remote from another state, she’s always said that’s more complicated, for tax reasons.
    And I’m surprised Alison didn’t just say, you don’t know for sure why the colleague is not around and it’s none of your business, as she has on multiple occasions.

    The colleague being unavailable is impacting the other employees not OP so OP needs to just back off. Most she can do is encourage the others to complain harder and louder.

    She might try just disappearing like the colleague if she wants to work at a friend’s place in that other state, see what happens…

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