my friend is an awful coworker, apologizing for past mistakes, and more

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

1. I referred my friend to my company and she turned out to be an awful coworker

I have a former coworker, “Sadie,” who I became decent friends with over the course of a year of working together at a former job. We both left for other opportunities around the same time. We occasionally kept in contact over the next two years with a phone call every other month or so. Sadie recently left her job and, because my company had an opening for a similar position, I referred her. I love my current job and company and expressed how great of a job it is to her.

Sadie ended up getting the position with my company, making us coworkers again. She was a great coworker-turned-friend at our last job so I didn’t anticipate problems—I even looked forward to working with her again! However, over the four weeks since she started, Sadie has caused countless issues. She’s continually complained about the job, nitpicked things that she thinks could be improved, and asked our boss to make changes to normal practices that have been around significantly longer than either of us. A few comments like this wouldn’t hurt (I don’t mind some healthy criticism!) but it’s become excessive. Think things like “At my old job at company A, we did B practice and it worked a lot better than what you’re doing here” but with more than half of our standard practices. Additionally, she’s been calling me during working hours (and sometimes after hours) to ask questions about work processes she doesn’t understand. When I explain them, she complains about them more. I can feel my boss and other coworkers getting annoyed with her constant questioning and complaining, and they’re only hearing half as much as I am.

I’m upset because I referred her and gave her a glowing recommendation to our employer, and she’s now making me look bad due to her complaining. I’m also frazzled because I’m continually answering her questions and trying to explain the reasoning behind some of the practices she complains about while also trying to get my own work done. I also feel bad because clearly this job wasn’t what she expected it to be, and I’m worried she blames me for telling her about it at all. The whole thing feels like a mess, and I wish I’d just kept my mouth shut and never referred her in the first place. How do I handle things from here?

Are you comfortable being honest with her and saying something like: “I don’t know if you realize, but you’re criticizing a huge portion of what we do here when you’re still really new, and I think you’re getting yourself off on the wrong foot with people. It’s awkward for me because I encouraged them to hire you — and I also feel bad because you seem so unhappy.”

If she keeps it up after that, ignore her calls after hours and try to set some limits on the complaints during work hours too: “I can help explain processes to you, but I can’t keep hearing you vent about them — it’s wearing me out.”

In your shoes I’d also have a discreet word with your boss and just be blunt: “I’m not sure what’s going on. I had a different experience with her when we worked together last time and I didn’t expect this.” It’s your boss’s job to decide how to handle it now, but this will clear up any confusion about whether Sadie is still your idea of a great hire.

2. Vacationing employee wants a company-paid international phone plan

I am a manager of managers for a large, fast-paced frontline operational team that regularly responds to emergencies. When I started in this role a few years ago, the managers had an (unsustainable) informal process where they frequently got involved in decisions after hours and on weekends. We have made good strides since then, forming a functional on-call rotation with a broader team and appropriate compensation. I’m really happy with how far we have come!

Fast forward a bit, there are new members on the team. One requested to change their work cell plan to an international plan prior to vacation so they can stay on top of things. I declined the request, explained that I want them to disconnect from work and we can cover things in their absence. My reports feel it’s more stressful not knowing what is happening and coming back to a full inbox.

This is more about the principle than the cost of the phone plan. I strongly believe it is the right decision to keep boundaries and avoid a slippery slope backwards! But, I also question if it’s appropriate for me to decide what is best for their well-being. What are your thoughts on company-paid international phone plans on (company-paid) vacation?

If your team regularly handles emergencies, it’s extra important that they have real time off to disconnect and recharge. And frankly, no matter how much your team member insists it’s all their idea, other people hearing that the organization bought them an international calling plan so they could “stay on top of things” during their vacation will undo some of the work you’ve done in getting people to unplug.

Normally, there’s only so much you can do to ensure people truly disconnect while they’re on vacation, but this piece is within your control: decline to provide the international calling plan. But also: (a) explain why — that it’s not just about their personal preferences but it’s something with ramifications for the health of the team as a whole, and (b) work with them on how to make their return less stressful. (For example, can you give them their first day back just to sort through what built up while they were away and not throw new work at them immediately, etc.?)

3. Should I apologize for past mistakes?

I have been at my company for about seven years. This is my first and only corporate job, for which I had no formal training. About five years ago, I worked on my first big software implementation project with a small team. In hindsight, there were aspects of the project that could’ve been handled better, and I can acknowledge (to myself) that one stakeholder in particular did not have their (legitimate) concerns addressed and has been dealing with complications related to how this project was completed in the years since. This person is not my manager but is a manager in my department, albeit in a different country.

We recently had a change in leadership and are replacing the software I helped implement five years ago with a different software. This project has a much larger scope and will include more stakeholders, but also more resources. I am in a similar role now as I was then, and recently had a very uncomfortable meeting where the aggrieved stakeholder laid into me in front of other colleagues for the failures of the previous project and how they will not let their concerns be ignored a second time. They derailed an unrelated meeting for about 20 minutes to vent about their frustrations.

I was caught off guard and felt immediately defensive — I was not the only person who worked on that project, and they brought up issues that had never been brought to my attention before, though some issues they brought up I had known about and had never fully addressed. After some reflection I would like to take accountability for past mistakes and provide assurances that I will do better this time, as well as alleviate my anxiety about having to meet with this person again and work together again.

I am thinking I should reach out, either in a call or with an email to clear the air, but I am not sure what to say. Should I apologize and detail my past missteps? Should I focus on the future and the current project at hand? How can I mend this relationship and move forward without fixating too much on my shame around my performance on this previous project so that it doesn’t affect my current job negatively?

I suspect the most effective thing wouldn’t be a complete account of every misstep you made in the past, but clear statements that you now understand the concerns they raised back then, realize they were mishandled, and are committed to ensuring their input is treated seriously this time around. If I were in their shoes, I’d want to hear something like: “I want to let you know that I fully understand the issues you’re raising around X and Y. Those are legitimate issues, and I agree they should have been handled differently last time. Some of that is my responsibility and some of it was in others’ purview — but regardless, I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I’d like to build some checks into our process this time so you’ll have opportunities to weigh in early, and I’d welcome any input you have on the best timing for those so we can make sure this goes differently than last time.”

4. Our rules for using up accrued leave were changed without anyone realizing it

Recently I noticed a small discrepancy in my leave bank. I earn six hours a pay period and noticed that, while I was compensated six hours in the earned column for a given pay period, my balance only went up by four hours. I was careful to use up my use/lose by the end of the calendar year as directed, so I was confused as to why I would have received less than I earned! When I spoke with my agency’s HR, we determined the issue was that because the larger HR had moved the date by which folks had to use their use or lose from December 31 to January 13, this also meant any leave accrued during that time that was over the limit was lost. The language they gave us around the extension did not explicitly state this. Looking back at it, I suppose there is sort of vague language that maybe suggests it, but even now I’m not convinced.

I’m not interested in dying on this hill over two hours of lost leave (obviously I have plenty!), but I also feel like it may be worth escalating for the principle of it. Really, why am I being essentially penalized because they decided to give people who weren’t on top of their leave some extra slack when I was careful about managing my leave? So what do you think — is this worth pursuing or should I just take the loss and know better for next time?

If we were deciding purely on the principle of it: yes. Earned leave is part of your compensation and they shorted you two hours while obscuring from you that it would happen. People might have made different decisions if they’d known.

More practically speaking: since it’s only two hours, I don’t think you should fight a massive battle over it, but there’s no reason not to send a quick email pointing out that this wasn’t clearly announced and you don’t think it should have been deducted from your balance.

{ 250 comments… read them below }

  1. Magenta Sky*

    LW #1:

    I had a company paid for rental phone for an international vacation. However, the company paying for it was my boss’s idea, not mine, and I had already booked the rental (because it’s a bad idea to go to a country where you’ll be out in the countryside a lot, without a working phone). He just reimbursed me for it.

    (I was, at the time, the only IT guy, and he was terrified that something would break during the two weeks I was gone. One thing did go wrong, but we’d been having trouble with it already and I had shown him how to fix it. I didn’t get a single call the whole time.)

    For you, I’d agree with Alison: decline the request. Your report isn’t in the same position I was in.

    1. Nesprin*

      My work routinely provides international phones when on international business travel or for the 4 people who have to be reachable on vacation. It’s a wonderful program.

      1. Observer*

        The thing is that the context matters here.

        For some people it’s great – those are the people who NEED to be in touch even when on vacation. But if there are too many people in that category, there is probably something wrong with company culture and / or structure. And for anyone who is not in that category, it’s an issue.

  2. hardlycore*

    LW2 (international phone plan): I work for a multinational company and often take vacations to places with time zones very different than my home base (I’m on the US west coast and go to Europe or Asia). If your employee has wifi access wherever they’re traveling, they should be able to check their email when they’re on wifi – at their hotel, at a coffee shop, at any number of places they go on their vacation. I truly understand the desire to know what’s going on while you’re out, and when I’ve taken vacation time abroad before, it’s worked for me to check my work email a couple times a day on a wifi connection and make a note of what I need to address when I’m back. If your company is truly respectful of time off (which it sounds like it is!) it should work for this employee to check their work email a couple times a day to see what’s up IF THEY WANT, and then have a list of things they need to address when they get back. No international phone plan needed.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      Good point. My personal phone has an international plan that is $10/day. On our last international vacation, we used it on fewer than half the days by planning routes using WiFi, downloading maps or using paper, enjoying each other and the scenery rather than mindlessly scrolling, and setting the phone to airplane mode before leaving the hotel each day. A couple times it might have been nice not to have to choose between $10 and access to the local equivalent of yelp, but mostly it improved the trip.

      We had an e-reader and an iPad (both WiFi only) in addition to cell phones, which made it easier to manage downloaded maps,etc. It would have been different if our phones were our only internet enabled devices.

      1. Smithy*

        This is my phone plan, and the last time I traveled for work – where the $10 a day would be paid for – turns out I didn’t even use it every day.

        I will say that the question of “is adding an extra $10 a day for a vacation to use your phone cheap or not” is certainly a case where one’s definition will vary. So I also get the OP’s point about this not being about cost, but in that case I do almost wish that this was positioned as a request for a perk vs a desire to check work. Essentially, “can I get approval to use my work phone on international vacations so I can better find obscure restaurants and hiking trails”.

        If the team is still moving away from being on-call 24/7 – then I don’t think this should be done. However, I do think it would be worth considering offering this as a professional perk. I worked somewhere that officially had to release a policy that it was ok for staff to use their work computers to watch Netflix/Amazon Prime while traveling because they didn’t want staff to feel compelled to bring two computers/devices. And they also didn’t want it to be a case where people who were more senior or whatever felt ok to do it, but junior people didn’t know if it was ok.

        All to say, I do think there are ways to present these as policies about disconnecting from work and supporting staff who do work really hard. But I think it really helps when the language of the policies is set up intentionally vs trying to make people position the request as a work need (i.e. I want to watch work related documentaries only on Amazon Prime/Netflix).

    2. tokyo salaryman*

      I’m sorry, but checking on work emails multiple times every day when on an international vacation sounds crazy to me. I’m sure it makes sense for you and your field (I guess you must be in a senior or critical role), but it sounds like it would make it difficult to really unplug and get the benefits of your time away.

      My team has an emergency channel on Teams that will alert me if I am tagged, but when I am on vacation, I do not check my work emails at all. That time is my time.

      1. Allonge*

        That’s fair, and sounds like OP would be more than ok with it if this was the case for their employee.

        But for others: adults should be able to decide if it’s better or worse for them to check emails when they can, and what impact that has on their holiday. Not on requesting additional financing for this, mind you!

        I find it better for me in a lot of cases to look at what is going on once a day. I read fast, it takes no more than 10 minutes, it does not detract from my relaxation. I am not expecting anyone else to do so, but I am expecting my employer to let me make this decision (we don’t have a mandatory time off due to fraud concerns). Similarly, hardlycore can make their own choices on this.

        1. Rebecca*

          “adults should be able to decide if it’s better or worse for them to check emails when they can, and what impact that has on their holiday.”

          Yup. Work life balance looks different for different people.
          It’s odd—the author of this column has admitted that she works A Lot, and she tends to this blog on her days off. And yet, she shuts down the idea that any other person might be able to handle, and even enjoy, the same work habits.

          1. Observer*

            And yet, she shuts down the idea that any other person might be able to handle, and even enjoy, the same work habits.

            That’s not what she says. In this case, for instance, she points out the very real issue that *other people* are going to draw conclusions. And those conclusions can be problematic even in a healthy culture. In one that has historically not been respectful of people’s real need to disconnect? That’s a problem.

            1. Orv*

              When my boss answers work email during vacations I definitely wonder if she expects me to as well, even though formally I’m not supposed to.

          2. Purpleshark*

            I don’t think she did. She answered from the standpoint of what the author of the letter explained was the work standard for their business. What she did not do was impose her work standard and admonish the LR about what they should and should not do regarding work-life balance.

          3. Starbuck*

            I think she’s more discouraging the idea that it should be an expectation from management for employees to check in when they’re supposed to be off, and that high-level people should also do their best to encourage this by limiting that themselves if possible.

        2. Alexander Graham Yell*

          My bf and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum on this. Both of us work with clients, but with my role I can prep everything before I go and unless something major is going on while I’m gone, I turn off notifications and tell people to call text if *and only if* something will explode.

          He feels better if he checks twice a day – once in the morning and once at night. It takes less than 30 minutes out of his day, and he can relax the rest of the time (whereas I can’t shut work brain off as soon as I’ve turned it on).

          1. Freya*

            Yeah, if I’m worried about something, it’s less work to check in on it than to try to get my brain to STFU about it. My brain prioritises ruminating over sleep, and that suuuuucks… so for me, it’s log in, check the thing, and enjoy the rest of my day worry free.

        3. Cats and dogs*

          I came on here to say the same thing and agree with Allonge. This is one of the first times in years I’ve disagreed with Allison. Let’s let adults make decisions about what is best for them.

          1. Christina*

            Adults can make decisions for themselves, sure, but in this case, they’re asking the company to pay extra so they can disregard policy. Surely the employee can pay for their own phone plan. I’m not expected to work on my time off so if I pay for Internet on a personal flight to check my work emails, I don’t try to get reimbursed for it, since my employer did not ask for me to be available during that time, it was just my personal choice.

      2. ecnaseener*

        I’m in your camp personally, the best way for me to get the benefit of time off is to be really strict with myself about not thinking about work — but I don’t think it’s crazy to have a different preference. Some people have explained it to me as: if they don’t check email then they will be constantly wondering what backlog they’re going to come back to, and they can’t just turn that off, but if they do check, then they’re not anxious about it anymore and then they can turn off work-brain for a while.

        1. Willow Sunstar*

          It depends on where you go. As an example, I went to China for 2 weeks in 2014 with family. There would be no way I could have brought a work laptop or checked emails with the crappy internet on the boat. We were surrounded by mountains most of the time and a lot of things were blocked, probably still are, by the Chinese govt.

      3. amoeba*

        Multiple times a day does seem like a lot! I’m personally fine with checking once every two or three days or so, also not replying to anything unless it’s extremely urgent (which happens maybe once a year or so, and then means maybe 10 mins of work), just scanning through the subject list quickly.
        But anyway, I do agree that for that, WiFi would be absolutely sufficient!

        In addition to that, I personally find that it works really well for me to give *somebody* at the office my personal phone number so that I know that I’d be notified either way in case of a real emergency. Hasn’t happened so far! But I know that even if I completely check out and don’t check my e-mail for three weeks, I won’t miss anything crucial. Of course, that hinges on having reasonable coworkers! (And they would just write a WhatsApp message, so again, WiFi would be sufficient to make sure I get those…)

        1. Lady Atlantica*

          yep this is what I do, knowing someone (actually half a dozen people) have my personal number means I can ignore my work mobile happily and trust if I reeeeaaally need to know something sometime will text me a heads up.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          Yeah, I mostly just check it and sort the emails into folders so that it’s easier when I get back. I don’t actually read/answer anything unless it is marked as urgent.

        3. Observer*

          In addition to that, I personally find that it works really well for me to give *somebody* at the office my personal phone number so that I know that I’d be notified either way in case of a real emergency

          I think that this is a good tactic.

          OP, you could reassure your staff person that in the case of a TRUE emergency that really needs HER to respond, you will reach out to her by whatever means she chooses. That won’t work for the rest of it, but could help alleviate ate least one piece of stress for her.

      4. Delta Delta*

        Sure, unplugging is nice, but have you tried having panic attacks the whole time you’re on vacation because your work and emails are piling up?

        1. Starbuck*

          That sounds awful. I’m grateful that I have a third option (let the emails pile up and have coworkers who understand I’ll take a day or two slogging through them when I get back) and I’m sorry if you don’t – and I hope that changes for you.

        2. Münchner Kindl*

          In case of panic attacks I would recommend therapy.

          If normal work is piling up, eg daily bills, because nobody is cross-trained, or everybody is already overworked, so nobody else can do your work on top – that’s bad manglement or a cheap company, and you need to search for a better job.

          If special work is piling up – you’re the only teapot specialist in the whole company – then you still deserve vacation as part of compensation, and because humans need rest, and so (again) your company needs to tell people “while X is not in the office until 15th of August, all work will be delayed”.

          And they still should cross-train somebody, because what if the lottery bus drives up? You quit to move elsewhere? A company that can’t deal with your work while you are on vacation is badly managed and will have problems soon.

      5. Laser99*

        Agreed. If your role is actually so vital that you HAVE to be accessible, that’s a sign you should tell them you want a raise.

      6. Lenora Rose*

        Multiple times a day sounds excessive but there are people who find that 5-15 minutes of quick filtering every work day spares them the deluge when they get back, and reduces their stress that things might be going wrong. Then they have the other 15 hours and 45 minutes of awake time in a day to really get away.

        I haven’t done this on holiday, generally, but I have for sick days.

        1. hardlycore*

          Yes, this is exactly how I feel. I have colleagues covering for me while I’m out, so it feels worth it *to me* to check once or twice a day, delete anything that I don’t need to respond to, respond to things that just require a quick email, forward things that are urgent and substantive to the people covering for me, and then making a note of the things I actually do need to address when I’m back in the office (which, by the time the rest of the emails are deleted or delegated, is usually just seven or eight things for a two-week vacation). The thought of coming back to work to two weeks’ worth of unread emails and having to sift through them all gives me hives!

      7. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Yes, but in this case “checking emails multiple times every day” can be seen as a Nicorette gum to help wean employees who are hooked on and want “real-time email push notifications 24 hours a day.”

    3. Cinn*

      The problem with this approach is what if that employee starts replying to things? Like not just focusing their to-do list for their return. Because then other employees start seeing them doing work on holiday and then maybe they’ll start thinking well such-and-such is doing it I can/should as well. (Esp given the culture shift the LW as trying to achieve.)

      1. WellRed*

        Not to mention if I am supposed to be handling something in a coworker’s absence and that coworker starts to randomly weigh in, it makes it hard to get things done because I think maybe I should see if they pipe in, etc.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        If someone doesn’t have the self control to just filter, they should have the self awareness not to tempt themselves, and their coworkers or managers should push back a bit – but let’s also remember we’re all adults.

        1. Cicely*

          Well, sure, but this is about a manager watching out for the workplace as a whole, not whether or not people are adults.

        2. Cinn*

          My point really was that while that approach might work for hardlycore, the worker the LW is talking about might not have the same discipline not to actually reply. So, basically, yes, what you said in that everyone’s different & should be able to work out their own good practises (we agree on that) but the culture shift the LW is trying to achieve also needs to be taken into account.

    4. I take tea*

      No no no no. If you check your job email multiple times a day, you are not having a vacation, you are just having a lighter workload. Your brain will be percolation about work all the time, and you will not get any proper rest. This is a highway to burnout. You really need to take a proper break from work when you are off.

      I do get that it feels overwhelming and scary – I used to do this before and thought that “it’s no problem, I’ll just keep an eye on it”. Then I realised I was composing answers in my head anyway and then I would be better off just answering that quick question… and so on. I never really disconnected and I have paid for it. Burnout is hell, avoid it if you can. Even a “light” burnout will leave you more susceptible to it in the future. I’ve never properly come back to my pre-burnout job input, and I tire easily.

      If you are reading your email on vacation, you are essentially giving your company your free time and risking your own health in the long run. Don’t do that. Work on disconnecting properly. If it’s chaos when you come back, talk to your boss about finding solutions that are not you working on your leave.

      1. I take tea*

        I warmly recommend following LoeWhaley on YouTube for a healthy view on work / life balance. She’s both fun and has excellent points.

        1. AMH*

          She’s the “toodaloo” creator with the mug, right? I really like her as well and find myself rooting so much for some of her characters. Donna Sue is a gem.

          1. I take tea*

            Yes, it’s her. It’s best to watch some of the videos in the right order – the story arch with Jeremy, for example. And Donna Sue is fab.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah, while I agree that adults should be able to manage their time and their boundaries, your point about not being able to wind back the effect on health is very true. When people’s health and futures could be affected, the organisation has a responsibility too.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I’m with you, at least as far as my own mental health goes. I burned out so hard once that I quit a lucrative job with nothing else lined up and applied for jobs as a dogwalker because I never wanted to look at another computer.

        I’m now working with computers again at a much less stressful place, but if they ever expect me to work overtime, take calls on vacation or be on-call on my days off, I will be out the door so fast.

    5. münchner kindl*

      Sounds like a lottery (bus) problem then.

      If even a senior person can’t take a normal (one or two week) vacation without daily checking of their email, then the organisation is very bad and needs to be changed.

      Because no matter who’s on leave, a low-level person or the director, there needs to be a deputy who handles normal tasks and (for senior execs) has the authority to make difficult decisions.

      That deputy should be cross-trained enough to handle normal stuff, and for senior execs, the authority and competence to handle unexpected emergencies (the factory burned down!)

      So whether it’s normal stuff or emergency, things should be handled at home until exec returns from vacation.

      And we’ve often talked about why finance/ accounting requires people to take of at least 1 week- to uncover shenanigans; but this too applies general to execs.

      If they need to daily read their email, then that sounds to me like micro-managing and needs to be adressed/ changed.

      1. Kendra*

        Or some people simply have no practical sense.

        When my senior boss was on an international vacation, I found out third-hand about a videoconference scheduled for her first day back. No one had told me about it, so there was no reservation on our conference room calendar.

        Long story short, I had reason to believe that my boss and her team members might be able to participate by phone only. In her absence, her team members could not answer one question from me: “Is our client also participating by phone only, as they have in previous meetings of this group?”

        I never knew why the team members apparently thought only my boss could put forth this profound question. (I didn’t routinely communicate with the client, so it might have looked weird coming from me.)

      2. Saturday*

        I agree, and my organization is working on hiring and cross-training. But I still have to take a vacation in the meantime, so I go ahead and check email during it. If things aren’t blowing up, then I can relax. If I didn’t get to check in, I would worry that there was a storm raging, and I just wouldn’t see the damage until my return. But I agree, it shouldn’t be like that, and I’m hoping it won’t be for too much longer.

    6. AnonFed*

      This is one of those situations where being a government employee helps. Unless you have a specifically issued international laptop (which you only get if you’re on ordered international travel and you turn in when you come back), at my job you literally cannot check your work email while outside of the country. My boss has my personal email but it is only supposed to be used for emergency situations.

      I have family in another country and travel abroad frequently and we frankly do fine just using Whatsapp most of the time.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’m pretty sure the only way to successfully retire from my government department is to move out of the country and beyond the international-traffic firewall. Otherwise you’ll still be asked to log in to address this one little issue…

      2. Freya*

        The data security platform that my workplace uses is aimed at finance people who know nothing about IT, and it’s exactly the same for most of what I do – if I’ve set up email on my phone, that bypasses the data security platform, but everything else I do has to log in via the secure system, and that doesn’t work when the IP address I’m logging in from is overseas. I’ve tested it when working from home with a VPN. If I want to check something when overseas, I have to use a VPN to tell the system I’m back home – there’s a workaround, but that requires me to have international roaming enabled on my normal phone plan, and I tend to get a local SIM and phone number because it’s cheaper (and it’s finance data, so my OCD wants a VPN anyway).

    7. Boof*

      I would actually be sure to set a bunch of out of office messages so that 1) hopefully no one is emailing lw expecting an answer and 2) may cut down on the number of emails. I tend to check email even when I’m off (it’s kind of a combination force of habit plus sometimes it’s a low effort thing to do when I’m waiting around for something; mostly clearing out spam) but I’d encourage others not to, and doing so multiple times a day is something to really avoid I think!

    8. Jen*

      I think the issue at some companies — mine included — is that the company pays for “my” cell phone plan. It’s not a requirements that I have a separate phone exclusively for work use, it’s that they pay for every employee’s phone for our daily use. So I have no qualms about asking that international calling be added to my plan when I’m traveling out of the country — if it were my phone plan, I’d do add international calling, and I refuse to be limited to wifi when I’m traveling abroad.

      (I’d never had a problem using my phone in Canada and Mexico, so assumed my phone would work in other countries, too, especially other countries where we had office locations. I learned the hard way that was a bad assumption — while flying internationally, I found out about a personal emergency at home. It was still a touch-and-go situation when I landed, but made sense for me to go to my hotel because I’d have to wait almost a full day to fly home. And then I got stuck in a 2 hour rush hour traffic jam only to realize I had no cellular service and couldn’t keep abreast of the emergency at home, which was tremendously upsetting. Thankfully my operations person was able to turn on my international calling access as soon as they were in the office. And thankfully the emergency resolved itself before I had to fly home.)

      1. Betty*

        Interesting– that would make it feel more like a “Can we book the flights so I can tack on a vacation” kind of request that might be reasonable to accommodate at the employee’s expense.

        For what it’s worth, though, if you have an unlocked phone (most are these days, it was an issue more in the era of “free phone with 2 year contract”), it’s usually much cheaper to get a local prepaid SIM when you’re travelling internationally. For pretty much anywhere in the EU, you can usually get unlimited data and a reasonable number of phone minutes for about $20/month– so for a 2 week trip, you’d save $120 versus paying $10/day to your US carrier. (This is even easier in the era of eSIM where you don’t even have to swap out a physical SIM.) In case you have future international travel!

        1. Freya*

          My most common overseas trips are to NZ and it’s similar there – I get a local SIM because it’s cheaper, especially with the way I use data (watching videos to calm my brain down for sleep…)

          And it’s MUCH cheaper over the course of a year than getting a mobile phone plan here in Australia that has good international roaming (as compared to my current plan, which sucks for international roaming, but not for anything I use on a daily basis at home).

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

      It is true that he could check his email on a computer unless the company has strict rules about accessing email or other company software on non-company owned devices. Or there could be worries about using unsecured wifi like you find at hotels.

    10. Three Owls in a Trench Coat*

      That’s what my boss recently did. The database was unavailable due to public wifi security, but she could monitor email if she needed to know about a building/staff/finance problem. The Associate Boss handled all the activities related to the database. The boss had a great time, brought back photos of interesting scenery and wildlife, and joked her laptop was a 3-pound brick in her suitcase the whole month she was out. She’s back rested and in very high spirits.

    11. theletter*

      I hate to say it, but the one person I worked with who insisted on checking emails and slack over her vacations was the same person who consistently misunderstood instructions when she was in the office. It just made me wish she’d use her time off to reflect.

      That said, part of me wonders if the employee was hoping for the company to pay for the plan so they could have a usable cellphone while travelling. Those phone plans can pricey!!!!

  3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Checking EM twice daily on vacation sounds terrible – even if you are the CEO. Unless your organisation is about to go bankrupt.
    Vacation should mean completely switching off from work to relax & recharge, which thankfully is now also the policy of the OP’s organisation.
    Also, if one person is allowed to do this, then everyone will likely feel obliged to do so as well, or they could feel at a career disadvantage. So it needs to be enforced.

    At FinalJob, we needed to take a gizmo to log on offsite to the VPN, so this was never made available for anyone on holiday. A useful block on workaholics. One reason I stayed there for my last 30 years of work was the work-life balance: no communication of any sort during my non-work hours. My free time was 100% mine, evenings, weekends and holidays. Even very senior managers were very rarely contacted at home , so we knew the policy was genuine.

  4. Sean*

    LW3: They derailed a meeting for 20 minutes to lay into you about a 5 year old project? That seems incredibly inappropriate to me. I would have expected their concerns to be vented in a post mortem for that project… 5 years ago. it sounds like they’ve been carrying a grudge (unprofessional!) and have been waiting to erupt given the opportunity. I don’t disagree with AM on how to help fix the relationship if you must but I am viewing this coworker as toxic. junior devs (sounds like you were as you were 2 years in) aren’t expected to be perfect and so laying in to you about it now is BS.

    1. Sydney Wired*

      Agreed. This was unprofessional of them and waaaay past warranty.

      I would move on and mark this up as indicating more about them than it does about you.

      Obviously we can all learn and improve in our roles, as I’m sure you have in that time. But bringing up such old grievances serves no purpose in this meeting context.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yep. I’d do everything as suggested, but I’d also be pretty firm that they’re not allowed to derail future meetings that way, and even if they’re justifiably aggrieved, they’ve gotten their one free shot at me now and that time is over. My only objection to the advice was that by treating them so seriously and allowing special check-ins, you’re tacitly suggesting it was okay to treat you this way and might be okay to continue – which it’s not. You didn’t attack their children or something here.

      2. Observer*

        But bringing up such old grievances serves no purpose in this meeting context

        Yes it does. The person does have a legitimate fear of a repeat performance. Especially since some of the issues that they are talking about were never addressed.

        The fact that the problems started 5 years ago is not relevant here. The fact that a project was done without dealing with all of the legitimate user needs and at least one of the people on the prior project is on the new project means that the person has a legitimate reason to ask if things will be handled differently. The fact that some of these issues were left to fester creates a legitimate question of whether anyone on the project even recognizes that something went wrong in the last upgrade cycle, and has any plans to avoid a repeat.

        1. Leenie*

          It’s not so much the passage of time that’s of concern to me. Derailing an unrelated meeting for 20 minutes to publicly excoriate someone is not normal or reasonable, even if the error just happened. Setting a meeting with the LW to discuss legitimate concerns, even after 5 years, would be perfectly appropriate. I think the LW should follow Alison’s advice and hope for the best. And maybe this is uncharacteristic of the coworker, they just had a lot of pent up complaints that they handled poorly, and the LW’s acknowledgement of that will set things right. But I would consider that this coworker may be someone who won’t ever be easy to work with, or to please.

          1. Andie Begins*

            I don’t know, if I brought up concerns on a project implementation that were blown off and the result made my work more complicated for FIVE YEARS in the way I tried to warn about, and then the same person who blew me off was in the position to maybe do it again? I’d be pissed enough to be job searching and I’d certainly make my position on the matter crystal clear before the project starts.

            This new project has the option to clear up the complications he’s been working around for five years or, since the same person is in charge, the option to entrench those complications (or make it worse). I’d be alarmed and would probably consider leaving depending on the result, and I might not bother trying to hide how pissed I was with the project leadership last time around. It would be a last ditch effort to make the extent and seriousness of my concerns apparent as I evaluate whether my job will be salvageable going forward.

            20 minutes of excoriation is unprofessional but so is blowing off your stakeholders and then never admitting to your Cassandra that they were right. I also wonder if it was actually inappropriate or if it just felt bad to the OP to publicly receive a detailing of their mistakes on the last project. The venue may have been inappropriate (“unrelated meeting”) but the content may not have been. OP said they felt defensive but didn’t say Cassandra made any personal attacks.

            OP was taken by surprise because some of the issues were never brought to their attention, but it’s possible at a certain point they made it clear to Cassandra that their input wasn’t welcome or Cassandra got fed up being ignored and stopped bothering to bring issues up (“though some issues they brought up I had known about and had never fully addressed.”)

            OP was inexperienced and doing the best they could, it happens and they should have had more support on the first go round. But as someone in a position to see & flag a lot of problems that affect my work but not in a position to fix any of them, who just has to then deal with the fallout other people’s lack of communications, strategy, and consideration, I just feel a lot of sympathy for the coworker. If OP gets a pass for making mistakes on their project management I think coworker should get a pass for a lapse in professionalism of forcefulness/venue if the content of their concerns was valid.

        2. tangerineRose*

          “the person has a legitimate reason to ask if things will be handled differently” Yes, to ask about it, not to be such a jerk about it for such a long time.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I can understand them bringing up a 5 year old project (although 20 minutes of ranting seems excessive, but 20 minutes of raising legit concerns could be expected) – because the project 5 years ago is directly linked to this one; this project is another software implementation to replace the system that was put in 5 years ago with that project. Some of the same players are still around (OP at least). The client doesn’t want a repeat of the previous implementation project gone badly (from their perspective). It isn’t just harping on something from 5 years ago because they can’t let go.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I was concerned about this too. LW, I would schedule a meeting to hear their concerns, BUT it’s got to be focussed on what they need done differently next time, and if they start ranting, you can and should shut them down. It’s not a productive use of yours or anyone else’s time to listen to an endless iteration of what’s wrong, and you definitely mustn’t let your shame get in the way of saying, “Sorry Bob, I don’t think we have time to go through that now. Can we take this offline — I’ll catch up with you next week and I’ll let you know some of the processes and checks I’ll be using this time to make sure we get a better outcome.”

      Keep focussing on the task— the question you need to keep asking is, “is this giving me information which is going to make the work product better?” Any time it’s the stakeholder relieving their feelings or you feel like you need to take this because you made errors you need to politely cut them off. You’re not obliged to sit and take it because you messed some things up.

    4. münchner kindl*

      I read it that the other manager was annoyed because he was regularly working with this new software and the not-adressed problems caused problems to his workflow.

      So less “carrying a grudge” and more “my daily work is hindered because nobody listened to me during planning and also nobody ever fixed problems after implementation, now I want to make sure it won’t become worse with the new new system”.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yes, I think it’s “nobody properly consulted with my team about how we use LLAMASoft, and we’re still dealing with daily challenges trying to force it to be an appointment system when it’s really a case-management system”. I have extremely been there! That said, twenty minutes derailing an unrelated meeting is too much and it should have been shut down and moved offline. There’s a clear case for LW to ensure better consultation with that team during this process, and that’s what they should be focussing on.

        1. Phryne*

          Likewise. I’ve been in the situation where a system was needed, the relevant department didn’t want to build it so half-assed the job and then spend the next years ghosting any requests to fix even the most basic bug that made it unworkable but I had to use it anyway.
          And *I* was the one who had to keep explaining to students over and over and over again how it was not working because the obvious way to do it was the wrong way and they had to use a convoluted workaround. And deal with all of the fallout of that even though I had absolutely no influence on any off it. It made a not inconsiderable amount of my days much harder than they needed to be for way too long.
          Yes a 20 minutes rant derail is too long and inconsiderate, but I would very much not recommend OP take the attitude that this is water under the bridge and what are they complaining about, it is all in the past is it not.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Trying to think of a keyword I could drop here to see if we are actually colleagues. Blink twice if you curse Microsoft Dynamics on an hourly basis.

            1. Phryne*

              Ahahaha! But no, pretty sure we are not in the same country, aren’t you in the UK? I’m in the Netherlands. And this was Sharepoint adjacent. I think there are a lot of these stories around.

            2. Ray Gillette*

              I work with clients in multiple CRMs and I’ve never seen a deployment of Microsoft Dynamics that wasn’t borderline unusable

          2. Observer*

            Yes a 20 minutes rant derail is too long and inconsiderate, but I would very much not recommend OP take the attitude that this is water under the bridge and what are they complaining about, it is all in the past is it not.

            Exactly. OP, ignore the “water under the bridge” and “too long to hold a grudge” stuff.

            *Do* shut down rants, though, because that wastes everyone’s time and no on deserves that anyway.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yeah, this was my read as well. Yes, the user should not have derailed a meeting for 20 minutes to rant but also…I have been there and if no one listened to my concerns originally and it resulted in additional work on a daily basis? I definitely would be making certain that everyone is aware there are continuing issues and LISTEN TO US this time.

          FWIW, I would modify Alison’s script slightly — instead of “I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen again” I would say “I’m going to *do my best to* make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Stuff happens and sometimes tradeoffs have to be made (slash, are mandated by those higher than you), but if the team is listening to everyone’s feedback this time at least those tradeoffs can be discussed ahead of time.

          1. Apologizer*

            Thanks for this- I think part of the mistakes of the past were saying “we will definitely resolve this for you” then not delivering…because the solution either was not available or too complicated to implement with the resourcing at the time. But creating the space for feedback I think is a big one.

          2. Observer*

            FWIW, I would modify Alison’s script slightly — instead of “I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen again” I would say “I’m going to *do my best to* make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

            I’m glad to see that someone else said this – that was one of my first thoughts as well.

      2. Mockingjay*

        It’s been FIVE years though. Surely the other manager did their job in the interim and has implemented solutions to avoid these problems TODAY? OP3 is not a manager, then or now. So who has the standing to fix things?

        OP3, I think you are personally carrying a little too much responsibility for the prior mistakes that were made. I’d wager that your and other’s errors were caused by an overall lack of good project planning and clear processes. I’d direct Other Manager to whoever is in charge of this overall project to get their complaints addressed. If that’s you, then follow Alison’s advice: sit down with this person and other experienced project managers, develop an implementation plan, and get the processes signed off/approved before this project gets going. And I’d make it clear privately to Other Manager that, while his complaints about Prior Project are valid, attacking you in a meeting with 5-year old complaints is not conducive to creating a better process.

        1. Saturday*

          It’s been five years that the person has been dealing with software that doesn’t meet their needs – I think that accounts for the frustration. LW says they’ve been “dealing with complications related to how this project was completed in the years since.”

          If that’s the software the company uses, I don’t think there’s a lot of opportunity to implement solutions after the fact – until now, since they are implementing new software.

          I agree that ranting for 20 minutes was NOT a good way to handle it, but I don’t think the person is talking about stuff that’s in the past – they’re talking about ongoing issues that began 5 years ago.

        2. Observer*

          <I.It’s been FIVE years though. Surely the other manager did their job in the interim and has implemented solutions to avoid these problems TODAY?

          So? Even if it were the case, it’s legitimate to not want to go through that again.

          And the OP actually makes it clear that no, things were not satisfactorily resolved. They say that “one stakeholder in particular did not have their (legitimate) concerns addressed and has been dealing with complications related to how this project was completed in the years since.

          So, not only do they not want to have to deal with cleaning up a mess that could have been avoided. They want to avoid another 5 – 10 years of work arounds.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Exactly. A 20 minute rant is absolutely inappropriate, but I’m not really surprised it happened. Of course a new project planning process with some of the same people and some of the same concerns is going to bring up all the frustrations of the past. The intention probably wasn’t to browbeat the LW for a mistake 5 years ago, but to be assertive and make clear that it couldn’t happen again.

        (OP, if this happens again, I have a tip. I know this doesn’t work for everyone, but when I feel wronged and am ranting, a simple “you’re right” or “I agree with you” takes all the air out of my sails and I quiet right down.)

        1. Not my coffee*

          I would like to add as suggested language to take the wind out of sails :

          “You are correct about XXXXXX…”

          I consider it a pragmatic approach to keep the conversation/meeting moving.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Yup. People who believe they’re being heard don’t feel the need to shout/get angry/repeat themselves.

            1. Not my coffee*

              For the record, I feel like I should add that doesn’t always mean I think they are right.

        2. ferrina*

          Agree with all of this. I totally see where the manager is coming from- having their legitimate concerns ignored then having to deal with the ramifications for 5 years? Now learning that (one of) the same people that caused all the issues for 5 years is in a position to make the exact same mistakes? Honestly, I think that warrants a 20 minute rant.

          MigraineMonth’s advice is spot on- acknowledge what went wrong. Say “You’re right. Obviously the last time we tried to do this it there were lasting reprecussions, including things that you had brought up earlier.” Then bring on this person as a collaborator. Set up a meeting time to just listen to them. Hear what went wrong from their perspective, what they want to see happen this time, and what they anticipate could go wrong next time. Frankly, this is a great practice anytime you do a new software implementation. 1) It tells you what users expect and what they worry about, so you better know how to set up and troubleshoot, and 2) it lets users know that you genuinely care about their experience.

          1. PhyllisB*

            But she said some of the issues brought up she was just now hearing about. How can you address a problem you’re not aware of? Some blame goes to this person for not looping her in about problems.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I don’t mean LW should say, “You’re right, I did a terrible job and all these problems are my fault.” However, if there are places that the LW can agree, though, that’s likely to take the entire temperature down and change the dynamics. Something like:
              * “You’re right, that is a concern you brought up last time and wasn’t sufficiently addressed. I’ll set up a meeting for us to make sure that’s in the planning documents this time.”
              * “I agree with you, taking time to have this tested by end-users is critical, we can’t skip that like last time.”

              It’s not a guarantee; some people are just unreasonable. (I once dented a woman’s car, and she wouldn’t stop berating me long enough for me to give her my insurance information, even though I apologized and agreed it was entirely my fault. Then, when the police arrived, she told them that I’d refused to give her that info.)

            2. Orv*

              If you report problems and they’re ignored, are you going to keep reporting other problems? You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

            3. Phryne*

              OP is the face of this project right now. They dont have to take personal responsibility, but they do have to take the responsibility as the representative of this department in this meeting. Just as when you are in a client facing job and you know your company messed up on something out of your control. You manage the complaint on behalf of your company.

        3. Lora*

          That doesn’t work on me unless you also provide how and when you are going to deal with the issue, cause it’s the recommended standard phrase to try to get people to shut up with no intention to change anything.

    5. Rebecca*

      I thought this too. I could see a single comment being made – “As we are making plans this time, we should make sure we learn from the mistakes last time. We identified some issues we should take care not to repeat.” That addresses the problem and any anxiety that it will happen again, but the blame, anger, and venting is inappropriate.

    6. Shiara*

      Obviously 20 minutes is not appropriate and it sounds like OP was relatively inexperienced the first time around, but it sounds like the department is continuing to face daily difficulties due to choices made during implementation that have not been improved and that no one has ever actually acknowledged to them that yes, your concerns were valid, not addressed, and your life has been made more difficult as a result. That’s not a grudge, it’s a serious ongoing and unaddressed problem.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I had a 40-minute meeting this morning about the fact that one of the projects I created a year ago was pretty bad for all the users. There was no ranting or blaming–we all acknowledged that we’d gone into the project pretty blind and with a tight deadline–but I think the meeting would have gone badly if I’d ignored them and insisted that the project was fine.

        Listen to the problems. Explain your POV without getting too defensive. Try to find a way forward within all the existing constraints.

    7. Been There*

      I do see where a certain amount of trust needs to be restored that this project will be handled differently.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Restoring trust is a good way to look at it, and it would be the case even if LW were taking over the job from someone else.

    8. House On The Rock*

      Yeah this struck me as excessive and as an indication that the manager has general axes to grind. I get it, most of us have been on the receiving end of an implementation that could have gone better, but singling out a member of that team years later (or really ever) is unprofessional and doesn’t warrant such a heartfelt response from LW.

    9. So Tired*

      I had the same reaction too. It does sound like the person venting has had their day to day work impacted by the issues from 5 years ago, so I understand the frustration and wanting to make sure it is better this time around. But at the same time, like you pointed out, LW was about two years into their job and presumably had *someone* senior to them overseeing things. Furthermore, LW says they weren’t the only one who worked on the project five years earlier and that the manager was ranting about issues that LW had never even been made aware of. I was actually surprised that Allison didn’t even mention the 20-minute derailing rant because that really did seem unnecessary to me.

    10. Marshmallows*

      I’m currently on a team that’s on the “disgruntled user” side of a project that was completed 4 years ago and is still causing us problems due to lack of listening from the PM and now we have a similar project coming up with same PM and I can absolutely vouch for the frustration and concern around repeating mistakes. Especially in my case where the PM actually appears to be going down the same path of not taking input from the end users (this one isn’t a software project – it’s a physical build)

      And we absolutely have derailed a couple meetings to discuss previous issues (and in some cases these issues are ongoing) and how we are going to make sure that they don’t happen again and I don’t believe it’s unprofessional just because it happened years ago.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Sometimes, you have to say things loudly to make sure they get heard.

        20 minutes at the outset of a project to lay out what the problems were with the last project seems reasonable to me, under the circumstances. The manager lived with the consequences of not being heard last time for 5 years. It’s very clear that the manager is going on the record with their concerns from the outset.

        The OP should do what Allison suggests – acknowledge that the problems existed, that mistakes were made, and commit (and follow through) on getting stakeholder input and making sure the implementation works for everyone (along with the appropriate training and change management – which entails REALLY listening to stakeholders and making sure things work for them).

        That said, there’s no reason for the OP to fall on their sword or abjectly apologize for last time – take responsibility for whatever mistakes they personally made, sure, but don’t make a martyr of yourself. You’ve grown and learned a lot in five years, and it wasn’t all your fault last time.

      2. Some Words*

        In my experience user experience is a completely ignored aspect of new projects.

        Source: I’m always asked to be a pilot user/tester for new software for our department. Functionality feedback is welcomed. User experience issues are met with a blank and confused stare.

      3. Llama Llama*

        As another disgruntled user where my field was ignored when set-ups have occurred. My team has learned that they have to be very vocal to be heard and not ignored. So yes, we might not target one specific person but we will spell out that we must be included.

      4. AD*

        There is a difference though — it sounds like the person directed their ire squarely at one individual (OP) who was also not responsible for some of the issues that were caused in the previous project.

        So, yes — it might be unprofessional depending on this person’s tone and how personal their critiques were (were they directed at the poor implementation of the previous project, or were they more directed at OP and their competence?). Was the gist of their “20 minute rant” to say “There were issues coming from the implementation of the last project and I’m concerned we might repeat those — can we ensure that doesn’t happen again” versus a more hostile or accusatory approach.

        1. RVA Cat*

          I want to know if the OP’s current manager was part of this meeting and if so, what did they do? Good leaders do not let a peer kick down on their team like this.

          1. Apologizer*

            My manager is relatively new to the company and only came on less than a year ago at the start of this project. He is very hands-off with my role and has had to take on more of an individual contributor role rather than managing his team. He was not on the call but in our one-on-one a few days later reassured me that I am doing a good job but that sometimes we need to “fall on our sword” to make things copacetic with our stakeholders. Not super helpful but his management is a topic for a different day.

        2. Apologizer*

          LW here- I think the gist was more the former–they feel like they need to be more vocal to have their concerns heard and thus far on this project do not feel reassured that things will go better. We are well into the new project at this point so while Alison’s advice to build some checks into the process this time makes a lot of sense, I am also worried it is a little late and I am scrambling to come up with a plan.

          1. a trans person*

            That… kind of sounds like the 20 minutes of criticism were necessary? And in fact that it may indeed be already too late to use their feedback, meaning that they really were brought in too late? Like, I’ve got to be honest, as a data scientist who relies on data infrastructure folks, I’ve been the stakeholder here, and I have left a job because of a situation something like this one.

            This is on your company, management, and organizational structures, not you individually, OP. I definitely agree that you should not fall on your sword here; you as a person are not the problem. But tbh, I am very sympathetic to your stakeholders.

          2. Sarah*

            I have to ask, knowing that there were issues last time, what did you do to plan for that this time knowing it was a huge friction point?

      5. Daisy-dog*

        Fully understand. Though they did bring up issues that OP wasn’t even aware of. It sounds like they should have started with a detailed email and a request for a separate meeting to ensure all of their issues will be addressed.

    11. ccsquared*

      Whether or not this is excessive really hinges on the impact it’s having. If the people complaining have been losing even 5 minutes a day working around something disruptive or annoying for 5 years, spending 20 minutes talking about it is not unreasonable. Similarly, I don’t think sounding upset or frustrated is inherently unprofessional either, especially if it’s directed at their experience or the process when the initial implementation was done versus trying to disparage the team who worked on the project just for the sake of making them feel bad. Sometimes people who get worked up like this are actually trying to get you on their side and are just doing it badly.

      I’m only pointing this out because it’s hard to suss out all the requirements in a project like this, especially if it’s a large implementation, and it would work against LW’s goals to simply assume stakeholders are toxic or that their feedback is invalid because it wasn’t delivered in a perfectly professional manner. Very few people are actually unhinged weirdos, and seeing them as human is important for understanding what they are trying to express, which is important to ensuring the software meets their needs. That said, I’d definitely be discretely checking with my boss or others about this group, because sometimes people do have side agendas and it’s good to know how much weight to give their feedback or if they might be trying to derail things.

      Either way, it’s definitely helpful for LW to emotionally distance from this interaction, take what may be true from it as data, and not beat themselves up – even seasoned professionals and top consulting firms can overlook things on major projects. I love Allison’s script not only as a way to talk to this group but as a mantra for LW because trying to do better next time is the only thing we can do. (And LW, virtual hugs – I had a meeting like this earlier this week, and no, it’s not a good time.)

      1. Apologizer*

        Thank you. I think emotions definitely played a role in how I handled the call in the moment (defensively and deflective-ly) but I ultimately respect this colleague and want to do right by them and their area of the business.

        1. Observer*

          I think that one thing that you can do is to be clear about what you can and cannot do. Specifically what is in your hands, and what is not. And what they can do when something *might* be fixable, but it needs to be handled above your level.

          So, you might tell them that “I agree that this is a problem. To fix we need do X, which needs approval from Senior VP SuchandSo”

    12. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’ve been in the user’s place before, more than a couple of times. My team’s needs in new installations and updates were often overlooked or dismissed, or the project lead for our function was new/ish, and the final product made our jobs harder. Heck, even well-managed and inclusive integrations don’t always meet all user needs or go as planned, because stuff happens.

      So yeah, I can empathize with the user’s frustration of not being heard and using a platform that made things harder. However.

      When it was time for an upgrade or new installation, our VP or Sr. Director asked to meet with whoever was leading the enterprise integration for all users, and included us managers. We shared details about our specific functions, what we needed in a platform, how the current platform didn’t support us, how the previous integration didn’t include our input, and so on. We asked to be included in vendor meetings, customizations, user testing, and other relevant activities so we didn’t repeat the same mistakes.

      We acknowledged frustrations with the previous integration but didn’t upbraid or insult anyone. We focused on the previous platform’s shortcomings, asked about the new one, and the project leader got the message. We were included in the process without tanking a relationship with our integration team.

    13. Yap, yap, yap*

      If is an IT problem that increased their workload for 5 years I totally understand. BTDT and am currently with an organization with an extremely efficient workforce and computer system that the BOD wants to change to another software programs with 1/2 the functionality of the current system. Either staff numbers will need to increase, or our outreach decrease 30% or we all work harder for the same outcome. The ED will quit over it, and I may as well. That is likely where this person is coming from.

    14. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

      Totally agree with you that this is a toxic way to deal with this problem. That said, having worked with loads folks like this in a decade of government work, thinking about it from this frame of mind will not help LW3.

      LW3 seems to have no authority over this person and I think they’re right to focus less on their coworker’s inappropriate behavior and instead reflect on whether there’s anything they can learn from it. If LW3 wants a good outcome for the project and to avoid becoming sour with resentment themselves, focusing on their own behavior and what they can learn and do better is basically the only path.

      Now, if LW3 had some standing to shut stuff like this down in the moment or correct this person’s behavior that would be different. It doesn’t seem like that’s the case, so it’s best to focus on what they do have authority over: themselves.

      Also I will add that I have seen coworkers derail an unrelated meeting because leaders refused to provide a more appropriate avenue to share really important concerns (think safety, legal, etc). This is a lot more rare than people just unable to let go of old beef, but it’s possible and we don’t have enough context to know what’s up with this.

      TL;DR You are correct about this but giving it your time and attention when you can’t directly change it will make your own work experience worse and risk making you just like them.

    15. The Starsong Princess*

      Yes, this stakeholder will cause problems. But your best strategy is to conduct a lessons learned activity so you can avoid repeating problems. Gather these from everyone, not just the complainer so everyone will feel heard and their concerns addressed. However, as part of the meeting facilitation, you need to insist on professional, constructive feedback, not rants.

    16. Observer*

      They derailed a meeting for 20 minutes to lay into you about a 5 year old project?

      There are 2 pieces here.

      20 minutes? Way too much.

      Five year old project? Sure. Because it’s totally relevant. Especially since there are still unresolved problems that they have to deal with.

  5. Q*

    I traveled internationally when a newish manager on my level was just feeling confident. I gave her my hotmail address, told her not to give it to anyone else, and told her I was checking it once a day so if she really wanted my input to email me. About halfway through she sent me an email “hope you’re having a great time”. That was it. If it would reassure someone you could let them know you’ll send them an email to their personal account if you’re really thinking “I wish I could get Q’s thoughts on this”. They might feel a little less anxious about leaving.

    1. SarahKay*

      I leave my personal mobile (cell) number with my manager and his deputy in case of really serious problems that need my input.
      In eight years I’ve been contacted a total of two times – and I’m in the UK, so that’s 40 weeks’ vacation time – and both times it came with sincere apologies from the texter and for actual reasons that would have generated huge issues if they’d waited until my return.
      I’m actually reassured by the fact that they did contact me on those occasions because when, usually, there are no calls or texts I know it’s all fine and I can just relax.

      Note: this is definitely manager-dependant; if I couldn’t trust them to use it appropriately I wouldn’t share my number.

      1. amoeba*

        Yup, same here! Although we do sometimes use the private phone numbers to send envy-inducing holiday photos…

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Same here! My current manager and direct reports have my personal mobile and email when I’m on vacation, and it’s because I trust them implicitly. Some previous managers, though…

          In the prehistoric days before mobile phones, one of my managers insisted on knowing my hotel’s number. Like a fool, I gave it to her and got daily ‘check ins’ on work-related stuff. She knew damn well who was handling that activity while I was gone, she just didn’t care. A year later her replacement overheard me talking about my vacation plans with a trusted colleague, including the hotel I booked. He mailed me some reports to review and add my input – directly to the hotel – with a note saying, ‘In case you get bored!’ I mailed them back, unread. Boy, was he mad.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      My coworkers all have my cell number and I can check my work email on my personal phone, and they know that if there is something they really cannot answer they can contact me. It’s been over 15 years and I have never once been contacted about a work problem.

    3. JustaTech*

      The one time I went on vacation to Europe I gave my personal email to my boss and two coworkers to use if it was really important.
      They didn’t email me at all (very much in keeping with our culture) but it turns out that they *should* have, because they needed my middle name to buy plane tickets for a work trip that was planned while I was gone, and rather than sending me a 2-second email (“What’s your middle name?”) that I could have responded to equally quickly, they spent days and days trying to figure out where to get the info (HR?).

  6. In My Underdark Era*

    I don’t want to sound harsh to lw3’s stakeholder, because it can be really frustrating and demoralizing for stakeholders whose needs are not being met! but for a manager to spend 20 minutes laying into a junior team member for a project from 5 years ago (when you were VERY junior) is such a bad look, nevermind that it was derailing an unrelated meeting! I’d be so wary of a stakeholder who went off on a team member like that.

    i don’t think that really changes anything though. I think the stated advice is spot on for how to address it, but I’d also suggest pointing out the difference in support between that situation and now, just like you laid out here.

    but mostly I’m just here to be indignant on your behalf. if someone spent 20 minutes laying into me for my team’s failures on my first professional software project from 5 years ago? I’d be tempted to politely tell them they’re full of it. don’t do that. but I wouldn’t blame you.

    1. Mercurial*

      I mostly agree! But I think one thing to consider is the nature of what was being said. If this was 20 minutes of “OP is a complete idiot, not to be trusted” and so on then the complainant was out of line, no question. I’d have a little more sympathy if it was a 20 minute list of things the current software doesn’t do and which is causing headaches. So if it was 20 minutes of “and it doesn’t track llama appointments, can’t maintain grooming inventory, crashes if we see an alpaca…” then I could sort of see it being a bit more productive. Although probably still at the wrong person and in a less than ideal manner…

    2. Yap, yap, yap*

      I disagree. A bad implementation can impact your work for years especially when you were warned and the information was ignored.

      1. AD*

        That’s not really the point, though. Who to direct that frustration to and when (and in what tone) is important. If this was an accusatory rant directed solely at the OP (who was pretty junior 5 years ago and also, per her own admission, was not responsible for some of the issues of the old project), then it’s probably unhelpful and maybe a bit out of line.

        1. BTDT*

          Tone, attitude, all negative descriptors to dismiss an unpleasant truth-that this annoyed manager has spent 5 years working around an avoidable problem that was ignored with the last implementation.

  7. nnn*

    For #4, you could also mention it to your co-workers, in the sort of “BTW, I just discovered…” tone you’d use to share any workplace policy or practice that previously slipped under your radar.

    Generally, it’s useful for people to know these things. Pragmatically, there might be others around who also arrive at the idea of pushing back against it.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree, mention it to others – just because you had plenty banked doesn’t mean everybody did. Although I might change my mind based on comments below that this was widely known in workplaces where it happened (Fed govt). Also, TBH, I might relax for a chill Friday afternoon for two hours if I really felt miss-used here. But I say that as someone who always, always loses leave every year. (We get no rollover and it’s not a huge amount, and I’m way too anxious to use it up before the end of the year because I always think I ‘might need it.’ I have tried to correct this for three years in a row! Last year I got close, but I found it upsetting all through November to have such a small balance left).

    2. ferrina*

      100% – great advice!
      Definitely share this info with your coworkers, since HR doesn’t seem to want to do it.

  8. Person from the Resume*

    LW4, do you work for the federal government?

    ‘Cause that what happened to federal employees this year. Only it wasn’t a a shock or surprise. It was clearly communicated. The federal leave calendar rarely ends on December 31st; it always ends at the end of a 2 week pay period. Because of how the calendar fell, 2023 had 27 pay periods (the final pay period started on December 31st and ran through January 1st).

    I’d go with this isn’t “a hill to die on.” You clearly carried over maximum leave or you wouldn’t have lost anything. But also I’m not sure you’re actually the one “on top of your leave.” If you fully understood the leave policy, you wouldn’t have been caught unawares. And if you do happen to be a federal employee (and not in an organization that is following the same type of policy), the federal leave policy didn’t change at all; the use or lose date is always at the end of a pay period. You just misunderstood the system up until now and since a normal year has 26 pay periods, this might be the first time this has caught up with you.

      1. Scott*

        I (also a Fed) had the same thought. Well done on providing the links as I’m sure others who read this blog may also have not understood how it worked for 2023.

        1. FederalHRPerson*

          This is Federal government. OP ended the leave year with 240 leave hours banked, so i can’t really feel bad for them. Take your annual leave people! Or donate some hours.

    1. Gemstones*

      Question…why would the date changing from December 31 to January 13 mean losing time? I could see losing time if that date changed from January 13 to December 31, but doesn’t moving that date out mean you have more opportunity to take your time off?

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think time accrued between 31 December and 13 January was subsequently lost if you were always at your max? That’s how I read it.

        1. HB*

          I address part of this in my comment below, but I think the issue is that in a normal year, her PTO amounts to 104 hours. But because of the calendar quirk, she hit 104 hours on 12/17/23. Pretending for a moment that she’s typically allowed to rollover 14 hours… and she stays on top of her PTO, then by December 31st she probably made sure she had taken 90 hours of vacation. She then accrued an extra four hours, and only used 2 of them. Therefore for the 2023 year with the 27 pay periods… she accrued 108 hours, and used 92 leaving her with 16 hours unused… of which 2 were above the cap.

      2. CDM*

        Previously Company accrued vacation time from Jan 1 – Dec 31 and allowed staff to carry over, say 100 hours for this example, to the next year. So if you are at 100 hours on Dec 31, it all rolls over and you accrue another 6 hours, for 106 in the next pay period. You can go over the rollover cap throughout the calendar year, but have to use the excess over the cap before the rollover date.

        In this case, LW 4 was at 96 hours on Dec 31 and thought she was good. Jan 13 pay period brought her to 102 hours, but the changed rollover date meant she lost 2 hours and rolled over 100 from Jan 13 to Jan 14. She would have had to be at 94 hours Dec 31 to stay at the 100 hour cap on Jan 13 and keep all her accrued time.

    2. HB*

      It doesn’t sound like LW does work for the Federal government if they changed the use it or lose it deadline from Dec 31st to January 13th. I think the issue is more likely the point in your second article… the fact that due to a calendar quirk, there were 27 pay periods in 2023.

      Unless you’re paid on a monthly or semi-monthly basis, pay periods are never going to align with the actual calendar. There are 365 days in the year – and that does not divide evenly by 7.

      But certain things are always calculated based on the calendar – not the pay period. For example, payroll tax forms like W2s, 941s, etc will report wages and taxes based on when they were paid. If the last pay period ends on December 31st, but payroll checks are issued 2 days later, the wages you earned on December 31st will be in your next year’s W2.

      And at my job, my PTO is x days per year, and I have until December 31st to use it or roll over a small amount into the next year. But even though my W2 Wages and PTO may be based on a calendar year, it still has to fit inside a bi-weekly payroll system. My job solved this issue by starting my PTO bank at the full amount at the beginning of the year, then reducing it based on the actual number of days I take for vacation. At LW’s job, her PTO is increased each pay period… and in *every other year*, this has worked out so that her accrual is the same every year. But at the end of 2023, her PTO accrual hit her normal yearly max at the end of the 12/17/23 pay period. So the 2 hours she “lost” were part of the extra accrual. This also explains why she felt she was on top of it – most people think of their PTO in terms of number of days off, even if they then translate it into hours. She probably didn’t realize she had an extra half day to use. Particularly since it accrued, and then went away, in that weird liminal space.

      Incidentally, the next 27 pay period year will be in 2034 so assuming that LW’s job didn’t move to the Federal accrual system, they won’t need to worry about it for quite a while.

      1. La Triviata*

        LW #4 I’m not with the government, but several years ago, the person who handled HR issues for our very small organization changed how leave was accumulated and reported when used. He didn’t tell anyone – he went into the network file of the employee manual, changed it and said that having done so changed policies, expecting that the entire staff would read the revised manual and use that as the definitive guide.

        There was an uproar when people discovered the change.

      2. FederalHRPerson*

        Based on the way the letter is written I am fairly sure they do work for the Federal government but just never paid close enough attention to leave years calendar year. And as someone noted above, due to a quirk, 2023 had 27 pay periods. Some agencies are better than others about comunicating this stuff, but it’s all public knowledge.

    3. B*

      Also a fed, also had the same thoughts reading this. Not only is it *not* a hill to die on, but you absolutely will “die” on the hill if you try to fight HR over an issue that is set by OPM policy across the entire federal workforce. I cannot imagine a more hopeless battle. That said, I agree they handled all kinds of things confusingly relating to the pay period weirdness in 2023, whether it’s leave, benefits, pay increases, etc.

    4. LW #4*

      Nope, not federal. I went back to the emails around use or lose and found them very vague. The extension to use time was clear but that it would also include any time accrued during that extension was not.

      1. HB*

        LW, my math on this was wrong the first time because I was using the wrong number.. but it looks like you earn 156 hours of PTO / year. I would look to see if you accrued 162 hours between your first paycheck in 2023, and your first paycheck in 2024. Basically your payroll is accruing your PTO based on the first day in the pay period – as opposed to the last.

        You’ll get another 156 hours of accrued PTO this year: starting with the pay period beginning 1/14/2024 through the pay period beginning 12/29/2024. I think the reason they gave the extension was because there was an extra PTO accrual period – so people who were used to tracking their PTO by knowing the number of days/hours they get each year wouldn’t necessarily realize they were getting an extra 6 (or whatever) on December 31st.

      2. bureaucratte*

        Yeah, I think it’s worth just flagging for messaging BUT I’m pretty sure this is a quirk of the calendar that’s pretty rare so it’s not necessarily going to stick for when it’s next an issue

    5. Thorns can be useful*

      To stretch the battle analogy a little: this isn’t a hill to die on, but it’s worth putting up some barb wire before retreating. I think it’s worth mentioning this to other coworkers, and point out to HR that it wasn’t communicated well and caused you to lose 2 hours.

      The goal is not to get those 2 hours back. The goal is that the next time there’s something similar, HR says to themselves, “Communicating this clearly might be slightly difficult/painful, but it’s easier than dealing with the complaints if we don’t.”

    6. bureaucratte*

      Eh. There were a lot of announcements about how you would accrue more leave last year but I was also surprised that the use or lose wasn’t December 31. I had enough that I used the restored leave approach, but the messaging probably carried agency by agency. I WAS tracking because I would have lost over 60 hours if I couldn’t restore but I still was surprised when my boss took use or lose in Jan. But also it’s the federal government. There’s literally nothing talking to HR can do unless she works for OPM messaging department

      1. bureaucratte*

        Oh I see LW 4 responded, so I guess my response is just for federal employees ‍♀️

  9. Aardvark*

    LW1 – Say not to the phone. Other s have already addressed the need for the manager to have a break.
    But you also need to consider those still working. It can be really hard to fully act in a role when the person on leave is still chiming in. And if worked where it has become quite demoralising that the manager doesn’t trust those still working without checking in on them for a daily update even when they are on leave. Give the other employees a chance to step up, and make the manager take leave properly

    1. Goldie*

      Yes decisions have to be made on a different time zone. Then the vacationing person chimes in later-it’s annoying.

      Unplugging takes discipline.

      1. GrumpyCat*

        yes this – its just not helpful! make plans with the team for who is going to cover what, and then let them get on with it. If it’s a role where there are likely to be true emergencies, then cover needs to be built in, the manager on vacation can’t be responsible for dealing with these.
        My manager has recently been on vacation and kept checking her emails and sometimes acting on them, at unpredictable times. This meant she wasn’t aware of discussions and plans we were already making on the ground to deal with situations that were arising, and she was coming into the middle of email trails with completely unhelpful and derailing suggestions. This was confusing for the people in other teams, who didn’t know if they should be listening to her as the manager, or me as the person on the ground, so plans that we had made got stalled or derailed because “oh, we were happy to do that, but then Your Manager said we should do this instead”. It was a mess. And much more about her anxiety and need to feel essential than any need there was for her to do this.

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          Years ago I spent a day covering for a colleague who had scheduled a patient for a glucose curve, where their blood sugar is taken every two hours. I always let pet owners know that we look at the trend from the whole day at the end of the day, rather than single numbers (i.e. please don’t call me every two hours all day). Well, the person I was working for wanted updates on every blood sugar herself! Texting wasn’t quite a thing yet, so every two hours the doctor would call and I would have to get on the phone, exchange pleasantries, tell her the latest number, assure her the pet was as comfortable and normal appearing as he had been the last time we spoke, and rinse and repeat again in two hours. I can’t imagine she had a day off in any meaningful way, a lot of my time and energy was wasted, and it felt like she didn’t trust me.

    2. English Rose*

      Agreed – either the person on leave has to refrain from responding and then remember what they need to respond to when they get back or, as you say, chime in and demoralise others.

      I like the suggestion at the end of the response to give the person a return day free of new work. In my team we frequently do this – set the email auto-responder to show we’re returning a day later than we actually return and spend that first day working from home and catching up.

      I’ve even been known to auto schedule my responses to deliver the next day so people don’t know I’m working on my first day back.

  10. Coverage Associate*

    I have been unlucky when I have taken PTO and problems have arisen, and also got jammed up a couple of times when smart phones were new and I didn’t have one but my bosses did. These weren’t bad employers on the whole, but it reduced my standing in their eyes to be out of pocket in those situations. (These weren’t true vacations, but single days or half days off, but still planned, which probably did influence perceptions on both sides.) As a consequence, I am one of those people who would prefer to check work email once or twice a day while on vacation, even for longer periods off. I used to not take vacation because I was worried about missing something and being unfairly blamed for a mess. It would be hard for me to swallow an employer requiring complete separation.

    1. münchner kindl*

      If you were blamed for a mess just because you couldn’t be reached by phone, you have a problem with bad management.

      A good company with competent managers will not unfairly blame people.

      And a company with bad manglement who unfairly blames people is not solved by checking email on vacation, but searching for a job at a better company.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Ding Ding Ding. The solution to being unfairly blamed is to get a new job not interrupt your vacation for anything short of an actual emergency you can actually address. Which for most people is not a lot. Building burned down — well what can you do about it. Servers blew up? Unless you are IT, not a lot you can do.

        Vacation is to rest and relax. If you can’t do that because you are constantly connected to work, then you aren’t on vacation. You are just out of the office.

        Also even if you don’t check on your phone but you use the hotel business center,, your might be compromising security. The hotel computer/wifi is not secured.

      2. Jackalope*

        This is even more so the case since you were only taking single or even half days off! If they couldn’t manage without you for a single day then there was a serious issue on their end, not something wrong with you for being unreachable for a DAY.

      3. Peanut Hamper*

        I know it might be a typo, but “bad manglement” is so appropriate in a case like this!

        1. Münchner Kindl*

          Like cow-orker for some people, I read manglement on the internet somewhere and decided to use it as apt description.

          So no, not a typo, a deliberate description.

    2. Dinwar*

      Been there, done that, got the t-shirt and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

      Here’s what I’ve figured out: If a project can’t handle me taking A DAY off, they’re already doomed. What happens if I leave? Or if I get injured/sick? Or if a family member does? If there’s literally no one capable of taking my place, the projects will collapse.

      Further, if BEING HUMAN reduces my standing in someone’s eyes, I have to wonder what they’re expecting. Humans like all industrial equipment require routine maintenance to maintain peak efficiency; for humans, that includes time away from work. (This is not new; this was known in the Middle Ages, which is why they had more holidays than we do and, contrary to popular belief, even peasants routinely went on pilgrimages.) If someone holds that against me, what it means is that THEIR standards are unreasonable, just as much as if they criticized a screwdriver for hammering nails poorly.

      The reality is that people do this to you and me because it’s easier for them to blame us for things than to actually take the initiative and fix the problems themselves. Us taking time off forces them to take initiative, make decisions, and take on a bit of risk (the sort of risk we routinely take on as part of the job). It’s uncomfortable for them, and they react by avoiding the discomfort. But the discomfort doesn’t go away; it just gets passed on to you and me, which also magnifies it.

    3. Rebecca*

      “It would be hard for me to swallow an employer requiring complete separation.”

      This is because you were in (maybe still are in) an unhealthy work environment. Your preference for engagement is a trauma response. It doesn’t sound like things work the same way in the LW’s company.
      I hope you get to a healthy environment and are able to develop a vacation strategy that is about personal preference rather than a coping mechanism for a bad environment (and that you learn to allow others the same flexibility).

    4. Observer*

      It would be hard for me to swallow an employer requiring complete separation.

      Well, I think you need to rethink your perception of them as “good employers” if they blamed you under those circumstances.

      And it’s really not ok to bring that kind of toxicity into other employers. As everyone has been pointing out, the main reason why the OP has to not give the employee what she wants is because of the effect on other staff. The OP is trying to NOT be your former employers, but part of making that happen is to not engage in behavior that fosters their unreasonable expectations.

  11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (lost accrued PTO) – generally a company wouldn’t extend the date company-wide just because of people “not on top of their leave”. I suppose managers might unofficially allow some of the lost time to be taken off the books. But being company-wide – is it possible that due to broader company activities (deadlines, lack of cover etc) people didn’t get to take their PTO and that’s why it was extended?

  12. tokyo salaryman*

    LW1, Can you talk to your friend/coworker to understand what’s going on? Maybe something in her personal life is affecting her work. You could try something like, “I recommended you because you were great at Company A, but since joining, you’ve been negative and difficult. What’s going on?”

    Let her know that her behavior is affecting you too. Since you are (or were?) friends, that might hold some weight. You could say, “I vouched for you, but your actions are making things difficult for me. It’s okay if the job isn’t for you, but how you’re acting now is hurting both of us.”

    1. Ellis Bell*

      These are great scripts. I would also be tempted to point out that new people aren’t expected to always see or understand the rationales for things, but they are expected to tread water while they are getting accustomed, and go whereever the prevailing current takes them. It’s like OP’s friend has an inflexibility with this kind of change. I’d be tempted to say “You don’t seem to have expected there to be a different way of doing things, which is coming across oddly. New people are expected to take some time learning and absorbing before criticising – even if personally, you ultimately decide you like the routine you already know.”

  13. Brain the Brian*

    We have the opposite problem with international travel and phones where I work. We have to travel internationally for work and have a phone that functions everywhere, but our company refuses to get us company phones or pay for an international phone plan for us. We have to cover it ourselves. I am forever annoyed by this.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        If we were 1099 consultants, it probably would be. But we’re W2 employees — and in any case, it wouldn’t add up to enough to make it worth itemizing.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      You want me to be available internationally on this trip that is for you? Then you pay for it. Otherwise, I am not available.

    2. amoeba*

      Hah, yeah, similar situation here – our work phones have zero international data. We can book additional packages though if we’re traveling for work, and I believe with managerial approval the company pays for it?

      But the problem: we’re in Europe, and very, very close to the border with not one, but two other countries. A *lot* of colleagues (like, half the department) are actually cross-border commuters. Which means they have zero data available in home office, on their (train) commute, etc…. Not the best solution I could imagine!

      1. Brain the Brian*

        We’re not that bad, at least. But it still “We’re sending you on a long trip overseas that leaves tomorrow (or sometimes in just a few hours) and need you to be available the whole time. No, we can’t reimburse you for your additional phone charges.” Sigh.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I think I’d either use it as an excuse for not being available during my commute, or I’d make a hotspot with my private phone. You just have to be really, really vigilant to switch setups when crossing the border, or it can get expensive quick.

        I have to say though, this issue has gotten so, so much better in recent years, within the EU it’s not even “international” anymore, it has to be included at the same price. There are even data plans Switzerland + EU that are not that much more expensive.

  14. Big Pig*

    I kind of understand LW1’s colleague’s point of view. I just moved companies staying within my industry and department and whilst I like my new team and the substance of the job is the same some of the processes are confusing and unnecessarily convoluted. I think here it is more of a case that the colleague is having a bit of a crisis about the job with no confidence and as you already know her she think you are a safe space, make her know you aren’t for her as well as you.
    Also, she might not be wrong about the processes being ridiculous, I know my new colleagues are all long termers who just accept the way things have always been done but I have been questioning some stuff and noting other stuff for the future.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I also wondered if OP is hearing more of the new-person’s internal ruminations than usual because of their relationship.

    2. ecnaseener*

      She might not be wrong, but if she’s too new to know whether she’s right (and not just right about “in an ideal world this would be different” but also about “this is worth the effort and inconvenience for us to change”), then it’s probably a mix.

      If she held onto most of her suggestions for the future like you’re doing, and only raised a select few while she’s new, people would probably be much more willing to look critically at those few.

      1. Observer*

        She might not be wrong, but if she’s too new to know whether she’s right

        This is the thing. It’s all of 4 weeks. Which means that she is almost certainly too new to know whether she’s right or wrong.

        If she held onto most of her suggestions for the future

        Exactly. It’s ok to have questions. But adults need to know how to filter. They should know better than to say everything they think. Especially since she’s claiming that X “works a lot better” than what the company is doing. How could she even know that, so soon into her tenure.

      2. tangerineRose*

        Yeah, when I’m new to an area at work, I write down ideas I have that might improve things, but I don’t suggest them until I learn enough about the subject to know if they’re reasonably good ideas.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      I say this kindly: if you’re new to an organization you’re probably not in a place to decide unilaterally that someone is unnecessarily convoluted. There may be reasons for it that you aren’t privy to. Rather than complaining, a better approach would be to ask for clarification on why the processes are the way they are.

      1. Number22*

        I agree a better approach is to ask for clarification. However, just because someone is new doesn’t mean they aren’t in a place to make legitimate observations. I’ve been in the same career role for years. There are industry standards and research and all sorts of blogs/influencers for my role. Even with everyone putting their twist on it, there is a RIGHT way to do the job. Recently I switched jobs and my new team is… not doing it right. They’ve all only ever worked for this company and their processes get the job done but they are far from maximizing efficiency. When I question things, there is a serious tone of “Oh? We didn’t even think about that… but we also don’t really care.”

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          My point is that even with industry standards there may be reasons behind the scenes for why they have to/choose to do it a certain way. For example, I’m a super user of a specific database. When I came into my current position they had only been using it for a year, while I had been using it for almost five. I definitely had thoughts about how they were using it and wondered why they wouldn’t just do XYX which is easier than ABC. It turns out that the reason was that because we’re in a consortium, meaning we share the database with other organizations, so my way of doing things wasn’t necessarily possible due to the need for multiple control groups and keeping consistency within the database. While I was able to make changes in some ways, there were things that I simply had to get used to doing a different way.

          I’m not saying there is never a time where someone can come into a new position and immediately see that they’re doing things wrong, but I think it’s less likely than people needing to do things a different way because of reasons the new person doesn’t know yet.

        2. Observer*

          I’ve been in the same career role for years. There are industry standards and research and all sorts of blogs/influencers for my role. Even with everyone putting their twist on it, there is a RIGHT way to do the job.

          Sure. But it’s kind of not credible that HALF of all processes are genuinely and objectively wrong. So, that’s a credibility killer for Sadie right there.

      2. ferrina*

        Yes, this is the best way to approach it. For the first month or two, stick to questions and seek understanding, even if the processes are an utterly ridiculous ninja warrior course of bureaucracy. The other thing a newbie doesn’t know is the politics. Maybe this policy is the pet admin procedure of a certain testy VIP.

        The best to suggest changes early on is in the form of a question. “Hey, have we thought about trying X?” or “At Old Company, we did Y which worked really well for solving Z. Have we ever tried something similar?”

    4. Sneaky Squirrel*

      She might not be wrong, but the way she’s handling it is inappropriate. She’s calling LW, asking questions, and immediately complaining about these processes because they’re not liker her old job. She’s only been at the company for four weeks. She should be in observation mode trying to learn and understand why things are the way they are, and while that doesn’t mean she can’t have suggestions, these should be handled more tactfully as a productive one-on-one discussions with the boss.

      1. Angstrom*

        Tone and tact make an enormous difference. “I’ve got a suggestion that might make that easier for you” will get a much more positive reaction than “That’s really stupid! You should do it this way”.

    5. Observer*

      Also, she might not be wrong about the processes being ridiculous, I know my new colleagues are all long termers who just accept the way things have always been done but I have been questioning some stuff and noting other stuff for the future.

      In *4 weeks* she’s been able to reasonably conclude that over half of the processes are ridiculous? I find that to be *extremely* unlikely.

  15. Venus*

    LW1 you should say something to your boss about your friend’s reaction being very unexpected. They may be wondering if you prefer this behavior so your boss may be struggling with how to respond.

  16. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

    Number one. I’ve BEEN that friend and I’m very grateful that my best friend is still my best friend, I don’t work with her anymore and she did what she always does which is call me out directly when I’m being an arse.

    Fun fact: I’m a world champion complaining pessimistic arrogant sod at times. Sure my life sucks beyond the realm of suckage but I don’t have the right to drag others down with it.

    So what she did was one day when we were playing video games round her place was get me a cup of tea and say something like ‘just got to ask can you try to be Nice Keymaster at work please? You’re being a bloody nuisance and skiving off work’

    (Like I said, she’s blunt)

    But, it worked. I didn’t want my friend mad at me! I did eventually realise I didn’t like that job anyway and moved on shortly after. We’re still sisters by choice :)

    Obviously modify the talk to remove the swearing, tone and whatever suits you. But I think doing it outside of work is key.

  17. Why Won't You Let Me Unplug*

    LW2, you can shut this down pretty easily. “There is no business or operational need for you to check your email while you are on leave. As such, we will not be supplying you with an international phone plan. I can’t stop you from checking your email on vacation, but I would *strongly* advise against it. We want you to relax, forget about this place, have fun!”

    My company goes so far as to bar connections to your email from international locations, partially for security, partially for this reason.

    To me, this is almost cheeky. Even if they did check their email on leave, I guarantee they’d be using it more for themselves overseas. “I’ll do work on/with it, I promise” is the oldest trick in the book.

    1. H2*

      I mean, that was also my thought, that they thought “I should do something about getting international phone access for my trip…I bet work will pay for it if I say I need to be available”. Maybe that’s not fair, but it is where my mind immediately went.

      1. NYWeasel*

        I’m glad someone else had the same thought, lol! My work phone does have international access on it, so you better believe that it’s the phone I use for GPS, texting, email, etc, when I’m in Canada!

      2. Old and Don't Care*

        I also assumed the employee just wanted work to pay for the international plan.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Does anyone else wonder if the international phone request is perhaps a bid to try working internationally beyond the vacation time?

      Because it seems like a lot of effort to go to, to set up an international phone plan for a (at most) 2-3 week vacation – esp. when email should be plenty of contact, it it is really needed while on vacation.

      Personally, I do check my email and voicemail while I am on vacation – in fact, my voicemail goes to my email. But I’m self-employed and that’s one of the trade-offs of being your own boss.

      1. Sarah*

        Some typical US plans will sell you international access for $10/day – guessing that is what the worker was hoping to get covered.

        If you have a dual e-sim phone, you also can just buy an esim online for the data you need abroad. It is relatively inexpensive for a 14-day vacation plan (compared to $10/day).

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      There was a recent scandal in the UK when it emerged that a politician had run up a five-figure data bill on a work device because he had taken it on holiday (and, allegedly, let his children stream sports fixtures).

      “Keeping up with constituency business.”

  18. Enn Pee*

    LW1, I had recommended my friend for a job (in a related department) and they had many more manual processes than her previous department. She went in with a “whoa, we need to fix ALLLL of this attitude” which did not endear her to her coworkers.
    I encouraged her instead to keep a running list (and it would be long) of everything she felt needed a process improvement, automation, etc. In the meantime, she should just dig in, ask questions (not in a negative way, just to learn) and bide her time until she had enough capital within the new department to start making recommendations.
    She took my advice and I heard from someone recently that they love her — she has made the positive relationships that will allow her to make recommendations…

    1. ecnaseener*

      +1 Keeping a list is a great idea — as you settle in you’ll get a better idea of which items on the list are worth raising, which are maybe-someday projects to propose, and which you were just wrong about..

    2. redflagday701*

      This is such a hard thing for so many people with genuinely good ideas to understand: No matter how good the idea, implementation is almost always a challenge, starting with just getting buy-in. Seemingly simple things are difficult when more than one human being is involved.

  19. WellRed*

    As an aside what does OP 1 mean by “company paid vacation?” Is the company paying for the trip? If it’s just normal paid vacation days, I find that framing odd and worry it would make the employee feel more of a need to stay on top of things.

  20. ZSD*

    #5 I’m guessing this is a federal agency since the writer said, “My agency,” and since I know that last year’s federal pay calendar threw things out of whack. Our annual raises didn’t go into effect until January 13, either! I was bummed about that.
    At any rate, LW, I hope your HR is more understanding than my agency’s. Our HR is very, “These are the rules and we stick to them,” rather than, “This is a reasonable request, and I’ll see what I can do.”

  21. Didi*

    I hear you, OP#1. I have referred friends for jobs twice in my life, and both times they turned out to be awful. One of them demanded a raise after she’d worked there a whole two weeks (as basic admin support), and went around complaining that she was too good for the job. The other one was just lazy and complacent – again in an entry-level role – and made costly mistakes.

    These people were both great friends who I would never have suspected would be awful employees and co-workers. Both times the situation reflected badly on me. The situation damaged our friendship too.

    I swore after #2 that I’d never refer anyone for a job ever again. And I haven’t.

    1. At Last...Friday*

      I refer no one for/to anything. Not a salon, restaurant, doctor, nothing. Rest assure they will have a terrible experience while yours has been nothing but good, and you will have to hear all about it. I tell folks how to do their own research.

    2. EmmaPoet*

      I’m starting to feel very lucky that the one person I’ve ever referred turned out to be a rock star at the job and stayed on after I left!

  22. Victor WembanLlama*

    The only hesitancy with #2 is that the OP says it’s a “company paid vacation”. Not sure what that means exactly but is it an extension of a work trip?

    If the employer is somehow paying for the trip it’s not unreasonable that there’s work involved

    1. Doc in a Box*

      I thought that means using some of your paid vacation days (which are part of your compensation!) rather than taking unpaid time away.

      I often do tack on a few days of vacation if I’m going on a work trip in an interesting location, especially if it allows me to return mid-week when flights are cheaper. But I’m very clear in my out of office message with something like “[Date] – [Date]: conference; checking messages intermittently. [Date]-[Date]: vacation; will respond to email on my return.”

  23. HonorBox*

    OP2 – Stand firm on the no international plan. Your thought process in implementing this is great. Plus because of the unknown with time differences and when they might be checking messages, it could be that they’re unable to respond in a timely fashion, which could cause more harm than good. Plus, are they in a position to give a thoughtful response to an email if they’re standing elbow to elbow with people waiting to see the Mona Lisa? I think the idea of letting them know that their first day back will allow them to go through messages is great.

    OP4 – It might be worth flagging this with HR. Two hours isn’t a hill to die on to be sure, but it might help with future messaging if there’s some uncertainty in how changes are spelled out. Also, by saying something you may help another coworker who lost more time.

  24. BecauseHigherEd*

    LW 2 – In the higher ed world, there’s recently been a big push to have travel registries for faculty and staff going abroad–some of this is of course related to the current geopolitical climate, but it’s also related to keeping track of when employees are in different countries and, if necessary, planning emergency responses if the employee is delayed or gets stuck. This is actually becoming the case *even when the employee isn’t travelling on university business.*

    This obviously is not the case at your place of work, and I know the employee wants to have access to their email just to keep abreast of work things…but it may actually not be a bad idea to have an international phone plan available for employees in case emergencies arise and they need to contact you all. This could be something as simple as, “Hey, my flight from Madrid was bumped, I’m going to be late coming back,” to “There was a humanitarian crisis here and I’m hiding at the consulate.”

    One of my coworkers was on a non-work-related trip to Israel on October 7 and had an international phone plan, so it allowed him to a) let us know he was okay, b) keep receiving updates from the US Department of State about travel risks, and c) let us know if/when he was coming back.

  25. redflagday701*

    “But also: (a) explain why — that it’s not just about their personal preferences but it’s something with ramifications for the health of the team as a whole”

    With stuff like this, when someone wants you to make “one little exception” for them, it is so helpful to remember that one little exception often opens a whole can of worms. LW2, if you give in to this employee, it’s all too easy to imagine another employee asking if they can have an international phone plan too. And then someone else says they don’t want an international phone plan, but if the company is willing to spend that extra money for other employees, could they get the difference and use it to upgrade their company-sponsored gym membership? What Alison said is reason enough, but beyond that, it’s good to nip this stuff in the bud because it creates issues the original requester hadn’t considered.

  26. Governmint Condition*

    On #4, I have worked for supervisors who would, in a situation like this, look the other way if you wanted to leave work two hours early one day without charging that leave. Or, if you work remotely, let you log into a fake meeting for two hours and walk away from your computer. But not everybody works for such a person, and the real issue seems to be a breakdown of communication between the larger HR and the agency’s HR.

    I wonder if enough people from this agency contact the larger HR, the larger HR can do what is needed to correct the situation for everyone affected.

  27. JennG*

    LW3 – I absolutely agree with the advice given, but from having been on both sides of this equation:

    1. If you can manage it, radical candour and acceptance goes a long way. If a vent starts, one way to handle it is kind of put your hand up and say “Manager, I agree with you!” and then just keep saying “agreed.” If it’s a more personal slam you can say “I agree with you that it was a suboptimal implementation”

    I’m in an environment right now where my area has been neglected for a *decade.* It’s a bit easier for me because I wasn’t personally there (more on this in a bit) but every. single. meeting. with a new person starts with a 10-20 minute rant. I welcome this, because – the air needs some clearing. I am taking the opportunity to a) fact find (“what problems, specifically, does that create for you?”) and b) establish that I care.

    Also, definitely have your Reasons To Believe You Now in place for any time this comes up (I predict it will come up at least 5 more times.) “I hear you. At that time, I wasn’t as aware that XYZ stage should have been done FGH way, but this time we’ve built that time/review/testing into our project plan.”

    Finally…I have it easy because it wasn’t me that messed this up, but the fact is, I have messed up plen.ty. in my career. But if you were managing a big project and no one STOPPED you from messing up, it really wasn’t about you, personally, specifically. It was about you + the system that did not catch that for whatever reason. So it is really, really okay to say “the team didn’t…” and just let go that this is personal. The manager probably is making it a bit personal, but you don’t have to wear a hairshirt about it. Just do better. Now you are the experienced person who will help this organization not make that mistake again – and that’s really valuable. Hang tight.

  28. Rebecca*

    “But, I also question if it’s appropriate for me to decide what is best for their well-being.”

    No, it is not.
    Deny the request based on cost, policy, or precedent, or some combination thereof, not based on your belief that you know better than they do how to establish their work-life balance.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I don’t know. There is a lot of documented research that shows that employees who fully and completely disconnect from work during vacations are actually better employees as a result. Which means that it is better for the company (they get a better employee) and it is better for the employee (they are a better employee and thus get better reviews and more opportunities).

      I think it is a reasonable expectation that employees completely disconnect when they are on vacation.

      1. Antilles*

        There’s also a team dynamics piece of this too. When it comes to having people work while on vacation, the manager letting it happen often ends up creating the perception of “this is normal” or co-workers feeling like pressure to do the same thing.

      2. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

        There’s a lot of research demonstrating any number of things are better for people on average and enable them to be better employees, that are still inappropriate for an employer to decide outside of the business requirements of the role.

    2. trust me I'm a PhD*

      Yeah. As an ND person who finds that I often do best when I can distribute work across a longer period of time, which includes working after 5 pm or weekends, language that suggests a manager knows better than I do what will help me feel relaxed and chill about work is not going to cultivate a good working relationship.

      Totally the company’s call to decide they don’t want to pay for the international phone, which seems like a lot of money and could set precedent for employees who would prefer to disconnect. But don’t couch it in this weird mother-knows-best framing, of “this will really be better for you!”

  29. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP3 – the framing that you should have in your head for this is “lessons learned” and “professional growth”, not apology. You didn’t deliberately ignore that stakeholder or make mistakes out of malice or carelessness.

    The aggrieved stakeholder has been carrying a grudge, yes. But you should dispassionately consider how much of this is animus towards your project & team, an accumulation of unhappiness with that stakeholder’s segment of the business over time, etc. – as opposed to a personal grudge against you specifically.

  30. Misquoted*

    I’m one of those people who prefers to keep up on emails during a vacation when it makes sense (at the very least, deleting all of the notifications I get but don’t have to really do anything with, etc.). I do like the idea of having a day after a vacation to just deal with emails and get caught up on messages, without having any major meetings or deadlines or new work.

  31. tabloidtainted*

    “But, I also question if it’s appropriate for me to decide what is best for their well-being.”

    But you’re not doing that! Your responsibility is to ensure that your company is not pressuring employees to work on their time off or creating scenarios that make it inevitable that they will work on their time off. That extends to making sure your company is not enabling employees to work on their time off by providing things like international phone plans that might encourage them or indicate to them that you *expect* them to be available.

    If an employee still decides to work during their time off after all that, it’s on them. But your company should create environments that heavily emphasize not working during vacation (rather than environments that have no emphasis one way or another, or that emphasize working).

  32. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    OP2 – So, I definitely understand this. A full inbox with no context when you return from vacation is kinda awful. I am wondering if you could encourage people to leave their work phones wifi on, in airplane mode in their hotel rooms? This is typically what I do when I travel internationally. Since it’s typically ahead vs. behind for me (think US to Europe), it’s not uncommon for my colleagues to get responses at what looks like the middle of the night their time as I will scan my emails for anything urgent when I get up in the morning as we’re getting ready for the day’s activities. My responses are usually of the ilk of, “Hey, I am OOO and traveling internationally so I can’t address this but am cc’ing [applicable staff person] to handle in my absence.” (My OOO has that info, but more generally, as depending on the issue will depend on who is best to loop.)

    That said, OP, I don’t disagree with you. I’d also argue there may be security issues in encouraging this beyond a quick scan of emails in the morning. As someone who suffers from this kind of anxiety this method works really well for me!

  33. anywhere but here*

    LW2, if your company pays for the phone, you are quite literally investing in employees being available when they are on vacation (internationally!)

    Is that something you want to invest in? Something you want your company to invest in? No, of course not. You’re not saying, “No, I am mandating that you can’t do work things on vacation.” You’re saying, “I am not putting company funds towards employees working during time they have off.” If they want to check things so bad, they can figure something out. But they probably don’t need to.

    The one caveat I can think of is if the person also uses their work phone for personal things and if it may be cheaper to just add international to that phone than to get another phone just for the international travel. But I think you’d know if it were standard and accepted for employees to use work phones in lieu of personal phones. (My workplace allows you to port your personal number to a work phone, but I have never done that. When my phone goes off, I want to know whether or not I’m going to be annoyed.)

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I have a LOT of reasons I keep my work and personal phones separate! I do have some colleagues who forward their lines to their personal phones and put their work email on them but I am not one of them and never will be. I just always keep my ringer on my work cell (except when it is not prudent, like during a show) and also just make sure key people (that I trust with the info) have my personal cell in case of emergencies when I am OOO. (As I am more likely to see a text or call on my personal phone more quickly!

  34. aarti*

    I am a manager and I absolutely don’t want my team checking on or at least responding to emails on vacation.
    1. I really want you to have the break.
    2. We work with a lot of volunteers. I never want them to think that people will respond on vacation. They already don’t respect our time. It is very important to me they understand we are on vacation and that means VACATION.
    3. It is also a chance for me to appraise your work. It’s another system of checks and balances. If stuff isn’t getting done or you are struggling and have managed to hide it, here is when I find out.

    If you absolutely must check emails on vacation, please do not respond!

    1. I Have RBF*

      3. It is also a chance for me to appraise your work. It’s another system of checks and balances. If stuff isn’t getting done or you are struggling and have managed to hide it, here is when I find out.

      Here is also when you find out if people are overloading your subordinate, because now other people have to handle it.

      I’ve had jobs where my boss didn’t actually know how much crap I handled until I was on vacation for a week.

  35. Decidedly Me*

    LW1 – one of my direct reports referred a previous coworker of hers. This report was one of my highest performing people, so a referral held a lot of weight and I ended up hiring them. When he started working, though, things were not good at all. He wasn’t melding with the team (to the point of causing conflicts), struggled to grasp processes, etc.

    My report came to me and noted she was seeing the same problems I was and was shocked. This wasn’t the behavior she had seen when they worked together previously and she wouldn’t have referred him if it had been. Hearing this from her helped on my side, as it was strange to get such poor performance after a glowing recommendation.

    In my case, though, things worked out. It was touch and go with the referral for awhile and looked like I’d have to fire him, but he ended up completely turning things around and became one of my top performers.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      Yes, I think it would be a good idea to talk to your boss about this, and be clear that your experience with her was very different. I’d be concerned that your reputation might take a hit. Also, if things get to the point where she’s terminated, I would want my boss to know that I am not going to pitch a fit.

  36. Enn Pee*

    LW2 – Malissa Clark just wrote a book called Never Not Working that does a good job explaining the research on why overwork is bad, why people really do need to completely unplug, etc.

  37. Hiring Mgr*

    You can definitely deny giving them a new international phone, but you shouldn’t tell others how to spend their time.

    Of course in general it’s good to log off on vacation, but some people can more easily relax if they at least check email once or twice a day. It doesn’t mean they’re ruining their health or have poor habits

  38. Sharon*

    LW #2
    This seems pretty clear cut. The company doesn’t want/expect you to be available while you’re on vacation, so the employee shouldn’t expect the company to pay for their international phone plan.

    Also, it’s my experience that when I take a long vacation, people figure out I’m gone after the first few days and start finding other solutions that don’t involve me. It’s good training for my colleagues and also makes my manager aware of all the stuff I handle.

  39. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP3: I think the right way for you to look at this is “professional development” and “organizational lessons learned”, not apology. You didn’t make any mistakes or downplay the concerns of this stakeholder out of malice.

    Now this stakeholder does seem to have hung onto a grudge for a while. But I think it’s worth considering, dispassionately, if this is the result of an accumulation of feeling ignored by the company, or whether they feel this reaction is necessary so as not to be ignored in the future — and not as a personal grudge against you.

    (apologies if this double-posts, got some weird internet today…)

  40. LCH*

    #2, checking in on work while away. hopefully there is a way to forward issues to other members of staff while someone is on vacation so urgent things are handled right away. so when they do come back, many of the things in the inbox are just historical/FYI.

  41. kiki*

    For LW1, Alison’s advice to discreetly let your boss know Sadie is operating much differently now than when you worked together will go a long way in making sure Sadie’s bad impression doesn’t cast a shadow on you. A good boss will understand that you genuinely had a great working relationship with Sadie before and you would not have recommended her if you knew she’d react to the new position like this.

  42. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    LW#4 – same thing happened to me only in the opposite direction. They said the last date was June 30th, but the reality was any PTO taken the pay period that included June 30th was taken AFTER they voided the “expired” PTO. So I lost 14 hours of accrued time and then the 16 hours I took on June 17 and 18 were taken off the rolled over balance.

    HR wouldn’t do anything saying that was just how it was. , but I had a quiet talk with my direct boss and took the 14 hours off without recording them spread out over Friday afternoons that summer and now I make sure to get my balance to the rollover threshold 3 weeks early.

    HR still tells everyone to take the vacation by June 30th.

  43. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    I recommended a former co-worker for a job at my work. I explained the position, the hours and the pay (union) . She accepted the job and commencing complaining about everything by the third day. Her last straw was asking the manager to take hours away from another person and give them to her. The answer of course was no (union). She then ghosted the job. I apologized to the manager and never recommended anyone else again.

  44. Observer*

    #2 – International phone plan.

    Do NOT upgrade the plan. The thing here is that if you require someone to be on call, then you have an obligation to pay for the plan that makes it possible. The flip side of that is that if you pay for that, it implies an *expectation* that they will be available.

    Now, you are right that it’s not your place to get into her specific mental health and decision making around it. But you *are* responsible for trying to create an environment that is supportive of reasonable mental health measures. And also for creating an environment where fallback and contingency plans are a real thing. Because if you don’t have the baked into your culture and processes, your systems are very brittle and unnecessarily dependent on a single person / point of failure.

    Which means that *the rest of your staff* need to know that there is simply no expectation here (and thus won’t feel pressured to “voluntarily offer” to be available). And also that they should use whatever contingency / substitute plans are in place.

    And you might point out to her that trying to manage things from across the world is sending a really bad message to the people who are supposed to be her backstop.

  45. cheeks*

    I was about to come out in full support for LW4 but as soon as I read it was only 2 hours, I stopped. I agree with Alison’s advice – if this were even just a bit more, like a full day, I’d escalate it and ask for a hush-hush day off. But there’s nothing you can do with just 2 hours. Maybe I’d just take a long lunch or leave an hour early a couple of days if possible and not mention it.

  46. Spicy Tuna*

    I would never, ever be able to be away from work and not check email periodically. It would ruin my time off. If I couldn’t do it, I just wouldn’t take vacation. It wouldn’t be worth it because the amount of work and stress upon return would wipe out the vacation relaxation almost immediately. It’s just a 30 minute daily investment to ensure that the return to work isn’t horrifying.

  47. gmg22*

    Re LW#1: I can’t help but have empathy for Sadie even if she is getting off on the wrong foot. There are so many possible reasons for that and they don’t all necessarily have to do directly with the job, though it’s certainly possible that it’s just a bad fit. It’s also possible that LW takes the things she now knows about the job for granted, and that the training/onboarding process isn’t working for Sadie for some legitimate reason. Is the routine complaining the best way to handle this? No, obviously it isn’t — if these things keep coming up over and over, then make a list and ask for a meeting with your boss to deal with them collectively. But on the other hand, “this is just how things are here, deal with it” is always a red flag for me.

    I once worked with a bona fide “rock star” who, when she eventually ended up at a different employer I had moved on to several years before, struggled a lot right out of the gate. Some of it was personal stuff going on (a family loss), and some of it was just adjusting to a very different work environment. I hadn’t directly recommended this colleague, but I did tell my boss that I had full faith she was going to get things under control, and she absolutely did. But she also eventually moved departments to somewhere I think she was a better fit, and remains there doing great work.

  48. FederalHRPerson*

    LW 4 works for the Federal Government and apparently ignored all the easily accessible information aBout when they leave year ended. This was not unique to a specific agency and happened because the last pay period of 2023 started on December 31st. That means that OP ended the year with 240 hours of annual leave banked. If you don’t want this to happen again, take some more time off so you’re not ended the year basically maxed out on annual leave.

  49. Lizy*

    #5 this is timely; I just got my own leave discrepancy finalized. Mine was 1.5 hours of sick leave that I think was deducted twice. On the one hand, not a huge deal. On the other…

    I don’t feel like I was rude about it, but I definitely didn’t just let it be and pushed to have it corrected. It may only be 1.5 hours, but they’re MY 1.5 hours!

  50. Echo*

    LW2, I also preferred to have email access while on vacation at my previous job. I spent some time thinking about what’s different about my current job and I realized that it’s the fact that someone else will handle anything tricky that comes up while I am gone. I wonder if this employee doesn’t feel like that’s the case for them?

  51. Bruce*

    LW1: It sounds like you had good reason to give your reference in good faith, I hope your friend can get her act together… I gave a reference to a friend once, we had been room-mates and co-workers but not gone out socially a lot. Seemed like a quiet, nice person but he turned out to be a stalker and harasser. It was so horrible to hear this from his manager… we were not at the same company, but I would run into the manager at tech conferences. After he was un-reformable they got rid of him, he went on to work in another field where as far as I could tell his opportunities for horrible behavior were more limited. My name was MUD with that manager after that. Ever since I’ve been very guarded about personal references, only giving them to people I’ve worked with for years and really know well. I thought I knew this guy, but not as well as I should have!

  52. Vacation*

    LW#2: Suggest to people returning from vacation to come back midweek, like Thursday so they have two days to catch up. Also, guide the rest of the team to use those two days more as a catch up and less as a new assignment time.

  53. Garblesnark*

    Lw2 – I wonder if the issue is actually that the employee only has one phone plan and doesn’t want to buy an entire phone plan for their trip.

    1. Bruce*

      I wonder what options they have… On Verizon I have a day by day international plan, it costs me nothing when I’m in the States and costs $10 a day to use overseas. No additional charges. If I’m on vacation I figure it is my expense even if I do check work email, but if I’m working then I include it in my expense report. If I were the LW I’d tell the employee that when they are on vacation the plan is at their expense, and encourage them to disconnect.

  54. J E*

    On #3, the software implementation. Maybe I’m jaded, but I have a lot of experience and I’ve rarely seen a project where every business stakeholder is happy and gets everything they want immediately. OP wasn’t bad at their job, this is normal and expected.

    OP was new to the role and the org, and 5 years have passed. Unless OP controls the product roadmap AND budget, it’s not their fault that the business stakeholder didn’t make their needs heard over the last 5 years (!)

    What OP can promise is that they will hear the complainer and go to bat for any items on their list that are agreed upon by all stakeholders in the implementation.

    OP, do not promise “ ‘ I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’ “ unless you carefully define “it” as what you can actually control. Are you the person who wrote the RFP requirements? Do you have extra budget to add 200 hours of dev time to make a feature happen? Etc.

    I don’t have a lot of information but I doubt that you, new to the place, actually had that much control, or that your job goals include “prioritizing every random upset person’s goals.” Apologize and the. structure this implementation to gather ALL stakeholder needs and prioritize in a shared, transparent process. Make sure the vendor of the software is also on the line to deliver. Plan weekly (or whatever makes sense) updates to all stakeholders so they can react quickly if something they need has been removed.

    And don’t feel guilty! This is an opportunity to make a big difference and learn valuable skills of advocating for every stakeholder and prioritizing for overall best outcomes. It will be fun! Good luck

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