fired employee says he’s coming to a work event, employee never saves things on our shared drive, and more

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

1. My employee never remembers to save things on our shared drive, no matter how many reminders she gets

I’ve been having an issue with one of the people I manage, our document processor, Ashley. I like Ashley; she is bubbly and friendly, which is a breath of fresh air on an otherwise introverted team. But Ashley is a mediocre worker. She gets her tasks done well enough, but requires me to check in on her more frequently than anyone else on my team. I can’t just trust she will get every step every time, I have to check. That was all well and good, until a few months ago when we decided, per her suggestion, to start saving our documents in a shared drive. I loved this idea; using a shared drive is better document processing and acts as a central backup location for a team that’s very hybrid. I was excited that Ashley came up with this improvement because it shows she is taking ownership of her work.

Except she just forgets to do it. Days will go by and nothing will get added to that shared drive. I check in with her and it turns out the documents are in her download folder. She moves them where they are supposed to go when I ask about it, but she does the same thing a day later. It’s completely unnecessary since you can just download things directly into the shared drive. She doesn’t need to do the extra step of moving it, something I’ve shown her many times, and yet it keeps happening.

It’s driving me crazy and influencing how I feel about all of her work now. It’s such a small thing that I feel weird about putting her on a PIP or anything like that, but it’s such a small thing that I can not wrap my mind around why she won’t process documents the way I have asked her. I’ve talked to her about it a few times, and last month asked her to give me one week where I didn’t have to remind her to move things to the drive. She gave me four out of five days, and then the next week was back to forgetting every other day.

Am I being crazy about this? What advice do you have to get an employee to embrace a small but fundamental change in workflow?

I don’t think this is about the shared drive. I think the shared drive issue is just the most noticeable aggravation among the broader problem that you can’t trust her work and have to check every step she does. That would be a huge issue even if the shared drive had never come up. (And conversely, if she were otherwise excellent and reliable, I bet the shared drive situation wouldn’t irritate you nearly as much, although it would still be a problem.)

Take your aggravation as a sign that you need to address the broader pattern with Ashley: that you can’t trust her to follow your processes across the board and that her work requires an excessive amount of oversight. You can use the shared drive as one example, but you should provide others too. Have a serious conversation about the pattern, and treat the pattern as a serious performance issue (because it is).

2. Working during a weather day that everyone else gets off

I work in a small outpatient clinic, which is part of a very large healthcare system. In January, our clinic was closed down for a day due to severe weather. As soon as we got word from upper administration that we were going close, my manager texted my coworker and asked her to log in and work from home that day. At that time, my coworker was the only one of us who had access to be able to work from home. She worked very hard that day, as we had a lot of patient questions and concerns come in, due to being closed unexpectedly.

The next day we were back at work, and upper admin informed us we’d be paid for the weather day, rather than having to use PTO or go without pay, which we were all happy about. But here is the problem — my poor coworker worked a full day that day, alone, and yet she got paid the same as the rest of us (just her normal, hourly wage), while we sat in our PJ’s drinking coffee and watching movies all day. I feel like she is owed some type of compensation beyond her regular pay for that day. Our direct manager agreed, but unfortunately the decision is not up to her. She has tried to advocate for my coworker to upper management. This was to no avail, as here we are now in April and my coworker still has not been compensated and has heard nothing on this matter from anyone.

Am I being unreasonable here for being furious about this? In my eyes, she basically worked for free and was completely taken advantage of, since she got paid the same as the rest of us who did not work that day, through no choice or fault of her own. My coworker is a very sweet, mild mannered person and would never “ruffle feathers” or stand up for herself, so she has not aggressively followed up with anyone on this. Whereas if I were in her shoes, I would have probably resigned in anger back in January.

I understand it is ultimately my coworker’s decision whether to pursue this, and I should probably mind my own business. However, I now have the ability to work from home as well. If we have another day where we close unexpectedly and my boss asks me to log in, what should I do? Would it be unreasonable to refuse until I am told how I will be compensated as compared to others who do not work that day? Am I being too inflexible or rigid in my thoughts of how this should be handled?

Your coworker didn’t work for free. She was paid for that day. She did, however, miss out on the free day off that everyone else got. But the day off wasn’t a reward or a bonus; it was a logistical response to a last-minute weather emergency.

This is a thing that happens with some jobs, where people who are able to work from home on snow days are expected to, and those who can’t are given the day off. Does it suck for the people who are expected to work those days? Sure. Is it something to quit over? That would be a pretty unusual reaction. (It’s also worth pointing out that there can be benefits to being able to work from home when others can’t; if often means, for example, that you don’t need to use PTO to wait for the cable person when others do, and so forth.)

Now, might a thoughtful manager consider offering comp time or similar to the one person who got stuck working while everyone else got the day off? Sure. But it’s really common not to do that. You’re still allowed to be upset about it if you want, but temper it with the knowledge that this is a relatively widespread practice.

3. A disgruntled fired employee says he’s coming to a work event I’m planning

I’m a middle manager in a small, quasi-governmental institution open to the public. About a month ago, my workplace fired an employee I did not supervise, Sam. There were many obvious issues with Sam, but the last incident I’m aware of was one in which he lost his temper with me on the floor.

The ensuing meeting with administration left me rattled, as he made several false statements and tweaked details to make me look bad, tried to paint me as “emotional,” mocked me, and seemed to be trying to manipulate me into getting angry. Overall, he demonstrated a level of entitlement and narcissism that I have never seen before. I don’t know all of the details, but he was fired the next day.

Since then, he has made multiple public statements about the firing on Facebook, including claims that he was bullied, and he’s showed up at my workplace twice, including once last week. Because we’re open to the public, I’m told we can’t ask him to leave unless he does something to violate our rules.

The problem is that, in a couple weeks, my workplace is holding a major public event, which I was tasked with planning. Now I’m told that a colleague, Jane, said that Sam told her he will show up to the event and do something to “stick it to management.” I’m particularly concerned because I’ve looked up warning signs for mass shooters, and he’s demonstrated a lot of them — just not, to my knowledge, threats of violence (although I’ve heard a rumor of a suicide threat directed at someone not at our organization).

Our administration is going to try to get more information from Jane before proceeding, but what should/can we do about the chance that Sam will attend this event? Is it reasonable to contact the police to ask them to be in attendance, even if Sam hasn’t made a specific threat? We don’t employ any security guards, and I am feeling extremely uncomfortable about the event.

You need to insist on having security there, with an explicit safety plan. That can be police if they’re willing or it can be hired security. Make it a condition of your attendance.

4. What’s up with lengthy reference questionnaires?

I work at a consultant firm, which means that I manage several teams of junior staff that do not report directly to me in a traditional way. A junior staff member who works on a few of my teams asked if I would act as a reference for her for a new position she is in the running for. I agreed and expected a phone call this week from the new company. This company sent me a form with seven open-ended questions on it. The questions are vague, like “tell me about the candidate’s working style” and “what are their strengths and weaknesses?” — questions that will require me to put a lot of thought in to writing, especially because I am not this person’s direct supervisor so I can’t speak to all of their work.

It really feels like these would be much easier for me to answer via a call. I asked the HR team if we could do this as a call instead but they have not responded to two of my emails. I want to help this staff member get a new job, but I am feeling really annoyed that the new company is asking me to put in so much work for them. This is my first time providing a reference for someone. Is this standard and are there benefits that make having a written form preferable? Or is this the case of one company that has a bad practice? Was I out of line emailing twice to see if we could do this as a call?

Some companies do references this way and it’s a terrible practice. First, as you point out, it’s a significantly larger burden on the reference; it requires a significant amount of time, versus a 10- or 15-minute phone call. Second, a lot of people won’t be as candid in writing as they will be on the phone. Third, it means that the reference-checker can’t hear things like tone of voice or spots where the reference hesitates and also can’t ask follow-up or clarifying questions.

It puts you in a bad spot because you don’t want to harm your employee’s chances, but you deserve to be able to protect your time. If she’s someone you’d enthusiastically recommend, one option is to respond, “Jane is an excellent candidate and I can strongly recommend her, but my schedule doesn’t give me the time on this form would take. I can, however, do a 10- or 15-minute phone call.” You can also explain the situation to Jane and ask her to contact the employer about it and ask if they can call you. Or you can give very brief but positive answers and add “happy to elaborate in a phone call.” But it’s a crap practice.

5. How do I decline a baby shower at work?

I’m an employee on a remote team that will be in person in a few weeks for a busy work event. I’ve recently shared with my manager and a few other key coworkers that I am pregnant, I will be 19 weeks when we are in person for this event. My manager, Stacey, told her manager, Lauren (I gave her permission because we’re managing some tricky staffing situations that we will need to resolve before I go on maternity leave) and now Lauren is planning a baby shower for me when we are together.

I know that this is coming from a good place, but I really don’t want this. First, I hate being the center of attention. Second, I am a middle-level employee and it makes me uncomfortable that she may ask lower-level employees to contribute to a gift. Third, my sister has a two-year-old and is giving me all of her things so I don’t need very much. But the real reason is that this pregnancy has come after two years of fertility treatments including pregnancy losses and I am incredibly anxious. I’m working with a therapist, but I’m sort of just hanging on and expect that it may be a little like this the whole way through my pregnancy. The thought of celebrating feels like tempting fate. Also, the 20-week anatomy scan will be the week after I return from this trip and so I expect my anxiety will be even more heightened.

Stacey has told Lauren that this isn’t something that I want, but Lauren is continuing to insist that there is a shower. How can I politely decline and stop this?

Go back to Stacey and say this: “I need you to make it absolutely clear to Lauren that there cannot be a shower for me. I don’t want to have to share private information just to put a stop to it, but I I want to point out that there a lot of reasons someone might not want a shower — including fears about the pregnancy and religious prohibitions. It’s not OK to overrule pregnant people on that. How do I ensure Lauren respects my wishes on this?” (Alternately or in addition to that, you could also message Lauren directly with a similar message.)

You might also alert HR that Lauren is planning this against your explicit wishes and tell them to intervene. That’s not a bad idea either way, since they clearly have some educating to do with Lauren re: the many reasons she needs to respect employees’ needs on baby showers.

{ 426 comments… read them below }

  1. Public Safety Executive*

    OP3 – any chance you work for a public library? If so, is there anything in the code of conduct that can be stretched to apply and prevent the former staffer from being present (until it is revised to be more explicit)? Have you talked to HR?

    1. Zelda*

      “Sam told her he will show up to the event and do something to ‘stick it to management.'”

      That *is* a threat. If that doesn’t violate the organization’s rules, I can’t think what would. It doesn’t go into huge detail about what the “something” might be, but it is absolutely a threat.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Yes, it’s a threat. I have no expertise on this, but I wonder if the police or a specific branch of law enforcement that handles terrorism should be notified. I think it’s the FBI?

        1. Anon for this*

          So, I am actually an expert in this.

          OP3: Contact your local law enforcement right away.

          They have a non-emergency number that you should be able to find on their website. Most attackers have concerned others and many indicate their intent to attack (though not always in ‘direct threats’.) You can also contact the FBI’s tip line (link in reply to this comment), but do not do that instead of contacting local law enforcement. You should tell law enforcement that you are concerned that Sam might commit an act of harm to himself or others and be specific as to behaviors you have witnessed or heard about from others (the warning signs of mass shooters you have witnessed but do not detail in your letter), include dates of the behaviors if you can. Tell them that US Government research into mass attackers (link in a reply to this comment) has found that most people who commit mass attacks in public places are motivated by a specific grievance against an individual or group. And that many targeted workplaces due to grievances (including being terminated) from their time working there.

          Most attackers have concerned others with their behavior and made concerning statements about their targets. Attacks are not prevented when people who know about this information (in this case OP3 and their employer) fail to report it to the authorities or when authorities fail to take that information seriously. It is possible that others have reported Sam in other parts of his life, but if you (or your workplace) do not report him, local law enforcement will be missing critical information.

          1. Anon for this*

            Call you local non-emergency number first. (Or call 911 if it is an emergency!)
            FBI tip line: 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324) or

            FBI Active Shooter Incidents in the United States 2022:

            United States Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) research: Mass Attacks in Public Spaces: 2016 – 2020:

            Other NTAC resources:

          2. Momma Bear*

            10000% agree. I think that OP needs to take this very seriously for all the reasons you stated. This isn’t just someone coming by because he wants to socialize. He intends harm.

          3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            This is very much a “better safe than sorry” situation. Maybe he’s planning violence. Maybe he’s intending to make a giant scene and air his grievances. At this point, we don’t know. But I sure wouldn’t want to be assuming the latter if it turns out to be the former.

            And let’s say that you get visible security and nothing happens. That does NOT automatically mean you overreacted. It could mean that he saw the security and it deterred him.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Even if he’s only planning to make a scene, it’s probably best to deter him. He could ruin the event for everyone. Have security people handy to escort him out or even better, prevent him from coming in.

            2. Zephy*

              I would say that “OP hires security of some description and nothing happens” is the best-case scenario, most desirable outcome in this situation.

          4. Lydia*

            It’s also time to bury the idea that “open to the public” means you can’t ban someone from attending or showing up. HR and management can do better here, including banning him from their buildings.

            1. Anna*

              Goverment agencies do not have that luxury, as it would be seen as restricting several rights (speech, assembly, etc).

              1. Lydia*

                See JSPA’s comment below. There is no right to threaten. As the saying goes, the right to assembly or even free speech does have limits.

                1. MCMonkeyBean*

                  Yes but it sounds like the “we can’t ban them from the building” response so far has been *before* the “I’m going to do something to stick it to them” language. It sounds like things are escalating, so hopefully they will provide the employees with more options going forward.

              2. H.Regalis*

                I don’t think that’s true. I worked in public libraries for a long time and we banned people. Most were for a finite amount of time—almost all bans were for violating behavioral rules—and we had a formal process for it: Sending a letter in the mail, etc.

                Same deal when I worked at a public university: There were always at least a few people with active bans, some permanently.

                “Open to the public” does not mean you can take a dump on the floor, threaten to stab people, masturbate in public, etc. with impunity; even if that’s how some of my managers back in the Bad Old Days liked to treat it.

                1. MM*

                  Right. “Open to the public” was the excuse my department head had for continually allowing a particular man to come to our colloquia and receptions, ask bad-faith questions and dominate air time, harangue people with rape apologism, and, most significantly, harass female grad students. The fact that a specific person is a member of the amorphous public does not mean that their specific, individual behavior in public cannot be responded to.

                  (She finally got rid of him after a meeting of our DEI committee where I told her that allowing this man to hang around was sending a clear message of “don’t come to us if you get sexually harassed at work.” I still think she did it for ass-covering reasons more than anything else, but I’ll take it.)

              3. Civil Servant*

                This is false. I have worked for several federal agencies for nearly 30 years now and ALL of us could & have banned specific people from the building because of behavior like this. My current office had a disgruntled former employee come back to the building with a gun a decade or so ago…thankfully someone was able to talk him down before he actually shot anyone but it was a very near thing. Just two years ago, we banned another former employee from the building & grounds. He shot his wife, thankfully not fatally, during a DV incident. Even with all the federal employee protections, he was immediately suspended & banned while they processed his termination paperwork.

              4. Freya*

                The right to free speech does not guarantee the right to consequence-free speech. The logical consequence to making a threat like this is being restricted from following through on that threat.

          5. Wendy the Spiffy*

            Thank you, I am glad an expert like you is here to help and give the OP specific guidance.

          6. learnedthehardway*

            Agreeing and wanted to point out that the OP does not need to have management’s approval or even to inform them that they are making this call to the police.

            The authorities may need to speak with the employer, but the OP doesn’t have to tell anyone at work that it was them who brought the issue to their attention. If the OP is concerned about retaliation or something at work, they can ask to remain anonymous.

            OP – this really is a case of “better safe than sorry” – both for yourself, your coworkers, and the public. Perhaps all the fired employee plans is to make an impassioned statement about how the organization did him wrong, perhaps he plans a “Carrie” rain of pigs’ blood on the event, or perhaps he means to do something more serious – whatever it is, he made a threat. That should be taken seriously – both in case he meant it, and also so that (if he just wanted to worry people), he is put on notice that this kind of behaviour won’t be tolerated by civil society.

          7. Jules the 3rd*

            Thank you! And yes yes yes to all of this.

            OP, your gut is telling you to be careful. LISTEN TO IT. Override all our “don’t want to make waves” socialization and get the authorities involved.

      2. JSPA*

        They may need a threat of violence or (other intent to harm physically, like ex-lax in the punchbowl). There’s a lot of embarrassment-type disruption that’s not intrinsically police worthy (pour animal pee scent in the potted plants, broadcast an audio deepfake of the boss). And if he’s trying to make the LW look overly-dramatic, the best revenge might be to put the LW in a position where the only safe option is to demand a police presence…then do nothing.

        Private businesses can have no trespassing orders against anyone who has been disruptive (or really anyone at all). IANAL, but per stackexchange, public departments and organizations also have some ability to do this, so long as it’s not on the basis of [ Insert long list of protected characteristics and constitutional rights]. There is no “right to threaten.” So if they don’t want to get the police involved at minimum, they or the LW should speak to an actual lawyer, not work from generalities.

        Alternatively, per the FBI’s website, even hoax threats are a crime, and it’s not wrong to call the FBI on threats against agencies run by local governments (like schools, libraries et cetera) even if this seems like a mixing of the jurisdictional streams.

        All of which is to say you may be able to go from the top-down rather than from the bottom-up, and thus report anonymously, so as not to feed the “LW is easily upset” concept.

      3. worriedop3*

        I’m the LW, and I want to be clear that I heard this from a third party and don’t know the wording. It’s possible he said he’d show up *to* stick it to management, which is a threat but not one of physical harm. Someone down thread suggested that Sam is trying to get us to noticeably overreact so that he can play the victim further, which is indeed something I’m afraid of, because he’s already tried that on me once.

        Regardless, the colleague he voiced his plans to was concerned enough to bring it up to coworkers despite being on friendly terms with Sam, so I will be taking it seriously. It also wouldn’t be out of place for some local police officers to show up to the event as attendees in the name of community relations, so I’m hoping I can approach from that angle if all else fails.

        1. Momma Bear*

          This – they are are friendly with him but are concerned. I think this gives it more weight, honestly. These are people that know him. Maybe he will play the victim, but you don’t want anyone else to be *his* victim.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Yes-if there is a police/security presence and he plays the victim and that’s the worst that happens, it’s better than a lot of other possibilities.
            Some people are perpetual victims. It is their problem to take to therapy, not yours. Do what’s necessary to protect everyone. If nothing happens, that’s a win.

          2. Ellie*

            Plus having obvious security present may deter Sam from going ahead with whatever he’s planned at all. It’s a good idea regardless of the level of threat. If the police aren’t interested, your employer will need to hire security which should be easy enough to do.

        2. Crumbledore*

          I had to deal with a similar situation once, but thankfully my company had a dedicated security team who was happy to meet with me and help prepare/be present for potential situations. Based on my conversations with them, I would say it’s not overreacting to take Sam’s language seriously. I’m so glad you are, OP! Hoping for the best for all concerned.

        3. Observer*

          Someone down thread suggested that Sam is trying to get us to noticeably overreact so that he can play the victim further, which is indeed something I’m afraid of, because he’s already tried that on me once.

          That’s a good reason to not lean too heavily on the most dangerous possibilities. Not that you want to ignore them. But your management needs to consider that even if he only shows up and makes a ruckus that’s a bad outcome and they have a legitimate right, even a duty, to prevent it if possible.

        4. RBinSE*

          Hi OP–I’ve had some experience here, unfortunately. Strongly urge you to read the workplace violence chapter of The Gift of Fear. Trust your gut.

          Here’s a way of looking at it: to date, has his behavior in handling his grievances align with behavior of a reasonable adult who a) exhibits self-control and b) adheres to professional norms, even when very disappointed or upset? If no, consider that he might not have the same boundary for “reasonable” that you or another colleague may have. You might be giving him the benefit of the doubt to minimize disruption or risk not using resources unnecessarily, but if your instinct is you need active security involvement, then please trust it and stand your ground re: a security plan. See the above-referenced chapter (and it’s helpful list of warning signs) if you want to confirm your perspective with a resource that’s first priority is keeping people safe. The stakes are too high.

          1. Suzanna*

            And no one knows what additional stressors he is experiencing since being let go. Or even his underlying trauma and triggers. We are often just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

          2. milkdudsnotdrugs*

            Seconding The Gift of Fear! Whether you’re assessing potential threats in the workplace, with a partner, a stranger or even anonymous stalking/harassment- The Gift of Fear is a comprehensive, engaging and well informed source for spotting dangerous behavior and warning signs. I cannot recommend this book enough. There’s a reason Oprah promoted his work so heavily. He’s where she gained the crucial, boundary defining saying “No, is a complete sentence.”

        5. Lenora Rose*

          The nice thing about an upgraded level of security and a comprehensive safety plan is that if it isn’t needed, it is often barely visible, so if he does nothing, there’s no overreaction to report. Folks at a party walk past security in bright neon vests and… don’t particularly notice and it doesn’t generally disturb their night at all. Similarly, if security does have to step up to someone (drunk and belligerent, someone not invited, etc.) they are usually discreet unless the person themselves is already making noise.

          While we can all think of times security is badly done or over the top, well done security generally do their jobs in a way that makes any person who tries to play victim for being asked to leave look like the problem.

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        This! This is a threat!

        I would not only refuse to attend, I would insist that management cancel this event if they can’t book effective security. Too many workplace shootings, still, can trace back to the shooter not being taken seriously even as he escalates.

    2. H.Regalis*

      Cynically, I want to ask LW1 if there’s any chance they work at a public library because public libraries tend to be perfectly willing to throw their staff to the wolves.

      In all seriousness, I hope for your sake, LW1, that Sam ends up being all talk and does nothing, but do what you need to do to keep yourself safe. Take threats and warning signs seriously even if your management won’t back you up. I’m sorry this is happening to you.

      1. not nice, don't care*

        Can confirm. My partner is a security officer at a public library, and administration actively puts them in danger via policies and direct in/action. It’s obscene. My partner has been physically assaulted and faces threats and hate speech every day, as do her coworkers (at least the ones who aren’t cis het white men).
        Administration dithers and worries that excluding attackers from the library will be bad optics and hurt fee fees. Just wait until the wrongful death lawsuits start hitting.
        I despise my public library now.

          1. Ellie*

            I live in Australia and I know of several librarians who have been stalked, and one where they hired a security person temporarily in order to get them to move along. It’s true we don’t have much of a problem with guns and bombs, but knives and other weapons are still around.

            But even if Sam is only planning on heckling OP, or spraying her with paint, she shouldn’t have to put up with this.

          2. BubbleTea*

            I’m in the UK and I’ve seen security officers at libraries. I know the library staff aren’t allowed to open the library if there’s only one member of staff there.

          3. Lenora Rose*

            I’m in Canada; we have security in at least our main downtown branch – due, sadly, to an actual incident, not as a preventive measure.

    3. another fed*

      Lol, my mind with semi-quasi went to a COG holding some kind of town hall event or infrastructure opening OR a community or public college. Library seems more likely though…

    4. worriedop3*

      So I’m OP3. We’re a very small org in a very small town – I went immediately to the person who handles our HR, but that’s not her only “hat” (we each wear at least 3 hats, she wears more like 10). She asked me what I wanted to do about it, and I wasn’t sure, hence the email to Alison. I don’t think anyone at our org has dealt with this kind of situation before.

      We do have a COC for visitors, but I don’t know if Sam has violated it. After the first time he showed up after his dismissal, my boss stated that he will be treated as any other visitor if he breaks a rule, and I received permission to seek out another manager to handle it if it happens on my watch, due to the circumstances.

  2. Aww My WiFi is Down*

    LW #2 – they should give the coworker a paid day off that doesn’t come out of her leave bank. Has this been suggested? Surely the direct manager can grant that?

    LW #1 – do the PIP.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      I had a similar situation as LW#2, whF my job did was just pay us double for the days we worked.

      We got paid for hours we worked, and then got paid for an extra 8 hrs of “PTO”.

      the people that couldn’t come in got paid for 8 hrs as “PTO.”

      but I can also see in this situation that if the said coworker has the benefit of being able to work from home for minor things like repair person, delivery needs to sign etc…. when others did not have that option this was kinda the make up for all that.

      1. Sloanicota*

        It would be nice, but depending on the time keeping and pay system this may be a really big deal to get done. What may be easier: 1) the boss could choose to buy a gift card either out of employee reward funds or out of their own funds – no obligation. 2) they could take the employee out to lunch. I wouldn’t really prefer this option but at least it acknowledges the worker’s efforts and thanks them 3) they can let this employee take off a Friday as either comp time or reward time or, if the system is crappy, maybe just let them log the time – I know many bosses who operate this way. It’s a shame to have to do something shady but it’s the consequence of completely inflexible systems if a boss can’t reward an employee who went above and beyond. Also: has your boss made progress on ensuring it doesn’t fall out this way next time? That would also help the employee feel seen and acknowledged.

        1. Miette*

          When I last managed a team, #3 is what I would do to reward my team with comp time when they went above and beyond. I’d tell them to bill it as straight time to our department overhead cost center and it would be “between us.” In reality, my own manager was in the loop too, but when your team are all exempt workers and you’ve just asked them to work straight through two consecutive weekends at an org that doesn’t allow comp time without CEO approval, you make do.

        2. JelloStapler*

          I would not want to have to use my lunch hour to have a meal with my boss as a “reward”.

          1. Richard*

            Maybe a lunch could be a good “networking” opportunity to talk about moving up to a role where she wouldn’t be required to work in office when everybody else could stay home and get paid?

            At least that’s how I would see it.

            1. Richard*

              Oops, I misread it. I meant an opportunity where they don’t have to work when everybody else gets the day off.

          2. Lenora Rose*

            I wouldn’t want it same day without notice, but I don’t see why a sensible boss couldn’t offer the suggestion to a staff member they honestly think might take it as a nice gesture.

            I’m spoiled, though; my boss is a kind and interesting person. I can definitely imagine circumstances and personalities where this would be more awkward and weird than nice.

      2. nikkole82*

        I work in a medical office like this person does. I’m one of the only people that does have the capability to WFH (I don’t unless the office is closed for reasons outside of our control like weather, also idc for WFH as I have side hustles I do from home as well) but working in a medical office being able to WFH doesn’t give the flexibility or perks that make it worth it. If I have to wait for a delivery or take an appointment, I have to use PTO as WFH isn’t to be used in exchange for PTO considering our work is in office work unless we are closed and have to call people to tell them not to come and send messages etc.

    2. Also-ADHD*

      In healthcare, a comp day off may be harder the the extra pay frankly, but she should get one or the other. I disagree with it being like the snow day letter or frustration someone who usually WFH might have because she doesn’t get the usual benefits of WFH (and it’s not even clear she’d be able to choose to WFH if mildly sick/for service providers to come) that people get. In this case, she’s expected to be at the clinic daily. The company is eating its cake and having it too—it really doesn’t seem fair.

        1. Taura*

          No she didn’t? Her manager asked her to work.
          “As soon as we got word from upper administration that we were going close, my manager texted my coworker and asked her to log in and work from home that day. “

          1. Lydia*

            Yeah, she was the only one who could, so she was the only one who had to.

            LW#2, I know it feels unfair, but it’s kind of along the same lines as when you take a day off before a holiday and your office let’s everyone leave early. It’s just kind of the luck of the draw at that point. Also, blink once if where you work starts with an O and ends with a U. (Your letter made me think of the major weather thing we had happen where I live in January and the major teaching/research hospital here, too.)

    3. Momma Bear*

      This situation reminds me of federal furloughs. Eventually everyone got paid, but some people had to work through it without being paid at the time. There was no extra for those that actually worked. Sometimes the system is honestly not fair. I once had a manager who acknowledged that many of us never took a full lunch break (we were allowed an hour) because leaving and returning was an ordeal. Most of us brown bagged lunch and ate at our desks. She said we could either take a full break or at the end of the week leave early accordingly. The LW2’s manager might be able to give the employee some unofficial wiggle room like that as an appreciation for holding down the fort.

    4. Old Cynic*

      For LW#2, when I’ve been in a similar situation I just ask the employee to pick a day in the near future to take a free day off. I don’t like it to get too far out in the future though. I’ve also never mentioned it to HR and seldom to my boss.

    5. AnonAboutThis*

      LW2 – my company does flex days for stuff like that – sometimes most people get an extra few days off, and the people who have to work those days can take flex days off later.

  3. Daria grace*

    #1, she actually isn’t doing the tasks well enough if part of the task is to make sure it is saved where it needs to be. You should treat this as seriously as you would an employee regularly failing to consistently do any other important step in the process.

    1. Sloanicota*

      To be honest, in my org when things aren’t saved on the drive, it’s a CYA because they either aren’t done at all or aren’t done fully/correctly and the employee is trying to hide that. There’s also an annoying feature (for an employee) where the file on the drive shows a lot of detail about the last time it was worked on, when it was created, etc, that the employee may be trying to cover up because it will show they were not doing things on the schedule they should have been.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        That’s where I landed. She isn’t saving to the shared drive in order to hide how little she actually does.

      2. Mina*

        Eh, Sometimes weird steps in processes become a hang-up. For me, storing files in one of those in google drive, specifically. I don’t like the pop-up navigation and and our files are a mess anyways before we get to department specific folders, so finding where to store it often becomes a 5 minute task when I could just slack someone the link to it.

        What I do, to navigate around this, is have a post-it reminder on my computer and also block fifteen minutes at the end of the day as close-out to make sure things like that are done. That solves the problem 80% of the time, but it’s still something I forget to do at least 1-2x a week. No malice, just non-perfect systems.

        1. Orv*

          You can bookmark Google Drive folders, if that helps. May not solve your problem depending on how exactly you’re using Google Drive, but I find it helps my workflow.

          1. Mongrel*

            Yeah, remapping the folder she uses so it saves to a shared drive should be pretty easy to do, and I know from experience that changing your workflow can be a right PITA but with all the other stuff it sounds like she’s not even trying

      3. Leenie*

        It seems unlikely that the employee would have suggested the shared drive in the first place, if she had something to hide. It’s also interesting that this was never the process before, but now, after the employee suggested the change but is having trouble adjusting to it, it’s suddenly so essential that it’s worthy of discipline.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          ‘meh not really. Like Alison said, it’s part of a pattern. The employee made a good suggestion that would hold both herself and others accountable. And now isn’t doing it. Along with all the other stuff she wasn’t doing without being checked on. It’s not that the being on the shared drive is so essential. It’s that Following Established Agreed Upon Processes is essential. And she’s broadly not doing those processes, even the one that was her own idea!

        2. Reebee*

          Well, no, it’s a new directive, and employee isn’t abiding, which potentially requires disciplinary action, as would any other insubordination.

          It’s just that straightforward.

          1. Leenie*

            It’s a new directive that the employee came up with herself. I think it’s odd to assume that’s she’s hiding things because she’s not following a process that she came up with. I also think it’s a stretch to call missing a process insubordination. I’m not saying she doesn’t need to follow procedure, and it sounds like there are other issues that are compounding this, so it needs to be taken seriously. It’s just that the nefariousness that is being ascribed to the employee is a bit weird, and some of the reactions seem a little draconian. Some people, without bad intent or dishonesty, just aren’t very good at their jobs. The issue can be dealt with without jumping to the worst conclusions about this employee’s character.

  4. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – can you tell your employee to put this in her calendar as a standing thing she does every day?

    Also, can you make it so that she works within the shared drive, rather than out of her own files? Then everything she does would be saved on the shared drive.

    I am personally terrible at remembering details. If something needs to be done, it goes in my calendar. Otherwise, I forget all about it. Similarly, if something needs to be visible in real time, I work in a shared document.

    1. anon_sighing*

      Yeah, I am a little concerned that people think new processes are implemented and immediately run smoothly and without an issue in the first month. This isn’t PIP worthy at all, in my opinion, and I wish LW had included other more substantial examples for better context.

      I wonder if she can make her default save location the Shared Drive and that way she’s just moving incidentals out of the drive if they’re accidentally saved there. It’s a quick and simple fix to this particular problem.

      1. Allonge*

        I am a little concerned that people think new processes are implemented and immediately run smoothly and without an issue in the first month.

        I mean – there is a wide gap between ‘no issues at all’ and ‘does not happen unless boss checks and tells employee to do it every day’.

        OP could suggest various technical solutions to the issue, but not doing something despite regular reminders is a perfomance issue.

        1. anon_sighing*

          Removed. I don’t want LWs criticized for not including enough examples to satisfy any given commenter. She included one example because that’s the issue she was asking about. – Alison

        2. AngryOctopus*

          This. She shouldn’t have to be reminded essentially at all (an occasional “Oh, I forgot to put file X there!” or “Oh, I missed that one on upload” is OK. But the employee has also managed to be successful at saving to the drive for a (small) chunk of time, so she’s clearly capable of doing so. Combine this with her marginal work, and it’s definitely PIP time.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Yes. It is on the employee to figure out a system for remembering, not OP. OP sets the expectations, employee figures out how to meet them.

            OP, you’ve talked to her but have you really talked to her? I mean been very clear with your expectations. You said you wanted her to do it for a week, and she kinda did, but went right back to not doing it. Which I can see because you didn’t tell her you expect her to continue doing it. You need to have the talk, I need you to put things in the shared drive every single time, can you do that?

            Also name the pattern. Make it clear getting things done correctly is her responsibility, not yours to remind her. Then you have to consider where you can go from there. You can’t have one employee sucking up more of your time consistently.

      2. Old School*

        I wonder if Ashley knows *how* to make her default save location the shared drive. I figured out that one of my direct reports and one person above me in the hierarchy didn’t know how to map locations on the shared drive, and one of them didn’t know how to change the default save location. I showed them how to set up shared folders so they’d show up in the file explorer. Before that, they were saving them locally and then copying them into the shared folders. (This is kind of an old-school skill; our boss assumed everyone knew how to do it, and didn’t understand why they were so confused about where to save their files. fwiw, I’m a lot older than either of these people, but younger than the boss.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Ah, the unknown unknowns!

          You don’t know what you don’t know you don’t know.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Currently dealing with a “shared drive” that isn’t really an actual shared drive over here, and ugh. Neither of the sharing parties actually realized it. I see one thing. My counterpart sees another.

            IT says it needs to be done through “build”. No idea what that even means.

            1. Lana Kane*

              It likely means they want you to place a ticket with them to add configuration settings (build) to make it truly shareable.

          2. Reebee*

            Can’t employee just, ya know, ask “Hey, you want this, but I don’t know how to do it”?

            Whatever to just asking questions?

        2. AngryOctopus*

          But she knows how to get files in the shared drive, and it’s still not happening! If she doesn’t know how to make it her default, she could ask “is there an easier way than what I’m doing”. But she’s just not doing it, which is not acceptable.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            She may have a really convoluted/annoying way of getting it onto the drive (believe me, the things I’ve seen people do… like “physically printing hundreds of pages out, rearranging them, and then scanning them in order to get them in the right order” level of wtf). People tend to procrastinate on stuff that is annoying to do. Automate it and the problem goes away.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Ah, and also the people that do things the really bonkers convoluted way are NOT the type of people that tend to even think of the possibility of there being an easier way. So they don’t ask.

              1. Allonge*

                Ok, but they can still say it takes ages, or indicate in any other adult way that there is a problem.

                Ignoring it until it goes away is a legit problem-solving method, but applicable to a very small percentage of problems only.

      3. Also-ADHD*

        What’s PIP worthy isn’t the drive thing, but the fact that longer term, OP notes usually needing to check her work frequently. Now I’m not 100% that’s PIP worthy, but it’s definitely conversation worthy, and a lot comes down to what OP expects vs what’s reasonable. A lot of OP’s expectations seem formed by other members of the team, while OP acknowledges Ashley has different strengths/personalities than them.

        The idea that quiet, introverted employees are more detail oriented isn’t that unusual (certainly extroverts can be detail oriented, but thoughtful, deep work and detail orientation often come with what appears as introversion at work, whereas bubbly, gregarious extroversion is going to come with naturally shallower work space (extrovert or not, focusing on social aspects of work leaves less thought for deep or detail work and vice versa—these are natural trade offs, though some people smooth them over by higher capabilities, switching between etc). So is Ashley poor or is the team excellent at detail and she’s normal for her “level” of work (no idea)?

        I don’t think LW has clear expectations even in their own head, though, because of the detail that they tried to address the situation by lashing out and saying something like “give me a week of not reminding you” (normal to feel, not normal to manage with).

        So I think a PIP may be currently too far, even if one is warranted, because LW needs to start by level setting performance expectations in general, and understanding reasonable ones for Ashley. It’s totally normal in some functions to have to supervise some employees more closely than others. I’ve run teams of folks where some people needed very little and others needed regular follow up, and none were below expectations—but this depends on function and team structure and many other factors unknown here.

        PS— I’m also curious with LW at the fixation on “not needing to download” at all vs uploading to shared drive. Mainly because I do use shared drives, a lot in my function, but almost everything is better to use and then upload (for example, Excel or even Word has much poorer functionality in web/cloud so unless I’m actually working simultaneously to others or doing something really simple, I’ll pull it down and upload later). I’ve had people often ask why I don’t just work on Cloud mostly because they only view and don’t understand the functional difference. Really depends on the work, but I do think it’s worth reflecting since I see lots of areas for reflection for OP all around.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          This can vary across orgs with how they have things configured, I think. We moved to office 365 and sharepoint a while back, and I can open a document in desktop and still have it syncing in basically real time, see other people working in the file, etc., the same as if it were in my browser. I haven’t found any difference in functionality between a file saved in the cloud and one saved locally if I have them both open in the desktop version of the software.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            That was in response to your PS, but the rest of your comment was spot on too.

            I’m concerned that Ashley’s job function is *document processor*. This kind of failure to save files in the right location strikes me as something that might be more tolerable in other roles where it’s less related to the fundamental skills needed for the job, but Ashley’s job is literally to process documents and OP is finding that she has to check each step. It’s time for OP to get clear in her own head and then with Ashley about what an acceptable level of performance looks like for this role, because it sounds like Ashley may not be a great fit here.

          2. Also-ADHD*

            It might depend on what you do too? I find it most often an issue when someone else leaves documents open to view and I want to update macros or complex technical elements to create dashboards. But I’m sure configuration matters too. I would say at my org, most people probably never notice the issues I run into because they aren’t using or configuring the stuff that blips out.

          3. Momma Bear*

            Yes. We currently have SharePoints set up by different administrators and they function just differently enough that people with access to both are annoyed.

            Might be worth it for LW to have one sit down with her to 1. go through her process (does it even need to be downloaded? Is she truly not seeing a feature other people have?) and 2. remind her that the task is not negotiable. She needs to do it consistently without reminders.

      4. Clorinda*

        The new process was implemented as a fix for the employee’s already bad work. If you’re struggling, and then you are told to do a task that may help, and then you don’t do that thing, that is a far bigger problem than not remembering the new email signoff or whatever.

        1. Lydia*

          Well, even more than that, Ashley is the one who recommended making the change! So there’s even LESS of a reason for her to forget her own process improvement.

    2. nodramalama*

      On a similar note I was thinking that if they were discrete items LW could ask her to create a to-do list, and at the beginning, ask to see the to-do list to confirm its been checked off. Although that second element feels a bit like a teacher checking off a homework diary and may come across as patronizing

      1. Observer*

        Although that second element feels a bit like a teacher checking off a homework diary and may come across as patronizing

        I don’t think that Ashley has standing to object to that. Having said that, this is a high level of micromanaging. Which is not something that should be necessary.

    3. Awkwardness*

      As I read it, it is about downloaded files. The download folder is a setting in a lot of software and that would be three or four clicks once, not a whole new procedure.

      1. Awkwardness*

        I thought this was about things as finding norms, documents or standards online, where it is about acquiring documents, not actually creating new documents.

    4. VoiceGuy*

      Sounds to me like she needs a checklist to go over her work, step-by-step. Lots of processes (like flight preparation, surgery) employ them—they feel redundant but prevent people from forgetting essential steps.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yes, essential steps like “remove all implements from the patient’s body” can be very problematic when overlooked!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, this seems to cry out for a checklist. Rather than having the manager review every step being the effective checklist.

        1. chewingle*

          The fact that Ashley hasn’t come to this conclusion herself is troubling to me. If I found myself in a position where my boss was reminding me *every single day* of a missed step in the process (not to mention a step I came up with!), I’d be very frustrated with myself. In fact, things like this HAVE happened where I’ve realized I needed, for example, a browser extension to notify me of meetings (because I get tunnel vision when I’m working on a project). My boss did not need to get involved or ask me to do things like go a full week without her reminding me of a meeting before I came to this conclusion. Part of my job is to recognize that missing meetings on the regular is not acceptable and then do what I can to prevent it from happening. The same can be said to Ashley and remembering to put files on the shared drive.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Yes!! How is it that your boss is reminding you to do a thing over and over again, and you can barely remember to do it? How can they ask you to please do the thing for a week where they don’t have to remind you, and you don’t think to yourself “wow, I have to get it together because my boss shouldn’t have to ask me to please do something so they don’t have to remind me for a week, I should be doing this all the time”. And as you say, SHE came up with the solution. How can she then just ignore it?

          2. Also-ADHD*

            I mean the people who most need checklists are never the people who think of that—skills wise, there’s a very small Venn diagram of the people who know they need that and would make the kind of mistakes that indicate they need it. So it’s not surprising she hasn’t come to the conclusion.

      3. Mike*

        I came here to say this — checklist! Give her The Checklist Manifesto if needed (surpisingly readable for a book about checklists)

        1. Observer*

          No, don’t bother giving Ashley the book. Yes, have Ashley create a checklist.

          But, also, the book is excellent, and it would probably be a very good idea for the *LW* to read it.

    5. El l*

      Unless there’s a very specific reason for the manager checks (think pilots doing checks as a matter of course)…the real problem is OP having to check ALL the work for this one particular employee. The issue is work quality, and it’s a question foe OP whether any of it has gotten better.

      The mechanics of how the checks are implemented are less important. And it’s fundamentally employees problem to figure out how to do this every day, not OPs.

      1. Colette*

        Agreed. There are probably multiple techniques the employee could use – but the manager’s job is to be clear about the problem and that it needs to change.

      2. CityMouse*

        I agree. An employee who can’t be trusted to do her job without hand holding is a problem.

  5. nodramalama*

    For LW4 this might come down to industy and location. Im in government and asking for references via a referee report rather than a phone call is very common. This is especially where they are hiring large intakes at more junior levels. I assume its because the hiring panels are reviewing too many applications to have individual phone calls, and because they want written feedback they can read and provide up for approval rather than relying on someone’s interpretation of a conversation or memory

    1. Observer*

      If a company needs the report in writing they can either take notes or even transcribe the conversation. If that’s really not possible, then it’s on the employer requesting the information to keep their questionnaire short and easy to fill out.

      “I’m too busy to do the job so I’m going to farm out the work to others who have absolutely no obligation here” is not a good practice, whether it’s an individual or organization saying or doing that.

      1. TheBunny*

        I was going to reply and say pretty much this, but probably not as perfectly as your response.

        This. This. This.

      2. nodramalama*

        ok? That doesn’t stop it from being a very common process, which was my point.

        1. Tippy*

          Yeah. What a company “should” do and what is reality (and considered industry accepted) are two very different things.

      3. anon_sighing*

        There used to be “reference letters” in ye olde days. Some places even do email references. I don’t mind answering questions, it gives me time to think and give a better reference to the person, but it’s not in the best interest of the company or the candidate to wait for someone to fill it out promptly when you can make a call and get it done on the spot.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          There are still reference letters in some places (Germany does them). They are usually written once, as employment ends, not specific to an application, and given to the person they are about to use as they see fit. They are thus available immediately and do not require repeated intensive time commitments by the reference giver.

          I am also familiar with fields that have specific reference letters for each application. In my experience, the candidate most often actually writes them themself, the reference giver tweaks them a bit and signs.

          1. Rebecca*

            Yes, I am in a field where reference letters are pretty normal, and I have written almost all of them myself with the details I want or need highlighted based on my knowledge of the work I am applying for, and my reference giver has very little to do to double check that I haven’t misrepresented them.

            It felt a little squicky when I first started doing that, but now I’m actually surprised when someone writes the letter themselves.

          2. kalli*

            Where I am, people get a Statement of Service which covers their start and end date and job title, sometimes with a brief of the position description.

            Except people largely get one if they’re coming from somewhere they’ve left less than amicably and negotiated it as part of a severance deed, or they’re coming from somewhere that Does Not Give References Ever, so having one can be a bit of a red flag, or not, depending on context/industry/personal situation.

            If people get actual letters it’s either for a specific reason (recommendations for a grant, grad program, college application for one of the few degrees that has extra requirements for entry than grades) or someone going for a first job and getting references from people who don’t normally do references. There might also be letters if someone knows they’re going to be unavailable and doesn’t want that to affect someone’s job search, e.g. I still have reference letters from when my reference went overseas for three months – they gave me like fifteen copies and I had to give exactly one of them.

          3. allathian*

            Yes, the same thing is true in Finland, although some employers may wish to call the person who gives the reference. It also depends on the company, in some the reference letters are essentially proof of employment issued by HR, and even those are better than pay stubs because using them means that you don’t have to reveal your previous salary to the potential new employer.

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

            Yes I was going to say this too. I was once on a hiring committee that had an applicant that worked in Germany for several years before coming back to the US. We had a letter of recommendation, and the manager had the person’s email address so we could ask follow up questions.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, shifting this job-essential obligation to people who have way less skin in the game and no direct benefit is not a good idea.

    2. Malarkey01*

      Our company is moving towards a questionnaire because we’re having more and more trouble getting someone on the phone. When calling references I get a voicemail at least 9 out of 10 times and close to half of them have asked if this can be an email when they call me back (usually way after hours). 25% never even get back to me- and I always give candidates a heads up that we’re at the reference stage and suggest they give their references a heads up.
      I know there’s been a huge cultural shift with people avoiding actual phone conversations but I was surprised so many people will spend more time on a written response instead of a 10 minute call.

      1. nodramalama*

        I wonder if its because with fewer people having phone calls, people are also more hesitant to speak off the cuff, and find it easier to draft something in writing that they can be confident in

      2. Panda (she/her)*

        Speaking for myself, I am in meetings almost all day every day and can’t typically answer phone calls during business hours unless I step out of the meeting. With the uptick in hybrid and remote work and the increase in meetings that tends to go along with that, this might be partly driving your trend.

      3. Rebecca*

        I can’t answer the phone during my work day, because I’m working. There are a lot of industries where people aren’t sitting at desks managing their own time – for example, I spend 6-8 hours a day teaching classes, in meetings, or supervising children, so all phone calls have to be scheduled around that. Impromptu phone calls to chat for ten minutes just aren’t realistic.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          That’s exactly why I would rather get a questionnaire (aside from frustrations that there are things I couldn’t possibly know as a teacher on there). Finding a chance for a chat is way more complicated and disruptive to me than filling out a form.

        2. Malarkey01*

          Very fair, but I’m calling people in my industry for the most part where reference calls have been standard for the 15 years I’m doing it. I’m not calling people who don’t have desk jobs or are inaccessible. I’m interested if others see this trend because I’d assume it’s always been like this for teachers but it’s very different for us.

        3. anon for this*

          Lord, how I wish more people understood that.

          No, I can’t step out for a minute to call you. No, I can’t wait for you to return my call. No, you can’t call me back tomorrow “sometime.” I’m working when I’m at work. You want working people as customers? Stay open later, or allow me to do stuff online.

          Hashtag pet peeve…

          1. Reebee*

            No way are people going to know this. They’re not mind-readers. If you have a work phone, well, they’re gonna call you during working hours.

      4. sb51*

        As someone who’d prefer the written response—it’s because I’d basically end up having to write out the bullet-point version of all those answers ahead of time plus any others I think they might ask, because I need to remind myself of what I’d want to say and have time to ponder examples. Because I’m prone to “mind goes completely blank on phone” and that’s not fair to the person being referred.

        And then figure out how to schedule the call around my own work.

      5. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I’m someone who hates the phone, but in this scenario my reason for not answering would be that I don’t answer unknown numbers and I hate being put on the spot.

        Yes, the persona applying for the job should give people a heads up they might get a call, but I’ve never had a reference checker not email me first to set up a time for a call so that I’m actually available and actually pick up the phone.

        1. Bast*

          Depending on the job, there is sometimes a fairly large gap between the applying and the interview/reference check as well. Person tells you they applied for a position and listed you, and 6 months later you get a call… It probably isn’t first and foremost in your mind any longer.

      6. I should really pick a name*

        One option is to email the reference to schedule a call. That way you avoid phone tag, and it gives them the opportunity to propose handling things by email instead.

      7. Grenelda Thurber*

        I rarely answer phone calls from numbers I don’t recognize, even if I am available to talk. Maybe providing an email address with the reference contact information would be useful.

    3. WoodswomanWrites*

      I was a reference for someone a while back, and I liked their format best–we scheduled time to talk, and a day or two in advance they emailed me their list of questions so I’d be ready to discuss them in our call. This made it both easier for me and allowed me to give specific examples about the candidate. The candidate was incredible and the advance notice allowed me to dive into why she was special. I’m so glad she got the job. I’ve now shared this model with those in hiring roles at my own organization.

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      The only thing I’ve experienced close to this is recommendations for grad school admissions (I used to have a lot of interns). And even there, the questions were mostly multiple-choice. Didn’t take me more than 20 minutes.

    5. Antilles*

      because they want written feedback they can read and provide up for approval rather than relying on someone’s interpretation of a conversation or memory
      The problem with this argument is that you’re going to get feedback that’s much less useful.
      If you want me to put it in writing, with my name attached? I don’t know who’s getting copies of this form, if you might be sharing the form with the candidate, or etc. So you’re only getting answers that I wouldn’t mind if the candidate sees.
      You also lose a lot of nuance since it’s a written response and you can’t follow up or drill down on my responses. If you ask about John’s abilities in teapot design in a call, then I pause for a second before replying “well, John has excellent technical skills…”, a savvy interviewer picks up on that hint and asks about his soft skills,. In a written format, you just get the impression John knows his design without that information.

      1. By the lake*

        The interpretation explanation was used to justify the 18 questions I just answered for my friend who is applying for a job with a large mining company. It took over half an hour and when I stopped in the middle the system sent me reminders that it wasn’t done. Which no, it was not as I didn’t realize what a time commitment it would be when I started it! This shift to written format may also have something to do with the fact the HR people conducting the inter idea often have no clue what individual positions actually involve. A few years ago I provided a reference for another friend to the same large company and first had to sort of explain the job to the HR person then explain why my friend was the unicorn they had been looking for. So both methods have their downsides but I personally preferred the scheduled phone call.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        Yeah but if your decision on a candidate is coming down in part to whether you and the interviewer are on the same wavelength about a one second pause in a conversation that doesn’t sound like a great system either.

        1. Antilles*

          No, your entire decision shouldn’t come down to nuance like that. But that’s my point: If you’re having actual conversations, you can get that sort of nuance and ask follow-up questions, then get a better feel for the candidate.
          Is the fact John’s good technically (but not great at PM skills) relevant? Maybe it’s not because the role is pure technical. Or maybe it’s something you ask John about to understand it. Or maybe the job is 98% client management and 2% technical so it’s extremely important. But regardless, it seems useful to get that information.

  6. Observer*

    #1 – Shared drive.

    I think that Alison has a good point that it sounds like you have a broader issue to deal with. Having said that, even if Ashley were otherwise excellent, the failure to use the shared drive would be a big problem on its own.

    Unless you have an unusual backup system, if the documents are not on the shared drive, they are not backed up which is a problem for this kind of situation. And also, if she’s out one day (or she leaves on a moments notice for any reason), you’re going be facing bit of a nightmare getting at her files. This is not tenable.

    In fact this is actually a big enough deal that this alone is a yellow flag about her carelessness.

    But also,the fact that it’s not standard operating practice, and you feel like it’s a “small thing” that you can’t seriously address tells me that your company could use some updating on data management and security.

    1. Coffee Snob/Knob*

      Actually big agreement with Observer here.

      I am dealing with the same kind of issue with a subordinate. In like, we have a shared drive, and a CRM platform, but my subordinate ‘forgets’ or ‘is too busy’ to upload the files. I get where he is coming from, and sometimes I am that way as well, I can only upload them at the end of the day when I am done working with them. However, my boss keeps chasing me (micromanager) to upload certain documents and files, and presses me to make sure my subordinate does the same.

      I am also wondering if this is a symptom of a larger issue, the same yellow flag situation, because I can also see carelessness throughout his work. Misspelled names, typos, poorer command of language, just situations that can be reflected as not well thought through. Nothing critical (yet) but remains an issue as we are customer facing and it reflects badly on the company. Everyone makes mistakes, but he seems to be making more than his fair share of them.

      I feel, and my boss is indirectly pressuring me to always check his work going out, but that hampers me from tackling my frankly much larger workload that was supposed to be offset by hiring him. Just to clarify, my boss did the hiring, not me. I did not have the final say when he was hired. I am actually looking for a bit of advice, and was considering writing into AAM for some good advice.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      It’s also insane that the scatty employee actually suggested doing it in the first place: she understands that it’s necessary, yet always forgets!

      1. LizB*

        That stood out to me too, as did the fact that her job is document processor! It’s good that she identified this weak point in the company’s data management, but I would think that would make her extra good about fixing it.

    3. Gumby*

      Minor aside but: Unless you have an unusual backup system – is it really that odd to back up both shared drives and people’s local hard drives? Because my work does both. Maybe we’re outliers. If I work from home too many days in a row w/o connecting to VPN, I get notified that my backup is overdue. Not so much an issue now that I’m in the office 2-3 days a week but in the early pandemic days I got the message a lot.

    4. AnonAboutThis*

      Where I work, some of us have it set up so that we work off our local drive, but files get backed up throughout the day automatically to a shared drive (that is still mostly private).

  7. Anonymous cat*

    For number 5, “I don’t want one” should be reason enough. She needs to learn what No means.

    1. anon_sighing*

      Right? I’d email whoever was planning it directly and just say, “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I really am not comfortable with a work baby shower for personal reasons. Everyone’s well wishes were enough for me. Thank you, [name]”

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. My only worry is that the organizer is the LW’s grandboss. Depending on the organization pushing back can be fraught, even if it shouldn’t be. At the very least the LW has learned that the grandboss can’t be trusted to do the right thing, only what she wants to do.

        It sounds to me like the classic scenario where the extremely extroverted boss who loves being the center of attention simply can’t get into their head that some other people absolutely detest being the center of attention like that. Many of those who enjoy or at least appreciate getting a public acknowledgement for an achievement that could affect their prospects for a raise and/or promotion don’t necessarily enjoy being in the spotligt for a life event like a pregnancy.

        1. Lady Lessa*

          I wonder if the LW could ask for a shower after the baby is born. And make it a book shower. (You can never have too many books.)

          1. Observer*


            The LW should not have to dance around her grandboss. And a post-baby shower is still going to present problems for anyway.

            And while book showers are great, if you don’t have a clue of what kinds of stuff someone wants / will find usable, again, it winds up being very fraught. And that’s when you are dealing with someone who actually cares what the recipient wants – which is not the case here with this grandboss.

            1. Jojo*

              I think it’s a nice idea to say what would work for you, such as waiting until after the baby is born.
              This is low stakes, but I will strongly disagree — you can have too many books! We have way way way too many baby/toddler books. Sure, we can regift or donate them, but to me they are no different from onesies or toys or any of the other baby things i have way too many of!

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, there are people who don’t understand that other people have different preferences from themselves and if they are extroverts, think more introverted people are “just shy” or “just don’t like to ask” and “sure, they’re worrying about nothing. Nobody is going to judge them and they’ll see that once it gets started and love it.”

          She may also be concerned about “being fair.” If there have been showers for other employees or if she is planning to have them for others in the future, she may feel it “wouldn’t be fair” if the LW didn’t get one or that it would “look like favouritism” to people who didn’t know the LW didn’t want one.

          Now, absolutely none of this is an excuse to ignore the LW’s boundaries. A shower is meant to be for the person who is pregnant and doing it against their wishes is not on.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            At this point it is more for the grandboss to show off she celebrates her employees’ milestones than an actual celebration for OP – since OP said she didn’t want one.

        3. AnonORama*

          Yes! As someone who absolutely hates my birthday, I’ve worked for several people who just think I’m protesting too much when I say I don’t want it acknowledged. The worst was the boss who LOVED attention and whose birthday was right after mine, so she always had to work in something about mine. (And lest anyone think this was a sweet gesture, even after I’d asked her not to — she’s *one year* younger and always had to mention that, usually more than once.)

          The person I work for now seems to get it — she likes birthdays, and didn’t understand why I don’t, so I said I hate aging, I hate attention and I don’t eat sugar so why bother!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It should be, but in practice all sorts of things that should be so aren’t.

      LW is not in a position to force her grandboss to become a person who understands what No means just by being morally correct about it. AAM’s script is a reasonable attempt to draw up short someone proceeding on “this is a happy thing that makes people happy” and have them consider a wider picture. In which it’s not simply “the person we’re doing the happy thing for demured, as is polite, but that’s all that ‘no’ meant was a bit of ritual politeness.”

    3. El l*

      Yeah. Lauren probably takes the no as “You shouldn’t have…” rather than “No, I don’t want this, please stop.”

      There’s a couple ways to get that across, but that has to be the message.

    4. irritable vowel*

      And 19 weeks is really too early for a baby shower under any circumstances! Anyone who doesn’t realize this is incredibly naive or knows nothing about pregnancy and what can go wrong. 20ish weeks is when you have the anatomy scan and no one in their right mind would schedule a baby shower to come before that.

  8. Thepuppiesareok*

    OP3 please please please listen to Alison and insist on security as a requirement for your attendance. Do not let management downplay or dismiss your concerns. Unfortunately my work experienced an active shooter situation just over a week ago. It was in the parking lot which limited how many people from my company came into contact with the shooter. Unfortunately one of my coworkers is still in the ICU. Another person (who didn’t work for my company) didn’t make it. Take this seriously. No event, no job is worth the risk this man presents. Take care of yourself.

    1. Observer*

      Do not let management downplay or dismiss your concerns.

      Yes. 1,000 x over.

      I probably would not push too hard on the shooter scenario per se. But keep in mind that there are a LOT of ways that someone can create serious danger to people even without a gun. And even if he doesn’t actively try to kill people, he could cause a *lot* of harm.

      He’s making credible threats, and he already has a history of bad and uncontrolled behavior. Keep in mind that he was fired the day after your meeting with Admin, despite the fact that he tried to throw you under the bus. That’s highly unusual in quasi-governmental organizations. Which means that either he had quite a track record already and this was in the works or his behavior was unhinged enough that when they checked with other witnesses they realized that this was a really, really big issue.

      All of which means that even if someone is truly absolutely convinced (which would be almost certainly be wrong, to be clear) that this guy would NEVER be a shooter, there is *so* much other damage he could do if he’s trying to “stick it to management.” Security is just a no-brainer here.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        It’s easy to forget when planning an event that you, the planner, are responsible for the safety and security of everyone at the event. OP3, if your management does not agree to provide armed security or police presence (with strict instructions not to let the former employee into the event venue under ANY circumstances), please do not attend this event yourself and look into cancelling the entire event. A cancelled event is much less bad publicity than mass casualty event that occurs due to insufficient security.

        If your management is on the fence about this, get the venue involved too, because they will also have security policies and may be able to help with security. However, saying “please consider our legal liability should [ex-employee] disrupt the event in a way that causes injury” will hopefully be enough to get the security you need. Please prioritise your safety and the safety of your event attendees, and do NOT take no for an answer!

        1. Me, I think*

          Yes, our event planning team has security as a major part of every event plan and they take it seriously.

          Anyone who is planning a “major event” needs to be planning for the possibility of an active shooter situation and have some sort of plan for how to handle it.

          1. I Have RBF*


            Even hobby events like SF&F conventions above a very small size need to consider security and codes of conduct. In one area, the volunteer security also acts as first aid and crowd control.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          We had an unstable ex-employee who drove by his ex-boss’s house several times and also showed up in the work parking lot (during the day when people are less likely to be going in and out, just hanging out in his car). In response my company stepped up security, had the police patrol our lot and the one next door for his car, and made sure we had police protection during our volunteer outing in case he showed up. This has to be taken seriously.

        3. Observer*

          However, saying “please consider our legal liability should [ex-employee] disrupt the event in a way that causes injury” will hopefully be enough to get the security you need.

          Absolutely! Also, “We should also consider the negative publicity if [ex-employee] disrupts he event in a way that harms or seriously offends people.”.

        4. Greta*

          I’m thinking the event might be held at LW’s workplace rather than a separate venue. My first thought was that event was like an exhibit opening or talk. It’s worth bringing up, but it is more likely to fall on deaf ears if the event is at LW’s workplace. Administration, maybe excluding those involved in the firing, may think their shoestring security policy is good enough.

        5. worriedop3*

          You actually hit the nail on the head about what’s getting to me even if I say I’m not going. This event is at my workplace. There will be other staff working, I have caterers coming, and someone from a state organization will be coming in from out of town to speak. Members of the public will be there as well, including any local kids who catch wind of free food. I don’t want any of these people to be put at risk!

          I will put my foot down about security. I know we run on a shoestring budget, so I’m worried I’ll be told we can’t afford anything – but if that happens, I’ll be planning my exit.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            They cannot afford the lawsuits and ruin that will come in the wake of what this guy may be planning, far more than security.

          2. DJ Abbott*

            If they refuse to get good security, can you go over their heads? Maybe to a government official or elected official above them? I would keep escalating until something is done, no matter how high you have to go.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Or another idea – a tip-off to news organizations that threats have been made, but nothing is being done about security. A week or so before the event, so they have time to scramble in some security, and do damage control. :D

    2. RedinSC*

      holycats! That’s horrifying. So sorry you and your organization went through that.

      I hope your colleague recovers swiftly.

    3. 1LFTW*

      I wish there was a way to push this to the top of the thread. This letter made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

      I’m sorry you had to go through this, and I hope your colleague pulls through.

    4. GythaOgden*

      No advice, just sympathy. That’s a terrible thing to go through and I hope your colleague will pull through. I’m sending you and your colleagues all the love and hope in the world that you can all recover from this — the mental wounds will be there even if you didn’t get physically hurt.

    5. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

      Yeah. And now is a good time to read or re-read “The Gift of Fear”, and give/lend it to everyone in charge of decision-making on this event.

      (Caveat, author can be a bit victim-blamey in places. But it’s still a very useful book for the advice on how to identify dangerous situations.)

      1. Shrimp Emplaced*

        1,000,000%. Having everyone read this book is fantastic advice, because the former employee’s threat won’t expire whether he manages to attend the event somehow or now. The whole team should be armed with The Gift of Fear knowledge so they can come up with an overall plan of dealing with this person whenever they menace the staff (and possibly patrons too).

    6. WoodswomanWrites*

      That is horrific. I am so sorry this happened to you all, and appreciate your articulating it here to protect others. I hope your colleague fully recovers.

    7. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I’m so sorry you and your co-workers and everyone else went through that. I can’t even imagine how traumatic that must have been. I hope you’re taking care of yourself. Apparently, playing Tetris has been helpful for some in preventing intrusive thoughts about traumatic events.

    8. not nice, don't care*

      I wonder if OP’s org has a risk department/attorney that might want to know about the threatening employee.

    9. worriedop3*

      I’m so so sorry that you and your colleagues went through this! It has definitely been going through my head that nothing could be worth the risk to everyone involved.

  9. Observer*

    #5 – Don’t want a shower.

    Alison mentions pointing out that “ there a lot of reasons someone might not want a shower — including fears about the pregnancy and religious prohibitions.

    This is very valid. There are a LOT of religious traditions around pregnancy and childbirth, and it’s way too easy to step on someone’s toes. I can tell you that in some Orthodox Jewish circles baby showers pre-baby are very much seen in a negative light. And there there the issue of buying random gifts for people you don’t know, which is fraught to start with and even more so when dealing with religious traditions.

    Oh, and before anyone says that you can always all just bring diapers, have you ever had a conversation with someone who is strongly committed to not using disposable diapers? It’s a real thing, and while most people are reasonable about it, many would be highly offended. And even the reasonable types would be, reasonably, taken aback at being saddled with a bunch of baby diapers that they have no intention of using.

    1. Double A*

      Also 20 weeks is VERY early to do a baby shower. I am not religious at all but I would have been deeply uncomfortable just on a superstitious level that it boded ill. (I am also not particularly superstitious but there’s something about the near total lack of control surrounding pregnancy that will bring it out).

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Agree! I also experienced some loss, and even though it didn’t affect me that badly, and I’m not religious and usually not superstitious, STILL, I kind of didn’t even want to talk too much in the early stages about the pregnancy that ended up sticking. I just quietly wanted to wait and not make a big deal. I think that’s a very normal reaction.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, absolutely.

          I mean, I had to tell my boss that I was pregnant when I was 6 or 7 weeks along when she found me asleep at my desk. At the time I hadn’t told anyone except my husband and our families of origin, people I could trust to support me if I lost the pregnancy. Thankfully I never had morning sickness, only mild nausea, usually triggered by the smell of coffee, but the first trimester exhaustion was something else. Particularly memorable was the time when I fell asleep standing up in a full commuter train while hugging a vertical rail. I only managed to stay upright because the train was so full that I didn’t have any room to fall over. I woke up when the train stopped at a station and some fresh air blew in my face through the open door. Thankfully enough people left the train at that station that I could grab a seat.

      2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        100% this. At 20 weeks, I wouldn’t want my cowoerks to know yet. My boss, yes. My coworkers/team, not yet,

    2. IndigoHippo*

      Can confirm that my Jewish grandmother who is SO SECULAR (like was brought up by secular Jewish communists secular) STILL got really weird about me buying stuff in advance of my first baby being born. It’s a really strong religious/cultural taboo.

      1. Moo*

        Secular Irish too – we have a really strong culture of not buying stuff, giving gifts etc until the baby is born.

        1. Rebecca*

          My mother grew up in Ireland and she will NOT buy anything for a baby before it’s born.

        2. allathian*

          Yes, parents generally don’t get very many gifts before the baby’s born in Finland, either.

          That said, we did pioneer the Baby Box in 1937, and I’m not sure if there’s anyone still alive who remembers becoming a parent before the baby box existed, given that the first kids who got them are 86 or 87 now.

          But thanks to the baby box, baby showers are fairly uncommon, or at least they were 15 years ago when I was pregnant. I didn’t have one and neither did any of my friends who are parents.

            1. allathian*

              A baby box is provided by our social security services and it contains basic items for the baby, including a few pieces of clothing for newborns and children up to about 18 months old in gender-neutral colors, a few different kinds of diapers to try including reusable ones, baby wipes, nail scissors, a baby-safe picture book, etc. The box I got also contained a winter snow suit in an extendable size (newborn to 12 months so all babies should get some use of it regardless of their birthdate) and a sleeping bag.

              Napping outdoors is a national pastime here, and people who have balconies frequently let their babies nap there, even when it’s relatively cold. For a 3-month-old baby, the recommended lowest temperature for napping outdoors is -10 C/14 F including windchill, so a napping space out of the wind is recommended.

              The box is about 1 ft by 2ft by 6 inches and can be used as the baby’s first bassinet with a foam mattress (provided in the box). My son slept in it until he no longer fit the box.

              Some other countries have since introduced baby boxes, including Scotland.

              1. Iain C*

                I initially missed the “social” in your first sentence, and was picturing a baby box as made by James Bond’s Q…

            2. Hlao-roo*

              Allathian is in Finland, which gives a “baby box” to all expectant/adoptive parents. The baby box has baby clothes, diapers, and other products, so there’s not much need for family/friends/coworkers to buy baby products for the parents. There’s more information on the Wikipedia page “Maternity package.”

        3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I never even knew it was a thing to buy people presents before the baby was born! I was inundated with presents once they were born, but nothing until then (raised in the UK living in France)

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Whereas I didn’t know how many places had the tradition of waiting until after the birth! Very cool to hear about different approaches in different countries or communities.

            I’m in Canada and not part of a religious tradition. Baby showers are pretty common here, though they tend to happen a couple months before the birth. Late enough that the worry about losing the baby is minimized, but early enough that the parents-to-be have time to be set up and ready for the baby. As I understand it, the purpose is usually for everyone to come together and share the cost of getting everything needed to care for a baby, because it can be super expensive. Like, a group of friends might get together to buy a stroller or crib.

            Interestingly, this typically only happens for a first baby. It’s considered a bit tacky to have a full shower for any subsequent babies, since the parents should already have most of the stuff they need. I’ve heard of people doing a baby sprinkle, which I think is more like a celebration, without the expectation of expensive gifts.

      2. AnonORama*

        For sure — this is a cultural thing even among folks who don’t practice the religion. I am, and most of my childhood friends are, culturally Jewish but “so Reform we’re actually atheist.” Still, baby showers pre-birth were considered bad luck.

        1. Double A*

          I’m not culturally anything with these superstitions; it’s just a personal feeling. That still should be respected too.

          Actually in general I’m really uncomfortable how in the US the idea is you’re pregnant = you will have a baby. In TV shows this is emphasized when someone gets the positive test and they say, “We’re having a baby.” Like…there’s is a pretty decent chance that if you’re at the 6 week mark and you got a positive test, you are not actually going to have a baby.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I think culturally in the west (I cannot speak to other cultures), we have successfully pushed death and loss out of our collective consciousness. We like to believe that modern medicine can fix everything. It can’t. Pregnancy and childbirth are one of those areas where we can now do so much, truly, miracles of medicine, but that doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe and guaranteed.

          2. Observer*

            I’m not culturally anything with these superstitions; it’s just a personal feeling. That still should be respected too.

            Of course! As others have said “No thanks” should have been the end of the conversation.

            It’s just that when you are dealing with someone who refuses to hear that, it can be helpful to come up with a reason why they “have to” or why someone else with more standing should push the issue.

    3. Pennyworth*

      My family is not religious but I seem to have absorbed a superstition that it is unlucky to provide a baby gift before it is born. Ditto opening birthday gifts before it is actually my birthday.

      1. amoeba*

        Hah, yeah, the latter is just “common sense” here in Germany! I’m always so, so confused when people celebrate their birthdays/open presents/say happy birthday in advance in other countries. It’s just… not done! Ever!

          1. Double A*


            There can be no compromising on this.
            (This is a reference to an infamous AAM letter just in case you haven’t seen it haha. I am not just mean).

      2. Foxy Hedgehog*

        I encountered this at a work baby shower here in the USA. The guest of honor was a recent immigrant from Russia, and somebody during the party asked her if there were any traditions for baby showers in Russia. She replied “oh, we don’t do this in Russia.” “Oh! Why not?” “You know that English expression ‘don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched’?”

        We were all suitably horrified that we had put her in this uncomfortable position, but she assured us she wasn’t superstitious (her phrasing) and that she didn’t mind at all. It did cast a bit of a pall on the proceedings though.

    4. Jill Swinburne*

      Not only that, different brands for different bums. What’s perfect on one baby might be Leaksville on another.

      Why is this woman so invested in having a baby shower for someone else anyway? I would be the same as OP (and actually refused to have one myself – I had a textbook pregnancy, I just don’t enjoy them. I’ll go to other people’s to support them and eat cake, but it was not something I wanted.)

      1. CityMouse*

        This. Diaper sizing and brands are super tricky. I wouldn’t suggest anyone stockpile diapers for that reason.

      2. Alright Alright Alright*

        People get weirdly invested in how other people “should” do things. Reminds me of the boss who was upset that her employee wasn’t using all the maternity benefits she (the boss) had arranged, that the employee had never asked for.

      3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        We’ve seen letters here where the OP hasn’t had a shower while everyone else has, and they’re feeling left out and unhappy. Wondering why “nobody likes them”. This is OP’s grandboss organising, who probably doesn’t want OP to feel left out. And maybe heard OP’s protests as a polite “oh really you shouldn’t go to such trouble” rather than a desperate “please let’s not do this in case something goes wrong”.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yeah, I’d imagine this is why it was even brought up to begin with. But obviously the grandboss should immediately have put an end to it when OP made it known she doesn’t want one!

    5. Varthema*

      This, and I don’t think admin gets veto power over whether or not LW notifies the police – you should do it if admin doesn’t. My fear is that they’re going to dither because it’s “hearsay”, which is fair in a court of law but not in this situation. And as Alison said, you should not go if you don’t feel that your concerns are being taken seriously.

      To be totally honest, if you have a very disgruntled employee hanging around being threatening like this, I think the most responsible thing might be to cancel the event, if that’s at all possible. Even if police are present, a shooter can get a fair amount of damage done before they have the chance to intervene.

    6. Lab Lady*

      Not just Orthodox Jewish. I’m from a pretty secular Jewish family with Conservative traditions, and I have never been to a family baby shower. Sure it’s superstitious, but it’s my culture and my family.

      I didn’t realize just how uncomfortable I was celebrating an unborn child prior to birth until I was pregnant and my colleagues wanted to throw me a baby shower. I initially said yes, but realized I had internalized the superstition, and was able to say ‘no’ before planning had gone to far.

      My collegues and friends were awesome, with my blessing they did a ‘shower’ while I was in the hospital (without me), setting up the baby stuff, making sure I was fully stocked and the house was clean for when I got home. Then, a few months later we had an outdoor ‘sip and see’.

  10. Nia*

    #2 I know that companies mostly don’t give extra compensation for people who work from home when the office is closed. And that’s fine, I suppose, as a trade off for the benefit of working from home. But it feels different when it’s only one person working and that person is dealing with a larger work load because they’re the only person working. Offering comp time feels appropriate here.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I think it feels different when that person also doesn’t normally work from home as it sounds like was the case here. She has access to work from home but normally works in the office. So she’s not getting the primary WFH benefits and only extreme weather disadvantages.

      1. Hyaline*

        This! She doesn’t get to WFH on the regular, and it sounds like this was a more difficult than usual workday for her as she was the only one working! Definitely not a case of “WFH has some benefits and some drawbacks” but a case of this person shouldering the full load for a day.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, I’m sure OP doesn’t have much control over this, but if they do it’s worth examining why only one (or now two?) people have the ability to WFH and no one else does. I agree that it is unfair to place the workload entirely on one or two people, similar to the situations during the height of the pandemic where only one person would go into the office and then ended up doing so much of everyone’s “just one or two small tasks, please?” work that they then couldn’t get their own work done. If the office is going to be closed for the day but they expect someone to WFH, they should give everyone the ability to WFH and require it. If this is too difficult because of equipment or security (HIPAA plays into this, I bet), then they should just close the office outright or if they really, really do need someone working to be sure patients’ appointments are rescheduled and questions answered, they should compensate the people covering with an extra day of PTO or something like that. But also, I reiterate that there really should be more than two people with the ability to WFH. What if both of you has to deal with your own personal weather emergencies on a day when the office is closed?

        OP, I would not suggest you refuse to WFH if your company requires it in an emergency situation, because you will be seen as not being a team player. But I would bring up the idea that other people should be able to WFH too, or ask for an extra day of PTO on those days. And do it now, before the situation arises, and get it in writing.

    2. Alyn*

      I wonder if this varies by industry? I can’t speak to healthcare, but I know in my job, when one employee has to work on a day everyone else gets off (e.g. working on a holiday), they’re given a comp day to use later. We also rotate who has to cover so that it’s not always the same person.

  11. anon_sighing*

    For #1, I am a little confused on why this is the tipping point. If the shared drive wasn’t there before *she* suggested it, then what was the process before to disseminate it?

    I am also confused on if she’s a “mediocre worker” or does she “get her tasks done well enough”? What else are you reminding her about? It feels like the shared drive is not really the issue here — such a newly implemented thing that doesn’t seem substantial in the workflow (because again, it sounds like they lived in her Downloads folder before she suggested this) can’t have made “PIP” go through your head.

    Have you tried to set deadlines for tasks with this person and put them on a calendar? Do you do 15 minute one-on-ones where you can talk about these tasks? I feel like checking in for her to do it on your timeline isn’t productive. When do you actually need it by and how can you support her in getting it there (and other things done) at on a timeline that works for both of you? Are you in a habit of reminding her when she doesn’t even need reminding?

    1. Myrin*

      I don’t think “mediocre worker” and “gets task done well enough” are mutually exclusive! In fact, I’d even say that’s kind of the definition of a “mediocre worker” – they get things done and those things get done okay but not outstandingly great.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        It seems like a lot of people use “mediocre worker” to mean “bad,” whereas I would take it to mean “meets minimum requirements but doesn’t go beyond” or “average to slightly below average.”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          For things with an optional element, I think we expect the average to be “good.” We’re culling out a subset from the larger pool.

          Like the books I read, or movies I watch, should average out to a solid A-B level. A is great. B is pleasant but didn’t stand out. C is profoundly mediocre, two hours of my life I’m not getting back, but not so bad I turned off the movie or skipped to the end of the book, which is what D-F would normally involve.

          If managers are doing their jobs of hiring and retaining competent people who do good work, we expect our coworkers to occasionally be great and at worst be pleasant and not stand out. D/F coworkers generate impassioned AAM letters and warnings about bees. C coworkers are the ones who stand out mildly for being less competent. I think “After two years in the role they still need someone to double check all their work, like I did when they were two weeks into the role” is a good example of C. Someone who isn’t pulling it together enough to do the job the way a reasonable person would respect. But they aren’t throwing staplers, napping in a blanket fort, setting fire to boxes of documents, or the other stuff that makes for real excitement.

    2. Nodramalama*

      I don’t think mediocre worker who gets tasks done well enough are contradictory. I’d say someone who does the bare minimum is a mediocre employee but not a stellar one

    3. Allonge*

      A newly implemented thing could improve the workflow a lot – just because there has not been a central solution so far it does not mean that it is not needed.

      Also, if the person who is responsible for saving docs on the shared drive is not doing it, the wokflow does not have a chance of changing – everyone else will treat this solution as unreliable, which right now it is.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      I think the LW summed up the mediocre worker thing pretty clearly.

      She gets her tasks done well enough, but requires me to check in on her more frequently than anyone else on my team

      The final product is correct, but the process to get there requires too much intervention.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Something that you would expect with someone new to the job, but they aren’t growing into the role and taking over the extra oversight responsibilities of understanding how to check their own work.

    5. Achenar*

      “For #1, I am a little confused on why this is the tipping point. If the shared drive wasn’t there before *she* suggested it”

      Right?! It reminds me of The Dark Crystal TV series, when SkekTek was mutilated as punishment for losing a small amount of the essence that they only had thanks to his work.

  12. RCB*

    #4, I was the one who fielded all reference checks at my former employer, and they often do get ridiculous but I found that the company asking for the reference doesn’t care if you answer or not, so don’t let it bother you. When I’d get the ridiculously time consuming ones like you got I’d say something like Alison suggested of “This person was fantastic and I recommend then without hesitation, but your form is terrible and I refuse to spend my time on it” and absolutely no one rejects it, they know they can’t force someone to fill it out, and they don’t care what it says as long as it doesn’t say anything negative. So do your best and send it back, it will be fine.

    Also, a lot of forms will ask for the employee’s salary amount, and I ALWAYS left that blank, because it is no one’s business but the employee’s, and that information is often used to hold back women and minorities. I never once had someone follow up and insist on the information, they hope you provide them the free data but they don’t need it and won’t follow up if you don’t provide it, so skip what you don’t want/can’t answer.

    1. Panda (she/her)*

      If you’re going to do something like this, I’d give a heads up to the employee. For my current job, my two references were required to respond fully, and the third party reference checker followed up with me when they hadn’t heard from one of my references for 3 days.

      1. Not required*

        I do a lot of references for former employees.

        I’ve seen forms that ‘require’ me to answer fully.

        I don’t.

        I’ve never seen anyone miss out on a job as a result.

        1. Fikly*

          Honest question: how would you know? Presumably, if you do a lot of references, the hire rate of the people you are doing references for is not 100%. If it’s anything less than 100%, how can you possibly know if your reference was a factor?

        2. 1LFTW*

          My current job required three completed written references. Some jobs have onerous application processes.

        3. Panda (she/her)*

          Maybe you haven’t, but that’s a pretty small sample size. My employer is very strict and without 2 completed references, the offer will literally be pulled. Feel free to continue as you have been, maybe it doesn’t matter for your industry, just be aware that your experience is not the same as everyone’s.

    2. Lionheart26*

      My industry has a simple reference check that I LOVE. Companies can join the Recruitment Collaborative; they pay a very small admin fee to join. Someone at the RC vets companies and makes sure they are accredited and meet certain expectations for safety, quality, etc.
      Employees who have worked at an RC company can then register for free. The RC contacts me to confirm dates of employment and rate them as “would rehire with enthusiasm”, “would consider hiring; give me a call”, “not eligible for rehire”. It takes me 30 seconds to do this.

      When I’m hiring, it makes such a difference to know at a glance that a candidate has experience at a decent company. I always call to follow up on every candidate anyway, but seeing the green “would rehire with enthusiasm” ticks are really helpful. It’s such a simple system but works really effectively.

    3. Sloanicota*

      I was requested to do this by a peer last year. It was for an academic job. I was pretty irked about how long the form was, particularly since I actually didn’t like this peer at all and was doing her a favor (it wasn’t her fault the form existed or was so long or had a tight deadline, of course). She told me they barely read the forms anyway – it’s a pass/fail type thing, since obviously they can’t even take the time to get real answers. So I just put one sentence, ambiguously positive answers to each question. I figured a place that uses this system doesn’t deserve nuance. It must have worked because she did get the job.

    4. Wilbur*

      Great work on the salary part. I’m sure you could put in something about not being able to disclose compensation information per corporate policy.

    5. HopefulPessimist*

      OP#4, consider asking the applicant to answer the questions for you, send them to you in an editable document, then tweak them to ensure they are to your liking and reflect your voice. Just make sure they say [applicant] instead of “I”!

  13. Anon for this*

    #3 – worth reaching out to your local police. We had an event where we had a somewhat similar concern. The police were extremely accommodating. They were willing to be sitting at registration, parked in the lot, or just patrolling generally nearby, depending on our preference. We picked parked in the lot and very happily didn’t need them. But they were super open to working with us. We’re in a small city, and the issue of concern was known to police, not sure if either of those makes a difference.

    1. Shrimp Emplaced*

      I hope OP3 sees this, this is great and encouraging advice and lived experience!

    2. unpleased*

      Some police departments also offer a security walkthrough of a space like offices, etc., They look for places where there are weaknesses in defenses (e.g., there’s only one door in and out of a shared space) and can provide guidance on how to defend yourself (e.g., you can throw these things), hide (e.g., you can get up into the ceiling here) or flee.

      Definitely reach out to the police, talk through this situation with them, and see if they might have the ability to do this at your venue. (Domestic violence groups in your area might have advice on safety planning, as well. Sometimes guidance about how to be attentive to the space you are in and who is around you can be available their websites.)

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Any decent police department would far rather be notified of a potential problem ahead of time then try to infiltrate an active shooter situation in progress.

    4. tangerineRose*

      Just the presence of the police nearby might make would-be bad people think twice about doing anything.

  14. Rosacolleti*

    #2 Presumably the employee is out of pocket due to weather days. It’s neither under their control and it’s already cost them money. I think paying someone extra would be setting a costly precedent. Ideally they would look at having a roster so people take it in turns on those days but ultimately, within businesses there will always be some roles that can keep working when others can’t, where part of the workforce are located elsewhere or work from home.

    1. Some Words*

      Sadly this is one of those situations where one may need to accept that some things just don’t seem fair. This is one of them. At least under this business’ current policies.

      My employer would occasionally let the staff go home early the day before a holiday, usually at 2:30. That was great for everyone with a later start time. Those of us who began our work day at 6:00 normally simply got no perk on those days. It took them a long time to switch to “staff may leave 2 hours early” so everyone got an equal perk.

      This sounds like a similar situation in that it’s really not hitting management’s attention that they could and should do better in this scenario. Especially since it sounds like a rarity. Do you have the capital to push a little for management to reconsider this policy going forward? It may not happen quickly, but it could be worth putting this bug in their ear.

  15. Coyote River*

    LW3 consider having a chat with your local PD. They might be free to lend an officer or two, their presence alone might be enough to discourage your former co-worker.

  16. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – I don’t see why the company would pay the worker who was working as usual for an extra day. They didn’t work an extra day. What would make more sense would be to give them a paid day off work – that would make up for the extra burden on them for the snow day, when they were the only person working.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Not really. An extra day’s pay would be more money, whereas an extra day off would be within the existing budget. Let’s say this happened on a Monday. Under the first scenario, they’d essentially get paid for 6 days working – twice for Monday, then once for every other day. Under the second scenario, they took Friday off instead. They’d get paid for 5 days – their regular pay for Monday to Friday.

        1. Ellie*

          Honestly, if I was her manager, I’d be tempted to just give her permission to take a day off, of her choosing. I think that’s the fairest thing to do.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        It’s a lot easier from a payroll processing perspective to informally give someone a paid day off, rather than to try to pay them twice over for hours worked only once. Plus, payroll / finance isn’t going to approve someone being paid double time, if it isn’t an approved holiday.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Yes, the person was working, but they had the knowledge they would definitely be paid for the day and not lose PTO. Everyone else worried the day was unpaid or cost them a day of PTO. Peace of mind has value too.

      OP2 seems stuck on the fact this person worked for free that day. For free would mean they worked and did not get any compensation. They did. They were paid for the day. OP you need to reframe this in your head that the coworker was paid as normal. She might have been sitting in her jammies watching Price is Right while fielding all the emails and calls. She didn’t have to worry about trying to make it to work in bad weather to do it.

      1. OldHat*

        I think the real concern is that this happened to coworker because they had the approval to do some telework. Now that LW also has this ability, they are concerned about what will happen if LW is asked to work. LW is looking at what precedent this sets and is trying to shape it. Not necessarily a bad thing, but why they are still hyper about it.

      2. Patch*

        At least for me, that peace of mind is worth no more than maybe 1/10th of a day’s pay. Obviously that will vary for different people, but if my boss used that rationale I’d feel more mistreated, not less.

      3. Ellie*

        I wonder if OP’s company has any kind of reward and recognition program? Nominating her for recognition might go a long way towards making this right.

  17. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (document processing on shared drive) – is it possible that she actually hasn’t done those documents, but says she “forgot” to put them on the shared drive (and then rushes through them when you ask for them to be put there)?

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      yes, you’ve nailed! I have scatty days where I have too many things to juggle and one small thing slips my mind. The client reaches out and I’ll scramble to get it done and delivered and hope that she doesn’t realise that I had forgotten. Luckily it’s only very small bits that I forget, they’re too small to warrant being put on the list. Yes, I do try to persuade myself that everything however small needs to go on the list.

  18. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (snow day) – two thoughts on this.

    1. It seems to me that the manager is just paying lip service (and I would love to know what, if anything, manager has actually done to advocate for her). Why didn’t manager pitch in with taking those calls? If it’s because they didn’t have remote access, this should have been arranged once the gap was realised.

    2. This speaks to a contingency planning issue as much as a fairness one. Is their response to unexpected situations that “oh we will just load it all on to one person”. What if it’s a longer-running situation next time? What if that person then gets sick, etc. This can be presented as an opportunity to revisit those contingency processes.

    1. Allonge*

      OP writes “At that time, my coworker was the only one of us who had access to be able to work from home.” I would hope that this means that this is changing (although, how much it is possible to change is questionable of course.

      Also, it’s reasonable for a manager, even if they have access, to decide that they will work on their own things and to ask an employee to answer incoming questions.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        OP said they now have access as well, but it seems that not everyone does. I have to admit I assumed the manager already did, and that the employee OP is writing about was the only one of ‘the team’ to have remote access. I find it unlikely that someone has remote access but their manager doesn’t. If manager was able to help, their own work should have been de-prioritised (if not urgent) if the alternative was load it all onto one person.

        1. Allonge*

          Sure, in an ideal world, boss would have been able to pitch in, but then there are a lot of if-s in your last sentence.

          Either way, OP is essentially upset because someone else had a hard day at work while everyone else got to take it easy. This happens all the time, it way one day, and while I agree that it should be recognised in a meaningful way, it’s really not something to be so upset over.

    2. Nightengale*

      The manager may not have been someone with the clinical knowledge/license to handle those tasks. Since this is a clinic, not a business. Our office manager is great at many things but is not a clinician. So it depends if these were clinical questions or more scheduling and logistics. Although I would be really surprised if in January 2024,, a large healthcare system didn’t have remote/work from home capabilities for the majority of clinical staff.

      1. Orv*

        Also, if they’re union the manager may not be allowed to do tasks that are in the contract scope.

  19. linger*

    OP5: If workplace does not respect your wishes, that’s on them. But be aware that they might choose to go ahead anyway. For the worst-case scenario, see “Emily” in the Friday open thread for 2024/03/22-23, updating after having had an unwanted baby shower thrown at her:

    I tried again to make it very clear that I did not want the shower. I was very clear and direct with my supervisor, and they finally said they would handle it. They did not. It still happened, and now it was a surprise for me because I thought it was cancelled.
    It was awful. It was loud and crowded and everyone was looking at me and I was not prepared for it at all. I had a meltdown. [From another comment: In her haste to escape “There was property damage.”] I don’t remember all the details, but eventually someone called my husband to come get me.
    I have not returned to work since and am looking for a new job now. My supervisor called to ask me to come back but I couldn’t talk to them.

    1. linger*

      (Emily originally raised her question in the Friday open thread for March 1-2. I just went back to check that Emily wasn’t actually OP5, who if so would need rather different advice by now.)

    2. DJ Abbott*

      Wow, that’s horrible. This was all about the people who wanted the party and not about the person the party was for.

    3. Juicebox Hero*

      First thing I thought of when I read that question. I felt so bad for Emily at the time. I hope she’s doing all right now.

    4. Lurker*

      I had the same fear reading LW5’s letter-no matter what she says, they might do it anyway. Something she should be aware of!

  20. Eagle*

    Re #5. Legal and government sector manager here. We send our reference checks out via email not only because it’s becoming harder to get people on the phone, but also because it keeps people honest and they tend to think before they send it back to us.

    That said, especially at junior and mid level, our forms are short (maybe 4-5 questions max) and we expect short answers.

    1. Not required*

      Why does asking people to respond in writing make them honest?

      I would be much more honest on the phone.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, while I wouldn’t exactly lie on a form, I do tend to “round people up a bit” on evaluations, so I’d probably do the same on a form. “He’s fair to good at x. I’ll say good,” whereas on the phone I’d be more likely to go into detail.

        On a form, I’d feel like I can’t give further explanation if they misunderstand something, so I’d rather risk them taking something as more positive than I intended it than more negative whereas on the phone, I’d feel I could say more what I thought as they could ask questions for clarification if they weren’t sure what I meant.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I’d imagine because there’s a record written *by you* so if at some point there’s an issue with the information in the reference it’s much harder for you to say “that’s not actually what I said, you aren’t remembering correctly.” A lot of people are more careful with what they sign their name to than with what they say.

        1. Souvenir*

          Yes — and the issue is that being more careful can lead to people being *less* honest.

    2. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

      We used to email reference surveys and there were some people who absolutely were not honest, they were trying to get rid of a bad employee so they wrote him a glowing review in their survey answers to pawn him off on us. It worked and then we were stuck with him.

  21. ChurchOfDietCoke*

    No means no in every context including baby showers. Important health, superstition and religious reasons aside, there are many women who just find the idea of a baby shower (or a wedding shower) deeply tacky and embarrassing. They’ve been ‘creeping in’ to UK culture over the last few years, and I have several colleagues who have just ‘tolerated’ having a shower thrust upon them by over-enthusiastic and well meaning Laurens while finding the entire experience of being the centre of attention and receiving piles of (mostly unwanted) gifts awkward and excruciating.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, it’s one thing to get baby stuff from friends who one may assume will meet the baby at some point, quite another to be reminded of a particularly obnoxious coworker whenever you give the tiny baby a bath.

      I have the feeling that people’s attitudes to baby showers at work run somewhat parallel to their attitudes to work/life separation in general and their willingness to socialize with coworkers outside of working hours in particular.

      I like my coworkers well enough and I enjoy socializing with them on our breaks, but I feel that my childcare habits and preferences are too intimate to share with “mere” coworkers, even if I’m happy enough to share them with my friends, especially my “mommy friends.” Or at least I was when my son was a baby and toddler. Now that he’s a teen, some details aren’t my story to share.

      1. Seashell*

        I really don’t socialize with coworkers outside of work, but I was given a baby shower when I was pregnant with my first and I was fine with it. It turned out that I gave birth when it was happening, so I missed it, but I did get the gifts later. Aside from the coworker who knit a blanket, I did not associated the present with whoever gave it. I doubt that would have been much different even if I was there for the shower.

        1. allathian*

          Thanks for the counterpoint!

          I get along with all of my coworkers now, but when I went on maternity leave I had a rather difficult relationship with my coworker who had the same job description as I did. Our personalities simply didn’t mesh at all. I’m a morning person and tend to do my best work before noon, but she was a very marked night owl who before noon was barely capable of saying a civil word to you if she liked you, and because she didn’t like me, if I said anything at all to her before noon, she’d literally growl in response, growl as in the noise a large, angry dog makes. And our then-boss thought it was an interpersonal issue and refused to intervene.

          It didn’t help that she was tasked with training me and that I made a lot of errors to start with because her constant anger stressed me out and gave me anxiety, which certainly didn’t make her any happier, so it was a vicious circle. About six months after my return to work from maternity leave she got another job, and it took another six months to recruit her replacement (our job description’s a bit niche so good candidates are hard to find). But that meant I was thrown in at the deep end and had to take responsibility for my work in a way I hadn’t done before. It gave me a lot of confidence to see that my internal clients were happy with my work product even when my perfectionist former coworker never had been. The confidence boost helped me a lot with my anxiety which also meant fewer errors in my work.

          At some point after my coworker left, my boss told me that I’d been hired largely on the coworker’s recommendation and that I was by far the best candidate on paper. So my coworker was understandably disappointed in me looking so much better on paper than I was in reality, but that still doesn’t excuse her treatment of me. If she’d been able to maintain a professional demeanor even when she was annoyed with me I would’ve been far less anxious.

          That said, now we can have friendly chats when we see each other at professional conferences, I guess she’s realized that I must be doing something right as I still have a job in the same field…

          I’m glad she didn’t have to buy me a present when our relationship was so fraught, though!

          1. A Nonny Mouse*

            Oof. I’m easily the most extreme night owl I know, and the worst that can be said of me is that I’m not always very coherent before about 11am. I’m not rude (although it’s possible I might completely fail to notice someone waving hello to me, for instance), I’m not mean, I’m just… not flying on all cylinders.

            It’s for this reason that my working hours start at 10:30, although I’ll do earlier meetings on a case-by-case basis.

            (I make up for this via incidents like last month, when we had an urgent press query at nearly 5:30, slap-bang in my most productive time… when almost everyone else had logged off. I turned the thing round in under 20 minutes and held a follow-up call with the journalist after 6pm to clarify some supporting details.)

            Anyway, I suspect the person you were dealing with is just an ass using the morning as their excuse, and I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

  22. Teaching teacher*

    Now that we have e-learning days instead of snow days my school had to make it a point to tell people not to post on social media about what they are doing that day. It does work out unfairly. The secretary and the high school math teacher are going to be busier than the preschool teacher, and almost all of the paraprofessionals are basically getting a paid day off with no expectations but we politely ignore that.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      The second covid lockdown was like that for us. People who had Leaving Cert. (12th graders) students were likely to be busier than say I was as a resource teacher and I suspect the P.E. teacher was off for most of the time, though I don’t know.

      Technically, we are supposed to have e-learning days instead of snow days now too, but whenever there is snow or a really bad storm, the government waive it and say “schools don’t have to go on-line.” It happens reasonably rarely in Ireland anyway, maybe one or two days a year. We got no snow this year. So it’s not really worth the hassle.)

  23. Irish Teacher.*

    LW2, I’m a teacher. While it’s not quite the same thing, in a week or two our Leaving Cert. students (equivalent to 12th graders) will get their holidays a week or so before the rest of the school, so teachers who have a lot of 6th year classes will have a lot of classes off. Just checked and one of my colleagues will have 8 classes off that week, so he will be paid for 22 hours while working about 13 (we get one hour for collaboration with colleagues and planning and stuff). Other people will be paid the same and will be working all 22.

    I am a resource teacher and there have been years when I’ve had a particular student timetabled for 1-1 and the student has very poor attendance so over the course of the year, I might end up with 20 free classes at that time as the student might only be present for one class in three. One class off might not sound the same as a full day off, but over the course of the year, it adds up to more hours.

    Now I know some people getting time off is not the same as everybody getting time off except you, but my point is that things don’t always work out precisely equal and while it is really kind of you to be concerned about your colleagues and it would have been nice if the company showed their appreciation in some way, I wouldn’t have really expected any additional compensation. And it sounds like it’s bothering your colleague a lot less than it is bothering you.

    1. Skytext*

      I think that’s a much different situation. You know there are different benefits and drawbacks to certain positions. What LW 2 is talking about is an entirely different situation: employee is sitting home, probably thinking they are going to have to use a PTO day or miss a day’s pay, but they are okay with that. Then manager CALLS THEM and strongarms them into working. Employee agrees thinking “at least I won’t miss pay/have to use a PTO day like everybody else” THEN finds out everyone else got paid anyway! I would be furious too! If Manager had told her upfront “everybody is getting paid for today, but you are the only one who will actually have to work”, I don’t think she would’ve agreed, do you?

      1. Allonge*

        You would be pissed off by a manager asking someone who can work to, you know, work?

        1. Sarah*

          Not even getting into whether the employer did right or wrong, LW2 has an overdeveloped sense of justice. It’s quite odd to get so worked up on a third party’s behalf, when that third party is presumably an adult with agency to advocate for herself.

  24. Seashell*

    Regarding the snow day, it doesn’t seem worthwhile to get furious on behalf of somebody else who seems to not care much, if at all.

    1. Kara*

      Worth noting that there is a very big difference between “would never “ruffle feathers” or stand up for herself,” and not caring much.

  25. MistOrMister*

    At a former workplace we had “emergency” people who would have to log on and be available to work on days when the office was closed. It’s been ages so I forget exactly what the compensatiob was, but I think they got time and a half or double time for the actual hours worked. I don’t think workplaces HAVE to ofer extra pay or comp days, but it sure does help with employer morale to do so.

  26. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m not sure why answering the reference questions by email is so much more burdensome than doing a call. I think I could answer seven questions in around the same time as a reference call would take.

    But the main point is, you’re trying to help this employee by being a reference in the first place, do you really want to mess with their chances over this?

    1. Not required*

      (1) because I don’t have time to fill in a detailed form, particularly if it asks for examples. I want to help but I have other things to do as well
      (2) sometimes I can share things over the phobe that I can’t share in writing.

      1. Not required*

        oh and (3)

        me providing a reference is a professional courtesy to you, the potential employer. I’m happy to do it, but you’re not the boss of me and don’t get to ‘require’ anything

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          I hear you, but it’s not some big power play where they’re trying to out negotiate you or show you who holds the cards – it’s just a reference.

          Also, I see it as more that you’re doing a courtesy for the candidate, not the employer.

        2. Reebee*

          No one is trying to require a reference, let alone be anyone’s boss about it.

          What a weird take.

          1. Souvenir*

            At least some hiring managers have posted that they drop candidates who don’t get a certain number of completed reference forms. That reads like a requirement to me.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Some time back I recall someone explaining that in their field the only part of the written reference that mattered was the phone number at the bottom. (This was in medicine.) And the phone call required the reference checker to pick up on nuance that someone confirming “Sam seems to be a carbon-based life form” was saying “You should not hire Sam” but would not state that directly to a stranger. And no way was it going in writing.

        AAM makes strong points about noting when someone hesitated as they worked out how to phrase a response, or said something that piqued your interest/radar/vibes and needed a follow-up to clarify.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      It depends on the person. Some people have an easier time expressing their thoughts verbally, others in writing. For people who think a phone call is easier/faster than written answers, it could be because:

      – they have higher standards for spelling/grammar/organization of ideas in writing than in conversation
      – they feel they have to provide more details in writing because there’s no opportunity for the reference-checker to ask immediate follow-up questions
      – they hold themselves to a higher degree of accuracy in writing (ex. they might be fine saying “Jane completed 10-15 TPS reports per month” verbally, but feel they have to look up and compute Jane’s actual average when filling out a written form)

    3. ecnaseener*

      I’ve seen some forms that are more structured than the one in the letter, with a sliding scale for most questions and maybe one or two comment boxes. That’s probably a similar amount of burden as a phone call. Seven open-ended questions is quite a lot more! Many people don’t type as fast as they can talk, and even if they do type that fast, realistically you’re going to slow down and put more thought into the wording of a written answer than a verbal one. You’re also not going to know how much is “enough” without conversational cues, so you’ll write more than you would say on the phone.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah in writing you want to cover all the bases so that the checker doesn’t have questions at the end. If you’re on a phone call, the checker can ask for elaboration on a point because it would be a big part of the job (or could be, if the person is good at it), and you don’t have to worry about covering everything.

    4. Hyaline*

      I think this really depends on the person—I’m a quick writer and I’d appreciate the flexibility of filling it out at my leisure instead of (ugh) a phone call. But I know people who would probably take an hour to fill out a form I’d finish in ten minutes, and they’d prefer talking on (ugh) the phone. So I disagree that the form is just bad for everyone, but I do think an option for phone instead should be offered.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Ideally, yes the reference would be given options. But in this case it sounds like LW has already inquired about that a couple of times.

        It may come down to how someone views being a reference. I look at it as being able to help my former colleague, report, etc get a job – they’re my priority in this and I take it seriously so I don’t mind spending a few extra minutes if needed.

      2. Orv*

        Where I work that’s complicated because whatever we do for one candidate, we’re required to do for every candidate, to ensure fairness. So if one candidate’s references were all by email we can’t do some of them by phone for another candidate.

    5. JelloStapler*

      When you speak, it’s a lot easier than having to write in grammatically correct full sentences. Have you ever tried to convert a verbal conversation to text? We tend to speak in phrases and run-on sentences.

      Plus, putting in writing can be a bit unnerving if you are not sure who will end up seeing it.

    6. Emmy Noether*

      I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I hate the phone, but it is probably quicker. Most people speak more quickly than they write. Most conscientious people will also want to take the time to think about good examples, accurate numbers etc. if they are given the opportunity to take that time. Whereas it’s understood that with the immediacy of a spontaneous phone call, it will be more approximative and off the cuff. If the call is announced in advance, and one prepares oneself, they’ll probably take about the same time (and I’d prefer email). If it’s unanounced, it will take less time.

      I was called for a reference last week for a nanny I very briefly employed three years ago. I was like… she was ok, can’t think of anything good or bad. Took five minutes (and only because the reference checker was a talker who took up 80% of that time). Had this been an email, I would have taken the time to actually come up with something to say.

    7. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      A phone call is much less time and work.
      Most of us talk more quickly than we type and also there is not the constraint of the conversation being a permanent record

  27. NothappyinNY*

    LW1 — I think not saving on a shared drive can be a huge issue if some people work at different locations, different time zones, different shifts, etc. It would not be petty at my office. People share documents and need access. Apparently the person knows how to do this. I would give the person a formal warning this has to be done, but then escalate.

    1. TPS Reporter*

      I would too- tell the employee they have to get the shared docs in the file by ___ time or day. and if it’s not done when I check at the end of the week it will be cause for disciplinary action. And say too that they need to figure out the best method for a self reminder.

      If you as a manager are not treating it as a big deal then the employee won’t either.

  28. Tradd*

    About the baby showers, I think they’ve proliferated in the workplace too much, along with wedding showers, etc. It can get too expensive for many people who are expected to contribute. I used to work with a woman who loved to plan showers whenever someone had a baby – regardless if it was a first or third baby.

    As a single, childless individual, I stopped participating years ago it was costing an extraordinary amount of money.

  29. Rae*

    I disagree on the form #4. The advantages of a form are that it’s asynchronous and that anyone can review it (multiple managers). If it feels too long, just stick to one sentences per question. If it asks for a specific example you don’t have: “I don’t have a specific example, but my experience of this person is as a great colleague.”

    1. Colette*

      But that’s an advantage for the hiring company – it’s not an advantage for the person giving the reference. It also ignores the disadvantages to the hiring company (e.g. people won’t be as hones about issues in writing.)

    2. Observer*

      The advantages of a form are that it’s asynchronous and that anyone can review it (multiple managers).

      And why should the person who is giving the reference care?

      The reason that doing it the way the LW describes is bad practice is that it puts work on outsiders who have absolutely zero obligation, interest, or incentive to do that work.

  30. Circe*

    LW3, “I’ll come and do something to stick it to management” is a threat, even if it’s not a criminal one. He’s saying he’ll come for no other reason than to cause a disturbance, and that should be enough to exclude him.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. Even if he doesn’t come armed, you don’t want him peeing in the punch bowl either.

      1. AnonORama*

        Yeah, my mind didn’t jump immediately to “shooter,” but more like screaming obscenities or destroying an exhibit. Ideally, having security will dissuade him from doing anything unpleasant, even if it’s not physically violent.

        1. Seashell*

          I thought he’d be telling other members of the public that management sucks because (insert whatever real or fake story he might prefer to tell.) I don’t know if security would deter him from doing that, but better safe than sorry either way.

  31. Anonymously*

    Disgruntled coworker letter is very upsetting. Literally puts a knot in my chest. This cuts extremely close and I don’t want to elaborate. Suffice to say some people are not blowing off steam or kidding. If it were me, I’d report this to the police.

    1. Genevieve*

      I’m so sorry for whatever you went through. I also have knots in my chest reading that. I really, really hope OP can get their bosses to take this seriously and consult with the appropriate people to take action and keep everyone safe.

      I thankfully don’t have any personal experience with a bad or even close to bad outcome in a situation like that. But as an EA in higher ed, I was one of the people responsible for knowing certain faces and alerting security when necessary. If this were something at my workplace I would be making myself a giant pain in the ass until someone listened.

  32. Lily Potter*

    OP2, you need to get over this one. Your co-worker worked for the day and was paid for it. Nothing technically wrong happened here. At most, your co-workers’ supervisor might have offered looked the other way while she ducked out of work early on the following Friday (assuming that was possible coverage-wise and didn’t involve actual alteration of timesheets or other timekeeping nonsense). It’s not something that your co-worker was “owed” at all, but if her supervisor is smart, she’d have offered it or something similar. Who knows? Maybe this co-worker HAS been given some kind of off-the-books compensation and is keeping quiet about it. In any event, MYOB. Not everything is life is “fair to every detail”. The example above about math teachers vs gym teachers during Covid remote learning is a perfect example.

    1. Lily Potter*

      Thought of another example of where “not everything is fair to every detail” here. What if an employee had a planned PTO day on the day of the snowstorm and was out of town? Should they get that PTO day “back” because almost everyone else in the office was home and snowed in, and they would have gotten a “free day” if they hadn’t been on PTO? What about employees that were simply not scheduled to work on the day that it snowed? Should they get a “snow day” to use at their discretion? My answer to both is – of course not! Management doesn’t need to treat everyone equally down to the last hour of paid time off – they just need to treat everyone fairly based on their circumstances. In the case of the employee that was set up to work at home, “fairly” means “you still work and you still get paid”.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Related to your last point, I’d be careful about getting more fired up about this than the person it happened to. I get it – I can be a bit sensitive to “fairness” and I don’t like it when things seem unequitable. But it’s not the LW’s job to take on this battle on behalf of someone else who didn’t ask for it.

      I’d be curious to know if there are other things in the workplace that the LW sees as unfair and is focusing on this for some reason. Like they’ve been told that other unfair things won’t be fixed. Or they’re generally unhappy at work and are looking for more reasons that management sucks. No judgment here! This is a human response. But being aware of it helps calibrate to what’s a real problem and what is mostly fueled by annoyance at other things.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Well, the LW does mention that she herself has WFH capability now, so I’m not going to fault her for having questions about what to expect.

        If I were in her position, I’d want to go to my manager in advance about that so that everyone is on the same page (e.g., can I WFH if I have a package to sign for at home, or if I’m feeling a little sick but not too sick to work? Or is WFH for emergencies only?).

        That will also give her information about whether this is a “WFH has pros and cons” situation, or if some people are just going to have to work on snow days without that extra flexibility at other times.

        1. Allonge*

          Sure, and those are reasonable questions to ask.

          It will help OP if they are not asking from a perspective of ‘are you going to screw me over too?’

          1. Kara*

            Is there a more polite way of asking that question? Because that is very relevant information to have.

            1. Allonge*

              I would start with trying to internalise that being expected to work when you can is not a major violation, regardless of what others are doing.

              And then yes, I would ask things like: hey, now that I have a laptop / access to sytems from home, how does a snow day work exactly? Should I expect to have to do X, Y, Z even if it’s not possible to come to the office? At the same time: is WFH possible in A, B, C cases, instead of taking the whole day off? How often? How soon in advance would you need to know?

            2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              I read this as suggesting that the LW use the type of language that Spencer Hastings did – what are the expectations if X happens? The thing to avoid is a more aggressive approach than that.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Questions are absolutely fair, since the LW could be affected by this. But she seems really angry about the whole thing, when she hasn’t been directly affected yet.

    3. TPS Reporter*

      agree, it’s one day and not an egregious pattern of potential exploitation. This person could actually do their job from home at the time and others couldn’t. And their job is an essential service to your patients.

      1. Username Lost to Time*

        I’m reading through these comments and considering that a small trade-off for the ability to WFH is that there are unusual situations where WFH employees will get the short end of the stick. It’s a serious perk! Maybe what would help is some acknowledgment that there will be one-off downsides a few times a year.

        “Now, might a thoughtful manager consider offering comp time or similar to the one person who got stuck working while everyone else got the day off?” That never occurred to me. Not a big deal to do and the extra few hours, plus the acknowledgement that WFH is a serious perk, might assuage some hurt feelings.

    4. EA*

      Agreed, especially “Not everything in life is fair to every detail.”

      Also, to answer the OP’s question, yes, this is unreasonable: “Would it be unreasonable to refuse until I am told how I will be compensated as compared to others who do not work that day?” And resigning in anger over having to work a day that you’re being paid for is pretty extreme.

  33. Hyaline*

    LW2: If your coworker wants to drop it, drop it—it might be making her uncomfortable. I feel like the bigger thing to be upset about here is that there isn’t a contingency plan in place for situations like this. If you live in an area that gets adverse weather at all regularly this will happen again. (I can count on guaranteed one to two weather closure days in an average winter and many more in a bad winter—I know this varies, but still, closing for weather is not unusual.) I would be pushing not for this employee to be retroactively compensated, even though that would be nice, but for some kind of plan to be put in place to compensate employees who have to work during emergency snow days, or getting more people access so that the burden isn’t unfairly placed on one person and the “WFH” day doesn’t mean one person taking on the entire burden. (Pragmatically speaking, what if the employee’s Internet had been out? Or a power outage? Which happens really often during weather emergencies? Relying on one person to handle all the work is really not a good idea.)

  34. Anon for this*

    My very large employer sends out an 18 question reference form (or at least they did when I was hired several years ago.) It is bonkers. But they do give the person the option to do a phone call instead. We’re in higher ed and are generally thought of as pretty prestigious so there is a real air of “we’re doing this because we can” to the whole process.

    As others have noted, giving references is a professional courtesy; the reference giver doesn’t work for your company and is doing you (and the applicant, of course) a favor.

    1. Salty Caramel*

      18 questions? That’s excessive to me. My office has people fill out online forms, but there’s maybe 8 questions and some of them are simply ranked. 18 questions is getting into interview territory.

  35. ONFM*

    OP3 – I could have written this about my current workplace, and I’m so sorry you’re going through it. We had a really ugly separation two years ago, and that ex-employee has continued to attend every public function my agency puts on, just to roam around, sneer at people, and put everyone on edge. We’re a local government agency, and the bosses are unwilling to ban him from attending anything public. He’s never threatened violence, but he’s made veiled threats toward specific staffers. None of the people (men) in charge will do anything, possibly because most of the people he’s pointed his behavior at are women. I hate it, I hate him, and I’m stuck. Put your concerns in writing, to more than one person, tell your friends/partner, leave a giant evidence trail behind. I wish you all the good luck in the universe.

    1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Why I hate people part 2: dismissing threats towards women. (Because they’re so common it’s considered ordinary?) I hope you can document the pattern and bring to HR as a discrimination issue.

      1. K*

        It’s almost like violence against women is a good predictor of violence against human beings…. (laugh/sob)

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      That sucks. I’m so sorry you have to deal with the one jerk and management that sucks.

  36. a clockwork lemon*

    LW2 – Did everyone who got to WFH without being set up for it get an extra free day of PTO, or did you get to take the day off as unscheduled PTO coming out of your existing time off bucket? If you got “charged” a PTO day for the unscheduled day off, then this is kind of a non-problem–your coworker would still have an extra day of PTO to take whenever it’s convenient.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Everyone got paid for that day without losing any hours of PTO. From the letter: “we’d be paid for the weather day, rather than having to use PTO.”

  37. Meh*

    I can’t speak to whether the quality of Ashley’s work is adequate for the role, but I can tell you that when using a shared network drive, the quality of connection matters hugely, as does the type of work she is doing.

    If her tasks require manipulation of really big files (500M excel monstrosities), copying the file locally and then working on it is a heck of a lot more efficient than opening it straight from the drive.

    There may still be performance issues, and none of those factors may be relevant, but network drives are not the panacea the OP thinks it is.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      But Ashley is never uploading anything to the drive. That’s a problem! Part of her job is now to upload to the network drive! It won’t get backed up in her downloads file! I don’t think OP sees the network drive as a panacea as much as she sees it as “this is what we need to do as a standard going forward”, and Ashely isn’t meeting that. If she has issues working on things straight from the drive, she can work on it locally and then update it. But she has to do it!

    2. Colette*

      As storage, it’s a much better option than a downloads folder. No one has said she can’t make a local copy, just that they should be stored in the network drive.

    3. Observer*

      If her tasks require manipulation of really big files (500M excel monstrosities), copying the file locally and then working on it is a heck of a lot more efficient than opening it straight from the drive.

      Not on a decent adequately functioning internal network.

      Even if you are using cloud storage, it’s not necessarily the case. Because the cloud services generally create a copy on your local drive and the changes only get saved as you work / at intervals / when you save, depending on your set up.

      Also, the issue here is not just that she’s not opening the files directly from the shared drive and working directly from the drive. It’s that she’s not even saving to the network drive when she’s done or copying the files back up.

  38. Kesnit*


    Are you sure it’s your employee and not the share drive?

    I ask because my office uses an online, commercial system to coordinate files. I was saving all my files to the online system. Then one day, I noticed all my files in folders L-S (alphabetical) were gone. I tried multiple things, but could never recover the files. Since then, the same thing has happened a few more times.

  39. nikkole82*

    ” (It’s also worth pointing out that there can be benefits to being able to work from home when others can’t; if often means, for example, that you don’t need to use PTO to wait for the cable person when others do, and so forth.)”

    I do similar work to the colleague in LW2 and I’m one of the few that is set up to work from home in the case that the office is closed due to unforeseen circumstances to call patients and tell them not to come, reschedule them and record messages and send them to the doctors. Having the CAPABILITY to WFH is not the same as having the OPTION to WFH. I cannot decide to WFH in exchange for PTO as the job is not hybrid, it’s an in-person job (nor do I mind as I don’t really want to work from home for this job as I have some WFH side jobs and I want to keep a separation) but saying she has these ‘perks’ when they usually don’t exist in this type of job or are so rare that it doesn’t really make it a benefit.

    What my supervisors have done for me is give me an extra full or half day off PTO free to use at my choosing because I DIDN’T have to log in and I didn’t have to work because my job is not hybrid I don’t have a duty or responsibility to have a WFH set up and I could’ve told them that I’m unable to do it because my internet is down, or my computers being repaired or any other excuse.

    1. Colette*

      Even before a lot of jobs went hybrid, in many jobs it was possible to make arrangements to work at home for a half day if you had to be there.

      Sure, there were – and are – exceptions, but that’s covered by the “often” in Alison’s statement.

  40. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: Is there any part of your hesitation to escalate to a more serious conversation or “discipline” with Ashley because you like her as a person? You mentioned her personality being a breath of fresh air. How much of that is coloring how you’re dealing with her?

    1. NNT*

      I think this is dead on! I was going to say something like this, but you beat me to it. :)

      Ashley sounds a little like me early career. I’m not exactly extroverted, but at work I’m on and bubbly and people tend to like and confide in me. I also have ADHD, so I tend to be creative and idea-driven on one end, which is valuable at work, and prone to leaving things unfinished on the other, which is… less valuable at work.

      When I was about 25, my boss at the time finally pulled me into his office because I was not answering emails in a timely manner (things like that can be hard for me.) He told me that I was an important member of our team and well-liked in our office, but that being careless about things like this was actively impacting how people viewed me, and he needed me to understand how serious it was. He made it clear that even though he didn’t want to put me on a PIP, he absolutely would if things didn’t make a noticeable improvement. I needed to hear that! I knew that there was a running joke about me not answering my emails, but when so many of your interactions are positive, and you’re that young, it’s easy to convince yourself that maybe you could be doing better, but it’s not a big deal. You’re not getting stern talking-to’s and threatened with PIPs, after all, and wouldn’t they do that if it was that big a deal?

      Saying things like “give me a week of no errors” is something that Ashley should be picking up on, but it’s not direct enough- what it probably says to her is that you think of this as a quirk of hers, and not a serious disciplinary problem. She needs to be told that this might be an uncomfortable conversation, but she is not meeting the standard you need from her. It really has to be that clear. Think of it as a kindness to her. The boss who pulled me into the office to tell me the truth saved my career at that company, and eventually I was promoted. Looking back now, he really had my back enough to tell me the truth about what people were saying, and what the consequences would be. I’d like to think I would have figured it out on my own, but it probably would have taken several more years and a significantly damaged reputation to get there.

      TLDR: it’s hard to be as direct as you should be with people you really like. But try to consider direct feedback a kindness the often don’t have the luxury of receiving.

  41. She of Many Hats*

    Re: Babyshower

    Can you really lean into the optics of being a manager and the event making your & Lauren’s direct reports feel obligated to participate or to gift upwards? And the potential Gendered side of it if Lauren doesn’t throw showers for male colleagues becoming fathers or inviting only female colleagues….

  42. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #4 – I used to review reference checks responses for an employer back in the day but we had a 3rd party who would do all of the contacting; they would usually attempt both call and email assuming both methods were provided. It was pretty similar in that it was a form with about 7 open ended questions. Most references would only respond back with 1-2 sentences per question. I imagine that the employer doesn’t want you to spend too much time on this and I think you’re overthinking your responses if you believe this should take you more than 15 minutes email.

    I wouldn’t say you’re out of line about requesting a call if you believe that will be easier, but keep in mind that the person you’re giving a reference for may be on a tight timeline. If you’re letting time go by between your first and second ask to have a call, it could make the difference if the candidate is still up between someone whose references have already responded

  43. Database Developer Dude*

    Just because something is a widespread practice doesn’t make it right, and just because someone who is working from home doesn’t have to burn PTO to wait for the cable guy or appliance repair guy isn’t the flex it’s being presented here to be.

    Working from home means you still have to get all your work done. It isn’t right to just accept that the person loses out on a day of PTO that everyone else gets because they weren’t inconvenienced with a commute.

    1. Colette*

      A lot of people can get all their work done at home while they’re waiting for a delivery?

      Yes, it’s unfortunate that only one person could work from home while everyone else got time off, but sometimes that happens. Pre-pandemic, my organization worked from the office. If we had an excessive amount of snow, we got sent home. Now, most people can work from home; if we have a lot of snow, we work as usual. That’s how it goes.

    2. Retail Dalliance*

      Yes. 100% this entire comment–I wholeheartedly agree. “It is common” does not equal “it is okay.”

    3. doreen*

      And this is part of the reason why my employer rarely closed for weather in advance. Sometimes, if the weather was bad enough in a particular location, there would be a decision weeks after the fact that people in that location who took unscheduled leave that day would have their leave restored, but offices actually closed fewer than 10 days in 30 years in the area where I worked. Because when they did close in advance, the people who were on a full week’s vacation were annoyed that they had to use vacation for the closed day, people who worked over the weekend and weren’t scheduled to work wanted to know when they would get their extra day off , people who worked on the other side of the state and had no issue getting to work wanted to know what they were going to get and so on. Those people didn’t necessarily find out that the others got their leave time back weeks later.

  44. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    OP #2, I agree that your coworker deserves recognition for stepping up and handling a crisis when nobody else could and everyone else got a surprise holiday.

    Do you have a feedback system at your company? In many companies, feedback is tied to compensation and bonuses, so if you and coworkers who agree with you use that system to give your coworker the credit she deserves, she may yet see a reward.

  45. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    This is why I hate people. A hostile former employee is promising to cause unspecified trouble and the response is “we can’t do anything.” Yes you can! Think of something! I hope LW#3 can make HR use basic sense.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The response was not “we can’t do anything”.

      It was “Our administration is going to try to get more information from Jane before proceeding,”

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

        I’m wondering if they can ban this person from the area or do some sort of restraining order.

  46. Typing All The Time*

    OP #3, please have management take this threat seriously. Hire security and let your company employees know that only current employees can attend the event.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yes to taking it seriously. Can’t restrict it to current employees only, since it’s a public event.

  47. Wounded, erratic stink bugs*

    Ugh, I work with an Ashley (although maybe less bad than OP1’s situation). My impression is that she’s not being held accountable for not doing her work well, and it has seriously eroded my trust in our boss. But also, it’s so annoying to work with someone repeatedly messing up in ways that affect others!

    1. Lurker*

      This is a good point-if the other more introverted employees notice that she is not being held accountable like them, they might think it’s because Ashley’s more “outgoing” than them and that’s why the manager is letting it slide (even though that’s not true).

  48. Observer*

    #2 – Snow day

    I understand it is ultimately my coworker’s decision whether to pursue this, and I should probably mind my own business.

    No “probably” about it. You need to leave it alone. It is totally not your place to do anything about this.

    Would it be unreasonable to refuse until I am told how I will be compensated as compared to others who do not work that day?

    Totally unreasonable. And likely to get you fired.

    Am I being too inflexible or rigid in my thoughts of how this should be handled?

    I’m going to have to say yes. One of the reasons why employers go with WFH is *specifically* to enable work to continue when the main site is unreachable for some reason. And there are always going to be situations where some people get the time when others don’t. That’s the way things shake out.

    If you have a choice on whether to WFH, and it’s a net positive to you, then you are being doubly unreasonable. You’re employer is essentially giving you a benefit, but it’s completely reasonable for them to want it to benefit them as well.

  49. Space Needlepoint*

    Not saving on a shared drive is a big deal and this needs to be addressed. Not just because it’s now the standard practice, but because other people need that data and versions of documents need to be controlled.

    There’s definitely something going on here considering using the shared drive was the employee’s idea. What it is could run from sheer flakiness to having control issues to resenting having her worked checked. I don’t think it’s PIP-worthy just yet, but it’s worth starting the warning phrase.

  50. The Other Virginia*

    Letter 5: I have worked at the same company for almost 18 years. For many of those years, wedding showers, baby showers, and going away or retirement parties were a foregone conclusion. You got one whether you wanted one or not and a big “to do” was made of it with decorations, a cake, elaborate gifts and often a lot of awkwardness because a reluctant guest of honor was forced to put on a smile and endure unwanted attention. At some point a few years ago, someone finally had the guts to step up and say they did not want a party when they left. Of course it was controversial at first but someone actually got smart and started asking people if they actually WANTED a celebration in their honor for whatever occasion or milestone. And surprisingly (but probably shouldn’t have been), the vast majority of people have politely declined and those celebrations are now few and far between. There will always be a few people that relish this type of attention but I’m now convinced that most people actually don’t. At least not in a professional setting.

    1. OldHat*

      When I got married, I didn’t really say anything. I got so much grief from folks when they found out, but it was mostly because they just wanted to eat cake and to socialize. Coworker milestones are about the excuse and not the actual person. That seems pretty disrespectful and part of the reason I didn’t say anything at that job ahead of time. Figured if I wanted no or ask to be the norm, I should model that behavior.

      1. Katherine*

        My previous job had a monthly cake day, they’d write all that month’s birthdays and other celebrations on a white board and put out cake and everyone could stop in as they chose. Cake was had, any putting-on-the-spot was minimal, it was great.

    2. Sled dog mama*

      This is one reason I really love my current workplace. We’ve had 2 retirements and a few babies in the past year and everything has been handled according to the person’s wishes. Woman who planned our monthly potlucks and wanted a to-do made out of everything got a lunch, cake, gift and gift presentation from the director. Lady who retired two weeks ago wanted no fuss, she got a card with a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant. I actually forgot she was retiring and was a little surprised not to see her name on the schedule for this week.

  51. BikeWalkBarb*

    For LW2, we use something called “schedule adjust” for these kinds of one-time or short-term oddball work hours. The time worked/not worked is addressed on a different workday, no change to the payroll records. It’s supposed to be within the same two-week payroll period so no one is banking a lot of time and then adding it onto an extended vacation. I flex this if we’re in a deadline crunch so they don’t lose the time they’re owed that they worked extra.

    My work and that of my team is rarely clock-dependent (no customer-facing hours, just tons of emails that come in at all hours) and we’re all salaried. I recognize this wouldn’t work for everyone. I also have a high-functioning, highly productive team and a high level of trust that our organization isn’t being taken advantage of.

    I have a dental appointment that will take 1.5 hours. It doesn’t fall at lunch. I mark it as out of office, schedule adjust to make up. I do that work at another day/time.
    I’m traveling on a weekend for work purposes, returning from a conference. I take time off the following Friday to start the next weekend early.
    A staff member wants to take time for a family’s religious celebration that isn’t on the list of federal/state holidays we follow. I tell them to use schedule adjust so as not to use leave; not their fault the calendar centers on one religion.

  52. Retail Dalliance*

    I think I disagree with the response to #2 (snow day person). I agree that it seems common to pay everyone equally while one person works and the others enjoy a day off, but I disagree that commonality makes it acceptable–this would seriously lower my morale if I were the employee who worked through the weather event at home! Just my two cents.

    1. Good Enough For Government Work*

      I’m inclined to agree. I think giving the employee who did work an extra paid day off would be a nice, fair thing to do to show appreciation for everything they did.

  53. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

    LW4 – I think a lot of people, maybe including you, are conflating two issues; the length of the questionnaire you were given, and the email vs phone method. If a question requires thought in email, surely it would require thought over the phone as well, and if you can give an off-the-cuff answer over the phone surely you could do so via email as well. It may help if you think about which one is actually the issue for you – the seven lengthy questions, or getting an email rather than a phone call? And then act accordingly. Either take the “I don’t have time to do these questions justice, but I can say XYZ” approach via email, or ask to schedule a call to go through all seven in the detail they want. But right now it seems like you assume phone calls will intrinsically be shorter and more efficient, which is not necessarily the case.

    1. Souvenir*

      For references of *any* length I would choose a phone call over a questionnaire. On the phone, I only have to think about the content of my answer, not my grammar or wording (do they use the same jargon?). On top of that, on a call I can ask whether the person on the other end of the line needs more information rather than trying to cover every base in advance.

      Other people have posted that they prefer email, so I know my preference isn’t universal — but I’m not conflating the form of communication with the length.

  54. Sunflower*

    Re: Snow days. Yeah it’s unfair and they should have given the employee an extra PTO day to use in the future. But they can’t be forced, especially since the employee seems to be letting it go. We just need to advocate for ourselves and leave others alone unless they ask for help.

    It’s like how my work gives us 10 sick days. Some people use all 10 every year, and some never use them at all. I don’t think that’s not “fair” either since is like working 10 extra days for “free.” It is what it is, and you can’t fight battles for the coworker who don’t want to fight. Who knows? Maybe there’s some behind the scenes solution you don’t know about. Maybe she won’t have to work the next snow day.

    1. EA*

      Yes – it’s not equitable to force everyone to have exactly the same number of days off of work per year — and this goes both ways. Some people will end up working more days than others. Some people will need more days than others (sick leave, bereavement leave, etc.) and good companies will give them extra time off – but that doesn’t mean they should match other employees’ days off the job just because another team member has greater need for leave.

    2. Orv*

      An extra PTO day isn’t quite fair either, because she would get to choose when to take it. The other employees didn’t get to choose when to get their “day off.”

  55. Cee Es*

    Oh my goodness. The fired employee from LW#3 has been destroying their reputation and career. There’s no justification for the threats.

    One possible cause for the behaviour would be poor mental health. A former colleague wrote strong-worded accusatory posts and documents online on some colleagues who he worked with. This person later admitted openly that he was in a maniac state and has received appropriate mental health treatments. He has retracted the writings made during the time period.

    1. Cassielfsw*

      You have no way of knowing the ex-employee’s mental health status, and it’s not relevant. His health is his own responsibility and not an excuse for whatever he’s planning to do/ends up doing.

  56. Hot Mess*

    OP1 – It sounds like there really are other issues with Ashley’s work, but the simplest way to make sure that downloaded documents go into the shared folder is probably to set her default download directory to that shared folder.

    1. Madtown Maven*

      Yes, Hot Mess: EXACTLY THIS. Sometimes the solution to this kind of problem is a technical one. Many people don’t know how to set their default download locations.

  57. Orange You Glad*

    #1 Treat saving the document to the shared drive as one more step in the process. If each step is not completed (including saving) then the task is not completed.
    You mentioned you can’t trust her to complete every step in the process every time without checking. Maybe a checklist she has to go through each time would help? I would hold her accountable every time a step is skipped no matter where in the process it is.

    I understand the frustration when someone isn’t using a shared drive. We have to save all our work on a shared location as the auditable final record for the company. I made each team member a “personal” folder on the shared drive where they can save WIP files just so everything is 100% on the drive. It’s our most recent hires that struggle with it the most. One person just admitted they had all their project documents on their desktop and they wanted to just share them with me via onedrive instead of storing them in the folder I instructed them to use. I kind of blame Microsoft a bit since they default everything to their onedrive folders now.

  58. Jules the 3rd*

    LW1: This isn’t about the documents. It’s about the pattern, and the solutions need to address the whole pattern.

    I would have the broader talk, in a friendly / supportive mode, about the pattern and ask if Ashley has any ideas on how to deal with missing steps. The obvious one is checklists. Maybe sit with her one day and make a checklist for her most critical task so that she understands the level of detail needed, then ask her to:
    1. Use that checklist every day
    2. Make a list of her regular tasks
    3. Make a checklist for one new task each week until all her regular tasks have checklists.

    Tell her you’ll need to meet with her 1x/week, 30 minutes, to review each new checklist, for accountability.

    Yes, it’s a lot of work for you for a month or two, but once she uses the checklists regularly, it will reduce your work overall.

    I’d save the PIP for after the first meeting, if she either doesn’t use her existing checklists or doesn’t create new ones as needed. Give her support and tools first, then most to a more stringent mode. If you’d said her overall work was bad, I’d suggest going straight to the PIP, but it sounds more like she would be a good employee with the right tools.

  59. 2 Cents*

    OP #5 I’m so glad you’re working with a therapist. I had a similar anxious pregnancy (and now have a rambunctious 6YO). One thing I repeated to myself every day was “Today, I am pregnant” and tried to focus on “today,” not six weeks later (which explains why the crib was put together a week before baby was born, but he only slept in it twice, so that’s another story). I know it’s so tough. Sending virtual internet stranger who means well hugs.

  60. Dido*

    LW2, the pros of being able to work from home vastly outweigh the cons, but you do have to deal with the cons if you wants the benefits. Do you ask for a gas card or comp time for your commute on days you have to go to the office and your coworker gets to work from home? No, of course not, because that’s clearly ridiculous. This is simply the inverse of that. I’d gladly work 1 more day a year than the rest of my coworkers for the ability to work from home when my kids are sick or I need to let the plumber in or wait for furniture delivery or anything like that.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I agree it would be fine if this was a remote job.
      However, it’s a doctor’s office and sounds like an office job where this particular employee had access to wfh in special circumstances only, not as part of her regular job.

      So imo she should get an extra day PTO to take when mutully convenient.

    2. Hyaline*

      I think this is off base here—neither the LW nor the coworker appear to have regular WFH as an option. In a one-time weather event, one person was tasked to work at home while everyone else had a paid day off. It’s not the same situation as being offered remote work.

      1. Username Lost to Time*

        Ok, this is a different situation than what I thought when I first commented. That’s a tough one-time situation and no wonder there isn’t a clear policy.

  61. mcm*

    I found myself getting indignant reading #2’s letter, and then reading Alison’s reply it occurred to me that I have been that person! And I didn’t mind at all!
    It does sound unfair when you describe it like that, but on the other hand, a snow day isn’t like a perk or recognition or something, it’s an unavoidable logistical problem. If some software that 90% of the company uses was down, but I didn’t need it to do my job, I would also be expected to keep doing my job, even if 90% of the company didn’t have to because they couldn’t. These things just happen sometimes, and I don’t think it’s actually anything villainous that your company asked your coworker who was able to do work to go ahead and do work on her scheduled work day. Does it seem a little uneven? Sure. Would it have been nice if they offered her some flex time? Yeah. But even that doesn’t 100% make sense to me, because it’s not like the snow day was provided as a perk — there was a reason outside of management’s control that the rest of you couldn’t work that day, they weren’t granting everyone a day off. Sometimes that’s just how the cookie crumbles, and having been in that employees’ situation, it’s really not a huge deal to do work on your workday, even if folks who can’t are getting a day off.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I’d say give her unless an extra PTO day.
      Otherwise next time there’s a snow day she should reply: “whoops my wifi is down so I can’t work. Soooo sorry!”

  62. Blue Pen*

    Concerning OP #2, I would hope that employers are starting to think more proactively about how to handle these kinds of situations now that they’re happening with relatively more frequency. Alison is right in that the employee was paid, so I don’t see the obligation on the employer’s part for additional pay. But I also understand how unfair it can be if one employee is getting paid to actually work while others are getting paid to do essentially nothing, which isn’t great for morale. This just may be one of those singularly unfair occasions, but again, as it happens with increasing regularity in a digital/WFH world, employers should really be thinking about how to tackle these things going into the future. I don’t think the same level of rigidity or inflexibility is going to fly for employees anymore.

  63. Chewy*

    “In my eyes, she basically worked for free and was completely taken advantage of, since she got paid the same as the rest of us who did not work that day, through no choice or fault of her own. My coworker is a very sweet, mild mannered person and would never “ruffle feathers” or stand up for herself, so she has not aggressively followed up with anyone on this. Whereas if I were in her shoes, I would have probably resigned in anger back in January.”

    …I’m really missing the part where the employee didn’t get paid for their work??? Because that’s illegal and is a whole separate issue. Also, if the coworker–aka the one actually affected–is not actually fussed by this then why does the LW care and what do they actually think they can do about it?
    If ever there was a time for a GIF search on here so everyone could add the “some people have war in their countries” GIF, this would be it

  64. Joe*

    seems any time there is a violent attack we get a “Why didnt someone report something” This might be the time.. I mean I also firmly believe the cops will do diddly squat but at least you tried. Quite a few cases when LEO were specifically warned about mass shootings and did nothing.

  65. Chewy*

    “I need you to make it absolutely clear to Lauren that there cannot be a shower for me.”

    I’d really just leave it at, OP. It gets the point across without having to get into potentially revealing info you might not feel comfortable sharing (and shouldn’t really have to share). I was confused when I saw the reference to religious prohibitions in the suggested script because the LW didn’t mention anything about that. I think adding that and all the other stuff just muddles the message and opens up the possibility of people “what about-ing” them. Also, the LW doesn’t really need to white knight for other groups–LW doesn’t want a shower at work, full stop. If Lauren isn’t going to listen to that, Lauren isn’t going to listen to a bunch of reasons anyway whether it’s because the LW is anxious about previous pregnancy struggles, or cultural reasons, etc. (And you have my sympathies with the pregnancy struggles, LW! I hope this is an easy and happy pregnancy for you!!)

    “Oh but what about Emily, that Open Thread commenter from a while back whose coworkers threw her a shower after she said ‘no’ 100 times and she flipped out and she caused property damage and blah blah blah–”
    –again, if Emily’s coworkers weren’t going to listen to the first like 10 “no’s”–which they apparently didn’t– then they obviously weren’t going to listen to next 90 “NO!”s. Which is a much bigger issue that no one could have necessarily predicted. And no one could have necessarily predicted Emily’s reaction, either.

    1. Johnny Karate*

      I don’t think “flipped out” is a kind way to describe someone who, given the full context of those threads, had a neurodivergent meltdown due to sensory overload she specifically tried very hard to avoid.

      Also, I think Emily did predict the possibility of that reaction, which is why she begged them not to have the shower.

    2. Kara*

      Can’t speak for the author, but I’d leave the religious prohibitions part in. People are happy to run roughshod over ‘mere’ preferences. The mention of religion is a gentle reminder that going against the parent’s wishes could potentially get the company into legal trouble.

      1. Observer*

        The mention of religion is a gentle reminder that going against the parent’s wishes could potentially get the company into legal trouble.


    3. Observer*

      I was confused when I saw the reference to religious prohibitions in the suggested script because the LW didn’t mention anything about that.

      Which is the point. The LW shouldn’t say that they don’t want the shower for any specific reason. But that she doesn’t want the shower and that her manager, grandboos and HR should make it a policy to honor those requests because of these issues.

      again, if Emily’s coworkers weren’t going to listen to the first like 10 “no’s”–which they apparently didn’t– then they obviously weren’t going to listen to next 90 “NO!”s

      Which is why you turn this into an HR matter if you need to. And this is how to do it.

      And no one could have necessarily predicted Emily’s reaction, either.

      As an aside, that’s both incorrect and irrelevant. It’s not the case – she knew that there was a high likelihood that she was going to be overwhelm. And irrelevant, because when someone says “No” to something like that, then it should be honored. Even if she does not wind up having a meltdown. And HR needs to understand that and enforce it without requiring people to divulge this kind of information.

  66. FunkyMunky*

    #3, she should get a lieu day off
    I do when I work full day on Dec 31st (I’m on the only staff member that is supposed to do that, because it’s not a half day at the financial markets)

    #5 – is there truly a need to be making such a big deal about this? let ppl plan a shower or not, it sounds to me it will be a much bigger carfuffle to keep insisting you don’t want one, creating more awkwardness

    1. Colette*

      It’s not “making a big deal of it” to say “I know you want to do something nice for me but what you are doing is not OK.” It’s reasonable to expect your coworkers – and management – to respect your boundaries.

    2. K*

      I’m not LW 5 but I’ve been in the same situation (pregnant after fertility treatment and multiple losses) and as much as I wanted to be pregnant, it was not a joyful experience. It was full of anxiety and terror, and I didn’t even want to buy basic baby items because it felt like tempting fate. I didn’t tell people I was pregnant until 6 months in because I had already had the experience of telling and then having to untell, and it’s frankly a pretty fucking horrible thing to do.
      It’s not reasonable, but emotions by definition are not reasonable. In my opinion, LW’s anxiety outweighs the potential for social awkwardness. A better question is why her grandboss can’t just respect her boundaries. She said she doesn’t want it, end of story. I’m sure her boss means to be kind, but forcing something on someone who doesn’t want it is not in fact a kind thing to do.

    3. K*

      I’ve been in LW 5’s shoes (pregnant after years of uncomfortable invasive treatments and multiple pregnancy losses) and as much as I wanted to be pregnant, it was not a joyful experience at all, it was absolutely terrifying. I didn’t want to tell anyone I was pregnant (I’d previously had the experience of telling and then having to untell, and it’s deeply horrible), I didn’t even want to buy baby things because it felt like tempting fate.
      LW’s anxiety outweighs the social obligation here.
      The awkwardness is being created by her grandboss’s refusal to respect her boundaries. I’m sure she thinks she is doing something kind, but forcing something on someone who does not want it, is actually not a kind thing to do.

    4. K*

      Or to be more concise, I think you are reading this like “her boss is insisting on doing something LW doesn’t like” but the correct reading here is “her boss is insisting on doing something legitimately triggering for LW.”
      My oldest child is TEN and as you can see I still have really strong feelings about this! I cannot overemphasize how intense the emotions I went through during this time were; it was literally reliving a traumatic experience, plus it was all intensified by the pregnancy hormones.

    5. Observer*

      is there truly a need to be making such a big deal about this?

      Yes. The LW knows that it’s already stressing her out, and if it happens, at best she’s going to be deeply uncomfortable.

      it sounds to me it will be a much bigger carfuffle to keep insisting you don’t want one, creating more awkwardness

      This is *exactly* the problem. You have decided that pushing back is a “kerfuffle” and “awkward” and a bigger deal than the intense anxiety and discomfort the LW is feeling. What gives you standing to make judgement calls about how big of a deal this is to her? What makes you think that you know better than her that the actual party is going to be “less” awkward?

    6. Dr.McStuffy*

      Yikes! You are really trivializing LW5’s feelings! People are strangely comfortable trivializing pregnant people’s feelings, and it’s not okay – I really hope you take a step back and do some reflection on why you feel so comfortable doing this!

      From where I’m sitting, the person making this awkward is the person who is insisting on ignoring LW5’s clearly stated boundaries, not LW5.

  67. SusieQQ*

    LW3 (and maybe Allison if you’re reading this) — The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker has a whole chapter about co-workers and specifically talks about predictors of workplace violence and how to terminate the employment of volatile people. I recommend giving it a read; I found it tremendously helpful in my personal and professional life.

  68. K*

    OP5, I also had my oldest son after several years of fertility treatments and multiple losses. I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant until I was 6 months along (everyone had guessed by that point anyway). I just wanted to let you know that the way you’re feeling is totally understandable and I’m sorry your grandboss isn’t respecting your boundaries. There’s so much expectation that you “should” feel a certain way — but what you feel is what you feel.

    1. K*

      Also, if it is encouraging to hear, I now have a 10 year old and also an 8 year old who I managed to accidentally get pregnant with (“We don’t need to use contraception! We’re infertile!”) after all that heartache.

  69. Anita Brake*

    OP #1- Call the police and report this ASAP! Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.00.

  70. Horse sense*

    #3, for God’s sake, call the police about your concerns and at the event, either have police or hire private security. I can’t believe this is a decision for which you need to solicit an advice columnist’s help.

    This is such “analysis paralysis” that I am guessing this is someone at a university!

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      She wants to know how to handle it if her bosses won’t authorize paying for security. It’s not as simple as you make out.

      If we insult letter writers for not knowing how to handle an issue, we won’t have all the wonderful free content that we currently get to enjoy.

  71. Dr.McStuffy*

    LW 5, I just wanted to let you know that I’m in a similar position (pregnant after 2 years of fertility treatments, overjoyed but anxious and terrified) and I love that you’re sticking to your guns rather than going along to get along. If your coworker really wants to celebrate you and your baby, she should celebrate you on the terms that are right for you, not the terms that are right for her. Personally, I’m blessed with coworkers who took my request for no baby shower with grace and have instead asked if it’s okay to have a small celebration after my baby arrives safely (I said that they were under no obligation, but if they wanted to, then that sounded lovely) – that way I’m not getting anxious about “jinxing” it and we all get to celebrate!

    I hope your boss can figure out a way to celebrate you and your baby in a way that makes you feel comfortable and happy and celebrated (or not, if that’s what you desire), and hopefully they learn a thing or two about respecting other people’s feelings and boundaries in the meantime!

  72. Allie*

    #4 I’ve been having chatGPT write references for me. I tell it to be my role and write a reference for so-and-so, then put in point form versions of what I want to say. Then I put in the questions on the form and I get great results! I usually have to fo a bit of tweaking, but it saves so much time.

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